The Story Behind ‘Dolet,’ by Florence Byham Weinberg

Dolet_medI wrote the first sketch for Dolet about four years after my husband’s death in 1996 from Parkinson’s disease. I knew a good deal about interesting figures from the sixteenth-century in France, since that was my main research-field. I had published three scholarly books on François Rabelais (1494 [ca]-1553) and a novel in French translation (Longs désirs) based on the life of Etienne Dolet’s contemporary, Louise Labé, a Renaissance poet from Lyon, France, whose sonnets were translated into German by Rainer Maria Rilke.

Etienne Dolet (1509-1446) intrigued me because his personality reminded me of my husband Kurt’s. Neither man could hide the truth; both told it baldly to friend and foe alike, no matter the consequences. Both were basically good-hearted and were amazed that people, especially Americans, took such bluntness amiss. Despite that, both had faithful friends who stuck by them until their deaths.

A large part of Dolet, the novel, was written at the Hambidge Center for the Arts and Sciences, a beautiful artists’ retreat in the Smoky Mountains of northern Georgia.

Since I could not interest an agent in the book, I tossed the manuscript into a drawer, where it resided for the next thirteen years. One day, a friend asked me about the art of printing in the sixteenth century, and after that conversation, I pulled out the manuscript and recognized its potential. All those years ago, I had sent the rough draft to a highly qualified friend and colleague, Professor Kenneth Lloyd-Jones of Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, who was a recognized authority on the sixteenth century, and who had written articles about Etienne Dolet. He read the manuscript, made suggestions that improved the work, and encouraging comments, one of which I reproduce on the back of the print version of the novel. Sadly, Kenneth died six years ago, like my husband Kurt of Parkinson’s disease, and so will not see the work in its completed form.

A few months ago, I set about re-writing and expanding the manuscript, and corresponded with Kenneth’s widow, Miriam G. G. Lloyd-Jones, asking her permission to quote her husband, which she kindly granted.

The lesson to be taken from the ‘story behind this book’ is simply this: Don’t give up on a manuscript that you shelved long ago, thinking it unpublishable. Something on which you spent so much love and labor is always worth a second look. After all, Horace says that an author must let his writing lie for ten years, then go back to it. After that length of time, you will be objective and able to see both its flaws and its virtues. Then, correct it and publish!


Title: Dolet

Genre: Nonfiction Novel; Historical Fiction

Author: Florence Byham Weinberg


Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Read Chapter One

Amazon / OmniLit / Twilight Times Books

About the Book:

Dolet depicts the life and times of Etienne Dolet. Etienne, who told the bald truth to friend and foe alike, angered the city authorities in sixteenth-century Toulouse, fled to Lyon, and became a publisher of innovative works on language, history, and theology. His foes framed him; he was persecuted, imprisoned, and ultimately executed by the Inquisition for daring to publish the Bible in French translation.

What readers are saying:

“[Dolet]  …I read it all with pleasure, and delighted to see names that I have known for some time coming alive as “characters,” albeit fictitious ones. I especially liked the way in which you brought out the sense of community, of being a band of brothers that so many of those amazing people shared.”
~ Kenneth Lloyd-Jones, Professor, Trinity College, Hartford, CT


About the Author:

Florence Byham Weinberg, born in Alamogordo, New Mexico, lived on a ranch, on a farm, and traveled with her military family. After earning a PhD, she taught for 36 years in three universities. She published four scholarly books. Since retiring, she has written seven historical novels and one philosophical fantasy/thriller. She lives in San Antonio, loves cats, dogs and horses, and great-souled friends with good conversation. Visit her website and connect with her on Facebook.

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