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Hutten's works,' though supplemented from the stores of the editor's own learning. He has further written a useful but far from exhaustive introduction, in which he signifies his general assent to the conclusions reached by Brecht, following up the suggestions of previous writers, as to the authorship of these Epistles. To these conclusions, which may be regarded as finally settling the question, we shall return.
Almost the earliest German University to feel the direct influence of Italian humanism was Erfurt, where the arrival of the first 'poets' who leavened the lump of German academical teaching may be traced back to the third quarter of the fifteenth century. Erfurt, whose relations to the religious movement begun by Huss had at first seemed so marked as to give rise to the proverbial phrase, Erforda Praga,' did not ultimately pass beyond a strong sympathy with the ideas of the Reformers, and a corresponding antipathy to Rome and her adherents. On the other hand, the University, by the last decade of the fifteenth and the opening years of the sixteenth centuries, had become an avowed home of humanistic studies. This growing reputation was established on a broader and more enduring basis in Erfurt's greatest period, which may be reckoned from about 1505 to about 1520, and is identified with the name of Mutianus Rufus (Conrad Muth), the tranquil' Canon of Gotha, to whom (as is often the case) a body of scholars in the neighbouring University, in many instances more active and productive than himself, looked up as their intellectual leader. It was in Mutian's circle, there can be no doubt, that the conception of the 'Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum' first took rise, though, as will be seen, it was not at Erfurt itself that either the first or the second series of the letters was actually indited.
Reuchlin, round whom the contention blazed, was not himself cast in an heroic mould; on the other hand, neither was he one of those men of letters (or science) who are addicted to posing as martyrs to the cause, actual or pretended, of freedom or light or progress.
*The earliest of all was Heidelberg, where Peter Luder let his light fitfully shine from 1456 to 1460, when he quitted his native Palatinate to try his fortunes at Erfurt and Leipzig.
But there are crises in literary, as well as in scientific, history, the significance of which needs no writing on the wall, and in which the name of a man of true metal becomes the fit symbol of a struggle for the right. The conflict between Reuchlin and the Reuchlinists on the one side, and the Cologne Dominicans, with their shameless agent and their unlucky mouthpiece on the other, was thus something more than a controversy conducted on the part and on behalf of a leading scholar of his age, the man of three-or, as he himself loved to say, of five -tongues, against the upholders of what was utterly dry and dead in the learning and teaching of contemporary Germany. The principle of toleration, clearly enunciated by Reuchlin, was recognised to be at stake by every friend of freedom and of that justice which is the foundation of freedom; and posterity, by the mouths of such men as Lessing and Goethe, has approved this interpretation of the struggle and its issue.
It was, of course, his Hebrew studies, and more especially his interest in the Cabbalah-the theosophic commentaries which from about the last quarter of the eighth century A.D. began to discuss the doctrinal essence of the Old Testament-which involved Reuchlin in the great quarrel concerning the books of the Jews. The cause of the famous controversy of which the Epistolæ,' though they cannot be said to have materially contributed to its issue, form an enduring literary monument, has been frequently narrated, and is summarised in his introduction by Mr Stokes. The monstrous demand raised by Johannes Pfefferkorn, a Jewish convert to Christianity (Mr Stokes, rather oddly, calls him 'renegade'), in his 'Judenspiegel' (1507) that the Jews should be deprived of their books as the chief cause of their perversity, had been accompanied by further proposals of persecution, and was ultimately extended to a cry for their expulsion from the Empire, where, it must be remembered, they were still without legal rights. But, in the first place, everything turned upon the Jewish books. After obtaining, in August 1509, an Imperial mandate ordering all the Jews in the Empire to give up to him, in the presence of the priest and two official laymen, all their books directed against the Christian faith or 'running counter to their own law,' Pfefferkorn had attempted
to secure the services of Reuchlin, the only competent Hebrew scholar in Germany, in the drawing-up of a list of books to be confiscated. But Reuchlin had refused; and Pfefferkorn had to proceed on his own account. The raid on Jewish books which he hereupon made at Frankfort led to the intervention of the Archbishop of Mainz, and, after various moves and countermoves, to another Imperial mandate (May 1510) commanding the restoration of the books confiscated at Frankfort, Mainz, and several other Rhenish towns until further orders.' In the following July the Emperor ordered the Archbishop to require written opinions on the whole question raised by Pfefferkorn from the four Universities of Cologne, Mainz, Erfurt and Heidelberg, and from certain persons of note. These last included, together with Reuchlin and the priest Victor von Karben (according to Mr Stokes a converted rabbi) as Hebrew 'specialists,' the redoubtable Dominican, Jacob von Hochstraten or Hoogstraten (a Brabanter by birth), who exercised the office of Ketzermeister' under the Inquisition at Cologne, and whose functions ultimately expanded into the supervision of aberrations from the faith in the three archiepiscopal provinces of Cologne, Mainz and Trier.*
It is at this point that the famous controversy between Reuchlin and his supporters on the one side, and the Cologners on the other, really opens. The Universities of Cologne and Mainz, with whom Hochstraten and the priest Victor von Karben agreed, were in favour of taking away all the books, or, at any rate, all except the Old Testament; while the University of Heidelberg temporised, and Erfurt opined in favour of leaving to the Jews all their books but those which abused or falsified the Christian faith. Reuchlin's opinion, however, went to the root of the matter. For all the Jewish books (except a very few-he mentioned only two-manifestly blasphemous and forbidden among themselves), that is to say, for the Talmud, the Cabbalah, the commentaries on the Old Testament in general, the sermons and hymns of the Jews, and their non-theological writings, he claimed complete toleration. These books contained no attacks
*M. Jacobus Hochstraten hereticometra' appears as author of one of the books with bogus titles in the library of St Victor, in 'Pantagruel,' chap. vii,
upon the Christian faith; that they did not acknowledge its cardinal doctrine, the divinity of Christ, was a matter of course. And, even were the adherence of the Jews, as a body, to their beliefs due to these books, no Christian was justified in taking action against these writings, or in settling the faith of the Jews, who were neither Christians nor heretics. Secular law was herein at one with the reasonable conclusions of scholars; for the Jews were members and fellow-citizens of the German Empire. The proper way of dealing with them was to seek to convert them by gentle means; and, to this end, professors of the Hebrew tongue should be appointed at the Universities, who would diffuse a correct knowledge of the actual contents of the incriminated books.
This clear and broad-minded declaration necessarily came at once to the knowledge of Pfefferkorn; and his counterblast was soon ready. In the spring of 1511 appeared, in German, the Handtspiegel,' a virulent attack upon Reuchlin, whom the tract accused of having been bribed by the Jews. Hereupon the fray burst forth into full flame. In September Reuchlin retorted with the 'Speculum Oculare' ('Augenspiegel'), in which he gave the lie to his assailant's main and subsidiary assertions, but, while indulging in a vituperative vein characteristic of the times rather than of himself, also descended to certain explanations and modifications. Yet, since Reuchlin's opinion was a confidential document, it was upon his 'Augenspiegel' that his adversaries seized as the handle for the proceedings by which they thought to crush him, but which, instead, rallied nearly the whole body of German humanists in his defence. He was at first ill-advised enough to enter into correspondence, half explanatory, half deprecatory, with members of the Cologne Theological Faculty. In return, claiming, by virtue of its connexion with the Inquisition, a right of censorship extending over the Empire at large, the Faculty bade him call in and destroy the copies of the 'Augenspiegel' on which he could lay his hands, and make a public declaration of his hostility to the Jews, and to the Talmud in particular.
Hereupon, Reuchlin answered his censors in a different vein. Appealing to the support of those poets and humanists who respected him as their teacher, he broke
off all negotiations and proceeded to publish in German a number of salient passages in the Augenspiegel.' The Cologners thereupon put forward one of the most respected of their champions in the person of Arnold von Tungern, whom Mr Stokes describes as Dean of the Faculty of Theology, but Böcking as Dean of the Faculty of Arts; he subsequently succeeded Hochstraten as 'Ketzermeister,' and left behind him a high reputation for munificence as well as learning. His Articuli sive Propositiones,' dedicated to the Emperor, must have helped to obtain an Imperial decree (October 1512) ordering the confiscation of Reuchlin's book; but the execution of this was so slow as to render it futile. Tungern's arguments had been accompanied by verses composed in part by Ortuinus Gratius, who called down the vengeance of heaven upon Reuchlin. They were not quite the first appearance in this particular arena of the accomplished gladiator in question, whom Mr Stokes is perhaps rather severe in designating a 'kept humanist.' So many bad names were called in this and contemporary controversies, that modern criticism is well-advised in preserving a more restrained tone.*
Ortuinus Gratius (whose real name was Graes, though the Obscure Men thought its latinised form to be derived either from gratia or from the Gracchi) had already, during the outburst of pamphlets which followed upon the publication of Pfefferkorn's 'Judenspiegel,' translated into Latin four productions similar to it in tenour, and in one of these versions had displayed his talent for epigram. A Westphalian by birth, and, notwithstanding the slanders of the Epistolæ, no doubt of respectable parentage on his mother's as he certainly was on his father's side,† he had been educated under Hegius at Deventer, where he afterwards taught. In the Epistolæ a whole posse of Obscure Ones, from the salacious Conrad of Zwickau to Joannes Vickelphius himself, humilis sacræ theologiæ professor' (whose name perhaps conceals some allusion to Wiclif), claim the honour of his acquaintance or the benefit of his instruction. But it would be a mistake to suppose him to
Luther, in a letter to Spalatin, terms the chief victim of the 'Epistolæ' 'asinum, canem, inimo lupum rapacem, si non potius crocodilum.'
+ His paternal uncle provided for the cost of his education; his maternal, according to 'Epistolæ,' ii, 62, was hangman at Halberstadt.