Mother Death

The Journal of Jules Michelet, 1815-1850


Mother Death, selections from the private journal of France's greatest Romantic historian, traces the relationship between the author's personal life and the writing and thinking of history. Jules Michelet's diary explains his ambition to "resurrect the integral life of the past" his motto as visionary historian. As the noted critic Edmund Wilson wrote, "We finally get to feel that Michelet is the human's spirit itself fighting its way through the ages--eduring long degradations, triumphing in the joyful rebirths, contending within itself in devastating and baffled conflicts."

The Journal is a remarkable psychological document that explores the mysteries of bereavement, the artistic urges often inspired by loss, and the historian's philosophical and religious world views. Judiciously selected to form a coherent life story, these vividly translated reflections include the years 1815-1850, from the time his mother died to the death of his infant son. In Mother Death we witness how several crucial losses affected the historian's intimate relationships, his batter for faith through doubt, his ultimate break with the Catholic church, and his emerging identity as historian of the Revolution of 1789.

The translator, highly praised for his earlier Michelet's Poetic Vision: A Romantic Philosophy of Nature, Man, and Woman, has called this book Mother Death because death is truly the creative mother of Michelet's phophetic vocation as writier as well as the origin of his peculiar association of mourning an dht eyearning to die and be reborn. Lucid biographical and analytical commentaries accompny the often eloquent Journal, a literary masterpiece in its own right. A weird and sometimes magnificent poetry of bereavement arises in these pages. Michelet's meticulous self-examinations allow readers to penetrate the turbulence beneath the optimistic philosophy of nature, man, and woman.

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