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fell into their hands. William of St. Amour's terrible book (so Dean Milman calls it) on the Perils of the Last Times, which so relentlessly and gallingly, though covertly, exposed the friars and their doings, was condemned at Rome as unjust, wicked, execrable ; and was burned in the presence of the Pope, before the cathedral at Anagni. By one sentence the Council of Constance condemned the writings, by another the person, of John Huss to the flames. All his writings, both in Latin and Bohemian, were adjudged to be publicly and solemnly burned. When the headsman's servants led Huss away to execution, they stopped before the bishop's palace, that he might gaze on the pile on which his books lay burning. “He only smiled at this ineffectual act of vengeance." All the books which could be seized of Amaury de Bene and his followers were burned, in the panic about heresies traced to the philosophy of Aristotle which disquieted the thirteenth century, just as the books of Protagoras had been burned in the market place of Athens, because of his doubts touching the existence of the gods. By order of King James I., the Defensio Fidei of Suarez was condemned to the flames in London, and the Parliament of Paris decreed the same fate for it in the French capital. Among the Pagans, as Mr. Lecky says, we find Diocletian making it one of his special objects to burn the Christian writings, and the early councils followed suit in continually condemning heretical books, which the civil power, acting upon their sentence, destroyed. As early as 443 we find Pope St. Leo burning books of the Manichæans on his own authority; while through the middle ages the Inquisition succeeded in destroying almost the entire heretical literature before the Reformation. In after days we have salient instances of books burnt by the hands of the common hangman in the Histrio-Mastrix of William Prynne, and the two obnoxious sermons of Dr. Sacheverell, and the Emile of Rousseau, and Raynal's History of the Indies, and the Memoirs of Beaumarchais, and the treatise de l'Esprit by Helvétius, and Linguet's History of the Jesuits, and Diderot's Pensées Philosophiques, 1 which last author some high contracting parties would gladly have seen consigned to the like cremation with that Etruscan Cassius, who, as the story goes, quem fama est, in Horace, was capsis librisque ambustus propriis. Memorable too in literary story is the fact that Goethe's WilhelmMeister was deemed worthy of a formal consignment to the flames by “some religious men,” as Mr. Merivale designates them, of whom were Leopold Stolberg, and Goethe's own brother-in-law, Schlosser ;? while Mr. Froude's Nemesis of Faith is reported to have suffered the same summary fate at the hands of a well known Oxford divine.
i So too with the book of Vorstius, De Deo, which the British Solomon read, and found so full of heresies that he had it publicly burnt in London, Oxford, and Cambridge, besides recommending the States of Holland not to tolerate such a heretic within their territory,
It is short sighted policy in the long run. Gamaliel's policy is better, to refrain from these men and let them alone; for if their counsel or work be opposed to truth, it will come to nought; but if it be of God its antagonists cannot overthrow it. Let them therefore cease from the incendiary style of antagonism, lest haply they be found even to be fighting against God.
Jehoiakim got another message, with a heavy burden in it of woes and penalties ; and that was about all he did get by burning Baruch's book. There was a new edition issued forthwith, with addenda, not delenda. The king's dele, so as by fire, was ineffectual. It only made matters worse, for it tended to enlarge the bulk of the volume and to aggravate its tidings of disaster.
Better to agree with one's adversary quickly, whiles one is in the way with him, and at his first coming ; lest at a second coming, or a third, or “at any time, the adversary deliver thee
i Concerning the public burning of which by the common hangman Mr. Buckle observes, “this indeed was the fate of nearly all the best literary productions of that time." (Hist. Civilis., i. 681.) The Philosophic Thoughts was Diderot's first original work ; the previous ones having been translations from the English,-potboilers for Denis's daily need.
2 Stolberg excepted, however, from the flames the sixth book, which he bound by itself as a manual of pietism.
to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison,” each a worse and worse deliverance, with perhaps none to wish thee, unless conventionally and forensically speaking, a good deliverance, in the best sense. The Sibyl's advent to Tarquin is a legend of pregnant import, to which Archbishop Trench refers in commending the Spanish proverb, “ That which the fool does in the end the wise man does at the beginning"; the wise to much profit, the fool to little or none. “For indeed that purchase of the Sibylline books by the Roman king, what a significant symbol it is of that which at one time or another, or it may be at many times, is finding place in almost every man's life; the same thing to be done in the end, the same price to be paid at the last, with only the difference, that much of the advantage, as well as all the grace, of an earlier compliance has past away.” 1
Thus runs the legend : One day a strange woman appeared before the king, and offered him nine books to buy; and when he refused them she went away and burnt three of the nine books, and brought back the remaining six and offered to sell them at the same price that she had asked for the nine; and when he laughed at her and again refused, she went as before and burnt three more books, and came back and asked still the same price for the three that were left. Then the king was struck by her pertinacity, and he consulted his augurs what this might be; and they bade him by all means buy the three, and said he had done wrong not to buy the nine, " for these were the books of the Sibyl, and contained great secrets."
The illustration has ever been a favourite one in polite literature, and has been worked up to all sorts of uses. Now we have a Conyers Middleton declaring of Cicero that his remaining works are “justly esteemed the most precious remains of all antiquity”; and that, “ like the Sibylline books, if more of them had perished, they would have been equal still to any
1 The nine precious volumes have shrunk to six, and these dwindled to three, while the like price is demanded for the few as for the many, for the remnant now as would once have made all our own. See Proverbs and their Lessons, Lecture V.
price"; now a Canon Kingsley affirming that to sanitary reform the world will come round at last, and will be “glad at last to accept the one Sibylline leaf, at the same price at which it might have had the whole." Queen Elizabeth's ambassador in Scotland, Killigrew, who perhaps had not very lately aired his classics, thus remonstrates against the reluctance of his royal mistress to meet the Regent Morton's demands. “I pray God,” he writes to Walsingham,"we prove not herein like those who refused the three volumes of Sibylla's prophecies, with the price which afterwards they were glad to give for one that was lost.” Frederick the Great's menace to Maria Theresa in 1741, that unless she granted him all he required he should in four weeks demand four principalities more, is interpolated by Mr. Carlyle with the parenthesis “ (Nay, I now do it, being in Sibylline tune.) I now demand the whole of Lower Silesia, Breslau included." And then comes the admiring historian's comment : “It is like negotiating for the Sibyl's books; the longer you bargain, the higher he will rise.” Bargainers who made Turner a bid for his pictures were liable to the same treatment. “Methinks," writes Swift,
1 In the case of his "Dido building Carthage,” his "angry pride” would never let him part with this picture, when he found it did not sell at the Academy. “Ĉhantrey once tried to buy it, but was startled by finding each time its price rose higher : 500l., 1000l., 2000l."-(Life of J. M. W. Turner, i. 299.)
When to his demand of, say, two hundred guineas for a picture, a haggling purchaser would say, '“No, I'll give you one hundred and seventy-five,” Turner's reply was sure to be a plump negative. The bargainer would come again next day, saying, “Well, Mr. Turner, I suppose I must give you your price for that picture : the two hundred guineas.” “No,” is the reply on record, “ that was my price yesterday, but I have changed my mind too; the price of the picture is two hundred and twentyfive guineas." The applicant would go away, and perhaps the next day be glad to secure the painting at another advanced price. (Ibid. ii. 37.)
Of some of Turner's later productions, of the Fallacies of Hope epoch, many profane outsiders might incline to adopt Archdeacon Hare's reply to the query, “What say you to female novels?” a queerly expressed query perhaps, and the answer, be it remembered, was prior to the Currer Bells and George Eliots who have done so much for the art, though Jane Austen and Frederika Bremer were well known to the respondent. “ Were I Tarquin, and the Sibyl came to me with nine wagonloads of them, I am afraid I should allow her to burn all the nine, even though she
in the Drapier's Letters, “I am fond of such a dealer as this, who mends every day upon our hands, like a Dutch reckoning; wherein if you dispute the unreasonableness and exorbitance of the bill, the landlord shall bring it up every time with new additions."
An archæological authority remarks of the medals, inscriptions, roads, and buildings in which the records of the Roman occupation are to be read in this country, that they “are like the books offered by the Sibyl to Tarquin.” Year by year they have been presented to the notice of successive generations, year by year they have suffered loss and mutilation, but still their value seems to grow as their number and magnitude diminish.1 The comparison occurs in the pages of a review masterly
were to threaten that no others should ever be forthcoming hereafter." Would Julius Charles the Venerable have qualified his answer in respect of, or to, our Oliphants, Edwardses, Craiks, Tytlers, Woods, Riddells, and Broughtons ?
1 Saturday Review, vi. 137. In the same week's number there occurs this admonition to a too prolific though a pleasant book maker. “If Mr. White wishes to bring out an amusing book every year, to be forgotten when the year is past, he is entirely in the right path; but if he wishes for anything more permanent he ought to remember the Sibyl.” (vi. 141.)— " İf Oxford is wise in her generation," writes a commentator on the Com. mission of 1859, “she will read and profit by the parable of the Sibyl.” (viii. 732.)-Of the chances of settling the matter of churchrates "with some approach to the claims of equity," it was contended in 1861 that they had never been so good as just then;" and if the Church declines to avail itself of the opportunity, it is not likely to recur. The Sibyl's price will be enhanced when the next offer is made.” (xi. 93.)-Some two months later we read : “The latest volume of the Sibylline books has been tendered to the pope by orthodox, or at least by catholic hands.” (xi. 233.)-And in the May of 1862 the relations between conflicting Federals and Confederates across the Atlantic are thus referred to: “There is nothing Sibylline in the terms of reconciliation which will be offered by the Wash ington government.” (xiii. 575.)-Of the state of the same contending parties in America, towards the close of the year 1866, it is said that even the more temperate Republicans were not indisposed to warn their Southern clients against the risk of unlimited penalties, to be imposed if they failed to effect a speedy compromise. “The Sibylline books are offered at a comparatively reasonable price, and on the next occasion one or more of the volumes will probably be reserved by the vendor. It is, however, not quite certain whether the South or the North may in the present case prove to be the Sibyl.” (xxii. 628.)
A month later the application of the fabula is to Austria : “ Fortunately for Austria, there is yet time for wisdom. The Swabian Tarquin may yet secure the remnant of the Sibyl's books." (xxii. 706.)