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the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth C, by Henry Hallam

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Title: Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries, Vol. 1

Author: Henry Hallam

Release Date: October 2, 2013 [EBook #43868]

Language: English

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Retrospect of Learning in Middle Ages Necessary 1
Loss of learning in Fall of Roman Empire 1
Boethius—his Consolation of Philosophy 1
Rapid Decline of Learning in Sixth Century 2
A Portion remains in the Church 2
Prejudices of the Clergy against Profane Learning 2
Their Uselessness in preserving it 3
First Appearances of reviving Learning in Ireland and England 3
Few Schools before the Age of Charlemagne 3
Beneficial Effects of those Established by him 4
The Tenth Century more progressive than usually supposed 4
Want of Genius in the Dark Ages 5
Prevalence of bad Taste 5
Deficiency of poetical Talent 5
Imperfect State of Language may account for this 6
Improvement at beginning of Twelfth Century 6
Leading Circumstances in Progress of Learning 6
Origin of the University of Paris 6
Modes of treating the Science of Theology 6
Scholastic Philosophy—its Origin 7
Roscelin 7
Progress of Scholasticism; Increase of University of Paris 8
Universities founded 8
Oxford 8
Collegiate Foundations not derived from the Saracens 9
Scholastic Philosophy promoted by Mendicant Friars 9
Character of this Philosophy 10
It prevails least in Italy 10
Literature in Modern Languages 10
Origin of the French, Spanish, and Italian Languages 10
Corruption of colloquial Latin in the Lower Empire 11
Continuance of Latin in Seventh Century 12
It is changed to a new Language in Eighth and Ninth 12
Early Specimens of French 13
Poem on Boethius 13
Provençal Grammar 14
Latin retained in use longer in Italy 14
French of Eleventh Century 14
Metres of Modern Languages 15
Origin of Rhyme in Latin 16
Provençal and French Poetry 16
Metrical Romances—Havelok the Dane 18
Diffusion of French Language 19
German Poetry of Swabian Period 19
Decline of German Poetry 20
Poetry of France and Spain 21
Early Italian Language 22
Dante and Petrarch 22
Change of Anglo-Saxon to English 22
Layamon 23
Progress of English Language 23
English of the Fourteenth Century—Chaucer, Gower 24
General Disuse of French in England 24
State of European Languages about 1400 25
Ignorance of Reading and Writing in darker Ages 25
Reasons for supposing this to have diminished after 1100 26
Increased Knowledge of Writing in Fourteenth Century 27
Average State of Knowledge in England 27
Invention of Paper 28
Linen Paper when first used 28
Cotton Paper 28
Linen Paper as old as 1100 28
Known to Peter of Clugni 29
And in Twelfth and Thirteenth Century 29
Paper of mixed Materials 29
Invention of Paper placed by some too low 29
Not at first very important 30
Importance of Legal Studies 30
Roman Laws never wholly unknown 31
Irnerius—his first Successors 31
Their Glosses 31
Abridgements of Law—Accursius’s Corpus Glossatum 31
Character of early Jurists 32
Decline of Jurists after Accursius 32
Respect paid to him at Bologna 33
Scholastic Jurists—Bartolus 33
Inferiority of Jurists in Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries 34
Classical Literature and Taste in dark Ages 34
Improvement in Tenth and Eleventh Centuries 34
Lanfranc and his Schools 35
Italy—Vocabulary of Papias 36
Influence of Italy upon Europe 36
Increased copying of Manuscripts 36
John of Salisbury 36
Improvement of Classical Taste in Twelfth Century 37
Influence of increased Number of Clergy 38
Decline of Classical Literature in Thirteenth Century 38
Relapse into Barbarism 38
No Improvement in Fourteenth Century—Richard of Bury 39
Library formed by Charles V. at Paris 39
Some Improvement in Italy during Thirteenth Century 40
Catholicon of Balbi 40
Imperfection of early Dictionaries 40
Restoration of Letters due to Petrarch 40
Character of his Style 41
His Latin Poetry 41
John of Ravenna 41
Gasparin of Barziza 42
Zeal for Classical Literature in Italy 42
Poggio Bracciolini 42
Latin Style of that Age indifferent 43
Gasparin of Barziza 43
Merits of his Style 43
Victorin of Feltre 44
Leonard Aretin 44
Revival of Greek Language in Italy 44
Early Greek Scholars of Europe 44
Under Charlemagne and his Successors 45
In the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries 45
In the Twelfth 46
In the Thirteenth 46
Little Appearance of it in the Fourteenth Century 47
Some Traces of Greek in Italy 47
Corruption of Greek Language itself 47
Character of Byzantine Literature 48
Petrarch and Boccace learn Greek 48
Few acquainted with the Language in their Time 49
It is taught by Chrysoloras about 1395 49
His Disciples 49
Translations from Greek into Latin 50
Public Encouragement delayed 51
But fully accorded before 1440 51
Emigration of learned Greeks to Italy 52
Causes of Enthusiasm for Antiquity in Italy 52
Advanced State of Society 52
Exclusive Study of Antiquity 53
Classical Learning in France low 53
Much more so in England 53
Library of Duke of Gloucester 54
Gerard Groot’s College at Deventer 54
Physical Sciences in Middle Ages 55
Arabian Numerals and Method 55
Proofs of them in Thirteenth Century 56
Mathematical Treatises 56
Roger Bacon 57
His Resemblance to Lord Bacon 57
English Mathematicians of Fourteenth Century 57
Astronomy 58
Alchemy 58
Medicine 58
Anatomy 58
Encyclopædic Works of Middle Ages 58
Vincent of Beauvais 59
Berchorius 59
Spanish Ballads 59
Metres of Spanish Poetry 60
Consonant and assonant Rhymes 60
Nature of the Glosa 61
The Cancionero General 61
Bouterwek’s Character of Spanish Songs 61
John II. 62
Poets of his Court 62
Charles, Duke of Orleans 62
English Poetry 62
Lydgate 63
James I. of Scotland 63
Restoration of Classical Learning due to Italy 63
Character of Classical Poetry lost in Middle Ages 64
New School of Criticism in Modern Languages 64
Effect of Chivalry on Poetry 64
Effect of Gallantry towards Women 64
Its probable Origin 64
It is shown in old Teutonic Poetry; but appears in the Stories of Arthur 65
Romances of Chivalry of two Kinds 65
Effect of Difference of Religion upon Poetry 66
General Tone of Romance 66
Popular Moral Fictions 66
Exclusion of Politics from Literature 67
Religious Opinions 67
Attacks on the Church 67
Three Lines of Religious Opinions in Fifteenth Century 67
Treatise de Imitatione Christi 68
Scepticism—Defences of Christianity 69
Raimond de Sebonde 69
His Views misunderstood 69
His real Object 70
Nature of his Arguments 70
The year 1440 not chosen as an Epoch 71
Continual Progress of Learning 71
Nicolas V. 71
Justice due to his Character 72
Poggio on the Ruins of Rome 72
Account of the East, by Conti 72
Laurentius Valla 72
His Attack on the Court of Rome 72
His Treatise on the Latin Language 73
Its Defects 73
Heeren’s Praise of it 73
Valla’s Annotations on the New Testament 73
Fresh Arrival of Greeks in Italy 74
Platonists and Aristotelians 74
Their Controversy 74
Marsilius Ficinus 75
Invention of Printing 75
Block Books 75
Gutenberg and Costar’s Claims 75
Progress of the Invention 76
First printed Bible 76
Beauty of the Book 77
Early printed Sheets 77
Psalter of 1547—Other early Books 77
Bible of Pfister 77
Greek first taught at Paris 78
Leave unwillingly granted 78
Purbach—his Mathematical Discoveries 78
Other Mathematicians 78
Progress of Printing in Germany 79
Introduced into France 79
Caxton’s first Works 79
Printing exercised in Italy 79
Lorenzo de’ Medici 80
Italian Poetry of Fifteenth Century 80
Italian Prose of same Age 80
Giostra of Politian 80
Paul II. persecutes the Learned 81
Mathias Corvinus 81
His Library 81
Slight Signs of Literature in England 81
Paston Letters 82
Low Condition of Public Libraries 83
Rowley 83
Clotilde de Surville 83
Number of Books printed in Italy 83
First Greek printed 84
Study of Antiquities 84
Works on that Subject 84
Publications in Germany 85
In France 85
In England, by Caxton 85
In Spain 85
Translations of Scripture 85
Revival of Literature in Spain 86
Character of Labrixa 86
Library of Lorenzo 87
Classics corrected and explained 87
Character of Lorenzo 87
Prospect from his Villa at Fiesole 87
Platonic Academy 88
Disputationes Camaldulenses of Landino 88
Philosophical Dialogues 89
Paulus Cortesius 89
Schools in Germany 89
Study of Greek at Paris 91
Controversy of Realists and Nominalists 91
Scotus 91
Ockham 92
Nominalists in University of Paris 92
Low State of Learning in England 92
Mathematics 93
Regiomontanus 93
Arts of Delineation 93
Maps 94
Geography 94
Greek printed in Italy 94
Hebrew printed 95
Miscellanies of Politian 95
Their Character, by Heeren 95
His Version of Herodian 96
Cornucopia of Perotti 96
Latin Poetry of Politian 96
Italian Poetry of Lorenzo 97
Pulci 97
Character of Morgante Maggiore 97
Platonic Theology of Ficinus 98
Doctrine of Averroes on the Soul 98
Opposed by Ficinus 99
Desire of Man to explore Mysteries 99
Various Methods employed 99
Reason and Inspiration 99
Extended Inferences from Sacred Books 99
Confidence in Traditions 100
Confidence in Individuals as inspired 100
Jewish Cabbala 100
Picus of Mirandola 101
His Credulity in the Cabbala 101
His Literary Performances 102
State of Learning in Germany 102
Agricola 103
Renish Academy 103
Reuchlin 104
French Language and Poetry 104
European Drama 104
Latin 104
Orfeo of Politian 105
Origin of Dramatic Mysteries 105
Their early Stage 105
Extant English Mysteries 105
First French Theatre 106
Theatrical Machinery 107
Italian Religious Dramas 107
Moralities 107
Farces 107
Mathematical Works 107
Leo Baptista Alberti 108
Lionardo da Vinci 108
Aldine Greek Editions 109
Decline of Learning in Italy 110
Hermolaus Barbarus 111
Mantuan 111
Pontanus 111
Neapolitan Academy 112
Boiardo 112
Francesco Bello 113
Italian Poetry near the End of the Century 113
Progress of Learning in France and Germany 113
Erasmus—his Diligence 114
Budæus—his early Studies 114
Latin not well written in France 115
Dawn of Greek Learning in England 115
Erasmus comes to England 116
He publishes his Adages 116
Romantic Ballads of Spain 116
Pastoral Romances 117
Portuguese Lyric Poetry 117
German popular Books 117
Historical Works 118
Philip de Comines 118
Algebra 118
Events from 1490 to 1500 119
Close of Fifteenth Century 119
Its Literature nearly neglected 119
Summary of its Acquisitions 119
Their Imperfection 120
Number of Books printed 120
Advantages already reaped from Printing 120
Trade of Bookselling 121
Books sold by Printers 121
Price of Books 122
Form of Books 122
Exclusive Privileges 122
Power of Universities over Bookselling 123
Restraints on Sale of Printed Books 124
Effect of Printing on the Reformation 124
Decline of Learning in Italy 125
Press of Aldus 125
His Academy 126
Dictionary of Calepio 126
Books printed in Germany 126
First Greek Press at Paris 126
Early Studies of Melanchthon 127
Learning in England 127
Erasmus and Budæus 128
Study of Eastern Languages 128
Dramatic Works 128
Calisto and Melibœa 128
Its Character 129
Juan de la Enzina 129
Arcadia of Sanazzaro 129
Asolani of Bembo 130
Dunbar 130
Anatomy of Zerbi 130
Voyages of Cadamosto 130
Leo X., his Patronage of Letters 131
Roman Gymnasium 131
Latin Poetry 132
Italian Tragedy 132
Sophonisba of Trissino 132
Rosmunda of Rucellai 132
Comedies of Ariosto 132
Books printed in Italy 133
Cælius Rhodiginus 133
Greek printed in France and Germany 133
Greek Scholars in these Countries 134
College at Alcala and Louvain 134
Latin Style in France 135
Greek Scholars in England 135
Mode of Teaching in Schools 136
Few Classical Works printed here 137
State of Learning in Scotland 137
Utopia of More 137
Inconsistency in his Opinions 138
Learning restored in France 138
Jealousy of Erasmus and Budæus 138
Character of Erasmus 139
His Adages severe on Kings 139
Instances in illustration 140
His Greek Testament 142
Patrons of Letters in Germany 142
Resistance to Learning 143
Unpopularity of the Monks 145
The Book excites Odium 145
Erasmus attacks the Monks 145
Their Contention with Reuchlin 145
Origin of the Reformation 146
Popularity of Luther 147
Simultaneous Reform by Zwingle 147
Reformation prepared beforehand 147
Dangerous Tenets of Luther 148
Real Explanation of them 149
Orlando Furioso 150
Its Popularity 150
Want of Seriousness 150
A Continuation of Boiardo 150
In some Points inferior 151
Beauties of its Style 151
Accompanied with Faults 151
Its Place as a Poem 152
Amadis de Gaul 152
Gringore 152
Hans Sachs 152
Stephen Hawes 153
Change in English Language 153
Skelton 154
Oriental Languages 154
Pomponatius 155
Raymond Lully 155
His Method 155
Peter Martyr’s Epistles 156
Superiority of Italy in Taste 157
Admiration of Antiquity 158
Sadolet 158
Bembo 159
Ciceronianus of Erasmus 159
Scaliger’s Invective against it 160
Editions of Cicero 160
Alexander ab Alexandro 160
Works on Roman Antiquities 161
Greek less Studied in Italy 161
Schools of Classical Learning 161
Budæus—his Commentaries on Greek 161
Their Character 162
Greek Grammars and Lexicons 162
Editions of Greek Authors 163
Latin Thesaurus of R. Stephens 163
Progress of Learning in France 164
Learning in Spain 165
Effects of Reformation on Learning 165
Sturm’s Account of German Schools 165
Learning in Germany 166
In England—Linacre 166
Lectures in the Universities 166
Greek perhaps Taught to Boys 167
Teaching of Smith at Cambridge 167
Succeeded by Cheke 168
Ascham’s Character of Cambridge 168
Wood’s Account of Oxford 168
Education of Edward and his Sisters 169
The Progress of Learning is still slow 169
Want of Books and Public Libraries 169
Destruction of Monasteries no Injury to Learning 169
Ravisius Textor 170
Conrad Gesner 170
Progress of the Reformation 171
Interference of Civil Power 171
Excitement of Revolutionary Spirit 172
Growth of Fanaticism 172
Differences of Luther and Zwingle 172
Confession of Augsburg 173
Conduct of Erasmus 173
Estimate of it 174
His Controversy with Luther 174
Character of his Epistles 176
His Alienation from the Reformers increases 176
Appeal of the Reformers to the Ignorant 176
Parallel of those Times with the Present 177
Calvin 177
His Institutes 177
Increased Differences among Reformers 178
Reformed Tenets spread in England 178
In Italy 178
Italian Heterodoxy 179
Its Progress in the Literary Classes 180
Servetus 180
Arianism in Italy 181
Protestants in Spain and Low Countries 181
Order of Jesuits 181
Their Popularity 181
Council of Trent 182
Its Chief Difficulties 182
Character of Luther 182
Theological Writings—Erasmus 183
Melanchthon—Romish Writers 183
This Literature nearly forgotten 184
Sermons 184
Spirit of the Reformation 184
Limits of Private Judgment 185
Passions instrumental in Reformation 185
Establishment of new Dogmatism 186
Editions of Scripture 186
Translations of Scripture 186
In English 187
In Italy and Low Countries 187
Latin Translations 187
French Translations 188
Logic included under this head 188
Slow Defeat of Scholastic Philosophy 188
It is sustained by the Universities and Regulars 188
Commentators on Aristotle 188
Attack of Vives on Scholastics 189
Contempt of them in England 189
Veneration for Aristotle 189
Melanchthon countenances him 189
His own Philosophical Treatises 190
Aristotelians of Italy 190
University of Paris 190
New Logic of Ramus 190
It meets with unfair treatment 191
Its Merits and Character 191
Buhle’s account of it 191
Paracelsus 191
His Impostures 192
And Extravagancies 192
Cornelius Agrippa 192
His pretended Philosophy 193
His Sceptical Treatise 193
Cardan 193
Influence of Moral Writers 194
Cortegiano of Castiglione 194
Marco Aurelio of Guevara 194
His Menosprecio di Corte 194
Perez d’Oliva 195
Ethical Writings of Erasmus and Melanchthon 195
Sir T. Elyot’s Governor 195
Severity of Education 196
He seems to avoid Politics 196
Nicholas Machiavel 196
His motives in writing the Prince 197
Some of his Rules not immoral 197
But many dangerous 197
Its only Palliation 198
His Discourses on Livy 198
Their leading Principles 198
Their Use and Influence 199
His History of Florence 199
Treatises on Venetian Government 199
Calvin’s Political Principles 199
Jurisprudence confined to Roman Law 200
The Laws not well arranged 200
Adoption of the entire System 200
Utility of General Learning to Lawyers 200
Alciati—his Reform of Law 201
Opposition to him 201
Agustino 201
Poetry of Bembo 201
Its Beauties and Defects 202
Character of Italian Poetry 202
Alamanni 202
Vittoria Colonna 202
Satires of Ariosto and Alamanni 203
Alamanni 203
Rucellai 203
Trissino 203
Berni 203
Spanish Poets 204
Boscan and Garcilasso 204
Mendoza 204
Saa di Miranda 205
Ribeyro 205
French Poetry 205
Marot 206
Its Metrical Structure 206
German Poetry 206
Hans Sachs 206
German Hymn 206
Theuerdanks of Pfintzing 206
English Poetry—Lyndsay 206
Wyatt and Surrey 207
Dr. Nott’s Character of them 207
Perhaps rather exaggerated 208
Surrey improves our versification 208
Introduces Blank Verse 208
Dr. Nott’s Hypothesis as to his Metre 208
It seems too extensive 209
Politeness of Wyatt and Surrey 209
Latin Poetry 210
Sannazarius 210
Vida 210
Fracastorius 210
Latin Verse not to be disdained 210
Other Latin Poets in Italy 211
In Germany 211
Italian Comedy 211
Machiavel 211
Aretin 211
Tragedy 212
Sperone 212
Cinthio 212
Spanish Drama 212
Torres Naharro 212
Lope de Rueda 212
Gil Vicente 213
Mysteries and Moralities in France 213
German Theatre—Hans Sachs 213
Moralities and Similar Plays in England 214
They are turned to religious Satire 214
Latin Plays 214
First English Comedy 215
Romances of Chivalry 215
Novels 215
Rabelais 216
Contest of Latin and Italian Languages 216
Influence of Bembo in this 217
Apology for Latinists 217
Character of the Controversy 217
Life of Bembo 217
Character of Italian and Spanish Style 218
English Writers 218
More 218
Ascham 218
Italian Criticism 218
Bembo 218
Grammarians and Critics in France 219
Orthography of Meigret 219
Cox’s Art of Rhetoric 219
Geometrical Treatises 220
Fernel Rhœticus 220
Cardan and Tartaglia 220
Cubic Equations 220
Beauty of the Discovery 221
Cardan’s other Discoveries 221
Imperfections of Algebraic Language 222
Copernicus 222
Revival of Greek Medicine 223
Linacre and other Physicians 223
Medical Innovators 224
Paracelsus 224
Anatomy 224
Berenger 224
Vesalius 224
Portal’s Account of him 225
His Human Dissections 225
Fate of Vesalius 225
Other Anatomists 225
Imperfection of the Science 225
Botany—Botanical Gardens 226
Ruel 226
Fuchs 226
Matthioli 226
Low State of Zoology 226
Agricola 227
Hebrew 227
Elias Levita—Pellican 227
Arabic and Oriental Literature 227
Geography of Grynæus 228
Apianus 228
Munster 228
Voyages 228
Oviedo 228
Historical Works 228
Italian Academies 229
They pay regard to the Language 229
Their fondness for Petrarch 229
They become numerous 229
Their Distinctions 230
Evils connected with them 230
They succeed less in Germany 230
Libraries 230
Progress of Philology 231
First Editions of Classics 231
Change in Character of Learning 232
Cultivation of Greek 232
Principal Scholars—Turnebus 232
Petrus Victorius 233
Muretus 233
Gruter’s Thesaurus Criticus 234
Editions of Greek and Latin Authors 235
Tacitus of Lipsius 235
Horace of Lambinus 235
Of Cruquius 236
Henry Stephens 236
Lexicon of Constantin 237
Thesaurus of Stephens 237
Abridged by Scapula 238
Hellenismus of Caninius 239
Vergara’s Grammar 239
Grammars of Ramus and Sylburgius 239
Camerarius—Canter—Robortellus 240
Editions by Sylburgius 241
Neander 241
Gesner 241
Decline of Taste in Germany 242
German Learning 242
Greek Verses of Rhodomanu 242
Learning Declines 243
Except in Catholic Germany 243
Philological Works of Stephens 243
Style of Lipsius 244
Minerva of Sanctius 244
Orations of Muretus 244
Panegyric of Ruhnkenius 244
Defects of his Style 245
Epistles of Manutius 245
Care of the Italian Latinists 245
Perpinianus—Osorius—Maphœus 246
Buchanan—Haddon 246
Sigonius, De Consolatione 246
Decline of Taste and Learning in Italy 247
Joseph Scaliger 247
Isaac Casaubon 248
General Result 249
Learning in England under Edward and Mary 249
Revival under Elizabeth 249
Greek Lectures at Cambridge 250
Few Greek Editions in England 250
School Books enumerated 250
Greek taught in Schools 251
Greek better known after 1580 251
Editions of Greek 252
And of Latin Classics 252
Learning lower than in Spain 252
Improvement at the End of the Century. 253
Learning in Scotland 253
Latin little used in Writing 253
Early Works on Antiquities 254
P. Manutius on Roman Laws 254
Manutius, De Civitate 254
Panvinius—Sigonius 255
Gruchius 255
Sigonius on Athenian Polity 256
Patrizzi and Lipsius on Roman Militia 256
Lipsius and other Antiquaries 256
Saville on Roman Militia 257
Numismatics 257
Mythology 257
Scaliger’s Chronology 258
Julian Period 258
Diet of Augsburg in 1555 259
Progress of Protestantism 259
Its Causes 260
Wavering of Catholic Princes 260
Extinguished in Italy and Spain 260
Reaction of Catholicity 260
Especially in Germany 261
Discipline of the Clergy 261
Influence of Jesuits 261
Their Progress 262
Their Colleges 262
Jesuit Seminary at Rome 262
Patronage of Gregory XIII. 262
Conversions in Germany and France 263
Causes of this Reaction 263
A rigid Party in the Church 264
Its Efforts at Trent 264
No Compromise in Doctrine 265
Consultation of Cassander 265
Bigotry of Protestant Churches 266
Tenets of Melanchthon 266
A Party hostile to him 267
Form of Concord, 1576 267
Controversy raised by Baius 267
Treatise of Molina on Free will 268
Protestant Tenets 268
Trinitarian Controversy 268
Religious Intolerance 270
Castalio 270
Answered by Beza 271
Aconcio 271
Minus Celsus, Koornhert 271
Decline of Protestantism 272
Desertion of Lipsius 272
Jewell’s Apology 272
English Theologians 272
Bellarmin 273
Topics of Controversy changed 273
It turns on Papal Power 274
This upheld by the Jesuits 274
Claim to depose Princes 274
Bull against Elizabeth 274
And Henry IV. 275
Deposing Power owned in Spain 275
Asserted by Bellarmin 275
Methods of Theological Doctrine 275
Loci Communes 275
In the Protestant and Catholic Church 276
Catharin 276
Critical and Expository Writings 276
Ecclesiastical Historians 277
Le Clerc’s Character of them 277
Deistical Writers 277
Wierus, De Præstigiis 278
Scot on Witchcraft 278
Authenticity of Vulgate 278
Latin Versions and Editions by Catholics 278
By Protestants 279
Versions into Modern Languages 279
Predominance of Aristotelian Philosophy 279
Scholastic and genuine Aristotelians 280
The former class little remembered 280
The others not much better known 280
Schools of Pisa and Padua 280
Cesalpini 280
Sketch of his System 280
Cremonini 281
Opponents of Aristotle 281
Patrizzi 281
System of Telesio 281
Jordano Bruno 282
His Italian Works—Cena de li Ceneri 282
Della Causa, Principio ed Uno 282
Pantheism of Bruno 283
Bruno’s other Writings 284
General Character of his Philosophy 285
Sceptical Theory of Sanchez 286
Logic of Aconcio 286
Nizolius on the Principles of Philosophy 286
Margarita Antoniana of Pereira 287
Logic of Ramus—its Success 288
Soto, De Justitia 289
Hooker 290
His Theory of Natural Law 290
Doubts felt by others 290
Essays of Montaigne 290
Their Characteristics 290
Writers on Morals in Italy 293
In England 293
Bacon’s Essays 293
Number of Political Writers 294
Oppression of Governments 294
And Spirit generated by it 294
Derived from Classic History 294
From their own and the Jewish 294
Franco Gallia of Hossoman 295
Vindiciæ of Languet 295
Contr’Un of Boetie 295
Buchanan, De Jure Regni 296
Poynet, on Politique Power 296
Its liberal Theory 296
Argues for Tyrannicide 297
The Tenets of Parties swayed by Circumstances 297
Similar Tenets among the Leaguers 298
Rose on the Authority of Christian States over Kings 298
Treatise of Boucher in the same Spirit 299
Answered by Barclay 299
The Jesuits adopt these Tenets 299
Mariana, De Rege 299
Popular Theories in England 300
Hooker 300
Political Memoirs 301
La Noue 301
Lipsius 301
Botero 301
His Remarks on Population 301
Paruta 302
Bodin 302
Analysis of his Treatise called the Republic 302
Authority of Heads of Families 302
Domestic Servitude 303
Origin of Commonwealths 303
Privileges of Citizens 303
Nature of Sovereign Power 304
Forms of Government 304
Despotism and Monarchy 304
Aristocracy 305
Senates and Councils of State 305
Duties of Magistrates 305
Corporations 305
Slaves, part of the State 305
Rise and Fall of States 306
Causes of Revolution 306
Astrological Fancies of Bodin 306
Danger of sudden Changes 307
Judicial Power of the Sovereign 307
Toleration of Religions 307
Influence of Climate on Government 307
Means of obviating Inequality 308
Confiscations—Rewards 308
Fortresses 308
Necessity of Good Faith 309
Census of Property 309
Public Revenues 309
Taxation 309
Adulteration of Coin 310
Superiority of Monarchy 310
Conclusion of the Work 310
Bodin compared with Aristotle and Machiavel 310
And with Montesquieu 310
Golden Age of Jurisprudence 311
Cujacius 311
Eulogies bestowed upon him 311
Cujacius, an Interpreter of Law rather than a Lawyer 312
French Lawyers below Cujacius—Govca and others 312
Opponents of the Roman Law 313
Faber of Savoy 313
Anti-Tribonianus of Hottoman 313
Civil Law not countenanced in France 314
Turamini 314
Cau Law 314
Law of Nations; its early State 314
Francis a Victoria 314
His Opinions on Public Law 315
Ayala, on the Rights of War 315
Albericus Gentilis on Embassies 316
His Treatise on the Rights of War 317
General Character of Italian Poets in this Age 318
Their usual Faults 318
Their Beauties 318
Character given by Muratori 318
Poetry of Casa 318
Of Costanzo 319
Baldi 319
Caro 319
Odes of Celio Magus 319
Coldness of the Amatory Sonnets 320
Studied Imitation of Petrarch 320
Their Fondness for Description 320
Judgment of Italian Critics 320
Bernardino Rota 320
Gaspara Stampa; her Love for Collalto 321
Is ill-requited 322
Her Second Love 322
Style of Gaspara Stampa 322
La Nautica of Baldi 322
Amadigi of Bernardo Tasso 323
Satirical and burlesque Poetry; Aretin 323
Other burlesque Writers 324
Attempts at Latin Metres 324
Poetical Translations 324
Torquato Tasso 324
The Jerusalem excellent in Choice of Subject 324
Superior to Homer and Virgil in some Points 324
Its Characters 325
Excellence of its Style 325
Some Faults in it 325
Defects of the Poem 326
It indicates the peculiar Genius of Tasso 326
Tasso compared to Virgil 326
To Ariosto 326
To the Bolognese Painters 327
Poetry Cultivated under Charles and Philip 327
Luis de Leon 328
Herrera 328
General Tone of Castilian Poetry 329
Castillejo 329
Araucana of Ercilla 329
Many epic Poems in Spain 329
Camœns 330
Defects of the Lusiad 330
Its Excellencies 330
Mickle’s Translation 330
Celebrated Passage in the Lusiad 331
Minor Poems of Camœns 331
Ferreira 331
Spanish Ballads 331
French Poets numerous 332
Change in the Tone of French Poetry 333
Ronsard 333
Other French Poets 334
Du Bartas 334
Pibrac; Desportes 335
French Metre and Versification 335
General character of French Poetry 335
German Poetry 336
Paradise of Dainty Devices 336
Character of this Collection 336
Sackville’s Induction 336
Inferiority of Poets in early years of Elizabeth 337
Gascoyne 337
Spenser’s Shepherd’s Kalendar 337
Sydney’s Character of Contemporary Poets 338
Improvement soon after this Time 338
Relaxation of Moral Austerity 339
Serious Poetry 339
Poetry of Sydney 339
Epithalanium of Spenser 340
Poems of Shakspeare 340
Daniel and Drayton 340
Nosce Teipsum of Davies 340
Satires of Hall, Marston, and Donne 341
Modulation of English Verse 341
Translations of Homer by Chapman 341
Of Tasso by Fairfax 342
Employment of Ancient Measures 342
Number of Poets in this Age 342
Scots and English Ballads 343
The Faery Queen 343
Superiority of the First Book 343
The succeeding Books 344
Spenser’s Sense of Beauty 344
Compared to Ariosto 344
Style of Spenser 345
Inferiority of the latter Books 345
Allegories of the Faery Queen 346
Blemishes in the Diction 346
Admiration of the Faery Queen 346
General Parallel of Italian and English Poetry 347
Decline of Latin Poetry in Italy 347
Compensated in other Countries 347
Lotichius 347
Collections of Latin Poetry by Gruter 348
Characters of some Gallo-Latin Poets 348
Sammarthanus 349
Belgic Poets 349
Scots Poets—Buchanan 349
Italian Tragedy 350
Pastoral Drama 351
Aminta of Tasso 351
Pastor Fido of Guarini 352
Italian Opera 352
The National Taste revives in the Spanish Drama 353
Lope de Vega 353
His Extraordinary Fertility 353
His Versification 354
His Popularity 354
Character of his Comedies 354
Tragedy of Don Sancho Ortiz 355
His Spiritual Plays 356
Numancia of Cervantes 356
French Theatre—Jodelle 357
Garnier 357
Comedies of Larivey 358
Theatres in Paris 358
English Stage 359
Gammar Gurton’s Needle 359
Gorboduc of Sackville 359
Preference given to the Irregular Form 359
First Theatres 360
Plays of Whetstone and Others 360
Marlowe and his Contemporaries 360
Tamburlaine 361
Blank Verse of Marlowe 361
Marlowe’s Jew of Malta 361
And Faustus 361
His Edward II. 361
Plays whence Henry VI. was taken 361
Peele 362
Greene 362
Other Writers of this Age 363
Heywood’s Woman Killed with Kindness 363
William Shakspeare 364
His First Writings for the Stage 364
Comedy of Errors 365
Love’s Labour Lost 365
Taming of the Shrew 365
Midsummer Night’s Dream 365
Its Machinery 366
Its Language 366
Romeo and Juliet 366
Its Plot 367
Its Beauties and Blemishes 367
The Characters 367
The Language 367
Second Period of Shakspeare 368
The Historical Plays 368
Merchant of Venice 368
As You Like It 369
Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour 369
Italian Writers 369
Casa 369
Tasso 370
Firenzuola 370
Character of Italian Prose 370
Italian Letter Writers 370
Davanzati’s Tacitus 371
Jordano Bruno 371
French Writers—Amyot 371
Montaigne; Du Vair 371
Satire Menippée 372
English Writers 372
Ascham 372
Euphues of Lilly 373
Its Popularity 373
Sydney’s Arcadia 374
His Defence of Poesie 374
Hooker 374
Character of Elizabethan Writers 374
State of Criticism 375
Scaliger’s Poetics 375
His Preference of Virgil to Homer 375
His Critique on Modern Latin Poets 376
Critical Influence of the Academics 376
Dispute of Caro and Castelvetro 377
Castelvetro on Aristotle’s Poetics 377
Severity of Castelvetro’s Criticism 377
Ercolano of Varchi 378
Controversy about Dante 378
Academy of Florence 378
Salviati’s Attack on Tasso 379
Pinciano’s Art of Poetry 379
French Treatises of Criticism 379
Wilson’s Art of Rhetorique 379
Gascoyne; Webbe 380
Puttenham’s Art of Poesie 380
Sydney’s Defence of Poesy 380
Novels of Bandello 380
Of Cinthio 381
Of the Queen of Navarre 381
Spanish Romances of Chivalry 381
Diana of Monte-Mayor 382
Novels in the Picaresque Style 382
Guzman d’Alfarache 382
Las Guerras de Granada 383
Sydney’s Arcadia 383
Its Character 383
Inferiority of other English Fictions 384
Tartaglia and Cardan 385
Algebra of Pelletier 385
Record’s Whetstone of Wit 385
Vieta 385
His Discoveries 386
Geometers of this Period 388
Joachim Rhœticus 388
Copernican Theory 388
Tycho Brahe 389
His System 389
Gregorian Calendar 390
Optics 390
Mechanics 390
Statics of Stevinus 391
Hydrostatics 392
Gilbert on the Magnet 392
Gesner’s Zoology 392
Its Character by Cuvier 392
Gesner’s Arrangement 393
His Additions to known Quadrupeds 393
Belon 394
Salviani and Rondelet’s Ichthyology 394
Aldrovandus 394
Botany—Turner 395
Maranta—Botanical Gardens 395
Gesner 396
Dodœns 396
Lobel 396
Clusius 396
Cæsalpin 396
Dalechamps—Bauhin 397
Gerard’s Herbal 397
Anatomy—Fallopius 397
Eustachius 397
Coiter 398
Columbus 398
Circulation of the Blood 398
Medicinal Science 398
Syriac Version of New Testament 399
Hebrew Critics 399
Its Study in England 399
Arabic begins to be Studied 399
Collection of Voyages by Ramusio 400
Curiosity they awakened 400
Other Voyages 401
Accounts of China 401
India and Russia 401
English Discoveries in the Northern Seas 401
Geographical Books—Ortelius 401
Guicciardini 402
French Memoirs 403
Universities in Italy 403
In other Countries 403
Libraries 403
Collections of Antiquities in Italy 404
Pinelli 404
Italian Academies 405
Society of Antiquaries in England 405
New Books and Catalogues of them 406
Literary Correspondence 406
Bibliographical Works 406
Restraints on the Press 407
Index Expurgatorius 407
Its Effects 407
Restrictions in England 407
Latin more employed on this account 408
Influence of Literature 408
Learning of 17th Century less Philological 409
Popularity of Comenius 409
Decline of Greek Learning 410
Casaubon 410
Viger de Idiotismis 411
Weller’s Greek Grammar 411
Labbe and Others 411
Salmasius de Lingua Hellenistica 412
Greek Editions—Savile’s Chrysostom 412
Greek Learning in England 413
Latin Editions—Torrentius 413
Gruter 413
Heinsius 413
Grotius 414
Rutgersius—Reinesius—Barthius 414
Other Critics—English 414
Salmasius 415
Good Writers of Latin 415
Scioppius 416
His Philosophical Grammar 416
His Infamia Famiani 416
Judicium de Stylo Historico 416
Gerard Vossius, de Vitiis Sermonis 417
His Aristarchus 417
Progress of Latin Style 418
Gruter’s Collection of Inscriptions 418
Assisted by Scaliger 419
Works on Roman Antiquity 419
Geography of Cluversius 420
Meursius 420
Ubbo Emmius 420
Chronology of Lydiat—Calvisius 420
Petavius 421
Character of this Work 421
Temporal Supremacy of Rome 422
Contest with Venice 423
Father Paul Sarpi 423
History of Council of Trent 424
Gallican Liberties—Richter 424
Perron 425
Decline of Papal Power 425
Unpopularity of the Jesuits 426
Richelieu’s Care of Gallican Liberties 426
Controversy of Catholics and Protestants 426
Increased respect for the Fathers 426
Especially in England—Laud 427
Defections to the Catholic Church 427
Wavering of Casaubon 428
And of Grotius 429
Calixtus 434
His Attempts at Concord 434
High Church Party in England 435
Daillé on the Right Use of the Fathers 435
Chillingworth’s Religion of Protestants 436
Character of this Work 436
Hales on Schism 438
Controversies on Grace and Free will—Augustinian Scheme 438
Semi-pelagian Hypothesis 439
Tenets of the Reformers 439
Rise of Arminianism 440
Episcopius 440
His Writings 440
Their Spirit and Tendency 440
Great Latitude allowed by them 441
Progress of Arminianism 441
Cameron 441
Rise of Jansenism 441
Socinus—Volkelius 442
Crellius—Ruarus 442
Erastianism maintained by Hooker 443
And Grotius 444
His Treatise on Ecclesiastical Power of the State 444
Remark upon this Theory 446
Toleration of Religious Tenets 446
Claimed by the Arminians 446
By the Independents 447
And by Jeremy Taylor 447
His Liberty of Prophesying 447
Boldness of his Doctrines 447
His Notions of Uncertainty in Theological Tenets 448
His low Opinion of the Fathers 448
Difficulty of Finding out Truth 449
Grounds of Toleration 449
Inconsistency of One Chapter 450
His General Defence of Toleration 450
Effect of this Treatise 451
Its Defects 451
Great Erudition of this Period 452
Usher—Petavius 452
Sacred Criticism 452
Grotius—Coccejus 452
English Commentators 453
Style of Preaching 453
English Sermons 453
Of Donne 454
Of Jeremy Taylor 454
Devotional Writings of Taylor and Hall 454
In the Roman 455
And Lutheran Church 455
Infidelity of some Writers—Charron—Vanini 455
Lord Herbert of Cherbury 456
Grotius de Veritate 457
English Translation of the Bible 457
Its Style 457
Subjects of this Chapter 458
Aristotelians and Ramists 458
No improvement till near the End of the Century 459
Methods of the Universities 459
Scholastic Writers 459
Treatises on Logic 460
Campanella 460
His Theory taken from Telesio 460
Notion of Universal Sensibility 461
His Imagination and Eloquence 461
His Works Published by Admai 462
Basson 463
Berigard 463
Magnen 463
Paracelsists 463
And Theosophists 463
Fludd 464
Jacob Behmen 464
Lord Herbert de Veritate 464
His Axioms 465
Conditions of Truth 465
Instinctive Truths 466
Internal Perceptions 466
Five Notions of Natural Religion 466
Remarks of Gassendi on Herbert 467
Gassendi’s Defence of Epicurus 468
His chief Works after 1650 468
Preparation for the Philosophy of Lord Bacon 468
His Plan of Philosophy 468
Time of its Conception 469
Instauratio Magna 470
First Part—Partitiones Scientiarum 470
Second Part—Novum Organum 470
Third Part—Natural History 470
Fourth Part—Scala Intellectûs 471
Fifth Part—Anticipationes Philosophiæ 471
Sixth Part—Philosophia Secunda 471
Course of studying Lord Bacon 472
Nature of the Baconian Induction 472
His Dislike of Aristotle 474
His Method much required 474
Its Objects 474
Sketch of the Treatise De Augmentis 474
History 474
Poetry 475
Fine Passage on Poetry 475
Natural Theology and Metaphysics 475
Form of Bodies might sometimes be inquired into 475
Final Causes too much slighted 476
Man not included by him in Physics 476
Man—in Body and Mind 476
Logic 476
Extent given it by Bacon 476
Grammar and Rhetoric 477
Ethics 477
Politics 477
Theology 478
Desiderata enumerated by him 478
Novum Organum—First Book 478
Fallacies—Idola 478
Confounded with Idols 478
Second Book of Novum Organum 479
Confidence of Bacon 479
Almost justified of late 480
But should be kept within Bounds 481
Limits to our Knowledge by Sense 481
Inductive Logic—whether confined to Physics 481
Baconian Philosophy built on Observation and Experiment 482
Advantages of the latter 482
Sometimes applicable to Philosophy of Human Mind 483
Less so to Politics and Morals 483
Induction less conclusive on these Subjects 483
Reasons for this Difference 484
Considerations on the other Side 484
Result of the whole 485
Bacon’s Aptitude for Moral Subjects 486
Comparison of Bacon and Galileo 487
His Prejudice against Mathematics 488
Bacon’s Excess of Wit 488
Fame of Bacon on the Continent 489
Early Life of Descartes 491
His beginning to philosophise 491
He retires to Holland 491
His Publications 492
He begins by doubting all 492
His First Step in Knowledge 492
His Mind not Sceptical 493
He arrives at more Certainty 493
His Proof of a Deity 493
Another Proof of it 494
His Deductions from this 494
Primary and Secondary Qualities 495
Objections made to his Meditations 495
Theory of Memory and Imagination 496
Seat of Soul in Pineal Gland 497
Gassendi’s Attacks on the Meditations 497
Superiority of Descartes 497
Stewart’s Remarks on Descartes 498
Paradoxes of Descartes 499
His Just Notions and Definitions 500
His Notion of Substances 501
Not Quite Correct 501
His Notions of Intuitive Truth 501
Treatise on Art of Logic 502
Merits of his Writings 502
His Notions of Free will 502
Fame of his System, and Attacks upon it 503
Controversy with Voet 503
Charges of Plagiarism 504
Recent Increase of his Fame 505
Metaphysical Treatises of Hobbes 505
His Theory of Sensation 506
Coincident with Descartes 506
Imagination and Memory 506
Discourse or Train of Imagination 507
Experience 507
Unconceivableness of Infinity 507
Origin of Language 508
His Political Theory interferes 508
Necessity of Speech exaggerated 509
Use of Names 509
Names Universal not Realities 509
How imposed 510
The Subject continued 510
Names differently imposed 511
Knowledge 511
Reasoning 512
False Reasoning 512
Its frequency 513
Knowledge of Fact not derived from Reasoning 514
Belief 514
Chart of Science 515
Analysis of Passions 515
Good and Evil relative Terms 515
His Paradoxes 515
His Notion of Love 516
Curiosity 516
Difference of Intellectual Capacities 516
Wit and Fancy 517
Differences in the Passions 517
Madness 517
Unmeaning Language 517
Manners 517
Ignorances and Prejudice 518
His Theory of Religion 518
Its supposed Sources 518
Casuistical Writers 521
Importance of Confession 521
Necessity of Rules for the Confessor 521
Increase of Casuistical Literature 521
Distinction of subjective and objective Morality 522
Directory Office of the Confessor 522
Difficulties of Casuistry 522
Strict and Lax Schemes of it 523
Convenience of the latter 523
Favoured by the Jesuits 523
The Causes of this 523
Extravagance of the strict Casuists 524
Opposite Faults of Jesuits 524
Suarez, De Legibus 524
Titles of his Ten Books 524
Heads of the Second Book 525
Character of such Scholastic Treatises 525
Quotations of Suarez 525
His Definition of Eternal Law 526
Whether God is a Legislator 526
Whether God could permit or commend wrong Actions 527
English Casuists—Perkins—Hall 527
Selden, De Jure Naturali Juxta Hebræos 528
Jewish Theory of Natural Law 528
Seven Precepts of the Sons of Noah 528
Character of Selden’s Work 528
Grotius and Hobbes 528
Charron on Wisdom 29
La Mothe le Vayer—his Dialogues 529
Bacon’s Essays 529
Their Excellence 530
Feltham’s Resolves 530
Browne’s Religio Medici 531
Selden’s Table Talk 532
Osborn’s Advice to his Son 532
John Valentine Andrax 532
Abandonment of Anti-Monarchical Theories 533
Political Literature becomes historical 533
Bellenden De Statu 534
Campanella’s Politics 534
La Mothe le Vayer 534
Naude’s Coups d’Etat 534
Patriarchal Theory of Government 534
Refuted by Suarez 535
His Opinion of Law 535
Bacon 536
Political Economy 536
Serra on the Means of obtaining Money without Mines 537
His Causes of Wealth 537
His Praise of Venice 537
Low Rate of Exchange not essential to wealth 587
Hobbes.—His Political Works 538
Analysis of his Three Treatises 538
Civil Jurists of this period 543
Suarez on Laws 544
Grotius—De Jure Belli et Pacis 544
Success of this Work 544
Its Originality 545
Its Motive and Object 545
His Authorities 545
Foundation of Natural Law 546
Positive Law 546
Perfect and Imperfect Rights 546
Lawful Cases of War 546
Resistance by Subjects unlawful 547
All Men naturally have Right of War 547
Right of Self-Defence 548
Its Origin and Limitations 548
Right of Occupancy 549
Relinquishment of it 549
Right over Persons—By Generation 549
By Consent 549
In Marriage 549
In Commonwealths 549
Right of Alienating Subjects 549
Alienation by Testament 550
Rights of Property by Positive Law 550
Extinction of Rights 550
Some Casuistical Questions 550
Promises 550
Contracts 551
Considered ethically 551
Promissory Oaths 552
Engagements of Kings towards Subjects 552
Public Treaties 552
Their Interpretation 553
Obligation to repair Injury 553
Rights by Law of Nations 554
Those of Ambassadors 554
Right of Sepulture 554
Punishments 554
Their Responsibility 555
Insufficient Causes of War 556
Duty of avoiding it 556
And Expediency 556
War for the sake of other Subjects 556
Allies 556
Strangers 556
None to Serve in an Unjust War 556
Rights in War 557
Use of Deceit 557
Rules and Customs of Nations 557
Reprisals 557
Declarations of War 557
Rights by law of nations over Enemies 558
Prisoners become Slaves 558
Rights of Postliminium 558
Moral Limitation of Rights in War 558
Moderation required as to spoil 559
And as to Prisoners 559
Also in Conquest 559
And in Restitution to right Owners 559
Promises to Enemies and Pirates 559
Treaties concluded by competent Authority 560
Matters relating to them 561
Truces and Conventions 561
Those of Private persons 561
Objections to Grotius made by Paley unreasonable 561
Reply of Mackintosh 561
Censures of Stewart 562
Answer to them 562
Grotius vindicated against Rousseau 565
His Arrangement 565
His Defects 565
Low Estimation of the Seicentisti 566
Not quite so great as formerly 566
Praise of them by Rubbi 566
Also by Salfi 566
Adone of Marini 567
Its Character 567
And Popularity 567
Secchia Rapita of Tassoni 568
Chiabrera 569
His Followers 569
The Styles of Spanish Poetry 570
The Romances 570
The Brothers Argensola 570
Villegas 571
Quevedo 571
Defects of Taste in Spanish Verse 571
Pedantry and far-fetched Allusions 572
Gongora 572
The Schools formed by him 573
Malherbe 573
Criticisms upon his Poetry 574
Satires of Regnier 574
Racan—Maynard 574
Voiture 574
Sarrasin 575
Low state of German Literature 575
Literary Societies 575
Opitz 575
His Followers 576
Dutch Poetry 576
Spiegel 576
Hooft-Cats-Vondel 577
Danish Poetry 577
English Poets numerous in this age 577
Phineas Fletcher 577
Giles Fletcher 578
Philosophical Poetry 578
Lord Brooke 578
Denham’s Cooper’s Hill 579
Poets called Metaphysical 579
Donne 580
Crashaw 580
Cowley 580
Johnson’s Character of him 580
Narrative Poets—Daniel 580
Drayton’s Polyolbion 581
Browne’s Britannia’s Pastorals 581
Sir John Beaumont 582
Davenant’s Gondibert 582
Sonnets of Shakspeare 582
The person whom they address 583
Sonnets of Drummond and others 584
Carew 584
Ben Jonson 585
Wither 585
Habington 585
Earl of Pembroke 585
Suckling 586
Lovelace 586
Herrick 586
Milton 586
His Comus 586
Lycidas 587
Allegro and Penseroso 587
Ode on the Nativity 588
His Sonnets 588
Anonymous Poetry 588
Latin Poets of France 588
In Germany and Italy 588
In Holland—Heinsius 589
Casimir Sarbievius 589
Barlæus 589
Balde—Greek Poems of Heinsius 590
Latin Poets of Scotland—Jonston’s Psalms 590
Owen’s Epigrams 590
Alabaster’s Roxana 590
May’s Supplement to Lucan 590
Milton’s Latin Poems 591
Decline of the Italian Theatre 591
Filli de Sciro 592
Translations of Spanish Dramas 592
Extemporaneous Comedy 593
Spanish Stage 593
Calderon—Number of his Pieces 593
His Comedies 593
La Vida es Sueno 594
A Secreto agravio secreta vengança 595
Style of Calderon 595
His Merits sometimes overrated 596
Plays of Hardy 596
The Cid 597
Style of Corneille 598
Les Horaces 598
Cimia 598
Polyeucte 599
Rodogune 599
Pompey 599
Heraclius 599
Nicomède 600
Faults and Beauties of Corneille 600
Le Menteur 600
Other French Tragedies 600
Wenceslas of Rotron 600
Popularity of the Stage under Elizabeth 601
Number of Theatres 601
Encouraged by James 601
General Taste for the Stage 601
Theatres closed by the Parliament 602
Shakspeare’s Twelfth Night 602
Merry Wives of Windsor 603
Measure for Measure 604
Lear 604
Timon of Athens 604
Pericles 605
His Roman Tragedies—Julius Cæsar 606
Antony and Cleopatra 606
Coriolanus 606
His Retirement and Death 607
Greatness of his Genius 607
His Judgment 607
His Obscurity 608
His Popularity 608
Critics on Shakspeare 609
Ben Jonson 609
The Alchemist 609
Volpone, or The Fox 610
The Silent Woman 610
Sad Shepherd 611
Beaumont and Fletcher 611
Corrupt State of their Text 611
The Maid’s Tragedy 611
Philaster 612
King and no King 613
The Elder Brother 613
The Spanish Curate 613
The Custom of the Country 613
The Loyal Subject 613
Beggar’s Bush 613
The Scornful Lady 614
Valentinian 614
The Two Noble Kinsmen 615
The Faithful Shepherdess 615
Rule a Wife, and have a Wife 616
Some other Plays 616
Origin of Fletcher’s Plays 616
Defects of their plots 616
Their Sentiments and Style Dramatic 617
Their Characters 617
Their Tragedies 617
Inferior to their Comedies 618
Their Female Characters 618
Massinger—Nature of his Dramas 619
His Delineations of Character 619
His Subjects 619
Beauty of His Style 620
Inferiority of his Comic Powers 620
Some of his Tragedies particularized 620
And of his other Plays 620
Ford 621
Shirley 621
Heywood 622
Webster 622
His Duchess of Malfy 622
Vittoria Corombona 622
Decline of Taste in Italy 623
Style of Galileo 624
Bentivoglio 624
Boccalini’s News from Parnassus 624
His Pietra del Paragone 625
Terrante Pallavicino 625
Dictionary Delia Crusca 625
Grammatical Works—Buonmattei—Bartoli 626
Tassoni’s Remarks on Petrarch 626
Galileo’s Remarks on Tasso 626
Sforza Pallavicino 626
And other Critical Writers 626
Prolusiones of Strada 627
Spanish Prose—Gracian 627
French Prose—Du Vair 627
Balzac 628
Character of his Writings 628
His Letters 628
Voiture—Hotel Rambouillet 629
Establishment of French Academy 630
Its objects and Constitution 630
It publishes a Critique on the Cid 631
Vaugelas’s Remarks on the French Language 631
La Mothe le Vayer 632
Legal Speeches of Patru 632
And of Le Maistre 632
Improvement in English Style 633
Earl of Essex 633
Knolles’s History of the Turks 634
Raleigh’s History of the World 635
Daniel’s History of England 635
Bacon 635
Milton 636
Clarendon 636
The Icon Basilice 636
Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy 637
Earle’s Characters 637
Overbury’s Characters 637
Jonson’s Discoveries 637
Publication of Don Quixote 638
Its Reputation 638
New Views of its Design 638
Probably erroneous 638
Difference between the two Parts 639
Excellence of this Romance 639
Minor Novels of Cervantes 639
Other Novels—Spanish 639
And Italian 639
French Romances—Astrée 639
Heroic Romances—Gomberville 640
Calprenède 640
Scuderi 641
Argenis of Barclay 641
His Euphormis 643
Campanella’s City of the Sun 643
Few Books of Fiction in England 643
Mundus Alter et Idem of Hall 644
Godwin’s Journey to the Moon 644
Howell’s Dodona’s Grove 644
Adventures of Baron de Fænesle 644
State of Science in 16th Century 645
Tediousness of Calculations 645
Napier’s Invention of Logarithms 645
Their Nature 645
Property of Numbers discovered by Stifelius 645
Extended to Magnitudes 646
By Napier 646
Tables of Napier and Briggs 646
Kepler’s New Geometry 647
Its Difference from the Ancient 647
Adopted by Galileo 648
Extended by Cavalieri 648
Applied to the Ratios of Solids 648
Problem of the Cycloid 648
Progress of Algebra 649
Briggs—Girard 649
Harriott 649
Descartes 650
His Application of Algebra to Curves 650
Suspected Plagiarism from Harriot 650
Fermat 651
Algebraic Geometry not successful at first 652
Astronomy—Kepler 652
Conjectures as to Comets 652
Galileo’s Discovery of Jupiter’s Satellites 653
Other Discoveries by him 653
Spots of the Sun discovered 653
Copernican System held by Galileo 654
His Dialogues, and Persecution 654
Descartes alarmed by this 655
Progress of Copernican System 655
Descartes denies General Gravitation 655
Cartesian Theory of the World 655
Transits of Mercury and Venus 656
Laws of Mechanics 656
Statics of Galileo 657
His Dynamics 657
Mechanics of Descartes 658
Law of Motion laid down by Descartes 658
Also those of Compound Forces 659
Other Discoveries in Mechanics 659
In Hydrostatics and Pneumatics 659
Optics—Discoveries of Kepler 660
Invention of the Telescope 660
Of the Microscope 660
Antonio de Dominis 660
Dioptrics of Descartes—Law of Refraction 661
Disputed by Fermat 661
Curves of Descartes 661
Theory of the Rainbow 661
Aldrovandus 662
Clusius 662
Rio and Marcgraf 662
Jonston 662
Fabricius on the Language of Brutes 663
Botany—Columna 664
John and Gaspar Bauhin 664
Parkinson 664
Valves of the Veins discovered 665
Theory of the Blood’s Circulation 665
Sometimes ascribed to Servetus 665
To Columbus 666
And to Cæsalpin 666
Generally unknown before Harvey 667
His Discovery 667
Unjustly doubted to be Original 667
Harvey’s Treatise on Generation 668
Lacteals discovered by Asellius 668
Optical Discoveries of Scheiner 669
Medicine—Van Helmont 669
Diffusion of Hebrew 669
Language not studied in the best method 669
The Buxtorfs 670
Vowel Points rejected by Cappel 670
Hebrew Scholars 671
Chaldee and Syriac 671
Arabic 671
Erpenius 671
Golius 671
Other Eastern Languages 672
Purchas’s Pilgrim 672
Olearius and Pietro della Valle 672
Lexicon of Ferrari 672
Maps of Blaew 672
Davila and Bentivoglio 673
Mendoza’s Wars of Granada 673
Mezeray 673
English Historians 673
English Histories 673
Universities 673
Bodleian Library founded 674
Casaubon’s Account of Oxford 674
Catalogue of Bodleian Library 674
Continental Libraries 675
Italian Academies 675
The Lincei 675
Prejudice for Antiquity diminished 676
Browne’s Vulgar Errors 677
Life and Character of Peiresc 677
James Frederic Gronovius 678
James Gronovius 679
Grævius 679
Isaac Vossius 679
Decline of German Learning 679
Spanheim 679
Jesuit Colleges in France 679
Port-Royal Writers—Lancelot 679
Latin Writers—Perizonius 680
Delphin Editions 680
Le Fevre and the Daciers 680
Henry Valois—Complaints of Decay of Learning 680
English Learning—Duport 681
Greek not much studied 681
Gataker’s Cinnus and Antoninus 681
Stanley’s Æschylus 682
Other English Philologers 682
Bentley 682
His Epistle to Mill 682
Dissertation on Phalaris 682
Disadvantages of Scholars in that Age 683
Thesauri of Grævius and of Gronovius 683
Fabretti 684
Numismatics, Spanheim—Vaillant 684
Chronology—Usher 684
Pezron 685
Marsham 685
Decline of Papal Influence 685
Dispute of Louis XIV. with Innocent XI. 686
Four Articles of 1682 686
Dupin on the ancient Discipline 686
Dupin’s Ecclesiastical Library 687
Fleury’s Ecclesiastical History 687
His Dissertations 687
Protestant Controversy in France 688
Bossuet’s Exposition of Catholic Faith 688
His Conference with Claude 688
Correspondence with Molanus and Leibnitz 689
His Variations of Protestant Churches 690
Anglican Writings against Popery 690
Taylor’s Dissuasive 690
Barrow—Stillingfleet 690
Jansenius 691
Condemnation of his Augustinus in France 691
And at Rome 691
The Jansenists take a Distinction 692
And are Persecuted 692
Progress of Arminianism 692
Courcelles 693
Limborch 693
Le Clerc 693
Sancroft’s Fur Prædestinatus 693
Arminianism in England 694
Bull’s Harmonia Apostolica 694
Hammond—Locke—Wilkins 694
Socinians in England 695
Bull’s Defensio Fidei Nicenæ 695
Not Satisfactory to all 695
Mystics 696
Fenelon 696
Change in the Character of Theological Literature 696
Freedom of many Writings 696
Thoughts of Pascal 697
Vindications of Christianity 699
Progress of Tolerant Principles 700
Bayle’s Philosophical Commentary 700
Locke’s Letter on Toleration 700
French Sermons 701
Bourdaloue 701
Compared with Bossuet 702
Funeral Discourses of Bossuet 702
Fléchier 703
English Sermons—Barrow 703
South 704
Tillotson 704
Expository Theology 704
Pearson on the Creed 704
Simon’s Critical Histories 705
Aristotelian Metaphysics 705
Their Decline. Thomas White 706
Logic 706
Stanley’s History of Philosophy 707
Gale’s Court of Gentiles 707
Cudworth’s Intellectual System 707
Its object 708
Sketch of it 708
His plastic nature 708
His account of old Philosophy 708
His Arguments against Atheism 709
More 709
Gassendi 710
His Logic 710
His Theory of Ideas 710
And of the Nature of the Soul 710
Distinguishes Ideas of Reflection 711
Also Intellect from Imagination 711
His Philosophy misunderstood by Stewart 712
Bernier’s Epitome of Gassendi 713
Process of Cartesian Philosophy 713
La Forge—Regis 714
Huet’s Censure of Cartesianism 715
Port-Royal Logic 716
Malebranche 717
His Style 717
Sketch of his Theory 717
Character of Malebranche 724
Compared with Pascal 724
Arnauld on True and False ideas 725
Norris 725
Pascal 725
Spinosa’s Ethics 726
Its general Originality 726
View of his Metaphysical Theory 727
Spinosa’s Theory of action and Passion 731
Character of Spinosism 732
Glanvil’s Scepsis Scientifica 733
His Plus Ultra 734
Dalgarno 735
Wilkins 736
Locke on Human Understanding 736
Its merits 736
Its Defects 737
Origin of Ideas according to Locke 737
Vague Use of the Word Idea 738
An Error as to Geometrical Figure 739
His Notions as to the Soul 740
And its Immateriality 740
His Love of Truth and Originality 741
Defended in two cases 742
His View of Lunatic Ideas 742
General Praise 743
Locke’s Conduct of Understanding 743
Casuistry of the Jesuits 744
Pascal’s Provincial Letters 744
Their Truth questioned by some 744
Taylor’s Ductor Dubitantium 745
Its Character and Defects 745
Cudworth’s immutable Morality 745
Nicole—La Placette 746
Other Writers 746
Moral System of Spinosa 746
Cumberland’s De Legibus Naturæ 747
Analysis of Prolegomena 748
His Theory expanded afterwards 749
Remarks on Cumberland’s Theory 752
Puffendorf’s Law of Nature and Nations 753
Analysis of this Work 754
Puffendorf and Paley compared 757
Rochefoucault 757
La Bruyère 758
Education—Milton’s Tractrate 758
Locke on Education—Its merits 759
And Defects 759
Fenelon on Female Education 761
Puffendorf’s Theory of Politics 762
Politics of Spinosa 764
His Theory of a Monarchy 766
Amelot de la Houssaye 766
Harrington’s Oceana766
Patriarcha of Filmer767
Sydney’s Discourses on Government767
Locke on Government 768
Observations on this Treatise771
Avis auz Refugiéz, perhaps by Bayle772
Political Economist’s 772
Mun on Foreign Trade 773
Child on Trade 773
Locke on the Coin 773
Statistical Tracts 774
Works of Leibnitz on Roman Law 775
Civil Jurists—Godefroy—Domat 775
Noodt of Usury 776
Law of Nations—Puffendorf 776
Improved Tone of Italian Poetry 776
Filicaja 777
Guidi 777
Menzini 778
Salvator Rosa—Redi 778
Other Poets778
Christina’s Patronage of Letters 778
Society of Arcadians 778
La Fontaine779
Character of his Fables 779
Boileau: His Epistles 780
His Art of Poetry 780
Comparison with Horace 780
The Lutrin780
General Character of his Poetry 780
Lyric Poetry lighter than before 781
Benserade 781
Chaulieu 781
Pastoral Poetry 781
Segrais 781
Deshouliéres 781
Fontenelle 782
Bad Epic Poems 782
German Poetry 782
Waller 782
Butler’s Hudibras 783
Paradise Lost—Choice of Subject 783
Open to some Difficulties783
Its Arrangement 783
Characters of Adam and Eve 784
He owes less to Homer than the Tragedians 784
Compared with Dante784
Elevation of his Style 785
His Blindness 786
His Passion for Music786
Faults in Paradise Lost786
Its Progress to Fame786
Paradise Regained787
Samson Agonistes787
Dryden—His earlier Poems 787
Absalom and Achitophel 788
Mac Flecknoe788
The Hind and Panther789
Its Singular Fable 789
Its Reasoning 789
The Fables 789
His Odes—Alexander’s Feast 790
His Translation of Virgil 790
Decline of Poetry from the Restoration 790
Some Minor Poets enumerated 790
Latin Poets of Italy 791
Ceva 791
Sergardi 791
Of France—Quillet791
Menage 792
Rapin on Gardens 792
Latin Poetry in England 793
Italian and Spanish Drama793
Racine’s first Tragedies 793
Andromaque 794
Britannicus 795
Berenice 795
Bajazet 795
Mithridate 796
Iphigénie 796
Phédre 797
Racine’s Female Characters798
Racine compared with Corneille798
Beauty of his Style 798
Thomas Corneille—His Ariane799
Manlius of La Fosse 799
L’Avare 799
L’Ecole des Femmes 800
Le Misanthrope800
Les Femmes Savantes 801
Bourgeois Gentilhomme—George Dandin801
Character of Molière 802
Les Plaideurs of Racine 802
Regnard—Le Joueur 802
His Other Plays 803
Quinault—Boursault 803
Dancourt 803
Brueys 804
Operas of Quinault804
Revival of the English Theatre804
Change of Public Taste804
Its Causes 805
Heroic Tragedies of Dryden805
His later Tragedies 805
Don Sebastian 806
Spanish Friar 806
Otway 806
Southern 807
Lee 807
Congreve 807
Comedies of Charles II.’s Reign 807
Wycherley 808
Improvement after the Revolution 808
Congreve 808
Love for Love 808
His other Comedies 808
Farquhar—Vanbrugh 809
Low State of Literature in Italy 809
Crescimbeni 810
Age of Louis XIV. in France 810
Fontenelle—his Character 810
His Dialogues of the Dead 811
Those of Fenelon 811
Fontenelle’s Plurality of Worlds 811
His History of Oracles 811
St. Evremond 812
Madame de Sevigné 812
The French Academy 812
French Grammars 813
Bouhour’s Entretiens d’Ariste et d’Eugène 813
Attacked by Barbier d’Ancour 814
La Manière de Bien Penser 815
Rapin’s Reflections on Eloquence and Poetry 815
His Parallel’s of Great Men 815
Bossu on Epic Poetry 816
Fontenelle’s Critical Writings 816
Preference of French Language to Latin 816
General Superiority of Ancients disputed 816
Charles Perrault 816
Fontenelle 817
Boileau’s Defence of Antiquity 817
First Reviews—Journal des Sçavans 817
Reviews Established by Bayle 818
Reviews Established by Le Clerc 818
Leipsic Acts 819
Bayle’s Thoughts on the Comet 819
His Dictionary 819
Baillet—Morhof 820
The Ana 820
English Style in this Period 820
Hobbes 821
Cowley 821
Evelyn 821
Dryden 821
His Essay on Dramatic Poesy 822
Improvements in his Style 823
His Critical Character 823
Rymer on Tragedy 823
Sir William Temple’s Essays 824
Style of Locke 824
Sir George Mackenzie’s Essays 824
Andrew Fletcher 824
Walton’s Complete Angler 824
Wilkins’ New World 824
Antiquity defended by Temple 825
Wotton’s Reflection’s 825
Quevedo’s Visions 825
French Heroic Romances 826
Novels of Madame La Fayette 826
Scarron’s Roman Comique 826
Cyrano de Bergerac 827
Segrais 827
Perrault 827
Hamilton 827
Télémaque of Fenelon 827
Deficiency of English Romances 828
Pilgrim’s Progress 828
Turkish Spy 829
Chiefly of English Origin 830
Swift’s Tale of a Tub 831
Reasons for omitting Mathematics 831
Academy del Cimento 831
Royal Society 832
Academy of Sciences at Paris 832
State of Chemistry 832
Becker 833
Boyle 833
His Metaphysical Works 833
Extract from one of them 833
His Merits in Physics and Chemistry 834
General Character of Boyle 834
Of Hooke and Others 834
Lemery 835
Slow Progress of Zoology 835
Before Ray 835
His Synopsis of Quadrupeds 835
Merits of this Work 835
Redi 836
Swammerdam 836
Lister 836
Comparative Anatomy 836
Botany 837
Jungius 837
Morison 837
Ray 837
Rivinus 838
Tournefort 838
Vegetable Physiology 839
Grew 839
His Anatomy of Plants 840
He discovers the Sexual System 840
Camerarius confirms this 840
Predecessors of Grew 840
Malpighi 840
Early Notions of Geology 840
Burnet’s Theory of Earth 840
Other Geologists 841
Protogæa of Leibnitz 841
Circulation of Blood Established 842
Willis—Vieussens 842
Malpighi 842
Other Anatomists 842
Medical Theories 843
Polyglott of Walton 843
Hottinger 844
Spencer 844
Bochart 844
Pococke 844
D’Herbelot 844
Hyde 844
Maps of the Sansons 844
De Lisle’s Map of the World 845
Voyages and Travels 845
Historians 845
De Solis 845
Memoirs of De Retz 845
Bossuet on Universal History 846
English Historical Works 846
Burnet 846
General Character of 17th Century 846
Conclusion 847


The advantages of such a synoptical view of literature as displays its various departments in their simultaneous condition through an extensive period, and in their mutual dependency, seem too manifest to be disputed. And, as we possess little of this kind in our own language, I have been induced to undertake that to which I am in some respects, at least, very unequal, but which no more capable person, as far as I could judge, was likely to perform. In offering to the public this introduction to the literary history of three centuries—for I cannot venture to give it a title of more pretension—it is convenient to state my general secondary sources of information, exclusive of the acquaintance I possess with original writers; and, at the same time, by showing what has already been done, and what is left undone, to furnish a justification of my own undertaking.

The history of literature belongs to modern, and chiefly to almost recent times. The nearest approach to it that the ancients have left us is contained in a single chapter of Quintilian, the first of the tenth book, wherein he passes rapidly over the names and characters of the poets, orators, and historians of Greece and Rome. This, however, is but a sketch; and the valuable work of Diogenes Laertius preserves too little of chronological order to pass for a history of ancient philosophy, though it has supplied much of the materials for all that has been written on the subject.

In the sixteenth century, the great increase of publications, and the devotion to learning which distinguished that period, might suggest the scheme of a universal literary history. Conrad Gesner, than whom no one, by extent and variety of erudition, was more fitted for the labour, appears to have framed a plan of this kind. What he has published, the Bibliotheca Universalis, and the Pandectæ Universales, are, taken together, the materials that might have been thrown into an historical form; the one being an alphabetical catalogue of authors and their writings; the other a digested and minute index to all departments of knowledge, in twenty-one books, each divided into titles, with short references to the texts of works on every head in his comprehensive classification. The order of time is therefore altogether disregarded. Possevin, an Italian Jesuit, made somewhat a nearer approach to this in his Bibliotheca Selecta, published at Rome in 1593. Though his partitions are rather encyclopædic than historical, and his method, especially in the first volume, is chiefly argumentative, he gives under each chapter a nearly chronological catalogue of authors, and sometimes a short account of their works.

Lord Bacon, in the second book De Augmentis Scientiarum, might justly deny, notwithstanding these defective works of the preceding century, that any real history of letters had been written; and he compares that of the world, wanting this, to a statue of Polypheme deprived of his single eye. He traces the method of supplying this deficiency in one of those luminous and comprehensive passages which bear the stamp of his vast mind: the origin and antiquities of every science, the methods by which it has been taught, the sects and controversies it has occasioned, the colleges and academies in which it has been cultivated, its relation to civil government and common society, the physical or temporary causes which have influenced its condition, form, in his plan, as essential a part of such a history, as the lives of famous authors, and the books they have produced.

No one has presumed to fill up the outline which Bacon himself could but sketch; and most part of the seventeenth century passed away with few efforts on the part of the learned to do justice to their own occupation; for we can hardly make an exception for the Prodromus Historiæ Literariæ (Hamburg, 1659) of Lambecius, a very learned German, who, having framed a magnificent scheme of a universal history of letters, was able to carry it no farther than the times of Moses and Cadmus. But, in 1688, Daniel Morhof, professor at Kiel in Holstein, published his well-known Polyhistor, which received considerable additions in the next age at the hands of Fabricius, and is still found in every considerable library.

Morhof appears to have had the method of Possevin in some measure before his eyes; but the lapse of a century, so rich in erudition as the seventeenth, had prodigiously enlarged the sphere of literary history. The precise object, however, of the Polyhistor, as the word imports, is to direct, on the most ample plan, the studies of a single scholar. Several chapters, that seem digressive in an historical light, are to be defended by this consideration. In his review of books in every province of literature, Morhof adopts a sufficiently chronological order; his judgments are short, but usually judicious; his erudition so copious, that later writers have freely borrowed from, and, in many parts, added little to the enumeration of the Polyhistor. But he is far more conversant with writers in Latin than the modern languages; and, in particular, shows a scanty acquaintance with English literature.

Another century had elapsed, when the honour of first accomplishing a comprehensive synopsis of literary history in a more regular form than Morhof, was the reward of Andrès, a Spanish Jesuit, who, after the dissolution of his order, passed the remainder of his life in Italy. He published at Parma, in different years, from 1782 to 1799, his Origine Progresso e Stato attuale d’ogni Litteratura. The first edition is in five volumes quarto; but I have made use of that printed at Prato, 1806, in twenty octavo volumes. Andrès, though a Jesuit, or perhaps because a Jesuit, accommodated himself in some measure to the tone of the age wherein his book appeared, and is always temperate, and often candid. His learning is very extensive in surface, and sometimes minute and curious, but not, generally speaking, profound; his style is flowing, but diffuse and indefinite; his characters of books have a vagueness unpleasant to those who seek for precise notions; his taste is correct, but frigid; his general views are not injudicious, but display a moderate degree of luminousness or philosophy. This work is, however, an extraordinary performance, embracing both ancient and modern literature in its full extent, and, in many parts, with little assistance from any former publication of the kind. It is far better known on the Continent than in England, where I have not frequently seen it quoted; nor do I believe it is common in our private libraries.

A few years after the appearance of the first volumes of Andrès, some of the most eminent among the learned of Germany projected a universal history of modern arts and sciences on a much larger scale. Each single province, out of eleven, was deemed sufficient for the labours of one man, if they were to be minute and exhaustive of the subject: among others, Bouterwek undertook poetry and polite letters; Buhle speculative philosophy; Kästner the mathematical sciences; Sprengel anatomy and medicine; Heeren classical philology. The general survey of the whole seems to have been assigned to Eichhorn. So vast a scheme was not fully executed; but we owe to it some standard works, to which I have been considerably indebted. Eichhorn published, in 1796 and 1799, two volumes, intended as the beginning of a General History of the Cultivation and Literature of modern Europe, from the twelfth to the eighteenth century. But he did not confine himself within the remoter limit; and his second volume, especially, expatiates on the dark ages that succeeded the fall of the Roman empire. In consequence, perhaps, of this diffuseness, and also of the abandonment, for some reason with which I am unacquainted, of a large portion of the original undertaking, Eichhorn prosecuted this work no farther in its original form. But, altering slightly its title, he published, some years afterwards, an independent universal History of Literature from the earliest ages to his own. This is comprised in six volumes, the first having appeared in 1805, the last in 1811.

The execution of these volumes is very unequal. Eichhorn was conversant with oriental, with theological literature, especially of his own country, and in general with that contained in the Latin language. But he seems to have been slightly acquainted with that of the modern languages, and with most branches of science. He is more specific, more chronological, more methodical in his distribution than Andrès: his reach of knowledge, on the other hand, is less comprehensive; and though I could praise neither highly for eloquence, for taste, or for philosophy, I should incline to give the preference in all these to the Spanish Jesuit. But the qualities above mentioned render Eichhorn, on the whole, more satisfactory to the student.

These are the only works, as far as I know, which deserve the name of general histories of literature, embracing all subjects, all ages, and all nations. If there are others, they must, I conceive, be too superficial to demand attention. But in one country of Europe, and only in one, we find a national history so comprehensive as to leave uncommemorated no part of its literary labour. This was first executed by Tiraboschi, a Jesuit born at Bergamo, and, in his later years, librarian of the Duke of Modena, in twelve volumes quarto: I have used the edition published at Rome in 1785. It descends to the close of the seventeenth century. In full and clear exposition, in minute and exact investigation of facts, Tiraboschi has few superiors; and such is his good sense in criticism, that we must regret the sparing use he has made of it. But the principal object of Tiraboschi was biography. A writer of inferior reputation, Corniani, in his Secoli della litteratura Italiana dopo il suo risorgimento (Brescia, 9 vols., 1804-1813), has gone more closely to an appreciation of the numerous writers whom he passes in review before our eyes. Though his method is biographical, he pursues sufficiently the order of chronology to come into the class of literary historians. Corniani is not much esteemed by some of his countrymen, and does not rise to a very elevated point of philosophy; but his erudition appears to me considerable, his judgments generally reasonable; and his frequent analyses of books gives him one superiority over Tiraboschi.

The Histoire Littéraire de l’Italie, by Ginguéné, is well known: he had the advantage of following Tiraboschi; and could not so well, without his aid, have gone over a portion of the ground, including in his scheme, as he did, the Latin learning of Italy; but he was very conversant with the native literature of the language, and has, not a little prolixly, doubtless, but very usefully, rendered much of easy access to Europe, which must have been sought in scarce volumes, and was, in fact, known by name to a small part of the world. The Italians are ungrateful if they deny their obligations to Ginguéné.

France has, I believe, no work of any sort, even an indifferent one, on the universal history of her own literature; nor can we claim for ourselves a single attempt of the most superficial kind. Warton’s History of Poetry contains much that bears on our general learning; but it leaves us about the accession of Elizabeth.

Far more has been accomplished in the history of particular departments of literature. In the general history of philosophy, omitting a few older writers, Brucker deserves to lead the way. There has been, of late years, some disposition to depreciate his laborious performance, as not sufficiently imbued with a metaphysical spirit, and as not rendering, with clearness and truth, the tenets of the philosophers whom he exhibits. But the Germany of 1744 was not the Germany of Kant and Fichte; and possibly Brucker may not have proved the worse historian for having known little of recent theories. The latter objection is more material; in some instances he seems to me not quite equal to his subject. But, upon the whole, he is of eminent usefulness; copious in his extracts, impartial and candid in his judgments.

In the next age after Brucker, the great fondness of the German learned both for historical and philosophical investigation produced more works of this class than I know by name, and many more than I have read. The most celebrated, perhaps, is that of Tennemann; but of which I only know the abridgment, translated into French by M. Victor Cousin, with the title Manuel de l’Histoire de Philosophie. Buhle, one of the society above mentioned, whose focus was at Göttingen, contributed his share to their scheme in a History of Philosophy from the revival of letters. This I have employed through the French translation in six volumes. Buhle, like Tennemann, has very evident obligations to Brucker; but his own erudition was extensive, and his philosophical acuteness not inconsiderable.

The history of poetry and eloquence, or fine writing, was published by Bouterwek, in twelve volumes octavo. Those parts which relate to his own country, and to Spain and Portugal, have been of more use to me than the rest. Many of my readers must be acquainted with the Littérature du Midi, by M. Sismondi; a work written in that flowing and graceful style which distinguishes the author, and succeeding in all that it seeks to give—a pleasing and popular, yet not superficial or unsatisfactory, account of the best authors in the southern languages. We have nothing historical as to our own poetry but the prolix volumes of Warton. They have obtained, in my opinion, full as much credit as they deserve. Without depreciating a book in which so much may be found and which has been so great a favourite with the literary part of the public, it may be observed that its errors as to fact, especially in names and dates, are extraordinarily frequent, and that the criticism, in points of taste, is not of a very superior kind.

Heeren undertook the history of classical literature—a great desideratum, which no one had attempted to supply. But, unfortunately, he has only given an introduction, carrying us down to the close of the fourteenth century, and a history of the fifteenth. These are so good, that we must much lament the want of the rest; especially as I am aware of nothing to fill up the vacuity. Eichhorn, however, is here of considerable use.

In the history of mathematical science, I have had recourse chiefly to Montucla and, as far as he conducts us, to Kästner, whose catalogue and analysis of mathematical works is far more complete, but his own observations less perspicuous and philosophical. Portal’s History of Anatomy, and some other books, to which I have always referred, and which it might be tedious to enumerate, have enabled me to fill a few pages with what I could not be expected to give from any original research. But several branches of literature, using the word, as I generally do, in the most general sense for the knowledge imparted through books, are as yet deficient in anything that approaches to a real history of their progress.

The materials of literary history must always be derived in great measure from biographical collections, those especially which intermix a certain portion of criticism with mere facts. There are some, indeed, which are almost entirely of this description. Adrian Baillet, in his Jugemens des Sçavans, published in 1685, endeavoured to collect the suffrages of former critics on the merits of all past authors. His design was only executed in a small part, and hardly extends beyond grammarians, translators, and poets; the latter but imperfectly. Baillet gives his quotations in French, and sometimes mingles enough of his own to raise him above a mere compiler, and to have drawn down the animosity of some contemporaries. Sir Thomas Pope Blount is a perfectly unambitious writer of the same class. His Censura Celebriorum Autorum, published in 1690, contains nothing of his own, except a few short dates of each author’s life, but diligently brings together the testimonies of preceding critics. Blount omits no class, nor any age; his arrangement is nearly chronological, and leads the reader from the earliest records of literature to his own time. The polite writers of modern Europe, and the men of science, do not receive their full share of attention; but this volume, though not, I think, much in request at present, is a very convenient accession to any scholar’s library.

Bayle’s Dictionary, published in 1697, seems at first sight an inexhaustible magazine of literary history. Those who are conversant with it know that it frequently disappoints their curiosity; names of great eminence are sought in vain, or are very slightly treated; the reader is lost in episodical notes, perpetually frivolous, and disgusted with an author who turns away at every moment from what is truly interesting to some idle dispute of his own time, or some contemptible indecency. Yet the numerous quotations contained in Bayle, the miscellaneous copiousness of his erudition, as well as the good sense and acuteness he can always display when it is his inclination to do so, render his Dictionary of great value, though, I think, chiefly to those who have made a tolerable progress in general literature.

The title of a later work by Père Niceron, Mémoires Pour Servir à l’Histoire des Hommes Illustres de la République des Lettres, avec un Catalogue Raisonné de leurs Ouvrages, in forty-three volumes 12mo, published at Paris from 1727 to 1745, announces something rather different from what it contains. The number of illustrious men recorded by Niceron is about 1600, chiefly of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The names, as may be anticipated, are frequently very insignificant; and, in return, not a few of real eminence, especially when Protestant, and, above all, English, are overlooked, or erroneously mentioned. No kind of arrangement is observed; it is utterly impossible to conjecture in what volume of Niceron any article will be discovered. A succinct biography, though fuller than the mere dates of Blount, is followed by short judgments on the author’s works, and by a catalogue of them far more copious, at least, than had been given by any preceding bibliographer. It is a work of much utility; but the more valuable parts have been transfused into later publications.

The English Biographical Dictionary was first published in 1761. I speak of this edition with some regard from its having been the companion of many youthful hours; but it is rather careless in its general execution. It is sometimes ascribed to Birch; but I suspect that Heathcote had more to do with it. After several successive enlargements, an edition of this Dictionary was published in thirty-two volumes from 1812 to 1817, by Alexander Chalmers, whose name it now commonly bears. Chalmers was a man of very slender powers, relatively to the magnitude of such a work; but his life had been passed in collecting small matters of fact, and he has added much of this kind to British biography. He inserts, beyond any one else, the most insignificant names, and quotes the most wretched authorities. But as the faults of excess, in such collections, are more pardonable than those of omission, we cannot deny the value of his Biographical Dictionary, especially as to our own country, which has not fared well at the hands of foreigners.

Coincident nearly in order of time with Chalmers, but more distinguished in merit, is the Biographie Universelle. The eminent names appended to a large proportion of the articles contained in its fifty-two volumes, are vouchers for the ability and erudition it displays. There is, doubtless, much inequality in the performance; and we are sometimes disappointed by a superficial notice where we had a right to expect most. English literature, though more amply treated than had been usual on the Continent, and with the benefit of Chalmer’s contemporaneous volumes, is still not fully appreciated: our chief theological writers, especially, are passed over almost in silence. There seems, on the other hand, a redundancy of modern French names; those, above all, who have, even obscurely and insignificantly been connected with the history of the Revolution: a fault, if it be one, which is evidently gaining ground in the supplementary volumes. But I must speak respectfully of a work to which I owe so much, and without which, probably, I should never have undertaken the present.

I will not here characterise several works of more limited biography; among which are the Bibliotheca Hispana Nova of Antonio, the Biographia Britannica, the Bibliothèque Française of Goujet; still less is there time to enumerate particular lives, or those histories which relate to short periods, among the sources of literary knowledge. It will be presumed, and will appear by my references, that I have employed such of them as came within my reach. But I am sensible that, in the great multiplicity of books of this kind, and especially in their prodigious increase on the Continent of late years, many have been overlooked from which I might have improved these volumes. The press is indeed so active, that no year passes without accessions to our knowledge, even historically considered upon some of the multifarious subjects which the present volumes embrace. An author who waits till all requisite materials are accumulated to his hands, is but watching the stream that will run on for ever; and though I am fully sensible that I could have much improved what is now offered to the public by keeping it back for a longer time, I should but then have had to lament the impossibility of exhausting my subject. Epoiei, the modest phrase of the Grecian sculptors, but expresses the imperfection that attaches to every work of literary industry or of philosophical investigation. But I have other warnings to bind up my sheaves while I may—my own advancing years, and the gathering in the heavens.

I have quoted, to my recollection, no passage which I have not seen in its own place; though I may possibly have transcribed in some instances, for the sake of convenience, from a secondary authority. Without censuring those who suppress the immediate source of their quotations, I may justly say that in nothing I have given to the public has it been practised by myself. But I have now and then inserted in the text characters of books that I have not read, on the faith of my guides; and it may be the case that intimation of this has not been always given to the reader.

It is very likely that omissions, not, I trust, of great consequence, will be detected; I might in fact say that I am already aware of them; but perhaps these will be candidly ascribed to the numerous ramifications of the subject, and the necessity of writing in a different order from that in which the pages are printed. And I must add that some omissions have been intentional: an accumulation of petty facts, and especially of names to which little is attached, fatigues unprofitably the attention; and as this is very frequent in works that necessarily demand condensation, and cannot altogether be avoided, it was desirable to make some sacrifice in order to palliate the inconvenience. This will be found, among many other instances, in the account of the Italian learned of the fifteenth century where I might easily have doubled the enumeration, but with little satisfaction to the reader.

But, independently of such slight omissions, it will appear that a good deal is wanting in these volumes which some might expect in a history of literature. Such a history has often contained so large a proportion of biography, that a work in which it appears very scantily, or hardly at all, may seem deficient in necessary information. It might be replied, that the limits to which I have confined myself, and beyond which it is not easy perhaps in the present age to obtain readers, would not admit to this extension; but I may add, that any biography of the authors of these centuries, which is not servilely compiled from a few known books of that class, must be far too immense an undertaking for one man, and besides its extent and difficulty, would have been particularly irksome to myself, from the waste of time, as I deem it, which an inquiry into trifling facts entails. I have more scruple about the omission of extracts from some of the poets and best writers in prose, without which they can be judged very unsatisfactorily: but in this also I have been influenced by an unwillingness to multiply my pages beyond a reasonable limit. But I have, in some instances, at least in the later periods, gone more largely into analysis of considerable works than has hitherto been usual. These are not designed to serve as complete abstracts, or to supersede, instead of exciting, the reader’s industry; but I have felt that some books of traditional reputation are less fully known than they deserve.

Some departments of literature are passed over, or partially touched. Among the former are books relating to particular arts, as agriculture or painting, or to subjects of merely local interest, as those of English law. Among the latter is the great and extensive portion of every library, the historical. Unless where history has been written with peculiar beauty of language, or philosophical spirit, I have generally omitted all mention of it: in our researches after truth of fact, the number of books that possess some value is exceedingly great, and would occupy a disproportionate space in such a general view of literature as the present. For a similar reason, I have not given its numerical share to theology.

It were an impertinence to anticipate, for the sake of obviating, the possible criticism of the public which has a right to judge, and for those judgments I have had so much cause to be grateful, nor less so to dictate how it should read what it is not bound to read at all; but perhaps I may be allowed to say, that I do not wish this to be considered as a book of reference on particular topics, in which point of view it must often appear to disadvantage; and that, if it proves of any value, it will be as an entire and synoptical work.

[Pg 1]




Loss of Ancient Learning in the Fall of the Roman Empire—First Symptoms of its Revival—Improvement in the Twelfth Century—Universities and Scholastic Philosophy—Origin of Modern Languages—Early Poetry—Provençal, French, German, and Spanish—English Language and Literature—Increase of Elementary Knowledge—Invention of Paper—Roman Jurisprudence—Cultivation of Classical Literature—Its Decline after the Twelfth Century—Less visible in Italy—Petrarch.

Retrospect of learning in middle ages necessary.

1. Although the subject of these volumes does not comprehend the literary history of Europe, anterior to the commencement of the fifteenth century, a period as nearly coinciding as can be expected in any arbitrary division of time, with what is usually denominated the revival of letters, it appears necessary to prefix such a general retrospect of the state of knowledge for some preceding ages, as will illustrate its subsequent progress. In this, however, the reader is not to expect a regular history of mediæval literature, which would be nothing less than the extension of a scheme already, perhaps, too much beyond my powers of execution.[1]

[1] The subject of the following chapter has been already treated by me in another work, the History of Europe during the Middle Ages. I have not thought it necessary to repeat all that is there said: the reader, if he is acquainted with those volumes, may consider the ensuing pages partly as supplemental, and partly as correcting the former where they contain anything inconsistent.

Loss of learning in fall of Roman empire. 2. Every one is well aware, that the establishment of the barbarian nations on the ruins of the Roman empire in the West, was accompanied or followed by an almost universal loss of that learning which had been accumulated in the Latin and Greek languages, and which we call ancient or classical; a revolution long prepared by the decline of taste and knowledge for several preceding ages, but accelerated by public calamities in the fifth century with overwhelming rapidity. The last of the ancients, and one who forms a link between the classical period of literature and that of the Middle Ages, in which he was a favourite author, is Boethius, a man of fine genius, and interesting both from his character and his death. It is well known, that, after filling the dignities of Consul and Senator in the court of Theodoric, he fell a victim to the jealousy of a sovereign, from whose memory, in many respects glorious, the stain of that blood has never been effaced. |Boethius—his Consolation of Philosophy.| The Consolation of Philosophy, the chief work of Boethius, was written in his prison. Few books are more striking from the circumstances of their production. Last of the classic writers, in style not impure, though displaying too lavishly that poetic exuberance which had distinguished the two or three preceding centuries, in elevation of sentiment equal to any of the philosophers, and [Pg 2] mingling a Christian sanctity with their lessons, he speaks from his prison in the swan-like tones of dying eloquence. The philosophy that consoled him in bonds, was soon required in the sufferings of a cruel death. Quenched in his blood, the lamp he had trimmed with a skilful hand gave no more light; the language of Tully and Virgil soon ceased to be spoken; and many ages were to pass away, before learned diligence restored its purity, and the union of genius with imitation taught a few modern writers to surpass in eloquence the latinity of Boethius.

Rapid decline of learning in sixth century. 3. The downfall of learning and eloquence, after the death of Boethius in 524, was inconceivably rapid. His contemporary Cassiodorus, Isidore of Seville, and Martianus Capella, the earliest, but worst, of the three, by very indifferent compilations, and that encyclopedic method which Heeren observes to be an usual concomitant of declining literature, superseded the use of the great ancient writers, with whom, indeed, in the opinion of Meiners, they were themselves acquainted only through similar productions of the fourth and fifth centuries. Isidore speaks of the rhetorical works of Cicero and Quintilian as too diffuse to be read.[2] The authorities upon which they founded their scanty course of grammar, logic, and rhetoric were chiefly obscure writers, no longer extant. But themselves became the oracles of the succeeding period, wherein the trivium and quadrivium, a course of seven sciences, introduced in the sixth century, were taught from their jejune treatises.[3]

[2] Meiners, Vergleichung der sitten, &c., des mittelalters mit denen unsers Jahrhunderts, 3 vols. Hanover, 1793. Vol. ii p. 333. Eichhorn, Allgemeine Geschichte der Cultur und Litteratur, vol. ii. p. 29. Heeren, Geschichte des studium der classischen Litteratur. Göttingen, 1797. These three books, with the Histoire Littéraire de la France, Brucker’s History of Philosophy, Turner’s and Henry’s Histories of England, Muratori’s 43d Dissertation, Tiraboschi, and some few others, who will appear in the notes, are my chief authorities for the dark ages. But none, in a very short compass, is equal to the third discourse of Fleury, in the 13th volume of the 12mo edition of his Ecclesiastical History.

[3] The trivium contained grammar, logic, and rhetoric; the quadrivium, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy, as in these two lines, framed to assist the memory:

Gramm. loquitur; Dia. vera docet; Rhet. verba colorat; Mus. canit; Ar. numerat; Geo. ponderat; Ast. colit astra.

But most of these sciences, as such, were hardly taught at all. The arithmetic, for instance, of Cassiodorus or Capella is nothing but a few definitions mingled with superstitious absurdities about the virtues of certain numbers and figures. Meiners, ii. 339. Kästner, Geschichte der Mathematik, p. 8.

The arithmetic of Cassiodorus occupies little more than two folio pages, and does not contain one word of the common rules. The geometry is much the same; in two pages we have some definitions and axioms, but nothing farther. His logic is longer and better, extending to sixteen folio pages. The grammar is very short and trifling, the rhetoric the same.

A portion remains in the church. 4. This state of general ignorance lasted, with no very sensible difference, on a superficial view, for about five centuries, during which every sort of knowledge was almost wholly confined to the ecclesiastical order. But among them, though instances of gross ignorance were exceedingly frequent, the necessity of preserving the Latin language, in which the Scriptures, the canons, and other authorities of the church, and the regular liturgies, were written, and in which alone the correspondence of their well organised hierarchy could be conducted, kept flowing, in the worst seasons, a slender but living stream; and though, as has been observed, no great difference may appear, on a superficial view, between the seventh and eleventh centuries, it would easily be shown that, after the first prostration of learning, it was not long in giving signs of germinating afresh, and that a very slow and gradual improvement might be dated farther back than is generally believed.[4]

[4] M. Guizot confirms me in a conclusion to which I had previously come, that the seventh century is the nadir of the human mind in Europe, and that its movement in advance began before the end of the next, or, in other words, with Charlemagne. Hist. de la Civilisation en France, ii. 345. A notion probably is current in England, on the authority of the older writers, such as Cave or Robertson, that the greatest darkness was later; which is true as to England itself. It was in the seventh century that the barbarians were first tempted to enter the church, and obtain bishoprics, which had, in the first age after their invasion, been reserved to Romans. Fleury, p. 18.

Prejudices of the clergy against profane learning. 5. Literature was assailed in its downfall by enemies from within as well as from without. A prepossession against secular learning had taken hold of those ecclesiastics who gave the tone to the rest; it was inculcated in the most extravagant degree by Gregory I., the founder, in a great measure, of the papal supremacy, and the chief [Pg 3] authority in the dark ages;[5] it is even found in Alcuin, to whom so much is due, and it gave way very gradually in the revival of literature. In some of the monastic foundations, especially in that of Isidore, though himself a man of considerable learning, the perusal of heathen authors was prohibited. Fortunately Benedict, whose order became the most widely diffused, while he enjoined his brethren to read, copy, and collect books, was silent as to their nature, concluding, probably, that they would be wholly religious. This, in course of time, became the means of preserving and multiplying classical manuscripts.[6]

[5] Gregory has been often charged, on the authority of a passage in John of Salisbury, with having burned a library of heathen authors. He has been warmly defended by Tiraboschi, iii. 102. Even if the assertion of our countryman were more positive, he is of too late an age to demand much credit. Eichhorn, however, produces vehement expressions of Gregory’s disregard for learning, and even for the observance of grammatical rules. ii. 443.

[6] Heeren, p. 59. Eichhorn, ii. 11, 12, 40, 49, 50.

Their usefulness in preserving it. 6. If, however, the prejudices of the clergy stood in the way of what we more esteem than they did, the study of philological literature, it is never to be forgotten, that but for them the records of that very literature would have perished. If they had been less tenacious of their Latin liturgy, of the vulgate translation of Scripture, and of the authority of the fathers, it is very doubtful whether less superstition would have grown up, but we cannot hesitate to pronounce, that all grammatical learning would have been laid aside. The influence of the church upon learning, partly favourable, partly the reverse, forms the subject of Eichhorn’s second volume; whose comprehensive views and well directed erudition, as well as his position in a great protestant university, give much weight to his testimony. But we should remember also, that it is, as it were, by striking a balance that we come to this result; and that, in many respects, the clergy counteracted that progress of improvement which, in others, may be ascribed to their exertions.

First appearances of reviving learning in Ireland and England. 7. It is not unjust to claim for these islands the honour of having first withstood the dominant ignorance, and even led the way in the restoration of knowledge. As early as the sixth century, a little glimmer of light was perceptible in the Irish monasteries: and in the next, when France and Italy had sunk in deeper ignorance, they stood, not quite where national prejudice has sometimes placed them, but certainly in a very respectable position.[7] That island both drew students from the Continent, and sent forth men of comparative eminence into its schools and churches. I do not find, however, that they contributed much to the advance of secular, and especially of grammatical learning. This is rather due to England, and to the happy influence of Theodore, our first primate, an Asiatic Greek by birth, sent hither by the pope in 668, through whom and his companion Adrian, some knowledge of the Latin and even Greek languages was propagated in the Anglo-Saxon church. The Venerable Bede, as he was afterwards styled, early in the eighth century, surpasses every other name of our ancient literary annals; and, though little more than a diligent compiler from older writers, may perhaps be reckoned superior to any man the world (so low had the east sunk like the west) then possessed. A desire of knowledge grew up; the school of York, somewhat later, became respectable, before any liberal education had been established in France; and from this came Alcuin, a man fully equal to Bede in ability, though not, probably, in erudition.[8] By his assistance, and that of one or two Italians, Charlemagne laid in his vast dominions the foundations of learning, according to the standard of that age, which dispelled, at least for a time, some part of the gross ignorance wherein his empire had been enveloped.[9]

[7] Eichhorn, ii. 176, 188. See also the first volume of Moore’s History of Ireland, where the claims of his country are stated favourably, and with much learning and industry, but not with extravagant partiality.

[8] Eichhorn, ii. 188, 207, 263. Hist. Litt. de la France, vols. iii. and iv. Henry’s History of England, vol. iv. Turner’s History of Anglo-Saxons. No one, however, has spoken so highly or so fully of Alcuin’s merits as M. Guizot in his Histoire de la Civilisation en France, vol. ii. p. 344-385.

[9] Besides the above authors, see, for the merits of Charlemagne as a restorer of letters, his Life by Gaillard, and Andrés, Origine, &c., della Litteratura, i. 165.

Few schools before the age of Charlemagne. 8. The praise of having originally established schools belongs to some bishops and abbots of the sixth century. They came in place of the imperial schools overthrown by the barbarians.[10] In the downfall of that temporal dominion, a spiritual [Pg 4] aristocracy was providentially raised up, to save from extinction the remains of learning, and religion itself. Some of those schools seem to have been preserved in the south of Italy, though merely, perhaps, for elementary instruction. But in France the barbarism of the later Merovingian period was so complete, that, before the reign of Charlemagne, all liberal studies had come to an end.[11] Nor was Italy in a much better state at his accession, though he called two or three scholars from thence to his literary councils: the libraries were destroyed, the schools chiefly closed; wherever the Lombard dominion extended, illiteracy was its companion.[12]

[10] Eichhorn, ii. 5, 45. Guizot (vol. ii. p. 116) gives a list of the episcopal schools in France before Charlemagne.

[11] Ante ipsum Carolum regem in Galliâ nullum fuerat studium liberalium artium. Monachus Engolimensis, apud Launoy de Scholis celebrioribus.

[12] Tiraboschi. Eichhorn. Heeren.

Beneficial effects of those established by him. 9. The cathedral and conventual schools, created or restored by Charlemagne, became the means of preserving that small portion of learning which continued to exist. They flourished most, having had time to produce their fruits, under his successors, Louis the Debonair, Lothaire, and Charles the Bald.[13] It was, doubtless, a fortunate circumstance, that the revolution of language had now gone far enough to render Latin unintelligible without grammatical instruction. Alcuin and others who, like him, endeavoured to keep ignorance out of the church, were anxious, we are told, to restore orthography; or, in other words, to prevent the written Latin from following the corruptions of speech. They brought back, also, some knowledge of better classical authors than had been in use. Alcuin’s own poems could at least not have been written by one unacquainted with Virgil:[14] the faults are numerous, but the style is not always inelegant; and from this time, though quotations from the Latin poets, especially Ovid and Virgil, and sometimes from Cicero, are not very frequent, they occur sufficiently to show that manuscripts had been brought to this side of the Alps. They were, however, very rare: Italy was still, as might be expected, the chief depository of ancient writings; and Gerbert speaks of the facility of obtaining them in that country.[15]

[13] The reader may find more of the history of these schools in a little treatise by Launoy, De Scholis celebrioribus a Car. Mag. et post Car. Mag. instauratis; also in Hist. Litt. de la France, vols. iii. and iv.; Crevier, Hist. de l’Université de Paris, vol. i.; Brucker’s Hist. Phil. iii.; Muratori, Dissert. xliii.; Tiraboschi, iii. 158; Eichhorn, 261, 295; Heeren, and Fleury.

[14] A poem by Alcuin, De Pontificibus Ecclesiæ Eboracensis, is published in Gale’s xv. Scriptores, vol. iii. Henry quotes a passage from this, describing the books at York, in which we read this line

Acer Atistoteles, rhetor atque Tullius ingens. Such a verse could not have come from Alcuin; though he errs in the quantity of syllables, where memory alone could set him right, he was not ignorant of common rules. It is found in Gale:

Rhetor quoque Tullius ingens.

[15] Nosti quot scriptores in urbibus aut in agris Italise passim habeantur. Gerbert, Epist. 130, apud Heeren, p. 166.

The tenth century more progressive than usually supposed. 10. The tenth century used to be reckoned by mediæval historians the darkest part of this intellectual night. It was the iron age, which they vie with one another in describing as lost in the most consummate ignorance. This, however, is much rather applicable to Italy and England, than to France and Germany. The former were both in a deplorable state of barbarism. And there are, doubtless, abundant proofs of ignorance in every part of Europe. But, compared with the seventh and eighth centuries, the tenth was an age of illumination in France. And Meiners, who judged the middle ages somewhat, perhaps, too severely, but with a penetrating and comprehensive observation, of which there had been few instances, has gone so far as to say, that in no age, perhaps, did Germany possess more learned and virtuous churchmen of the episcopal order, than in the latter half of the tenth, and beginning of the eleventh century.[16] Eichhorn points out indications of a more extensive acquaintance with ancient writers in several French and German ecclesiastics of this period.[17] In the eleventh century, this continued to increase; and, towards its close, we find more vigorous and extensive attempts at throwing off the yoke of barbarous ignorance, and either retrieving what had been lost of ancient learning, or supplying its place by the original powers of the mind.

[16] Vergleichung der Sitten, ii. 384. The eleventh century he holds far more advanced in learning than the sixth. Books were read in the latter which no one looked at in the earlier. P. 399.

[17] Allg. Gesch. ii. 335, 398.

Want of genius in the dark ages. 11. It is the most striking circumstance in the literary annals of the dark ages, [Pg 5] that they seem to us still more deficient in native, than in acquired ability. The mere ignorance of letters has sometimes been a little exaggerated, and admits of certain qualifications; but a tameness and mediocrity, a servile habit of merely compiling from others, runs through the writers of these centuries. It is not only that much was lost, but that there was nothing to compensate for it; nothing of original genius in the province of imagination; and but two extraordinary men, Scotus Erigena and Gerbert, may be said to stand out from the crowd in literature and philosophy. It must be added, as to the former, that his writings contain, at least in such extracts as I have seen, unintelligible rhapsodies of mysticism, in which, perhaps, he should not even have the credit of originality. Eichhorn, however, bestows great praise on Scotus; and the modern historians of philosophy treat him with respect.[18]

[18] Extracts from John Scotus Erigena will be found in Brucker, Hist. Philosophiæ, vol. iii. p. 619; in Meiners, ii. 373; or more fully, in Turner’s History of England, vol. i. 447, and Guizot, Hist. de la Civilisation en France, iii. 137, 178. The reader may consult also Buhle, Tennemann, and the article on Thomas Aquinas in the Encyclopædia Metropolitana, ascribed to Dr. Hampden. But, perhaps, Mr. Turner is the only one of them who has seen, or at least read the metaphysical treatise of John Scotus, entitled De Divisione Naturæ, in which alone we find his philosophy. It is very rare out of England.

Prevalence of bad taste. 12. It would be a strange hypothesis, that no man endowed with superior gifts of nature lived in so many ages. Though the pauses of her fertility in these high endowments are more considerable, I am disposed to think, that any previous calculation of probabilities would lead us to anticipate, we could not embrace so extreme a paradox. Of military skill, indeed, and civil prudence, we are not now speaking. But, though no man appeared of genius sufficient to burst the fetters imposed by ignorance and bad taste, some there must have been, who, in a happier condition of literature, would have been its legitimate pride. We perceive, therefore, in the deficiencies of these writers, the effect which an oblivion of good models, and the prevalence of a false standard of merit, may produce in repressing the natural vigour of the mind. Their style, where they aim at eloquence, is inflated and redundant, formed upon the model of the later fathers, whom they chiefly read; a feeble imitation of that vicious rhetoric which had long overspread the latinity of the empire.[19]

[19] Fleury, l. xlv. § 19, and Troisième Discours (in vol. xiii.), p. 6. Turner’s History of England, iv. 137, and History of Anglo-Saxons, iii. 403. It is sufficient to look at any extracts from these writers of the dark ages to see the justice of this censure. Fleury, at the conclusion of his excellent third discourse, justly and candidly apologises for these five ages, as not wholly destitute of learning, and far less of virtue. They have been, he says, outrageously depreciated by the humanists of the sixteenth century, who thought good Latin superior to every thing else; and by protestant writers, who laid the corruptions of the church on its ignorance. Yet there is an opposite extreme into which those who are disgusted with the commonplaces of superficial writers sometimes run; an estimation of men by their relative superiority above their own times, so as to forget their position in comparison with a fixed standard.

An eminent living writer, who has carried the philosophy of history, perhaps, as far as any other, has lately endeavoured, at considerable length, to vindicate in some measure the intellectual character of this period. (Guizot, vol. ii. p. 123-224.) It is with reluctance that I ever differ from M. Guizot; but the passages adduced by him, (especially if we exclude those of the fifth century, the poems of Avitus, and the homilies of Cæsarius,) do not appear adequate to redeem the age by any signs of genius they display. It must always be a question of degree; for no one is absurd enough to deny the existence of a relative superiority of talent, or the power of expressing moral emotions, as well as relating facts, with some warmth and energy. The legends of saints, an extensive though quite neglected portion of the literature of the dark ages, to which M. Guizot has had the merit of directing our attention, may probably contain many passages, like those he has quoted, which will be read with interest; and it is no more than justice, that he has given them in French, rather than in that half-barbarous Latin, which, though not essential to the author’s mind, never fails, like an unbecoming dress, to show the gifts of nature at a disadvantage. But the questions still recur: Is this in itself excellent? Would it indicate, wherever we should meet with it, powers of a high order? Do we not make a tacit allowance in reading it, and that very largely, for the mean condition in which we know the human mind to have been placed at the period? Does it instruct us, or give us pleasure?

In what M. Guizot has said of the moral influence of these legends, in harmonising a lawless barbarian race (p. 157), I should be sorry not to concur: it is a striking instance of that candid and catholic spirit with which he has always treated the mediæval church.

Deficiency of poetical talent. 13. It might naturally be asked, whether fancy and feeling were extinct among the people, though a false taste might reign in the [Pg 6] cloister. Yet it is here that we find the most remarkable deficiency, and could appeal scarce to the vaguest tradition, or the most doubtful fragment, in witness of any poetical talent worthy of notice, except a very little in the Teutonic languages. The Anglo-Saxon poetry has occasionally a wild spirit, rather impressive, though it is often turgid and always rude. The Scandinavian, such as the well-known song of Regner Lodbrog, if that be as old as the period before us, which is now denied, displays a still more poetical character. Some of the earliest German poetry, the song on the victory of Louis III. over the Normans in 883, and, still more, the poem in praise of Hanno, archbishop of Cologne, who died in 1075, are warmly extolled by Herder and Bouterwek.[20] In the Latin verse of these centuries, we find, at best, a few lines among many, which show the author to have caught something of a classical style: the far greater portion is very bad.[21]

[20] Herder, Zerstreute Blätter, vol. v. p. 169, 184. Heinsius, Lehrbuch der Deutschen Sprachwissenschaft, iv. 29. Bouterwek Geschichte der Poesie und Beredsamkeit, vol. ix. p. 78, 82. The author is unknown; aber dem unbekannten sichert sein werk die unsterblichkeit, says the latter critic. One might raise a question as to the capacity of an anonymous author to possess immortal fame. Nothing equal to this poem, he says occurs in the earlier German poetry: it is an outpouring of genius, not without faults, but full of power and feeling: the dialect is still Frankish, but approaches to Swabian. Herder calls it a truly Pindaric song. He has given large extracts from it in the volume above quoted, which glows with his own fine sense of beauty.

[21] Tiraboschi supposes Latin versifiers to have been common in Italy. Le Città al pari che le campagne risonavan di versi. iii. 207.

The specimens he afterwards produces, p. 219, are miserable. Hroswitha, abbess of Gandersheim, has, perhaps, the greatest reputation among these Latin poets. She wrote, in the tenth century, sacred comedies in imitation of Terence, which I have not seen, and other poetry which I saw many years since, and thought very bad. Alcuin has now and then a Virgilian cadence.

Imperfect state of language may account for this. 14. The very imperfect state of language, as an instrument of refined thought, in the transition of Latin to the French, Castilian, and Italian tongues, seems the best means of accounting in any satisfactory manner for this stagnation of the poetical faculties. The delicacy that distinguishes in words the shades of sentiment, the grace that brings them to the soul of the reader with the charm of novelty united to clearness, could not be attainable in a colloquial jargon, the offspring of ignorance, and indeterminate possibly in its forms, which those who possessed any superiority of education would endeavour to avoid. We shall soon have occasion to advert again to this subject.

Improvement at beginning of twelfth century. 15. At the beginning of the twelfth century, we enter upon a new division in the literary history of Europe. From this time we may deduce a line of men, conspicuous, according to the standard of their times, in different walks of intellectual pursuit, and the commencement of an interesting period, the later Middle Ages; in which, though ignorance was very far from being cleared away, the natural powers of the mind were developed in considerable activity. |Leading circumstances in progress of learning.| We shall point out separately the most important circumstances of this progress; not all of them concurrent in efficacy with each other, for they were sometimes opposed, but all tending to arouse Europe from indolence, and to fix its attention on literature. These are, 1st. The institution of universities, and the methods pursued in them: 2d. The cultivation of the modern languages, followed by the multiplication of books, and the extension of the art of writing: 3d. The investigation of the Roman law: And lastly, the return to the study of the Latin language in its ancient models of purity. We shall thus come down to the fifteenth century, and judge better of what is meant by the revival of letters, when we apprehend with more exactness their previous condition.

Origin of the university of Paris. 16. Among the Carlovingian schools it is doubtful whether we can reckon one at Paris; and though there are some traces of public instruction in that city about the end of the ninth century, it is not certain that we can assume it to be more ancient. For two hundred years more, indeed, it can only be said, that some persons appear to have come to Paris for the purposes of study.[22] The commencement of this famous university, like that of Oxford, has no record. But it owes its first reputation to the sudden spread of what is usually called the scholastic philosophy.

[22] Crevier, i. 13-75.

Modes of treating the science of theology. 17. There had been hitherto two methods of treating theological subjects: one that of the fathers, who built them on scripture, illustrated and interpreted by their own ingenuity, and in some measure also on the traditions and decisions of the church; the other, which is said by the [Pg 7] Benedictines of St. Maur to have grown up about the eighth century (though Mosheim seems to refer it to the sixth), using the fathers themselves, that is the chief writers of the first six hundred years, who appear now to have acquired that distinctive title of honour, as authority, conjointly with scripture and ecclesiastical determinations, by means of extracts or compends of their writings. Hence about this time we find more frequent instances of a practice which had begun before—that of publishing Loci communes or Catenæ patrum, being only digested extracts from the authorities under systematic heads.[23] Both these methods were usually called positive theology.

[23] Fleury, 3me discours. p. 48. (Hist. Ecclés. vol. xiii. 12mo ed.) Hist. Litt. de la France, vii. 147. Mosheim, in et post. Muratori, Antichità Italiane, dissert. xliii. p. 610. In this dissertation, it may be observed by the way, Muratori gives the important fragment of Caius, a Roman presbyter before the end of the second century, on the canon of the New Testament, which has not been quoted, as far as I know, by any English writer, nor, which is more remarkable, by Michaelis. It will be found in Eichhorn, Einleitung in das Neue Testament, iv. 35. The Latinity is very indifferent for the second century; yet it cannot be much later, and may possibly be suspected of being a translation from a Greek original.

Upon this great change in the theology of the church, which consisted principally in establishing the authority of the fathers, the reader may see M. Guizot, Hist. de la Civilisation, iii. 121. There seem to be but two causes for this: the one, a consciousness of ignorance and inferiority to men of so much talent as Augustin and a few others; the other, a constantly growing jealousy of the free exercise of reason, and a determination to keep up unity of doctrine.

Scholastic philosophy; its origin. 18. The scholastic theology was a third method; it was in its general principle, an alliance between faith and reason; an endeavour to arrange the orthodox system of the church, such as authority had made it, according to the rules and methods of the Aristotelian dialectics, and sometimes upon premises supplied by metaphysical reasoning. Lanfranc and Anselm made much use of this method in the controversy with Berenger as to transubstantiation; though they did not carry it so far as their successors in the next century.[24] The scholastic philosophy seems chiefly to be distinguished from this theology by a larger infusion of metaphysical reasoning, or by its occasional inquiries into subjects not immediately related to revealed articles of faith.[25] The origin of this philosophy, fixed by Buhle and Tennemann in the ninth century, or the age of Scotus Erigena, has been brought down by Tiedemann, Meiners, and Hampden,[26] so low as the thirteenth. |Roscelin.| But Roscelin of Compiegne, a little before 1100, may be accounted so far the founder of the schoolmen, that the great celebrity of their disputations, and the rapid increase of students, is to be traced to the influence of his theories, though we have no proof that he ever taught at Paris. [Pg 8] Roscelin also, having been the first to revive the famous question as to the reality of universal ideas, marks, on every hypothesis, a new era in the history of that philosophy. The principle of the schoolmen in their investigations was the expanding, developing, and if possible illustrating and clearing from objection, the doctrines of natural and revealed religion in a dialectical method and by dint of the subtlest reasoning. The questions which we deem altogether metaphysical, such as that concerning universal ideas, became theological in their hands.[27]

[24] Hist. Litt. de la France, ubi suprà. Tennemann, Manuel de l’Hist. de la Philosophie, i. 332. Crevier, i. 100. Andrés, ii. 15.

[25] A Jesuit of the sixteenth century thus shortly and clearly distinguishes the positive from the scholastic, and both from natural or metaphysical theology. At nos theologiam scholasticam dicimus quæ certiori methodo et rationibus imprimis ex divina scriptura ac traditionibus seu decretis patrum in conciliis definitis veritatem eruit, ac discutiendo comprobat. Quod cum in scholis præcipue argumentando comparetur, id nomen sortita est. Quamobrem differt a positiva theologia, non re sed modo, quemadmodum item alia ratione non est eadem cum naturali theologia, quo nomine philosophi metaphysicen nominarunt. Positiva igitur non ita res disputandas proponit, sed pæne sententiam ratam et firmam ponit, præcipue in pietatem incumbens. Versatur autem et ipsa in explicatione Scripturæ sacræ, traditionum, conciliorum et sanctorum patrum. Naturalis porro theologia Dei naturam per naturæ argumenta et rationes inquirit, cum supernaturalis, quam scholasticam dicimus, Dei ejusdem naturam, vim, proprietates, cæterasque res divinas per ea principia vestigat, quæ sunt hominibus revelata divinitas. Possevin, Bibliotheca Selecta, l. 3. c. i.

Both positive and scholastic theology were much indebted to Peter Lombard, whose Liber Sententiarum is a digest of propositions extracted from the fathers, with no attempt to reconcile them. It was therefore a prodigious magazine of arms for disputation.

[26] The first of these, according to Tennemann, begins the list of schoolmen with Hales; the two latter agree in conferring that honour on Albertus Magnus. Brucker inclines to Roscelin, and has been followed by others. It may be added, that Tennemann divides the scholastic philosophy into four periods, which Roscelin, Hales, Ockham, and the sixteenth century terminate; and Buhle into three, ending with Roscelin, Albertus Magnus, and the sixteenth century. It is evident, however, that, by beginning the scholastic series with Roscelin, we exclude Lanfranc and even Anselm; the latter of whom was certainly a deep metaphysician; since to him we owe the subtle argument for the existence of a Deity, which Des Cartes afterwards revived. Buhle, 679. This argument was answered at the time by one Gaunelo; so that metaphysical reasonings were not unknown in the eleventh century. Tennemann, 344.

[27] Brucker, though he contains some useful extracts, and tolerable general views, was not well versed in the scholastic writers. Meiners (in his Comparison of the Middle Ages) is rather superficial as to their philosophy, but presents a lively picture of the schoolmen in relation to literature and manners. He has also, in the Transactions of the Göttingen Academy, vol. xii. pp. 26-47, given a succinct, but valuable, sketch of the Nominalist and Realist Controversy. Tenneman, with whose Manuel de la Philosophie alone I am conversant, is supposed to have gone very deeply into the subject in his larger history of philosophy. Buhle appears superficial. Dr. Hampden, in his Life of Thomas Aquinas, and view of the scholastic philosophy, published in the Encyclopædia Metropolitana, has the merit of having been the only Englishman, past or present, so far as I know, since the revival of letters, who has penetrated far into the wilderness of scholasticism. Mr. Sharon Turner has given some extracts in the fourth volume of his History of England.

Progress of scholasticism; increase of university of Paris. 19. Next in order of time to Roscelin came William of Champeaux, who opened a school of logic at Paris in 1109; and the university can only deduce the regular succession of its teachers from that time.[28] But his reputation was soon eclipsed, and his hearers drawn away by a more potent magician, Peter Abelard, who taught in the schools of Paris in the second decade of the twelfth century. Wherever Abelard retired, his fame and his disciples followed him; in the solitary walls of the Paraclete, as in the thronged streets of the capital.[29] And the impulse given was so powerful, the fascination of a science which now appears arid and unproductive was so intense, that from this time for many generations it continued to engage the most intelligent and active minds. Paris, about the middle of the twelfth century, in the words of the Benedictines of St. Maur, to whom we owe the Histoire Littéraire de la France, was another Athens; the number of students (hyperbolically speaking, as we must presume) exceeding that of the citizens. This influx of scholars induced Philip Augustus, some time afterwards, to enlarge the boundaries of the city; and this again brought a fresh harvest of students, for whom, in the former limits, it had been difficult to find lodgings. Paris was called, as Rome had been, the country of all the inhabitants of the world, and we may add, as, for very different reasons, it still claims to be.[30]

[28] Crevier, i. 3.

[29] Hist. Litt. de la France, vol. xii. Brucker, iii. 750.

[30] Hist. Litt. de la France, ix. 78. Crevier, i. 274.

Universities founded. 20. Colleges with endowments for poor scholars were founded in the beginning of the thirteenth century, or even before, at Paris and Bologna, as they were afterwards at |Oxford.| Oxford and Cambridge, by munificent patrons of letters; charters incorporating the graduates and students collectively under the name of universities were granted by sovereigns, with privileges perhaps too extensive, but such as indicated the dignity of learning, and the countenance it received.[31] It ought, however, to be remembered, that these foundations were not the cause, but the effect of that increasing thirst for knowledge, or the semblance of knowledge, which had anticipated the encouragement of the great. The schools of Charlemagne were designed to lay the basis of a learned education, for which there was at that time no sufficient desire.[32] But in the twelfth century, the impetuosity with which men rushed to that source of what they deemed wisdom, the great university of Paris, did not depend upon academical privileges or eleemosynary stipends, which came afterwards, though these were undoubtedly very effectual in keeping it up. The university created patrons, and was not created by them. And this may be said also of Oxford and Cambridge in their [Pg 9] incorporate character, whatever the former may have owed, if in fact it owed anything, to the prophetic munificence of Alfred. Oxford was a school of great resort in the reign of Henry II., though its first charter was only granted by Henry III. Its earlier history is but obscure, and depends chiefly on a suspicious passage in Ingulfus, against which we must set the absolute silence of other writers.[33] It became in the thirteenth century second only to Paris in the multitude of its students, and the celebrity of its scholastic disputations. England indeed, and especially through Oxford, could show more names of the first class in this line than any other country.[34]

[31] Fleury, xvii. 13, 17. Crevier, Tiraboschi, &c. A University, universitas doctorum et scholarium, was so called either from its incorporation, or from its professing to teach all subjects, as some have thought. Meiners, ii. 405. Fleury, xvii. 15. This excellent discourse of Fleury, the fifth, relates to the ecclesiastical literature of the later middle ages.

[32] These schools, established by the Carlovingian princes in convents and cathedrals, declined, as it was natural to expect, with the rise of the universities. Meiners, ii. 406. Those of Paris, Oxford, and Bologna contained many thousand students.

[33] Giraldus Cambrensis, about 1180, seems the first unequivocal witness to the resort of students to Oxford, as an established seat of instruction. But it is certain that Vacarius read there on the civil law in 1149, which affords a presumption that it was already assuming the character of a university. John of Salisbury, I think, does not mention it. In a former work, I gave more credence to its foundation by Alfred than I am now inclined to do. Bologna, as well as Paris, was full of English students about 1200. Meiners, ii. 428.

[34] Wood expatiates on what he thought the glorious age of the university. What university, I pray, can produce an invincible Hales, an admirable Bacon, an excellent well-grounded Middleton, a subtle Scotus, an approved Burley, a resolute Baconthorpe, a singular Ockham, a solid and industrious Holcot, and a profound Bradwardin? all which persons flourished within the compass of one century. I doubt that neither Paris, Bologna, or Rome, that grand mistress of the Christian world, or any place else, can do what the renowned Bellosite (Oxford) hath done. And without doubt all impartial men may receive it for an undeniable truth, that the most subtle arguing in school divinity did take its beginning in England and from Englishmen; and that also from thence it went to Paris, and other parts of France, and at length into Italy, Spain, and other nations, as is by one observed. So that though Italy boasteth that Britain takes her Christianity first from Rome, England may truly maintain that from her (immediately by France) Italy first received her school divinity. Vol. i. p. 159, A.D. 1168.

Collegiate foundations not derived from the Saracens. 21. Andrés is inclined to derive the institution of collegiate foundations in universities from the Saracens. He finds no trace of these among the ancients; while in several cities of Spain, as Cordova, Granada, Malaga, colleges for learned education both existed and obtained great renown. These were sometimes unconnected with each other, though in the same city, nor had they, of course, those privileges which were conferred in Christendom. They were therefore more like ordinary schools of gymnasia than universities; and it is difficult to perceive that they suggested anything peculiarly characteristic of the latter institutions, which are much more reasonably considered as the development of a native germ, planted by a few generous men, above all by Charlemagne, in that inclement season which was passing away.[35]

[35] Andrés, ii. 129.

Scholastic philosophy promoted by Mendicant Friars. 22. The institution of the Mendicant orders of friars, soon after the beginning of the thirteenth century, caused a fresh accession, in enormous numbers, to the ecclesiastical state, and gave encouragement to the scholastic philosophy. Less acquainted, generally, with grammatical literature than the Benedictine monks, less accustomed to collect and transcribe books, the disciples of Francis and Dominic betook themselves to disputation, and found a substitute for learning in their own ingenuity and expertness.[36] The greatest of the schoolmen were the Dominican Thomas Aquinas, and the Franciscan Duns Scotus. They were founders of rival sects, which wrangled with each other for two or three centuries. But the authority of their writings, which were incredibly voluminous, especially those of the former,[37] impeded, in some measure, the growth of new men; and we find, after the middle of the fourteenth century, a diminution of eminent names in the series of the schoolmen, the last of whom, that is much remembered in modern times, was William Ockham.[38] He revived the sect of [Pg 10] the Nominalists, formerly instituted by Roscelin, and, with some important variances of opinion, brought into credit by Abelard, but afterwards overpowered by the great weight of leading schoolmen on the opposite side,—that of the Realists. The disciples of Ockham, as well as himself, being politically connected with the party in Germany unfavourable to the high pretensions of the Court of Rome, though they became very numerous in the universities, passed for innovators in ecclesiastical, as well as philosophical principles. Nominalism itself indeed was reckoned by the adverse sect cognate to heresy. No decline however seems to have been as yet perceptible in the spirit of disputation, which probably, at the end of the fourteenth century, went on as eagerly at Paris, Oxford, and Salamanca, the great scenes of that warfare, as before; and which, in that age, gained much ground in Germany, through the establishment of several universities.

[36] Meiners, ii. 615, 629.

[37] The works of Thomas Aquinas are published in seventeen volumes folio; Rome, 1570; those of Duns Scotus in twelve; Lyon, 1639. It is presumed that much was taken down from their oral lectures; some part of these volumes is of doubtful authenticity. Meiners, ii. 718. Biogr. Univ.

[38] In them (Scotus and Ockham), and in the later schoolmen generally, down to the period of the reformation, there is more of the parade of logic, a more formal examination of arguments, a more burthensome importunity of syllogising, with less of the philosophical power of arrangement and distribution of the subject discussed. The dryness again irreparable from the scholastic method is carried to excess in the later writers, and perspicuity of style is altogether neglected. Encyclopædia Metropol. part xxxvii. p. 805

The introduction of this excess of logical subtlety, carried to the most trifling sophistry, is ascribed by Meiners to Petrus Hispanus afterwards Pope John XXI., who died in 1271. ii. 705. Several curious specimens of scholastic folly are given by him in this place. They brought a discredit upon the name, which has adhered to it, and involved men of fine genius, such as Aquinas himself, in the common reproach.

The barbarism of style, which amounted almost to a new language, became more intolerable in Scotus and his followers than it had been in the older schoolmen. Meiners, 722. It may be alleged, in excuse of this, that words are meant to express precise ideas; and that it was as impossible to write metaphysics in good Latin, as the modern naturalists have found it to describe plants and animals.

Character of this philosophy. 23. Tenneman has fairly stated the good and bad of the scholastic philosophy. It gave rise to a great display of address, subtlety, and sagacity in the explanation and distinction of abstract ideas, but at the same time to many trifling and minute speculations, to a contempt of positive and particular knowledge, and to much unnecessary refinement.[39] Fleury well observes, that the dry technical style of the schoolmen, affecting a geometrical method and closeness, is in fact more prolix and tedious, than one more natural, from its formality in multiplying objections and answers.[40] And as their reasonings commonly rest on disputable postulates, the accuracy they affect is of no sort of value. But their chief offences were the interposing obstacles to the revival of polite literature, and to the free expansion of the mind. |It prevails least in Italy.| Italy was the land where the schoolmen had least influence; many of the Italians who had a turn for those discussions repaired to Paris,[41] and it was accordingly from Italy that the light of philological learning spread over Europe. Public schools of theology were not opened in Italy till after 1360.[42] Yet we find the disciples of Averroes numerous in the university of Padua about that time.

[39] Manuel de la Philosophie, i. 337. Eichhorn, ii. 396.

[40] See 5me discours, xvii. 30-50.

[41] Tiraboschi, v. 115.

[42] Id. 137, 160. De Sade, Vie de Pétrarque, iii. 757.

Literature in modern languages. 24. II. The universities were chiefly employed upon this scholastic theology and metaphysics, with the exception of Bologna, which dedicated its attention to the civil law, and of Montpelier, already famous as a school of medicine. The laity in general might have remained in as gross barbarity as before, while topics so removed from common utility were treated in an unknown tongue. We must therefore look to the rise of a truly native literature in the several languages of western Europe, as a more essential cause of its intellectual improvement; and this will render it necessary to give a sketch of the origin and early progress of those languages and that new literature.

Origin of the French, Spanish, and Italian languages. 25. No one can require to be informed, that the Italian, Spanish, and French languages are the principal of many dialects deviating from each other in the gradual corruption of the Latin, once universally spoken by the subjects of Rome in her western provinces. They have undergone this process of change in various degrees, but always from similar causes; partly from the retention of barbarous words belonging to their aboriginal languages, or the introduction of others through the settlement of the northern nations in the empire; but in a far greater proportion, from ignorance of grammatical rules, or from vicious pronunciation and orthography. It has been the labour of many distinguished writers to trace the source and channels of these streams which have supplied both the literature and the common speech of the south of Europe; and perhaps not much will be hereafter added to researches which, in the scarcity of extant documents, can never be minutely successful. Du Cange, who led the way in the admirable preface to his Glossary; Le Bœuf, and Bonamy, in several memoirs among the transactions of the [Pg 11] Academy of Inscriptions about the middle of the last century; Muratory, in his 32d, 33d, and 40th dissertation on Italian antiquities; and, with more copious evidence and successful industry than any other, M. Raynouard, in the first and sixth volume of his Choix des Poesies des Troubadours, have collected as full a history of the formation of these languages as we could justly require.

Corruption of colloquial Latin in the lower empire. 26. The pure Latin language, as we read it in the best ancient authors, possesses a complicated syntax, and many elliptical modes of expression which give vigour and elegance to style, but are not likely to be readily caught by the people. If, however, the citizens of Rome had spoken it with entire purity, it is to be remembered, that Latin, in the later times of the republic, or under the empire, was not like the Greek of Athens, or the Tuscan of Florence, the idiom of a single city, but a language spread over countries in which it was not originally vernacular, and imposed by conquest upon many parts of Italy, as it was afterwards upon Spain and Gaul. Thus we find even early proofs, that solecisms of grammar, as well as barbarous phrases, or words unauthorised by use of polite writers, were very common in Rome itself; and in every succeeding generation, for the first centuries after the Christian æra, these became more frequent and inevitable. A vulgar Roman dialect, called quotidianus by Quintilian, pedestris by Vegetius, usualis by Sidonius, is recognised as distinguishable from the pure Latinity to which we give the name of classical. But the more ordinary appellation of this inferior Latin was rusticus; it was the country language or patois, corrupted in every manner, and from the popular want of education, incapable of being restored, because it was not perceived to be erroneous.[43] Whatever may have been the case before the fall of the Western Empire, we have reason to believe that in the sixth century the colloquial Latin had undergone, at least in France, a considerable change even with the superior class of ecclesiastics. Gregory of Tours confesses that he was habitually falling into that sort of error, the misplacing inflexions and prepositions, which constituted the chief original difference of the rustic tongue from pure Latinity. In the opinion, indeed, of Raynouard, if we take his expressions in their natural meaning, the Romance language, or that which afterwards was generally called Provençal, is as old as the establishment of the Franks in Gaul. But this is, perhaps, not reconcileable with the proofs we have of a longer continuance of Latin. In Italy, it seems probable that the change advanced more slowly. Gregory the Great, however, who has been reckoned as inveterate an enemy of learning as ever lived, speaks with superlative contempt of a regard to grammatical purity in writing. It was a crime in his eyes for a clergyman to teach grammar; yet the number of laymen who were competent or willing to do so had become very small.

[43] Du Cange, preface, pp. 13, 29. Rusticum igitur sermonem non humiliorem paulo duntaxat, et qui sublimi opponitur, appellabant; sed eum etiam, qui magis reperet, barbarismis solæcismisque scateret, quam apposite Sidonius squamam sermonis Celtici, &c., vocat.—Rusticum, qui nullis vel grammaticæ vel orthographiæ legibus astringitur. This is nearly a definition of the early Romance language; it was Latin without grammar or orthography.

The squama sermonis Celtici, mentioned by Sidonius, has led Gray, in his valuable remarks on rhyme, vol. ii. p. 53, as it has some others, into the erroneous notion that a real Celtic dialect, such as Cæsar found in Gaul, was still spoken. But this is incompatible with the known history of the French language; and Sidonius is one of those loose declamatory writers, whose words are never to be construed in their proper meaning: the common fault of Latin authors from the third century. Celticus sermo was the patois of Gaul, which, having once been Gallia Celtica, he still called such. That a few proper names, or similar words in French are Celtic, is well known.

Quintilian has said, that a vicious orthography must bring on a vicious pronunciation. Quod male scribitur, male etiam dici necesse est. But the converse of this is still more true, and was in fact the great cause of giving the new Romance language its visible form.

27. It may render this more clear, if we mention a few of the growing corruptions, which have in fact transformed the Latin into French and the sister tongues.—The prepositions were used with no regard to the proper inflexions of nouns and verbs. These were known so inaccurately, and so constantly put one for another, that it was necessary to have recourse to prepositions instead of them. Thus de and ad were made to express the genitive and dative cases, which is common in charters from the sixth to the tenth century. It is a real fault in the Latin language, that it wants both the definite and indefinite article; ille and unus, especially the former, were called in to help this deficiency. In the forms of Marculfus, published towards the end of the seventh century, ille continually [Pg 12] occurs as an article; and it appears to have been sometimes used in the sixth. This of course, by an easy abbreviation, furnished the articles in French and Italian. The people came soon to establish more uniformity of case in the noun, either by rejecting inflexions, or by diminishing their number.—Raynouard gives a long list of old French nouns formed from the Latin accusative by suppressing em or am.[44] The active auxiliary verb, than which nothing is more distinctive of the modern languages from the Latin, came in from the same cause, the disuse, through ignorance, of several inflexions of the tenses; to which we must add, that here also the Latin language is singularly deficient, possessing no means of distinguishing the second perfect from the first, or ‘I have seen’ from ‘I saw.’ The auxiliary verb was early applied, in France and Italy, to supply this defect; and some have produced what they think occasional instances of its employment even in the best classical authors.

[44] See a passage of Quintilian, l. 9, c. 4, quoted in Hallam’s Middle Ages, iii. 316.

In the grammar of Cassiodorus, a mere compilation from old writers, and in this instance from one Cornutus, we find another remarkable passage, which I do not remember to have seen quoted, though doubtless it has been so, on the pronunciation of the letter M. To utter this final consonant, he says, before a word beginning with a vowel, is wrong, durum ac barbarum sonat; but it is an equal fault to omit it before one beginning with a consonant; par enim atque idem est vitium, ita cum vocali sicut cum consonanti M literam, exprimere. Cassiodorus, De orthographia, cap. 1. Thus we perceive that there was a nicety as to the pronunciation of this letter, which uneducated persons would naturally not regard. Hence in the inscriptions of a low age, we frequently find this letter omitted; as in one quoted by Muratori, Ego L. Contius me bibo [vivo] archa [archam] feci, and it is very easy to multiply instances. Thus the neuter and the accusative terminations were lost.

Continuance of Latin in seventh century. 28. It seems impossible to determine the progress of these changes, the degrees of variation between the polite and popular, the written and spoken Latin, in the best ages of Rome, in the decline of the empire, and in the kingdoms founded upon its ruins; or finally, the exact epoch when the grammatical language ceased to be generally intelligible. There remains, therefore, some room still for hypothesis and difference of opinion. The clergy preached in Latin early in the seventh century, and we have a popular song of the same age on the victory obtained by Clotaire II. in 622 over the Saxons.[45] This has been surmised by some to be a translation, merely because the Latin is better than they suppose to have been spoken. But, though the words are probably not given quite correctly, they seem reducible, with a little emendation, to short verses of an usual rythmical cadence.[46]

[45] Le Bœuf, in Mém. de l’Acad. des Inscript. vol. xvii.

[46] Turner, in Archæologia, vol. xiv. 173. Hallam’s Middle Ages, iii. 326. Bouterwek, Gesch. der Französen Poesie, p. 18, observes, that there are many fragments of popular Latin songs preserved. I have not found any quoted, except one, which he gives from La Revaillère, which is simple and rather pretty; but I know not whence it is taken. It seems the song of a female slave, and is perhaps nearly as old as the destruction of the empire.

At quid jubes, pusiole, Quare mandas, filiole, Carmen dulce me cantare Cum sim longe exul valde Intra mare, O cur jubes canere?

Intra seems put for trans. The metre is rhymed trochaic; but that is consistent with antiquity. It is, however, more pleasing than most of the Latin verse of this period, and is more in the tone of the modern languages. As it is not at all a hackneyed passage, I have thought it worthy of quotation.

It is changed to a new language in eighth and ninth. 29. But in the middle of the eighth century, we find the rustic language mentioned as distinct from Latin;[47] and in the council of Tours held in 813 it is ordered that homilies shall be explained to the people in their own tongue, whether rustic Roman or Frankish. In 842 we find the earliest written evidence of its existence, in the celebrated oaths taken by Louis of Germany and his brother Charles the Bald, as well as by their vassals, the former in Frankish or early German, the latter in their own current dialect. This, though with somewhat of a closer resemblance to Latin, is accounted by the best judges a specimen of the language spoken south of the Loire; afterwards variously called the Langue d’oc, Provençal, or Limousin, and essentially the same with the dialects of Catalonia and Valencia.[48] It is decidedly the opinion of [Pg 13] M. Raynouard, as it was of earlier inquirers, that the general language of France in the ninth century was the southern dialect, rather than that of the north, to which we now give the exclusive name of French, and which they conceive to have deviated from it afterwards.[49] And he has employed great labour to prove, that, both in Spain and Italy, this language was generally spoken with hardly as much difference from that of France, as constitutes even a variation of dialect; the articles, pronouns, and auxiliaries being nearly identical; most probably not with so much difference as would render the native of one country by any means unintelligible in another.[50]

[47] Acad. des. Inscript. xvii. 713.

[48] Du Cange, p. 35. Raynouard, passim. M. de la Rue has called it, un Latin expirant. Recherches sur les Bardes d’Armorique. Between this and un Français naissant there may be only a verbal distinction; but, in accuracy of definition, I should think M. Raynouard much more correct. The language of this oath cannot be called Latin without a violent stretch of words: no Latin scholar, as such, would understand it, except by conjecture. On the other hand, most of the words, as we learn from M. R., are Provençal of the twelfth century. The passage has been often printed, and sometimes incorrectly. M. Roquefort, in the preface to his Glossaire de la Langue Romane, has given a tracing from an ancient manuscript of Nitard, the historian of the ninth century, to whom we owe this important record of language.

[49] The chief difference was in orthography; the Northerns wrote Latin words with an e where the South retained a; as charitet, caritat: veritet, veritat; appelet, apelat. Si l’on rétablissait dans les plus anciens textes Français les a primitifs en place des e, on aurait identiquement la langue des troubadours. Raynouard, Observations sur le Roman du Rou, 1829, p. 5.

[50] The proofs of this similarity occupy most part of the first and sixth volumes in M. Raynouard’s excellent work.

It is a common error to suppose that French and Italian had a double source, barbaric as well as Latin; and that the northern nations, in conquering those regions, brought in a large share of their own language. This is like the opinion, that the Norman Conquest infused the French we now find in our own tongue. There are certainly Teutonic words, both in French and Italian, but not sufficient to affect the proposition that these languages are merely Latin in their origin. These words in many instances express what Latin could not; thus guerra was by no means synonymous with bellum. Yet even Roquefort talks of un jargon composé de mots Tudesques et Romains. Discours Preliminaire, p. 19; forgetting which, he more justly remarks afterwards, on the oath of Charles the Bald, that it shows la langue Romane est entièrement composée de Latin. A long list could, no doubt, be made of French and Italian words that cannot easily be traced to any Latin with which we are acquainted; but we may be surprised that it is not still longer.

Early specimens of French. 30. Thus, in the eighth and ninth centuries, if not before, France had acquired a language unquestionably nothing else than a corruption of Latin, (for the Celtic or Teutonic words that entered into it were by no means numerous, and did not influence its structure), but become so distinct from its parent, through modes of pronunciation as well as grammatical changes, that it requires some degree of practice to trace the derivation of words in many instances. It might be expected that we should be able to adduce, or at least prove to have existed, a series of monuments in this new form of speech. It might naturally appear that poetry, the voice of the soul, would have been heard wherever the joys and sufferings, the hopes and cares of humanity, wherever the countenance of nature, or the manners of social life, supplied their boundless treasures to its choice; and among untutored nations it has been rarely silent. Of the existence of verse, however, in this early period of the new languages, we find scarce any testimony, a doubtful passage in a Latin poem of the ninth century excepted,[51] till we come to a production on the captivity of Boethius, versified chiefly from passages in his Consolation, which M. Raynouard, though somewhat wishing to assign a higher date, places about the year 1000. |Poem on Boethius.| This is printed by him from a manuscript formerly in the famous abbey of Fleury, or St. Benoit-sur-Loire, and now in the public library of Orleans. It is a fragment of 250 lines, written in stanzas of six, seven, or a greater number of verses of ten syllables, sometimes deviating to eleven or twelve; and all the lines in each stanza rhyming masculinely with each other. It is certainly by much the earliest specimen of French verse;[52] even if it should only belong, as [Pg 14] Le Bœuf thought, to the eleventh century.

[51] In a Latin eclogue quoted by Paschasius Radbert (ob. 865) in the life of St. Adalhard, abbot of Corbie (ob. 826), the romance poets are called upon to join the Latins in the following lines:
“Rustica concelebret Romana Latinaque lingua,
Saxo, qui, pariter plangens, pro carmine dicat;
Vertite huc cuncti, cecinit quam maximus ille,
Et tumulum facite, et tumulo superaddite carmen.”
Raynouard, Choix des Poésies, vol. ii. p. cxxxv. These lines are scarcely intelligible; but the quotation from Virgil, in the ninth century, perhaps deserves remark, though, in one of Charlemagne’s monasteries, it is not by any means astonishing. Nennius, a Welsh monk of the same age, who can hardly write Latin at all, has quoted another line; Purpurea intexti tollant aulæa a Britanni; which is more extraordinary, and almost leads us to suspect an interpolation, unless he took it from Bede. Gale, xv. Scriptores, iii. 102.

[52] Raynouard, vol. ii. pp. 5, 6, and preface, p. cxxvii.

Provençal grammar. 31. M. Raynouard has asserted what will hardly bear dispute, that there has never been composed any considerable work in any language, till it has acquired determinate forms of expressing the modifications of ideas according to time, number, and person, or, in other words, the elements of grammar.[53] But whether the Provençal or Romance language were in its infancy so defective, he does not say; nor does the grammar he has given lead us to that inference. This grammar, indeed, is necessarily framed, in great measure, out of more recent materials. It may be suspected, perhaps, that a language formed by mutilating the words of another, could not for many ages be rich or flexible enough for the variety of poetic expression. And the more ancient forms would long retain their prerogative in writing: or, perhaps, we can only say, that the absence of poetry was the effect, as well as the evidence, of that intellectual barrenness, more characteristic of the dark ages than their ignorance.

[53] Observations philogiques et grammaticales, sur le Roman de Rou (1829), p. 26. Two ancient Provençal grammars, one by Raymond Vidal in the twelfth century, are in existence. The language therefore must have had its determinate rules before that time.

M. Raynouard has shown, with a prodigality of evidence, the regularity of the French or Romance language in the twelfth century, and its retention of Latin forms, in cases when it had not been suspected. Thus it is a fundamental rule, that, in nouns masculine, the nominative ends in s in the singular, but wants it in the plural; while the oblique cases lose it in the singular, but retain it in the plural. This is evidently derived from the second declension in Latin. As, for example
Sing. Li princes est venus, et a este sacrez rois.
Plur. Li evesque et li plus noble baron se sont assemble.
Thus also the possessive pronoun is always mes, tes, ses, (meus, tuus, suus) in the nominative singular; mon, ton, son, (meum, &c.), in the oblique regimen. It has been through ignorance of such rules that the old French poetry has seemed capricious, and destitute of strict grammar; and, in a philosophical sense, the simplicity and extensiveness of M. Raynouard’s discovery entitle it to the appellation of beautiful.

Latin retained in use longer in Italy. 32. In Italy, where we may conceive the corruption of language to have been less extensive, and where the spoken patois had never acquired a distinctive name, like lingua Romana in France, we find two remarkable proofs, as they seem, that Latin was not wholly unintelligible in the ninth and tenth centuries, and which therefore modify M. Raynouard’s hypothesis as to the simultaneous origin of the Romance tongue. The one is a popular song of the soldiers, on their march to rescue the Emperor Louis II. in 881, from the violent detention in which he had been placed by the duke of Benevento; the other, a similar exhortation to the defenders of Modena in 924, when that city was in danger of siege from the Hungarians. Both of these were published by Muratori, in his fortieth dissertation on Italian Antiquities; and both have been borrowed from him by M. Sismondi, in his Littérature du Midi.[54] The former of these poems is in a loose trochaic measure, totally destitute of regard to grammatical inflections. Yet some of the leading peculiarities of Italian, the article and the auxiliary verb, do not appear. The latter is in accentual iambics, with a sort of monotonous termination in the nature of rhyme; and in very much superior Latinity, probably the work of an ecclesiastic.[55] It is difficult to account for either of these, especially the former, which is merely a military song, except on the supposition that the Latin language was not grown wholly out of popular use.

[54] Vol. i. pp. 23, 27.

[55] I am at a loss to know what Muratori means by saying, Son versi di dodici sillabe, ma computata la ragione de’ tempi, vengono ad essere uguali a gli endecasillabi. p. 551. He could not have understood the metre, which is perfectly regular, and even harmonious, on the condition only, that no ragione de’ tempi except such as accentual pronunciation observes, shall be demanded. The first two lines will serve as a specimen:
“O tu, qui servas armis ista mænia,
Noli dormire, moneo, sed vigila.”
This is like another strange observation of Muratori in the same dissertation, that, in the well-known lines of the emperor Adrian to his soul, Animula vagula, blandula, which could perplex no schoolboy, he cannot discover un’esatta norma di metro; and therefore takes them to be merely rhythmical.

French of eleventh century. 33. In the eleventh century, France still affords us but few extant writings. Several, indeed, can be shown to have once existed. The Romance language, comprehending the two divisions of Provençal and Northern French, by this time distinctly separate from each other, was now, say the authors of the Histoire Littéraire de la France, employed in poetry, romances, translations, and original works in different kinds of [Pg 15] literature; sermons were preached in it, and the code, called the Assizes de Jerusalem, was drawn up under Godfrey of Bouillon in 1100.[56] Some part of this is doubtful, and especially the age of these laws. They do not mention those of William the Conqueror, recorded in French by Ingulfus. Doubts have been cast by a distinguished living critic on the age of this French code, and upon the authenticity of the History of Ingulfus itself; which he conceives, upon very plausible grounds, to be a forgery of Richard II.’s time: the language of the laws indeed appears to be very ancient, but not probably distinguishable at this day from the French of the twelfth century. It may be said, in general, that, except one or two translations from books of Scripture, very little now extant has been clearly referred to an earlier period.[57] Yet it is impossible to doubt that the language was much employed in poetry, and had been gradually ramifying itself by the shoots of invention and sentiment; since, at the close of this age, or in the next, we find a constellation of gay and brilliant versifiers, the Troubadours of southern France, and a corresponding class to the north of the Loire.

[56] Vol. vii. p. 107.

[57] Roquefort, Glossaire de la Langue Romane, p. 25, and État de la Poésie Française, p. 42, and 206, mentions several religious works in the royal library, and also a metrical romance in the British Museum, lately published in France on the fabulous voyage of Charlemagne to Constantinople. Raynouard has collected a few fragments in Provençal. But I must dissent from this excellent writer in referring the famous poem of the Vaudois, La Nobla Leyczon, to the year 1100. Choix des Poésies des Troubadours, vol. ii. p. cxxxvii. I have already observed, that the two lines which contain what he calls la date de l’an 1100, are so loosely expressed, as to include the whole ensuing century. (Hallam’s Middle Ages, iii. 467.) And I am now convinced that the poem is not much older than 1200. It seems probable that they reckoned 1100 years, on a loose computation, not from the Christian era, but from the time when the passage of Scripture to which these lines allude was written. The allusion may be to 1 Pet. i. 20. But it is clear that, at the time of the composition of this poem, not only the name of Vaudois had been imposed on those sectaries, but they had become subject to persecution. We know nothing of this till near the end of the century. This poem was probably written in the south of France, and carried afterwards to the Alpine valleys of Piedmont, from which it was brought to Geneva and England in the seventeenth century. La Nobla Leyczon is published at length by Raynouard. It consists of 479 lines, which seem to be rhythmical or aberrant Alexandrines; the rhymes uncertain in number, chiefly masculine. The poem censures the corruptions of the church, but contains little that would be considered heretical; which agrees with what contemporary historians relate of the original Waldenses. Any doubts as to the authenticity of this poem are totally unreasonable. M. Raynouard, an indisputably competent judge, observes, Les personnes qui l’examineront avec attention jugeront que le manuscrit n’a pas été interpolé, p. cxliii.

I will here reprint more accurately than before the two lines supposed to give the poem the date of 1100:
“Ben ha mil et cent ancz compli entièrement,
Que fo scripta l’ora car sen al derier temps.”
Can M. Raynouard, or any one else, be warranted by this in saying, La date de l’an 1100, qu’on lit dans ce poème, merite toute confiance?

Metres of modern languages. 34. These early poets in the modern languages chiefly borrowed their forms of versification from the Latin. It is unnecessary to say, that metrical composition in that language, as in Greek, was an arrangement of verses corresponding by equal or equivalent feet; all syllables being presumed to fall under a known division of long and short, the former passing for strictly the double of the latter in quantity of time. By this law of pronunciation all verse was measured; and to this not only actors, who were assisted by an accompaniment, but the orators also endeavoured to conform. But the accented, or, if we choose rather to call them so, emphatic syllables, being regulated by a very different though uniform law, the uninstructed people, especially in the decline of Latinity, pronounced, as we now do, with little or no regard to the metrical quantity of syllables, but according to their accentual value. And this gave rise to the popular or rhythmical poetry of the lower empire; traces of which may be found in the second century, and even much earlier, but of which we have abundant proofs after the age of Constantine.[58] All metre, as Augustin says, was rhythm, but all rhythm was not metre: in rhythmical verse, neither the quantity of syllables, that is, the time allotted to each by metrical rule, nor even, in some degree, their number, was regarded, so long as a cadence was retained in which the ear could recognise a certain approach to uniformity. Much popular poetry, both religious and [Pg 16] profane, and the public hymns of the church, were written in this manner; the distinction of long and short syllables, even while Latin remained a living tongue, was lost in speech, and required study to attain it. The accent or emphasis, both of which are probably, to a certain extent, connected with quantity and with each other, supplied its place; the accented syllable being, perhaps, generally lengthened in ordinary speech; though this is not the sole cause of length, for no want of emphasis or lowness of tone can render a syllable of many letters short. Thus we find two species of Latin verse: one metrical, which Prudentius, Fortunatus, and others aspired to write; the other rhythmical, somewhat licentious in number of syllables, and wholly accentual in its pronunciation. But this kind was founded on the former, and imitated the ancient syllabic arrangements. Thus the trochaic, or line, in which the stress falls on the uneven syllables, commonly alternating by eight and seven, a very popular metre from its spirited flow, was adopted in military songs, such as that already mentioned of the Italian soldiers in the ninth century. It was also common in religious chants. The line of eight syllables, or dimeter iambic, in which the cadence falls on the even places, was still more frequent in ecclesiastical verse. But these are the most ordinary forms of versification in the early French or Provençal, Spanish, and Italian languages. The line of eleven syllables, which became in time still more usual than the former, is nothing else than the ancient hendecasyllable; from which the French, in what they call masculine rhymes, and ourselves more generally, from a still greater deficiency of final vowels, have been forced to retrench the last syllable. The Alexandrine of twelve syllables might seem to be the trimeter iambic of the ancients. But Sanchez has very plausibly referred its origin to a form more usual in the dark ages, the pentameter; and shown it in some early Spanish poetry.[59] The Alexandrine, in the southern languages, had generally a feminine termination, that is, in a short vowel, thus becoming of thirteen syllables, the stress falling on the penultimate, as is the usual case in a Latin pentameter verse, accentually read in our present mode. The variation of syllables in these Alexandrines, which run from twelve to fourteen, is accounted for by the similar numerical variety in the pentameter.

[58] The well-known lines of Adrian to Florus, and his reply, Ego nolo Florus esse, &c., are accentual trochaics, but not wholly so; for the last line, Scythicas pati pruinas, requires the word pati to be sounded as an iambic. They are not the earliest instance extant of disregard to quantity, for Suetonius quotes some satirical lines on Julius Cæsar.

[59] The break in the middle of the Alexandrine, it will occur to every competent judge, has nothing analogous to it in the trimeter iambic, but exactly corresponds to the invariable law of the pentameter.

Origin of rhyme in Latin. 35. I have dwelt, perhaps tediously, on this subject, because vague notions of a derivation of modern metrical arrangements, even in the languages of Latin origin, from the Arabs or Scandinavians, have sometimes gained credit.[60] It has been imagined also that the peculiar characteristic of the new poetry, rhyme, was borrowed from the Saracens of Spain.[61] But the Latin language abounds so much in consonances, that those who have been accustomed to write verses in it well know the difficulty of avoiding them, as much as an ear formed on classical models demands; and as this gingle is certainly pleasing in itself, it is not wonderful that the less fastidious vulgar should adopt it in their rhythmical songs. It has been proved by Muratori, Gray, and Turner, beyond the possibility of doubt, that rhymed Latin verse was in use from the end of the fourth century.[62]

[60] Roquefort, Essai sur la Poésie Française dans le 12me et 13me siècles, p. 66. Galvani, Osservazioni sulla poesia de’ Trovatori. (Modena, 1829) Sanchez, Poesias Castellanas anteriores al 15mo siglo, vol. i. p. 122.

Tyrwhitt had already observed, The metres which the Normans used, and which we seem to have borrowed from them, were plainly copied from the Latin rhythmical verses, which, in the declension of that language, were current in various forms among those who either did not understand, or did not regard, the true quantity of syllables; and the practice of rhyming is probably to be deduced from the same original. Essay on the Language and Versification of Chaucer, p. 51.

[61] Andrès, with a partiality to the Saracens of Spain, whom, by an odd blunder, he takes for his countrymen, manifested in almost every page, does not fail to urge this. It had been said long before by Huet, and others who lived before these subjects had been thoroughly investigated. Origine e Progresso, &c., ii. 194. He has been copied by Ginguéné and Sismondi.

[62] Muratori, Antichità Italiane dissert., 40. Turner, in Archæologia, vol. xiv., and Hist. of England, vol. iv. pp. 328, 653. Gray has gone as deeply as any one into this subject; and, though writing at what may be called an early period of metrical criticism, he has fallen into a few errors, and been too easy of credence, unanswerably proves the Latin origin of rhyme. Gray’s Works by Mathias, vol. ii. p. 30-54.

Provençal and French poetry. 36. Thus, about the time of the first crusade, we find two dialects of the same language, differing by that time not inconsiderably from each other, the Provençal [Pg 17] and French, possessing a regular grammar, established forms of versification (and the early troubadours added several to those borrowed from the Latin[63]), and a flexibility which gave free scope to the graceful turns of poetry. William, duke of Guienne, has the glory of leading the van of surviving Provençal songsters. He was born in 1070, and may possibly have composed some of his little poems before he joined the crusaders in 1096. If these are genuine, and no doubt of them seems to be entertained, they denote a considerable degree of previous refinement in the language.[64] We do not, I believe, meet with any other troubadour till after the middle of the twelfth century. From that time till about the close of the thirteenth, they were numerous almost as the gay insects of spring; names of illustrious birth are mingled in the list with those whom genius has saved from obscurity; they were the delight of a luxurious nobility, the pride of southern France, while the great fiefs of Toulouse and Guienne were in their splendour. Their style soon extended itself to the northern dialect. Abelard was the first of recorded name, who taught the banks of the Seine to resound a tale of love; and it was of Eloise that he sung.[65] You composed, says that gifted and noble-spirited woman, in one of her letters to him, many verses in amorous measure, so sweet both in their language and their melody, that your name was incessantly in the mouths of all, and even the most illiterate could not be forgetful of you. This it was chiefly that made women admire you. And as most of these songs were on me and my love, they made me known in many countries, and caused many women to envy me. Every tongue spoke of your Eloise; every street, every house resounded with my name.[66] These poems of Abelard are lost; but in the Norman, or northern French language, we have an immense number of poets belonging to the twelfth, and the two following centuries. One hundred and twenty-seven are known by name in the twelfth alone.[67] Thibault, king of Navarre and count of Champagne, about the middle of the next, is accounted the best, as well as noblest of French poets.

[63] See Raynouard, Roquefort, and Galvini, for the Provençal and French metres, which are very complicated.

[64] Raynouard, Choix des Poésies des Troubadours, vol. ii. Auguis, Recueil des Anciens Poètes Français, vol. i.

[65] Bouterwek, on the authority of La Ravaillere, seems to doubt whether these poems of Abelard were in French or Latin. Gesch. der Französen Poesie, p. 18. I believe this would be thought quite paradoxical by any critic at present.

[66] Duo autem, fateor, tibi specialiter inerant, quibus feminarum quarumlibet animos statim allicere poteras, dictandi videlicet et cantandi gratia; quæ cæteros minimè philosophos assecutos esse novimus. Quibus quidem quasi ludo quodam laborem exercitii recreans philosophici pleraque amatorio metro vel rithmo composita reliquisti carmina, quæ præ nimiâ suavitate tam dictaminis quam cantus sæpius frequentata tuum in ore omnium nomen incessanter tenebant, ut etiam illiteratos melodiæ dulcedo tui non sineret immemores esse. Atque hinc maxime in amorem tui feminæ suspirabant. Et cum horum pars maxima carminum nostros decantaret amores, multis me regionibus brevi tempore nunciavit, et multarum in me feminarum accendit invidiam. And in another place: Frequenti carmine tuam in ore omnium Heloissam ponebas: me plateæ omnes, me domus singulæ resonabant. Epist. Abælardi et Heloissæ. These epistles of Abelard and Eloisa, especially those of the latter, are, as far as I know, the first book that gives any pleasure in reading which had been produced in Europe for 600 years, since the Consolation of Boethius, But I do not press my negative judgment. We may at least say that the writers of the dark ages, if they have left anything intrinsically very good, have been ill-treated by the learned, who have failed to extract it. Pope, it may be here observed, has done great injustice to Eloisa in his unrivalled Epistle, by putting the sentiments of a coarse and abandoned woman into her mouth. Her refusal to marry Abelard arose not from an abstract predilection for the name of mistress above that of wife, but from her disinterested affection, which would not deprive him of the prospect of ecclesiastical dignities, to which his genius and renown might lead him. She judged very unwisely, as it turned out, but from an unbounded generosity of character. He was, in fact, unworthy of her affection, which she expresses in the tenderest language. Deum testem invoco, si me Augustus universo præsidens mundo matrimonii honore dignaretur, totumque mihi orbem confirmaret in perpetuum præsidendum, charius mihi et dignius videretur tua dici meretrix quam illius imperatrix.

[67] Auguis, Discours Préliminaire, p. 2. Roquefort, Etat de la Poésie Française aux 12me et 13me siècles.

37. In this French and Provençal poetry, if we come to the consideration of it historically, descending from an earlier period, we are at once struck by the vast preponderance of amorous ditties. The Greek and Roman muses, especially the latter, seem frigid as their own fountain in comparison. Satires on the great, and especially, on the clergy, exhortations to the crusade, and religious odes, are intermingled in the productions of the troubadours; but love is the prevailing theme. [Pg 18] This tone they could hardly have borrowed from the rhythmical Latin verses, of which all that remain are without passion or energy. They could as little have been indebted to their predecessors for a peculiar gracefulness, an indescribable charm of gaiety and ease, which many of their lighter poems display. This can only be ascribed to the polish of chivalrous manners, and to the influence of feminine delicacy on public taste. The well-known dialogue, for example, of Horace and Lydia, is justly praised; nothing extant of this amœbean character, from Greece or Rome, is nearly so good. But such alternate stanzas, between speakers of different sexes, are very common in the early French poets; and it would be easy to find some quite equal to Horace in grace and spirit. They had even a generic name, tensons, contentions; that is, dialogues of lively repartee, such as we are surprised to find in the twelfth century, an age accounted by many almost barbarous. None of these are prettier than what are called pastourelles, in which the poet is feigned to meet a shepherdess, whose love he solicits, and by whom he is repelled, (not always finally,) in alternate stanzas.[68] Some of these may be read in Roquefort, Etat de la Poésie Française, dans le 12me et 13me siècles; others in Raynouard, Choix des Poésies des Troubadours; in Auguis, Recueil des Anciens Poètes Français; or in Galvani, Osservazioni sulla Poesia de’ Trovatori.

[68] These have, as Galvani has observed, an ancient prototype in the twenty-seventh pastoral of Theocritus, which Dryden has translated with no diminution of its freedom. Some of the Pastourelles are also rather licentious; but that is not the case with the greater part. M. Raynouard, in an article of the Journal des Savans for 1824, p. 613, remarks the superior decency of the southern poets, scarcely four or five transgressing in that respect; while many of the fabliaux in the collections of Barbazan and Méon are of the most coarse and stupid ribaldry; and such that even the object of exhibiting ancient manners and language scarcely warranted their publication in so large a number.

38. In all these light compositions which gallantry or gaiety inspired, we perceive the characteristic excellencies of French poetry, as distinctly as in the best vaudeville of the age of Louis XV. We can really sometimes find little difference, except an obsoleteness of language, which gives them a kind of poignancy. And this style, as I have observed, seems to have been quite original in France, though it was imitated by other nations.[69] The French poetry, on the other hand, was deficient in strength and ardour. It was also too much filled with monotonous commonplaces; among which the tedious descriptions of spring, and the everlasting nightingale, are eminently to be reckoned. These, perhaps, are less frequent in the early poems, most of which are short, than they became in the prolix expansion adopted by the allegorical school in the fourteenth century. They prevail, as is well known, in Chaucer, Dunbar, and several other of our own poets.

[69] Andrès, as usual, derives the Provençal style of poetry from the Arabians; and this has been countenanced, in some measure, by Ginguéné and Sismondi. Some of the peculiarities of the Trobadours, their tensons, or contentions, and the envoi, or termination of a poem, by an address to the poem itself or the reader, are said to be of Arabian origin. In assuming that rhyme was introduced by the same channel, these writers are probably mistaken. But I have seen too little of oriental, and, especially, of Hispano-Saracenic poetry, to form any opinion how far the more essential characteristics of Provençal verse may have been derived from it. One seems to find more of oriental hyperbole in the Castilian poetry.

Metrical romances. Havelok the Dane. 39. The metrical romances, far from common in Provençal,[70] but forming a large portion of what was written in the northern dialect, though occasionally picturesque, graceful, or animated, are seldom free from tedious or prosaic details. The earliest of these extant seems to be that of Havelok the Dane, of which an abridgment was made by Geoffrey Gaimar, before the middle of the twelfth century. The story is certainly a popular legend from the Danish part of England, which the French versifier has called, according to the fashion of romances, a Breton lay. If this word meant anything more than relating to Britain, it is a plain falsehood; and upon either hypothesis, it may lead us to doubt, as many other reasons may also, what has been so much asserted of late years, as to the Armorican origin of romantic fictions; since the word Breton, which some critics refer to Armorica, is here applied to a story of mere English birth.[71] It cannot, however, [Pg 19] be doubted, from the absurd introduction of Arthur’s name in this romance of Havelok, that it was written after the publication of the splendid fables of Geoffrey.[72]

[70] It has been denied that there are any metrical romances in Provençal. But one called the Philomena, on the fabulous history of Charlemagne, is written after 1173, but not much later than 1200. Journal des Savans, 1824.

[71] The Recherches sur les Bardes d’Armorique, by that respectable veteran, M. de la Rue, are very unsatisfactory. It does not appear that the Bretons have so much as a national tradition of any romantic poetry; nor any writings in their language older than 1450. The authority of Warton, Leyden, Ellis, Turner, and Price have rendered this hypothesis of early Armorican romance popular; but I cannot believe that so baseless a fabric will endure much longer. Is it credible that tales of aristocratic splendour and courtesy sprung up in so poor and uncivilised a country as Bretagne? Traditional stories they might, no doubt, possess, and some of these may be found in the lais de Marie, and other early poems; but not romances of chivalry. I do not recollect, though speaking without confidence, that any proof has been given of Armorican traditions about Arthur, earlier than the history of Geoffrey: for it seems too much to interpret the word Britones of them rather than of the Welsh. Mr. Turner, I observe, without absolutely recanting, has much receded from his opinion of the Armorican prototype of Geoffrey of Monmouth.

[72] The romance of Havelok was printed by Sir Frederick Madden in 1829; but not for sale. His Introduction is of considerable value. The story of Havelok is that of Curan and Argentile, in Warner’s Albion’s England, upon which Mason founded a drama. Sir F. Madden refers the English translation to some time between 1270 and 1290. The manuscript is in the Bodleian Library. The French original has since been reprinted in France, as I learn from Brunet’s Supplement au Manuel du Libraire. Both this and its abridgment, by Geoffrey Gaimar, are in the British Museum.

Diffusion of French language. 40. Two more celebrated poems are by Wace, a native of Jersey; one, a free version of the history lately published by Geoffrey of Monmouth; the other, a narrative of the Battle of Hastings and Conquest of England. Many other romances followed. Much has been disputed for some years concerning them, and the lays and fabliaux of the northern trouveurs; it is sufficient here to observe, that they afforded a copious source of amusement and interest to those who read or listened, as far as the French language was diffused; and this was far beyond the boundaries of France. Not only was it the common spoken tongue of what is called the court, or generally of the superior ranks, in England, but in Italy and in Germany, at least throughout the thirteenth century. Brunetto Latini wrote his philosophical compilation, called Le Tresor, in French, because, as he says, the language was more agreeable and usual than any other. Italian, in fact, was hardly employed in prose at that time. But for those whose education had not gone so far, the romances and tales of France began to be rendered into German, as early as the latter part of the twelfth century, as they were long afterwards into English, becoming the basis of those popular songs, which illustrate the period of the Swabian emperors, the great house of Hohenstauffen, Frederic Barbarossa, Henry VI., and Frederic II.

German poetry of Swabian period. 41. The poets of Germany, during this period of extraordinary fertility in versification, were not less numerous than those of France and Provence.[73] From Henry of Veldek to the last of the lyric poets, soon after the beginning of the fourteenth century, not less than two hundred are known by name. A collection made in that age by Rudiger von Manasse of Zurich contains the productions of one hundred and forty; and modern editors have much enlarged the list.[74] Henry of Veldek is placed by Eichhorn about 1170, and by Bouterwek twenty years later; so that at the utmost we cannot reckon the period of their duration more than a century and a half. But the great difference perceptible between the poetry of Henry and that of the old German songs proves him not to have been the earliest of the Swabian school: he is as polished in language and versification as any of his successors; and though a northern, he wrote in the dialect of the house of Hohenstauffen. Wolfram von Eschenbach, in the first years of the next century, is, perhaps, the most eminent name of the Minne-singers, as the lyric poets were denominated, and is also the translator of several romances. The golden age of German poetry was before the fall of the Swabian dynasty, at the death of Conrad IV., in 1254. Love, as the word denotes, was the peculiar theme of the Minne-singers; but it was chiefly from the northern or southern dialects of France, especially the latter, that they borrowed their amorous strains.[75] In the latter part [Pg 20] of the thirteenth century, we find less of feeling and invention, but a more didactic and moral tone, sometimes veiled in Æsopic fables, sometimes openly satirical. Conrad of Wurtzburg is the chief of the latter school; but he had to lament the decline of taste and manners in his own age.

[73] Bouterwek, p. 95.

[74] Id. p. 98. This collection was published in 1758, by Bodmer.

[75] Herder, Zerstreute Blätter, vol. v. p. 206. Eichhorn, Allg. Geschichte der Cultur. vol. i. p. 226. Heinsius, Teut, oder Lehrbuch der Deutschen. Sprachwissenschaft, vol. iv. pp. 32-80. Weber’s Illustrations of Northern Antiquities, 1814. This work contains the earliest analysis, I believe, of the Nibelungen Lied. But above all, I have been indebted to the excellent account of German poetry by Bouterwek, in the ninth volume of his great work, the History of Poetry and Eloquence since the thirteenth century. In this volume the mediæval poetry of Germany occupies nearly four hundred closely printed pages. I have since met with a pleasing little volume, on the Lays of the Minne-singers, by Mr. Edgar Taylor. It contains an account of the chief of those poets, with translations, perhaps in too modern a style, though it may be true that no other would suit our modern taste.

A species of love song, peculiar, according to Weber (p. 9), to the Minne-singers, are called Watchmen’s Songs. These consist in a dialogue between a lover and the sentinel who guards his mistress. The latter is persuaded to imitate Sir Pandarus of Troy; and when morning breaks, summons the lover to quit his lady; who, in her turn, maintains that it is the nightingale, and not the lark, with almost the pertinacity of Juliet.

Mr. Taylor remarks, that the German poets do not go so far in their idolatry of the fair as the Provençals, p. 127. I do not concur altogether in his reasons; but as the Minne-singers imitated the Provençals, this deviation is remarkable. I should rather ascribe it to the hyperbolical tone which the Troubadours had borrowed from the Arabians, or to the susceptibility of their temperament.

42. No poetry, however, of the Swabian period is so national as the epic romances, which drew their subjects from the highest antiquity, if they did not even adopt the language of primæval bards, which, perhaps, though it has been surmised, is not compatible with their style. In the two most celebrated productions of this kind, the Helden Buch, or Book of Heroes, and the Nibelungen Lied, the Lay of the Nibelungen, a fabulous people, we find the recollections of an heroic age, wherein the names of Attila and Theodoric stand out as witnesses of traditional history, clouded by error and coloured by fancy. The Nibelungen Lied, in its present form, is by an uncertain author, perhaps, about the year 1200;[76] but it comes, and as far as we can judge, with little or no interpolation of circumstances, from an age anterior to Christianity, to civilisation, and to the more refined forms of chivalry. We cannot well think the stories later than the sixth or seventh centuries. The German critics admire the rude grandeur of this old epic: and its fables, marked with a character of barbarous simplicity wholly unlike that of later romance, are become, in some degree, familiar to ourselves.

[76] Weber says,—I have no doubt whatever that the romance itself is of very high antiquity, at least of the eleventh century, though, certainly, the present copy has been considerably modernised. Illustrations of Northern Romances, p. 26. But Bouterwek does not seem to think it of so ancient a date; and I believe it is commonly referred to about the year 1200. Schlegel ascribes it to Henry von Offerdingen. Heinsius, iv. 52.

It is highly probable that the babara et antiquissima carmina, which, according to Eginhard, Charlemagne caused to be reduced to writing, were no other than the legends of the Nibelungen Lied, and similar traditions of the Gothic and Burgundian time. Weber, p. 6. I will here mention, as I believe it is little known in England, a curious Latin epic poem on the wars of Attila, published by Fischer in 1780. He conceives it to be of the sixth century; but others have referred it to the eighth. The heroes are Franks; but the whole is fabulous, except the name of Attila and his Huns. I do not know whether this has any connection with a French poem on Attila, by a writer named Casola, existing in manuscript at Modena. A translation into Italian was published by Rossi at Ferrara in 1568: it is one of the scarcest books in the world. Weber’s Illustrations, p. 23. Eichhorn, Allg. Gesch. ii. 178. Galvani, Osservazioni sulla poesia de’ trovatori, p. 16.

The Nibelungen Lied seems to have been less popular in the middle ages than other romances; evidently because it relates to a different state of manners. Bouterwek, p. 141. Heinsius observes that we must consider this poem as the most valuable record of German antiquity, but that to overrate its merit, as some have been inclined to do, can be of no advantage.

Decline of German poetry. 43. The loss of some accomplished princes, and of a near intercourse with the south of France and with Italy, the augmented independence of the German nobility, to be maintained by unceasing warfare, rendered their manners, from the latter part of the thirteenth century, more rude than before. They ceased to cultivate poetry, or to think it honourable in their rank. Meantime a new race of poets, chiefly burghers of towns, sprung up about the reign of Rodolph of Hapsburgh, before the lays of the Minne-singers had yet ceased to resound. These prudent, though not inspired, votaries of the muse, chose the didactic and moral style as more salutary than the love songs, and more reasonable than the romances. They became known in the fourteenth century, by the name of meister-singers, but are traced to the institutions of the twelfth century, called Singing-schools, for the promotion of popular music, the favourite recreation of Germany. What they may have done for music I am [Pg 21] unable to say: it was in an evil hour for the art of poetry that they extended their jurisdiction over her. They regulated verse by the most pedantic and minute laws, such as a society with no idea of excellence but conformity to rule would be sure to adopt; though nobler institutions have often done the same, and the Master-burghers were but prototypes of the Italian academicians. The poetry was always moral and serious, but flat. These meister-singers are said to have originated at Mentz, from which they spread to Augsburg, Strasburg, and other cities, and in none were more renowned than Nuremberg. Charles IV., in 1378, incorporated them by the name of Meistergenoss-schaft, with armorial bearings and peculiar privileges. They became, however, more conspicuous in the sixteenth century; scarce any names of meister-singers before that age are recorded; nor does it seem that much of their earlier poetry is extant.[77]

[77] Bouterwek, ix. 271-291. Heinsius, iv. 85-98. See also the Biographie Universelle, art. Folez; and a good article in the Retrospective Review, vol. x. p. 113.

Poetry of France and Spain. 44. The French versifiers had by this time, perhaps, become less numerous, though several names in the same style of amatory song do some credit to their age. But the romances of chivalry began now to be written in prose; while a very celebrated poem, the Roman de la Rose, had introduced an unfortunate taste for allegory into verse, from which France did not extricate herself for several generations. Meanwhile, the Provençal poets, who, down to the close of the thirteenth century, had flourished in the south, and whose language many Lombards adopted, came to an end; after the reunion of the fief of Toulouse to the crown, and the possession of Provence by a northern line of princes, their ancient and renowned tongue passed for a dialect, a patois of the people. It had never been much employed in prose, save in the kingdom of Aragon, where, under the name of Valencian, it continued for two centuries to be a legitimate language, till political circumstances of the same kind reduced it, as in southern France, to a provincial dialect. The Castilian language, which, though it has been traced higher in written fragments, may be considered to have begun, in a literary sense, with the poem of the Cid, not later than the middle of the twelfth century, was employed by a few extant poets in the next two ages, and in the fourteenth was as much the established vehicle of many kinds of literature in Spain as the French was on the other side of the mountains.[78] The names of Portuguese poets not less early than any in Castile are recorded; fragments are mentioned by Bouterwek as old as the twelfth century, and there exists a collection of lyric poetry in the style of the Troubadours, which is referred to no late part of the next age.[79] [Pg 22] Nothing has been published in the Castilian language of this amatory style older than 1400.

[78] Sanchez, Collection de poesias Castellanas anteriores al siglo 15mo. Velasquez, Historia della poesia Español; which I only know by the German translation of Dieze, (Göttingen, 1769,) who has added many notes. Andrès, Origine d’ogni litteratura, ii. 158. Bouterwek’s History of Spanish and Portuguese Literature. I shall quote the English translation of this work, which, I am sorry to say, is sold by the booksellers at scarce a third of its original price. It is a strange thing, that while we multiply encyclopædias and indifferent compilations of our own, there is no demand for translations from the most learned productions of Germany that will indemnify a publisher.

[79] This very curious fact in literary history has been brought to light by Lord Stuart of Rothsay, who printed at Paris, in 1823, twenty-five copies of a collection of ancient Portuguese songs, from a manuscript in the library of the College of Nobles at Lisbon. An account of this book by M. Raynouard, will be found in the Journal des Savans for August, 1825; and I have been favoured by my noble friend the editor with the loan of a copy; though my ignorance of the language prevented me from forming an exact judgment of its contents. In the preface the following circumstances are stated. It consists of seventy-five folios, the first part having been torn off, and the manuscript attached to a work of a wholly different nature. The writing appears to be of the fourteenth century, and in some places older. The idiom seems older than the writing; it may be called, if I understand the meaning of the preface, as old as the beginning of the thirteenth century, and certainly older than the reign of Denis, pode appellidarse coevo do seculo xiii., e de certo he anterior ao reynado de D. Deniz. Denis king of Portugal reigned from 1279 to 1325. It is regular in grammar, and for the most part in orthography; but contains some gallicisms, which show either a connection between France and Portugal in that age, or a common origin in the southern tongues of Europe; since certain idioms found in this manuscript are preserved in Spanish, Italian, and Provençal, yet are omitted in Portuguese dictionaries. A few poems are translated from Provençal, but the greater part are strictly Portuguese, as the mention of places, names, and manners shows. M. Raynouard, however, observes, that the thoughts and forms of versification are similar to those of the Troubadours. The metres employed are usually of seven, eight, and ten syllables, the accent falling on the last; but some lines occur of seven, eight, or eleven syllables accented on the penultimate, and these are sometimes interwoven, at regular intervals, with the others.

The songs, as far as I was able to judge, are chiefly, if not wholly, amatory: they generally consist of stanzas, the first of which is written (and printed) with intervals for musical notes, and in the form of prose, though really in metre. Each stanza has frequently a burden of two lines. The plan appeared to be something like that of the Castilian glosas of the fifteenth century, the subject of the first stanza being repeated, and sometimes expanded, in the rest. I do not know that this is found in any Provençal poetry. The language, according to Raynouard, resembles Provençal more than the modern Portuguese does. It is a very remarkable circumstance, that we have no evidence, at least from the letter of the Marquis of Santillana early in the fifteenth century, that the Castilians had any of these love songs till long after the date of this Cancioneiro; and that we may rather collect from it, that the Spanish amatory poets chose the Galician or Portuguese dialect in preference to their own. Though the very ancient collection to which this note refers seems to have been unknown, I find mention of one by Don Pedro, Count of Barcelos, natural son of King Denis, in Dieze’s notes on Velasquez. Gesch. der Span. Dichtkunst, p. 70. This must have been in the first part of the fourteenth century.

Early Italian language. 45. Italy came last of those countries where Latin had been spoken to the possession of an independent language and literature. No industry has hitherto retrieved so much as a few lines of real Italian till near the end of the twelfth century;[80] and there is not much before the middle of the next. Several poets, however, whose versification is not wholly rude, appeared soon afterwards. The Divine Comedy of Dante seems to have been commenced before his exile from Florence in 1304. The Italian language was much used in prose, during the times of Dante and Petrarch, though very little before.

[80] Tiraboschi, iii. 323, doubts the authenticity of some inscriptions referred to the twelfth century. The earliest genuine Italian seems to be a few lines by Ciullo d’Alcamo, a Sicilian, between 1187 and 1193, vol. iv. p. 340.

Dante and Petrarch. 46. Dante and Petrarch are, as it were, the morning stars of our modern literature. I shall say nothing more of the former in this place: he does not stand in such close connection as Petrarch with the fifteenth century; nor had he such influence over the taste of his age. In this respect Petrarch has as much the advantage over Dante, as he was his inferior in depth of thought and creative power. He formed a school of poetry, which, though no disciple comparable to himself came out of it, gave a character to the taste of his country. He did not invent the sonnet; but he, perhaps, was the cause that it has continued in fashion for so many ages.[81] He gave purity, elegance, and even stability to the Italian language, which has been incomparably less changed during near five centuries since his time, than it was in one between the age of Guido Guinizzeli and his own. And none have denied him the honour of having restored a true feeling of classical antiquity in Italy, and consequently in Europe.

[81] Crescimbeni (Storia della vulgar poesia, vol. ii. p. 269) asserts the claim of Guiton d’Arezzo to the invention of the regular sonnet, or at least the perfection of that in use among the Provençals.

Change of Anglo-Saxon to English. 47. Nothing can be more difficult, except by an arbitrary line, than to determine the commencement of the English language; not so much, as in those of the continent, because we are in want of materials, but rather from an opposite reason, the possibility of tracing a very gradual succession of verbal changes that ended in a change of denomination. We should probably experience a similar difficulty, if we knew equally well the current idiom of France or Italy in the seventh and eighth centuries. For when we compare the earliest English of the thirteenth century with the Anglo-Saxon of the twelfth, it seems hard to pronounce, why it should pass for a separate language, rather than a modification or simplification of the former. We must conform, however, to usage, and say that the Anglo-Saxon was converted into English: 1. by contracting or otherwise modifying the pronunciation and orthography of words; 2. by omitting many inflections, especially of the noun, and consequently making more use of articles and auxiliaries; 3. by the introduction of French derivatives; 4. by using less inversion and ellipsis, especially in poetry. Of these the second alone, I think, can be considered as sufficient to describe a new form of language; and this was brought about so gradually, that we are not relieved from much of our difficulty, whether some compositions shall pass for the latest offspring of the mother, or the earliest fruits of the daughter’s fertility.[82]

[82] It is a proof of this difficulty that the best masters of our ancient language have lately introduced the word semi-Saxon, which is to cover everything from 1150 to 1250. See Thorpe’s preface to Analecta Anglo-Saxonica, and many other recent books.

[Pg 23]

48. The Anglo-Norman language is a phrase not quite so unobjectionable as the Anglo-Norman constitution; and as it is sure to deceive, we might better lay it aside altogether.[83] In the one instance, there was a real fusion of laws and government, to which we can find but a remote analogy, or rather none at all, in the other. It is probable, indeed, that the converse of foreigners might have something to do with those simplifications of the Anglo-Saxon grammar, which appear about the reign of Henry II., more than a century after the Conquest; though it is also true, that languages of a very artificial structure, like that of England before that revolution, often became less complex in their forms, without any such violent process as an amalgamation of two different races.[84] What is commonly called the Saxon Chronicle is continued to the death of Stephen, in 1154, and in the same language, though with some loss of its purity. Besides the neglect of several grammatical rules, French words now and then obtrude themselves, but not very frequently, in the latter pages of this Chronicle. Peterborough, however, was quite an English monastery; its endowments, its abbots, were Saxon; and the political spirit the Chronicle breathes, in some passages, is that of the indignant subjects, servi ancor frementi, of the Norman usurpers. If its last compilers, therefore, gave way to some innovations of language, we may presume that these prevailed more extensively in places less secluded, and especially in London.

[83] A popular and pleasing writer has drawn a little upon his imagination in the following account of the language of our forefathers after the Conquest:—The language of the church was Latin; that of the king and nobles, Norman; that of the people, Anglo-Saxon; the Anglo-Norman jargon was only employed in the commercial intercourse between the conquerors and the conquered. Ellis’s Specimens of Early English Poets, vol. i. p. 17. What was this jargon? and where do we find a proof of its existence? and what was the commercial intercourse hinted at? I suspect Ellis only meant, what has often been remarked, that the animals which bear a Saxon name in the fields acquire a French one in the shambles. But even this is more ingenious than just; for muttons, beeves, and porkers are good old words for the living quadrupeds.

[84] Every branch of the low German stock from whence the Anglo-Saxon sprung, displays the same simplification of its grammar. Price’s Preface to Warton, p. 110. He therefore ascribes little influence to the Norman conquest or to French connections.

Layamon. 49. We find evidence of a greater change in Layamon, a translator of Wace’s romance of Brut from the French. Layamon’s age is uncertain; it must have been after 1155, when the original poem was completed, and can hardly be placed below 1200. His language is accounted rather Anglo-Saxon than English; it retains most of the distinguishing inflections of the mother-tongue, yet evidently differs considerably from that older than the Conquest by the introduction, or at least more frequent employment, of some new auxiliary forms, and displays very little of the characteristics of the ancient poetry, its periphrases, its ellipses, or its inversions. But though translation was the means by which words of French origin were afterwards most copiously introduced, very few occur in the extracts from Layamon hitherto published; for we have not yet the expected edition of the entire work. He is not a mere translator, but improves much on Wace. The adoption of the plain and almost creeping style of the metrical French romance, instead of the impetuous dithyrambics of Saxon song, gives Layamon at first sight a greater affinity to the new English language than in mere grammatical structure he appears to bear.[85]

[85] See a long extract from Layamon in Ellis’s Specimens. This writer observes, that, it contains no word which we are under the necessity of referring to a French root. Duke and Castle seem exceptions: but the latter word occurs in the Saxon Chronicle before the Conquest, A.D. 1052.

Progress of English language. 50. Layamon wrote in a monastery on the Severn; and it is agreeable to experience, that an obsolete structure of language should be retained in a distant province, while it has undergone some change among the less rugged inhabitants of a capital. The disuse of Saxon forms crept on by degrees; some metrical lives of saints, apparently written not far from the year 1250,[86] may [Pg 24] be deemed English; but the first specimen of it that bears a precise date is a proclamation of Henry III., addressed to the people of Huntingdonshire in 1258, but doubtless circular throughout England.[87] A triumphant song, composed probably in London, on the victory obtained at Lewes by the confederate barons in 1264, and the capture of Richard Earl of Cornwall, is rather less obsolete in its style than this proclamation, as might naturally be expected. It could not have been written later than that year, because in the next the tables were turned on those who now exulted, by the complete discomfiture of their party in the battle of Evesham. Several pieces of poetry, uncertain as to their precise date, must be referred to the latter part of this century. Robert of Gloucester, after the year 1297, since he alludes to the canonisation of St. Louis,[88] turned the chronicle of Geoffrey of Monmouth into English verse; and on comparing him with Layamon, a native of the same county, and a writer on the same subject, it will appear that a great quantity of French had flowed into the language since the loss of Normandy. The Anglo-Saxon inflections, terminations, and orthography, had also undergone a very considerable change. That the intermixture of French words was very slightly owing to the Norman conquest will appear probable, by observing at least as frequent an use of them in the earliest specimens of the Scottish dialect, especially a song on the death of Alexander III. in 1285. There is a good deal of French in this, not borrowed, probably, from England, but directly from the original sources of imitation.

[86] Ritson’s Dissertat. on Romance. Madden’s Introduction to Havelok. Notes of Price, in his edition of Warton. Warton himself is of no authority in this matter. Price inclines to put most of the poems quoted by Warton near the close of the thirteenth century.

It should here be observed, that the language underwent its metamorphosis into English by much less rapid gradations in some parts of the kingdom than in others. Not only the popular dialect of many counties, especially in the north, retained long, and still retains, a larger proportion of the Anglo-Saxon peculiarities, but we have evidence that they were not everywhere disused in writing. A manuscript in the Kentish dialect, if that phrase is correct, bearing the date of 1340, is more Anglo-Saxon than any of the poems ascribed to the thirteenth century, which we read in Warton, such as the legends of saints or the Ormulum. This very curious fact was first made known to the public by Mr. Thorpe, in his translation of Cædmon, preface, p. xii.; and an account of the manuscript itself, rather fuller than that of Mr. T., has since been given in the catalogue of the Arundel MSS. in the British Museum.

[87] Henry’s Hist. of Britain, vol. viii., appendix. Between 1244 and 1258, says Sir F. Madden, we know, was written the versification of part of a meditation of St. Augustine, as proved by the age of the prior, who gave the manuscript to the Durham library, p. 49. This, therefore, will be strictly the oldest piece of English, to the date of which we can approach by more than conjecture.

[88] Madden’s Havelock, p. 52.

English of the fourteenth century. Chaucer. Gower. 51. The fourteenth century was not unproductive of men, both English and Scots, gifted with the powers of poetry. Laurence Minot, an author unknown to Warton, but whose poems on the wars of Edward III. are referred by their publisher Ritson to 1352, is perhaps the first original poet in our language that has survived; since such of his predecessors as are now known appear to have been merely translators, or at best amplifiers of a French or Latin original. The earliest historical or epic narrative is due to John Barbour, archdeacon of Aberdeen, whose long poem in the Scots dialect, The Bruce, commemorating the deliverance of his country, seems to have been completed in 1373. But our greatest poet of the middle ages, beyond comparison, was Geoffrey Chaucer; and I do not know that any other country, except Italy, produced one of equal variety in invention, acuteness in observation, or felicity of expression. A vast interval must be made between Chaucer and any other English poet; yet Gower, his contemporary, though not, like him, a poet of nature’s growth, had some effect in rendering the language less rude, and exciting a taste for verse; if he never rises, he never sinks low; he is always sensible, polished, perspicuous, and not prosaic in the worst sense of the word. Longlands, the supposed author of Piers Plowman’s Vision, with far more imaginative vigour, has a more obsolete and unrefined diction.

General disuse of French in England. 52. The French language was spoken by the superior classes of society in England from the conquest to the reign of Edward III.; though it seems probable that they were generally acquainted with English, at least in the latter part of that period. But all letters, even of a private nature, were written in Latin till the beginning of the reign of Edward I., soon after 1270, when a sudden change brought in the use of French.[89] In grammar schools boys were made to construe their Latin into French; and in the statutes of Oriel College, Oxford, we find, in a regulation so late as 1328, that the students shall converse together, if not in Latin, at least in French.[90] The minutes of the corporation of London, recorded in the Town Clerk’s office, were in French, as well as the proceedings in parliament, and in the courts [Pg 25] of justice; and oral discussions were perhaps carried on in the same language, though this is not a necessary consequence. Hence the English was seldom written, and hardly employed in prose till after the middle of the fourteenth century. Sir John Mandeville’s travels were written in 1356. This is our earliest English book. Wicliffe’s translation of the Bible, a great work that enriched the language, is referred to 1383, Trevisa’s version of the Polychronicon of Higden was in 1385, and the Astrolabe of Chaucer in 1392. A few public instruments were drawn up in English under Richard II.; and about the same time, probably, it began to be employed in epistolary correspondence of a private nature. Trevisa informs us, that, when he wrote (1385), even gentlemen had much left off to have their children taught French, and names the schoolmaster (John Cornwall) who soon after 1350 brought in so great an innovation as the making his boys read Latin into English.[91] This change from the common use of French in the upper ranks seems to have taken place as rapidly as a similar revolution has lately done in Germany. By a statute of 1362, (36 E. 3, c. 15,) all pleas in courts of justice are directed to be pleaded and judged in English, on account of French being so much unknown. But the laws, and, generally speaking, the records of parliament, continued to be in the latter language for many years; and we learn from Sir John Fortescue, a hundred years afterwards, that this statute itself was but partially enforced.[92] The French language, if we take his words literally, even in the reign of Edward IV., was spoken in affairs of mercantile account, and in many games, the vocabulary of both being chiefly derived from it.[93]

[89] I am indebted for this fact, which I have ventured to generalise, to the communication of Mr. Stevenson, sub-commissioner of public records.

[90] Si qua inter se proferant, colloquio Latino vel saltem Gallico perfruantur. Warton, i. 6. In Merton College statutes, given in 1271, Latin alone is prescribed.

[91] The passage may be found quoted in Warton, ubi suprà, or in many other books.

[92] In the courts of justice they formerly used to plead in French, till, in pursuance of a law to that purpose, that custom was somewhat restrained, but not hitherto quite disused, de Laudibus Legum Angliæ, c. xlviii. I quote from Waterhouse’s translation; but the Latin runs quam plurimum restrictus est.

[93] Ibid.

State of European languages about 1400. 53. Thus by the year 1400, we find a national literature subsisting in seven European languages, three spoken in the Spanish peninsula, the French, the Italian, the German, and the English; from which last, the Scots dialect need not be distinguished. Of these the Italian was the most polished, and had to boast of the greatest writers; the French excelled in their number and variety. Our own tongue, though it had latterly acquired much copiousness in the hands of Chaucer and Wicliffe, both of whom lavishly supplied it with words of French and Latin derivation, was but just growing into a literary existence. The German, as well as that of Valencia, seemed to decline. The former became more precise, more abstract, more intellectual, (geistig), and less sensible (sinnlich), (to use the words of Eichhorn), and of consequence less fit for poetry; it fell into the hands of lawyers and mystical theologians. The earliest German prose, a few very ancient fragments excepted, is the collection of Saxon laws (Sachsenspiegel), about the middle of the thirteenth century; the next the Swabian collection (Schwabenspiegel), about 1282.[94] But these forming hardly a part of literature, though Bouterwek praises passages of the latter for religious eloquence, we may deem John Tauler, a Dominican friar of Strasburg, whose influence in propagating what was called the mystical theology, gave a new tone to his country, to be the first German writer in prose. Tauler, says a modern historian of literature, in his German sermons, mingled many expressions invented by himself, which were the first attempt at a philosophical language, and displayed surprising eloquence for the age wherein he lived. It may be justly said of him, that he first gave to prose that direction in which Luther afterwards advanced so far.[95] Tauler died in 1361. Meantime, as has been said before, the nobility abandoned their love of verse, which the burghers took up diligently, but with little spirit or genius; the common language became barbarous and neglected, of which the strange fashion of writing half Latin, half German, verses, is a proof.[96] This had been common in the darker ages: we have several instances of it in Anglo-Saxon; but it was late to adopt it in the fourteenth century.

[94] Bouterwek, p. 163. There are some novels at the end of the thirteenth, or beginning of the fourteenth century. Ibid.

[95] Heinsius, iv. 76.

[96] Eichhorn, Allg. Gesch., i. 240.

Ignorance of reading and writing in darker ages. 54. The Latin writers of the middle ages were chiefly ecclesiastics. But of these in the living tongues a large proportion were laymen. They knew, therefore, how to commit their thoughts to writing; and hence the ignorance characteristic of the darker ages must seem to be [Pg 26] passing away. This, however, is a very difficult, though interesting question, when we come to look nearly at the gradual progress of rudimentary knowledge. I can offer but an outline, which those who turn more of their attention towards the subject will be enabled to correct and supply. Before the end of the eleventh century, and especially after the ninth, it was rare to find laymen in France who could read and write.[97] The case was probably not better anywhere else, except in Italy. I should incline to except Italy, on the authority of a passage in Wippo, a German writer soon after the year 1000, who exhorts the Emperor Henry II. to cause the sons of the nobility to be instructed in letters, using the example of the Italians, with whom, according to him, it was a universal practice.[98] The word clerks or clergymen became in this and other countries synonymous with one who could write or even read; we all know the original meaning of benefit of clergy, and the test by which it was claimed. Yet from about the end of the eleventh, or at least of the twelfth century, many circumstances may lead us to believe that it was less and less a conclusive test, and that the laity came more and more into possession of the simple elements of literature.

[97] Hist. Litt. de la France, vii. 2. Some nobles sent their children to be educated in the schools of Charlemagne, especially those of Germany, under Raban, Notker, Bruno, and other distinguished abbots. But they were generally destined for the church. Meiners, ii. 377. The signatures of laymen are often found to deeds of the eighth century, and sometimes of the ninth. Nouv. Traité de la Diplomatique, ii. 422. The ignorance of the laity, according to this authority, was not strictly parallel to that of the church.

[98] Tunc fac edictum per terram Teutonicorum
Quilibet ut dives sibi natos instruat omnes
Litterulis, legemque suam persuadeat illis,
Ut cum principibus placitandi venerit usus,
Quisque suis libris exemplum proferat illis.
Moribus his dudum vivebat Roma decenter,
His studiis tantos potuit vincere tyrannos.
Hoc servant Itali post prima crepundia cuncti.

I am indebted for this quotation to Meiners, ii. 344.

Reasons for supposing this to have diminished after 1100. 55. I. It will of course be admitted that all who administered or belonged to the Roman law were masters of reading and writing, though we do not find that they were generally ecclesiastics, even in the lowest sense of the word, by receiving the tonsure. Some indeed were such. In countries where the feudal law had passed from unwritten custom to record and precedent, and had grown into as much subtlety by diffuseness as the Roman, which was the case of England from the time of Henry II., the lawyers, though laymen, were unquestionably clerks or learned. II. The convenience of such elementary knowledge to merchants, who, both in the Mediterranean and in these parts of Europe, carried on a good deal of foreign commerce, and indeed to all traders, may render it probable that they were not destitute of it; though it must be confessed that the word clerk rather seems to denote that their deficiency was supplied by those employed under them. I do not, however, conceive that the clerks of citizens were ecclesiastics.[99] III. If we could rely on a passage in Ingulfus, the practice in grammar schools of construing Latin into French was as old as the reign of the Conqueror;[100] and it seems unlikely that this should have been confined to children educated for the English church. IV. The poets of the north and south of France were often men of princely or noble birth, sometimes ladies; their versification is far too artificial to be deemed the rude product of an illiterate mind; and to these, whose capacity of holding the pen few will dispute, we must surely add a numerous class of readers, for whom their poetry was designed. It may be surmised, that the itinerant minstrels answered this end, and supplied the ignorance of the nobility. But many ditties of the troubadours were not so well adapted to the minstrels, who seem to have dealt more with metrical romances. Nor do I doubt that these also were read in many a castle of France and Germany. I will not dwell on the story of Francesca of Rimini, because no one, perhaps, is likely to dispute that a Romagnol lady in the age of Dante would be able to read the tale of Lancelot. But that romance had long been written; and other ladies doubtless had read it, and possibly had left off reading it in similar circumstances, and as little to their advantage. The fourteenth century abounded with books in French prose; the extant copies of some are not very few; but no argument against their circulation could be urged [Pg 27] from their scarcity in the present day. It is not of course pretended that they were diffused as extensively as printed books have been. V. The fashion of writing private letters in French instead of Latin, which, as has been mentioned, came in among us soon after 1270, affords perhaps a presumption that they were written in a language intelligible to the correspondent, because he had no longer occasion for assistance in reading them; though they were still generally from the hand of a secretary. But at what time this disuse of Latin began on the Continent I cannot exactly determine. The French and Castilians, I believe, made general use of their own languages in the latter half of the thirteenth century.

[99] The earliest recorded bills of exchange, according to Beckmann, Hist. of Inventions, iii. 430, are in a passage of the jurist Baldus, and bear date 1328. But they were by no means in common use till the next century. I do not mention this as bearing much on the subject of the text.

[100] Et pueris etiam in scholis principia literarum Gallicè et non Anglicè traderentur.

Increased knowledge of writing in fourteenth century. 56. The art of reading does not imply that of writing; it seems likely that the one prevailed before the other. The latter was difficult to acquire, in consequence of the regularity of characters preserved by the clerks, and their complex system of abbreviations, which rendered the cursive handwriting, introduced about the end of the eleventh century, almost as operose to those who had not much experience of it as the more stiff characters of older manuscripts. It certainly appears that even autograph signatures are not found till a late period. Philip the Bold, who ascended the French throne in 1272, could not write, though this is not the case with any of his successors. I do not know that equal ignorance is recorded of any English sovereign, though we have I think only a series of autographs beginning with Richard II. It is said by the authors of Nouveau Traité de la Diplomatique, Benedictines of laborious and exact erudition, that the art of writing had become rather common among the laity of France before the end of the thirteenth century: out of eight witnesses to a testament in 1277 five could write their names; at the beginning of that age, it is probable, they think, that not one could have done so.[101] Signatures to deeds of private persons, however, do not begin to appear till the fourteenth, and were not in established use in France till about the middle of the fifteenth century.[102] Indorsements upon English deeds, as well as mere signatures, by laymen of rank, bearing date in the reign of Edward II., are in existence; and there is an English letter from the lady of Sir John Pelham to her husband in 1399, which is probably one of the earliest instances of female penmanship. By the badness of the grammar we may presume it to be her own.[103]

[101] Vol. ii. p. 423.

[102] Ibid. p. 434, et post.

[103] I am indebted for a knowledge of this letter to the Rev. Joseph Hunter, who recollected to have seen it in an old edition of Collins’s Peerage. Later editions have omitted it as an unimportant redundancy though interesting even for its contents, independently of the value it acquires from the language. On account of its scarcity, being only found in old editions now not in request, I shall insert it here; and till anything else shall prefer a claim, it may pass for the oldest private letter in the English language. I have not kept the orthography, but have left several incoherent and ungrammatical phrases as they stand. It was copied by Collins from the archives of the Newcastle family.

My dear Lord,

I recommend me to your high lordship with heart and body and all my poor might, and with all this I thank you as my dear lord dearest and best beloved of all earthly lords I say for me, and thank you my dear lord with all this that I say before of your comfortable letter that ye sent me from Pontefract that come to me on Mary Magdalene day; for by my troth I was never so glad as when I heard by your letter that ye were strong enough with the grace of God for to keep you from the malice of your enemies. And dear lord if it like to your high lordship that as soon as ye might that I might hear of your gracious speed; which as God Almighty continue and increase. And my dear lord if it like you for to know of my fare, I am here by laid in manner of a siege with the county of Sussex, Surrey, and a great parcel of Kent, so that I may nought out no none victuals get me but with much hard. Wherefore my dear if it like you by the advice of your wise counsel for to get remedy of the salvation of your castle and withstand the malice of the shires aforesaid. And also that ye be fully informed of their great malice workers in these shires which that haves so despitefully wrought to you, and to your castle, to your men, and to your tenants for this country have yai [sic] wasted for a great while. Farewell my dear lord, the Holy Trinity you keep from your enemies, and ever send me good tidings of you. Written at Pevensey in the castle on St. Jacob day last past,

By your own poor
J. Pelham.

To my true Lord.

Average state of knowledge in England. 57. Laymen, among whom Chaucer and Gower are illustrious examples, received occasionally a learned education; and indeed the great number of gentlemen who studied in the inns of court is a conclusive proof that they were not generally illiterate. The common law required some knowledge of two languages. Upon the whole we may be inclined to think, [Pg 28] that in the year 1400, or at the accession of Henry IV., the average instruction of an English gentleman of the first class would comprehend common reading and writing, a tolerable familiarity with French, and a slight tincture of Latin; the latter retained or not, according to his circumstances and character, as school learning is at present. This may be rather a favourable statement; but after another generation it might be assumed, as we shall see, with more confidence as a fair one.[104]

[104] It might be inferred from a passage in Richard of Bury, about 1343, that none but ecclesiastics could read at all. He deprecates the putting of books into the hands of laici, who do not know one side from another. And in several places it seems that he thought they were meant for the tonsured alone. But a great change took place in the ensuing half century; and I do not believe he can be construed strictly even as to his own time.

Invention of paper. 58. A demand for instruction in the art of writing would increase with the frequency of epistolary correspondence, which, where of a private or secret nature, no one would gladly conduct by the intervention of a secretary. Better education, more refined manners, a closer intercourse of social life, were the primary causes of this increase in private correspondence. But it was greatly facilitated by the invention, or, rather, extended use, of paper as the vehicle of writing instead of parchment; a revolution, as it may be called, of high importance, without which both the art of writing would have been much less practised, and the invention of printing less serviceable to mankind. After the subjugation of Egypt by the Saracens, the importation of the papyrus, previously in general use, came in no long time to an end; so that, though down to the end of the seventh century all instruments in France were written upon it, we find its place afterwards supplied by parchment; and under the house of Charlemagne, there is hardly an instrument upon any other material.[105] Parchment, however, a much more durable and useful vehicle than papyrus,[106] was expensive, and its cost not only excluded the necessary waste which a free use of writing requires, but gave rise to the unfortunate practice of erasing manuscripts in order to replace them with some new matter. This was carried to a great extent, and has occasioned the loss of precious monuments of antiquity, as is now demonstrated by instances of their restoration.

[105] Montfaucon, in Acad. des Inscript., vol. vi. But Muratori says that the papyrus was little used in the seventh century, though writings on it may be found as late as the tenth, Dissert. xliii. This dissertation relates to the condition of letters in Italy as far as the year 1100; as the xlivth does to their subsequent history.

[106] Heeren justly remarks (I do not know that others have done the same), of how great importance the introduction of parchment, to which, and afterwards to paper, the old perishable papyraceous manuscripts were transferred, has been to the preservation of literature. P. 74.

Linen paper when first used. 59. The date of the invention of our present paper, manufactured from linen rags, or of its introduction into Europe, has long been the subject of controversy. |Cotton paper.| That paper made from cotton was in use sooner, is admitted on all sides. Some charters written upon that kind not later than the tenth century were seen by Montfaucon; and it is even said to be found in papal bulls of the ninth.[107] The Greeks, however, from whom the west of Europe is conceived to have borrowed this sort of paper, did not much employ it in manuscript books, according to Montfaucon, till the twelfth century, from which time it came into frequent use among them. Muratori had seen no writing upon this material older than 1100, though, in deference to Montfaucon, he admits its employment earlier.[108] It certainly was not greatly used in Italy before the thirteenth century. Among the Saracens of Spain, on the other hand, as well as those of the East, it was of much greater antiquity. The Greeks called it charta Damascena, having been manufactured or sold in the city of Damascus. And Casiri, in his catalogue of the Arabic manuscripts in the Escurial, desires us to understand that they are written on paper of cotton or linen, but generally the latter, unless the contrary be expressed.[109] Many in this catalogue were written before the thirteenth, or even the twelfth century.

[107] Mém. de l’Acad. des Inscriptions, vi. 604. Nouveau Traité de Diplomatique, i. 517. Savigny, Gesch. des Römischen Rechts, iii. 534.

[108] Dissert. xliii.

[109] Materiæ, nisi membraneus sit codex, nulla mentio: cæteros bombycinos, ac, maximam partem, chartaceos esse colligas. Præfatio, p. 7.

Linen paper as old as 1100. 60. This will lead us to the more disputed question as to the antiquity of linen paper. The earliest distinct instance I have found, and which I believe has hitherto been overlooked, is an Arabic version of the aphorisms of Hippocrates, the manuscript bearing the date of 1100. This Casiri observes to be on linen paper, not as in itself remarkable, but as accounting for its injury [Pg 29] by wet. It does not appear whether it were written in Spain, or, like many in that catalogue, brought from Egypt or the East.[110]

[110] Casiri, N. 787. Codex anno Christi 1100, chartaceus, &c.

Known to Peter of Clugni. 61. The authority of Casiri must confirm beyond doubt a passage in Peter Abbot of Clugni, which has perplexed those who place the invention of linen paper very low. In a treatise against the Jews, he speaks of books, ex pellibus arietum, hircorum, vel vitulorum, sive ex biblis vel juncis Orientalium paludum, aut ex rasuris veterum pannorum, seu ex aliâ qualibet, forte viliore materia compactos. A late English writer contends that nothing can be meant by the last words, unless that all sorts of inferior substances capable of being so applied, among them, perhaps, hemp and the remains of cordage, were used at this period in the manufacture of paper.[111] It certainly at least seems reasonable to interpret the words ex rasuris veterum pannorum, of linen rags; and when I add that Peter Cluniacensis passed a considerable time in Spain about 1141, there can remain, it seems, no rational doubt that the Saracens of the peninsula were acquainted with that species of paper, though perhaps it was as yet unknown in every other country.

[111] See a memoir on an ancient manuscript of Aratus, by Mr. Ottley, in Archæeologia, vol. xxvi.

And in 12th and 13th centuries. 62. Andrès asserts, on the authority of the Memoirs of the Academy of Barcelona, that a treaty between the kings of Arragon and Castile, bearing the date of 1178, and written upon linen paper, is extant in the archives of that city.[112] He alleges several other instances in the next age; when Mabillon, who denies that paper of linen was then used in charters, which, indeed, no one is likely to maintain, mentions, as the earliest specimen he had seen in France, a letter of Joinville to St. Louis, which must be older than 1270. Andrès refers the invention to the Saracens of Spain, using the fine flax of Valencia and Murcia; and conjectures that it was brought into use among the Spaniards themselves by Alfonso of Castile.[113]

[112] Vol. ii. p. 73. Andrès has gone much at length into this subject, and has collected several important passages which do not appear in my text. The letter of Joinville has been supposed to be addressed to Louis Hutin in 1314, but this seems inconsistent with the writer’s age.

[113] Id. p. 84. He cannot mean that it was never employed before Alfonso’s time, of which he has already given instances.

Paper of mixed materials. 63. In the opinion of the English writer to whom we have above referred, paper, from a very early period, was manufactured of mixed materials, which have sometimes been erroneously taken for pure cotton. We have in the Tower of London a letter addressed to Henry III. by Raymond, son of Raymond VI., Count of Toulouse, and consequently between 1216 and 1222, when the latter died, upon very strong paper, and certainly made, in Mr. Ottley’s judgment, of mixed materials; while in several of the time of Edward I., written upon genuine cotton paper of no great thickness, the fibres of cotton present themselves everywhere at the backs of the letters so distinctly that they seem as if they might even now be spun into thread.[114]

[114] Archæologia, ibid. I may however observe, that a gentleman as experienced as Mr. Ottley himself, inclines to think the letter of Raymond written on paper wholly made of cotton, though of better manufacture than usual.

Invention of paper placed by some too low. 64. Notwithstanding this last statement, which I must confirm by my own observation, and of which no one can doubt who has looked at the letters themselves, several writers of high authority, such as Tiraboschi and Savigny, persist not only in fixing the invention of linen paper very low, even after the middle of the fourteenth century, but in maintaining that it is undistinguishable from that made of cotton, except by the eye of a manufacturer.[115] Were this indeed true, it would be sufficient for the purpose we have here in view, which is not to trace the origin of a particular discovery, but the employment of a useful vehicle of writing. If it be true that cotton paper was fabricated in Italy of so good a texture that it cannot be discerned from linen, it must be considered as of equal utility. It is not the case with [Pg 30] the letters on cotton paper in our English repositories; most, if not all, of which were written in France or Spain. But I have seen in the Chapter House at Westminster a letter written from Gascony about 1315, to Hugh Despencer, upon thin paper, to all appearance made like that now in use, and with a water mark. Several others of a similar appearance, in the same repository, are of rather later time. There is also one in the King’s Remembrancer’s Office of the 11th of Edward III. (1337 or 1338), containing the accounts of the King’s ambassadors to the court of Holland and probably written in that country. This paper has a water mark, and if it is not of linen, is at least not easily distinguishable. Bullet declares that he saw at Besançon a deed of 1302 on linen paper: several are alleged to exist in Germany before the middle of the century; and Lambinet mentions, though but on the authority of a periodical publication, a register of expenses from 1323 to 1354, found in a church at Caen, written on two hundred and eight sheets of that substance.[116] One of the Cottonian manuscripts (Galba, B. I.) is called Codex Chartaceus in the catalogue. It contains a long series of public letters, chiefly written in the Netherlands, from an early part of the reign of Edward III. to that of Henry IV. But upon examination I find the title not quite accurate; several letters, and especially the earliest, are written on parchment, and paper does not appear at soonest till near the end of Edward’s reign.[117] Sir Henry Ellis has said that very few instances indeed occur before the fifteenth century of letters written upon paper.[118] The use of cotton paper was by no means general, or even, I believe, frequent, except in Spain and Italy, perhaps also in the south of France. Nor was it much employed even in Italy for books. Savigny tells us there are few manuscripts of law books among the multitude that exist which are not written on parchment.

[115] Tiraboschi, v. 85. Savigny, Gesch. des Römischen Rechts, iii. 534. He relies on a book I have not seen, Wehrs vom Papier. Hall, 1789. This writer, it is said, contends that the words of Peter of Clugni, ex rasuris veterum pannorum, mean cotton paper. Heeren, p. 208. Lambinet, on the other hand, translates them, without hesitation, chiffons de linge, Hist. de l’Origine de l’Imprimerie, i. 93.

Andrès has pointed out, p. 70, that Maffei merely says he has seen no paper of linen earlier than 1300, and no instrument on that material older than one of 1367, which he found among his own family deeds. Tiraboschi, overlooking this distinction, quotes Maffei for his own opinion as to the lateness of the invention.

[116] Lambinet, ubi suprà.

[117] Andrès, p. 68, mentions a note written in 1342, in the Cotton library, as the earliest English specimen of linen paper. I do not know to what this refers; in the above-mentioned Codex Chartaceus is a letter of 1341, but it is on parchment.

[118] Ellis’s Original Letters, i. 1.

Not at first very important. 65. It will be manifest from what has been said how greatly Robertson has been mistaken in his position, that in the eleventh century the art of making paper, in the manner now become universal, was invented, by means of which not only the number of manuscripts increased but the study of the sciences was wonderfully facilitated.[119] Even Ginguéné, better informed on such subjects than Robertson, has intimated something of the same kind. But paper, whenever, or wherever invented, was very sparingly used, and especially in manuscript books, among the French, Germans, or English, or linen paper, even among the Italians, till near the close of the period which this chapter comprehends. Upon the study of the sciences it could as yet have had very little effect. The vast importance of the invention was just beginning to be discovered. It is to be added, as a remarkable circumstance, that the earliest linen paper was of very good manufacture, strong and handsome, though perhaps too much like card for general convenience; and every one is aware that the first printed books are frequently beautiful in the quality of their paper.

[119] Hist. of Charles V. vol. i. note 10. Heeren inclines to the same opinion, p. 200.

Importance of legal studies. 66. III. The application of general principles of justice to the infinitely various circumstances which may arise in the disputes of men with each other is in itself an admirable discipline of the moral and intellectual faculties. Even where the primary rules of right and policy have been obscured in some measure by a technical and arbitrary system, which is apt to grow up, perhaps inevitably, in the course of civilisation, the mind gains in precision and acuteness, though at the expense of some important qualities; and a people wherein an artificial jurisprudence is cultivated, requiring both a regard to written authority, and the constant exercise of a discriminating judgment upon words, must be deemed to be emerging from ignorance. Such was the condition of Europe in the twelfth century. The feudal customs, long unwritten, though latterly become more steady by tradition, were in some countries reduced into treatises: we have our own Glanvil in the reign of Henry II., and in the next century much was written upon the national laws in various parts of Europe. Upon these it is not my intention to dwell; but the importance of the civil law in its connection with ancient learning, as well as with moral and political science, renders it deserving of a place in any general account either of mediæval or modern literature.

Roman laws never wholly unknown. 67. That the Roman laws, such as they subsisted in the western empire at the [Pg 31] time of its dismemberment in the fifth century, were received in the new kingdoms of the Gothic, Lombard, and Carlovingian dynasties, as the rule of those who by birth and choice submitted to them, was shown by Muratori and other writers of the last century. This subject has received additional illustration from the acute and laborious Savigny, who has succeeded in tracing sufficient evidence of what had been, in fact, stated by Muratori, that not only an abridgment of the Theodosian code, but that of Justinian, and even the Pandects, were known in different parts of Europe long before the epoch formerly assigned for the restoration of that jurisprudence.[120] The popular story, already much discredited, that the famous copy of the Pandects, now in the Laurentian library at Florence, was brought to Pisa from Amalfi, after the capture of that city by Roger king of Sicily with the aid of a Pisan fleet in 1135, and became the means of diffusing an acquaintance with that portion of the law through Italy, is shown by him not only to rest on very slight evidence, but to be unquestionably, in the latter and more important circumstance, destitute of all foundation.[121] It is still indeed an undetermined question whether other existing manuscripts of the Pandects are not derived from this illustrious copy, which alone contains the entire fifty books, and which has been preserved with a traditional veneration indicating some superiority; but Savigny has shown, that Peter of Valence, a jurist of the eleventh century, made use of an independent manuscript; and it is certain that the Pandects were the subject of legal studies before the siege of Amalfi.

[120] It can be no disparagement to Savigny, who does not claim perfect originality, to say that Muratori, in his 44th dissertation, gives several instances of quotations from the Pandects in writers older than the capture of Amalfi.

[121] Savigny, Geschichte des Römischen Rechts in mittel alter, iii. 83.

Irnerius, his first successors. 68. Irnerius, by universal testimony, was the founder of all learned investigation into the laws of Justinian. He gave lectures upon them at Bologna his native city, not long, in Savigny’s opinion, after the commencement of the century.[122] And besides this oral instruction, he began the practice of making glosses, or short marginal explanations, on the law books, with the whole of which he was acquainted. We owe also to him, according to ancient opinion, though much controverted in later times, an epitome, called the Authentica, of what Gravina calls the prolix and difficult (salebrosis atque garrulis) Novels of Justinian, arranged according to the titles of the Code. The most eminent successors of this restorer of the Roman law during the same century were Martinus Gosias, Bulgarus, and Placentinus. They were, however, but a few among many interpreters, whose glosses have been partly, though very imperfectly preserved. The love of equal liberty and just laws in the Italian cities rendered the profession of jurisprudence exceedingly honourable; the doctors of Bologna and other universities were frequently called to the office of podestà, or criminal judge, in these small republics; in Bologna itself they were officially members of the smaller or secret council; and their opinions, which they did not render gratuitously, were sought with the respect that had been shown at Rome to their ancient masters of the age of Severus.

[122] Vol. iv. p. 16. Some have erroneously thought Irnerius a German.

Their glosses. 69. A gloss, γλωσσα, properly meant a word from a foreign language, or an obsolete or poetical word, or whatever requires interpretation. It was afterwards used for the interpretation itself; and this sense, which is not strictly classical, maybe found in Isidore, though some have imagined Irnerius himself to have first employed it.[123] In the twelfth century, it was extended from a single word to an entire expository sentence. The first glosses were interlinear; they were afterwards placed in the margin, and extended finally in some instances to a sort of running commentary on an entire book. These were called an Apparatus.[124]

[123] Alcuim defines glossa, unius verbi vel nominis interpretatio. Ducange, præfat. in Glossar., p. 38.

[124] Savigny, iii. 519.

Abridgments of laws. Accursius’s Corpus Glossatum. 70. Besides these glosses on obscure passages, some lawyers attempted to abridge the body of the law. Placentinus wrote a summary of the Code and Institutes. But this was held inferior to that of Azo, which appeared before 1220. Hugolinus gave a similar abridgment of the Pandects. About the same time, or a little after, a scholar of Azo, Accursius of Florence, undertook his celebrated work, a collection of the glosses, which, in the century that had elapsed since the time of Irnerius, had grown to an enormous extent, and were of course not always consistent. He has inserted little, [Pg 32] probably, of his own, but exercised a judgment, not perhaps a very enlightened one, in the selection of his authorities. Thus was compiled his Corpus Juris Glossatum, commonly called Glossa, or Glossa Ordinaria: a work, says Eichhorn, as remarkable for its barbarous style and gross mistakes in history as for the solidity of its judgments and practical distinctions. Gravina, after extolling the conciseness, acuteness, skill, and diligence in comparing remote passages, and in reconciling apparent inconsistencies, which distinguished Accursius, remarks the injustice of some moderns, who reproach his work with the ignorance inevitable in his age, and seem to think the chance of birth which has thrown them into more enlightened times, a part of their personal merit.[125]

[125] Origines Juris, p. 184.

Character of early jurists. 71. Savigny has taken still higher ground in his admiration, as we may call it, of the early jurists, those from the appearance of Irnerius to the publication of the Accursian body of glosses. For the execution of this work indeed he testifies no very high respect; Accursius did not sufficient justice to his predecessors; and many of the most valuable glosses are still buried in the dust of unpublished manuscripts.[126] But the men themselves deserve our highest praise. The school of Irnerius rose suddenly; for in earlier writers we find no intelligent use, or critical interpretation, of the passages they cite. To reflect upon every text, to compare it with every clause or word that might illustrate its meaning in the somewhat chaotic mass of the Pandects and Code, was reserved for these acute and diligent investigators. Interpretation, says Savigny, was considered the first and most important object of glossers, as it was of oral instructors. By an unintermitting use of the original law-books, they obtained that full and lively acquaintance with their contents, which enabled them to compare different passages with the utmost acuteness, and with much success. It may be reckoned a characteristic merit of many glossers, that they keep the attention always fixed on the immediate subject of explanation, and, in the richest display of comparisons with other passages of the law, never deviate from their point into anything too indefinite and general; superior often in this to the most learned interpreters of the French and Dutch schools, and capable of giving a lesson even to ourselves. Nor did the glossers by any means slight the importance of laying a sound critical basis for interpretation, but on the contrary, laboured earnestly in the recension and correction of the text.[127]

[126] Vol. v. pp. 258-267.

[127] Vol. v. pp. 199-211.

72. These warm eulogies afford us an instance, to which there are many parallels, of such vicissitudes in literary reputation, that the wheel of fame, like that of fortune, seems never to be at rest. For a long time, it had been the fashion to speak in slighting terms of these early jurists; and the passage above quoted from Gravina is in a much more candid tone than was usual in his age. Their trifling verbal explanations of etsi by quamvis, or admodum by valde; their strange ignorance in deriving the name of the Tiber from the Emperor Tiberius, in supposing that Ulpian and Justinian lived before Christ, in asserting that Papinian was put to death by Mark Antony, and even in interpreting pontifex by papa or episcopus, were the topics of ridicule to those whom Gravina has so well reproved.[128] Savigny, who makes a similar remark, that we learn, without perceiving it, and without any personal merit, a multitude of things which it was impossible to know in the twelfth century, defends his favourite glossers in the best manner he can, by laying part of the blame on the bad selection of Accursius, and by extolling the mental vigour which struggled through so many difficulties.[129] Yet he has the candour to own, that this rather enhances the respect due to the men, than the value of their writings; and, without much acquaintance with the ancient glossers, one may presume to think, that in explaining the Pandects, a book requiring, beyond any other that has descended to us, an extensive knowledge of the language and antiquities of Rome, their deficiencies, if to be measured by the instances we have given, or by the general character of their age, must require a perpetual exercise of our lenity and patience.

[128] Gennari, author of Respublica Jurisconsultorum, a work of the last century, who under colour of a fiction, gives rather an entertaining account of the principal jurists, exhibits some curious specimens of the ignorance of the Accursian interpreters, such as those in the text. See too the article Accursius in Bayle.

[129] v. 213.

Decline of jurists after Accursius. 73. This great compilation of Accursius made an epoch in the annals of jurisprudence. It put an end in great measure to the oral explanations of lecturers which had prevailed before. It restrained at the same time the ingenuity of interpretation. The glossers [Pg 33] became the sole authorities so that it grew into a maxim,—No one can go wrong who follows a gloss: and some said, a gloss was worth a hundred texts.[130] In fact, the original was continually unintelligible to a student. But this was accompanied, according to the distinguished historian of mediæval jurisprudence, by a decline of the science. The jurists in the latter part of the thirteenth century are far inferior to the school of Irnerius. It might be possible to seek a general cause, as men are now always prone to do, in the loss of self-government in many of the Italian republics. But Savigny, superior to this affectation of philosophy, admits that this is neither a cause adequate in itself, nor chronologically parallel to the decline of jurisprudence. We must therefore look upon it as one of those revolutions, so ordinary and so unaccountable, in the history of literature, where, after a period fertile in men of great talents, there ensues, perhaps with no unfavourable change in the diffusion of knowledge, a pause in that natural fecundity, without which all our endeavours to check a retrograde movement of the human mind will be of no avail. The successors of Accursius in the thirteenth century contented themselves with an implicit deference to the glosses; but this is rather a proof of their inferiority than its cause.[131]

[130] Bayle, ubi suprà. Eichhorn, Gesch. der Litteratur, ii. 461. Savigny, v. 268.

[131] Savigny, v. 320.

Respect paid to him at Bologna. 74. It has been the peculiar fortune of Accursius, that his name has always stood in a representative capacity, to engross the praise, or sustain the blame, of the great body of glossers from whom he compiled. One of those proofs of national gratitude and veneration was paid to his memory, which it is the more pleasing to recount, that, from the fickleness and insensibility of mankind, they do not very frequently occur. The city of Bologna was divided into the factions of Lambertazzi and Gieremei. The former, who were Ghibelins, having been wholly overthrown, and excluded, according to the practice of Italian republics, from all civil power, a law was made in 1306, that the family of Accursius, who had been on the vanquished side, should enjoy all the privileges of the victorious Guelf party, in regard to the memory of one by whose means the city had been frequented by students, and its fame had been spread through the whole world.[132]

[132] Ib. v. 268.

Scholastic jurists. Bartolus. 75. In the next century a new race of lawyers arose, who, by a different species of talent, almost eclipsed the greatest of their predecessors. These have been called the scholastic jurists, the glory of the schoolmen having excited an emulous desire to apply their dialectic methods in jurisprudence.[133] Of these the most conspicuous were Bartolus and Baldus, especially the former, whose authority became still higher than that of the Accursian glossers. Yet Bartolus, if we may believe Eichhorn, content with the glosses, did not trouble himself about the text, which he was too ignorant of Roman antiquity, and even of the Latin language, unless he is much belied, to expound.[134] He is so fond of distinctions, says Gravina, that he does not divide his subject, but breaks it to pieces, so that the fragments are, as it were, dispersed by the wind. But, whatever harm he might do to the just interpretation of the Roman law as a positive code, he was highly useful to the practical lawyer by the number of cases his fertile mind anticipated; for though many of these were unlikely to occur, yet his copiousness and subtlety of distinction is such that he seldom leaves those who consult him quite at a loss.[135] Savigny, who rates Bartolus much below the older lawyers, gives him credit for original thoughts, to which his acquaintance with the practical exercise of justice gave rise. The older jurists were chiefly professors of legal science, rather than conversant with forensic causes; and this has produced an opposition between theory and practice in the Roman law, to which we have not much analogous in our own, but the remains of which are said to be still discernible in the continental jurisprudence.[136]

[133] The employment of logical forms in law is not new; instances of it may be found in the earlier jurists. Savigny, v. 330; vi. 6.

[134] Gesch. der Litteratur, ii. 449. Bartolus even said, de verbibus non curat jurisconsultus. Eichhorn gives no authority for this, but Meiners, from whom perhaps he took it, quotes Comnenus, Historia Archigymnasii Patavini. Vergleichung der Sitten, ii. 646. It seems, however, incredible.

[135] Origines Juris, p. 191.

[136] Savigny,vi. 138; v. 201. Of Bartolus and his school it is said by Grotius, Temporum suorum infelicitas impedimento sæpe fuit, quo minus recte leges illas intelligerent; satis solertes alioqui ad indagandam æqui bonique naturam; quo factum ut sæpe optimi sint condendi juris auctores, etiam tunc cum conditi juris mali sunt interpretes. Prolegomena in Jus Belli et Pacis.

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Inferiority of jurists in fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

76. The later expositors of law, those after the age of Accursius, are reproached with a tedious prolixity, which the scholastic refinements of disputation were apt to produce. They were little more conversant with philological and historical literature than their predecessors, and had less diligence in that comparison of texts, by which an acute understanding might compensate the want of subsidiary learning. In the use of language, the jurists, with hardly any exceptions, are uncouth and barbarous. The great school of Bologna sent out all the earlier glossers. In the fourteenth century this famous university fell rather into decline; the jealousy of neighbouring states subjected its graduates to some disadvantage; and while the study of jurisprudence was less efficacious, it was more diffused. Italy alone had produced great masters of the science; the professors in France and Germany during the middle ages have left no great reputation.[137]

[137] In this slight sketch of the early lawyers, I have been chiefly guided, as the reader will have perceived, by Gravina and Savigny, and also by a very neat and succinct sketch in Eichhorn, Gesch. der Litteratur, ii. 448-464. The Origines Juris of the first have enjoyed a considerable reputation. But Savigny says with severity, that Gravina has thought so much more of his style than his subject, that all he says of the old jurists is perfectly worthless through its emptiness and want of criticism. iii. 72. Of Terrasson’s Histoire de la Jurisprudence Romaine he speaks in still lower terms.

Classical literature and taste in dark ages. 77. IV. The universities however, with their metaphysics derived from Aristotle through the medium of Arabian interpreters who did not understand him, and with the commentaries of Arabian philosophers who perverted him,[138] the development of the modern languages with their native poetry, much more the glosses of the civil lawyers, are not what is commonly meant by the revival of learning. In this we principally consider the increased study of the Latin and Greek languages, and in general of what we call classical antiquity. In the earliest of the dark ages, as far back as the sixth century, the course of liberal instruction was divided into the trivium and the quadrivium; the former comprising grammar, logic, and rhetoric; the latter music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. But these sciences, which seem tolerably comprehensive, were in reality taught most superficially, or not at all. The Latin grammar, in its merest rudiments, from a little treatise ascribed to Donatus and extracts of Priscian,[139] formed the only necessary part of the trivium in ecclesiastical schools. Even this seems to have been introduced afresh by Bede and the writers of the eighth century, who much excel their immediate predecessors in avoiding gross solecisms of grammar.[140] It was natural that in England, where Latin had never been a living tongue, it should be taught better than in countries which still affected to speak it. From the time of Charlemagne it was lost on the continent in common use, and preserved only through glossaries, of which there were many. The style of Latin in the dark period, independently of its want of verbal purity, is in very bad taste; and none seem to have been more inflated and empty than the English.[141] The distinction between the ornaments adapted to poetry and to prose had long been lost, and still more the just sense of moderation in their use. It cannot be wondered at that a vicious rhetoric should have overspread the writings of the seventh and eighth centuries, when there is so much of it in the third and fourth.

[138] It has been a subject of controversy, whether the physical and metaphysical writings of Aristotle were made known to Europe at the beginning of the thirteenth century, through Constantinople, or through Arabic translations. The former supposition rests certainly on what seems good authority, that of Rigord, a contemporary historian. But the latter is now more generally received, and is said to be proved in a dissertation which I have not seen, by M. Jourdain. Tennemann, Manuel de l’Hist. de la Philos., i. 355. These Arabic translations were themselves not made directly from the Greek, but from the Syriac. It is thought by Buhle that the logic of Aristotle was known in Europe sooner.

[139] Fleury, xvii. 18. Andrès, ix. 284.

[140] Eichhorn, Allg. Gesch. ii. 73. The reader is requested to distinguish, at least if he cares about references, Eichhorn’s Allgemeine Geschichte der Cultur, from his Geschichte der Litteratur, with which, in future, we shall have more concern.

[141] Fleury, xvii. 23. Ducange, preface to Glossary, p. 10. The Anglo-Saxon charters are distinguished for their pompous absurdity; and it is the general character of our early historians. One Ethelwerd is the worst; but William of Malmsbury himself, perhaps in some measure by transcribing passages from others, sins greatly in this respect.

Improvement in tenth and eleventh centuries. 78. Eichhorn fixes upon the latter part of the tenth century, as an epoch from which we are to deduce, in its beginnings, the restoration of classical taste; it was then that the scholars left the meagre introductions to rhetoric formerly [Pg 35] used for the works of Cicero and Quintilian.[142] In the school of Paderborn, not long after 1000, Sallust and Statius, as well as Virgil and Horace, appear to have been read.[143] Several writers, chiefly historical, about this period, such as Lambert of Aschaffenburg, Ditmar, Wittikind, are tolerably exempt from the false taste of preceding times, and, if they want a truly classical tone, express themselves with some spirit.[144] Gerbert, who by an uncommon quickness of parts shone in very different provinces of learning, and was beyond question the most accomplished man of the dark ages, displays in his epistles a thorough acquaintance with the best Latin authors and a taste for their excellencies.[145] He writes with the feelings of Petrarch, but in a less auspicious period. Even in England, if we may quote again the famous passage of Ingulfus, the rhetorical works of Cicero, as well as some book which he calls Aristotle, were read at Oxford under Edward the Confessor. But we have no indisputable name in the eleventh century, not even that of John de Garlandia, whose Floretus long continued to be a text-book in schools. This is a poor collection of extracts from Latin authors. It is uncertain whether or not the compiler were an Englishman.[146]

[142] Allg. Gesch., ii. 79.

[143] Viguit Horatius magnus atque Virgilius, Crispus et Sallustius, et Urbanus Statius, ludusque fuit omnibus insudare versibus et dictaminibus jucundisque cantibus. Vita Meinwerci in Leibnitz Script. Brunsvic. apud Eichhorn, ii. 399.

[144] Eichhorn, Gesch. der Litteratur, i. 807. Heeren, p. 157.

[145] Heeren, p. 165. It appears that Cicero de republicâ was extant in his time.

[146] Hist. Litt. de la France, viii. 84. They give very inconclusive reasons for robbing England of this writer, who certainly taught here under William the Conqueror, if not before, but it is possible enough that he came over from France. They say there is no such sirname in England as Garland, which happens to be a mistake; but the native English did not often bear sirnames in that age.

The Anglo-Saxon clergy were inconceivably ignorant, ut cæteris esset stupori qui grammaticam didicisset. Will. Malmsbury, p. 101. This leads us to doubt the Aristotle and Cicero of Ingulfus.

Lanfranc, and his schools. 79. It is admitted on all hands, that a remarkable improvement both in style and in the knowledge of Latin antiquity was perceptible towards the close of the eleventh century. The testimony of contemporaries attributes an extensively beneficial influence to Lanfranc. This distinguished person, born at Pavia in 1005, and early known as a scholar in Italy, passed into France about 1042 to preside over a school at Bec in Normandy. It became conspicuous under his care for the studies of the age, dialectics and theology. It is hardly necessary to add, that Lanfranc was raised by the Conqueror to the primacy of England, and thus belongs to our own history. Anselm, his successor both in the monastery of Bec and the see of Canterbury, far more renowned than Lanfranc for metaphysical acuteness, has shared with him the honour of having diffused a better taste for philological literature over the schools of France. It has, however, been denied by a writer of high authority, that either any knowledge, or any love of classical literature, can be traced in the works of the two archbishops. They are in this respect, he says, much inferior to those of Lupus, Gerbert, and others of the preceding ages.[147] His contemporaries, who extol the learning of Lanfranc in hyperbolical terms, do so in very indifferent Latin of their own; but it appears indeed more than doubtful whether the earliest of them meant to praise him for this peculiar species of literature.[148] The Benedictines of St. Maur cannot find much to say for him in this respect. They allege that he and Anselm wrote better than was then usual; a very moderate compliment. Yet they ascribe a great influence to their public lectures, and to the schools which were formed on the model of Bec.[149] And perhaps we could not without injustice deprive Lanfranc of the credit he has obtained for the promotion of polite letters. There is at least sufficient evidence that they had begun to revive in France not long after his time.

[147] Heeren, p. 185. There seems certainly nothing above the common in Lanfranc’s epistles.

[148] Milo Crispinus, Abbot of Westminster, in his life of Lanfranc says of him, Fuit quidam vir magnus Italia oriundus, quem Latinitas in antiquum scientiæ statum ab eo restituta tota supremum debito cum amore et honore agnoscit magistrum, nomine Lanfrancus.

This passage, which is frequently quoted, surely refers to his eminence in dialectics. The words of William of Malmsbury go farther. Is literatura perinsignis liberales artes quæ jamdudum sorduerant, a Latio in Gallias vocans acumine suo expolivit.

[149] Hist. Litt. de la France, vii. 17, 107; viii. 304. The seventh volume of this long and laborious work begins with an excellent account of the literary condition of France in the eleventh century. At the beginning of the ninth volume we have a similar view of the twelfth. The continuation, of which four volumes have already been published at Paris, I have not seen. It has but begun to break ground, if I may so say, in the thirteenth century, as I find from the Journal des Savans. The laboriousness of the French, as well as the encouragement they receive from their government, are above all praise, and should be our own shame; but their prolixity now and then defeats the object. The magnificent work, the Ordonnances des Rois de France, is a proof of this; time gains a march on the successive volumes, and the laws of four years are published at the end of five.

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Italy—Vocabulary of Papias. 80. The signs of gradual improvement in Italy during the eleventh century are very perceptible; several schools, among which those of Milan and the convent of Monte Cassino are most eminent, were established; and some writers such as Peter Damiani and Humbert, have obtained praise for rather more elegance and polish of style than had belonged to their predecessors.[150] The Latin vocabulary of Papias was finished in 1053. This is a compilation from the grammars and glossaries of the sixth and seventh centuries; but though many of his words are of very low Latinity, and his etymologies, which are those of his masters, absurd, he both shows a competent degree of learning, and a regard to profane literature, unusual in the darker ages, and symptomatic of a more liberal taste.[151]

[150] Bettinelli, Risorgimento d’Italia dopo il mille. Tiraboschi, iii. 248.

[151] The date of the vocabulary of Papias had been placed by Scaliger, who says he has as many errors as words, in the thirteenth century. But Gaspar Barthius, in his Adversaria, c. i., after calling him, veterum Glossographorum compactor non semper futilis, observes, that Papias mentions an Emperor, Henry II., as then living, and thence fixes the æra of his book in the early part of the eleventh century, in which he is followed by Bayle, art. Balbi. It is rather singular that neither of those writers recollected the usage of the Italians to reckon as Henry II. the prince whom the Germans call Henry III., Henry the Fowler not being included by them in the imperial list: and Bayle himself quotes a writer, unpublished in the age of Barthius, who places Papias in the year 1053. This date I believe is given by Papias himself. Tiraboschi, iii. 300. A pretty full account of the Latin glossaries before and after Papias will be found in the preface to Ducange, p. 38.

Influence of Italy upon Europe. 81. It may be said with some truth, that Italy supplied the fire, from which other nations in this first, as afterwards in the second æra of the revival of letters, lighted their own torches. Lanfranc, Anselm, Peter Lombard, the founder of systematic theology in the twelfth century, Irnerius, the restorer of jurisprudence, Gratian, the author of the first compilation of canon law, the school of Salerno, that guided medical art in all countries, the first dictionaries of the Latin tongue, the first treatise of algebra, the first great work that makes an epoch in anatomy, are as truly and exclusively the boast of Italy, as the restoration of Greek literature and of classical taste in the fifteenth century.[152] But if she were the first to propagate an impulse towards intellectual excellence in the rest of Europe, it must be owned, that France and England, in this dawn of literature and science, went in many points of view far beyond her.

[152] Bettinelli, Risorgimento d’Italia, p. 71.

Increased copying of manuscripts. 82. Three religious orders, all scions from the great Benedictine stock, that of Clugni, which dates from the first part of the tenth century, the Carthusians, founded in 1084, and the Cistercians, in 1098, contributed to propagate classical learning.[153] The monks of these foundations exercised themselves in copying manuscripts; the arts of calligraphy, and, not long afterwards, of illumination, became their pride; a more cursive handwriting and a more convenient system of abbreviations were introduced; and thus from the twelfth century we find a great increase of manuscripts, though transcribed mechanically, as a monastic duty, and often with much incorrectness. The abbey of Clugni had a rich library of Greek and Latin authors. But few monasteries of the Benedictine rule were destitute of one; it was their pride to collect, and their business to transcribe, books.[154] These were, in a vast proportion, such as we do not highly value at the present day; yet almost all we do possess of Latin classical literature, with the exception of a small number of more ancient manuscripts, is owing to the industry of these monks. In that age, there was perhaps less zeal for literature in Italy, and less practice in copying, than in France.[155] This shifting of intellectual exertion from one country to another is not peculiar to the middle ages; but, in regard to them, it has not always been heeded by those who, using the trivial metaphor of light and darkness, which it is not easy to avoid, have too much considered Europe as a single point under a receding or advancing illumination.

[153] Fleury. Hist. Litt. de la France, ix. 113.

[154] Ibid. ix. 139.

[155] Heeren, p. 197.

John of Salisbury. 83. France and England were the only countries where any revival of classical taste was perceived. In Germany no sensible improvement in philological literature can be [Pg 37] traced, according to Eichhorn and Heeren, before the invention of printing, though I think this must be understood with exceptions; and that Otho of Frisingen, Saxo Grammaticus, and Gunther, author of the poem entitled Ligurinus (who belongs to the first years of the thirteenth century), might stand on equal terms with any of their contemporaries. But, in the schools which are supposed to have borrowed light from Lanfranc and Anselm, a more keen perception of the beauties of the Latin language, as well as an exacter knowledge of its idiom, was imparted. John of Salisbury, himself one of their most conspicuous ornaments, praises the method of instruction pursued by Bernard of Chartres about the end of the eleventh century, who seems indeed to have exercised his pupils vigorously in the rules of grammar and rhetoric. After the first grammatical instruction out of Donatus and Priscian, they were led forward to the poets, orators, and historians of Rome; the precepts of Cicero and Quintilian were studied, and sometimes observed with affectation.[156] An admiration of the great classical writers, an excessive love of philology, and disdain of the studies that drew men from it, shine out in the two curious treatises of John of Salisbury. He is perpetually citing the poets, especially Horace, and had read most of Cicero. Such at least is the opinion of Heeren, who bestows also a good deal of praise upon his Latinity.[157] Eichhorn places him at the head of all his contemporaries. But no one has admired his style so much as Meiners, who declares that he has no equal in the writers of the third, fourth, or fifth centuries, except Lactantius and Jerome.[158] In this I cannot but think there is some exaggeration; the style of John of Salisbury, far from being equal to that of Augustin, Eutropius, and a few more of those early ages, does not appear to me by any means elegant; sometimes he falls upon a good expression, but the general tone is not very classical. The reader may judge from the passage in the note.[159]

[156] Hist. Litt. de la France, vii. 16.

[157] P. 203. Hist. Litt. de la France, ix. 47. Peter of Blois also possessed a very respectable stock of classical literature.

[158] Vergleichung der Sitten, ii. 586. He says nearly as much of Saxo Grammaticus and William of Malmsbury. If my recollection of the former does not deceive me, he is a better writer than our monk of Malmsbury.

[159] One of the most interesting passages in John of Salisbury is that above cited, in which he gives an account of the method of instruction pursued by Bernard of Chartres, whom he calls exundantissimus modernis temporibus fons literarum in Gallia. John himself was taught by some who trod in the steps of this eminent preceptor. Ad hujus magistri formam præceptores mei in grammatica, Gulielmus de Conchis, et Richardus cognomento Episcopus, officio nunc archidiaconus Constantiensis, vita et conversatione vir bonus, suos discipulos aliquando informaverunt. Sed postmodum ex quo opinio veritati præjudicium fecit, et homines videri quam esse philosophi maluerunt, professoresque artium se totam philosophiam brevius quam triennio aut quadriennio transfusuros auditoribus pollicebantur, impetu multitudinis imperitæ victi cesserunt. Exinde autem minus temporis et diligentiæ in grammaticæ studio impensum est. Ex quo contigit ut qui omnes artes, tam liberales quam mechanicas profitentur, nec primam noverint, sine qua frustra quis progredietur ad reliquas. Licet autem et aliæ disciplinæ ad literaturam proficiant, hæc tamen privilegio singulari facere dicitur literatum. Metalog., lib. i. c. 24.

Improvement of classical taste in twelfth century. 84. It is generally acknowledged that in the twelfth century we find several writers, Abelard, Eloisa, Bernard of Clairvaux, Saxo Grammaticus, William of Malmsbury, Peter of Blois, whose style, though never correct, which, in the absence of all better dictionaries than that of Papias, was impossible, and sometimes affected, sometimes too florid and diffuse, is not wholly destitute of spirit, and even of elegance;[160] the Latin poetry, instead of Leonine rhymes, or attempts at regular hexameters almost equally bad, becomes, in the hands of Gunther, Gualterus de Insulis, Gulielmus Brito, and Joseph Iscanus, to whom a considerable number of names might be added, always tolerable, sometimes truly spirited;[161] and amidst all that still demands the most liberal indulgence, we cannot but perceive the real progress of classical knowledge, and the development of a finer taste in Europe.[162]

[160] Hist. Litt. de la France, ix. 146. The Benedictines are scarcely fair towards Abelard (xii. 147), whose style, as far as I have seen, which is not much, seems equal to that of his contemporaries.

[161] Warton has done some justice to the Anglo Latin poets of this century, who have lately been published at Paris. The Trojan War and Antiocheis of Joseph Iscanus, he calls a miracle in this age of classical composition. The style, he says, is a mixture of Ovid, Statius, and Claudian. Vol. i. p. 163. The extracts Warton gives seem to me a close imitation of the second. The Philippis of William Brito must be of the thirteenth century, and Warton refers the Ligurinus of Gunther to 1206.

[162] Hist. Litt. de la France, vol. ix. Eichhorn, Allg. Gesch. der Cultur, ii. 30, 62. Heeren. Meiners.

[Pg 38]

Influence of increased number of clergy. 85. The vast increase of religious houses in the twelfth century rendered necessary more attention to the rudiments of literature.[163] Every monk, as well as every secular priest, required a certain portion of Latin. In the ruder and darker ages many illiterate persons had been ordained; there were even kingdoms, as, for example, England, where this is said to have been almost general. But the canons of the church demanded of course such a degree of instruction as the continual use of a dead language made indispensable; and in this first dawn of learning there can be, I presume, no doubt that none received the higher orders, or became professed in a monastery, for which the order of priesthood was necessary, without some degree of grammatical knowledge. Hence this kind of education in the rudiments of the Latin was imparted to a greater number of individuals than at present.

[163] Hist. Litt. de la France, ix. 11.

Decline of classical literature in thirteenth century. 86. The German writers to whom we principally refer, have expatiated upon the decline of literature after the middle of the twelfth century, unexpectedly disappointing the bright promise of that age, so that for almost two hundred years we find Europe fallen back in learning where we might have expected her progress.[164] This, however, is hardly true, in the most limited sense, of the latter part of the twelfth century, when that purity of classical taste, which Eichhorn and others seem chiefly to have had in their minds, was displayed in better Latin poetry than had been written before. In a general view, the thirteenth century was an age of activity and ardour, though not in every respect the best directed. The fertility of the modern languages in versification, the creation, we may almost say, of Italian and English in this period, the great concourse of students to the universities, the acute, and sometimes profound, reasonings of the scholastic philosophy, which was now in its most palmy state, the accumulation of knowledge, whether derived from original research, or from Arabian sources of information, which we find in the geometers, the physicians, the natural philosophers of Europe, are sufficient to repel the charge of having fallen back, or even remained altogether stationary, in comparison with the preceding century. But in politeness of Latin style, it is admitted that we find an astonishing and permanent decline both in France and England. Such complaints are usual in the most progressive times; and we might not rely on John of Salisbury when he laments the decline of taste in his own age.[165] But in fact it would have been rather singular, if a classical purity had kept its ground. A stronger party, and one hostile to polite letters, as well as ignorant of them,—that of the theologians and dialecticians,—carried with it the popular voice in the church and the universities. The time allotted by these to philological literature was curtailed, that the professors of logic and philosophy might detain their pupils longer. Grammar continued to be taught in the university of Paris; but rhetoric, another part of the trivium, was given up; by which it is to be understood, as I conceive, that no classical authors were read, or, if at all, for the sole purpose of verbal explanation.[166] The thirteenth century, says Heeren, was one of the most unfruitful for the study of ancient literature.[167] He does not seem to except Italy, though there, as we shall soon see, the remark is hardly just. But in Germany the tenth century, Leibnitz declares, was a golden age of learning, compared with the thirteenth;[168] and France itself is but a barren waste in this period. The relaxation of manners among the monastic orders, which, generally speaking, is the increasing theme of complaint from the eleventh century, and the swarms of worse vermin, the Mendicant Friars, who filled Europe with stupid superstition, are assigned by Meiners and Heeren as the leading causes of the return of ignorance.[169]

[164] Meiners, ii. 605. Heeren, p. 228. Eichhorn, Allg. Gesch. der Litteratur, ii. 63-118.

The running title of Eichhorn’s section, Die Wissenschaften verfallen in Barbarey, seems much too generally expressed.

[165] Metalogicus, l. i. c. 24. This passage has been frequently quoted. He was very inimical to the dialecticians, as philologers generally are.

[166] Crevier, ii. 376.

[167] P. 237.

[168] Introductio in Script. Brunwic., § lxiii., apud Heeren, et Meiners, ii. 631. No one has dwelt more fully than this last writer on the decline of literature in the thirteenth century, out of his cordial antipathy to the schoolmen. P. 589, et post.

Wood, who has no prejudices against popery, ascribes the low state of learning in England under Edward III. and Richard II. to the misconduct of the mendicant friars, and to the papal provisions that impoverished the church.

[169] Meiners, ii. 615. Heeren, 235.

Relapse into barbarism. 87. The writers of the thirteenth century display an incredible ignorance, not only of pure idiom, but of the common grammatical [Pg 39] rules. Those who attempted to write verse have lost all prosody, and relapse into Leonine rhymes and barbarous acrostics. The historians use a hybrid jargon intermixed with modern words. The scholastic philosophers wholly neglected their style, and thought it no wrong to enrich the Latin, as in some degree a living language, with terms that seemed to express their meaning. In the writings of Albertus Magnus, of whom Fleury says that he can see nothing great in him but his volumes, the grossest errors of syntax frequently occur, and vie with his ignorance of history and science. Through the sinister example of this man, according to Meiners, the notion that Latin should be written with regard to ancient models, was lost in the universities for three hundred years; an evil, however, slight in comparison with what he inflicted on Europe by the credit he gave to astrology, alchemy, and magic.[170] Duns Scotus and his disciples, in the next century, carried this much farther, and introduced a most barbarous and unintelligible terminology, by which the school metaphysics were rendered ridiculous in the revival of literature.[171] Even the jurists, who more required an accurate knowledge of the language, were hardly less barbarous. Roger Bacon, who is not a good writer, stands at the head in this century.[172] Fortunately, as has been said, the transcribing ancient authors had become a mechanical habit in some monasteries. But it was done in an ignorant and slovenly manner. The manuscripts of these latter ages, before the invention of printing, are by far the most numerous, but they are also the most incorrect, and generally of little value in the eyes of critics.[173]

[170] Meiners, ii. 692. Fleury, 5me discours, in Hist. Eccles., xvii. 44. Buhle, i. 702.

[171] Meiners, ii. 721.

[172] Heeren, p. 245.

[173] Id. p. 304.

No improvement in fourteenth century. Richard of Bury. 88. The fourteenth century was not in the slightest degree superior to the preceding age. France, England, and Germany were wholly destitute of good Latin scholars in this period. The age of Petrarch and Boccaccio, the age before the close of which classical learning truly revived in Italy, gave no sign whatever of animation throughout the rest of Europe; the genius it produced, and in this it was not wholly deficient, displayed itself in other walks of literature.[174] We may justly praise Richard of Bury for his zeal in collecting books, and still more for his munificence in giving his library to the university of Oxford, with special injunctions that they should be lent to scholars. But his erudition appears crude and uncritical, his style indifferent, and his thoughts superficial.[175] Yet I am not aware that he had any equal in England during this century.

[174] Heeren, p. 300. Andrès, iii. 10.

[175] The Philobiblon of Richard Aungerville, often called Richard of Bury, Chancellor of Edward III., is worthy of being read, as containing some curious illustrations of the state of literature. He quotes a wretched poem de Vetula as Ovid’s, and shows little learning, though he had a great esteem for it. See a note of Warton, History of English Poetry, i. 146, on Aungerville.

Library formed by Charles V. at Paris. 89. The patronage of letters, or collection of books, are not reckoned among the glories of Edward III.; though, if any respect had been attached to learning in his age and country, they might well have suited his magnificent disposition. His adversaries, John, and especially Charles V., of France, have more claims upon the remembrance of a literary historian. Several Latin authors were translated into French by their directions;[176] and Charles, who himself was not ignorant of Latin, began to form the Royal Library of the Louvre. We may judge from this of the condition of literature in his time. The number of volumes was about 900. Many of these, especially the missals and psalters, were richly bound and illuminated. Books of devotion formed the larger portion of the library. The profane authors, except some relating to French history, were in general of little value in our sight. Very few classical works are in the list, and no poets except Ovid and Lucan.[177] This library came, during the subsequent English wars, into the possession of the duke of Bedford; and Charles VII. laid the foundations of that which still exists.[178]

[176] Crevier, ii. 424. Warton has amassed a great deal of information, not always very accurate, upon the subject of early French translations. These form a considerable portion of the literature of that country in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Hist. of English Poetry, ii. 414-430. See also de Sade, Vie de Pétrarque, iii. 548; and Crevier, Hist. de l’Univ. de Paris, ii. 424.

[177] Warton adds Cicero to the classical list; and I am sorry to say that, in my History of the Middle Ages, I have been led wrong by him. Bouvin, his only authority, expressly says, pas un seuil manuscrit de Ciceron. Mém. de l’Acad. des Inscrip., ii. 693.

[178] Id. 701.

Some improvement in Italy during thirteenth century. 90. This retrograde condition, however, of classical literature, was only perceptible in Cisalpine Europe. By one of those [Pg 40] shiftings of literary illumination to which we have alluded, Italy, far lower in classical taste than France in the twelfth century, deserved a higher place in the next. Tiraboschi says that the progress in polite letters was slow, but still that some was made; more good books were transcribed, there were more readers, and of these some took on them to imitate what they read; so that gradually the darkness which overspread the land began to be dispersed. Thus we find that those who wrote at the end of the thirteenth century were less rude in style than their predecessors at its commencement.[179] A more elaborate account of the state of learning in the thirteenth century will be found in the life of Ambrogio Traversari, by Mehus; and several names are there mentioned, among whom that of Brunetto Latini is the most celebrated. Latini translated some of the rhetorical treatises of Cicero.[180] |Catholicon of Balbi.| And we may perhaps consider as a witness to some degree of progressive learning in Italy at this time, the Catholicon of John Balbi, a Genoese monk, more frequently styled Januensis. This book is chiefly now heard of, because the first edition, printed by Gutenberg in 1460, is a book of uncommon rarity and price. It is, however, deserving of some notice in the annals of literature. It consists of a Latin grammar, followed by a dictionary, both perhaps superior to what we should expect from the general character of the times. They are at least copious; the Catholicon is a volume of great bulk. Balbi quotes abundantly from the Latin classics, and appears not wholly unacquainted with Greek; though I must own that Tiraboschi and Eichhorn have thought otherwise. The Catholicon, as far as I can judge from a slight inspection of it, deserves rather more credit than it has in modern times obtained. In the grammar, besides a familiarity with the terminology of the old grammarians, he will be found to have stated some questions as to the proper use of words, with dubitari solet, multum quæritur; which, though they are superficial enough, indicate that a certain attention was beginning to be paid to correctness in writing. From the great size of the Catholicon, its circulation must have been very limited.[181]

[179] iv. 420. The Latin versifiers of the thirteenth century were numerous, but generally very indifferent. Id. 378.

[180] Mehus, p. 157. Tiraboschi, p. 418.

[181] Libellum hunc (says Balbi at the conclusion) ad honorem Dei et gloriosæ Virginis Mariæ, et beati Domini patris nostri et omnium sanctorum electorum, necnon ad utilitatem meam et ecclesiæ sanctæ Dei, ex diversis majorum meorum dictis multo labore et diligenti studio compilavi. Operis quippe ac studii mei est et fuit multos libros legere et ex plurimis diversos carpere flores.

Eichhorn speaks severely, and, I am disposed to think, unjustly, of the Catholicon, as without order and plan, or any knowledge of Greek, as the author himself confesses (Gesch. der Litteratur, ii. 238). The order and plan are alphabetical, as usual in a dictionary; and though Balbi does not lay claim to much Greek, I do not think he professes entire ignorance of it. Hoc difficile est scire et minimè mihi non bene scienti linguam Græcam:—apud Gradenigo, Litteratura Greco-Italianna, p. 104. I have observed that Balbi calls himself philocalus, which indeed is no evidence of much Greek erudition.

Imperfection of early dictionaries. 91. In the dictionary however of John of Genoa, as in those of Papias and the other glossarists, we find little distinction made between the different gradations of Latinity. The Latin tongue was to them, except so far as the ancient grammarians whom they copied might indicate some to be obsolete, a single body of words; and, ecclesiastics as they were, they could not understand that Ambrose and Hilary were to be proscribed in the vocabulary of a language which was chiefly learned for the sake of reading their works. Nor had they the means of pronouncing, what it has cost the labour of succeeding centuries to do, that there is no adequate classical authority for innumerable words and idioms in common use. Their knowledge of syntax also was very limited. The prejudice of the church against profane authors had by no means wholly worn away: much less had they an exclusive possession of the grammar-schools, most of the books taught in which were modern. Papias, Uguccio, and other indifferent lexicographers, were of much authority.[182] The general ignorance in Italy was still very great. In the middle of the fourteenth century we read of a man, supposed to be learned, who took Plato and Cicero for poets, and thought Ennius a contemporary of Statius.[183]

[182] Mehus. Muratori, Dissert. 44.

[183] Mehus, p. 211. Tiraboschi, v. 82.

Restoration of letters due to Petrarch. 92. The first real restorer of polite letters was Petrarch. His fine taste taught him to relish the beauties of Virgil and Cicero, and his ardent praises of them inspired his compatriots with a desire for classical knowledge. A generous disposition to encourage letters began to show itself among the Italian princes. Robert, king of Naples, in the early part of this century, one of the [Pg 41] first patrons of Petrarch, and several of the great families of Lombardy, gave this proof of the humanising effects of peace and prosperity.[184] It has been thought by some, that but for his appearance and influence at that period, the manuscripts themselves would have perished, as several had done in no long time before; so forgotten and abandoned to dust and vermin were those precious records in the dungeons of monasteries.[185] He was the first who brought in that almost deification of the great ancient writers, which, though carried in following ages to an absurd extent, was the animating sentiment of solitary study; that through which its fatigues were patiently endured, and its obstacles surmounted. Petrarch tells us himself, that while his comrades at school were reading Æsop’s Fables, or a book of one Prosper, a writer of the fifth century, his time was given to the study of Cicero, which delighted his ear long before he could understand the sense.[186] |Character of his style.| It was much at his heart to acquire a good style in Latin. And, relatively to his predecessors of the mediæval period, we may say that he was successful. Passages full of elegance and feeling, in which we are at least not much offended by incorrectness of style, are frequent in his writings. But the fastidious scholars of later times contemned these imperfect endeavours at purity. He wants, says Erasmus, full acquaintance with the language, and his whole diction shows the rudeness of the preceding age.[187] An Italian writer, somewhat earlier, speaks still more unfavourably. His style is harsh, and scarcely bears the character of Latinity. His writings are indeed full of thought, but defective in expression, and display the marks of labour without the polish of elegance.[188] I incline to agree with Meiners in rating the style of Petrarch somewhat more highly.[189] Of Boccace the writer above quoted gives even a worse character. Licentious and inaccurate in his diction, he has no idea of selection. All his Latin writings are hasty, crude, and unformed. He labours with thought, and struggles to give it utterance; but his sentiments find no adequate vehicle, and the lustre of his native talents is obscured by the depraved taste of the times. Yet his own mother tongue owes its earliest model of grace and refinement to his pen.

[184] Tiraboschi, v. 20, et post. Ten universities were founded in Italy during the fourteenth century, some of which did not last long. Rome and Fermo in 1303; Perugia in 1307; Treviso about 1320; Pisa in 1339; Pavia not long after; Florence in 1348; Siena in 1357; Lucca in 1369, and Ferrara in 1391.

[185] Heeren, 270.

[186] Et illa quidem ætate nihil intelligere poteram, sola me verborum dulcedo quædam et sonoritas detinebat ut quicquid aliud vel legerem vel audirem, raucum mihi dissonumque videretur. Epist. Seniles, lib. xv., apud de Sade, i. 36.

[187] Ciceronianus.

[188] Paulus Cortesius de hominibus doctis. I take the translations from Roscoe’s Lorenzo de’ Medici, c. vii.

[189] Vergleichung der Sitten, iii. 126. Meiners has expatiated for fifty pages, pp. 94-147, on the merits of Petrarch in the restoration of classical literature; he seems unable to leave the subject. Heeren, though less diffuse, is not less panegyrical. De Sade’s three quartos are certainly a little tedious.

His Latin poetry. 93. Petrarch was more proud of his Latin poem called Africa, the subject of which is the termination of the second Punic war, than of the sonnets and odes, which have made his name immortal, though they were not the chief sources of his immediate renown. It is indeed written with elaborate elegance, and perhaps superior to any preceding specimen of Latin versification in the middle ages, unless we should think Joseph Iscanus his equal. But it is more to be praised for taste than correctness; and though in the Basle edition of 1554, which I have used, the printer has been excessively negligent, there can be no doubt that the Latin poetry of Petrarch abounds with faults of metre. His eclogues, many of which are covert satires on the court of Avignon, appear to me more poetical than the Africa, and are sometimes very beautifully expressed. The eclogues of Boccaccio, though by no means indifferent, do not equal those of Petrarch.

John of Ravenna. 94. Mehus, whom Tiraboschi avowedly copies, has diligently collected the names, though little more than the names, of Latin teachers at Florence in the fourteenth century.[190] But among the earlier of these there was no good method of instruction, no elegance of language. The first who revealed the mysteries of a pure and graceful style, was John Malpaghino, commonly called John of Ravenna, one whom in his youth Petrarch had loved as a son, and who not very long before the end of the century taught Latin at Padua and Florence.[191] The best scholars of the ensuing [Pg 42] age were his disciples, and among them was Gasparin of Barziza, |Gasparin of Barziza.| or, as generally called of Bergamo, justly characterised by Eichhorn as the father of a pure and elegant Latinity.[192] The distinction between the genuine Latin language and that of the lower empire was from this generally recognised; and the writers who had been regarded as standards were thrown away with contempt. This is the proper æra of the revival of letters, and nearly coincides with the beginning of the fifteenth century.

[190] Vita Traversari, p. 348.

[191] A life of John Malpaghino of Ravenna is the first in Meiner’s Lebensbeschreibungen berühmter männer, 3 vols., Zurich, 1795, but it is wholly taken from Petrarch’s Letters, and from Mehus’s Life of Traversari, p. 348. See also Tiraboschi, v. 554.

[192] Geschichte der Litteratur, ii. 241.

95. A few subjects, affording less extensive observation, we have postponed to the next chapter, which will contain the literature of Europe in the first part of the fifteenth century. Notwithstanding our wish to preserve in general a strict regard to chronology, it has been impossible to avoid some interruptions of it without introducing a multiplicity of transitions incompatible with any comprehensive views; and which, even as it must inevitably exist in a work of this nature, is likely to diminish the pleasure, and perhaps the advantage, that the reader might derive from it.



Cultivation of Latin in Italy—Revival of Greek Literature—Vestiges of it during the Middle Ages—It is taught by Chrysoloras—his Disciples—and by learned Greeks—State of Classical Learning in other Parts of Europe—Physical Sciences—Mathematics—Medicine and Anatomy—Poetry in Spain, France, and England—Formation of New Laws of Taste in Middle Ages—Their Principles—Romances—Religious Opinions.

Zeal for classical literature in Italy.

1. Ginguéné has well observed, that the fourteenth century left Italy in the possession of the writings of three great masters, of a language formed and polished by them, and of a strong relish for classical learning. But this soon became the absorbing passion, fortunately, no doubt, in the result, as the same author has elsewhere said, since all the exertions of an age were required to explore the rich mine of antiquity, and fix the standard of taste and purity for succeeding generations. The ardour for classical studies grew stronger every day. To write Latin correctly, to understand the allusions of the best authors, to learn the rudiments at least of Greek, were the objects of every cultivated mind.

Poggio Bracciolini. 2. The first half of the fifteenth century, has been sometimes called the age of Poggio Bracciolini, which it expresses not very inaccurately as to his literary life, since he was born in 1381, and died in 1459; but it seems to involve too high a compliment. The chief merit of Poggio was his diligence, aided by good fortune, in recovering lost works of Roman literature, that lay mouldering in the repositories of convents. Hence we owe to this one man eight orations of Cicero, a complete Quintilian, Columella, part of Lucretius, three books of Valerius Flaccus, Silius Italicus, Ammianus Marcellinus, Tertullian, and several less important writers: twelve comedies of Plautus were also recovered in Germany through his directions.[193] Poggio besides this was undoubtedly a man of considerable learning for his time, and still greater sense and spirit as a writer, though he never reached a very correct or elegant style.[194] And this applies to all those who [Pg 43] wrote before the year 1440, with the single exception of Gasparin; to Coluccio Salutato, Guarino of Verona, and even Leonard Aretin.[195] |Latin style of that age indifferent.| Nor is this any disparagement to their abilities and industry. They had neither grammars nor dictionaries, in which the purest Latinity was distinguishable from the worst; they had to unlearn a barbarous jargon, made up with scraps of the Vulgate, and of ecclesiastical writers, which pervades the Latin of the middle ages; they had great difficulty in resorting to purer models, from the scarcity and high price of manuscripts, as well as from their general incorrectness, which it required much attention to set right. Gasparin of Barziza took the right course, by incessantly turning over the pages of Cicero; and thus by long habit gained an instinctive sense of propriety in the use of language, which no secondary means at that time could have given him.

[193] Shepherd’s Life of Poggio. Tiraboschi. Corniani. Roscoe’s Lorenzo, ch. i. Fabricius, in his Bibliotheca Latina mediæ et infimæ ætatis, gives a list not quite the same; but Poggio’s own authority must be the best. The work first above quoted is for the literary history of Italy in the earlier half of the fifteenth century, what Roscoe’s Lorenzo is for the latter. Ginguéné has not added much to what these English authors and Tiraboschi had furnished.

[194] Mr. Shepherd has judged Poggio a little favourably, as became a biographer, but with sense and discrimination. His Italian translator, the Avvocato Tonelli (Firenze, 1825), goes much beyond the mark in extolling Poggio above all his contemporaries, and praising his vastissima erudizione in the strain of hyperbole too familiar to Italians. This vast learning, even for that time, Poggio did not possess; we have no reason to believe him equal to Guarino, Filelfo, or Traversari, much less to Valla. Erasmus, however, was led by his partiality to Valla into some injustice towards Poggio, whom he calls rabula adeo indoctus, ut etiamsi vacaret obscœnitate, tamen indignus esset qui legeretur, adeo autem obscœnus ut etiamsi doctissimus esset, tamen esset a viris bonis rejiciendus. Epist. ciii. This is said too hastily; but in his Ciceronianus, where we have his deliberate judgment, he appreciates Poggio more exactly. After one of the interlocutors has called him, vividæ cujusdam eloquentiæ virum, the other replies:—Naturæ satis erat, artis et eruditionis non multum; interim impuro sermonis fluxu, si Laurentio Vallæ credimus. Bebel, a German of some learning, rather older than Erasmus, in a letter quoted by Blount (Censura Auctorum, in Poggio), praises Poggio very highly for his style, and prefers him to Valla. Paulus Cortesius seems not much to differ from Erasmus about Poggio, though he is more severe on Valla.

It should be added, that Tonelli’s notes on the life of Poggio are useful; among other things he points out that Poggio did not learn Greek of Emanuel Chrysoloras, as all writers on this part of literary history had hitherto supposed, but about 1423, when he was turned of forty.

[195] Coluccio Salutato belongs to the fourteenth century, and was deemed one of its greatest ornaments in learning. Ma a dir vero, says Tiraboschi, who admits his extensive erudition, relatively to his age, benche lo stil di Coluccio abbia non rare volte energia e forza maggiore che quello della maggior parti degli altri scrittori di questi tempi, è certo però, che tanto è diverso da quello di Cicerone nella prosa, e ne’ versi da quel di Virgilio, quanto appunto è diversa una scimia da un uomo, v. 537.

Cortesius, in the dialogue quoted above, says of Leonard Aretin:—Hic primus inconditam scribendi consuetudinem ad numerosum quendam sonum inflexit, et attulit hominibus nostris aliquid certe splendidius.... Et ego video hunc nondum satis esse limatum, nec delicatiori fastidio tolerabilem. Atqui dialogi Joannis Ravennatis vix semel leguntur, et Coluccii Epistolæ, quæ tum in honore erant, non apparent; sed Boccacii Genealogiam legimus, utilem illam quidem, sed non tamen cum Petrarchæ ingenio conferendam. At non videtis quantum his omnibus desit? p. 12. Of Guarino he says afterwards:—Genus tamen dicendi inconcinnum admodum est et salebrosum; utitur plerumque imprudens verbis poeticis, quod est maxime vitiosum; sed magis est in eo succus, quam color laudandus. Memoria teneo, quendam familiarem meum solitum dicere, melius Guarinum famæ suæ consuluisse, si nihil unquam scripsisset, p. 14.

Gasparin of Barziza. 3. This writer, often called Gasparin of Bergamo, his own birthplace being in the neighbourhood of that city, was born about 1370, and began to teach before the close of the century. He was transferred to Padua by the Senate of Venice, in 1407; and in 1410 accepted the invitation of Filippo Maria Visconti to Milan, where he remained till his death, in 1431. Gasparin had here the good fortune to find Cicero de Oratore, and to restore Quintilian by the help of the manuscript brought from St. Gall by Poggio, and another found in Italy by Leonard Aretin. His fame as a writer was acquired at Padua, and founded on his diligent study of Cicero.

Merits of his style. 4. It is impossible to read a page of Gasparin without perceiving that he is quite of another order of scholars from his predecessors. He is truly Ciceronian in his turn of phrases and structure of sentences, which never end awkwardly, or with a wrong arrangement of words, as is habitual with his contemporaries. Inexact expressions may of course be found, but they do not seem gross or numerous. Among his works are several orations which probably were actually delivered: they are the earliest models of that classical declamation which became so usual afterwards, and are elegant, if not very forcible. His Epistolæ ad Exercitationem accommodatæ was the first book printed at Paris. It contains a series of exercises for his pupils, probably for the sake of double translation, and merely designed to exemplify Latin idioms.[196]

[196] Morhof, who says, primus in Italia aliquid balbutire cœpit Gasparinus, had probably never seen his writings, which are a great deal better, in point of language, than his own. Cortesius, however, blames Gasparin for too elaborate a style; nimia cura attenuabat orationem.

He once uses a Greek word in his letters; what he knew of the language does not otherwise appear; but he might have heard Guarino at Venice. He had not seen Pliny’s Natural History, nor did he possess a Livy, but was in treaty for one. Epist. p. 200, A.D. 1415.

Victorin of Feltre. [Pg 44] 5. If Gasparin was the best writer of this generation, the most accomplished instructor was Victorin of Feltre, to whom the marquis of Mantua entrusted the education of his own children. Many of the Italian nobility, and some distinguished scholars were brought up under the care of Victorin in that city; and, in a very corrupt age, he was still more zealous for their moral than their literary improvement. A pleasing account of his method of discipline will be found in Tiraboschi, or more fully in Corniani, from a life written by one of Victorin’s pupils, named Prendilacqua.[197] It could hardly be believed, says Tiraboschi, that in an age of such rude manners, a model of such perfect education could be found: if all to whom the care of youth is entrusted would make it theirs, what ample and rich fruits they would derive from their labours. The learning of Victorin was extensive; he possessed a moderate library, and rigidly demanding a minute exactness from his pupils in their interpretation of ancient authors, as well as in their own compositions, laid the foundations of a propriety in style, which the next age was to display. Traversari visited the school of Victorin, for whom he entertained a great regard, in 1433; it had then been for some years established.[198] No writings of Victorin have been preserved.

[197] Tiraboschi, vii. 306. Corniani, ii. 53. Heeren, p. 235. He is also mentioned, with much praise for his mode of education, by his friend Ambrogio Traversari, a passage from whose Hodopæricon will be found in Heeren, p. 237. Victorin died in 1447, and was buried at the public expense, his liberality in giving gratuitous instruction to the poor having left him so.

[198] Mehus, p. 421.

Leonard Aretin. 6. Among the writers of these forty years, after Gasparin of Bergamo, we may probably assign the highest place in politeness of style to Leonardo Bruni, more commonly called Aretino, from his birthplace, Arezzo. He was the first, says Paulus Cortesius, who replaced the rude structure of periods by some degree of rhythm, and introduced our countrymen to something more brilliant than they had known before; though even he is not quite as polished as a fastidious delicacy would require. Aretin’s history of the Goths, which, though he is silent on the obligation, is chiefly translated from Procopius, passes for his best work. In the constellation of scholars who enjoyed the sunshine of favour in the palace of Cosmo de’ Medici, Leonard Aretin was one of the oldest and most prominent. He died at an advanced age in 1444, and is one of the six illustrious dead who repose in the church of Santa Croce.[199]

[199] Madame de Staël unfortunately confounded this respectable scholar, in her Corinne, with Pietro Aretino; I remember well that Ugo Foscolo could never contain his wrath against her for this mistake.

Revival of Greek language in Italy. 7. We come now to a very important event in literary history,—the resuscitation of the study of the Greek language in Italy. |Early Greek scholars of Europe.| During the whole course of the middle ages we find scattered instances of scholars in the west of Europe, who had acquired some knowledge of Greek; to what extent it is often a difficult question to determine. In the earlier and darker period, we begin with a remarkable circumstance, already mentioned, of our own ecclesiastical history. The infant Anglo-Saxon churches, desirous to give a national form to their hierarchy, solicited the Pope Vitalian to place an archbishop at their head. He made choice of Theodore, who not only brought to England a store of Greek manuscripts, but, through the means of his followers, imparted a knowledge of it to some of our countrymen. Bede half a century afterwards, tells us, of course very hyperbolically, that there were still surviving disciples of Theodore and Adrian, who understood the Greek and Latin languages as well as their own.[200] From these he derived, no doubt, [Pg 45] his own knowledge, which may not have been extensive; but we cannot expect more, in such very unfavourable circumstances, than a superficial progress in so difficult a study. It is probable that the lessons of Theodore’s disciples were not forgotten in the British and Irish monasteries. Alcuin has had credit, with no small likelihood, if not on positive authority, for an acquaintance with Greek;[201] and as he, and perhaps others from these islands, were active in aiding the efforts of Charlemagne for the restoration of letters, the slight tincture of Greek that we find in the schools founded by that emperor, may have been derived from their instruction. |Under Charlemagne and his successors.| It is, however, an equally probable hypothesis, that it was communicated by Greek teachers, whom it was easy to procure. Charlemagne himself, according to Eginhard, could read, though he could not speak, the Greek language. Thegan reports the very same, in nearly the same words, of Louis the Debonair.[202] The former certainly intended, that it should be taught in some of his schools;[203] and the Benedictines of St. Maur, in their long and laborious Histoire Littéraire de la France, have enumerated as many as seventeen persons within France, or at least the dominions of the Carlovingian house, to whom they ascribe, on the authority of contemporaries, a portion of this learning.[204] These were all educated in the schools of Charlemagne except the most eminent in the list, John Scotus Erigena, for whom Scotland and Ireland contend, the latter probably on the best grounds. It is not necessary by any means to suppose that he had acquired by travel the Greek tongue, which he possessed sufficiently to translate, though very indifferently, the works attributed in that age to Dionysius the Areopagite.[205] Most writers of the ninth century, according to the Benedictines, make use of some Greek words. It appears by a letter of the famous Hincmar, archbishop of Rheims, who censures his nephew Hincmar of Laon for doing this affectedly, that glossaries, from which they picked those exotic flowers, were already in use. Such a glossary in Greek and Latin, compiled, under Charles the Bald, for the use of the church of Laon, was, at the date of the publication of this Benedictine History, near the middle of the last century, in the library of St. Germain des Prés.[206] We may thus perceive the means of giving the air of more learning than was actually possessed; and are not to infer from these sprinklings of Greek in mediæval writings, whether in their proper characters, or latinised, which is rather more frequent, that the poets and profane, or even ecclesiastical, writers were accessible in a French or English monastery. Neither of the Hincmars seems to have understood it. Tiraboschi admits that he cannot assert any Italian writer of the ninth century to be acquainted with Greek.[207]

[200] Hist. Eccles. l. v. c. 2. Usque hodie supersunt ex eorum discipulis, qui Latinam Græcamque linguam æque ac propriam in qua nati sunt, norunt. Bede’s own knowledge of Greek is attested by his biographer Cuthbert: præter Latinam etiam Græcam comparaverat. He once, and possibly more often, uses a Greek word; but we must suspect his knowledge of it to have been trifling.

A manuscript in the British Museum (Cotton, Galba, i. 18,) is of some importance in relation to this, if it be truly referred to the eighth century. It contains the Lord’s prayer in Greek, written in Anglo-Saxon characters, and appears to have belonged to king Athelstan. Mr. Turner (Hist. of Angl.-Sax., vol. iii. p. 396) has taken notice of this manuscript, but without mentioning its antiquity. The manner in which the words are divided shows a perfect ignorance of Greek in the writer; but the Saxon is curious in another respect, as it proves the pronunciation of Greek in the eighth century to have been modern or Romaic, and not what we hold to be ancient.

[201] C’était un homme habile dans le Grec comme dans le Latin. Hist. Litt. de la Fr. iv. 8.

[202] The passages will be found in Eichhorn, Allg. Gesch. ii. 265 and 290. That concerning Charlemagne is quoted in many other books. Eginhard says in the same place, that Charles prayed in Latin as readily as in his own language; and Thegan, that Louis could speak Latin perfectly.

[203] Osnabrug has generally been named as the place, where Charlemagne peculiarly designed that Greek should be cultivated. It seems however, on considering the passage in the Capitularies usually quoted (Baluze, ii. 419) to have been only one out of many. Eichhorn thinks that the existence of a Greek school at Osnabrug is doubtful, but that there is more evidence in favour of Saltsburg and Ratisbon. Allg. Gesch. der Cultur, ii. 383. The words of the Capitulary are, Græcas et Latinas Scholas in perpetuum manere ordinavimus.

[204] Hist. Litt. de la France, vol. v. Launoy had commenced this enumeration in his excellent treatise on the schools of Charlemagne; but he has not carried it quite so far. See, too, Eichhorn, Allg. Gesch. ii. 420; and Gesch. der Litt. i. 824. Meiners thinks that Greek was better known in the ninth century, through Charlemagne’s exertions, than for five hundred years afterwards. ii. 367.

[205] Eichhorn, ii. 227. Brucker. Guizot.

[206] Hist. Litt. de la France, vol. iv. Duncange, præf. in Glossar. p. 40.

[207] iii. 206.

In the tenth and eleventh centuries. 8. The tenth century furnishes not quite so many proofs of Greek scholarship. It was, however, studied by some brethren in the abbey of St. Gall, a celebrated seat of learning for those times, and the library of which still bears witness, in its copious collection of manuscripts, to the early intercourse between the scholars of Ireland and those of the continent. Baldric, bishop of Utrecht,[208] Bruno of Cologne, and Gerbert, besides a few more whom the historians of St. Maur record, possessed a tolerable acquaintance with the Greek language. [Pg 46] They mention a fact that throws light on the means by which it might occasionally be learned. Some natives of that country, doubtless expatriated catholics, took refuge in the diocese of Toul, under the protection of the bishop, not long before 1000. They formed separate societies, performing divine service in their own language, and with their own rites.[209] It is probable, the Benedictines observe, that Humbert, afterwards a cardinal, acquired from them that knowledge of the language by which he distinguished himself in controversy with their countrymen.[210] This great schism of the church, which the Latins deeply felt, might induce some to study a language, from which alone they could derive authorities in disputation with these antagonists. But it had also the more unequivocal effect of drawing to the west some of those Greeks who maintained their communion with the church of Rome. The emigration of these in the diocese of Toul is not a single fact of the kind; and it is probably recorded from the remarkable circumstance of their living in community. We find from a passage in Heric, a prelate in the reign of Charles the Bald, that this had already begun; at the commencement, in fact, of the great schism.[211] Greek bishops and Greek monks are mentioned as settlers in France during the early part of the eleventh century. This was especially in Normandy, under the protection of Richard II., who died in 1028. Even monks from Mount Sinai came to Rouen to share in his liberality.[212] The Benedictines ascribe the preservation of some taste for the Greek and oriental tongues to these strangers. The list, however, of the learned in them is very short, considering the erudition of these fathers, and their disposition to make the most of all they met with. Greek books are mentioned in the few libraries of which we read in the eleventh century.[213]

[208] Baldric lived under Henry the Fowler; his biographer says:—Nullum fuit studiorum liberalium genus in omni Græca et Latina eloquentia quod ingenio sui vivacitatem aufugeret Launoy, p. 117. Hist 50.

[209] Vol. vi. p. 57.

[210] Vol. vii. p. 528.

[211] Ducange, præfat. in Glossar. p. 41.

[212] Hist. Litt. de la France, vii. 69, 124. et alibi. A Greek manuscript in the royal library at Paris, containing the liturgy, according to the Greek ritual, was written in 1022, by a monk named Helie, (they do not give the Latin name,) who seems to have lived in Normandy. If this stands for Elias, he was probably a Greek by birth.

[213] Id. p. 48.

In the twelfth. 9. The number of Greek scholars seems not much more considerable in the twelfth century, notwithstanding the general improvement of that age. The Benedictines reckon about ten names, among which we do not find that of St. Bernard.[214] They are inclined also to deny the pretensions of Abelard;[215] but, as that great man finds a very hostile tribunal in these fathers, we may pause about this, especially as they acknowledge Eloise to have understood both the Greek and Hebrew languages. She established a Greek mass for Whitsunday in the Paraclete convent, which was sung as late as the fifteenth century; and a Greek missal in Latin characters was still preserved there.[216] Heeren speaks more favourably of Abelard’s learning, who translated passages from Plato.[217] The pretensions of John of Salisbury are slighter; he seems proud of his Greek, but betrays gross ignorance in etymology.[218]

[214] Hist. Litt. de la France, pp. 94, 151. Macarius, abbot of St. Fleuri, is said to have compiled a Greek Lexicon, which has been several times printed under the name of Beatus Benedictus.

[215] Id. xii. 147.

[216] Id. xii. 642.

[217] P. 204. His Greek was no doubt rather scanty, and not sufficient to give him an insight into ancient philosophy; in fact, if his learning had been greater, he could only read such manuscripts as fell into his hands; and there were hardly any then in France.

[218] Ibid. John derives analytica from ανα and λεχις.

In the thirteenth. 10. The thirteenth century was a more inauspicious period for learning; yet here we can boast, not only of John Basing, archdeacon of St. Albans, who returned from Athens about 1240, laden, if we are bound to believe this literally, with Greek books, but of Roger Bacon and Robert Grostête, bishop of Lincoln. It is admitted that Bacon had some acquaintance with Greek; and it appears by a passage in Matthew Paris, that a Greek priest, who had obtained a benefice at St. Albans, gave such assistance to Grostête as enabled him to translate the testament of the twelve patriarchs into Latin.[219] This is a confirmation of what has [Pg 47] been suggested above, as the probable means by which a knowledge of that language, in the total deficiency of scholastic education, was occasionally imparted to persons of unusual zeal for learning. And it leads us to another reflection, that by a knowledge of Greek, when we find it asserted of a mediæval theologian like Grostête, we are not to understand an acquaintance with the great classical authors, who were latent in eastern monasteries, but the power of reading some petty treatise of the fathers, or, as in this instance, an apocryphal legend, or at best, perhaps, some of the later commentators on Aristotle. Grostête was a man of considerable merit, but has had his share of applause.

[219] Matt. Par. p. 520. See also Turner’s History of England, iv. 180. It is said in some books that Grostête made a translation of Suidas. But this is to be understood merely of a legendary story found in that writer’s Lexicon. Pegge’s Life of Grostête, p. 291. The entire work he certainly could not have translated, nor is it at all credible that he had a copy of it. With respect to the doubt I have hinted in the text as to the great number of manuscripts said to be brought to England by John Basing, it is founded on their subsequent disappearance. We find very few, if any, Greek manuscripts in England at the end of the fifteenth century.

Michael Scot, the wizard of dreaded fame, pretended to translate Aristotle; but is charged with having appropriated the labours of one Andrew, a Jew, as his own. Meiners, ii. 664.

Little appearance of it in the fourteenth century. 11. The titles of mediæval works are not unfrequently taken from the Greek language, as the Polycraticus and Metalogicus of John of Salisbury, or the Philobiblon of Richard Aungerville of Bury. In this little volume, written about 1343, I have counted five instances of single Greek words. And, what is more important, Aungerville declares that he had caused Greek and Hebrew grammars to be drawn up for students.[220] But we have no other record of such grammars. It would be natural to infer from this passage, that some persons, either in France or England, were occupied in the study of the Greek language. And yet we find nothing to corroborate this presumption; all ancient learning was neglected in the fourteenth century; nor do I know that one man on this side of the Alps, except Aungerville himself, is reputed to have been versed in Greek during that period. I cannot speak positively as to Berchœur, the most learned man in France. The council of Vienne, indeed, in 1311, had ordered the establishment of professors in the Greek, Hebrew, Chaldaic, and Arabic languages, at Avignon, and in the universities of Paris, Oxford, Bologna, and Salamanca. But this decree remained a dead letter.

[220] C. x.

Some traces of Greek in Italy. 12. If we now turn to Italy, we shall find, as is not wonderful, rather more frequent instances of acquaintance with a living language, in common use with a great neighbouring people. Gradenigo, in an essay on this subject,[221] has endeavoured to refute what he supposes to be the universal opinion, that the Greek tongue was first taught in Italy by Chrysoloras and Guarino at the end of the fourteenth century, contending that, from the eleventh inclusive, there are numerous instances of persons conversant with it; besides the evidence afforded by inscriptions in Greek characters found in some churches, by the use of Greek psalters and other liturgical offices, by the employment of Greek painters in churches, and by the frequent intercourse between the two countries. The latter presumptions have in fact considerable weight; and those who should contend for an absolute ignorance of the Greek language, oral as well as written, in Italy, would go too far. The particular instances brought forward by Gradenigo are about thirty. Of these, the first is Papias, who has quoted five lines of Hesiod.[222] Lanfranc had also a considerable acquaintance with the language.[223] Peter Lombard, in his Liber Sententiarum, the systematic basis of scholastic theology, introduces many Greek words, and explains them rightly.[224] But this list is not very long; and when we find the surname Bifarius given to one Ambrose of Bergamo in the eleventh century, on account of his capacity of speaking both languages, it may be conceived that the accomplishment was somewhat rare. Mehus, in his very learned life of Traversari, has mentioned two or three names, among whom is the Emperor Frederic II. (not indeed strictly an Italian), that do not appear in Gradenigo.[225] But Tiraboschi conceives, on the other hand, that the latter has inserted some on insufficient grounds. Christine of Pisa is mentioned, I think, by neither; she was the daughter of an Italian astronomer, but lived at the court of Charles V. of France, and was the most accomplished literary lady of that age.[226]

[221] Ragionamento istorico-critico opra la litteratura Greco-Italiana. Brescia, 1759.

[222] P. 37. These are very corruptly given, through the fault of a transcriber; for Papias has translated them into tolerable Latin verse.

[223] Hist. Litt. de la France, vii. 144.

[224] Meiners, iii. 11.

[225] Pp. 155, 217, &c. Add to these authorities, Muratori, dissert. 44; Brucker, iii. 644, 647; Tiraboschi, v. 393.

[226] Tiraboschi, v. 388, vouches for Christine’s knowledge of Greek. She was a good poetess in French, and altogether a very remarkable person.

Corruption of Greek language itself. 13. The intercourse between Greece and the west of Europe, occasioned by commerce and by the crusades, had little or no influence upon literature. For, besides [Pg 48] the general indifference to it in those classes of society which were thus brought into some degree of contact with the Eastern Empire, we must remember that, although Greek, even to the capture of Constantinople by Mahomet II., was a living language in that city, spoken by the superior ranks of both sexes with tolerable purity, it had degenerated among the common people, and almost universally among the inhabitants of the provinces and islands, into that corrupt form, or rather new language, which we call Romaic.[227] The progress of this innovation went on by steps very similar to those by which the Latin was transformed in the West, though it was not so rapid or complete. A manuscript of the twelfth century, quoted by Du Cange from the royal library at Paris, appears to be the oldest written specimen of the modern Greek that has been produced; but the oral change had been gradually going forward for several preceding centuries.[228]

[227] Filelfo says, in one of his epistles, dated 1441, that the language spoken in Peloponnesus ad eo est depravata, ut nihil omnino sapiat priscæ ilius et eloquentissimo Græciæ. At Constantinople the case was better; viri eruditi sunt nonnulli, et culti mores, et sermo etiam nitidus. In a letter of Coluccio Salutato, near the end of the fourteenth century, he says that Plutarch had been translated de Græco in Græcum vulgare. Mehus, p. 294. This seems to have been done at Rhodes. I quote this to remove any difficulty others may feel, for I believe the Romaic Greek is much older. The progress of corruption in Greek is sketched in the Quarterly Review, vol. xxii., probably by the pen of the Bishop of London. Its symptoms were very similar to those of Latin in the West; abbreviation of words, and indifference to right inflexions. See also Col. Leake’s Researches in the Morea. Eustathius has many Romaic words; yet no one in the twelfth century had more learning.

[228] Du Cange, præfatio in Glossarium mediæ et infimæ Græcitatis.

Character of Byzantine literature. 14. The Byzantine literature was chiefly valuable by illustrating, or preserving in fragments, the historians, philosophers, and, in some measure, the poets of antiquity. Constantinople and her empire produced abundantly men of erudition, but few of genius or of taste. But this erudition was now rapidly on the decline. No one was left in Greece, according to Petrarch, after the death of Leontius Pilatus, who understood Homer; words not, perhaps, to be literally taken, but expressive of what he conceived to be their general indifference to the poet: and it seems very probable that some ancient authors, whom we should most desire to recover, especially the lyric poets of the Doric and Æolic dialects, have perished, because they had become unintelligible to the transcribers of the lower empire; though this has also been ascribed to the scrupulousness of the clergy. An absorbing fondness for theological subtleties, far more trifling among the Greeks than in the schools of the west, conspired to produce a neglect of studies so remote as heathen poetry. Aurispa tells Ambrogio Traversari, that he found they cared little about profane literature. Nor had the Greek learning ever recovered the blow that the capture of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204, and the establishment for sixty years of a Latin and illiterate dynasty, inflicted upon it.[229] We trace many classical authors to that period, of whom we know nothing later, and the compilations of ancient history by industrious Byzantines came to an end. Meantime the language, where best preserved, had long lost the delicacy and precision of its syntax; the true meaning of the tenses, moods, and voices of the verb was overlooked or guessed at; a kind of latinism, or something at least not ancient in structure and rhythm, shows itself in their poetry; and this imperfect knowledge of their once beautiful language is unfortunately too manifest in the grammars of the Greek exiles of the fifteenth century, which have so long been the groundwork of classical education in Europe.

[229] An enumeration, and it is a long one, of the Greek books not wholly lost till this time will be found in Heeren, p. 125; and also in his Essai sur les Croisades.

Petrarch and Boccace learn Greek. 15. We now come to the proper period of the restoration of Greek learning. In the year 1339, Barlaam, a Calabrian by birth, but long resident in Greece, and deemed one of the most learned men of that age, was entrusted by the emperor Cantacuzenus with a mission to Italy.[230] Petrarch, in 1342, as Tiraboschi fixes the time, endeavoured to learn Greek from him, but found the task too arduous, or rather, had not sufficient opportunity to go on with it.[231] Boccaccio, some years afterwards, [Pg 49] succeeded better with the help of Leontius Pilatus, a Calabrian also by birth,[232] who made a prose translation of Homer for his use, and for whom he is said to have procured a public appointment as teacher of the Greek language at Florence, in 1361. He remained here about three years; but we read nothing of any other disciples; and the man himself was of too unsocial and forbidding a temper to conciliate them.[233]

[230] Mehus. Tiraboschi, v. 398. De Sade, i. 406. Biog. Univ., Barlaam.

[231] Incubueram alacri spe magnoque desiderio, sed peregrinan linguæ novitas et festina præceptoris absentia præciderunt propositum meum. It has been said, and probably with some truth, that Greek, or at least a sort of Greek, was preserved as a living language in Calabria; not because Greek colonies had once been settled in some cities, but because that part of Italy was not lost to the Byzantine empire till about three centuries before the time of Barlaam and Pilatus. They, however, had gone to a better source; and I should have great doubts as to the goodness of Calabrian Greek in the fourteenth century, which of course are not removed by the circumstance that in some places the church service was performed in that language. Heeren, I find, is of the same opinion, p. 287.

[232] Many have taken Pilatus for a native of Thessalonica: even Hody has fallen into this mistake, but Petrarch’s letters show the contrary.

[233] Hody. De Græcis Illustribus, p. 2. Mehus, 273. De Sade, iii. 625. Gibbon has erroneously supposed this translation to have been made by Boccace himself.

Few acquainted with the language in their time. 16. According to a passage in one of Petrarch’s letters, fancifully addressed to Homer, there were at that time not above ten persons in Italy who knew how to value the old father of the poets; five at the most in Florence, one in Bologna, two in Verona, one in Mantua, one in Perugia, but none at Rome.[234] Some pains have been thrown away in attempting to retrieve the names of those to whom he alludes: the letter shows at least, that there was very little pretension to Greek learning in his age; for I am not convinced that he meant all these ten persons, among whom he seems to reckon himself, to be considered as skilled in that tongue. And we must not be led away by the instances partially collected by Gradenigo out of the whole mass of extant records, to lose sight of the great general fact, that Greek literature was lost in Italy for 700 years, in the words of Leonard Aretin, before the arrival of Chrysoloras. The language is one thing, and the learning contained in it is another. For all the purposes of taste and erudition, there was no Greek in western Europe during the middle ages: if we look only at the knowledge of bare words, we have seen there was a very slender portion.

[234] De Sade, iii. 627. Tiraboschi, v. 371, 400. Heeren, 294.

It is taught by Chrysoloras about 1395.

His disciples. 17. The true epoch of the revival of Greek literature in Italy, these attempts of Petrarch and Boccace having produced no immediate effect, though they evidently must have excited a desire for learning, cannot be placed before the year 1395,[235] when Emanuel Chrysoloras, previously known as an ambassador from Constantinople to the western powers, in order to solicit assistance against the Turks, was induced to return to Florence as public teacher of Greek. He passed from thence to various Italian universities, and became the preceptor of several early Hellenists.[236] The first, and perhaps the most eminent and useful of these, was Guarino Guarini of Verona, born in 1370. He acquired his knowledge of Greek under Chrysoloras at Constantinople, before the arrival of the latter in Italy. Gaurino, upon his return, became professor of rhetoric, first at Venice and other cities of Lombardy, then at Florence, and ultimately at Ferrara, where he closed a long life of unremitting and useful labour in 1460. John Aurispa of Sicily came to the field rather later, but his labours were not less profitable. He brought back to Italy 238 manuscripts from Greece about 1423, and thus put his country in possession of authors hardly known to her by name. Among these were Plato, Plotinus, Diodorus, Arrian, Dio Cassius, Strabo, [Pg 50] Pindar, Callimachus, Appian. After teaching Greek at Bologna and Florence, Aurispa also ended a length of days under the patronage of the house of Este, at Ferrara. To these may be added, in the list of public instructors in Greek before 1440, Filelfo, a man still more known by his virulent disputes with his contemporaries than by his learning; who, returning from Greece in 1427, laden with manuscripts, was not long afterwards appointed to the chair of rhetoric, that is, of Latin and Greek philology, at Florence; and, according to his own account, excited the admiration of the whole city.[237] But his vanity was excessive, and his contempt of others not less so. Poggio was one of his enemies; and their language towards each other is a noble specimen of the decency with which literary and personal quarrels were carried on.[238] It has been observed, that Gianozzo Manetti, a contemporary scholar, is less known than others, chiefly because the mildness of his character spared him the altercations to which they owe a part of their celebrity.[239]

[235] This is the date fixed by Tiraboschi; others refer it to 1391, 1396, 1397, or 1399.

[236] Literæ per hujus belli intercapedines mirabile quantum per Italiam increvere; accedente tunc primum cognitione literarum Græcarum quæ septingentis jam annis apud nostras homines desierant esse in usu. Retulit autem Græcam disciplinam ad nos Chrysoloras Byzantinus, vir domi nobilis ac literarum Græcarum peritissimus. Leonard Aretin apud Hody, p. 28. See also an extract from Manetti’s Life of Boccace, in Hody, p. 61.

Satis constat Chrysoloram Byzantinum transmarinam illam disciplinam in Italiam advexisse; quo doctore adhibito primum nostri homines totius exercitationis atque artis ignari, cognitis Græcis literis, vehementer sese ad eloquentiæ studia excitaverunt. P. Cortesius, De Hominibus Doctis, p. 6.

The first visit of Chrysoloras had produced an inclination towards the study of Greek. Coluccio Salutato, in a letter to Demetrius Cydonius, who had accompanied Chrysoloras, says, Multorum animos ad linguam Helladum accendisti, ut jam videre videar multos fore Græcarum literarum post paucorum annorum curricula non tepide studiosos. Mehus, p. 356.

The Erotemata of Chrysoloras, an introduction to Greek grammar, was the first, and long the only, channel to a knowledge of that language, save oral instruction. It was several times printed, even after the grammars of Gaza and Lascaris had come more into use. An abridgment by Guarino of Verona, with some additions of his own, was printed at Ferrara in 1509. Ginguéné, iii. 283.

[237] Universa in me civitas conversa est; omnes me diligunt, honorant omnes, ac summis laudibus in cœlum efferunt. Meum nomen in ore est omnibus. Nec primarii cives modo, cum per urbem incedo, sed nobilissimæ fœminæ honorandi mei gratiâ loco cedunt, tantumque mihi deferunt, ut me pudeat tanti cultus. Auditores sunt quotidie ad quadringentos, vel fortassis et amplius; et hi quidem magna in parte viri grandiores et ex ordine senatorio. Phililph. Epist. ad ann. 1428.

[238] Shepherd’s Life of Poggio, ch. vi. and viii.

[239] Hody was perhaps the first who threw much light on the early studies of Greek in Italy; and his book, De Græcis Illustribus, Linguæ Græcæ Instauratoribus, will be read with pleasure and advantage by every lover of literature; though Mehus, who came with more exuberant erudition to the subject, has pointed out a few errors. But more is to be found as to its native cultivators, Hody being chiefly concerned with the Greek refugees, in Bayle, Fabricius, Niceron, Mehus, Zeno, Tiraboschi, Meiners, Roscoe, Heeren, Shepherd, Corniani, Ginguéné, and the Biographie Universelle, whom I name in chronological order.

As it is impossible to dwell on the subject within the limits of these pages, I will refer the reader to the most useful of the above writings, some of which, being merely biographical collections, do not give the connected information he would require. The lives of Poggio and of Lorenzo de’ Medici will make him familiar with the literary history of Italy for the whole fifteenth century, in combination with public events, as it is best learned. I need not say that Tiraboschi is a source of vast knowledge to those who can encounter two quarto volumes. Ginguéné’s third volume is chiefly borrowed from these, and may be read with great advantage. Finally, a clear, full, and accurate account of those times will be found in Heeren. It will be understood that all these works relate to the revival of Latin as well as Greek.

Translations from Greek into Latin. 18. Many of these cultivators of the Greek language devoted their leisure to translating the manuscripts brought into Italy. The earliest of these were Peter Paul Vergerio (commonly called the elder, to distinguish him from a more celebrated man of the same names in the sixteenth century), a scholar of Chrysoloras, but not till he was rather advanced in years. He made, by order of the emperor Sigismund, and, therefore, not earlier than 1410, a translation of Arrian, which is said to exist in the Vatican library; but we know little of its merits.[240] A more renowned person was Ambrogio Traversari, a Florentine monk of the order of Camaldoli, who employed many years in this useful labour. No one of that age has left a more respectable name for private worth; his epistles breathe a spirit of virtue, of kindness to his friends, and of zeal for learning. In the opinion of his contemporaries, he was placed, not quite justly, on a level with Leonard Aretin for his knowledge of Latin, and he surpassed him in Greek.[241] Yet neither his translations, nor those of his contemporaries, Guarino of Verona, Poggio, Leonardo Aretino, Filelfo, who with several others, rather before 1440, or not long afterwards, rendered the historians and philosophers of Greece familiar to Italy, can be extolled as correct, or as displaying what is truly to be called a knowledge of either language. Vossius, Casaubon, and Huet speak with much dispraise of most of these early translations from Greek into Latin. The Italians knew not enough of the original, and the Greeks were not masters enough of Latin. Gaza, upon the whole, than whom no one is more successful, says Erasmus, whether he renders [Pg 51] Greek into Latin, or Latin into Greek, is reckoned the most elegant, and Argyropulus the most exact. But George of Trebizond, Filelfo, Leonard Aretin, Poggio, Valla, Perotti, are rather severely dealt with by the sharp critics of later times.[242] For this reproach does not fall only on the scholars of the first generation, but on their successors, except Politian, down nearly to the close of the fifteenth century. Yet, though it is necessary to point out the deficiencies of classical erudition at this time, lest the reader should hastily conclude, that the praises bestowed upon it are less relative to the previous state of ignorance, and the difficulties with which that generation had to labour, than they really are, this cannot affect our admiration and gratitude towards men who, by their diligence and ardour in acquiring and communicating knowledge, excited that thirst for improvement, and laid those foundations of it, which rendered the ensuing age so glorious in the annals of literature.

[240] Biogr. Univ., Vergerio. He seems to have written very good Latin, if we may judge by the extracts in Corniani, ii. 61.

[241] The Hodopœricon of Traversari, though not of importance as a literary work, serves to prove, according to Bayle (Camaldoli, note D), that the author was an honest man, and that he lived in a very corrupt age. It is an account of the visitation of some convents belonging to his order. The life of Ambrogio Traversari has been written by Mehus very copiously, and with abundant knowledge of the times: it is a great source of the literary history of Italy. There is a pretty good account of him in Niceron, vol. xix., and a short one in Roscoe; but the fullest biography of the man himself will be found in Meiners, Lebenbeschreibungen berühmter Männer, vol. ii. pp. 222-307.

[242] Baillet, Jugemens des Savans, ii. 376, &c. Blount, Censura Auctorum, in nominibus nuncupatis. Hody, sæpies. Niceron, vol. ix. in Perotti. See also a letter of Erasmus in Jortin’s Life, ii. 425.

Filelfo tells us of a perplexity into which Ambrogio Traversari and Carlo Marsuppini, perhaps the two principal Greek scholars in Italy after himself and Guarino, were thrown by this line of Homer:

Βούλομ᾽ ἐγὼ λαὸν σόον ἔμμεναι, ἢ ἀπόλεσθαι.

The first thought it meant populum aut salvum esse aut perire; which Filelfo justly calls, inepta interpretatio et prava. Marsuppini said ἢ ἀπόλεσθαι was, aut ipsum perire. Filelfo, after exulting over them, gives the true meaning. Philelph. Epist. ad ann. 1440.

Traversari complains much, in one of his letters, of the difficulty he found in translating Diogenes Laertius, lib. vii. epis. ii.; but Meiners, though admitting many errors, thinks this one of the best among the early translations, ii. 290.

Public encouragement delayed. 19. They did not uniformly find any great public encouragement in the early stages of their teaching. On the contrary, Aurispa met with some opposition to philological literature at Bologna.[243] The civilians and philosophers were pleased to treat the innovators as men who wanted to set showy against solid learning. Nor was the state of Italy and of the papacy, during the long schism, very favourable to their object. Ginguéné remarks, that patronage was more indispensable in the fifteenth century than it had been in the last. Dante and Petrarch shone out by a paramount force of genius, but the men of learning required the encouragement of power, in order to excite and sustain their industry.

[243] Tiraboschi, vii. 301.

But fully accorded before 1440. 20. That encouragement, however it may have been delayed, had been accorded before the year 1440. Eugenius IV. was the Pope who displayed an inclination to favour the learned. They found a still more liberal patron in Alphonso, king of Naples, who, first of all European princes, established the interchange of praise and pension, both, however, well deserved, with Filelfo, Poggio, Valla, Beccatelli, and other eminent men. This seems to have begun before 1440, though it was more conspicuous afterwards until his death in 1458. The earliest literary academy was established at Naples by Alphonso, of which Antonio Beccatelli, more often called Panormita, from his birthplace, was the first president, as Pontana was the second. Nicolas of Este, marquis of Ferrara, received literary men in his hospitable court. But none were so celebrated or useful in this patronage of letters as Cosmo de’ Medici, the Pericles of Florence, who, at the period with which we are now concerned, was surrounded by Traversari, Niccolo Niccolì, Leonardo Aretino, Poggio; all ardent to retrieve the treasures of Greek and Roman learning. Filelfo alone, malignant and irascible, stood aloof from the Medicean party, and poured his venom in libels on Cosmo and the chief of his learned associates. Niccolì, a wealthy citizen of Florence, deserves to be remembered among these; not for his writings,—since he left none; but on account of his care for the good instruction of youth, which has made Meiners call him the Florentine Socrates, and for his liberality as well as diligence in collecting books and monuments of antiquity. The public library of St. Mark was founded on a bequest by Niccolì, in 1437, of his own collection of eight hundred manuscripts. It was, too, at his instigation, as has been said, and that of Traversari, that Cosmo himself, about this time, laid the foundation of that which, under his grandson, acquired the name of the Laurentian library.[244]

[244] I refer to the same authorities, but especially to the life of Traversari in Meiners, Lebensbeschreibungen, ii. 294. The suffrages of older authors are collected by Baillet and Blount.

Emigration of learned Greeks to Italy. 21. As the dangers of the eastern empire grew more imminent, a few that had still [Pg 52] endeavoured to preserve in Greece the purity of their language, and the speculations of ancient philosophy, turned their eyes towards a haven that seemed to solicit the glory of protecting them. The first of these, that is well known, was Theodore Gaza, who fled from his birthplace, Thessalonica, when it fell under the Turkish yoke in 1430. He rapidly acquired the Latin language by the help of Victorin of Feltre.[245] Gaza became afterwards, but not, perhaps, within the period to which this chapter is limited, rector of the university of Ferrara. In this city, Eugenius IV. held a council in 1438, removed next year, on account of sickness, to Florence, in order to reconcile the Greek and Latin churches. Though it is well known that the appearances of success which attended this hard bargain of the strong with the weak were very fallacious, the presence of several Greeks, skilled in their own language, and even in their ancient philosophy, Pletho, Bessarion, Gaza, stimulated the noble love of truth and science that burned in the bosoms of enlightened Italians. Thus, in 1440, the spirit of ancient learning was already diffused on that side the Alps: the Greek language might be learned in at least four or five cities, and an acquaintance with it was a recommendation to the favour of the great; while the establishment of universities at Pavia, Turin, Ferrara, and Florence, since the beginning of the present century, or near the close of the last, bore witness to the generous emulation which they served to redouble and concentrate.

[245] Victorin perhaps exchanged instruction with his pupil; for we find by a letter of Traversari (p. 421, edit. Mehus), that he was himself teaching Greek in 1433.

Causes of enthusiasm for antiquity in Italy. 22. It is an interesting question, What were the causes of this enthusiasm for antiquity which we find in the beginning of the fifteenth century?—a burst of public feeling that seems rather sudden, but prepared by several circumstances that lie farther back in Italian history. The Italians had for some generations learned more to identify themselves with the great people that had subdued the world. The fall of the house of Swabia, releasing their necks from a foreign yoke, had given them a prouder sense of nationality; while the name of Roman emperor was systematically associated by one party with ancient tradition; and the study of the civil law, barbarously ignorant as its professors often were, had at least the effect of keeping alive a mysterious veneration for antiquity. The monuments of ancient Italy were perpetual witnesses; their inscriptions were read; it was enough that a few men like Petrarch should animate the rest; it was enough that learning should become honourable, and that there should be the means of acquiring it. The story of Rienzi, familiar to every one, is a proof what enthusiasm could be kindled by ancient recollections. Meantime the laity became better instructed; a mixed race, ecclesiastics, but not priests, and capable alike of enjoying the benefices of the church, or of returning from it to the world, were more prone to literary than theological pursuits. The religious scruples which had restrained churchmen, in the darker ages, from perusing heathen writers, by degrees gave way, as the spirit of religion itself grew more objective, and directed itself more towards maintaining the outward church in its orthodoxy of profession, and in its secular power, than towards cultivating devout sentiments in the bosom.

Advanced state of society. 23. The principal Italian cities became more wealthy and more luxurious after the middle of the thirteenth century. Books, though still very dear, comparatively with the present value of money, were much less so than in other parts of Europe.[246] In Milan, about 1300, there were fifty persons who lived by copying them. At Bologna, it was also a regular occupation at fixed prices.[247] In this state of social prosperity, the keen relish of Italy for intellectual excellence had time to develop itself. A [Pg 53] style of painting appeared in the works of Giotto and his followers, rude and imperfect, according to the skilfulness of later times, but in itself pure, noble, and expressive, and well adapted to reclaim the taste from the extravagance of romance to classic simplicity. Those were ready for the love of Virgil, who had formed their sense of beauty by the figures of Giotto and the language of Dante. The subject of Dante is truly mediæval; but his style, the clothing of poetry, bears the strongest marks of his acquaintance with antiquity. The influence of Petrarch was far more direct, and has already been pointed out.

[246] Savigny thinks the price of books in the middle ages has been much exaggerated; and that we are apt to judge by a few instances of splendid volumes, which give us no more notion of ordinary prices than similar proofs of luxury in collectors do at present. Thousands of manuscripts are extant, and the sight of most of them may convince us, that they were written at no extraordinary cost. He then gives a long list of law books, the prices of which he has found recorded. Gesch. des Römischen Rechts, iii. 519. But unless this were accompanied with a better standard of value than a mere monetary one, which last Savigny has given very minutely, it can afford little information. The impression left on my mind, without comparing these prices closely with those of other commodities, was that books were in real value very considerably dearer (that is, in the ratio of several units to one) than at present, which is confirmed by many other evidences.

[247] Tiraboschi, iv. 72-80. The price for copying a bible was eighty Bolognese livres; three of which were equal to two gold florins.

Exclusive study of antiquity. 24. The love of Greek and Latin absorbed the minds of these Italian scholars, and effaced all regard to every other branch of literature. Their own language was nearly silent; few condescended so much as to write letters in it; as few gave a moment’s attention to physical science, though we find it mentioned, perhaps as remarkable, in Victorin of Feltre, that he had some fondness for geometry, and had learned to understand Euclid.[248] But even in Latin they wrote very little that can be deemed worthy of remembrance, or even that can be mentioned at all. The ethical dialogues of Francis Barbaro, a noble Venetian, on the married life (De Re Uxoria),[249] and of Poggio on nobility, are almost the only books that fall within this period, except declamatory invectives or panegyrics, and other productions of circumstance. Their knowledge was not yet exact enough to let them venture upon critical philology; though Niccolì and Traversari were silently occupied in the useful task of correcting the text of manuscripts, faulty beyond description in the later centuries. Thus we must consider Italy as still at school, active, acute, sanguine, full of promise, but not yet become really learned, or capable of doing more than excite the emulation of other nations.

[248] Meiners, Lebensbesch, ii. 293.

[249] Barbaro was a scholar of Gasparin in Latin. He had probably learned Greek of Guarino, for it is said that, on the visit of the emperor John Paleologus to Italy in 1423, he was addressed by two noble Venetians, Leonardo Guistiniani and Francesco Barbaro, in as good language as if they had been born in Greece. Andrès, iii. 33. The treatise De Re Uxoria, which was published about 1417, made a considerable impression in Italy. Some account of it may be found in Shepherd’s Life of Poggio, ch. iii., and in Corniani, ii. 137; who thinks it the only work of moral philosophy in the fifteenth century, which is not a servile copy of some ancient system. He was grandfather of the more celebrated Hermolaus Barbarus.

Classical learning in France low. 25. But we find very little corresponding sympathy with this love of classical literature in other parts of Europe; not so much owing to the want of intercourse, as to a difference of external circumstances, and, still more, of national character and acquired habits. Clemangis, indeed, rather before the end of the fourteenth century, is said by Crevier to have restored the study of classical antiquity in France, after an intermission of two centuries;[250] and Eichhorn deems his style superior to that of most contemporary Italians.[251] Even the Latin verses of Clemangis are praised by the same author, as the first that had been tolerably written on this side the Alps for two hundred years. But we do not find much evidence that he produced any effect upon Latin literature in France. The general style was as bad as before. Their writers employed not only the barbarous vocabulary of the schools, but even French words with Latin terminations adapted to them.[252] We shall see that the renovation of polite letters in France must be dated long afterwards. Several universities were established in that kingdom; but even if universities had been always beneficial to literature, which was not the case during the prevalence of scholastic disputation, the civil wars of one unhappy reign, and the English invasions of another, could not but retard the progress of all useful studies. Some Greeks, about 1430, are said to have demanded a stipend, in pursuance of a decree of the council of Vienne in the preceding century, for teaching their language in the university of Paris. The nation of France, one of the four into which that university was divided, assented to this suggestion; but we find no other steps taken in relation to it. In 1455, it is said, that the Hebrew language was publicly taught.[253]

[250] Hist. de l’Université de Paris, iii. 189.

[251] Gesch. der Litteratur, ii. 242. Meiners (Vergleich. der Sitten, iii. 33) extols Clemangis in equally high terms. He is said to have read lectures on the rhetoric of Cicero and Aristotle. Id. ii. 647. Was there a translation of the latter so early?

[252] Bulæus. Hist. Univ. Paris, apud Heeren, p. 118.

[253] Crevier, iv. 43. Heeren, p. 121.

Much more so in England. 26. Of classical learning in England we can tell no favourable story. The Latin writers of the fifteenth century, few in number, are still more insignificant in value; they possess [Pg 54] scarce an ordinary knowledge of grammar; to say that they are full of barbarisms and perfectly inelegant, is hardly necessary. The university of Oxford was not less frequented at this time than in the preceding century, though it was about to decline; but its pursuits were as nugatory and pernicious to real literature as before.[254] Poggio says, more than once, in writing from England about 1420, that he could find no good books, and is not very respectful to our scholars. Men given up to sensuality we may find in abundance; but very few lovers of learning; and those barbarous, skilled more in quibbles and sophisms than in literature. I visited many convents; they were all full of books of modern doctors, whom we should not think worthy so much as to be heard. They have few works of the ancients, and those are much better with us. Nearly all the convents of this island have been founded within four hundred years: but that was not a period in which either learned men, or such books as we seek, could be expected, for they had been lost before.[255]

[254] No place was more discredited for bad Latin. Oxoniensis loquendi mos became a proverb. This means that, being disciples of Scotus and Ockham, the Oxonians talked their master’s jargon.

[255] Pogg. Epist. p. 43. (edit. 1832.)]

Library of Duke of Gloucester. 27. Yet books began to be accumulated in our public libraries: Aungerville, in the preceding century, gave part of his collection to a college at Oxford; and Humphry, duke of Gloucester, bequeathed six hundred volumes, as some have said, or one hundred and twenty-nine only, according to another account, to that university.[256] But these books were not of much value in a literary sense, though some may have been historically useful. I am indebted to Heeren for a letter of thanks from the duke of Gloucester to Decembrio, an Italian scholar of considerable reputation, who had sent him a translation of Plato de Republica. It must have been written before July, 1447, the date of Humphry’s death, and was probably as favourable a specimen of our Latinity as the kingdom could furnish.[257]

[256] The former number is given by Warton; the latter I find in a short tract on English monastic libraries (1831), by the Rev. Joseph Hunter. In this there is also a catalogue of the library in the priory of Bretton in Yorkshire, consisting of about 150 volumes. No date is given; but I suppose it was about the first part of the sixteenth century.

[257] Hoc uno nos longe felicem judicamus, quod tu totque florentissimi viri Græcis et Latinis literis peritissimi, quot illic apud vos sunt nostris temporibus, habeantur, quibus nesciamus quid laudum digne satis possit excogitari. Mitto quod facundiam priscam illam et priscis viris dignam, quæ prorsus perierat, huic sæculo renovatis; nec id vobis satis fuit, et Græcas literas scrutati estis, ut et philosophos Græcas et vivendi magistros, qui nostris jam obliterati erant et occulti, reseratis, et eos Latinos facientes in propatulum adducitis. Heeren quotes this, p. 135, from Sassi de studiis Mediolanensibus. Warton also mentions the letter, ii. 388. The absurd idiom exemplified in nos felicem judicamus was introduced affectedly by the writers of the twelfth century. Hist. Litt. de la France, ix. 146.

Gerard Groot’s college at Deventer. 28. Among the Cisalpine nations, the German had the greatest tendency to literary improvement, as we may judge by subsequent events, rather than by much that was apparent so early as 1440. Their writers in Latin were still barbarous, nor had they partaken in the love of antiquity which actuated the Italians. But the German nation displayed its best characteristic,—a serious, honest, industrious disposition, loving truth and goodness, and glad to pursue whatever path seemed to lead to them. A proof of this character was given in an institution of considerable influence both upon learning and religion, the college, or brotherhood, of Deventer, planned by Gerard Groot, but not built and inhabited till 1400, fifteen years after his death. The associates of this, called by different names, but more usually Brethren of the Life in Common (Gemeineslebens), or Good Brethren and Sisters, were dispersed in different parts of Germany and the Low Countries, but with their head college at Deventer. They bore an evident resemblance to the modern Moravians, by their strict lives, their community, at least a partial one, of goods, their industry in manual labour, their fervent devotion, their tendency to mysticism. But they were as strikingly distinguished from them by the cultivation of knowledge, which was encouraged in brethren of sufficient capacity, and promoted by schools both for primary and for enlarged education. These schools were, says Eichhorn, the first genuine nurseries of literature in Germany, so far as it depended on the knowledge of languages; and in them was first taught the Latin, and in the process of time the Greek and eastern tongues.[258] It will be readily understood, [Pg 55] that Latin only could be taught in the period with which we are now concerned; and, according to Lambinet, the brethren did not begin to open public schools till near the middle of the century.[259] These schools continued to flourish till the civil wars of the Low Countries and the progress of the Reformation broke them up. Groningen had also a school, St. Edward’s, of considerable reputation. Thomas à Kempis, according to Meiners, whom Eichhorn and Heeren have followed, presided over a school at Zwoll, wherein Agricola, Hegius, Langius, and Dringeberg, the restorers of learning in Germany, were educated. But it seems difficult to reconcile this with known dates, or with other accounts of that celebrated person’s history.[260] The brethren Gemeineslebens had forty-five houses in 1430, and in 1460 more than thrice the number. They are said by some to have taken regular vows, though I find a difference in my authorities as to this, and to have professed celibacy. They were bound to live by the labour of their hands, observing the ascetic discipline of monasteries, and not to beg; which made the mendicant orders their enemies. They were protected, however, against these malignant calumniators by the favour of the pope. The passages quoted by Revius, the historian of Deventer, do not quite bear out the reputation for love of literature which Eichhorn has given them; but they were much occupied in copying and binding books.[261] Their house at Bruxelles began to print books instead of copying them, in 1474.[262]

[258] Meiners, Lebensbeschreibungen berühmter Männer, ii. 311-324. Lambinet, Origines de l’Imprimerie, ii. 170. Eichhorn, Geschichte der Litteratur, ii. 134, iii. 882. Revius, Daventria Illustrata. Mosheim, cent. xv. c. 2, § 22. Biog. Univ., Gerard, Kempis.

[259] Origines de l’Imprimerie, p. 180.

[260] Meiners, p. 323. Eichhorn, p. 137. Heeren, p. 145. Biog. Univ., Kempis. Revius, Davent. Illust.

[261] Daventria Illustrata, p. 35.

[262] Lambinet.

Physical sciences in middle ages. 29. We have in the last chapter made no mention of the physical sciences, because little was to be said, and it seemed expedient to avoid breaking the subject into unnecessary divisions. It is well known that Europe had more obligations to the Saracens in this, than in any other province of research. They indeed had borrowed much from Greece, and much from India; but it was through their language that it came into use among the nations of the west. Gerbert, near the end of the tenth century, was the first who, by travelling into Spain, learned something of Arabian science. A common literary tradition ascribes to him the introduction of their numerals, and of the arithmetic founded on them, into Europe. |Arabian numerals and method.| This has been disputed, and again re-asserted, in modern times.[263] It is sufficient to say here, that only a very unreasonable scepticism has questioned the use of Arabic numerals in calculation during the thirteenth century; the positive [Pg 56] evidence on this side cannot be affected by the notorious fact, that they were not employed in legal instruments, or in ordinary accounts; such an argument, indeed, would be equally good in comparatively modern times. These numerals are found, according to Andrès, in Spanish manuscripts of the twelfth century; and, according both to him and Cossali, who speak from actual inspection, in the treatise of arithmetic and algebra by Leonard Fibonacci Pisa, written in 1202.[264] This has never been printed. It is by far our earliest testimony to the knowledge of algebra in Europe; but Leonard owns that he learned it among the Saracens. This author appears, says Hutton, or rather Cossali, from whom he borrows, to be well skilled in the various ways of reducing equations to their final simple state by all the usual methods. His algebra includes the solution of quadratics.

[263] See Andrès, the Archæologia, vol. viii., and the Encyclopædias, Britannic and Metropolitan, on one side, against Gerbert; Montucla, i. 502, and Kästner, Geschichte der Mathematik, i. 35, and ii. 695, in his favour. The latter relies on a well-known passage in William of Malmsbury concerning Gerbert: Abacum certe primus a Saracenis rapiens, regulas dedit, quæ a sudantibus abacistis vix intelliguntur; upon several expressions in his writings, and upon a manuscript of his geometry, seen and mentioned by Pez, who refers it to the twelfth century, in which Arabic numerals are introduced. It is answered, that the language of Malmsbury is indefinite, that Gerbert’s own expressions are equally so, and that the copyist of the manuscript may have inserted the cyphers.

It is evident that the use of the numeral signs does not of itself imply an acquaintance with the Arabic calculation, though it was a necessary step to it. Signs bearing some resemblance to these (too great for accident) are found in MSS. of Boethius, and are published by Montucla, (vol. i. planch. ii.) In one MS. they appear with names written over each of them, not Greek, or Latin, or Arabic, or in any known language. These singular names, and nearly the same forms, are found also in a manuscript well deserving of notice,—No. 343 of the Arundel MSS., in the British Museum, and which is said to have belonged to a convent at Mentz. This has been referred by some competent judges to the twelfth, and by others to the very beginning of the thirteenth century. It purports to be an introduction to the art of multiplying and dividing numbers; quicquid ab abacistis excerpere potui, compendiose collegi. The author uses nine digits, but none for ten, or zero, as is also the case in the MS. of Boethius. Sunt vero integri novem sufficientes ad infinitam multiplicationem, quorum nomina singulis sunt superjecta. A gentleman of the British Museum, who had the kindness, at my request, to give his attention to this hitherto unknown evidence in the controversy, is of opinion that the rudiments, at the very least, of our numeration are indicated in it, and that the author comes within one step of our present system, which is no other than supplying an additional character for zero. His ignorance of this character renders his process circuitous, as it does not contain the principle of juxtaposition for the purpose of summing; but it does contain the still more essential principle, a decuple increase of value for the same sign, in a progressive series of location from right to left. I shall be gratified if this slight notice should cause the treatise, which is very short, to be published, or more fully explained.

[264] Montucla, whom several other writers have followed, erroneously places this work in the beginning of the fifteenth century.

Proofs of them in thirteenth century. 30. In the thirteenth century, we find Arabian numerals employed in the tables of Alfonso X., king of Castile, published about 1252. They are said to appear also in the Treatise of the Sphere, by John de Sacro Bosco, probably about twenty years earlier; and there is an unpublished treatise, De Algorismo, ascribed to him, which treats expressly of this subject.[265] Algorismus was the proper name for the Arabic notation and method of reckoning. Matthew Paris, after informing us that John Basing first made Greek numeral figures known in England, observes, that in these any number may be represented by a single figure, which is not the case in Latin nor in Algorism.[266] It is obvious that in some few numbers only this is true of the Greek; but the passage certainly implies an acquaintance with that notation, which had obtained the name of Algorism. It cannot, therefore, be questioned that Roger Bacon knew these figures; yet he has, I apprehend, never mentioned them in his writings: for a calendar, bearing the date 1292, which has been blunderingly ascribed to him, is expressly declared to have been framed at Toledo. In the year 1282, we find a single Arabic figure 3 inserted in a public record; not only the first indisputable instance of their employment in England, but the only one of their appearance in so solemn an instrument.[267] But I have been informed that they have been found in some private documents before the end of the century. In the following age, though they were still by no means in common use among accountants, nor did they begin to be so till much later, there can be no doubt that mathematicians were thoroughly conversant with them, and instances of their employment in other writings may be adduced.[268]

[265] Several copies of this treatise are in the British Museum. Montucla has erroneously said that this arithmetic of Sacro Bosco is written in verse. Wallis, his authority, informs us only that some verses, two of which he quotes, are subjoined to the treatise. This is not the case in the manuscripts I have seen. I should add, that only one of them bears the name of Sacro Bosco, and that in a later handwriting.

[266] Hic insuper magister Joannes figuras Græcorum numerales, et earum notitiam et significationes in Angliam portavit, et familiaribus suia declaravit. Per quas figuras etiam literæ repræsentantur. De quibus figuris hoc maxime admirandum, quod unica figura quilibet numerus representatur; quod non est in Latino, vel in Algorismo. Matt. Paris, A.D. 1252, p. 721.

[267] Parliamentary Writs, i. 232, edited under the Record Commission by Sir Francis Palgrave. It was probably inserted for want of room, not enough having been left for the word IIIum. It will not be detected with ease, even by the help of this reference.

[268] Andrès, ii. 92, gives on the whole the best account of the progress of numerals. The article by Leslie in the Encyclopædia Britannica is too dogmatical in denying their antiquity. That in the Encyclopædia Metropolitana, by Mr. Peacock, is more learned. Montucla is as superficial as usual; and Kästner has confined himself to the claims of Gerbert, admitting which, he is too indifferent about subsequent evidence.

Mathematical treatises. 31. Adelard of Bath, in the twelfth century, translated the elements of Euclid from the Arabic, and another version was made by Campanus in the next age. The first printed editions are of the latter. The writings of Ptolemy became known through the same channel; and the once celebrated treatise on the Sphere by John de Sacro Bosco (Holywood, or, according to Leland, Halifax) about the beginning of the thirteenth century, is said to be but an abridgment of the Alexandrian geometer.[269] It has been frequently printed, and was even thought worthy of a commentary by Clavius. Jordan of Namur (Nemorarius) near the same time, shows a considerable insight into the properties of numbers.[270] Vitello, a native of Poland, not long afterwards, first made known the principles of optics in a treatise in ten books, several times printed in the sixteenth century, and indicating [Pg 57] an extensive acquaintance with the Greek and Arabian geometers. Montucla has charged Vitello with having done no more than compress and arrange a work on the same subject by Alhazen; which Andrès, always partial to the Arabian writers, has not failed to repeat. But the author of an article on Vitello in the Biographie Universelle repels this imputation, which could not, he says, have proceeded from any one who had compared the two writers. A more definite judgment is pronounced by the laborious German historian of mathematics, Kästner. Vitello, he says, has with diligence and judgment collected, as far as lay in his power, what had been previously known; and, avoiding the tediousness of Arabian verbosity, is far more readable, perspicuous, and methodical than Alhazen; he has also gone much farther in the science.[271]

[269] Montucla, i. 506. Biogr. Univ., Kästner.

[270] Montucla. Kästner.

[271] Gesch. der Mathem. ii. 263. The true name is Vitello, as Playfair has remarked (Dissertat. in Encycl. Brit.), but Vitello is much more common. Kästner is correct, always copying the old editions.

Roger Bacon. 32. It seems hard to determine whether or not Roger Bacon be entitled to the honours of a discoverer in science; that he has not described any instrument analogous to the telescope, is now generally admitted; but he paid much attention to optics, and has some new and important notions on that subject. That he was acquainted with the explosive powers of gunpowder, it seems unreasonable to deny: the mere detonation of nitre in contact with an inflammable substance, which of course might be casually observed, is by no means adequate to his expressions in the well-known passage on that subject.[272] But there is no ground for doubting that the Saracens were already conversant with gunpowder.

[272] This has been suggested by Professor Leslie, in the article on arithmetic above quoted; a great chemical authority, but who had not taken the trouble to look at Bacon, and forgot that he mentions charcoal and sulphur as well as nitre.

His resemblance to Lord Bacon. 33. The mind of Roger Bacon was strangely compounded of almost prophetic gleams of the future course of science, and the best principles of the inductive philosophy, with a more than usual credulity in the superstitions of his own time. Some have deemed him overrated by the nationality of the English.[273] But if we may have sometimes given him credit for discoveries to which he has only borne testimony, there can be no doubt of the originality of his genius. I have in another place remarked the singular resemblance he bears to Lord Bacon, not only in the character of his philosophy, but in several coincidences of expression. This has since been followed up by a later writer,[274] (with no knowledge, probably, of what I had written, since he does not allude to it), who plainly charges Lord Bacon with having borrowed much, and with having concealed his obligations. The Opus Majus of Roger Bacon was not published till 1733, but the manuscripts were not uncommon, and Selden had thoughts of printing the work. The quotations from the Franciscan and the Chancellor, printed in parallel columns by Mr. Forster, are sometimes very curiously similar; but he presses the resemblance too far; and certainly the celebrated distinction, in the Novum Organum, of four classes of Idola which mislead the judgment, does not correspond in meaning, as he supposes, with the causes of error assigned by Roger Bacon.

[273] Meiners, of all modern historians of literature, is the least favourable to Bacon, on account of his superstition and credulity in the occult sciences. Vergleichung der Sitten, ii. 710, and iii. 232. Heeren, p. 244, speaks more candidly of him. It is impossible, I think, to deny that credulity is one of the points of resemblance between him and his namesake.

[274] Hist. of Middle Ages, iii. 539. Forster’s Mahometanism Unveiled, ii. 312.

English mathematicians of fourteenth century. 34. The English nation was not at all deficient in mathematicians during the fourteenth century; on the contrary, no other in Europe produced nearly so many. But their works have rarely been published. The great progress of physical science, since the invention of printing, has rendered these imperfect treatises interesting only to the curiosity of a very limited class of readers. Thus Richard Suisset, or Swineshead, author of a book entitled the Calculator, of whom Cardan speaks in such language as might be applied to himself, is scarcely known, except by name, to literary historians; and though it has once been printed, the book is of the extremest rarity.[275] But the most [Pg 58] conspicuous of our English geometers was Thomas Bradwardin, archbishop of Canterbury; yet more for his rank, and for his theological writings, than for the arithmetical and geometrical speculations which give him a place in science. Montucla, with a carelessness of which there are too many instances in his valuable work, has placed Bradwardin, who died in 1348, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, though his work was printed in 1495.[276]

[275] The character of Suisset’s book given by Brucker, iii. 852, who had seen it, does not seem to justify the wish of Leibnitz that it should be republished. It is a strange medley of arithmetical and geometrical reasoning with the scholastic philosophy. Kästner (Geschichte der Mathematik, i. 50) seems not to have looked at Brucker, and, like Montucla, has a very slight notion of the nature of Suisset’s book. His suspicion that Cardan had never seen the book he so much extols, because he calls the author the Calculator, which is the title of the work itself, seems unwarrantable. Suisset probably had obtained the name from his book, which is not uncommon; and Cardan was not a man to praise what he had never read.

[276] It may be considered a proof of the attention paid to geometry in England, that two books of Euclid were read at Oxford about the middle of the fifteenth century. Churton’s Life of Smyth, p. 151, from the University Register. We should not have expected to find this.

Astronomy. 35. It is certain that the phenomena of physical astronomy were never neglected; the calendar was known to be erroneous, and Roger Bacon has even been supposed by some to have divined the method of its restoration, which has long after been adopted. The Arabians understood astronomy well, and their science was transfused more or less into Europe. Nor was astrology the favourite superstition of both the eastern and western world, without its beneficial effect upon the observation and registering of the planetary motions. |Alchemy.| Thus too, alchemy, which, though the word properly means but chemistry, was generally confined to the mystery all sought to penetrate, the transmutation of metals into gold, led more or less to the processes by which a real knowledge of the component parts of substances has been attained.[277]

[277] I refer to Dr. Thomson’s History of Chemistry for much curious learning on the alchemy of the Middle Ages. In a work like the present, it is impossible to follow up every subject; and I think that a general reference to a book of reputation and easy accessibility, is better than an attempt to abridge it.

Medicine. 36. The art of medicine was cultivated with great diligence by the Saracens both of the east and of Spain, but with little of the philosophical science that had immortalised the Greek school. The writings, however, of these masters were translated into Arabic; whether correctly or not, has been disputed among oriental scholars; and Europe derived her acquaintance with the physic of the mind and body, with Hippocrates as well as Aristotle, through the same channel. But the Arabians had eminent medical authorities of their own; Rhases, Avicenna, Albucazi who possessed greater influence. In modern times, that is, since the revival of Greek science, the Arabian theories have been in general treated with much scorn. It is admitted, however, that pharmacy owes a long list of its remedies to their experience, and to their intimacy with the products of the east. The school of Salerno, established as early as the eleventh century,[278] for the study of medicine, from whence the most considerable writers of the next ages issued, followed the Arabians in their medical theory. But these are deemed rude, and of little utility at present.

[278] Meiners refers it to the tenth, ii. 413; and Tiraboschi thinks it may be as ancient, iii. 347.

Anatomy. 37. In the science of anatomy an epoch was made by the treatise of Mundinus, a professor at Bologna, who died in 1326. It is entitled Anatome omnium humani corporis interiorum membrorum. This book had one great advantage over those of Galen, that it was founded on the actual anatomy of the human body. For Galen is supposed to have only dissected apes, and judged of mankind by analogy; and though there may be reason to doubt whether this were altogether the case, it is certain that he had very little practice in human dissection. Mundinus seems to have been more fortunate in his opportunities of this kind than later anatomists, during the prevalence of a superstitious prejudice, have found themselves. His treatise was long the text-book of the Italian universities, till, about the middle of the sixteenth century, Mundinus was superseded by greater anatomists. The statutes of the university of Padua prescribed, that anatomical lecturers should adhere to the literal text of Mundinus. Though some have treated this writer as a mere copier of Galen, he has much, according to Portal, of his own. There were also some good anatomical writers in France during the fourteenth century.[279]

[279] Tiraboschi, v. 209-244, who is very copious for a non-medical writer. Portal, Hist, de l’Anatomie. Biogr. Univ., Mondino, Chauliac. Eichhorn, Gesch. der Litt. ii. 416-447.

Encyclopædic works of middle ages. 38. Several books of the later middle ages, sometimes of great size, served as collections of natural history, and, in fact, as encyclopædias of general knowledge. The writings of Albertus Magnus [Pg 59] belong, in part, to this class. They have been collected, in twenty-one volumes folio, by the Dominican Peter Jammi, and published at Lyons in 1651. After setting aside much that is spurious, Albert may pass for the most fertile writer in the world. He is reckoned by some the founder of the schoolmen; but we mention him here as a compiler, from all accessible sources, of what physical knowledge had been accumulated in his time. |Vincent of Beauvais.| A still more comprehensive contemporary writer of this class was Vincent de Beauvais, in the Speculum naturale, morale, doctrinale et historiale, written before the middle of the thirteenth century. The second part of this vast treatise in ten volumes folio, usually bound in four, Speculum morale, seems not to be written by Vincent de Beauvais, and is chiefly a compilation from Thomas Aquinas, and other theologians of the same age. The first, or Speculum naturale, follows the order of creation as an arrangement; and after pouring out all the author could collect on the heavens and earth, proceeds to the natural kingdoms; and, finally, to the corporeal and mental structure of man. In the third part of this encyclopædia, under the title Speculum doctrinale, all arts and sciences are explained; and the fourth contains an universal history.[280] The sources of this magazine of knowledge are of course very multifarious. In the Speculum naturale, at which alone I have looked, Aristotle’s writings, especially the history of animals, those of other ancient authors, of the Arabian physicians, and of all who had treated the same subjects in the middle ages, are brought together in a comprehensive, encyclopædic manner, and with vast industry, but with almost a studious desire, as we might now fancy, to accumulate absurd falsehoods. Vincent, like many, it must be owned, in much later times, through his haste to compile, does not give himself the trouble to understand what he copies. But, in fact, he relied on others to make extracts for him, especially from the writings of Aristotle, permitting himself or them, as he tells us, to change the order, condense the meaning, and explain the difficulties.[281] |Vincent of Beauvais.| It may be easily believed that neither Vincent of Beauvais, nor his amanuenses, were equal to this work of abridging and transposing their authors. Andrès, accordingly, has quoted a passage from the Speculum naturale, and another to the same effect from Albertus Magnus, relating, no doubt, in the Arabian writer from whom they borrowed, to the polarity of the magnet, but so strangely turned into nonsense, that it is evident they could not have understood in the least what they wrote. Probably, as their language is nearly the same, they copied a bad translation.[282]

[280] Biogr. Univ., Vincentius Bellovacensis.

[281] A quibusdam fratribus excerpta susceperam; non eodem penitus verborum schemate, quo in originalibus suis jacent, sed ordine plerumque transposito, non nunquam etiam mutata perpaululum ipsorum verborum forma, manente tamen auctoris sententia; prout ipsa vel prolixitatis abbreviandæ vel multitudinis in unam colligendæ, vel etiam obscuritatis explanandæ necessitas exigebat.

[282] Andrès, ii. 112. See also xiii. 141.

Berchorius. 39. In the same class of compilation with the Speculum of Vincent of Beauvais, we may place some later works, the Trésor of Brunetto Latini, written in French about 1280, the Reductorium, Repertorium, et Dictionarium morale of Berchorius, or Berchœur, a monk, who died at Paris in 1362,[283] and a treatise by Bartholomew Glanvil, De Proprietatibus Rerum, soon after that time. Reading all they could find, extracting from all they read, digesting their extracts under some natural, or, at worst, alphabetical classification, these laborious men gave back their studies to the world with no great improvement of the materials, but sometimes with much convenience in their disposition. This, however, depended chiefly on their ability as well as diligence; and in the mediæval period, the want of capacity to discern probable truth was a very great drawback from the utility of their compilations.

[283] This book, according to De Sade, Vie de Pétrarque, iii. 550, contains a few good things among many follies. I have never seen it.

Spanish ballads. 40. It seems to be the better opinion, that very few only of the Spanish romances or ballads founded on history or legend, so many of which remain, belong to a period anterior to the fifteenth century. One may be excepted, which bears the name of Don Juan Manuel, who died in 1364.[284] Most of them [Pg 60] should be placed still lower. Sanchez has included none in his collection of Spanish poetry, limited by its title to that period; though he quotes one or two fragments which he would refer to the fourteenth century.[285] Some, however, have conceived, perhaps with little foundation, that several, in the general collections of romances, have been modernised in language from more ancient lays. They have all a highly chivalrous character; every sentiment congenial to that institution, heroic courage, unsullied honour, generous pride, faithful love, devoted loyalty, were displayed in Castilian verse, not only in their real energy, but sometimes with an hyperbolical extravagance to which the public taste accommodated itself, and which long continued to deform the national literature. The ballad of the Conde de Alarcos, which may be found in Bouterwek, or in Sismondi, and seems to be one of the most ancient, will serve as a sufficient specimen.[286]

[284] Don Juan Manuel, a prince descended from Ferdinand III., was the most accomplished man whom Spain produced in his age. One of the earliest specimens of Castilian prose, El Conde Lucanor, places him high in the literature of his country. It is a moral fiction, in which, according to the custom of novelists, many other tales are interwoven. In every passage of the book, says Bouterwek, the author shows himself a man of the world and an observer of human nature.

[285] The Marquis of Santillana, early in the fifteenth century, wrote a short letter on the state of poetry in Spain to his own time. Sanchez has published this with long and valuable notes.

[286] Bouterwek’s History of Spanish and Portuguese Poetry, i. 55. See also Sismondi, Littérature du Midi, iii. 228, for the romance of the Conde de Alarcos.

Sismondi refers it to the fourteenth century; but perhaps no strong reason for this could be given. I find, however, in the Cancionero General, a romance viejo, containing the first two lines of the Conde de Alarcos, continued on another subject. It was not uncommon to build romances on the stocks of old ones, taking only the first lines; several other instances occur among those in the Cancionero, which are not numerous.

Metres of Spanish poetry. 41. The very early poetry of Spain (that published by Sanchez) is marked by a rude simplicity, a rhythmical, and not very harmonious versification, and, especially in the ancient poem of the Cid, written, probably, before the middle of the twelfth century, by occasional vigour and spirit. This poetry is in that irregular Alexandrine measure, which, as has been observed, arose out of the Latin pentameter. It gave place in the fifteenth century to a dactylic measure, called versos de arte mayor, generally of eleven syllables, the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth being accented, but subject to frequent licences, especially that of an additional short syllable at the beginning of the line. But the favourite metre in lyric songs and romances was the redondilla, the type of which was a line of four trochees, requiring, however, alternately, or at the end of a certain number, one deficient in the last syllable, and consequently throwing an emphasis on the close. By this a poem was sometimes divided into short stanzas, the termination of which could not be mistaken by the ear. It is no more, where the lines of eight and seven syllables alternate, than that English metre with which we are too familiar to need an illustration. Bouterwek has supposed that this alternation, which is nothing else than the trochaic verse of Greek and Latin poetry, was preserved traditionally in Spain from the songs of the Roman soldiers. But it seems by some Arabic lines which he quotes, in common characters, that the Saracens had the line of four trochees, which, in all languages where syllables are strongly distinguished in time and emphasis, has been grateful to the ear. No one can fail to perceive the sprightliness and grace of this measure, when accompanied by simple melody. The lighter poetry of the southern nations is always to be judged with some regard to its dependence upon a sister art. It was not written to be read, but to be heard; and to be heard in the tones of song, and with the notes of the lyre or the guitar. Music is not at all incapable of alliance with reasoning or descriptive poetry; but it excludes many forms which either might assume, and requires a rapidity as well as intenseness of perception, which language cannot always convey. Hence the poetry designed for musical accompaniment is sometimes unfairly derided by critics, who demand what it cannot pretend to give; but it is still true, that, as it cannot give all which metrical language is able to afford, it is not poetry of the very highest class.

Consonant and assonant rhymes. 42. The Castilian language is rich in perfect rhymes. But in their lighter poetry the Spaniards frequently contented themselves with assonances, that is, with the correspondence of final syllables, wherein the vowel alone was the same, though with different consonants, as duro and humo, boca and cosa. These were often intermingled with perfect or consonant rhymes. In themselves, unsatisfactory as they may seem at first sight to our prejudices, there can be no doubt but that the assonances contained a musical principle, and would soon give pleasure to and be required by the ear. They may be compared to the alliteration so common in the northern poetry, and which constitutes almost the whole regularity of [Pg 61] some of our oldest poems. But though assonances may seem to us an indication of a rude stage of poetry, it is remarkable that they belong chiefly to the later period of Castilian lyric poetry, and that consonant rhymes, frequently with the recurrence of the same syllable, are reckoned, if I mistake not, a presumption of the antiquity of a romance.[287]

[287] Bouterwek’s Introduction. Velasquez, in Dieze’s German translation, p. 288. The assonance is peculiar to the Spaniards.

Nature of the gloss. 43. An analogy between poetry and music, extending beyond the mere laws of sound, has been ingeniously remarked by Bouterwek in a very favourite species of Spanish composition, the glosa. In this a few lines, commonly well known and simple, were glosed, or paraphrased, with as much variety and originality as the poet’s ingenuity could give, in a succession of stanzas, so that the leading sentiment should be preserved in each, as the subject of an air runs through its variations. It was often contrived that the chief words of the glosed lines should recur separately in the course of each stanza. The two arts being incapable of a perfect analogy, this must be taken as a general one; for it was necessary that each stanza should be conducted so as to terminate in the lines, or a portion of them, which form the subject of the gloss.[288] Of these artificial, though doubtless, at the time, very pleasing compositions, there is nothing, as far as I know, to be found beyond the Peninsula;[289] though, in a general sense, it may be said, that all lyric poetry, wherein a burthen or repetition of leading verses recurs, must originally be founded on the same principle, less artfully and musically developed. The burthen of a song can only be an impertinence, if its sentiment does not pervade the whole.

[288] Bouterwek, p. 118.

[289] They appear with the name Grosas in the Cancionero General of Resende; and there seems, as I have observed already, to be something much of the same kind in the older Portuguese collection of the thirteenth century.

The Cancionero General. 44. The Cancionero General, a collection of Spanish poetry written between the age of Juan de la Mena, near the beginning of the fifteenth century, and its publication by Castillo in 1517, contains the productions of one hundred and thirty-six poets, as Bouterwek says; and in the edition of 1520 I have counted one hundred and thirty-nine. There is also much anonymous. The volume is in two hundred and three folios, and includes compositions by Villena, Santillana, and the other poets of the age of John II., besides those of later date. But I find also the name of Don Juan Manuel, which, if it means the celebrated author of the Conde Lucanor, must belong to the fourteenth century, though the preface of Castello seems to confine his collection to the age of Mena. A small part only are strictly love songs (canciones); but the predominant sentiment of the larger portion is amatory. Several romances occur in this collection; one of them is Moorish, and, perhaps, older than the capture of Granada; but it was long afterwards that the Spanish romancers habitually embellished their fictions with Moorish manners. These romances, as in the above instance, were sometimes glosed, the simplicity of the ancient style readily lending itself to an expansion of the sentiment. Some that are called romances contain no story; as the Rosa Fresca and the Fonte Frida, both of which will be found in Bouterwek and Sismondi.

Bouterwek’s character of Spanish songs. 45. Love songs, says Bouterwek, form by far the principal part of the old Spanish cancioneros. To read them regularly through would require a strong passion for compositions of this class, for the monotony of the authors is interminable. To extend and spin out a theme as long as possible, though only to seize a new modification of the old ideas and phrases, was, in their opinion, essential to the truth and sincerity of their poetic effusions of the heart. That loquacity which is an hereditary fault of the Italian canzone, must also be endured in perusing the amatory flights of the Spanish redondillas, while in them the Italian correctness of expression would be looked for in vain. From the desire, perhaps, of relieving their monotony by some sort of variety, the authors have indulged in even more witticisms and plays of words than the Italians, but they also sought to infuse a more emphatic spirit into their compositions than the latter. The Spanish poems of this class exhibit, in general, all the poverty of the compositions of the troubadours, but blend with the simplicity of these bards the pomp of the Spanish national style in its utmost vigour. This resemblance to the troubadour songs was not, however, produced by imitation; it arose out of the spirit of romantic love, which at that period, and for several preceding centuries, gave to the south of Europe the same feeling and taste. Since [Pg 62] the age of Petrarch, this spirit had appeared in classical perfection in Italy. But the Spanish amatory poets of the fifteenth century had not reached an equal degree of cultivation; and the whole turn of their ideas required rather a passionate than a tender expression. The sighs of the languishing Italians became cries in Spain. Glowing passion, despair, and violent ecstacy were the soul of the Spanish love songs. The continually recurring picture of the contest between reason and passion is a peculiar characteristic of these songs. The Italian poets did not attach so much importance to the triumph of reason. The rigidly moral Spaniard was, however, anxious to be wise even in the midst of his folly. But this obtrusion of wisdom in an improper place frequently gives an unpoetical harshness to the lyric poetry of Spain, in spite of all the softness of its melody.[290]

[290] Vol. i. p. 109.

John II. 46. It was in the reign of John II., king of Castile from 1407 to 1454, that this golden age of lyric poetry commenced.[291] A season of peace and regularity, a monarchy well limited, but no longer the sport of domineering families, a virtuous king, a ministry too haughty and ambitious, but able and resolute, were encouragements to that light strain of amorous poetry which a state of ease alone can suffer mankind to enjoy. And Portugal, for the whole of this century, was in as flourishing a condition as Castile during this single reign. But we shall defer the mention of her lyric poetry, as it seems chiefly to be of a later date. |Poets of his court.| In the court of John II. were found three men, whose names stand high in the early annals of Spanish poetry,—the marquises of Villena and Santillana, and Juan de Mena. But, except for their zeal in the cause of letters, amidst the dissipations of a court, they have no pretensions to compete with some of the obscure poets to whom we owe the romances of chivalry. A desire, on the contrary, to show needless learning, and to astonish the vulgar by an appearance of profundity, so often the bane of poetry, led them into prosaic and tedious details, and into affected refinements.[292]

[291] Velasquez, pp. 165, 442. (in Dieze), mentions, what has escaped Bouterwek, a more ancient Cancionero than that of Castillo, compiled in the reign of John II., by Juan Alfonso de Baena, and hitherto, or at least in his time, unpublished. As it is entitled Cancionero di Poetas Antiguos, it may be supposed to contain some earlier than the year 1400. I am inclined to think, however, that few would be found to ascend much higher. I do not find the name of Don Juan Manuel, which occurs in the Cancionero of Castillo. A copy of this manuscript Cancionero of Baena, was lately sold (1836), among the MSS. of Mr. Heber, and purchased for 120l., by the king of France.

[292] Bouterwek, p. 78.

Charles, duke of Orleans. 47. Charles, duke of Orleans, long prisoner in England after the battle of Agincourt, was the first who gave polish and elegance to French poetry. In a more enlightened age, according to Goujet’s opinion, he would have been among their greatest poets.[293] Except a little allegory in the taste of his times, he confined himself to the kind of verse called rondeaux, and to slight amatory poems, which, if they aim at little, still deserve the praise of reaching what they aim at. The easy turns of thought, and graceful simplicity of style, which these compositions require, came spontaneously to the Duke of Orleans. Without as much humour as Clément Marot long afterwards displayed, he is much more of a gentleman, and would have been in any times, if not quite what Goujet supposes, a great poet, yet the pride and ornament of the court.[294]

[293] Goujet, Bibliothèque Française, ix. 233.

[294] The following very slight vaudeville will show the easy style of the Duke of Orleans. It is curious to observe how little the manner of French poetry, in such productions, has been changed since the fifteenth century.

Petit mercier, petit panier:
Pourtant si je n’ai marchandize
Qui soit du tout à votre quise
Ne blamez pour ce mon mestier;
Je gagne denier à denier;
C’est loin du trésor de Vénise.

Petit mercier, petit panier,
Et tandis qu’il est jour, ouvrier,
Le temps perds, quand a vous devise,
Je vais parfaire mon emprise,
Et parmi les rues crier:
Petit mercier, petit panier.

(Recueil des anciens poètes Français, ii. 196.)

English poetry. 48. The English language was slowly refining itself, and growing into general use. That which we sometimes call pedantry and innovation, the forced introduction of French words by Chaucer, though hardly more by him than by all his predecessors who translated our neighbours’ poetry, and the harsh latinisms that began to appear soon afterwards, has given English a copiousness and variety which perhaps no other language possesses. But as yet there was neither thought nor knowledge sufficient to bring out its capacities. After the death of [Pg 63] Chaucer, in 1400, a dreary blank of long duration occurs in our annals. The poetry of Hoccleve is wretchedly bad, abounding with pedantry, and destitute of all grace or spirit.[295] |Lydgate.| Lydgate, the monk of Bury, nearly of the same age, prefers doubtless a higher claim to respect. An easy versifier, he served to make poetry familiar to the many, and may sometimes please the few. Gray, no light authority, speaks more favourably of Lydgate than either Warton or Ellis, or than the general complexion of his poetry would induce most readers to do.[296] But great poets have often the taste to discern, and the candour to acknowledge, those beauties which are latent amidst the tedious dulness of their humbler brethren. Lydgate, though probably a man of inferior powers of mind to Gower, has more of the minor qualities of a poet; his lines have sometimes more spirit, more humour, and he describes with more graphic minuteness. But his diffuseness becomes generally feeble and tedious; the attention fails in the schoolboy stories of Thebes and Troy; and he had not the judgment to select and compress the prose narratives from which he commonly derived his subject. It seems highly probable, that Lydgate would have been a better poet in satire upon his own times, or delineation of their manners; themes which would have gratified us much more than the fate of princes. |James I. of Scotland.| The King’s Quair, by James I. of Scotland, is a long allegory, polished and imaginative, but with some of the tediousness usual in such productions. It is uncertain whether he or a later sovereign, James V., were the author of a lively comic poem, Christ’s Kirk o’ the Green; the style is so provincial, that no Englishman can draw any inference as to its antiquity. It is much more removed from our language than the King’s Quair. Whatever else could be mentioned as deserving of praise is anonymous and of uncertain date. It seems to have been early in the fifteenth century that the ballad of the northern minstrels arose. But none of these that are extant could be placed with much likelihood so early as 1440.[297]

[295] Warton, ii. 348.

[296] Warton, ii. 361-407. Gray’s works, by Mathias, ii. 55-73. These remarks on Lydgate show what the history of English poetry would have been in the hands of Gray, as to sound and fair criticism.

[297] Chevy Chace seems to be the most ancient of those ballads that has been preserved. It may possibly have been written while Henry VI. was on the throne, though a late critic would bring it down to the reign of Henry VIII. Brydges’ Brit. Bibliography, iv. 97. The style is often fiery, like the old war songs, and much above the feeble, though natural and touching manner of the later ballads. One of the most remarkable circumstances about this celebrated lay is, that it relates a totally fictitious event with all historical particularity, and with real names. Hence it was probably not composed while many remembered the days of Henry IV., when the story is supposed to have occurred.

Restoration of classical learning due to Italy. 49. We have thus traced in outline the form of European literature, as it existed in the middle ages and in the first forty years of the fifteenth century. The result must be to convince us of our great obligations to Italy for her renewal of classical learning. What might have been the intellectual progress of Europe if she had never gone back to the fountains of Greek and Roman genius, it is impossible to determine; certainly, nothing in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries give prospect of a very abundant harvest. It would be difficult to find any man of high reputation in modern times, who has not reaped benefit, directly or through others, from the revival of ancient learning. We have the greatest reason to doubt whether, without the Italians of these ages, it would ever have occurred. The trite metaphors of light and darkness, of dawn and twilight, are used carelessly by those who touch on the literature of the middle ages, and suggest by analogy an uninterrupted progression, in which learning, like the sun, has dissipated the shadows of barbarism. But with closer attention, it is easily seen that this is not a correct representation; that, taking Europe generally, far from being in a more advanced stage of learning at the beginning of the fifteenth century than two hundred years before, she had, in many respects, gone backwards, and gave little sign of any tendency to recover her ground. There is, in fact, no security, as far as the past history of mankind assures us, that any nation will be uniformly progressive in science, arts, and letters; nor do I perceive, whatever may be the current language, that we can expect this with much greater confidence of the whole civilised world.

50. Before we proceed to a more minute and chronological history, let us consider for a short time some of the prevailing trains of sentiment and opinion which shaped the public mind at the close of the mediæval period.

Character of classical poetry lost. 51. In the early European poetry, the art sedulously cultivated by so many nations, we are struck by characteristics that distinguish [Pg 64] it from the remains of antiquity, and belong to social changes which we should be careful to apprehend. The principles of discernment as to works of imagination and sentiment, wrought up in Greece and Rome by a fastidious and elaborate criticism, were of course effaced in the total oblivion of that literature to which they had been applied. The Latin language, no longer intelligible except to a limited class, lost that adaptation to popular sentiment, which its immature progeny had not yet attained. Hence, perhaps, or from some other cause, there ensued, as has been shown in the last chapter, a kind of palsy of the inventive faculties, so that we cannot discern for several centuries any traces of their vigorous exercise.

New schools of criticism of modern languages. 52. Five or six new languages, however, besides the ancient German, became gradually flexible and copious enough to express thought and emotion with more precision and energy; metre and rhyme gave poetry its form; a new European literature was springing up, fresh and lively, in gay raiment, by the side of that decrepid latinity, which, rather ostentatiously, wore its threadbare robes of more solemn dignity than becoming grace. But in the beginning of the fifteenth century, the revival of ancient literature among the Italians seemed likely to change again the scene, and threatened to restore a standard of critical excellence by which the new Europe would be disadvantageously tried. It was soon felt, if not recognised in words, that what had delighted Europe for some preceding centuries depended upon sentiments fondly cherished, and opinions firmly held, but foreign, at least in the forms they presented, to the genuine spirit of antiquity. From this time we may consider as beginning to stand opposed to each other two schools of criticism, latterly called the classical and romantic; names which should not be understood as absolutely exact, but, perhaps, rather more apposite in the period to which these pages relate than in the nineteenth century.

Effect of chivalry on poetry. 53. War is a very common subject of fiction; and the warrior’s character is that which poets have ever delighted to pourtray. But the spirit of chivalry, nourished by the laws of feudal tenure and limited monarchy, by the rules of honour, courtesy, and gallantry, by ceremonial institutions and public shows, had rather artificially modified the generous daring which always forms the basis of that character. It must be owned that the heroic ages of Greece furnished a source of fiction not unlike those of romance; that Perseus, Theseus, or Hercules answer pretty well to knights errant, and that many stories of the poets are in the very style of Amadis or Ariosto. But these form no great part of what we call classical poetry; though they show that the word, in its opposition to the latter style, must not be understood to comprise everything that has descended from antiquity. Nothing could less resemble the peculiar tone of chivalry, than Greece in the republican times, or Rome in any times.

Effect of gallantry towards women. 54. The popular taste had been also essentially affected by changes in social intercourse, rendering it more studiously and punctiliously courteous, and especially by the homage due to women under the modern laws of gallantry. Love, with the ancient poets, is often tender, sometimes virtuous, but never accompanied by a sense of deference or inferiority. This elevation of the female sex through the voluntary submission of the stronger, though a remarkable fact in the philosophical history of Europe, has not, perhaps, been adequately developed. It did not originate, or at least very partially, in the Teutonic manners, from which it has sometimes been derived. The love songs again, and romances of Arabia, where others have sought its birthplace, display, no doubt, a good deal of that rapturous adoration which distinguishes the language of later poetry, and have, perhaps, in some measure, been the models of the Provençal troubadours; yet this seems rather consonant to the hyperbolical character of oriental works of imagination, than to a state of manners where the usual lot of women is seclusion, if not slavery. The late editor of Warton has thought it sufficient to call that reverence and adoration of the female sex which has descended to our own times, the offspring of the Christian dispensation.[298] But until it can be shown that Christianity establishes any such principle, we must look a little farther down for its origin.

[298] Preface, p. 123.

Its probable origin. 55. Without rejecting, by any means, the influence of these collateral and preparatory circumstances, we might ascribe more direct efficacy to the favour shown towards women in succession to lands through inheritance or dower, by the later Roman law, and by the customs of the northern nations; to the respect which the clergy paid them (a subject which might bear to [Pg 65] be more fully expanded); but, above all, to the gay idleness of the nobility, consuming the intervals of peace in festive enjoyments. In whatever country the charms of high-born beauty were first admitted to grace the banquet or give brilliancy to the tournament,—in whatever country the austere restraints of jealousy were most completely laid aside,—in whatever country the coarser, though often more virtuous, simplicity of unpolished ages was exchanged for winning and delicate artifices,—in whatever country, through the influence of climate or polish, less boisterousness and intemperance prevailed,—it is there that we must expect to find the commencement of so great a revolution in society.

It is not shown in old Teutonicpoetry; but appears in the stories of Arthur.

56. Gallantry, in this sense of a general homage to the fair, a respectful deference to woman independent of personal attachment, seems to have first become a perceptible element of European manners in the south of France, and, probably, not later than the end of the tenth century,[299] it was not at all in unison with the rough habits of the Carlovingian Franks, or of the Anglo-Saxons. There is little, or, as far as I know, nothing of it in the poem of Beowulf, or in the oldest Teutonic fragments, or in the Nibelungen Lied;[300] love may appear as a natural passion, but not as a conventional idolatry. It appears, on the other hand, fully developed in the sentiments as well as the usages of northern France, when we look at the tales of the court of Arthur, which Geoffrey of Monmouth gave to the world about 1128. Whatever may be thought of the foundation of this famous romance,—whatever of legendary tradition he may have borrowed from Wales or Britany, the position that he was merely a faithful translator appears utterly incredible.[301] Besides the numerous allusions to Henry I. of England, and to the history of his times, which Mr. Turner and others have indicated, the chivalrous gallantry, with which alone we are now concerned, is not characteristic of so rude a people as the Welsh or Armoricans. Geoffrey is almost our earliest testimony to these manners; and this gives the chief value to his fables. The crusades were probably the great means of inspiring an uniformity of conventional courtesy into the European aristocracy, which still constitutes the common character of gentlemen; but it may have been gradually wearing away their national peculiarities for some time before.

[299] It would be absurd to assign an exact date for that which in its nature must be gradual. I have a suspicion, that sexual respect, though not with all the refinements of chivalry, might be traced earlier in the south of Europe than the tenth century; but it would require a long investigation to prove this.

A passage, often quoted, of Radulphus Glaber, on the affected and effeminate manners, as he thought them, of the southern nobility who came in the train of Constance, daughter of the Count of Toulouse, on her marriage with Robert, king of France, in 999, indicates that the roughness of the Teutonic character, as well perhaps as some of its virtues, had yielded to the arts and amusements of peace. It became a sort of proverb; Franci ad bella, Provinciales ad victualia. Eichhorn, Allg. Gesch. i. Append. 73. The social history of the tenth and eleventh centuries is not easily recovered. We must judge from probabilities founded on single passages, and on the general tone of civil history. The kingdom of Arles was more tranquil than the rest of France.

[300] Von eigentlicher galanterie ist in dem nibelungen Lied wenig zu finden, von Christlichen mysticismus fast gar nichts. Bouterwek, ix. 147. I may observe that the positions in the text, as to the absence of gallantry in the old Teutonic poetry, are borne out by every other authority; by Weber, Price, Turner, and Eichhorn. The last writer draws rather an amusing inference as to the want of politeness towards the fair sex from the frequency of abductions in Teutonic and Scandinavian story, which he enumerates. Allg. Gesch. i. 37. Append. p. 37.

[301] See, in Mr. Turner’s Hist. of England, iv. 256-269, two dissertations on the romantic histories of Turpin and of Geoffrey, wherein the relation between the two, and the motives with which each was written, seem irrefragably demonstrated.

Romances of chivalry, of two kinds. 57. The condition and the opinions of a people stamp a character on its literature; while that literature powerfully reacts upon and moulds afresh the national temper from which it has taken its distinctive type. This is remarkably applicable to the romances of chivalry. Some have even believed, that chivalry itself, in the fulness of proportion ascribed to it by these works, had never existence beyond their pages; others, with more probability, that it was heightened and preserved by their influence upon a state of society which had given them birth. A considerable difference is perceived between the metrical romances, contemporaneous with or shortly subsequent to the crusades, and those in prose after the middle of the fourteenth century. The former are more fierce, more warlike, more full of abhorrence of infidels; they display less of punctilious courtesy, less of submissive deference to woman, less of absorbing and passionate love, less of voluptuousness and luxury; their superstition [Pg 66] has more of interior belief, and less of ornamental machinery, than those to which Amadis de Gaul and other heroes of the later cycles of romance furnished a model. The one reflect, in a tolerably faithful mirror, the rough customs of the feudal aristocracy in their original freedom, but partially modified by the gallant and courteous bearing of France; the others represent to us, with more of licensed deviation from reality, the softened features of society, in the decline of the feudal system through the cessation of intestine war, the increase of wealth and luxury, and the silent growth of female ascendency. This last again was, no doubt, promoted by the tone given to manners through romance; the language of respect became that of gallantry; the sympathy of mankind was directed towards the success of love; and, perhaps, it was thought, that the sacrifices which this laxity of moral opinion cost the less prudent of the fair, were but the price of the homage that the whole sex obtained.

Effect of difference of religion upon poetry. 58. Nothing, however, more showed a contrast between the old and the new trains of sentiment in points of taste than the difference of religion. It would be untrue to say, that ancient poetry is entirely wanting in exalted notions of the Deity; but they are rare in comparison with those which the Christian religion has inspired into very inferior minds, and which, with more or less purity, pervaded the vernacular poetry of Europe. They were obscured in both by an enormous superstructure of mythological machinery; but so different in names and associations, though not always in spirit, or even in circumstances, that those who delighted in the fables of Ovid usually scorned the Golden Legend of James de Voragine, whose pages were turned over with equal pleasure by a credulous multitude, little able to understand why any one should relish heathen stories which he did not believe. The modern mythology, if we may include in it the saints and devils, as well as the fairy and goblin armies, which had been retained in service since the days of paganism, is so much more copious, and so much more easily adapted to our ordinary associations than the ancient, that this has given an advantage to the romantic school in their contention, which they have well known how to employ and to abuse.

General tone of romance. 59. Upon these three columns,—chivalry, gallantry, and religion,—repose the fictions of the middle ages, especially those usually designated as romances. These, such as we now know them, and such as display the characteristics above mentioned, were originally metrical, and chiefly written by natives of the north of France. The English and Germans translated or imitated them. A new æra of romance began with the Amadis de Gaul, derived, as some have thought, but upon insufficient evidence, from a French metrical original, but certainly written in Portugal, though in the Castilian language, by Vasco de Lobeyra, whose death is generally fixed in 1325.[302] This romance is in prose; and though a long interval seems to have elapsed before those founded on the story of Amadis began to multiply, many were written in French during the latter part of the fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries, derived from other legends of chivalry, which became the popular reading, and superseded the old metrical romances, already somewhat obsolete in their forms of language.[303]

[302] Bouterwek, Hist. of Spanish Literature, p. 48.

[303] The oldest prose romance, which also is partly metrical, appears to be Tristan of Leonois, one of the cycle of the round table, written or translated by Lucas de Gast, about 1170. Roquefort, Etat de la Poésie Française, p. 147.

Popular moral fictions. 60. As the taste of a chivalrous aristocracy was naturally delighted with romances, that not only led the imagination through a series of adventures, but presented a mirror of sentiments to which they themselves pretended, so that of mankind in general found its gratification, sometimes in tales of home growth, or transplanted from the east, whether serious or amusing, such as the Gesta Romanorum, the Dolopathos, the Decameron (certainly the most celebrated and best written of these inventions), the Pecorone; sometimes in historical ballads, or in moral fables, a favourite style of composition, especially with the Teutonic nations; sometimes, again, in legends of saints, and the popular demonology of the age. The experience and sagacity, the moral sentiments, the invention and fancy of many obscure centuries may be discerned more fully and favourably in these various fictions than in their elaborate treatises. No one of the European nations stands so high in this respect as the German; their ancient tales have a raciness and truth which has been only imitated by others. Among the most renowned of these we must place the story of Reynard the Fox; the origin of which, long sought by literary critics, recedes, as they prolong the inquiry, into greater depths of antiquity. [Pg 67] It was supposed to be written, or at least first published, in German rhyme, by Henry of Alkmaar, in 1498; but earlier editions, in the Flemish language, have since been discovered. It has been found written in French verse by Jaquemars Gielée, of Lille, near the end, and in French prose by Peter of St. Cloud, near the beginning, of the thirteenth century. Finally, the principal characters are mentioned in a Provençal song by Richard Cœur de Lion.[304] But though we thus bring the story to France, where it became so popular as to change the very name of the principal animal, which was always called goupil (vulpes) till the fourteenth century, when it assumed, from the hero of the tale, the name of Renard,[305] there seems every reason to believe that it is of German origin; and, according to probable conjecture, a certain Reinard of Lorraine, famous for his vulpine qualities in the ninth century, suggested the name to some unknown fabulist of the empire.

[304] Recueil des anciens poètes, i. 21. M. Raynouard observes that the Troubadours, and, first of all, Richard Cœur de Lion, have quoted the story of Renard, sometimes with allusions not referrible to the present romance. Journal des Sav. 1826, p. 340. A great deal has been written about this story; but I shall only quote Bouterwek, ix. 347; Heinsius, iv. 104, and the Biographie Universelle; arts. Gielée. Alkmaar.

[305] Something like this nearly happened in England: bears have had a narrow escape of being called only bruins, from their representative in the fable.

Exclusion of politics from literature. 61. These moral fictions, as well as more serious productions, in what may be called the ethical literature of the middle ages, towards which Germany contributed a large share, speak freely of the vices of the great. But they deal with them as men responsible to God, and subject to natural law, rather than as members of a community. Of political opinions, properly so called, which have in later times so powerfully swayed the conduct of mankind, we find very little to say in the fifteenth century. In so far as they were not merely founded on temporary circumstances, or at most on the prejudices connected with positive institutions in each country, the predominant associations that influenced the judgment were derived from respect for birth, of which opulence was as yet rather the sign than the substitute. This had long been, and long continued to be, the characteristic prejudice of European society. It was hardly ever higher than in the fifteenth century; when heraldry, the language that speaks to the eye of pride, and the science of those who despise every other, was cultivated with all its ingenious pedantry; and every improvement in useful art, every creation in inventive architecture, was made subservient to the grandeur of an elevated class in society. The burghers, in those parts of Europe which had become rich by commerce, emulated in their public distinctions, as they did ultimately in their private families, the ensigns of patrician nobility. This prevailing spirit of aristocracy was still but partially modified by the spirit of popular freedom on one hand, or of respectful loyalty on the other.

Religious opinions. 62. It is far more important to observe the disposition of the public mind in respect of religion, which not only claims to itself one great branch of literature, but exerts a powerful influence over almost every other. The greater part of literature in the middle ages, at least from the twelfth century, may be considered as artillery levelled against the clergy: I do not say against the church, which might imply a doctrinal opposition by no means universal. |Attacks on the church.| But if there is one theme upon which the most serious as well as the lightest, the most orthodox as the most heretical writers are united, it is ecclesiastical corruption. Divided among themselves, the secular clergy detested the regular; the regular monks satirised the mendicant friars; who, in their turn, after exposing both to the ill-will of the people, incurred a double portion of it themselves. In this most important respect, therefore, the influence of mediæval literature was powerful towards change. But it rather loosened the associations of ancient prejudice, and prepared mankind for revolutions of speculative opinion, than brought them forward.

Three lines of religious opinion in fifteenth century. 63. It may be said in general, that three distinct currents of religious opinion are discernible, on this side of the Alps, in the first part of the fifteenth century. 1. The high pretensions of the Church of Rome to a sort of moral, as well as theological, infallibility, and to a paramount authority even in temporal affairs, when she should think fit to interfere with them, were maintained by a great body in the monastic and mendicant orders, and had still, probably, a considerable influence over the people in most parts of Europe. 2. The councils of Constance and Basle, and the contentions of the Gallican and [Pg 68] German Churches against the encroachments of the holy see, had raised up a strong adverse party, supported occasionally by the government, and more uniformly by the temporal lawyers and other educated laymen. It derived, however, its greatest force from a number of sincere and earnest persons, who set themselves against the gross vices of the time, and the abuses grown up in the church through self-interest or connivance. They were disgusted, also, at the scholastic systems, which had turned religion into a matter of subtle dispute, while they laboured to found it on devotional feeling and contemplative love. The mystical theology, which, from seeking the illuminating influence and piercing love of the Deity, often proceeded onward to visions of complete absorption in his essence, till that itself was lost, as in the east, from which this system sprung, in an annihilating pantheism, had never wanted, and can never want, its disciples. Some, of whom Bonaventura is the most conspicuous, opposed its enthusiastic emotions to the icy subtleties of the schoolmen. Some appealed to the hearts of the people in their own language. Such was Tauler, whose sermons were long popular and have often been printed; and another was the unknown author of The German Theology, a favourite work with Luther, and known by the Latin version of Sebastian Castalio. Such, too, were Gerson and Clemangis, and such were the numerous brethren who issued from the college of Deventer.[306] |Treatise de Imitatione Christi.| One, doubtless of this class, whenever he may have lived, was author of the celebrated treatise De Imitatione Christi (a title which has been transferred from the first chapter to the entire work), commonly ascribed to Thomas von Kempen or à Kempis, one of the Deventer society, but the origin of which has been, and will continue to be, the subject of strenuous controversy. Besides Thomas à Kempis, two candidates have been supported by their respective partisans; John Gerson, the famous chancellor of the university of Paris, and John Gersen, whose name appears in one manuscript, and whom some contend to have been abbot of a monastery at Vercelli in the thirteenth century, while others hold him an imaginary being, except as a misnomer of Gerson. Several French writers plead for their illustrious countrymen, and especially M. Gence, one of the last who has revived the controversy; while the German and Flemish writers, to whom the Sorbonne acceded, have always contended for Thomas à Kempis, and Gersen has had the respectable support of Bellarmin, Mabillon, and most of the Benedictine order.[307] The book itself is said [Pg 69] to have gone through 1800 editions, and has probably been more read than any one work after the Scriptures. 3. A third religious party consisted of the avowed or concealed heretics, some disciples of the older sectaries, some of Wicliffe or Huss, resembling the school of Gerson and Gerard Groot in their earnest piety, but drawing a more decided line of separation between themselves and the ruling power, and ripe for a more complete reformation than the others were inclined to desire. It is not possible, however, for us to pronounce on all the shades of opinion that might be secretly cherished in the fifteenth century.

[306] Eichhorn,vi. 1-136, has amply and well treated the theological literature of the fifteenth century. Mosheim is less satisfactory, and Milner wants extent of learning; yet both will be useful to the English reader. Eichhorn seems well acquainted with the mystical divines, in p. 97, et post.

[307] I am not prepared to state the external evidence upon this keenly debated question with sufficient precision. In a few words, it may, I believe, be said, that in favour of Thomas à Kempis has been alleged the testimony of many early editions bearing his name, including one about 1471, which appears to be the first, as well as a general tradition from his own time, extending over most of Europe, which has led a great majority, including the Sorbonne itself, to determine the cause in his favour. It is also said that a manuscript of the treatise De Imitatione bears these words at the conclusion: Finitus et completus per manum Thomæ de Kempis, 1441; and that in this manuscript are so many erasures and alterations, as give it the appearance of his original autograph. Against Thomas à Kempis it is urged, that he was a professed caligrapher or copyist for the college of Deventer; that the chronicle of St. Agnes, a contemporary work, says of him: Scripsit Bibliam nostram totaliter, et multos alios libros pro domo et pro pretio; that the entry above mentioned is more like that of a transcriber than of an author; that the same chronicle makes no mention of his having written the treatise De Imitatione, nor does it appear in an early list of works ascribed to him. For Gerson are brought forward a great number of early editions in France, and still more in Italy, among which is the first that bears a date (Venice, 1483), both in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; and some other probabilities are alleged. But this treatise is not mentioned in a list of his writings given by himself. As to Gersen, his claim seems to rest on a manuscript of great antiquity, which ascribes it to him, and indirectly on all those manuscripts which are asserted to be older than the time of Gerson and Thomas à Kempis. But, as I have before observed, I do not profess to give a full view of the external evidence, of which I possess but a superficial knowledge.

From the book itself, two remarks, which I do not pretend to be novel, have suggested themselves. 1. The Gallicisms or Italicisms are very numerous, and strike the reader at once; such as, Scientia sine timore Dei quid importat?—Resiste in principio inclinationi tuæ—Vigilia serotina—Homo passionatus—Vivere cum nobis contrariantibus—Timoratior in cunctis actibus—Sufferentia crusis. It seems strange that these barbarous adaptations of French or Italian should have occurred to any one, whose native language was Dutch; unless it can be shown, that through St. Bernard, or any other ascetic writer, they had become naturalised in religious style. 2. But, on the other hand, it seems impossible to resist the conviction, that the author was an inhabitant of a monastery, which was not the case with Gerson, originally a secular priest at Paris, and employed for many years in active life, as chancellor of the university, and one of the leaders of the Gallican church. The whole spirit breathed by the treatise De Imitatione Christi is that of a solitary ascetic:—Vellem me pluries tacuisse et inter homines non fuisse—Sed quare tam libenter loquimur, et invicem fabulamur, cum raro sine læsione conscientiæ ad silentium redimus.—Cella continuata dulcescit, et male custodita tædium generat. Si in principio conversionis tuæ bene eam incolueris et custodieris, erit tibi posthac dilecta, amica, et gratissimum solatium.

As the former consideration seems to exclude Thomas à Kempis, so the latter is unfavourable to the claims of Gerson. It has been observed, however, that in one passage, l. i. c. 24, there is an apparent allusion to Dante; which, if intended, must put an end to Gersen, abbot of Vercelli, whom his supporters place in the first part of the thirteenth century. But the allusion is not indisputable. Various articles in the Biographie Universelle, from the pen of M. Gence, maintain his favourite hypothesis; and M. Daunou, in the Journal des Savans for 1826, and again in the volume for 1827, seems to incline the same way. This is in the review of a defence of the pretensions of Gersen, by M. Gregory, who adduces some strong reasons to prove that the work is older than the fourteenth century.

The book contains great beauty and heart-piercing truth in many of its detached sentences, but places its rule of life in absolute seclusion from the world, and seldom refers to the exercise of any social, or even domestic duty. It has naturally been less a favourite in Protestant countries, both from its monastic character, and because those who incline towards Calvinism do not find in it the phraseology to which they are accustomed. The translations are very numerous, but there seems to be an inimitable expression in its concise and energetic, though barbarous Latin.

Scepticism. Defences of Christianity. 64. Those of the second class were, perhaps, comparatively rare at this time in Italy, and those of the third much more so. But the extreme superstition of the popular creed, the conversation of Jews and Mahometans, the unbounded admiration of pagan genius and virtue, the natural tendency of many minds to doubt and to perceive difficulties, which the schoolmen were apt to find everywhere, and nowhere to solve, joined to the irreligious spirit of the Aristotelian philosophy, especially as modified by Averroes, could not but engender a secret tendency towards infidelity, the course of which may be traced with ease in the writings of those ages. Thus the tale of the three rings in Bocacce, whether original or not, may be reckoned among the sports of a sceptical philosophy. But a proof, not less decisive, that the blind faith we ascribe to the middle ages was by no means universal, results from the numerous vindications of Christianity written in the fifteenth century. Eichhorn, after referring to several passages in the works of Petrarch, mentions defences of religion by Marcilius Ficinus, Alfonso de Spina, a converted Jew, Savanarola, Æneas Sylvius, Picus of Mirandola. He gives an analysis of the first, which, in its course of argument, differs little from modern apologies of the same class.[308]

[308] Vol. vi. p. 24.

Raimond de Sebonde. 65. These writings, though by men so considerable as most of those he has named, are very obscure at present; but the treatise of Raimond de Sebonde is somewhat better known, in consequence of the chapter in Montaigne entitled an apology for him. Montaigne had previously translated into French the Theologia Naturalis of this Sebonde, professor of medicine at Barcelona in the early part of the fifteenth century. This has been called by some the first regular system of natural theology; but, even if nothing of that kind could be found in the writings of the schoolmen, which is certainly not the case, such an appellation, notwithstanding the title, seems hardly due to Sebonde’s book, which is intended, not so much to erect a fabric of religion independent of revelation, as to demonstrate the latter by proofs derived from the order of nature.

His views misunderstood. 66. Dugald Stewart, in his first dissertation prefixed to the Encyclopædia Britannica, observes, that the principal aim of Sebonde’s book, according to Montaigne, is to show that Christians are in the wrong to make human reasoning the basis of their belief, since the object of it is only conceived by faith, and [Pg 70] by a special inspiration of the divine grace. I have been able to ascertain that the excellent author was not misled in this passage by any carelessness of his own, but by confiding in Cotton’s translation of Montaigne, which absolutely perverts the sense. Far from such being the aim of Sebonde, his book is wholly devoted to the rational proofs of religion: and what Stewart, on Cotton’s authority, has taken for a proposition of Sebonde himself, is merely an objection which, according to Montaigne, some were apt to make against his mode of reasoning. The passage is so very clear, that every one who looks at Montaigne (l. ii. c. 12) must instantaneously perceive the oversight which the translator has made; or he may satisfy himself by the article on Sebonde in Bayle.

His real object. 67. The object of Sebonde’s book, according to himself, is to develop those truths as to God and man, which are latent in nature, and through which the latter may learn everything necessary; and especially may understand Scripture, and have an infallible certainty of its truth. This science is incorporate in all the books of the doctors of the church, as the alphabet is in their words. It is the first science, the basis of all others, and requiring no other to be previously known. The scarcity of the book will justify an extract; which, though in very uncouth Latin, will serve to give a notion of what Sebonde really aimed at; but he labours with a confused expression, arising, partly, from the vastness of his subject.[309]

[309] Duo sunt libri nobis dati a Deo: scilicet liber universitatis creaturarum, sive liber naturæ, et alius est liber sacræ scripturæ. Primus liber fuit datus homini a principio, dum universitas rerum fuit condita, quoniam quælibet creatura non est nisi quædam litera digito Dei scripta, et ex pluribus creaturis sicut ex pluribus literis componitur liber. Ita componitur liber creaturarum, in quo libro etiam continetur homo; et est principalior litera ipsius libri. Et sicut literæ et dictiones factæ ex literis important et includunt scientiam et diversas significationes et mirabiles sententias: ita conformiter ipsæ creaturæ simul conjunctæ et ad invicem comparatæ important et significant diversas significationes et sententias, et continent scientiam homini necessariam. Secundus autem liber scripturæ datus est homini secundo, et hoc in defectu primi libri; eo quia homo nesciebat in primo legere, quia erat cœcus; sed tamen primus liber creaturarum est omnibus communis, quia solum clerici legere sciunt in eo [i.e. secundo].

Item primus liber, scilicet naturæ, non potest falsificari, nec deleri, neque false interpretari; ideo hæretici non possunt eum false intelligere, nec aliquis potest in eo fieri hæreticus. Sed secundus potest falsificari et false interpretari et male intelligi. Attamen uterque liber est ab eodem, quia idem Dominus et creaturas condidit, et sacram Scripturam revelavit. Et ideo conveniunt ad invicem, et non contradicit unus alteri, sed tamen primus est nobis connaturalis, secundus supernaturalis. Præterea cum homo sit naturaliter rationalis, et susceptibilis disciplinæ et doctrinæ; et cum naturaliter a sua creatione nullam habeat actu doctrinam neque scientiam, sit tamen aptus ad suscipiendum eam; et cum doctrina et scientia sine libro, in quo scripta sit, non possit haberi, convenientissimum fuit, ne frustra homo esset capax doctrinæ et scientiæ, quod divina scientia homini librum creaverit, in quo per se et sine magistro possit studere doctrinam necessariam; propterea hoc totum istum mundum visibilem sibi creavit, et dedit tanquam librum proprium et naturalem et infallibilem, Dei digito scriptum, ubi singulæ creaturæ quasi literæ sunt, non humano arbitrio sed divino juvante judicio ad demonstrandum homini sapientiam et doctrinam sibi necessariam ad salutem. Quam quidem sapientiam nullus potest videre, neque legere per se in dicto libro semper aperto, nisi fuerit a Deo illuminatus et a peccato originali mundatus. Et ideo nullus antiquorum philosophorum paganorum potest legere hanc scientiam, quia erant excæcati quantum ad propriam salutem, quamvis in dicto libro legerunt aliquam scientiam, et omnem quam habuerunt ab eodem contraxerunt; sed veram sapientiam quæ ducit ad vitam æternam, quamvis fuerat in eo scripta, legere non potuerunt.

Ista autem scientia non est aliud nisi cogitare et videre sapientiam scriptam in creaturis, et extrahere ipsam ab illis, et ponere in animâ, et videre significationem creaturarum. Et sic comparando ad aliam et conjungere sicut dictionem dictioni, et ex tali conjunctione resultat sententia et significatio vera, dum tamen scia homo intelligere et cognoscere.

Nature of his arguments. 68. Sebonde seems to have had floating in his mind, as this extract will suggest, some of those theories as to the correspondence of the moral and material world, which were afterwards propounded, in their cloudy magnificence, by the Theosophists of the next two centuries. He afterwards undertakes to prove the Trinity from the analogy of nature. His argument is ingenious enough, if not quite of orthodox tendency, being drawn from the scale of existence, which must lead us to a being immediately derived from the First Cause. He proceeds to derive other doctrines of Christianity from principles of natural reason; and after this, which occupies about half a volume of 779 closely printed pages, he comes to direct proofs of revelation: first, because God, who does all for his own honour, would not suffer an impostor to persuade the world that he was equal to [Pg 71] God, which Mahomet never pretended; and afterwards by other arguments more or less valid or ingenious.

69. We shall now adopt a closer and more chronological arrangement than before, ranging under each decennial period the circumstances of most importance in the general history of literature, as well as the principal books published within it. This course we shall pursue till the channels of learning become so various, and so extensively diffused through several kingdoms, that it will be found convenient to deviate in some measure from so strictly chronological a form, in order to consolidate better the history of different sciences, and diminish, in some measure, what can never wholly be removed from a work of this nature—the confusion of perpetual change of subject.



Sect. I. 1440-1450.

Classical Literature in Italy—Nicolas V.—Laurentius Valla.

The year 1440 not chosen as an epoch. 1. The reader is not to consider the year 1440 as a marked epoch in the annals of literature. It has sometimes been treated as such, by those who have referred the invention of printing to this particular epoch. But it is here chosen as an arbitrary line, nearly coincident with the complete development of an ardent thirst for classical, and especially Grecian, literature in Italy, as the year 1400 was with its first manifestation.

Continual progress of learning. 2. No very conspicuous events belong to this decennial period. The spirit of improvement, already so powerfully excited in Italy, continued to produce the same effects in rescuing ancient manuscripts from the chances of destruction, accumulating them in libraries, making translations from the Greek, and by intense labour in the perusal of the best authors, rendering both their substance and their language familiar to the Italian scholar. The patronage of Cosmo de’ Medici, Alfonso king of Naples, and Nicolas of Este, has already been mentioned. Lionel, successor of the last prince, was by no means inferior to him in love of letters. |Nicolas V.| But they had no patron so important as Nicolas V. (Thomas of Sarzana), who became Pope in 1447; nor has any later occupant of that chair, without excepting Leo X., deserved equal praise as an encourager of learning. Nicolas founded the Vatican library, and left it, at his death in 1455, enriched with 5000 volumes; a treasure far exceeding that of any other collection in Europe. Every scholar who needed maintenance, which was of course the common case, found it at the court of Rome; innumerable benefices, all over Christendom, which had fallen into the grasp of the holy see, and frequently required of their incumbents, as is well known, neither residence, nor even the priestly character, affording the means of generosity, which have seldom been so laudably applied. Several Greek authors were translated into Latin by direction of Nicolas V., among which are the history of Diodorus Siculus, and Xenophon’s Cyropædia, by Poggio,[310] who still enjoyed the office of apostolical secretary, as he had under Eugenius IV., and with still more abundant munificence on the part of the pope; Herodotus and Thucydides by Valla, Polybius by Peroti, Appian by Decembrio, Strabo by Gregory of Tiferno and Guarino of Verona, Theophrastus by Gaza, Plato de Legibus, Ptolemy’s Almagest, and the Præparatio Evangelica of Eusebius, by George of Trebizond.[311] These translations, [Pg 72] it has been already observed, will not bear a very severe criticism, but certainly there was an extraordinary cluster of learning round the chair of this excellent pope.

[310] This translation of Diodorus has been ascribed by some of our writers, even since the error has been pointed out, to John Free, an Englishman, who had heard the lectures of the younger Guarini in Italy. Quod opus, Leland observes, Itali Poggio vanissime attribuunt Florentino. De Scriptor. Britann. p. 462. But it bears the name of Poggio in the two editions printed in 1472 and 1493; and Leland seems to have been deceived by some one who had put Free’s name on a manuscript of the translation. Poggio, indeed, in his preface, declares that he undertook it by command of Nicolas V. See Niceron, ix. 158; Zeno, Dissertazioni Vossiane, i. 41; Ginguéné, iii. 245. Pits follows Leland in ascribing a translation of Diodorus to Free, and quotes the first words: thus, if it still should be suggested that this may be a different work, there are the means of proving it.

[311] Heeren, p. 72.

Justice due to his character. 3. Corniani remarks, that if Nicolas V., like some popes, had raised a distinguished family, many pens would have been employed to immortalise him; but not having surrounded himself with relations, his fame has been much below his merits. Gibbon, one of the first to do full justice to Nicolas, has made a similar observation. How striking the contrast between this pope and his famous predecessor Gregory I., who, if he did not burn and destroy heathen authors, was at least anxious to discourage the reading of them! These eminent men, like Michael Angelo’s figures of Night and Morning, seem to stand at the two gates of the middle ages, emblems and heralds of the mind’s long sleep, and of its awakening.

Poggio on the ruins of Rome. 4. Several little treatises by Poggio, rather in a moral than political strain, display an observing and intelligent mind. Such are those on nobility, and on the unhappiness of princes. For these, which were written before 1440, the reader may have recourse to Shepherd, Corniani, or Ginguéné. A later essay, if we may so call it, on the vicissitudes of fortune, begins with rather an interesting description of the ruins of Rome. It is an enumeration of the more conspicuous remains of the ancient city; and we may infer from it that no great devastation or injury has taken place since the fifteenth century. Gibbon has given an account of this little tract, which is not, as he shows, the earliest description of the ruins of Rome. Poggio, I will add, seems not to have known some things with which we are familiar; as the Cloaca Maxima, the fragments of the Servian wall, the Mamertine prison, the temple of Nerva, the Giano Quadrifonte; and, by some odd misinformation, believes that the tomb of Cecilia Metella, which he had seen entire, was afterwards destroyed.[312] This leads to a conjecture that the treatise was not finished during his residence at Rome, and consequently not within the present decennium.

[312] Ad calcem postea majore ex parte exterminatum.

Account of the East, by Conti. 5. In the fourth book of this treatise, De Varietate Fortunæ, Poggio has introduced a remarkable narration of travels by a Venetian, Nicolo di Conti, who, in 1419, had set off from his country, and after passing many years in Persia and India, returned home in 1444. His account of those regions, in some respects the earliest on which reliance could be placed, will be found rendered into Italian from a Portuguese version of Poggio, in the first volume of Ramusio. That editor seems not to have known that the original was in print.

Laurentius Valla. 6. A far more considerable work by Laurentius Valla, on the graces of the Latin language, is rightly, I believe, placed within this period; but it is often difficult to determine the dates of books published before the invention of printing. Valla, like Poggio, had long earned the favour of Alfonso, but, unlike him, had forfeited that of the court of Rome. His character was very irascible and overbearing; a fault too general with the learned of the fifteenth century; but he may, perhaps, be placed at the head of the literary republic at this time; for, if inferior to Poggio, as probably he was, in vivacity and variety of genius, he was undoubtedly above him in what was then most valued and most useful, grammatical erudition.

His attack on the court of Rome. 7. Valla began with an attack on the court of Rome, in his declamation against the donation of Constantine. Some have in consequence reckoned him among the precursors of Protestantism; while others have imputed to the Roman see, that he was pursued with its hostility for questioning that pretended title to sovereignty. But neither of these representations is just. Valla confines himself altogether to the temporal principality of the pope; but in this his language must be admitted to have been so abusive as to render the resentment of the court of Rome not unreasonable.[313]

[313] A few lines will suffice as a specimen. O Romani pontifices, exemplum facinorum omnium cæteris pontificibus, et improbissimi scribæ et pharisæi, qui sedetis super cathedram Moysi, et opera Dathan et Abyron facitis, itane vestimenta apparatûs, pompa equitatus, omnis denique vita Cæsaris, vicarium Christi decebit? The whole tone is more like Luther’s violence, than what we should expect from an Italian of the fifteenth century. But it is with the ambitious spirit of aggrandisement as temporal princes, that he reproaches the pontiffs; nor can it be denied, that Martin and Eugenius had given provocation for his invective. Nec amplius horrenda vox audiatur, partes contra ecclesiam; ecclesia contra Perusinos pugnat, contra Bononienses. Non contra Christianos pugnat ecclesia, sed papa. Of the papal claim to temporal sovereignty by prescription, Valla writes indignantly. Præscripsit Romana ecclesia; o imperiti, o divini juris ignari. Nullus quantumvis annorum numerus verum abolere titulum potest. Præscripsit Romana ecclesia. Tace, nefaria lingua. Præscriptionem quæ fit de rebus mutis atque irrationalibus, ad hominem transfers; cujus quo diuturnior in servitute possessio, eo detestabilior.

[Pg 73]

His treatise on the Latin language. 8. The more famous work of Valla, De Elegantiis Latinæ Linguæ, begins with too arrogant an assumption. These books, he says, will contain nothing that has been said by any one else. For many ages past, not only no man has been able to speak Latin, but none have understood the Latin they read: the studious of philosophy have had no comprehension of the philosophers,—the advocates of the orators,—the lawyers of the jurists,—the general scholar of any writers of antiquity. Valla, however, did at least incomparably more than any one who had preceded him; and it would probably appear, that a great part of the distinctions in Latin syntax, inflection, and synonymy, which our best grammars contain, may be traced to his work. It is to be observed, that he made free use of the ancient grammarians, so that his vaunt of originality must be referred to later times. Valla is very copious as to synonyms, on which the delicate, and even necessary understanding of a language mainly depends. If those have done most for any science who have carried it furthest from the point whence they set out, philology seems to owe quite as much to Valla as to any one who has come since. The treatise was received with enthusiastic admiration, continually reprinted, honoured with a paraphrase by Erasmus, commented, abridged, extracted, and even turned into verse.[314]

[314] Corniani, ii. 221. The editions of Valla de Elegantiis, recorded by Panzer, are twenty-eight in the fifteenth century, beginning in 1471, and thirty-one in the first thirty-six years of the next.

Its defects. 9. Valla, however, self-confident and of no good temper, in censuring the language of others, fell not unfrequently into mistakes of his own. Vives and Budæus, coming in the next century, and in a riper age of philology, blame the hypercritical disposition of one who had not the means of pronouncing negatively on Latin words and phrases, from his want of sufficient dictionaries: his fastidiousness became what they call superstition, imposing captious scruples and unnecessary observances on himself and the world.[315] And of this species of superstition there has been much since his time in philology.

[315] Vives, De Tradendis Disciplinis, i. 478. Budæus observes: Ego Laurentium Vallensem, egregii spiritus virum, existimo sæculi sui imperitia offensum primum Latine loquendi consuetudinem constituere summa religione institisse; deinde judicii cerimonia singulari, cum profectus quoque diligentiam æquasset, in eam superstitionem sensim delapsum esse, ut et sese ipse et alios captiosis observationibus scribendique legibus obligaret. Commentar. in Ling. Græc. p. 26. (1529). But sometimes, perhaps, Valla is right, and Budæus wrong in censuring him; as, where he disputes the former’s rule, that two epithets, not being placed as predicates, cannot be joined in Latin prose to a substantive without a copula, on no better grounds than such an usage of the pronoun suus, or a phrase like privata res maritima in Cicero, where res maritima is in the nature of a single word, like res publica. The rule is certainly a good one, even if a few better exceptions can be found.

Heeren’s praise of it. 10. Heeren, one of the few who have, in modern times, spoken of this work from personal knowledge, and with sufficient learning, gives it a high character. Valla was, without doubt, the best acquainted with Latin of any man in his age; yet, no pedantic Ciceronian, he had studied in all the classical writers of Rome. His Elegantiæ are a work on grammar; they contain an explanation of refined turns of expression; especially where they are peculiar to Latin. They display not only an exact knowledge of that tongue, but often also a really philosophical study of language in general. In an age when nothing was so much valued as a good Latin style, yet when the helps, of which we now possess so many, were all wanting, such a work must obtain a great success, since it relieved a necessity which every one felt.[316]

[316] P. 220.

Valla’s annotations on the New Testament. 11. We have to give this conspicuous scholar a place in another line of criticism, that on the text and interpretation of the New Testament. His annotations are the earliest specimen of explanations founded on the original language. In the course of these, he treats the Vulgate with some severity. But Valla is said to have had but a slight knowledge of Greek;[317] and [Pg 74] it must also be owned, that with all his merit as a Latin critic, he wrote indifferently, and with less classical spirit than his adversary Poggio. The invectives of these against each other do little honour to their memory, and are not worth recording in this volume, though they could not be omitted in a legitimate history of the Italian scholars.

[317] Annis abhinc ducentis Herodotum et Thucydidem Latinis literis exponebat Laurentius Valla, in ea bene et eleganter dicendi copia, quam totis voluminibus explicavit, inelegans tamen, et pæne barbarus, Græcis ad hoc literis leviter tinctus, ad auctorum sententias parum attentus, oscitans sæpe, et alias res agens, fidem apud eruditos decoxit. Huet de claris interpretibus, apud Blount. Daunou, however, in the Biographie Universelle, art. Thucydides, asserts that Valla’s translation of that historian is generally faithful. This would show no inconsiderable knowledge of Greek for that age.

Sect. II. 1450-1460.

Greeks in Italy—Invention of Printing.

Fresh arrival of Greeks in Italy. 12. The capture of Constantinople in 1453 drove a few learned Greeks, who had lingered to the last amidst the crash of their ruined empire, to the hospitable and admiring Italy. Among these have been reckoned Argyropulus and Chalcondyles, successively teachers of their own language, Andronicus Callistus, who is said to have followed the same profession both there and at Rome, and Constantine Lascaris, of an imperial family, whose lessons were given for several years at Milan, and afterwards at Messina. It seems, however, to be proved that Argyropulus had been already for several years in Italy.[318]

[318] Hody. Tiraboschi. Roscoe.

Platonists and Aristotelians. 13. The cultivation of Greek literature gave rise about this time to a vehement controversy, which had some influence on philosophical opinions in Italy. Gemistus Pletho, a native of the Morea, and one of those who attended the council of Florence in 1439, being an enthusiastic votary of the Platonic theories in metaphysics and natural theology communicated to Cosmo de’ Medici part of his own zeal; and from that time the citizen of Florence formed a scheme of establishing an academy of learned men, to discuss and propagate the Platonic system. This seems to have been carried into effect early in the present decennial period.

Their controversy. 14. Meantime, a treatise by Pletho, wherein he not only extolled the Platonic philosophy, which he mingled, as was then usual, with that of the Alexandrian school, and of the spurious writings attributed to Zoroaster and Hermes, but inveighed without measure against Aristotle and his disciples, had aroused the Aristotelians of Greece, where, as in western Europe, their master’s authority had long prevailed. It seems not improbable that the Platonists were obnoxious to the orthodox party, for sacrificing their own church to that of Rome; and there is also strong ground for ascribing a rejection of Christianity to Pletho. The dispute, at least, began in Greece, where Pletho’s treatise met with an angry opponent in Gennadius, patriarch of Constantinople.[319] It soon spread to Italy; Theodore Gaza embracing the cause of Aristotle with temper and moderation,[320] and George of Trebizond, a far inferior man, with invectives against the Platonic philosophy and its founder. Others replied in the same tone; and whether from ignorance or from rudeness, this controversy appears to have been managed as much with abuse of the lives and characters of two philosophers, dead nearly two thousand years, as with any rational discussion of their tenets. Both sides, however, strove to make out, what in fact was the ultimate object, that the doctrine they maintained was more consonant to the Christian religion than that of their adversaries. Cardinal Bessarion, a man of solid and elegant learning, replied to George of Trebizond in a book entitled Adversus Calumniatorem Platonis; one of the first books that appeared from the Roman press, in 1470. This dispute may possibly have originated, at least in Greece, before 1450; and it was certainly continued beyond 1460, the writings both of George and Bessarion appearing to be rather of later date.[321]

[319] Pletho’s death, in an extreme old age, is fixed by Brucker, on the authority of George of Trebizond, before the capture of Constantinople. A letter, indeed, of Bessarion, in 1462 (Mém. de l’Acad. des Inscript. vol. ii.), seems to imply that he was then living; but this cannot have been the case. Gennadius, his enemy, abdicated the patriarchate of Constantinople in 1458, having been raised to it in 1453. The public burning of Pletho’s book was in the intermediate time; and it is agreed that this was done after his death.

[320] Hody, p. 79, doubts whether Gaza’s vindication of Aristotle were not merely verbal, in conversation with Bessarion; which is however implicitly contradicted by Boivin and Tiraboschi, who assert him to have written against Pletho. The comparison of Plato and Aristotle by George of Trebizond was published at Venice in 1523, as Heeren says, on the authority of Fabricius.

[321] The best account, and that from which later writers have freely borrowed, of this philosophical controversy, is by Boivin, in the second volume of the Memoirs of the Academy of Inscriptions, p. 15. Brucker, iv. 40, Buhle, ii. 107, and Tiraboschi, vi. 303, are my other authorities.

15. Bessarion himself was so far from being as unjust towards Aristotle as his opponent was towards Plato, that he translated [Pg 75] his metaphysics. That philosopher, though almost the idol of the schoolmen, lay still in some measure under the ban of the church, which had very gradually removed the prohibition she laid on his writings in the beginning of the thirteenth century. Nicholas V. first permitted them to be read without restriction in the universities.[322]

[322] Launoy, De Varia Aristotelis Fortuna in Academia Parisiensi, p. 44.

Marsilius Ficinus. 16. Cosmo de’ Medici selected Marsilius Ficinus, as a youth of great promise, to be educated in the mysteries of Platonism, that he might become the chief and preceptor of the new academy; nor did the devotion of the young philosopher fall short of the patron’s hope. Ficinus declares himself to have profited as much by the conversation of Cosmo as by the writings of Plato; but this is said in a dedication to Lorenzo, and the author has not, on other occasions, escaped the reproach of flattery. He began as early as 1456, at the age of twenty-three, to write on the Platonic philosophy; but being as yet ignorant of Greek, prudently gave way to the advice of Cosmo and Landino, that he should acquire more knowledge before he imparted it to the world.[323]

[323] Brucker, iv. 50. Roscoe.

Invention of printing. 17. The great glory of this decennial period is the invention of printing, or at least, as all must allow, its application to the purposes of useful learning. The reader will not expect a minute discussion of so long and unsettled a controversy as that which the origin of this art has furnished. For those who are little conversant with the subject, a very few particulars may be thought necessary.

Block-books. 18. About the end of the fourteenth century we find a practice of taking impressions from engraved blocks of wood, sometimes for playing cards, which came into use not long before that time; sometimes for rude cuts of saints.[324] The latter were frequently accompanied by a few lines of letters cut in the block. Gradually entire pages were impressed in this manner; and thus began what are called block books, printed in fixed characters, but never exceeding a very few leaves. Of these there exist nine or ten, often reprinted, as it is generally thought, between 1400 and 1440.[325] In using the word printed, it is of course not intended to prejudice the question as to the real art of printing. These block books seem to have been all executed in the Low Countries. They are said to have been followed by several editions of the short grammar of Donatus in wooden stereotype.[326] These also were printed in Holland. This mode of printing from blocks of wood has been practised in China from time immemorial.

[324] Heinekke and others have proved that playing cards were known in Germany as early as 1299; but these were probably painted. Lambinet, Origines de l’Imprimerie. Singer’s History of Playing Cards. The earliest cards were on parchment.

[325] Lambinet, Singer, Ottley, Dibdin, &c.

[326] Lambinet.

Gutenberg and Costar’s claims. 19. The invention of printing, in the modern sense, from moveable letters, has been referred by most to Gutenberg, a native of Mentz, but settled at Strasburg. He is supposed to have conceived the idea before 1440, and to have spent the next ten years in making attempts at carrying it into effect, which some assert him to have done in short fugitive pieces, actually printed from his moveable wooden characters before 1450. But of the existence of these there seems to be no evidence.[327] Gutenberg’s priority is disputed by those who deem Lawrence Costar, of Haarlem, the real inventor of the art. According to a tradition, which seems not to be traced beyond the middle of the sixteenth century, but resting afterwards upon sufficient testimony to prove its local reception, Costar substituted moveable for fixed letters as early as 1430; and some have believed that a book called Speculum Humanæ Salvationis, of very rude wooden characters, proceeded from the Haarlem press before any other that is generally recognised.[328] The tradition adds, that an unfaithful servant having fled with the secret, set up for himself at Strasburg, or Mentz; and this treachery was originally ascribed to Gutenberg or Fust, but seems, since they have been manifestly cleared of it, to have been laid on one Gensfleisch, reputed to be the brother of Gutenberg.[329] The evidence, however, [Pg 76] as to this, is highly precarious; and even if we were to admit the claims of Costar, there seems no fair reason to dispute that Gutenberg might also have struck out an idea, that surely did not require any extraordinary ingenuity, and which left the most important difficulties to be surmounted, as they undeniably were, by himself and his coadjutors.[330]

[327] Mémoires de l’Acad. des Inscript. xvii. 762. Lambinet, p. 113.

[328] In Mr. Ottley’s History of Engraving, the claims of Costar are strongly maintained, though chiefly on the authority of Meerman’s proofs, which go to establish the local tradition. But the evidence of Ludovico Guicciardini is an answer to those who treat it as a forgery of Hadrian Junius. Santander, Lambinet, and most recent investigators are for Mentz against Haarlem.

[329] Gensfleisch seems to have been the name of that branch of the Gutenberg family to which the inventor of printing belonged. Biogr. Univ., art. Gutenberg.

[330] Lambinet, p. 315.

Progress of the invention. 20. It is agreed by all, that about 1450, Gutenberg, having gone to Mentz, entered into partnership with Fust, a rich merchant of that city, for the purpose of carrying the invention into effect, and that Fust supplied him with considerable sums of money. The subsequent steps are obscure. According to a passage in the Annales Hirsargienses of Trithemius, written sixty years afterwards, but on the authority of a grandson of Peter Schæffer, their assistant in the work, it was about 1452 that the latter brought the art to perfection, by devising an easier mode of casting types.[331] This passage has been interpreted, according to a lax construction, to mean, that Schæffer invented the method of casting types in a matrix; but seems more strictly to mean, that we owe to him the great improvement in letter-casting, namely, the punches of engraved steel, by which the matrices or moulds are struck, and without which, independent of the economy of labour, there could be no perfect uniformity of shape. Upon the former supposition, Schæffer may be reckoned the main inventor of the art of printing; for moveable wooden letters, though small books may possibly have been printed by means of them, are so inconvenient, and letters of cut metal so expensive, that few great works were likely to have passed through the press, till cast types were employed. Van Praet, however, believes the psalter of 1457 to have been printed from wooden characters; and some have conceived letters of cut metal to have been employed both in that and in the first Bible. Lambinet, who thinks the essence of the art of printing is in the engraved punch, naturally gives the chief credit to Schæffer;[332] but this is not the more usual opinion.

[331] Petrus Opilio de Gernsheim, tunc famulus inventoris primi Joannis Fust, homo ingeniosus et prudens, faciliorem modum fundendi characteras excogitavit, et artem, ut nunc est, complevit. Lambinet, i. 101. See Daunou contra. Id. 417.

[332] ii. 213. In another place, he divides the praise better: Gloire donc à Gutenberg, qui, le premier, conçut l’idée de la typographie, en imaginant la mobilité des caractères, qui en est l’âme; gloire à Fust, qui en fît usage avec lui, et sans lequel nous ne jouirions peut-être pas de ce bienfait; gloire à Schæffer, à qui nous devons tout le mécanisme, et toutes les merveilles de l’art. i. 119.

First printed Bible. 21. The earliest book, properly so called, is now generally believed to be the Latin Bible, commonly called the Mazarin Bible, a copy having been found, about the middle of the last century, in Cardinal Mazarin’s library at Paris.[333] It is remarkable, that its existence was unknown before; for it can hardly be called a book of very extraordinary scarcity, nearly twenty copies being in different libraries, half of them in those of private persons in England.[334] No date appears in this Bible, and some have referred its publication to 1452, or even to 1450, which few perhaps would at present maintain; while others have thought the year 1455 rather more probable.[335] In a copy belonging to the royal library at Paris, an entry is made, importing that it was completed in binding and illuminating at Mentz, on the feast of the Assumption (Aug. 15), 1456. But Trithemius, in the passage above quoted, seems to intimate that no book had been printed in 1452; and, considering the lapse of time that would naturally be employed in such an undertaking during the infancy of the art, and that we have no other printed book of the least importance to fill up the interval till 1457, and also that the binding and illuminating the above-mentioned copy is likely to have followed the publication at no great length of time, we may not err in placing its appearance in the year 1455, which will secure its hitherto unimpeached priority in the records of bibliography.[336]

[333] The Cologne chronicle says: Anno Domini 1450, qui jubilæus erat, cœptum est imprimi, primusque liber, qui excudebatur, biblia fuere Latina.

[334] Bibliotheca Sussexiana, i. 293. (1827.) The number there enumerated is eighteen; nine in public, and nine in private libraries; three of the former, and all the latter, English.

[335] Lambinet thinks it was probably not begun before 1453, nor published till the end of 1455. i. 130. See, on this Bible, an article by Dr. Dibdin, in Valpy’s Classical Journal, No. 8; which collects the testimonies of his predecessors.

[336] It is very difficult to pronounce on the means employed in the earliest books, which are almost all controverted. This bible is thought by Fournier, himself a letter founder, to be printed from wooden types; by Meerman, from types cut in metal; by Heinekke and Daunou from cast types, which is most probable. Lambinet, i. 417. Daunou does not believe that any book was printed with types cut either in wood or metal; and that, after block books, there were none but with cast letters like those now in use, invented by Gutenberg, perfected by Schæffer, and first employed by them and Fust in the Mazarin Bible. Id. p. 423.

[Pg 77]

Beauty of the book. 22. It is a very striking circumstance, that the high-minded inventors of this great art tried at the very outset so bold a flight as the printing an entire Bible, and executed it with astonishing success. It was Minerva leaping on earth in her divine strength and radiant armour, ready at the moment of her nativity to subdue and destroy her enemies. The Mazarin Bible is printed, some copies on vellum, some on paper of choice quality, with strong, black, and tolerably handsome characters, but with some want of uniformity, which has led, perhaps unreasonably, to a doubt whether they were cast in a matrix. We may see in imagination this venerable and splendid volume leading up the crowded myriads of its followers, and imploring, as it were, a blessing on the new art, by dedicating its first fruits to the service of Heaven.

Early printed sheets. 23. A metrical exhortation, in the German language, to take arms against the Turks, dated in 1454, has been retrieved in the present century. If this date unequivocally refers to the time of printing, which does not seem a necessary consequence, it is the earliest loose sheet that is known to be extant. It is said to be in the type of what is called the Bamberg Bible, which we shall soon have to mention. Two editions of Letters of Indulgence from Nicolas V., bearing the date of 1454, are extant in single printed sheets, and two more editions of 1455;[337] but it has justly been observed, that, even if published before the Mazarin Bible, the printing of that great volume must have commenced long before. An almanac for the year 1457 has also been detected; and as fugitive sheets of this kind are seldom preserved, we may justly conclude that the art of printing was not dormant, so far as these light productions are concerned. A Donatus, with Schæffer’s name, but no date, may or may not be older than a psalter published in 1457 by Fust and Schæffer (the partnership with Gutenberg having been dissolved in November, 1455, and having led to a dispute and litigation), with a colophon, or notice, subjoined in the last page, in these words:

[337] Brunet, Supplément au Manuel du Libraire. It was not known till lately that more than one edition out of these four was in existence, Santander thinks their publication was after 1460. Dict. Bibliographique du 15me Siècle, i. 92. But this seems improbable, from the transitory character of the subject. He argues from a resemblance in the letters to those used by Fust and Schæffer in the Durandi Rationale of 1459.

Psalmorum codex venustate capitalium decoratus, rubricationibusque sufficienter distinctus, adinventione artificiosa imprimendi ac caracterizandi, absque calami ulla exaratione sic effigiatus, et ad eusebiam Dei industrie est summatus. Per Johannem Fust, civem Moguntinum, et Petrum Schæffer de Gernsheim, anno Domini millesimo cccclvii. In vigilia Assumptionis.[338]

[338] Dibdin’s Bibliotheca Spenceriana. Biogr. Univ., Gutenberg, &c. In the Donatus above mentioned, the method of printing is also mentioned: Explicit Donatus arte nova imprimendi seu caracterizandi per Petrum de Gernsheim in urbe Moguntina effigiatus. Lambinet considers this and the Bible to be the first specimens of typography, for he doubts the Literæ Indulgentiarum, though probably with no cause.

A colophon, substantially similar, is subjoined to several of the Fustine editions. And this seems hard to reconcile with the story that Fust sold his impressions at Paris, as late as 1463, for manuscripts.

Psalter of 1459. Other early books. 24. Another psalter was printed by Fust and Schæffer with similar characters in 1459; and in the same year, Durandi Rationale, a treatise on the liturgical offices of the church; of which Van Praet says, that it is perhaps the earliest with cast types to which Fust and Schæffer have given their name and a date.[339] The two psalters he conceives to have been printed from wood. But this would be disputed by other eminent judges.[340] In 1460, a work of considerable size, the Catholicon of Balbi, came out from an opposition press, established at Mentz by Gutenberg. The Clementine Constitutions, part of the canon law, were also printed by him in the same year.

[339] Lambinet, i. 154.

[340] Lambinet, Dibdin. The former thinks the inequality of letters observed in the psalter of 1457 may proceed from their being cast in a matrix of plaster or clay, instead of metal.

Bible of Pfister. 25. These are the only monuments of early typography acknowledged to come within the present decennium. A Bible without a date, supposed by some to have been printed by Pfister at Bamberg, though ascribed by others to Gutenberg himself, is reckoned by good judges certainly prior to 1462, and perhaps as early as 1460. Daunou and others refer it to 1461. The antiquities of typography, after all the pains bestowed upon them, are not unlikely to receive still further elucidation in the course of time. [Pg 78]

Greek first taught at Paris. 26. On the 19th of January, 1458, as Crevier, with a minuteness becoming the subject, informs us, the university of Paris received a petition from Gregory, a native of Tiferno, in the kingdom of Naples, to be appointed teacher of Greek. His request was granted, and a salary of one hundred crowns assigned to him, on condition that he should teach gratuitously, and deliver two lectures every day, one on the Greek language, and the other on the art of rhetoric.[341] From this auspicious circumstance Crevier deduces the restoration of ancient literature in the university of Paris, and consequently in the kingdom of France. For above two hundred years, the scholastic logic and philosophy had crushed polite letters. No mention is made of rhetoric, that is, of the art that instructs in the ornaments of style, in any statute or record of the university since the beginning of the thirteenth century. If the Greek language, as Crevier supposes, had not been wholly neglected, it was, at least, so little studied, that entire neglect would have been practically the same.

[341] Crevier, Hist. de l’Univ. de Paris, iv. 243.

Leave unwillingly granted. 27. This concession was, perhaps, unwillingly made, and, as frequently happens in established institutions, it left the prejudices of the ruling party rather stronger than before. The teachers of Greek and rhetoric were specially excluded from the privileges of regency by the faculty of arts. These branches of knowledge were looked upon as unessential appendages to a good education, very much as the modern languages are treated in our English schools and universities at this day. A bigoted adherence to old systems, and a lurking reluctance that the rising youth should become superior in knowledge to ourselves, were no peculiar evil spirits that haunted the university of Paris, though none ever stood more in need of a thorough exorcism. For many years after this time, the Greek and Latin languages were thus taught by permission, and with very indifferent success.

Purbach; his mathematical discoveries. 28. Purbach, or Peurbach, native of a small Austrian town of that name, has been called the first restorer of mathematical science in Europe. Ignorant of Greek, and possessing only a bad translation of Ptolemy, lately made by George of Trebizond,[342] he yet was able to explain the rules of physical astronomy and the theory of the planetary motions far better than his predecessors. But his chief merit was in the construction of trigonometrical tables. The Greeks had introduced the sexagesimal division, not only of the circle, but of the radius, and calculated chords according to this scale. The Arabians, who, about the ninth century, first substituted the sine, or half chord of the double arch, in their tables, preserved the same graduation. Purbach made one step towards a decimal scale, which the new notation by Arabic numerals rendered highly convenient, by dividing the radius, or sinus totus, as it was then often called, into 600,000 parts, and gave rules for computing the sines of arcs; which he himself also calculated, for every minute of the quadrant, as Delambre and Kästner think, or for every ten minutes, according to Gassendi and Hutton, in parts of this radius. The tables of Albaten the Arabian geometer, the inventor, as far as appears, of sines, had extended only to quarters of a degree.[343]

[342] Montucla, Biogr. Univ. It is however certain, and is admitted by Delambre, the author of this article in the Biog. Univ., that Purbach made considerable progress in abridging and explaining the text of this translation, which, if ignorant of the original, he must have done by his mathematical knowledge. Kästner, ii. 521.

[343] Montucla, Hist. des Mathématiques, i. 539. Hutton’s Mathematical Dictionary, and his Introduction to Logarithms. Gassendi, Vita Purbachii. Biogr. Univ. Peurbach (by Delambre). Kästner, Geschichte der Mathematik, i. 529-543, 572; ii. 319. Gassendi twice gives 6,000,000 for the parts of Purbach’s radius. None of these writers seem comparable in accuracy to Kästner.

Other mathematicians. 29. Purbach died young, in 1461, when, by the advice of Cardinal Bessarion, he was on the point of setting out for Italy, in order to learn Greek. His mantle descended on Regiomontanus, a disciple, who went beyond his master, though he has sometimes borne away his due credit. A mathematician rather earlier than Purbach, was Nicolas Cusanus, raised to the dignity of cardinal in 1448. He was by birth a German, and obtained a considerable reputation for several kinds of knowledge.[344] But he was chiefly distinguished for the tenet of the earth’s motion, which, however, according to Montucla, he proposed only as an ingenious hypothesis. Fioravanti, of Bologna, is said, on contemporary authority, [Pg 79] to have removed, in 1455, a tower with its foundation, to a distance of several feet, and to have restored to the perpendicular one at Cento seventy-five feet high, which had swerved five feet.[345]

[344] A work upon statics, or rather upon the weight of bodies in water, by Cusanus, seems chiefly remarkable, as it shows both a disposition to ascertain physical truths by experiment, and an extraordinary misapprehension of the results. See Kästner, ii. 122. It is published in an edition of Vitruvius, Strasburg, 1550.

[345] Tiraboschi. Montucla. Biogr. Univ.

Sect. III. 1460-1470.

Progress of Art of Printing—Learning in Italy and rest of Europe.

Progress of printing in Germany. 30. The progress of that most important invention, which illustrated the preceding ten years, is the chief subject of our consideration in the present. Many books, it is to be observed, even of the superior class, were printed, especially in the first thirty years after the invention of the art, without date of time or place; and this was, of course, more frequently the case with smaller or fugitive pieces. A catalogue, therefore, of books that can be certainly referred to any particular period must always be very defective. A collection of fables in German was printed at Bamberg in 1461, and another book in 1462, by Pfister, at the same place.[346] The Bible which bears his name has been already mentioned. In 1462 Fust published a Bible, commonly called the Mentz Bible, and which passed for the earliest till that in the Mazarin library came to light. But in the same year, the city having been taken by Adolphus count of Nassau, the press of Fust was broken up, and his workmen, whom he had bound by an oath to secrecy, dispersed themselves into different quarters. Released thus, as they seem to have thought, from their obligation, they exercised their skill in other places. It is certain, that the art of printing, soon after this, spread into the towns near the Rhine; not only Bamberg, as before mentioned, but Cologne, Strasburg, Augsburg, and one or two more places, sent forth books before the conclusion of these ten years. Nor was Mentz altogether idle, after the confusion occasioned by political events had abated. Yet the whole number of books printed with dates of time and place, in the German empire, from 1461 to 1470, according to Panzer, was only twenty-four; of which five were Latin, and two German, Bibles. The only known classical works are two editions of Cicero de Officiis, at Mentz, in 1465 and 1466, and another about the latter year at Cologne, by Ulric Zell; perhaps also the treatise de Finibus, and that de Senectute, at the same place. There is also reason to suspect that a Virgil, a Valerius Maximus, and a Terence, printed by Mentelin at Strasburg, without a date, are as old as 1470; and the same has been thought of one or two editions of Ovid de Arte Amandi, by Zell of Cologne. One book, Joannis de Turrecremata Explanatio in Psalterium, was printed by Zainer, at Cracow, in 1465. This is remarkable, as we have no evidence of the Polish press from that time till 1500. Several copies of this book are said to exist in Poland; yet doubts of its authenticity have been entertained. Zainer settled soon afterwards at Augsburg.[347]

[346] Lambinet.

[347] Panzer, Annales Typographici. Biographie Universelle, Zainer.

Introduced into France. 31. It was in 1469 that Ulric Gering, with two more, who had been employed as pressmen by Fust at Mentz, were induced by Fitchet and Lapierre, rectors of the Sorbonne, to come to Paris, where several books were printed in 1470 and 1471. The epistles of Gasparin of Barziza appear, by some verses subjoined, to have been the earliest among these.[348] Panzer has increased to eighteen the list of books printed before the close of 1472.[349]

[348] The last four of these lines are the following:

Primos ecce libros quos hæc industria finxit,
Francorum in terris, ædibus atque tuis.
Michael, Udalricus, Martinusque magistri
Hos impresserunt, et facient alios.

[349] See Greswell’s Early Parisian Press.

Caxton’s first works. 32. But there seem to be unquestionable proofs that a still earlier specimen of typography is due to an English printer, the famous Caxton. His Recueil des Histoires de Troye appears to have been printed during the life of Philip duke of Burgundy, and consequently before June 15, 1467. The place of publication, certainly within the duke’s dominions, has not been conjectured. It is, therefore, by several years the earliest printed book in the French language. A Latin speech by Russell, ambassador of Edward IV. to Charles of Burgundy, in 1469, is the next publication of Caxton. This was also printed in the Low Countries.[350]

[350] Dibdin’s Typographical Antiquities. This is not noticed in the Biographie Universelle, nor in Brunet; an omission hardly excusable.

Printing exercised in Italy. 33. A more splendid scene was revealed in Italy. Sweynheim and Pannartz, two workmen of Fust, set up a press, doubtless with encouragement and patronage, at the monastery of Subiaco in the Apennines, a place [Pg 80] chosen either on account of the numerous manuscripts it contained, or because the monks were of the German nation; and hence an edition of Lactantius issued in October, 1465, which one, no longer extant, of Donatus’s little grammar is said to have preceded. An edition of Cicero de Officiis, without a date, is referred by some to the year 1466. In 1467, after printing Augustin de Civitate Dei, and Cicero de Oratore, the two Germans left Subiaco for Rome, where they sent forth not less than twenty-three editions of ancient Latin authors before the close of 1470. Another German, John of Spire, established a press at Venice, in 1469, beginning with Cicero’s Epistles. In that and the next year, almost as many classical works were printed at Venice as at Rome, either by John and his brother Vindelin, or by a Frenchman, Nicolas Jenson. Instances are said to exist of books printed by unknown persons at Milan, in 1469; and in 1470, Zarot, a German, opened there a fertile source of typography, though but two Latin authors were published that year. An edition of Cicero’s Epistles appeared also in the little town of Foligno. The whole number of books that had issued from the press in Italy at the close of that year amounts, according to Panzer, to eighty-two; exclusive of those which have no date, some of which may be referrible to this period.

Lorenzo de’ Medici. 34. Cosmo de’ Medici died in 1464. But the happy impulse he had given to the restoration of letters was not suspended; and in the last year of the present decade, his wealth and his influence over the republic of Florence had devolved on a still more conspicuous character, his grandson Lorenzo, himself worthy, by his literary merits, to have done honour to any patron, had not a more prosperous fortune called him to become one.

Italian poetry of fifteenth century. 35. The epoch of Lorenzo’s accession to power is distinguished by a circumstance hardly less honourable than the restoration of classical learning,—the revival of native genius in poetry, after the slumber of near a hundred years. After the death of Petrarch, many wrote verses, but none excelled in the art; though Muratori has praised the poetry down to 1400, especially that of Guisto di Conti, whom he does not hesitate to place among the first poets of Italy.[351] But that of the fifteenth century is abandoned by all critics as rude, feeble, and ill expressed. The historians of literature scarcely deign to mention a few names, or the editors of selections to extract a few sonnets. The romances of chivalry in rhyme, Buovo d’Antona, la Spagna, l’Ancroja, are only deserving to be remembered as they led in some measure to the great poems of Boiardo and Ariosto. In themselves they are mean and prosaic. It is vain to seek a general cause for the sterility in the cultivation of Latin and Greek literature, which we know did not obstruct the brilliancy of Italian poetry in the next age. There is only one cause for the want of great men in any period;—nature does not think fit to produce them. They are no creatures of education and circumstance.

[351] Muratori della Perfetta Poesia, p. 193. Bouterwek, Gesch. der Ital. Poesie. i. 216.

Italian prose of same age. 36. The Italian prose literature of this interval from the age of Petrarch would be comprised in a few volumes. Some historical memoirs may be found in Muratori, but far the chief part of his collection is in Latin. Leonard Aretin wrote lives of Dante and Petrarch in Italian, which, according to Corniani, are neither valuable for their information nor for their style. The Vita Civile of Palmieri seems to have been written some time after the middle of the fifteenth century; but of this Corniani says, that having wished to give a specimen, on account of the rarity of Italian in that age, he had abandoned his intention, finding that it was hardly possible to read two sentences in the Vita Civile without meeting some barbarism or incorrectness. The novelists Sacchetti, and Ser Giovanni, author of the Pecorone, who belong to the end of the fourteenth century, are read by some; their style is familiar and idiomatic; but Crescimbeni praises that of the former. Corniani bestows some praise on Passavanti and Pandolfini; the first a religious writer, not much later than Boccaccio; the latter a noble Florentine, author of a moral dialogue in the beginning of the fifteenth century. Filelfo, among his voluminous productions, has an Italian commentary on Petrarch, of which Corniani speaks very slightingly. The commentary of Landino on Dante is much better esteemed; but it was not published till 1481.

Giostra of Politian. 37. It was on occasion of a tournament, wherein Lorenzo himself and his brother Julian had appeared in the lists, that poems were composed by Luigi Pulci, and by Politian, then a youth, or rather a boy, the latter of which displayed more harmony, spirit, and imagination, than any that had been written [Pg 81] since the death of Petrarch.[352] It might thus be seen, that there was no real incompatibility between the pursuits of ancient literature and the popular language of fancy and sentiment; and that, if one gave chastity and elegance of style, a more lively and natural expression of the mind could best be attained by the other.

[352] Extracts from this poem will be found in Roscoe’s Lorenzo, and in Sismondi, Littérature du Midi, ii. 43, who praises it highly, as the Italian critics have done, and as by the passages quoted it seems well to deserve. Roscoe supposes Politian to be only fourteen years old when he wrote the Giostra di Giuliano. But the lines he quotes allude to Lorenzo as chief of the republic, which could not be said before the death of Pietro in December, 1469. If he wrote them at sixteen, it is extraordinary enough; but these two years make an immense difference. Ginguéné is of opinion, that they do not allude to the tournament of 1468, but to one in 1473.

Paul II. persecutes the learned. 38. This period was not equally fortunate for the learned in other parts of Italy. Ferdinand of Naples, who came to the throne in 1458, proved no adequate representative of his father Alfonso. But at Rome they encountered a serious calamity. A few zealous scholars, such as Pomponius Lætus, Platina, Callimachus Experiens, formed an academy in order to converse together on subjects of learning, and communicate to each other the results of their private studies. Dictionaries, indexes, and all works of compilation being very deficient, this was the best substitute for the labour of perusing the whole body of Latin antiquity. They took Roman names; an innocent folly, long after practised in Europe. The pope, however, Paul II., thought fit, in 1468, to arrest all this society on charges of conspiracy against his life, for which there was certainly no foundation, and of setting up Pagan superstitions against Christianity, of which, in this instance, there seems to have been no proof. They were put to the torture, and kept in prison a twelvemonth; when the tyrant, who is said to have vowed this in his first rage, set them all at liberty; but it was long before the Roman academy recovered any degree of vigour.[353]

[353] Tiraboschi,vi. 93. Ginguéné. Brucker. Corniani ii. 280. This writer, inferior to none in his acquaintance with the literature of the fifteenth century, but, though not an ecclesiastic, always favourable to the court of Rome, seems to strive to lay the blame on the imprudence of Platina.

Mathias Corvinus. 39. We do not discover as yet much substantial encouragement to literature in any country on this side the Alps, with the exception of one where it was least to be anticipated. Mathias Corvinus, king of Hungary, from his accession in 1458 to his death in 1490, endeavoured to collect round himself the learned of Italy, and to strike light into the midst of the depths of darkness that encompassed his country. He determined, therefore, to erect an university, which, by the original plan, was to have been in a distinct city; but the Turkish wars compelled him to fix it at Buda. He availed himself of the dispersion of libraries, after the capture of Constantinople, to purchase Greek manuscripts, and employed four transcribers at Florence, besides thirty at Buda, to enrich his collection. |His library.| Thus, at his death, it is said that the royal library at Buda contained 50,000 volumes; a number that appears wholly incredible.[354] Three hundred ancient statues are reported to have been placed in the same repository. But when the city fell into the hands of the Turks in 1527, these noble treasures were dispersed, and in great measure destroyed. Though the number of books, as is just observed, must have been exaggerated, it is possible that neither the burning of the Alexandrian library by Omar, if it ever occurred, nor any other single calamity recorded in history, except the two captures of Constantinople itself, has been more fatally injurious to literature; and, with due regard to the good intentions of Mathias Corvinus, it is deeply to be regretted that the inestimable relics once rescued from the barbarian Ottomans, should have been accumulated in a situation of so little security against their devastating arms.[355]

[354] The library collected by Nicolas V. contained only 5,000 manuscripts. The volumes printed in Europe before the death of Corvinus would probably be reckoned highly at 15,000. Heeren suspects the number 50,000 to be hyperbolical; and in fact there can be no doubt of it.

[355] Brucker. Roscoe. Gibbon. Heeren, p. 173, who refers to several modern books expressly relating to the fate of this library. Part of it, however, found its way to that of Vienna.

Slight signs of literature in England. 40. England under Edward IV. presents an appearance, in the annals of publication, about as barren as under Edward the Confessor; there is, I think, neither in Latin nor in English, a single book that we can refer to this decennial period.[356] Yet [Pg 82] we find a few symptoms, not to be overlooked, of incipient regard for literature. Leland enumerates some Englishmen who travelled to Italy, perhaps before 1460, in order to become disciples of the younger Guarini at Ferrara: Robert Fleming, William Gray, bishop of Ely, John Free, John Gunthorpe, and a very accomplished nobleman, John Tiptoft, earl of Worcester. It is but fairness to give credit to these men for their love of learning, and to observe, that they preceded any whom we could mention on sure grounds either in France or Germany. We trace, however, no distinct fruits from their acquisitions. But, though very few had the means of attaining that on which we set a high value in literature, the mere rudiments of grammatical learning were communicated to many. Nor were munificent patrons, testators, in the words of Burke, to a posterity which they embraced as their own, wanting in this latter period of the middle ages. William of Wykeham, chancellor of England under Richard II. and bishop of Winchester, founded a school in that city, and a college at Oxford in connection with it, in 1373.[357] Henry VI., in imitation of him, became the founder of Eton school, and of King’s College, Cambridge, about 1442.[358] In each of these schools seventy boys, and in each college seventy fellows and scholars, are maintained by these princely endowments. It is unnecessary to observe, that they are still the amplest, as they are much the earliest, foundations for the support of grammatical learning in England. What could be taught in these, or any other schools at this time, the reader has been enabled to judge; it must have been the Latin language, through indifferent books of grammar, and with the perusal of very few heathen writers of antiquity. In the curious and unique collection of the Paston letters we find one from a boy at Eton in 1468, wherein he gives two Latin verses, not very good, of his own composition.[359] I am sensible that the mention of such a circumstance may appear trifling, especially to foreigners: but it is not a trifle to illustrate by any fact the gradual progress of knowledge among the laity; first in the mere elements of reading and writing, as we did in a former chapter; and now, in the fifteenth century, in such grammatical instruction as could be imparted. This boy of the Paston family was well born, and came from a distance; nor was he in training for the church, since he seems by this letter to have had marriage in contemplation.

[356] The University of Oxford, according to Wood, as well as the church generally, stood very low about this time: the grammar schools were laid aside; degrees were conferred on undeserving persons for money. A.D. 1455, 1466. He had previously mentioned those schools as kept up in the university under the superintendence of masters of arts. A.D. 1442. The statutes of Magdalen College, founded in the reign of Edward, provide for a certain degree of learning.—Chandler’s Life of Waynflete, p. 200.

[357] Lowth’s Life of Wykeham. He permits in his statutes a limited number of sons of gentlemen (gentilium) to be educated in his school. Chandler’s Life of Waynflete, p. 5.

[358] Waynflete became the first head master of Eton in 1442. Chandler, p. 26.

[359] Vol. i., p. 301. Of William Paston, author of these lines, it is said, some years before, that he had gone to school to a Lombard called Karol Giles, to learn and to be read in poetry, or else in French. He said, that he would be as glad and as fain of a good book of French or of poetry as my master Falstaff would be to purchase a fair manor, p. 173. (1459).

Paston letters. 41. But the Paston letters are, in other respects, an important testimony to the progressive condition of society; and come in as a precious link in the chain of the moral history of England, which they alone in this period supply. They stand indeed singly, as far as I know, in Europe; for though it is highly probable that in the archives of Italian families, if not in France or Germany, a series of merely private letters equally ancient may be concealed, I do not recollect that any have been published. They are all written in the reigns of Henry VI., and Edward IV., except a few, that extend as far as Henry VII., by different members of a wealthy and respectable, but not noble, family; and are, therefore, pictures of the life of the English gentry in that age.[360] We are merely concerned with their evidence as to the state of literature. And this, upon the whole, is more favourable than, from the want of authorship in those reigns, we should be led to anticipate. It is plain that several members of the family, male and female, wrote not only grammatically, but with a fluency and facility, an epistolary expertness, which implies the habitual use of the pen. Their expression is much less formal and quaint than that of modern novelists, when they endeavour to feign the familiar style of ages much later than the fifteenth century. Some of them mix Latin with their English, very bad, and probably for the sake [Pg 83] of concealment; and Ovid is once mentioned as a book to be sent from one to another.[361] It appears highly probable, that such a series of letters, with so much vivacity and pertinence, would not have been written by any family of English gentry in the reign of Richard II., and much less before. It is hard to judge from a single case; but the letter of Lady Pelham, quoted in the first chapter, is ungrammatical and unintelligible. The seed, therefore, was now rapidly germinating beneath the ground; and thus we may perceive that the publication of books is not the sole test of the intellectual advance of a people. I may add, that although the middle of the fifteenth century was the period in which the fewest books were written, a greater number, in the opinion of experienced judges, were transcribed in that than in any former age.

[360] This collection is in five quarto volumes, and has become scarce. The length has been doubled by an injudicious proceeding of the editor, in printing the original orthography and abbreviations of the letters on each left-hand page, and a more legible modern form on the right. As orthography is of little importance, and abbreviations of none at all, it would have been sufficient to have given a single specimen.

[361] As to Ovid de Arte Amandi, I shall send him you next week, for I have him not now ready. iv. 175. This was between 1463 and 1469, according to the editor. We do not know positively of any edition of Ovid de Arte Amandi so early; but Zell of Cologne is supposed to have printed one before 1470, as has been mentioned above. Whether the book to be sent were in print, or manuscript, must be left to the sagacity of critics.

Low condition of public libraries. 42. It may be observed here, with reference to the state of learning generally in England down to the age immediately preceding the Reformation, that Leland, in the fourth volume of his Collectanea, has given several lists of books in colleges and monasteries, which do not by any means warrant the supposition of a tolerable acquaintance with ancient literature. We find, however, some of the recent translations made in Italy from Greek authors. The clergy, in fact, were now retrograding, while the laity were advancing; and when this was the case, the ascendency of the former was near its end.

Rowley. 43. I have said that there was not a new book written within these ten years. In the days of our fathers, it would have been necessary at least to mention as a forgery the celebrated poems attributed to Thomas Rowley. But, probably, no one person living believes in their authenticity; nor should I have alluded to so palpable a fabrication at all, but for the curious circumstance that a very similar trial of literary credulity has not long since been essayed in France. |Clotilde de Surville.| A gentleman of the name of Surville published a collection of poems, alleged to have been written by Clotilde de Surville, a poetess of the fifteenth century. The muse of the Ardèche warbled her notes during a longer life than the monk of Bristow; and having sung the relief of Orleans by the Maid of Arc in 1429, lived to pour her swan-like chant on the battle of Fornova in 1495. Love, however, as much as war, is her theme; and it was a remarkable felicity that she rendered an ode of her prototype Sappho into French verse, many years before any one else in France could have seen it. But having, like Rowley, anticipated too much the style and sentiments of a later period, she has, like him, fallen into the numerous ranks of the dead who never were alive.[362]

[362] Auguis, Recueil des Poètes, vol. ii. Biogr. Univ., Surville. Villemain, Cours de Littérature, vol. ii. Sismondi, Hist. des Français, xiii. 593. The forgery is by no means so gross as that of Chatterton; but, as M. Sismondi says, We have only to compare Clotilde with the Duke of Orleans, or Villon. The following lines, quoted by him, will give the reader a fair specimen:

Suivons l’amour, tel en soit le danger;
Cy nous attend sur lits charmans de mousse.
A des rigueurs; qui voudroit s’en venger?
Qui (meme alors que tout désir s’émousse)
Au prix fatal de ne plus y songer?
Règne sur moi, cher tyran, dont les armes
Ne me sauroient porter coups trop puissans!
Pour m’epargner n’en crois onc a mes larmes;
Sont de plaisir, tant plus auront de charmes
Tes dards aigus, que seront plus cuisans.

It has been justly remarked, that the extracts from Clotilde in the Recueil des Anciens Poètes occupy too much space, while the genuine writers of the fifteenth century appear in very scanty specimens.

Sect. IV. 1471-1480.

The same Subjects continued—Lorenzo de’ Medici—Physical Controversy—Mathematical Sciences.

Number of books printed in Italy. 44. The books printed in Italy during these ten years amount, according to Panzer, to 1297; of which 234 are editions of ancient classical authors. Books without date are of course not included; and the list must not be reckoned complete as to others.

45. A press was established at Florence by Lorenzo, in which Cennini, a goldsmith, was employed; the first printer, except Caxton and Jenson, who was not a German. Virgil was published in 1471. Several other Italian cities began to print in this period. The first edition of Dante issued from Foligno in 1472; it has been improbably, as well as erroneously, referred to Mentz. Petrarch had been published in [Pg 84] 1470, and Boccace in 1471. They were reprinted several times before the close of this decade.

First Greek printed. 46. No one had attempted to cast Greek types in sufficient number for an entire book; though a few occur in the early publications by Sweynheim and Pannartz;[363] while in those printed afterwards at Venice, Greek words are inserted by the pen; till, in 1476, Zarot of Milan had the honour of giving the Greek grammar of Constantine Lascaris to the world.[364] This was followed in 1480 by Craston’s lexicon, a very imperfect vocabulary; but which for many years continued to be the only assistance of the kind to which a student could have recourse. The author was an Italian.

[363] Greek types first appear in a treatise of Jerome, printed at Rome in 1468. Heeren, from Panzer.

[364] Lascaris Grammatica Græca, Mediolani ex recognitione Demetrii Cretensis per Dionysium Paravisinum, 4to. The characters in this rare volume are elegant and of a moderate size. The earliest specimens of Greek printing consist of detached passages and citations, found in a very few of the first printed copies of Latin authors, such as the Lactantius of 1465, the Aulus Gellius and Apuleius of Sweynheim and Pannartz, 1469, and some works of Bessarion about the same time. In all these it is remarkable that the Greek typography is legibly and creditably executed, whereas the Greek introduced into the Officia et Paradoxa of Cicero, Milan, 1474, by Zarot, is so deformed as to be scarcely legible. I am indebted for the whole of this note to Greswell’s Early Parisian Greek Press, i. 1.

Study of antiquities. 47. Ancient learning is to be divided into two great departments; the knowledge of what is contained in the works of Greek and Roman authors, and that of the matériel, if I may use the word, which has been preserved in a bodily shape, and is sometimes known by the name of antiquities. Such are buildings, monuments, inscriptions, coins, medals, vases, instruments, which by gradual accumulation have thrown a powerful light upon ancient history and literature. The abundant riches of Italy in these remains could not be overlooked as soon as the spirit of admiration for all that was Roman began to be kindled. Petrarch himself formed a little collection of coins; and his contemporary Pastrengo was the first who copied inscriptions; but in the early part of the fifteenth century, her scholars and her patrons of letters began to collect the scattered relics, which almost every region presented to them.[365] Niccolo Niccolì, according to the funeral oration of Poggio, possessed a series of medals, and even wrote a treatise in Italian, correcting the common orthography of Latin words, on the authority of inscriptions and coins. The love of collections increased from this time; the Medici and other rich patrons of letters spared no expense in accumulating these treasures of the antiquary. Ciriacus of Ancona, about 1440, travelled into the East in order to copy inscriptions; but he was naturally exposed to deceive himself and to be deceived; nor has he escaped the suspicion of imposture, or at least of excessive credulity.[366]

[365] Tiraboschi, vols. v. andvi. Andrès, ix. 196.

[366] Tiraboschi. Andrès, ix. 199. Ciriaco has not wanted advocates; some of the inscriptions he was accused of having forged have turned out to be authentic; and it is presumed in his favour, that others which do not appear may have perished since his time. Biogr. Univ., Cyriaque. One that rests on his authority is that which is supposed to record the persecution of the Christians in Spain under Nero. See Lardner’s Jewish and Heathen Testimonies, vol. i, who, though by no means a credulous critic, inclines to its genuineness.

Works on that subject. 48. The first who made his researches of this kind collectively known to the world, was Biondo Flavio, or Flavio Biondo,—for the names may be found in a different order, but more correctly in the first,[367]—secretary to Eugenius IV., and to his successors. His long residence at Rome inspired him with the desire, and gave him the opportunity, of describing her imperial ruins. In a work, dedicated to Eugenius IV., who died in 1447, but not printed till 1471, entitled, Romæ Instauratæ libri tres, he describes, examines, and explains by the testimonies of ancient authors, the numerous monuments of Rome. In another, Romæ Triumphantis libri decem, printed about 1472, he treats of the government, laws, religion, ceremonies, military discipline, and other antiquities of the republic. A third work, compiled at the request of Alfonso, king of Naples, and printed in 1474, called Italia Illustrata, contains a description of all Italy, divided into its ancient fourteen regions. Though Biondo Flavio was almost the first to hew his way into the rock, which should cause his memory to be respected, it has naturally happened, that, his works being imperfect and faulty, in comparison with those of the great antiquaries of the sixteenth century, they have not found a place in the collection of Grævius, and are hardly remembered by name.[368]

[367] Zeno, Dissertazioni Vossiane, i. 229.

[368] A superior treatise of the same age on the antiquities of the Roman city is by Bernard Rucellai (de Urbe Româ, in Rer. Ital. Scrip. Florent., vol. ii.). But it was not published before the eighteenth century. Rucellai wrote some historical works in a very good Latin style, and was distinguished also in the political revolutions of Florence. After the death of Lorenzo, he became the protector of the Florentine academy, for the members of which he built a palace with gardens. Corniani, iii. 143. Biogr. Univ., Rucellai.

[Pg 85]

Publications in Germany. 49. In Germany and the Low Countries the art of printing began to be exercised at Deventer, Utrecht, Louvain, Basle, Ulm, and other places, and in Hungary at Buda. We find, however, very few ancient writers; the whole list of what can pass for classics being about thirteen. One or two editions of parts of Aristotle in Latin, from translations lately made in Italy, may be added. Yet it was not the length of manuscripts that discouraged the German printers; for besides their editions of the Scriptures, Mentelin of Strasburg published, in 1473, the great encyclopædia of Vincent of Beauvais, in ten volumes folio, generally bound in four; and, in 1474, a similar work of Berchorius, or Berchœur, in three other folios. The contrast between these labours and those of his Italian contemporaries is very striking.

In France. 50. Florus and Sallust were printed at Paris early in this decade, and twelve more classical authors at the same place before its termination. An edition of Cicero ad Herennium appeared at Angers in 1476, and one of Horace at Caen, in 1480. The press of Lyons also sent forth several works, but none of them classical. It has been said by French writers, that the first book printed in their language is Le Jardin de Dévotion, by Colard Mansion of Bruges, in 1473. This date has been questioned in England; but it is of the less importance, as we have already seen that Caxton’s Recueil des Histoires de Troye has the clear priority. Le Roman de Baudouin comte de Flandres, Lyon, 1474, seems to be the earliest French book printed in France. In 1476, Les Grands Chroniques de St. Denis, an important and bulky volume, appeared at Paris.

In England, by Caxton. 51. We come now to our own Caxton, who finished a translation into English of his Recueil des Histoires de Troye, by order of Margaret, duchess of Burgundy, at Cologne, in September 1471. It was probably printed there the next year.[369] But soon afterwards he came to England with the instruments of his art; and in 1474, his Game of Chess, a slight and short performance, is supposed to have been the first specimen of English typography.[370] In almost every year from this time to his death in 1483, Caxton continued to publish those volumes which are the delight of our collectors. The earliest of his editions bearing a date in England, is the Dictes and Sayings, a translation by Lord Rivers from a Latin compilation, and published in 1477. In a literary history it should be observed, that the Caxton publications are more adapted to the general than the learned reader, and indicate, upon the whole, but a low state of knowledge in England. A Latin translation, however, of Aristotle’s ethics was printed at Oxford in 1479.

[369] This book at the Duke of Roxburgh’s famous sale brought 1060l.

[370] The Expositio Sancti Hieronymi, of which a copy, in the public library at Cambridge, bears the date of Oxford 1468 on the title-page, is now generally given up. It has been successfully contended by Middleton, and lately by Mr. Singer, that this date should be 1478; the numeral letter x having been casually omitted. Several similar instances occur, in which a pretended early book has not stood the keen eye of criticism: as the Decor Puellarum ascribed to Nicolas Jenson of Venice in 1461, for which we should read 1471; a cosmography of Ptolemy with the date of 1462; a book appearing to have been printed at Tours in 1467, &c.

In Spain. 52. The first book printed in Spain was on the very subject we might expect to precede all others, the Conception of the Virgin. It should be a very curious volume, being a poetical contest, on that sublime theme, by thirty-six poets, four of whom had written in Spanish, one in Italian, and the rest in Provençal or Valencian. It appeared at Valencia in 1474. A little book on grammar followed in 1475, and Sallust was printed the same year. In that year printing was also introduced at Barcelona and Saragossa, in 1476 at Seville, in 1480 at Salamanca and Burgos.

Translations of Scripture. 53. A translation of the Bible by Malerbi, a Venetian, was published in 1471, and two other editions of that, or a different version, the same year. Eleven editions are enumerated by Panzer in the fifteenth century. The German translation has already been mentioned; it was several times reprinted in this decade; one in Dutch appeared in 1477, one in the Valencian language, at that city, in 1478;[371] the New [Pg 86] Testament was printed in Bohemian, 1475, and in French, 1477; the earliest French translation of the Old Testament seems to be about the same date. The reader will of course understand, that all these translations were made from the Vulgate Latin. It may naturally seem remarkable, that not only at this period, but down to the Reformation, no attempt was made to render any part of the Scriptures public in English. But, in fact, the ground was thought too dangerous by those in power. The translation of Wicliffe had taught the people some comparisons between the worldly condition of the first preachers of Christianity and their successors, as well as some other contrasts, which it was more expedient to avoid. Long before the invention of printing it was enacted, in 1408, by a constitution of Archbishop Arundel, in convocation, that no one should thereafter translate any text of Holy Scripture into English, by way of a book, or little book or tract; and that no book should be read that was composed lately in the time of John Wicliffe, or since his death. Scarcely any of Caxton’s publications are of a religious nature.

[371] This edition was suppressed or destroyed; no copy is known to exist; but there is preserved a final leaf containing the names of the translator and printer. M’Crie’s Reformation in Spain, p. 192. Andrès says (xix. 154), that this translation was made early in the fifteenth century, with the approbation of divines.

Revival of literature in Spain. 54. It would have been strange if Spain, placed on the genial shores of the Mediterranean, and intimately connected through the Aragonese kings with Italy, had not received some light from that which began to shine so brightly. Her progress, however, in letters was but slow. Not but that several individuals are named by compilers of literary biography in the first part of the fifteenth century, as well as earlier, who are reputed to have possessed a knowledge of languages, and to have stood at least far above their contemporaries. Alfonsus Tostatus passes for the most considerable; his writings are chiefly theological, but Andrès praises his commentary on the Chronicle of Eusebius, at least as a bold essay.[372] He contends that learning was not deficient in Spain during the fifteenth century, though admitting that the rapid improvements made at its close, and about the beginning of the next age, were due to Lebrixa’s public instructions at Seville and Salamanca. Several translations were made from Latin authors into Spanish, which, however, is not of itself any great proof of Peninsular learning. The men to whom Spain chiefly owes the advancement of useful learning, and who should not be defrauded of their glory, were Arias Barbosa, a scholar of Politian, and the more renowned, though not more learned or more early propagator of Grecian literature, Antonio of Lebrixa, whose name was latinised into Nebrissensis, by which he is commonly known. Of Arias, who unaccountably has no place in the Biographie Universelle, Nicolas Antonio gives a very high character.[373] He taught the Greek language at Salamanca probably about this time. But his writings are not at all numerous. For Lebrixa, instead of compiling from other sources, I shall transcribe what Dr. M’Crie has said with his usual perspicuous brevity.

[372] ix. 151.

[373] In quo Antonium Nebrissensem socium habuit, qui tamen quicquid usquam Græcarum literarum apud Hispanos esset, ab uno Aria emanâsse in præfatione suarum Introductionum Grammaticarum ingenue affirmavit. His duobus amplissimum illud gymnasium, indeque Hispania tota debet barbariei, quæ longo apud nos bellorum dominatu in immensum creverat, extirpationem, bonarumque omnium disciplinarum divitias. Quas Arias noster ex antiquitatis penu per vicennium integrum auditoribus suis larga et locuplete vena communicavit, in poetica facultate Græcanicaque doctrina Nebrissense melior, a quo tamen in varia multiplicique doctrina superabatur. Bibl. Vetus.

Character of Lebrixa. 55. Lebrixa, usually styled Nebrissensis, became to Spain what Valla was to Italy, Erasmus to Germany, or Budæus to France. After a residence of ten years in Italy, during which he had stored his mind with various kinds of knowledge, he returned home, in 1473, by the advice of the younger Philelphus and Hermolaus Barbarus, with the view of promoting classical literature in his native country. Hitherto the revival of letters in Spain was confined to a few inquisitive individuals, and had not reached the schools and universities, whose teachers continued to teach a barbarous jargon under the name of Latin, into which they initiated the youth by means of a rude system of grammar, rendered unintelligible, in some instances, by a preposterous intermixture of the most abstruse questions in metaphysics. By the lectures which he read in the universities of Seville, Salamanca, and Alcala, and by the institutes which he published on Castilian, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew grammar, Lebrixa contributed in a wonderful degree to expel barbarism from the seats of education, and to diffuse a taste for elegant and useful studies among his countrymen. His improvements were warmly opposed by the monks, who had engrossed the art of teaching, [Pg 87] and who, unable to bear the light themselves, wished to prevent all others from seeing it; but, enjoying the support of persons of high authority, he disregarded their selfish and ignorant outcries. Lebrixa continued to an advanced age to support the literary reputation of his native country.[374]

[374] M’Crie’s Hist. of Reformation in Spain, p. 61. It is probable that Lebrixa’s exertions were not very effectual in the present decennium, nor perhaps in the next, but his Institutiones Grammaticæ, a very scarce book, were printed at Seville in 1481.

Library of Lorenzo. 56. This was the brilliant æra of Florence, under the supremacy of Lorenzo de’ Medici. The reader is probably well acquainted with this eminent character, by means of a work of extensive and merited reputation. The Laurentian library, still consisting wholly of manuscripts, though formed by Cosmo, and enlarged by his son Pietro, owed not only its name, but an ample increase of its treasures, to Lorenzo, who swept the monasteries of Greece through his learned agent, John Lascaris. With that true love of letters which scorns the monopolising spirit of possession, Lorenzo permitted his manuscripts to be freely copied for the use of other parts of Europe.

Classics corrected and explained. 57. It was an important labour of the learned at Florence to correct, as well as elucidate, the text of their manuscripts, written generally by ignorant and careless monks, or trading copyists (though the latter probably had not much concern with ancient writers), and become almost wholly unintelligible through the blunders of these transcribers.[375] Landino, Merula, Calderino, and Politian were the most indefatigable in this line of criticism during the age of Lorenzo. Before the use of printing fixed the text of a whole edition—one of the most important of its consequences—the critical amendments of these scholars could only be made useful through their oral lectures. And these appear frequently to have been the foundation of the valuable, though rather prolix, commentaries we find in the old editions. Thus those of Landino accompany many editions of Horace and Virgil, forming, in some measure, the basis of all interpretative annotations on those poets. Landino in these seldom touches on verbal criticism; but his explanations display a considerable reach of knowledge. They are founded, as Heeren is convinced, on his lectures, and consequently give us some notion of the tone of instruction. In explaining the poets, two methods were pursued, the grammatical and the moral, the latter of which consisted in resolving the whole sense into allegory. Dante had given credit to a doctrine, orthodox in this age, and long afterwards, that every great poem must have a hidden meaning.[376]

[375] Meiners, Vergleich. der Sitten, iii. 108. Heeren, p. 293.

[376] Heeren, pp. 241, 287.

Character of Lorenzo. 58. The notes of Calderino, a scholar of high fame, but infected with the common vice of arrogance, are found with those of Landino in the early editions of Virgil and Horace. Regio commented upon Ovid, Omnibonus Leonicenus upon Lucan, both these upon Quintilian, many upon Cicero.[377] It may be observed, for the sake of chronological exactness, that these labours are by no means confined, even principally, to this decennial period. They are mentioned in connection with the name of Lorenzo de’ Medici, whose influence over literature extended from 1470 to his death in 1492. Nor was mere philology the sole, or the leading, pursuit to which so truly noble a mind accorded its encouragement. He sought in ancient learning something more elevated than the narrow, though necessary, researches of criticism. In a villa overhanging the towers of Florence, on the steep slope of that lofty hill crowned by the mother city, the ancient Fiesole, in gardens which Tully might have envied, with Ficino, Landino, and Politian at his side, he delighted his hours of leisure with the beautiful visions of Platonic philosophy, for which the summer stillness of an Italian sky appears the most congenial accompaniment.

[377] Id. 297.

Prospect from his villa at Fiesole. 59. Never could the sympathies of the soul with outward nature be more finely touched; never could more striking suggestions be presented to the philosopher and the statesman. Florence lay beneath them; not with all the magnificence that the later Medici have given her, but, thanks to the piety of former times, presenting almost as varied an outline to the sky. One man, the wonder of Cosmo’s age, Brunelleschi, had crowned the beautiful city with the vast dome of its cathedral; a structure unthought of in Italy before, and rarely since surpassed. It seemed, amidst clustering towers of inferior churches, an emblem of the Catholic hierarchy under its supreme head; like Rome itself, imposing, unbroken, unchangeable, radiating in equal expansion to every part of the earth, and [Pg 88] directing its convergent curves to heaven. Round this were numbered, at unequal heights, the Baptistery, with its gates worthy of Paradise; the tall and richly decorated belfry of Giotto; the church of the Carmine, with the frescos of Masaccio; those of Santa Maria Novella, beautiful as a bride, of Santa Croce, second only in magnificence to the cathedral, and of St. Mark; the San Spirito, another great monument of the genius of Brunelleschi; the numerous convents that rose within the walls of Florence, or were scattered immediately about them. From these the eye might turn to the trophies of a republican government that was rapidly giving way before the citizen-prince who now surveyed them; the Palazzo Vecchio, in which the signiory of Florence held their councils, raised by the Guelf aristocracy, the exclusive, but not tyrannous faction that long swayed the city; or the new and unfinished palace which Brunelleschi had designed for one of the Pitti family, before they fell, as others had already done, in the fruitless struggle against the house of Medici; itself destined to become the abode of the victorious race, and to perpetuate, by retaining its name, the revolutions that had raised them to power.

60. The prospect, from an elevation, of a great city in its silence, is one of the most impressive, as well as beautiful, we ever behold. But far more must it have brought home thoughts of seriousness to the mind of one who, by the force of events, and the generous ambition of his family, and his own, was involved in the dangerous necessity of governing without the right, and, as far as might be, without the semblance of power; one who knew the vindictive and unscrupulous hostility which, at home and abroad, he had to encounter. If thoughts like these could bring a cloud over the brow of Lorenzo, unfit for the object he sought in that retreat, he might restore its serenity by other scenes which his garden commanded. Mountains bright with various hues, and clothed with wood, bounded the horizon, and, on most sides, at no great distance; but embosomed in these were other villas and domains of his own; while the level country bore witness to his agricultural improvements, the classic diversion of a statesman’s cares. The same curious spirit which led him to fill his garden at Careggi with exotic flowers of the east, the first instance of a botanical collection in Europe, had introduced a new animal from the same regions. Herds of buffaloes, since naturalised in Italy, whose dingy hide, bent neck, curved horns, and lowering aspect, contrasted with the greyish hue and full mild eye of the Tuscan oxen, pastured in the valley, down which the yellow Arno steals silently through its long reaches to the sea.[378]


Taliâ Fæsuleo lentus meditabar in antro,
Rure suburbano Medicum, qua mons sacer urbem
Mæoniam, longique volumina despicit Arni:
Qua bonus hospitium felix placidamque quietem
Indulget Laurens.
Politiani Rusticus.

And let us from the top of Fiesole,
Whence Galileo’s glass by night observed
The phases of the moon, look round below
On Arno’s vale, where the dove-coloured steer
Is ploughing up and down among the vines,
While many a careless note is sung aloud,
Filling the air with sweetness—and on thee,
Beautiful Florence, all within thy walls,
Thy groves and gardens, pinnacles and towers,
Drawn to our feet.

It is hardly necessary to say that these lines are taken from my friend Mr. Rogers’s Italy, a poem full of moral and descriptive sweetness, and written in the chastened tone of fine taste. With respect to the buffaloes, I have no other authority than these lines of Politian, in his poem of Ambra, on the farm of Lorenzo at Poggio Cajano.

Atque aliud nigris missum, quis credat? ab Indis,
Ruminat insuetas armentum discolor herbas.

But I must own, that Buffon tells us, though without quoting any authority, that the buffalo was introduced into Italy as early as the seventh century. I did not take the trouble of consulting Aldrovandus, who would perhaps have confirmed him—especially as I have a better opinion of my readers than to suppose they would care about the matter.

Platonic academy. 61. The Platonic academy, which Cosmo had planned, came to maturity under Lorenzo. The academicians were divided into three classes:—the patrons (mecenati), including the Medici; the hearers (ascoltatori, probably from the Greek word ἀκρόαται); and the novices, or disciples, formed of young aspirants to philosophy. Ficino presided over the whole. Their great festival was the 13th of November, being the anniversary of the birth and death of Plato. Much of absurd mysticism, much of frivolous and mischievous superstition, was mingled with their speculations.[379]

[379] Roscoe. Corniani.

Disputationes Camaldulenses of Landino. 62. The Disputationes Camaldulenses of Landino were published during this period, though, perhaps, written a little sooner. They belong to a class prominent in the [Pg 89] literature of Italy in this and the succeeding century; disquisitions on philosophy in the form of dialogue, with more solicitude to present a graceful delineation of virtue, and to kindle a generous sympathy for moral beauty, than to explore the labyrinths of theory, or even to lay down clear and distinct principles of ethics. The writings of Plato and Cicero, in this manner, had shown a track, in which their idolators, with distant and hesitating steps, and more of reverence than emulation, delighted to tread. These Disputations of Landino, in which, according to the beautiful patterns of ancient dialogue, the most honoured names of the age appear—Lorenzo and his brother Julian; Alberti, whose almost universal genius is now best known by his architecture; Ficino, and Landino himself—turn upon a comparison between the active and contemplative life of man, to the latter of which it seems designed to give the advantage, and are saturated with the thoughtful spirit of Platonism.[380]

[380] Corniani and Roscoe have given this account of the Disputationes Camaldulenses. I have no direct acquaintance with the book.

Philosophical dialogues. 63. Landino was not, by any means, the first who had tried the theories of ancient philosophy through the feigned warfare of dialogue. Valla, intrepid and fond of paradox, had vindicated the Epicurean ethics from the calumnious or exaggerated censure frequently thrown upon them, contrasting the true methods by which pleasure should be sought with the gross notions of the vulgar. Several other writings of the same description, either in dialogue or regular dissertation, belong to the fifteenth century, though not always published so early, such as Franciscus Barbarus, De Re Uxoria,[381] Platina, De Falso et Vero Bono, the Vita Civile of Palmieri, the moral treatises of Poggio, Alberti, Pontano, and Matteo Bosso, concerning some of which little more than the names are to be learned from literary history, and which it would not, perhaps, be worth while to mention, except as collectively indicating a predilection for this style, which the Italians long continued to display.[382]

[381] This, which has been already mentioned, may be considered as much the earliest, having been published about 1417. Shepherd’s Poggio, c. 3. Barbaro was a noble Venetian, who had learned Latin under Gasparin of Barziza. He was afterwards chiefly employed in public life. This treatise De Re Uxoria, of which some account may be found in Corniani (ii. 137) made a considerable impression at that early time. Corniani thinks it the only work of moral philosophy in the fifteenth century, which is not a servile copy of some ancient system. The more celebrated Hermolaus was grandson of this Francis Barbarus.

[382] Corniani is much fuller than Tiraboschi on these treatises. Roscoe seems to have read the ethical writing of Matteo Bosso (Life of Leo X., c. xx.), but hardly adverts to any of the rest I have named. Some of them are very scarce.

Paulus Cortesius. 64. Some of these related to general criticism, or to that of single authors. My knowledge of them is chiefly limited to the dialogue of Paulus Cortesius, De Hominibus Doctis, written, I conceive, about 1490; no unsuccessful imitation of Cicero, De Claris Oratoribus, from which indeed modern Latin writers have always been accustomed to collect the discriminating phrases of criticism. Cortesius, who was young at the time of writing this dialogue, uses an elegant, if not always a correct Latinity; characterising agreeably, and with apparent taste, the authors of the fifteenth century. It may be read in conjunction with the Ciceronianus of Erasmus, who, with no knowledge, perhaps, of Cortesius has gone over the same ground in rather inferior language.

Schools in Germany. 65. It was about the beginning of this decade that a few Germans and Netherlanders, trained in the college of Deventer, or that of Zwoll, or of St. Edward’s near Groningen, were roused to acquire that extensive knowledge of the ancient languages which Italy as yet exclusively possessed. Their names should never be omitted in any remembrance of the revival of letters; for great was their influence upon the subsequent times. Wessel of Groningen, one of those who contributed most steadily towards the purification of religion, and to whom the Greek and Hebrew languages are said, but probably on no solid grounds, to have been known, may be reckoned in this class. But others were more directly engaged in the advancement of literature. Three schools, from which issued the most conspicuous ornaments of the next generation, rose under masters, learned for that time, and zealous in the good cause of instruction. Alexander Hegius became, about 1475, rector of that at Deventer, where Erasmus received his early education.[383] Hegius was not wholly ignorant of [Pg 90] Greek, and imparted the rudiments of it to his illustrious pupil. I am inclined to ascribe the publication of a very rare and curious book, the first endeavour to print Greek on this side of the Alps, to no other person than Hegius.[384] Louis Dringeberg founded, not perhaps before 1480, a still more distinguished seminary at Schelstadt in Alsace. Here the luminaries of Germany in a more advanced stage of learning, Conrad Celtes, Bebel, Rhenanus, Wimpheling Pirckheimer, Simler, are said to have imbibed their knowledge.[385] The third school was at Munster; and over this [Pg 91] Rodolph Langius presided, a man not any way inferior to the other two, and of more reputation as a Latin writer, especially as a poet. The school of Munster did not come under the care of Langius till 1483, or perhaps rather later; and his strenuous exertions in the cause of useful and polite literature against monkish barbarians extended into the next century. But his life was long: the first, or nearly such, to awaken his countrymen, he was permitted to behold the full establisment of learning, and to exult in the dawn of the Reformation. In company with a young man of rank, and equal zeal, Maurice, count of Spiegelberg, who himself became the provost of a school at Emmerich, Langius visited Italy, and, as Meiners supposes, though, I think, upon uncertain grounds, before 1460. But not long afterwards, a more distinguished person than any we have mentioned, Rodolph Agricola of Groningen, sought in that more genial land the taste and correctness which no cisalpine nation could supply. Agricola passed several years of this decade in Italy. We shall find the effects of his example in the next.[386]

[383] Heeren, p. 149, says that Hegius began to preside over the school of Deventer in 1480; but I think the date in the text is more probable, as Erasmus left it at the age of fourteen, and was certainly born in 1465. Though Hegius is said to have known but little Greek, I find in Panzer the title of a book by him, printed at Deventer in 1501, De Utilitate Lingua Græcæ. The life of Hegius in Melchior Adam is interesting. Primus hic in Belgio literas excitavit, says Revius, in Daventria Illustrata, p. 130. Mihi, says Erasmus, admodum adhuc puero contigit uti præceptore hujus discipulo Alexandro Hegio Westphalo, qui ludum aliquando celebrem oppidi Daventriensis moderabatur, in quo nos olim admodum pueri utriusque linguæ prima didicimus elementa. Adag. Chil. 1, cent. iv. 39. In another place he says of Hegius, ne hic quidem Græcarum literarum omnino ignarus est. Epist. 411, in Appendice. Erasmus left Deventer at the age of fourteen; consequently in 1479 or 1480, as he tells us in an epistle, dated 17th Apr. 1519.

[384] This very rare book, unnoticed by most bibliographers, is of some importance in the history of literature. It is a small quarto tract, entitled, Conjugations verborum Græcæ, Daventriæ noviter extremo labore et impressæ. No date or printer’s name appears. A copy is in the British Museum, and another in Lord Spencer’s library. It contains nothing but the word τυπτω in all its voices and tenses, with Latin explanations in Gothic letters. The Greek types are very rude, and the characters sometimes misplaced. It must, I should presume, seem probable to every one who considers this book, that it is of the fifteenth century, and consequently older than any known Greek on this side of the Alps; which of itself should render it interesting in the eyes of bibliographers and of every one else. But fully disclaiming all such acquaintance with the technical science of typographical antiquity, as to venture any judgment founded on the appearance of a particular book, or on a comparison of it with others, I would, on other grounds, suggest the probability that this little attempt at Greek Grammar issued from the Deventer press about 1480. It appears clear that whoever collected with extreme labour these forms of the verb τυπτω, had never been possessed of a Greek and Latin grammar. For would it not be absurd to use such expressions about a simple transcription? Besides which, the word is not only given in an arrangement different from any I have ever seen, but with a nonexistent form of participle, τετυψαμενος for τυψαμενος, which could not surely have been found in any prior grammar. Now the grammar of Lascaris was published with a Latin translation by Craston in 1480. It is indeed highly probable that this book would not reach Deventer immediately after its impression; but it does seem as if there could not long have been any extreme difficulty in obtaining a correct synopsis of the verb τυπτω.

We have seen that Erasmus, about 1477, acquired a very slight tincture of Greek under Alexander Hegius at Deventer. And here, as he tells us, he saw Agricola, returning probably from Italy to Groningen. Quem mihi puero, ferme duodecim annos nato, Daventriæ videre contigit, nec aliud contigit. (Jortin, ii. 416.) No one could be so likely as Hegius to attempt a Greek grammar; nor do we find that his successors in that college were men as distinguished for learning as himself. But in fact at a later time it could not have been so extraordinarily imperfect. We might perhaps conjecture that he took down these Greek tenses from the mouth of Agricola, since we must presume oral communication rather than the use of books. Agricola, repeating from memory, and not thoroughly conversant with the language, might have given the false tense τετυψαμενος. The tract was probably printed by Pafroet, some of whose editions bear as early a date as 1477. It has long been extremely scarce; for Revius does not include it in the list of Pafroet’s publications he has given in Deventria Illustrata, nor will it be found in Panzer. Beloe was the first to mention it in his Anecdotes of scarce books; and it is referred by him to the fifteenth century; but apparently without his being aware there was anything remarkable in that antiquity. Dr. Dibdin, in Bibliotheca Spenceriana, has given a fuller account; and from him Brunet has inserted it in the Manuel du Libraire. Neither Beloe nor Dibdin seems to have known that there is a copy in the Museum; they speak only of that belonging to Lord Spencer.

If it were true that Reuchlin, during his residence at Orleans, had published, as well as compiled, a Greek grammar, we should not need to have recourse to the hypothesis of this note, in order to give the antiquity of the present decade to Greek typography. Such a grammar is asserted by Meiners, in his Life of Reuchlin, to have been printed at Poitiers: and Eichhorn positively says, without reference to the place of publication, that Reuchlin was the first German who published a Greek grammar. (Gesch. der Litt. iii. 275.) Meiners, however, in a subsequent volume (iii. 10), retracts this assertion, and says it has been proved that the Greek grammar of Reuchlin was never printed. Yet I find in the Bibliotheca Universalis of Gesner: Joh. Capnio [Reuchlin] scripsit de diversitate quatuor idiomatum Græcæ linguæ, lib. i. No such book appears in the list of Reuchlin’s works in Niceron, vol. xxv., nor in any of the bibliographies. If it ever existed, we may place it with more probability at the very close of this century, or at the beginning of the next.

[385] Eichhorn, iii. 231. Meiners, ii. 369. Eichhorn carelessly follows a bad authority in counting Reuchlin among these pupils of the Schelstadt school.

[386] See Meiners, vol. ii., Eichhorn, and Heeren, for the revival of learning in Germany; or something may be found in Brucker.

Study of Greek at Paris. 66. Meantime a slight impulse seems to have been given to the university of Paris by the lessons of George Tifernas; for from some disciples of his Reuchlin, a young German of great talents and celebrity, acquired, probably about the year 1470, the first elements of the Greek language. This knowledge he improved by the lessons of a native Greek, Andronicus Cartoblacas, at Basle. In that city he had the good fortune, rare on this side of the Alps, to find a collection of Greek manuscripts, left there at the time of the council by a cardinal Nicolas of Ragusa. By the advice of Cartoblacas, he taught Greek himself at Basle. After the lapse of some years, Reuchlin went again to Paris, and found a new teacher, George Hermonymus of Sparta, who had settled there about 1472. From Paris he removed to Orleans and Poitiers; he is said to have taught, perhaps not the Greek language, in the former city, and to have written a Greek grammar in the second. It seems, however, now to be ascertained, that this grammar was never printed.[387]

[387] Meiners, i. 46. Besides Meiners, Brucker, iv. 358, as well as Heeren, have given pretty full accounts of Reuchlin; and a good life of him will be found in the 25th volume of Niceron: but the Epistolæ ad Reuchlinum throw still more light on the man and his contemporaries.

Controversy of Realists and Nominalists. 67. The classical literature which delighted Reuchlin and Agricola was disregarded as frivolous by the wise of that day in the university of Paris; but they were much more keenly opposed to innovation and heterodoxy in their own peculiar line, the scholastic metaphysics. Most have heard of the long controversies between the Realists and Nominalists concerning the nature of universals, or the genera and species of things. The first, with Plato and Aristotle, maintained their objective or external reality; either, as it was called, ante rem, as eternal archetypes in the Divine Intelligence, or in re, as forms inherent in matter; the second, with Zeno, gave them only a subjective existence as ideas conceived by the mind, and have hence in later times acquired the name of Conceptualists.[388] Roscelin, the first of the modern Nominalists, went farther than this, and denied, as Hobbes and Berkeley, with many others, have since done, all universality except to words and propositions. Abelard, who inveighs against the doctrine of Roscelin as false logic and false theology, and endeavours to confound it with the denial of any objective reality even in singular things,[389] may be esteemed the restorer of the Conceptualist school. We do not know his doctrines, however, by his own writings, but by the testimony of John of Salisbury, who seems not well to have understood the subject. The words Realist and Nominalist came into use about the end of the twelfth century. But in the next, the latter party by degrees disappeared; and the great schoolmen, Aquinas and Scotus, in whatever else they might disagree, were united on the Realist side. |Scotus.| In the fourteenth century William Ockham revived the opposite hypothesis with considerable success. Scotus and his disciples were the great maintainers of Realism. If there [Pg 92] were no substantial forms, he argued, that is, nothing real, which determines the mode of being in each individual, men and brutes would be of the same substance; for they do not differ as to matter, nor can extrinsic accidents make a substantive difference. There must be a substantial form of a horse, another of a lion, another of a man. He seems to have held the immateriality of the soul, that is, the substantial form of man. But no other form, he maintained, can exist without matter naturally, though it may, supernaturally, by the power of God. Socrates and Plato agree more than Socrates and an ass. They have, therefore, something in common, which an ass has not. But this is not numerically the same; it must, therefore, be something universal, namely, human nature.[390]

[388] I am chiefly indebted for the facts in the following paragraphs to a dissertation by Meiners, in the transactions of the Göttingen Academy, vol. xii.

[389] Hic sicut pseudo-dialecticus, ita pseudo-christianus—ut eo loco quo dicitur Dominus partem piscis assi comedisse, partem hujus vocis, quæ est piscis assi, non partem rei intelligere cogatur. Meiners, p. 27. This may serve to show the cavilling tone of scholastic disputes; and Meiners may well say: Quicquid Roscelinus peccavit, non adeo tamen insanisse pronuntiandum est, ut Abelardus ilium fecisse invidiose fingere sustinuit.

[390] Id. p. 89.

68. These reasonings, which are surely no unfavourable specimen of the subtle philosopher, as Scotus was called, were met by Ockham with others which sometimes appear more refined and obscure. He confined reality to objective things, denying it to the host of abstract entities brought forward by Scotus. He defines a universal to be a particular intention (meaning probably idea or conception) of the mind itself, capable of being predicated of many things, not for what it probably is itself, but for what those things are; so that, in so far as it has this capacity, it is called universal, but inasmuch as it is one form really existing in the mind, it is called singular.[391] I have not examined the writings of Ockham, and am unable to determine whether his Nominalism extends beyond that of Berkeley or Stewart, which is generally asserted by the modern inquirers into scholastic philosophy; that is, whether it amounts to Conceptualism; the foregoing definition, as far as I can judge, might have been given by them.

[391] Unam intentionem sìngularem ipsius animæ, natam prædicari de pluribus, non prose, sed pro ipsis rebus; ita quod per hoc, quod ipsa nata est prædicari de pluribus, non pro se sed pro illis pluribus, illa dicitur universalis; propter hoc autem, quod est una forma existens realiter in intellectu, dicitur singulare. P. 42.

Nominalists in university of Paris. 69. The later Nominalists of the scholastic period, Buridan, Biel, and several others mentioned by the historians of philosophy, took all their reasonings from the storehouse of Ockham. His doctrine was prohibited at Paris by pope John XXII., whose theological opinions, as well as secular encroachments, he had opposed. All masters of arts were bound by oath never to teach Ockhamism. But after the pope’s death the university condemned a tenet of the Realists, that many truths are eternal, which are not God; and went so far towards the Nominalist theory, as to determine that our knowledge of things is through the medium of words.[392] Peter d’Ailly, Gerson, and other principal men of their age were Nominalists; the sect was very powerful in Germany, and may be considered, on the whole, as prevalent in this century. The Realists, however, by some management gained the ear of Louis XI., who, by an ordinance in 1473, explicitly approves the doctrines of the great Realist philosophers, condemns that of Ockham and his disciples, and forbids it to be taught, enjoining the books of the Nominalists to be locked up from public perusal, and all present as well as future graduates in the university to swear to the observation of this ordinance. The prohibition, nevertheless, was repealed in 1481; the guilty books set free from their chains, and the hypothesis of the Nominalists virtually permitted to be held, amidst the acclamations of the university, and especially one of its four nations, that of Germany. Some of their party had, during this persecution, taken refuge in that empire and in England, both friendly to their cause; and this metaphysical contention of the fifteenth century suggests and typifies the great religious convulsion of the next. The weight of ability, during this later and less flourishing period of scholastic philosophy, was on the Nominalist side; and though the political circumstances to which we have alluded were not immediately connected with their principle, this metaphysical sect facilitated in some measure the success of the Reformation.

[392] Id. p. 45, scientiam habemus de rebus, sed mediantibus terminis.

Low state of learning in England. 70. We should still look in vain to England for either learning or native genius. The reign of Edward IV. may be reckoned one of the lowest points in our literary annals. The universities had fallen in reputation and in frequency of students; where there had been thousands, according to Wood, there was not now one; which must be understood as an hyperbolical way of speaking. But the decline of the universities, frequented as they had been by indigent vagabonds withdrawn from useful labour, and wretched as their pretended instruction had been, was so far from an evil in itself, that it left clear the path for the approaching introduction of real learning. [Pg 93] Several colleges were about this time founded at Oxford and Cambridge, which, in the design of their munificent founders, were to become, as they have done, the instruments of a better discipline than the barbarous schoolmen afforded. We have already observed, that England was like seed fermenting in the ground through the fifteenth century. The language was becoming more vigorous, and more capable of giving utterance to good thoughts, as some translations from Caxton’s press show, such as the Dicts of Philosophers, by Lord Rivers. And perhaps the best exercise for a schoolboy people is that of schoolboys. The poetry of two Scotsmen, Henryson and Mercer, which is not without merit, may be nearly referred to the present decade.[393]

[393] Campbell’s Specimens of British Poets, vol. i.

Mathematics. 71. The progress of mathematical science was regular, though not rapid. We might have mentioned before the gnomon erected by Toscanelli in the cathedral at Florence, which is referred to 1468; a work, it has been said, which, considering the times, has done as much honour to his genius as that so much renowned to Bologna at Cassini.[394] |Regiomontanus.| The greatest mathematician of the fifteenth century, Muller, or Regiomontanus, a native of Königsberg, or Königshoven, a small town in Franconia, whence he derived his latinised appellation, died prematurely, like his master Purbach, in 1476. He had begun at the age of fifteen to assist the latter in astronomical observations; and having, after Purbach’s death, acquired a knowledge of Greek in Italy, and devoted himself to the ancient geometers, after some years spent with distinction in that country, and at the court of Mathias Corvinus, he settled finally at Nuremberg; where a rich citizen, Bernard Walther, both supplied the means of accurate observations, and became the associate of his labours.[395] Regiomontanus died at Rome, whither he had been called to assist in rectifying the calendar. Several of his works were printed in this decade, and among others his ephemerides, or calculations of the places of the sun and moon, for the ensuing thirty years; the best, though not strictly the first, that had been made in Europe.[396] His more extensive productions did not appear till afterwards; and the treatise on triangles, the most celebrated, not till 1533. The solution of the more difficult cases, both in plane and spherical trigonometry, is found in this work; and with the exception of what the science owes to Napier, it may be said, that it advanced little for more than two centuries after the age of Regiomontanus.[397] Purbach had computed a table of sines to a radius of 600,000 parts. Regiomontanus, ignorant, as has been thought, which appears very strange, of his master’s labours, calculated them to 6,000,000 parts. But perceiving the advantages of a decimal scale, he has given a second table, wherein the ratio of the sines is computed to a radius of 10,000,000 parts, or, as we should say, taking the latter as unity, to seven places of decimals. He subjoined what he calls Canon Fæcundus, or a table of tangents, calculating them, however, only for entire degrees to a radius of 100,000 parts.[398] It has been said, that Regiomontanus was inclined to the theory of the earth’s motion, which indeed Nicolas Cusanus had already espoused.

[394] This gnomon is by much the loftiest in Europe. It would be no slight addition to the glory of Toscanelli if we should suppose him to have suggested the discovery of a passage westward to the Indies in a letter to Columbus, as his article in the Biographie Universelle seems to imply. But the more accurate expressions of Tiraboschi, referring to the correspondence between these great men, leave Columbus in possession of the original idea, at least concurrently with the Florentine astronomer, though the latter gave him strong encouragement to persevere in his undertaking. Toscanelli, however, had, on the authority of Marco Polo, imbibed an exaggerated notion of the distance eastward to China; and consequently believed, as Columbus himself did, that the voyage by the west to that country would be far shorter than, if the continent of America did not intervene, it could have been. Tiraboschi,vi. 189, 207. Roscoe’s Leo X., ch. 20.

[395] Walther was more than a patron of science, honourable as that name was. He made astronomical observations, worthy of esteem relatively to the age. Montucla, i. 545. It is to be regretted that Walther should have diminished the credit due to his name by withholding from the public the manuscripts of Regiomontanus, which he purchased after the latter’s death; so that some were lost by the negligence of his own heirs, and the rest remained unpublished till 1533.

[396] Gassendi, Vita Regiomontani. He speaks of them himself, as quas vulgo vocant almanach; and Gassendi says, that some were extant in manuscript at Paris, from 1442 to 1472. Those of Regiomontanus contained eclipses, and other matters not in former almanacs.

[397] Hutton’s Logarithms, Introduction, p. 3.

[398] Kästner, i. 557.

Arts of delineation. 72. Though the arts of delineation do not properly come within the scope of this volume, yet, so far as they are directly instrumental to science, they ought not to pass unregarded. [Pg 94] Without the tool that presents figures to the eye, not the press itself could have diffused an adequate knowledge either of anatomy or of natural history. As figures cut in wooden blocks gave the first idea of letter-printing, and were for some time associated with it, an obvious invention, when the latter art became improved, was to arrange such blocks together with types in the same page. We find, accordingly, about this time, many books adorned or illustrated in this manner; generally with representations of saints, or other ornamental delineations not of much importance; but in a few instances with figures of plants and animals, or of human anatomy. The Dyalogus creaturarum moralizatus, of which the first edition was published at Gouda, 1480, seems to be nearly, if not altogether, the earliest of these. It contains a series of fables with rude woodcuts, in little more than outline. A second edition, printed at Antwerp in 1486, repeats the same cuts, with the addition of one representing a church, which is really elaborate.[399]

[399] Both these editions are in the British Museum. In the same library is a copy of the exceedingly scarce work, Ortus Sanitatis. Mogunt. 1491. The colophon, which may be read in De Bure (Sciences, No. 1554), takes much credit for the carefulness of the delineations. The wooden cuts of the plants, especially, are as good as we usually find in the sixteenth century; the form of the leaves and character of the plant are generally well preserved. The animals are also tolerably figured, though with many exceptions, and, on the whole, fall short of the plants. The work itself is a compilation from the old naturalists, arranged alphabetically.

Maps. 73. The art of engraving figures on plates of copper was nearly coëval with that of printing, and is due either to Thomas Finiguerra about 1460, or to some German about the same time. |Geography.| It was not a difficult step to apply this invention to the representation of geographical maps; and this we owe to Arnold Buckinck, an associate of the printer Sweynheim. His edition of Ptolemy’s geography appeared at Rome in 1478. These maps are traced from those of Agathodæmon in the fifth century; and it has been thought that Buckinck profited by the hints of Donis, a German monk, who himself gave two editions of Ptolemy not long afterwards at Ulm.[400] The fifteenth century had already witnessed an increasing attention to geographical delineations. The libraries of Italy contain several unpublished maps, of which that by Fra Mauro, a monk of the order of Camaldoli, in the convent of Murano, near Venice, is the most celebrated. It is still preserved there, and is said to attest the cosmographical science of its delineator, such as he could derive from Ptolemy, and from the astronomy of his own age.[401] Two causes, besides the increase of commerce, and the gradual accumulation of knowledge, had principally turned the thoughts of many towards the figure of the earth on which they trod. Two translations, one of them by Emanuel Chrysoloras, had been made early in the century, from the cosmography of Ptolemy; and from his maps the geographers of Italy had learned the use of parallels and meridians, which might a little, though inadequately, restrain their arbitrary admeasurements of different countries.[402] But the real discoveries of the Portuguese on the coast of Africa, under the patronage of Don Henry, were of far greater importance in stimulating and directing enterprise. In the academy founded by that illustrious prince, nautical charts were first delineated in a method more useful to the pilot, by projecting the meridians in parallel right lines,[403] instead of curves on the surface of the sphere. This first step in hydrographical science entitles Don Henry to the name of its founder. And though these early maps and charts of the fifteenth century are to us but a chaos of error and confusion, it was on them that the patient eye of Columbus had rested through long hours of meditation, while strenuous hope and unsubdued doubt were struggling in his soul.

[400] Biogr. Univ. Buckinck, Donis.

[401] Andrès, ix. 88. Corniani, iii. 162.

[402] Andrès, 86.

[403] Id. 83.

Sect. V. 1480-1490.

Great Progress of Learning in Italy—Italian Poetry—Pulci—Metaphysical Theology—Ficinus—Picus of Mirandola—Learning in Germany—Early European Drama—Alberti and Leonardo da Vinci.

Greek printed in Italy. 74. The press of Italy was less occupied with Greek for several years than might have been expected. But the number of scholars was still not sufficient to repay the expenses of impression. The Psalter was published in Greek twice at Milan in 1481, once at Venice in 1486. Craston’s Lexicon was also once printed, and the Grammar of Lascaris several times. The first classical [Pg 95] work the printers ventured upon, was Homer’s Battle of Frogs and Mice, published at Venice in 1486, or, according to some, at Milan in 1485; the priority of the two editions being disputed. But in 1488, under the munificent patronage of Lorenzo, and by the care of Demetrius of Crete, a complete edition of Homer issued from the press of Florence. This splendid work closes our catalogue for the present.[404]

[404] See Maittaire’s character of this edition quoted in Roscoe’s Leo X., ch. 21.

Hebrew printed. 75. The first Hebrew book, Jarchi’s commentary on the Pentateuch, had been printed by some Jews at Reggio in Calabria, as early as 1475. In this period a press was established at Soncino, where the Pentateuch was published in 1482, the greater prophets in 1486, and the whole Bible in 1488. But this was intended for themselves alone. What little instruction in Hebrew had anywhere hitherto been imparted to Christian scholars, was only oral. The commencement of Hebrew learning, properly so called, was not till about the end of the century, in the Franciscan monasteries of Tubingen and Basle. Their first teacher, however, was an Italian, by name Raimondi.[405]

[405] Eichhorn, ii. 562.

Miscellanies of Politian. 76. To enumerate every publication that might scatter a gleam of light on the progress of letters in Italy, or to mention every scholar who deserves a place in biographical collections, or in an extended history of literature, would crowd these pages with too many names. We must limit ourselves to those best deserving to be had in remembrance. In 1480, according to Meiners, or, as Heeren says, in 1483, Politian was placed in the chair of Greek and Latin eloquence at Florence; a station perhaps the most conspicuous and the most honourable which any scholar could occupy. It is beyond controversy, that he stands at the head of that class in the fifteenth century. The envy of some of his contemporaries attested his superiority. In 1489, he published his once celebrated Miscellanea, consisting of one hundred observations illustrating passages of Latin authors, in the desultory manner of Aulus Gellius, which is certainly the easiest, and perhaps the most agreeable method of conveying information. They are sometimes grammatical; but more frequently relate to obscure (at that time) customs or mythological allusions. Greek quotations occur not seldom, and the author’s command of classical literature seems considerable. Thus he explains, for instance, the crambe repetita of Juvenal by a proverb mentioned in Suidas, δὶς χρὰμβη θὰνατος: χρὰμβη being a kind of cabbage, which, when boiled a second time, was of course not very palatable. This may serve to show the extent of learning which some Italian scholars had reached through the assistance of the manuscripts collected by Lorenzo. It is not improbable that no one in England at that time had heard the name of Suidas. Yet the imperfect knowledge of Greek which these early writers possessed, is shown when they attempt to write it. Politian has some verses in his Miscellanea, but very bald, and full of false quantities. This remark we may have occasion to repeat; for it is applicable to much greater names in philology than his.[406]

[406] Meiners has praised Politian’s Greek verses, but with very little skill in such matters, p. 214. The compliments he quotes from contemporary Greeks, non esse tam Atticas Athenas ipsas, may not have been very sincere, unless they meant esse to be taken in the present tense. These Greeks, besides, knew but little of their metrical language.

Their character, by Heeren. 77. The Miscellanies, Heeren says, were then considered an immortal work; it was deemed an honour to be mentioned in them, and those who missed this made it a matter of complaint. If we look at them now, we are astonished at the different measure of glory in the present age. This book probably sprung out of Politian’s lectures. He had cleared up in these some difficult passages, which had led him on to further inquiries. Some of his explanations might probably have arisen out of the walks and rides he was accustomed to take with Lorenzo, who had advised the publication of the Miscellanies. The manner in which these explanations are given, the light, yet solid mode of handling the subjects, and their great variety, give in fact a charm to the Miscellanies of Politian which few antiquarian works possess. Their success is not wonderful. They were fragments, and chosen fragments, from the lectures of the most celebrated teacher of that age, whom many had heard, but still more had wished to hear. Scarcely had a work appeared in the whole fifteenth century, of which so vast expectations had been entertained, and which was received with such curiosity.[407] The very fault of Politian’s style, [Pg 96] as it was that of Hermolaus Barbarus, his affected intermixture of obsolete words, for which it is necessary in almost every page of his Miscellanies to consult the dictionary, would, in an age of pedantry, increase the admiration of his readers.[408]

[407] Heeren, p. 263. Meiners, Lebensbeschreibungen, &c., has written the life of Politian, ii. 111-220, more copiously than any one I have read. His character of the Miscellanies is in p. 136.

[408] Meiners, pp. 155, 209. In the latter passage Meiners censures with apparent justice the affected words of Politian, some of which he did not scruple to take from such writers as Apuleius and Tertullian, with an inexcusable display of erudition at the expense of good taste.

His version of Herodian. 78. Politian was the first that wrote the Latin language with much elegance; and while every other early translator from the Greek has incurred more or less of censure at the hands of judges whom better learning had made fastidious, it is agreed by them that his Herodian has all the spirit of his original, and frequently excels it.[409] Thus we perceive that the age of Poggio, Filelfo, and Valla was already left far behind by a new generation: these had been well employed as the pioneers of ancient literature; but for real erudition and taste we must descend to Politian, Christopher Landino, and Hermolaus Barbarus.[410]

[409] Huet. apud Blount in Politiano.

[410] Meiners, Roscoe, Corniani, Heeren, and Greswell’s Memoirs of early Italian scholars, are the best authorities to whom the reader can have recourse for the character of Politian, besides his own works. I think, however, that Heeren has hardly done justice to Politian’s poetry. Tiraboschi is unsatisfactory. Blount, as usual, collects the suffrages of the sixteenth century.

Cornucopia of Perotti. 79. The Cornucopia sive Linguæ Latinæ Commentarii, by Nicolas Perotti, bishop of Siponto, suggests rather more by its title than the work itself seems to warrant. It is a copious commentary upon part of Martial; in which he takes occasion to explain a vast many Latin words, and has been highly extolled by Morhof, and by writers quoted in Baillet and Blount. To this commentary is appended an alphabetical index of words, which rendered it a sort of dictionary for the learned reader. Perotti lived a little before this time; but the first edition seems to have been in 1489. He also wrote a small Latin grammar, frequently reprinted in the fifteenth century, and was an indifferent translator of Polybius.[411]

[411] Heeren, 272, Morhof, i. 821, who calls Perotti the first compiler of good Latin, from whom those who followed have principally borrowed. See also Baillet and Blount for testimonies to Perotti.

Latin poetry of Politian. 80. We have not thought it worth while to mention the Latin poets of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. They are numerous, and somewhat rude, from Petrarch and Boccace to Maphæus Vegius, the continuator of the Æneid in a thirteenth book, first printed in 1471, and very frequently afterwards. This is, probably, the best versification before Politian. But his Latin poems display considerable powers of description, and a strong feeling of the beauties of Roman poetry. The style is imbued with these, not too ambitiously chosen, nor in the manner called Centonism, but so as to give a general elegance to the composition, and to call up pleasing associations in the reader of taste. This, indeed, is the common praise of good versifiers in modern Latin, and not peculiarly appropriate to Politian, who is inferior to some who followed, though to none, as I apprehend, that preceded in that numerous fraternity. His ear is good, and his rhythm, with a few exceptions, musical and Virgilian. Some defects are nevertheless worthy of notice. He is often too exuberant, and apt to accumulate details of description. His words, unauthorised by any legitimate example, are very numerous; a fault in some measure excusable by the want of tolerable dictionaries; so that the memory was the only test of classical precedent. Nor can we deny that Politian’s Latin poetry is sometimes blemished by affected and effeminate expressions, by a too studious use of repetitions, and by a love of diminutives, according to the fashion of his native language, carried beyond all bounds that correct Augustan latinity could possibly have endured. This last fault, and to a man of good taste it is an unpleasing one, belongs to a great part of the lyrical and even elegiac writers in modern Latin. The example of Catullus would probably have been urged in excuse; but perhaps Catullus went farther than the best judges approved; and nothing in his poems can justify the excessive abuse of that effeminate grace, what the stern Persius would have called, summa delumbe saliva, which pervades the poetry both of Italian and Cisalpine Latinists for a long period. On the whole, Politian, like many of his followers, is calculated to delight and mislead a schoolboy, but may be read with pleasure by a man.[412]

[412] The extracts from Politian, and other Latin poets of Italy, by Pope, in the two little volumes, entitled Poemata Italorum, are extremely well chosen, and give a just measure of most of them.

[Pg 97]

Italian poetry of Lorenzo. 81. Amidst all the ardour for the restoration of classical literature in Italy, there might seem reason to apprehend that native originality would not meet its due reward, and even that the discouraging notion of a degeneracy in the powers of the human mind might come to prevail. Those who annex an exaggerated value to correcting an unimportant passage in an ancient author, or, which is much the same, interpreting some worthless inscription, can hardly escape the imputation of pedantry; and doubtless this reproach might justly fall on many of the learned in that age, as, with less excuse, it has often done upon their successors. We have already seen that, for a hundred years, it was thought unworthy a man of letters, even though a poet, to write in Italian; and Politian, with his great patron Lorenzo, deserves no small honour for having disdained the false vanity of the philologers. Lorenzo stands at the head of the Italian poets of the fifteenth century in the sonnet as well as in the light lyrical composition. His predecessors, indeed, were not likely to remove the prejudice against vernacular poetry. Several of his sonnets appear, both for elevation and elegance of style, worthy of comparison with those of the next age. But perhaps his most original claim to the title of a poet is founded upon the Canti Carnascialeschi, or carnival songs, composed for the popular shows on festivals. Some of these, which are collected in a volume printed in 1558, are by Lorenzo, and display a union of classical grace and imitation with the native raciness of Florentine gaiety.[413]

[413] Corniani. Roscoe. Crescimbeni (della volgar poesia, ii. 324) strongly asserts Lorenzo to be the restorer of poetry, which had never been more barbarous than in his youth. But certainly the Giostra of Politian was written while Lorenzo was very young.

Pulci. 82. But at this time appeared a poet of a truly modern school, in one of Lorenzo’s intimate society, Luigi Pulci. The first edition of his Morgante Maggiore, containing twenty-three cantos, to which five were subsequently added, was published at Venice in 1481. The taste of the Italians has always been strongly inclined to extravagant combinations of fancy, caprices rapid and sportive as the animal from which they take their name. The susceptible and versatile imaginations of that people, and their habitual cheerfulness, enable them to render the serious and terrible instrumental to the ridiculous, without becoming, like some modern fictions, merely hideous and absurd.

Character of Morgante Maggiore. 83. The Morgante Maggiore was evidently suggested by some long romances written within the preceding century in the octave stanza, for which the fabulous chronicle of Turpin, and other fictions wherein the same real and imaginary personages had been introduced, furnished the materials. Under pretence of ridiculing the intermixture of sacred allusions with the romantic legends, Pulci carried it to an excess; which, combined with some sceptical insinuations of his own, seems clearly to display an intention of exposing religion to contempt.[414] As to the heroes of his romance, there can be, as it seems, no sort of doubt that he designed them for nothing else than the butts of his fancy; that the reader might scoff at those whom duller poets had held up to admiration. It has been a question among Italian critics, whether the poem of Pulci is to be reckoned burlesque.[415] This may seem to turn on the [Pg 98] definition, though I do not see what definition could be given, consistently with the use of language, that would exclude it; it is intended as a caricature of the poetical romances, and might even seem by anticipation a satirical, though not ill-natured, parody on the Orlando Furioso. That he meant to excite any other emotion than laughter cannot, as it seems, be maintained; and a very few stanzas of a more serious character, which may rarely be found, are not enough to make an exception to his general design. The Morgante was to the poetical romances of chivalry, what Don Quixote was to their brethren in prose.

[414] The story of Meridiana, in the eighth canto, is sufficient to prove Pulci’s irony to have been exercised on religion. It is well known to the readers of the Morgante. It has been alleged in the Biographie Universelle, that he meant only to turn into ridicule ces muses mendiantes du 14me siècle, the authors of la Spagna or Buovo d’Antona, who were in the habit of beginning their songs with scraps of the liturgy, and even of introducing theological doctrines in the most absurd and misplaced style. Pulci has given us much of the latter, wherein some have imagined that he had the assistance of Ficinus.

[415] This seems to have been an old problem in Italy. Corniani, ii. 302; and the gravity of Pulci has been maintained of late by such respectable authorities as Foscolo and Panizzi. Ginguéné, who does not go this length, thinks the death of Orlando, and his last prayer, both pathetic and sublime. I can see nothing in it but the systematic spirit of parody which we find in Pulci. But the lines on the death of Forisena, in the fourth canto, are really graceful and serious. The following remarks on Pulci’s style come from a more competent judge than myself.

There is something harsh in Pulci’s manner, owing to his abrupt transition from one idea to another, and to his carelessness of grammatical rules. He was a poet by nature, and wrote with ease, but he never cared for sacrificing syntax to meaning; he did not mind saying anything incorrectly, if he were but sure that his meaning would be guessed. The rhyme very often compels him to employ expressions, words, and even lines which frequently render the sense obscure and the passage crooked, without producing any other effect than that of destroying a fine stanza. He has no similes of any particular merit, nor does he stand eminent in description. His verses almost invariably make sense taken singly, and convey distinct and separate ideas. Hence he wants that richness, fulness, and smooth flow of diction, which is indispensable to an epic poet, and to a noble description or comparison. Occasionally, when the subject admits of a powerful sketch which may be presented with vigour and spirit by a few strokes boldly drawn, Pulci appears to a great advantage.—Panizzi on romantic poetry of Italians, in the first volume of his Orlando Innamorato, p. 298.

84. A foreigner must admire the vivacity of the narrative, the humorous gaiety of the characters, the adroitness of the satire. But the Italians, and especially the Tuscans, delight in the raciness of Pulci’s Florentine idiom, which we cannot equally relish. He has not been without influence on men of more celebrity than himself. In several passages of Ariosto, especially the visit of Astolfo to the moon, we trace a resemblance not wholly fortuitous. Voltaire, in one of his most popular poems, took the dry archness of Pulci, and exaggerated the profaneness, superadding the obscenity from his own stores. But Mr. Frere, with none of these two ingredients in his admirable vein of humour, has come, in the War of the Giants, much closer to the Morgante Maggiore than any one else.

Platonic theology of Ficinus. 85. The Platonic academy, in which the chief of the Medici took so much delight, did not fail to reward his care. Marsilius Ficinus, in his Theologica Platonica (1482), developed a system chiefly borrowed from the later Platonists of the Alexandrian school, full of delight to the credulous imagination, though little appealing to the reason, which, as it seemed remarkably to coincide in some respects with the received tenets of the church, was connived at in a few reveries, which could not so well bear the test of an orthodox standard. He supported his philosophy by a translation of Plato into Latin, executed at the direction of Lorenzo, and printed before 1490. Of this translation Buhle has said, that it has been very unjustly reproached with want of correctness; it is, on the contrary, perfectly conformable to the original, and has even, in some passages, enabled us to restore the text; the manuscripts used by Ficinus, I presume, not being in our hands. It has also the rare merit of being at once literal, perspicuous, and in good Latin.[416]

[416] Hist. de la Philosophie, vol. ii. The fullest account of the philosophy of Ficinus has been given by Buhle. Those who seek less minute information may have recourse to Brucker or Corniani; or, if they are content with still less, to Tiraboschi, Roscoe, Heeren, or the Biographie Universelle.

Doctrine of Averroes on the soul. 86. But the Platonism of Ficinus was not wholly that of the master. It was based on the emanation of the human soul from God, and its capacity of reunion by an ascetic and contemplative life; a theory perpetually reproduced in various modifications of meaning, and far more of words. The nature and immortality of the soul, the functions and distinguishing characters of angels, the being and attributes of God, engaged the thoughtful mind of Ficinus. In the course of his high speculations he assailed a doctrine, which, though rejected by Scotus and most of the schoolmen, had gained much ground among the Aristotelians, as they deemed themselves, of Italy; a doctrine first held by Averroes; that there is one common intelligence, active, immortal, indivisible, unconnected with matter, the soul of human kind, which is not in any one man, because it has no material form, but which yet assists in the rational operations of each man’s personal soul, and from those operations which are all conversant with particulars, derives its own knowledge of universals. Thus, if I understand what is meant, which is rather subtle, it might be said, that as in the common theory particular sensations furnish means to the soul of forming general ideas, so, in that of Averroes, the ideas and judgments of separate human souls furnish collectively the means of that knowledge of universals, which the one great soul of mankind alone can embrace. This was a theory built, as some have said, on the bad Arabic version of Aristotle which Averroes used. But, whatever might have first suggested it to the philosopher of Cordova, it seems little else than an expansion of the Realist hypothesis, urged to a degree of apparent paradox. For if the human soul, as an universal, [Pg 99] possess an objective reality, it must surely be intelligent; and, being such, it may seem no extravagant hypothesis, though one incapable of that demonstration we now require in philosophy, to suppose that it acts upon the subordinate intelligences of the same species, and receives impressions from them. By this also they would reconcile the knowledge we were supposed to possess of the reality of universals, with the acknowledged impossibility, at least in many cases, of representing them to the mind.

Opposed by Ficinus. 87. Ficinus is the more prompt to refute the Averroists, that they all maintained the mortality of the particular soul, while it was his endeavour, by every argument that erudition and ingenuity could supply, to prove the contrary. The whole of his Platonic Theology appears a beautiful, but too visionary and hypothetical, system of theism, the groundworks of which lay deep in the meditations of ancient oriental sages. His own treatise, of which a very copious account will be found in Buhle, soon fell into oblivion; but it belongs to a class of literature, which, in all its extension, has, full as much as any other, engaged the human mind.

Desire of man to explore mysteries. 88. The thirst for hidden knowledge, by which man is distinguished from brutes, and the superior races of men from savage tribes, burns generally with more intenseness in proportion as the subject is less definitely comprehensible, and the means of certainty less attainable. Even our own interest in things beyond the sensible world does not appear to be the primary or chief source of the desire we feel to be acquainted with them; it is the pleasure of belief itself, of associating the conviction of reality with ideas not presented by sense; it is sometimes the necessity of satisfying a restless spirit, that first excites our endeavour to withdraw the veil that conceals the mystery of their being. The few great truths in religion that reason discovers, or that an explicit revelation deigns to communicate, sufficient as they may be for our practical good, have proved to fall very short of the ambitious curiosity of man. They leave so much imperfectly known, so much wholly unexplored, that in all ages he has never been content without trying some method of filling up the void. These methods have often led him to folly, and weakness, and crime. Yet as those who want the human passions, in their excess the great fountains of evil, seem to us maimed in their nature, so an indifference to this knowledge of invisible things, or a premature despair of attaining it, may be accounted an indication of some moral or intellectual deficiency, some scantness of due proportion in the mind.

Various methods employed. 89. The means to which recourse has been had to enlarge the boundaries of human knowledge in matters relating to the Deity, or to such of his intelligent creatures as do not present themselves in ordinary objectiveness to our senses, have been various, and may be distributed into several classes. |Reason and inspiration.| Reason itself, as the most valuable, though not the most frequent in use, may be reckoned the first. Whatever deductions have suggested themselves to the acute, or analogies to the observant mind, whatever has seemed the probable interpretation of revealed testimony, is the legitimate province of a sound and rational theology. But so fallible appears the reason of each man to others, and often so dubious are its inferences to himself, so limited is the span of our faculties, so incapable are they of giving more than a vague and conjectural probability, where we demand most of definiteness and certainty, that few, comparatively speaking, have been content to acquiesce even in their own hypothesis upon no other grounds than argument has supplied. The uneasiness that is apt to attend suspense of belief has required, in general, a more powerful remedy. Next to those who have solely employed their rational faculties in theology, we may place those who have relied on a supernatural illumination. These have nominally been many; but the imagination, like the reason, bends under the incomprehensibility of spiritual things; a few excepted, who have become founders of sects, and lawgivers to the rest, the mystics fell into a beaten track, and grew mechanical even in their enthusiasm.

Extended inferences from sacred books. 90. No solitary and unconnected meditations, however, either of the philosopher or the mystic, could furnish a sufficiently extensive stock of theological faith for the multitude, who, by their temper and capacities, were more prone to take it at the hands of others than choose any tenets for themselves. They looked, therefore, for some authority upon which to repose; and instead of builders, became as it were occupants of mansions prepared for them by more active minds. Among those who [Pg 100] acknowledged a code of revealed truths, the Jews, Christians, and Mahometans, this authority has been sought in largely expansive interpretations of their sacred books; either of positive obligation, as the decisions of general councils were held to be, or at least of such weight as a private man’s reason, unless he were of great name himself, was not permitted to contravene. These expositions, in the Christian Church, as well as among the Jews, were frequently allegorical; a hidden stream of esoteric truth was supposed to flow beneath all the surface of Scripture; and every text germinated, in the hands of the preacher, into meanings far from obvious, but which were presumed to be not undesigned. This scheme of allegorical interpretation began among the earliest fathers, and spread with perpetual expansion through the middle ages.[417] The Reformation swept most of it away; but it has frequently revived in a more partial manner. We mention it here only as one great means of enabling men to believe more than they had done, of communicating to them what was to be received as divine truths, not additional to Scripture, because they were concealed in it, but such as the church could only have learned through its teachers.

[417] Fleury (5me discours), xvii. 37. Mosheim, passim.

Confidence in traditions. 91. Another large class of religious opinions stood on a somewhat different footing. They were in a proper sense, according to the notions of those times, revealed from God; though not in the sacred writings which were the chief depositories of his word. Such were the received traditions in each of the three great religions, sometimes, absolutely infallible, sometimes, as in the former case of interpretations, resting upon such a basis of authority, that no one was held at liberty to withhold his assent. The Jewish traditions were of this kind; and the Mahometans have trod in the same path, we may add to these the legends of saints: none, perhaps, were positively enforced as of faith; but a Franciscan was not to doubt the inspiration and miraculous gifts of his founder. Nor was there any disposition in the people to doubt of them; they filled up with abundant measure the cravings of the heart and fancy, till, having absolutely palled both by excess, they brought about a kind of reaction, which has taken off much of their efficacy.

Confidence in individuals as inspired. 92. Francis of Assisi may naturally lead us to the last mode in which the spirit of theological belief manifested itself; the confidence in a particular man, as the organ of a special divine illumination. But though this was fully assented to by the order he instituted, and probably by most others, it cannot be said that Francis pretended to set up any new tenets, or enlarge, except by his visions and miracles, the limits of spiritual knowledge. Nor would this, in general, have been a safe proceeding in the middle ages. Those who made a claim to such light from heaven as could irradiate what the church had left dark seldom failed to provoke her jealousy. It is, therefore, in later times, and under more tolerant governments, that we shall find the fanatics, or impostors, whom the multitude has taken for witnesses of divine truth, or at least as interpreters of the mysteries of the invisible world.

Jewish Cabbala. 93. In the class of traditional theology, or what might be called complemental revelation, we must place the Jewish Cabbala. This consisted in a very specific and complex system, concerning the nature of the Supreme being, the emanation of various orders of spirits in successive links from his essence, their properties and characters. It is evidently one modification of the oriental philosophy, borrowing little from the Scriptures, at least through any natural interpretation of them, and the offspring of the Alexandrian Jews, not far from the beginning of the Christian æra. They referred it to a tradition from Esdras, or some other eminent person, on whom they fixed as the depositary of an esoteric theology communicated by divine authority. The Cabbala was received by the Jewish doctors in the first centuries after the fall of their state; and after a period of long duration, as remarkable for the neglect of learning in that people as in the Christian world, it revived again in that more genial season, the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when the brilliancy of many kinds of literature among the Saracens of Spain excited their Jewish subjects to emulation. Many conspicuous men illustrate the Hebrew learning of those and the succeeding ages. It was not till now, about the middle of the fifteenth century, that they came into contact with the Christians in theological philosophy. The Platonism of Ficinus, derived, in great measure, from that of Plotinus and the Alexandrian school, was easily connected, by means especially of the writings of Philo, with the Jewish orientalism, sisters as they were of the same family. Several forgeries in celebrated [Pg 101] names, easy to affect and sure to deceive, had been committed in the first ages of Christianity by the active propagators of this philosophy. Hermes Trismegistus, and Zoroaster, were counterfeited in books which most were prone to take for genuine, and which it was not then easy to refute on critical grounds. These altogether formed a huge mass of imposture, or, at best, of arbitrary hypothesis, which, for more than a hundred years after this time, obtained an undue credence, and consequently retarded the course of real philosophy in Europe.[418]

[418] Brucker, vol. ii. Buhle, ii. 316. Meiners, Vergl. der Sitten, iii. 277.

Picus of Mirandola. 94. They never gained over a more distinguished proselyte, or one whose credulity was more to be regretted, than a young man who appeared at Florence in 1485, John Picus of Mirandola. He was then twenty-two years old, the younger son of an illustrious family, which held that little principality as an imperial fief. At the age of fourteen he was sent to Bologna, that he might study the canon law, with a view to the ecclesiastical profession; but after two years he felt an inexhaustible desire for more elevated though less profitable sciences. He devoted the next six years to the philosophy of the schools, in the chief universities of Italy and France: whatever disputable subtilties the metaphysics and theology of that age could supply, became familiar to his mind; but to these he added a knowledge of the Hebrew and other eastern languages, a power of writing Latin with grace, and of amusing his leisure with the composition of Italian poetry. The natural genius of Picus is well shown, though in a partial manner, by a letter which will be found among those of Politian, in answer to Hermolaus Barbarus. His correspondent had spoken with the scorn, and almost bitterness, usual with philologers, of the Transalpine writers, meaning chiefly the schoolmen, for the badness of their Latin. The young scholastic answered, that he had been at first disheartened by the reflection that he had lost six years’ labour; but considered afterwards, that the barbarians might say something for themselves, and puts a very good defence in their mouths; a defence which wants nothing but the truth of what he is forced to assume, that they had been employing their intellects upon things instead of words. Hermolaus found, however, nothing better to reply than the compliment, that Picus would be disavowed by the schoolmen for defending them in so eloquent a style.[419]

[419] The letter of Hermolaus is dated Apr. 1485. He there says, after many compliments to Picus himself: Nec enim inter autores Latinæ linguæ numero Germanos istos et Teutonas qui ne viventes quidem vivebant, nedum ut extincti vivant, aut si vivunt, vivunt in pœnam et contumeliam. The answer of Picus is dated in June. A few lines from his pleading for the schoolmen will exhibit his ingenuity and elegance. Admirenture nos sagaces in inquirendo, circumspectors in explorando, subtiles in contemplando, in judicando graves, implicitos in vinciendo, faciles in enodando. Admirentur in nobis brevitatem styli, fœtam rerum multarum atque magnarum, sub expositis verbis remotissimas sententias, plenas quæstionum, plenas solutionum, quam apti sumus, quam bene instructi ambiguitates tollere, scrupos diluere, involuta evolvere, flexanimis syllogismis et infirmare falso et vera confirmare. Viximus celebres, o Hermolae, et posthac vivemus, non in scholis grammaticorum et pædagogiis, sed in philosophorum coronis, in conventibus sapientum, ubi non de matre Andromaches, non de Niobes filiis, atque id genus levibus nugis, sed de humanarum divinarumque rerum rationibus agitur et disputatur. In quibus meditandis, inquirendis et enodandis, ita subtiles acuti acresque fuimus, ut anxii quandoque nimium et morosi fuisse forte videamur, si modo esse morosus quispiam aut curiosus nimio plus in indagando veritate potest. Polit. Epist. lib. 9.

His credulity in the Cabbala. 95. He learned Greek very rapidly, probably after his coming to Florence. And having been led, through Ficinus, to the study of Plato, he seems to have given up his Aristotelian philosophy for theories more congenial to his susceptible and credulous temper. These led him onwards to wilder fancies. Ardent in the desire of knowledge, incapable, in the infancy of criticism, to discern authentic from spurious writings, and perhaps disqualified, by his inconceivable rapidity in apprehending the opinions of others from judging acutely of their reasonableness, Picus of Mirandola fell an easy victim to his own enthusiasm and the snares of fraud. An impostor persuaded him to purchase fifty Hebrew manuscripts, as having been composed by Esdras, and containing the most secret mysteries of the Cabbala. From this time, says Corniani, he imbibed more and more such idle fables, and wasted in dreams a genius formed to reach the most elevated and remote truths. In these spurious books of Esdras, he was astonished to find, as he says, more of Christianity than Judaism, and trusted them the more confidently for the very reason that demonstrates their falsity.[420]

[420] Corniani, iii. 63. Meiners, Lebensbeschreibungen berühmter Männer ii. 21. Tiraboschi, vii. 325.

[Pg 102]

His literary performances. 96. Picus, about the end of 1486, repaired to Rome, and with permission of Innocent VIII., propounded his famous nine hundred theses, or questions, logical, ethical, mathematical, physical, metaphysical, theological, magical, and cabbalistical; upon every one of which he offered to dispute with any opponent. Four hundred of these propositions were from philosophers of Greece or Arabia, from the schoolmen, or from the Jewish doctors; the rest were announced as his own opinions, which, saving the authority of the church, he was willing to defend.[421] There was some need of this reservation; for several of his theses were ill-sounding, as it was called, in the ears of the orthodox. They raised a good deal of clamour against him; and the high rank, brilliant reputation, and obedient demeanour of Picus were all required to save him from public censure or more serious animadversions. He was compelled, however, to swear that he would adopt such an exposition of his theses as the pope should set forth. But as this was not done, he published an apology, especially vindicating his employment of cabbalistical and magical learning. This excited fresh attacks, which in some measure continued to harass him, till, on the accession of Alexander VI. to the papal chair, he was finally pronounced free from blameable intention. He had meantime, as we may infer from his later writings, receded from some of the bolder opinions of his youth. His mind became more devout, and more fearful of deviating from the church. On his first appearance at Florence, uniting rare beauty with high birth and unequalled renown, he had been much sought by women, and returned their love. But at the age of twenty-five he withdrew himself from all worldly distraction, destroying, as it is said, his own amatory poems, to the regret of his friends.[422] He now published several works, of which the Heptaplus is a cabbalistic exposition of the first chapter of Genesis. It is remarkable that, with his excessive tendency to belief, he rejected altogether, and confuted in a distinct treatise, the popular science of astrology, in which men so much more conspicuous in philosophy have trusted. But he had projected many other undertakings of vast extent; an allegorical exposition of the New Testament, a defence of the Vulgate and Septuagint against the Jews, a vindication of Christianity against every species of infidelity and heresy; and finally, a harmony of philosophy, reconciling the apparent inconsistencies of all writers, ancient and modern, who deserved the name of wise, as he had already attempted by Plato and Aristotle. In these arduous labours he was cut off by a fever at the age of thirty-one, in 1494, on the very day that Charles VIII. made his entry into Florence. A man, so justly called the phœnix of his age, and so extraordinarily gifted by nature, ought not to be slightly passed over, though he may have left nothing which we could read with advantage. If we talk of the admirable Crichton, who is little better than a shadow, and lives but in panegyric, so much superior and more wonderful a person as John Picus of Mirandola should not be forgotten.[423]

[421] Meiners, p. 14.

[422] Meiners, p. 10.

[423] The long biography of Picus in Meiners is in great measure taken from a life written by his nephew, John Francis Picus, count of Mirandola, himself a man of great literary and philosophical reputation in the next century. Meiners has made more use of this than any one else; but much will be found concerning Picus, from this source, and from his own works, in Brucker, Buhle, Corniani, and Tiraboschi. The epitaph on Picus by Hercules Strozza is, I believe, in the church of St. Mark:

Joannes jacet hic Mirandola; cætera nôrunt
Et Tagus et Ganges; forsan et Antipodes.

State of learning in Germany.

Agricola. 97. If, leaving the genial city of Florence, we are to judge of the state of knowledge in our Cisalpine regions, and look at the books it was thought worth while to publish, which seems no bad criterion, we shall rate but lowly their proficiency in the classical literature so much valued in Italy. Four editions, and those chiefly of short works, were printed at Deventer, one at Cologne, one at Louvain, five perhaps at Paris, two at Lyons.[424] But a few undated books might, probably, be added. Either, therefore, the love of ancient learning had grown colder, which was certainly not the case, or it had never been strong enough to reward the labour of the too sanguine printers. Yet it was now striking root in Germany. The excellent schools of Munster and Schelstadt were established in some part of this decade; they trained those who were themselves to become instructors; and the liberal zeal of Langius extending beyond his immediate disciples, scarce any Latin author was published in Germany in which he did not correct the text.[425] The opportunities [Pg 103] he had of doing so were not, as has been just seen, so numerous in this period as they became in the next. He had to withstand a potent and obstinate faction. The mendicant friars of Cologne, the head-quarters of barbarous superstition, clamoured against his rejection of the old school-books, and the entire reform of education. But Agricola addresses his friend in sanguine language: I entertain the greatest hope from your exertions, that we shall one day wrest from this insolent Italy her vaunted glory of pre-eminent eloquence; and redeeming ourselves from the opprobrium of ignorance, barbarism, and incapacity of expression which she is ever casting upon us, may show our Germany so deeply learned, that Latium itself shall not be more Latin than she will appear.[426] About 1482, Agricola was invited to the court of the elector palatine at Heidelberg. He seems not to have been engaged in public instruction, but passed the remainder of his life, unfortunately too short, for he died in 1485, in diffusing and promoting a taste for literature among his contemporaries. No German wrote in so pure a style, or possessed so large a portion of classical learning. Vives places him in dignity and grace of language even above Politian and Hermolaus.[427] The praises of Erasmus, as well as of the later critics, if not so marked, are very freely bestowed. His letters are frequently written in Greek; a fashion of those who could; and as far as I have attended to them, seem equal in correctness to some from men of higher name in the next age.

[424] Panzer.

[425] Meiners, Lebensbesch. ii. 328. Eichhorn, iii. 231-239.

[426] Unum hoc tibi affirmo, ingentem de te concipio fiduciam, summamque in spem adducor, fore aliquando, ut priscam insolenti Italiæ, et propemodum occupatam bene dicendi gloriam extorqueamus; vindicemusque nos, et ab ignavia, qua nos barbaros, indoctosque et elingues, et si quid est his incultius, esse nos jactitant, exsolvamus, futuramque tam doctam et literatam Germaniam nostram, ut non Latinius vel ipsum sit Latium. This is quoted by Heeren, p. 154, and Meiners, ii. 329.

[427] Vix et hac nostra et patrum memoria fuit unus atque alter dignior, qui multum legeretur, multumque in manibus haberetur, quam Radulphus Agricola Frisius; tantum est in ejus operibus ingenii, artis, gravitatis, dulcedinis, eloquentiæ, eruditionis; at is paucissimis noscitur, vir non minus, qui ab hominibus cognosceretur, dignus quam Politianus, vel Hermolaus Barbarus, quos mea quidem sententia, et majestate et suavitate dictionis non æquat modo, sed etiam vincit. Vives, Comment. in Augustin. (apud Blount, Censura Auctorum, sub nomine Agricola.)

Agnosco virum divini pectoris, eruditionis reconditæ, stylo minime vulgari, solidum, nervosum elaboratum, compositum. In Italia summus esse poterat, nisi Germanium prætulisset. Erasmus in Ciceroniano. He speaks as strongly in many other places. Testimonies to the merits of Agricola from Huet, Vossius, and others, are collected by Bayle, Blount, Baillet, and Niceron. Meiners has written his life, ii. pp. 332-363; and several of his letters will be found among those addressed to Reuchlin, Epistolæ ad Reuchlinum; a collection of great importance for this portion of literary history.

Rhenish academy. 98. The immediate patron of Agricola, through whom he was invited to Heidelberg, was John Camerarius, of the house of Dalberg, bishop of Worms, and chancellor of the Palatinate. He contributed much himself to the cause of letters in Germany; especially if he is to be deemed the founder, as probably he should be, of an early academy, the Rhenish Society, which, we are told, devoted its time to Latin, Greek, and Hebrew criticism, astronomy, music, and poetry; not scorning to relax their minds with dances and feasts, nor forgetting the ancient German attachment to the flowing cup.[428] The chief seat of the Rhenish Society was at Heidelberg; but it had associate branches in other parts of Germany, and obtained imperial privileges. No member of this academy was more conspicuous than Conrad Celtes, who has sometimes been reckoned its founder, which, from his youth, is hardly probable, and was, at least, the chief instrument of its subsequent extension. He was indefatigable in the vineyard of literature, and, travelling to different parts of Germany, exerted a more general influence than Agricola himself. Celtes was the first from whom Saxony derived some taste for learning. His Latin poetry was far superior to any that had been produced in the empire; and for this, in 1487, he received the laurel crown from Frederic III.[429]

[428] Studebant eximia hæc ingenia Latinorum, Græcorum, Ebræorumque scriptorum lectioni, cumprimis criticæ; astronomiam et artem musicam excolebant. Poesin atque jurisprudentiam sibi habebant commendatam; imo et interdum gaudia curis interponebant. Nocturno nimirum tempore, defessi laboribus, ludere solebant, saltare, jocari cum mulierculis, epulari, ac more Germanorum inveterato strenue potare. Jugler, Hist. Litteraria, p. 1993 (vol. iii.). The passage seems to be taken from Ruprecht, Oratio de Societate Litteraria Rhenana, Jenæ, 1752, which I have not seen.

[429] Jugler, ubi suprà. Eichhorn, ii. 557. Heeren, p. 100. Biogr. Universelle, art. Celtes, Dalberg, Trithemius.

Reuchlin. 99. Reuchlin, in 1482, accompanied the duke of Wirtemberg on a visit to Rome. [Pg 104] He thus became acquainted with the illustrious men of Italy, and convinced them of his own pretensions to the name of a scholar. The old Constantinopolitan Argyropulus, on hearing him translate a passage of Thucydides, exclaimed, Our banished Greece has now flown beyond the Alps. Yet Reuchlin, though from some other circumstances of his life a more celebrated, was not probably so learned or so accomplished a man as Agricola; he was withdrawn from public tuition by the favour of several princes, in whose courts he filled honourable offices; and after some years more, he fell unfortunately into the same seducing error as Picus of Mirandola, and sacrificed his classical pursuits for the Cabbalistic philosophy.

French language and poetry. 100. Though France contributed little to the philologer, several books were now published in French. In the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, 1486, a slight improvement in polish of language is said to be discernible.[430] The poems of Villon are rather of more importance. They were first published in 1489; but many of them had been written thirty years before. Boileau has given Villon credit for being the first who cleared his style from the rudeness and redundancy of the old romancers.[431] But this praise, as some have observed, is more justly due to the duke of Orleans, a man of full as much talent as Villon, with a finer taste. The poetry of the latter, as might be expected from a life of dissoluteness and roguery, is often low and coarse; but he seems by no means incapable of a moral strain, not destitute of terseness and spirit. Martial d’Auvergne, in his Vigiles de la Mort de Charles VII., which, from its subject, must have been written soon after 1460, though not printed till 1490, displays, to judge from the extracts in Goujet, some compass of imagination.[432] The French poetry of this age was still full of allegorical morality, and had lost a part of its original raciness. Those who desire an acquaintance with it may have recourse to the author just mentioned, or to Bouterwek; and extracts, though not so copious as the title promises, will be found in the Recueil des Anciens Poètes Français.

[430] Essai du C. François de Neufchâteau sur les meilleurs ouvrages en prose; prefixed to Œuvres de Pascal (1819), i. p. cxx.

[431] Villon fut le primer dans des siècles grossiers
Debrouiller l’art confus de nos vieux romanciers.
Art Poétique, l. i. v. 117.

[432] Goujet, Bibliothèque Française, vol. x.

European drama. 101. The modern drama of Europe is derived, like its poetry, from two sources, the one ancient or classical, the other mediæval; the one an imitation of Plautus and Seneca, the other a gradual refinement of the rude scenic performances, denominated miracles, mysteries, or moralities. |Latin.| Latin plays upon the former model, a few of which are extant, were written in Italy during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and sometimes represented, either in the universities, or before an audience of ecclesiastics and others who could understand them.[433] One of these, the Catinia of Secco Polentone, written about the middle of the fifteenth century, and translated by a son of the author into the Venetian dialect, was printed in 1482. This piece, however, was confined to the press.[434] Sabellicus, as quoted by Tiraboschi, has given to Pomponius Lætus the credit of having re-established the theatre at Rome, and caused the plays of Plautus Terence, as well as some more modern, which we may presume to have been in Latin, to be performed before the pope, probably Sixtus IV. And James of Volterra, in a diary published by Muratori, expressly mentions a History of Constantine represented in the papal palace during the carnival of 1484.[435] In imitation of Italy, but, perhaps, a little after the present decennial period, Reuchlin brought Latin plays of his own composition before a German audience. They were represented by students of Heidelberg. An edition of his Progymnasmata Scenica, containing some of these comedies, was printed in 1498. It has been said that one of them is taken from the French farce Maître Patelin[436]; while another, entitled Sergius, according to Warton, flies a much higher pitch, and is a satire on bad kings and bad ministers; though, from the account of Meiners, it seems rather to fall on the fraudulent arts of the monks.[437] The book is very scarce, and I have never seen it. Conrad Celtes, not long after Reuchlin, produced his own tragedies and comedies in the public halls of German cities. It is to be remembered, that the oral Latin language might at that time be tolerably familiar to a considerable audience in Germany.

[433] Tiraboschi, vii. 200.

[434] Id. p. 201.

[435] Id. p. 204.

[436] Greswell’s Early Parisian Press, p. 124; quoting la Monnoye. This seems to be confirmed by Meiners, i. 63.

[437] Warton, iii. 203. Meiners, i. 62. The Sergius was represented at Heidelberg about 1497.

[Pg 105]

Orfeo of Politian. 102. The Orfeo of Politian has claimed precedence as the earliest represented drama, not of a religious nature, in a modern language. This was written by him in two days, and acted before the court of Mantua in 1483. Roscoe has called it the first example of the musical drama, or Italian opera; but though he speaks of this as agreed by general consent, it is certain that the Orfeo was not designed for musical accompaniment, except, probably, in the songs and choruses.[438] According to the analysis of the fable in Ginguéné, the Orfeo differs only from a legendary mystery by substituting one set of characters for another; and it is surely by an arbitrary definition that we pay it the compliment upon which the modern historians of literature seem to have agreed. Several absurdities which appear in the first edition are said not to exist in the original manuscripts from which the Orfeo has been reprinted.[439] We must give the next place to a translation of the Menæchmi of Plautus, acted at Ferrara in 1486, by order of Ercole I., and, as some have thought, his own production, or to some original plays said to have been performed at the same brilliant court in the following years.[440]

[438] Burney (Hist. of Music, iv. 17) seems to countenance this; but Tiraboschi does not speak of musical accompaniment to the Orfeo; and Corniani only says, alcuni di essi sembrano dall’autor destinati ad accoppiarsi colla musica. Tali sono i canzoni e i cori alla Greca. Probably Roscoe did not mean all that his words imply; for the origin of recitative, in which the essence of the Italian opera consists, more than a century afterwards, is matter of notoriety.

[439] Tiraboschi, vii. 216. Ginguéné, iii. 514. Andrès (v. 125), discussing the history of the Italian and Spanish theatres, gives the precedence to the Orfeo as a represented play, though he conceives the first act of the Celestina to have been written and well known not later than the middle of the fifteenth century.

[440] Tiraboschi, vii. 203, et post. Roscoe, Leo X., ch. ii. Ginguéné,vi. 18.

Origin of dramatic mysteries. 103. The less regular, though in their day not less interesting, class of scenical stories, commonly called mysteries, all of which related to religious subjects, were never in more reputation than at this time. It is impossible to fix their first appearance at any single æra, and the inquiry into the origin of dramatic representation must be very limited in its subject, or perfectly futile in its scope. All nations, probably, have at all times, to a certain extent, amused themselves both with pantomimic and oral representation of a feigned story; the sports of children are seldom without both; and the exclusive employment of the former, instead of being a first stage of the drama, as has sometimes been assumed, is rather a variety in the course of its progress.

Their early stage. 104. The Christian drama arose on the ruins of the heathen theatre: it was a natural substitute of real sympathies for those which were effaced and condemned. Hence we find Greek tragedies on sacred subjects almost as early as the establishment of the church, and we have testimonies to their representation at Constantinople. Nothing of this kind being proved with respect to the west of Europe in the dark ages, it has been conjectured, not improbably, though without necessity, that the pilgrims, of whom great numbers repaired to the East in the eleventh century, might have obtained notions of scenical dialogue, with a succession of characters, and with an ornamental apparatus, in which theatrical representation properly consists. The earliest mention of them, it has been said, is in England. Geoffrey, afterwards abbot of St. Albans, while teaching a school at Dunstable, caused one of the shows, vulgarly called miracles, on the story of St. Catherine, to be represented in that town. Such is the account of Matthew Paris, who mentions the circumstance incidentally, in consequence of a fire that ensued. This must have been within the first twenty years of the twelfth century.[441] It is not to be questioned, that Geoffrey, a native of France, had some earlier models in his own country. Le Bœuf gives an account of a mystery written in the middle of the preceding century, wherein Virgil is introduced among the prophets that come to adore the Saviour; doubtless in allusion to the fourth eclogue.

[441] Matt. Paris, p. 1007 (edit. 1684). See Warton’s 34th section (iii. 193-233), for the early drama, and Beauchamps, Hist. du Théâtre Français, vol. i., or Bouterwek, v. 95-117, for the French in particular; Tiraboschi, ubi suprà, or Riccoboni, Hist. du Théâtre Italien, for that of Italy.

Extant English mysteries. 105. Fitz-Stephen, in the reign of Henry II., dwells on the sacred plays acted in London, representing the miracles or passions of martyrs. They became very common by the names of mysteries or miracles, both in England and on the Continent, and were not only exhibited within the walls of convents, but upon public occasions and festivals for the amusement of the people. It is probable, however, that the performers for a long time were always ecclesiastics. The earlier of those religious dramas were in Latin. A Latin farce exists on St. Nicholas, [Pg 106] older than the thirteenth century.[442] It was slowly that the modern languages were employed; and perhaps it might hence be presumed, that the greater part of the story was told through pantomime. But as this was unsatisfactory, and the spectators could not always follow the fable, there was an obvious inducement to make use of the vernacular language. The most ancient specimens appear to be those which Le Grand d’Aussy found among the compositions of the Trouveurs. He has published extracts from three; two of which are in the nature of legendary mysteries, while the third, which is far more remarkable, and may possibly be of the following century, is a pleasing pastoral drama, of which there seem to be no other instances in the mediæval period.[443] Bouterwek mentions a fragment of a German mystery, near the end of the thirteenth century.[444] Next to this it seems that we should place an English mystery called The Harrowing of Hell. This, its editor observes, is believed to be the most ancient production in a dramatic form in our language. The manuscript from which it is now printed is on vellum, and is certainly as old as the reign of Edward III., if not older. It probably formed one of a series of performances of the same kind, founded upon Scripture history. It consists of a prologue, epilogue, and intermediate dialogue of nine persons, Dominus, Sathan, Adam, Eve, &c. Independently of the alleged age of the manuscript itself, the language will hardly be thought later than 1350.[445] This, however, seems to stand at no small distance from any extant work of the kind. Warton having referred the Chester mysteries to 1327, when he supposes them to have been written by Ranulph Higden, a learned monk of that city, best known as the author of the Polychronicon, Roscoe positively contradicts him, and denies that any dramatic composition can be found in England anterior to the year 1500.[446] Two of these Chester mysteries have been since printed; but notwithstanding the very respectable authorities which assign them to the fourteenth century, I cannot but consider the language in which we now read them not earlier, to say the least, than the middle of the next. It is possible that they have in some degree been modernised. Mr. Collier has given an analysis of our own extant mysteries, or, as he prefers to call them, Miracle-plays.[447] There does not seem to be much dramatic merit, even with copious indulgence, in any of them; and some, such as the two Chester mysteries, are in the lowest style of buffoonery; yet they are of some importance in the absolute sterility of English literature during the age in which we presume them to have been written, the reigns of Henry VI. and Edward IV.

[442] Journal des Savans, 1828, p. 297. These farces, according to M. Raynouard, were the earliest dramatic representations, and gave rise to the mysteries.

[443] Fabliaux, ii. 119.

[444] ix. 265. The Tragedy of the Ten Virgins was acted at Eisenach in 1322. This is evidently nothing but a mystery. Weber’s Illustrations of Northern Poetry, p. 19.

[445] Mr. Collier has printed twenty-five copies (why veteris tam parcus aceti?) of this very curious record of the ancient drama. I do not know that any other in Europe of that early age has yet been given to the press.

[446] Lorenzo de’ Medici, i. 399. Roscoe thinks the few extracts in Bouterwek, is rather there is reason to conjecture that the Miracle-play acted at Dunstable was in dumb show; and assumes the same of the grotesque exhibitions known by the name of The Harrowing of Hell. In this we have just seen that he was mistaken, and probably in the former.

[447] Hist. of English Dramatic Poetry, vol. ii. The Chester mysteries were printed for the Roxburgh Club, by my friend Mr. Markland; and what are called the Townley mysteries are announced for publication.

First French theatre. 106. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were fertile of these religious dramas in many parts of Europe. They were frequently represented in Germany, but more in Latin than in the mother-tongue. The French scriptural theatre, whatever may have been previously exhibited, seems not to be traced in permanent existence beyond the last years of the fourteenth century. It was about 1400, according to Beauchamps, or some years before, as the authorities quoted by Bouterwek imply, that the Confrairie de la Passion de N. S. was established as a regular body of actors at Paris.[448] They are said to have taken their name from the mystery of the passion, which in fact represented the whole life of our Lord from his baptism, and was divided into several days. In pomp of show they far excelled our English mysteries, in which few persons appeared, and the scenery was simple. But in the mystery of the passion, eighty-seven characters were introduced in the first day; heaven, earth, and hell combined to people the stage; several scenes were written for singing, and some for choruses. The dialogue, of which I have only seen [Pg 107] similar to that of our own mysteries, though less rude, and with more efforts at a tragic tone.[449]

[448] Beauchamps, Recherches sur le Théâtre Français. Bouterwek, v. 96.

[449] Bouterwek, p. 100.

Theatrical machinery. 107. The mysteries, not confined to scriptural themes, embraced those which were hardly less sacred and trustworthy in the eyes of the people, the legends of saints. These afforded ample scope for the gratification which great part of mankind seem to take in witnessing the endurance of pain. Thus, in one of these Parisian mysteries, St. Barbara is hung up by the heels on the stage, and after uttering her remonstrances in that unpleasant situation, is torn with pincers and scorched with lamps before the audience. The decorations of this theatre must have appeared splendid. A large scaffolding at the back of the stage displayed heaven above and hell below, between which extended the world, with representations of the spot where the scene lay. Nor was the machinist’s art unknown. An immense dragon, with eyes of polished steel, sprung out from hell, in a mystery exhibited at Metz in the year 1437, and spread his wings so near to the spectators that they were all in consternation.[450] Many French mysteries, chiefly without date of the year, are in print, and probably belong, typographically speaking, to the present century.[451] One bears, according to Brunet, the date of 1484. These may, however, have been written long before their publication. Beauchamps has given a list of early mysteries and moralities in the French language, beginning near the end of the fourteenth century.

[450] Bouterwek, pp. 103-106.

[451] Brunet, Manuel du Libraire.

Italian religious dramas. 108. The religious drama was doubtless full as ancient in Italy as in any other country; it was very congenial to people whose delight in sensible objects is so intense. It did not supersede the extemporaneous performances, the mimi and histriones, who had probably never intermitted their sportive license since the days of their Oscan fathers, and of whom we find mention, sometimes with severity, sometimes with toleration, in ecclesiastical writers;[452] but it came into competition with them; and thus may be said to have commenced in the thirteenth century a war of regular comedy against the lawless savages of the stage, which has only been terminated in Italy within very recent recollection. We find a society del Gonfalone established at Rome in 1264, the statutes of which declare, that it is designed to represent the passion of Jesus Christ.[453] Lorenzo de’ Medici condescended to publish a drama of this kind on the martyrdom of two saints; and a considerable collection of similar productions during the fifteenth century was in the possession of Mr. Roscoe.[454]

[452] Thomas Aquinas mentions the histrionatûs ars, as lawful if not abused. St. Antonin does the same. Riccoboni, i. 23.

[453] Riccoboni. Tiraboschi, however, v. 376, disputes the antiquity of any scenical representations truly dramatic, in Italy; in which he seems to be mistaken.

[454] Life of Lorenzo, i. 402.

Moralities. 109. Next to the mysteries came the kindred class, styled moralities. But as these belong more peculiarly to the next century, both in England and France, though they began about the present time, we may better reserve them for that period. |Farces.| There is still another species of dramatic composition, what may be called the farce, not always very distinguishable from comedy, but much shorter, admitting more buffoonery without reproach, and more destitute of any serious or practical end. It may be reckoned a middle link between the extemporaneous effusions of the mimes and the legitimate drama. The French have a diverting piece of this kind, Maitre Patelin, ascribed to Pierre Blanchet, and first printed in 1490. It was restored to the stage with much alteration, under the name of l’Avocat Patelin, about the beginning of the last century; and contains strokes of humour, which Molière would not have disdained.[455] Of these productions there were not a few in Germany, called Fastnachts-spiele, or Carnival plays, written in the license which that season has generally permitted. They are scarce and of little value. The most remarkable is the Apotheosis of Pope Joan, a tragi-comic legend, written about 1480.[456]

[455] The proverbial expression for quitting a digression, Revenons à nos moutons, is taken from this farce; which is at least short, and as laughable as most farces are. It seems to have been written not long before its publication. See Pasquier, Recherches de la France, l. viii. c. 59; Biogr. Univ., Blanchet; and Bouterwek, v. 118.

[456] Bouterwek, Gesch. der deutschen Poesie, ix. 357-367. Heinsius, Lehrbuch der Sprachtwissenschaft, iv. 125.

Mathematical works. 110. Euclid was printed for the first time at Venice in 1482; the diagrams in this edition are engraved on copper, and remarkably clear and neat.[457] The translation is that of Campanus [Pg 108] from the Arabic. The cosmography of Ptolemy, which had been already twice published in Italy, appeared the same year at Ulm, with maps by Donis, some of them traced after the plans drawn by Agathodæmon, some modern; and it was reprinted, as well as Euclid, at the same place in 1486. The tables of Regiomontanus were printed both at Augsburg and Venice in 1490. We may take this occasion of introducing two names, which do not exclusively belong to the exact sciences, nor to the present period.

[457] A beautiful copy of this edition, presented to Mocenigo, doge of Venice, is in the British Museum. The diagrams, especially those which represent solids, are better than in our modern editions of Euclid. I will take this opportunity of mentioning, that the earliest book, in which engravings are found, is the edition of Dante by Landino, published at Florence in 1481. See Brunet, Manuel du Libraire, Dibdin’s Bibl. Spencer, &c.

Leo Baptista Alberti. 111. Leo Baptista Alberti was a man, who, if measured by the universality of his genius, may claim a place in the temple of glory he has not filled; the author of a Latin comedy, entitled Philodoxios, which the younger Aldus Manutius afterwards published as the genuine work of a certain ancient Lepidus; a moral writer in the various forms of dialogue, dissertation, fable, and light humour; a poet, extolled by some, though not free from the rudeness of his age; a philosopher of the Platonic school of Lorenzo; a mathematician and inventor of optical instruments; a painter, and the author of the earliest modern treatise on painting; a sculptor, and the first who wrote about sculpture; a musician, whose compositions excited the applause of his contemporaries; an architect of profound skill, not only displayed in many works, of which the church of Saint Francis at Rimini is the most admired, but in a theoretical treatise, De Re Ædificatoriâ, published posthumously in 1485. It has been called the only work on architecture which we can place on a level with that of Vitruvius, and by some has been preferred to it. Alberti had deeply meditated the remains of Roman antiquity, and endeavoured to derive from them general theorems of beauty, variously applicable to each description of buildings.[458]

[458] Corniani, ii. 160. Tiraboschi, vii. 360.

112. This great man seems to have had two impediments to his permanent glory: one, that he came a few years too soon into the world, before his own language was become polished, and before the principles of taste in art had been wholly developed; the other, that, splendid as was his own genius, there were yet two men a little behind, in the presence of whom his star has paled; men, not superior to Alberti in universality of mental powers, but in their transcendency and command over immortal fame. Many readers will have perceived to whom I allude,—Lionardo da Vinci, and Michael Angelo.

Lionardo da Vinci. 113. None of the writings of Lionardo were published till more than a century after his death; and, indeed, the most remarkable of them are still in manuscript. We cannot, therefore, give him a determinate place under this rather than any other decennium; but as he was born in 1452, we may presume his mind to have been in full expansion before 1490. His Treatise on Painting is known as a very early disquisition on the rules of the art. But his greatest literary distinction is derived from those short fragments of his unpublished writings that appeared not many years since; and which, according, at least, to our common estimate of the age in which he lived, are more like revelations of physical truths vouchsafed to a single mind, than the superstructure of its reasoning upon any established basis. The discoveries which made Galileo, and Kepler, and Mæstlin, and Maurolycus, and Castelli, and other names illustrious, the system of Copernicus, the very theories of recent geologers, are anticipated by Da Vinci, within the compass of a few pages, not perhaps in the most precise language, or on the most conclusive reasoning, but so as to strike us with something like the awe of præternatural knowledge. In an age of so much dogmatism, he first laid down the grand principle of Bacon, that experiment and observation must be the guides to just theory in the investigation of nature. If any doubt could be harboured, not as to the right of Lionardo da Vinci to stand as the first name of the fifteenth century, which is beyond all doubt, but as to his originality in so many discoveries, which, probably, no one man, especially in such circumstances, has ever made, it must be on an hypothesis, not very untenable, that some parts of physical science had already attained a height which mere books do not record. The extraordinary works of ecclesiastical architecture in the middle ages, especially in the fifteenth century, as well as those of Toscanelli and Fioravanti, which we have mentioned, lend some countenance to this opinion; and it is said to be confirmed by [Pg 109] the notes of Fra Mauro, a lay brother of a convent near Venice, on a planisphere constructed by him, and still extant. Lionardo himself speaks of the earth’s annual motion, in a treatise that appears to have been written about 1510, as the opinion of many philosophers in his age.[459]

[459] The manuscripts of Lionardo da Vinci, now at Paris, are the justification of what has been said in the text. A short account of them was given by Venturi, who designed to have published a part; but, having relinquished that intention, the fragments he has made known are the more important. As they are very remarkable, and not, I believe, very generally known, I shall extract a few passages from his Essai sur les Ouvrages Physico-mathématiques de Léonard de Vinci. Paris, 1797.

En mécanique Vinci connaissait, entr’autres choses: 1. La théorie des forces appliquées obliquement au bras du levier; 2. La résistance respective des poutres; 3. Les lois du frottement données ensuite par Amontons; 4. L’influence du centre de gravité sur les corps en repos ou en mouvement; 5. L’application du principe des vitesses virtuelles à plusieurs cas que la sublime analyse a porté de nos jours a sa plus grande généralité. Dans l’optique il décrivit la chambre obscure avant Porta, il expliqua avant Maurolycus la figure de l’image du soleil dans un trou de forme anguleuse; il nous apprend la perspective aerienne, la nature des ombres colorées, les mouvemens de l’iris, les effets de la durée de l’impression visible, et plusieurs autres phénomènes de l’œil qu’on ne rencontre point dans Vitellion. Enfin non seulement Vinci avait remarqué tout ce que Castelli a dit un siècle après lui sur le mouvement des eaux; le premier me parait même dans cette partie supérieur de beaucoup à l’autre, que l’Italie cependant a regardé comme le fondateur de l’hydraulique.

Il faut donc placer Léonard à la tête de ceux qui se sont occupés des sciences physico-mathématiques, et de la vraie méthode d’étudier parmi les modernes, p. 5.

The first extract Venturi gives is entitled, On the descent of heavy bodies combined with the rotation of the earth. He here assumes the latter, and conceives that a body falling to the earth from the top of a tower would have a compound motion in consequence of the terrestrial rotation. Venturi thinks that the writings of Nicolas de Cusa had set men on speculating concerning this before the time of Copernicus.

Vinci had very extraordinary lights as to mechanical motions. He says plainly, that the time of descent on inclined planes of equal height is as their length; that a body descends along the arc of a circle sooner than down the chord, and that a body descending an inclined plane will re-ascend with the same velocity as if it had fallen down the height. He frequently repeats, that every body weighs in the direction of its movement, and weighs the more in the ratio of its velocity; by weight evidently meaning what we call force. He applies this to the centrifugal force of bodies in rotation: Pendant tout ce temps elle pèse sur la direction de son mouvement.

Lorsqu’on employe une machine quelconque pour mouvoir un corps grave, toutes les parties de la machine qui ont un mouvement égal à celui du corps grave ont une charge égale au poids entier du même corps. Si la partie qui est le moteur a, dans le même temps, plus de mouvement que le corps mobile, elle aura plus de puissance que le mobile; et celà d’autant plus qu’elle se mouvra plus vite que le corps même. Si la partie qui est le moteur a moins de vitesse que le mobile, elle aura d’autant moins de puissance que ce mobile. If in this passage there is not the perfect luminousness of expression we should find in the best modern books, it seems to contain the philosophical theory of motion as unequivocally as any of them.

Vinci had a better notion of geology than most of his contemporaries, and saw that the sea had covered the mountains which contain shells: Ces coquillages ont vécu dans le même endroit lorsque l’eau de la mer le recouvrait. Les bancs, par la suite des temps, ont été recouverts par d’autres couches de limon de différentes hauteurs; ainsi, les coquilles ont été enclavées sous le bourbier amoncelé au dessus, jusqu’à sortir de l’eau. He seems even to have had an idea of the elevation of the continents, though he gives an unintelligible reason for it.

He explained the obscure light of the unilluminated part of the moon by the reflection of the earth, as Mœstlin did long after. He understood the camera obscura, and describes its effect. He perceived that respirable air must support flame: Lorsque l’air n’est pas dans un état propre à recevoir la flamme, il n’y peut vivre ni flamme ni aucun animal terrestre ou aerien. Aucun animal ne peut vivre dans un endroit ou la flamme ne vit pas.

Vinci’s observations on the conduct of the understanding are also very much beyond his time. I extract a few of them.

Il est toujours bon pour l’entendement d’acquérir des connaissances quelles qu’elles soient; on pourra ensuite choisir les bonnes et écarter les inutiles.

L’interprète des artifices de la nature, c’est l’expérience. Elle ne se trompe jamais; c’est notre jugement qui quelquefois se trompe lui-même, parcequ’il s’attend à des effets auxquels l’expérience se refuse. Il faut consulter l’expérience, en varier les circonstances jusqu’à ce que nous en ayons tiré des règles générales; car c'est elle qui fournit les vraies règles. Mais à quoi bon ces règles, me direz-vous? Je réponds qu’elles nous dirigent dans les recherches de la nature et les opérations de l’art. Elles empêchent que nous ne nous abusions nous-mêmes ou les autres, en nous promettant des résultats que nous ne saurions obtenir.

Il n’y a point de certitude dans les sciences où on ne peut pas appliquer quelque partie des mathématiques, ou qui n’en dépendent pas de quelque manière.

Dans l’étude des sciences qui tiennent aux mathématiques, ceux qui ne consultent pas la nature, mais les auteurs, ne sont pas les enfans de la nature; je dirais qu’ils n’en sont que les petits fils: elle seule, en effet, est le maitre des vrais génies. Mais voyez la sottise! on se moque d’un homme qui aimera mieux apprendre de la nature elle-même, que des auteurs, qui n’en sont que les clercs. Is not this the precise tone of Lord Bacon?

Vinci says, in another place: Mon dessein est de citer d’abord l’expérience, et de démontrer ensuite pourquoi les corps sont contraints d’agir de telle manière. C’est la méthode qu’on doit observer dans les recherches des phénomènes de la nature. Il est bien vrai que la nature commence par le raisonnement, et finit par l’expérience; mais n’importe, il nous faut prendre la route opposée: comme j’ai dit, nous devons commencer par l’expérience, et tâcher par son moyen d’en découvrir la raison.

He ascribes the elevation of the equatorial waters above the polar to the heat of the sun: Elles entrent en mouvement de tous les côtés de cette éminence aqueuse pour rétablir leur sphéricité parfaite. This is not the true cause of their elevation, but by what means could he know the fact?

Vinci understood fortification well, and wrote upon it. Since in our time, he says, artillery has four times the power it used to have, it is necessary that the fortification of towns should be strengthened in the same proportion. He was employed on several great works of engineering. So wonderful was the variety of power in this miracle of nature. For we have not mentioned that his Last Supper at Milan is the earliest of the great pictures in Italy, and that some productions of his easel vie with those of Raphael. His only published work, the Treatise on Painting, does him injustice; it is an ill-arranged compilation from several of his manuscripts. That the extraordinary works, of which this note contains an account, have not been published entire, and in their original language, is much to be regretted by all who know how to venerate so great a genius as Lionardo da Vinci.

Sect. VI. 1491-1500.

State of Learning in Italy—Latin and Italian Poets—Learning in France and England—Erasmus—Popular Literature and Poetry—Other kinds of Literature—General Literary Character of Fifteenth Century—Book-trade, its Privileges and Restraints.

Aldine Greek editions. 114. The year 1494 is distinguished by an edition of Musæus, generally thought the first work from the press established at Venice by [Pg 110] Aldus Manutius, who had settled there in 1489.[460]

[460] The Erotemata of Constantino Lascaris, printed by Aldus, bears date Feb. 1494, which Menu to mean 1495. But the Musæus has no date, nor the Galeomyomachia, a Greek poem by one Theodoras Prodromus. Renouard, Hist. de I’Imprimerie des Aldes.

In the course of about twenty years, with some interruption, he gave to the world several of the principal Greek authors; and though, as we have seen, not absolutely the earliest printer in that language, he so far excelled all others in the number of his editions, that he may be justly said to stand at the head of the list. It is right, however, to mention, that Zarot had printed Hesiod and Theocritus in one volume, and also Isocrates, at Milan, in 1493; that the Anthologia appeared at Florence in 1494; Lucian and Apollonius Rhodius in 1496; the lexicon of Suidas, at Milan, in 1499. About fifteen editions of Greek works, without reckoning Craston’s lexicon and several grammars, had been published before the close of the century.[461] The most remarkable of the Aldine editions are the Aristotle, in five volumes, the first bearing date of 1495, the last of 1498, and nine plays of Aristophanes in the latter year. In this Aristophanes, and perhaps in other editions of this time, Aldus had fortunately the assistance of Marcus Musurus, one of the last, but by no means the least eminent, of the Greeks who transported their language to Italy. Musurus was now a public teacher at Padua. John Lascaris, son, perhaps, of Constantine, edited the Anthologia at Florence. It may be doubted whether Italy had as yet produced any scholar, unless it were Varino, more often called Phavorinus, singly equal to the task of superintending a Greek edition. His Thesaurus Cornucopiæ, a collection of thirty-four grammatical tracts in Greek, printed 1496, may be an exception. The Etymologicum Magnum, Venice, 1499, being a lexicon with only Greek explanations, is supposed to be chiefly due to Musurus. Aldus had printed Craston’s lexicon, in 1497, with the addition of an index; this has often been mistaken for an original work.[462]

[461] The grammar of Urbano Valeriano was first printed in 1497. It is in Greek and Latin, and of extreme rarity. Roscoe (Leo X., ch. xi.) says, it was received with such avidity that Erasmus, on inquiring for it in the year 1499, found that not a copy of this impression remained unsold. I have given, a little below, a different construction to these words of Erasmus.

[462] Renouard. Roscoe’s Leo X., ch. xi.

Decline of learning in Italy. 115. The state of Italy was not so favourable as it had been to the advancement of philosophy. After the expulsion of the Medici from Florence, in 1494, the Platonic academy was broken up; and that philosophy never found again a friendly soil in Italy, though Ficinus had endeavoured to keep it up by [Pg 111] a Latin translation of Plotinus. Aristotle and his followers began now to regain the ascendant. Perhaps it may be thought that even polite letters were not so flourishing as they had been; no one, at least, yet appeared to fill the place of Hermolaus Barbarus, who died in 1493, or Politian, who followed him the next year.

Hermolaus Barbarus. 116. Hermolaus Barbarus was a noble Venetian, whom Europe agreed to place next to Politian in critical learning, and to draw a line between them and any third name. No time, no accident, no destiny, says an enthusiastic scholar of the next age, will ever efface their remembrance from the hearts of the learned.[463] Erasmus calls him a truly great and divine man. He filled many honourable offices for the republic; but lamented that they drew him away from that learning for which he says he was born, and to which alone he was devoted.[464] Yet Hermolaus is but faintly kept in mind at the present day. In his Latin style, with the same fault as Politian, an affectation of obsolete words, he is less flexible and elegant. But his chief merit was in the restoration of the text of ancient writers. He boasts that he had corrected about five thousand passages in Pliny’s natural history, and more than three hundred in the very brief geography of Pomponius Mela. Hardouin, however, charges him with extreme rashness in altering passages he did not understand. The pope had nominated Hermolaus to the greatest post in the Venetian church, the patriarchate of Aquileia; but his mortification at finding that the senate refused to concur in the appointment is said to have hastened his death.[465]

[463] Habuit nostra hæc ætas bonarum literarum proceres duos, Hermolaum Barbarum atque Angelum Politianum: Deum immortalem! quam acri judicio, quanta facundia, quanta linguarum, quanta disciplinarum omnium scientia præditos! Hi Latinam linguam jampridem squalentem et multa barbariei rubigine exesam, ad pristinum revocare nitorem conati sunt, atque illis suus profecto conatus non infeliciter cessit, suntque illi de Latina lingua tam bene meriti, quam qui ante cos optimi meriti fuere. Itaque immortalem sibi gloriam, immortale decus paraverunt, manebitque semper in omnium eruditorum pectoribus consecrata Hermolai et Politiani memoria, nullo ævo, nullo casu, nullo fato abolenda. Brixeus Erasmo in Erasm. Epist. ccxii.

[464] Meiners, ii. 200.

[465] Bayle. Niceron, vol. xiv. Tiraboschi, vii. 152. Corniani, iii. 197. Heeren, p. 274.

Mantuan. 117. A Latin poet once of great celebrity, Baptista Mantuan, seems to fall within this period as fitly as any other, though several of his poems had been separately printed before, and their collective publication was not till 1513. Editions recur very frequently in the bibliography of Italy and Germany. He was, and long continued to be, the poet of school-rooms. Erasmus says that he would be placed by posterity not much below Virgil;[466] and the marquis of Mantua, anticipating this suffrage, erected their statues side by side. Such is the security of contemporary compliments! Mantuan has long been utterly neglected, and does not find a place in most selections of Latin poetry. His Eclogues and Silvæ are said to be the least bad of his numerous works. He was among the many assailants of the church, or at least the court of Rome; and this animosity inspired him with some bitter, or rather vigorous, invectives. But he became afterwards a Carmelite friar.[467] Marullus, a Greek by birth, has obtained a certain reputation for his Latin poems, which are of no great value.

[466] Et nisi me fallit augurium, erit, erit aliquando Baptista suo concive gloriâ celebritateque non ita multo inferior, simul invidiam anni detraxerint. Append. ad Erasm. Epist. cccxcv. (edit. Lugd.) It is not conceivable that Erasmus meant this literally; but the drift of the letter is to encourage the reading of Christian poets.

[467] Corniani, iii. 148. Niceron, vol. xxvii. Such of Mantuan’s eclogues as are printed in Carmina Illustrium Poetarum Italorum, Florent. 1719, are but indifferent. I doubt, however, whether that voluminous collection has been made with much taste; and his satire on the see of Rome would certainly be excluded, whatever might be its merit. Corniani has given an extract, better than what I had seen of Mantuan.

Pontanus. 118. A far superior name is that of Pontanus, to whom, if we attend to some critics, we must award the palm, above all Latin poets of the fifteenth century. If I might venture to set my own taste against theirs, I should not agree to his superiority over Politian. His hexameters are by no means deficient in harmony, and may, perhaps, be more correct than those of his rival, but appears to me less pleasing and poetical. His lyric poems are like too much modern Latin, in a tone of languid voluptuousness, and ring changes on the various beauties of his mistress, and the sweetness of her kisses. The few elegies of Pontanus, among which that addressed to his wife, on the prospect of peace, is the best known, fall very short of the admirable lines of Politian on the death of Ovid. Pontanus wrote some moral and political essays in prose, which are said to be full [Pg 112] of just observations and sharp satire on the court of Rome, and written in a style which his contemporaries regarded with admiration. They were published in 1490. Erasmus, though a parsimonious distributor of praise to the Italians, has acknowledged their merit in the Ciceronianus.[468]

[468] Roscoe, Leo X., ch. ii. and xx. Niceron, vol. viii. Corniani. Tiraboschi. Pantanus cum illa quatuor complecti summa cura conatus sit nervum dico, numeros, candorem, venustatem, profecto est omnia consecutus. Quintum autem illud quod est horum omnium veluti vita quædam, modum intelligo, penitus ignoravit. Aiunt Virgilium cum multos versus matutino calore effudisset, pomeridianis horis novo judicio solitum ad paucorum numerum revocare. Contra quidem Pontano evenisse arbitror. Quæ prima quaque inventione arrisissent, isis plura postea, dum recognosceret, addita atque ipsis potius carminibus, quam sibi pepercisse. Scaliger de Re Poetica (apud Blount).

Neapolitan academy. 119. Pontanus presided at this time over the Neapolitan Academy, a dignity which he had attained upon the death of Beccatelli, in 1471. This was after the decline of the Roman and the Florentine, by far the most eminent reunion of literary men in Italy; and though it was long conspicuous, seems to have reached its highest point in the last years of this century, under the patronage of the mild Frederic of Aragon, and during that transient calm which Naples was permitted to enjoy between the invasions of Charles VIII. and Louis XII. That city and kingdom afforded many lovers of learning and poetry; some of them in the class of its nobles; each district being, as it were, represented in this academy by one or more of its distinguished residents. But other members were associated from different parts of Italy; and the whole constellation of names is still brilliant, though some have grown dim by time. The house of Este, at Ferrara, were still the liberal patrons of genius; none more eminently than their reigning marquis, Hercules I. And not less praise is due to the families who held the principalities of Urbino and Mantua.[469]

[469] Roscoe’s Leo. X., ch. ii. This contains an excellent account of the state of literature in Italy about the close of the century.

Boiardo. 120. A poem now appeared in Italy, well deserving of attention for its own sake, but still more so on account of the excitement and direction it gave to one of the most famous poets that ever lived. Matteo Maria Boiardo, count of Scandiano, a man esteemed and trusted at the court of Ferrara, amused his leisure in the publication of a romantic poem, for which the stories of Charlemagne and his paladins, related by one who assumed the name of Turpin, and already woven into long metrical narrations, current at the end of the fourteenth and during the fifteenth century in Italy, supplied materials, which are almost lost in the original inventions of the author. The first edition of this poem is without date, but probably in 1495. The author, who died the year before, left it unfinished at the ninth canto of the third book. Agostini, in 1516, published a continuation, indifferently executed, in three more books; but the real complement of the Innamorato is the Furioso.[470] The Orlando Innamorato of Boiardo has hitherto not received that share of renown which seems to be its due; overpowered by the splendour of Ariosto’s poem, and almost set aside in its original form by the improved edition or remaking (rifaccimento), which Berni afterwards gave, it has rarely been sought or quoted, even in Italy.[471]

[470] Fontanini, dell’Eloquenza Italiana, edit. di Zeno, p. 270.

[471] See my friend Mr. Panizzi’s excellent introduction to his edition of the Orlando Innamorato. This poem had never been reprinted since 1544; so much was Roscoe deceived in fancying that the simplicity of the original has caused it to be preferred to the same work, as altered or reformed by Francesco Berni. Life of Leo X., ch. ii.

The style is uncouth and hard; but without style, which is the source of perpetual delight, no long poem will be read; and it has been observed by Ginguéné with some justice, that Boiardo’s name is better remembered, though his original poem may have been more completely neglected, through the process to which Berni has subjected it. In point of novel invention and just keeping of character, especially the latter, he has not been surpassed by his illustrious follower Ariosto; and whatever of this we find in the Orlando Innamorato, is due to Boiardo alone; for Berni has preserved the sense of almost every stanza. The imposing appearance of Angelica at the court of Charlemagne, in the first canto, opens the poem with a splendour rarely equalled, with a luxuriant fertility of invention, and with admirable art; judiciously presenting the subject in so much singleness, that amidst all the intricacies and episodes of the story, the reader never forgets the incomparable princess of Albracca. The latter city, placed in that remote Cathay which Marco Polo had laid open to the range of fancy, [Pg 113] and its siege by Agrican’s innumerable cavalry, are creations of Boiardo’s most inventive mind. Nothing in Ariosto is conceived so nobly, or so much in the true genius of romance. Castelvetro asserts that the names Gradasso, Mandricardo, Sobrino, and others which Boiardo has given to his imaginary characters, belonged to his own peasants of Scandiano; and some have improved upon this by assuring us, that those who take the pains to ascertain the fact may still find the representatives of these sonorous heroes at the plough, which, if the story were true, ought to be the case.[472] But we may give him credit for talent enough to invent those appellations; he hardly found an Albracca on his domains; and those who grudge him the rest acknowledge that, in a moment of inspiration, while hunting, the name of Rodomont occurred to his mind. We know how finely Milton, whose ear pursued, almost to excess, the pleasure of harmonious names, and who loved to expatiate in these imaginary regions, has alluded to Boiardo’s poem in the Paradise Regained. The lines are perhaps the most musical he has ever produced.

Such forces met not, nor so wide a camp,
When Agrican with all his northern powers
Besieged Albracca, as romances tell,
The city of Gallaphron, from thence to win
The fairest of her sex, Angelica,
His daughter, sought by many prowest knights,
Both paynim and the peers of Charlemagne.[473]

[472] Camillo Pellegrino, in his famous controversy with the Academy of Florence on the respective merits of Ariosto and Tasso, having asserted this, they do not deny the fact, but say it stands on the authority of Castelvetro. Opere di Tasso, 4to, ii. 94. The critics held rather a pedantic doctrine; that though the names of private men may be feigned, the poet has no right to introduce kings unknown to history, as this destroys the probability required for his fiction.

[473] Book iii.

Francesco Bello. 121. The Mambriano of Francesco Bello, sirnamed il Cieco, another poem of the same romantic class, was published posthumously in 1497. Apostolo Zeno, as quoted by Roscoe, attributes the neglect of the Mambriano to its wanting an Ariosto to continue its subject, or a Berni to reform its style.[474] But this seems a capricious opinion. Bello composed it at intervals to amuse the courtiers of the marquis of Mantua. The poem, therefore, wants unity. It is a reunion, says Mr. Panizzi, of detached tales, without any relation to each other, except in so far as most of the same actors are before us.[475] We may perceive by this, how little a series of rhapsodies, not directed by a controlling unity of purpose, even though the work of a single man, are likely to fall into a connected poem. But that a long poem, of singular coherence and subordination of parts to an end, should be framed from the random and insulated songs of a great number of persons, is almost as incredible as that the annals of Ennius, to use Cicero’s argument against the fortuitous origin of the world, should be formed by shaking together the letters of the alphabet.

[474] Leo X., ch. ii.

[475] Panizzi’s Introduction to Boiardo, p. 360. He does not highly praise the poem, of which he gives an analysis with extracts. See too Ginguéné, vol. iv.

Italian poetry near the end of the century. 122. Near the close of the fifteenth century we find a great increase of Italian poetry, to which the patronage and example of Lorenzo had given encouragement. It is not easy to place within such narrow limits as a decennial period, the names of writers whose productions were frequently not published, at least collectively, during their lives. Serafino d’Aquila, born in 1466, seems to fall, as a poet, within this decade; and the same may be said of Tibaldeo and Benivieni. Of these the first is perhaps the best known; his verses are not destitute of spirit, but extravagance and bad taste deform the greater part.[476] Tibaldeo unites false thoughts with rudeness and poverty of diction. Benivieni, superior to either of these, is reckoned by Corniani a link between the harshness of the fifteenth and the polish of the ensuing century. The style of this age was far from the grace and sweetness of Petrach; forced in sentiment, low in choice of words, deficient in harmony, it has been condemned by the voice of all Italian critics.[477]

[476] Bouterwek, Gesch. der Ital. Poesie, i. 321. Corniani.

[477] Corniani. Muratori, della perfetta Poesia. Crescimbeni, Storia della volgar poesia.

Progress of learning in France and Germany. 123. A greater activity than before was now perceptible in the literary spirit of France and Germany. It was also regularly progressive. The press of Paris gave twenty-six editions of ancient Latin authors, nine of which were in the year 1500. Twelve were published at Lyons. Deventer and Leipsic, especially the latter, which now took a lead in the German press, bore a part in this honourable labour; a proof of the rapid and extensive influence of Conrad Celtes on that part of Germany. It is to be understood that a very large [Pg 114] proportion, or nearly the whole, of the Latin editions printed in Germany were for the use of schools.[478] We should be warranted in drawing an inference as to the progress in literary instruction in these countries from the increase in the number of publications, small as that number still is, and trifling as some of them may appear. It may be accounted for by the gradual working of the schools at Munster and other places, which had now sent out a race of pupils well fitted to impart knowledge in their turn to others; and by the patronage of some powerful men, among whom the first place, on all accounts, is due to the emperor Maximilian. Nothing was so likely to contribute to the intellectual improvement of Germany as the public peace of 1495, which put an end to the barbarous customs of the middle ages, not unaccompanied by generous virtues, but certainly as incompatible with the steady cultivation of literature as with riches and repose. Yet there seems to be no proof that the Greek language had obtained much more attention; no book connected with it is recorded to have been printed, and I do not find mention that it was taught, even superficially, in any university or school, at this time, though it might be conjectured without improbability. Reuchlin had now devoted his whole thoughts to cabbalistic philosophy, and the study of Hebrew; and Eichhorn, though not unwilling to make the most of early German learning, owns that, at the end of the century, no other person had become remarkable for a skill in Greek.[479]

[478] A proof of this may be found in the books printed at Deventer from 1491 to 1500. They consisted of Virgil’s Bucolics three times, Virgil’s Georgics twice, and the eclogues of Calpurnius once, or perhaps twice. At Leipsic the list is much longer, but in great measure of the same kind; single treatises of Seneca or Cicero, or detached parts of Virgil, Horace, Ovid, sometimes very short, as the Culex or the Ibis, form, with not many exceptions, the Cisalpine classical bibliography of the fifteenth century.

[479] Eichhorn, iii. 236. This section in Eichhorn is valuable, but not without some want of precision.

Reuchlin had been very diligent in purchasing Greek manuscripts. But these were very scarce, even in Italy. A correspondent of his, Streler by name, one of the young men who went from Germany to Florence for education, tells him, in 1491, Nullos libros Græcis hic venales reperio; and again, de Græcis libris coemendis hoc scias; fui penes omnes hic librarios, nihil horum prorsus reperio. Epist. ad Reuchl. (1562) fol. 7. In fact, Reuchlin’s own library was so large as to astonish the Italian scholars when they saw the catalogue, who plainly owned they could not procure such books themselves. They had of course been originally purchased in Italy, unless we suppose some to have been brought by way of Hungary.

It is not to be imagined that the libraries of ordinary scholars were to be compared with that of Reuchlin, probably more opulent than most of them. The early printed books of Italy, even the most indispensable, were very scarce, at least in France. A Greek grammar was a rarity at Paris in 1499. Grammaticen Græcam, says Erasmus to a correspondent, summo studio vestigavi, ut emptam tibi mitterem, sed jam utraque divendita fuerat, et Constantini quæ dicitur, quæque Urbani. Epist. lix. See too Epist. lxxiii.


His diligence. 124. Two men, however, were devoting incessant labour to the acquisition of that language at Paris, for whom was reserved the glory of raising the knowledge of it in Cisalpine Europe to a height which Italy could not attain. These were Erasmus and Budæus. The former, who had acquired as a boy the mere rudiments of Greek under Hegius at Deventer, set himself in good earnest to that study about 1499, hiring a teacher at Paris, old Hermonymus of Sparta, of whose extortion he complains; but he was little able to pay anything; and his noble endurance of privations for the sake of knowledge deserves the high reward of glory it received. I have given my whole soul, he says, to Greek learning, and as soon as I get any money I shall first buy Greek books, and then clothes.[480] If any new Greek book comes to hand, I would rather pledge my cloak than not obtain it; especially if it be religious, such as a psalter or a gospel.[481] It will be remembered that the books of which he speaks must have been frequently manuscripts.

[480] Epist. xxix.

[481] Epist. lviii.

Budæus; his early studies. 125. Budæus, in his proper name Budé, nearly of the same age as Erasmus, had relinquished every occupation for intense labour in literature. In an interesting letter, addressed to Cuthbert Tunstall in 1517, giving an account of his own early studies, he says that he learned Greek very ill from a bad master at Paris, in 1491. This was certainly Hermonymus, of whom Reuchlin speaks more favourably; but he was not quite so competent a judge.[482] Some years afterwards [Pg 115] Budæus got much better instruction; ancient literature having derived within a few years great improvement in France by our intercourse with Italy, and by the importation of books in both the learned languages. Lascaris, who now lived at the court of Charles VIII., having returned with him from the Neapolitan expedition, gave Budæus some assistance, though not, according to the latter’s biographer, to any great extent.

[482] Hody (de Græcis Illustribus, p. 238) thinks that the master of Budæus could not have been Hermonymus; probably because the praise of Reuchlin seemed to him incompatible with the contemptuous language of Budæus. But Erasmus is very explicit on this subject, Ad Græcas literas utcunque puero degustatas jam grandior redii; hoc est, annos natus plus minus triginta, sed turn cum apud nos nulla Græcorum codicum esset copia, neque minor penuria doctorum. Lutetiæ tantum unus Georgius Hermonymus Græce balbutiebat; sed talis, ut neque potuisset docere si voluisset, neque voluisset si potuisset. Itaque coactus ipse mihi præceptor esse, &c. (A.D. 1524.) I transcribe from Jortin, ii. 419. Of Hermonymus it is said by Beatus Rhenanus in a letter to Reuchlin, that he was non tam doctrina quam patria clarus. (Epist. ad Reuchl. fol. 52.) Roy, in his Life of Budæus, says, that the latter, having paid Hermonymus 500 gold pieces, and read Homer and other books with him, nihilo doctior est factus.

Latin not well written in France. 126. France had as yet no writer of Latin, who could be endured in comparison with those of Italy. Robert Gaguin praises Fichet, rector of the Sorbonne, as learned and eloquent, and the first who had taught many to employ good language in Latin. The more certain glory of Fichet is to have introduced the art of printing into France. Gaguin himself enjoyed a certain reputation for his style, and his epistles have been printed. He possessed at least, what is most important, a love of knowledge, and an elevated way of thinking. But Erasmus says of him, that whatever he might have been in his own age, he would now scarcely be reckoned to write Latin at all. If we could rely on a panegyrist of Faustus Andrelinus, an Italian who came about 1489 to Paris, and was authorised, in conjunction with one Balbi, and with Cornelio Vitelli, to teach in the university,[483] he was the man who brought polite literature into France, and changed its barbarism for classical purity. But Andrelinus, who is best known as a Latin poet of by no means a high rank, seems not to merit his commendation. Whatever his capacities of teaching may have been, we have little evidence of his success. Yet the number of editions of Latin authors published in France during this decade proves some diffusion of classical learning; and we must admit the circumstance to be quite decisive of the inferiority of England.

[483] This I find quoted in Bettinelli, Risorgimento d’ltalia, i. 250. See also Bayle, and Biogr. Univ., art. Andrelini. They were only allowed to teach for one hour in the evening; the jealousy of the logicians not having subsided. Crevier, iv. 439.

Dawn of Greek learning in England. 127. A gleam of light, however, now broke out there. We have seen already that a few, even in the last years of Henry VI., had overcome all obstacles in order to drink at the fountain-head of pure learning in Italy. One or two more names might be added for the intervening period; Milling, abbot of Westminister, and Selling, prior of a convent at Canterbury.[484] It is reported by Polydore Virgil, and is proved by Wood, that Cornelio Vitelli, an Italian, came to Oxford about 1488, in order to give that most barbarous university some notion of what was going forward on the other side of the Alps; and it has been probably conjectured, or rather may be assumed, that he there imparted the rudiments of Greek to William Grocyn.[485] It is certain, at least, that Grocyn had acquired some insight into that language, before he took a better course, and, travelling into Italy, became the disciple of Chalcondyles and Politian. He returned home in 1491, and began to communicate his acquisitions, though chiefly to deaf ears, teaching in Exeter College at Oxford. A diligent emulator of [Pg 116] Grocyn, but some years younger, and, like him, a pupil of Politian and Hermolaus, was Thomas Linacre, a physician; but though a first edition of his translation of Galen has been supposed to have been printed at Venice in 1498, it seems to be ascertained that none preceded that of Cambridge in 1521. His only contribution to literature in the fifteenth century was a translation of the very short mathematical treatise of Proclus on the sphere, published in a volume of ancient writers on astronomy, by Aldus Manutius, in 1499.[486]

[484] Warton, iii. 247. Johnson’s Life of Linacre, p. 5. This is mentioned on Selling’s monument now remaining in Canterbury cathedral.

Doctor theologus Selling Græca atque Latina
Lingua perdoctus.

Selling, however, did not go to Italy till after 1480, far from returning in 1460, as Warton has said, with his usual indifference to anachronisms.

[485] Polydore says nothing about Vitelli’s teaching Greek, though Knight, in his Life of Colet, translates bonæ literæ, Greek and Latin. But the following passages seem decisive as to Grocyn’s early studies in the Greek language. Grocinus, qui prima Græcaæ et Latinæ linguæ, rudimenta in Britannia hausit, mox solidiorem iisdem operam sub Demetrio Chalcondyle et Politiano præceptoribus in Italia hausit. Lilly, Elogia virorum doctorum, in Knight’s Life of Colet, p. 24. Erasmus as positively: Ipse Grocinus, cujus exemplum affers, nonne primum in Anglia Græcæ linguæ rudimenta didicit? Post in Italiam profectus audivit summos viros, sed interim lucro fuit ilia prius a qualibuscunque didicisse. Epist. ccclxiii. Whether the qualescunque were Vitelli or any one else, this can leave no doubt as to the existence of some Greek instruction in England before Grocyn; and as no one can be suggested, so far as appears, except Vitelli, it seems reasonable to fix upon him as the first preceptor of Grocyn. Vitelli had returned to Paris in 1489, and taught in the university, as has just been mentioned; so that he could have little time, if Polydore’s date of 1488 be right, for giving much instruction at Oxford.

[486] Johnson’s Life of Linacre, p. 152.

Erasmus comes to England. 128. Erasmus paid his first visit to England in 1497, and was delighted with everything that he found, especially at Oxford. In an epistle dated Dec. 5th, after praising Grocyn, Colet, and Linacre to the skies, he says of Thomas More, who could not then have been eighteen years old, What mind was ever framed by nature more gentle, more pleasing, more gifted?—It is incredible, what a treasure of old books is found here far and wide.—There is so much erudition, not of a vulgar and ordinary kind, but recondite, accurate, ancient, both Latin and Greek, that you would seek nothing in Italy but the pleasure of travelling.[487] But this letter is addressed to an Englishman, and the praise is evidently much exaggerated; the scholars were few, and not more than three or four could be found, or at least could now be mentioned, who had any tincture of Greek,—Grocyn, Linacre, William Latimer, who, though an excellent scholar, never published anything, and More, who had learned at Oxford under Grocyn.[488] It should here be added, that, in 1497, Terence was printed by Pynson, being the first edition of a strictly classical author in England; though Boethius had already appeared with Latin and English on opposite pages.

[487] Thomæ Mori ingenio quid unquam finxit natura vel mollius, vel dulcius, vel felicius?... Mirum est dictu, quam hic passim, quam dense veterum librorum seges efflorescat ... tantum eruditionis non illius protritæ ac trivialis, sed reconditæ, exactæ, antiquæ, Latinæ Græcæque, ut jam Italiam nisi visendi gratia non multum desideres. Epist. xiv.

[488] A letter of Colet to Erasmus from Oxford in 1497, is written in the style of a man who was conversant with the best Latin authors. Sir Thomas More’s birth has not been placed by any biographer earlier than 1480.

It has been sometimes asserted, on the authority of Antony Wood, that Erasmus taught Greek at Oxford; but there is no foundation for this, and in fact he did not know enough of the language. Knight, on the other hand, maintains that he learned it there under Grocyn and Linacre; but this rests on no evidence; and we have seen that he gives a different account of his studies in Greek. Life of Erasmus, p. 22.

He publishes his Adages. 129. In 1500 was printed at Paris the first edition of Erasmus’s Adages, doubtless the chief prose work of this century beyond the limits of Italy; but this edition should, if possible, be procured, in order to judge with chronological exactness of the state of literature; for as his general knowledge of antiquity, and particularly of Greek, which was now very slender, increased, he made vast additions. The Adages, which were now about eight hundred, amounted in his last edition to 4151; not that he could find so many which properly deserve that name, but the number is made up by explanations of Latin and Greek idioms, or even of single words. He declares himself, as early as 1504, ashamed of the first edition of his Adages, which already seemed meagre and imperfect.[489] Erasmus had been preceded in some measure by Polydore Virgil, best known as the historian of this country, where he resided many years as collector of papal dues. He published a book of adages, which must have been rather a juvenile, and is a superficial production, at Venice in 1498.

[489] Epist. cii., jejunum atque inops videri cœpit, posteoquam Græcos colui auctores.

Romantic ballads of Spain. 130. The Castilian poets of the fifteenth century have been collectively mentioned on a former occasion. Bouterwek refers to the latter part of this age most of the romances, which turn upon Saracen story, and the adventures of knights of Granada, gentlemen, though Moors. Sismondi follows him without, perhaps, much reflection, and endeavours to explain what he might have doubted. Fear having long ceased in the bosoms of the Castilian Christians, even before conquest had set its seal to their security, hate, the child of fear, had grown feebler; and the romancers felt themselves at liberty to expatiate in the rich field of Mohammedan customs and manners. These had already exercised a considerable influence over Spain. But this opinion seems hard to be supported; nor do I find that the Spanish critics claim so much antiquity for the Moorish class of romantic ballads. Most of them, it is acknowledged, belong to the sixteenth, and some to the seventeenth century; and the internal evidence is against their having been written before the Moorish wars had become matter of distant tradition. We shall therefore take [Pg 117] no notice of the Spanish romance-ballads till we come to the age of Philip II., to which they principally belong.[490]

[490] Bouterwek, p. 121. Sismondi, iii. 222. Romances Moriscos, Madr. 1828.

Pastoral romances. 131. Bouterwek places in this decade the first specimens of the pastoral romance which the Castilian language affords.[491] But the style is borrowed from a neighbouring part of the peninsula, where this species of fiction seems to have been indigenous. The Portuguese nation cultivated poetry as early as the Castilian; and we have seen that some remains of a date anterior to the fourteenth century. But to the heroic romance they seem to have paid no regard; we do not find that it ever existed among them. Love chiefly occupied the Lusitanian muse; and to trace that passion through all its labyrinths, to display its troubles in a strain of languid melancholy, was the great aim of every poet. This led to the invention of pastoral romances, founded on the ancient traditions as to the felicity of shepherds and their proneness to love, and rendered sometimes more interesting for the time by the introduction of real characters and events under a slight disguise.[492] This artificial and effeminate sort of composition, which, if it may now and then be not unpleasing, cannot fail to weary the modern reader by i