Page images

Stephen Dolet, a printer at Paris, had a couple of manuscripts, and a and one who was ranged among the very ancient book, whereby he wanted learned, being condemned to the stake in to raise a small sum of money, to fit 1543 as a Calvinist, (which he bore with him out for the approaching campaign, a courage and resolution equalling the and the bookseller and he differed intrepidity of primitive martyrs,) was about 50 dollars, offering him only on that score deemed to merit, as a 450, whereas he insisted on having wicked wretch, and be esteemed the 500 for those three books. So large a author of the book De Tribus Impos- sum for only two manuscripts and a toribus.

little old book, raised our curiosities. Lucilio Vanini, a Neapolitan, was, Frecht, therefore, asked the officer if at the instigation of his enemies, con- he might not have a sight of those demned as an atheist to the fire by the pieces. Immediately Taussendorf drew parliament of Thoulouse. It little out of a great pocket he had in his suravailed him to produce proofs to his tout coat, a parchment bundle, bound judges, how firmly he believed a God about with a yellow silk twist, in and Providence. He was charged to which were the three books. The Jew be, if not the writer, at least the re and I, who hitherto had been only ceiver, of the book aforesaid ; as have spectators of what had passed, drew been Ochimo, Postel, Pomponne, Pog- near to Frecht, who had them, and gio, Companello, &c. all having held was going to look over them in anoopinions condemned by the church of ther part of the shop. Rome.

The first opened was a printed book The many things which celebrated in Italian, the title whereof had been critics have from time to time advanced torn; instead of which had been writand published with relation to this ten, Specchio de la Bestia Trionphante. book, have excited the curiosity of the The impression of this book did not great and learned to search after it, appear to be of any great antiquity. but in vain.. I had, like abundance of I believe it is the same piece the Engothers, heard of it, though I was only lish version of which Toland caused a searcher after antiquities, or a collec- to be printed some years ago, and which tor of manuscripts; yet I accidentally carried so high a price. This title had met with the very treatise at a time no date, nor any name of either author when I had not the least thought of it or printer. or its author.

We thence passed to the second, Certain affairs having occasioned my which was a manuscript in Latin, and going to Frankfort upon the river without a title. On the first was thiş

Maine in April 1706, a fortnight after inscription, in large capitals, Othoni the fair annually held there, I found Illustrissimo amico meo Charissimo, a friend of mine, named Frecht, a Lu. F.I.S.D. &c. The work begins with theran doctor. Being one day at his a letter or epistle, whereof the transla. house, I desired him to accompany me

tion is at the end of this dissertation. to the sbop of a German bookseller, to The third manuscript was also in serve me as interpreter. By the way Latin, without a title. It begins with we met with a certain Jew, whom we the words of Cicero, in his first book took along with us. Being come to De Natura Deorum, Qui Deos esse dixethe bookseller's, whose warehouse was runt, &c. extremely well stocked with all kinds We made no long stay on the Ita. of printed books, we were examining lian book, which our Jew, who was his catalogue, when we saw come in a well versed in that language, amused German officer, who asked the book- himself with in running over, and seller, if he did not design, in the found that it contained satirical strokes name of all the devils, to conclude the against religion, and likewise argubargain he had begun? otherwise he ments to form a complete system of would and

agree with some other atheism. bookseller.

But it was the other manuscript My friend Frecht knowing him, concerning which we had heard so whose name was Taussendorf, saluted many problematical discourses, as of a him, and renewing their acquaintance, work proper to destroy whatever reook occasion to inquire what the af- lates to such religions as are grounded air was between him and the book, upon revelations and miracles, which jeller? Taussendorf replied, that he alone monopolized all our attention,





[ocr errors]

and seemed to us extremely fit to illue of that same wine, which he found me minate and clear up those multitudes very much to his palate and liking. wiele of different histories which have been No sooner had our obliging officer published on this famous and impor. left us, being on Friday night at ten tant subject. This induced Frecht to o'clock, but Frecht and I set about de che take aside his friend Taussendorf, and ciphering the MS., which was an o- li me having cautioned him not to make any tavo, and only of twenty single leaves

, hi tom abatement in the sum of 500 rix-dol- excluding the letter which introduces lars, which he demanded of the book. it, but written so close, and in so small seller for those three pieces, we quite a character, without any points, stops, le te ted the shop, and went away directly or breaks, and withal, so crowded with b bo to Frecht's house ; and he, in order to abbreviations, that we were hard put the ce procure an opportunity of passing a to it to pick out the sense of its first more leisurely examination on that page in two hours. MS. of the Three Impostors, imme But having at length somewhat ac-ph diately sent for wine, when, request, customed ourselves to that piece of ing Taussendorf to inform us how and conjuration, the reading became much by what means those books fell into easier, and more familiar to us; when his hands, he acquainted us, while he we found the contents so very rational

, the il was, to his own share, emptying six and the subject handled with such There bottles of old Moselle, that after the care and perspicuity, that both of us victory at Hochstet, and the Elector grew extremely desirous of obtaining i of Bavaria's flight, he chanced to be a copy; and to this purpose, used among those who entered Munich, much Jesuitical equivocation. He told and even the palace of his Electoral me, at length, that without falsifying Highness, wherein, after traversing the oath taken, ad mentem interroganthe apartments, he went into the li- tis respecting his meaning, it is prou care brary, and there accidentally cast his bable, that Taussendorf's intention

, de Bar eyes on this packet or bundle, whose in extorting the oath not to copy

the parchment coat and silk string made book, was only that we should not

E B him fancy it might contain papers of actually transcribe it, but that his opi

. Bar consequence, or some very curious nion was, we might very safely make book, and so he could not resist the a translation. temptation, but crammed it into his This method of his, seemed to me pocket, and found afterwards that he not over and above equitable; howwas not quite deceived in selecting it ever, the strong desire I had to be from such a number of other books. possessed of this rare and celebrated

This recital was accompanied with treatise, made me consent to the ex, so many military digressions, and with pedient, considering withal, that I such a quick succession of bumpers, myself had not given Taussendorf that the liquor having at length begun either oath or promise, not to trans to attack the brain of this champion, late or transcribe his MS. Frecht, who, during all these inter The French version, which we took ruptions, was poring over the manu in hand, was completed on Saturday Go script, run the hazard of exposing towards midnight, and having himself to a refusal, and requested his time after revised our performance et les friend to leave with him the little leisure, we took each a fair copy., tract till the morrow.

Taussendorf fetched away his book

, Taussendorf being somewhat intoxic which he disposed of for 500 rix-dolo cated wth swallowing so much wine, lars to the same bookseller, who was which hindered him from making se commissioned to purchase it by, ! rious reflection, did not refuse Frecht's Prince of the House of Saxony, who request. But yet, on agreeing to lend knew of its having been conveyed him his manuscript, he exacted

from away out of the

Munich Library, him a solemn oath, that he would not when, on the defeat of the French and either copy it himself, nor get it Bavarians at Hochstet, possession copied by any other ; which assurance taken of that city as aforesaid. having been given him, he delivered Thus have I related how this book the manuscript into Frecht's hands, came into my hands. Abundance o saying, he would call again for it on people would much rather we could the Sunday following, when he in. have produced the original; but our tended to empty a few more bottles abilities would not admit our making

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


each a imunicated by Pope Gregory the Ninth, Sixth, against whom his very wife cux of 180 tried and worn out, that, at his re- and grandfather, he found raised Sy as aties op with him, of any long continu. norius's, against Imperial Majesty.

who e such a purchase ; and besides, the who bursted with mere envy and rage, te and bookseller who bought it, had a pre- to see Frederic triumph over him, only cise order from the said Saxon Prince despise his vain fulminations, and even

not to spare any cost to procure it, in expose him terribly, by enumerating

case he could discover where it was. his enormities in sarcastical verses, had e This made him give so great a price which he got dispersed all over GerD* for it to Taussendorf, who in a few many, Italy, and France. ** days went abroad, having treated us Otho, the Illustrious, not unmindje, ed in his turn.

ful of the obligations which his family Let us now treat of the origin of bad to that of the Emperor, espoused 1,500n this book and its author, of which no Frederic's cause, and remained firmly we wc: true account could have been given but attached to his interest, notwithstande sent i by considering the book itself, of which ing the many vicissitudes of that mo

the epistle at the beginning of it, narch's fortune. ngth see which we remarked to be in a hand These historical facts, the truth 20 writing different from that of the whereof is incontestible, are quite ding ter book, may afford some sort of light proper to support our conjecture, that milion into this matter, as it goes addressed the copy of this treatise was addressed ces se u to the illustrious Otho.

to this Otho the Illustrious, our opi. handlat The capital city of Bavaria, where this nion being, that the meaning of these , ti i manuscript was found, and that name two capitals, F. J., which are followed sires Otho, joined together, do sufficiently by S. D., and those preceded by the this mauthorise the conjecture of its having words Amico meo Charissimo, at the nieredze been addressed to Otho, Duke of Bae head of that epistle which introduces at wide varia, surnamed the Illustrious, who this piece, cannot be other than months was grandson of Otho the Great, Count Fredericus Imperator Salutem dicit. i meaning of Shiren and Wiselspach, from whom The result of which must be, that the sendiri the Bavarians and Palatine House de tract in question was addressed to eth neduce their origin. The Emperor Fre- Otho the Illustrious, by the Emperor

deric Barbarossa, made him a donation Frederic the Second, son of Henry the i, beru of Bavaria, as a recompense for his Sixth, and grandson of Frederic Barchat were singular fidelity to him, having taken barosa, who, succeeding them in the

it from Henry the Lion to chastise him empire, did likewise inherit their ha. this is for his inconstancy, and having sided tred to the Roman Pontiff.

with his enemies. Lewis the First What reader is there, who, having deste succeeded his father Otho the Great, perused the history of the Western

and having been disquieted in the pos- Church, and the Chronicle of the session of Bavaria by Henry the Lion, German Empire, does not retain in he left it to his son Otho, the Illus- his memory, with what pride and intrious, wḥo secured to himself that solence Pope Alexander the Third trode dominion,' by marrying Henry the on the neck of this very Emperor Lion's daughter, about the year 1260. Frederic Barbarosa, when he went to When Frederic the Second, Emperor solicit him for peace. And who can

Germany, returned from Jerusa- be ignorant of the mischiefs which the lem, where he had been to war against Holy See (as they style it) procured the Saracens, after his being excom to the son of that monarch, Henry who

persecuted him even in Syria, took up arms, at the Pope's instigawhere, by his intrigues, he hindered tion? But finally, when Frederic the the Imperial army from obeying that Second assumed the same resolution, monarch, whose patience was at length which he had remarked in his father turn liome, he went and besieged this against him a Gregory the Ninth, Pope at Rome, after having ravaged all who united in his own breast ali the circumjacent provinces ; nor was the gall and bitterness of the Alexthe peace, which he afterwards struck anders, che Innocents, and the Hopance, and was by such a One carried fire and sword into every violent animosity between this Em- quarter, the other plied his thunder peror and that Pontiff, that it ended bolts of excommunication like a very only with the breath of the latter, fury. Oyer and above all which, they

nove eyes

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

che lo feat a ba

[ocr errors]

related in hands much rathe

the ones

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

mutually defamed each other with naldi, drew so advantageons a picture

, wit biting satires, and the cruellest invec- both of his learning and parts, that it tives.

all this, put together, is doubtless

very This seems sufficient to maintain the favourable to our conjecture, and parconjecture, that it was by command ticularly when he mentions this book of this Emperor, irritated against Re- in his epistles, sharply reproaching ligion by the enormous vices of its his master's adversaries with their high priest, and of such as were the falsely spreading the report, then th creatures and members of his pontifi- current, of this prince's being the Au Wiese cal court, that Doctissimus ille vir, thor. For, from hence we may infer, me of whom mention is made in the that he himself had the greatest share o epistle, directed Othoni Illustrissimo, in the composition, and that the greater did compose this treatise, which con- pains he took to destroy this maligalis sequently owes not its birth to any nant rumour, was a mere effect of inquiry after truth, but a spirit of his apprehension or dread, lest the two hatred and implacable animosity. accusation, in case it gathered strength an

A still greater confirmation of the by continuing much longer to pass preceding conjecture will be to take from one to another, might at last notice, that this book was never heard drop from the monarch and light upof till the reign of this emperor,

and on the secretary, who most apparently that it was fathered upon him even was a much properer person to pen such in his life-time; in so much, that a piece, than was a great and martial Peter de Vignes, his secretary, thought emperor, constantly busied in feats of himself obliged to dissipate this ru- warfare, and often attacked with thunmour in one of his letters, and to re- der from the Vatican. In short, than tort the calumny on the enemies of a prince, who, though a gallant personthat monarch his sovereign, who had age, had little leisure to be a casuist ; been loaded with it in order to make not like Peter de Vignes, who had alhim odious.

lowed himself all the time and appli-la There remains then nothing for us cation necessary to perfect his studies, die to do, but to make some inquiry who and who owed his post and the affec style was the doctissimus vir, with whom tion of his sovereign, to his great fund by Otho the Illustrious had discoursed on of erudition. this subject of the Three Impostors, Now, from all this it may be readily and who had methodized the same in concluded, that this little book was this treatise. Certain it is, that its composed since the year 1230, by ordate or epoch being such as we have der of the emperor Frederick the II

. been proving it, cannot be attributed in hatred to the court of Rome, and to anyone of those who have been taxed that there is very great probability with being its author, since (Averroes that Peter de Vignes, that monarch's that only excepted, who died before Fred- secretary, did compose it by his com- 1 ui eric was born) all of whom lived a mand. long while, nay, even whole ages af This is the sum of what I judged ter this tract was composed. We necessary for me to advance in the cannot, however, deny, but that it front of this tract, in order to give will be much more difficult for us to some tolerable idea of its history, and discover this author, than to mark out withal, to prevent its being any longthe time when the book itself

' began er attributed to persons who perhaps to exist. But on which side soever never thought of it. we turn ourselves, we shall not be able to meet with any one upon whom it may with more probability be fixed, Frederic the Emperor, to the most than upon the before cited Peter de illustrious Otho, greeting:

ab Vignes.

MY DEAREST FRIEND. I took care if we had not his treatise De protes to get copied out the treatise, which tate imperiali, his epistles suffice to de- I ordered to be composed and digested monstrate how very zealously he sided on the Three famous Impostors, by with Frederick the II. whose secreta- that most learned man with whom ry he was, in his resentments against you discoursed on the same topic in the Holy See.

my closet ; and though you did not askich They who have written concerning me for it,' I nevertheless made haste him, as Sigonious Trithemus and Ris to send

you the manuscript, well


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]


iu knowing how ardently you long to I may undergo, the world shall never

peruse it. So I am persuaded no- behold me kneeling at the feet of that a thing can afford you greater satisfac- strumpet like my predecessor. I hope ition, except indeed it should be the for all things from my sword, and 11 joyful tidings of my having utterly from the fidelity of the members of * crushed my cruel and inveterate ene my empire ; your counsel and assistsi mies, and that my foot was actually ance will contribute not a little to mine on the Romish Hierarchy's throat, my success, though nothing in nature

whose skin is not yet tinged red would so effectually bring all about, as enough with the blood of so many the finding means how to inspire all

millions of men, whom her fury has Germany with the sentiments of this 11 sacrificed to her abominable pride. book ; that is easy to be wished; but

Rest assured, that I shall neglect where are the men capable of putting in nothing in order one day to convince in execution such a project. I recomHi you of my absolute triumph over her, mend to you our mutual interest. Live me or my determination is to perish in happy, and I shall always be your the pursuit ; for what reverses soever friend.


[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

TO CHRISTOPHER NORTH, ESQ. DEAR SIR, There seems to have been some confusion respecting the origin of the trae gedies which bear the name of Seneca. Whatever may be thought of their

style, they seem to be too voluminous for a forgery of the middle ages. The We hypothesis of modern fabrication may be plausible when applied to the Ele

gies of Gallus; but to believe that some obscure monk should succeed in palming upon the world a collection of ten tragedies, requires the imagination of a Pere Hardouin. It has been by a hasty guess, probably, that they were first attributed to the philosopher Seneca. That a man should write a tragedy, of which he himself is one of the dramatis personæ, appears a strange thing. To obviate this improbability, some commentators appear to hold that Seneca (that is to say, L. Annæus Seneca) was the author only of three or four of these plays, and have added a Seneca Tragicus as the author of the rest. Others have adopted three authors for them-Seneca, Seneca Tragicus, and an unknown hand. All of these hypotheses are liable to objection.

The tragedies, whoever may be their author, are written throughout in one le style. That style does not possess the superabundance of point and anti

thesis which is peculiar to Seneca the philosopher. It is as improbable, too, At that the tragedy of Octavia should have been written in Nero's lifetime, as

that his tutor should be the author. The style of these productions, indeed, includes far too little of the artificial for the age of Seneca. Flatness is their characteristic. They have little passion, and less novelty of thought--little point, and little felicity of metaphor. That sort of snip-snap dialogue, in which the interlocutors keep up a “ keen encounter of their wits,' and play at battledore and shuttlecock in alternate lines, occurs in them, but scarcely so often as it does in the Greek tragedies. The Hercules Furens and the Troas

are, I believe, thought the best. The Edipus, however, is the best subject; but the author had to steer clear of Sophocles, whom, after all, it is evident, he had in his eye. It will not be objected, I presume, to the chorus given below, that it does not, like the Greek, include the regularity of strophe, antistrophe, and epode. The lyric measures, into which the

« PreviousContinue »