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upon the delinquent pontiff, the members of that assem-
bly seem to have exhausted their stock of leniency. Their
mercy was reserved for dignified offenders ; and it appears
by their subsequent conduct, that however tender and
gentle they might be in punishing immorality of practice,
the unrelenting fury of their vengeance was excited by
errors in matters of opinion. The process against John
Huss was expedited with all the ardour of ecclesiastical zeal.
The unfortunate reformer was at various times brought
in chains before a tribunal, on which his enemies sat in
quality of judges ; and, surrounded by a military guard,
he was called upon to answer to a long series of articles of
accusation, the greater part of which related to the most
mysterious and subtile points of doctrine. To some of
these articles he pleaded not guilty. Many of the proposi-
tions which were imputed to him as errors in faith, he
defended as true ; at the same time declaring his readiness
to retract any doctrine, of the erroneousness of which he
should be convinced. His judges having in vain endea-
voured to enlighten his understanding by argument, had

" Hodius, p. 23.



56 CHAP. II.

recourse to the terrors of authority. They declared him
guilty of heresy, and attempted to overawe him to a re-
cantation, by the dread of a painful death. But the con-
stancy of Huss was unshaken. He firmly refused to pur-
chase life at the expence of truth and honour. After various
unsuccesful efforts to persuade him to make ^is peace with
the church, by timely submission, the council proceeded to
degrade him from his priestly office, and after proclaiming
the awful sentence which condemned him as an obstinate
heretic, delivered him over to the secular power. July 6th,
A. D. 1415.] On the sixth day of July, 1415, Huss was
led to the fatal pile, where he suffered death with the
intrepidity of a resolute mind, supported by the conscious-
ness of rectitude, and by the firm conviction of sincere
religious faith, which, happily for the oppressed, are not the
exclusive privileges of any sect, but bestow their animating
influence on the persecuted advocates of every varying shade
of theological belief.

On the dispersion of the pontifical household, conse-
quent upon the deposition of John XXII. , Leonardo Are-
tino returned to Italy, where he resumed his literary pursuits
with great assiduity. Poggio remained at Constance, for the
purpose of improving any opportunity which might there
occur, of promoting his own interest, or that of his friend.
As he had now a good deal of leisure, he employed his
vacant hours in studying the Hebrew language, under the
direction of a Jew who had been converted to the Christian
faith.* His continuance in Germany was not however pro-

* Poffffii Opera, p. 297.



HAP. II. 57

ductive either of immediate pleasure, or of present emolu-
ment. He was wearied and disgusted by the tedious protrac-
tion of the debates of the council. He regarded the pro-
ceedings of that assembly, with the prejudices which natu-
rally rendered them odious to the members of the papal
court ; and the mortifications experienced at Constance by
several of his friends, excited in his breast sentiments of
sorrow and indignation.* His hopes of preferment became
more and more faint, as the power of his patrons was
diminished by the intrigues of their adversaries ; and in
short, wheresoever he turned his eyes, his prospect was
gloomy and discouraging. The study of Hebrew does
not seem to have possessed sufficient charms to beguile the
uneasiness which he experienced, in consequence of these
various distresses. The rudiments of that language are
peculiarly intricate; and Poggio was not stimulated by
incentives sufficiently powerful, to induce him to surmount
the difficulties which presented themselves at the commence-
ment of this new pursuit. For all the purposes of the
Christian faith he had been taught, and in all probability
believed, that St. Jerome's translation of the Jewish scrip-
tures was amply sufficient. As he was not disposed to call
in question the prevailing creed, he did not wish to make
himself master of the oriental tongues, with a view of
providing himself with the weapons of religious controversy.



Leonardo Arelini Epist. lib. iv. ep. iv. This letter is erroneously dated
January 10, 1415. Aretino wrote from Constance a description of his journey
to that city, on the 29th of December, 1414. It is therefore evidently impossible
that he could have returned to Italy, and have there received letters from Poggio
within twelve days from that date. For 1415, we should certainly read Hli'.

I



58 CHAP. II.

In the brief and authoritative precepts of the Israelitish
moralists, he looked in vain for the flow of eloquent argu-
ment, which had captivated his attention in the ethic dis-
quisitions of Cicero. The abrupt transitions, and swelling
metaphors of the Hebrew poets, though, in a variety of
individual instances, striking in effect, generally shrunk
from the severe test of the rules of Aristotle and Quinti-
lian.* The Hebrew language was not, like the Latin
tongue, of practical use in the daily affairs of a literary or
political life ; and finally, his instructor was a man of no
talents or respectability of character, and soon became the
butt of his ridicule, and the object of his sovereign con-
tempt. These causes concurred to check his progress in
biblical studies, in which he does not appear to have made
any great proficiency.

The amusement which he in' vain sought for in the

'Leonardo Aretino, who does not appear to have possessed the slighest know-
ledge of Hebrew, in a very curious letter to Giovanni Cirignano, entered into a
long train of argument, to prove the inutility of the study of that language.
Nothing is more disgusting, than the propensity of men of narrow minds to
undervalue those acquisitions in knowledge, to which they have not themselves
attained ; and which they consequently have not the means of appreciating.
Excellent indeed is the precept of the Apulian hard,

" Neu tua plus laudes studia, aut aliena reprendas."

This letter of Leonardo also shews the unhappy influence of religious bigotry
and sacerdotal tyranny, in checking the progress of science. The most cogent
argument which he advances, to prove the folly of spending time in the perusal
of the Hebrew scriptures, is this, that St. Jerome having translated the Old
Testament into Latin, whosoever presumes to study that book in the original,
manifests a distrust of the fidelity of Jerome's version.

Leonardi Aretini Epist. lib. ix. ep. xii.



CHAP. II. , 50

extension of his literary attainments, he found in a total
suspension of his studies. [A. D. 1416.] In the spring of
the year 1416, he took advantage of the leisure time
afforded him, by the termination of his functions as secre-
tary to the deposed pontiff, to make an excursion to the
baths of Baden.* Of these baths he gave a description in
the following letter, which he addressed to Niccolo Niccoli;
and which, whilst it exhibits an interesting picture of a
fashionable watering place of the fifteenth century, displays
a sportiveness of fancy, and an expansion of good humour,
which were characteristic and attractive features of Poggio's
mind.

** I wrote to you from Constance, on the first of
" March, if my memory be correct, a letter, which, if it
" came to hand, I imagine made you tolerably merry.
" It was rather long, and pregnant with wit. I gave
" you in it a long account of my Hebrew studies, and
" passed many jokes upon my tutor, a stupid, unsteady,
" and illiterate man ; which indeed is the general cha-
" racter of those who are converted from Judaism to
" Christianity. But I am inclined to suspect, that this
" letter, and another which I addressed to Leonardo



* In the letter which Poggio wrote from Baden to Niccolo Niccoli, he says,
that he wrote to him from Constance on the 19th of February, 1416 ; and in
another letter, addressed to Leonardo Aretino, he says, that the trial of Jerome
of Prague took place a few days after his return to the council. As Jerome's
last hearing, to which Poggio evidently alludes, took place May 30th, 1418, the
date of Poggio's journey to Baden is fixed between the above mentioned periods,
that is, in the spring of 1416.



00 CHAP. II.

" Aretino, did not reach their destination. Had you
" received my epistle, you would surely have answered
" it, were it only with the view of congratulating me
" on my new course of study, which you have so fre-
, " quently exhorted me to undertake. I cannot find that
'* the study of Hebrew adds to my stock of philosophical
" knowledge ; but it so far promotes my acquaintance
" with literature, that I am thereby enabled to investi-
" gate the principles upon which St. Jerome founded
" his translation of the scriptures. But I write to you
" from these baths, (to which I am come to try whether
" they can remove an eruption which has taken place
" between my fingers) to describe to you the situation
" of the place, and the manners of its inhabitants, toge-
" ther with the customs of the company who resort
'* hither for the benefit of the waters. Much is said by
" the ancients of the pleasant baths of Puteoli, which
*' were frequented by almost all the people of Rome.
" But in my opinion, those boasted baths must, in the
** article of pleasure, yield the palm to the baths of
" Baden. For the pleasantness of the baths of Puteoli
" was founded more on the beauty of the circumjacent
" country, and the magnificence of the neighbouring
" villas, than on the festive manners of the company by
" which they were frequented. The scenery of Baden,
" on the contrary, has but few attractions : but every
" other circumstance relating to its medicinal springs, is
** so pregnant with delight, that T frequently imagine
" that Venus, and all her attendant joys, have migrated
" hither from Cyprus. The frequenters of these waters



CHAP. II. 01

"' so faithfully observe her institutes, so accurately copy
" her manners, that though they have not read the dis-
'* course of Heliogabalus, they seem to be amply in-
" structed by simple nature. But I must in the first place
" give you an account of my journey hither. On the
" first day I sailed down the Rhine twenty-four miles to
** Schaffausen. Here we were obliged to pass the falls
" by land ; and at the distance of ten miles from Schaff-
" ausen we arrived at a fortress, situated on the Rhine,
" and known by the name of Keisterstul, that is, Caesar's
** seat. From the name of this place, and from its com-
" manding situation, (for it is built on a high hill over-
" hanging the river, across which is thrown a small
" bridge, which effects a communication between France
" and Germany) I conjecture it was formerly a Roman
" station. In this day"s journey we saw the Rhine pre-
" cipitating itself from a considerable height, over craggy
" rocks, with a sound which seemed to express the
" indignation of the river at being thus impeded in its
" course. When I contemplated this sight, I recollected
** the stories which are related concerning the cataracts
" of the Nile, and I did not wonder that the people who
" live in the vicinity of those waterfalls, were deprived
" of their hearing by their noise, when a river of so
" comparatively small a magnitude, that with respect to
" the Nile it may be denominated a torrent, may be
" heard to the distance of half a mile. The next town
" is Baden, which word, in the German language, sig-
" nifies a bath. Baden is a place of considerable opu-
" lence, situated in a valley surrounded by mountains,



62 CHAP. II.

" upon a broad and rapid river, which forms a junction
" with the Rhine, about six miles from the town. About
" half a mile from Baden, and on the bank of the river,
" there is a very beautiful range of buildings, constructed
" for the accommodation of the bathers. These build-
" ings form a square, composed of lodging houses, in
" which a great multitude of guests are commodiously
" entertained. Each lodging house has its private bath,
" appropriated to its tenants. The baths are altogether
" thirty in number. Of these, two only are public baths,
" which are exposed to view on every side, and are fre-
" quented by the lower orders of people, of all ages, and
" of each sex. Here the males and females, entertaining
" no hostile dispositions towards each other, are separated
" only by a simple railing. Ii is a droll sight to see de-
" crepit old women and blooming maidens, stepping into
" the water, and exposing their charms to the profane
1 " eyes of the men. I have often laughed at this exhibi-
" tion, which reminded me of the Floral games of Rome.
"And I have at the same time admired the simplicity of
" these people, who take no notice of these violations of
" propriety, and are totally unconscious of any indecorum.
" The baths belonging to the private houses are very
" neat. They too are common to males and females,
" who are separated by a partition. In this partition,
" however, there are low windows, through which they
k ' can see and converse with, and touch each other, and
" also drink together ; all which circumstances are mat-
" ters of common occurrence. Above the baths are a
" kind of galleries, on which the people stand who wish



CHAP. II. 03

" to see and converse with the bathers ; for every one
" has free access to all the baths, to see the company, to
" talk and joke with them. As the ladies go in and out
" of the water, they expose to view a considerable por-
" tion of their persons ; yet there are no door-keepers,
" or even doors, nor do they entertain the least idea of
" any thing approaching to indelicacy. Many of the
" baths have a common passage for the two sexes, which
if circumstance very frequently occasions very curious
" rencounters. The men wear only a pair of drawers.
" The women are clad in linen vests, which are however
" slashed in the sides, so that they neither cover the neck,
" the breast, nor the arms of the wearer. The ladies
" frequently give public dinners in the baths, on a table
" which floats on the water ; and the men often partake
" of these entertainments. Our party received several in-
" vitations. I paid my share of the reckoning ; but
" though I was frequently requested to favour them with
" my company, I never accepted the summons ; not
** through modesty which would, on these occasions, be
" mistaken for rudeness, and want of good breeding, but
" on account of my ignorance of the language. For it
" seemed to me an act of folly in an Italian, who could
" not take any part in conversation, to spend all the
" day in the water, employed in nothing but eating
" and drinking. But two of my companions were not so
" scrupulous. They visited the ladies in the baths, and
" assisted at their entertainments. They conversed with
" them, by the medium of an interpreter; and when
" their fair hostesses were incommoded by the heat, they



04 CHAP. II.

" had the lion our of fanning them. On their return
" they spoke with great pleasure of the kind reception
" which they had experienced. When they thus vis-
" ited the ladies, they were clothed in linen gowns. From
" the gallery which I have mentioned above, I was
w< a witness of this scene ; and I was astonished to be-
" hold, with what unsuspecting simplicity they con-
" ducted themselves, and with what full confidence the
" husbands suffered their wives to be handed about in
" their dishabille by strangers. They were not uneasy ;
" they did not even attend to the circumstance, but
" saw every transaction in the most favourable light.
" They are well prepared to embrace the doctrine of
" Plato, who would have all things in common ; for
" without instruction, they are already in a great measure
" converts to his principles. In some of the private
11 baths, the men mix promiscuously with their female
" relatives and friends. They go into the water three or
" four times in a day ; and they spend the greater part
" of their time in the baths, where they amuse themselves
" with singing, drinking and dancing. In the shallower
" part of the water they also play upon the harp. It is
" a pleasant sight to see young lasses tuning their lyres,
" like nymphs, with their scanty robes floating on the
" surface of the waters. They look indeed like so many
" Venuses, emerging from the ocean. The women have a
" custom of playfully begging from the men who come to
" see them bathe. The latter throw down small pieces of
" money, which they direct to the fairer damsels. The
" ladies below stretch out their hands, and spread their



CHAP. II. Od

" bathing gowns, to receive these gifts, which frequently
** give rise to a general scramble. This scramble, you will
" easily conceive, occasions very laughable incidents, fyc-
" sides money, garlands and crowns of flowers are thrown
" down, with which the ladies ornament their heads while
" they remain in the water. As I only bathed twice a day,
" I spent my leisure time in witnessing this curious specta-
" cle, visiting the other baths, and causing the girls to '
" scramble for money and nosegays ; for there was no
" opportunity of reading or studying. The whole place
" resounded with songs and musical instruments, so that the
" mere wish to be wise, were the height of folly ; in me
u especially, who am not like Menedemus, in the play,
'* a morose rejecter of pleasure, but one of those who take
" a lively interest in every thing which concerns their
" fellow mortals. My pleasure was however much less than
" it would have been, had I been able to converse with my
" new acquaintance. Circumstanced as I was, I could
" only feast my eyes, wait on the ladies, and attend them
" to the rendezvous of amusement. I had also an oppor-
" tunity of paying my court to them, as against this there
" was no prohibitory law. Besides these various pastimes,
" there is also another, which is a source of no small
" gratification. There is a large meadow behind the village,
" near the river. This meadow, which is shaded by abun-
" dance of trees, is our usual place of resort after supper.
" Here the people engage in various sports. Some dance,
' others sing, and others play at ball, but in a manner
very different from the fashion of our country. For the
" men and women throw, in different directions, a ball,



60 CHAP. II.

" filled wjtlr little bells. When the ball is thrown, they
" all run to catch it, and whoever lays hold of it is the con-
'* queror, and again throws it at somebody for whom lie
" wishes to testify a particular regard. When the thrower is
" ready to toss the ball, all the rest stand with outstretched
" hands, and the former frequently keeps them in a state
" of suspense, by pretending to aim, sometimes at one,
" and sometimes at another. Many other games are here
" practised, which it would be tedious to enumerate. I
" have related enough to give you an idea what a numerous
" school of Epicureans is established at Baden. I think
" this must be the place where the first man was created,
" which the Hebrews call the garden of pleasure. If plea-
" sure can make a man happy, this place is certainly pos-
" sessed of every requisite for the promotion of felicity.

" But you will perhaps wish to know what are the
" virtues of the waters. Their virtues are various and mani-
" fold ; but they have one quality, which is truly wonderful,
" and in a manner divine. I believe there are no baths in
" the world more efficacious in promoting the propagation
" of the human species. This may indeed be in some mea-
'' sure accounted for by the following circumstance. An
" innumerable multitude of persons of all ranks repair to
" this place from the distance of two hundred miles ; not
" with a view of recruiting their health, but of enjoying
" life. These baths are the general resort of lovers and
" their mistresses, of all, in short, who are fond of pleasure.
" Many ladies pretend to be sick, merely with a view of
" being sent for cure to this watering place. You consc-



CHAP. II. ft7

" qucntly see here a great number of handsome females
" without their husbands, and not protected by any male
" relations, but attended by a couple of maids and a man
" servant, or some elderly cousin, who is very easily impo-
" sed upon. And they come adorned with such costly
" apparel, that you would suppose they were coining to a
" wedding, rather than to a watering place. Here we find
" Vestal, or to speak more correctly, Floral virgins. Here
" we meet with abbots, monks, friars, and priests, who
" live with greater license than the rest of the company.
" These ecclesiastics, forgetting the gravity of their profes-
" sion, sometimes bathe with the ladies, and adorn their
" hair with silken ribbons. For all people here concur in
" banishing sorrow, and courting mirth. Their object is, )
" not to divide that which is common, but to communicate
" that which is appropriated. It is "an astonishing circum-
" stance, that in so great a multitude (nearly a thousand
" persons) of various dispositions, and so much given to
" riot, no discord or dissension ever arises. The husbands
" see their wives gallanted, and even attended tete a tete by
" strangers, and yet they are not disturbed or rendered
" uneasy. Hence it happens, that the name of jealousy,
" that plague, which is elsewhere productive of so much
" misery, is here unknown. How unlike are the manners
" of these people to ours, who always sec things on the
" dark side, and who are so much given to cen seriousness,
" that in our minds the slightest suspicion instantly grows
" into full proof of guilt. I often envy the apathy of these
" Germans, and I execrate our perversity, who are always
" wishing for what we have not, and arc continually exposed




08 CHAP. II.

" to present calamity by our dread of the future. But these
" people, content with little, enjoy their day of life in
" mirth and merriment ; they do not hanker after wealth ;
" they are not anxious for the morrow ; and they bear
" adversity with patience. Thus are they rich by the mere
" disposition of their minds. Their motto is, " live while
" you live."" But of this enough it is not my object to
" extol my new friends at the expense of my countrymen.
" I wish my epistle to consist of unqualified good humour,
" that I may impart to you a .portion of the pleasure I
" derived from the baths of Baden."

Soon after Poggio's return from Baden to Constance
the Council proceeded to the trial of Jerome of Prague, an
intimate friend and associate of John Huss. When Jerome
was apprized of the arrest and imprisonment of his brother
reformer, he deemed himself bound in honour to repair to
Constance, to administer to him comfort and assistance. He
accordingly arrived in that city on the 24th of April, 1415.*
But alarmed by the violence of spirit which seemed to rage
against reputed heretics, he soon fled from Constance, and
went to Uberlingen, whence he sent to the council to demand
a safe conduct. Instead of this instrument of protection,
the members of that assembly addressed to him a citation to
appear before them, and answer to a charge of heresy. ^
Justly dreading the consequences of encountering the preju-
dices of the ecclesiastical dignitaries, whose morals and prin-

UEnf ant's History of the Council of Constance, vol. i. p. 107-
t Ibid. p. 188.



. ii.



ciplcs he had so often branded with infamy, he refused to
obey this citation, and set off on his return to Bohemia.
He proceeded without molestation as far as Hirsaw; but there
he was arrested by the officers of the duke of Sultzbach, who
sent him in chains to Constance.* Immediately after his
arrival in that city, he underwent an examination, after which
he was committed to prison. The severity which he there
experienced, the importunity of some of his prosecutors, and
his solitary meditations on the dreadful catastrophe of Huss,
at length shook his constancy, and on the 15th of September,
1415, he read in open Council, a recantation of his errors.-f-
At this price he purchased a relaxation of the rigour of his
confinement : but, notwithstanding the remonstrances of
Zabarella, and of three other cardinals, who contended,
that by his renunciation of error, he had satisfied public
justice, lie was detained in custody. In the course of a
few months after his recantation, new articles of impeach-
ment were exhibited against him. To these he pleaded in
a solemn assembly of the council, held for that purpose, on



Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdThe life of Poggio Bracciolini → online text (page 5 of 31)