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Jacques Cretineau-Joly

Journalist and historian; b. at Fontenay-le-Comte, Vendee, France, 23 Sept., 1803; d. at Vincennes near Paris, I Jan., 1875

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Cretineau-Joly, JACQUES, journalist and historian; b. at Fontenay-le-Comte, Vendee, France, September 23, 1803; d. at Vincennes near Paris, I January, 1875. At first he studied theology at the seminary of Saint-Sulpice, Paris, but, feeling that he had no vocation, he left after a stay of three years, during which he had received the tonsure. He was now in his twentieth year; he quickly obtained the professorship of philosophy at the college in his native town, but soon resigned the position on account of ill-health, and went in 1823 to Rome, as companion and private secretary to the French ambassador, the Duke of Laval-Montmorency.

In 1826 he published at Rome “Chants romains”, which contained poor verses of an irreligious character. After his return home in 1828 he issued a number of volumes of poems and dramas, as “Les Trappistes” (Angouleme, 1828), “Inspirations poetiques” (Angouleme, 1833), and other poems, all of which proved, however, that he was no poet. He accomplished much more as a polemical journalist in the struggle against the liberalism, which, after the revolution of July, directed the State during the reign of the Duke of Orleans as Louis-Philippe. Being a Vendean he was an enthusiastic adherent of the hereditary royal house, and with fiery zeal defended its rights in several Legitimist newspapers of which he was editor. In 1837 he went to reside in Paris in order to devote himself to historical research concerning the history of Vendee, but in 1839 he added for a time to these labors the editing of “L’Europe monarchique”, a newspaper devoted to the interests of the Bourbons. Before this he had published two writings on Vendee: “Episodes des guerres de la Vendee (1834) and “Histoire des generaux et chefs vendeens” (1838). He now combined the two, made use of a large number of sources until then unknown, and issued his most important work: “Histoire de la Vendee militaire” (Paris, 1840-41), 4 vols.; the fifth edition appeared in 1865. Although he did not lay sufficient weight on the religious side of these struggles, the work brought him reputation on account of the animated descriptions, the clear arrangement of the great mass of material, the correctness and painstaking care in the use of authorities. It must be acknowledged that he was by no means scrupulous how he obtained his materials, and in the prosecution of the narrative he was constantly influenced by practical considerations, for history had no value to him except as a storehouse of weapons against the foe of the moment.

His reputation outside of France was gained largely by his religious-political writings. The most important of these is his great history of the Society of Jesus: “Histoire religieuse, politique et litteraire de la Cornpagnie de Jesus” issued at Paris, 1844-1846, in 6 vols.; German translation, 1845, 3d ed., 1851. The work was written under the auspices of the Society and was drawn from authentic and unpublished sources; it is an excellent apology for the much abused Society, although at times it shows a lack of critical judgment and of moderation in treating the subject. A companion volume was his much discussed work: “Clement XIV et les Jesuites” (Paris, 1847, 3d ed., 1848). To this Theiner wrote a rejoinder on behalf of Pope Pius IX, and Ravignon one on behalf of the Society, whereupon Cretineau-Joly, after making careful research and in agreement with the pope, published “L’eglise romaine en face de la Revolution” (1859, 2 vols.; 2d ed., 1863), a work which testifies to his unwavering fidelity to the Catholic Church. His other writings generally treat some burning question of the day and possess, therefore, less general interest.


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