25 DECEMBER 1880, Page 19


THERE are very few people who could pretend to criticise Mr. Christie's book, if to criticise implies any superiority of know- ledge in the special subject which he has chosen. It is probable that there is no one in the world who knows so much about Etienne Dolet as he. He justly claims, in his preface, to have been able to add, thanks to the study of years and of a labori- ous diligence which has not shrunk from no small amount of personal exertion, many particulars, "hitherto unknown, bear- ing upon Dolet's life, and to explain, at least in part, what has hitherto appeared inexplicable." It is a significant proof of the pains which he has expended upon this labour of love, that he has raised the number of books known to have been printed by Dolet from fifty-three (the total of M. Boulmier's list) to eighty- three. His "Bibliographical Appendix" is, indeed, an admir- able example of a special knowledge, which, though it hardly possesses the value and interest commonly attributed to it by its possessors, is yet a substantial acquirement, often capable of being used to' good purpose in inquiries of more serious moment. But if we cannot pretend to criticise, we may ven- ture to review Mr. Christie's work, to give some notion of its contents, and to estimate its general literary value.

The fullness of the author's knowledge is at once evident to any one who has that general acquaintance with the subject which is necessary before one can attempt to appreciate the labours of the specialist. A crowd of learned personages—we move in a world of learning, agitated by fierce wars of its own, but remote from the outside clash of arms—most of them half or wholly forgotten, a very few bearing still familiar names, rises up at his bidding before us. He is manifestly quite familiar with them ; to say that he is acquainted with what the biographical dictionaries say about them, is nothing; more than once he has to complain that the dictionaries are silent, and it is but seldom that he fails to make iniportant additions to their accounts ; and while he does this, he seems to us to succeed in a remark- able degree in preserving the sense of proportion in what he describes or relates. A fact does not become important to him because he has discovered or rediscovered it. He has a just estimate of the relative value of out-of-the-way knowledge, not at all common, as far as our experience goes, in those who. possess it. The consequence is that a book which, in less skil- ful hands, might have become intolerably dull and pedantic,. has been made a well ordered and thoroughly good contribution to the history of literature, worthy to be ranked, secumdum, indeed, but simile, with Mr. Mark Pattison's Isaac Casaubon, Mr. Christie was, we believe, one of Mr. Pattison's pupils ; and in these days, when knowledge is so much increased and learning has become so rare, the college which claims them both has no little reason to be proud.

It must be allowed that Mr. Christie's style is somewhat cumbrous, and deficient in rigour and in precision,—not of state- ment, but of expression. Apart from the interest of the matter, it does not give the reader much pleasure by any intrinsic force or beauty. And the Latin is occasionally disfigured by mis- prints. On p. 146, we have " nascitur " for " nascetur," in the familiar " parturiunt montes ;" and in a brief quotation from Dolet's Commentaries, we have " coleri " for " eolere," and " complecti lite," for we know not what. The punctuation, too, of the Latin quotations is sometimes incorrect, as in the epigram on p. 231, in " Qui permisit, Quae %relict agresti calamo Indere, et agnos Bovesque ducere," &c., where Mr. Christie has transferred the comma from after "Indere " to after " agnos."

Dolet was born at Orleans, in 1509. He says of his parents

• Etienne Motet, the Martyr of the Renaissatwe. A Biography. By Richard Copley Christie, M.A., Lincoln College, Oxford, Chancellor of the Diocese of Manchester. London Macmillan. 1880. that they were in "an honourable, and indeed distinguished station." One of his literary enemies, on the other hand, asserted that his father had been hanged ; and Mr. Christie is inclined to believe it, though, as he remarks, "a violent death in those days, even were it at the hands of the executioner does not necessarily imply any great amount of moral turpitude in the accused." Our own impression, gathered from what we know of literary controversies, in vehemence of words more savage even than theological disputes, is that very likely it was a pure invention. If it were found in prose, it might deserve some attention ; but it is made in verse, and the writers of satirical verse have often been wholly unscrupulous when they wanted to give point and vigour to a line, especially to an hendecasyllabic, the peculiar metre of scurrility. In early yonth Dolet studied at Padua, where he laid, under the instruction of Simon Villanovanus, a scholar whom Mr. Christie rescues from oblivion, the fouudation of his Latin scholarship. Padua is the scene of the imaginary dialogue, De Imi- tatione Cieeroniana. His next place of abode was Venice, and from Venice he went to study law at Toulouse. The chapters which Mr. Christie devotes to his account of this city, of the devout and intolerant orthodoxy which reigned there, and of the eminent men, such as Jean de Caturce (martyred in 1532), Jean de Boy- Bonne (who narrowly escaped the same fate), and Jean de Pals, Bishop of Rieux, who sought to keep alive the flame of learning in an uncongenial atmosphere, are perhaps the best things in his book. Dolet's residence at Toulouse was fraught with evil con- sequences to his after-life. He came into collision with the ruling powers, inveighed in no measured terms against the orthodox " Philistinism " of the place, and completed his offences by ridiculing some of the gross superstitions with which the Church humoured the ignorance of her faithful children. He was first imprisoned, though power- ful friends were not long in obtaining his release, and afterwards banished. But this would have been of little moment, if he had not laid the foundation of enmities which were not satisfied till they had procured his death. From 'Toulouse he made his way to Lyons, a journey which he accom- plished on foot, amidst hardships which nearly put an end to his life. " Provida dederat Campania febres," and it would have been well for his happiness, if not for his fame, if he had died. But the skill of the Lyonese physicians, possibly of Francis Rabelais, who was certainly practising medicine in the city at that time, saved his life for a more cruel ending. His life, how- ever, at Lyons was, on the whole, not unhappy. He soon made the acquaintance of Sebastian Gryphius, the great Lyonese printer, and was employed by him and by others of the same craft as a reader and corrector. In his account of the Lyonese printing establishments, Mr. Christie is evidently at home ; and while he allows, not without a touch of pathos, that they never had the honour of publishing an editio princeps of any Greek or Roman classic, he claims for them the merit of having produced a number of useful works. In 1536 he publishei' tlft first and two years afterwards the second volume of his great work, the Commentarii Linguae Latinae, the value of which Mr. Christie -estimates very fairly, acquitting the author of the deliberate plagiarism with which he was charged, while blaming him for a ,careless or even ungenerous neglect of the obligations which he really was under to other scholars. In 1538, the year of his marriage, Dolet set up a printing-press of his own. Printing, -as Mr. Christie points out, in a passage (pp. 316-319) which -makes us wish that he would give us some "Lives of Great Printers," was then a learned profession. It numbers even now some scholars in its ranks, but then it was common for the same man to edit, to print, and to publish. Gryphius, so far from .being jealous of his younger rival, gave him no inconsider- able help, lending him, for instance, as Mr. Christie's biblio- graphical knowledge enables him to point out, some of the woodcut capitals which adorned his pages. For six years his press remained at work. It had several distinguished clients, two of whom are still famous, Francois Rabelais and Clement llarot. With both of these men he was on terms of intimate friendship, and with both he seems to have quarrelled. Rabelais, indeed, had -serious grounds for his anger, Dolet having printed without his knowledge an edition of the Gargantua, containing passages which the author, either from change of views or from prudence, -had omitted ; and not only printed it, but added an advertise- ment stating that it was "vu et de beaucoup augmentee par l'authear mesme."

The prudence, if prudence it was, that suggested the retracta- tions of Rabelais was a stranger to Dolet. He published books which could not but bring down upon him the wrath of the ecclesiastical authorities, one book especially, to which it was a mortal offence to give any countenance, a vernacular translation of the New Testament. In August, 1542, he was arrested, and after a protracted trial found guilty, and condemned to be burnt. This time, however, he was saved by the interposition of a liberal prelate, Pierre Duchatel, Bishop of Tulle, who procured his pardon from Francis I. It is a pleasure to quote from Mr. Christie's volume the words in which the Bishop defended his conduct against the attack of the Cardinal de Tournon. "I act the part of a Bishop of the Church of Christ. I follow the teaching of the Apostles, and of all these saints and martyrs who, by their blood, have built up our holy Church. It is their example which instructs me that the duty of a bishop consists in turning the hearts of kings from bloodshed and cruelty, in inclining them to gentle- ness, clemency, and mercy. In accusing me of forgetting my duty as a bishop, it is you who forget your own. I have spoken as a bishop, you are acting as an executioner." Dolet was out of prison for barely three months. In January, 1544, he was again arrested, a packet of heretical books, covered with a wrapper, bearing his name, having been seized as it was on its way into Paris. He escaped from the hands of the officer, and took refuge in Piedmont ; but venturing to return to France, in the hope of being able to lay his case personally before the King, he was again seized. This time there was no escape. The trial lasted for two years—these protracted processes were part of the infamous system—but, of course, the result was a foregone conclusion. On May 3rd, his thirty-eighth birthday, Dolet was executed in the Place Maubert, the burning alive having been commuted for hanging, in consideration of the criminal's recantation.

From the conclusion of the admirable chapter in which Mr. Christie discusses the " Opinions and Character" of Dolet, we see no occasion to differ. It would be a mistake to suppose him a Protestant martyr. Calvin spoke of him with a bitterness that an Inquisitor could not have surpassed, and would probably, if the opportunity had occurred, have treated him as he treated Servetus. He was, in fact, a Free-thinker, not ostentatiously or offensively so, and genuinely convinced of the truth of Theism ; but holding very lightly to orthodox opinions, whether as tabu- lated by the Inquisition, by Calvin, or by Luther. "Philosophy has alone," says M. Henri Martin (quoted on p. 472), "the right to claim on its side the illustrious victim of the Place Manbert, whom the Reformation has denounced as impious, by the voice of Calvin."

It is in view of this fact,—that Dolet was equally hateful to both contending parties in Christendom, that we have some- times wished that Mr. Christie had been more moderate in his denunciations of the spiritual authorities who were responsible for his death. It is difficult, indeed, to be moderate in speaking of a tribunal, which more tha n sixty years after the execution of Dolet, burnt a child of nine for het esy ; but, as our author him- self allows, it was the logical position of the system of Catholi- cism to persecute, of the system of Protestantism to tolerate ; and Catholicism had the misfortune, which the world must take care shall not occur to it again, of being dominant. The savage and treacherous persecutors of Dolet were probably sincere, and certainly consistent.