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Quo Vadis

christian, world and story

QUO VADIS. Sienkiewicz, early in the nineues of the last century, devoted himself to a study of the Latin writers of the first few Christian centuries and the result of these studies was 'Quo Vadis,' a historical novel of the time of Nero, which appeared in 1895 and immediately created a sensation through out the world. By 1900 nearly 2,000,000 copies of the English translation, made in 1896 by Jeremiah Curtin, were sold, and in France, Italy and America there appeared dramatiza tions of the story. The author's realistic treat ment of the early Christians provoked heated discussions in the Catholic Church of Poland and an attempt was made to prohibit the reading of the novel, but elsewhere it was received with undivided enthusiasm. In Genoa it was, in 1899, made the subject of a social study by Semeria, 'L'arte e l'apologia cristiana,' in connection with the Superior School of Religion. In spite of some historic crudities, he proclaimed it a chef d'ceuvre of Christian art. The •chief merit of the story consists in the ever-present contrasts between voluptuous and cruel Rome on the one hand and the meek spirit of the dwellers in the Catacombs on the other, which makes the char peters appear in far greater relief than in Cardinal Wiseman's 'Fabiola' or in similar stories by Cardinal Newman and Canon Farrar.

Thus Petronius, the Stoic and Sybarite, rep resenting the over-refinement of antiquity and bis Greek slave, Eunice, who passionately clings to him unto death, are contrasted with the pagan, Vinicius, and his Christian bride, Lygia; the royal performer in the circus is opposed to the fisherman who shall rule over the world; the trickster, Chiion, is brought in contrast with the meek ((forgiving Christian, Over all of them, represendm the struggle of two worlds, stand Nero and Saint Peter, the first laboriously limned in his moral degradation, thirsting for new impressions, no matter at what cost of human lives, the other, expressing himself in the fewest of words, which bear witness to the coming victory of the new Church over the ancient world. Among the numerous criticisms of (Quo Vadis? the most elaborate is that by Tarnowski, in his 'Studya do historyi literatury polskiej' (1897, Vol. V, pp. 268.444).

Leo WIENER.