The Journals of Lewis and Clark (Anglais) Broché – 30 avril 1997
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The Journals of Lewis and Clark are "the first report on the West, on the United States over the hill and beyond the sunset, on the province of the American future” (Bernard DeVoto).
In 1803, the great expanse of the Louisiana Purchase was an empty canvas. Keenly aware that the course of the nation's destiny lay westward—and that a “Voyage of Discovery” would be necessary to determine the nature of the frontier—President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis to lead an expedition from the Missouri River to the northern Pacific coast and back. From 1804 to 1806, accompanied by co-captain William Clark, the Shoshone guide Sacajawea, and thirty-two men, Lewis mapped rivers, traced the principal waterways to the sea, and established the American claim to the territories of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. Together the captains kept this journal: a richly detailed record of the flora and fauna they sighted, the native tribes they encountered, and the awe-inspiring landscape they traversed, from their base camp near present-day St. Louis to the mouth of the Columbia River, that has become an incomparable contribution to the literature of exploration and the writing of natural history.
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This one-volume edition of Lewis' and Clark's masterpiece is outstanding in every way. Edited by the late Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Bernard DeVoto (1897-1955), it allows the reader to gain a fuller understanding of the Lewis and Clark expedition through the words of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark themselves.
Lewis and Clark's expedition begins in 1804, taking the 33-person Corps of Discovery from St. Louis, Missouri to the Pacific Ocean and back again (a distance of over 8,000 miles). Among other things, it results in the initial exploration and mapping of the Great Plains and Pacific Northwest, and the description and classification of over 100 never-before seen species of flora and fauna. In addition, it dispells the myth of a northwest passage to the orient, and opens up the vast central and western regions of the continent to commerce with the United States.
Captain Meriwether Lewis, the commander of the Corps of Discovery, is instructed by President Thomas Jefferson to keep a journal of the daily events, scientific observations, and measurements of latitude and longitude along the way. Both he and his co-commander, Captain (in reality Lieutenant) William Clark follow Jefferson's instructions, although not always faithfully.
Lewis and Clark return from their 30-month long expedition as national heroes. Jefferson expects Lewis to oversee the quick publication of the Journals, but Lewis, for a variety of reasons, disappoints the President. He fails miserably as governor of the Louisiana territory; he suffers from depression and alcoholism. In 1809, he (it is surmised by historians) takes his own life, never having submitted so much as one page of the Journals' manuscript to an editor. After Lewis' suicide, Clark teams with editor Nicholas Biddle and completes a short, narrative version of the Lewis and Clark journals. Published in 1814, it contains none of the scientific data compiled during the expedition. Not until 1904 are the Journals of Lewis and Clark published in their entirety, with all of the explorers' scientific observations included.
Bernard DeVoto begins this volume with a well crafted 60-page introduction that explains the historical background to the Lewis and Clark expedition. Then, DeVoto gets out of the way and allows Lewis, Clark, and, on occasion, other members of the Corps of Discovery, to convey with their own words the drama, excitement and high adventure of this magnificent undertaking. Most of the more routine scientific data has been edited out, leaving behind Lewis and Clark's outstanding descriptions of the expedition's key events.
It is not easy to forget Lewis' florid prose, through which he so emotionally and enthusiastically describes his initial sighting of the Great Falls of the Missouri and the Rocky Mountains, or his encounters with the Nez Perce' and Blackfoot native tribes. DeVoto does, however, keep in a few of the more famous journal entries dealing with scientific observations. Lewis' descriptions of the wildlife, plants and physical geography along the route of the expedition show him to be a gifted naturalist, perhaps one of the finest in history.
One not of caution: while they are very enjoyable, "The Journals of Lewis and Clark" have a tendency to make for taxing reading. This is because the editor left Lewis' and Clark's grammar and spelling almost completely intact. (Both men had an excellent ability to hold their readers' interest with their colorful and dramatic prose, but they were both atrocious spellers.)
This edition of "The Journals of Lewis and Clark" is highly entertaining and well researched. It's the best and most essential volume for those who do not wish to read the complete multi-volume version of this work. Most highly recommended.
For in the Journals the reader sees in the mind's eye the vast prairies, indominitable mountains, wide, powerful rivers, and vast Pacific Ocean as Lewis and Clark saw them. Through the Journals the reader encounters Indian tribes, both friendly and fierce. At other times, the puzzling descriptions of previously unknown species of animals and plants give insight as to what discovery and exploration mean. This is what makes the Journals a national treasure. Reading the Journals gives the contemporary reader a sense of what it was like to look at the American West for the first time. In an era when there are precious few corners of the earth that have not been mapped, the Journals convey reader to a time when exploration was not only commonplace, but a necessity for national survival.
The Journals of Lewis and Clark are not particularly easy to read at times if you are not accustomed to the reading genre of travel diaries. Also, at times, the terse writing style of William Clark made the Journal difficult to "plow" through. Merriweather Lewis' entries were much more readable, but his entries do not appear until after the first quarter or so of this edition.
If you are a person who likes maps, the number of maps is low and and the detail they provide is small. There may be other versions of the Journals out there that provide better maps.
The commentaries provided before certain chapters that summarize the events that the Journals are about to relate are very helpful in understanding the narratives that follow.
For the reader not well versed in the Corps of Discovery, I am not sure if the Journals of Lewis and Clark is the best book to read first when learning about their expedition. Undaunted Courage or another such book might a be better first choice if you want to build a curriculum on Lewis and Clark. Looking back, I would suggest reading the Journals in tandem with such a book, to get a balance between the two styles: historical narrative and diary.
Regardless of how the reader approaches the Journals, either by itself or in conjunction with other works, at some point, the critical reader will consult if not read the Journals of Lewis and Clark for a broader perspective on the secondary histories.
The second part of my review would be for the editing, and I would give that four stars out of five. DeVoto, for all his erudition, does make something of a nuisance of himself from time to time. In the first place, he was clearly writing for the "Manifest Destiny" camp of historians--an outlook now taken with a few grains of salt. Here he is, for example, commenting on the earliest hostile encounter with an Indian tribe, "Indian bluster immediately collapsed and from then on the terrible Tetons were mere beggars. The moral of the episode was that a new breed of white men had come to the Upper Missouri, one that could not be scared or bullied. The moral was flashed along the Indian underground faster than the expedition traveled. It explains why the captains were received with such solicitous respect by the Arikaras," etc (p.34). So there's a bit of that sort of thing to put up with. Also, for reasons I cannot fathom, DeVoto inserts bridging passages, paraphrases, in certain spots rather than using actual journal entries. One of these is the death and burial of the expedition's one fatality. How did the captains and the other men react to this? I would have liked to know that. There's another such paraphrase covering Sacagawea's incredible meeting with her long-lost brother. What did Lewis and Clark think of that amazing coincidence? We're not told by this book.
All in all, however, this is a magnificent read, and my quibbles above don't detract materially from its enjoyment. If I have one suggestion for anyone looking to read this, however, it would be to view Ken Burns's extraordinary PBS documentary on the expedition first; your library should have it.
As an impressive culmination to the Journals, the herbarium collection finalizes the extensive botanical scholarship contained in the notes produced by Dr. Moulton in the previous eleven volumes, published periodically over the past twenty years. The product of extensive research into the known world repositories of the extent plant specimens, this volume contains only one known error in terms of inclusion of a plant specimen that cannot be attributed to the expedition's collection. This one specimen at the Charleston Museum has been discounted since publication.
Nevertheless, this volume contains relatively high-quality image reproductions of the known 238 specimens in the Lewis and Clark Herbarium, in addition to a clear introduction to the history of the Herbarium collection and the scholarship behind its most recent publication. 227 specimens are currently housed in the Academy of Natural Science in Philadelphia, and the remaining 11 are housed in the Kew Gardens, London. Of this list, 177 are distinct, individual specimens.
In the future, it is more than likely, despite this exhaustive effort on the part of Moulton, that a few new specimens will emerge from the depths of the American Philosophical Society, The Academy of Natural Sciences, and Kew.
Until such a time, this volume is an absolute necessity for anyone seriously interested in understanding the natural history ramifications of the expedition, the study of Lewis and Clark, and, for that matter, America's landscape legacy. One wonders how many more specimens would have been added to this collection if Lewis' early collections for the lower-Missouri had not been lost to decay during the expedition itself.
"Volume 12, Herbarium of the Lewis and Clark Expedition," Gary E. Moulton, Editor, The University of Nebraska Press, completes a fantastic series and must be added to complete one's collection of the first eleven volumes of the truly great American literary epic.
The only wish of this author would be the publication of high-resolution, color digital images of the Herbarium on CD or DVD, as a compendium to this volume. Perhaps in this way, we could all experience more clearly the wonder of viewing this most valuable treasure.
Dr. Gary Moulton should be congratulated for a job very well-done.
Alex Philp The University of Montana
Bakeless chose entries that reflected the broad scope of Captain Meriwether Lewis's mission. Captain Lewis was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson and Congress in 1803 to conduct an official army expedition across the North American continent to search for a practical trade route. He was to sail up the Missouri River, cross the Rocky Mountains, and sail down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean. This feat had never been done before, and Lewis and his army detachment were the first citizens of the United States to cross all the way across from the land east of the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.
Bakeless's selection of journal entries gives the reader a very balanced sense of the expedition. We can appreciate the mundane day-to-day activities such as guard duties, court-martials, hunting expeditions, weather reports, as well as exciting entries such as when the men were chased by grizzly bears, nearly fell over cliffs, were nearly drowned, or when confronted by unfriendly westerners (only twice--most of the Native Americans were exceedingly helpful to the expedition and many times, the expeditionaries lives depended on the Native Americans help), and even when Meriwether Lewis was accidentally shot. We even find out which Captain liked to eat dog meat.
Considering the wealth of information that the Captains brought back from their journey, Bakeless did an excellent job of choosing what we should read to get a balanced picture of the enormous job those men undertook in one small volume.
This is an excellent "beginners" Lewis and Clark Journal. Once you read this book, you will feel compelled to read more. When you do, I recommend editor Dr. Gary Moulton's 12 volume set.
This book is not a "childrens" book. It is a nonfiction book for adults or young adults that can appreciate real life adventure.
The bottom line is, do you want to buy this book? Yes, you do.