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Monday, November 30, 2015

The Blacksmith's Hammer, or The Peasant Code A Tale of the Grand Monarch

The Blacksmith's Hammer, or The Peasant Code A Tale of the Grand Monarch by Eugene Sue
The Blacksmith's Hammer, or The Peasant Code A Tale of the Grand Monarch is the 18th 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 novelization of European history that depicted 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.
The Blacksmith's Hammer, which is set in the 1670's, is a sequel to the events of the previous book in the series, The Pocket Bible, which was set in Paris in the 16th century. It is Eugene Sue's Romeo and Juliet, a tale of two lovers from the opposing families of the series, one Gallic and the other Frankish. Having been divided by race and class for so many years, Calvinism has finally created a bridge that can unite Bertha of Plouernel and Nominoë Lebrenn.
Part One takes place in 1672 Holland during William of Orange's persecution and murder of John and Cornelius De Witt. A French ship on its way to England is caught in a storm and seeks safe harbor along the Dutch coast. On board is the young and beautiful Bertha of Plouernel. With it's main mast and rudder lost to the storm, the ship is helpless and sends out distress signals. Just when all hope seems lost, a ship skillfully piloted by a virile and charming young man appears and tows them into the harbor at Delft. The seaman is Nominoë Lebrenn, who goes on to save Bertha's life several times and they fall in love.
Part Two takes place in Brittany during the Revolt of the Bonnets Rouges of 1675. Nominoë is one of the leaders of the peasant revolt and Bertha is the sister of Baron Raoul of Plouernel, the local landlord, whose taxes have caused the unrest. In addition to being a story of a great love, Eugene Sue makes both lovers politically aware of how their love could unite a country and their two races, healing centuries of class struggle.
While this is a sequel to the previous book in the series, it can be read on its own as the characters have their own compelling story to tell. Typical of the series, the author weaves his own fictional families into the real events of the period to create drama while maintaining historic accuracy.
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.

TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton observes of fiction that, when aspiring at something higher than mere romance, it does not pervert, but elucidates the facts of the times in which the scene is placed; hence, that fiction serves to illustrate those truths which history is too often compelled to leave to the tale-teller, the dramatist and the poet. In this story, The Blacksmith's Hammer; or, The Peasant Code--the seventeenth of the charming series of Eugene Sue's historic novels, The Mysteries of the People; or, History of a Proletarian Family Across the Ages--the author reaches a height in which are combined all the elements that Bulwer-Lytton distributes among history, tale, drama and poetry. The history is clean cut; the tale fascinates; its dramatic presentation is matchless; last, not least, the poetic note is lyric. As historian, as tale-teller, as dramatist and as a poet the author excels himself in this narrative, that serves at once as a sequel of the age described in the previous story, , and as prelude to the great épopée of the next story that deals with the French Revolution.
DANIEL DE LEON.
New York, March, 1910.

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