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  • D'Encre et de sang: Simon Goulart et la Saint-Barthélemy
  • Orest Ranum
Cécile Huchard . D'Encre et de sang: Simon Goulart et la Saint-Barthélemy. Bibliothèque Littéraire de la Renaissance 69. Paris: Honoré Champion Éditeur, 2007. 636 pp. index. append. bibl. €79. ISBN: 978-2-7453-1524-3.

Simon Goulart, the Genevan pastor, constructed the first narrative of the first three civil wars and the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacres, in his Mémoires de l'Estat de France, published in three volumes, first in Germany, in 1576-77. Partial, full of lacunae, difficult to read, and often obscure, Goulart's narrative would frame interpretations of the French civil wars with conviction for Protestants and critical skepticism for Roman Catholics down into the twentieth century.

Goulart's life and works have received scholarly attention. Leonard Chester Jones's study of 1917 still merits reading, for it establishes Goulart as the author of the anonymously published Mémoires and lays out with precision not only his relation to Beza and the Genevan Protestant community, but also his role in constructing another narrative project, Crespin's Martyrologie. Robert Kingdon's Myths about the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacres (1988) elucidated Goulart's changing perceptions that influenced the texts he chose to include in the Mémoires.

Huchard frames her study on Donald Kelley's Foundations of Modern Historical Scholarship (1969) when she proposes that legal humanism pervades Goulart's approach to history. There is certainly evidence of a legal perspective when Goulart uses such important concepts as "proofs" and "bearing witness"; but if this be legal humanism, it is thin at best. Like his contemporary François Hotman, whose texts Goulart would include in his Mémoires , the more fundamental and probing aspects of legal humanism such as philology and diplomatics [End Page 1268] were not made use of in some texts. Goulart would take up the editing of ancient texts only after he had published his Mémoires , but also after completing a similar project on the Catholic League.

Goulart was not the first to create a narrative by assembling, presenting, and commenting on texts; but he was the first to frame the chronological perspective running from the death of Henry II in 1559 through the atrocities of the late summer and autumn of 1572, thus making the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacres an immense turning point in history for Protestants.

Huchard cites studies important for her work, but she is reluctant to engage them. Two examples will suffice. M. Fumaroli's L'Âge d'éloquence: rhétorique et res litteraria de la Renaissance au seuil de l'âge classique (1980) characterized an "Attic style" that developed within legal humanism and established a special attitude toward inserting texts or quotations within narratives. This Attic perspective, Fumaroli finds, pervaded the writings of the legally trained and discouraged translation. Goulart's confidence in his readership's ability to comprehend the extraordinary variety of styles and themes in the texts he included in the Mémoires suggests Atticism. Huchard also cites Claude-Gilbert Dubois's La conception de l'Histoire en France au XVIe siècle (1977), which is particularly pioneering in exploring millenarian historical thought; but when Huchard takes up this aspect of Goulart's works, she does not take Dubois into account.

It is certainly true that Goulart's works have little relation to the "art of history" and method writings such as Bodin's that flourished during the same decades, but they do resemble legal briefs, or factums. Indeed, Goulart argues and presents evidence of the intentions of Catherine de Médici, Charles IX, and their councilors to subvert the peace that ended the third civil war and to exterminate the Protestants as heretics, beginning with Admiral Coligny. What precisely were the criteria that Goulart used in the process of selecting texts? He had some sense of balance within his partisan views that confidently led him to select texts that Catholics would have to read as much as Protestants. This reviewer is not completely convinced that Goulart conceived of his work as a history. The word does not appear in the title.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1935-0236
Print ISSN
0034-4338
Pages
pp. 1268-1270
Launched on MUSE
2008-12-24
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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