SMITH, Edward Herbert; [BRUGUIÈRE, Antoine André, Baron de Sorsum, 1773-1823]
[LA PÉROUSE; BOTANY BAY] Poems, original and translated, by E. H. Smith, A. B., Incumbent of Killamarsh. / “Sweet heart-soothing poesie!”
Foolscap folio (189 x 285 mm), full maroon calf (boards worn and scuffed), spine with gilt decoration; front pastedown with armorial bookplate with the motto VIRTUS INCENDIT VIRES and initials FLS below the coat of arms; manuscript in ink in the author’s own hand,  147  pp; the preliminaries comprise a title leaf and 3-page index with date, place and title of each poem (the earliest date being 1821, the latest 1839); the first work (pp. 1-11) is The Philosophic Traveller or a Review of the Globe. A poem, translated from Bruguière de Sorsum, by Edward Herbert Smith, with the translator’s preface explaining that it is his translation from the French of Bruguière’s Le Voyageur, with the exception of an extended section on Botany Bay, added by Smith himself; the translation is preceded by an Argument of the poem and followed by a Note on Lapérouse (pp. 12-13); it is dated at the foot of page 13: Caen, Septr, Cheltenham, October 1824; p. 14-152 are filled with a large number of Smith’s own poems as well as translations from various French poets such as Desbarreaux and Lamartine; most works contain Smith’s textual revisions and corrections; the manuscript is clean and legible throughout.
French writer and linguist Antoine André Bruguière de Sorsum (1773-1823 ), who had spent some years travelling between France and the French Antilles, where he was managing his family’s interests, published his poem Le Voyageur : discours en vers in Paris in 1807. It had been awarded second prize in the annual competition of the Académie that year. In the preface to his manuscript translation of the poem, Edward Herbert Smith compares Bruguière’s work to Oliver Goldsmith’s philosophical poem The Traveller; or, a Prospect of Society (1764), an archetypal Enlightenment work which deals with the causes of happiness and unhappiness in nations. Clearly, Smith was so struck by the similarities between the two poems that the English title he chose to give Bruguière’s was a less than subtle nod to Goldsmith’s poem.
Like Bruguière, his francophile translator Edward Herbert Smith had maritime experience: as a boy, Smith served as a midshipman aboard the flagship of his illustrious uncle, Sir Sydney Smith, sailing with the escort which took Napoleon into exile on St. Helena in 1815. He obtained his B.A. in 1827, the same year in which he self-published his translation of Bruguière’s poem (some three years after his first manuscript version) in a parallel text volume titled Le Voyageur : discours en vers (Paris ; Caen, 1827). This was presumably printed in small numbers; a second edition (limited to 200 copies) was published in Paris by Imprimerie de Guiraudet in 1828. The title of the published version of Smith’s translation was Voyager, an ethnographic sketch. Smith was ordained a priest in 1829, and published a short study of the life and writings of 17th-century French Protestant scholar Samuel Bochart (Samuel Bochart : Recherches sur la vie et les ouvrages de cet auteur illustre. Mémoire addressé à l’Académie royale des sciences, arts et belles-lettres de Caen, le 28 juin 1833. Caen, 1833). However, he did not become curate of Killamarsh, Derbyshire, until 1841, and so it seems safe to assume that this volume of his poems and translations in manuscript was compiled by him from his original drafts around that time. The fact that the poems are not arranged in strict chronological sequence tends to confirms this.
In his Argument, which precedes Smith’s translation of Bruguière’s work in this manuscript collection, Smith summarises the poem thus: ‘While other arts were flourishing, that of navigation long remained timid – therefore nations held little mutual intercourse – Columbus introduces a new era – The ocean-barrier passed, voyagers discover unknown countries and races of men – Description of a traveller inspecting human manners, ancient ruins, and unpeopled regions – These wonders of Nature will inspire him, if a poet, with deathless productions, Homer an instance – Inhabited spots more interesting than solitary scenery – Europe, Asia, Africa, America – Prominent traits of the Esquimaux, Cheroquee, Arab, Mongol, Hindoo, Chinese – Colonisation and prospects of Botany Bay – Geology a fit pursuit in travelling – Ferocious travellers – Benevolent ones – Unfortunate ones – Happy return – Love of native place universal – The joy of a traveller on reaching home – Writes his travels – and enriches the agriculture, arts, and commerce of his own country.’
Smith’s interpolation of his own reflections on Botany Bay into Bruguière’s poem occupies approximately one page and is placed within square brackets: ‘… from Britannia came a crime-stain’d band, / A colony most base. Among the crowd Rebellion quickly rais’d her clamour loud, / Till meager Famine, with a blasting breath, / Wither’d all strength, all hope but early death; / Such the first founders, and the primal woes, / Where now with youthful speed an empire grows.’ He then goes on to praise the industry and toil of Australia’s first British colonists, who have already achieved so much in the eyes of “The Traveller”: ‘Hereafter, when Australia’s peopled shore / With States and Empires shall be cover’d o’er, / This scion, Britain! honouring thy name, / To latest times will bear thy civic fame.’
The disappearance of the great French navigator Jean-François de Galaup La Pérouse (1741–1788) in the Pacific remains one of the great mystery stories in maritime history. It was not until English sandalwood trader Peter Dillon finally discovered relics from his ships L’Astrolabe and La Boussole on the island of Vanikoro in the Santa Cruz group in the Solomon Islands in 1826 that the fate of the explorer and his expedition was confirmed, although we can still only speculate about the details of the final phase of the voyage narrative.
Smith’s Note on Lapérouse was written by him some years after Dillon’s discoveries of traces of La Pérouse’s ships in the Solomons. It summarises and comments on the achievement of the great navigator on his last voyage and speculates on what may have happened to La Pérouse and most of his crew if they did – as local custom has it – manage to leave Malicolo (Vanikoro).