Of The Savage Tongue (Article 19: Miscellaneous)


It seems likely that the key to the paradox lies in the fact that this phenomenon is not a single locatable, transformation at all…. The various transformations that we perceive in history and prehistory are, perhaps, part of a continuous process of readjustment and modification of the ways in which the interaction between land and people is organised and expressed.”

“In the Mercury of France for December, 1731, as we are told, mention is made of a young wild girl, found in a wood near Chalons; and in this pamphlet is given an account of this human phaenomenon, partly collected, as the Author avers, from actual conversations with Mademoifelle le Blanc herfelf: for fuch was the name given to this extrodinary fondling. The tranflator, in his preface, informs us, that he alfo had opportunities of converfing with her in France, in 1765; and he fuppofes fhe may be living yet.- The young favage was as wild as any creature of the woods or the defart, when fhe was difcovered and fecured by the lateVifcount d’ Epinoy, at his country-houfe at Sougi, a village near Chalons in Champagne: at which time fhe was judged to be about ten years old. With great difficulty, in a courfe of years, fhe was tamed and taught to live like  christian:- which, however, did not very agree with her conftitution; for that was greatly impaired by the reformation they wrought in her. The proteftant reader will fmile at the pucker which the good people of France were in, about the falvation of the foul of this poor favage: which, however, they effectually fecured by baptizing and initiating her into the myfteries of the holy Catholic church of Rome.- As to the country to which Madamoisfelle le Blanc is fupposed to have been indebted for her birth, we have nothing but the conjectures of our author, and fome others, on that head; according to which, she feems to pafs for a native of the country of the Efkimaux, or fome other nation adjoining to Hudfon’s bay. By what means fhe got into France, is a problem which fhe herfelf was not able to folve: but from the few dark and confufed particulars which fhe could give…… that fhe was ftolen away from her native country by fome European mariners, who fold her as a flave, perhaps fomewhere in the Weft Indies; from hence fhe was re-sold, and afterwards fhipwrecked: and this muft have been on the coaft of France, from her being found in the woods of Champagne, There was a negroe girl, about the fame age, fhipwrecked with her; but what became of her is uncertain……… On the whole, the account of this furprizing ftranger to this part of the world, is very extraordinary*: but the ftory is told in a tedious rambling manner; and the tranflation too will often offend the ear of the Englifh reader, by the ungrammatical, Scottish, idioms and phrafes, which occur in almoft every page: and which we think the more remarkable, as the tranflator appears from his preface, to be a fenfible man, and a fcholar.”


*The ftories that are told of her amazing fwiftnefs, fo that fhe could run down wild game like a greyhound; of her ability in fwimming and diving, by which fhe could catch whatever fifh fhe pleafed;- of her extrodinary ftrength and agility in climbing trees, precipices, &c. are almost incredible, notwithftanding they are faid to have had the fanction of that celebrated naturalift M. de las Condamine.


Review of An Account of a Favage Girl, The Monthly Review, Or, Literary Journal, Volume 39, 1768


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