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HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE.
The Christian Renaissance.
I. "I would have my reader fully understand,” says Luther in the preface to his complete works, “ that I have been a monk and a bigoted Papist, so intoxicated, or rather so swallowed up in papistical doctrines, that I was quite ready, if I had been able, to kill or procure the death of those who should have rejected obedience to the Pope by so much as a syllable. I was not all cold or all ice in the Pope's defense, like Eckius and his like, who veritably seemed to me to constitute themselves his defenders rather for their belly's sake than because they looked at the matter seriously. More, to this day they seem to mock at him, like Epicureans. I for my part proceeded frankly, like a man who has horribly feared the day of judgment, and who yet hoped to be saved with a shaking of all his bones.” Again, when he saw Rome for the first time, he prostrated himself, saying, "I salute thee, holy Rome . . . bathed in the blood of so many martyrs." Imagine, if you may, the effect which the shameless paganism of the Italian Renaissance had upon such a mind, so loyal, so Christian. The beauty of art, the charm of a refined and sensuous existence, had taken no hold upon him; he judged morals, and he judged them with his conscience only.
garded this southern civilization with the eyes of a man of the north, and understood its vices only, like Ischam, who said he had seen in Venice “more libertie to sinne in ix dayes than ever I heard tell of in our noble Citie of London in ix yeare.”! Like Arnold and Channing in the present day, like all the men of Germanic? race and education, he was horrified at this voluptuous life, now reckless and now licentious, but always void of moral principles, given up to passion, enlivened by irony, caring only for the present, destitute of belief in the infinite, with no other worship than that of visible beauty, no other object than the search after pleasure, no other religion than the terrors of imagination and the idolatry of the eyes.
“I would not,” said Luther afterwards, “ for a hundred thousand florins have gone without seeing Rome; I should always have doubted whether I was not doing injustice to the Pope. The crimes of Rome are incredible; no one will credit so great a perversity who has not the witness of his eyes, ears, personal knowledge. . . . There reigned all the villanies and infamies, all the atrocious crimes, in particular blind greed, contempt of God, perjuries, sodomy. . . . We Germans swill liquour enough to split us, whilst the Italians are sober. But they are the most impious of men; they make a mock of true religion, they scorn the rest of us Christians, because we believe everything in Scripture. . . . There is a saying in Italy which they make use of when they go to church : “Come and let us conform to the popular error.' “If we were obliged,' they say again, “to believe in every word of God, we should be the most wretched of men, and we should never be able to have a moment's cheerfulness; we must put a good face on it, and not believe everything.' This is what Leo X. did, who, hearing a discussion as to the immortality or mortality of the soul, took the latter side. For,' said he, “it would be terrible to believe in a future state. Con. science is an evil beast, who arms man against himself.' . . The Italians are either epicureans or superstitious. The people fear St. Anthony and St. Sebastian more than Christ, because of the plagues they send. This is why, when they want to prevent the Italians from committing a nuisance anywhere, they paint up St. Anthony with his fiery lance. Thus do they live in extreme superstition, ignorant of God's word, not believing the resurrec tion of the flesh, nor life everlasting, and Searing only temporal evils. Their blasphemy also is frightful, . the entity their revenge is atrocious. When they cannot get rid of their enemies in any other way, they lay ambush for them in the churches, so that one man cleft his enemy's head before the altar. . . . There are often murders at funerals on account of inheritances. . . . They celebrate the Carnival with extreme impropriety and folly for several weeks, and they have made a custom of various sins and extravagances at it, for they are men without conscience, who live in open sin, and make light of the marriage tie. ... We Germans, and other simple nations, are like a bare clout; but the Italians are painted and speckled with all sorts of false opinions, and disposed still to embrace many worse. . . . Their fasts are more splendid than our most sumptuous feasts. They dress extravagantly; where we spend a florin on our clothes, they put down ten forins to have a silk coat. ... When they (the Italians) are chaste, it is sodomy with them. There is no society amongst them. No one trusts another; they do not come together freely, like us Germans; they do not allow strangers to speak publicly with their wives: compared with the Germans, they are altogether men of the cloister.” These hard words are weak compared with the facts. Treasons, assassinations, tortures, open debauchery, the practice of poisoning, the worst and most shameless outrages, are unblushingly and publicly tolerated in the open light of heaven. In 1490, the Pope's vicar having forbidden clerics and laics to keep concubines, the Pope revoked the decree, "saying that that was not forbidden, because the life of priests and ecclesiastics was such that hardly one was to be found who did not keep a concubine, or at least who had not a courtesan.” Cæsar Borgia at the capture of Capua “ chose forty of the most beautiful women, whom he kept for himself; and a pretty large number of captives were sold at a low price at Rome.” Under Alexander VI., “all ecclesiastics, from the greatest to the least, have concubines in the place of wives, and that publicly. If God hinder it not,” adds the historian, “ this corruption will pass to the monks and religious orders, although,
i Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster (1570), ed. Arber, 1870, first book, p. 83.
4 See, in Corinne, Lord Nevil': judgment on the Italians.
I See Corpus historicornm medii ævi, G. Eccard, vol. ii.; Joh. Burchardi, high chamber. ain to Alexander VI., Diarium, p. 2134. Guicciardini, Dell'istoria d'Italia, p. 211, edo Panthéon Littéraire.
to confess the truth, alnıost all the monasteries of the town have become bawd-houses, without any one to speak against it.” With respect to Alexander VI., who loved his daughter Lucretia, the reader may find in Burchard the description of the marvelous orgies in which he joined with Lucretia and Cæsar, and the enumeration of the prizes which he distributed. Let the reader also read for himself the story of the bestiality of Pietro Luigi Farnese, the Pope's son, how the young and upright Bishop of Fano died from his outrage, and how the Pope, speaking of this crime as “a youthful levity,” gave him in this secret bull " the fullest absolution from all the penalties which he might have incurred by human incontinence, in whatever shape or with whatever cause." As to civil security, Bentivoglio caused all the Marescotti to be put to death; Hippolyto d'Este had his brother's eyes put out in his presence; Cæsar Borgia killed his brother; murder is consonant with their public manners, and excites no wonder. A fisherman was asked why he had not informed the governor of the town that he had seen a body thrown into the water; "he replied that he had seen about a hundred bodies thrown into the water during his lifetime in the same place, and that no one had ever troubled himself about it.” “In our town,” says an old historian, “ much murder and pillage was done by day and night, and hardly a day passed but some one was killed.” Cæsar Borgia one day killed Peroso, the Pope's favorite, between his arms and under his cloak, so that the blood spurted up to the Pope's face. He caused his sister's husband to be stabbed and then strangled in open day, on the steps of the palace; count, if you can, his assassinations. Certainly he and his father, by their character, morals, complete, open and systematic wickedness, have presented to Europe the two most successful images of the devil.
To sum up in a word, it was on the model of this society, and for this society, that Machiavelli wrote his Prince. The complete development of all the faculties and all the lusts of man, the complete destruction of all the restraints and all the shame of man, are the two distinguishing marks of this grand and perverse culture. To make man a strong being: endowed with genius, audacity, presence of mind, astute policy, dissimulation, patience, and to turn all this power to the acquisiton of every kind of pleasure, pleasures of the body, of luxury, arts, literature, authority; that is, to form and to set free an aile