Transcriber's Note: Variations in spelling and hyphenation have been left as in the original. A complete list of typographical and punctuation corrections follows the text. Words italicized in the original are surrounded by underscores. In quoted material, a row of asterisks represents an ellipsis. Other ellipses match the original. More notes follow the text.
The Book-Lover's Library.
Henry B. Wheatley, F.S.A.
BOOKS CONDEMNED TO BE BURNT.
BY JAMES ANSON FARRER,
LONDON ELLIOT STOCK, 62, PATERNOSTER ROW 1892
When did books first come to be burnt in England by the common hangman, and what was the last book to be so treated? This is the sort of question that occurs to a rational curiosity, but it is just this sort of question to which it is often most difficult to find an answer. Historians are generally too engrossed with the details of battles, all as drearily similar to one another as scenes of murder and rapine must of necessity be, to spare a glance for the far brighter and more instructive field of the mutations or of the progress of manners. The following work is an attempt to supply the deficiency on this particular subject.
I am indebted to chance for having directed me to the interest of book-burning as an episode in the history of the world's manners, the discursive allusions to it in the old numbers of "Notes and Queries" hinting to me the desirability of a more systematic mode of treatment. To bibliographers and literary historians I conceived that such a work might prove of utility and interest, and possibly serve to others as an introduction and incentive to a branch of our literary history that is not without its fascination. But I must also own to a less unselfish motive, for I imagined that not without its reward of delight would be a temporary sojourn among the books which, for their boldness of utterance or unconventional opinions, were not only not received by the best literary society of their day, but were with ignominy expelled from it. Nor was I wrong in my calculation.
But could I impart or convey the same delight to others? Clearly all that I could do was to invite them to enter on the same road, myself only subserving the humble functions of a signpost. I could avoid merely compiling for them a bibliographical dictionary, but I could not treat at length of each offender in my catalogue, without, in so exhausting my subject, exhausting at the same time my reader's patience. I have tried therefore to give something of the life of their history and times to the authors with whom I came in contact; to cast a little light on the idiosyncrasies or misfortunes of this one or of that; but to do them full justice, and to enable the reader to make their complete acquaintance, how was that possible with any regard for the laws of literary proportion? All I could do was to aim at something less dull than a dictionary, but something far short of a history.
I trust that no one will be either attracted or alarmed by any anticipations suggested by the title of my book. Although primarily a book for the library, it is also one of which no drawing-room table need be the least afraid. If I have found anything in my condemned authors which they would have done better to have left unsaid, I have, in referring to their fortunes, felt under no compulsion to reproduce their indiscretions. But, in all of them put together, I doubt whether there is as much to offend a scrupulous taste as in many a latter-day novel, the claim of which to the distinction of burning is often as indisputable as the certainty of its regrettable immunity from that fiery but fitting fate.
The custom I write about suggests some obvious reflections on the mutability of our national manners. Was the wisdom of our ancestors really so much greater than our own, as many profess to believe? If so, it is strange with how much of that wisdom we have learnt to dispense. One by one their old customs have fallen away from us, and I fancy that if any gentleman could come back to us from the seventeenth century, he would be less astonished by the novel sights he would see than by the old familiar sights he would miss. He would see no one standing in the pillory, no one being burnt at a stake, no one being "swum" for witchcraft, no one's veracity being tested by torture, and, above all, no hangman burning books at Cheapside, no unfortunate authors being flogged all the way from Fleet Street to Westminster. The absence of these things would probably strike him more than even the railways and the telegraph wires. Returning with his old-world ideas, he would wonder how life and property had survived the removal of their time-honoured props, or how, when all fear of punishment had been removed from the press, Church and State were still where he had left them. Reflecting on these things, he would recognise the fact that he himself had been living in an age of barbarism from which we, his posterity, were in process of gradual emergence. What vistas of still further improvement would not then be conjured up before his mind!
We can hardly wonder at our ancestors burning books when we recollect their readiness to burn one another. It was not till the year 1790 that women ceased to be liable to be burnt alive for high or for petit treason, and Blackstone found nothing to say against it. He saw nothing unfair in burning a woman for coining, but in only hanging a man. "The punishment of petit treason," he says, "in a man is to be drawn and hanged, and in a woman to be drawn and burned; the idea of which latter punishment seems to have been handed down to us by the ancient Druids, which condemned a woman to be burnt for murdering her husband, and it is now the usual punishment for all sorts of treasons committed by those of the female sex." Not a suspicion seems to have crossed the great jurist's mind that the supposed barbarity of the Druids was not altogether a conclusive justification for the barbarity of his own contemporaries. So let us take warning from his example, and let the history of our practice of book-burning serve to help us to keep our minds open with regard to anomalies which may still exist amongst us, descended from as suspicious an origin, and as little supported by reason.
PAGE INTRODUCTION 1
CHAPTER I. SIXTEENTH-CENTURY BOOK-FIRES 25
II. BOOK-FIRES UNDER JAMES I 48
III. CHARLES THE FIRST'S BOOK-FIRES 69
IV. BOOK-FIRES OF THE REBELLION 94
V. BOOK-FIRES OF THE RESTORATION 117
VI. BOOK-FIRES OF THE REVOLUTION 136
VII. OUR LAST BOOK-FIRES 170
CONDEMNED TO BE BURNT.
There is the sort of attraction that belongs to all forbidden fruit in books which some public authority has condemned to the flames. And seeing that to collect something is a large part of the secret of human happiness, it occurred to me that a variety of the happiness that is sought in book collecting might be found in making a collection of books of this sort. I have, therefore, put together the following narrative of our burnt literature as some kind of aid to any book-lover who shall choose to take my hint and make the peculiarity I have indicated the key-note to the formation of his library.
But the aid I offer is confined to books so condemned in the United Kingdom. Those who would pursue the study farther afield, and extend their wishes beyond the four seas, will find all the aid they need or desire in Peignot's admirable Dictionnaire Critique, Litteraire, et Bibliographique des principaux Livres condamnes au feu, supprimes ou censures: Paris, 1806. To have extended my studies to cover this wider ground would have swollen my book as well as my labour beyond the limits of my inclination. I may mention that Hart's Index Expurgatorius covers this wider ground for England, as far as it goes.
Nevertheless, I may, perhaps, appropriately, by way of introduction, refer to some episodes and illustrations of book-burning, to show the place the custom had in the development of civilisation, and the distinction of good or bad company and ancient lineage enjoyed by such books as their punishment by burning entitles to places on the shelves of our fire-library. The custom was of pagan observance long before it passed into Christian practice; and for its existence in Greece, and for the first instance I know of, I would refer to the once famous or notorious work of Protagoras, certainly one of the wisest philosophers or sophists of ancient times. He was the first avowed Agnostic, for he wrote a work on the gods, of which the very first remark was that the existence of gods at all he could not himself either affirm or deny. For this offensive sentiment his book was publicly burnt; but Protagoras, could he have foreseen the future, might have esteemed himself happy to have lived before the Christian epoch, when authors came to share with their works the purifying process of fire. The world grew less humane as well as less sensible as it grew older, and came to think more of orthodoxy than of any other condition of the mind.
The virtuous Romans appear to have been greater book-burners than the Greeks, both under the Republic and under the Empire. It was the Senate's function to condemn books to the flames, and the praetor's to see that it was done, generally in the Forum. But for this evil habit we might still possess many valuable works, such as the books attributed to Numa on Pontifical law (Livy xl.), and those eulogies of Paetus Thrasea and Helvidius, which were burnt, and their authors put to death, under the tyranny of Domitian (Tacitus, Agricola 2). Let these cases suffice to connect the custom with Pagan Rome, and to prove that this particular mode of warring with the expression of free thought boasts its precedents in pre-Christian antiquity.
Nevertheless it is the custom as it was manifested in Christian times that has chief interest for us, because it is only with condemned books of this period that we have any chance of practical acquaintance. Some of these survived the flames, whilst none of antiquity's burning have come down to us. But on what principle it was that the burning authorities (in France generally the Parlement of Paris, or of the provinces), burnt some books, whilst others were only censured, condemned, or suppressed, I am unable to say, and I doubt whether any principle was involved. Peignot has noticed the chief books stigmatised by authority in all these various ways; but though undoubtedly this wider view is more philosophical, the view is quite comprehensive enough which confines itself to the consideration of books that were condemned to be burnt.
Books so treated may be classified according as they offended against (i) the religion, (ii) the morals, or (iii) the politics of the day, those against the first being by far the most numerous, and so admitting here of notice only of their most conspicuous specimens.
I. Of all the books burnt for offence under the first head, the most to be regretted, from an historical point of view, I take to be Porphyry's Treatise against the Christians, which was burnt A.D. 388 by order of Theodosius the Great. Porphyry believed that Daniel's prophecies had been written after the events foretold in them by some one who took the name of Daniel. It would have been interesting to have known Porphyry's grounds for this not improbable opinion, as well as his general charges against the Christians; and if there is anything in the tradition of the survival of a copy of Porphyry in one of the libraries of Florence, the testimony of the distinguished Platonist may yet enlighten us on the causes of the growing darkness of the age in which he lived.
All the books of the famous Abelard were burnt by order of Pope Innocent II.; but it was his Treatise on the Trinity, condemned by the Council of Soissons about 1121, and by the Council of Sens in 1140, which chiefly led St. Bernard to his cruel persecution of this famous man. That great saint, using the habitual language of ecclesiastical charity, called Abelard an infernal dragon and the precursor of Antichrist. Among his heresies Abelard seems to have held the opinion that the devil has no power over man; but at all events the Church had in those days, as Abelard learnt to his cost, though, considering that his disciple Arnauld of Brescia was destined to be burnt alive at Rome in 1155, Abelard might have deemed himself fortunate in only incurring imprisonment, and not sharing the fate of his works as well as that of his illustrious follower.
The latter calamity befell John Huss, who, having been led before the bishop's palace to see his own condemned works burnt, was then led on to be burnt himself, in 1415. Many of his works, however, were republished in the following century; but the twenty-nine errors which the Council of Constance detected in his work on the Church would probably nowadays seem venial enough. It was his misfortune to live in those days when the inhumanity of the world was at its climax.
It continued at that climax for some time, though heretical authors were not always burnt with their books. Enjedim, for instance, the Hungarian Socinian, who died in 1596, survived the burning in many places of his "Explanations of Difficult Passages of the Old and New Testament, from which the Dogma of the Trinity is usually established" (Explicationes locorum difficilium, etc.). Peter d'Osma also, the Spanish theologian, whose Treatise on Confession was condemned by the Archbishop of Toledo in the fifteenth century, might have esteemed himself happy that only his chair shared the burning of his book. Pomponacius, an Italian professor of philosophy, whose Treatise on the Immortality of the Soul (1516), was burnt by the Venetians for the heretical opinion that the soul's immortality was not believed by Aristotle, and could only be proved by Scripture and the authority of the Church, seems to have died peacefully in 1526, albeit with the reputation of an atheist, which his writings do not support. Desperiers was only imprisoned when his Cymbalum Mundi, censured by the Sorbonne, was consigned to the flames by the Parlement of Paris (March 7th, 1537). And Luther, all of whose works were condemned to be burnt by the Diet of Worms (1521), actually survived their burning twenty-five years, though he himself had publicly burnt at Wittenberg Leo X.'s bull, anathematising his books, as well as the Decretals of previous Popes.
Less fortunate than these were the famous martyrs of free thought, Dolet, Servetus, and Tyndale. All the works, which Dolet wrote or printed, were burnt as heretical by the Parlement of Paris (February 14th, 1543), and himself hanged and burnt three years later (August 3rd, 1546), at the age of thirty-seven. The reason seems chiefly to have been Dolet's unsparing exposure of the immoralities of monks and priests, and of the plan of the Sorbonne to put down the art of printing in France. In Peignot is preserved a long list of the names of the works to the publication of which he lent his aid.
The burning of Servetus, the Parisian doctor, at Geneva (October 27th, 1553), because his opinions on the Trinity did not agree with Calvin's, is of course the greatest blot on the memory of Calvin. All his books or manuscripts were burnt with him or elsewhere, so that his works are among the rarest of bibliographical treasures, and his Christianismi Restitutio (1553) is said to be the rarest book in the world. But apart from their rarity, I should hardly imagine that the works of Servetus possessed the slightest interest, or that their loss was the smallest loss to the literature of the world.
But if Calvin must bear the burden of the death of Servetus, Christianity itself is responsible for the death of William Tyndale, who, deeming it desirable that his countrymen should possess in their own language the book on which their religion was founded, took the infinite trouble of translating the Scriptures into English. His New Testament was forthwith burnt in London, and himself after some years strangled and burnt at Antwerp (1536).
The same literary persecution continued in the next century, the seventeenth. Bissendorf perished at the hands of the executioner at the same time that his books, Nodi gordii resolutio (on the priestly calling), 1624, and The Jesuits, were burnt by the same agent. In the case of the De Republica Ecclesiastica (1617) by De Dominis, Christian savagery surpassed itself, for not only was it burnt by sentence of the Inquisition, but also the dead body of its author was exhumed for the purpose. Dominis had been a Jesuit for twenty years, then a bishop, and finally Archbishop of Spalatro. This office he gave up, and retired to England, where he might write with greater freedom than in Italy. There he wrote this work and a history of the Council of Trent. His chief offence was his advocacy of the unchristian principles of toleration; he wished to reunite and reconcile the Christian communions. But alas for human frailty! he retracted his errors, many of them most sensible opinions, in London, and again at Rome, whither he returned. Pope Urban VIII., however, imprisoned him in the Castle of St. Angelo, where he is said to have died of poison, so that only his dead body was available to burn with his book the same year (1625). Literary lives were tragic in those times.
Simon Morin was burnt with all the copies of his Pensees that could be found, on the Place de Greve, at Paris, March 14th, 1663. Morin called himself the Son of Man, and such thoughts of his as survived the fire do not lead us in his case to grudge the flames their literary fuel. But it is curious to think that we are only two centuries from the time when the Parlement of Paris could pass such a sentence on such a sufferer.
The Parlement of Dijon condemned to be burnt by the executioner Morisot's Ahitophili Veritatis Lacrymae (July 4th, 1625), but though this work was a violent satire upon the Jesuits, Morisot survived his book thirty-six years, the Jesuits revenging themselves with nothing worse than an epitaph, containing a bad pun, to the effect that their enemy, after a life not spent in wisdom, preferred to die as a fool (Voluit mori-sot).
In the same century Molinos, the Spanish priest, and founder of Quietism, wrote his Conduite Spirituelle, which was condemned to the flames for sixty-eight heretical propositions, whilst its author was consigned to the prisons of the Inquisition, where he died after eleven years of it (1696). Self-absorption of the soul in God to the point of complete indifference to anything done to or by the body, even to the sufferings of the latter in hell, was the doctrine of Quietism that led ecclesiastic authority to feel its usual alarm for consequences; and it must be admitted that similar doctrines have at times played sad havoc with Christian morality. But perhaps they helped Molinos the better to bear his imprisonment.
I may next refer to seventeenth-century writers who were fortunate enough not to share the burning of their books. (1) Wolkelius, a friend of Socinus, the edition of whose book De Vera Religione, published at Amsterdam in 1645, was there burnt by order of the magistrates for its Socinian doctrines, appears to have lived for many years afterwards. Schlicttingius, a Polish follower of the same faith, escaped with expulsion from Poland, when the Diet condemned his book, Confessio Fidei Christianae, to be burnt by the executioner. Sainte Foi, or Gerberon, whose Miroir de la Verite Chretienne was condemned by several bishops and archbishops, and burnt by order of the Parlement of Aix (1678), lived to write other works, of probably as little interest. La Peyrere was only imprisoned at Brussels for his book on the Pre-adamites, which was burnt at Paris (1655). And Pascal saw his famous Lettres a un Provincial, which made too free with the dignity of all authorities, secular and religious, twice burnt, once in French (1657), and once in Latin (1660), without himself incurring a similar penalty. So did Derodon, professor of philosophy at Nismes, outlive the Disputatio (1645), in which he made light of Cyril of Alexandria, and which was condemned and burnt by the Parlement of Toulouse for its opposition to some beliefs of Roman Catholicism.
Passing now to the eighteenth century, we find book-burning, then declining in England, in full vigour on the Continent.
The most important book that so suffered was Rousseau's admirable treatise on education, entitled Emile (1762), condemned by the Parlement of Paris to be torn and burnt at the foot of its great staircase. It was also burnt at Geneva. Three years later the same writer's Lettres de la Montagne were sentenced by the same tribunal to the same fate. Not all burnt books should be read, but Rousseau's Emile is one that should be.
So should the Marquis de Langle's Voyage en Espagne, condemned to the flames in 1788, but translated into English, German, and Italian. De Langle anticipated this fate for his book if it ever passed the Pyrenees: "So much the better," said he; "the reader loves the books they burn, so does the publisher, and the author; it is his blue ribbon." But, considering that he wrote against the Inquisition, and similar inhumanities or follies of Catholicism, De Langle must have been surprised at the burning of his book in Paris itself.
A book at whose burning we may feel less surprise is the Theologie Portative ou Dictionnaire abregede la Religion Chretienne, by the Abbe Bernier (1775), for a long time attributed to Voltaire, but really the work of an apostate monk, Dulaurent, who took refuge in Holland to write this and similar works.
The number of books of a similar strong anti-Catholic tendency that were burnt in these years before the outbreak of the Revolution should be noticed as helping to explain that event. Their titles in most cases may suffice to indicate their nature. De la Mettrie's L'homme Machine (1748) was written and burnt in Holland, its author being a doctor, of whom Voltaire said that he was a madman who only wrote when he was drunk. Of a similar kind was the Testament of Jean Meslier, published posthumously in the Evangile de la Raison, and condemned to the flames about 1765. On June 11th, 1763, the Parlement of Paris ordered to be burnt an anonymous poem, called La Religion a l'Assemblee du Clerge de France, in which the writer depicted in dark colours the morals of the French bishops of the time (1762). On January 29th, 1768, was treated in the same way the Histoire Impartiale des Jesuites of Linguet, whose Annales Politiques in 1779 conducted him to the Bastille, and who ultimately died at the hands of the Revolutionary Tribunal (1794). But the 18th of August, 1770, is memorable for having seen all the seven following books sentenced to burning by the Parlement of Paris:—
1. Woolston's Discours sur les Miracles de Jesus-Christ, translated from the English (1727).
2. Boulanger's Christianisme devoile.
3. Freret's Examen Critique des Apologistes de la Religion Chretienne, 1767.
4. The Examen Impartial des Principales Religions du Monde.
5. Baron d'Holbach's Contagion Sacree, or l'Histoire Naturelle de la Superstition, 1768.
6. Holbach's Systeme de la Nature ou des Lois du Monde Physique et du Monde Moral.
7. Voltaire's Dieu et les Hommes; oeuvre theologique, mais raisonnable (1769).
No one writer, indeed, of the eighteenth century contributed so many books to the flames as Voltaire. Besides the above work, the following of his works incurred the same fate:—(1) the Lettres Philosophiques (1733), (2) the Cantique des Cantiques (1759), (3) the Dictionnaire Philosophique (1764), also burnt at Geneva; (4) L'Homme aux Quarante Ecus (1767), (5) Le Diner du Comte de Boulainvilliers (1767). When we add to these burnings the fact that at least fourteen works of Voltaire were condemned, many others suppressed or forbidden, their author himself twice imprisoned in the Bastille, and often persecuted or obliged to fly from France, we must admit that seldom or never had any writer so eventful a literary career.
II. Turning now to the books that were burnt for their real or supposed immoral tendency, I may refer briefly in chronological order to the following as the principal offenders, though of course there is not always a clear distinction between what was punished as immoral and punished as irreligious. This applies to the four volumes of the works of the Carmelite Mantuanus, published at Antwerp in 1576, of which nearly all the copies were burnt. This facile poet, who is said to have composed 59,000 verses, was especially severe against women and against the ecclesiastical profession. In 1664, the Journal de Louis Gorin de Saint Amour, a satirical work, was condemned, chiefly apparently because it contained the five propositions of Jansenius. In 1623, the Parlement of Paris condemned Theophile to be burnt with his book, Le Parnasse des Poetes Satyriques, but the author escaped with his burning in effigy, and with imprisonment in a dungeon. I am tempted to quote Theophile's impromptu reply to a man who asserted that all poets were fools:—
"Oui, je l'avoue avec vous Que tous les poetes sont fous; Mais sachant ce que vous etes Tous les fous ne sont pas poetes."
Helot also escaped with a burning in effigy when his L'Ecole des Filles was burnt at the foot of the gallows (1672). Lyser, who spent his life and his property in the advocacy of polygamy, was threatened by Christian V. with capital punishment if he appeared in Denmark, and his Discursus Politicus de Polygamia was sentenced to public burning (1677).
In the eighteenth century (1717) Gigli's satire, the Vocabulario di Santa Caterina e della lingua Sanese; Dufresnoy's Princesses Malabares, ou le Celibat Philosophique (1734); Deslandes' Pigmalion ou la Statue Animee (1741); the Jesuit Busembaum's Theologia Moralis (which defends as an act of charity the commission to kill an excommunicated person), (1757); Toussaint's Les Moeurs (1748); and the Abbe Talbert's satirical poem, Langrognet aux Enfers (1760),—seem to complete the list of the principal works burnt by public authority. And of these the best is Toussaint's, who in 1764 published an apology for or retraction of his Moeurs, which has far less claim upon public attention than was obtained and merited by the original work.
III. Books condemned for some unpopular political tendency may likewise be arranged in the order of their centuries.
In the sixteenth, the most important are Louis d'Orleans' Expostulatio (1593), a violent attack on Henri IV., and condemned by the Parlement of Paris; Archbishop Genebrard's De sacrarum electionum jure et necessitate ad Ecclesiae Gallicanae redintegrationem (1593), condemned by the Parlement of Aix, and its author exiled. He maintained the right of the clergy and people to elect bishops against their nomination by the king. It is curious that the Parlement of Paris thought it necessary to burn the Jesuit Mariana's book De Rege (1599) as anti-monarchical, seeing that it appeared with the privilege of the King of Spain. He maintained the right of killing a king for the cause of religion, and called Jacques Clement's act of assassination France's everlasting glory (Galliae aeternum decus). But it is only fair to add that the superior of the Order disapproved of the work as much as the Sorbonne.
In the seventeenth century, I notice first the Ecclesiasticus of Scioppius, a work directed against our James I. and Casaubon (1611). The libel having been burnt in London, and its author hanged and beaten in effigy before the king on the stage, was burnt in Paris by order of the Parlement, chiefly for its calumnies on Henri IV. The author, originally a Jesuit, has been called the Attila of writers, having been said to have known the abusive terms of all tongues, and to have had them on the tip of his own. He wrote 104 works, apparently of the violent sort, so that Casaubon called him, according to the style of learned men in those days, "the most cruel of all wild beasts," whilst the Jesuits called him "the public pest of letters and society."
The Senate of Venice caused to be burnt the Della Liberta Veneta, by a man who called himself Squitinio (1612), because it denied the independence of the Republic, and asserted that the Emperor had rightful claims over it; and about the same time (1617) the Parlement of Paris consigned to the same penalty D'Aubigne's Histoire Universelle for the freedom of its satire on Charles IX., Henri III., Henri IV., and other French royal personages of the time. The second edition of D'Aubigne (1626) is the poorer for being shorn of these caustic passages.
The Jesuit Keller's Admonitio ad Ludovicum XIII. (1625), and the same author's Mysteria Politica, (1625), were both sentenced to be burnt; also the Jesuit Sanctarel's Tractatus de Haeresi (1625), which claimed for the Pope the right to dispose, not only of the thrones, but also of the lives of princes. This doctrine was approved by the General of the Jesuits, but, under threat of being accounted guilty of treason, expressly disclaimed by the Jesuits as a body. In resisting such pretensions, the Sorbonne deserved well of France and of humanity. In 1665, the Chatelet ordered to be burnt Claude Joly's Recueil des Maximes veritables et importantes pour l'Institution du Roi, contre la fausse et pernicieuse politique de Cardinal pretendu surintendant de l'education de Louis XIV. (1652); a book which, if it had been regarded instead of being burnt, might have altered the character of that pernicious devastator, and therefore of history itself, very much for the better. About the same time, Milton's Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio, not to be burnt in England till the Restoration, had a foretaste in Paris of its ultimate fate. Eustache le Noble's satire against the Dutch, Dialogue d'Esope et de Mercure, and burnt by the executioner at Amsterdam, may complete the list of political works that paid for their offences by fire in the seventeenth century.
The first to notice in the next century is Giannone's Historia Civile de Regno di Napoli (1723), in five volumes, burnt by the Inquisition, which, but for his escape, would have suppressed the author as well as his book, for his free criticism of Popes and ecclesiastics. His escape saved the eighteenth century from the reproach of burning a writer. Next deserves a passing allusion the Historia Nostri Temporis, by the once famous writer Emmius, whose posthumous book suffered at the hands of George Albert, Prince of East Frisia. The Parlement of Toulouse condemned Reboulet's Histoire des Filles de la Congregation de l'Enfance (1734) for accusing Madame de Moudonville, the founder of that convent, of publishing libels against the king. That of Paris and Besancon condemned Boncerf's Des Inconveniens des Droits Feodaux (1770).
The number, indeed, of political works burnt during the eighth decade of the last century is as remarkable as the number of religious books so treated about the same period: one of the lesser indications of the coming Revolution. During this decade were condemned: (1) Pidanzet's Correspondance secrete familiere de Chancelier Maupeon avec Sorhouet (1771) for being blasphemous and seditious, and calculated to rouse people against government; a work that made sport of Maupeon and his Parlement. (2) Beaumarchais' Memoires (1774), of the literary style of which Voltaire himself is said to have been jealous, but which was condemned to the flames for its imputations on the powers that were. (3) Lanjuinais' Monarque Accompli (1774), whose other title explains why it was condemned, as tending to sedition and revolt, Prodiges de bonte, de savoir, et de sagesse, qui font l'eloge de Sa Majeste Imperiale Joseph II., et qui rendent cet auguste monarque si precieux a l'humanite, discutes au tribunal de la raison et l'equite. Lanjuinais, principal of a Catholic college in Switzerland, passed over to the Reformed Religion. (4) Martin de Marivaux's L'Ami des Lois (1775), a pamphlet, in which the author protested against the words put into the mouth of the king by Chancellor Maupeon, Sept. 7th, 1770: "We hold our Crown of God alone; the right of law-making, without dependence or partition, belongs to us alone." The author contended that the Crown was held only of the nation, and he excited the vengeance of the Crown by sending a copy of his work to each member of the Parlement. At the same time, to the same penalty and for the same offence, was condemned to the flames Le Catechisme du Citoyen, ou Elemens du Droit public Francais, par demandes et par reponses; the episode, and the origin of the dispute, clearly pointing to the rapidly approaching Revolutionary whirlwind, the spirit of which these literary productions anticipated and expressed.
The last book I find to notice is the Abbe Raynal's Histoire philosophique et politique des Etablissemens et du Commerce des Europeens dans les Deux Indes, published in 1771 at Geneva, and, after a first attempt at suppression in 1779, finally burnt by the order of the Parlement of Paris of May 25th, 1781, as impious, blasphemous, seditious, and the rest. Like many another eminent writer, Raynal had started as a Jesuit.
From the above illustrations of the practice abroad, we may turn to a more detailed account of its history in England. Although in France it was much more common than in England during the eighteenth century, it appears to have come to an end in both countries about the same time. I am not aware of any proofs that it survived the French Revolution, and it is probable that that event, directly or indirectly, put an end to it. In England it seems gradually to have dwindled, and to have become extinct before the end of the century. If the same was the case in other countries, it would afford another instance of the fundamental community of development which seems to govern at least our part of the civilised world, regardless of national differences or boundaries. The different countries of the world seem to throw off evil habits, or to acquire new habits, with a degree of simultaneity which is all the more remarkable for being the result of no sort of agreement. At one time, for instance, they throw off Jesuitism, at another the practice of torture, at another the judicial ordeal, at another burnings for heresy, at another trials for witchcraft, at another book-burning; and now the turn seems approaching of war, or the trade of professional murder. The custom here to be dealt with, therefore, holds its place in the history of humanity, and is as deserving of study as any other custom whose rise and decline constitute a phase in the world's development.
SIXTEENTH CENTURY BOOK-FIRES.
Fire, which is the destruction of so many things, and destined, according to old Indian belief, one day to destroy the world, is so peculiarly the enemy of books, that the worm itself is not more fatal to them. Whole libraries have fallen a prey to the flames, and oftener, alas! by design than accident; the warrior always, whether Alexander at Persepolis, Antiochus at Jerusalem, Caesar and Omar at Alexandria, or General Ulrich at Strasburg (in 1870), esteeming it among the first duties of his barbarous calling to consign ideas and arts to destruction.
But these are the fires of indiscriminate rage, due to the natural antagonism between civilisation and military barbarism; it is fire, discriminately applied, that attaches a special interest and value to books condemned to it. Whether the sentence has come from Pope or Archbishop, Parliament or King, the book so sentenced has a claim on our curiosity, and as often on our respect as our disdain. Fire, indeed, has been spoken of as the blue ribbon of literature, and many a modern author may fairly regret that such a distinction is no longer attainable in these days of enlightened advertisement.
To collect books that have been dishonoured—or honoured—in this way, books that at the risk of heavy punishment have been saved from the public fire or the common hangman, is no mean amusement for a bibliophile. Some collect books for their bindings, some for their rarity, a minority for their contents; but he who collects a fire-library makes all these considerations secondary to the associations of his books with the lives of their authors and their place in the history of ideas. Perhaps he is thereby the more rational collector, if reason at all need be considered in the matter; for if my whim pleases myself, let him go hang who disdains or disapproves of it.
All the books of such a library are not, of course, suitable for general reading, there being not a few disgraceful ones among them that fully deserved the stigma intended for them. But most are innocent enough, and many of them as dull as the authors of their condemnation; whilst others, again, are so sparkling and well written that I wish it were possible to rescue them from the oblivion that enshrouds them even more thickly than the dust of centuries. The English books of this sort naturally stand apart from their foreign rivals, and may be roughly classified according as they deal with the affairs of State or Church. The original flavour has gone from many of them, like the scent from dried flowers, with the dispute or ephemeral motive that gave rise to them; but a new flavour from that very fact has taken the place of the old, of the same sort that attaches to the relics of extinct religions or of bygone forms of life.
The history of our country since the days of printing is exactly reflected in its burnt literature, and so little has the public fire been any respecter of class or dignity, that no branch of intellectual activity has failed to contribute some author whose work, or works, has been consigned to the flames. Our greatest poets, philosophers, bishops, lawyers, novelists, heads of colleges, are all represented in my collection, forming indeed a motley but no insipid society, wherein the gravest questions of government and the deepest problems of speculation are handled with freedom, and men who were most divided in their lives meet at last in a common bond of harmony. Cowell, the friend of prerogative, finds himself here side by side with Milton, the republican; and Sacheverell, the high churchman, in close company with Tindal and Defoe.
For nearly 300 years the rude censorship of fire was applied to literature in England, beginning naturally in that fierce religious war we call the Reformation, which practically constitutes the history of England for some two centuries. The first grand occasion of book-burning was in response to the Pope's sentence against Martin Luther, when Wolsey went in state to St. Paul's, and many of Luther's publications were burned in the churchyard during a sermon against them by Fisher, Bishop of Rochester (1521).
But the first printed work by an Englishman that was so treated was actually the Gospel. The story is too familiar to repeat, of the two occasions on which Tyndale's New Testament in English was burnt before Old St. Paul's; but in pausing to reflect that the book which met with this fiery fate, and whose author ultimately met with the same, is now sold in England by the million (for our received version is substantially Tyndale's), one can only stand aghast at the irony of the fearful contrast, which so widely separated the labourer from his triumph. But perhaps we can scarcely wonder that our ancestors, after centuries of mental blindness, should have tried to burn the light they were unable to bear, causing it thereby only to shine the brighter.
It certainly spread with remarkable celerity; for in 1546 it became necessary to command all persons possessing them to deliver to the bishop, or sheriff, to be openly burnt, all works in English purporting to be written by Frith, Tyndale, Wicliff, Joye, Basil, Bale, Barnes, Coverdale, Turner, or Tracy. The extreme rarity and costliness of the works of these men are the measure of the completeness with which this order was carried out; but not of its success, for the ideas survived the books which contained them. A list of the books is given in Foxe (v. 566), and comprises twelve by Coverdale, twenty-eight by Bale, thirteen by Basil (alias Becon), ten by Frith, nine by Tyndale, seven by Joye, six by Turner, three by Barnes. Some of these may still be read, but more are non-existent. A complete account of them and their authors would almost amount to a history of the Reformation itself; but as they were burnt indiscriminately, as heretical books, they have not the same interest that attaches to books specifically condemned as heretical or seditious. Such of them, however, as a book-lover can light upon—and pay for—are, of course, treasures of the highest order.
Great numbers of books were burnt in the reigns of Edward VI. and Mary, but it is not till the reign of the latter that a particular book stands forward as maltreated in this way. And, indeed, so many men were burnt in the reign of Queen Mary, that the burning of particular books may well have passed unnoticed, though pyramids of Protestant volumes, as Mr. D'Israeli says, were burnt in those few years of intolerance rampant and triumphant. The Historie of Italie, by William Thomas (1549), is sometimes said (on what authority I know not) to have been not merely burnt, but burnt by the common hangman, at this time. If so, it is the first that achieved a distinction which is generally claimed for Prynne's Histriomastix (1633). The fact of the mere burning is of itself likely enough, for Thomas wrote very freely of the clergy at Rome and of Pope Paul III.: "By report, Rome is not without 40,000 harlots, maintained for the most part by the clergy and their followers." "Oh! what a world it is to see the pride and abomination that the churchmen there maintain." Yet Thomas himself had held a Church living, and had been clerk of the Council to Edward VI. He was among the ablest men of his time, and wrote, among other works, a lively defence of Henry VIII. in a work called Peregryne, on the title-page of which are these lines:
"He that dieth with honour, liveth for ever, And the defamed dead recovereth never."
And a sadly inglorious death was destined to be his own. For, shortly after Wyatt's insurrection, he was sent to the Tower, Wyatt at his own trial declaring that the conspiracy to assassinate Queen Mary when out walking was Thomas's, he himself having been opposed to it. For this cause, at all events, Thomas was hanged and quartered in May 1554, and his head set the next day upon London Bridge. He assured the crowd, in a speech before his execution, that he died for his country. Wood says he was of a hot, fiery spirit, that had sucked in damnable principles. Possibly they were not otherwise than sensible, for if he died on Wyatt's evidence alone, one cannot feel sure that he died justly. But had the insurrection only succeeded, it is curious to think what an amount of misery might have been spared to England, and how dark a page been lacking from the history of Christianity!
Thomas's book was republished in 1561: but the first edition, that of 1549, is, of course, the right one to possess; though its fate has caused it to be extremely rare.
Coming now to Queen Elizabeth's reign, the comparative rarity of book-burning is an additional testimony to the wisdom of her government. But (to say nothing of books that were prohibited or got their printers or authors into trouble) certain works, religious, political, and poetical, achieved the distinction of being publicly burnt, and they are works that curiously illustrate the manners of the time.
The most important under the first of these heads are the translations of the works of Hendrick Niclas, of Leyden, Father of the Family of Love, or House of Charity, which were thought dangerous enough to be burnt by Royal Proclamation on October 13th, 1579; so that such works as the Joyful Message of the Kingdom, Peace upon Earth, the Prophecy of the Spirit of Love, and others, are now exceedingly rare and costly. There are many extracts from the first of these in Knewstub's Confutation "of its monstrous and horrible blasphemies" (1579), wherein I fail to recognise either the blasphemies or their confutation, nor do I find anything but sense in Niclas's letter to two daughters of Warwick, whom he seeks to dissuade from suffering death on a matter of conformity to certain Church ceremonies. He insists on the life or spirit of Christ as of more importance than any ceremony. "How well would they do who do now extol themselves before the simple, and say that they are the preachers of Christ, if they would first learn to know Christ before they made themselves ministers of Him!" "Whatever is served without the Spirit of Christ, it is an abomination to God." Nevertheless the young persons seem to have preferred death to his very sensible advice.
Probably the Family of Love were misunderstood and misrepresented, both as regards their doctrines and their practices. Camden says that "under a show of singular integrity and sanctity they insinuated themselves into the affections of the ignorant common people"; that they regarded as reprobate all outside their Family, and deemed it lawful to deny on oath whatsoever they pleased. Niclas, according to Fuller, "wanted learning in himself and hated it in others." This is a failing so common as to be very probable, as it also is, that his disciples allegorised the Scriptures (like the Alexandrian Fathers before them), and counterfeited revelations. Fuller adds that they "grieved the Comforter, charging all their sins on God's Spirit, for not effectually assisting them against the same . . . sinning on design that their wickedness might be a foil to God's mercy, to set it off the brighter." But that they were Communists, Anarchists, or Libertines, there is no evidence; and the Queen's menial servant who wrote and presented to Parliament an apology for the Service of Love probably complained with justice of their being "defamed with many manner of false reports and lies." This availed nothing, however, against public opinion; and so the Queen commanded by proclamation "that the civil magistrate should be assistant to the ecclesiastical, and that the books should be publicly burnt." The sect, however, long survived the burning of its books.
But already it was not enough to burn books of an unpopular tendency, cruelty against the author being plainly progressive from this time forward to the atrocious penalties afterwards associated with the presence of Laud in the Star Chamber. All our histories tell of John Stubbs, of Lincoln's Inn, who, when his right hand had been cut off for a literary work, with his left hand waved his hat from his head and cried, "Long live the Queen!" The punishment was out of all proportion to the offence. Men had a right to feel anxious when Elizabeth seemed on the point of marrying the Catholic Duke of Anjou. They remembered the days of Mary, and feared, with reason, the return of Catholicism. Stubbs gave expression to this fear in a work entitled the Discoverie of a Gaping Gulf whereinto England is like to be swallowed by another French marriage, if the Lord forbid not the banes by letting her Majestie see the sin and punishment thereof (1579). Page, the disperser of the book, suffered the same penalty as its author.
The book made a great stir and was widely circulated, much to the vexation of the Queen. On September 27th appeared a very long proclamation calling it "a lewd, seditious book . . . bolstered up with manifest lies, &c.," and commanding it, wherever found, "to be destroyed (= burnt) in open sight of some public officer." The book itself is written with moderation and respect, if we make allowance for the questionable taste of writing on so delicate a subject at all. It is true that he calls France "a den of idolatry, a kingdom of darkness, confessing Belial and serving Baal"; nor does he spare the personal character of the Duke himself: he only desires that her Majesty may marry with such a house and such a person "as had not provoked the vengeance of the Lord." But plain speaking was needed, and it is possible that the offensive book had something to do with saving the Queen from a great folly and the nation from as great a danger.
Stubbs, one is glad to find, though maimed, was neither disgraced nor disheartened by his misfortune. He learnt to write with his left hand, and wrote so much better with that than many people with their right, that Lord Burleigh employed him many years afterwards (1587) to compose an answer to Cardinal Allen's work, A Modest Answer to English Persecutors. After that I lose sight of Stubbs.
The strong feeling against Episcopacy, which first meets us in works like Fish's Supplication of Beggars, or Tyndale's Practice of Prelates, and which found vent at last, as a powerful contributory cause, in the Revolution of the seventeenth century, was most clearly pronounced under Elizabeth in the famous tracts known as those of Martin Marprelate; and among these most bitterly in a small work that was burnt by order of the bishops, entitled a Dialogue wherein is plainly laide open the tyrannical dealing of Lord Bishops against God's Church, with certain points of doctrine, wherein they approve themselves (according to D. Bridges his judgement) to be truely Bishops of the Divell (1589). This is shown in a sprightly dialogue between a Puritan and a Papist, a jack of both sides, and an Idol (i.e., church) minister, wherein the most is made of such facts as that the Bishop of St. David's was summoned before the High Commission for having two wives living, and that Bishop Culpepper, of Oxford, was fond of hawking and hunting. It is significant that this little tract was reprinted in 1640, on the eve of the Revolution.
I pass now to a book of great political and historical interest: The Conference about the Succession to the Crown of England (1594), attributed to Doleman, but really the handiwork of Parsons, the Jesuit, Cardinal Allen, and others. In the first part, a civil lawyer shows at length that lineal descent and propinquity of blood are not of themselves sufficient title to the Crown; whilst in the second part a temporal lawyer discusses the titles of particular claimants to the succession of Queen Elizabeth. Among these, that of the Earl of Essex, to whom the book was dedicated, is discussed; the object of the book being to baffle the title of King James to the succession, and to fix it either on Essex or the Infanta of Spain. No wonder it gave great offence to the Queen, for it advocated also the lawfulness of deposing her; and it throws some light on those intrigues with the Jesuits which at one time formed so marked an incident in the eventful career of that unfortunate earl. Great efforts were made to suppress it, and there is a tradition that the printer was hanged, drawn, and quartered.
The book itself has played no small part in our history, for not only was Milton's Defensio mainly taken from it, but it formed the chief part of Bradshaw's long speech at the condemnation of Charles I. In 1681, when Parliament was debating the subject of the exclusion of the Duke of York from the succession, it was thought well to reprint it; but only two years later it was among the books which had the honour of being condemned to the flames by the University of Oxford, in its famous and loyal book-fire of 1683 (see p. 194).
But if the history of the book was eventful, how much more so was that of its chief author, the famous Robert Parsons, first of Balliol College, and then of the Order of Jesus! Parsons was a very prince of intrigue. To say that he actually tried to persuade Philip II. to send a second Armada; that he tried to persuade the Earl of Derby to raise a rebellion, and then is suspected of having poisoned him for not consenting; that he instigated an English Jesuit to try to assassinate the Queen; and, among other plans, wished to get the Pope and the Kings of France and Spain to appoint a Catholic successor to Elizabeth, and to support their nominee by an armed confederacy, is to give but the meagre outline of his energetic career. The blacksmith's son certainly made no small use of his time and abilities. His life is the history in miniature of that of his order as a body; that same body whose enormous establishments in England at this day are in such bold defiance of the Catholic Emancipation Act, which makes even their residence in this kingdom illegal.
Doleman's Conference was answered in a little book by Peter Wentworth, entitled A Pithy Exhortation to Her Majesty for establishing her Successor to the Crown, in which the author advocated the claims of James I. The book was written in terms of great humility and respect, the author not being ignorant, as he quaintly says, "that the anger of a Prince is as the roaring of a Lyon, and even the messenger of Death." But this he was to learn by personal experience, for the Queen, incensed with him for venturing to advise her, not only had his book burnt, but sent him to the Tower, where, like so many others, he died. So at least says a printed slip in the Grenville copy of his book.
But Wentworth is better and more deservedly remembered for his speeches than for his book—his famous speeches in 1575, and again in 1587, in Parliament in defence of the Commons' Right of Free Speech, for both of which he was temporarily committed to the Tower. Rumours of what would please or displease the Queen, or messages from the Queen, like that prohibiting the House to interfere in matters of religion, in those days reduced the voice of the House to a nullity. Wentworth's chief question was, "Whether this Council be not a place for any member of the same here assembled, freely and without control of any person or danger of laws, by bill or speech to utter any of the griefs of this Commonwealth whatsoever, touching the service of God, the safety of the prince and this noble realm." Yet so servile was the House of that period, that on both occasions it disclaimed and condemned its advocate—on the first occasion actually not allowing him to finish his speech. Yet, fortunately, both his speeches live, well reported in the Parliamentary Debates.
To pass from politics to poetry; little as Archbishop Whitgift's proceedings in the High Commission endear his name to posterity, I am inclined to think he may be forgiven for cleansing Stationers' Hall by fire, in 1599, of certain works purporting to be poetical; such works, namely, as Marlowe's Elegies of Ovid, which appeared in company with Davies's Epigrammes, Marston's Metamorphosis of Pigmalion's Image, Hall's Satires, and Cutwode's Caltha Poetarum; or, The Bumble Bee. The latter is a fantastic poem of 187 stanzas about a bee and a marigold, and deserved the fire rather for its insipidity than for the reasons which justified the cleansing process applied to the others, the youthful productions of men who were destined to attain celebrity in very different directions of life.
Marlowe, like Shakespeare, from an actor became a writer of plays; but though Ben Jonson extolled his "mighty muse," I doubt whether his Edward II., Dr. Faustus, or Jew of Malta, are now widely popular. Anthony Wood has left a very disagreeable picture of Marlowe's character, which one would fain hope is overdrawn; but the dramatist's early death in a low quarrel prevented him from ever redeeming his early offences, as a kinder fortune permitted to his companions in the Stationers' bonfire.
Marston came to be more distinguished for his Satires than for his plays, his Scourge of Villainie being his chief title to fame. Of his Pigmalion all that can be said is, that it is not quite so bad as Marlowe's Elegies. Warton justly says, with pompous euphemism: "His stream of poetry, if sometimes bright and unpolluted, almost always betrays a muddy bottom." But this muddy bottom is discernible, not in Marston alone, but also in Hall's Virgidemiarum, or Satires, of which Warton did all he could to revive the popularity. Hall was Marston's rival at Cambridge, but Hall claims to be the first English satirist. He took Juvenal for his model, but the Latin of Juvenal seems to me far less obscure than the English of Hall. I quote two lines to show what this Cambridge student thought of the great Elizabethan period in which he lived. Referring to some remote golden age, he says:—
"Then men were men; but now the greater part Beasts are in life, and women are in heart."
But strange are the evolutions of men. The author of the burnt satires rose from dignity to dignity in the Church. He became successively Bishop of Exeter and Bishop of Norwich, and to this day his devotional works are read by thousands who have never heard of his satires. He was sent as a deputy to the famous Synod of Dort, and was faithful to his Church and king through the Civil War. For this in his old age he suffered sequestration and imprisonment, and he lived to see his cathedral turned into a barrack, and his palace into an ale-house, dying shortly before the Restoration, in 1656, at the age of 82. Bayle thought him worthy of a place in his Dictionary, but he is still worthier of a place in our memories as one of those great English bishops who, like Burnet, Butler, or Tillotson, never put their Church before their humanity, but showed (what needed showing) that the Christianity of the clergy was not of necessity synonymous with the absolute negation of charity.
Davies, too, Marlowe's early friend, rose to fame both as a poet and a statesman. But he began badly. He was disbarred from the Middle Temple for breaking a club over the head of another law student in the very dining-hall. After that he became member for Corfe Castle, and then successively Solicitor-General and Attorney-General for Ireland. He was knighted in 1607. One of the best books on that unhappy country is his Discovery of the true causes why Ireland was never entirely subdued, nor brought under obedience of the Crown of England until the beginning of Her Majesty's happy reign (1611), dedicated to James I. His chief poems are his Nosce Teipsum and The Orchestra. In 1614 he was elected for Newcastle-under-Lyme, and he died in 1626, aged only 57. Yet in that time he had travelled a long way from the days of his early literary companionship with Christopher Marlowe.
The Church at the end of the sixteenth century assuredly aimed high. At the time the above books were burnt, it was decreed that no satires or epigrams should be printed in the future; and that no plays should be printed without the inspection and permission of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London! But even this is nothing compared with that later attempt to subject the Press to the Church which called forth Milton's Areopagitica; there indeed soon came to be very little to choose between the Inquisition of the High Commission and the more noxious Inquisition of Rome.
Near to the burnt works of the previous writers must be placed those of that prolific writer of the same period, Samuel Rowlands. The severity of his satire, and the obviousness of the allusions, caused two of his works to be burnt, first publicly, and then in the hall kitchen of the Stationers' Company, in October 1600. These were: The Letting Humour's Blood in the Headvein, and, A Merry Meeting; or, 'tis Merry when Knaves meet; both of which subsequently reappeared under the titles respectively of Humour's Ordinarie, where a man may be verie merrie and exceeding well used for his sixpence, and the Knave of Clubs. Either work would now cost much more than sixpence, and probably fail to make the reader very merry, or even merry at all. One of the epigrams, however, of the first work may be quoted as of more than ephemeral truth and interest:—
"Who seeks to please all men each way, And not himself offend, He may begin his work to-day, But God knows when he'll end."
Little appears to be known of Rowlands, but, like Bishop Hall, he could turn his pen to various purposes with great facility; for the prayers which he is thought to have composed, and which are published with the rest of his works in the admirable edition of 1870, are of as high an order of merit as the religious works of his more famous contemporary.
The only wonder is that the Archbishop did not enforce the burning of much more of the literature of the Elizabethan period, whilst he was engaged on such a crusade. He may well, however, have shrunk appalled from the magnitude of the task, and have thought it better to touch the margin than do nothing at all. And, after all, in those days a poet was lucky if they only burnt his poems, and not himself as well. In 1619 John Williams, barrister, was actually hanged, drawn, and quartered, for two poems which were not even printed, but which exist in manuscript at Cambridge to this day. These were Balaam's Ass and the Speculum Regale. Williams was indiscreet enough to predict the King's death in 1621, and to send the poems secretly to his Majesty in a box. The odd thing is that he thought himself justly punished for his foolish freak, so very peculiar were men's notions of justice in those far-off barbarous days.
BOOK-FIRES UNDER JAMES I.
Despite Mr. D'Israeli's able defence of him, the fashion has survived of speaking disdainfully of James I. and all his works. The military men of his day, hating him for that wise love of peace which saved us at least from one war on the Continent, complained of a king who preferred to wage war with the pen than with the pike, and vented his anger on paper instead of with powder. But for all that, the patron and friend of Ben Jonson, and the constant promoter of arts and letters, was one of the best literary workmen of his time; nor will any one who dips into his works fail to put them aside without a considerably higher estimate than he had before of the ability of the most learned king that ever occupied the British throne—a monarch unapproached by any of his successors, save William III., in any sort of intellectual power.
Yet here our admiration for James I. must perforce stop. For of many of his ideas the only excuse is that they were those of his age; and this is an excuse that is fatal to a claim to the highest order of merit. All men to some extent are the sport and victims of their intellectual surroundings; but it is the mark of superiority to rise above them, and this James I. often failed to do. He cannot, for instance, in this respect compare with a man whose works he persecuted, namely, Reginald Scot, who in 1584 published his immortal Discoverie of Witchcraft, a book which, alike for its motive as its matter, occupies one of the highest places in the history of the literature of Europe.
Yet Scot was only a Kentish country gentleman, who gave himself up solely, says Wood, to solid reading and the perusal of obscure but neglected authors, diversifying his studies with agriculture, and so producing the first extant treatise on hops. Nevertheless, he is among the heroes of the world, greater for me at least than any one of our most famous generals, for it was at the risk of his life that he wrote, as he says himself, "in behalf of the poor, the aged, and the simple"; and if he has no monument in our English Pantheon, he has a better and more abiding one in the hearts of all the well-wishers of humanity. For his reading led him to the assault of one of the best established, most sacred, yet most stupid, of the superstitions of mankind; and to have exposed both the folly of the belief, and the cruelty of the legal punishments, of witchcraft, more justly entitles his memory to honour than the capture of many stormed cities or the butchery of thousands of his fellow-beings on a battlefield.
How trite is the argument that this or that belief must be true because so many generations have believed it, so many countries, so many famous men,—as if error, like stolen property, gained a title from prescription of time! Scot pierced this pretension with a single sentence: "Truth must not be measured by time, for every old opinion is not sound." "My great adversaries," he says, "are young ignorance and old custom. For what folly soever tract of time hath fostered, it is so superstitiously pursued of some as though no error could be acquainted with custom." May we not say, indeed, that beliefs are rendered suspect by the very extent of their currency and acceptance?
But Scot had a greater adversary than even young ignorance or old custom; and that was King James, who, whilst King of Scotland, wrote his Demonologie against Scot's ideas (1597). James's mind was strictly Bible-bound, and for him the disbelief in witches savoured of Sadduceeism, or the denial of spirits. Yet Scot had taken care to guard himself, for he wrote: "I deny not that there are witches or images; but I detest the idolatrous opinions conceived of them." Nor can James have carefully read Scot, for tacked on to the Discoverie is a Discourse of Devils and Spirits, which to the simplest Sadducee would have been the veriest trash. Scot, for instance, says of the devil that "God created him purposely to destroy. I take his substance to be such as no man can by learning define, nor by wisdom search out"; a conclusion surely as wise as the theology is curious. Anyhow it is the very reverse of Sadduceean. It is said that one of the first proceedings of James's reign was to have all the copies of Scot's book burnt that could be seized, and undoubtedly one of the first of his Acts of Parliament was the statute that made all the devices of witchcraft punishable with death, as felony, without benefit of clergy.
But about the burning there is room for doubt. For there is no English contemporary testimony of the fact. Voet, a professor of theology in Holland, is its only known contemporary witness; but he may have assumed the suppression of the book to have been identical with its burning; a common assumption, but a no less common mistake. On the other hand, many books undoubtedly were burnt under James that are not mentioned by name; and the great rarity of the first edition of the book, and its absence from some of our principal libraries, support the possibility of its having been among them.[52:1] Nevertheless, to quote Mr. D'Israeli: "On the King's arrival in England, having discovered the numerous impostures and illusions which he had often referred to as authorities, he grew suspicious of the whole system of Daemonologie, and at length recanted it entirely. With the same conscientious zeal James had written the book, the King condemned it; and the sovereign separated himself from the author, in the cause of truth; but the clergy and the Parliament persisted in making the imaginary crime felony by the statute." So that if James really burnt the book, he must have burnt it to please others, not himself; and though he may have done so, the presumption is rather that he did not.
The wonder is that Scot himself escaped the real or supposed fate of his book. Pleasing indeed is it to know that he lived out his days undisturbed to the end (1599) with his family and among his hops and flowers in Kent; not, however, before he had lived to see his book make a perceptible impression on the magistracy and even on the clergy of his time, till a perceptible check was given to his ideas by the Demonologie. But at all events he had given superstition a reeling blow, from which it never wholly recovered, and to which it ultimately succumbed. More than this can few men hope to do, and to have done so much is ample cause for contentment.
Fundamental questions of all sorts were growing critical in the reign of James, who had not only the clearest ideas of their answer, but the firmest determination to have them, if possible, answered in his own way. The principal ones were: The relationship of the King to his subjects; of the Pope to kings; of the Established Church to Puritanism and Catholicism. And on the leading political and religious questions of his day James caused certain books to be burnt which advocated opinions contrary to his own—a mode of reasoning that reflects less credit on his philosophy than does his conduct in most other respects.
But the first book that was burnt for its sentiments on Prerogative was one of which the King was believed personally to approve. This was probably the gist of its offence, for it appeared about the time that the King made his very supercilious speech to the Commons in answer to their complaints about the High Commission and other grievances.
I allude to the famous Interpreter (1607) by Cowell, Doctor of Civil Law at Cambridge, which, written at the instigation of Archbishop Bancroft, was dedicated to him, and caused a storm little dreamt of by its author. Sir E. Coke disliked Cowell, whom he nicknamed Cow-heel, and naturally disliked him still more for writing slightingly of Littleton and the Common Law. He therefore caused Parliament to take the matter up, with the result that Cowell was imprisoned and came near to hanging;[54:1] James only saving his life by suppressing his book by proclamation, for which the Commons returned him thanks with great exultation over their victory.
For Cowell had taken too strongly the high monarchical line, and the episode of his book is really the first engagement in that great war between Prerogative and People which raged through the seventeenth century. "I hold it uncontrollable," he wrote, "that the King of England is an absolute king." "Though it be a merciful policy, and also a politic policy (not alterable without great peril) to make laws by the consent of the whole realm . . . yet simply to bind the prince to or by these laws were repugnant to the nature and custom of an absolute monarchy." "For those regalities which are of the higher nature there is not one that belonged to the most absolute prince in the world which doth not also belong to our King." But the book was condemned, not only for its sins against the Subject, but also for passages that were said to pinch on the authority of the King. Yet, considered merely as a Law Dictionary, it is still one of the best in our language.
In the King's proclamation against the Interpreter are some passages that curiously illustrate the mind of its author. He thus complains of the growing freedom of thought: "From the very highest mysteries of the Godhead and the most inscrutable counsels in the Trinitie to the very lowest pit of Hell and the confused action of the divells there, there is nothing now unsearched into by the curiositie of men's brains"; so that "it is no wonder that they do not spare to wade in all the deepest mysteries that belong to the persons or the state of Kinges and Princes, that are gods upon earth." King James's attitude to Free Thought reminds one of the legendary contention between Canute and the sea. No one has ever repeated the latter experiment, but how many thousands still disquiet themselves, as James did, about or against the progress of the human mind!
In the proclamation itself there is no actual mention of burning, all persons in possession of the book being required to deliver their copies to the Lord Mayor or County Sheriffs "for the further order of its utter suppression" (March 25th, 1610); neither is there any allusion to burning in the Parliamentary journals, nor in the letters relating to the subject in Winwood's Memorials. The contemporary evidence of the fact is, however, supplied by Sir H. Spelman, who says in his Glossarium (under the word "Tenure") that Cowell's book was publicly burnt. Otherwise, James's proclamations were not always attended to (by one, for instance, he prohibited hunting); and Roger Coke says that the books being out, "the proclamation could not call them in, but only served to make them more taken notice of."[57:1]
That books were often suppressed or called in without being publicly burnt is well shown by Heylin's remark about Mocket's book (presently referred to), that it was "thought fit not only to call it in, but to expiate the errors of it in a public flame."[57:2] Among works thus suppressed without being burnt may be mentioned Bishop Thornborough's two books in favour of the union between England and Scotland (1604), Lord Coke's Speech and Charge at the Norwich Assizes (1607), and Sir W. Raleigh's first volume of the History of the World (1614). I suspect that Scott's Discoverie was likewise only suppressed, and that Voet erroneously thought that this involved and implied a public burning.
But it was not for long that James had saved Cowell's life, for the latter's death the following year, and soon after the resignation of his professorship, is said by Fuller to have been hastened by the trouble about his book. The King throughout behaved with great judgment, nor is it so true that he surrendered Cowell to his enemies, as that he saved him from imminent personal peril. Men like Cowell and Blackwood and Bancroft were probably more monarchical than the monarch himself; and, though James held high notions of his own powers, and could even hint at being a god upon earth, his subjects were far more ready to accept his divinity than he was to force it upon them. It was not quite for nothing that James had had for his tutor the republican George Buchanan, one of the first opponents of monarchical absolutism in his famous De Jure Regni apud Scotos; nor did he ever quite forget the noble words in which at his first Parliament he thus defined for ever the position of a constitutional king: "That I am a servant it is most true, that as I am head and governor of all the people in my dominion who are my natural vassals and subjects, considering them in numbers and distinct ranks: so, if we will take the whole people as one body and mass, then, as the head is ordained for the body and not the body for the head, so must a righteous king know himself to be ordained for his people and not his people for him. . . . I will never be ashamed to confess it my principal honour to be the great servant of the Commonwealth."
And in this very matter of Cowell's book James not only denied any preference for the civil over the common law, but professed "that, although he knew how great and large a king's rights and prerogatives were, yet that he would never affect nor seek to extend his beyond the prescription and limits of the municipal laws and customs of this realm."[59:1]
A few years later Sir Walter Raleigh's first volume of his History of the World was called in at the King's command, "especially for being too saucy in censuring princes." This fate its wonderful author took greatly to heart, as he had hoped thereby to please the King extraordinarily;[59:2] and, considering the terms wherewith in his preface he pointed the contrast between James and our previous rulers, one cannot but share his astonishment.
This would seem to indicate that the King grew more sensitive about his position as time went on; and this conclusion is corroborated by his extraordinary conduct in reference to the works of David Paraeus, the learned Protestant Professor of Divinity at Heidelberg. One can conceive no mortal soul ever reading those three vast folios of closely printed Latin in which Paraeus commented on the Old and New Testament; but in those days people must have read everything. At all events, it was discovered that in his commentary on Romans xiii. Paraeus had contended at great length and detail in favour of the people's right to restrain, even by force of arms, tyrannical violence on the part of the superior magistrate. On March 22nd, 1622, therefore, the Archbishop of Canterbury and twelve bishops, at the King's request, represented this doctrine to be most dangerous and seditious; and accordingly, on July 1st, the books of Paraeus were publicly burnt after a sermon by the Bishop of London; and about the same time the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, ever on the side of the divine right, proved their loyalty by condemning and burning the book, perhaps the only book whose condemnation never tempted to its perusal. But that very same year (August 22nd, 1622) the King found it necessary to issue directions concerning preaching and preachers, so freely was the Puritanical side of the community then beginning to express itself about the royal prerogative.
As connected with the question of the prerogative must be mentioned, as burnt by James' order, the Doctrina et Politia Ecclesiae Anglicanae (1616), a Latin translation of the English Prayer Book, as well as of Jewell's Apology and Newell's Catechism, by Richard Mocket, then Warden of All Souls'. Mocket was chaplain to Archbishop Abbot, and wished to recommend the formularies and doctrines of the Church of England to foreign nations. History does not, indeed, record any deep impression as made on foreign nations by the book; though Heylin asserts that it had given no small reputation to the Church of England beyond the seas (Laud, 70); but it does record the fact of its being publicly burnt, as well as give some intimations of the reason. Fuller says that the main objection to it was, that Mocket had proved himself a better chaplain than subject, touching James in one of his tenderest points in contending for the right of the Archbishop of Canterbury to confirm the election of bishops in his province. Mocket also gave such extracts from the Homilies as seemed to have a Calvinistic leaning; and treated fast days as only of political institution. For such reasons the book was burnt by public edict, a censure which the writer took so much to heart that, as Fuller says, being "so much defeated in his expectation to find punishment where he looked for preferment, as if his life were bound up by sympathy in his book, he ended his days soon after." Poor Mocket was only forty when he died, succumbing, like Cowell, to the rough reception accorded to his book.
Mocket's book is less one to read than to treasure as a sort of lusus naturae in the literary world; for it would certainly have seemed safe antecedently to wager a million to one that no Warden of All Souls' would ever write a book that would be subjected to the indignity of fire; and, in spite of his example, I would still wager a million to one that a similar fate will never befall any literary work of Mocket's successors. Mocket's book, therefore, has a certain distinction which is all its own; but those who do not love the Church of England without it will hardly be led to such love by reading Mocket. And Mocket himself, if we follow Fuller, seems to have wished to make his love for the Church a vehicle to his own preferment; but as, perhaps, in that respect he does not stand alone, I should be sorry that the implied reproach should rest as any stain upon his memory.
Next to the question of the rights of kings over their subjects, the most important one of that time was concerning the rights of popes over kings—a question which, having been intensified by the Reformation, naturally came to a crisis after the Gunpowder Plot. James I. then instituted an oath of allegiance as a test of Catholic loyalty, and many Catholics took the oath without scruple, including the Archpriest Blackwell. Cardinal Bellarmine thereupon wrote a letter of rebuke to the latter, and Pope Paul V. sent a brief forbidding Catholics either to take the oath or to attend Protestant churches (October 1606). But it is remarkable that, so little did the Catholics believe in the authenticity of this brief, another—and an angry one—had to come from Rome the following September, to confirm and enforce it. King James very fairly took umbrage at the action and claims of the Pope, and spent six days in making notes which he wished the Bishop of Winchester to use in a reply to the Pope and the Cardinal. But when the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely saw the King's notes, they thought them answer enough, and so James's Apology for the Oath of Allegiance came to light, but without his name, the author, among other reasons, deeming it beneath his dignity to contend in argument with a cardinal. As the Cardinal responded, the King took a stronger measure, and under his own name wrote, in a single week, his Premonition to all most Mighty Monarch, wherein he exposed with great force the danger to all states from the pretensions of the Papacy. Thereupon, at Paul's invitation, Suarez penned that vast folio (778 pp.), the Defensio Catholicae Fidei contra Anglicanae Sectae Errores (1613), as a counterblast to James's Apology. Considering the subject, it was certainly written with singular moderation; and James would have done better to have left the book to the natural penalty of its immense bulk. As it was, he ordered it to be burnt at London, and at Oxford and Cambridge; forbade his subjects to read it, under severe penalties; and wrote to Philip III. of Spain to complain of his Jesuit subject. But Philip, of course, only expressed his sympathy with Suarez, and exhorted James to return to the Faith. The Parlement of Paris also consigned the book to the flames in 1614, as it had a few years before Bellarmine's Tractatus de Potestate summi Pontificis in Temporalibus, in which the same high pretensions were claimed for the Pope as were claimed by Suarez.
The question at issue remains, of course, a burning one to this day. To James I., however, is due the credit of having been one of the earliest and ablest champions against the Temporal Power; and therefore side by side on our shelves with Bellarmine and Suarez should stand copies of the Apology and the Premonition—both of them works which can scarcely fail to raise the King many degrees in the estimation of all who read them.
But we have yet to see James as a theologian, for on his divinity he prided himself no less than on his king-craft. The burnings of Legatt at Smithfield and of Wightman at Lichfield for heretical opinions are sad blots on the King's memory; for it would seem that he personally pressed the bishops to proceed to this extremity, in the case of Legatt at least. Nor in the case of poor Conrad Vorst did he manifest more toleration or dignity. It was no concern of his if Vorst was appointed by the States to succeed Arminius as Professor of Theology at Leyden; yet, deeming his duty as Defender of the Faith to be bound by no seas, he actually interfered to prevent it, and rendered Vorst's life a burden to him, when he might just as reasonably have protested against the choice of a Grand Lama of Thibet.
Vorst's book—the Tractatus Theologicus de Deo, an ugly, square, brown book of five hundred pages—is as unreadable as it is unprepossessing. Bayle says that it was shown to the King whilst out hunting, and that he forthwith read it with such energy as to be able to despatch within an hour to his resident at the Hague a detailed list of its heresies. Nothing in his reign seems to have excited him so much. Not only did he have it publicly burnt in St. Paul's Churchyard (October 1611), and at Oxford and Cambridge, but he entreated the States, under the pain of the loss of his friendship, to banish Vorst from their dominions altogether. No heretic, he said, ever better deserved to be burnt, but that he would leave to their Christian wisdom. "Such a Disquisition deserved the punishment of the Inquisition." If Vorst remained, no English youths should repair to "so infected a place" as the University of Leyden.
The States resented at first the interference of the King of England, and supported Vorst, but the ultimate result of James's prolonged agitation was that in 1619 the National Synod of Dort declared Vorst's works to be impious and blasphemous, and their author unworthy to be an orthodox professor. He was accordingly banished from the University and from Holland for life, and died three years afterwards, fully justified by his persecution in his original reluctance to exchange his country living for the dignity of a professorship of theology.
Bayle thinks he was fairly chargeable with Socinian views, but what most offended James was his metaphysical speculations on the Divine attributes. I will quote from Vorst two passages which vexed the royal soul, and should teach us to rejoice that the reign of such discussions shows signs of passing away:—
"Is there a quantity in God? There is; but not a physical quantity, But a supernatural quantity; One nevertheless that is plainly imperceptible to us, And merely spiritual."
"Hath God a body? If we will speak properly, He has none; yet is it no absurdity, speaking improperly, to ascribe a body unto God, that is, as the word is taken improperly and generally (and yet not very absurdly) for a true substance, in a large signification, or, if you will, abusive."
The above are the principal books whose names have come down to us as burnt in the reign of James, and the initiation of such burning seems always to have come from the King himself. As yet, the Star Chamber and Court of High Commission do not appear to have assumed the direction of this lesser but not unimportant department of government. Nor is there yet any mention of the hangman: the mere burning by any menial official being, thought stigma enough. It is also remarkable that the books which chiefly roused James's anger to the burning point were the works of foreigners—of Paraeus, Suarez, and Vorst. After James our country was too much occupied in burning its own books and pamphlets to burden itself with the additional labour of burning its neighbours'; the instances that occur are comparatively few and far between. But it is clear that, whatever were James's real views as to the limits of his political prerogative, in the field of literature he meant to play and did play the despot. Pity that one who could so deftly wield his pen should have rested his final argument on the bonfire!
[52:1] That is Dr. Brinsley Nicholson's conclusion in his preface to Scot; yet, if the book was burnt, it is highly improbable that the common hangman officiated.
[54:1] Winwood's Memorials, I. 125.
[57:1] Detection of Court and State of England (1696), I. 30.
[57:2] Life of Laud, 70.
[59:1] Winwood's Memorials, III. 136.
[59:2] Letter of January 5th, 1614, in Court and Times of James I.
CHARLES THE FIRST'S BOOK-FIRES.
Few things now seem more surprising than the sort of fury with which in the earlier part of the seventeenth century the extreme rights of monarchs were advocated by large numbers of Englishmen. Political servitude was then the favourite dream of thousands. The Church made herself especially prominent on the side of prerogative; the pulpits resounded with what our ancestors called Crown Divinity; and in the reign of Charles I. the rival principles, ultimately fought for on the battlefield, first came into conflict over sermons, the immediate cause, indeed, of so many of the greatest political movements of our history.
The first episode in this connection is the important case of Dr. Roger Manwaring, one of Charles's chaplains, who, at the time when the King was pressing for a compulsory loan, preached two sermons before him, advocating the King's right to impose any loan or tax without consent of Parliament, and, in fact, making a clean sweep of all the liberties of the subject whatsoever. At Charles's request, Manwaring published these sermons under the title of Religion and Allegiance (1627). But the popular party in Parliament resolved to make an example of him, and a long speech on the subject by Pym is preserved in Rushworth. The Commons begged the Lords to pronounce judgment upon him, and a most severe one they did pronounce. He was to be imprisoned during the House's pleasure; to be fined L1000 to the King; to make a written submission at the bars of both Houses; to be suspended for three years; to be disabled from ever preaching at Court, or holding any ecclesiastical or secular office; and the King was to be moved to grant a proclamation for calling in and burning his book.
On June 23rd, 1628, Manwaring made accordingly a most abject submission at the bars of both Houses, Heylin says, on his knees and with tears in his eyes, confessing his sermons to have been "full of dangerous passages, inferences, and scandalous aspersions in most parts"; and the next day Charles issued a proclamation for calling them in, as having incurred "the just censure and sentence of the High Court of Parliament." The sentence of suppression presumably in this case carried the burning; but, if so, there is no mention of any public burning by the bishops and others, to whom the books were to be delivered by their owners.
Fuller says that much of Manwaring's sentence was remitted in consideration of his humble submission; and Charles the very same year not only pardoned him, but gave him ecclesiastical preferment, finally making him Bishop of St. David's. Heylin attests the resentment this indiscreet indulgence roused in the Commons; but, unfortunately, as Manwaring was doubtless well aware, to have incurred the anger of Parliament was motive enough with Charles for the preferment of the offender, and the shortest road to it.