Zola's Lourdes (Paris, 1894), a criticism from the sceptical point of view, in the form of a realistic novel, has called forth many replies from the Catholic side.
He succeeded Clemenceau as editor of the Aurore, in which Zola's letter "J'accuse" had appeared, and was president of the Association of Republican Journalists.
The history of this family, the Rougon-Macquart, was to be told in a series of novels containing a scientific study of heredity - science was always Zola's ignis fatuus - and a picture of French life and society.
Zola's object was a prosecution for libel, and a judicial inquiry into the whole affaire, and at the trial, which took place in Paris in February, a fierce flood of light was thrown on the case.
Whatever may be thought of the affaire itself, there can be no question of Zola's superb courage and disinterestedness.
After a life of constant struggle and an obloquy which never relaxed, the sensational close of Zola's career was the signal for an extraordinary burst of eulogy.
Zola's literary position would have more than qualified him for the French Academy.