This paper provides the first complete translation into English of “a most interesting letter written by Father Bouchet in 1714 from Pondicherry to a great man in France” (Nelson 1881: 1188). Except for the first few paragraphs, the letter is entirely devoted to the administration of Hindu law. Although the letter has not remained unnoticed, it has never been made available elsewhere than in its original setting: the Letters édifiantes et curieuses and their German and Italian translations.
The author, Jean Venant Bouchet, was born at Fontenay-le- Comte, France, on April 12, 1655. He became a novice in the Society of Jesus on October 1, 1670. In 1688 he left for India, where he was put in charge of Trichinopoly and the surrounding area. Because of civil troubles in the city he established himself at Ahur, twelve miles south of Trichinopoly. He built a church, and carried on in grand style. In 1702 he was transferred from the Maduré mission to the Carnate mission, of which he became the Superior. He then lived at Tarkolan, in North Arcot District.
On November 6, 1703, Charles de Tournon, papal legatus a latere, arrived in Pondicherry, to investigate Jesuit practices. Sickness prevented him from visiting any part of the inland mission. However, until his departure in July 1704, he gathered data on the practices in question, notably from Charles Bertoldi of Maduré, and from Bouchet.