Eustache Lambert: Donné Extraordinaire

A Book Review by Juliana L’Heureux

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Franco-American journalist Henry Gosselin retired 7 years ago after 42 as a newspaper journalist and editor, because he wanted to spend time sailing off the coast of Harpswell.  Nevertheless, his writing career is blossoming anew. In fact, Gosselin’s second historic novel is hot off the press highlighting the heroic career of Eustache Lambert, a biographical account of a second colonial era French ancestor. Gosselin’s first novel was based on the true story of Clement Gosselin, who served as a spy for General George Washington during the American Revolution. 

 “Eustache Lambert: Donné Extraordinaire- Dedicating his Life in the Service of the Huron Missions” is based on another true story about Gosselin’s ancestor on his mother’s side. Lambert actually arrived in Quebec, New France in 1644, after being recruited in France to become a “Donné”, (a French noun meaning a person who gives himself), supporter to the French Jesuit missionaries dedicated to bringing Christianity to the native Amerindians in Canada. Lambert witnessed horrific events working in dangerous situations alongside the French Jesuits or “blackrobes”, as the Amerindians called them referring to their attire.  

 Gosselin’s account of Lambert’s life is hardly a puff piece but it is inspirational reading.  Moreover, the honest descriptions of how the martyred French missionaries lived and died are well written and brutally accurate. Many Jesuits experienced horrible deaths via multiple forms of extreme torture as a result of native resistance to their work, particularly from the Iroquois tribe. Many of the missionaries are canonized Saints, known collectively as the North American martyrs or in Canada they are called the Canadian Martyrs. Almost all we know about the lives of the martyred men is recorded in “Jesuit Relations”, first hand reports written by the missionaries for their provincial in France and later published in a collection.

Gosselin uses fictional narrative to provide personal insight into the lives of men like St. Isaac Jogues and Jean de Brebeuf at the Ste. Marie Jesuit mission to the Huron tribe. Jogues was a professor of literature in France when, in 1636, he was sent as a missionary to Canada. Although Jogues experienced success working with the Hurons, many tribesmen considered him a sorcerer and blamed him as well as other Jesuits for the new sicknesses wrought on the native people. On October 18, 1646, he was martyred in the present State of New York in Auriesville. Brebeuf’s heinous death occurred on March 16, 1649 when the Iroquois murdered him and Gabriel Lallemant at the same time.  

Virtually all the missionaries believed they would eventually be murdered. Consequently, on October 28, 1637, several gathered to pray and subsequently signed a pact resigning them to martyrdom.  Lambert describes this amazing pact, “So convinced were the missionaries of their impending martyrdom that they… invited the Indian chiefs and other braves to what the Jesuits called a banquet of death! And the Indians came in throngs, curious to see how the Frenchmen would face their doom.”

Gosselin writes about his ancestors because they were both involved in important historic episodes and few of his relatives knew much about them.

Eustache Lambert: Donné extraordinaire was written by Henry Gosselin and published by 1st Books Library, 2001. To find out more about this and other books by Henry Gosselin, link to

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