So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

The Pocket Bible or Christian the Printer, A Tale of the Sixteenth Century

The Pocket Bible or Christian the Printer, A Tale of the Sixteenth Century by Eugene Sue
The Pocket Bible or Christian the Printer, A Tale of the Sixteenth Century is the 16th and 17th book of Eugene Sue's 20 volume series The Mysteries of the People; or History of a Proletarian Family Across the Age. The series was created to be a European history that depicts the struggle between the ruling and the ruled classes. One family, the descendants of a Gallic chief named Joel, represent the oppressed and the descendants of a Frankish chief Neroweg, typifies the oppressors. Down through the ages the successive struggles between oppressors and oppressed are depicted in a series of stories that culminate in the European Revolutions of 1848.

Volume 1 of The Pocket Bible, named The Society of Jesus, is set in Paris in the year 1534 and depicts the historic events of the struggle between the Catholic church and the Reformation. This is the year that both Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus which is known today as the Jesuits, and John Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, are both in Paris. While neither stay in Paris long, they both are represented in this tale of Christian the Printer and his family who have embraced Calvin's teachings only to be caught up in persecution for their beliefs by the king and the Catholics.

Volume 2, named The Huguenots, takes place 34 years later in 1569 in the protestant city of La Rochelle where Christian's grandson Antonicq is an armorer as they come under attack by Catholic forces loyal to the king.

Both volumes of this novel document the excesses of the Catholic attempts to destroy the Huguenot minority in France. The author carefully footnotes many of the most horrific details of this persecution to prove that they really occurred. As such he has carefully inserted his Gallic family into this historic novel documenting the religious turbulence of 16th century France.

Each volume in this series has a preface by their translator, the Socialist publisher Daniel De Leon, that helps set the story in the history of the labor movement of the early 20th century when these books were first made available to American readers.

The epoch covered by this, the 16th story of Eugene Sue's dramatic historic series, entitled The Mysteries of the People; or, History of a Proletarian Family Across the Ages, extends over the turbulent yet formative era known in history as the Religious Reformation.
The social system that had been developing since the epoch initiated by the 8th story of the series, The Abbatial Crosier; or, Bonaik and Septimine, that is, the feudal system, and which is depicted in full bloom in the 14th story of the series, The Iron Trevet; or, Jocelyn the Champion, had been since suffering general collapse with the approach of the bourgeois, or capitalist system, which found its first open, or political, expression in the Reformation, and which was urged into life by Luther, Calvin and other leading adversaries of the Roman Catholic regime.
The history of the Reformation, or rather, of the conflict between the clerical polity which symbolized the old and the clerical polity which symbolized the new social order, is compressed within the covers of this one story with the skill at once of the historian, the scientist, the philosopher and the novelist. The various springs from which human action flows, the various types which human crises produce, the virtues and the vices which great historic conflicts heat into activity—all these features of social motion, never jointly reproduced in works of history, are here drawn in vivid colors and present a historic canvas that is prime in the domain of literature. In view of the exceptional importance of some of the footnotes in which Sue refers the reader to the pages of original authorities in French cited by him, the pages of an accessible American edition are in those cases either substituted or added in this translation.
New York, February, 1910.


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