Emmanuel-Henri-Dieudonne Domenech : biography
Emmanuel Domenech studied in a seminary. But not having finished his education, Domenech, being twenty years old, chose missionary activity in Texas. During the following two years Domenech lived in Saint-Louise, where he finished his education and studied English and German languages (as it turned out later he learnt German rather in a perfunctory manner. Finally he started his missionary service in Castroville. That was a small city founded by German colonists, who moved to Brownsville later. In spite of the difficulties associated with the fact that after the war with Mexico the country was flooded with deserters of the both countries, gangs, making living by robbery and murders, and, in addition to that, hostile Indian tribe and beginning cholera epidemic, the abbot served at his missionary position steadily and earned respect and authority among people of South Texas.
In 1850 Domenech came back to Europe for a short period. He had an audience with Pope Pius IX.
As he came back to Texas, he continued his missionary serving till 1852. That year his health undermined and he had to come back to France, where he got a position of a canon in Montpellier.
In 1861 Domenech visited the American continent once again in the capacity of an alms giver and a chaplain of emperor Maximillian. Having settled down in France once and for all, he devoted the rest of his life to discharge of his priestly duties and also travelling and literary creativity.
Since 1882 till 1883 he visited America for the last time. Abbot Domenech died in the end of 1903 (or in the beginning of 1904) because of an apoplectic attack. The abbot was buried in Lyon with military honours.
Decription of the “Book of savages”
The so called “Book of savages”, a manuscript, consisting of 114 leafs in quarto, covered with writing on the both sides with silver and red pencils, initially belonged to marquis family Paulmy. The origins of the book were unknown, but judging by the paper of Canadian manufacturing, one could guess that the book was given to marquis Paulmy by one Canadian missionary as a rarity. In 1785 the Paulmy sold the book together with his other books to the Arsenal of France. In spite of the fact that the true origins of the book were not revealed, the supervisor of the Arsenal library decided that the manuscript was probably a chronicle of one of the Indian tribes. With that hypothesis he offered Domenech to make an examination and try to translate the notebook. It should be mentioned that Domenech was known to be an expert of Indian languages and writing.
So, the abbot started his examination and one year later he published his book called “Manuscrit pictographique américain, précédé d'une notice sur l'idéographie des Peaux Rouges”. That was an illustrated book about America, attending marks of red-skinned people pictography. The author was mentioned as Emmanuel Domenech, a member of Paris Gepgraphical society. The work was published and endorsed by the Governmental minister and the minister of Imperial Court in Paris in 1860.
Later the abbot’s book fell into hand of German researchers. After that in was revealed that the book was just a notebook of a pupil, German by origin, who, probably, lived in one of Canadian or American villages. The signs, which were supposed to be Indian syllabic signs by Domenech, were just letters of German gothic type, which had never been used in France. The pictures, decoded by the abbot as “chronicle of three tribes”, were just fantasies of a child. After the German booklet called “Das Buch der Wilden“ im Lichte franzosischer Civilisation” was published, Domenech’s career was ruined. Both the decoder and the minister were laughed out.
However, the abbot tried to protect his reputation and published one more thing in 1861. That was called “The truth about the Book of savages”. It was devoted to English, German and Belgian researchers. But nobody took it into account.
Abbot Domenech was hardly able to recover after such a blow. After the scandal calmed down, Domenech came back to Lyon where he started to lead almost an anchoretic life. He devoted himself to his duties of a parish priest completely. People in Paris even thought that he was dead. The mistake was found out many years later.
- “Journal d’un missionnaire au Texas et au Mexique” or “Notes of a missionary about Texas and Mexico”, published in Paris in 1857
- “Voyage dans les solitudes americaines” or “Travelling along American deserts”, published in Paris in 1868
- “Histoire du jansenisme” or “History of Jansenism”, published in Paris in 1868
- “Histoire du Mexique” or “History of Mexico”, published in Paris in 1868
- “Souvenirs d’outre-mer” or “Memories about the life on the other side of ocean”, published in Paris in 1884.
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