Saturday, 1 October 2011

More on the Duke

My posts on the alleged Duc de Richelieu investigation into vampires, have provoked wonderful responses from Niels and Jane.

The biggest stumbling block with this thing is that I've had to rely on Google Translate, due to my inability to read French. I know it's not the most reliable tool, but helps give the gist of what's being said. It's either that, or staring at the screen and going 'Derrrr?' It's not like I've got translators hanging off my arm. Also, 'Learn French!', while a worthy solution, is not very timely for writing blog entries.

Anyhoo, the wonky translations spurred Jane into giving proper ones, which she's published here. They're in conjunction with quotes featured in my first post on the Duke's investigation. Thanks Jane. You're awesome!

Scientific curiosities
Speaking of that post, it mentioned a 1759 English translation of Augustin Calmet's work which I couldn't find online. Well, it turns out, I had a 'copy' of that book all along: extracts from it feature in Jan L. Perkowski's Vampires of the Slavs (1976). 

Perkowski lists the source as 'Calmet, Dom Augustin. Vampires of Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. trans. M. Cooper. London, 1759.'1 However, this is clearly not the book's proper title (left). Also, the book was 'Printed for' M. Cooper; doesn't say he translated it. At least, going by the title page. I could be wrong, of course.

Anyway, here's the relevant portion from Perkowski's book:
Accordingly, I have been assured by a person of the most improved understanding, and of unquestionable veracity, that Lewis [sic] XV, being desirous to know the truth of these reports, gave orders to the duke of Richelieu, his ambassador at the court of Vienna, to examine carefully into the affair, and to send him an account of what he could collect from the original records of these vampire-transactions. The duke executed his commission with the most utmost exactness, and informed the king that nothing appeared to him more indisputable than these accounts. The unbelieving party, however, was not satisfied with this, but desired the king that the ambassador might be ordered to make further enquiries upon the spot. The duke obeyed the order, and his second report was, that he found more of prejudice and whim than of truth in this whole business of redivivi, or vampires. In consequence of this, there are now two parties at the court of Vienna, one of which holds the truth of these apparitions, and the other rejects the whole as mere whim and fancy.2
If this series of events is accurate, it's interesting to see the King lean on the Duke till he got an answer he wanted. Was the Duke pressured into debunking vampires?

But Niels has a different take. He doesn't believe the investigation happened in the first place, and has provided evidence to that effect. After all, the earliest reference to the investigation appeared in the second volume of Calmet's Dissertations sur les apparitions des anges, des démons & des esprits et sur les revenans et vampires de Hongrie, de Boheme, de Moravie & de Silesie (1746). His source, it seems, was Louis Antoine Charles, Marquis de Beauvau (1715–1744). Calmet did not provide a written reference, however, but shared something he was told.

Niels cited Aribert Shroeder and Lenglet Dufresnoy, who both disputed the reality of the investigation. He also provided another reference, which I'll have to translate via the usual:
M. le Duc de Richelieu, cited in D. Dissertation of Vampires Calmet, and in our extract wished that warns the public that the Court never gave orders to inform the Vampires, and that he never wrote anything to the Court on this, that n has done no research in this regard in a word, he gave no occasion to what makes him think, say or write on this topic.
Niels added, 'There's a number of contemporary reviews and critical comments on Calmet's works, as well as various correspondence, so I'm sure de Richelieus own statement can be found there.' The only other reference in Niels' source, appears on page 1979 and simply relates Calmet's mention of the investigation.

The one thing that'd indelibly salvage Calmet's—and the Marquis de Beauvau—claim, would be word from the Duke, himself. As it stands, we don't even have a date for when this investigation occurred. We don't have the original reports. Therefore, we're in the realm of speculation. However, the evidence does weigh in favour of the naysayers: it's pretty telling that Calmet removed references to the investigation in subsequent editions of his book.

1. JL Perkowski, Vampires of the Slavs, Slavica Publishers, Inc., Cambridge, Mass., 1976, p. 292.

2. ibid., pp. 129–30.

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