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EVERAL years ago, one of our friends at
Lyons discovered hidden, at the bottom of
an old family library, the book which we here reprint. Attracted by the title, he read it, and gave it to some of his friends to read; the interest it excited was so lively and so universal, that all desired the republication of the narrative.
But one question had first to be solved, What was this book? Was its harrowing narrative of the odious consequences of religious persecution authentic? Could it be accepted as a picture, sadly faithful, of the truth? Or was it merely a romance, destined to excite the reader's pity on behalf of an imaginary hero? The matter was investigated; two copies of an edition later than that of 1757 were discovered in Holland, which furnished the key to all the names, which, in the first edition, were only denoted by initials. There was now no doubt that these memoirs (perfectly authentic, and revised by Daniel de Superville, one of the pastors who received the poor fugitive) contained the real history of the sufferings of a young man, Jean Marteilhe, of Bergerac. *
Amidst more pressing labours, the project of reprinting the book was postponed, and would, perhaps, have been forgotten altogether, if the publication of M. Michelet's work on the “Revocation of the Edict of Nantes," by
* See note at end of volume.
fully confirming the investigations already made, had not excited a more lively desire for the appearance of these memoirs, unknown for the most part to the descendants of those who had so severely suffered for their faith. In one of the most touching chapters of his book, M. Michelet, after having rapidly analysed these memoirs, adds, “It is a book of the first order, distinguished by the charming naivete of the recital, by its angelic sweetness, written as if between earth and heaven. Why has it never been reprinted?” We are glad to be able at length to realise the wish of our eminent historian.
If we try to revive these glorious recollections of the past history of our church, it is not to excite anew those religious conflicts in which our ancestors so ardently engaged. We know, and we bless God for it, how the times are changed. Children of the same country, yet free to profess our faith publicly, we are happy to carry into practice the counsel of the prophet to the people of Israel, “ Pray for the peace of the city in which ye dwell, for in the peace thereof ye shall have peace. But it is good to remember, at all times, those lessons of stern obedience to conscience, of fidelity to duty, and of self-sacrifice, which, in the days of trial, our fathers so courageously gave both to us and to their persecutors.
Our sole desire is to revive the spirit of the fathers in the children, reminding them by these salutary examples, that “
man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
HENRY PAUMIER. PARIS: October, 1864
* Jer. xxix. 7, French version.
O the foregoing preface, by the French editor,
little needs to be added. By the Edict of
Nantes, Henry iv., in the year 1598, guaranteed to his Protestant subjects liberty of conscience and of worship, absolute security to person and property, and equal rights and privileges before the law. The Edict continued in force for nearly ninety years, though its stipulations were often violated, and, under one pretence or another, the Protestants suffered frequent persecutions. But on the 22nd October, 1685, it was revoked by Louis XIV. The Reformed pastors were commanded to leave the kingdom within fifteen days, under pain of the galleys. All Protestant worship was interdicted, both in public and private, and the temples were ordered to be razed to the ground. The Pro testant schools were to be closed forthwith ; and all children born after the date of the Revocation were to be baptized by the parish priests, and brought up as Roman Catholics. Refugees were enjoined to return and abjure their faith within four months, under penalty of confiscation and outlawry. Protestants attempting to escape from the kingdom were sentenced to the galleys. Adults who had been brought up in the reformed faith were allowed to remain « until it shall please God to enlighten them.”
These stern and cruel enactments were at once put into force, and a regular stampede from the kingdom commenced. Though every effort was made to guard the frontiers, yet multitudes escaped, and reached England, Switzerland, Holland, or Germany. The number of fugitives will never be fully known. The estimates vary widely. Probably not fewer than a quarter of a million succeeded in flying from their homes, and finding liberty to worship God in foreign lands. The fugitives were from every class in society, and adopted every variety of disguise---pilgrims, cattle-drovers, soldiers, footmen, beggars. Some bribed the guards who lined the fron tiers, some crept along byways and through forests under cover of the night, others, who could afford it, paid guides to conduct them by intricate and unwatched passes. Those near the coast concealed themselves on board ship, by the connivance of the merchants and sailors, amongst bales of goods or in empty casks. Many ventured out to sea in open boats, in the desperate hope of reaching England, or being picked up by some passing vessel. The Count and Countess de Marancè, with forty companions, amongst whom were several aged and sick persons, and pregnant women, embarked in a fishing-boat of only seven tons burden. Driven from their course by a violent storm, they were on the point of perishing from hunger. For some days they subsisted upon melted snow, and at last reached the English coast mare dead than alive.
Many of the most eminent men in France—men in the first rank of the nobility-vainly implored permission to quit the country. The Marquis de Ruvigny and Marshal Schomberg were almost the only exceptions. Admiral Duquesne, the founder of the French navy, was urged by the infatuated monarch to change his