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The Idea of Europe

Catriona Seth
Rotraud von Kulessa

35. Another Vision of Education?

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1The Duke of Nivernais (1716–1798),i was a sometime poet and wrote numerous fables. One of them imagines an exchange between a ‘savage’ and a westerner. He evokes a form of physical harm, seen through European eyes, but also inner trauma pointed out in the primitive man’s comments as he displays a form of wisdom his interlocutor does not possess.

Ill-Treated Heads

  • ii See the accounts of all the travellers to America [author’s note].

A savage kneaded,
Slimmed down, shrunk
An infant’s head, to give it the shape
His tribe prized.ii
A European passing by
Found this barbarous indeed;
And chiding the American,
Criticised him for insulting
Nature’s wise laws
By spoiling the human face.
The external shape may be damaged;
That I agree, said the Huron.
But we allow full scope to reason,
We do not hamper thought.
On your continent, it is said,
Judgment is narrowed

As the skull is narrowed here.
So which I prithee say to me,
Should truly be condemned?

2Louis-Jules Barbon Mancini-Mazarini-Nivernois,
Duke of Nivernais, Fables (1796).

Read the free text in the original language (1796 edition):​details/​fablesdemancinin02nive

Indice delle illustrazioni

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Legenda Anon. (possibly Jean de Brébeuf), Map of Huron Country (1631–1651).iii
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