« PreviousContinue »
Brecht has been at great pains to show how Hutten repeated the various devices of his predecessor—the imbecile problems,* the praises of Magisternosters' and monks, the bad morals and the bad verse of Ortuinus Gratius. To the second-class man in quest of a testimonial in vol. I corresponds the aspirant to a fat country living in vol. II (48). Furthermore, Hutten follows Crotus in the names he invents for his letter-writers, though he occasionally introduces among them a real personage, such as Arnoldus de Thungaris and the blatant Jacobus de Altaplatea himself, and in the openings and general arrangement of the letters. Verse is, however, more plentiful in part II; and in the splendid rumble of Magister Schlauraff's perambulation of Germany—a sort of humanist Drunken Barnabee's Journal '--critics have justly recognised the pearl of the whole collection. Its authorship has been, grotesquely enough, ascribed to Melanchthon ; but Hutten knew why he wrote Et ivi ad Gripswaldiam,
Quæ jacet apud Oderam ; Quæ habet modicam companiam, Ubi Hermannus Trebellius || Et sic abivi mox,
Cum suis poematibus Quamvis fuit statim nox,
Multum me infamavit, Et veni ad Francfordiam,
Et audacter blasphemavit ;
nor could he keep himself bodily out of this masterpiece :
Juravit levatis digitis Tunc ivi ad Franconiam,
Quod vellet me percutere virgis, Ubi est fluvius Menus.
Si vellem ibi stare ; Ibi Ulirichus Huttenus
Tunc cogitavi meum salutare. In the later series the device of suggesting praise and blame indirectly-out of the mouth, as it were, of the enemy-is worked with far more intentness than in the
Whether a man can be a member of more Universities than one, and should not rather be called members' of them (ii, 13); whether proper nouns can have plurals (ii, 47); whether it is a mortal sin to eat a chicken in an egg on a Friday (ii, 26).
† One picture of him (ii, 52) as he sits among his books, whisk in hand, is almost a replica of the woodcut prefixed to the first section of the 'Ship of Fools' ( Of Unprofytahle Books '). As to University matters, see especially ii, 58, where the decline of the German Universities, both in number of students and in the value of degrees, is lamented. This very amusing letter calls for an ampler commentary than can be attempted here.
Schlauraff's itinerary presents rhythmical as well as other analogies to the ·Schluraffenschiff' in Brant's poems, which is mentioned in the former.
$ It was on his journey from Greifswald that he fell into an ambuscade. | Hutten's tutor.
earlier. While Crotus's treatment of Reuchlin and his case was more or less subsidiary to the main purpose of ridiculing the obscure partisans of his adversaries, Hutten has the commendation of the great scholar and the pillorying of those adversaries primarily at heart, and repeatedly reviews the humanists united against them as a sort of conjuratio in favour of the good cause.* Writing as he does near Rome, whence, as will be remembered, the papal mandate had now issued, he eagerly seized an opportunity not likely to recur of having his full say upon it. Hochstraten and Pfefferkorn are 'roasted-it is difficult to find a politer word equally appropriate without mercy;t on the other hand, references to Reuchlin multiply as we proceed, and in the middle of the volume, he is introduced in propria persona.‡ Spectacles on nose, the good old man satisfies the curiosity of an inquisitive baccalaureus, who has found him in his study reading a book in strange characters,' 'called Plutarch,' while under his chair lay the everlasting Pfefferkorn's 'Defensio.' Would he not answer it? 'By no means' (he replies); 'I am already vindicated. I pay no further heed to such folly, and my eyes scarcely suffice me for studying matters of use to me.' Elsewhere (ii, 50) he is spoken of as 'That poor old man . . . who in all his life hath ravaged no one; that is, he hath accused no one falsely, nor has he attacked the life or reputation of any man by word or deed.'
Like master, like followers. One of the letters deplores the discredit into which the old school has fallen, except at Cologne; it is now opposed by such men, forsooth, as Doctor Reyss of Würzburg, § who
'altogether holdeth a way of his own, and is neither an Albertist, nor a Scotist, nor an Occamist, nor a Thomist. And if one asketh him, “Most excellent Herr Doctor, of what way are you," he answereth, "The way of Christ."
* Cf. i, app.; ii, 9.
The former is made to communicate himself the 'epitaphia' made on him at Rome (i, app. 48) and described as now in the depths (ii, 6). Pfefferkorn's 'Defensio' is again and again riddled; and (in ii, 28) an anthology of heretical and treasonable passages, by no means altogether burlesque in intention, is culled by a Reuchlinist out of the book. ‡ii, 34.
§ ii, 43. Joannes Reyss was an Erfurt graduate and a canon of Würzburg, and called by more friendly critics 'a second Augustine and Cicero,'
If this noble passage be more or less of a plagiarism of St Paul, the writer of vol. II has in his mind, from first to last, a living student possessed of that intellectual independence which is the writer's ideal.
Nothing is more curious than the determination with which the great name of Erasmus is, in vol II of the Epistolæ, as it were, forced upon the attention of the reader.* As a matter of fact, Erasmus, who had been highly amused by one or two samples of the Epistolæ while they were still unpublished, was anything but pleased by the work as a whole, or by the part which, in the continuation, he was made to play; and in a letter to Cæsarius he expressed his opinion that this kind of thing could only do harm to the cause of humanism. • Non tali auxilio'; and we must remember to what weapons—those of ribaldry and culumny-Hutten had followed Crotus in descending. Moreover, Erasmus, who was admitted to the intimacy-at least by letter-of the great ones of the earth, and whose diplomacy had been called upon to exert itself in the affair of Reuchlin itself, could not relish the freedom with which some of the letters in vol. II dealt with the intentions of the Pope, the Emperor, and the King of France. For the local colour which Hutten, as a resident in central Italy, contrives to impart to the letters (a large proportion of which are dated from Rome, and introduce such topics as
Already in the · Appendex' to vol. 1 (42) he is brought on the scene, and the writer expresses his conviction of the impossibility 'quod unus homo parvus, ut ipse est, tam multa deberet scire.' In another letter (48) he is said by Hochstraten to have already begun to write on theology, and is warned to take care of himself if in his scribblings is to be found the very smallest jot on which he has gone astray, ‘or which I do not understand.' In vol. 11 the desire of claiming him as a supporter of Reuchlin becomes very obvious. Iu 33 occurs the well-known and rather burlesque jest of coupling with Reuchlin another fellow, Proverbia Erasmi.' In 38 he is reported, from Basel, to be with Glareanus in Reuchlin's favour; but in 59, where the whole .conspiracy’of poets upholding Reuchlin is reported, and Murner and Buschius, and Wilibald something or other' (Pirkheimer), and Hermann von Neuenahr and Croke and Hutten-why should he leave himself out?—with Vadianus and Wimpheling and Melanchthon and some of the Erfurters, are enumerated among them, Erasmus is in a fashion excepted. But the fashion is artful in the highest degree, for no greater compliment could have been paid him than the famous phrase “Erasmus est homo pro se' (Mr Stokes translates · Erasmus taketh his own part'; we should prefer 'stands for himself '). Yet though the phrase is, so to speak, softened by the assurance that he will never befriend those theologers and friars, it was probably intended to convey a shade of reproach,
the Pope's elephant, the Campo Fiore, and the unbearable heat of the summer) is not more noticeable than the interest shown in the great personages and great questions of contemporary politics, of which Crotus, with his much narrower horizon, gives little or no indication.
We have no space left in which in discuss the theory, to which we do not attach much importance, that the last eight letters of vol. II are the production of a different writer, who is conjectured to have been an Alsatian pupil of Wimpheling. * These letters first appeared in the second edition published in 1517, and were possibly intended as a reply to the Papal Brief condemning the whole work. Some of them are dated from Strassburg or its vicinity; and, as Strauss observes, they suggest a desire to give the detractors a place in the pillory by the side of those of Reuchlin. There is no other element of novelty in them; and neither the powerful indirect indictment of monks as pretenders to religion but leaders of evil lives (ii, 64), nor the scandalous pretence of providing Ortuinus with a magical formula in writing invisible to all persons born in wedlock,f is out of keeping with the earlier letters. The last letter of all (for the third part that followed was altogether spurious), in which Magister Maleolus (Hämmerlein) in Paradiso’tells the whole truth without flowers of rhetoric' to Ortuinus and in round terms assigns him and his crew to the gallows, is sheer invective, without any attempt at fun, except what may lurk in the not very intelligible colophon. We have it on the authority of Erasmus that, until this letter appeared in print, many monks still believed the Epistolæ in general to be the genuine productions of real men.
In what precedes, an attempt has been made to furnish the reader with an outline of the story of this celebrated satire and, incidentally, to convey some notion of the manner and style of the two series of which it consists. Notwithstanding all its repetitions, its scurrilities, and its ruthless use or invention of personal scandal, it remains in its way unique. The idea of advocating the cause of the humanists, and of the intellectual freedom represented and defended by them, out of the mouths of their sworn adversaries was wholly original; and the design, which grew out of this idea, of representing those adversaries as hopeless and despicable dullards, was achieved, with little of the playful irony of Erasmus, or of the luxuriant expansiveness of Rabelais—but it was achieved. The cap fitted ; and, though as a literary performance the Epistolæ cannot rank with the greatest satires of the world's literature, yeti not only was their success immediate and overwhelming, but, produced as they were in one of the critical epochs of the history of modern civilisation, they rank higher than the • Satire Menippée' or Hudibras' in proportion as the cosmopolitan importance of their theme transcended the merely national importance of these later satires.
* Of course, it is not impossible, as Brecht points out, that in the body of the letters in vol. 11 Hutten was occasionally indebted to the suggestions of his friends Jakob Fuchs and Friedrich Fischer, Canons of Würzburg, with whom he lived at Bologna. (See above as to ii, 43.)
† ii, 65. This is, so far as we have observed, the only reference to magic in the Epistolæ, except the obscure suggestion in i, 41,
If, after the exchange of a few more amenities, the curtain fell somewhat suddenly on the play, this was due not so much to a satiety which could not but eventually set in, as to the march of events, and to the completeness with which the interest of Germany, and in a less degree that of other western States, were absorbed by the religious struggle, the outbreak of which is rightly dated in the year 1517. Not only the Obscure Men were obliged to take up a more or less definite position towards the Reformation. Of Mutianus and Crotus we have already spoken, and the attitude of Erasmus we know. Reuchlin, when he resided in the house of Eck at Ingolstadt, prevented his host from burning Luther's books; but he was out of sympathy with Luther, and ceased from intimate intercourse with his own kinsman Melanchthon. Hutten dared to choose the opposite part.
But the humanist movement was for a long time overwhelmed by the religious; and to Luther the Epistolæ seemed sheer foolery. Much of the satire, as we have seen, hardly deserves a different name. But the impulses which gave it life and importance, though they could not prevail in a period of confessions and formulas, were but arrested, and might safely await a revival of their day.
A. W. WARD.