The Huron; or, Pupil of Nature, Voltaire
The Huron; or, Pupil of Nature
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The Huron; or, Pupil of Nature is a satirical novella by the French philosopher Voltaire, published in 1767. The work tells the story of a Huron "child of nature" who, after having crossed the Atlantic to England, crosses into Brittany, France in the 1690s. Upon arrival, a prior notices depictions of his brother and sister-in-law, whom they deduce to be the Huron's parents – making him French; and he is christened Hercules de Kerkabon (Hercule de Kerkabon).

The Huron; or, Pupil of Nature


M. de Voltaire.

I choose that a story should be founded on probability, and not always resemble a dream. I desire to find nothing in it trivial or extravagant; and I desire above all, that under the apperance of fable there many apear some latent truth, obvious to the discerning eye, though it escape the bservation of the vulgar. — Voltaire.

The Huron Arrives in France

One day, Saint Dunstan, an Irishman by nation, and a saint by trade, left Ireland on a small mountain, which took its route toward the coast of France, and set his saintship down in the bay of St. Malo. When he had dismounted, he gave his blessing to the mountain, which, after some profound bows, took its leave, and returned to its former place.

Here St. Dunstan laid the foundation of a small priory, and gave it the name of the Priory Mountain, which it still keeps, as every body knows.

In the year 1689, the fifteenth day of July, in the evening, the abbot Kerkabon, prior of our Lady of the Mountain, happened to take the air along the shore with Miss Kerkabon, his sister. The prior, who was becoming aged, was a very good clergyman, beloved by his neighbors. What added most to the respect that was paid him, was, that among all his clerical neighbors, he was the only one that could walk to his bed after supper. He was tolerably read in theology; and when he was tired of reading St. Augustin, he refreshed himself with Rabelais. All the world spoke well of him.

Miss Kerkabon, who had never been married, notwithstanding her hearty wishes so to be, had preserved a freshness of complexion in her forty-fifth year. Her character was that of a good and sensible woman. She was fond of pleasure, and was a devotee.

As they were walking, the prior, looking on the sea, said to his sister:

“It was here, alas! that our poor brother embarked with our dear sister-in-law, Madam Kerkabon, his wife, on board the frigate ‘Swallow,’ in 1669, to serve the king in Canada. Had he not been killed, probably he would have written to us.”

“Do you believe,” says Miss Kerkabon, “that our sister-in-law has been eaten by the Cherokees, as we have been told?”

“Certain it is, had she not been killed, she would have come back. I shall weep for her all my lifetime. She was a charming woman; and our brother, who had a great deal of wit, would no doubt have made a fortune.”

Thus were they going on with mutual tenderness, when they beheld a small vessel enter the bay of Rence with the tide. It was from England, and came to sell provisions. The crew leaped on shore without looking at the prior or Miss, his sister, who were shocked at the little attention shown them.

That was not the behavior of a well-made youth, who, darting himself over the heads of his companions, stood on a sudden before Miss Kerkabon. Being unaccustomed to bowing, he made her a sign with his head. His figure and his dress attracted the notice of brother and sister. His head was uncovered, and his legs bare. Instead of shoes, he wore a kind of sandals. From his head his long hair flowed in tresses, A small close doublet displayed the beauty of his shape. He had a sweet and martial air. In one hand he held a small bottle of Barbadoes water, and in the other a bag, in which he had a goblet, and some sea biscuit. He spoke French very intelligibly. He offered some of his Barbadoes to Miss Kerkabon and her brother. He drank with them, he made them drink a second time, and all this with an air of such native simplicity, that quite charmed brother and sister. They offered him their service, and asked him who he was, and whither going? The young man answered: That he knew not where he should go; that he had some curiosity; that he had a desire to see the coast of France; that he had seen it, and should return.

The prior, judging by his accent that he was not an Englishman, took the liberty of asking of what country he was.

“I am a Huron,” answered the youth.

Miss Kerkabon, amazed and enchanted to see a Huron who had behaved so politely to her, begged the young man’s company to supper. He complied immediately, and all three went together to the priory of our Lady of the Mountain. This short and round Miss devoured him with her little eyes, and said from time to time to her brother:

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