« PreviousContinue »
man feeling, to the bereaved Ludwig. He reminds him, “that it was a mortal whom he had begotten, and asks him whether he is now worse off than he was before his son's birth, when he did not grieve;" and makes mention "of the examples of Priam and Antigonus, Pericles and Xenophon, Æmilius Paulus and Q. Marcius." The religious stand-point of the letter is, as Strauss remarks, heathenish. Of course, as Christians, says Ulrich, we believe the soul to be immortal; but if it be not, if it be annihilated in the grave, "death is no evil, since in putting an end to sensation, it puts an end to pain." It is this alternative on which the writer dwells. Both the poem and the letter conclude with exhortations to vengeance.
A complication of intrigues ensued, which it would be useless to unravel. Political and personal considerations swayed the even balance of justice, now this way and now that. Ulrich von Hutten issued violent invectives against the murderer in the classical form of accusatory speeches, prepared as if for delivery before the diet. The connection of the Duke of Wurtemburg, however, with the reigning family of Bavaria and with the Emperor himself, whose niece he had married, insured the virtual condonation of his offence. A payment of 10,000 florins to the father of his victim, and of 2000 to provide masses for the soul of the latter, was adjudged. The flight of Sabina of Bavaria from her husband united the Bavarian forces with those of Hutten; and this sentence was withdrawn for one of outlawry, for which, eleven days later, in order to avoid the war that seemed imminent, a payment of 27,000 florins was substituted. In this sum, satisfaction to the living and masses for the dead, and payment of the expenses of the soldiery which Ludwig von Hutten had collected, were supposed to be included.
Hutten's little progress and slight interest in juridical knowledge had mortified the old knight at Steckelberg exceedingly. He considered his son, who was neither priest nor jurist, but a simple scholar, a mere nobody; an estimate which was the occasion of Hutten's poem entitled Niemand, the pith of which lies in the play upon the term, taken at pleasure, as if it denoted an actual person, or as a mere universal negative. A specimen of the jokes will suffice. "Nobody is free from errors. Nobody is wise in love. Nobody can serve two masters. Nobody is at the same time honest and a courtier. Nobody comes to the help of groaning Italy, and frees the city of Quirinus from priestly domination. Nobody ventures to blame the insolence and indolence of the clergy, or to censure the Pope," &c.*
This jesting, agreeable though it might be, did not, however, fill Hutten's purse; he closed, therefore, with the offer that * Strauss, i. pp. 149, 150.
was made to him, that he should return to Italy, and renew his law-studies in Rome. He set out in the autumn of 1515, with letters of introduction from Erasmus to some of the more eminent scholars there resident. His impressions of the city are preserved in several epigrams which he sent thence to his friend Crotus Rubianus. The venality of Rome ("wo, mit den Heiligen, man selber den Gott auch verkauft"), the corruption of the clergy, and the aggressions and extortions of the Pope, are denounced with indignant eloquence.*
At this period of Hutten's history, it is necessary to recur to the state of Italian politics.
In 1512, the Pope and the Emperor had succeeded, with the aid of the Swiss, in expelling the French from Italy, and had restored the Sforzas to their ducal throne of Milan. Hereupon the Venetians deserted their old alliance, and formed with the French, in the March of the following year, the offensive and defensive treaty of Blois. The feeling in Italy towards that republic was much the same as that which the autocratic neighbours of Belgium and Piedmont may be supposed to entertain towards those constitutional monarchies. The league for its dismemberment was not forgotten. Its safety, even its existence, depended on the preservation of the balance of power in the Peninsula. It was therefore its policy to throw its weight into the scale of the weaker of the contending powers, provided that power were not too weak. The treaty of Blois was met a month later by the counter-treaty of Mechlin-the parties to which were the new Pope (Leo X.), Maximilian, Ferdinand of Aragon, and our own Henry VIII. The early successes of the invading forces of the French and Viennese, under Latremouille and D'Alviano were more than neutralised by the defeat of the former at Novara, in June 1513. About the same time, Henry and Maximilian had entered the French territory, and possessed themselves of Terouenne and Tournay. The second expulsion of the French from Italy followed on this double reverse; and their designs on Milan remained in abeyance until the accession of Francis I., who in 1515 invaded Italy anew. By the treachery of the Swiss Confederation, and the active aid of the Venetians, he gained the battle of Marignano, against the obstinate resistance of those of the Helvetic mercenaries who remained faithful to their engage
* "Sie handhaben Verbot und Erlaubniss, schliessen und öffnen,
Und das Alles in Rom, wo Curius einst und Metellus
Und Pompejus gelebt: O der veränderten Zeit!
Drum den Verlangen entsage, mein Freund, nach der heiligen Roma;
ments. This was on the 13th and 14th of September, "a few weeks before Hutten entered on his second journey to Italy." Maximilian had rejected the alliance to which Francis I., previous to the Italian expedition, had invited him, and was now arming against the French. Under these circumstances, Hutten addressed to the Pope his Prognostic for the year 1516,* in which he predicts not only "war, but destruction to Italy, on astrological as well as political grounds." Early in 1516 Maximilian's preparations were complete; and he entered Italy at the head of 30,000 men, of whom 15,000 were Swiss mercenaries. Without encountering any formidable resistance, he made his way to Milan. Here, however, distrusting the fidelity of his Swiss, he shrank from an assault, and, plundering as he went, made his way back to his own dominions, rivalling the achievement of the mythical French monarch who "marched up the hill, and then marched down again."
"There," says Strauss, "the ridicule of the Italians was a matter of indifference to him. They mocked him in the theatres; caricatures and pasquinades appeared against him. He was painted riding on a crab, with the inscription, Tendimus in Latium. Men kindled torches in bright daylight, and set themselves to look for the Emperor. The French in Italy especially gave full scope to their insolence on the occasion of their young king's success in war. Hutten devoted several epigrams to this state of things, which he sent, as it appears, to Eoban Hesse, who, towards the end of the year 1516, caused them to be printed as supplements to two poems, which I shall afterwards refer to. Subsequently Hutten incorporated most of them in his book of Epigrams addressed to the Emperor.
Nevertheless, the French bravado on the one side, and Hutten's German heart and hot blood on the other, could not but cause a real scene when the first collision of any importance came. One day Hutten rode out with an acquaintance towards Viterbo, just as an envoy from the king of the French to the Pope was journeying through the place. Five Frenchmen, probably part of the suite of the envoy, made themselves merry on the subject of Maximilian, who was still fighting in the neighbourhood of Milan. Hutten took up the cause of his emperor. The matter proceeded from words to deeds. The five fell upon their solitary opponent, whom his travelling companion left in the lurch. Hutten now drew his sword, struck down his nearest adversary, and himself, wounded only in his left cheek, put the remaining four to flight. Not unjustly did he account this a brave deed, celebrate it in six epigrams, boast of it to the Emperor in the third of his speeches against the Duke of Wurtemburg, and narrate it to his friends after his return to Germany, whither the fame of it, through
*Ad Leonem X. P.M. Carmen in prognosticon ad annum 1516.
After the battle of Marignano, Leo had entered into an alliance with Francis, who, however, suspected him of secretly favouring Maximilian's abortive attempt on Milan.
his letters and epigrams, had already preceded him. For the more Hutten gave himself up to study, the more value did he set upon his being of some account too as a knight and warrior. For this reason, later in life, none of his portraits was dearer to him than that which represented him in arms." (vol. i. pp. 164-6.)
The consequences of this adventure led Hutten to remove himself to Bologna, where he conscientiously devoted himself to his law-studies, not neglecting, however, more congenial pursuits. He perfected himself in Greek, and made acquaintance with Lucian and Aristophanes, from the former of whom he adopted that dialogue form, into which henceforth his principal writings were cast. He has been called the German Lucian; but he is too much in earnest to deserve the name, which, with the requisite change of nationality, would better suit Erasmus. There is none of the cool polished raillery of his prototype about the German knight; his satire is animated not by tolerant contempt, but by intolerant hate, and is always running into the fiercest invectives. The dialogue Phalarismus was his first effort in this direction. In it, Duke Ulrich of Wurtemburg is led down, yet living, to the infernal regions, by Mercury, to take council of Phalaris in villany, and is proudly introduced by him to all the tyrants of history, "from Astyages and Cambyses to Domitian," as their worthy successor. In the midst of his engagements at Bologna, Hutten found leisure also for the composition of his poems De Venetum piscatura &c. and Marcus, in which the origin and character of the Venetians are ridiculed; and the Epistle of Italy to the Emperor, in substance a repetition of the exhortation to Maximilian, which we have before mentioned.
An outbreak between the students of the different "nations" at Bologna, in which Hutten of course took an active part, made it desirable that he should not be found in that city, for a season at least. He paid brief visits to Ferrara and Venice; meeting with a magnanimous reception in the latter place. His claims as a citizen of the republic of letters outweighed, at least in the literary circles to which he was introduced, his political hostility. Declining there the invitation of some of his kinsmen to accompany them on a tour in the East, he returned to Bologna, and two or three days after his arrival set his face homewards to Germany.
During his second residence in Italy, in the autumn of 1516, Hutten received at Bologna the first volume of the celebrated Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum. It is necessary to go back some years in order to recount the origin of this work; "a satire which," says Sir William Hamilton, "though European in its influence, has yet, as Herder justly observes, 'effected for Germany incomparably more than Hudibras for England, or Gara
gantua for France, or the Knight of La Mancha for Spain.' It gave the victory to Reuchlin over the Begging Friars, and to Luther over the Court of Rome." In the controversy which produced this work, Hutten took the liveliest interest, and bore no inactive part. For the sake of clearness we have deferred speaking of the events of it in their proper chronological place, and reserved them for connected narration here. That he was one of the authors, at least of the second portion of the satire, seems established on good critical grounds.
John Reuchlin, in whose defence the Letters of Obscure Men were written, was the son of a servant of the Dominican Order at Pforzheim, where he was born in the year 1455. The liberal patronage of the Margrave of Baden sent him to Paris in 1473. Here, under the instruction of Wessel and Hieronymus, he laid the foundations of his subsequent knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew tongues, which he afterwards taught and still further cultivated at Basel, at Tubingen, at Heidelberg, at Wurtemburg, and in frequent journeys to Italy. His life, however, was not that of the mere student; this character, in its developed and typical form, is the product of later times. He held high public offices under Eberhard of Wurtemburg,-Eberhard with the Beard (Eberhard im Bart). Forced to fly from the anger of this prince's successor, he took refuge with the Elector Philip at Heidelberg, and coöperated in his exertions, and those of his chancellor, John of Dalberg, to quicken and extend the literary revival which had already begun to spread from Italy to Germany. On the deposition of his enemy, and the accession of the young Duke Ulrich (afterwards the murderer of Hans von Hutten), he returned to Stuttgart. He held the office of Judge of the Swabian League (Richteramt des Schwäbischen Bundes). Such time, however, as was free from official claims, he spent "on his own small country estate,"—the court of Wurtemburg, under its present ruler, offered little that was congenial to him, -and, in the society of an invalid wife, applied himself to the task of "rearing white peacocks," and to his literary pursuits.*
None gave more powerful aid than Reuchlin to the promotion of classical studies in the Universities of Germany. In this respect, however, Erasmus may perhaps stand on the same level as he. It is as the restorer of Hebrew learning that Reuchlin's supremacy is most clear. It was on this that he most plumed himself. No attack seems to have wounded him so much as the imputation which was thrown out in the controversy of which we are about to speak, that he was not the author of his own Hebrew grammar. "Others," he allows, "may indeed have laid down single rules before him, but none has written a systematic book * Strauss, i. 194.