Plzeňské sympozia

Eduard Burget

The Doyen of Catholic Journalists, Tomáš Josef Jiroušek, and His Chronicle Novel, Pod českým nebem (“Under Bohemian Skies”)

pp. 44–55 (Czech), Summary pp. 55–56 (English)

Social Democrat journalist, originally machine fitter Tomáš Josef Jiroušek (1858 – 1940) ranked alongside Catholic clergymen Tomáš Škrdle and Rudolf Horský, as a leading initiator of the founding in 1894 of the Christian-Social party in Bohemia. From the mid-1880s, Jiroušek came to devote himself systematically to his career in journalism, initially working for Social Democratic newspapers, and subsequently for periodicals published by the Christian- Social party (Dělník; Čech; Dělnické noviny; Vlast, and others). From his entry on the political scene onward, he showed a lively interest in everything associated with the Christian-Social movement; he became personally involved in the time’s political struggles and polemics, and systematically built up the party’s archives and library. He summed up the results of his many years of work in the three-volume Dějiny sociálního hnutí v zemích koruny České (“History of the Social Movement in the Lands of the Crown of Bohemia”), as well as, subsequently, in the novel in four parts, Pod českým nebem (“Under Bohemian Skies”), whose writing took him two decades. He  conceived his life’s work as a documentary chronicle in the form of a novel, emulating in that respect Alois Jirásek’s  novel, F. L. Věk. Today, Jiroušek’s History as well as his novel Under Bohemian Skies serve as valuable sources of  information, including otherwise hard-to-come-by biographical or topographical data (such as addresses of Social Democratic and Christian-Social newspapers, locations and names of cafés, inns and clubs used as meeting points for Catholic and working-class associations, etc.). Jiroušek himself features in the novel’s plot under the pseudonym of Táda Rousek. The present essay focuses on the personality of Tomáš Josef Jiroušek, as both a prominent political activist, and a chronicle writer whose work has retained to this day not just a documentary value, but also its quality as a specific portrayal of the political conflicts and passions of its time which tossed the boats of political parties including Jiroušek’s own Christian-Socials to whose conservative wing he adhered, but above all, of the political struggle waged by the Christian-Social party against its staunchest rivals the Social Democrats. Hence the import of Jiroušek’s work as an apologia of the Christian-Social doctrine being the sole beacon of light showing the way to a socially equitable society.

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