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The family of Hutten had long been possessed of knightly rank in Franconia. Family traditions traced them back to the tenth century; documents, less complacent, stopped at the second half of the thirteenth. Their power was great. In the feud, of which we shall afterwards have to speak, with the Duke of Wurtemburg, it was the boast of Ludwig von Hutten that he could bring into the field twice as many knights as his princely enemy. The different branches of the family had dispersed widely, and were possessed of many feudal keeps. Ulrich von Hutten first saw the light at Steckelburg, on the 21st of April 1488, at half-past ten o'clock in the morning. To the position of the stars at his natal hour Melancthon attributed the bodily illness which afflicted his friend throughout his life. But it is too evident that the cruel malady to which most of his sufferings were due had its origin in other than celestial influences. They are to be traced, as the post-mortem examination which Dr. Strauss has instituted in his chapter on "Hutten's Krankheit" makes plain, not to the Aphrodite Urania, but to the Aphrodite Pandemos.
As a child, however, Hutten was delicate, and like most delicate children intellectually precocious. This circumstance determined his parents, although he was the eldest son, to bring him up to a priestly rather than a knightly life. At the age of eleven, in the year 1499, he was sent to the neighbouring Benedictine abbey of Fulda, with a view to his taking upon himself monastic Vows. The Benedictines have always been celebrated for their cultivation of letters, and Fulda was at one time in the highest repute among their schools. It had already begun to decline; and a rigid ecclesiasticism was usurping the place of a more liberal discipline. There was enough of the former to disgust, and of the latter to attract, Hutten. And when the intercession of the noble Eitelwolf von Stein, whom Strauss celebrates as the first in Germany to unite the higher order of scholarship with profound mastery of affairs, failed to induce Ulrich's parents to revise their determination concerning him, the lad took the matter into his own hands by running away. It is probable that he was prompted to this step by his friend Crotus Rubianus, who balanced his accounts with the Church of Rome by himself afterwards espousing her cause against the humanists and reformers, to whom he had been instrumental in giving Hutten. A more remarkable coincidence and contrast is thus illustrated by our author:
"Not long after Hutten's escape in this wise out of the cloister at Fulda into the world, Luther fled from the world into the cloister at Erfurt. This contrast strikingly illustrates the nature and disposition of the two heroes; the one is bent on intercourse with men, the other
on clearing his account with God. It is true that afterwards the latter acknowledges that he has chosen a false path, and deserts the cloister; without, however, being able again to get rid of the impress which his mode of thought and action there received. With all the breadth and grandeur of his later working, Luther remained a strictly self-enclosed, but yet a clerical, and thereby fettered and eclipsed personality (blieb Luther eine streng in sich zusammengefasste, aber auch eine geistliche, dadurch gebundene und verdüsterte Persönlichkeit); while Hutten's is a worldly, knightly, free nature, cheerful even in misfortune; but, it must be confessed, inconstant also, and presumptuous in its activity."
The four years (1505-9) which followed Hutten's flight from Fulda were spent in academic studies at Erfurt, Cologne, and Frankfurt-on-the-Oder, and in what we may call a "long-vacation tour" through Germany. Relations were entirely broken off between Ulrich and his father, who probably did not know whither his son had betaken himself. The latter, in the mean time, was supported by his kinsman Ludwig von Hutten (whose favours he afterwards had opportunity of effectually returning), by Eitelwolf von Stein, and by other noble and princely patrons to whom Eitelwolf had made him known. This period is memorable in Hutten's life for his silent progress in those humane studies which gave the colouring to his whole subsequent career, and which shone through the thin overcoat of quasi-Lutheran sentiment which was laid on in his last years; for the formation of many literary acquaintances whose names, illustrious in their day, serve now only to remind us how quickly even "the memory of the just" may perish; and for his own first literary efforts. These were three Latin poems: (1) Elegies to his friend Eoban Hesse; (2) a culogistic poem on the Marches of Brandenburg (in laudem Marchia); and (3) an elegiac exhortation concerning Virtue. While showing mechanical facility and literary skill, and a study to some purpose of the antique models, "they do not," says Strauss, "bear the proper stamp of Hutten's genius." He had not yet found himself; no demand upon his strength had told him as yet where that strength lay. They are little more than rhetorical exercises; those tentative efforts by which it is given to most young poets to master the mechanical difficulties, to clear the channel for the free flow of the inspiration, when at last it shall well up from its yet scaled fountains.*
The following verses from the poem on Virtue, which seem to prefigure their author's career, are smooth and elegant. The sentiment (commonplace as it is) is one of those which makes poetry of the most unpromising materials, and which comes home to every one even in its most inarticulate and stammering utterance: "Ipse ego dum variæ meditor discrimina sortis, Dum dubias vitæ difficilesque vias Diversasque adeo curas hominumque labores, Ingemit et tristi mens mihi corde dolet."
In the early part of the year 1509 Hutten suddenly disappeared from Frankfurt, and for a twelvemonth his friends received no tidings of him. What befell in the interval we know only from his own after account, and from the writings to which his adventures gave occasion. He describes himself as having suffered much by land and by water,
"Plurima passus aquis, et terra plurima passus."
Of his mishaps on the sea, we know nothing. He reintroduces himself to us first as a houseless wanderer on the Pomeranian coast, sick, destitute, begging his way from door to door, and sleeping in the open air. What led him thither he does not explain, and it is useless to conjecture. Hutten's motives and impulses defy analysis and computation. He is one of those persons who are always to be found where you least expect them. What is it that induces Madame Ida Pfeiffer to travel alone in Madagascar and Timbuctoo? "Hutten," says Strauss, "was a restless spirit. The lust of travel (Wanderlust) lay deep in his nature." The spirit of adventure possessed him, and carried him (like the possessed of old) whither he would not. In two lines of his own he has said all that is to be said on the subject:
"Nusquam habitare magis quam me delectat ubique
Undique sunt patriæ rura domusque meæ."
Afflicted with quartan fever, and with suppurating wounds, Hutten made his way, in the manner we have described, to Greifswald, where Henning Löz, "Ordinary Professor of Laws, Canon of the Collegiate Church of St. Nicolai, and Generalofficial' of the Bishop of Camin, between the Swene and the Oder," seemed disposed to play the part of the good Samaritan. "He received Hutten into his house; clothed him, probably out of his father's stores,"-his father, Wedeg Löz, was burgomaster, and a wealthy merchant,-" and advanced him money." For a time all went on well; but the demeanour of the Lözes gradually changed. They became insolent and overbearing; and when Hutten, who represents himself as having been conciliatory and submissive in the extreme, though, as Strauss says, he was no lamb at any time,-wished to leave them, they declined to let him go until he had repaid them their advances. He represented that they could get nothing by detaining him; whereas "he might perhaps succeed in making his fortune elsewhere, and would then satisfy them." With health not yet reëstablished, he quitted Greifswald. After crossing a frozen bog, he had just entered a willow-plantation, fourteen miles distant from the place he left, when horsemen opposed him and bade him halt. They were Löz's servants. They stripped him of his clothes, and rob
bing him besides of a small parcel containing a few books and some songs, left him, with scoffs and insults, to pursue his journey, -it was a bitterly cold day towards the end of December, "all the water, even the sea by the shore being frozen,"-half-naked to Rostock in Mecklenburg-Schwerin. He reached this town in a plight not less wretched than that in which he had entered Greifswald.
Here he met with much kind treatment, especially from the students and professors of the universities, and achieved, as "the new poet," a certain degree of popularity.
The morality of non-resistance and the Christian doctrine of the forgiveness of injuries never seem to have had a disciple in Ulrich von Hutten. As a good hater, he would have satisfied Dr. Johnson himself. He hated, not without reason, Wedeg and Henning Löz, and set himself to do them all the harm he could, with the only weapon he could use, his pen. Hutten's anger did not cloud, but rather cleared his intellect. He wrote best when he was in a rage. He has more affinity with Juvenal than with Horace. Rabies armavit iambo.* Hutten composed two books of "Complaints" (Querelæ in Wedegum Loetz Consulem Gripesualdensem, et filium ejus Henningum, &c.), which were published at Frankfurt in 1510. That he aimed at something more than literary vengeance, is evident from one of the "elegies," in which Ludwig von Hutten is exhorted to knock down the elder Löz on one of the visits of the latter to Frankfurt, to secure him, and hand him over to the poet for punishment:
Tempus enim notum est, pater huc quoque Lossius ibit:
Tu preme servatas obsidione vias.
Ceperis, includes: neque enim confodere cautum est:
De sumpto pœnas ipse Poeta feret."
Those who think it necessary to come to any judgment on this quarrel, should keep in mind Hutten's fiery temperament, and the fact that we have only his statement of the matter. That he believed himself to have been, and was, grossly used, there can be no doubt; but that he gave no provocation is a point on which we can hardly receive his testimony. His attacks had no perceptible effect on their objects, who rose to still higher honours and influence in Greifswald.
The Querela were followed very shortly afterwards by a work on the Art of Versification,-a kind of medieval Gradus ad
war das Lachen nicht das Letzte, sondern der Zorn, Er sah in den Missbräuchen, die er verspottete, nicht blos das Thörichte, sondern mehr noch das Verderbliche" (Strauss, i. p. 28). "Die Hebamme von Hutten's Geiste war der Zorn. Seine Werke steigen an Bedeutung in dem Verhältniss, als die Gegenstände seines Zornes bedeutende werden, dieser selbst reiner wird" (Ibid. pp. 67-8).
Parnassum,-which became immensely popular, was reprinted at various seats of learning, and introduced into many schools.
In the years which had elapsed since Ulrich's flight from Fulda, the old knight of Steckelburg's feeling of anger had gradually abated. He maintained the show of it still, but the reality was vanishing. He abused his son himself, in order to elicit the counter-praises of others. By the skilful management of Crotus Rubianus, whom the younger Ulrich had known in his convent days, and since at Cologne, he was induced to acknowledge in a confidential moment that Ulrich would never have made a good monk, and to propose that he should give up his nonsensical humanist studies (seine Narrenspossen, die bonas literas), and go to Italy as a law-student. "It would be better that he were a quibbler-at-law (ein Rechtsverdreher, rabula forensis), who might be of use to his family, than a monk in disgrace with his superiors." Next to the proposition that he should re-enter his convent, -which was made to him when, with characteristic audacity, he applied there for money to aid him in his studies, this of his father's was the most disagreeable of any that could be suggested to Hutten. He rejected it, and resumed his wandering life. In wretched condition, he travelled to Olmütz in Moravia, where he was effectually helped, and sent, with money in his purse and a horse beneath him, to Vienna. He arrived there about the autumn of the year 1511. The one feeling which pervaded the mind of the people of Germany at this time, and which almost raised them to a perception of their common nationality, was hatred to Venice. This feeling was, for obvious reasons, strongest in Vienna, the capital of the hereditary possessions of the emperor. The complication of European politics at this period is difficult to unravel; but as Hutten's history becomes henceforth entwined with them, a short statement of the relations then existing between the Italian and German States becomes absolutely necessary.
On the accession of Louis XII. to the throne of France, one of his first acts was to lay claim to the duchy of Milan, as grandson of Valentina, daughter of John Galeazzo Visconti, to whose children, by the Duke of Orleans, remainder to the duchy, on the failure of male heirs, had been granted. This condition had long since arisen; but the throne of Milan had in the mean time been seized by the family of the Sforzas, whom, after half a century's possession, Louis now aimed to expel. "Venice, ever at strife with that city, gladly favoured his pretensions; and the Pope, Alexander VI., in the hope of gaining by his means an Italian throne for his son, the notorious Cæsar Borgia, also sided with him. Louis invaded Italy (A.D. 1500), and took possession of Milan. Sforza taking 8000 Swiss mer