History of the Reformation, vol. 4


History of the Reformation—Volume 4


When a foreigner visits certain countries, as England, Scotland, or America, he is sometimes presented with the rights of citizenship. Such has been the privilege of the “History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century.” From 150,000 to 200,000 copies are in circulation, in the English language, in the countries I have just mentioned; while in France the number hardly exceeds 4,000. This is a real adoption,—naturalizing my Work in the countries that have received it with so much favor. HRSCV4 497.1

I accept this honor. Accordingly, while the former Volumes of my History were originally published in France; now that, after a lapse of five years, I think of issuing a continuation of it, I do so in Great Britain. HRSCV4 497.2

This is not the only change in the mode of publication. I did not think it right to leave to translators, as in the case of the former Volumes, the task of expressing my ideas in English. The best translations are always faulty; and the Author alone can have the certainty of conveying his idea, his whole idea, and nothing but his idea. It became necessary for me to publish, myself, in English; and this I accordingly do. But although that language is familiar to me, I was desirous of securing, to a certain extent, the co-operation of an English literary gentleman. Dr. Henry White, of Croydon, has had the great kindness to visit Switzerland for this purpose, although such a step exposed him to much inconvenience, and to pass with me at Geneva the time necessary for this labor. I could not have had a more enlightened coadjutor; and I here express my obligations to him for his very able assistance. HRSCV4 497.3

I therefore publish in English this Continuation of the History of the Reformation. I do not think that, as I publish, myself, in this language, any one will have the power, or will entertain the idea, of attempting another publication. It would be a very bad speculation on the part of any bookseller; for where is the reader that would not prefer the original text, as published by the Author himself, to a translation made by a stranger? HRSCV4 497.4

But there is a higher question—a question of morality. Of all property that a man can possess, there is none so essentially his own as the labors of his mind. He acquires the fruits of his fields by the sweat of his servants and of his beasts of burden; and the produce of his manufactures by the labor of his workmen and the movement of his machines; but it is by his own toils, by the exercise of his most exalted faculties, that he creates the productions of his mind. Accordingly, in putting this History under the protection of the laws, I place it at the same time under a no less secure safeguard,—that of justice. I know that it is written in the consciences on the other side of the Channel and of the Atlantic: Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger as for one of your country: for I am the Lord your God. To English honor I confide this work. HRSCV4 497.5

The first two Books of this Volume contain the most important epochs of the Reformation—the Protest of Spires, and the Confession of Augsburg. The last two describe the establishment of the Reform in most of the Swiss cantons, and the instructive and deplorable events that are connected with the catastrophe of Cappel. HRSCV4 497.6

It was my desire to narrate also the beginnings of the English Reformation; but my Volume is filled, and I am compelled to defer this subject to the next. It is true I might have omitted some matters here treated of, but I had strong reasons for doing the contrary. The Reformation in Great Britain is not very important before the period described in this volume; the order of time compelled me, therefore, to remain on the Continent; for whatever may be the historian’s desire, he cannot change dates and the sequence that God has assigned to the events of the world. Besides, before turning more especially towards England, Scotland, France, and other countries, I determined on bringing the Reformation of Germany and German Switzerland to the decisive epochs of 1530 and 1531. The History of the Reformation, properly so called, is then, in my opinion, almost complete in those countries. The work of Faith has there attained its apogee: that of conferences, of interims, of diplomacy begins. I do not, however, entirely abandon Germany and German Switzerland, but henceforward they will occupy me less: the movement of the sixteenth century has there made its effort. I said from the very first: It is the History of the Reformation and not of Protestantism that I am relating. HRSCV4 497.7

I cannot, however, approach the History of the Reformation in England without some portion of fear; it is perhaps more difficult there than elsewhere. I have received communications from some of the most respectable men of the different ecclesiastical parties, who, each feeling convinced that their own point of view is the true one, desire me to present the history in this light. I hope to execute my task with impartiality and truth; and thought it would be advantageous to study for some time longer the principles and the facts. In this task I am at present occupied, and shall consecrate to it, with God’s assistance, the first part of my next volume. Should it be thought that I might have described the Reformation in Switzerland with greater brevity, I beg my readers will call to mind that, independently of the intrinsic importance of this history, Switzerland is the Author’s birthplace. HRSCV4 498.1

I had at first thought of making arrangements for the present publication with the English and Scotch booksellers who had translated the former portions. Relations that I had maintained with some of these publishers, and which had gained my esteem for them, induced me to adopt this course. They were consequently informed by letter of my purpose, and several months later I had an interview with some of them at Glasgow. From circumstances which it is unnecessary to explain, no arrangement was entered into with these gentlemen. But at the same time, one of the first houses in Great Britain, Messrs Oliver & Boyd of Edinburgh, who were introduced to me by my highly respected friend Dr. Chalmers, made me a suitable and precise offer. I could wait no longer; and on the very eve of my departure from London for the Continent, after a sojourn of three months in Scotland and in England, I made arrangements with them, which have since been definitively settled, and the work is now their property. HRSCV4 498.2

The French laws are positive to protect literary property in France, even if it belongs to a foreigner. I am less familiar with the English laws; but I will not do England the injustice of believing that its legislation is surpassed by that of France in justice and in morality. Eaux-Vives, Geneva, January 1846. HRSCV4 498.3