Panorama of the Protestant press in the 19th century

The 19th century was a period of prolific press activity and Protestant publications were of a very varied nature : periodicals, national and regional newspapers and newsletters, alongside specific information concerning charities and associations created at the time. The “grey” literature made up of confidential correspondence between pastors played a major role in the conception and the development of their pastoral duties.

A nation-wide Protestant Press and periodicals

  • ‘Christian Journal’, dir. by John Vienot, Free Faculty of Theology, Paris, from 1854 to 1926 © S.H.P.F.

Newspapers and reviews published during the first half of the 19th century were more generally meant for educated readers and leading citizens. The same applied to Protestant publications made up mainly of reviews (yearly, bi-annual, quarterly). Among the most significant and long-lasting publications figured:

  • Les Archives du Christianisme, founded in 1818 by Pastor Juillerat-Chasseur,
  • Les Annales Protestantes, founded in 1819 by Pastor Charles Coquerel.

To these reviews, published in Paris are added:

  • Les mélanges de religion, de morale et de critique sacrée, founded in Nîmes by Pastor Samuel Vincent (1820), a review replaced in 1834 by Religion et Christianisme, likewise edited by Samuel Vincent, and Le Semeur, founded in 1839 by Henri Lutteroth,
  • The Christliche Mitteilungen are founded in Strasbourg in 1828 by Pastor Kraft.

Until the July Monarchy, the articles published in these reviews were of a distinct revivalist nature, but as from 1830 the liberals actively participated in and diversified this medium of communication and information.

New reviews were launched:

  • Le Protestant, founded by Charles Coquerel in 1831,
  • L’Évangéliste, founded in 1837 by Ferdinand Fontanès,
  • Le Disciple de Jésus-Christ, founded by Joseph-Martin Paschaud in 1839,
  • La Revue de Théologie et de Philosophie Chrétienne, or Revue de Strasbourg, founded by Edmond Scherer and Timothée Colani in 1850,
  • La Revue Chrétienne, founded by Edmond de Pressensé in 1854,
  • La Revue Théologique, founded in 1874 by the Montauban Faculty of Theology,
  • Le Bulletin de la Société d’Histoire du Protestantisme Français founded in 1852.

Moreover, press media raised new interest : monthly or weekly periodicals and daily newspapers which highlight current events and their analysis (by means of editorials) as well as more specifically Protestant news (accounts of various church assemblies) and obituaries. Titles such as L’Espérance (1838), Le Lien (1841) La Voix Nouvelle (founded in 1846 by the Methodist pastor Philippe Boucher, Le Signal (founded in 1879 by Pastor Eugène Réveillaud, a former Roman Catholic priest converted to Protestantism) prove how diverse was the interest French Protestant readers.

All these media focusing on information and reflection did not meet with the same success, but the impetus of their development was made evident by mergers and the transformation of some titles as well as by an increasing number of readers.

An active local religious press

From the July Monarchy onwards, a local religious Press was developed alongside the national titles:

  • Le Catholique apostolique et non romain, founded by Pastor Cambon in 1839, covered the South-West,
  • Le Réveil, founded by Pastor Macé in 1839, covered the area of Montpellier,
  • La Sentinelle, founded by Pastor Meynadier in Valence, in 1834,
  • L’Observateur Évangélique, in Poitiers.

This specific activity did not always survive the harassment to which it was submitted during the authoritarian period of the Second Empire.

Reviews and periodicals concerning Protestant charities

Of great interest is the information concerning numerous periodicals dealing with the growth of Protestant charities, and created to publicize their aims and needs:

  • Le Journal des Missions Évangéliques, founded in 1826 by the Maison des Missions Évangéliques de Paris, and its complement, Le Petit Messager des Missions, launched in 1844,
  • La Chambre Haute, founded in 1870 by the Alliance Évangélique for distribution throughout the Gard département, and completed in 1890 by L’Étendard Évangélique distributed in the Charentes area,
  • L’Ami de la maison, was, from 1874 on, the official voice of the Croix Bleue,
  • Le Magasin des Écoles du Dimanche (1851) replaced by Le Journal des Écoles du Dimanche in 1888, both related to the Société des Écoles du Dimanche.

Devotional publications

To these titles must be added devotional newspapers published by pastors or pastors’ wives. The best-known of these, L’Ami chrétien des familles, was founded in 1858 by Lutheran pastors. Madame Sabatier, Madame Decoppet, Madame Puaux, joined by the wife of the economist Jules Siegfried and the wife of the historian Charles Seignobos are members the very active editorial staff of La Femme, founded in 1878.

Confidential correspondence between pastors

The theological differences between pastors were quite real during the greater part of the 19th century. As long as it was impossible to convene a national synod, they prompted very significant and interesting liaison newsletters. These were generally given the name of “correspondence”, as they appeared without regular columns and consisted of signed articles published in letter form and re-arranged by a “central correspondent” in order to ensure their wider distribution. They are characterised by a striking freedom of expression.

The first “correspondence” was the Correspondance Frontin, named after the evangelical pastor appointed to Dijon at the time of the July Monarchy. Pastor Benjamin Vaurigaud (likewise an evangelical, posted in Nantes from 1861 to 1870) was at the origin of the Correspondance évangélique. Suspended during the war of 1870, its publication is briefly resumed by Pastor Monbrun in 1877. To these “correspondences” related to the Revival Movement, more liberal “correspondences” were rapidly added such as La Correspondance fraternelle, also called Correspondance Fontanès and very regularly published between 1839 and 1848 ; these were followed by the Correspondance Cruvellié and the Correspondance Montandon between 1852 and 1855. Unfortunately, no complete collection of the last three is available today.

Author: Patrick Harismendy

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