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Le Véloce, ou Tanger, Alger et Tunis

Adventures in Algeria

voyage/travel, pub:1848-1851

    "Barbarian Rambles" (reviews Le Véloce)
    Le Véloce ou De Cadix à Tunis (PDF)

Images (voyez tous/view all)
    Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement (Algerian Women in their Apartment), 1834
    La mariée juive (The Jewish Bride), 1832

From Reviews (ADR) by Arthur D. Rypinski:
     In 1846, Alexandre Dumas was at the height of his fame and wealth, with multiple serials running in French papers. Dumas had also authored several popular books. The Minister of Public Instruction, M. de Salvandy, hatched the clever scheme of sending Dumas to Algeria to write about that country, with the effect of encouraging emigration and popularizing the French policy.
     Dumas agreed to go to Algeria, but drove a hard bargain with the French Government: they were to put a warship at his disposal, and they would pay him Fr. 10,000 for his expenses. Dumas was going to Spain to attend the wedding of his friend the Duc de Montpensier (grand-son of King Louis-Philippe) to the Infanta, and he asked the ship to pick him up at Cadiz. With him, he took his 18 year-old son Alexandre, his friend and collaborator, the historian Auguste Maquet, the artist Louis Boulanger, and two others, Giraud and Desbarolles. Dumas described the Spanish portion of the trip In Paris à Cadiz, and the North African portion in Le Véloce, ou Tanger, Alger et Tunis.
     "Le Véloce" was a paddle-wheel steamship that served primarily to carry dispatches (in those pre-telegraph days) between Algeria and France, but which was sufficiently comfortably appointed to have carried Louis-Philippe on a state visit to Britain. "Le Véloce" picked Dumas in Cadiz on 20 November 1846, and carried him first to Tangier (where Dumas attended Jewish wedding), at that time still under Moroccan rule, then to Gibraltar, and thence to the Spanish enclave of Melilla, where "Le Véloce" was to pick a dozen ransomed French prisoners, the survivors of an 1845 military debacle at the hands of the Arab chieftain Abdel-Qadir. As it transpired, the prisoners had been released early, and had taken a boat to the military camp at D'jema R'Azouat, whence "Le Véloce" hastened. At the camp, Dumas attended a banquet for the released prisoners, hosted by the local commander, Colonel McMahon (much later to become a Maréchal of France, and subsequently a President of the Third Republic).
     "Le Véloce" then sailed for Algiers with the released prisoners onboard. At Algiers, the Governor, Maréchal Bugeaud, was absent for a fortnight, and Dumas decided that, in the meantime, he would like to visit Tunis, at that time an independent state. This formed no part of the Government's plan, but Dumas was persuasive, and "Le Véloce" sailed for Tunis. At Tunis, Dumas attended a ball, visited the ruins of Carthage, the memorial of the Crusader Louis IX (St. Louis) who died in 1270 while besieging Tunis, and called upon the cousin of the local ruler, (the ruler being absent) who awarded him a decoration. Dumas also engaged a notable Arab architect (a designer of the ruler's palace) to design some of the interior rooms of his "Chateau de Monte Cristo."
     On the return voyage to Algiers, "Le Véloce" called at several towns, and Dumas took one trip into the interior, during which he acquired the vulture Jagurtha about which he wrote entertainingly in Adventures with My Pets. Arriving back in Algiers on Christmas day, 1846, Dumas visited a brothel, and the investiture of a local ruler, al-Mokhrani, by the Governor, and returned to France in January 1847.
     As is common in his travel books, Dumas combined travelogue, accounts of local history and customs, biographies of people he met, and complete short stories ostensibly told to him by his interlocutors. Dumas was a keen and open-minded observer, and noticed much that (to a Twentieth Century reader well-equipped with hindsight) that suggested that the French colonial venture in North Africa carried the seeds of its own destruction from the outset.
     Dumas' return to France was filled with controversy. His publishers were suing him for interrupting his serials (he left Stephen Gilbert lying unconscious on the ground in Joseph Balsamo) and questions were being asked in the Assembly about how Dumas could use a French warship as if it was a private yacht..
     Le Véloce: Tangier a Tunis was published in four volumes between 1848 and 1851. It has apparently never been translated in full into English. The most commonly available translation is the 1959 "Chilton" translation by Alma Murch, which encompasses about one-fourth of the original material, mostly travelogue. Several of the embodied short stories were extracted and published separately as Tales of Algeria in 1868.

From A Bibliography of Alexandre Dumas père by Frank Wild Reed:
     The continuation of the above work, in which Dumas records his journey in Northern Africa, with the vessel supplied by the government, the "Véloce."
     It had no serial publication.
     Original edition: Paris, Cadot, 4 vols., 8vo., 1848-1851, six engravings and many woodcuts by Giraud.
     Now fills two volumes in the Calmann-Lévy edition, and one in their "Musée Littéraire."
     In Vol. XXI, of Le Vasseur's "Alexandre Dumas Illustré."

         References :—
     Quérard: as above, and Columns 1161-70 (of Vol. I.).
     "Alexandre Dumas Dévoilé."
     "L'Algérie dans la Littérature Française," 1925.
     "Revue Rétrospective," No. 8, 1848, pp. 123-25.
     "La Nouvelle Revue," July 15th, 1902.
     Parran: "Bibliographie d'Alex. Dumas," page 59.

         English Translation :—
     "Tales of Algeria ; Life among the Arabs" (extracts only) : Philadelphia, Claxton, Remson & Haffelfinger illustrated, 1868. Translated by R. M. Bache, four ills., pp. 351.

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