Martin Luther in Nineteenth-Century France

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Abstract

French-language readers had little available about Martin Luther before the French Revolution. A few Catholic authors had written about him from a confessional perspective. At the beginning of the nineteenth century interest was aroused by an essay competition, but the topic had to do with political influence rather than with Luther's life. In 1835 there began a series of publications which addressed the life of the reformer, and included vast amounts of quoted material from the letters and table talk. One of these early works, by Michelet, was from a Romantic but nonsectarian perspective, that by Merle was Romantic and providential, while another by Audin was from an arch-Catholic point of view. Over the course of the century both Catholics and Protestants continued to write essays about Luther, from confessional points of view, but there was a growth of works which achieved a greater degree of non-partisanship, even if appreciative of his contributions. Toward the end of the century there was a treatment of Luther which recognised explicitly that he belonged to a bygone era which was increasingly inaccessible to contemporary French readers.

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