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impending over all sound arts and sciences. It is my misery,' he groans, 'to behold the gradual extinction and total decay of Greek letters, in whose train I see the whole body of refined learning on the point of vanishing away.'
A vigorous passage from one of Sarpi's letters directly bearing on these points may here be cited (vol. i. p. 170): •The revival of polite learning under-. mined the foundations of Papal monarchy. Nor was this to be wondered at. This monarchy began and grew in barbarism; the cessation of barbarism naturally curtailed and threatened it with extinction. This we already see in Germany and France; but Spain and Italy are still subject to barbarism. Legal studies sink daily from bad to worse. The Roman Curia opposes every branch of learning which savors of polite literature, while it defends its barbarism with tooth and nail. How can it do otherwise ? Abolish those books on Papal Supremacy, and where shall they find that the Pope is another God, that he is almighty, that all rights and laws are closed within the cabinet of his breast, that he can shut up folk in hell, in a word that he has power to square the circle ? Destroy that false jurisprudence, and this tyranny will vanish; but the two are reciprocally supporting, and we shall not do away with the former until the latter falls, which will only happen at God's good pleasure.' The jealousy with which liberal studies were
"Op. cit. pp. 262, 481.
regarded by the Church bred a contempt for them in the minds of students. Benci, a professor of humane letters at Rome, says that his pupils walked about the class-room during his lectures. With grim humor he adds that he does not object to their sleeping, so long as they abstain from snoring. But it is impossible, he goes on to complain, that I should any longer look upon the place in which I do my daily work as an academy of learning; I go to it rather as to a mill in which I must grind out my tale of worthless grain. Muretus, when he had labored twenty years in the chair of rhetoric at Rome, begged for dismissal. His memorial to the authorities presents a lamentable picture of the insubordination and indifference from which he had suffered. I have borne immeasurable indignities from the continued insolence of these students, who interrupt me with cries, whistlings, hisses, insults, and such opprobrious remarks that I sometimes scarcely know whether I am standing on my head or heels.' They come to the lecture-room armed with poignards, and when I reprove them for their indecencies, they threaten over and over again to cut my face
open if I do not hold my tongue.' The walls, he adds, are scrawled over with obscene emblems and disgusting epigrams, so that this haunt of learning presents the aspect of the lowest brothel; and
• Dejob, Marc Antoine Murel, p. 349.
• The original is printed by Dejob, Marc Antoine Murel, pp. 487-489
THE ROMAN UNIVERSITY.
the professor's chair has become a more intolerable seat than the pillory, owing to the missiles flung at him and the ribaldry with which he is assailed. The manners and conversation of the students must have been disgusting beyond measure, to judge by a letter of complaint from a father detailing the contamination to which his son was exposed in the Roman class-rooms, and the immunity with which the lewdest songs were publicly recited there. But the total degradation of learning at this epoch in Rome. is best described in one paragraph of Vittorio de' Rossi, setting forth the neglect endured by Aldo Manuzio, the younger. This scion of an illustrious family succeeded to the professorship of Muretus in 1588. • Then,' says Rossi, ‘ might one marvel at or rather mourn over, the abject and down-trodden state of the liberal arts. Then might one perceive with tears how those treasures of humane letters, which our fathers exalted to the heavens, were degraded in the estimation of youth. In the good old days men crossed the seas, undertook long journeys,
1 The original letter, printed by Dejob, op. cit. p. 491, is signed by Giustiniano Finetti, who seems to have been a professor of medicine in the Roman University. His son, a youth of sixteen, complained that the students had demanded and obtained leave to recite a certain • Icttione che era carnavalesca d'ano et de priapo.' adding that they were in the habit of holding debates upon the thesis that ‘res sod" erant praeferendae vencri naturali, et reprobabant rem veneream cum feminis ac laudabant masturbationem. The dia. logue which the students obtained leave publicly to recite was probably similar to one that might still be heard some years ago in spring upon the quays of Naples, and which appeared to have descended from immemorial antiquity.
traversed the cities of Greece and Asia, in order to obtain the palm of eloquence and salute the masters of languages and learning, at whose feet they sat entranced by noble words. But now these fellows poured scorn upon an unrivaled teacher of both Greek and Latin eloquence, whose services were theirs for the asking, theirs without the fatigue of travel, without expense, without exertion. Though he freely offered them his abundance of erudition in both learned literatures, they shut their ears against him. At the hours when his lecture-room should have been thronged with multitudes of eager pupils you might see him, abandoned by the crowd, pacing the pavement before the door of the academy with one, or may be two, for his companions.'
To accuse the Church solely and wholly for this decay of humanistic learning in Italy would be uncritical and unjust. We must remember that after a period of feverish energy there comes a time of languor in all epochs of great intellectual excitement. Nor was it to be expected that the enthusiasm of the fifteenth century for classical studies should have been prolonged into the second half of the sixteenth century. But we are justified in blaming the ecclesiastical and civil authorities of the Counter-Reformation for their determined opposition to the new direction which that old enthusiasm for the classics was now manifesting. They strove to
The Latin text is printed in Renouard's Imprimerie des Aldes, p. 473.
STUDY MADE ODIOUS.
force the stream of learning backward into schulastic and linguistic channels, when it was already plowing for itself a fresh course in the fields of philosophical and scientific discovery. They made study odious, because they attempted to restrain it to the out-worn husks of pedantry and rhetoric. These, they thought, were innocuous. But what the intellectual appetite then craved, the pabulum that it required to satisfy its yearning, was rigidly denied it. Speculations concerning the nature of man and of the world, metaphysical explorations into the regions of dimly apprehended mysteries, physics, political problems, religious questions touching the great matters in dispute through Europe, all the storm and stress of modern life, the ferment of the modern mind and will and conscience, were excluded from the schools, because they were antagonistic to the Counter-Reformation. Italy was starved and demoralized in order to avert a revolution; and learning was asphyxiated by confinement to a narrow chamber filled with vitiated and exhausted air.'
Similar deductions may be drawn from the life of Paolo Manuzio in Rome. He left Venice in 1561 at the invitation of Pius IV., who proposed to establish a press · for the publication of books printed with the finest type and the utmost accuracy, and
As Sarpi says: Of a truth the extraordinary rigor with which books are hunted out for extirpation, shows how vigorous is the light of that lantern which they have resolved to extinguish.' Lettere, vol. i. p. 328.