13. The Refugees: A Tale of Two Continents (1893)

The Refugees
, Conan Doyle’s fourth historical novel, was first published by Harper’s Monthly Magazine in 1893. It explores the events surrounding Louis XIV's Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and how this impacts on a small group of Huguenots who are sent, as Conan Doyle put it, “flying like leaves before a hurricane.”
The episode can be heard below or http://doingsofdoyle.podbean.com/


The year is 1685, and a storm is gathering around Amory de Catinat, a young Huguenot captain in the Gardes du Corps of King Louis XIV, the great Roi Soleil. De Catinat is well-positioned to observe, and fear, the Court machinations surrounding the imminent revocation of the 1598 Edict of Nantes; the law which granted the Protestant Huguenots a degree of religious freedom in an overwhelmingly Catholic France.

When the Edict is revoked, de Catinat and his family – his uncle, Theophile, and cousin (and fiancee), Adele – together with their American friend, Amos Green, are forced to flee to the New World. But the route to America is fraught with peril, and upon their arrival the refugees discover that the prejudices and threats of Europe have crossed the Atlantic too, only to combine with the additional and novel dangers of an untamed, and largely unknown, new continent ... 
You can download an illustrated chapter-by-chapter synopsis here.

Writing and publication history
  • Harper’s Monthly Magazine commissioned a novel for serialisation in January 1891, a year after Stoddart published The Sign of Four (1890).
  • Conan Doyle decided to write an American historical novel with “Puritan” elements, though combining the two proved difficult.
  • Almost a year after producing a synopsis, Conan Doyle wrote the novel over three months, concluding on 7 March 1892.
  • The story was serialised in the USA in Harper’s in January – June 1893 issues and was released as a three-volume novel in the UK in May 1893.
The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685)
  • Henry IV of France, who had converted to Catholicism, enacted the Edict of Nantes in 1598 which granted freedoms to the French Protestants, though the Catholic majority remained in power.
  • The Revocation of the Edict in 1685 was the result of lobbying of Louis XIV by Catholic priests and ministers, with the support of Madame de Maintenon, who would become Louis’s second wife.
  • The Revocation took place in the same year as the Monmouth rebellion in England, which is the backdrop for Conan Doyle’s 1889 novel Micah Clarke. At one point, Conan Doyle considered including Micah in The Refugees but abandoned the idea in favour of new characters.
Historical sources
  • Julia Pardoe, Louis the Fourteenth and the Court of France in the Seventeenth Century (1847)
  • Francis Parkman, France and England in North America (1865-1892, 7 vols)
  • J. J. I. von Dollinger, Historical Studies (tr. M. Warre, 1890)
Literary influences and connections
  • Sir Walter Scott, Quentin Durward (1823)
  • Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers (1844)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, The Master of Ballantrae (1889)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879)
  • Nathanial Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850)
  • Mayne Reid, The Scalp Hunters (1851) – Conan Doyle’s favourite book as a boy
  • Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard, November Joe (1913)
Sherlockian connections 
Other works by Conan Doyle referenced in the podcast
  • Micah Clarke (1889)
  • Memories and Adventures (1924)
  • Through the Magic Door (1907)

Image of Conan Doyle as Greysolon du Lhut

In August 1894, The Idler published an article by Scott Rankin entitled 'People I Have Never Met' which features this picture of Conan Doyle as Greysolon du Lhut, the French tracker and explorer who appears in the second half of The Refugees. Note the heads on the waistband with the titles of publications that Conan Doyle had then appeared in. The obvious missing publication is The Strand Magazine which, as a rival of The Idler, was unlikely to be featured...

Next time on the Doings of Doyle…

We go underground in Derbyshire and find a prehistoric survivor in Conan Doyle’s 1910 short story The Terror of Blue John Gap. Read it here: https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Terror_of_Blue_John_Gap

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Image credits: Thanks to Alexis Barquin at The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopaedia for permission to reproduce these images. Please support the encyclopaedia at www.arthur-conan-doyle.com.

Music credit: Sneaky Snitch Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons:  By Attribution 3.0 License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/