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Reviews 253 On the Western Tour with Washington Irving: The Journal and Letters of Count de Pourtales. Edited, with an Introduction and Notes, by George F. Spaulding. Translated by Seymour Feiler. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968. xiv + 96 pages, illus., bibliography, index. $4.95.) W hen Washington Irving sailed from Europe in 1832, he developed a friendship on shipboard with two young men, one of them Charles Joseph Latrobe, the other Count Albert-Alexandre de Pourtales, then only nineteen. After they reached the United States, their friendship continued as they traveled together through eastern portions of the country. Quite by accident aboard a Lake Erie steamboat, they met Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, bound for the Indian country west of the Mississippi River as an Indian commissioner to bring about pacification among some of the tribes in what is today Okla­ homa. An invitation from Ellsworth resulted in a change of their plans, and the three joined him in venturing into what was in 1832 still a wilderness. An immediate literary result of the outing was Irving’s A Tour on the Prairies and Latrobe’s T he Ram bler in N orth America (2 vols.), both pub­ lished in 1835. Ellsworth’s account of the venture did not appear until 1937, and in 1944 Irving’s original journals of the tour finally saw the light of print. The final account produced by the four principal figures of the expedi­ tion appears now in this translation of Count de Pourtalus’s journals. This publication is an example of how long-hidden manuscripts some­ times become known by accident. W hile traveling in Europe in 1965, George F. Spaulding learned by chance of the existence of the diary and letters in the possession of Countess M echtild Harrach, the great grand-daughter of Pourtales, in Munich. Along with Indian mementoes were the diary and a few letters, which Pourtales had written in French to his mother. U ntil Sapulding acquired them, they had remained unknown in the possession of the family for 133 years. Mr. Spaulding, a retired vice-president of the Northern Trust Company in Chicago, has prepared an introduction and has annotated the diary and letters, portions of which he uses to fill a number of gaps in the diary. It is regrettable, however, that the manuscript failed to find its way into the hands of a skilled editor and scholar because his introduction and footnotes are so replete with errors and inaccuracies as to be useless for any serious purpose unless one goes to the trouble of correcting them through recourse to de­ pendable sources. One learns here, for example that Washington Irving was born in 1782 rather than 1783 and that he died in 1857 instead of 1859. W e are told that he left France for America on April 11 rather than April 12; and although this may be a small point, had Mr. Spaulding referred to the two-volume 254 Western American Literature standard Life of Washington Irving, by Stanley T . Williams, which incredibly does not appear in his bibliography, he might have saved himself this kind of embarrassment. Similar errors also appear, such as the statement that W illiam Clark was governor of Missouri from 1813 to 1820 instead of 1813 until 1821, and that he was Superintendent of Indian Affairs from 1813 to 1838 rather than from 1822 to 1838. Worse than such simple errors in dating is the unbelievable frequency of inaccuracies in quotations, hardly a one of which is free of at least one and often of a half dozen. It is astonishing to discover, for example, that quotations from the diary appear with different wording in the introduction. N o editor has the liberty of omitting words without showing the omission with ellipses, or of changing spelling, dropping or adding capital letters, omitting or adding punctuation, and otherwise corrupting a text. H e has an obligation to respect with scrupulous accuracy the integrity of the material he is working with. He also has an obligation to verify his facts and should not say, as Mr. Spaulding does, that Irving published two books based on the trip with Ellsworth—A Tour on...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 253-255
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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