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´╗┐Title: Historical Lectures and Essays
Author: Kingsley, Charles, 1819-1875
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1902 Macmillan and Co. edition by David Price, email

by Charles Kingsley


The First Discovery of America
Cyrus, Servant of the Lord
Ancient Civilisation


Let me begin this lecture {1} with a scene in the North Atlantic 863
years since.

"Bjarne Grimolfson was blown with his ship into the Irish Ocean; and
there came worms and the ship began to sink under them.  They had a boat
which they had payed with seals' blubber, for that the sea-worms will not
hurt.  But when they got into the boat they saw that it would not hold
them all.  Then said Bjarne, 'As the boat will only hold the half of us,
my advice is that we should draw lots who shall go in her; for that will
not be unworthy of our manhood.'  This advice seemed so good that none
gainsaid it; and they drew lots.  And the lot fell to Bjarne that he
should go in the boat with half his crew.  But as he got into the boat,
there spake an Icelander who was in the ship and had followed Bjarne from
Iceland, 'Art thou going to leave me here, Bjarne?'  Quoth Bjarne, 'So it
must be.'  Then said the man, 'Another thing didst thou promise my
father, when I sailed with thee from Iceland, than to desert me thus.  For
thou saidst that we both should share the same lot.'  Bjarne said, 'And
that we will not do.  Get thou down into the boat, and I will get up into
the ship, now I see that thou art so greedy after life.'  So Bjarne went
up into the ship, and the man went down into the boat; and the boat went
on its voyage till they came to Dublin in Ireland.  Most men say that
Bjarne and his comrades perished among the worms; for they were never
heard of after."

This story may serve as a text for my whole lecture.  Not only does it
smack of the sea-breeze and the salt water, like all the finest old Norse
sagas, but it gives a glimpse at least of the nobleness which underlay
the grim and often cruel nature of the Norseman.  It belongs, too, to the
culminating epoch, to the beginning of that era when the Scandinavian
peoples had their great times; when the old fierceness of the worshippers
of Thor and Odin was tempered, without being effeminated, by the Faith of
the "White Christ," till the very men who had been the destroyers of
Western Europe became its civilisers.

It should have, moreover, a special interest to Americans.  For--as
American antiquaries are well aware--Bjarne was on his voyage home from
the coast of New England; possibly from that very Mount Hope Bay which
seems to have borne the same name in the time of those old Norsemen, as
afterwards in the days of King Philip, the last sachem of the Wampanong
Indians.  He was going back to Greenland, perhaps for reinforcements,
finding, he and his fellow-captain, Thorfinn, the Esquimaux who then
dwelt in that land too strong for them.  For the Norsemen were then on
the very edge of discovery, which might have changed the history not only
of this continent but of Europe likewise.  They had found and colonised
Iceland and Greenland.  They had found Labrador, and called it Helluland,
from its ice-polished rocks.  They had found Nova Scotia seemingly, and
called it Markland, from its woods.  They had found New England, and
called it Vinland the Good.  A fair land they found it, well wooded, with
good pasturage; so that they had already imported cows, and a bull whose
lowings terrified the Esquimaux.  They had found self-sown corn too,
probably maize.  The streams were full of salmon.  But they had called
the land Vinland, by reason of its grapes.  Quaint enough, and bearing in
its very quaintness the stamp of truth, is the story of the first finding
of the wild fox-grapes.  How Leif the Fortunate, almost as soon as he
first landed, missed a little wizened old German servant of his father's,
Tyrker by name, and was much vexed thereat, for he had been brought up on
the old man's knee, and hurrying off to find him met Tyrker coming back
twisting his eyes about--a trick of his--smacking his lips and talking
German to himself in high excitement.  And when they get him to talk
Norse again, he says: "I have not been far, but I have news for you.  I
have found vines and grapes!"  "Is that true, foster-father?" says Leif.
"True it is," says the old German, "for I was brought up where there was
never any lack of them."

The saga--as given by Rafn--had a detailed description of this quaint
personage's appearance; and it would not he amiss if American
wine-growers should employ an American sculptor--and there are great
American sculptors--to render that description into marble, and set up
little Tyrker in some public place, as the Silenus of the New World.

Thus the first cargoes homeward from Vinland to Greenland had been of
timber and of raisins, and of vine-stocks, which were not like to thrive.

And more.  Beyond Vinland the Good there was said to be another land,
Whiteman's Land--or Ireland the Mickle, as some called it.  For these
Norse traders from Limerick had found Ari Marson, and Ketla of Ruykjanes,
supposed to have been long since drowned at sea, and said that the people
had made him and Ketla chiefs, and baptized Ari.  What is all this? and
what is this, too, which the Esquimaux children taken in Markland told
the Northmen, of a land beyond them where the folk wore white clothes,
and carried flags on poles?  Are these all dreams? or was some part of
that great civilisation, the relics whereof your antiquarians find in so
many parts of the United States, still in existence some 900 years ago;
and were these old Norse cousins of ours upon the very edge of it?  Be
that as it may, how nearly did these fierce Vikings, some of whom seemed
to have sailed far south along the shore, become aware that just beyond
them lay a land of fruits and spices, gold and gems?  The adverse current
of the Gulf Stream, it may be, would have long prevented their getting
past the Bahamas into the Gulf of Mexico; but, sooner or later, some
storm must have carried a Greenland viking to San Domingo or to Cuba; and
then, as has been well said, some Scandinavian dynasty might have sat
upon the throne of Mexico.

These stories are well known to antiquarians.  They may be found, almost
all of them, in Professor Rafn's "Antiquitates Americanae."  The action
in them stands out often so clear and dramatic, that the internal
evidence of historic truth is irresistible.  Thorvald, who, when he saw
what seems to be, they say, the bluff head of Alderton at the south-east
end of Boston Bay, said, "Here should I like to dwell," and, shot by an
Esquimaux arrow, bade bury him on that place, with a cross at his head
and a cross at his feet, and call the place Cross Ness for evermore;
Gudrida, the magnificent widow, who wins hearts and sees strange deeds
from Iceland to Greenland, and Greenland to Vinland and back, and at
last, worn out and sad, goes off on a pilgrimage to Rome; Helgi and
Finnbogi, the Norwegians, who, like our Arctic voyagers in after times,
devise all sorts of sports and games to keep the men in humour during the
long winter at Hope; and last, but not least, the terrible Freydisa, who,
when the Norse are seized with a sudden panic at the Esquimaux and flee
from them, as they had three weeks before fled from Thorfinn's bellowing
bull, turns, when so weak that she cannot escape, single-handed on the
savages, and catching up a slain man's sword, puts them all to flight
with her fierce visage and fierce cries--Freydisa the Terrible, who, in
another voyage, persuades her husband to fall on Helgi and Finnbogi, when
asleep, and murder them and all their men; and then, when he will not
murder the five women too, takes up an axe and slays them all herself,
and getting back to Greenland, when the dark and unexplained tale comes
out, lives unpunished, but abhorred henceforth.  All these folks, I say,
are no phantoms, but realities; at least, if I can judge of internal

But beyond them, and hovering on the verge of Mythus and Fairyland, there
is a ballad called "Finn the Fair," and how

   An upland Earl had twa braw sons,
      My story to begin;
   The tane was Light Haldane the strong,
      The tither was winsome Finn.

and so forth; which was still sung, with other "rimur," or ballads, in
the Faroes, at the end of the last century.  Professor Rafn has inserted
it, because it talks of Vinland as a well-known place, and because the
brothers are sent by the princess to slay American kings; but that Rime
has another value.  It is of a beauty so perfect, and yet so like the old
Scotch ballads in its heroic conception of love, and in all its forms and
its qualities, that it is one proof more, to any student of early
European poetry, that we and these old Norsemen are men of the same

If anything more important than is told by Professor Rafn and Mr. Black
{2} be now known to the antiquarians of Massachusetts, let me entreat
them to pardon my ignorance.  But let me record my opinion that, though
somewhat too much may have been made in past years of certain
rock-inscriptions, and so forth, on this side of the Atlantic, there can
be no reasonable doubt that our own race landed and tried to settle on
the shore of New England six hundred years before their kinsmen, and, in
many cases, their actual descendants, the august Pilgrim Fathers of the
seventeenth century.  And so, as I said, a Scandinavian dynasty might
have been seated now upon the throne of Mexico.  And how was that strange
chance lost?  First, of course, by the length and danger of the coasting
voyage.  It was one thing to have, like Columbus and Vespucci, Cortes and
Pizarro, the Azores as a halfway port; another to have Greenland, or even
Iceland.  It was one thing to run south-west upon Columbus's track,
across the Mar de Damas, the Ladies' Sea, which hardly knows a storm,
with the blazing blue above, the blazing blue below, in an ever-warming
climate, where every breath is life and joy; another to struggle against
the fogs and icebergs, the rocks and currents of the dreary North
Atlantic.  No wonder, then, that the knowledge of Markland, and Vinland,
and Whiteman's Land died away in a few generations, and became but
fireside sagas for the winter nights.

But there were other causes, more honourable to the dogged energy of the
Norse.  They were in those very years conquering and settling nearer home
as no other people--unless, perhaps, the old Ionian Greeks--conquered and

Greenland, we have seen, they held--the western side at least--and held
it long and well enough to afford, it is said, 2,600 pounds of walrus'
teeth as yearly tithe to the Pope, besides Peter's pence, and to build
many a convent, and church, and cathedral, with farms and homesteads
round; for one saga speaks of Greenland as producing wheat of the finest
quality.  All is ruined now, perhaps by gradual change of climate.

But they had richer fields of enterprise than Greenland, Iceland, and the
Faroes.  Their boldest outlaws at that very time--whether from Norway,
Sweden, Denmark, or Britain--were forming the imperial life-guard of the
Byzantine Emperor, as the once famous Varangers of Constantinople; and
that splendid epoch of their race was just dawning, of which my lamented
friend, the late Sir Edmund Head, says so well in his preface to Viga
Glum's Icelandic Saga, "The Sagas, of which this tale is one, were
composed for the men who have left their mark in every corner of Europe;
and whose language and laws are at this moment important elements in the
speech and institutions of England, America, and Australia.  There is no
page of modern history in which the influence of the Norsemen and their
conquests must not be taken into account--Russia, Constantinople, Greece,
Palestine, Sicily, the coasts of Africa, Southern Italy, France, the
Spanish Peninsula, England, Scotland, Ireland, and every rock and island
round them, have been visited, and most of them at one time or the other
ruled, by the men of Scandinavia.  The motto on the sword of Roger
Guiscard was a proud one:

   Appulus et Calaber, Siculus mihi servit et Afer.

Every island, says Sir Edmund Head, and truly--for the name of almost
every island on the coast of England, Scotland, and Eastern Ireland, ends
in either _ey_ or _ay_ or _oe_, a Norse appellative, as is the word
"island" itself--is a mark of its having been, at some time or other,
visited by the Vikings of Scandinavia.

Norway, meanwhile, was convulsed by war; and what perhaps was of more
immediate consequence, Svend Fork-beard, whom we Englishmen call
Sweyn--the renegade from that Christian Faith which had been forced on
him by his German conqueror, the Emperor Otto II.--with his illustrious
son Cnut, whom we call Canute, were just calling together all the most
daring spirits of the Baltic coasts for the subjugation of England; and
when that great feat was performed, the Scandinavian emigration was
paralysed, probably, for a time by the fearful wars at home.  While the
king of Sweden, and St. Olaf Tryggvason, king of Norway, were setting on
Denmark during Cnut's pilgrimage to Rome, and Cnut, sailing with a mighty
fleet to Norway, was driving St. Olaf into Russia, to return and fall in
the fratricidal battle of Stiklestead--during, strangely enough, a total
eclipse of the sun--Vinland was like enough to remain still uncolonised.
After Cnut's short-lived triumph--king as he was of Denmark, Norway,
England, and half Scotland, and what not of Wendish Folk inside the
Baltic--the force of the Norsemen seems to have been exhausted in their
native lands.  Once more only, if I remember right, did "Lochlin," really
and hopefully send forth her "mailed swarm" to conquer a foreign land;
and with a result unexpected alike by them and by their enemies.  Had it
been otherwise, we might not have been here this day.

Let me sketch for you once more--though you have heard it, doubtless,
many a time--the tale of that tremendous fortnight which settled the fate
of Britain, and therefore of North America; which decided--just in those
great times when the decision was to be made--whether we should be on a
par with the other civilised nations of Europe, like them the "heirs of
all the ages," with our share not only of Roman Christianity and Roman
centralisation--a member of the great comity of European nations, held
together in one Christian bond by the Pope--but heirs also of Roman
civilisation, Roman literature, Roman Law; and therefore, in due time, of
Greek philosophy and art.  No less a question than this, it seems to me,
hung in the balance during that fortnight of autumn, 1066.

Poor old Edward the Confessor, holy, weak, and sad, lay in his new choir
of Westminster--where the wicked ceased from troubling, and the weary
were at rest.  The crowned ascetic had left no heir behind.  England
seemed as a corpse, to which all the eagles might gather together; and
the South-English, in their utter need, had chosen for their king the
ablest, and it may be the justest, man in Britain--Earl Harold
Godwinsson: himself, like half the upper classes of England then, of the
all-dominant Norse blood; for his mother was a Danish princess.  Then out
of Norway, with a mighty host, came Harold Hardraade, taller than all
men, the ideal Viking of his time.  Half-brother of the now dead St.
Olaf, severely wounded when he was but fifteen, at Stiklestead, when Olaf
fell, he had warred and plundered on many a coast.  He had been away to
Russia to King Jaroslaf; he had been in the Emperor's Varanger guard at
Constantinople--and, it was whispered, had slain a lion there with his
bare hands; he had carved his name and his comrades' in Runic
characters--if you go to Venice you may see them at this day--on the
loins of the great marble lion, which stood in his time not in Venice but
in Athens.  And now, king of Norway and conqueror, for the time, of
Denmark, why should he not take England, as Sweyn and Canute took it
sixty years before, when the flower of the English gentry perished at the
fatal battle of Assingdune?  If he and his half-barbarous host had
conquered, the civilisation of Britain would have been thrown back,
perhaps, for centuries.  But it was not to be.

England _was_ to be conquered by the Norman; but by the civilised, not
the barbaric; by the Norse who had settled, but four generations before,
in the North East of France under Rou, Rollo, Rolf the Ganger--so-called,
they say, because his legs were so long that, when on horseback, he
touched the ground and seemed to gang, or walk.  He and his Norsemen had
taken their share of France, and called it Normandy to this day; and
meanwhile, with that docility and adaptability which marks so often truly
great spirits, they had changed their creed, their language, their
habits, and had become, from heathen and murderous Berserkers, the most
truly civilised people of Europe, and--as was most natural then--the most
faithful allies and servants of the Pope of Rome.  So greatly had they
changed, and so fast, that William Duke of Normandy, the
great-great-grandson of Rolf the wild Viking, was perhaps the finest
gentleman, as well as the most cultivated sovereign, and the greatest
statesman and warrior in all Europe.

So Harold of Norway came with all his Vikings to Stamford Bridge by York;
and took, by coming, only that which Harold of England promised him,
namely, "forasmuch as he was taller than any other man, seven feet of
English ground."

The story of that great battle, told with a few inaccuracies, but told as
only great poets tell, you should read, if you have not read it already,
in the "Heimskringla" of Snorri Sturluson, the Homer of the North:

   High feast that day held the birds of the air and the beasts of the
   White-tailed erne and sallow glede,
   Dusky raven, with horny neb,
   And the gray deer the wolf of the wood.

The bones of the slain, men say, whitened the place for fifty years to

And remember, that on the same day on which that fight befell--September
27, 1066--William, Duke of Normandy, with all his French-speaking
Norsemen, was sailing across the British Channel, under the protection of
a banner consecrated by the Pope, to conquer that England which the Norse-
speaking Normans could not conquer.

And now King Harold showed himself a man.  He turned at once from the
North of England to the South.  He raised the folk of the Southern, as he
had raised those of the Central and Northern shires; and in sixteen
days--after a march which in those times was a prodigious feat--he was
entrenched upon the fatal down which men called Heathfield then, and
Senlac, but Battle to this day--with William and his French Normans
opposite him on Telham hill.

Then came the battle of Hastings.  You all know what befell upon that
day; and how the old weapon was matched against the new--the English axe
against the Norman lance--and beaten only because the English broke their
ranks.  If you wish to refresh your memories, read the tale once more in
Mr. Freeman's "History of England," or Professor Creasy's "Fifteen
Decisive Battles of the World," or even, best of all, the late Lord
Lytton's splendid romance of "Harold."  And when you go to England, go,
as some of you may have gone already, to Battle; and there from off the
Abbey grounds, or from Mountjoye behind, look down off what was then "The
Heathy Field," over the long slopes of green pasture and the rich hop-
gardens, where were no hop-gardens then, and the flat tide-marshes
winding between the wooded heights, towards the southern sea; and imagine
for yourselves the feelings of an Englishman as he contemplates that
broad green sloping lawn, on which was decided the destiny of his native
land.  Here, right beneath, rode Taillefer up the slope before them all,
singing the song of Roland, tossing his lance in air and catching it as
it fell, with all the Norse berserker spirit of his ancestors flashing
out in him, at the thought of one fair fight, and then purgatory, or
Valhalla--Taillefer perhaps preferred the latter.  Yonder on the left, in
that copse where the red-ochre gully runs, is Sanguelac, the drain of
blood, into which (as the Bayeux tapestry, woven by Matilda's maids,
still shows) the Norman knights fell, horse and man, till the gully was
bridged with writhing bodies for those who rode after.  Here, where you
stand--the crest of the hill marks where it must have been--was the
stockade on which depended the fate of England.  Yonder, perhaps, stalked
out one English squire or house-carle after another: tall men with long-
handled battle-axes--one specially terrible, with a wooden helmet which
no sword could pierce--who hewed and hewed down knight on knight, till
they themselves were borne to earth at last.  And here, among the trees
and ruins of the garden, kept trim by those who know the treasure which
they own, stood Harold's two standards of the fighting-man and the dragon
of Wessex.  And here, close by (for here, for many a century, stood the
high altar of Battle Abbey, where monks sang masses for Harold's soul),
upon this very spot the Swan-neck found her hero-lover's corpse.  "Ah,"
says many an Englishman--and who will blame him for it--"how grand to
have died beneath that standard on that day!"  Yes, and how right.  And
yet how right, likewise, that the Norman's cry of _Dexaie_!--"God
Help!"--and not the English hurrah, should have won that day, till
William rode up Mountjoye in the afternoon to see the English army,
terrible even in defeat, struggling through copse and marsh away toward
Brede, and, like retreating lions driven into their native woods, slaying
more in the pursuit than they slew even in the fight.

But so it was to be; for so it ought to have been.  You, my American
friends, delight, as I have said already, in seeing the old places of the
old country.  Go, I beg you, and look at that old place, and if you be
wise, you will carry back from it one lesson: That God's thoughts are not
as our thoughts; nor His ways as our ways.

It was a fearful time which followed.  I cannot but believe that our
forefathers had been, in some way or other, great sinners, or two such
conquests as Canute's and William's would not have fallen on them within
the short space of sixty years.  They did not want for courage, as
Stamford Brigg and Hastings showed full well.  English swine, their
Norman conquerors called them often enough; but never English cowards.
Their ruinous vice, if we are to trust the records of the time, was what
the old monks called accidia--[Greek text]--and ranked it as one of the
seven deadly sins: a general careless, sleepy, comfortable habit of mind,
which lets all go its way for good or evil--a habit of mind too often
accompanied, as in the case of the Angle-Danes, with self-indulgence,
often coarse enough.  Huge eaters and huger drinkers, fuddled with ale,
were the men who went down at Hastings--though they went down like
heroes--before the staid and sober Norman out of France.

But those were fearful times.  As long as William lived, ruthless as he
was to all rebels, he kept order and did justice with a strong and steady
hand; for he brought with him from Normandy the instincts of a truly
great statesman.  And in his sons' time matters grew worse and worse.
After that, in the troubles of Stephen's reign, anarchy let loose tyranny
in its most fearful form, and things were done which recall the cruelties
of the old Spanish _conquistadores_ in America.  Scott's charming romance
of "Ivanhoe" must be taken, I fear, as a too true picture of English
society in the time of Richard I.

And what came of it all?  What was the result of all this misery and

This, paradoxical as it may seem: That the Norman conquest was the making
of the English people; of the Free Commons of England.

Paradoxical, but true.  First, you must dismiss from your minds the too
common notion that there is now, in England, a governing Norman
aristocracy, or that there has been one, at least since the year 1215,
when Magna Charta was won from the Norman John by Normans and by English
alike.  For the first victors at Hastings, like the first
_conquistadores_ in America, perished, as the monk chronicles point out,
rapidly by their own crimes; and very few of our nobility can trace their
names back to the authentic Battle Abbey roll.  The great majority of the
peers have sprung from, and all have intermarried with, the Commons; and
the peerage has been from the first, and has become more and more as
centuries have rolled on, the prize of success in life.

The cause is plain.  The conquest of England by the Normans was not one
of those conquests of a savage by a civilised race, or of a cowardly race
by a brave race, which results in the slavery of the conquered, and
leaves the gulf of caste between two races--master and slave.  That was
the case in France, and resulted, after centuries of oppression, in the
great and dreadful revolution of 1793, which convulsed not only France
but the whole civilised world.  But caste, thank God, has never existed
in England, since at least the first generation after the Norman

The vast majority, all but the whole population of England, have been
always free; and free, as they are not where caste exists to change their
occupations.  They could intermarry, if they were able men, into the
ranks above them; as they could sink, if they were unable men, into the
ranks below them.  Any man acquainted with the origin of our English
surnames may verify this fact for himself, by looking at the names of a
single parish or a single street of shops.  There, jumbled together, he
will find names marking the noblest Saxon or Angle blood--Kenward or
Kenric, Osgood or Osborne, side by side with Cordery or Banister--now
names of farmers in my own parish--or other Norman-French names which may
be, like those two last, in Battle Abbey roll--and side by side the
almost ubiquitous Brown, whose ancestor was probably some Danish or
Norwegian house-carle, proud of his name Biorn the Bear, and the
ubiquitous Smith or Smythe, the Smiter, whose forefather, whether he be
now peasant or peer, assuredly handled the tongs and hammer at his own
forge.  This holds true equally in New England and in Old.  When I search
through (as I delight to do) your New England surnames, I find the same
jumble of names--West Saxon, Angle, Danish, Norman, and French-Norman
likewise, many of primaeval and heathen antiquity, many of high nobility,
all worked together, as at home, to form the Free Commoners of England.

If any should wish to know more on this curious and important subject,
let me recommend them to study Ferguson's "Teutonic Name System," a book
from which you will discover that some of our quaintest, and seemingly
most plebeian surnames--many surnames, too, which are extinct in England,
but remain in America--are really corruptions of good old Teutonic names,
which our ancestors may have carried in the German Forest, before an
Englishman set foot on British soil; from which he will rise with the
comfortable feeling that we English-speaking men, from the highest to the
lowest, are literally kinsmen.  Nay, so utterly made up now is the old
blood-feud between Norseman and Englishman, between the descendants of
those who conquered and those who were conquered, that in the children of
our Prince of Wales, after 800 years, the blood of William of Normandy is
mingled with the blood of the very Harold who fell at Hastings.  And so,
by the bitter woes which followed the Norman conquest was the whole
population, Dane, Angle, and Saxon, earl and churl, freeman and slave,
crushed and welded together into one homogeneous mass, made just and
merciful towards each other by the most wholesome of all teachings, a
community of suffering; and if they had been, as I fear they were, a lazy
and a sensual people, were taught

   That life is not as idle ore,
   But heated hot with burning fears,
   And bathed in baths of hissing tears,
   And battered with the strokes of doom
   To shape and use.

But how did these wild Vikings become Christian men?  It is a long story.
So stanch a race was sure to be converted only very slowly.  Noble
missionaries as Ansgar, Rembert, and Poppo, had worked for 150 years and
more among the heathens of Denmark.  But the patriotism of the Norseman
always recoiled, even though in secret, from the fact that they were
German monks, backed by the authority of the German emperor; and many a
man, like Svend Fork-beard, father of the great Canute, though he had the
Kaiser himself for godfather, turned heathen once more the moment he was
free, because his baptism was the badge of foreign conquest, and neither
pope nor kaiser should lord it over him, body or soul.  St. Olaf, indeed,
forced Christianity on the Norse at the sword's point, often by horrid
cruelties, and perished in the attempt.  But who forced it on the
Norsemen of Scotland, England, Ireland, Neustria, Russia, and all the
Eastern Baltic?  It was absorbed and in most cases, I believe, gradually
and willingly, as a gospel and good news to hearts worn out with the
storm of their own passions.  And whence came their Christianity?  Much
of it, as in the case of the Danes, and still more of the French Normans,
came direct from Rome, the city which, let them defy its influence as
they would, was still the fount of all theology, as well as of all
civilisation.  But I must believe that much of it came from that
mysterious ancient Western Church, the Church of St. Patric, St. Bridget,
St. Columba, which had covered with rude cells and chapels the rocky
islets of the North Atlantic, even to Iceland itself.  Even to Iceland;
for when that island was first discovered, about A.D. 840, the Norsemen
found in an isle, on the east and west and elsewhere, Irish books and
bells and wooden crosses, and named that island Papey, the isle of the
popes--some little colony of monks, who lived by fishing, and who are
said to have left the land when the Norsemen settled in it.  Let us
believe, for it is consonant with reason and experience, that the sight
of those poor monks, plundered and massacred again and again by the
"mailed swarms of Lochlin," yet never exterminated, but springing up
again in the same place, ready for fresh massacre, a sacred plant which
God had planted, and which no rage of man could trample out--let us
believe, I say, that that sight taught at last to the buccaneers of the
old world that there was a purer manliness, a loftier heroism, than the
ferocious self-assertion of the Berserker, even the heroism of humility,
gentleness, self-restraint, self-sacrifice; that there was a strength
which was made perfect in weakness; a glory, not of the sword but of the
cross.  We will believe that that was the lesson which the Norsemen
learnt, after many a wild and blood-stained voyage, from the monks of
Iona or of Derry, which caused the building of such churches as that
which Sightrys, king of Dublin, raised about the year 1030, not in the
Norse but in the Irish quarter of Dublin: a sacred token of amity between
the new settlers and the natives on the ground of a common faith.  Let us
believe, too, that the influence of woman was not wanting in the good
work--that the story of St. Margaret and Malcolm Canmore was repeated,
though inversely, in the case of many a heathen Scandinavian jarl, who,
marrying the princely daughter of some Scottish chieftain, found in her
creed at last something more precious than herself; while his brother or
his cousin became, at Dublin or Wexford or Waterford, the husband of some
saffron-robed Irish princess, "fair as an elf," as the old saying was;
some "maiden of the three transcendent hues," of whom the old book of
Linane says:

   Red as the blood which flowed from stricken deer,
   White as the snow on which that blood ran down,
   Black as the raven who drank up that blood;

--and possibly, as in the case of Brian Boru's mother, had given his fair-
haired sister in marriage to some Irish prince, and could not resist the
spell of their new creed, and the spell too, it may be, of some sister of
theirs who had long given up all thought of earthly marriage to tend the
undying fire of St. Bridget among the consecrated virgins of Kildare.

I am not drawing from mere imagination.  That such things must have
happened, and happened again and again, is certain to anyone who knows,
even superficially, the documents of that time.  And I doubt not that, in
manners as well as in religion, the Norse were humanised and civilised by
their contact with the Celts, both in Scotland and in Ireland.  Both
peoples had valour, intellect, imagination: but the Celt had that which
the burly angular Norse character, however deep and stately, and however
humorous, wanted; namely, music of nature, tenderness, grace, rapidity,
playfulness; just the qualities, combining with the Scandinavian (and in
Scotland with the Angle) elements of character which have produced, in
Ireland and in Scotland, two schools of lyric poetry second to none in
the world.

And so they were converted to what was then a dark and awful creed; a
creed of ascetic self-torture and purgatorial fires for those who escape
the still more dreadful, because endless, doom of the rest of the human
race.  But, because it was a sad creed, it suited better, men who had,
when conscience re-awakened in them, but too good reason to be sad; and
the minsters and cloisters which sprang up over the whole of Northern
Europe, and even beyond it, along the dreary western shores of Greenland
itself, are the symbols of a splendid repentance for their own sins and
for the sins of their forefathers.

Gudruna herself, of whom I spoke just now, one of those old Norse
heroines who helped to discover America, though a historic personage, is
a symbolic one likewise, and the pattern of a whole class.  She too,
after many journeys to Iceland, Greenland, and Winland, goes on a
pilgrimage to Rome, to get, I presume, absolution from the Pope himself
for all the sins of her strange, rich, stormy, wayward life.

Have you not read--many of you surely have--La Motte Fouque's romance of
"Sintram?"  It embodies all that I would say.  It is the spiritual drama
of that early Middle Age; very sad, morbid if you will, but true to fact.
The Lady Verena ought not, perhaps, to desert her husband, and shut
herself up in a cloister.  But so she would have done in those old days.
And who shall judge her harshly for so doing?  When the brutality of the
man seems past all cure, who shall blame the woman if she glides away
into some atmosphere of peace and purity, to pray for him whom neither
warnings nor caresses will amend?  It is a sad book, "Sintram."  And yet
not too sad.  For they were a sad people, those old Norse forefathers of
ours.  Their Christianity was sad; their minsters sad; there are few
sadder, though few grander, buildings than a Norman church.

And yet, perhaps, their Christianity did not make them sad.  It was but
the other and the healthier side of that sadness which they had as
heathens.  Read which you will of the old sagas--heathen or
half-Christian--the Eyrbiggia, Viga Glum, Burnt Niall, Grettir the
Strong, and, above all, Snorri Sturluson's "Heimskringla" itself--and you
will see at once how sad they are.  There is, in the old sagas, none of
that enjoyment of life which shines out everywhere in Greek poetry, even
through its deepest tragedies.  Not in complacency with Nature's beauty,
but in the fierce struggle with her wrath, does the Norseman feel
pleasure.  Nature to him was not, as in Mr. Longfellow's exquisite poem,
{3} the kind old nurse, to take him on her knee and whisper to him, ever
anew, the story without an end.  She was a weird witch-wife, mother of
storm demons and frost giants, who must be fought with steadily, warily,
wearily, over dreary heaths and snow-capped fells, and rugged nesses and
tossing sounds, and away into the boundless sea--or who could live?--till
he got hardened in the fight into ruthlessness of need and greed.  The
poor strip of flat strath, ploughed and re-ploughed again in the short
summer days, would yield no more; or wet harvests spoiled the crops, or
heavy snows starved the cattle.  And so the Norseman launched his ships
when the lands were sown in spring, and went forth to pillage or to
trade, as luck would have, to summerted, as he himself called it; and
came back, if he ever came, in autumn to the women to help at harvest-
time, with blood upon his hand.  But had he stayed at home, blood would
have been there still.  Three out of four of them had been mixed up in
some man-slaying, or had some blood-feud to avenge among their own kin.

The whole of Scandinavia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Orkney, and the rest,
remind me ever of that terrible picture of the great Norse painter,
Tiddeman, in which two splendid youths, lashed together, in true Norse
duel fashion by the waist, are hewing each other to death with the short
axe, about some hot words over their ale.  The loss of life, and that of
the most gallant of the young, in those days must have been enormous.  If
the vitality of the race had not been even more enormous, they must have
destroyed each other, as the Red Indians have done, off the face of the
earth.  They lived these Norsemen, not to live--they lived to die.  For
what cared they?  Death--what was death to them? what it was to the
Jomsburger Viking, who, when led out to execution, said to the headsman:
"Die! with all pleasure.  We used to question in Jomsburg whether a man
felt when his head was off?  Now I shall know; but if I do, take care,
for I shall smite thee with my knife.  And meanwhile, spoil not this long
hair of mine; it is so beautiful."

But, oh! what waste!  What might not these men have done if they had
sought peace, not war; if they had learned a few centuries sooner to do
justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with their God?

And yet one loves them, blood-stained as they are.  Your own poets, men
brought up under circumstances, under ideas the most opposite to theirs,
love them, and cannot help it.  And why?  It is not merely for their bold
daring, it is not merely for their stern endurance; nor again that they
had in them that shift and thrift, those steady and common-sense business
habits, which made their noblest men not ashamed to go on voyages of
merchandise.  Nor is it, again, that grim humour--humour as of the modern
Scotch--which so often flashes out into an actual jest, but more usually
underlies unspoken all their deeds.  Is it not rather that these men are
our forefathers? that their blood runs in the veins of perhaps three men
out of four in any general assembly, whether in America or in Britain?
Startling as the assertion may be, I believe it to be strictly true.

Be that as it may, I cannot read the stories of your western men, the
writings of Bret Harte, or Colonel John Hay, for instance, without
feeling at every turn that there are the old Norse alive again, beyond
the very ocean which they first crossed, 850 years ago.

Let me try to prove my point, and end with a story, as I began with one.

It is just thirty years before the Norman conquest of England, the
evening of the battle of Sticklestead.  St. Olaf's corpse is still lying
unburied on the hillside.  The reforming and Christian king has fallen in
the attempt to force Christianity and despotism on the Conservative and
half-heathen party--the free bonders or yeoman-farmers of Norway.
Thormod, his poet--the man, as his name means, of thunder mood--who has
been standing in the ranks, at last has an arrow in his left side.  He
breaks off the shaft, and thus sore wounded goes up, when all is lost, to
a farm where is a great barn full of wounded.  One Kimbe comes, a man out
of the opposite or bonder part.  "There is great howling and screaming in
there," he says.  "King Olaf's men fought bravely enough: but it is a
shame brisk young lads cannot bear their wounds.  On what side wert thou
in the fight?"  "On the best side," says the beaten Thormod.  Kimbe sees
that Thormod has a good bracelet on his arm.  "Thou art surely a king's
man.  Give me thy gold ring and I will hide thee, ere the bonders kill

Thormod said, "Take it, if thou canst get it.  I have lost that which is
worth more;" and he stretched out his left hand, and Kimbe tried to take
it.  But Thormod, swinging his sword, cut off his hand; and it is said
Kimbe behaved no better over his wound than those he had been blaming.

Then Thormod went into the barn; and after he had sung his song there in
praise of his dead king, he went into an inner room, where was a fire,
and water warming, and a handsome girl binding up men's wounds.  And he
sat down by the door; and one said to him, "Why art thou so dead pale?
Why dost thou not call for the leech?"  Then sung Thormod:

   "I am not blooming; and the fair
   And slender maiden loves to care
   For blooming youths.  Few care for me,
   With Fenri's gold meal I can't fee;"

and so forth, improvising after the old Norse fashion.  Then Thormod got
up and went to the fire, and stood and warmed himself.  And the nurse-
girl said to him, "Go out, man, and bring some of the split-firewood
which lies outside the door."  He went out and brought an armful of wood
and threw it down.  Then the nurse-girl looked him in the face, and said,
"Dreadful pale is this man.  Why art thou so?"  Then sang Thormod:

   "Thou wonderest, sweet bloom, at me,
   A man so hideous to see.
   The arrow-drift o'ertook me, girl,
   A fine-ground arrow in the whirl
   Went through me, and I feel the dart
   Sits, lovely lass, too near my heart."

The girl said, "Let me see thy wound."  Then Thormod sat down, and the
girl saw his wounds, and that which was in his side, and saw that there
was a piece of iron in it; but could not tell where it had gone.  In a
stone pot she had leeks and other herbs, and boiled them, and gave the
wounded man of it to eat.  But Thormod said, "Take it away; I have no
appetite now for my broth."  Then she took a great pair of tongs and
tried to pull out the iron; but the wound was swelled, and there was too
little to lay hold of.  Now said Thormod, "Cut in so deep that thou canst
get at the iron, and give me the tongs."  She did as he said.  Then took
Thormod the gold bracelet off his hand and gave it the nurse-girl, and
bade her do with it what she liked.

"It is a good man's gift," said he.  "King Olaf gave me the ring this

Then Thormod took the tongs and pulled the iron out.  But on the iron was
a barb, on which hung flesh from the heart, some red, some white.  When
he saw that, he said, "The king has fed us well.  I am fat, even to the
heart's roots."  And so leant back and was dead.


I wish to speak to you to-night about one of those old despotic empires
which were in every case the earliest known form of civilisation.  Were I
minded to play the cynic or the mountebank, I should choose some corrupt
and effete despotism, already grown weak and ridiculous by its decay--as
did at last the Roman and then the Byzantine Empire--and, after raising a
laugh at the expense of the old system say: See what a superior people
you are now--how impossible, under free and enlightened institutions, is
anything so base and so absurd as went on, even in despotic France before
the Revolution of 1793.  Well, that would be on the whole true, thank
God; but what need is there to say it?

Let us keep our scorn for our own weaknesses, our blame for our own sins,
certain that we shall gain more instruction, though not more amusement,
by hunting out the good which is in anything than by hunting out its
evil.  I have chosen, not the worst, but the best despotism which I could
find in history, founded and ruled by a truly heroic personage, one whose
name has become a proverb and a legend, that so I might lift up your
minds, even by the contemplation of an old Eastern empire, to see that
it, too, could be a work and ordinance of God, and its hero the servant
of the Lord.  For we are almost bound to call Cyrus, the founder of the
Persian Empire, by this august title for two reasons--First, because the
Hebrew Scriptures call him so; the next, because he proved himself to be
such by his actions and their consequences--at least in the eyes of those
who believe, as I do, in a far-seeing and far-reaching Providence, by
which all human history is

   Bound by gold chains unto the throne of God.

His work was very different from any that need be done, or can be done,
in these our days.  But while we thank God that such work is now as
unnecessary as impossible; we may thank God likewise that, when such work
was necessary and possible, a man was raised up to do it: and to do it,
as all accounts assert, better, perhaps, than it had ever been done
before or since.

True, the old conquerors, who absorbed nation after nation, tribe after
tribe, and founded empires on their ruins, are now, I trust, about to be
replaced, throughout the world, as here and in Britain at home, by free
self-governed peoples:

   The old order changeth, giving place to the new;
   And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
   Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

And that custom of conquest and empire and transplantation did more than
once corrupt the world.  And yet in it, too, God may have more than once
fulfilled His own designs, as He did, if Scripture is to be believed, in
Cyrus, well surnamed the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire some
2400 years ago.  For these empires, it must be remembered, did at least
that which the Roman Empire did among a scattered number of savage
tribes, or separate little races, hating and murdering each other,
speaking different tongues, and worshipping different gods, and losing
utterly the sense of a common humanity, till they looked on the people
who dwelt in the next valley as fiends, to be sacrificed, if caught, to
their own fiends at home.  Among such as these, empires did introduce
order, law, common speech, common interest, the notion of nationality and
humanity.  They, as it were, hammered together the fragments of the human
race till they had moulded them into one.  They did it cruelly, clumsily,
ill: but was there ever work done on earth, however noble, which was
not--alas, alas!--done somewhat ill?

Let me talk to you a little about the old hero.  He and his hardy
Persians should be specially interesting to us.  For in them first does
our race, the Aryan race, appear in authentic history.  In them first did
our race give promise of being the conquering and civilising race of the
future world.  And to the conquests of Cyrus--so strangely are all great
times and great movements of the human family linked to each other--to
his conquests, humanly speaking, is owing the fact that you are here, and
I am speaking to you at this moment.

It is an oft-told story: but so grand a one that I must sketch it for
you, however clumsily, once more.

In that mountain province called Farsistan, north-east of what we now
call Persia, the dwelling-place of the Persians, there dwelt, in the
sixth and seventh centuries before Christ, a hardy tribe, of the purest
blood of Iran, a branch of the same race as the Celtic, Teutonic, Greek,
and Hindoo, and speaking a tongue akin to theirs.  They had wandered
thither, say their legends, out of the far north-east, from off some
lofty plateau of Central Asia, driven out by the increasing cold, which
left them but two mouths of summer to ten of winter.

They despised at first--would that they had despised always!--the
luxurious life of the dwellers in the plains, and the effeminate customs
of the Medes--a branch of their own race who had conquered and
intermarried with the Turanian, or Finnish tribes; and adopted much of
their creed, as well as of their morals, throughout their vast but short-
lived Median Empire.  "Soft countries," said Cyrus himself--so runs the
tale--"gave birth to small men.  No region produced at once delightful
fruits and men of a war-like spirit."  Letters were to them, probably,
then unknown.  They borrowed them in after years, as they borrowed their
art, from Babylonians, Assyrians, and other Semitic nations whom they
conquered.  From the age of five to that of twenty, their lads were
instructed but in two things--to speak the truth and to shoot with the
bow.  To ride was the third necessary art, introduced, according to
Xenophon, after they had descended from their mountain fastnessess to
conquer the whole East.

Their creed was simple enough.  Ahura Mazda--Ormuzd, as he has been
called since--was the one eternal Creator, the source of all light and
life and good.  He spake his word, and it accomplished the creation of
heaven, before the water, before the earth, before the cow, before the
tree, before the fire, before man the truthful, before the Devas and
beasts of prey, before the whole existing universe; before every good
thing created by Ahura Mazda and springing from Truth.

He needed no sacrifices of blood.  He was to be worshipped only with
prayers, with offerings of the inspiring juice of the now unknown herb
Homa, and by the preservation of the sacred fire, which, understand, was
not he, but the symbol--as was light and the sun--of the good spirit--of
Ahura Mazda.  They had no images of the gods, these old Persians; no
temples, no altars, so says Herodotus, and considered the use of them a
sign of folly.  They were, as has been well said of them, the Puritans of
the old world.  When they descended from their mountain fastnesses, they
became the iconoclasts of the old world; and the later Isaiah, out of the
depths of national shame, captivity, and exile, saw in them
brother-spirits, the chosen of the Lord, whose hero Cyrus, the Lord was
holding by His right hand, till all the foul superstitions and foul
effeminacies of the rotten Semitic peoples of the East, and even of Egypt
itself, should be crushed, though, alas! only for awhile, by men who felt
that they had a commission from the God of light and truth and purity, to
sweep out all that with the besom of destruction.

But that was a later inspiration.  In earlier, and it may be happier,
times the duty of the good man was to strive against all evil, disorder,
uselessness, incompetence in their more simple forms.  "He therefore is a
holy man," says Ormuzd in the Zend-avesta, "who has built a dwelling on
the earth, in which he maintains fire, cattle, his wife, his children,
and flocks and herds; he who makes the earth produce barley, he who
cultivates the fruits of the soil, cultivates purity; he advances the law
of Ahura Mazda as much as if he had offered a hundred sacrifices."

To reclaim the waste, to till the land, to make a corner of the earth
better than they found it, was to these men to rescue a bit of Ormuzd's
world out of the usurped dominion of Ahriman; to rescue it from the
spirit of evil and disorder for its rightful owner, the Spirit of Order
and of Good.

For they believed in an evil spirit, these old Persians.  Evil was not
for them a lower form of good.  With their intense sense of the
difference between right and wrong it could be nothing less than hateful;
to be attacked, exterminated, as a personal enemy, till it became to them
at last impersonate and a person.

Zarathustra, the mystery of evil, weighed heavily on them and on their
great prophet, Zoroaster--splendour of gold, as I am told his name
signifies--who lived, no man knows clearly when or clearly where, but who
lived and lives for ever, for his works follow him.  He, too, tried to
solve for his people the mystery of evil; and if he did not succeed, who
has succeeded yet?  Warring against Ormuzd, Ahura Mazda, was Ahriman,
Angra Mainyus, literally the being of an evil mind, the ill-conditioned
being.  He was labouring perpetually to spoil the good work of Ormuzd
alike in nature and in man.  He was the cause of the fall of man, the
tempter, the author of misery and death; he was eternal and uncreate as
Ormuzd was.  But that, perhaps, was a corruption of the purer and older
Zoroastrian creed.  With it, if Ahriman were eternal in the past, he
would not be eternal in the future.  Somehow, somewhen, somewhere, in the
day when three prophets--the increasing light, the increasing truth, and
the existing truth--should arise and give to mankind the last three books
of the Zend-avesta, and convert all mankind to the pure creed, then evil
should be conquered, the creation become pure again, and Ahriman vanish
for ever; and, meanwhile, every good man was to fight valiantly for
Ormuzd, his true lord, against Ahriman and all his works.

Men who held such a creed, and could speak truth and draw the bow, what
might they not do when the hour and the man arrived?  They were not a
_big_ nation.  No; but they were a _great_ nation, even while they were
eating barley-bread and paying tribute to their conquerors the Medes, in
the sterile valleys of Farsistan.

And at last the hour and the man came.  The story is half
legendary--differently told by different authors.  Herodotus has one
tale, Xenophon another.  The first, at least, had ample means of
information.  Astyages is the old shah of the Median Empire, then at the
height of its seeming might and splendour and effeminacy.  He has married
his daughter, the Princess Mandane, to Cambyses, seemingly a vassal-king
or prince of the pure Persian blood.  One night the old man is troubled
with a dream.  He sees a vine spring from his daughter, which overshadows
all Asia.  He sends for the Magi to interpret; and they tell him that
Mandane will have a son who will reign in his stead.  Having sons of his
own, and fearing for the succession, he sends for Mandane, and, when her
child is born, gives it to Harpagus, one of his courtiers, to be slain.
The courtier relents, and hands it over to a herdsman, to be exposed on
the mountains.  The herdsman relents in turn, and bring the babe up as
his own child.

When the boy, who goes by the name of Agradates, is grown, he is at play
with the other herdboys, and they choose him for a mimic king.  Some he
makes his guards, some he bids build houses, some carry his messages.  The
son of a Mede of rank refuses, and Agradates has him seized by his guards
and chastised with the whip.  The ancestral instincts of command and
discipline are showing early in the lad.

The young gentleman complains to his father, the father to the old king,
who of course sends for the herdsman and his boy.  The boy answers in a
tone so exactly like that in which Xenophon's Cyrus would have answered,
that I must believe that both Xenophon's Cyrus and Herodotus's Cyrus
(like Xenophon's Socrates and Plato's Socrates) are real pictures of a
real character; and that Herodotus's story, though Xenophon says nothing
of it, is true.

He has done nothing, the noble boy says, but what was just.  He had been
chosen king in play, because the boys thought him most fit.  The boy whom
he had chastised was one of those who chose him.  All the rest obeyed:
but he would not, till at last he got his due reward.  "If I deserve
punishment for that," says the boy, "I am ready to submit."

The old king looks keenly and wonderingly at the young king, whose
features seem somewhat like his own.  Likely enough in those days, when
an Iranian noble or prince would have a quite different cast of
complexion and of face from a Turanian herdsman.  A suspicion crosses
him; and by threats of torture he gets the truth from the trembling

To the poor wretch's rapture the old king lets him go unharmed.  He has a
more exquisite revenge to take, and sends for Harpagus, who likewise
confessed the truth.  The wily old tyrant has naught but gentle words.  It
is best as it is.  He has been very sorry himself for the child, and
Mandane's reproaches had gone to his heart.  "Let Harpagus go home and
send his son to be a companion to the new-found prince.  To-night there
will be great sacrifices in honour of the child's safety, and Harpagus is
to be a guest at the banquet."

Harpagus comes; and after eating his fill, is asked how he likes the
king's meat?  He gives the usual answer; and a covered basket is put
before him, out of which he is to take--in Median fashion--what he likes.
He finds in it the head and hands and feet of his own son.  Like a true
Eastern he shows no signs of horror.  The king asks him if he knew what
flesh he had been eating.  He answers that he knew perfectly.  That
whatever the king did pleased him.

Like an Eastern courtier, he knew how to dissemble, but not to forgive,
and bided his time.  The Magi, to their credit, told Astyages that his
dream had been fulfilled, that Cyrus--as we must now call the foundling
prince--had fulfilled it by becoming a king in play, and the boy is let
to go back to his father and his hardy Persian life.  But Harpagus does
not leave him alone, nor perhaps, do his own thoughts.  He has wrongs to
avenge on his grandfather.  And it seems not altogether impossible to the
young mountaineer.

He has seen enough of Median luxury to despise it and those who indulge
in it.  He has seen his own grandfather with his cheeks rouged, his
eyelids stained with antimony, living a womanlike life, shut up from all
his subjects in the recesses of a vast seraglio.

He calls together the mountain rulers; makes friends with Tigranes, an
Armenian prince, a vassal of the Mede, who has his wrongs likewise to
avenge.  And the two little armies of foot-soldiers--the Persians had no
cavalry--defeat the innumerable horsemen of the Mede, take the old king,
keep him in honourable captivity, and so change, one legend says, in a
single battle, the fortunes of the whole East.

And then begins that series of conquests of which we know hardly
anything, save the fact that they were made.  The young mountaineer and
his playmates, whom he makes his generals and satraps, sweep onward
towards the West, teaching their men the art of riding, till the Persian
cavalry becomes more famous than the Median had been.  They gather to
them, as a snowball gathers in rolling, the picked youth of every tribe
whom they overcome.  They knit these tribes to them in loyalty and
affection by that righteousness--that truthfulness and justice--for which
Isaiah in his grandest lyric strains has made them illustrious to all
time; which Xenophon has celebrated in like manner in that exquisite book
of his--the "Cyropaedia."  The great Lydian kingdom of Croesus--Asia
Minor as we call it now--goes down before them.  Babylon itself goes
down, after that world-famed siege which ended in Belshazzar's feast; and
when Cyrus died--still in the prime of life, the legends seem to say--he
left a coherent and well-organised empire, which stretched from the
Mediterranean to Hindostan.

So runs the tale, which to me, I confess, sounds probable and rational
enough.  It may not do so to you; for it has not to many learned men.
They are inclined to "relegate it into the region of myth;" in plain
English, to call old Herodotus a liar, or at least a dupe.  What means
those wise men can have at this distance of more than 2000 years, of
knowing more about the matter than Herodotus, who lived within 100 years
of Cyrus, I for myself cannot discover.  And I say this without the least
wish to disparage these hypercritical persons.  For there are--and more
there ought to be, as long as lies and superstitions remain on this
earth--a class of thinkers who hold in just suspicion all stories which
savour of the sensational, the romantic, even the dramatic.  They know
the terrible uses to which appeals to the fancy and the emotions have
been applied, and are still applied to enslave the intellects, the
consciences, the very bodies of men and women.  They dread so much from
experience the abuse of that formula, that "a thing is so beautiful it
must be true," that they are inclined to reply: "Rather let us say
boldly, it is so beautiful that it cannot be true.  Let us mistrust, or
even refuse to believe _a priori_, and at first sight, all startling,
sensational, even poetic tales, and accept nothing as history, which is
not as dull as the ledger of a dry-goods' store."  But I think that
experience, both in nature and in society, are against that ditch-water
philosophy.  The weather, being governed by laws, ought always to be
equable and normal, and yet you have whirlwinds, droughts, thunderstorms.
The share-market, being governed by laws, ought to be always equable and
normal, and yet you have startling transactions, startling panics,
startling disclosures, and a whole sensational romance of commercial
crime and folly.  Which of us has lived to be fifty years old, without
having witnessed in private life sensation tragedies, alas! sometimes too
fearful to be told, or at least sensational romances, which we shall take
care not to tell, because we shall not be believed?  Let the ditch-water
philosophy say what it will, human life is not a ditch, but a wild and
roaring river, flooding its banks, and eating out new channels with many
a landslip.  It is a strange world, and man, a strange animal, guided, it
is true, usually by most common-place motives; but, for that reason,
ready and glad at times to escape from them and their dulness and
baseness; to give vent, if but for a moment, in wild freedom, to that
demoniac element, which, as Goethe says, underlies his nature and all
nature; and to prefer for an hour, to the normal and respectable ditch-
water, a bottle of champagne or even a carouse on fire-water, let the
consequences be what they may.

How else shall we explain such a phenomenon as those old crusades?  Were
they undertaken for any purpose, commercial or other?  Certainly not for
lightening an overburdened population.  Nay, is not the history of your
own Mormons, and their exodus into the far West, one of the most
startling instances which the world has seen for several centuries, of
the unexpected and incalculable forces which lie hid in man?  Believe me,
man's passions, heated to igniting point, rather than his prudence cooled
down to freezing point, are the normal causes of all great human
movement.  And a truer law of social science than any that political
economists are wont to lay down, is that old _Dov' e la donna_? of the
Italian judge, who used to ask, as a preliminary to every case, civil or
criminal, which was brought before him, _Dov' e la donna_?  "Where is the
lady?" certain, like a wise old gentleman, that a woman was most probably
at the bottom of the matter.

Strangeness?  Romance?  Did any of you ever read--if you have not you
should read--Archbishop Whately's "Historic Doubts about the Emperor
Napoleon the First"?  Therein the learned and witty Archbishop proved, as
early as 1819, by fair use of the criticism of Mr. Hume and the Sceptic
School, that the whole history of the great Napoleon ought to be treated
by wise men as a myth and a romance, that there is little or no evidence
of his having existed at all; and that the story of his strange successes
and strange defeats was probably invented by our Government in order to
pander to the vanity of the English nation.

I will say this, which Archbishop Whately, in a late edition,
foreshadows, wittily enough--that if one or two thousand years hence,
when the history of the late Emperor Napoleon the Third, his rise and
fall, shall come to be subjected to critical analysis by future
Philistine historians of New Zealand or Australia, it will be proved by
them to be utterly mythical, incredible, monstrous--and that all the
more, the more the actual facts remain to puzzle their unimaginative
brains.  What will they make two thousand years hence, of the landing at
Boulogne with the tame eagle?  Will not that, and stranger facts still,
but just as true, be relegated to the region of myth, with the dream of
Astyages, and the young and princely herdsman playing at king over his

But enough of this.  To me these bits of romance often seem the truest,
as well as the most important portions of history.

When old Herodotus tells me how, King Astyages having guarded the
frontier, Harpagus sent a hunter to young Cyrus with a fresh-killed hare,
telling him to open it in private; and how, sewn up in it was the letter,
telling him that the time to rebel was come, I am inclined to say, That
must be true.  It is so beneath the dignity of history, so quaint and
unexpected, that it is all the more likely _not_ to have been invented.

So with that other story--How young Cyrus, giving out that his
grandfather had made him general of the Persians, summoned them all, each
man with a sickle in his hand, into a prairie full of thorns, and bade
them clear it in one day; and how when they, like loyal men, had
finished, he bade them bathe, and next day he took them into a great
meadow and feasted them with corn and wine, and all that his father's
farm would yield, and asked them which day they liked best; and, when
they answered as was to be expected, how he opened his parable and told
them, "Choose, then, to work for the Persians like slaves, or to be free
with me."

Such a tale sounds to me true.  It has the very savour of the parables of
the Old Testament; as have, surely, the dreams of the old Sultan, with
which the tale begins.  Do they not put us in mind of the dreams of
Nebuchadnezzar, in the Book of Daniel?

Such stories are actually so beautiful that they are very likely to be
true.  Understand me, I only say likely; the ditch-water view of history
is not all wrong.  Its advocates are right in saying great historic
changes are not produced simply by one great person, by one remarkable
event.  They have been preparing, perhaps for centuries.  They are the
result of numberless forces, acting according to laws, which might have
been foreseen, and will be foreseen, when the science of History is more
perfectly understood.

For instance, Cyrus could not have conquered the Median Empire at a
single blow, if first that empire had not been utterly rotten; and next,
if he and his handful of Persians had not been tempered and sharpened, by
long hardihood, to the finest cutting edge.

Yes, there were all the materials for the catastrophe--the cannon, the
powder, the shot.  But to say that the Persians must have conquered the
Medes, even if Cyrus had never lived, is to say, as too many philosophers
seem to me to say, that, given cannon, powder, and shot, it will fire
itself off some day if we only leave it alone long enough.

It may be so.  But our usual experience of Nature and Fact is, that
spontaneous combustion is a rare and exceptional phenomenon; that if a
cannon is to be fired, someone must arise and pull the trigger.  And I
believe that in Society and Politics, when a great event is ready to be
done, someone must come and do it--do it, perhaps, half unwittingly, by
some single rash act--like that first fatal shot fired by an electric

But to return to Cyrus and his Persians.

I know not whether the "Cyropaedia" is much read in your schools and
universities.  But it is one of the books which I should like to see,
either in a translation or its own exquisite Greek, in the hands of every
young man.  It is not all fact.  It is but a historic romance.  But it is
better than history.  It is an ideal book, like Sidney's "Arcadia" or
Spenser's "Fairy Queen"--the ideal self-education of an ideal hero.  And
the moral of the book--ponder it well, all young men who have the chance
or the hope of exercising authority among your follow-men--the noble and
most Christian moral of that heathen book is this: that the path to solid
and beneficent influence over our fellow-men lies, not through brute
force, not through cupidity, but through the highest morality; through
justice, truthfulness, humanity, self-denial, modesty, courtesy, and all
which makes man or woman lovely in the eyes of mortals or of God.

Yes, the "Cyropaedia" is a noble book, about a noble personage.  But I
cannot forget that there are nobler words by far concerning that same
noble personage, in the magnificent series of Hebrew Lyrics, which begins
"Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith the Lord"--in which the
inspired poet, watching the rise of Cyrus and his Puritans, and the fall
of Babylon, and the idolatries of the East, and the coming deliverance of
his own countrymen, speaks of the Persian hero in words so grand that
they have been often enough applied, and with all fitness, to one greater
than Cyrus, and than all men:

   Who raised up the righteous man from the East,
   And called him to attend his steps?
   Who subdued nations at his presence,
   And gave him dominion over kings?
   And made them like the dust before his sword,
   And the driven stubble before his bow?
   He pursueth them, he passeth in safety,
   By a way never trodden before by his feet.
   Who hath performed and made these things,
   Calling the generations from the beginning?
   I, Jehovah, the first and the last, I am the same.

   Behold my servant, whom I will uphold;
   My chosen, in whom my soul delighteth;
   I will make my spirit rest upon him,
   And he shall publish judgment to the nations.
   He shall not cry aloud, nor clamour,
   Nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets.
   The bruised reed he shall not break,
   And the smoking flax he shall not quench.
   He shall publish justice, and establish it.
   His force shall not be abated, nor broken,
   Until he has firmly seated justice in the earth,
   And the distant nations shall wait for his Law.
   Thus saith the God, even Jehovah,
   Who created the heavens, and stretched them out;
   Who spread abroad the earth, and its produce:
   I, Jehovah, have called thee for a righteous end,
   And I will take hold of thy hand, and preserve thee,
   And I will give thee for a covenant to the people,
   And for a light to the nations;
   To open the eyes of the blind,
   To bring the captives out of prison,
   And from the dungeon those who dwell in darkness.
   I am Jehovah--that is my name;
   And my glory will I not give to another,
   Nor my praise to the graven idols.

   Who saith to Cyrus--Thou art my shepherd,
   And he shall fulfil all my pleasure:
   Who saith to Jerusalem--Thou shalt be built;
   And to the Temple--Thou shalt be founded.
   Thus saith Jehovah to his anointed,
   To Cyrus whom I hold fast by his right hand,
   That I may subdue nations under him,
   And loose the loins of kings;
   That I may open before him the two-leaved doors,
   And the gates shall not be shut;
   I will go before thee
   And bring the mountains low.
   The gates of brass will I break in sunder,
   And the bars of iron hew down.
   And I will give thee the treasures of darkness,
   And the hoards hid deep in secret places,
   That thou mayest know that I am Jehovah.
   I have surnamed thee, though thou knowest not me.
   I am Jehovah, and none else;
   Beside me there is no God.
   I will gird thee, though thou hast not known me,
   That they may know from the rising of the sun,
   And from the west, that there is none beside me;
   I am Jehovah, and none else;
   Forming light and creating darkness;
   Forming peace, and creating evil.
   I, Jehovah, make all these.

This is the Hebrew prophet's conception of the great Puritan of the Old
World who went forth with such a commission as this, to destroy the idols
of the East, while

   The isles saw that, and feared,
   And the ends of the earth were afraid;
   They drew near, they came together;
   Everyone helped his neighbour,
   And said to his brother, Be of good courage.

   The carver encouraged the smith,
   He that smoothed with the hammer
   Him that smote on the anvil;
   Saying of the solder, It is good;
   And fixing the idol with nails, lest it be moved;

But all in vain; for as the poet goes on:

   Bel bowed down, and Nebo stooped;
   Their idols were upon the cattle,
   A burden to the weary beast.
   They stoop, they bow down together;
   They could not deliver their own charge;
   Themselves are gone into captivity.

And what, to return, what was the end of the great Cyrus and of his

Alas, alas! as with all human glory, the end was not as the beginning.

We are scarce bound to believe positively the story how Cyrus made one
war too many, and was cut off in the Scythian deserts, falling before the
arrows of mere savages; and how their queen, Tomyris, poured blood down
the throat of the dead corpse, with the words, "Glut thyself with the
gore for which thou hast thirsted."  But it may be true--for Xenophon
states it expressly, and with detail--that Cyrus, from the very time of
his triumph, became an Eastern despot, a sultan or a shah, living apart
from his people in mysterious splendour, in the vast fortified palace
which he built for himself; and imitating and causing his nobles and
satraps to imitate, in all but vice and effeminacy, the very Medes whom
he had conquered.  And of this there is no doubt--that his sons and their
empire ran rapidly through that same vicious circle of corruption to
which all despotisms are doomed, and became within 250 years, even as the
Medes, the Chaldeans, the Lydians, whom they had conquered, children no
longer of Ahura Mazda, but of Ahriman, of darkness and not of light, to
be conquered by Alexander and his Greeks even more rapidly and more
shamefully than they had conquered the East.

This is the short epic of the Persian Empire, ending, alas! as all human
epics are wont to end, sadly, if not shamefully.

But let me ask you, Did I say too much, when I said, that to these
Persians we owe that we are here to-night?

I do not say that without them we should not have been here.  God, I
presume, when He is minded to do anything, has more than one way of doing

But that we are now the last link in a chain of causes and effects which
reaches as far back as the emigration of the Persians southward from the
plateau of Pamir, we cannot doubt.

For see.  By the fall of Babylon and its empire the Jews were freed from
their captivity--large numbers of them at least--and sent home to their
own Jerusalem.  What motives prompted Cyrus, and Darius after him, to do
that deed?

Those who like to impute the lowest motives may say, if they will, that
Daniel and the later Isaiah found it politic to worship the rising sun,
and flatter the Persian conquerors: and that Cyrus and Darius in turn
were glad to see Jerusalem rebuilt, as an impregnable frontier fortress
between them and Egypt.  Be it so; I, who wish to talk of things noble,
pure, lovely, and of good report, would rather point you once more to the
magnificent poetry of the later Isaiah which commences at the 40th
chapter of the Book of Isaiah, and say--There, upon the very face of the
document, stands written the fact that the sympathy between the faithful
Persian and the faithful Jew--the two puritans of the Old World, the two
haters of lies, idolatries, superstitions, was actually as intense as it
ought to have been, as it must have been.

Be that as it may, the return of the Jews to Jerusalem preserved for us
the Old Testament, while it restored to them a national centre, a sacred
city, like that of Delphi to the Greeks, Rome to the Romans, Mecca to the
Muslim, loyalty to which prevented their being utterly absorbed by the
more civilised Eastern races among whom they had been scattered abroad as
colonies of captives.

Then another, and a seemingly needful link of cause and effect ensued:
Alexander of Macedon destroyed the Persian Empire, and the East became
Greek, and Alexandria, rather than Jerusalem, became the head-quarters of
Jewish learning.  But for that very cause, the Scriptures were not left
inaccessible to the mass of mankind, like the old Pehlevi liturgies of
the Zend-avesta, or the old Sanscrit Vedas, in an obsolete and hieratic
tongue, but were translated into, and continued in, the then all but
world-wide Hellenic speech, which was to the ancient world what French is
to the modern.

Then the East became Roman, without losing its Greek speech.  And under
the wide domination of that later Roman Empire--which had subdued and
organised the whole known world, save the Parthian descendants of those
old Persians, and our old Teutonic forefathers in their German forests
and on their Scandinavian shores--that Divine book was carried far and
wide, East and West, and South, from the heart of Abyssinia to the
mountains of Armenia, and to the isles of the ocean, beyond Britain
itself to Ireland and to the Hebrides.

And that book--so strangely coinciding with the old creed of the earlier
Persians--that book, long misunderstood, long overlain by the dust, and
overgrown by the parasitic fungi of centuries, that book it was which
sent to these trans-Atlantic shores the founders of your great nation.
That book gave them their instinct of Freedom, tempered by reverence for
Law.  That book gave them their hatred of idolatry; and made them not
only say but act upon their own words, with these old Persians and with
the Jewish prophets alike, Sacrifice and burnt offering thou wouldst not;
Then said we, Lo, we come.  In the volume of the book it is written of
us, that we come to do thy will, O God.  Yes, long and fantastic is the
chain of causes and effects, which links you here to the old heroes who
came down from Central Asia, because the land had grown so wondrous cold,
that there were ten months of winter to two of summer; and when simply
after warmth and life, and food for them and for their flocks, they
wandered forth to found and help to found a spiritual kingdom.

And even in their migration, far back in these dim and mystic ages, have
we found the earliest link of the long chain?  Not so.  What if the
legend of the change of climate be the dim recollection of an enormous
physical fact?  What if it, and the gradual depopulation of the whole
north of Asia, be owing, as geologists now suspect, to the slow and age-
long uprise of the whole of Siberia, thrusting the warm Arctic sea
farther and farther to the northward, and placing between it and the
Highlands of Thibet an ever-increasing breadth of icy land, destroying
animals, and driving whole races southward, in search of the summer and
the sun?

What if the first link in the chain, as yet conceivable by man, should be
the cosmic changes in the distribution of land and water, which filled
the mouths of the Siberian rivers with frozen carcases of woolly mammoth
and rhinoceros; and those again, doubt it not, of other revolutions,
reaching back and back, and on and on, into the infinite unknown?  Why
not?  For so are all human destinies

   Bound with gold chains unto the throne of God.


There is a theory abroad in the world just now about the origin of the
human race, which has so many patent and powerful physiological facts to
support it that we must not lightly say that it is absurd or impossible;
and that is, that man's mortal body and brain were derived from some
animal and ape-like creature.  Of that I am not going to speak now.  My
subject is: How this creature called man, from whatever source derived,
became civilised, rational, and moral.  And I am sorry to say that there
is tacked on by many to the first theory, another which does not follow
from it, and which has really nothing to do with it, and it is this: That
man, with all his wonderful and mysterious aspirations, always
unfulfilled yet always precious, at once his torment and his joy, his
very hope of everlasting life; that man, I say, developed himself,
unassisted, out of a state of primaeval brutishness, simply by
calculations of pleasure and pain, by observing what actions would pay in
the long run and what would not; and so learnt to conquer his selfishness
by a more refined and extended selfishness, and exchanged his brutality
for worldliness, and then, in a few instances, his worldliness for next-
worldliness.  I hope I need not say that I do not believe this theory.  If
I did, I could not be a Christian, I think, nor a philosopher either.  At
least, if I thought that human civilisation had sprung from such a
dunghill as that, I should, in honour to my race, say nothing about it,
here or elsewhere.

Why talk of the shame of our ancestors?  I want to talk of their honour
and glory.  I want to talk, if I talk at all, about great times, about
noble epochs, noble movements, noble deeds, and noble folk; about times
in which the human race--it may be through many mistakes, alas! and sin,
and sorrow, and blood-shed--struggled up one step higher on those great
stairs which, as we hope, lead upward towards the far-off city of God;
the perfect polity, the perfect civilisation, the perfect religion, which
is eternal in the heavens.

Of great men, then, and noble deeds I want to speak.  I am bound to do so
first, in courtesy to my hearers.  For in choosing such a subject I took
for granted a nobleness and greatness of mind in them which can
appreciate and enjoy the contemplation of that which is lofty and heroic,
and that which is useful indeed, though not to the purses merely or the
mouths of men, but to their intellects and spirits; that highest
philosophy which, though she can (as has been sneeringly said of her)
bake no bread, she--and she alone, can at least do this--make men worthy
to eat the bread which God has given them.

I am bound to speak on such subjects, because I have never yet met, or
read of, the human company who did not require, now and then at least,
being reminded of such times and such personages--of whatsoever things
are just, pure, true, lovely, and of good report, if there be any manhood
and any praise to think, as St. Paul bids us all, of such things, that we
may keep up in our minds as much as possible a lofty standard, a pure
ideal, instead of sinking to the mere selfish standard which judges all
things, even those of the world to come, by profit and by loss, and into
that sordid frame of mind in which a man grows to believe that the world
is constructed of bricks and timber, and kept going by the price of

We are all tempted, and the easier and more prosperous we are, the more
we are tempted, to fall into that sordid and shallow frame of mind.
Sordid even when its projects are most daring, its outward luxuries most
refined; and shallow, even when most acute, when priding itself most on
its knowledge of human nature, and of the secret springs which, so it
dreams, move the actions and make the history of nations and of men.  All
are tempted that way, even the noblest-hearted.  _Adhaesit pavimento
venter_, says the old psalmist.  I am growing like the snake, crawling in
the dust, and eating the dust in which I crawl.  I try to lift up my eyes
to the heavens, to the true, the beautiful, the good, the eternal
nobleness which was before all time, and shall be still when time has
passed away.  But to lift up myself is what I cannot do.  Who will help
me?  Who will quicken me? as our old English tongue has it.  Who will
give me life?  The true, pure, lofty human life which I did _not_ inherit
from the primaeval ape, which the ape-nature in me is for ever trying to
stifle, and make me that which I know too well I could so easily become--a
cunninger and more dainty-featured brute?  Death itself, which seems at
times so fair, is fair because even it may raise me up and deliver me
from the burden of this animal and mortal body:

   'Tis life, not death for which I pant;
   'Tis life, whereof my nerves are scant;
   More life, and fuller, that I want.

Man?  I am a man not by reason of my bones and muscles, nerves and brain,
which I have in common with apes and dogs and horses.  I am a man--thou
art a man or woman--not because we have a flesh--God forbid! but because
there is a spirit in us, a divine spark and ray, which nature did not
give, and which nature cannot take away.  And therefore, while I live on
earth, I will live to the spirit, not to the flesh, that I may be,
indeed, a _man_; and this same gross flesh, this animal ape-nature in me,
shall be the very element in me which I will renounce, defy, despise; at
least, if I am minded to be, not a merely higher savage, but a truly
higher civilised man.  Civilisation with me shall mean, not more wealth,
more finery, more self-indulgence--even more aesthetic and artistic
luxury; but more virtue, more knowledge, more self-control, even though I
earn scanty bread by heavy toil; and when I compare the Caesar of Rome or
the great king, whether of Egypt, Babylon, or Persia, with the hermit of
the Thebaid, starving in his frock of camel's hair, with his soul fixed
on the ineffable glories of the unseen, and striving, however wildly and
fantastically, to become an angel and not an ape, I will say the hermit,
and not the Caesar, is the civilised man.

There are plenty of histories of civilisation and theories of
civilisation abroad in the world just now, and which profess to show you
how the primeval savage has, or at least may have, become the civilised
man.  For my part, with all due and careful consideration, I confess I
attach very little value to any of them: and for this simple reason that
we have no facts.  The facts are lost.

Of course, if you assume a proposition as certainly true, it is easy
enough to prove that proposition to be true, at least to your own
satisfaction.  If you assert with the old proverb, that you may make a
silk purse out of a sow's ear, you will be stupider than I dare suppose
anyone here to be, if you cannot invent for yourselves all the
intermediate stages of the transformation, however startling.  And,
indeed, if modern philosophers had stuck more closely to this old
proverb, and its defining verb "make," and tried to show how some person
or persons--let them be who they may--men, angels, or gods--made the
sow's ear into the silk purse, and the savage into the sage--they might
have pleaded that they were still trying to keep their feet upon the firm
ground of actual experience.  But while their theory is, that the sow's
ear grew into a silk purse of itself, and yet unconsciously and without
any intention of so bettering itself in life, why, I think that those who
have studied the history which lies behind them, and the poor human
nature which is struggling, and sinning, and sorrowing, and failing
around them, and which seems on the greater part of this planet going
downwards and not upwards, and by no means bettering itself, save in the
increase of opera-houses, liquor-bars, and gambling-tables, and that
which pertaineth thereto; then we, I think, may be excused if we say with
the old Stoics--[Greek text]--I withhold my judgment.  I know nothing
about the matter yet; and you, oh my imaginative though learned friends,
know I suspect very little either.

   Eldest of things, Divine Equality:

so sang poor Shelley, and with a certain truth.  For if, as I believe,
the human race sprang from a single pair, there must have been among
their individual descendants an equality far greater than any which has
been known on earth during historic times.  But that equality was at best
the infantile innocence of the primary race, which faded away in the race
as quickly, alas! as it does in the individual child.  Divine--therefore
it was one of the first blessings which man lost; one of the last, I
fear, to which he will return; that to which civilisation, even at its
best yet known, has not yet attained, save here and there for short
periods; but towards which it is striving as an ideal goal, and, as I
trust, not in vain.

The eldest of things which we see actually as history is not equality,
but an already developed hideous inequality, trying to perpetuate itself,
and yet by a most divine and gracious law, destroying itself by the very
means which it uses to keep itself alive.

"There were giants in the earth in those days.  And Nimrod began to be a
mighty one in the earth"--

   A mighty hunter; and his game was man.

No; it is not equality which we see through the dim mist of bygone ages.

What we do see is--I know not whether you will think me superstitious or
old-fashioned, but so I hold--very much what the earlier books of the
Bible show us under symbolic laws.  Greek histories, Roman histories,
Egyptian histories, Eastern histories, inscriptions, national epics,
legends, fragments of legends--in the New World as in the Old--all tell
the same story.  Not the story without an end, but the story without a
beginning.  As in the Hindoo cosmogony, the world stands on an elephant,
and the elephant on a tortoise, and the tortoise on--what?  No man knows.
I do not know.  I only assert deliberately, waiting, as Napoleon says,
till the world come round to me, that the tortoise does not stand--as is
held by certain anthropologists, some honoured by me, some personally
dear to me--upon the savages who chipped flints and fed on mammoth and
reindeer in North-Western Europe, shortly after the age of ice, a few
hundred thousand years ago.  These sturdy little fellows--the kinsmen
probably of the Esquimaux and Lapps--could have been but the
_avant-couriers_, or more probably the fugitives from the true mass of
mankind--spreading northward from the Tropics into climes becoming, after
the long catastrophe of the age of ice, once more genial enough to
support men who knew what decent comfort was, and were strong enough to
get the same, by all means fair or foul.  No.  The tortoise of the human
race does not stand on a savage.  The savage may stand on an ape-like
creature.  I do not say that he does not.  I do not say that he does.  I
do not know; and no man knows.  But at least I say that the civilised man
and his world stand not upon creatures like to any savage now known upon
the earth.  For first, it seems to be most unlikely; and next, and more
important to an inductive philosopher, there is no proof of it.  I see no
savages becoming really civilised men--that is, not merely men who will
ape the outside of our so-called civilisation, even absorb a few of our
ideas; not merely that; but truly civilised men who will think for
themselves, invent for themselves, act for themselves; and when the
sacred lamp of light and truth has been passed into their hands, carry it
on unextinguished, and transmit it to their successors without running
back every moment to get it relighted by those from whom they received
it: and who are bound--remember that--patiently and lovingly to relight
it for them; to give freely to all their fellow-men of that which God has
given to them and to their ancestors; and let God, not man, be judge of
how much the Red Indian or the Polynesian, the Caffre or the Chinese, is
capable of receiving and of using.

Moreover, in history there is no record, absolutely no record, as far as
I am aware, of any savage tribe civilising itself.  It is a bold saying.
I stand by my assertion: most happy to find myself confuted, even in a
single instance; for my being wrong would give me, what I can have no
objection to possess, a higher opinion than I have now, of the unassisted
capabilities of my fellow-men.

But civilisation must have begun somewhen, somewhere, with some person,
or some family, or some nation; and how did it begin?

I have said already that I do not know.  But I have had my dream--like
the philosopher--and as I have not been ashamed to tell it elsewhere, I
shall not be ashamed to tell it here.  And it is this:

What if the beginnings of true civilisation in this unique, abnormal,
diseased, unsatisfied, incomprehensible, and truly miraculous and
supernatural race we call man, had been literally, and in actual fact,
miraculous and supernatural likewise?  What if that be the true key to
the mystery of humanity and its origin?  What if the few first chapters
of the most ancient and most sacred book should point, under whatever
symbols, to the actual and the only possible origin of civilisation, the
education of a man, or a family by beings of some higher race than man?
What if the old Puritan doctrine of Election should be even of a deeper
and wider application than divines have been wont to think?  What if
individuals, if peoples, have been chosen out from time to time for a
special illumination, that they might be the lights of the earth, and the
salt of the world?  What if they have, each in their turn, abused that
divine teaching to make themselves the tyrants, instead of the ministers,
of the less enlightened?  To increase the inequalities of nature by their
own selfishness, instead of decreasing them, into the equality of grace,
by their own self-sacrifice?  What if the Bible after all was right, and
even more right than we were taught to think?

So runs my dream.  If, after I have confessed to it, you think me still
worth listening to, in this enlightened nineteenth century, I will go on.

At all events, what we see at the beginning of all known and half-known
history, is not savagery, but high civilisation, at least of an outward
and material kind.  Do you demur?  Then recollect, I pray you, that the
three oldest peoples known to history on this planet are Egypt, China,
Hindostan.  The first glimpses of the world are always like those which
the book of Genesis gives us; like those which your own continent gives
us.  As it was 400 years ago in America, so it was in North Africa and in
Asia 4000 years ago, or 40,000 for aught I know.  Nay, if anyone should
ask--And why not 400,000 years ago, on Miocene continents long sunk
beneath the Tropic sea?  I for one have no rejoinder save--We have no
proofs as yet.

There loom up, out of the darkness of legend, into the as yet dim dawn of
history, what the old Arabs call Races of pre-Adamite Sultans--colossal
monarchies, with fixed and often elaborate laws, customs, creeds; with
aristocracies, priesthoods--seemingly always of a superior and conquering
race; with a mass of common folk, whether free or half-free, composed of
older conquered races; of imported slaves too, and their descendants.

But whence comes the royal race, the aristocracy, the priesthood?  You
inquire, and you find that they usually know not themselves.  They are
usually--I had almost dared to say, always--foreigners.  They have
crossed the neighbouring mountains.  The have come by sea, like Dido to
Carthage, like Manco Cassae and Mama Belle to America, and they have
sometimes forgotten when.  At least they are wiser, stronger, fairer,
than the aborigines.  They are to them--as Jacques Cartier was to the
Indians of Canada--as gods.  They are not sure that they are not
descended from gods.  They are the Children of the Sun, or what not.  The
children of light, who ray out such light as they have, upon the darkness
of their subjects.  They are at first, probably, civilisers, not
conquerors.  For, if tradition is worth anything--and we have nothing
else to go upon--they are at first few in number.  They come as settlers,
or even as single sages.  It is, in all tradition, not the many who
influence the few, but the few who influence the many.

So aristocracies, in the true sense, are formed.

But the higher calling is soon forgotten.  The purer light is soon
darkened in pride and selfishness, luxury and lust; as in Genesis, the
sons of God see the daughters of men, that they are fair; and they take
them wives of all that they choose.  And so a mixed race springs up and
increases, without detriment at first to the commonwealth.  For, by a
well-known law of heredity, the cross between two races, probably far
apart, produces at first a progeny possessing the forces, and, alas!
probably the vices of both.  And when the sons of God go in to the
daughters of men, there are giants in the earth in those days, men of
renown.  The Roman Empire, remember, was never stronger than when the old
Patrician blood had mingled itself with that of every nation round the

But it does not last.  Selfishness, luxury, ferocity, spread from above,
as well as from below.  The just aristocracy of virtue and wisdom becomes
an unjust one of mere power and privilege; that again, one of mere wealth
corrupting and corrupt; and is destroyed, not by the people from below,
but by the monarch from above.  The hereditary bondsmen may know

         Who would be free,
   Himself must strike the blow.

But they dare not, know not how.  The king must do it for them.  He must
become the State.  "Better one tyrant," as Voltaire said, "than many."
Better stand in fear of one lion far away, than of many wolves, each in
the nearest wood.  And so arise those truly monstrous Eastern despotisms,
of which modern Persia is, thank God, the only remaining specimen; for
Turkey and Egypt are too amenable of late years to the influence of the
free nations to be counted as despotisms pure and simple--despotisms in
which men, instead of worshipping a God-man, worship the hideous
counterfeit, a Man-god--a poor human being endowed by public opinion with
the powers of deity, while he is the slave of all the weaknesses of
humanity.  But such, as an historic fact, has been the last stage of
every civilisation--even that of Rome, which ripened itself upon this
earth the last in ancient times, and, I had almost said, until this very
day, except among the men who speak Teutonic tongues, and who have
preserved through all temptations, and reasserted through all dangers,
the free ideas which have been our sacred heritage ever since Tacitus
beheld us, with respect and awe, among our German forests, and saw in us
the future masters of the Roman Empire.

Yes, it is very sad, the past history of mankind.  But shall we despise
those who went before us, and on whose accumulated labours we now stand?

Shall we not reverence our spiritual ancestors?  Shall we not show our
reverence by copying them, at least whenever, as in those old Persians,
we see in them manliness and truthfulness, hatred of idolatries, and
devotion to the God of light and life and good?  And shall we not feel
pity, instead of contempt, for their ruder forms of government, their
ignorances, excesses, failures--so excusable in men who, with little or
no previous teaching, were trying to solve for themselves for the first
time the deepest social and political problems of humanity.

Yes, those old despotisms we trust are dead, and never to revive.  But
their corpses are the corpses, not of our enemies, but of our friends and
predecessors, slain in the world-old fight of Ormuzd against
Ahriman--light against darkness, order against disorder.  Confusedly they
fought, and sometimes ill: but their corpses piled the breach and filled
the trench for us, and over their corpses we step on to what should be to
us an easy victory--what may be to us, yet, a shameful ruin.

For if we be, as we are wont to boast, the salt of the earth and the
light of the world, what if the salt should lose its savour?  What if the
light which is in us should become darkness?  For myself, when I look
upon the responsibilities of the free nations of modern times, so far
from boasting of that liberty in which I delight--and to keep which I
freely, too, could die--I rather say, in fear and trembling, God help us
on whom He has laid so heavy a burden as to make us free; responsible,
each individual of us, not only to ourselves, but to Him and all mankind.
For if we fall we shall fall I know not whither, and I dare not think.

How those old despotisms, the mighty empires of old time, fell, we know,
and we can easily explain.  Corrupt, luxurious, effeminate, eaten out by
universal selfishness and mutual fear, they had at last no organic
coherence.  The moral anarchy within showed through, at last burst
through, the painted skin of prescriptive order which held them together.
Some braver and abler, and usually more virtuous people, often some
little, hardy, homely mountain tribe, saw that the fruit was ripe for
gathering; and, caring naught for superior numbers--and saying with
German Alaric when the Romans boasted of their numbers, "The thicker the
hay the easier it is mowed"--struck one brave blow at the huge inflated
wind-bag--as Cyrus and his handful of Persians struck at the Medes; as
Alexander and his handful of Greeks struck afterwards at the Persians--and
behold, it collapsed upon the spot.  And then the victors took the place
of the conquered; and became in their turn an aristocracy, and then a
despotism; and in their turn rotted down and perished.  And so the
vicious circle repeated itself, age after age, from Egypt and Assyria to
Mexico and Peru.

And therefore, we, free peoples as we are, have need to watch, and
sternly watch, ourselves.  Equality of some kind or other is, as I said,
our natural and seemingly inevitable goal.  But which equality?  For
there are two--a true one and a false; a noble and a base; a healthful
and a ruinous.  There is the truly divine equality, and there is the
brute equality of sheep and oxen, and of flies and worms.  There is the
equality which is founded on mutual envy.  The equality which respects
others, and the equality which asserts itself.  The equality which longs
to raise all alike, and the equality which desires to pull down all
alike.  The equality which says: Thou art as good as I, and it may be
better too, in the sight of God.  And the equality which says: I am as
good as thou, and will therefore see if I cannot master thee.

Side by side, in the heart of every free man, and every free people, are
the two instincts struggling for the mastery, called by the same name,
but bearing the same relation to each other as Marsyas to Apollo, the
Satyr to the God.  Marsyas and Apollo, the base and the noble, are, as in
the old Greek legend, contending for the prize.  And the prize is no less
a one than all free people of this planet.

In proportion as that nobler idea conquers, and men unite in the equality
of mutual respect and mutual service, they move one step farther towards
realising on earth that Kingdom of God of which it is written: "The
despots of the nations exercise dominion over them, and they that
exercise authority over them are called benefactors.  But he that will be
great among you let him be the servant of all."

And in proportion as that base idea conquers, and selfishness, not self-
sacrifice, is the ruling spirit of a State, men move on, one step
forward, towards realising that kingdom of the devil upon earth, "Every
man for himself and the devil take the hindmost."  Only, alas! in that
evil equality of envy and hate, there is no hindmost, and the devil takes
them all alike.

And so is a period of discontent, revolution, internecine anarchy,
followed by a tyranny endured, as in old Rome, by men once free, because
tyranny will at least do for them what they were too lazy and greedy and
envious to do for themselves.

   And all because they have forgot
   What 'tis to be a man--to curb and spurn.
   The tyrant in us: the ignobler self
   Which boasts, not loathes, its likeness to the brute;
   And owns no good save ease, no ill save pain,
   No purpose, save its share in that wild war
   In which, through countless ages, living things
   Compete in internecine greed.  Ah, loving God,
   Are we as creeping things, which have no lord?
   That we are brutes, great God, we know too well;
   Apes daintier-featured; silly birds, who flaunt
   Their plumes, unheeding of the fowler's step;
   Spiders, who catch with paper, not with webs;
   Tigers, who slay with cannon and sharp steel,
   Instead of teeth and claws:--all these we are.
   Are we no more than these, save in degree?
   Mere fools of nature, puppets of strong lusts,
   Taking the sword, to perish by the sword
   Upon the universal battle-field,
   Even as the things upon the moor outside?

      The heath eats up green grass and delicate herbs;
   The pines eat up the heath; the grub the pine;
   The finch the grub; the hawk the silly finch;
   And man, the mightiest of all beasts of prey,
   Eats what he lists.  The strong eat up the weak;
   The many eat the few; great nations, small;
   And he who cometh in the name of all
   Shall, greediest, triumph by the greed of all,
   And, armed by his own victims, eat up all.
   While ever out of the eternal heavens
   Looks patient down the great magnanimous God,
   Who, Master of all worlds, did sacrifice
   All to Himself?  Nay: but Himself to all;
   Who taught mankind, on that first Christmas Day,
   What 'tis to be a man--to give, not take;
   To serve, not rule; to nourish, not devour;
   To lift, not crush; if need, to die, not live.

"He that cometh in the name of all"--the popular military despot--the
"saviour of his country"--he is our internecine enemy on both sides of
the Atlantic, whenever he rises--the inaugurator of that Imperialism,
that Caesarism into which Rome sank, when not her liberties merely, but
her virtues, were decaying out of her--the sink into which all wicked
States, whether republics or monarchies, are sure to fall, simply because
men must eat and drink for to-morrow they die.  The Military and
Bureaucratic Despotism which keeps the many quiet, as in old Rome, by
_panem et circenses_--bread and games--or, if need be, Pilgrimages; that
the few may make money, eat, drink, and be merry, as long as it can last.
That, let it ape as it may--as did the Caesars of old Rome at first--as
another Emperor did even in our own days--the forms of dead freedom,
really upholds an artificial luxury by brute force; and consecrates the
basest of all aristocracies, the aristocracy of the money-bag, by the
divine sanction of the bayonet.

That at all risks, even at the price of precious blood, the free peoples
of the earth must ward off from them; for, makeshift and stop-gap as it
is, it does not even succeed in what it tries to do.  It does not last.
Have we not seen that it does not, cannot last?  How can it last?  This
falsehood, like all falsehoods, must collapse at one touch of Ithuriel's
spear of truth and fact.  And--

"Then saw I the end of these men.  Namely, how Thou dost set them in
slippery places, and casteth them down.  Suddenly do they perish, and
come to a fearful end.  Yea, like as a dream when one awaketh, so shalt
Thou make their image to vanish out of the city."

Have we not seen that too, though, thank God, neither in England nor in
the United States?

And then?  What then?  None knows, and none can know.

The future of France and Spain, the future of the Tropical Republics of
Spanish America, is utterly blank and dark; not to be prophesied, I hold,
by mortal man, simply because we have no like cases in the history of the
past whereby to judge the tendencies of the present.  Will they revive?
Under the genial influences of free institutions will the good seed which
is in them take root downwards, and bear fruit upwards? and make them all
what that fair France has been, in spite of all her faults, so often in
past years--a joy and an inspiration to all the nations round?  Shall it
be thus?  God grant it may; but He, and He alone, can tell.  We only
stand by, watching, if we be wise, with pity and with fear, the working
out of a tremendous new social problem, which must affect the future of
the whole civilised world.

For if the agonising old nations fail to regenerate themselves, what can
befall?  What, when even Imperialism has been tried and failed, as fail
it must?  What but that lower depth within the lowest deep?

         That last dread mood
   Of sated lust, and dull decrepitude.
   No law, no art, no faith, no hope, no God.
   When round the freezing founts of life in peevish ring,
   Crouched on the bare-worn sod,
   Babbling about the unreturning spring,
   And whining for dead creeds, which cannot save,
   The toothless nations shiver to their grave.

And we, who think we stand, let us take heed lest we fall.  Let us
accept, in modesty and in awe, the responsibility of our freedom, and
remember that that freedom can be preserved only in one old-fashioned
way.  Let us remember that the one condition of a true democracy is the
same as the one condition of a true aristocracy, namely, virtue.  Let us
teach our children, as grand old Lilly taught our forefathers 300 years
ago--"It is virtue, gentlemen, yea, virtue that maketh gentlemen; that
maketh the poor rich, the subject a king, the lowborn noble, the deformed
beautiful.  These things neither the whirling wheel of fortune can
overturn, nor the deceitful cavillings of worldlings separate, neither
sickness abate, nor age abolish."

Yes.  Let us teach our children thus on both sides of the Atlantic.  For
if they--which God forbid--should grow corrupt and weak by their own
sins, there is no hardier race now left on earth to conquer our
descendants and bring them back to reason, as those old Jews were brought
by bitter shame and woe.  And all that is before them and the whole
civilised world, would be long centuries of anarchy such as the world has
not seen for ages--a true Ragnarok, a twilight of the very gods, an age
such as the wise woman foretold in the old Voluspa.

   When brethren shall be
   Each other's bane,
   And sisters' sons rend
   The ties of kin.
   Hard will be that age,
   An age of bad women,
   An axe-age, a sword-age,
   Shields oft cleft in twain,
   A storm-age, a wolf-age,
   Ere earth meet its doom.

So sang, 2000 years ago, perhaps, the great unnamed prophetess, of our
own race, of what might be, if we should fail mankind and our own calling
and election.

God grant that day may never come.  But God grant, also, that if that day
does come, then may come true also what that wise Vala sang, of the day
when gods, and men, and earth should be burnt up with fire.

   When slaked Surtur's flame is,
   Still the man and the maiden,
   Hight Valour and Life,
   Shall keep themselves hid
   In the wood of remembrance.
   The dew of the dawning
   For food it shall serve them:
   From them spring new peoples.

New peoples.  For after all is said, the ideal form of human society is

A nation--and, were it even possible, a whole world--of free men, lifting
free foreheads to God and Nature; calling no man master--for one is their
master, even God; knowing and obeying their duties towards the Maker of
the Universe, and therefore to each other, and that not from fear, nor
calculation of profit or loss, but because they loved and liked it, and
had seen the beauty of righteousness and trust and peace; because the law
of God was in their hearts, and needing at last, it may be, neither king
nor priest, for each man and each woman, in their place, were kings and
priests to God.  Such a nation--such a society--what nobler conception of
mortal existence can we form?  Would not that be, indeed, the kingdom of
God come on earth?

And tell me not that that is impossible--too fair a dream to be ever
realised.  All that makes it impossible is the selfishness, passions,
weaknesses, of those who would be blest were they masters of themselves,
and therefore of circumstances; who are miserable because, not being
masters of themselves, they try to master circumstance, to pull down iron
walls with weak and clumsy hands, and forget that he who would be free
from tyrants must first be free from his worst tyrant, self.

But tell me not that the dream is impossible.  It is so beautiful that it
must be true.  If not now, nor centuries hence, yet still hereafter.  God
would never, as I hold, have inspired man with that rich imagination had
He not meant to translate, some day, that imagination into fact.

The very greatness of the idea, beyond what a single mind or generation
can grasp, will ensure failure on failure--follies, fanaticisms,
disappointments, even crimes, bloodshed, hasty furies, as of children
baulked of their holiday.

But it will be at last fulfilled, filled full, and perfected; not perhaps
here, or among our peoples, or any people which now exist on earth: but
in some future civilisation--it may be in far lands beyond the sea--when
all that you and we have made and done shall be as the forest-grown
mounds of the old nameless civilisers of the Mississippi valley.


"Apollo, god of medicine, exiled from the rest of the earth, was straying
once across the Narbonnaise in Gaul, seeking to fix his abode there.
Driven from Asia, from Africa, and from the rest of Europe, he wandered
through all the towns of the province in search of a place propitious for
him and for his disciples.  At last he perceived a new city, constructed
from the ruins of Maguelonne, of Lattes, and of Substantion.  He
contemplated long its site, its aspect, its neighbourhood, and resolved
to establish on this hill of Montpellier a temple for himself and his
priests.  All smiled on his desires.  By the genius of the soil, by the
character of the inhabitants, no town is more fit for the culture of
letters, and above all of medicine.  What site is more delicious and more
lovely?  A heaven pure and smiling; a city built with magnificence; men
born for all the labours of the intellect.  All around vast horizons and
enchanting sites--meadows, vines, olives, green champaigns; mountains and
hills, rivers, brooks, lagoons, and the sea.  Everywhere a luxuriant
vegetation--everywhere the richest production of the land and the water.
Hail to thee sweet and dear city!  Hail, happy abode of Apollo, who
spreadest afar the light of the glory of thy name!"

"This fine tirade," says Dr. Maurice Raynaud--from whose charming book on
the "Doctors of the Time of Moliere" I quote--"is not, as one might
think, the translation of a piece of poetry.  It is simply part of a
public oration by Francois Fanchon, one of the most illustrious
chancellors of the faculty of medicine of Montpellier in the seventeenth
century."  "From time immemorial," he says, "'the faculty' of Montpellier
had made itself remarkable by a singular mixture of the sacred and the
profane.  The theses which were sustained there began by an invocation to
God, the Blessed Virgin, and St. Luke, and ended by these words: 'This
thesis will be sustained in the sacred Temple of Apollo.'"

But however extravagant Chancellor Fanchon's praises of his native city
may seem, they are really not exaggerated.  The Narbonnaise, or
Languedoc, is perhaps the most charming district of charming France.  In
the far north-east gleam the white Alps; in the far south-west the white
Pyrenees; and from the purple glens and yellow downs of the Cevennes on
the north-west, the Herault slopes gently down towards the "Etangs," or
great salt-water lagoons, and the vast alluvial flats of the Camargue,
the field of Caius Marius, where still run herds of half-wild horses,
descended from some ancient Roman stock; while beyond all glitters the
blue Mediterranean.  The great almond orchards, each one sheet of rose-
colour in spring; the mulberry orchards, the oliveyards, the vineyards,
cover every foot of available upland soil: save where the rugged and arid
downs are sweet with a thousand odoriferous plants, from which the bees
extract the famous white honey of Narbonne.  The native flowers and
shrubs, of a beauty and richness rather Eastern than European, have made
the "Flora Montpeliensis," and with it the names of Rondelet and his
disciples, famous among botanists; and the strange fish and shells upon
its shores afforded Rondelet materials for his immortal work upon the
"Animals of the Sea."  The innumerable wild fowl of the Benches du Rhone;
the innumerable songsters and other birds of passage, many of them
unknown in these islands, and even in the north of France itself, which
haunt every copse of willow and aspen along the brook-sides; the gaudy
and curious insects which thrive beneath that clear, fierce, and yet
bracing sunlight; all these have made the district of Montpellier a home
prepared by Nature for those who study and revere her.

Neither was Chancellor Fanchon misled by patriotism, when he said the
pleasant people who inhabit that district are fit for all the labours of
the intellect.  They are a very mixed race, and, like most mixed races,
quick-witted, and handsome also.  There is probably much Roman blood
among them, especially in the towns; for Languedoc, or Gallia
Narbonnensis, as it was called of old, was said to be more Roman than
Rome itself.  The Roman remains are more perfect and more interesting--so
the late Dr. Whewell used to say--than any to be seen now in Italy; and
the old capital, Narbonne itself, was a complete museum of Roman
antiquities ere Francis I. destroyed it, in order to fortify the city
upon a modern system against the invading armies of Charles V.  There
must be much Visigothic blood likewise in Languedoc: for the Visigothic
Kings held their courts there from the fifth century, until the time that
they were crushed by the invading Moors.  Spanish blood, likewise, there
may be; for much of Languedoc was held in the early Middle Age by those
descendants of Eudes of Aquitaine who established themselves as kings of
Majorca and Arragon; and Languedoc did not become entirely French till
1349, when Philip le Bel bought Montpellier of those potentates.  The
Moors, too, may have left some traces of their race behind.  They held
the country from about A.D. 713 to 758, when they were finally expelled
by Charles Martel and Eudes.  One sees to this day their towers of meagre
stonework, perched on the grand Roman masonry of those old amphitheatres,
which they turned into fortresses.  One may see, too--so tradition
holds--upon those very amphitheatres the stains of the fires with which
Charles Martel smoked them out; and one may see, too, or fancy that one
sees, in the aquiline features, the bright black eyes, the lithe and
graceful gestures, which are so common in Languedoc, some touch of the
old Mahommedan race, which passed like a flood over that Christian land.

Whether or not the Moors left behind any traces of their blood, they left
behind, at least, traces of their learning; for the university of
Montpellier claimed to have been founded by Moors at a date of altogether
abysmal antiquity.  They looked upon the Arabian physicians of the Middle
Age, on Avicenna and Averrhoes, as modern innovators, and derived their
parentage from certain mythic doctors of Cordova, who, when the Moors
were expelled from Spain in the eighth century, fled to Montpellier,
bringing with them traditions of that primaeval science which had been
revealed to Adam while still in Paradise; and founded Montpellier, the
mother of all the universities in Europe.  Nay, some went farther still,
and told of Bengessaus and Ferragius, the physicians of Charlemagne, and
of Marilephus, chief physician of King Chilperic, and even--if a letter
of St. Bernard's was to be believed--of a certain bishop who went as
early as the second century to consult the doctors of Montpellier; and it
would have been in vain to reply to them that in those days, and long
after them, Montpellier was not yet built.  The facts are said to be:
that as early as the beginning of the thirteenth century Montpellier had
its schools of law, medicine, and arts, which were erected into a
university by Pope Nicholas IV. in 1289.

The university of Montpellier, like--I believe--most foreign ones,
resembled more a Scotch than an English university.  The students lived,
for the most part, not in colleges, but in private lodgings, and
constituted a republic of their own, ruled by an abbe of the scholars,
one of themselves, chosen by universal suffrage.  A terror they were
often to the respectable burghers, for they had all the right to carry
arms; and a plague likewise, for, if they ran in debt, their creditors
were forbidden to seize their books, which, with their swords, were
generally all the property they possessed.  If, moreover, anyone set up a
noisy or unpleasant trade near their lodgings, the scholars could compel
the town authorities to turn him out.  They were most of them, probably,
mere boys of from twelve to twenty, living poorly, working hard,
and--those at least of them who were in the colleges--cruelly beaten
daily, after the fashion of those times; but they seem to have comforted
themselves under their troubles by a good deal of wild life out of
school, by rambling into the country on the festivals of the saints, and
now and then by acting plays; notably, that famous one which Rabelais
wrote for them in 1531: "The moral comedy of the man who had a dumb
wife;" which "joyous _patelinage_" remains unto this day in the shape of
a well-known comic song.  That comedy young Rondelet must have seen
acted.  The son of a druggist, spicer, and grocer--the three trades were
then combined--in Montpellier, and born in 1507, he had been destined for
the cloister, being a sickly lad.  His uncle, one of the canons of
Maguelonne, near by, had even given him the revenues of a small chapel--a
job of nepotism which was common enough in those days.  But his heart was
in science and medicine.  He set off, still a mere boy, to Paris to study
there; and returned to Montpellier, at the age of eighteen, to study

The next year, 1530, while still a scholar himself, he was appointed
procurator of the scholars--a post which brought him in a small fee on
each matriculation--and that year he took a fee, among others, from one
of the most remarkable men of that or of any age, Francois Rabelais

And what shall I say of him?--who stands alone, like Shakespeare, in his
generation; possessed of colossal learning--of all science which could be
gathered in his days--of practical and statesmanlike wisdom--of knowledge
of languages, ancient and modern, beyond all his compeers--of eloquence,
which when he speaks of pure and noble things becomes heroic, and, as it
were, inspired--of scorn for meanness, hypocrisy, ignorance--of esteem,
genuine and earnest, for the Holy Scriptures, and for the more moderate
of the Reformers who were spreading the Scriptures in Europe,--and all
this great light wilfully hidden, not under a bushel, but under a
dunghill.  He is somewhat like Socrates in face, and in character
likewise; in him, as in Socrates, the demigod and the satyr, the man and
the ape, are struggling for the mastery.  In Socrates, the true man
conquers, and comes forth high and pure; in Rabelais, alas! the victor is
the ape, while the man himself sinks down in cynicism, sensuality,
practical jokes, foul talk.  He returns to Paris, to live an idle,
luxurious life; to die--says the legend--saying, "I go to seek a great
perhaps," and to leave behind him little save a school of
Pantagruelists--careless young gentlemen, whose ideal was to laugh at
everything, to believe in nothing, and to gratify their five senses like
the brutes which perish.  There are those who read his books to make them
laugh; the wise man, when he reads them, will be far more inclined to
weep.  Let any young man who may see these words remember, that in him,
as in Rabelais, the ape and the man are struggling for the mastery.  Let
him take warning by the fate of one who was to him as a giant to a pigmy;
and think of Tennyson's words--

         Arise, and fly
   The reeling faun, the sensual feast;
   Strive upwards, working out the beast,
   And let the ape and tiger die.

But to return.  Down among them there at Montpellier, like a brilliant
meteor, flashed this wonderful Rabelais, in the year 1530.  He had fled,
some say, for his life.  Like Erasmus, he had no mind to be a martyr, and
he had been terrified at the execution of poor Louis de Berquin, his
friend, and the friend of Erasmus likewise.  This Louis de Berquin, a man
well known in those days, was a gallant young gentleman and scholar,
holding a place in the court of Francis I., who had translated into
French the works of Erasmus, Luther, and Melancthon, and had asserted
that it was heretical to invoke the Virgin Mary instead of the Holy
Spirit, or to call her our Hope and our Life, which titles--Berquin
averred--belonged alone to God.  Twice had the doctors of the Sorbonne,
with that terrible persecutor, Noel Beda, at their head, seized poor
Berquin, and tried to burn his books and him; twice had that angel in
human form, Marguerite d'Angouleme, sister of Francis I., saved him from
their clutches; but when Francis--taken prisoner at the battle of
Pavia--at last returned from his captivity in Spain, the suppression of
heresy and the burning of heretics seemed to him and to his mother,
Louise of Savoy, a thank-offering so acceptable to God, that Louis
Berquin--who would not, in spite of the entreaties of Erasmus, purchase
his life by silence--was burnt at last on the Place de Greve, being first
strangled, because he was of gentle blood.

Montpellier received its famous guest joyfully.  Rabelais was now forty-
two years old, and a distinguished savant; so they excused him his three
years' undergraduate's career, and invested him at once with the red gown
of the bachelors.  That red gown--or, rather, the ragged phantom of it--is
still shown at Montpellier, and must be worn by each bachelor when he
takes his degree.  Unfortunately, antiquarians assure us that the
precious garment has been renewed again and again--the students having
clipped bits of it away for relics, and clipped as earnestly from the new
gowns as their predecessors had done from the authentic original.

Doubtless, the coming of such a man among them to lecture on the
Aphorisms of Hippocrates, and the Ars Parva of Galen, not from the Latin
translations then in use, but from original Greek texts, with comments
and corrections of his own, must have had a great influence on the minds
of the Montpellier students; and still more influence--and that not
altogether a good one--must Rabelais's lighter talk have had, as he
lounged--so the story goes--in his dressing-gown upon the public place,
picking up quaint stories from the cattle-drivers off the Cevennes, and
the villagers who came in to sell their olives and their grapes, their
vinegar and their vine-twig faggots, as they do unto this day.  To him
may be owing much of the sound respect for natural science, and much,
too, of the contempt for the superstition around them, which is notable
in that group of great naturalists who were boys in Montpellier at that
day.  Rabelais seems to have liked Rondelet, and no wonder: he was a
cheery, lovable, honest little fellow, very fond of jokes, a great
musician and player on the violin, and who, when he grew rich, liked
nothing so well as to bring into his house any buffoon or
strolling-player to make fun for him.  Vivacious he was, hot-tempered,
forgiving, and with a power of learning and a power of work which were
prodigious, even in those hard-working days.  Rabelais chaffs Rondelet,
under the name of Rondibilis; for, indeed, Rondelet grew up into a very
round, fat, little man; but Rabelais puts excellent sense into his mouth,
cynical enough, and too cynical, but both learned and humorous; and, if
he laughs at him for being shocked at the offer of a fee, and taking it,
nevertheless, kindly enough, Rondelet is not the first doctor who has
done that, neither will he be the last.

Rondelet, in his turn, put on the red robe of the bachelor, and received,
on taking his degree, his due share of fisticuffs from his dearest
friends, according to the ancient custom of the University of
Montpellier.  He then went off to practise medicine in a village at the
foot of the Alps, and, half-starved, to teach little children.  Then he
found he must learn Greek; went off to Paris a second time, and
alleviated his poverty there somewhat by becoming tutor to a son of the
Viscomte de Turenne.  There he met Gonthier of Andernach, who had taught
anatomy at Louvain to the great Vesalius, and learned from him to
dissect.  We next find him setting up as a medical man amid the wild
volcanic hills of the Auvergne, struggling still with poverty, like
Erasmus, like George Buchanan, like almost every great scholar in those
days; for students then had to wander from place to place, generally on
foot, in search of new teachers, in search of books, in search of the
necessaries of life; undergoing such an amount of bodily and mental toil
as makes it wonderful that all of them did not--as some of them doubtless
did--die under the hard training, or, at best, desert the penurious Muses
for the paternal shop or plough.

Rondelet got his doctorate in 1537, and next year fell in love with and
married a beautiful young girl called Jeanne Sandre, who seems to have
been as poor as he.

But he had gained, meanwhile, a powerful patron; and the patronage of the
great was then as necessary to men of letters as the patronage of the
public is now.  Guillaume Pellicier, Bishop of Maguelonne--or rather then
of Montpellier itself, whither he had persuaded Paul II. to transfer the
ancient see--was a model of the literary gentleman of the sixteenth
century; a savant, a diplomat, a collector of books and manuscripts,
Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac, which formed the original nucleus of the
present library of the Louvre; a botanist, too, who loved to wander with
Rondelet collecting plants and flowers.  He retired from public life to
peace and science at Montpellier, when to the evil days of his master,
Francis I., succeeded the still worse days of Henry II., and Diana of
Poitiers.  That Jezebel of France could conceive no more natural or easy
way of atoning for her own sins than that of hunting down heretics, and
feasting her wicked eyes--so it is said--upon their dying torments.
Bishop Pellicier fell under suspicion of heresy: very probably with some
justice.  He fell, too, under suspicion of leading a life unworthy of a
celibate churchman, a fault which--if it really existed--was, in those
days, pardonable enough in an orthodox prelate, but not so in one whose
orthodoxy was suspected.  And for awhile Pellicier was in prison.  After
his release he gave himself up to science, with Rondelet and the school
of disciples who were growing up around him.  They rediscovered together
the Garum, that classic sauce, whose praises had been sung of old by
Horace, Martial, and Ausonius; and so child-like, superstitious if you
will, was the reverence in the sixteenth century for classic antiquity,
that when Pellicier and Rondelet discovered that the Garum was made from
the fish called Picarel--called Garon by the fishers of Antibes, and
Giroli at Venice, both these last names corruptions of the Latin
Gerres--then did the two fashionable poets of France, Etienne Dolet and
Clement Marot, think it not unworthy of their muse to sing the praises of
the sauce which Horace had sung of old.  A proud day, too, was it for
Pellicier and Rondelet, when wandering somewhere in the marshes of the
Camargue, a scent of garlic caught the nostrils of the gentle bishop, and
in the lovely pink flowers of the water-germander he recognised the
Scordium of the ancients.  "The discovery," says Professor Planchon,
"made almost as much noise as that of the famous Garum; for at that
moment of naive fervour on behalf of antiquity, to re-discover a plant of
Dioscorides or of Pliny was a good fortune and almost an event."

I know not whether, after his death, the good bishop's bones reposed
beneath some gorgeous tomb, bedizened with the incongruous half-Pagan
statues of the Renaissance; but this at least is certain, that Rondelet's
disciples imagined for him a monument more enduring than of marble or of
brass, more graceful and more curiously wrought than all the sculptures
of Torrigiano or Cellini, Baccio Bandinelli or Michael Angelo himself.
For they named a lovely little lilac snapdragon, _Linaria Domini
Pellicerii_--"Lord Pellicier's toad-flax;" and that name it will keep, we
may believe, as long as winter and summer shall endure.

But to return.  To this good Patron--who was the Ambassador at Venice--the
newly-married Rondelet determined to apply for employment; and to Venice
he would have gone, leaving his bride behind, had he not been stayed by
one of those angels who sometimes walk the earth in women's shape.  Jeanne
Sandre had an elder sister, Catharine, who had brought her up.  She was
married to a wealthy man, but she had no children of her own.  For four
years she and her good husband had let the Rondelets lodge with them, and
now she was a widow, and to part with them was more than she could bear.
She carried Rondelet off from the students who were seeing him safe out
of the city, brought him back, settled on him the same day half her
fortune, and soon after settled on him the whole, on the sole condition
that she should live with him and her sister.  For years afterwards she
watched over the pretty young wife and her two girls and three boys--the
three boys, alas! all died young--and over Rondelet himself, who,
immersed in books and experiments, was utterly careless about money; and
was to them all a mother--advising, guiding, managing, and regarded by
Rondelet with genuine gratitude as his guardian angel.

Honour and good fortune, in a worldly sense, now poured in upon the
druggist's son.  Pellicier, his own bishop, stood godfather to his first-
born daughter.  Montluc, Bishop of Valence, and that wise and learned
statesman, the Cardinal of Tournon, stood godfathers a few years later to
his twin boys; and what was of still more solid worth to him, Cardinal
Tournon took him to Antwerp, Bordeaux, Bayonne, and more than once to
Rome; and in these Italian journeys of his he collected many facts for
the great work of his life, that "History of Fishes" which he dedicated,
naturally enough, to the cardinal.  This book with its plates is, for the
time, a masterpiece of accuracy.  Those who are best acquainted with the
subject say, that it is up to the present day a key to the whole
ichthyology of the Mediterranean.  Two other men, Belon and Salviani,
were then at work on the same subject, and published their books almost
at the same time; a circumstance which caused, as was natural, a three-
cornered duel between the supporters of the three naturalists, each party
accusing the other of plagiarism.  The simple fact seems to be that the
almost simultaneous appearance of the three books in 1554-55 is one of
those coincidences inevitable at moments when many minds are stirred in
the same direction by the same great thoughts--coincidences which have
happened in our own day on questions of geology, biology, and astronomy;
and which, when the facts have been carefully examined, and the first
flush of natural jealousy has cooled down, have proved only that there
were more wise men than one in the world at the same time.

And this sixteenth century was an age in which the minds of men were
suddenly and strangely turned to examine the wonders of nature with an
earnestness, with a reverence, and therefore with an accuracy, with which
they had never been investigated before.  "Nature," says Professor
Planchon, "long veiled in mysticism and scholasticism, was opening up
infinite vistas.  A new superstition, the exaggerated worship of the
ancients, was nearly hindering this movement of thought towards facts.
Nevertheless, Learning did her work.  She rediscovered, reconstructed,
purified, commented on the texts of ancient authors.  Then came in
observation, which showed that more was to be seen in one blade of grass
than in any page of Pliny.  Rondelet was in the middle of this crisis a
man of transition, while he was one of progress.  He reflected the past;
he opened and prepared the future.  If he commented on Dioscorides, if he
remained faithful to the theories of Galen, he founded in his 'History of
Fishes' a monument which our century respects.  He is above all an
inspirer, an initiator; and if he wants one mark of the leader of a
school, the foundation of certain scientific doctrines, there is in his
speech what is better than all systems, the communicative power which
urges a generation of disciples along the path of independent research,
with Reason for guide, and Faith for aim."

Around Rondelet, in those years, sometimes indeed in his house--for
professors in those days took private pupils as lodgers--worked the group
of botanists whom Linnaeus calls "the Fathers," the authors of the
descriptive botany of the sixteenth century.  Their names, and those of
their disciples and their disciples again, are household words in the
mouth of every gardener, immortalised, like good Bishop Pellicier, in the
plants that have been named after them.  The Lobelia commemorates Lobel,
one of Rondelet's most famous pupils, who wrote those "Adversaria" which
contain so many curious sketches of Rondelet's botanical expeditions, and
who inherited his botanical (as Joubert his biographer inherited his
anatomical) manuscripts.  The Magnolia commemorates the Magnols; the
Sarracenia, Sarrasin of Lyons; the Bauhinia, Jean Bauhin; the Fuchsia,
Bauhin's earlier German master, Leonard Fuchs; and the Clusia--the
received name of that terrible "Matapalo" or "Scotch attorney," of the
West Indies, which kills the hugest tree, to become as huge a tree
itself--immortalises the great Clusius, Charles de l'Escluse, citizen of
Arras, who, after studying civil law at Louvain, philosophy at Marburg,
and theology at Wittemberg under Melancthon, came to Montpellier in 1551,
to live in Rondelet's own house, and become the greatest botanist of his

These were Rondelet's palmy days.  He had got a theatre of anatomy built
at Montpellier, where he himself dissected publicly.  He had, says
tradition, a little botanic garden, such as were springing up then in
several universities, specially in Italy.  He had a villa outside the
city, whose tower, near the modern railway station, still bears the name
of the "Mas de Rondelet."  There, too, may be seen the remnants of the
great tanks, fed with water brought through earthen pipes from the
Fountain of Albe, wherein he kept the fish whose habits he observed.
Professor Planchon thinks that he had salt-water tanks likewise; and thus
he may have been the father of all "Aquariums."  He had a large and
handsome house in the city itself, a large practice as physician in the
country round; money flowed in fast to him, and flowed out fast likewise.
He spent much upon building, pulling down, rebuilding, and sent the bills
in seemingly to his wife and to his guardian angel Catharine.  He himself
had never a penny in his purse: but earned the money, and let his ladies
spend it; an equitable and pleasant division of labour which most married
men would do well to imitate.  A generous, affectionate, careless little
man, he gave away, says his pupil and biographer, Joubert, his valuable
specimens to any savant who begged for them, or left them about to be
stolen by visitors, who, like too many collectors in all ages, possessed
light fingers and lighter consciences.  So pacific was he meanwhile, and
so brave withal that even in the fearful years of "The Troubles," he
would never carry sword, nor even tuck or dagger: but went about on the
most lonesome journeys as one who wore a charmed life, secure in God and
in his calling, which was to heal, and not to kill.

These were the golden years of Rondelet's life; but trouble was coming on
him, and a stormy sunset after a brilliant day.  He lost his sister-in-
law, to whom he owed all his fortunes, and who had watched ever since
over him and his wife like a mother; then he lost his wife herself under
most painful circumstances; then his best-beloved daughter.  Then he
married again, and lost the son who was born to him; and then came, as to
many of the best in those days, even sorer trials, trials of the
conscience, trials of faith.

For in the meantime Rondelet had become a Protestant, like many of the
wisest men round him; like, so it would seem from the event, the majority
of the university and the burghers of Montpellier.  It is not to be
wondered at.  Montpellier was a sort of halfway resting-place for
Protestant preachers, whether fugitive or not, who were passing from
Basle, Geneva, or Lyons, to Marguerite of Navarre's little Protestant
court at Pan or at Nerac, where all wise and good men, and now and then
some foolish and fanatical ones, found shelter and hospitality.  Thither
Calvin himself had been, passing probably through Montpellier and
leaving--as such a man was sure to leave--the mark of his foot behind
him.  At Lyons, no great distance up the Rhone, Marguerite had helped to
establish an organised Protestant community; and when in 1536 she herself
had passed through Montpellier, to visit her brother at Valence, and
Montmorency's camp at Avignon, she took with her doubtless Protestant
chaplains of her own, who spoke wise words--it may be that she spoke wise
words herself--to the ardent and inquiring students of Montpellier.
Moreover, Rondelet and his disciples had been for years past in constant
communication with the Protestant savants of Switzerland and Germany,
among whom the knowledge of nature was progressing as it never had
progressed before.  For--it is a fact always to be remembered--it was
only in the free air of Protestant countries the natural sciences could
grow and thrive.  They sprung up, indeed, in Italy after the restoration
of Greek literature in the fifteenth century; but they withered there
again only too soon under the blighting upas shade of superstition.
Transplanted to the free air of Switzerland, of Germany, of Britain, and
of Montpellier, then half Protestant, they developed rapidly and surely,
simply because the air was free; to be checked again in France by the
return of superstition with despotism super-added, until the eve of the
great French Revolution.

So Rondelet had been for some years Protestant.  He had hidden in his
house for a long while a monk who had left his monastery.  He had himself
written theological treatises: but when his Bishop Pellicier was
imprisoned on a charge of heresy, Rondelet burnt his manuscripts, and
kept his opinions to himself.  Still he was a suspected heretic, at last
seemingly a notorious one; for only the year before his death, going to
visit patients at Perpignan, he was waylaid by the Spaniards, and had to
get home through bypasses of the Pyrenees, to avoid being thrown into the

And those were times in which it was necessary for a man to be careful,
unless he had made up his mind to be burned.  For more than thirty years
of Rondelet's life the burning had gone on in his neighbourhood;
intermittently it is true: the spasms of superstitious fury being
succeeded, one may charitably hope, by pity and remorse; but still the
burnings had gone on.  The Benedictine monk of St. Maur, who writes the
history of Languedoc, says, quite _en passant_, how someone was burnt at
Toulouse in 1553, luckily only in effigy, for he had escaped to Geneva:
but he adds, "next year they burned several heretics," it being not worth
while to mention their names.  In 1556 they burned alive at Toulouse Jean
Escalle, a poor Franciscan monk, who had found his order intolerable;
while one Pierre de Lavaur, who dared preach Calvinism in the streets of
Nismes, was hanged and burnt.  So had the score of judicial murders been
increasing year by year, till it had to be, as all evil scores have to be
in this world, paid off with interest, and paid off especially against
the ignorant and fanatic monks who for a whole generation, in every
university and school in France, had been howling down sound science, as
well as sound religion; and at Montpellier in 1560-61, their debt was
paid them in a very ugly way.  News came down to the hot southerners of
Languedoc of the so-called conspiracy of Amboise.--How the Duc de Guise
and the Cardinal de Lorraine had butchered the best blood in France under
the pretence of a treasonable plot; how the King of Navarre and the
Prince de Conde had been arrested; then how Conde and Coligny were ready
to take up arms at the head of all the Huguenots of France, and try to
stop this life-long torturing, by sharp shot and cold steel; then how in
six months' time the king would assemble a general council to settle the
question between Catholics and Huguenots.  The Huguenots, guessing how
that would end, resolved to settle the question for themselves.  They
rose in one city after another, sacked the churches, destroyed the
images, put down by main force superstitious processions and dances; and
did many things only to be excused by the exasperation caused by thirty
years of cruelty.  At Montpellier there was hard fighting, murders--so
say the Catholic historians--of priests and monks, sack of the new
cathedral, destruction of the noble convents which lay in a ring round
Montpellier.  The city and the university were in the hands of the
Huguenots, and Montpellier became Protestant on the spot.

Next year came the counter-blow.  There were heavy battles with the
Catholics all round the neighbourhood, destruction of the suburbs,
threatened siege and sack, and years of misery and poverty for
Montpellier and all who were therein.

Horrible was the state of France in those times of the wars of religion
which began in 1562; the times which are spoken of usually as "The
Troubles," as if men did not wish to allude to them too openly.  Then,
and afterwards in the wars of the League, deeds were done for which
language has no name.  The population decreased.  The land lay untilled.
The fair face of France was blackened with burnt homesteads and ruined
towns.  Ghastly corpses dangled in rows upon the trees, or floated down
the blood-stained streams.  Law and order were at an end.  Bands of
robbers prowled in open day, and bands of wolves likewise.  But all
through the horrors of the troubles we catch sight of the little fat
doctor riding all unarmed to see his patients throughout Languedoc; going
vast distances, his biographers say, by means of regular relays of
horses, till he too broke down.  Well, for him, perhaps, that he broke
down when he did; for capture and recapture, massacre and pestilence,
were the fate of Montpellier and the surrounding country, till the better
times of Henry IV. and the Edict of Nantes in 1598, when liberty of
worship was given to the Protestants for awhile.

In the burning summer of 1566, Rondelet went a long journey to Toulouse,
seemingly upon an errand of charity, to settle some law affairs for his
relations.  The sanitary state of the southern cities is bad enough
still.  It must have been horrible in those days of barbarism and
misrule.  Dysentery was epidemic at Toulouse then, and Rondelet took it.
He knew from the first that he should die.  He was worn out, it is said,
by over-exertion; by sorrow for the miseries of the land; by fruitless
struggles to keep the peace, and to strive for moderation in days when
men were all immoderate.  But he rode away a day's journey--he took two
days over it, so weak he was--in the blazing July sun, to a friend's sick
wife at Realmont, and there took to his bed, and died a good man's death.
The details of his death and last illness were written and published by
his cousin Claude Formy; and well worth reading they are to any man who
wishes to know how to die.  Rondelet would have no tidings of his illness
sent to Montpellier.  He was happy, he said, in dying away from the tears
of his household, and "safe from insult."  He dreaded, one may suppose,
lest priests and friars should force their way to his bedside, and try to
extort some recantation from the great savant, the honour and glory of
their city.  So they sent for no priest to Realmont; but round his bed a
knot of Calvinist gentlemen and ministers read the Scriptures, and sang
David's psalms, and prayed; and Rondelet prayed with them through long
agonies, and so went home to God.

The Benedictine monk-historian of Languedoc, in all his voluminous
folios, never mentions, as far as I can find, Rondelet's existence.  Why
should he?  The man was only a druggist's son and a heretic, who healed
diseases, and collected plants, and wrote a book on fish.  But the
learned men of Montpellier, and of all Europe, had a very different
opinion of him.  His body was buried at Realmont; but before the schools
of Toulouse they set up a white marble slab, and an inscription thereon
setting forth his learning and his virtues; and epitaphs on him were
composed by the learned throughout Europe, not only in French and Latin,
but in Greek, Hebrew, and even Chaldee.

So lived and so died a noble man; more noble, to my mind, than many a
victorious warrior, or successful statesman, or canonised saint.  To know
facts, and to heal diseases, were the two objects of his life.  For them
he toiled, as few men have toiled; and he died in harness, at his
work--the best death any man can die.


I cannot begin a sketch of the life of this great man better than by
trying to describe a scene so picturesque, so tragic in the eyes of those
who are wont to mourn over human follies, so comic in the eyes of those
who prefer to laugh over them, that the reader will not be likely to
forget either it or the actors in it.

It is a darkened chamber in the College of Alcala, in the year 1562,
where lies, probably in a huge four-post bed, shrouded in stifling
hangings, the heir-apparent of the greatest empire in the then world, Don
Carlos, only son of Philip II. and heir-apparent of Spain, the
Netherlands, and all the Indies.  A short sickly boy of sixteen, with a
bull head, a crooked shoulder, a short leg, and a brutal temper, he will
not be missed by the world if he should die.  His profligate career seems
to have brought its own punishment.  To the scandal of his father, who
tolerated no one's vices save his own, as well as to the scandal of the
university authorities of Alcala, he has been scouring the streets at the
head of the most profligate students, insulting women, even ladies of
rank, and amenable only to his lovely young stepmother, Elizabeth of
Valois, Isabel de la Paz, as the Spaniards call her, the daughter of
Catherine do Medicis, and sister of the King of France.  Don Carlos
should have married her, had not his worthy father found it more
advantageous for the crown of Spain, as well as more pleasant for him,
Philip, to marry her himself.  Whence came heart-burnings, rage,
jealousies, romances, calumnies, of which two last--in as far at least as
they concern poor Elizabeth--no wise man now believes a word.

Going on some errand on which he had no business--there are two stories,
neither of them creditable nor necessary to repeat--Don Carlos has fallen
downstairs and broken his head.  He comes, by his Portuguese mother's
side, of a house deeply tainted with insanity; and such an injury may
have serious consequences.  However, for nine days the wound goes on
well, and Don Carlos, having had a wholesome fright, is, according to
Doctor Olivarez, the _medico de camara_, a very good lad, and lives on
chicken broth and dried plums.  But on the tenth day comes on numbness of
the left side, acute pains in the head, and then gradually shivering,
high fever, erysipelas.  His head and neck swell to an enormous size;
then comes raging delirium, then stupefaction, and Don Carlos lies as one

A modern surgeon would, probably, thanks to that training of which
Vesalius may be almost called the father, have had little difficulty in
finding out what was the matter with the luckless lad, and little
difficulty in removing the evil, if it had not gone too far.  But the
Spanish physicians were then, as many of them are said to be still, as
far behind the world in surgery as in other things; and indeed surgery
itself was then in its infancy, because men, ever since the early Greek
schools of Alexandria had died out, had been for centuries feeding their
minds with anything rather than with facts.  Therefore the learned
morosophs who were gathered round Don Carlos's sick bed had become
according to their own confession, utterly confused, terrified, and at
their wits' end.

It is the 7th of May, the eighteenth day after the accident according to
Olivarez's story: he and Dr Vega have been bleeding the unhappy prince,
enlarging the wound twice, and torturing him seemingly on mere guesses.
"I believe," says Olivarez, "that all was done well: but as I have said,
in wounds in the head there are strange labyrinths."  So on the 7th they
stand round the bed in despair.  Don Garcia de Toledo, the prince's
faithful governor, is sitting by him, worn out with sleepless nights, and
trying to supply to the poor boy that mother's tenderness which he has
never known.  Alva, too, is there, stern, self-compressed, most terrible,
and yet most beautiful.  He has a God on earth, and that is Philip his
master; and though he has borne much from Don Carlos already, and will
have to bear more, yet the wretched lad is to him as a son of God, a
second deity, who will by right divine succeed to the inheritance of the
first; and he watches this lesser deity struggling between life and death
with an intensity of which we, in these less loyal days, can form no
notion.  One would be glad to have a glimpse of what passed through that
mind, so subtle and so ruthless, so disciplined and so loyal withal: but
Alva was a man who was not given to speak his mind, but to act it.

One would wish, too, for a glimpse of what was passing through the mind
of another man, who has been daily in that sick chamber, according to
Olivarez's statement, since the first of the month: but he is one who has
had, for some years past, even more reason than Alva for not speaking his
mind.  What he looked like we know well, for Titian has painted him from
the life--a tall, bold, well-dressed man, with a noble brain, square and
yet lofty, short curling locks and beard, an eye which looks as though it
feared neither man nor fiend--and it has had good reason to fear both--and
features which would be exceeding handsome, but for the defiant
snub-nose.  That is Andreas Vesalius, of Brussels, dreaded and hated by
the doctors of the old school--suspect, moreover, it would seem to
inquisitors and theologians, possibly to Alva himself; for he has dared
to dissect human bodies; he has insulted the mediaevalists at Paris,
Padua, Bologna, Pisa, Venice, in open theatre; he has turned the heads of
all the young surgeons in Italy and France; he has written a great book,
with prints in it, designed, some say, by Titian--they were actually done
by another Netherlander, John of Calcar, near Cleves--in which he has
dared to prove that Galen's anatomy was at fault throughout, and that he
had been describing a monkey's inside when he had pretended to be
describing a man's; and thus, by impudence and quackery, he has wormed
himself--this Netherlander, a heretic at heart, as all Netherlanders are,
to God as well as to Galen--into the confidence of the late Emperor
Charles V., and gone campaigning with him as one of his physicians,
anatomising human bodies even on the battle-field, and defacing the
likeness of Deity; and worse than that, the most religious King Philip is
deceived by him likewise, and keeps him in Madrid in wealth and honour;
and now, in the prince's extreme danger, the king has actually sent for
him, and bidden him try his skill--a man who knows nothing save about
bones and muscles and the outside of the body, and is unworthy the name
of a true physician.

One can conceive the rage of the old Spanish pedants at the
Netherlander's appearance, and still more at what followed, if we are to
believe Hugo Bloet of Delft, his countryman and contemporary. {10}
Vesalius, he says, saw that the surgeons had bound up the wound so tight
that an abscess had formed outside the skull, which could not break: he
asserted that the only hope lay in opening it; and did so, Philip having
given leave, "by two cross-cuts.  Then the lad returned to himself, as if
awakened from a profound sleep, affirming that he owed his restoration to
life to the German doctor."

Dionysius Daza, who was there with the other physicians and surgeons,
tells a different story: "The most learned, famous, and rare Baron
Vesalius," he says, advised that the skull should be trepanned; but his
advice was not followed.

Olivarez's account agrees with that of Daza.  They had opened the wounds,
he says, down to the skull before Vesalius came.  Vesalius insisted that
the injury lay inside the skull, and wished to pierce it.  Olivarez
spends much labour in proving that Vesalius had "no great foundation for
his opinion:" but confesses that he never changed that opinion to the
last, though all the Spanish doctors were against him.  Then on the 6th,
he says, the Bachelor Torres came from Madrid, and advised that the skull
should be laid bare once more; and on the 7th, there being still doubt
whether the skull was not injured, the operation was performed--by whom
it is not said--but without any good result, or, according to Olivarez,
any discovery, save that Vesalius was wrong, and the skull uninjured.

Whether this second operation of the 7th of May was performed by
Vesalius, and whether it was that of which Bloet speaks, is an open
question.  Olivarez's whole relation is apologetic, written to justify
himself and his seven Spanish colleagues, and to prove Vesalius in the
wrong.  Public opinion, he confesses, had been very fierce against him.
The credit of Spanish medicine was at stake: and we are not bound to
believe implicitly a paper drawn up under such circumstances for Philip's
eye.  This, at least, we gather: that Don Carlos was never trepanned, as
is commonly said; and this, also, that whichever of the two stories is
true, equally puts Vesalius into direct, and most unpleasant, antagonism
to the Spanish doctors. {11}

But Don Carlos still lay senseless; and yielding to popular clamour, the
doctors called in the aid of a certain Moorish doctor, from Valencia,
named Priotarete, whose unguents, it was reported, had achieved many
miraculous cures.  The unguent, however, to the horror of the doctors,
burned the skull till the bone was as black as the colour of ink; and
Olivarez declares he believes it to have been a preparation of pure
caustic.  On the morning of the 9th of May, the Moor and his unguents
were sent away, "and went to Madrid, to send to heaven Hernando de Vega,
while the prince went back to our method of cure."

Considering what happened on the morning of the 10th of May, we should
now presume that the second opening of the abscess, whether by Vesalius
or someone else, relieved the pressure on the brain; that a critical
period of exhaustion followed, probably prolonged by the Moor's premature
caustic, which stopped the suppuration: but that God's good handiwork,
called nature, triumphed at last; and that therefore it came to pass that
the prince was out of danger within three days of the operation.  But he
was taught, it seems, to attribute his recovery to a very different
source from that of a German knife.  For on the morning of the 9th, when
the Moor was gone, and Don Carlos lay seemingly lifeless, there descended
into his chamber a _Deus e machina_, or rather a whole pantheon of
greater or lesser deities, who were to effect that which medical skill
seemed not to have effected.  Philip sent into the prince's chamber
several of the precious relics which he usually carried about with him.
The miraculous image of the Virgin of Atocha, in embroidering garments
for whom, Spanish royalty, male and female, has spent so many an hour ere
now, was brought in solemn procession and placed on an altar at the foot
of the prince's bed; and in the afternoon there entered, with a
procession likewise, a shrine containing the bones of a holy anchorite,
one Fray Diego, "whose life and miracles," says Olivarez, "are so
notorious:" and the bones of St. Justus and St. Pastor, the tutelar
saints of the university of Alcala.  Amid solemn litanies the relics of
Fray Diego were laid upon the prince's pillow, and the sudarium, or
mortuary cloth, which had covered his face, was placed upon the prince's

Modern science might object that the presence of so many personages,
however pious or well intentioned, in a sick chamber on a hot Spanish May
day, especially as the bath had been, for some generations past, held in
religious horror throughout Spain, as a sign of Moorish and Mussulman
tendencies, might have somewhat interfered with the chances of the poor
boy's recovery.  Nevertheless the event seems to have satisfied Philip's
highest hopes; for that same night (so Don Carlos afterwards related) the
holy monk Diego appeared to him in a vision, wearing the habit of St.
Francis, and bearing in his hand a cross of reeds tied with a green band.
The prince stated that he first took the apparition to be that of the
blessed St. Francis; but not seeing the stigmata, he exclaimed, "How?
Dost thou not bear the marks of the wounds?"  What he replied Don Carlos
did not recollect; save that he consoled him, and told him that he should
not die of that malady.

Philip had returned to Madrid, and shut himself up in grief in the great
Jeronymite monastery.  Elizabeth was praying for her step-son before the
miraculous images of the same city.  During the night of the 9th of May
prayers went up for Don Carlos in all the churches of Toledo, Alcala, and
Madrid.  Alva stood all that night at the bed's foot.  Don Garcia de
Toledo sat in the arm-chair, where he had now sat night and day for more
than a fortnight.  The good preceptor, Honorato Juan, afterwards Bishop
of Osma, wrestled in prayer for the lad the whole night through.  His
prayer was answered: probably it had been answered already, without his
being aware of it.  Be that as it may, about dawn Don Carlos's heavy
breathing ceased; he fell into a quiet sleep; and when he awoke all
perceived at once that he was saved.

He did not recover his sight, seemingly on account of the erysipelas, for
a week more.  He then opened his eyes upon the miraculous image of
Atocha, and vowed that, if he recovered, he would give to the Virgin, at
four different shrines in Spain, gold plate of four times his weight; and
silver plate of seven times his weight, when he should rise from his
couch.  So on the 6th of June he rose, and was weighed in a fur coat and
a robe of damask, and his weight was three arrobas and one pound--seventy-
six pounds in all.  On the 14th of June he went to visit his father at
the episcopal palace; then to all the churches and shrines in Alcala, and
of course to that of Fray Diego, whose body it is said he contemplated
for some time with edifying devotion.  The next year saw Fray Diego
canonised as a saint, at the intercession of Philip and his son; and thus
Don Carlos re-entered the world, to be a terror and a torment to all
around him, and to die--not by Philip's cruelty, as his enemies reported
too hastily indeed, yet excusably, for they knew him to be capable of any
wickedness--but simply of constitutional insanity.

And now let us go back to the history of "that most learned, famous, and
rare Baron Vesalius," who had stood by and seen all these things done;
and try if we cannot, after we have learned the history of his early
life, guess at some of his probable meditations on this celebrated
clinical case; and guess also how those meditations may have affected
seriously the events of his afterlife.

Vesalius (as I said) was a Netherlander, born at Brussels in 1513 or
1514.  His father and grandfather had been medical men of the highest
standing in a profession which then, as now, was commonly hereditary.  His
real name was Wittag, an ancient family of Wesel, on the Rhine, from
which town either he or his father adopted the name of Vesalius,
according to the classicising fashion of those days.  Young Vesalius was
sent to college at Louvain, where he learned rapidly.  At sixteen or
seventeen he knew not only Latin, but Greek enough to correct the proofs
of Galen, and Arabic enough to become acquainted with the works of the
Mussulman physicians.  He was a physicist too, and a mathematician,
according to the knowledge of those times; but his passion--the study to
which he was destined to devote his life--was anatomy.

Little or nothing (it must be understood) had been done in anatomy since
the days of Galen of Pergamos, in the second century after Christ, and
very little even by him.  Dissection was all but forbidden among the
ancients.  The Egyptians, Herodotus tells us, used to pursue with stones
and curses the embalmers as soon as they had performed their unpleasant
office; and though Herophilus and Erasistratus are said to have dissected
many subjects under the protection of Ptolemy Soter in Alexandria itself:
yet the public feeling of the Greeks as well as of the Romans continued
the same as that of the ancient Egyptians; and Galen was fain--as
Vesalius proved--to supplement his ignorance of the human frame by
describing that of an ape.  Dissection was equally forbidden among the
Mussulmans; and the great Arabic physicians could do no more than comment
on Galen.  The same prejudice extended through the Middle Age.  Medical
men were all clerks, _clerici_, and as such forbidden to shed blood.  The
only dissection, as far as I am aware, made during the Middle Age was one
by Mundinus in 1306; and his subsequent commentaries on Galen--for he
dare allow his own eyes to see no more than Galen had seen before
him--constituted the best anatomical manual in Europe till the middle of
the fifteenth century.

Then, in Italy at least, the classic Renaissance gave fresh life to
anatomy as to all other sciences.  Especially did the improvements in
painting and sculpture stir men up to a closer study of the human frame.
Leonardo da Vinci wrote a treatise on muscular anatomy.  The artist and
the sculptor often worked together, and realised that sketch of Michael
Angelo's in which he himself is assisting Fallopius, Vesalius's famous
pupil, to dissect.  Vesalius soon found that his thirst for facts could
not be slaked by the theories of the Middle Age; so in 1530 he went off
to Montpellier, where Francis I. had just founded a medical school, and
where the ancient laws of the city allowed the faculty each year the body
of a criminal.  From thence, after becoming the fellow-pupil and the
friend of Rondelet, and probably also of Rabelais and those other
luminaries of Montpellier, of whom I spoke in my essay on Rondelet, he
returned to Paris to study under old Sylvius, whose real name was Jacques
Dubois, alias Jock o' the Wood; and to learn less--as he complains
himself--in an anatomical theatre than a butcher might learn in his shop.

Were it not that the whole question of dissection is one over which it is
right to draw a reverent veil, as a thing painful, however necessary and
however innocent, it would be easy to raise ghastly laughter in many a
reader by the stories which Vesalius himself tells of his struggles to
learn anatomy.  How old Sylvius tried to demonstrate the human frame from
a bit of a dog, fumbling in vain for muscles which he could not find, or
which ought to have been there, according to Galen, and were not; while
young Vesalius, as soon as the old pedant's back was turned, took his
place, and, to the delight of the students, found for him--provided it
were there--what he could not find himself;--how he went body-snatching
and gibbet-robbing, often at the danger of his life, as when he and his
friend were nearly torn to pieces by the cannibal dogs who haunted the
Butte de Montfaucon, or place of public execution;--how he acquired, by a
long and dangerous process, the only perfect skeleton then in the world,
and the hideous story of the robber to whom it had belonged--all these
horrors those who list may read for themselves elsewhere.  I hasten past
them with this remark--that to have gone through the toils, dangers, and
disgusts which Vesalius faced, argued in a superstitious and cruel age
like his, no common physical and moral courage, and a deep conscience
that he was doing right, and must do it at all risks in the face of a
generation which, peculiarly reckless of human life and human agony,
allowed that frame which it called the image of God to be tortured,
maimed, desecrated in every way while alive; and yet--straining at the
gnat after having swallowed the camel--forbade it to be examined when
dead, though for the purpose of alleviating the miseries of mankind.

The breaking out of war between Francis I. and Charles V. drove Vesalius
back to his native country and Louvain; and in 1535 we hear of him as a
surgeon in Charles V.'s army.  He saw, most probably, the Emperor's
invasion of Provence, and the disastrous retreat from before
Montmorency's fortified camp at Avignon, through a country in which that
crafty general had destroyed every article of human food, except the half-
ripe grapes.  He saw, perhaps, the Spanish soldiers, poisoned alike by
the sour fruit and by the blazing sun, falling in hundreds along the
white roads which led back into Savoy, murdered by the peasantry whose
homesteads had been destroyed, stifled by the weight of their own armour,
or desperately putting themselves, with their own hands, out of a world
which had become intolerable.  Half the army perished.  Two thousand
corpses lay festering between Aix and Frejus alone.  If young Vesalius
needed "subjects," the ambition and the crime of man found enough for him
in those blazing September days.

He went to Italy, probably with the remnants of the army.  Where could he
have rather wished to find himself?  He was at last in the country where
the human mind seemed to be growing young once more; the country of
revived arts, revived sciences, learning, languages; and--though, alas!
only for awhile of revived free thought, such as Europe had not seen
since the palmy days of Greece.  Here at least he would be appreciated;
here at least he would be allowed to think and speak: and he was
appreciated.  The Italian cities, who were then, like the Athenians of
old, "spending their time in nothing else save to hear or to tell
something new," welcomed the brave young Fleming and his novelties.
Within two years he was professor of anatomy at Padua, then the first
school in the world; then at Bologna and at Pisa at the same time; last
of all at Venice, where Titian painted that portrait of him which remains
unto this day.

These years were for him a continual triumph; everywhere, as he
demonstrated on the human body, students crowded his theatre, or hung
round him as he walked the streets; professors left their own
chairs--their scholars having deserted them already--to go and listen
humbly or enviously to the man who could give them what all brave souls
throughout half Europe were craving for, and craving in vain--facts.  And
so, year after year, was realised that scene which stands engraved in the
frontispiece of his great book--where, in the little quaint Cinquecento
theatre, saucy scholars, reverend doctors, gay gentlemen, and even cowled
monks, are crowding the floor, peeping over each other's shoulders,
hanging on the balustrades; while in the centre, over his "subject"--which
one of those same cowled monks knew but too well--stands young Vesalius,
upright, proud, almost defiant, as one who knows himself safe in the
impregnable citadel of fact; and in his hand the little blade of steel,
destined--because wielded in obedience to the laws of nature, which are
the laws of God--to work more benefit for the human race than all the
swords which were drawn in those days, or perhaps in any other, at the
bidding of most Catholic Emperors and most Christian Kings.

Those were indeed days of triumph for Vesalius; of triumph deserved,
because earned by patient and accurate toil in a good cause: but
Vesalius, being but a mortal man, may have contracted in those same days
a temper of imperiousness and self-conceit, such as he showed afterwards
when his pupil Fallopius dared to add fresh discoveries to those of his
master.  And yet, in spite of all Vesalius knew, how little he knew!  How
humbling to his pride it would have been had he known then--perhaps he
does know now--that he had actually again and again walked, as it were,
round and round the true theory of the circulation of the blood, and yet
never seen it; that that discovery which, once made, is intelligible, as
far as any phenomenon is intelligible, to the merest peasant, was
reserved for another century, and for one of those Englishmen on whom
Vesalius would have looked as semi-barbarians.

To make a long story short: three years after the publication of his
famous book, "De Corporis Humani Fabrica," he left Venice to cure Charles
V., at Regensburg, and became one of the great Emperor's physicians.

This was the crisis of Vesalius's life.  The medicine with which he had
worked the cure was China--Sarsaparilla, as we call it now--brought home
from the then newly-discovered banks of the Paraguay and Uruguay, where
its beds of tangled vine, they say, tinge the clear waters a dark-brown
like that of peat, and convert whole streams into a healthful and
pleasant tonic.  On the virtues of this China (then supposed to be a
root) Vesalius wrote a famous little book, into which he contrived to
interweave his opinions on things in general, as good Bishop Berkeley did
afterwards into his essay on the virtues of tar-water.  Into this book,
however, Vesalius introduced--as Bishop Berkeley did not--much, and
perhaps too much, about himself; and much, though perhaps not too much,
about poor old Galen, and his substitution of an ape's inside for that of
a human being.  The storm which had been long gathering burst upon him.
The old school, trembling for their time-honoured reign, bespattered,
with all that pedantry, ignorance, and envy could suggest, the man who
dared not only to revolutionise surgery, but to interfere with the
privileged mysteries of medicine; and, over and above, to become a
greater favourite at the court of the greatest of monarchs.  While such
as Eustachius, himself an able discoverer, could join in the cry, it is
no wonder if a lower soul, like that of Sylvius, led it open-mouthed.  He
was a mean, covetous, bad man, as George Bachanan well knew; and,
according to his nature, he wrote a furious book--"Ad Vesani calumnias
depulsandas."  The punning change of Vesalius into Vesanus (madman) was
but a fair and gentle stroke for a polemic, in days in which those who
could not kill their enemies with steel or powder, held themselves
justified in doing so, if possible, by vituperation, calumny, and every
engine of moral torture.  But a far more terrible weapon, and one which
made Vesalius rage, and it may be for once in his life tremble, was the
charge of impiety and heresy.  The Inquisition was a very ugly place.  It
was very easy to get into it, especially for a Netherlander: but not so
easy to get out.  Indeed Vesalius must have trembled, when he saw his
master, Charles V., himself take fright, and actually call on the
theologians of Salamanca to decide whether it was lawful to dissect a
human body.  The monks, to their honour, used their common sense, and
answered Yes.  The deed was so plainly useful that it must be lawful
likewise.  But Vesalius did not feel that he had triumphed.  He dreaded,
possibly, lest the storm should only have blown over for a time.  He
fell, possibly, into hasty disgust at the folly of mankind, and despair
of arousing them to use their common sense, and acknowledge their true
interest and their true benefactors.  At all events, he threw into the
fire--so it is said--all his unpublished manuscripts, the records of long
years of observation, and renounced science thenceforth.

We hear of him after this at Brussels, and at Basle likewise--in which
latter city, in the company of physicians, naturalists, and Grecians, he
must have breathed awhile a freer air.  But he seems to have returned
thence to his old master Charles V., and to have finally settled at
Madrid as a court surgeon to Philip II., who sent him, but too late, to
extract the lance splinters from the eye of the dying Henry II.

He was now married to a lady of rank from Brussels, Anne van Hamme by
name; and their daughter married in time Philip II.'s grand falconer, who
was doubtless a personage of no small social rank.  Vesalius was well off
in worldly things; somewhat fond, it is said, of good living and of
luxury; inclined, it may be, to say, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow
we die," and to sink more and more into the mere worldling, unless some
shock should awake him from his lethargy.

And the awakening shock did come.  After eight years of court life, he
resolved, early in the year 1564, to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

The reasons for so strange a determination are wrapped in mystery and
contradiction.  The common story was that he had opened a corpse to
ascertain the cause of death, and that, to the horror of the bystanders,
the heart was still seen to beat; that his enemies accused him to the
Inquisition, and that he was condemned to death, a sentence which was
commuted to that of going on pilgrimage.  But here, at the very outset,
accounts differ.  One says that the victim was a nobleman, name not
given; another that it was a lady's maid, name not given.  It is most
improbable, if not impossible, that Vesalius, of all men, should have
mistaken a living body for a dead one; while it is most probable, on the
other hand, that his medical enemies would gladly raise such a calumny
against him, when he was no longer in Spain to contradict it.  Meanwhile
Llorente, the historian of the Inquisition, makes no mention of Vesalius
having been brought before its tribunal, while he does mention Vesalius's
residence at Madrid.  Another story is, that he went abroad to escape the
bad temper of his wife; another that he wanted to enrich himself.  Another
story--and that not an unlikely one--is, that he was jealous of the
rising reputation of his pupil Fallopius, then professor of anatomy at
Venice.  This distinguished surgeon, as I said before, had written a
book, in which he added to Vesalius's discoveries, and corrected certain
of his errors.  Vesalius had answered him hastily and angrily, quoting
his anatomy from memory; for, as he himself complained, he could not in
Spain obtain a subject for dissection; not even, he said, a single skull.
He had sent his book to Venice to be published, and had heard, seemingly,
nothing of it.  He may have felt that he was falling behind in the race
of science, and that it was impossible for him to carry on his studies in
Madrid; and so, angry with his own laziness and luxury, he may have felt
the old sacred fire flash up in him, and have determined to go to Italy
and become a student and a worker once more.

The very day that he set out, Clusius of Arras, then probably the best
botanist in the world, arrived at Madrid; and, asking the reason of
Vesalius's departure, was told by their fellow-countryman, Charles de
Tisnacq, procurator for the affairs of the Netherlands, that Vesalius had
gone of his own free will, and with all facilities which Philip could
grant him, in performance of a vow which he had made during a dangerous
illness.  Here, at least, we have a drop of information, which seems
taken from the stream sufficiently near to the fountain-head: but it must
be recollected that De Tisnacq lived in dangerous times, and may have
found it necessary to walk warily in them; that through him had been
sent, only the year before, that famous letter from William of Orange,
Horn, and Egmont, the fate whereof may be read in Mr. Motley's fourth
chapter; that the crisis of the Netherlands which sprung out of that
letter was coming fast; and that, as De Tisnacq was on friendly terms
with Egmont, he may have felt his head at times somewhat loose on his
shoulders; especially if he had heard Alva say, as he wrote, "that every
time he saw the despatches of those three senors, they moved his choler
so, that if he did not take much care to temper it, he would seem a
frenzied man."  In such times, De Tisnacq may have thought good to return
a diplomatic answer to a fellow-countryman concerning a third
fellow-countryman, especially when that countryman, as a former pupil of
Melancthon at Wittemberg, might himself be under suspicion of heresy, and
therefore of possible treason.

Be this as it may, one cannot but suspect some strain of truth in the
story about the Inquisition; for, whether or not Vesalius operated on Don
Carlos, he had seen with his own eyes that miraculous Virgin of Atocha at
the bed's foot of the prince.  He had heard his recovery attributed, not
to the operation, but to the intercession of Fray, now Saint Diego; {12}
and he must have had his thoughts thereon, and may, in an unguarded
moment, have spoken them.

For he was, be it always remembered, a Netherlander.  The crisis of his
country was just at hand.  Rebellion was inevitable, and, with rebellion,
horrors unutterable; and, meanwhile, Don Carlos had set his mad brain on
having the command of the Netherlands.  In his rage, at not having it, as
all the world knows, he nearly killed Alva with his own hands, some two
years after.  If it be true that Don Carlos felt a debt of gratitude to
Vesalius, he may (after his wont) have poured out to him some wild
confidence about the Netherlands, to have even heard which would be a
crime in Philip's eyes.  And if this be but a fancy, still Vesalius was,
as I just said, a Netherlander, and one of a brain and a spirit to which
Philip's doings, and the air of the Spanish court, must have been growing
ever more and more intolerable.  Hundreds of his country folk, perhaps
men and women whom he had known, were being racked, burnt alive, buried
alive, at the bidding of a jocular ruffian, Peter Titelmann, the chief
inquisitor.  The "day of the _maubrulez_," and the wholesale massacre
which followed it, had happened but two years before; and, by all the
signs of the times, these murders and miseries were certain to increase.
And why were all these poor wretches suffering the extremity of horror,
but because they would not believe in miraculous images, and bones of
dead friars, and the rest of that science of unreason and unfact, against
which Vesalius had been fighting all his life, consciously or not, by
using reason and observing fact?  What wonder if, in some burst of noble
indignation and just contempt, he forgot a moment that he had sold his
soul, and his love of science likewise, to be a luxurious, yet uneasy,
hanger-on at the tyrant's court; and spoke unadvisedly some word worthy
of a German man?

As to the story of his unhappy quarrels with his wife, there may be a
grain of truth in it likewise.  Vesalius's religion must have sat very
lightly on him.  The man who had robbed churchyards and gibbets from his
youth was not likely to be much afraid of apparitions and demons.  He had
handled too many human bones to care much for those of saints.  He was
probably, like his friends of Basle, Montpellier, and Paris, somewhat of
a heretic at heart, probably somewhat of a pagan, while his lady, Anne
van Hamme, was probably a strict Catholic, as her father, being a
councillor and master of the exchequer at Brussels, was bound to be; and
freethinking in the husband, crossed by superstition in the wife, may
have caused in them that wretched _vie a part_, that want of any true
communion of soul, too common to this day in Catholic countries.

Be these things as they may--and the exact truth of them will now be
never known--Vesalius set out to Jerusalem in the spring of 1564.  On his
way he visited his old friends at Venice to see about his book against
Fallopius.  The Venetian republic received the great philosopher with
open arms.  Fallopius was just dead; and the senate offered their guest
the vacant chair of anatomy.  He accepted it: but went on to the East.

He never occupied that chair; wrecked upon the Isle of Zante, as he was
sailing back from Palestine, he died miserably of fever and want, as
thousands of pilgrims returning from the Holy Land had died before him.  A
goldsmith recognised him; buried him in a chapel of the Virgin; and put
up over him a simple stone, which remained till late years; and may
remain, for aught I know, even now.

So perished, in the prime of life, "a martyr to his love of science," to
quote the words of M. Burggraeve of Ghent, his able biographer and
commentator, "the prodigious man, who created a science at an epoch when
everything was still an obstacle to his progress; a man whose whole life
was a long struggle of knowledge against ignorance, of truth against

Plaudite: Exeat: with Rondelet and Buchanan.  And whensoever this poor
foolish world needs three such men, may God of His great mercy send them.


I told you of Vesalius and Rondelet as specimens of the men who three
hundred years ago were founding the physical science of the present day,
by patient investigation of facts.  But such an age as this would
naturally produce men of a very different stamp, men who could not
imitate their patience and humility; who were trying for royal roads to
knowledge, and to the fame and wealth which might be got out of
knowledge; who meddled with vain dreams about the occult sciences,
alchemy, astrology, magic, the cabala, and so forth, who were reputed
magicians, courted and feared for awhile, and then, too often, died sad

Such had been, in the century before, the famous Dr. Faust--Faustus, who
was said to have made a compact with Satan--actually one of the inventors
of printing--immortalised in Goethe's marvellous poem.

Such, in the first half of the sixteenth century, was Cornelius Agrippa--a
doctor of divinity and a knight-at-arms; secret-service diplomatist to
the Emperor Maximilian in Austria; astrologer, though unwilling, to his
daughter Margaret, Regent of the Low Countries; writer on the occult
sciences and of the famous "De Vanitate Scientiarum," and what not? who
died miserably at the age of forty-nine, accused of magic by the
Dominican monks from whom he had rescued a poor girl, who they were
torturing on a charge of witchcraft; and by them hunted to death; nor to
death only, for they spread the fable--such as you may find in Delrio the
Jesuit's "Disquisitions on Magic" {14}--that his little pet black dog was
a familiar spirit, as Butler has it in "Hudibras":

   Agrippa kept a Stygian pug
   I' the garb and habit of a dog--
   That was his taste; and the cur
   Read to th' occult philosopher,
   And taught him subtly to maintain
   All other sciences are vain.

Such also was Jerome Cardan, the Italian scholar and physician, the
father of algebraic science (you all recollect Cardan's rule,) believer
in dreams, prognostics, astrology; who died, too, miserably enough, in
old age.

Cardan's sad life, and that of Cornelius Agrippa, you can, and ought to
read for yourselves, in two admirable biographies, as amusing as they are
learned, by Professor Morley, of the London University.  I have not
chosen either of them as a subject for this lecture, because Mr. Morley
has so exhausted what is to be known about them, that I could tell you
nothing which I had not stolen from him.

But what shall I say of the most famous of these men--Paracelsus? whose
name you surely know.  He too has been immortalised in a poem which you
all ought to have read, one of Robert Browning's earliest and one of his
best creations.

I think we must accept as true Mr. Browning's interpretation of
Paracelsus's character.  We must believe that he was at first an honest
and high-minded, as he was certainly a most gifted, man; that he went
forth into the world, with an intense sense of the worthlessness of the
sham knowledge of the pedants and quacks of the schools; an intense
belief that some higher and truer science might be discovered, by which
diseases might be actually cured, and health, long life, happiness, all
but immortality, be conferred on man; an intense belief that he,
Paracelsus, was called and chosen by God to find out that great mystery,
and be a benefactor to all future ages.  That fixed idea might
degenerate--did, alas! degenerate--into wild self-conceit, rash contempt
of the ancients, violent abuse of his opponents.  But there was more than
this in Paracelsus.  He had one idea to which, if he had kept true, his
life would have been a happier one--the firm belief that all pure science
was a revelation from God; that it was not to be obtained at second or
third hand, by blindly adhering to the words of Galen or Hippocrates or
Aristotle, and putting them (as the scholastic philosophers round him
did) in the place of God: but by going straight to nature at first hand,
and listening to what Bacon calls "the voice of God revealed in facts."
True and noble is the passage with which he begins his "Labyrinthus
Medicorum," one of his attacks on the false science of his day,

"The first and highest book of all healing," he says, "is called wisdom,
and without that book no man will carry out anything good or useful . . .
And that book is God Himself.  For in Him alone who hath created all
things, the knowledge and principle of all things dwells . . . without
Him all is folly.  As the sun shines on us from above, so He must pour
into us from above all arts whatsoever.  Therefore the root of all
learning and cognition is, that we should seek first the kingdom of
God--the kingdom of God in which all sciences are founded . . . If any
man think that nature is not founded on the kingdom of God, he knows
nothing about it.  All gifts," he repeats again and again, confused and
clumsily (as is his wont), but with a true earnestness, "are from God."

The true man of science, with Paracelsus, is he who seeks first the
kingdom of God in facts, investigating nature reverently, patiently, in
faith believing that God, who understands His own work best, will make
him understand it likewise.  The false man of science is he who seeks the
kingdom of this world, who cares nothing about the real interpretation of
facts: but is content with such an interpretation as will earn him the
good things of this world--the red hat and gown, the ambling mule, the
silk clothes, the partridges, capons, and pheasants, the gold florins
chinking in his palm.  At such pretenders Paracelsus sneered, at last
only too fiercely, not only as men whose knowledge consisted chiefly in
wearing white gloves, but as rogues, liars, villains, and every epithet
which his very racy vocabulary, quickened (it is to be feared) by wine
and laudanum, could suggest.  With these he contrasts the true men of
science.  It is difficult for us now to understand how a man setting out
in life with such pure and noble views should descend at last (if indeed
he did descend) to be a quack and a conjuror--and die under the
imputation that

   Bombastes kept a devil's bird
   Hid in the pommel of his sword,

and have, indeed, his very name, Bombast, used to this day as a synonym
of loud, violent, and empty talk.  To understand it at all, we must go
back and think a little over these same occult sciences which were
believed in by thousands during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

The reverence for classic antiquity, you must understand, which sprang up
at the renaissance in the fifteenth century, was as indiscriminating as
it was earnest.  Men caught the trash as well as the jewels.  They put
the dreams of the Neoplatonists, Iamblicus, Porphyry, or Plotinus, or
Proclus, on the same level as the sound dialectic philosophy of Plato
himself.  And these Neoplatonists were all, more or less, believers in
magic--Theurgy, as it was called--in the power of charms and spells, in
the occult virtues of herbs and gems, in the power of adepts to evoke and
command spirits, in the significance of dreams, in the influence of the
stars upon men's characters and destinies.  If the great and wise
philosopher Iamblicus believed such things, why might not the men of the
sixteenth century?

And so grew up again in Europe a passion for what were called the Occult
sciences.  It had always been haunting the European imagination.  Mediaeval
monks had long ago transformed the poet Virgil into a great necromancer.
And there were immense excuses for such a belief.  There was a mass of
collateral evidence that the occult sciences were true, which it was
impossible then to resist.  Races far more ancient, learned, civilised,
than any Frenchman, German, Englishman, or even Italian, in the fifteenth
century had believed in these things.  The Moors, the best physicians of
the Middle Ages, had their heads full, as the "Arabian Nights" prove, of
enchanters, genii, peris, and what not?  The Jewish rabbis had their
Cabala, which sprang up in Alexandria, a system of philosophy founded on
the mystic meaning of the words and the actual letters of the text of
Scripture, which some said was given by the angel Ragiel to Adam in
Paradise, by which Adam talked with angels, the sun and moon, summoned
spirits, interpreted dreams, healed and destroyed; and by that book of
Ragiel, as it was called, Solomon became the great magician and master of
all the spirits and their hoarded treasures.

So strong, indeed, was the belief in the mysteries of the Cabala, that
Reuchlin, the restorer of Hebrew learning in Germany, and Pico di
Mirandola, the greatest of Italian savants, accepted them; and not only
Pope Leo X. himself, but even statesmen and warriors received with
delight Reuchlin's cabalistic treatise, "De Verbo Mirifico," on the
mystic word "Schemhamphorash"--that hidden name of God, which whosoever
can pronounce aright is, for the moment, lord of nature and of all

Amulets, too, and talismans; the faith in them was exceeding ancient.
Solomon had his seal, by which he commanded all daemons; and there is a
whole literature of curious nonsense, which you may read if you will,
about the Abraxas and other talismans of the Gnostics in Syria; and
another, of the secret virtues which were supposed to reside in gems:
especially in the old Roman and Greek gems, carved into intaglios with
figures of heathen gods and goddesses.  Lapidaria, or lists of these gems
and their magical virtues, were not uncommon in the Middle Ages.  You may
read a great deal that is interesting about them at the end of Mr. King's
book on gems.

Astrology too; though Pico di Mirandola might set himself against the
rest of the world, few were found daring enough to deny so ancient a
science.  Luther and Melancthon merely followed the regular tradition of
public opinion when they admitted its truth.  It sprang probably from the
worship of the Seven Planets by the old Chaldees.  It was brought back
from Babylon by the Jews after the Captivity, and spread over all
Europe--perhaps all Asia likewise.

The rich and mighty of the earth must needs have their nativities cast,
and consult the stars; and Cornelius Agrippa gave mortal offence to the
Queen-Dowager of France (mother of Francis I.) because, when she
compelled him to consult the stars about Francis's chance of getting out
of his captivity in Spain after the battle of Pavia, he wrote and spoke
his mind honestly about such nonsense.

Even Newton seems to have hankered after it when young.  Among his MSS.
in Lord Portsmouth's library at Hurstbourne are whole folios of
astrologic calculations.  It went on till the end of the seventeenth
century, and died out only when men had begun to test it, and all other
occult sciences, by experience, and induction founded thereon.

Countless students busied themselves over the transmutation of metals.  As
for magic, necromancy, pyromancy, geomancy, coscinomancy, and all the
other mancies--there was then a whole literature about them.  And the
witch-burning inquisitors like Sprenger, Bodin, Delrio, and the rest,
believed as firmly in the magic powers of the poor wretches whom they
tortured to death, as did, in many cases, the poor wretches themselves.

Everyone, almost, believed in magic.  Take two cases.  Read the story
which Benvenuto Cellini, the sculptor, tells in his life (everyone should
read it) of the magician whom he consults in the Coliseum at Rome, and
the figure which he sees as he walks back with the magician, jumping from
roof to roof along the tiles of the houses.

And listen to this story, which Mr. Froude has dug up in his researches.
A Church commissioner at Oxford, at the beginning of the Reformation,
being unable to track an escaped heretic, "caused a figure to be made by
an expert in astronomy;" by which it was discovered that the poor wretch
had fled in a tawny coat and was making for the sea.  Conceive the
respected head of your College--or whoever he may be--in case you slept
out all night without leave, going to a witch to discover whether you had
gone to London or to Huntingdon, and then writing solemnly to inform the
Bishop of Ely of his meritorious exertions!

In such a mad world as this was Paracelsus born.  The son of a Swiss
physician, but of noble blood, Philip Aureolus Theophrastus was his
Christian name, Bombast von Hohenheim his surname, which last word he
turned, after the fashion of the times, into Paracelsus.  Born in 1493 at
Einsiedeln (the hermitage), in Schweiz, which is still a famous place of
pilgrimage, he was often called Eremita--the hermit.  Erasmus, in a
letter still extant, but suspected not to be genuine, addressed him by
that name.

How he passed the first thirty-three years of his life it is hard to say.
He used to boast that he had wandered over all Europe, been in Sweden,
Italy, in Constantinople, and perhaps in the far East, with
barber-surgeons, alchemists, magicians, haunting mines, and forges of
Sweden and Bohemia, especially those which the rich merchants of that day
had in the Tyrol.

It was from that work, he said, that he learnt what he knew: from the
study of nature and of facts.  He had heard all the learned doctors and
professors; he had read all their books, and they could teach him
nothing.  Medicine was his monarch, and no one else.  He declared that
there was more wisdom under his bald pate than in Aristotle and Galen,
Hippocrates and Rhasis.  And fact seemed to be on his side.  He
reappeared in Germany about 1525, and began working wondrous cures.  He
had brought back with him from the East an arcanum, a secret remedy, and
laudanum was its name.  He boasted, says one of his enemies, that he
could raise the dead to life with it; and so the event all but proved.
Basle was then the university where free thought and free creeds found
their safest home; and hither OEcolampadius the reformer invited young
Paracelsus to lecture on medicine and natural science.

It would have been well for him, perhaps, had he never opened his lips.
He might have done good enough to his fellow-creatures by his own
undoubted powers of healing.  He cured John Frobenius, the printer,
Erasmus's friend, at Basle, when the doctors were going to cut his leg
off.  His fame spread far and wide.  Round Basle and away into Alsace he
was looked on, even an enemy says, as a new AEsculapius.

But these were days in which in a university everyone was expected to
talk and teach, and so Paracelsus began lecturing; and then the weakness
which was mingled with his strength showed itself.  He began by burning
openly the books of Galen and Avicenna, and declared that all the old
knowledge was useless.  Doctors and students alike must begin over again
with him.  The dons were horrified.  To burn Galen and Avicenna was as
bad as burning the Bible.  And more horrified still were they when
Paracelsus began lecturing, not in the time-honoured dog-Latin, but in
good racy German, which everyone could understand.  They shuddered under
their red gowns and hats.  If science was to be taught in German,
farewell to the Galenists' formulas, and their lucrative monopoly of
learning.  Paracelsus was bold enough to say that he wished to break up
their monopoly; to spread a popular knowledge of medicine.  "How much,"
he wrote once, "would I endure and suffer, to see every man his own
shepherd--his own healer."  He laughed to scorn their long prescriptions,
used the simplest drugs, and declared Nature, after all, to be the best
physician--as a dog, he says, licks his wound well again without our
help; or as the broken rib of the ox heals of its own accord.

Such a man was not to be endured.  They hated him, he says, for the same
reason that they hated Luther, for the same reason that the Pharisees
hated Christ.  He met their attacks with scorn, rage, and language as
coarse and violent as their own.  The coarseness and violence of those
days seem incredible to us now; and, indeed, Paracelsus, as he confessed
himself, was, though of gentle blood, rough and unpolished; and utterly,
as one can see from his writings, unable to give and take, to
conciliate--perhaps to pardon.  He looked impatiently on these men who
were (not unreasonably) opposing novelties which they could not
understand, as enemies of God, who were balking him in his grand plan for
regenerating science and alleviating the woes of humanity, and he
outraged their prejudices instead of soothing them.

Soon they had their revenge.  Ugly stories were whispered about.
Oporinus, the printer, who had lived with him for two years, and who left
him, it is said, because he thought Paracelsus concealed from him
unfairly the secret of making laudanum, told how Paracelsus was neither
more nor less than a sot, who came drunk to his lectures, used to prime
himself with wine before going to his patients, and sat all night in
pothouses swilling with the boors.

Men looked coldly on him--longed to be rid of him.  And they soon found
an opportunity.  He took in hand some Canon of the city from whom it was
settled beforehand that he was to receive a hundred florins.  The priest
found himself cured so suddenly and easily that, by a strange logic, he
refused to pay the money, and went to the magistrates.  They supported
him, and compelled Paracelsus to take six florins instead of the hundred.
He spoke his mind fiercely to them.  I believe, according to one story,
he drew his long sword on the Canon.  His best friends told him he must
leave the place; and within two years, seemingly, after his first triumph
at Basle, he fled from it a wanderer and a beggar.

The rest of his life is a blank.  He is said to have recommenced his old
wanderings about Europe, studying the diseases of every country, and
writing his books, which were none of them published till after his
death.  His enemies joyfully trampled on the fallen man.  He was a "dull
rustic, a monster, an atheist, a quack, a maker of gold, a magician."
When he was drunk, one Wetter, his servant, told Erastus (one of his
enemies) that he used to offer to call up legions of devils to prove his
skill, while Wetter, in abject terror of his spells, entreated him to
leave the fiends alone--that he had sent his book by a fiend to the
spirit of Galen in hell, and challenged him to say which was the better
system, his or Paracelsus', and what not?

His books were forbidden to be printed.  He himself was refused a
hearing, and it was not till after ten years of wandering that he found
rest and protection in a little village of Carinthia.

Three years afterwards he died in the hospital of St. Sebastian at
Salzburg, in the Tyrol.  His death was the signal for empirics and
visionaries to foist on the public book after book on occult philosophy,
written in his name--of which you may see ten folios--not more than a
quarter, I believe, genuine.  And these foolish books, as much as
anything, have helped to keep up the popular prejudice against one who,
in spite of all his faults was a true pioneer of science. {15}  I believe
(with those moderns who have tried to do him justice) that under all his
verbiage and confusion there was a vein of sound scientific, experimental
common sense.

When he talks of astronomy as necessary to be known by a physician, it
seems to me that he laughs at astrology, properly so called; that is,
that the stars influence the character and destiny of man.  Mars, he
says, did not make Nero cruel.  There would have been long-lived men in
the world if Saturn had never ascended the skies; and Helen would have
been a wanton, though Venus had never been created.  But he does believe
that the heavenly bodies, and the whole skies, have a physical influence
on climate, and on the health of men.

He talks of alchemy, but he means by it, I think, only that sound science
which we call chemistry, and at which he worked, wandering, he says,
among mines and forges, as a practical metallurgist.

He tells us--what sounds startling enough--that magic is the only
preceptor which can teach the art of healing; but he means, it seems to
me, only an understanding of the invisible processes of nature, in which
sense an electrician or a biologist, a Faraday or a Darwin, would be a
magician; and when he compares medical magic to the Cabalistic science,
of which I spoke just now (and in which he seems to have believed), he
only means, I think, that as the Cabala discovers hidden meaning and
virtues in the text of Scripture, so ought the man of science to find
them in the book of nature.  But this kind of talk, wrapt up too in the
most confused style, or rather no style at all, is quite enough to
account for ignorant and envious people accusing him of magic, saying
that he had discovered the philosopher's stone, and the secret of Hermes
Trismegistus; that he must make gold, because, though he squandered all
his money, he had always money in hand; and that he kept a
"devil's-bird," a familiar spirit, in the pommel of that famous long
sword of his, which he was only too ready to lug out on provocation--the
said spirit, Agoth by name, being probably only the laudanum bottle with
which he worked so many wondrous cures, and of which, to judge from his
writings, he took only too freely himself.

But the charm of Paracelsus is in his humour, his mother-wit.  He was
blamed for consorting with boors in pot-houses; blamed for writing in
racy German, instead of bad school-Latin: but you can hardly read a
chapter, either of his German or his dog-Latin, without finding many a
good thing--witty and weighty, though often not a little coarse.  He
talks in parables.  He draws illustrations, like Socrates of old, from
the commonest and the oddest matters to enforce the weightiest truths.
"Fortune and misfortune," he says, for instance nobly enough, "are not
like snow and wind, they must be deduced and known from the secrets of
nature.  Therefore misfortune is ignorance, fortune is knowledge.  The
man who walks out in the rain is not unfortunate if he gets a ducking."

"Nature," he says again, "makes the text, and the medical man adds the
gloss; but the two fit each other no better than a dog does a bath;" and
again, when he is arguing against the doctors who hated chemistry--"Who
hates a thing which has hurt nobody?  Will you complain of a dog for
biting you, if you lay hold of his tail?  Does the emperor send the thief
to the gallows, or the thing which he has stolen?  The thief, I think.
Therefore science should not be despised on account of some who know
nothing about it."  You will say the reasoning is not very clear, and
indeed the passage, like too many more, smacks strongly of wine and
laudanum.  But such is his quaint racy style.  As humorous a man, it
seems to me, as you shall meet with for many a day; and where there is
humour there is pretty sure to be imagination, tenderness, and depth of

As for his notions of what a man of science should be, the servant of
God, and of Nature--which is the work of God--using his powers not for
money, not for ambition, but in love and charity, as he says, for the
good of his fellow-man--on that matter Paracelsus is always noble.  All
that Mr. Browning has conceived on that point, all the noble speeches
which he has put into Paracelsus's mouth, are true to his writings.  How
can they be otherwise, if Mr. Browning set them forth--a genius as
accurate and penetrating as he is wise and pure?

But was Paracelsus a drunkard after all?

Gentlemen, what concern is that of yours or mine?  I have gone into the
question, as Mr. Browning did, cannot say, and don't care to say.

Oporinus, who slandered him so cruelly, recanted when Paracelsus was
dead, and sang his praises--too late.  But I do not read that he recanted
the charge of drunkenness.  His defenders allow it, only saying that it
was the fault not of him alone, but of all Germans.  But if so, why was
he specially blamed for what certainly others did likewise?  I cannot but
fear from his writings, as well as from common report, that there was
something wrong with the man.  I say only something.  Against his purity
there never was a breath of suspicion.  He was said to care nothing for
women; and even that was made the subject of brutal jests and lies.  But
it may have been that, worn out with toil and poverty, he found comfort
in that laudanum which he believed to be the arcanum--the very elixir of
life; that he got more and more into the habit of exciting his
imagination with the narcotic, and then, it may be, when the fit of
depression followed, he strung his nerves up again by wine.  It may have
been so.  We have had, in the last generation, an exactly similar case in
a philosopher, now I trust in heaven, and to whose genius I owe too much
to mention his name here.

But that Paracelsus was a sot I cannot believe.  That face of his, as
painted by the great Tintoretto, is not the face of a drunkard, quack,
bully, but of such a man as Browning has conceived.  The great globular
brain, the sharp delicate chin, is not that of a sot.  Nor are those
eyes, which gleam out from under the deep compressed brow, wild, intense,
hungry, homeless, defiant, and yet complaining, the eyes of a sot--but
rather the eyes of a man who struggles to tell a great secret, and cannot
find words for it, and yet wonders why men cannot understand, will not
believe what seems to him as clear as day--a tragical face, as you well
can see.

God keep us all from making our lives a tragedy by one great sin.  And
now let us end this sad story with the last words which Mr. Browning puts
into the mouth of Paracelsus, dying in the hospital at Salzburg, which
have come literally true:

   Meanwhile, I have done well though not all well.
   As yet men cannot do without contempt;
   'Tis for their good; and therefore fit awhile
   That they reject the weak and scorn the false,
   Rather than praise the strong and true in me:
   But after, they will know me.  If I stoop
   Into a dark tremendous sea of cloud,
   It is but for a time.  I press God's lamp
   Close to my breast; its splendour, soon or late,
   Will pierce the gloom.  I shall emerge one day.


The scholar, in the sixteenth century, was a far more important personage
than now.  The supply of learned men was very small, the demand for them
very great.  During the whole of the fifteenth, and a great part of the
sixteenth century, the human mind turned more and more from the
scholastic philosophy of the Middle Ages to that of the Romans and the
Greeks; and found more and more in old Pagan Art an element which
Monastic Art had not, and which was yet necessary for the full
satisfaction of their craving after the Beautiful.  At such a crisis of
thought and taste, it was natural that the classical scholar, the man who
knew old Rome, and still more old Greece, should usurp the place of the
monk, as teacher of mankind; and that scholars should form, for a while,
a new and powerful aristocracy, limited and privileged, and all the more
redoubtable, because its power lay in intellect, and had been won by
intellect alone.

Those who, whether poor or rich, did not fear the monk and priest, at
least feared the "scholar," who held, so the vulgar believed, the keys of
that magic lore by which the old necromancers had built cities like Rome,
and worked marvels of mechanical and chemical skill, which the degenerate
modern could never equal.

If the "scholar" stopped in a town, his hostess probably begged of him a
charm against toothache or rheumatism.  The penniless knight discoursed
with him on alchemy, and the chances of retrieving his fortune by the art
of transmuting metals into gold.  The queen or bishop worried him in
private about casting their nativities, and finding their fates among the
stars.  But the statesman, who dealt with more practical matters, hired
him as an advocate and rhetorician, who could fight his master's enemies
with the weapons of Demosthenes and Cicero.  Wherever the scholar's steps
were turned, he might be master of others, as long as he was master of
himself.  The complaints which he so often uttered concerning the cruelty
of fortune, the fickleness of princes and so forth, were probably no more
just then than such complaints are now.  Then, as now, he got his
deserts; and the world bought him at his own price.  If he chose to sell
himself to this patron and to that, he was used and thrown away: if he
chose to remain in honourable independence, he was courted and feared.

Among the successful scholars of the sixteenth century, none surely is
more notable than George Buchanan.  The poor Scotch widow's son, by force
of native wit, and, as I think, by force of native worth, fights his way
upward, through poverty and severest persecution, to become the
correspondent and friend of the greatest literary celebrities of the
Continent, comparable, in their opinion, to the best Latin poets of
antiquity; the preceptor of princes; the counsellor and spokesman of
Scotch statesmen in the most dangerous of times; and leaves behind him
political treatises, which have influenced not only the history of his
own country, but that of the civilised world.

Such a success could not be attained without making enemies, perhaps
without making mistakes.  But the more we study George Buchanan's
history, the less we shall be inclined to hunt out his failings, the more
inclined to admire his worth.  A shrewd, sound-hearted, affectionate man,
with a strong love of right and scorn of wrong, and a humour withal which
saved him--except on really great occasions--from bitterness, and helped
him to laugh where narrower natures would have only snarled,--he is, in
many respects, a type of those Lowland Scots, who long preserved his
jokes, genuine or reputed, as a common household book. {16}  A
schoolmaster by profession, and struggling for long years amid the
temptations which, in those days, degraded his class into cruel and
sordid pedants, he rose from the mere pedagogue to be, in the best sense
of the word, a courtier: "One," says Daniel Heinsius, "who seemed not
only born for a court, but born to amend it.  He brought to his queen
that at which she could not wonder enough.  For, by affecting a certain
liberty in censuring morals, he avoided all offence, under the cloak of
simplicity."  Of him and his compeers, Turnebus, and Muretus, and their
friend Andrea Govea, Ronsard, the French court poet, said that they had
nothing of the pedagogue about them but the gown and cap.  "Austere in
face, and rustic in his looks," says David Buchanan, "but most polished
in style and speech; and continually, even in serious conversation,
jesting most wittily."  "Rough-hewn, slovenly, and rude," says Peacham,
in his "Compleat Gentleman," speaking of him, probably, as he appeared in
old age, "in his person, behaviour, and fashion; seldom caring for a
better outside than a rugge-gown girt close about him: yet his inside and
conceipt in poesie was most rich, and his sweetness and facilitie in
verse most excellent."  A typical Lowland Scot, as I said just now, he
seems to have absorbed all the best culture which France could afford
him, without losing the strength, honesty, and humour which he inherited
from his Stirlingshire kindred.

The story of his life is easily traced.  When an old man, he himself
wrote down the main events of it, at the request of his friends; and his
sketch has been filled out by commentators, if not always favourable, at
least erudite.  Born in 1506, at the Moss, in Killearn--where an obelisk
to his memory, so one reads, has been erected in this century--of a
family "rather ancient than rich," his father dead in the prime of
manhood, his grandfather a spendthrift, he and his seven brothers and
sisters were brought up by a widowed mother, Agnes Heriot--of whom one
wishes to know more; for the rule that great sons have great mothers
probably holds good in her case.  George gave signs, while at the village
school, of future scholarship; and when he was only fourteen, his uncle
James sent him to the University of Paris.  Those were hard times; and
the youths, or rather boys, who meant to become scholars, had a cruel
life of it, cast desperately out on the wide world to beg and starve,
either into self-restraint and success, or into ruin of body and soul.
And a cruel life George had.  Within two years he was down in a severe
illness, his uncle dead, his supplies stopped; and the boy of sixteen got
home, he does not tell how.  Then he tried soldiering; and was with
Albany's French Auxiliaries at the ineffectual attack on Wark Castle.
Marching back through deep snow, he got a fresh illness, which kept him
in bed all winter.  Then he and his brother were sent to St. Andrews,
where he got his B.A. at nineteen.  The next summer he went to France
once more; and "fell," he says, "into the flames of the Lutheran sect,
which was then spreading far and wide."  Two years of penury followed;
and then three years of school-mastering in the College of St. Barbe,
which he has immortalised--at least, for the few who care to read modern
Latin poetry--in his elegy on "The Miseries of a Parisian Teacher of the
Humanities."  The wretched regent-master, pale and suffering, sits up all
night preparing his lecture, biting his nails and thumping his desk; and
falls asleep for a few minutes, to start up at the sound of the
four-o'clock bell, and be in school by five, his Virgil in one hand, and
his rod in the other, trying to do work on his own account at old
manuscripts, and bawling all the while at his wretched boys, who cheat
him, and pay each other to answer to truants' names.  The class is all
wrong.  "One is barefoot, another's shoe is burst, another cries, another
writes home.  Then comes the rod, the sound of blows, and howls; and the
day passes in tears."  "Then mass, then another lesson, then more blows;
there is hardly time to eat."  I have no space to finish the picture of
the stupid misery which, Buchanan says, was ruining his intellect, while
it starved his body.  However, happier days came.  Gilbert Kennedy, Earl
of Cassilis, who seems to have been a noble young gentleman, took him as
his tutor for the next five years; and with him he went back to Scotland.

But there his plain speaking got him, as it did more than once afterward,
into trouble.  He took it into his head to write, in imitation of Dunbar,
a Latin poem, in which St. Francis asks him in a dream to become a Gray
Friar, and Buchanan answered in language which had the unpleasant fault
of being too clever, and--to judge from contemporary evidence--only too
true.  The friars said nothing at first; but when King James made
Buchanan tutor to one of his natural sons, they, "men professing
meekness, took the matter somewhat more angrily than befitted men so
pious in the opinion of the people."  So Buchanan himself puts it: but,
to do the poor friars justice, they must have been angels, not men, if
they did not writhe somewhat under the scourge which he had laid on them.
To be told that there was hardly a place in heaven for monks, was hard to
hear and bear.  They accused him to the king of heresy; but not being
then in favour with James, they got no answer, and Buchanan was commanded
to repeat the castigation.  Having found out that the friars were not to
be touched with impunity, he wrote, he says, a short and ambiguous poem.
But the king, who loved a joke, demanded something sharp and stinging,
and Buchanan obeyed by writing, but not publishing, "The Franciscans," a
long satire, compared to which the "Somnium" was bland and merciful.  The
storm rose.  Cardinal Beaten, Buchanan says, wanted to buy him of the
king, and then, of course, burn him, as he had just burnt five poor
souls; so, knowing James's avarice, he fled to England, through
freebooters and pestilence.

There he found, he says, "men of both factions being burned on the same
day and in the same fire"--a pardonable exaggeration--"by Henry VIII., in
his old age more intent on his own safety than on the purity of
religion."  So to his beloved France he went again, to find his enemy
Beaten ambassador at Paris.  The capital was too hot to hold him; and he
fled south to Bordeaux, to Andrea Govea, the Portuguese principal of the
College of Guienne.  As Professor of Latin at Bordeaux, we find him
presenting a Latin poem to Charles V.; and indulging that fancy of his
for Latin poetry which seems to us nowadays a childish pedantry, which
was then--when Latin was the vernacular tongue of all scholars--a
serious, if not altogether a useful, pursuit.  Of his tragedies, so
famous in their day--the "Baptist," the "Medea," the "Jephtha," and the
"Alcestis"--there is neither space nor need to speak here, save to notice
the bold declamations in the "Baptist" against tyranny and priestcraft;
and to notice also that these tragedies gained for the poor Scotsman, in
the eyes of the best scholars of Europe, a credit amounting almost to
veneration.  When he returned to Paris, he found occupation at once; and,
as his Scots biographers love to record, "three of the most learned men
in the world taught humanity in the same college," viz.  Turnebus,
Muretus, and Buchanan.

Then followed a strange episode in his life.  A university had been
founded at Coimbra, in Portugal, and Andrea Govea had been invited to
bring thither what French savants he could collect.  Buchanan went to
Portugal with his brother Patrick, two more Scotsmen, Dempster and
Ramsay, and a goodly company of French scholars, whose names and
histories may be read in the erudite pages of Dr. Irving, went likewise.
All prospered in the new Temple of the Muses for a year or so.  Then its
high-priest, Govea, died; and, by a peripeteia too common in those days
and countries, Buchanan and two of his friends migrated unwillingly from
the Temple of the Muses for that of Moloch, and found themselves in the

Buchanan, it seems, had said that St. Augustine was more of a Lutheran
than a Catholic on the question of the mass.  He and his friends had
eaten flesh in Lent; which, he says, almost everyone in Spain did.  But
he was suspected, and with reason, as a heretic; the Gray Friars formed
but one brotherhood throughout Europe; and news among them travelled
surely if not fast, so that the story of the satire written in Scotland
had reached Portugal.  The culprits were imprisoned, examined,
bullied--but not tortured--for a year and a half.  At the end of that
time, the proofs of heresy, it seems, were insufficient; but lest, says
Buchanan with honest pride, "they should get the reputation of having
vainly tormented a man not altogether unknown," they sent him for some
months to a monastery, to be instructed by the monks.  "The men," he
says, "were neither inhuman nor bad, but utterly ignorant of religion;"
and Buchanan solaced himself during the intervals of their instructions,
by beginning his Latin translation of the Psalms.

At last he got free, and begged leave to return to France; but in vain.
And so, wearied out, he got on board a Candian ship at Lisbon, and
escaped to England.  But England, he says, during the anarchy of Edward
VI.'s reign, was not a land which suited him; and he returned to France,
to fulfil the hopes which he had expressed in his charming "Desiderium
Lutitiae," and the still more charming, because more simple, "Adventus in
Galliam," in which he bids farewell, in most melodious verse, to "the
hungry moors of wretched Portugal, and her clods fertile in naught but

Some seven years succeeded of schoolmastering and verse-writing: the
Latin paraphrase of the Psalms; another of the "Alcestis" of Euripides;
an Epithalamium on the marriage of poor Mary Stuart, noble and sincere,
however fantastic and pedantic, after the manner of the times; "Pomps,"
too, for her wedding, and for other public ceremonies, in which all the
heathen gods and goddesses figure; epigrams, panegyrics, satires, much of
which latter productions he would have consigned to the dust-heap in his
old age, had not his too fond friends persuaded him to republish the
follies and coarsenesses of his youth.  He was now one of the most famous
scholars in Europe, and the intimate friend of all the great literary
men.  Was he to go on to the end, die, and no more?  Was he to sink into
the mere pedant; or, if he could not do that, into the mere court

The wars of religion saved him, as they saved many another noble soul,
from that degradation.  The events of 1560-62 forced Buchanan, as they
forced many a learned man besides, to choose whether he would be a child
of light or a child of darkness; whether he would be a dilettante
classicist, or a preacher--it might be a martyr--of the Gospel.  Buchanan
may have left France in "The Troubles" merely to enjoy in his own country
elegant and learned repose.  He may have fancied that he had found it,
when he saw himself, in spite of his public profession of adherence to
the Reformed Kirk, reading Livy every afternoon with his exquisite young
sovereign; master, by her favour, of the temporalities of Crossraguel
Abbey, and by the favour of Murray, Principal of St. Leonard's College in
St. Andrew's.  Perhaps he fancied at times that "to-morrow was to be as
to-day, and much more abundant;" that thenceforth he might read his
folio, and write his epigram, and joke his joke, as a lazy comfortable
pluralist, taking his morning stroll out to the corner where poor Wishart
had been burned, above the blue sea and the yellow sands, and looking up
to the castle tower from whence his enemy Beaton's corpse had been hung
out; with the comfortable reflection that quieter times had come, and
that whatever evil deeds Archbishop Hamilton might dare, he would not
dare to put the Principal of St. Leonard's into the "bottle dungeon."

If such hopes ever crossed Geordie's keen fancy, they were disappointed
suddenly and fearfully.  The fire which had been kindled in France was to
reach to Scotland likewise.  "Revolutions are not made with rose-water;"
and the time was at hand when all good spirits in Scotland, and George
Buchanan among them, had to choose, once and for all, amid danger,
confusion, terror, whether they would serve God or Mammon; for to serve
both would be soon impossible.

Which side, in that war of light and darkness, George Buchanan took, is
notorious.  He saw then, as others have seen since, that the two men in
Scotland who were capable of being her captains in the strife were Knox
and Murray; and to them he gave in his allegiance heart and soul.

This is the critical epoch in Buchanan's life.  By his conduct to Queen
Mary he must stand or fall.  It is my belief that he will stand.  It is
not my intention to enter into the details of a matter so painful, so
shocking, so prodigious; and now that that question is finally set at
rest, by the writings both of Mr. Froude and Mr. Burton, there is no need
to allude to it further, save where Buchanan's name is concerned.  One
may now have every sympathy with Mary Stuart; one may regard with awe a
figure so stately, so tragic, in one sense so heroic,--for she reminds
one rather of the heroine of an old Greek tragedy, swept to her doom by
some irresistible fate, than of a being of our own flesh and blood, and
of our modern and Christian times.  One may sympathise with the great
womanhood which charmed so many while she was alive; which has charmed,
in later years, so many noble spirits who have believed in her innocence,
and have doubtless been elevated and purified by their devotion to one
who seemed to them an ideal being.  So far from regarding her as a
hateful personage, one may feel oneself forbidden to hate a woman whom
God may have loved, and may have pardoned, to judge from the punishment
so swift, and yet so enduring, which He inflicted.  At least, he must so
believe who holds that punishment is a sign of mercy; that the most
dreadful of all dooms is impunity.  Nay, more, those "Casket" letters and
sonnets may be a relief to the mind of one who believes in her guilt on
other grounds; a relief when one finds in them a tenderness, a sweetness,
a delicacy, a magnificent self-sacrifice, however hideously misplaced,
which shows what a womanly heart was there; a heart which, joined to that
queenly brain, might have made her a blessing and a glory to Scotland,
had not the whole character been warped and ruinate from childhood, by an
education so abominable, that anyone who knows what words she must have
heard, what scenes she must have beheld in France, from her youth up,
will wonder that she sinned so little: not that she sinned so much.  One
may feel, in a word, that there is every excuse for those who have
asserted Mary's innocence, because their own high-mindedness shrank from
believing her guilty: but yet Buchanan, in his own place and time, may
have felt as deeply that he could do no otherwise than he did.

The charges against him, as all readers of Scotch literature know well,
may be reduced to two heads.  1st.  The letters and sonnets were
forgeries.  Maitland of Lethington may have forged the letters; Buchanan,
according to some, the sonnets.  Whoever forged them, Buchanan made use
of them in his Detection, knowing them to be forged.  2nd.  Whether Mary
was innocent or not, Buchanan acted a base and ungrateful part in putting
himself in the forefront amongst her accusers.  He had been her tutor,
her pensioner.  She had heaped him with favours; and, after all, she was
his queen, and a defenceless woman: and yet he returned her kindness, in
the hour of her fall, by invectives fit only for a rancorous and reckless
advocate, determined to force a verdict by the basest arts of oratory.

Now as to the Casket letters.  I should have thought they bore in
themselves the best evidence of being genuine.  I can add nothing to the
arguments of Mr. Froude and Mr. Burton, save this: that no one clever
enough to be a forger would have put together documents so incoherent,
and so incomplete.  For the evidence of guilt which they contain is,
after all, slight and indirect, and, moreover, superfluous altogether;
seeing that Mary's guilt was open and palpable, before the supposed
discovery of the letters, to every person at home and abroad who had any
knowledge of the facts.  As for the alleged inconsistency of the letters
with proven facts: the answer is, that whosoever wrote the letters would
be more likely to know facts which were taking place around them than any
critic could be one hundred or three hundred years afterwards.  But if
these mistakes as to facts actually exist in them, they are only a fresh
argument for their authenticity.  Mary, writing in agony and confusion,
might easily make a mistake: forgers would only take too good care to
make none.

But the strongest evidence in favour of the letters and sonnets, in spite
of the arguments of good Dr. Whittaker and other apologists for Mary, is
to be found in their tone.  A forger in those coarse days would have made
Mary write in some Semiramis or Roxana vein, utterly alien to the
tenderness, the delicacy, the pitiful confusion of mind, the conscious
weakness, the imploring and most feminine trust which makes the letters,
to those who--as I do--believe in them, more pathetic than any fictitious
sorrows which poets could invent.  More than one touch, indeed, of utter
self-abasement, in the second letter, is so unexpected, so subtle, and
yet so true to the heart of woman, that--as has been well said--if it was
invented there must have existed in Scotland an earlier Shakespeare; who
yet has died without leaving any other sign, for good or evil, of his
dramatic genius.

As for the theory (totally unsupported) that Buchanan forged the poem
usually called the "Sonnets;" it is paying old Geordie's genius, however
versatile it may have been, too high a compliment to believe that he
could have written both them and the Detection; while it is paying his
shrewdness too low a compliment to believe that he could have put into
them, out of mere carelessness or stupidity, the well-known line, which
seems incompatible with the theory both of the letters and of his own
Detection; and which has ere now been brought forward as a fresh proof of
Mary's innocence.

And, as with the letters, so with the sonnets: their delicacy, their
grace, their reticence, are so many arguments against their having been
forged by any Scot of the sixteenth century, and least of all by one in
whose character--whatever his other virtues may have been--delicacy was
by no means the strongest point.

As for the complaint that Buchanan was ungrateful to Mary, it must be
said: That even if she, and not Murray, had bestowed on him the
temporalities of Crossraguel Abbey four years before, it was merely fair
pay for services fairly rendered; and I am not aware that payment, or
even favours, however gracious, bind any man's soul and conscience in
questions of highest morality and highest public importance.  And the
importance of that question cannot be exaggerated.  At a moment when
Scotland seemed struggling in death-throes of anarchy, civil and
religious, and was in danger of becoming a prey either to England or to
France, if there could not be formed out of the heart of her a people,
steadfast, trusty, united, strong politically because strong in the fear
of God and the desire of righteousness--at such a moment as this, a crime
had been committed, the like of which had not been heard in Europe since
the tragedy of Joan of Naples.  All Europe stood aghast.  The honour of
the Scottish nation was at stake.  More than Mary or Bothwell were known
to be implicated in the deed; and--as Buchanan puts it in the opening of
his "De Jure Regni"--"The fault of some few was charged upon all; and the
common hatred of a particular person did redound to the whole nation; so
that even such as were remote from any suspicion were inflamed by the
infamy of men's crimes." {17}

To vindicate the national honour, and to punish the guilty, as well as to
save themselves from utter anarchy, the great majority of the Scotch
nation had taken measures against Mary which required explicit
justification in the sight of Europe, as Buchanan frankly confesses in
the opening of his "De Jure Regni."  The chief authors of those measures
had been summoned, perhaps unwisely and unjustly, to answer for their
conduct to the Queen of England.  Queen Elizabeth--a fact which was
notorious enough then, though it has been forgotten till the last few
years--was doing her utmost to shield Mary.  Buchanan was deputed, it
seems, to speak out for the people of Scotland; and certainly never
people had an abler apologist.  If he spoke fiercely, savagely, it must
be remembered that he spoke of a fierce and savage matter; if he used--and
it may be abused--all the arts of oratory, it must be remembered that he
was fighting for the honour, and it may be for the national life, of his
country, and striking--as men in such cases have a right to strike--as
hard as he could.  If he makes no secret of his indignation, and even
contempt, it must be remembered that indignation and contempt may well
have been real with him, while they were real with the soundest part of
his countrymen; with that reforming middle class, comparatively untainted
by French profligacy, comparatively undebauched by feudal subservience,
which has been the leaven which has leavened the whole Scottish people in
the last three centuries with the elements of their greatness.  If,
finally, he heaps up against the unhappy Queen charges which Mr. Burton
thinks incredible, it must be remembered that, as he well says, these
charges give the popular feeling about Queen Mary; and it must be
remembered also, that that popular feeling need not have been altogether
unfounded.  Stories which are incredible, thank God, in these milder
days, were credible enough then, because, alas! they were so often true.
Things more ugly than any related of poor Mary were possible enough--as
no one knew better than Buchanan--in that very French court in which Mary
had been brought up; things as ugly were possible in Scotland then, and
for at least a century later; and while we may hope that Buchanan has
overstated his case, we must not blame him too severely for yielding to a
temptation common to all men of genius when their creative power is
roused to its highest energy by a great cause and a great indignation.

And that the genius was there, no man can doubt; one cannot read that
"hideously eloquent" description of Kirk o' Field, which Mr. Burton has
well chosen as a specimen of Buchanan's style, without seeing that we are
face to face with a genius of a very lofty order: not, indeed, of the
loftiest--for there is always in Buchanan's work, it seems to me, a want
of unconsciousness, and a want of tenderness--but still a genius worthy
to be placed beside those ancient writers from whom he took his manner.
Whether or not we agree with his contemporaries, who say that he equalled
Virgil in Latin poetry, we may place him fairly as a prose writer by the
side of Demosthenes, Cicero, or Tacitus.  And so I pass from this painful
subject; only quoting--if I may be permitted to quote--Mr. Burton's wise
and gentle verdict on the whole.  "Buchanan," he says, "though a zealous
Protestant, had a good deal of the Catholic and sceptical spirit of
Erasmus, and an admiring eye for everything that was great and beautiful.
Like the rest of his countrymen, he bowed himself in presence of the
lustre that surrounded the early career of his mistress.  More than once
he expressed his pride and reverence in the inspiration of a genius
deemed by his contemporaries to be worthy of the theme.  There is not,
perhaps, to be found elsewhere in literature so solemn a memorial of
shipwrecked hopes, of a sunny opening and a stormy end, as one finds in
turning the leaves of the volume which contains the beautiful epigram
'Nympha Caledoniae' in one part, the 'Detectio Mariae Reginae' in
another; and this contrast is, no doubt, a faithful parallel of the
reaction in the popular mind.  This reaction seems to have been general,
and not limited to the Protestant party; for the conditions under which
it became almost a part of the creed of the Church of Rome to believe in
her innocence had not arisen."

If Buchanan, as some of his detractors have thought, raised himself by
subserviency to the intrigues of the Regent Murray, the best heads in
Scotland seem to have been of a different opinion.  The murder of Murray
did not involve Buchanan's fall.  He had avenged it, as far as pen could
do it, by that "Admonition Direct to the Trew Lordis," in which he showed
himself as great a master of Scottish, as he was of Latin prose.  His
satire of the "Chameleon," though its publication was stopped by
Maitland, must have been read in manuscript by many of those same "True
Lords;" and though there were nobler instincts in Maitland than any
Buchanan gave him credit for, the satire breathed an honest indignation
against that wily turncoat's misgoings, which could not but recommend the
author to all honest men.  Therefore it was, I presume, and not because
he was a rogue, and a hired literary spadassin, that to the best heads in
Scotland he seemed so useful, it may be so worthy, a man, that he be
provided with continually increasing employment.  As tutor to James I.;
as director, for a short time, of the chancery; as keeper of the privy
seal, and privy councillor; as one of the commissioners for codifying the
laws, and again--for in the semi-anarchic state of Scotland, government
had to do everything in the way of organisation--in the committee for
promulgating a standard Latin grammar; in the committee for reforming the
University of St. Andrew's: in all these Buchanan's talents were again
and again called for; and always ready.  The value of his work,
especially that for the reform of St. Andrew's, must be judged by
Scotsmen, rather than by an Englishman; but all that one knows of it
justifies Melville's sentence in the well-known passage in his memoirs,
wherein he describes the tutors and household of the young king.  "Mr.
George was a Stoic philosopher, who looked not far before him;" in plain
words, a high-minded and right-minded man, bent on doing the duty which
lay nearest him.  The worst that can be said against him during these
times is, that his name appears with the sum of 100 pounds against it, as
one of those "who were to be entertained in Scotland by pensions out of
England;" and Ruddiman, of course, comments on the fact by saying that
Buchanan "was at length to act under the threefold character of
malcontent, reformer, and pensioner:" but it gives no proof whatsoever
that Buchanan ever received any such bribe; and in the very month,
seemingly, in which that list was written--10th March, 1579--Buchanan had
given a proof to the world that he was not likely to be bribed or bought,
by publishing a book, as offensive probably to Queen Elizabeth as it was
to his own royal pupil; namely, his famous "De Jure Regni apud Scotos,"
the very primer, according to many great thinkers, of constitutional
liberty.  He dedicates that book to King James, "not only as his monitor,
but also as an importunate and bold exactor, which in these his tender
and flexible years may conduct him in safety past the rocks of flattery."
He has complimented James already on his abhorrence of flattery, "his
inclination far above his years for undertaking all heroical and noble
attempts, his promptitude in obeying his instructors and governors, and
all who give him sound admonition, and his judgment and diligence in
examining affairs, so that no man's authority can have much weight with
him unless it be confirmed by probable reasons."  Buchanan may have
thought that nine years of his stern rule had eradicated some of James's
ill conditions; the petulance which made him kill the Master of Mar's
sparrow, in trying to wrest it out of his hand; the carelessness with
which--if the story told by Chytraeus, on the authority of Buchanan's
nephew, be true--James signed away his crown to Buchanan for fifteen
days, and only discovered his mistake by seeing Bachanan act in open
court the character of King of Scots.  Buchanan had at last made him a
scholar; he may have fancied that he had made him likewise a manful man:
yet he may have dreaded that, as James grew up, the old inclinations
would return in stronger and uglier shapes, and that flattery might be,
as it was after all, the cause of James's moral ruin.  He at least will
be no flatterer.  He opens the dialogue which he sends to the king, with
a calm but distinct assertion of his mother's guilt, and a justification
of the conduct of men who were now most of them past helping Buchanan,
for they were laid in their graves; and then goes on to argue fairly, but
to lay down firmly, in a sort of Socratic dialogue, those very principles
by loyalty to which the House of Hanover has reigned, and will reign,
over these realms.  So with his History of Scotland; later antiquarian
researches have destroyed the value of the earlier portions of it: but
they have surely increased the value of those later portions, in which
Buchanan inserted so much which he had already spoken out in his
Detection of Mary.  In that book also _liberavit animam suam_; he spoke
his mind fearless of consequences, in the face of a king who he must have
known--for Buchanan was no dullard--regarded him with deep dislike, who
might in a few years be able to work his ruin.

But those few years were not given to Buchanan.  He had all but done his
work, and he hastened to get it over before the night should come wherein
no man can work.  One must be excused for telling--one would not tell it
in a book intended to be read only by Scotsmen, who know or ought to know
the tale already--how the two Melvilles and Buchanan's nephew Thomas went
to see him in Edinburgh, in September, 1581, hearing that he was ill, and
his History still in the press; and how they found the old sage, true to
his schoolmaster's instincts, teaching the Hornbook to his servant-lad;
and how he told them that doing that was "better than stealing sheep, or
sitting idle, which was as bad," and showed them that dedication to James
I., in which he holds up to his imitation as a hero whose equal was
hardly to be found in history, that very King David whose liberality to
the Romish Church provoked James's witticism that "David was a sair saint
for the crown."  Andrew Melville, so James Melville says, found fault
with the style.  Buchanan replied that he could do no more for thinking
of another thing, which was to die.  They then went to Arbuthnot's
printing-house, and inspected the history, as far as that terrible
passage concerning Rizzio's burial, where Mary is represented as "laying
the miscreant almost in the arms of Maud de Valois, the late queen."
Alarmed, and not without reason, at such plain speaking, they stopped the
press, and went back to Buchanan's house.  Buchanan was in bed.  "He was
going," he said, "the way of welfare."  They asked him to soften the
passage; the king might prohibit the whole work.  "Tell me, man," said
Buchanan, "if I have told the truth."  They could not, or would not, deny
it.  "Then I will abide his feud, and all his kin's; pray, pray to God
for me, and let Him direct all."  "So," says Melville, "before the
printing of his chronicle was ended, this most learned, wise, and godly
man ended his mortal life."

Camden has a hearsay story--written, it must be remembered, in James I.'s
time--that Buchanan, on his death-bed, repented of his harsh words
against Queen Mary; and an old Lady Rosyth is said to have said that when
she was young a certain David Buchanan recollected hearing some such
words from George Buchanan's own mouth.  Those who will, may read what
Ruddiman and Love have said, and oversaid, on both sides of the question:
whatever conclusion they come to, it will probably not be that to which
George Chalmers comes in his life of Ruddiman: that "Buchanan, like other
liars, who, by the repetition of falsehoods are induced to consider the
fiction as truth, had so often dwelt with complacency on the forgeries of
his Detections, and the figments of his History, that he at length
regarded his fictions and his forgeries as most authentic facts."

At all events his fictions and his forgeries had not paid him in that
coin which base men generally consider the only coin worth having,
namely, the good things of this life.  He left nothing behind him--if at
least Dr. Irving has rightly construed the "Testament Dative" which he
gives in his appendix--save arrears to the sum of 100 pounds of his
Crossraguel pension.  We may believe as we choose the story in
Mackenzie's "Scotch Writers" that when he felt himself dying, he asked
his servant Young about the state of his funds, and finding he had not
enough to bury himself withal, ordered what he had to be given to the
poor, and said that if they did not choose to bury him they might let him
lie where he was, or cast him in a ditch, the matter was very little to
him.  He was buried, it seems, at the expense of the city of Edinburgh,
in the Greyfriars' Churchyard--one says in a plain turf grave--among the
marble monuments which covered the bones of worse or meaner men; and
whether or not the "Throughstone" which, "sunk under the ground in the
Greyfriars," was raised and cleaned by the Council of Edinburgh in 1701,
was really George Buchanan's, the reigning powers troubled themselves
little for several generations where he lay.

For Buchanan's politics were too advanced for his age.  Not only Catholic
Scotsmen, like Blackwood, Winzet, and Ninian, but Protestants, like Sir
Thomas Craig and Sir John Wemyss, could not stomach the "De Jure Regni."
They may have had some reason on their side.  In the then anarchic state
of Scotland, organisation and unity under a common head may have been
more important than the assertion of popular rights.  Be that as it may,
in 1584, only two years after his death, the Scots Parliament condemned
his Dialogue and History as untrue, and commanded all possessors of
copies to deliver them up, that they might be purged of "the offensive
and extraordinary matters" which they contained.  The "De Jure Regni" was
again prohibited in Scotland, in 1664, even in manuscript; and in 1683,
the whole of Buchanan's political works had the honour of being burned by
the University of Oxford, in company with those of Milton, Languet, and
others, as "pernicious books, and damnable doctrines, destructive to the
sacred persons of Princes, their state and government, and of all human
society."  And thus the seed which Buchanan had sown, and Milton had
watered--for the allegation that Milton borrowed from Buchanan is
probably true, and equally honourable to both--lay trampled into the
earth, and seemingly lifeless, till it tillered out, and blossomed, and
bore fruit to a good purpose, in the Revolution of 1688.

To Buchanan's clear head and stout heart, Scotland owes, as England owes
likewise, much of her modern liberty.  But Scotland's debt to him, it
seems to me, is even greater on the count of morality, public and
private.  What the morality of the Scotch upper classes was like, in
Buchanan's early days, is too notorious; and there remains proof
enough--in the writings, for instance, of Sir David Lindsay--that the
morality of the populace, which looked up to the nobles as its example
and its guide, was not a whit better.  As anarchy increased, immorality
was likely to increase likewise; and Scotland was in serious danger of
falling into such a state as that into which Poland fell, to its ruin,
within a hundred and fifty years after; in which the savagery of
feudalism, without its order or its chivalry, would be varnished over by
a thin coating of French "civilisation," and, as in the case of Bothwell,
the vices of the court of Paris should be added to those of the Northern
freebooter.  To deliver Scotland from that ruin, it was needed that she
should be united into one people, strong, not in mere political, but in
moral ideas; strong by the clear sense of right and wrong, by the belief
in the government and the judgments of a living God.  And the tone which
Buchanan, like Knox, adopted concerning the great crimes of their day,
helped notably that national salvation.  It gathered together, organised,
strengthened, the scattered and wavering elements of public morality.  It
assured the hearts of all men who loved the right and hated the wrong;
and taught a whole nation to call acts by their just names, whoever might
be the doers of them.  It appealed to the common conscience of men.  It
proclaimed a universal and God-given morality, a bar at which all, from
the lowest to the highest, must alike be judged.

The tone was stern: but there was need of sternness.  Moral life and
death were in the balance.  If the Scots people were to be told that the
crimes which roused their indignation were excusable, or beyond
punishment, or to be hushed up and slipped over in any way, there was an
end of morality among them.  Every man, from the greatest to the least,
would go and do likewise, according to his powers of evil.  That method
was being tried in France, and in Spain likewise, during those very
years.  Notorious crimes were hushed up under pretence of loyalty;
excused as political necessities; smiled away as natural and pardonable
weaknesses.  The result was the utter demoralisation, both of France and
Spain.  Knox and Buchanan, the one from the standpoint of an old Hebrew
prophet, the other rather from that of a Juvenal or a Tacitus, tried the
other method, and called acts by their just names, appealing alike to
conscience and to God.  The result was virtue and piety, and that manly
independence of soul which is thought compatible with hearty loyalty, in
a country labouring under heavy disadvantages, long divided almost into
two hostile camps, two rival races.

And the good influence was soon manifest, not only in those who sided
with Buchanan and his friends, but in those who most opposed them.  The
Roman Catholic preachers, who at first asserted Mary's right to impurity
while they allowed her guilt, grew silent for shame, and set themselves
to assert her entire innocence; while the Scots who have followed their
example have, to their honour, taken up the same ground.  They have
fought Buchanan on the ground of fact, not on the ground of morality:
they have alleged--as they had a fair right to do--the probability of
intrigue and forgery in an age so profligate: the improbability that a
Queen so gifted by nature and by fortune, and confessedly for a long
while so strong and so spotless, should as it were by a sudden insanity
have proved so untrue to herself.  Their noblest and purest sympathies
have been enlisted--and who can blame them?--in loyalty to a Queen,
chivalry to a woman, pity for the unfortunate and--as they conceived--the
innocent; but whether they have been right or wrong in their view of
facts, the Scotch partisans of Mary have always--as far as I know--been
right in their view of morals; they have never deigned to admit Mary's
guilt, and then to palliate it by those sentimental, or rather sensual,
theories of human nature, too common in a certain school of French
literature, too common, alas! in a certain school of modern English
novels.  They have not said, "She did it; but after all, was the deed so
very inexcusable?"  They have said, "The deed was inexcusable: but she
did not do it."  And so the Scotch admirers of Mary, who have numbered
among them many a pure and noble, as well as many a gifted spirit, have
kept at least themselves unstained; and have shown, whether consciously
or not, that they too share in that sturdy Scotch moral sense which has
been so much strengthened--as I believe by the plain speech of good old
George Buchanan.


{1}  This lecture was delivered in America in 1874.

{2}  Black, translator of Mallett's "Northern Antiquities," Supplementary
Chapter I., and Rafn's "Antiquitates Americanae."

{3}  On the Fiftieth Birthday of Agassiz.

{4}  This lecture was given in America in 1874.

{5}  This lecture was given in America in 1874.

{6}  This lecture and the two preceding ones, being published after the
author's death, have not had the benefit of his corrections.

{7}  A Life of Rondelet, by his pupil Laurent Joubert, is to be found
appended to his works; and with an account of his illness and death, by
his cousin, Claude Formy, which is well worth the perusal of any man,
wise or foolish.  Many interesting details beside, I owe to the courtesy
of Professor Planchon, of Montpellier, author of a discourse on "Rondelet
et vies Disciples," which appeared, with a learned and curious Appendix,
in the "Montpellier Medical" for 1866.

{8}  This lecture was given at Cambridge in 1869.

{9}  This lecture was given at Cambridge in 1869.

{10}  I owe this account of Bloet's--which appears to me the only one
trustworthy--to the courtesy and erudition of Professor Henry Morley, who
finds it quoted from Bloet's "Acroama," in the "Observationum Medicarum
Rariorum," lib. vii., of John Theodore Schenk.  Those who wish to know
several curious passages of Vesalius's life, which I have not inserted in
this article, would do well to consult one by Professor Morley, "Anatomy
in Long Clothes," in "Fraser's Magazine" for November, 1853.  May I
express a hope, which I am sure will be shared by all who have read
Professor Morley's biographies of Jerome Carden and of Cornelius Agrippa,
that he will find leisure to return to the study of Vesalius's life; and
will do for him what he has done for the two just-mentioned writers?

{11}  Olivarez's "Relacion" is to be found in the Granvelle State Papers.
For the general account of Don Carlos's illness, and of the miraculous
agencies by which his cure was said to have been effected, the general
reader should consult Miss Frere's "Biography of Elizabeth of Valois,"
vol. i. pp. 307-19.

{12}  In justice to poor Doctor Olivarez, it must be said that, while he
allows all force to the intercession of the Virgin and of Fray Diego, and
of "many just persons," he cannot allow that there was any "miracle
properly so called," because the prince was cured according to "natural
order," and by "experimental remedies" of the physicians.

{13}  This lecture was given at Cambridge in 1869, and has not had the
benefit of the author's corrections for the press.

{14}  Delrio's book, a famous one in its day, was published about 1612.

{15}  For a true estimate of Paracelsus you must read "Fur Philippus
Aureolus Theophrarstus von Hohenheim," by that great German physician and
savant, Professor Marx, of Gottiingen; also a valuable article founded on
Dr. Marx's views in the "Nouveau Biographie Universelle;" and also--which
is within the reach of all--Professor Maurice's article on Paracelsus in
Vol.  II. of his history of "Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy."  But the
best key to Paracelsus is to be found in his own works.

{16}  So says Dr. Irving, writing in 1817.  I have, however, tried in
vain to get a sight of this book.  I need not tell Scotch scholars how
much I am indebted throughout this article to Mr. David Irving's erudite
second edition of Buchanan's Life.

{17}  From the quaint old translation of 1721, by "A Person of Honour of
the Kingdom of Scotland."

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