Between Hollendorf, where the Saxon custom-house is planted, and Peterswald, the frontier village of Bohemia, there is an interval of perhaps an English mile in extent. Over that the Saxon diligence carried us; and at the door of the Austrian custom-house, both we and our baggage were deposited. Here passports were examined, trunks and knapsacks opened, and the other formalities attendant on the admission of strangers into a new country gone through, among which I observed that the custom was not omitted, of feeing the revenue-officer into good humour. Each passenger, as he presented his passport, to be viseed and approved, slid into the official's hand a piece of money; and I, as I consider it wise, in like cases, to do as is done by those about me, followed the example. The officer took the coin, smiled graciously upon me, affixed the stamp unhesitatingly to my credentials, and turned to somebody else. I really could not quite explain to myself why this act of extravagance had been committed, but I am not aware that I ever missed the douceur; and I heartily wish the individual who received it, much enjoyment in its possession.
We dined at Peterswald, on very good fare, which the landlady of the Post had provided for us; and had no reason to complain, as stage-coach travellers in England sometimes do, that we were hurried in its consumption. One full hour was spent in discussing the meal, and another in smoking after it. At length, however, intelligence was communicated, that the conducteur awaited us, and we descended to the road, where a change had come over "the spirit of our dream." The substantial Saxon eilwagen stood still in its repose, for it was not destined to proceed further; and in its room were provided three lesser carriages, into one of which, seated for four persons, I and my boy stowed ourselves. The opposite places were soon taken by our countryman and the Prussian, and away we went.
Our journey, in the early part of this day, had lain over the field of the great battle of Dresden; we were now about to traverse the scene of another conflict scarcely less desperate,—the affair, as by the French writers it is designated, of Kulm. It would have been strange indeed, had I failed to look round with more than common interest while traversing these scenes of mighty strife. I endeavoured also to look at them with a soldier's eye. I did my best to trace the positions of the several columns of attack and defence; and I think that I succeeded. At all events, I am certain that never till I saw the ground, was I able, from the accounts given, whether by French or German writers, to form any correct idea either of the battles themselves, or of their results. Let me endeavour to supply to others the deficiency of which I have myself experienced the pressure, by describing the localities, in connexion with a brief narrative of the events which have immortalized them.
The battle of Dresden, as well as the combats of Gross-Beeren, Katzbach, and Kulm were, as I need scarcely observe, the immediate consequences of the termination of the armistice in August, 1813. Napoleon, weary of the war, had yielded to the demands of the Prussians, and, evacuating Breslau, and abandoning the line of the Oder, had fallen back upon Liegnitz. He himself declared, that he made these sacrifices,—for such they unquestionably were,—in the hope that, out of the armistice, a treaty of peace would spring, and there is no great cause to doubt that he spoke sincerely. What could he hope to gain by a continuance of the struggle? France was exhausted in every pore; the best and ablest of her warriors were slain, such as survived longed for rest, and were ready to sacrifice even their national vanity in order to obtain it. On the other hand, the strength of the Allies seemed to accumulate from day to day; and Austria assumed such an attitude as to render her neutrality less than doubtful. I think, then, that we may give Napoleon credit for having spoken the truth once in his life, when he said, that he yielded much, by the evacuation of Silesia, from an earnest desire for peace; but his desire was not to be gratified. The Allies judged, and judged wisely, that a season of repose would, by him, be employed only to gather means for creating fresh troubles, and they determined,—the counsels of England prevailing with them,—to wage war a l'outrance.
On the 11th of August, the armistice came to an end. Its rightful term was the 17th; but the current of events swept over it. Napoleon was then in Dresden, which he held as the key and pivot of his position, and to cover it, he had constructed a large and formidable entrenched camp along the bases of Lilienstein and Koenigstein. Of the situation of these two enormous rocks I have spoken elsewhere. They stand about twelve English miles from Dresden, like giant sentinels, that guard the debouches of Bohemia and Silesia, while between them flows the Elbe, now passable only by a ferry, but by Napoleon's care, then bridged over. Here a position was marked out for not less than sixty thousand men, whence, as from a centre, it was competent for the French to pass either into Bohemia, where the Grand Army of the Allies seemed preparing to assemble, or to Silesia and Lusatia. But it was not on this side of the Saxon capital exclusively, that Napoleon fixed a vigilant eye. His real line was the line of the Elbe, from Hamburg to Dresden; his communications with France were kept open by Erfurth, and through the Thuringian forest; and he took care that all the approaches to Dresden should be so guarded, as that, while the city itself continued secure from insult, the force in possession might have free avenues through which to operate on any threatened point in this enormous circle. "Dresde," said he, "est le pivot, sur lequel je veux manoeuvrer pour faire face a toutes les attaques. Depuis Berlin jusqu'a Prague, l'ennemi se develope sur en circonference dont j'occupe le centre; les moindre communications s'allangent pour lui sur les contours qu'elles devrient suivre; et pour moi quelques marches suffisent pour me porter partout ou ma presence et mes reserves son necessaires. Mais il faut que sur les points ou je ne serai pas, mes lieutenants sechent m'attendre sans rien commettre au hazard." It was mainly because they neglected to keep this latter injunction in view, that the reverses which deranged all his magnificent plans occurred.
Napoleon had formed, during the cessation of hostilities, a new corps-d'armee, which he put under the command of General Vandamme, and brought up from the mouth of the Elbe. It numbered, in all, about five-and-twenty thousand men, and had instructions to support General St. Cyr, who with fifteen thousand, was to occupy the fortified positions near Dresden. Meanwhile, the Duke de Reggio, from his camp at Dahme, was to march upon Berlin with five-and-thirty thousand men of all arms; the Prince of Eckmuhl, from Bagedorf, was to co-operate with him; while General Lemon, the governor of Magdeburg, was to keep open the communication between them with a corps of six thousand men. These movements were designed to accomplish a two-fold object. First, they were to find for the Prussians work enough at home; and to put Napoleon, if possible, in possession of the Prussian capital. Secondly, advantage might be taken of the distraction thereby caused in the counsels of the Allies, while Napoleon, in person, with the Guards, and the mass of his army, threw himself upon the Austrians. For Napoleon,—the armistice being virtually at an end,—became impatient of inactivity, and hoped, while retaining Dresden, and looking to it throughout as his pivot during the campaign, to find time, ere the Allies should have perfected their arrangements, to strike a blow both against Berlin and in Bohemia.
Napoleon had calculated less than he ought to have done on the activity of Blucher and of the Russians. The former, instead of waiting to be attacked, took the initiative in Silesia, and drove the French, with great loss, behind the Bober.
Some time previously,—so early, indeed, as the 10th,—several large masses of Russians and Prussians had entered Bohemia; and on the 13th, the junction with the Austrians, which it was one of Napoleon's objects to prevent, had been accomplished. Meanwhile, he himself, being ignorant of this fact, set out on the 15th, for the bridge at Koenigstein, whence he pursued his march by Bautzen and Richenbach to Goerlitz. He reached it on the 18th, and being met there by M. de Vienne, his plenipotentiary from Prague, he had the fact communicated to him of the formal adhesion of Austria to the Grand Alliance. Though he heard, at the same time, of the reverses in Silesia, he instantly chose his part. He faced round towards Bohemia, penetrated the defiles of the mountains, spread himself over the valleys behind Gabel and Rombourg, and learned at the former of these places, that he was too late. The Grand Army of the Allies was already among the hills that border upon Saxony; and to the number of one hundred and fifty thousand men, threatened Dresden with an attack.
Napoleon seems always to have calculated much on the immoveability of the enemies that opposed him. Though he knew that Schwartzenberg was within two days' march of Dresden, he flattered himself that he might still have time to strike at Blucher; and turning on his heel, he flew back to Zittau, and from thence passed without a halt to Goerlitz and Luban. In a moment, the aspect of affairs was changed. Two days' fighting served to convince the Prussians that a new spirit reigned among the troops that opposed them; and on the 23rd, the French eagles were again advanced as far as Katzbach. Here pressing instances from Dresden reached him, of the imminent danger that threatened the city, and of the total inadequacy of St. Cyr's corps to resist it; and seeing that Blucher was in full retreat, he resolved to return on his steps. Marshal Macdonald was left with seventy or eighty thousand men to keep the Prussian general in check; while with the remainder Napoleon took the road to Bautzen.
It was on the 24th, at an early hour, that he reached this latter town, where letters from St. Cyr were again handed to him, each more urgent for support than the other. The Allies, it seems, had carried the passes of the Erzgebirge; their columns were descending into the plain on all sides,—while the French, unable to maintain themselves in the field, were sheltered behind the outer defences of the city. Even this assurance could not, however, determine the emperor all at once to abandon a project which he had in view. He wished to throw himself on Schwartzenberg's rear; and provided he were assured that Dresden could be held till the 28th, he counted on being able to effect the movement. Accordingly, Vandamme with his corps was ordered to push from Stolpen for the bridge at Lilienstein; to pass the Elbe there, to seize the heights of Peterswald, and keep them till Napoleon should arrive,—an event which, unless evil tidings came from Dresden, would surely befall within eight-and-forty hours. But evil tidings did come. At Stolpen, whither he had marched on the 25th, General Gourgaud overtook him to entreat, if he desired Dresden to be saved, that he would return; and General Haxo, the engineer, whom he sent back to examine the state of the defences, was the bearer of a similar communication. Napoleon was sorely vexed; but Dresden it was essential that he should retain.
General Haxo was sent instantly to Vandamme with his final instructions. They amounted to this, that he should keep the passes into Bohemia at all hazards, and win for himself a marshal's baton. This done, Napoleon marched upon Dresden, and on the 26th, entered it at the head of his cavalry. The infantry followed fast; and the capital of Saxony, which had already sustained insult from the shot and shells of the Allies, and was threatened with an immediate assault, became safe. Napoleon made his dispositions with equal promptitude and secresy. He stationed his several divisions in the streets, so as to conceal their numbers, while at the same time, each fronted a gate, or gave support to a point that was threatened; and then calmly awaited the attack of the enemy, which was not slow in developing itself.
Schwartzenberg had conducted his advance with an excess of caution. His prodigious army was collected on the 13th, yet it was the 23rd ere he forced the passes of the hills, and now only on the 26th he made his final dispositions for the attack of Dresden. Of the local situation of that city I have said enough to give my readers some notion of the arena on which this great battle was fought. Standing astride upon the Elbe, the capital of Saxony occupies the centre of an enormous plain, the hills that surround which approach, in no instance, within three English miles of the glacis, and in addition to its ancient fortifications, it was, at the period at which I now speak, girdled in on all hands by redoubts and field-works. Of that outer line the remains are yet to be seen by every traveller who follows the direct road to Pirna. They run from the Grosse Garten, which they include, all the way to the Elbe. On the other flanks of the city, from the Grosse Garten to the Elbe again, they are almost entirely effaced. But on the 26th of August 1813, they were at least respectable; and in the partial combats which had taken place over-night, though some had fallen, the rest were stoutly maintained. It was to be determined, that day, how far they were or were not impregnable.
The field of battle ranged from the Elbe, on the right of the Allied columns, to Plouen on the left. The points of attack were the gates of Pilnitz, Pirna, Dohna, Dippoldiswald, Blender, or Plouen, and Freiberg. It was about four in the afternoon when the discharge of their cannon from the heights of Recknitz, where the head-quarters of the Allies had fixed themselves, gave notice that the various columns were in motion. Nearly one hundred and fifty thousand men, moving forward at the recognised signal, presented to the eyes of the inhabitants a most imposing spectacle, while at the same time, a continued line of batteries, all the way from Recknitz to Plouen, opened their fire. Shells and cannon-balls fell like hail in the suburbs, and the carnage was as indiscriminating as it was terrible.
There had not yet been time for more than the half of Napoleon's army to come up. He had scarce seventy thousand men disposable; but his position was a very favourable one, and he ably took advantage of it. The guns from the advanced redoubts replied to the enemies' cannonade with little effect, and the Allies swept onwards without a check. They had raised their cry, "To Paris! To Paris!" and were already within a few yards of the Plouen gate, when the word was passed to the division of the Young Guard, which lay behind it, and they sprang to their feet. The sortie is described by those who witnessed it, to have been terrifically fine. Out dashed these warriors, inured to victory, and bearing down all opposition, rolled back the head of the advancing columns, as a river is rolled back by the tide when it meets it. There was a fearful slaughter on both sides. The cannon from the city walls plunged into the rear of the wavering column. The infantry mowed down its front; the detached redoubts which it had passed, as if despising them, took its whole extent in reverse. There was neither time nor space to deploy, and the attack was repulsed.
The same, or nearly the same results, had attended the attempts of the Allies on the other gates. They were everywhere defeated, their defeat being occasioned not less, perhaps, by surprise at finding Napoleon himself in their front, than by the impetuosity of the French attacks. They retreated in great confusion, the Russians to Blazewitz, the Prussians over the plain, the Hungarian grenadiers under Colloredo to Recknitz, and the Austrians to the defiles of Plouen. There they could not be followed up, because night was already closing, and of the French army a large portion were yet at a distance. One success more, however, attended Napoleon's arms ere he slept; the Austrians, rallying a corps in the dark, made a dash, with great gallantry, at the gate of Plouen; but they were repulsed. And then, one party in the open fields, the other among the lanes and streets of the city, the jaded and harassed armies lay down to sleep.
It was a night of terrible storm. The rain came down in such torrents as to reduce the whole plain to the consistency of a morass, and the rivers rose to a degree such as had hardly occurred before within so limited a space of time. Yet was Napoleon busy till long past midnight, in giving directions for the morrow. He saw by their line of fires that the Allies had resumed the wide semicircle which they occupied previous to the attack, and he fixed his plans accordingly. The whole of the cavalry, with the exception of that of the Guard, which had previously acted on the level from the Pilnitz gate, was drawn through the city, and placed in position under Murat, in the suburb of Frederick-stadt. It was to push, at early dawn, along the Freiberg road, and cut off the retreat of the Allies in that direction. Meanwhile Victor, with his infantry corps, was to debouch from the Freiberg barriers, and attack in front the Austrian line, which Murat was directed to turn. In the centre, between the gates of Dippoldiswald and Dohna, Marmont was to occupy the attention of the force which had fallen back upon the heights of Recknitz. St. Cyr, in prolongation of the line, was to operate from the Grosse Garten; while Ney and the Duke of Treviso, with four divisions of the Young Guard, were from the Pirna road to engage the enemy's right, and to give time to General Nansouty, with his cavalry corps, to effect the same manoeuvre on this flank which Murat had received instructions to accomplish on the other. Thus was it calculated that the Allies driven in, column upon column, and shut out from two of their four lines of retreat, would suffer terrible loss, and an opportunity be afforded to Vandamme of completing their destruction.
The morning of the 27th came in with a continuance of rain, almost as heavy as that which had fallen during the night; yet the battle was not deferred. Murat, on the one side, and Nansouty on the other, began their respective marches at peep of dawn; and being well masked, and supported by the attacks of the infantry, they made rapid progress. This is the more to be wondered at, on the part of the former officer, that a corps d'armee under General Klenau, which had failed to reach its ground in time, was now in full advance, and its leading divisions showed themselves at Gorbitz as early as seven in the morning. Had the Allies held their own ground, leaving it to him to close up or fall back, as occasion might require, they would have probably fared better than they did. As it was, they extended their front, from above Plouen, across the valley of Tharandt, and, endeavouring to stretch out their hand to Klenau, gave Murat the opportunity to pierce them.
The battle of Dresden was, along the centre of the line, little else than a furious cannonade. The French had nothing to gain by rendering it more close, and the Allies seemed indisposed to assume the offensive. It was a ball from one of the batteries, which replied at a disadvantage to those of the Allies above Recknitz, which mortally wounded Moreau. His fate has been recorded by so many pens, that I need not employ mine to swell the list, and himself either lauded or censured, according as the prejudices of the writers leaned to the side of Napoleon or the Allies. Let his merits have been what they might, in a moral point of view, nobody can refuse to him the renown of an able officer; and to the esteem in which the Emperor of Russia held him, the stone which marks the spot where he fell, bears witness. It is a simple block of freestone, and bears this inscription, "Moreau, the warrior, fell here, beside his friend Alexander." But on both flanks more important operations went forward. The French carried every thing before them. From Cotta, which he had won, Murat turned upon the advanced guard of Klenau's corps, and destroyed it. He then pressed forward, bearing down all opposition, and making prisoners of whole battalions, whose muskets had become so saturated, that they could not be discharged. In like manner, St. Cyr pushed back the Prussians on Gruna, while Marmont and Nansouty drove the Russians from position to position, and cleared the plain. Both flanks, in short, were turned; and the troops composing them driven in upon the centre, and cut off from their proper lines of retreat. But the French were too much enfeebled to pursue the advantages which they had gained with their accustomed spirit. About three in the afternoon the cannonade grew slack; the Allies showed only a strong rear-guard, and Napoleon returned to the city, saying to those around him, "I am greatly deceived if we shall not hear news of Vandamme. It is his movement which has constrained the enemy to retreat thus abruptly."
The 28th was a day of continued and broken retreat on the part of the Allies; of movements more tardy than, perhaps, they ought to have been, on the part of the French. A great deal of baggage, almost all the wounded, and many prisoners, were abandoned by the fugitives; yet, in most cases, they won the defiles in tolerable order, and were safe. Colloredo, covered by a strong rear-guard, threaded the pass of Dippoldiswald, and had Toeplitz, the point of reunion, in view. The rest made their escape likewise, though with more of confusion; and, in one striking instance, they would not have succeeded at all, had not Vandamme been enticed into the grievous error of leaving the heights of Peterswald unguarded. It was this blunder of his, which caused the disaster at Kulm; and in order to make clear the brief account which I am going to give of that battle, it will be necessary to revert to my own movements, so that the ground may be described as by an eye-witness.
The village of Peterswald lies at the northern base of a range of heights, which, circling round, place Toeplitz in the centre of a huge amphitheatre. On this side the ascent is gradual, and the face of the hill open and cultivated. In a military point of view, therefore, the position is admirable; it forms a perfect glacis. As you wind your way upwards, moreover, the view becomes, at every step, more and more interesting, till having gained the ridge,—where a windmill is built,—it is glorious in the extreme. You look down upon a valley, of which it is scarcely too much to say, that the eye of man has never beheld anything more perfect. Deep, deep, it lies, enclosed on every side by mountains, which, sloping away one from another, resemble so many prodigious cones, and open out to you the gorges of countless glens; each, as it would appear, more exquisitely beautiful than another. The vale of Toeplitz itself may measure, perhaps, where it is widest, some six or eight English miles across; where it is least wide, the interval between the mountains is scarcely one mile. But it is in all directions fertile and luxuriant in the extreme. Waving woods, rich cornfields, vineyards, meadows, and groves, are there; with towns, and villages, and castles, and hamlets, scattered through them, even as the hand of the painter would desire to arrange them. Nor is the running stream, that most indispensable of all features in a landscape of perfect beauty, wanting. The Pala rolls his waters through the valley; and if he be inconsiderable in point of size, yet is he limpid and clear; with width enough to catch the sun's rays, from time to time, as they fall, and throw them back almost brighter in the reflection than in the reality. Altogether it is as striking a panorama as any which, even in Bohemia, one will easily find.
Vandamme had received orders to pass the Elbe between Lilienstein and Koenigstein; and pushing back whatever corps the Allies might have left at Pirna, to establish himself on the summit of this ridge. He obeyed these instructions so well, that, in spite of the gallant resistance of Prince Eugene of Wurtemberg, he carried his point. The heights of Peterswald were in his possession on the 28th; it would have been well for his master had he attempted nothing further. Vandamme, however, was ambitious of earning the marshal's baton by something more than mere obedience to an order received. He saw that Toeplitz was uncovered, and knowing that the possession of that place would render him master of all the passes that diverge from it, he resolved, on the 29th, to make the essay. He descended from his mountain throne, and penetrated as far as Kulm.
The hill, which, with a portion only of his force, Vandamme had abandoned, is, on that side which looks down into the vale of Toeplitz, steep, well nigh to perpendicular. Huge forests clothe its rugged face; out of which bold rocks protrude; indeed, such is the nature of the country, that the road is carried backwards and forwards almost in a zig-zag, in order to render it accessible. This mountain, in a military point of view, all but impassable, Vandamme placed behind him; leaving, however, a strong division to guard it, and nothing doubting of his own success. But he had miscalculated the time which was at his disposal. Six and twenty hours would have sufficed,—six were quite inadequate, and he found them so. He pushed on, however, to Kulm. It is a neat village, with a modern schloss beside it; and a church, which crowns a low green hill, in its centre. There are some extensive plantations near; the Pala flows among them; and between it and the mountains on the right, there is a space of less than two miles. He gained it almost without firing a shot, for the force in Toeplitz was quite inconsiderable, and his arrival occasioned such panic in that, the head-quarters of the confederation, that kings, and emperors, and princesses, dispersed in all directions. One half league, indeed, was all that divided his patrols from their prize, when a serious resistance began. General Ostermann, with six thousand of the Russian Imperial Guard, received orders to stop the French at all hazards. He threw himself across the road, drove back their advanced guard, and held his ground so tenaciously, that nothing could move him. Ostermann himself lost an arm; the elite of the Russian guard died where they fought; but Toeplitz was saved, and the certain ruin which its capture would have brought upon the Allied cause was averted.
When a fierce battle once begins, there is no calculating in what results it may terminate. Vandamme became irritated by the resistance which was made to him; and, still hoping to bear it down, sent continually for reinforcements. The heights of Peterswald were, in consequence, gradually denuded of guards, and at last not so much as a picquet remained to observe what might approach them. The fresh columns were numerous and brave, but they arrived too late at the scene of action. Already were the leading battalions of Barclay de Tolly's corps in the field, and brigade after brigade followed them. Then, indeed, Vandamme began to perceive that he would have acted more judiciously had he adhered strictly to Napoleon's orders. But not being aware of all the difficulties of his position, he did not like to abandon it; and merely changed his ground so as to embrace Kulm in his line, and there awaited on the morrow a renewal of the contest.
Vandamme committed a very grievous error in this. The night was at his own disposal, and he ought to have availed himself of it to recover the heights of Peterswald. His pride took the alarm; and, trusting that the Allies, defeated before Dresden, would be utterly disorganised, and that their pursuers would arrive close upon their heels, let them appear in what quarter they might, he made up his mind to give battle again on the 30th. The dawn of that day showed him that his enemies had been more prudent than he. Not his front only, but both flanks were threatened; that is to say, the Allies, gathering additional strength from hour to hour, had completely overlapped his right; while his left, closed in by the mountains, was at once supported, and rendered, for any movement in retreat, completely useless. The Allies came on with great courage, somewhere about eighty thousand men being in their line; and till two o'clock the battle raged with indescribable fury. But the odds were irresistable. Vandamme began, in the presence of the victor, a retrogressive movement, which ought to have been accomplished under shadow of the darkness. It was made to no purpose. To the horror and amazement of the French, to the surprise and joy of the Allies, Kleist's corps of Prussians showed themselves on the heights; and, descending by the only road which Vandamme had counted upon as open, placed him entirely in a cul de sac. The French were utterly confounded. They lost all order, all confidence, both in themselves and their leaders; and, rushing furiously up the ascent, endeavoured to break through. Moreover, so completely unlooked-for, on the side of the Prussians, was the situation in which they found themselves, that at first they did not well know how to act. Five hundred French cavalry broke in upon a division of the landwehr; sabred many of the infantry, and, for a moment, gained possession of the guns. But it was only for a moment. The Prussians recovered from their surprise; and never was defeat more absolute than that which Vandamme's luckless corps sustained. Many prisoners were taken, including the general-in-chief. All the artillery, ammunition cars, and standards, fell into the hands of the Allies, and the remnant of the men that did escape made their way, one by one, and destitute even of their arms, through the forest, where tract there was none.
Such is a true detail of the leading events in the battle of Kulm; a victory of which the Austrians, with great justice, make much; which they, the Russians, and Prussians, have equally commemorated by monuments erected on the spot, but for which the imprudence of the French commander is at least as much to be thanked as the sagacity of Colloredo, or the daring of Kleist. It was, with one exception,—the noble resistance of the Russian Guard under Ostermann,—a gross blunder on both sides; it might in its results have been fatal to either, though it ended in the discomfiture of the French. For the Allies, who had been on the very eve of falling out among themselves, were, in consequence of the success at Kulm, reunited; and the tide of victory, which had flowed so fiercely against them a few days previously, turned once more in their favour. Of its course, however, I have, in this place, no business to speak. Let me, therefore, return to myself and my own proceedings.
I had stood before this upon the ridge of the hill, and looked forth over the battle field below. I had quitted my own carriage, and walked down; as I quitted now the diligence for the same purpose, and held converse with a stone-breaker by the wayside, whose cross, marked with the titles of many battles, told that, among others, he had borne his part in the fight of Kulm. He described to me the confusion, both of the French and Prussian corps, as something of which I could form no conception. Both sides lost even the semblance of order, and through the deep forest, and over the slope of the defile, there was one ceaseless combat of man to man. The quantity of dead, likewise, that covered the hill-side, was prodigious; indeed, it took the country people, who were pressed for the occasion, two whole days to bury them. How changed was the scene now! The outward forms of nature, doubtless, retained their identity; but wood, and ravine, and defile, and sweeping level, all lay under me, as quiet and as peaceful as if the sounds of war had never been heard among them. I was enchanted with my walk down the steep.
The village of Kulm suffered, of course, terribly during the melee. The church had been burned to the ground, as well as the schloss; and of the cottages and vineyards almost all had been beaten to pieces. There were now church, schloss, cottages, and vineyards all blooming and fresh, as if no such calamity had ever overtaken them. The inhabitants, too, unmindful as men ever are of evils that have befallen to others, and even to themselves, long ago, delight in nothing so much as in replying to the questions which curious travellers, like myself, may chance to put to them. But the cicerone ex officio, to whom references are invariably made, is a fine old Austrian invalid, to whose care the charge of the monuments is intrusted. The old fellow is not, I must confess, very intelligent; but he displays his orders with manifest and most commendable pride, and assures you that General Colloredo, who that day received his mortal wound, was the best soldier in the emperor's service. Of the monuments themselves I need say no more than that they occupy a space where the roads from Tetschen and Dresden meet; in which, as it appears, the fighting was very desperate, and where Colloredo fell. That erected by the Austrians is much more massive than its rival; and professes to commemorate rather the merits of the commander than the valour of the troops. The Prussian is a small, but singularly neat obelisk, and bears this inscription, "A grateful king and country honour the heroes who fell." There is a third in progress, of which the Emperor of Russia is the founder; but it is not yet completed. It ought to be the most magnificent of the whole; for assuredly the success of the day was owing more to the stubborn hardihood of the Russian Guards, than to any efforts either of Austrians or Prussians.
From Kulm to Toeplitz you pass through a lovely valley, with mountains, as I have already described them, on either side of you. Along the bases of those to the right, lie several picturesque villages, with a modern schloss here and there, and here and there a ruin. Among others, the remains of the castle of Dux, one of Wallenstein's numerous mansions, is especially remarkable. By-and-by, as you approach the town, you see on your left the dilapidated towers of Dobrawska Hora, an extensive pile, built, as we were told, early in the thirteenth century, and owned and inhabited, in 1616, by Count Kinsky, Wallenstein's brother-in-law. And last of all, you enter the town itself; of which I shall speak as I found it on a previous visit; when, instead of hurrying on as we did now, after a single night's rest, we spent some pleasant days at one of the best and cheapest of German inns, the Hotel de Londres.
TOePLITZ. ITS GAIETIES. JOURNEY RESUMED. FIRST VIEW OF PRAGUE. GENERAL CHARACTER OF THE CITY. THE HRADSCHIN. CATHEDRAL. UNIVERSITY. HISTORICAL DETAILS CONNECTED WITH IT. THE REFORMATION IN BOHEMIA.
The German Spas, or watering-places, especially those of the first rank, seem to me to offer the best opportunities which a stranger can desire for the study of the German character, as, in its most unguarded moments, it presents itself to notice. Whatever a man's rank or station may be, he seems, from the hour of his entrance into one of these regions of joy, to lay aside, at least, all belonging to it, which elsewhere may trammel or incommode him. Princes, nobles, citizens, officers of every class, natives, foreigners, soldiers, civilians, and diplomatists, seem to be brought hither by one impulse only,—that is, by the pursuit of amusement. Business may be, and I doubt not is, carried on elsewhere than in the shops, but when or how people find time to attend to it, may well puzzle all save the initiated. I say nothing of the necessity under which every human being appears to be laid, of taking the baths as often as an opportunity may offer; for the bath is to a German what his medicine chest is to an Englishman,—something without which he could never exist throughout the year. But the round of amusements which is perpetually going on, the promenade early in the morning, the ride in the forenoon, the dinner at one o'clock, the music and lounge afterwards, then the theatre or ball, and last of all, the supper, these are the events in Toeplitz for which alone persons of every condition seem to live. It is really a most animating spectacle for a few days, and then—to me at least—it becomes irksome in the extreme.
With the solitary exception, perhaps, of Carlsbad, Toeplitz takes rank as at once the most fashionable and best ordered watering-place in all Germany. It is the favourite resort of the King of Prussia, who, without designing to lead a host of fine people in his train, is, as he deserves to be, a centre of attraction. Singularly unassuming in all his habits, he is to be seen passing to and fro, sometimes on foot, without any attendant whatever, sometimes in a carriage, so plain, that it might almost pass for a fiacre, or common hackney-coach. It cannot be said that, in these respects, the nobility of Russia, Austria, and the German principalities in general, follow his example. The Germans do not, indeed, affix the same importance to splendid equipages and fine horses which we find attached to them by the aristocrats of Italy and Hungary; but they relish these things, to a certain extent, too; and at Toeplitz,—and to say the truth, at the Spas in general,—they take care that their best displays shall be made. The roads out of Toeplitz, in all directions, are, at the fashionable hours, well filled with gaily-dressed parties, both in carriages and on horseback.
Of Toeplitz itself I may truly say, that I have never seen a watering-place more perfectly attractive in every sense of the word. The town is not large; its population falls short, I believe, of three thousand, and the houses are in proportion; but there is about it an air of cleanliness and civility which is peculiarly gratifying, especially in Germany, where, sooth to say, the latter quality is not always prominently conspicuous. Approaching it, as we did, from the side of Dresden, you drive through a species of suburb,—that is, along a road lined on either side by neat mansions, slightly detached from one another, and are carried first into a street, wide, and clean, and spacious, and then into the Platz, or square, which forms a constituent and important part of every German town, be its dimensions what they may. From the square again, which has a considerable declination towards the north, you pass into another street, where all the principal hotels are congregated, and at the extremity of which is the chief attraction of the place, Prince Clari's palace, with its noble and delicious gardens. These latter come as near to perfection in the peculiar school to which they belong, as any thing of the sort which in any part of the world I have visited. They are laid out in long umbrageous walks, in exquisitely kept lawns, in bowers, alcoves, and a lake at once extensive and well managed; and are, with characteristic liberality, thrown open to the public at all hours, both of night and day. Nay, nor is this all. Bands of music play here and there amid its alcoves; there is a sort of coffee-house or restaurateur within the gates; and the theatre may almost be said to form part of the establishment, so close is it planted to the prince's residence. There is exceeding kindliness of heart shown in all this, of which it is not easy for us, the creatures of a different education, to estimate aright the value. We should be bored beyond expression were our parks and pleasure-grounds thronged from dawn till dusk by kings, princes, nobles, citizens, and peasants. To the Prince Clari, the consciousness that it affords the means of innocent recreation to his fellow-creatures seems to be the chief enjoyment which he derives from the possession of this lordly residence.
I am not going to describe either the baths themselves, or the customs which prevail in making use of them. Enough is done when I state that, in addition to the public establishments, where the humbler classes take the waters gratuitously, there are somewhere about ninety private bathing houses in the place, the demand for which, during the height of the season, is such that you must bespeak your turn at least a day or two beforehand, and adhere to the appointed minute religiously. For nobody is allowed to remain in the bathing-room more than three-quarters of an hour at a time, one quarter out of the four being claimed as necessary to clean out and prepare the apartment for the next visiter. The waters, I need scarcely add, belong to the class of alkalo-saline, and take their rise among the Erzgebirge, or Ore Mountains, hard by. They are extremely hot, and are regarded as especially useful in all cases of rheumatic or gouty affections. It is worthy of remark, that the Austrian medical officers send the valetudinary among the soldiers to these baths from a very great distance. When I was there, I saw detachments belonging to almost all the regiments which occupy quarters in Bohemia; and I was given to understand that they had come thither as invalids, and would, when cured, return to their respective stations.
The Germans, though not famous for their hospitality, are proverbially a gregarious people; and at Toeplitz, and indeed at all the watering-places, they appear to live in public. There are tables-d'hote at all the principal hotels, where, both at dinner and supper, the company meet on terms of the most easy familiarity. To enhance the pleasure of the feast, moreover, Bohemian minstrels,—not unfrequently women,—come and sit down in the Saal while you are eating, and sing and play with equal taste and harmony. While this is going on within, dense crowds collect about the doors and windows in the street, with whose proximity,—as the genuine love of music attracts them, and they are as orderly and well-behaved as the most fastidious could desire,—no human being is, or can be, annoyed. By-and-by, the meal comes to a close, and then the guests either sally forth to enjoy the fresh air in the Prince of Clari's garden, or sit down on benches along the trottoir, and smoke their pipes as contentedly and joyously as if they were a thousand miles removed from an Englishman's horror,—the public eye. I dare say there might be some tincture of prejudice about me, but I confess that I regretted to see the clergy fall in so freely with this latter custom. A priest smoking his pipe on a form, in a public street, beside the window of an inn, did not appear to me to be quite in his legitimate position.
I did not find that there were any public gaming-houses in Toeplitz; though it was whispered that the practice of gaming was not unknown in private circles. It may be so; though I am bound to say that I could perceive no evidences of it. In like manner, a thousand tales were told of other matters which went forward sedulously, of which it is not worth while to take notice. But the general impression left upon my mind by a few days' sojourn in the town was, that it had all the charms about it which we expect to find in fashionable watering-places, and that he who could not make himself happy there for a season, must lay the blame, not upon the scene of other people's enjoyments, but on his own temper or prejudices. Neither did I relish it the less from finding that it was very little frequented by my countrymen. There had been but one English family there before we arrived, and they, I am happy to say, left an excellent name behind them.
The country between Toeplitz and Prague, after you have passed over the heights of Wachholderberg is not, in a picturesque point of view, very interesting. The chateau of Krzemusch, with its fine garden, and the Teufelsmauer, a basaltic precipice hard by, are indeed worth the expenditure of an hour or two to visit, while the situation of Bilin, in the valley of Bila, is beautiful. But you soon escape from the mountains, and then, for many miles, the eye finds little on which it need pine to linger, more attractive, at least, than a wide extent of cultivation. The principal towns through which you pass are Laun and Schlan, neither of them large or very prosperous; the rest are mere villages. By degrees, however, as you come within what may be described as the vortex of Prague, a great change is perceptible. The country becomes much more broken and undulating, while here and there, from the summit of a hill, elevated above the rest, the view which you command is both striking and extensive. At last, the White Mountain, as it is called, lies before you, and by an easy and almost imperceptible ascent, you arrive at its crest. There it will, indeed, be worth your while to pause; for a finer scene of its kind you will rarely look down upon in any country of the world.
Along the shores of the broad Moldau, and climbing, as it were, the steep hills which girdle it in, Prague lies at your feet. The river, flowing on with a clear and gentle current, seems to have cut it in twain. Yet are the characters of these divisions more completely in unison than in almost any other instance of a city so dealt with which I remember to have seen. A thousand towers, spires, minarets, and domes, shed over the whole an air of magnificence which in some sort partakes of the oriental. There are hanging-gardens, too, and a noble bridge; there are large and exquisitely wooded islands in the Moldau; there is the Alt Stadt on the further bank, with its Thein Kirche, or Tyne Church, celebrated in story, and its venerable Town Hall; there is the Kleinseite nearer at hand, where streets and squares, crowded with the residences of the nobles, rise one above another, till they terminate in the Old Palace, and the unfinished cathedral of St. Vitus; there is the Neu Stadt, the handiwork of the Emperor Charles IV., covering a prodigious extent of ground, and enriched with the convents, hospitals, and other public buildings, which owe their existence to the liberality of the Jesuits. There are these, with a background of low, yet picturesque hills, surmounted here and there by some blackened ruin, or other monument of times gone by, which make up altogether one of the most striking inland panoramas on which I have any where had the good fortune to gaze. We stopped our carriage some minutes in order to enjoy it; and then pushed forward. At every step which we took in advance, objects of a varying but not a lessened interest, met us. Now we passed a monastery, an extensive pile, but evidently of modern construction; now a convent of English nuns was pointed out to us. By-and-by the road sank down into a sort of ravine, which shut out all view except of the fortifications that enclose the city, and block up the extremity of the defile. Then began signs of active and busy life to accumulate round us. Countrymen, with their wains, were met or overtaken; bodies of cavalry, in their stable dresses, were exercising their horses on the level; here and there an officer in uniform rode past us; and carriages, in which sat some of Bohemia's fairest and noblest daughters, swept by. Next came the barrier, the demand for passports, the drawbridge, over which our wheels rolled heavily; the exercising ground for the artillery, where a strong brigade of guns was manoeuvring; a momentary glimpse of the convent of St. Lawrence, and the old towers of the oldest portion of the palace; after which we saw nothing distinctly, till our journey, properly so called, had terminated. For our course lay down a very steep street, and across the bridge into the Alt Stadt, where at a hotel, rich in all the essentials of food, and wine, and couches, though somewhat deficient in the superfluity of cleanliness, we established our head-quarters for a season.
Perhaps there is no city in the world which, by the air which attaches to all its arrangements, more completely separates you from the present, and carries you back into the past, than Prague. There is nothing in or around it; there is no separate building, nor street, nor square, within its walls, which is not more or less connected by the strong link of association with the mightiest and the most enduring struggle of principle in which the Christian world ever was engaged. Go where you will, your eye rests on something which speaks to you of a time when Prague was indeed a capital. Here in the Alt Stadt stands,—noble in its decay—the old palace of Koenighof, the favourite residence of Charles IV. There is the Tyne or Thein Church, within which Huss, himself but the successor of Milicius and Stiekna, and even Janovius the Parisian, denounced the corruptions of Rome; here the same town-hall, where, by the gallant burghers, the doctrines of the Reformation were first avowed, and within which, after a long and desperate effort to maintain them, they were abjured, not I suspect for ever. But it is not by looking exclusively to what may be called the great features of the city, that these and similar reminiscences are awakened. As you traverse the streets, each edifice, be it lordly or humble, presents to your gaze some record of prouder days. "Here an armorial device, there a saint, with his golden circlet or burning lamps, or a half-obliterated fresco, an arched balcony, a fortified gateway, or an ornamented shrine." I heartily agree with the writer, from whose spirited Sketches the preceding extract has been taken, that this old and enduring character of the city is not without its importance. At a period when every political means is employed to efface and subdue the national character, when every act of social life, to be innocent must be Austrian, it is well that there is a power and a spirit in these unshaken walls, and perennial customs, which must needs keep the memory of their great origin and former energy fresh in the hearts of the Bohemian people.
 See some admirable sketches of Prague, in the Metropolitan Magazine for 1836.
Wherever the stranger may have taken up his abode, whether in the Alt Stadt, the Neu Stadt, the Kleinseite, or in one of the suburbs, the first objects which he is tempted to visit will naturally be the palace of the Hradschin, and the old cathedral. If, as is probable, he has established himself in the Alt Stadt, it will be necessary, in order to reach these points, that he should cross the bridge,—a magnificent structure, which like almost all the most enduring monuments of human skill in the city, owes its existence to Charles IV. It measures not less than 1780 feet in length; it is supported upon twelve noble arches; it is protected at either extremity by embattled towers,—in their day, without doubt, very efficient tetes du pont, and to adorn its parapets on either hand, it has the statues of many saints, with more than one crucifix and two chapels. Among these watchers over the temporal and spiritual prosperity of Bohemia, St. John of Nepomuc holds a conspicuous place. Being now in an especial manner the guardian of bridges, his position here is more honoured than that even of the Virgin herself: he occupies the very centre of the pile, and may be distinguished from the rest by the five stars which glitter in their gilding round him; yet is his canonization an event of little more than a century's growth. He was set up by the Jesuits in 1729, in opposition to St. John Huss, to whom the Bohemians, for many years after the suppression of the Protestant worship among them, continued to pay saintly honours; and he continues to this day, in the reverence with which he is everywhere greeted,—a sort of galling and vexatious, because constantly-recurring memorial, of the system of mental thraldom, under which Bohemia has long groaned.
From the bridge, you pass by a noble street, where churches and stately mansions woo you on either hand, up the steep ascent of the Hradschin; the summit of which will be most speedily, and therefore comfortably, attained, if you mount a flight of stone steps that faces you after you have made a slight turn to the right. They conduct at once to the sort of platform on which stand the old and new palaces, the cathedral, the lodgings of the canons, and the residences of some of the official personages to whose charge these buildings are committed. Of the cathedral, I have already said, that it never was completed. According to the traditions of the place, this is, indeed, the third pile which, consecrated to the worship of the true God, has graced the brow of the Hradschin; but the two first were entirely destroyed by fire, and this, begun by Charles IV., remains exactly as, in 1380, his architects, Matthew of Arras, and Peter Arlieri, left it. It is an extremely beautiful specimen of the sort of Gothic which preceded that of the date of our own Henry VII., and is surmounted by a lantern-crown, similar in its character, and not very different in its dimensions, from that which is to be seen on the tower of St. Giles's in Edinburgh. Yet is the pile, when spoken of as a cathedral, a very sorry edifice, for the choir is all, of his own noble plan, which Charles was permitted to complete, and there has arisen no king of Bohemia since his day, who has cared to bring the work to a conclusion. At the same time, both the choir, and the unfinished chapels that surround it, are strikingly beautiful. The former, emblazoned within with the shields of the house of Hapsburg, with the armorial bearings of Bohemia, Hungary, Styria, Moravia, Burgundy, Spain, and Brabant, more resembles the private chapel of a prince, than the metropolitical church of a nation; while the latter, crowded with memorials of other and earlier days, were, at least by us, regarded with still deeper and holier interest. One of these, the chapel of St. Wenceslas, the fourth Christian duke of Bohemia, has its walls inlaid with native jasper, agate, and other precious stones, and adorned with frescoes, inferior, in point of merit, to none which this century has produced. They are attributed, some to Nicholas Wurmser of Strasburg, some to Dietrich of Prague, two of the most renowned artists of their day, who with many others, received at the hands of Charles, the most liberal patronage and encouragement. Moreover, the exterior of the wall, which looks towards the palace, is richly ornamented with mosaics. Many of the old Slavonian saints are there, such as St. Sigismond, St. Procopius, St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas, and others finely grouped together; while above them is a St. Veronica head of Christ, which would not disgrace St. Mark's in Venice itself.
From the cathedral to the palace is but a step. Though called old in contradistinction to a modern edifice which confronts it, and which the emperor, when he visits his Bohemian capital, usually occupies, this building, in almost all its portions, is of a date not more ancient than the fourteenth century. The Hall of Ladislas, with two or three towers near the postern, belong, indeed, to the original building, but the remainder of the pile, with the cathedral beside it, uprose at the bidding of Charles IV. Nothing can exceed the splendour of the view which you obtain from the windows of its apartments. The whole of Prague is beneath you. There lies the Kleinseite, with the great cupola of St. Nicholas, a church of the Jesuits, in the foreground: there is Wallenstein's palace, gathered round the base of the rock, and testifying to the enormous wealth and princely expenditure of its founder;—here, on the right, is the Lobkowitz palace, with its gardens, rising step by step upon the side of the adjacent hill, over which, like a diadem, stands the Premonstratensian convent of Strahow,—an edifice imperfect in its proportions, yet as a whole strikingly effective. From these, the eye turns naturally to the Moldau, with its noble bridge and islands of perfect beauty; while beyond it are the Alt Stadt, and a vast circle of suburbs,—the former, venerable and striking from its multitudinous towers, its one great cupola, and its peaked roofs; the latter, contrasting finely with it in the simplicity of its large yet unadorned white buildings. Neither will the stranger fail to have pointed out to him, the two small obelisks, which, on a narrow terrace immediately below the palace, mark the spot where Martinitz and Slawata fell, when, at the commencement of the Thirty Years' War, they were thrown out of the windows of the Green Chamber. And it is worthy of remark, that this summary mode of dealing with obnoxious individuals, is by no means unfrequently alluded to in the annals of Bohemia. These two emissaries of a detested party escaped, indeed, unhurt; for they fell upon a bed of manure, and were carried off, and nursed, and aided in their subsequent flight by the Princess Penelope of Lobkowitz. But throughout the Hussite troubles, and in times anterior to them, the right of putting to death by casting from towers and over windows, was claimed and exercised by those in power; nay, and more curious still, it was justified before the world as a constitutional privilege.
As I have already stated, the remains of the Old Palace, properly so called, comprehend no more than a single hall, the Hall of Ladislas, and a few dilapidated towers, in one of which is the Green Room. There is not much therefore, apart from the glorious view, and the historical associations connected with it, to detain the traveller long, who may, or may not, just as the humour takes him, pay a visit in passing, to what is called the gallery of paintings. He will find there no remains whatever of the magnificent collection which the Emperor Rodolph brought from Italy, and very few pieces, the examination of which will repay him for the time that he wastes upon them. Yet one ludicrous representation of hell may, perhaps, provoke a smile; and the portrait of Ziska, whether like to the original or otherwise, as it is pointed out by the valet du place with honest pride, so is it sure to put in its claim to more than a passing notice. For Ziska was among the great ones of the earth. It is probable, therefore, that he will pass, as I did, rapidly into the New Palace, of which several of the apartments are very fine, and all have at least something about them which interests. Here is the audience-room, for example, where the emperor holds his levees, or receives such petitions as his loving subjects may find an opportunity of presenting. Here, likewise, is the Hall of Assembly for the States,—a plain apartment, adjoining to the audience-chamber, and communicating with it by a private door. For the States appear to go through the form of meeting at appointed seasons, and of voting,—all the privilege which they now enjoy,—such a sum as the crown may think fit to require. The concert-room, also, and the ball-room, and indeed the whole suite which royalty is assumed to occupy, may be visited with advantage; and the views from their several windows are superb. I do not, however, advise anybody to linger here; for there is much to be seen, and examined, and inquired into elsewhere, and in conducting such researches, unless time be absolutely at our own disposal, even moments are of value.
Being duly impressed with the importance of this truth, my travelling companion and I made our sojourn in the New Palace as brief as was consistent with a moderate gratification of the feeling which led us to visit it at all. We then wound round the rear of the hill; and descending into a sort of ravine, just outside the ramparts, found ourselves in an exceedingly beautiful public garden. It was full of company, who passed to and fro, or sat in groups upon benches, under the shade of the trees, and sipped their lemonade, or ate their ices, while listening to a couple of bands, which discoursed very eloquent music. Altogether the scene was extremely pleasing and gay, yet we did not venture to enjoy it. So as we turn our backs upon it, let me cease, for a while, to write in the first person, that I may the more effectively deal with the somewhat grave and important matters, which it has become necessary to discuss.
I have alluded to the three grand compartments into which Prague is divided, namely, the Kleinseite, the Alt Stadt, and the Neu Stadt. Of the first as much has been said as is necessary for my present purpose; because, though it be the residence of the bulk of the nobility, and can boast of more than one superb church, whatever there may be of historic interest about it, links itself almost exclusively with the Hradschin. In the Alt Stadt, on the contrary, we find, in addition to the Tyne Church and the Town Hall, the Carolinum, or college in which medical, legal, and scientific education is carried on; and the Clementinum, a great seminary for the diffusion of theological and philosophical lore. They are all that remain of the University of Prague, at one period the most celebrated in Europe; and having been renewed—the former, at least,—so recently as 1744, even the traces of the architectural arrangements which once belonged to them, are obliterated. Still they demand inspection, of which the labour will be compensated, as well by a survey of the magnificent halls and rich collections which adorn them, as on account of the train of thought to which insensibly they give rise. It is to the latter, as they connect themselves with the past and present history of the country, that I wish, on this occasion, to confine myself.
The establishment of an university in the capital of Bohemia, was the work of the Emperor Charles IV. It was founded in 1348, just one year after Charles ascended the throne; and consisted, when complete, of eight colleges; of which the constitution seems, in every respect, to have corresponded with that of the similar establishments in Oxford and Cambridge. Of these, the Collegium Magnum was endowed by Charles himself for a master and twelve fellows; the Collegium Reginae Hedvigis obtained its revenues from Queen Hedwige, of Poland, the enlightened founder of the Jagellonian University at Cracow; while, in 1451, the College of the Apostles was endowed for the maintenance of students, whose exclusive business it should be to maintain the rights which the church in Bohemia had acquired by the famous Compacta Basilicana. Of these it is necessary that some notice should be taken.
Perhaps there is nothing connected with the annals of the Romish church more remarkable, than the early and rooted aversion exhibited both to its doctrines and its ceremonies, by that very province in the Austrian empire which is now, more than all others, given over to Popery. According to the best authenticated records, the conversion of the Bohemians to Christianity took place about the middle of the ninth century, or still later; and within less than a hundred years we find them in rebellion against the supreme pontiff, because the Latin tongue was employed in the celebration of divine worship, and celibacy was enjoined upon the clergy. The adoption of a Latin ritual was, however, forced upon Duke Wratislaus, by Gregory VII., who declared that there was a prohibition in Holy Writ, against the use of any other language in addresses made to the Deity. This was in the year 1070. But though the Bohemians yielded so far to an authority which they knew not how to controvert, their firmness, in reference to the celibacy of the clergy, was not so easily overcome. The legate who brought to Prague a bull to this effect in 1197, was set upon by the populace, and stoned to death.
Republican and imperial Rome were not more persevering in their encroachments on the civil rights and liberties of the barbarians, than was religious Rome in her endeavour to establish an universal dominion over the consciences of mankind. One step gained in advance, proved, in every case, but the prelude to another; and the establishment of a Latin ritual and an unmarried clergy, was soon followed by the refusal of the cup in the administration of the Lord's Supper to the laity. In 1350, the cup was withdrawn. Then rose John Milicius, a canon of Prague, and Conrad Stiekna, his friend, to protest by speech and writing, against the measures pursued by the Pope, and to denounce him as Antichrist in the hearing of a multitude, who listened to their teaching very eagerly. By-and-by, that is, in 1370, Matthias Janovius, the confessor of Charles IV., came to their support in the battle; and in several treatises, which displayed great skill as well as vigour, the Pope was by him denounced. But Charles, though far in advance of his age, was not sufficiently enlightened to adopt the opinions of his confessor. He refused to call a general council on the plea, that the right of so doing was vested in the Pope; and the Pope finally prevailed upon him to send Matthias into banishment. From the period of Matthias' death, which happened in 1394, the Reformers, now a numerous and influential body, began to suffer persecution; and the strong arm of power endeavoured, for a while, to accomplish what fair and open controversy had failed to bring about.
Such was the condition of affairs, when a wealthy and pious citizen of Prague, a German, however, by descent, laid the foundations of a church in the Alt Stadt, which he called the Temple of Bethlehem; to it, now the Tyne Church, John Huss, already celebrated for his oratory and extensive learning, was appointed preacher. He saw the corruption of the age, and was not slow in denouncing it. For a while his rebukes were applied exclusively to the laity, who complained to the king of the preacher's insolence; and the archbishop was, in consequence, requested either to silence or at least to restrain his violence. But the archbishop, as well as the clergy at large, were as yet Huss's admirers; and the king was informed, that as John, in rebuking vice without regard to persons, did not go beyond the spirit of his ordination vow, so there was no power in man to restrain him. By-and-by, however, Huss adventured into a new field, and the vices of the priesthood were dragged to light. This was neither so convenient nor so agreeable: and the archbishop became, in his turn, the complainant; but the king would pay no heed to the prelate's remonstrances, further than to meet them with the same reply which the pastors now complaining had, on a former occasion, directed to himself: "Huss is but acting up to the spirit of his ordination vow. He is clearly worked upon by inspiration from heaven,—he must, on no account, be molested." Thus were the minds of the people kept on the stretch, and the way was paved for still greater operations, which soon began to develop themselves.
About this time arrived from England Jerome of Prague, bringing with him copies of the writings of Wickliff, which he was not backward in getting translated into the vernacular language, and circulated far and near. By-and-by came two Englishmen, bachelors of divinity, from Oxford, who disputing boldly against the Pope's supremacy, drew great crowds after them. Though silenced by public authority, they did not, therefore, cease to wage a war of extermination against antichrist. They were tolerable limners, so they composed a painting, which, like the shield in the story, had a two-fold character; for, on one side, it represented Christ and his Apostles, as these are described in the Gospels; and, on the other, the Pope and his Cardinals, as they appear in their pride of place. This they suspended to the outer wall of their lodging; and if there were none to listen to the words of their preaching, there were thousands who came to admire the production of their skill. Moreover, Huss, who perfectly understood the object of their attempt, and entirely coincided with it, made frequent reference to their work of art in his discourses. In a word, the seed was sown; and but a little while elapsed ere the plant sprang up and bore fruit.
The constitution of the University of Prague so far resembled that of our Scottish universities, that in it were recognised those differences of nations, with which the students of Glasgow and Aberdeen are familiar; there being, however, this difference in the arrangements of the two seminaries: that, whereas the nations in Glasgow find their boundaries on the Forth and the Clyde, two native rivers, those of Prague took a much more extended range. There were, first, the Bohemians, under which head were comprised all natives of Bohemia, of Moravia, of Hungary, and Slavonia. There were, second, the Bavarians, including Bavarians Proper, Austrians, Franconians, and Suabians. There were, third, the Saxons: that is, Saxons, Danes, and Swedes. And, last of all, the Poles, or Poles, Russians, and Lithuanians. If students came from other lands, they were not rejected; but under one or other of these heads they must needs be ranged. With an excess of liberality which sometimes overshoots its mark, Charles had given to these several nations an equality of influence in the management of the affairs of the university; and the consequence was, that, as far as the decisions of that learned body might control it, public opinion in Bohemia, was guided not by native scholars, but by foreigners. In the religious controversy which now agitated the minds of men it was impossible that the university should stand neuter. The nations met,—Bohemia declared for the Wickliffites, Bavaria, Saxony, and Poland against them; and numbers, of course, prevailed. But the triumph of Popery was short-lived, even in the university. Huss exerted himself with such vigour, that the foreigners were deprived of their preponderancy, and the Carolinum, under his guidance, became henceforth the great bulwark of the Reformed opinions.
While ardently combating the errors to which she gave countenance, it does not appear that, either now or afterwards, Huss entertained a wish—far less a desire—to break off from the communion of the holy Catholic Church. Both he and his fellow-labourers were quite as much in earnest as any of those by whom the work of the Reformation came, in after-years, to be perfected. Yet were they influenced throughout by principles more settled than belonged to some, and by a genuine and righteous liberality of which others knew nothing. That, however, which their gentleness would have willingly averted, the violence of their enemies brought about. The Church of Rome could not, or would not, depend upon argument. She opposed to the reasoning of the Hussites the rack and the cord; and Bohemia became, in consequence, the scene of persecutions,—of which to read the record is at once painful and humiliating. The martyrdoms of Huss and Jerome were followed by an universal attack upon those who called them masters; and the priest with the layman, the wife with her husband, the child with its parent, sealed their faith with their blood.
From the first dawn of the Reformation in Bohemia, there were among the Reformers two parties, which came, in course of time, to be respectively known as the Calixtines and the Taborites. The demands of the Calixtines were exceeding moderate; they sought only that the cup should be dispensed to the laity in the communion; that the clergy should be deprived of secular authority; that the Word of God should be freely taught; and that sins publicly committed, should, in public, be reproved. This fourth claim, be it observed, struck at the root of all that influence which the Romish clergy derived from the practice of secret and auricular confession; while the third aimed at a remodelling of the liturgical services, by the substitution of the vernacular for the Latin language in prayer. Yet were they considered by the Taborites as coming far short of what the exigencies of the case required. These latter, indeed, the Covenanters and Puritans of their day, saw nothing in the Romish church except one mass of corruption. Her rites, her ceremonies, her polity, her constitution, all were odious in their eyes; and to hold friendly communication with her, on any subject whatever, was, according to their view of religion, to bring the accursed thing into their houses. Accordingly, while the Calixtines endeavoured to soothe and conciliate, the Taborites rushed to arms; and under Ziska, their renowned leader, achieved triumphs such as attend only on the exertions of men whose actuating principle is a strong religious fanaticism.
The career of Ziska, his ferocity and his zeal, are well known. John Chevalier von Trocznow and Machowitz (for such was his real name), enjoyed both rank and fortune in Bohemia; he was nobly born, held large possessions, and had greatly distinguished himself in war long before he adopted the opinions of the Taborites. He was called Ziska, or the one-eyed, because in his great battle with the Teutonic knights in 1410, a wound deprived him partially of sight, and he became, during the religious contests that followed the martyrdom of Huss, totally blind. Yet blind as he was, and led out to war, like King John at the battle of Cressy, between two horsemen, he continued not only to fight, but to arrange plans of campaign, and to direct the movements of armies with equal judgment and effect; and he died as he had lived, in unmitigated hostility towards the pope, the Emperor Sigismond, and all their adherents. The degree of reverence in which his memory continues to be held, testifies to the sort of influence which he must have excited while living. There is no end to the tales which the Bohemians love to tell of his bodily strength and prowess. His favourite weapon—a sort of club, or spiked mace,—is shown with extreme pride; and the tree under which he is said to have slept on the night previous to his battle with the emperor, continues, to this hour, to command that species of reverence which borders at least upon superstition. In a word, Ziska appears greatly to have resembled, in more than one particular, that Balfour of Burley whom Sir Walter Scott has described, and his fame is still cherished as a national possession, probably because the principles for which he contended have not, like those of which Balfour was the champion, obtained even a modified toleration.
What the arms neither of Ziska nor of Procopius could win, the moderation and talent of John of Rokysan succeeded in procuring. After a long and fierce war, during which excessive barbarities were practised on both sides, the Council of Basle met in 1433. John of Rokysan, one of the most popular among the Hussite divines, attended there to plead the cause of his party, and for a space of nearly two months, the four points of which I have spoken as claimed by the Calixtines, were debated. But for the present, no results ensued. The papists would yield nothing, and John and his brother delegates returned home. But the popish party, taught wisdom by experience, abstained from a renewed appeal to the sword till they had thrown the apple of discord among their adversaries, and weakened by dividing them. In this, however, they succeeded only in part; so that ultimately, that is, in 1436, the use of the cup was conceded; and visions of religious peace were, for a while, fondly encouraged in Bohemia.
It was during the interval between this happy consummation and the accession of Ferdinand I. to the throne, that certain events took place which seem to me to demand a moment's notice. John of Rokysan, though a zealous reformer in principle, was yet unwilling to break the bond of ecclesiastical union, or, as his enemies assert, was desirous of gratifying two passions at the same time, by uniting the character of a reformer to that of an archbishop in a well-endowed church. The better to conciliate both the pope and the emperor, he had dealt harshly with the Taborites, who, rejecting the terms offered them, had withstood and sustained a defeat from the Calixtines. He found, however, that after the council had decided in his favour, his election to the See of Prague was made by the pope contingent on his renunciation of the privileges just granted to Bohemia. He felt greatly and naturally indignant at the proposal; and under the influence of this feeling, determined to withdraw the church of Bohemia from all dependence on that of Rome. That the church of a single nation could stand alone, however, no communion being held with other churches, seemed then as far beyond the range of possibility, as that a branch torn from the parent tree would flourish; and John, whose principle in this respect was deeply-rooted, cast his eyes in the direction of Constantinople. I am not aware that of this fact, the notice has been taken by ecclesiastical historians which it deserves; yet is it certain, that for two whole years, the reformers of Bohemia were in communication with the patriarch, and that there came to Prague delegates with full powers to admit Bohemia into the bosom of the Greek church. They were never called upon to exercise these powers. Their ceremonies,—more offensively superstitious than those of Rome herself,—gave extreme umbrage to the Hussites, and the matter which they had been commissioned to effect, fell to the ground.
It was at this juncture that the final separation between the Taborites and the Calixtines took place. The former renounced all connexion with Rome, and for awhile laid aside their very priesthood. The latter continued, in name, the children of that church, whose favourite, because most oppressive, edicts they disobeyed. Not that popery was without its adherents in Bohemia all this while; on the contrary, these were very numerous, and they included a large proportion of the hierarchy, as well as many of the nobles. But the university, as it had early adopted Huss's opinions, so it continued steadily, yet mildly, to maintain them. Throughout the wars that marked the commencement of this strife of opinion, the Carolinum was ever present to assuage the rancour of parties. It withstood absolute popery on the one hand, and absolute fanaticism on the other. And when the war ceased, and George of Podiebrad mounted the throne, it gave all its influence to a government of which the policy throughout was just, and wise, and temperate.
Acted upon by the efforts of this seat of learning, the Taborites themselves became gradually tame. They accused John of Rokysan, it is true, of having betrayed them, because he would not place himself at the head of the schism; and they held aloof from familiar intercourse with their rivals; but they made no appeal to the sword. Accordingly John became their advocate with the new monarch, and ample toleration was extended to them. With this they were satisfied. They withdrew into the mountains, built villages and places of worship, and never addressing each other except as brother or sister, they came, by-and-by, to be known every where as the Bohemian or Moravian brethren. Simple in their habits, and primitive in their ideas, they soon ceased to be objects of terror to the government; and being left to themselves, became, by degrees, at once the most industrious and honest portion of the population. Moreover, the anomaly in the constitution of their church, which at the outset, had been little thought of, began by degrees to make itself felt. They had no appointed teachers or ministers among them; and there was confusion in their very worship. Their chiefs determined to remove the evil; and seventy of them, from Moravia as well as Bohemia, meeting together, cast lots on whom the priestly office should devolve. Three men, Matthew of Kunwald, Thomas of Przelan, and Eli of Krzenovitch, were chosen; who repairing to a settlement of the Waldenses,—of whom numbers were scattered over Austria and Moravia,—received from the hands of Stephen, one of their bishops, episcopal consecration. From them the brethren derived that apostolical priesthood, which has never since died out, and of which the most perfect model is now to be seen at Hernhut, in Silesia.
Thus fared it with the Reformed religion and its professors in Bohemia, till Ferdinand I. ascended the throne. There was tranquillity, at least, and toleration, under Ladislaus of Poland, and an anxiety expressed everywhere, that the language of controversy might cease; and that the cultivation of letters, which more than a century of civil strife had interrupted, might again occupy men's minds, and soften and humanize their spirits. But Ferdinand had no part in this virtuous longing. Whether it was the influence of his brother, the Emperor Charles V., or his own innate hatred of the institutions of Bohemia, that swayed him, is a question not easily answered, if, indeed, it were worth asking,—but it is not. The promises which he had given so liberally when elected, were all disregarded so soon as he felt himself secure; and Bohemia, which ought to have thrown her weight into the scale of the Protestant princes, was kept, at the period of the league of Smalcalde, in a state of fatal neutrality. She could not wield her power against men to whom she was bound by all the ties of sympathy and communion of principle; for by this time, the Lutheran doctrines were taught in her churches, and openly maintained in her university. Neither would the diet consent that an army should be marched into Saxony. It was a balance of antagonist principles which proved fatal in its results to her own liberties, both civil and religious. The battle of Muehlberg gave to Charles and Ferdinand a superiority which they failed not to improve. The Bloody Diet sat in Prague; and nobles, and knights, and even cities forfeited their privileges and their property; and the two former, at least, in many instances, their lives.
There remained now but one bulwark of the Reformed faith in Bohemia,—the Caroline University, and against it the efforts of the dominant faction were directed. It was a sore grievance to the court and the popish nobility, that a weapon so powerful as education should be exclusively in the hands of schismatics; so they resolved to counter-work it. With this view, the aid of the Jesuits was called in; and twelve fathers of the order of Loyola took possession, in 1555, of the Clementinum College. At first their unpopularity was such, that they never ventured to show themselves in the streets without being insulted. Yet they pursued their course with unwearied assiduity; and patience, and a mild demeanour, and an anxiety to conciliate even the taste for shows which prevailed then, as well as now, among the citizens, gradually produced their results. The Jesuits were first tolerated, and by-and-by respected in Prague. Moreover the college was raised to the rank of a university, in which theology and philosophy might be taught; and they received from day to day an accession to their numbers. Still the fame of the Carolinum, or Protestant seminary, surpassed that of the modern university, as far as the Jesuits individually surpassed the Protestant teachers in urbanity of manner; and hence, though personally tolerated, the latter continued as a party to be objects of extreme suspicion. And so things remained, till the issue of the Thirty Years' War threw all power into the hands of the Catholics, and religious freedom, and civil liberty, became words without meaning in Bohemia.
I have spoken of the house of Austria as indicating from the outset of its connexion with Bohemia, a spirit of decided hostility to the institutions of the country. From this general censure, two, and for a brief space at least, three princes of the line must, indeed, be excepted. Maximilian had no sooner mounted the throne, in 1564, than he proclaimed the most ample religious toleration. The Compacta Basilicana, which had heretofore protected the Utraquists alone, were set aside, and all sects were permitted to worship God, according to the dictates of their own consciences. The consequence was, that a large portion of the people became, with the university, avowedly Protestant, and adopted, some the Augsburg Confession as their standard of belief,—others, the opinions of Calvin. In like manner, Rodolph II., and after his deposition, Matthias, stood forth as the champions of absolute freedom of opinion. They looked to matters of more importance than the squabbles of sophists; they laboured to advance the prosperity of their people, and they succeeded. The interval between 1564 and 1610, may, indeed, be described as the golden age of Bohemian history. Then did the diet exercise a sound and constitutional control over the supplies and general policy of the government. Then was the condition of the peasant improved, his proverbial industry encouraged, and himself permitted to share largely in its fruits. There were, in fact, as many elements of civil and religious liberty in Bohemia then as in England;—how wide is the contrast which the one nation offers to the other now!
It would have been strange, indeed, had princes who were wise enough to know, that a monarch's greatness is best enhanced by the prosperity of the people over whom he reigns, failed to give ample encouragement, at the same time, to learning and to the arts. Under Rodolph the halls of the Hradschin were adorned, with the productions of the best masters, which he purchased in Italy, and brought with him into Bohemia. His court, likewise, became a centre of attraction, round which Tycho Brahe, Kepler, and other foreigners of high renown, were gathered; while the native nobility, catching the impulse which their sovereign afforded, devoted themselves, in numerous instances, to the cultivation of letters and of science. There are several histories yet extant, which came from the pens of Rodolph's courtiers; while the same class gave professors and teachers, not only to the university, but to many of the most distinguished seminaries in Italy and Germany. Moreover, schools were multiplied both in Prague and elsewhere with unwearying zeal; till, in addition to the sixteen which flourished in the capital, there were at Laun, Salz, Klattau, Leitmeritz, and Chrudim, seminaries, each of which was presided over by a master, of whose fitness to communicate sound and wholesome learning, the Carolinum itself had approved. And it is worthy of remark, that one great object of which these promoters of mental culture never lost sight, was the improvement and extension of their native tongue. There was no country in Europe which could boast of so many statesmen, historians, and professors, by whom the vernacular language was habitually employed, as Bohemia. The printing-office of the Moravian brethren, of which Charles of Zierotin was the founder, multiplied copies of the Bible in the Bohemian tongue. In the same dialect, Radowsky of Husterzan put forth his treatise on astronomy. John of Hdiejouna used it as well as Charles of Zierotin, and Hajek, Dembrawricky, Wartowsky, and Blahoslaw, all demonstrated its fitness for the purposes of the chronicler. In a word, Bohemia was great, and flourishing, and happy; and her prosperity rested on a basis which, if wisely dealt with, must have rendered it as enduring as it was conspicuous.