« PreviousContinue »
Sentimentum Parrhisiense' (late in 1514 ?), deals satirically with the Paris opinion on the 'Augenspiegel.'* Nothing was more natural than that to the satiric genius of Crotus the idea should have occurred of a contribution to the conflict in the shape of an exposure of the company kept by Reuchlin's leading adversaries, the friends and disciples of Ortuinus Gratius, the recreant humanist who had recently put himself forward as the champion of the persecuting party.
In addition to previous efforts, Gratius had, in 1514, published a work against the 'Augenspiegel,' proceeding from Prenotamenta to a review of the whole controversy; and he had, in addition, latinised' divers pieces composed' in German by Pfefferkorn.† To Gratius all the letters but two in vol. I of the Epistolæ' are addressed. Curiously enough, it seems to have been made almost certain by Brecht that this volume was put into shape by Crotus not at Erfurt but at Fulda, where he was in 1515 still teaching at the once famous abbey school, in which monks and boys intending to become monks were instructed; nor is there any proof that in this or the following year he paid any prolonged visit to this University. Of course, he always regarded himself as a member of it, and of its humanistic sodalitas; but the immediate models of the Obscure Men were not only the 'Magisternosters' and bachelors of Erfurt or other Universities, but the monks of Fulda whom he had to teach Latin for his sins. These brethren must have represented a class which might well look up with hopeless admiration to the Latinity, in prose and verse, of the poet of the Cologne Theologians.' Nor can they but have included celibatarians of a type also too prominent among his supposed correspondents.
As for the origin of the title of the book, it is explained with great gusto in the first letter of vol. II, no doubt written by Hutten. It is for humility's sake (we
In it there figures the 'Cursor (bachelor lecturer) in Theologia,' Hackinetus Petitus-the Dominican Guillaume Haquinet Petit-who figured as a kind of public orator already under Louis XII and was afterwards confessor of Francis I. He was an active promoter of the agitation against Reuchlin's book, and is addressed by Lyra Buntschuhmacherius, one of the Obscure (i, 35), as Guillelmus Hackinetus.
The Latin version of the Beschyrmung' (1516), which was So elaborate as to make it almost a new book, was also ascribed to him,
are there told) that Gratius, the supposed receiver and publisher of the letters, adopted a title for the collection ironically indicating the real superiority of his correspondents to Reuchlin's Clari Viri' (see above p. 139). As we read in the twentieth of Ecclesiasticus, there is an abasement because of glory, and there is that lifteth up his head from a low estate.' The title of the satire and the notion of addressing the letters to Gratius need no further explanation; but the note of burlesque was struck at once in the names of his correspondents. Böcking's attempts to explain these names and to identify them here and there with known personages are certainly more instructive than conclusive; but, to whatever extent they were intended to mystify, neither Rabelais nor Dickens was superior as an onomatopoeist to the inventor of the series headed by Thomas Langschneyderius 'baccalaureus theologiæ formatus.'* Some (like those of Nicolaus Caprimulgius or Matthæus Mellilambus) may be translated straight into English; others only through the model of German idiom (like Paulus Daubengiglius (Deafmute), Conradus Dellerkopfius (Noodlehead), Lyra Buntschuhmacherius (General Strike-maker); yet others remain more or less doubtful, but still pleasing (like Franciscus Genselinus or Gerhardus Schirruglius); while of one or two the derivation had better be left untraced.
Such being the names of the writers, what is the materia of their discourse? Non omnibus una, Nec diversa tamen,' as befits those who are brothers in density, ignorance and grossness. Magister Langschneyderius, in the celebrated opening letter of the volume, asks for the solution of a problem put forward at an academic banquet at Leipzig-where the conversation was washed down by copious draughts of wine from Elbe and Rhine, and beer of Eimbeck and other taps-whether 'magister nostrandus' or 'noster magistrandus' is the correct expression for a person eligible for the degree of Doctor in Divinity (called by usage 'magister noster'). Magister Joannes Pellifex propounds the theological question whether capping a couple of Jews, mistaken for 'magistri
* A degree implying the completion of the prescribed course of Peter Lombard's 'Sentences,' and, according to Dr Rashdall, quoted by Mr Stokes, still surviving in the University of Coimbra.
nostri,' was a 'peccatum mortale' or 'veniale.' But, though the letters now and then return to questions of academical etiquette or quasi-theological discussion, like the Rabelaisian difficulty (i, 37) which is finally left to be settled by Mrs Pfefferkorn, their topics soon become more familiar and the treatment of them looser; and gradually the references to Reuchlin and his affairs and adversaries (which begin with a query about ‘iste ribaldus') become more noticeable. At the same time Ortuinus Gratius is worried with wicked ingenuity (in the persistency of which there is more humour than in the details), and occasionally with brutal coarseness, about his supposed evil living and supposed bastard birth. For the rest, the writers take every occasion of exhibiting their notions of scholarship as well as of religion and morality; and their random talk comically illustrates the tendency still in vogue to harmonise pagan myths with biblical passages, and to elucidate Christian dogmas by means of forced analogies and false etymologies.* More simple is the warning that too much reading of poetry must lead to carnal thoughts.†
Now, throughout the letters comprised in vol. I, the Reuchlin controversy is constantly in the mind of the author; and to his puppets it is a red rag ceaselessly exciting them to imbecile anger and impotent spite. But it is clear that their inventor is interested in them on their own account as the creatures of his humour. In this humour there is at times no burlesque at all, only a comic insight resembling that of Cervantes or Smollett, rather than that of Rabelais or Scarron. Far different
See, for instance, the inimitable letter from Joannes Lucibularius of Zwolle (i, 20) applying to Ortuinus Gratius for a testimonial, which is so well translated by Mr Stokes that we cannot resist quoting it at length: 'Joannes Lucibularius to Magister Ortuinus Gratius.
'Greetings that no man can number.
'Reverend Herr Magister, inasmuch as you formerly promised me that you would be my help in time of need, and that you would fain advance me before all others; and inasmuch as you told me boldly to seek your aid, and that you would then stretch out a helping hand to me as to a brother, and would not desert me in adversity—I therefore now entreat you, for the love of God, to succour me, as you are well able.
'The Rector here hath dismissed an assistant teacher, and desireth to appoint another-will you therefore on my behalf write a letter of recommendation, praying him to be pleased, or to deign, to appoint me? I have
is the spirit found in possession of the machinery of the 'Epistolæ, so soon as the fiery personality of Hutten reveals itself under the mask of the Obscure Ones. It may be traced, without much uncertainty, in the very first of the seven letters forming the 'Appendex' to the third edition of vol. I, published in the latter part of 1516, several months after the issue of the mandate de supersedendo. In the latter part of August, Hutten had received at Bologna from Crotus a copy of the first or second edition of the first volume; and this, which we know he had not seen before, and which he now acknowledged as 'quam non illiberales jocos,' suggested to him the continuation of a satire previously unknown to him, though of course he might have heard of its being in preparation. Hutten, whose genius was essentially receptive rather than original, threw himself with passionate zest into the self-imposed task of continuing the Epistolæ, and, after furnishing forth the Appendex' to vol. I, at once set to work on the letters comprised in vol. II, which was published, at the latest, early in 1517; for there can be no doubt that it was included in the Apostolic brief issued against the Epistolæ on March 15 of that year.
Ulrich von Hutten had at this period not yet reached the height of his stormy career. Erfurt had been one of the Universities which he had visited without settling there, after he had, in defiance of the wish of the Franciscan knight his father, shaken off the dust of the monastic school at Fulda. Crotus was not yet teaching there; but, about 1506, the scholar-errant made friends with him at Erfurt, as well as with Eobanus Hessus, Aperbachius, and, so far as a radical difference of
no more money, since I have spent it all, for I have even bought me some books and some shoes.
You are well aware that, by God's grace, I am competent; for when you were at Deventer I was in the second class, and I afterwards stayed in residence at Cologne for a year, so that I qualified for the Bachelor's degree, and I should have graduated at Michaelmas if I had had the money. I know how to expound the Boys' Exercise-book to learners, and the Opus Minus (Part II), and I know the art of Scansion as you taught it me, and Peter of Spain in all his works, and the Parvulus of Natural Philosophy. I am a singer too, and am skilled in plain-song and prick-song, and I have a bass voice withal, and can sing one note below contra C.
I call these things to your mind in no vainglorious spirit; pardon me, therefore-and so I commend you to God Almighty.'
temperament permitted, with Mutianus himself. His early adventures, and the writings in part connected with them, by which he won himself a place among the humanists, must not occupy us here: but it should be noted that, so early as 1514, he gave expression to the interest which he took in the Reuchlin controversy by a poem entitled Triumphus Caprionis,' which Erasmus advised him not to publish while the matter was still coram judice.* A second visit to Italy in 1515-17 (the date of his first had been 1512-13) heightened his humanistic sympathies and antipathies; and in the preface to a revised edition of his 'OUTIS' (a satiric treatment of the theme 'Nobody is everybody'), which he prepared during or just before his stay at Rome, he opens his heart about the theologians of the day, their stupid pride in their cowls and privileges, and their hatred of all good and Christian work, like that of Erasmus and Reuchlin. At Bologna, where, to please his father, he settled down to read law, he found time to learn Greek, and with his tutor read Lucian, an author whose example inspired him to the long series of dialogues in which he clothed his hatreds and his aspirations.†
Enough has been said to account for Hutten's resolution of sending forth a second series of Epistolæ. The 'Appendex' to the first volume and the body of the second bear the too familiar marks of a continuation. The general machinery of the work and the general characteristics of the obscure letter-writers are accepted as a matter of course, and, since Hutten was not endowed with much inventive power, often become wearisome in his hands. As a sort of play within a play, he gives a quasi-concrete illustration of his model in the Epistolæ Magistrorum Lipsiensium,' of which he furnishes a complete specimen full of boasting and bestiality.‡
*The celebrated Triumphus Doctoris Reuchlini,' actually published in 1517 (or '18) with an illustrative woodcut based on Dürer's Triumph of Maximilian,' though, notwithstanding Strauss, it would seem to have been the work of Hutten, who calls it 'T. Caprionis,' was probably a different poem.
The earliest of these, 'Phalarismus' (against Ulrich of Württemberg), which appeared in March 1517, was probably composed much about the same time as was his share of the Epistolæ.
i, 43, 44. The enclosure contains the famous students' bill of fare: 'Semper' (Grütze), 'Continue' (soup), 'Cottidie' (porridge), 'Frequenter' (boiled meat), 'Nunquam' (cheese), etc.