Thursday, July 28, 2011

An Accursed Race - by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

I don’t usually choose a non-fiction history book because most of those books no longer appeal to our sensibilities.  But I am making an exception because An Accursed Race by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell is about a topic I was not familiar with:

"There yet remains a remnant of the miserable people called Cagots in the valleys of the Pyrenees; in the Landes near Bourdeaux; and, stretching up on the west side of France, their numbers become larger in Lower Brittany. Even now, the origin of these families is a word of shame to them among their neighbours; although they are protected by the law, which confirmed them in the equal rights of citizens about the end of the last century. Before then they had lived, for hundreds of years, isolated from all those who boasted of pure blood, and they had been, all this time, oppressed by cruel local edicts. They were truly what they were popularly called, The Accursed Race."
This is not a book length piece; it is more like an extended magazine article.  I had not heard of the Cagots and assumed they must be Gypsies.  That is not the case.  Their ostracism is likened more to the treatment of a low caste in India.
"About thirty years ago, there was the skeleton of a hand hanging up as an offering in a Breton church near Quimperle, and the tradition was, that it was the hand of a rich Cagot who had dared to take holy water out of the usual benitier, some time at the beginning of the reign of Louis the Sixteenth; which an old soldier witnessing, he lay in wait, and the next time the offender approached the benitier he cut off his hand, and hung it up, dripping with blood, as an offering to the patron saint of the church."
This is a history of a people that has almost been erased, both the history and the people.  What  is saved here was published in 1896 by a writer better known for her novels. (US Edition) (UK Edition)

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I'm reading: An Accursed Race - by Elizabeth Cleghorn GaskellTweet this!


  1. Hi Marilyn Sue: I'm so glad you found my blog because now I got a chance to find your blog. I'm very excited to find another lover of classics. We have a lot of the same ones on our kindles. I put your URL on my browser toolbar (wow, the ultimate compliment in this day and age!).

    I'm going to put together a blog entry on "kindle versus hard copy" today - hope you'll come by and add your thoughts...

    I think earlier you mentioned that you like your kindle for being able to make the print larger (I think you just had cataract surgery? hope you are recovering well and your sight is improving)

    I like that aspect too - I noticed as I was reading a hard copy book with small print that, for the first time (at 50) I was having a hard time reading it. Need to replace my biofocals and get new lights! And use my kindle more.

    Happy reading, Kathy aka Ruby

  2. New Follower! I loved that book! Hope you enjoy it!

    Amanda Welling
    Hippies, Beauty, and Books. Oh My!

  3. Just hopping through. I'm a new follower from the Blog Hop.


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