Le Chevalier and Dalzel

Jean Baptiste Le Chevalier

Description of the Plain of Troy, tr. and ed. Andrew Dalzel (edinburgh, 1791)

(Donated by Bishop Burgess in his lifetime - listed in the 1836 Library Catalogue)

One of the great bones of contention in the second half of the eighteenth century was the location of the site of Troy, a matter which was not to be settled until Schliemann began his excavations at Hissarlick in 1870. Jean Baptiste Le Chevalier visited the Troad in 1785-6 in the company of Choiseul-Gouffier - Marie Gabriel Auguste Florent, Comte de Choiseul-Gouffier (1752-1817), French Ambassador to the Porte since 1784, whose Voyage Pittoresque de la Grece (2 vols in 3, Paris, 1792-1809) is in the Roderic Bowen Library and Archives (Thomas Phillips, 1846). It is, however, interesting that in The Plain of Troy Le Chevalier makes no mention at all of his companion, who was a much more experienced traveller in the Greek world than he was, having spent three years there from 1776-1779.

The full title of the work explains the circumstances of its publication: Description of the Plain of Troy with a Map of that Region delineated from an actual survey. Read in French before the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Feb, 21. and 28. and March 21. 1791 by the author M. Chevalier, Fellow of that Society and of the Academies of Metz, Cassel and Rome. Translated from the Original not yet published, and the Version accompanied with NOTES and ILLUSTRATIONS by Andrew Dalzel, M.A. F.S.A. EDIN. Professor of Greek and Principal Librarian in the University of Edinburgh.

In Chapter X entitled 'Examination of Mr Wood's Map', Le Chevalier attacks Robert Wood's Essay on the Original Genius and Writings of Homer and particularly his Comparative View of the Antient and Present State of the Troade which had been published together posthumously in London in 1775 [cf.no.4]. He says that Wood 'has viewed the Troade erroneously' and that 'that part of his Essay on HOMER is not merely imperfect; it is most undoubtedly destitute of all merit'. Wood 'has incurred a high degree of blame by having allowed himself to convert the whole into a mass of confusion'. Elsewhere he says that Wood was 'quite bewildered in the Troade' (p.56) and is 'loth to leave the Troade till he has transformed it into chaos' (p.80), and that his map is 'a negligent performance, and done in a hurry' (p.78). Not unnaturally, Dalzel echoes these sentiments in his preface. After such intemperate language by both author and editor (by no means unique in scholarship of the period), it is almost a relief to realise that Le Chevalier, who placed the site of Troy at Bunarbaschi, was no more correct than Wood; and at least Wood had had the grace to admit that he was unable to discover where the city was.

The date on the title page is 1791, but the work cannot have appeared until the following year. In it Dalzel reproduces correspondence dated January and February 1792 between himself and the 'celebrated Mr Heyne (Christian Gottlob Heyne (1729-1812), the famous editor of Tibullus) about the latter's proposal for a German version of The Plain of Troy, this was published later the same year as Beschreibung der Ebene von Troja (Leipzig, 1792).

The Roderic Bowen Library and Archives' copy of The Plain of Troy was presented by Dalzel to Thomas Burgess when the latter was still at Durham; an inscription on the fly-leaf reads: 'The Rev: Thomas Burgess - Preby. of Durham from the Translater'. Burgess in turn presented it to his College during his lifetime.

See further: D.Constantine, Early Greek Travellers and the Hellenic Ideal (Cambridge, 1984), ch. 4.