Jusserand, Jean Jules 1855-1932
JUSSERAND, Jean Jules 1855-1932
(Jean Adrien Antoine Jules Jusserand)
Born 1855; died 1932.
French diplomat, author, and scholar. French Ambassador to the United States, 1902-1915.
Pulitzer Prize in area of history, 1917, for work on With Americans of Past and Present Days; National Institute of Social Sciences Gold Medal winner, 1923.
Literary History of the English People, three volumes, 1895-1909.
With Americans of Past and Present Days, 1916.
English Wayfaring Life in the Middle Ages, 1921.
Schools for Ambassadors and Other Essays, 1925.
Writing History, 1926.
What Me Befell, 1933.
The English Novel in the Time of Shakespeare, translation by Elizabeth Lee, Barnes & Noble (New York, NY), 1966.
French diplomat and scholar Jean Jules Jusserand penned a number of books near the turn of the twentieth-century. During his lifetime he published several works that dealt with English literature and history, including the three volumes of Literary History of the English People (1895-1909), English Wayfaring Life (1889) and The English Novel in the Time of Shakespeare, which was first published in 1890.
Born in 1855, Jusserand served as France's ambassador to the United States between 1902 and 1915. He distinguished himself during his time in America, becoming the only non-American elected to the presidency of the American Historical Society. After fulfilling his term as Ambassador, Jusserand published With Americans of Past and Present Days in 1916, which, in the following year, earned him the very first Pulitzer Prize awarded in the area of history. His work also earned him a Gold Medal from the National Institute of Social Sciences in 1923. Despite the fact that he was not formally trained to write works of scholarship, Jusserand produced his works with vigor and dedication. Literary critic David Evett commented on Jusserand's career in an article that appeared in the Modern Language Journal. "Jusserand was one of that army of passionate amateurs who beat out the track which professional scholars have since followed. He has both the defects and the virtues of the group," Evett wrote. "His main fault is a deficiency of historical perspective." Jusserand died in 1932. His works also include Writing History, Schools for Ambassadors and Other Essays, and What Me Befell.
A good example of both the value and fault of Jusserand's work can be seen in The English Novel in the Time of Shakespeare, which Barnes & Noble republished in 1966. Mostly concentrating on the period between 1579 and 1600, the work deconstructs the evolution of the literary form known as the novel. While most scholars normally mention authors such as Chaucer, Defoe, Cervantes and Bunyan as the earliest innovators of the form, Jusserand felt it could be traced back further. In fact, he even downplays the influence of Chaucer and Cervantes. Focusing on plot, style, and moral values, Jusserand actually takes the form back to the Old English epic poem Beowulf, and then highlights the influence of the French romances. However, the book's main emphasis is on the writings of John Lyly, Thomas Nash, and especially Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586). In one chapter, Jusserand dissects Sidney's classic work Arcadia, which remained popular well into the eighteenth century. "For the first time, the dramatic power of English genius leaves the stage and comes to light in the novel; it was destined to pass into it entirely," Jusserand wrote of Arcadia. Despite this praise, Jusserand did find exception with some aspects of the work, feeling it had "enormous defects of style and composition." Translated by Elizabeth Lee, the work contains forty-four illustrated prints, which accentuate the subject matter. Modern critics largely praised the republished edition. Feeling it deserved "new attention," a contributor for Choice called Jusserand's work "an excellent introduction to English narrative prose fiction." Evett of the Modern Language Journal was also happy to see the republished edition, calling it "a welcome return to print." Acknowledging the work did contain some flaws in overall analysis, Evett commended it as "an urbane, often perceptive, always engaging introduction to a body of writing still little known to the general reader."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
English Novel in the Time of Shakespeare, translation by Elizabeth Lee, Barnes & Noble (New York, NY), 1966.
Oxford Companion to American Literature, Oxford University (New York, NY), 1965.
Choice March, 1967, p. 36.
Modern Language Journal April, 1967, pp. 235-236.*