Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
Juin 2013

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia



Louis Hennepin

[1640-1701 (?)]


Hennepin, Louis (fl. 1640-1701), Récollet friar, explorer, and author, was born in the Spanish Netherlands about the year 1640. He entered the Récollet order as a novice while still a youth; and, after a varied career in Europe, came as a missionary to New France in 1675. He was stationed first at Quebec, and then at Fort Frontenac; and in 1678 he was selected to accom­pany La Salle on his journey of discovery to the Mississippi. In 1681 he was dispatched by La Salle, with two companions, to push on from Fort Crèvecoeur to the Mississippi to report on the country; but he and his com­panions were captured by the Sioux, and were compelled to spend several months with their captors wandering through the country of the Upper Mississippi. They were rescued by the coureur-de-bois Du Lhut, and Hennepin made his way back to Quebec in the summer of 1681. Thence he re­turned, probably in the following autumn, to France. The remainder of his life was passed in Europe; and the last glimpse we have of him is in a convent in Rome in 1701. The date and place of his death is not known.

Hennepin's reputation rests on his writings, about which much controversy has raged. In 1682 he published at Paris his Description de la Louisiane, in which he gave a fairly veracious account of his travels. The success of the book, of which new editions were published in 1684 and 1688, and which was translated into Dutch, German, and Italian, led him, however, to bring out, after the death of La Salle, a new book entitled Nouvelle découverte d'un très grand pays (Utrecht, 1697), which was marked by gross fabrications and plagiarisms, and in which he claimed credit for La Salle's discoveries. This was followed by a third book, Nouveau voyage d'un pais plus grand que l'Europe (Utrecht, 1698), and by an English version of Hennepin's travels entitled A new discovery of a vast country in America (London, 1698), both of which contained the falsifications of the Nou­velle découverte. All of these publications reached new editions; and Hennepin must have been one of the most widely read authors of his day.

See R. G. Thwaites (ed.), Hennepin's A new discovery (2 vols., Chicago, 1903), with bibliography by V. H. Paltsits; N. E. Dionne, Hennepin, ses voyages et ses oeuvres (Quebec, 1897), Jerome Goyens, Le P. Louis Hennepin (Quaracchi, 1925) ; and  L. Hennepin, A description of Louisiana, tr. by J. G. Shea (New York, 1880), with bibliography.

Source: W. Stewart WALLACE, “Louis Hennepin”, in The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. III, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 396p., p. 132.


© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College