Francis Lützow.

Lectures on the historians of Bohemia; online

. (page 1 of 9)
Online LibraryFrancis LützowLectures on the historians of Bohemia; → online text (page 1 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



Lectures on
The Historians of Bohemia


Lectures on
The Historians of Bohemia


_ y







[All rig Me reserved]

Printed by HORACE HART, at
the University Press, Oxford


IF one thing is less known than the history
of Bohemia it is the life and the works of
the historians who have recorded the annals
of that country. The undoubted fact that
many works of ancient Bohemian writers
have been lost has led to the supposition
that no native records of my country except
those belonging to the last century are
existent. Bohemian history, as far as it has
been written at all, has been mostly written
on German lines ; the hostility between the
Slav and the Teuton, which has continued
without interruption since the mythical
Cechus and his Slav companions arrived in
Bohemia, is a sufficient proof that records
founded on the evidence of the adverse
party could have little value. Palacky was
the first to point out, early in the nineteenth
century, that many writings of priceless
value for the history of his country w r ere
still preserved in manuscript in the archives
of certain Bohemian castles. It is thus that
the writings of Bfezan Slavata and Skala ze


Zhofe the last-named of whom would be
accounted a great historian in any country
became known, though only to a very
limited extent. The history of Bohemia is
perhaps one of the saddest in the world's
story. A country that for a time had been
in the van of civilization became almost
a desert, and suffered for centuries from
political, national and ecclesiastical oppres-

It is perhaps natural that those who
belong to a small and little-known nation
should consider it to a greater extent their
duty to make their country known, than
those who are citizens of a country that has
world-wide fame. The words of the great
historian Palack^, spoken on the occasion
of his last appearance in public which I have
quoted at the end of my last lecture, have
long impelled me to do what little is in
my power to make my country known and
refute those who have endeavoured to
tarnish its fame.

1 therefore owe a great debt of gratitude
to my friend Prof. Morfill, who kindly
suggested that I should lecture at Oxford
on a subject concerning Bohemia. Nothing
could be more in accord with my wishes
and the interest of my country than that


I should speak of the historians of my
country in the world-famed University City
that is connected with Bohemia by many
ancient links. I wish also to thank the
Curators of the Taylor Institution for their
kindness and the facilities they have given
for the publication of these lectures.


December 10, 1904.





Earliest Chroniclers Cosmas Chronicle of
Dalimil Benes of Weitmil Pulkava Charles IV 1


The Hussite Wars Mladenovic Lawrence of
Bfezov Bartosek of Drahonic Zizka Aeneas
Sylvius Bartos 27


Sixt of Ottersdorf The Bloody Diet Wen-
ceslas Hajek Jan Blahoslav Jacob Bilek Jan
Augusta Wenceslas Bfezan William of Rosen-
berg Peter of Rosenberg The * Letter of
Majesty 1 The Defenestration William Slavata
Paul Skala James I of England Executions
of the Patriots Death of Dvofecky Habernfeld
Paul Stransky ........ 54


The Thirty Years' War Balbinus Pesina
Joseph II Francis Palacky Dobrovsky The
Museum Francis Palacky The Austrian Censors
Tomek The German Parliament Palacky's
Views Death of Palacky Palack^ and Creighton
Helfert and Hofler Palacky's Reply Anton
Gindely Wenceslas Tomek Josef Kalousek
The Bohemian Constitution Jaroslav Goll
Rezek Speech of Palacky Conclusion . . 83

INDEX , .113

AMONG the many greater and smaller misfortunes
that have befallen the Bohemian nation the misuse
of the national name is by no means the one that is of
least account. A Bohemian requires a thorough know-
ledge of the English language to grasp what the word
'Bohemian' generally conveys to Englishmen. The
ancient mistake which identified the Bohemians with
the gipsies undoubtedly originated in France. As the
great Bohemian historian Palacky has suggested, many
gipsies arrived in France bearing passports signed by
the Bohemian kings, and this was the original cause of
the mistake. The peculiar, modern signification of the
word is, however, I think, a creation of Henry Murger,
and owes its origin to his Vie de Boheme. Thackeray
first used the word in its modern sense in the English

It is at the present day, I hope, scarcely necessary to
state that the Bohemians have no connexion whatever
with the gipsies, and that their language, a Slavic one,
forms part of the great Aryan family of speech. Next
to Russia, which in literature as in politics is the most
prominent of Slav countries, and Poland, Bohemia is
the country in which Slavic literature has flourished
most; and in Bohemian literature historians certainly
hold a very high rank. The reason is not difficult to
seek. There was a period when the Bohemians were
makers as well as writers of history, and it has been the



fate of Bohemia to play at least once a part in history
as did the Netherlands and Sweden in later days
that was quite disproportionate to the extent and
population of the country. After the battle of the
Zizkov, when the Bohemians defeated almost the whole
world in arms against their capital, and yet more after
their wonderful victories during Prokop's campaigns in
Germany, the Bohemians were at least within measur-
able distance of obtaining the supremacy in Europe
at least for a time. As writes one of the chroniclers
of the Hussite wars : ' The Bohemians had never before
fought so glorious a campaign in Germany. Had they
craved for glory as did their ancestors, they would have
marched onward as far as the Rhine and subdued many
countries ; but they contented themselves with their rich
spoils and returned to Bohemia.'

Only a few years ago I should have mentioned as
earliest Bohemian historian, Cosmas of Prague, 'the
father of Bohemian history, 1 as he used to be called.
Historical research, very active since the revival of the
Bohemian language at the beginning of the last century,
has rendered it at least doubtful whether Cosmas was
the first of Bohemian historians.

The learned Professor Pekar of the National Uni-
versity of Prague, published recently a work en-
titled Nejstarsi Kronika ceska (the oldest Bohemian
chronicle), which has caused great sensation in the
learned world of Bohemia. Professor Pekaf endeavours
to prove that Kristian, also called Strachkvas, brother
of the Bohemian duke, Boleslav II, was the author of
a chronicle entitled Life of St. Ludmilla and Martyrdom
of St. Wenceslas. Kristian died in 995, and if it can
be proved that he is the author of this chronicle, it


belongs to the tenth century, and is the oldest historical
work written in Bohemia and by a Bohemian.

It is unnecessary to refer here in detail to the
controversy that has arisen, and it will be sufficient to
state that Dr. Pekar has, I think, proved his case.
The legend, which has been four times published, firstly
in 1677 by the learned Jesuit Balbinus, and lastly by
Dr. Pekar two years ago, has great historical value. It
contains one of the earliest accounts of the conversion
of Moravia to the Christian faith. This is a matter
of great importance, as the fact that Bohemia and
Moravia first received Christianity from the East, and
long maintained a connexion with the East, is strongly
urged by Slavic writers and strongly opposed by German

I will quote a portion of Kristian's account. * It is
believed,' he writes, * and indeed known that Moravia,
a Slavic country, early obtained the faith of Christ, but
the Bulgarians had long before received that grace ; for
one Cyrillus, Greek by birth, learned in Latin as well
as in Greek writings, after the conversion of the
Bulgarians came in the name of the Holy Trinity and
the indivisible God to the people of Moravia for the
purpose of preaching there also the faith of Our Lord
Jesus Christ. And when he had won them for Christ
he, by the grace of God, invented new characters and
translated into the Slavonic tongue the Old and New
Testaments, as well as other Greek and Latin works.
He also decreed that mass and the canonical horary
prayers should be read in the vulgar tongue ; and this
has been continued in Slavic countries up to the present
time, whereby many souls have been won for Our Lord
Christ. 1


I may here incidentally remark that the custom of
using the national language in churches continued in
Bohemia for a long time, and was revived during the
period of the Hussite wars. During the existence of
the national church of Bohemia from about 1420 to
1620 the religious services were always held in the
national language.

The chronicle deals principally with the martyrdom
of St. Ludmilla, and with the murder of St. Wenceslas
still the patron-saint of Bohemia by his treacherous
younger brother Boleslav. Boleslav had invited his
brother to his castle that was situated near the town
that still bears the name of Mladd-Boleslav. I will
give a short extract from Kristian's account of the
murder, as it is the oldest version of the celebrated
legend of Wenceslas. After apologizing for the length
of his narrative, he writes :

* Very great sorrow hath many words, but I will en-
deavour not to delay long those who desire to know
somewhat of the sufferings of the holy martyr.

'Holy Wenceslas, who was soon to be a victim for
the sake of Christ, rose early, wishing, according to his
saintly habit, to hurry to the church that he might
remain there for some time in solitary prayer before
the congregation arrived ; and wishing as a good shep-
herd to hear the matins together with his flock and
join in their song, he soon fell into the snares that had
been laid ; for the priest of this church one of those
from whom this iniquity of Babylon proceeded ac-
cording to the commands of the evil ones, closed the
gates of the church as soon as he heard the goodly man
enter. Then the plotters that is, his brother and his
armed companions who were prepared, rose up. Then


seeing his brother, this chosen soldier of God thanked
him and embracing and kissing him, greeted him,
saying, " I salute you, my brother, may you be rich in
the goods of this world and of the next, and may
Christ admit you to His eternal banquet, you who have
yesterday feasted so lavishly me and my followers."
Then said Boleslav with proud spirit and fierce eyes,
drawing his sword, which he had concealed under his
cloak : " That was yesterday according to the circum-
stances, but this is the cheer which to-day one brother
will give to the other." Then brandishing his sword
he struck at his brother's head, but through the favour
of the Lord he scarcely drew blood ; for the horror
which he felt at the greatness of his crime was so
strong that even when he attacked his brother a
second time, he could not carry out his evil intent.
Then, the Holy Wenceslas endeavoured to seize his
bare sword, saying, "How evilly dost thou act by
wounding me." But when he saw that he by no means
abandoned his evil purpose, he as some say seized
him and threw him down at his feet, saying, " Behold,
thou seest, O man who knowest thyself lost, that I can
destroy thee like the meanest of beasts ; but never
shall the hand of a servant of God be stained with the
blood of his brother." Then he returned to his brother
the sword that he had taken from him, and with
bleeding hands hurriedly proceeded from the church.
But the wretched Boleslav followed him, and cried out
with a loud voice ; " My friends, my friends, where are
you? evilly indeed do you aid your lord, and little
help do you give him in his trouble." Then the whole
band of conspirators rushed from their hiding-place
with many swords and spears, and wounding him with


many grievous wounds, killed him at the door of the
church. Then this saintly soul departed, victoriously
and with the laurels of martyrdom from the prison-
house of this world on the fourth day before the
calends of October in the year of the incarnation 928,
while the world mourned and the heavens rejoiced.'

As I have already mentioned, the exact date of
Kristian's chronicle is uncertain. We are on safer
ground when dealing with Cosmas of Prague, the
Bohemian Herodotus as he was formerly called.
Writing in 1125, he tells us that he was then an
octogenarian ; we may therefore assume that he was
born about the year 1045. He began writing late in
life, after the death of his wife Bozete'cha, and perhaps
to solace the sorrow which her loss to which he alludes
in a very feeling manner in his book caused him.
I should here mention that the celibacy of the
clergy was only introduced into Bohemia at a late

Cosmas, who appears to have been of noble birth,
studied for some time at Luttich or Liege in Belgium,
and then took holy orders. He became canon and
afterwards dean of the chapter of Prague. In this
capacity he accompanied the bishops of Prague on
many political missions, and took a considerable part
in the politics of his country. Thus he was present
at the meeting of the German Diet at Mainz, at which
Prince Vratislav of Bohemia received the royal crown.
He was also employed on missions in Italy and
Hungary. Cosmas writes as a warm Bohemian patriot,
and it is curious to meet in the works of a writer of
the twelfth century with allusions to the 'arrogance
innate in the Teutons, who with incensed haughtiness


despise the Slavs and their language.' Cosmas also
tells us that Libussa, the semi-mythical female ruler
of Bohemia, stated that it was more likely that a fish
should become warm under the ice, than that a
Bohemian should agree with a German.

Cosmas's Chronicon Bohemorum written in Latin,
as was the book of Kristian though obviously the
work of a man of advanced age, is certainly superior
to many similar chronicles which belong to this period.
His Latinity, of course judged from the low stand-
point of the twelfth century, is fairly good, and it is
obvious that Cosmas was a good classical scholar. He
frequently quotes Sallustius, Ovid, Virgil, Terence,
Lucan, and particularly Horace, who seems to have
been a particular favourite. Cosmas was not indeed
devoid of the ambition of himself writing Latin verses ;
thus he ends the second book of his chronicle with
these rather rugged lines :

'Siste gradum, musa,

Chronicis es iam satis usa

Carmine completo

Die, lector amice, valeto.'

Modern critics have indeed accused Cosmas of
attaching more importance to his Latin quotations and
to his classical reminiscences than to historical research.
This reproach is, I think, unfounded, and the great
Bohemian historian Palacky pointed out many years
ago that a large mass of original matter gathered
from the libraries of various Bohemian monasteries is
embodied in the chronicle of Cosmas.

The chronicle is divided into three books, which
were certainly written at different times and only
afterwards joined together to form one complete work.


This is proved also by the fact that the older MSS.
contain a separate dedication of each of the books.

The first book, as was usual with the historians, or
rather chroniclers of that period, begins with the
deluge. Cosmas, however, somewhat mercifully devotes
but little space to this early period and soon devotes
his attention to matters that have a more immediate
connexion with Bohemia. His account of the arrival
of the Cechs in Bohemia is very interesting. It is
hardly necessary to mention that they were not the
original inhabitants of the country, but that a Celtic
and then a Teutonic tribe previously resided in Bohe-
mia. At the time of the migration of the nations, the
Volkerwanderung, as the Germans call it, the Teutonic
tribe of the Marcomanni were replaced by the Slavic
tribe of the Cechs, whose previous residence was pro-
bably that part of Poland now known as the Austrian
province of Galicia. After giving a quaint description
of the solitudes of Bohemia for curiously no record of
the pre-Slavic inhabitants of Bohemia seems then to
have existed Cosmas describes the arrival in Bohemia
of the Slavs under their eponymous leader Cechus.
He states that the Rip (in German Georgsberg), that
is mountain of St. George, a high hill near Roudnic
overlooking the Elbe, was the site of the first Cech
settlement in Bohemia. This statement has since been
repeated by numerous Bohemian historians, and it is
probably historically correct. I will quote the account
of Cosmas ; he writes : ' When the leader of the Cechs
entered these solitudes it is uncertain by how many
men, seeking spots fit for human dwelling-places, he
was accompanied. He surveyed the mountains, the
valleys, the wild and the fertile regions, with a sagacious


glance, and, as I think, established the first dwelling-
places around the mountain Rip between two rivers,
the Eger and the Ultava or Moldau, built the first
houses, and gladly placed on the ground the penates
which he had carried with him on his shoulders. Then
the oldest man, whom the others accompanied as their
lord, spake these words to his followers. " O com-
panions, who more than once have remained with me in
the depths of the forest, arrest your steps, offer a
thank-offering to your penates through whose miracu-
lous protection you have reached this your country
that has long been predestined for you. This, then,
is the land that I remember often to have promised
you, a land subject to no man, full of game and birds,
abounding with sweet honey and milk and as you
will perceive yourselves, a dwelling-place which its
climate renders pleasurable to inhabit. Here you will
be wanting in nothing, for no one will hinder you. But
now that this land, so beautiful and so great, is in your
hands, reflect as to what will be an appropriate name
for the country."" Then, as if moved by a divine
oracle : " Where could we find a better and more
appropriate than if we should call the land also Cechia,
as thou our father art called Cechus ? " Then their elder
moved by this augury began joyfully to embrace the
soil, rejoicing that it had received his name ; then
arising and lifting upward to the stars the palms of
his hands he began to speak thus : " Hail, land granted
to us by fate and for which we have prayed a thousand
times ; land that at the time of the deluge wert bereaved
of man, preserve us safely as a record for man-
kind, and multiply our offspring from generation to
generation."" '


It is scarcely necessary to point out what clear traces
of the study and imitation of the classics this passage
shows. The words ' tendens ad sidera palmas ' are
taken almost verbally from the Aeneid.

In his account of these semi-mythical events Cosmas
wisely and conscientiously avoids attempting to define
their dates chronologically ; his method varies after the
year 894, which he gives as the date of the conversion
to Christianity of the Bohemian prince Borivog. Still
up to the year 1037, the year with which the first book
of Cosmas's chronicle ends, dates are only given occa-
sionally and little reliance can be placed on them.
Cosmas indeed admits this at the end of the first book.
He states that in the earliest part of his narrative he
had relied on but uncertain evidence, but he also declares
that should he continue his chronicle he will henceforth
only state certain and reliable facts. He writes : ' Up
to now I have dealt only with the events of the most
ancient times, but as St. Jerome says : " Differently do
we narrate the things we have seen, differently those
we have heard, and differently again those that we have
but imagined"; thus will we now better express what
we know better, and henceforth with the aid of God
and St. Adalbert we intend to narrate those events
which we have either seen, or truthfully gathered from
those who have seen them. 1

This statement cannot, however, be considered as
absolutely correct, at least with regard to the second
book in which Palack^, whose Wiirdigung der alien
bohmischen Geschichtschreiber that is to say, apprecia-
tion of the ancient historians of Bohemia is still the
standard authority on the subject, has discovered
numerous chronological and other errors.

i] COSMAS 11

I have already mentioned that the second book
begins with the year 1037. It ends with the death, in
1092, of Vratislav II, the first of Bohemia's rulers who
bore the title of king.

The third and last book of the chronicle of Cosmas
is the most valuable one, as it deals with events many
of which occurred during his lifetime and in some of
which he himself took part. I choose for quotation
Cosmas 1 account of the murder of the nobles of the
Versovic family. This murder is one of the obscure
events in early Bohemian history. The Versovic
family, or rather clan, who appear to have held
a semi-independent position, had given offence to the
Pfemyslide princes who ruled over Bohemia. Prince
Svatopluk suspected two of the Versovic nobles, Vacek
and Mutina, of treachery during one of his campaigns.
The massacre that was the consequence of this suspicion
took place in 1108, during the lifetime of Cosmas, and
his very vivid account was no doubt derived from an
eye-witness unless Cosmas, as is quite possible, was
himself present at this tragic event.

After stating the causes of the resentment of the
princes against the Versovic lords, and mentioning the
warning that Mutina received, Cosmas writes : * After
they (the Versovic lords) had entered the castle of
Vratislar, the prince summoned for the following day
a meeting of all the great of the land. After they had
met then as a lion that has been let out of his cage
and steps on to the arena, and roaring and with erect
mane awaits his prey thus did Svatopluk enter the
council-chamber; he sat down in the middle of the
hall on the stone bench near the fireplace himself
more incensed than the fireplace in which burnt a


sevenfold fire. Then, looking around him, he gazed at
Mutina with fierce eyes, and then furiously addressed
him thus : " Oh, hated race and brood that is detested
by the gods, evil sons of Versovic, household-enemies of
our race; will it ever escape my memory how you
behaved to my ancestor Jaromir, a prince whom you
indeed turned into ridicule, but whose fate is our eternal
shame; or shall I forget that your brother Bosy by
evil fraud murdered my brother Bfetislav, that eminent
star in the orbit of princes? What fate also had
deserved my brother Bofivoj, who ruled under your
control, and obeyed you as if he had been your pur-
chased slave; yet with your innate pride you would
not endure even the modesty of that prince, and you
vexed me with your cunning councils till I accepted
your advice, and sinning against my brother sinned
greatly by depriving him of the throne. This indeed
grieves me, and will grieve me for ever.' "

The speech that Cosmas has put into the mouth of
Svatopluk is too long to be quoted in its entirety ; but
I will quote the vivid description of the murder that
immediately followed the reproachful speech. Cosmas
writes : ' There was a confused murmur among the
audience, and by their approval they yet further
incensed the mind of the prince that was already burn-
ing with ire. Then the prince left the hall, after making
a secret sign to the executioner Cosmas calls him
" lictor " who was standing near him, and who was con-
scious of his intentions. The executioner immediately
attacked Mutina, who was unaware of the danger.
Oh, wondrous patience of Count Mutina ! Two blows
did he receive without moving, but when at the third
blow he attempted to rise from his seat, his head was

i] COSMAS 13

struck off. At the same hour, and in the same hall,
Unislav, Domassa, and the two sons of Mutina were
captured. Another man, Nevsa, who did not indeed
belong to the clan, but who was an intimate friend of

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Online LibraryFrancis LützowLectures on the historians of Bohemia; → online text (page 1 of 9)