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the church. Hosts of enlightened minds, who had long been moving in the silent path of regeneration, and enlightening the world by their lives and writings, were discouraged, or crushed in the collision; mutual charity and forbearance made no progress; the Protestants read in the scriptures, still more strongly than the Catholics, the language of intolerance; they employed licensers for the press, and executioners for heresy; they freed their followers from ceremonial bondage, to make them the slaves of doctrinal tyranny.
By these means, the Reformation assumed too much the character of a war between the violent dogmatists on both sides, and too little of what it ought to have been, a triumph of learning over ignorance, and an assertion of the sacred rights of free inquiry and private judgement on the part of the enlightened of all opinions. Its mildest and most dignified form, undoubtedly is that which it assumed in England, and there, principally, because it was not the work of individuals. The state, for purposes which we do not need or desire to examine here, took the necessary reform into its own hands. It retained much of the dignity and impressive character of the church.-It restrained the Vandalizing spirit of wanton zeal.-It, in short, made a reform, not a destruction, of the existing church establishment.
There were other persons under whose direction the work of reform might have fallen, who would not have accomplished so speedy and total a separation as the German leaders effected, but who would have founded their reform on, perhaps, a more enduring basis, and would certainly have clothed it with a more comely form.—But these men, one after another, revolted from the violent contest in which it was sought to plunge them, and swelled the ranks and increased the influence of the very church, whose power they had been long silently, but securely, undermining.
This was peculiarly the case in Italy, where the prospect had been for some time most promising, but was now entirely blighted. But for the German storm, the literary spirit which the patronage of the Medici had inspired, the habitual resistance of the Venetians to the arts and power of the Roman see, the commercial freedom and independence of Genoa, the philosophic spirit of the professors of Padua, and various other literary institutions, must have soon established, beyond the control of the church, a free and impartial press. The people would soon have been as habituated to bold controversy and discussion of the most important religious questions, as they had long been to a free canvass of the lives and professions of their priests and monks.
The history of the early efforts made for church reform in
Italy is one almost untried. We know little of the principles of the Savanarolas and other reputed heretics of the fifteenth century. We have indeed some brief accounts of attempts made after the breaking out of the Lutheran reformation; these, however, were almost exclusively produced by German books and missionaries. But there were efforts in the cause of reformation at a much earlier period, and we conceive it not difficult to show, that a very enlarged and liberal spirit of independent inquiry, fostered by political causes and an ardent love for literary enterprise, had taken deep root in Italy. It was in fact from their intercourse with that country that the most distinguished characters beyond the Alps imbibed their spirit of knowledge and independence, till the convulsions of Germany dissolved the intercourse, and disposed the court of Rome to stifle that freedom of speculation which had flourished in her very gates. The same disposition to bold investigation is observable among the Italian reformers, who subsequently received the German missionaries; and it is not a little remarkable, that almost all those who sought an asylum in foreign countries from the persecutions directed against them at home, were men of much more enlarged views, and much more inclined to give to others the indulgence which they claimed for themselves, than the Protestants of Geneva and Germany,
Such reformers, formed in the bosom of Italian taste, and united in ties of friendship with the many illustrious characters whom the age could boast, would not have enlisted among the destroyers of the beautiful—they would rather have associated religion with the sublimest powers of the imagination, and the noblest qualifications of man, than studiously have divested it of such' attractions—they would have granted to others what they asked for themselves—and certainly, if they had thrown off the golden fetters of Rome, they would not have suffered themselves to be bound by the ignoble chains of the tabernacle.
Ulrich Von Hutten (the principal, if not the sole, author of the volume before us) is one of the most interesting of the characters who were busy in various ways, promoting the same cause, before the master spirit had appeared, and given one direction to the efforts of those who rallied round the standard of reform. A poet, a scholar, a gentleman, and a soldier, he united the almost expiring virtue of chivalrous honour and generosity, with the acquirements of the first scholars of the age, and that love and successful cultivation of polite literature, which was then almost unknown in Germany. "Glowing with honest indignation at the stupidity, ignorance, and knavery, of most of the ministers and supporters of the church, his pen was constantly employed in covering them with ridicule. While, however, he carried on the most destructive warfare against the establishment, he contemplated no aggrandisement for any sect of his own. He advocated no dogmas, and allied himself to no party. He was, simply, the zealous, but often intemperate friend of learning and liberty, both civil and religious. Unfortunately, his hatred of oppression betrayed him into violence; he saw those whom he despised, leagued against all kinds of improvement, and, as a soldier, his appeal was to the sword. He would have plunged his country into war, but it would have been a war for liberty and independence, for freedom of conscience, not merely for himself, but for all mankind. He would not proselyte like Luther, nor crouch to the dastardly policy of Erasmus; he threw down the gauntlet of defiance to united spiritual and temporal tyranny ; but he lived to see his error, and to confess that violence was not a Christian virtue, even in the generous cause to which he would have made it subservient.
Hutten was born in 1488, of a noble Franconian family. He was intended for the monastic profession, till Eitelwolf von Stein saved him from that spiritual bondage. « Tu ne hoc ingenium perderes ?” said this his first patron and friend to the abbot, as he offered to take the promising youth under his protection, and thus commenced that friendship which Hutten was doomed to see, like all the other prospects of his short and eventful life, too quickly dissolved. He spent some time in study in Italy, whence he repaired to Cologne, and there became intimately attached to the great and accomplished Reuchlin, (the friend of Lorenzo de Medici,) to Crotus Rubianus, and other distinguished associates, who were, as far as their ability extended, faithful to him to the last. There too is the scene of his greatest work, the publication before us, for there lived the immortal Pfefferkorn and the “Gravissimus Ortuinus," whom he made the chief actors in his drama.
The next scene of his life was one of martial glory. He was introduced to the court of Maximilian, was honoured with knighthood, and followed the army to the siege of Padua, from whence are written several of his letters, remarkable for bold chivalrous feeling and ardent zeal for the independence and honour of his country. Even in the camp, and while probably suffering under the first attacks of a lingering disorder that brought him to the grave, he cultivated his literary pursuits, as he himself observes
- coluit, per mille pericula, musas, Et quanti potuit carminis auctor erat.
Once more he resumed his studies in Germany, tired of the roving life he had led, “ an Ulysses," as he said, “ with a whole Odyssey of adventures.” Then appeared his first con
siderable work, in Latin verse, against the vices and corruptions of the times, entitled “ Nemo.”
The base murder of his brother John, by the duke of Wirtemberg, roused all his energy, and directed the thunders of his eloquence against the lawless tyranny and injustice of the petty German princes : and now was kindled that fury and untameable spirit of defiance, which has given him the appellation of the German Demosthenes. It burst forth in bold invectives and demands for vengeance, rousing all Germany against princes, emperor, and church, and at length drove him to arms against the murderers of his brother, and those whom he considered the betrayers of the honour and independence of his country. He joined the Suabian league, which expelled the duke of Wirtemberg from his dominions. The friend, who might, at this critical period, have moderated his impetuous temper, his kind adviser and patron, Eitelwolf, was dead. He died in the midst of his project for establishing at Frankfort a new university, free from the scholastic dulness and sophistry which pressed so heavily on the rising spirit of the age. This spot was the first subject for the descriptive powers of the young poet, who had joined the new institution. ,
His next literary efforts were employed in the defence of his friend Reuchlin, and (with the aid, as is generally supposed, of Crotus Rubianus) he published the work before us, which has survived its temporary object, so as to be even at this day read with delight. The poignancy of its satire did wonders in overthrowing the authority of the monks and university pedants, in the eyes of the people; and the theologians of Cologne felt its force so keenly, as to expend large sums in procuring from Leo X. in 1517, a bull, directed solely to its condemnation.Our author, doubtless, willingly suffered the pontifical censure, when counterbalanced by the applause of Erasmus, and Sir Thomas More, who are known to have made his work their daily amusement and delight.
'By the fame which the Epistola Obscurorum Virorum brought him, Hutten was placed at the height of his popularity, and no honours were considered too great to be lavished upon the powerful protector of Reuchlin.-Luther was now occupying a prominent station in the great war against the church ; but Hutten's course was not with him.' He, probably, in the first instance, looked upon the controversy as a theological quarrel, which was not to his taste. He was no preacher of new doctrines, no founder of a sect, but he had imbibed an ardent love of learning and the arts, in the schools of Italy, and was always ready to lash those whose trade was ignorance, and to run a-tilt, as a soldier, against those who gave the drones the support of temporal power. Erasmus praised him as the man
whose equal had never been; and Pirkhaimer, the friend of Albert Durer, and all good men, procured him the poet's garland from the hand of Maximilian.“
Thus again bis prospects became bright, and we now find him enjoying the patronage of the house of Mentz. His chivalrous spirit was once more manifested in an attempt to rally Germany to the long-threatened crusade against the infidel Turks, entitled—“Ad Principes Germaniæ ; ut bellum Turcis invehant, Exhortatoria.” At the same time he maintained a close literary intimacy with the choicest spirits of his day
—with Budæus, Æcolampadius, Pirkhaimer, Bucer, and Erasmus. About this period too, appeared his “ Febris Prima," and “ Secunda,” ingenious and eloquent attacks on the favourite topics, the ignorance and vices of the higher orders of clergy.
But Maximilian died, and Hutten's dreams of prosperity once more vanished, for his protectors disappeared when he most needed them. The cause of Luther had become identified with that of reform, and Hutten, whose pen had long prepared the way for improvement, now appeared openly as his advocate, in bis famous “ Trias Romana," written at the court of Mentz, whither he retreated. This work excited the mortal animosity of the church, and a furious command was issued to the princes of Germany to send the audacious author of it, and of the “ Epistola Obscurorum Virorum,” in chains to Rome. The favourite of princes, on a sudden, found himself deserted; Albert of Mentz was too weak to protect him; the Archduke Ferdinand was appealed to, but in vain; the Emperor, Frederic of Saxony, all the German courts, were deaf to his voice. Heart-rending and powerful as were his appeals in the name of national honour, religion, justice, and liberty, no one stood forth to shield him from the danger which menaced him, till Francis Sickingen, one of the bravest of German patriots, sheltered him from the storm, in his castle at Ebernberg.
From this retreat he commenced a new series of attacks; and to show the public, “ qualis pastor sit Leo,” he sent forth a powerful squib—" Bulla Decimi Leonis," with annotations. “ Pasce nos docirina,” said he, “non bullis.” Here too he published a German translation of his Latin work; and those who wish to see a picture of his generous, warm-hearted spirit, should read his dedication of the version to Sickingen, his last friend. Misfortune was doomed ever to be his portion: Sickingen fell in the field ; and Hutten, in his affliction, saw and confessed his error, in supposing that the emancipation of mankind from error could be accelerated by appeals to arms. In this frame of mind he seems to have written to Luther-" Thy work is of God, and will endure; mine is of man, and will perish.” Sickingen and Hutten's work did perish; it was so