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La Salle: Explorer of the North American Frontier

Overview

Seventeenth-century North America was a dangerous, untamed land, a vast wilderness where settlers, fur traders, and missionaries all struggled to eke out an existence. But the New World was also a place that attracted a special breed - men with a thirst for adventure and discovery. Robert Cavelier de La Salle, whose energy and single-minded ambition made him one of the greatest explorers of the time, was such a man. Born in 1643 to a family of wealthy linen merchants in Rouen, France, La Salle joined the Jesuits ...
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Overview

Seventeenth-century North America was a dangerous, untamed land, a vast wilderness where settlers, fur traders, and missionaries all struggled to eke out an existence. But the New World was also a place that attracted a special breed - men with a thirst for adventure and discovery. Robert Cavelier de La Salle, whose energy and single-minded ambition made him one of the greatest explorers of the time, was such a man. Born in 1643 to a family of wealthy linen merchants in Rouen, France, La Salle joined the Jesuits in hopes of becoming a missionary and traveling to distant lands. The hotheaded Robert soon found himself unable to conform. Sedentary teaching appointments ill suited his passionate nature, and, at the age of twenty-four, he left the Society of Jesus and crossed the Atlantic to America. Like Columbus before him, he was obsessed with finding a western passage to China. But the New World so intrigued him and inflamed his imagination that he abandoned the Far East for the mysteries of the still uncharted regions of North America. La Salle's explorations took him from Quebec and Montreal down the Saint Lawrence River to the Great Lakes; south along the Ohio and Illinois rivers; and finally, in 1682, down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, where he claimed the territory he had traveled through for France, and named it Louisiana in honor of the Sun King, Louis XIV. La Salle spent twenty years in North America, returning three times to France to enlist support for his further explorations and to gather funds to pursue them. Throughout those years he never lost sight of his grand strategic goal, which was to link the Great Lakes to warm water ports on the Gulf of Mexico. Nor did he waver in his integrity and determination to succeed, or lose his exceptional physical endurance. A man of such quality inevitably attracted lifelong friends, as well as mortal enemies who would assassinate him just as his triumph was nearly complete. The author combines im
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Robert Cavelier de La Salle is largely forgotten in the annals of exploration in North America. Muhlstein ( Baron James ) resurrects him in this lively biography and adventure story that also portrays the struggle for power between lay and religious officials in Quebec. Educated by the Jesuits in France, La Salle resigned the priesthood and traveled to Quebec in 1667 to search for the Northwest Passage. He focused on the Great Lakes and rivers that led him to the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The arrival in Quebec of a new governor, the Comte de Frontenac, in 1672 set the stage for La Salle's more extensive explorations, as the two men conspired to circumvent the powerful Jesuits. La Salle learned Indian languages and customs; Nika, an Iroquois, became his trusted guide. La Salle claimed Louisiana for King Louis XIV in 1682. On a return voyage from France in 1687, his ship got lost in the Mississippi Delta, and as the party struggled through swampland, LaSalle was murdered by two of his own men. (May)
Library Journal
Although educated by the Jesuits, La Salle did not have the temperament for the priesthood and made his way to Canada in hopes of discovering the route to China. He soon gave up this idea in favor of a life as a fur trader and explorer of the interior of a little-known continent. Using published collections of documents, Muhlstein follows La Salle throughout his journeys, showing his difficulties with creditors as well as his friendly relations with the native tribes. She also details the ill-fated attempt to establish a French colony at the mouth of the Mississippi that led to La Salle's untimely death in a trap set by his own men. This well-written account is intended for general readers and undergraduates but will also be useful for specialists. The definitive biography remains to be written. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/94.]-Stephen H. Peters, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette
The New Yorker
“Superbly evokes the American wilderness and subtly conveys its effect.”
Le Figaro Magazine
“Fascinating . . . a fitting tribute to one of the noblest figures of the Grand Siècle.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559702942
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/25/1995
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Anka Muhlstein was born in Paris in 1935. In 1974, she began her writing career through the publication of French materials, specifically biographies. In 1996, she won the Goncourt Prize in 1996 for Letters from Russia. She is also the two-time recipient of the History Prize of the French Academy and the author of Monsieur Proust’s Library and Balzac’s Omelette: A Delicious Tour of French Food and Culture with Honoré de Balzac. She resides in New York.
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