Lyon dissertation no. 16. MS

Title Lyon dissertation no. 16. MS
Date 1785
Type Academic prize contest entry
Physical Description Bibliothèque de l'Académie de Lyon, MS 237-4, ff. 275-286.
Language French
Content Advice on educational benefits of travel
Criticism of Travel
NotesThis essay was one of the three that received a commendation of the jury of the 1785-1787 prize contest of the Academy of Lyon. Shocked by the fact that most of the good quality submissions to the proze contest were critical of travelling, the reviewer, count Laurencin, provided a lengthy commentary on it (see the whole text on the author profile). Laurencin highlighted that the author of this dissertation stated that he has travelled, but spoke against the educational benefits of travel. Laurencin highlighted that, without having travelled, he would not have been in a position to formulate this criticism of travel. The situation is somewhat reminiscent of (and possibly was inspired by) the case of Béat de Muralt, author of the 'Lettre sur les voiages' (see the database entry): himself a former traveller, he condemned travelling. However, Muralt appreciated the rest coming after travel, the 'have-travelled' status - this is not discussed here.

The author is well familiar with the apodemic tradition, and considers debating the utility of travelling an 'immortal debate'. He declares that travels won't make a young man neither necessarily well instructed, nor virtuous, nor a good citizen. He cannot question the utility of travelling, which contributed massively to science and the arts, but it was not through the travels of young men who are barely twenty years old. "A young man cannot learn while travelling. His age, his prejudices as well as those among whom he is travelling, the method of his travels, his ignorance, the company he is keeping, and his passions are so many obstacles in the way of his learning." A La Fontaine quote, used as the motto of the dissertation, is the preferred option: "Demeure en ton pays, par la nature instruit". It comes from one of La Fontaine's original fables (L'homme qui court après la fortune, et l'homme qui attend dans son lit' - in English 'The man who runs after Fortune and the man who waits for her'). This particular line could be translated as 'Remain in your land, instructed by Nature'.

The dissertation also discusses the possible negative effects of travel not only the traveller, but also the visited, such as the example of Columbus - in the eyes of the reviewer, these examples have no relevance to the topic.