Du Chaillu, Paul Belloni
- Robert L. Gale
Du Chaillu, Paul Belloni (31 July 1835?–30 April 1903), explorer and author, was the son of Charles Alexis Du Chaillu, a Frenchman representing a Parisian firm trading in Gabon, on the west coast of central Africa. His mother, not identifiable by name, may have been an Italian, a Creole, or a mulatto. The possibility that Du Chaillu was illegitimate or that his mother was of mixed parentage could account for his never mentioning her in his writings. His date of birth is not known for certain; although 31 July 1835 is commonly accepted, it has also been published that he was born in 1831 and in 1838. His place of birth is also uncertain; various authorities say New Orleans, Paris, and the Indian Ocean island of Réunion (called Bourbon before the revolution of 1848). Du Chaillu’s father was in France in the 1830s, during which time Du Chaillu was very likely with him and began his schooling there. His father returned to Gabon in the 1840s, and Du Chaillu was there with him again around 1848, attending Protestant and Catholic mission schools there. By the age of fifteen, he was clerking for the local colonial administration. During his early years in Gabon, he hunted, roamed the interior, traded with natives, and picked up the rudiments of several local languages....