Growth Of Commerce And Its Results
Formation Of France
England And The Other States
The Papacy In The New Age
Summary - Medieval Civilization
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( Originally Published Early 1900's )
WE have now traced, as resulting from the influence imparted by the crusades, great economic and political revolutions which changed the face of history, and brought the middle ages to a close so far as their influence reached. These two revolutions were hardly more than well under way when there began another, growing largely out of the conditions which they were producing, starting partly from the same general impulse which aided them, a revolution of even greater importance than they in its influence upon the characteristic features of our own time, if it is possible to measure the relative values of such movements that intellectual and scientific transformation of Europe which we call the Revival of Learning, or the Renaissance.
Each of these names expresses a great fact which was characteristic of the movement and which it is well to distinguish, the one from the other.
It was a revival of learning. The conditions which had prevailed in the earlier middle ages, and obscured the learning which the ancients had acquired, were changing rapidly, the effects of the Teutonic invasion were passing away. Conquerors and conquered had grown into a single people, and the descendants of the original Germans had reached the point where they could comprehend the highest results of the ancient civilization. New national languages had been formed, and literatures had begun, no longer ecclesiastical in author-ship or theme but close to daily life. The stir of great events, and the contagion of new ideas in commerce and exploration and politics filled the air, and the horizon of men's minds and interests was daily growing wider. It was impossible that many generations of these economic and political changes should go by before men began to realize that there lay behind them a most significant history, and that the men of the past had many things to teach them. When men became conscious of this the revival of learning began.
But it was more than a revival of learning more than a recovery of what the ancient world had known and the medieval forgotten. It was also a renaissance, a re-birth of emotions and of faculties long dormant, an awakening of man to a new consciousness of life and of the world in which he lives, and of the problems which life and the world present for the thinking mind to solve, and to a consciousness also of the power of the mind to deal with these problems and to investigate the secrets of nature.
This intellectual movement was then, in the first place, a recovery of the learning and literature of the ancient world.
Classical literature had never passed into absolute eclipse even in the darkest days. The German states which took the place of the empire would have been glad to preserve and continue the Roman system of public schools, which extended through the provinces, if they had known how to do so. But they did not. They were themselves still too crude and backward to be able to take hold of the old educational system as a rescuing power, and to save it from the decline which had already begun, nor could they infuse new life and vigor into the dying classic literature. On the other hand, the old lacked all independent power of growth and did not have force enough to master the Germans and raise them rapidly to its own level. The disorderly and rapidly shifting political conditions of the fifth and sixth centuries did not a little also to destroy the schools, and the attitude of the church toward them, if not directly hostile, was discouraging.
As a result, the state schools disappeared ; a really educated class no longer existed ; the knowledge of Greek, which had been very common throughout the West, was entirely lost St. Augustine, at the beginning of the fifth century, could use it only with difficulty ; and, as an immediate result of the conquest, the ability to use the Latin language correctly also threatened to disappear. The sixth and seventh centuries represent probably the lowest point reached in the intellectual decline of the middle ages, though the actual improvement upon them which was made before the eleventh century was not very great.
The place of the state schools was taken in the new kingdoms by church schools. The course of study in the Roman schools had been a narrow one, as we should regard it, its object being chiefly to fit for public life and oratory. The church schools were still more narrow not in the nominal course of study which followed the classic the trivium, grammar, rhetoric, and dialectics, and the quadrivium, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music--but in the meagre contents of these studies and in the practical object, to fit the pupils as priests to read the service of the church, not always to understand it.
The first improvement in these schools came in the age of Alcuin, under Charlemagne, as has already been related. This was a revival of schools rather than of learning, but it was enough of both to have led in a short time to a very decided advance, if the political and social condition had continued to make this possible. Mind was energetic and vigorous enough. There was no lack of ability. The ecclesiastical literature of the time, both the imaginative and the legal, makes that evident. But if there was ability there was also the greatest ignorance. The historical mistakes are of the baldest, the science the most absurd, broad and general conceptions are wholly lacking. The literature reveals at once the great activity of mind and the narrow conditions of the age.
In the following centuries, here and there, slight improvements were made. The school of Rheims under Gerbert in the tenth century, the school of Chartres under Bernard in the twelfth century, are remarkable instances, but circumscribed, like all else of the time, in their influence.' Some additions of importance were made to the stock of knowledge some books of Euclid, some treatises of Aristotle. Impulses from without began to be received; some very slight Byzantine influence, perhaps under the Ottos of Germany ; more important the influence from the Arabian civilization of south Europe, though this is extremely difficult to trace with any certainty in its beginnings ; more effectual still, among new influences, the general awakening, and the gradual trans-formation of all external conditions which followed the crusades.
The first effect of these changes and of these new impulses was that the mind of Europe began to be aroused, began to have some dim idea of the work which it might do, and became eager to learn and to produce. But it still did not know. It did not have the materials of knowledge. The work of the ancients was still a sealed book to it, and it had no conception of the investigation of nature. In consequence it went to work with the greatest activity and earnestness on the materials which it did have, the dogmatic theology of the church, certain scanty principles of the Greek philosophy, and the truths which it could derive from reason, and out of these materials by purely speculative methods it built up widely comprehensive systems of thought, highly organized and scientific, so far as it was possible for them to be scientific, but one-sided and utterly barren for all the chief interests of modern life, and necessarily so because of the limitations of their material and of their method.
This system, Scholasticism, was the first movement of the age of the Renaissance, its prediction and its introduction. It originated under the influence of the causes which led to the Renaissance, but of these causes when they were just beginning to act and only faintly felt. It displayed the same characteristics of mind as the later age, but these while they were not yet emancipated from the control of other and thoroughly medieval characteristics. It gave most hopeful promise of what was to be, but the new spirit had as yet so little to build upon, and was so dwarfed and overshadowed by tradition and authority, that it could survive and display itself only as earnest and eager effort.
The great age of active and creative Scholasticism was the thirteenth century, one of the greatest intellectual ages of the world's history. It is impossible in a paragraph to give any conception of the intellectual stir, the mental eagerness and enthusiasm of that century, or even to catalogue its great names and their achievements. Two or three things must be noticed because they indicate in the clearest way how the results of the thirteenth century affected the later movement.
One of them is the pathetic story of Roger Bacon, a man who saw the danger of reliance upon authority, and proclaimed the methods of criticism and observation, and pointed out the way in which investigation should go, and the use which should be made of the new materials which had been gained, in a spirit almost modern and with such a clearness of insight as should have led to the revival of learning as one of the immediate results of the thirteenth century. But he could get no one to hear him. The scholastic methods and the scholastic ideals had be-come so firmly seated in their empire over men, under the influence of the great minds of that century, that no others seemed possible. His works passed out of the world's knowledge with no discoverable trace of influence until the Renaissance was fully under way, and then only the very slightest. The result of the century, in other words, was entirely opposed in nature and in method to a revival of real learning.
Another feature of the thirteenth century to be noticed was the founding of universities. Developed out of certain of the earlier schools, under the enthusiasm of the age for learning, by the introduction of new methods of teaching and of study, they spread rapidly through-out Europe, and seemed to promise most effective aid to intellectual advance. But in their case, as in Bacon's, Scholasticism was too highly organized, its conceptions still too completely filled the whole mental horizon for the learned world to be able to turn in any other direction, and the universities fell completely under its control.' Even subjects of study which it would seem might lead to better things the Roman law which, we should think, ought to have led to the study of history ; and medicine, which ought to have suggested an idea of real science became thoroughly scholastic, and held under heavy bonds to introduce nothing new.
The result, then, of the first or Scholastic revival was the creation of a gigantic system of organized knowledge, in so far as there was knowledge, in which almost every conceivable idea had its place, and which exercised a most tyrannous sway over all mental activity, because it was so intimately bound up with an infallible system of theology which every mind was obliged to accept under peril of eternal penalties. Independent thinking in philosophy was heresy and a crime. When the Renaissance movement really began, with its new spirit and ideas and methods, it found the field wholly occupied by this great system, all the learned by profession were its devoted sup-porters, and the universities its home. The new spirit was compelled, therefore, to take its rise and to find its apostles outside the learned professions. The odds were against it, and it could restore true knowledge and scientific method only by severe struggle and a successful revolution.
The final outcome, then, of the thirteenth century was that Scholasticism, however earnestly it may have desired such a result at the beginning, really introduced no revival of learning, but brought about an organization of knowledge and of education which was a decided obstacle to the revival when it came. This means, in other words, that no revival could come until the questioning and criticising spirit which dimly showed itself in the formative age of Scholasticism should awake again to a new activity and a better fate, and bring about a complete abandonment of the medieval point of view.
By the beginning of the fourteenth century the general conditions had come to be still more favorable for such an awakening than at the beginning of Scholasticism. The economic and political progress of the thirteenth century had been very great, and the fourteenth century was a time of still more rapid change in these respects. An entirely new atmosphere was coming to prevail in the more advanced nations of Europe, new objects of interest, new standards of judgment, and new purposes to be realized. If these changes showed themselves first in the growth of national feelings and patriotism, in the rise of the lower orders and a higher regard for man as man, and in bolder commercial ventures and the exploration of unknown lands, it was barely first. We can trace their continuous expression and influence in thought and literature from a point almost as early.
And there needed to be added to these other changes which had already taken place only a change of the same sort in intellectual interests, showing itself as clearly in science and literature and art as in government and commerce, to complete the transformation of the medieval man into the modern. In the middle ages man as an individual had been held of very little account. He was only part of a great machine. He acted only through some corporation the commune, the guild, the order. He had but little self-confidence, and very little consciousness of his ability single-handed to do great things or overcome great difficulties. Life was so hard and narrow that he liad no sense of the joy of mere living, and no feeling for the beauty of the world around him, and, as if this world were not dark enough, the terrors of another world beyond were very near and real. He lived with no sense of the past behind him, and with no conception of the possibilities of the future.
It is hardly necessary to say that the modern man, who is a modern man, is the opposite of all this. We are almost too completely a world of individuals. We have a supreme self-confidence. Nearly any man of us is ready to undertake any task with a firm confidence in his ability to carry it through, and not very many of us are shut out of a full enjoyment of the beauties of this world by too keen a sense of the realities of another. It was the work of the Renaissance to change the one sort of man into the other ; to awaken in man a consciousness of his powers and to give him confidence in himself ; to show him the beauty of the world and the joy of life ; and to make him feel his living connection with the past, and the greatness of the future which he might create.
It needed but little of the successful work which men were doing in those days in the fields of politics and of commerce the creation of states whether large or small, and the accumulation of wealth to arouse these feelings, at least in their beginnings, and in a half-conscious way. The impulse which intellectual progress received at this point from the political and economic is clear one of the evident cases of the close dependence of the various lines of advance upon one another already referred to. And it is necessary in order to obtain any clear conception of this age of transition to feel the intimate connection of all these movements with one another, in-deed their essential unity as various sides of one great movement.
It was in Italy that this connection was first made and this impulse first received. It was there that the new commercial age had begun and had first produced its results. Numerous large cities had been formed, possessed of great wealth and becoming very early little independent states. Their fierce conflicts with one another had thrown them upon their own resources, and called forth the greatest mental activity. Within their walls ex-citing and bitter party conflicts were a continuous stimulus to the individual citizen. A democratic tendency in most of them opened the hope of great successes to any man. Birth counted for next to nothing. Abilities and energy might win any place. Woman became the equal of man, and took part in public life with the same self-confidence. All the political and commercial activities of the time, with their great rewards open to any man, and their intense stimulus to individual ambition, combind to emancipate the individual, and to foster in him a belief in his own powers, and an independence of judgment and action, necessary as a preliminary to the revival of learning. The rapid development of Italy since the crusades, in the one direction, had prepared her to lead in the other, and this fact gives us the reason why the Renaissance was an Italian event.
It is in Dante that we find the first faint traces of the existence of these new forces, in the intellectual world proper, and the beginning of their continuous modern action, and we may call Dante the first man of the Renaissance, though it is perhaps equally correct to call him a thoroughly medieval man. His theology and philosophy were medieval and scholastic, his hell was material enough, and the dream of his political thought was the Holy Roman Empire, a distinctly medieval idea. But along with these we catch gleams of other and different things. His theology may be medieval and his hell material, but there is an independence of judgment in special cases which is decidedly more modern, and, something far more important, there is the clearest possible conception of the fact that it is not a man's place in a great organization, but his individual character and spirit which determine his future destiny ; that individual character not merely works itself out in the conduct of life, but that it will be a controlling factor in fixing one's place in any life hereafter. His political idea may be the Holy Roman Empire, but he reveals traces of the distinctly modern feeling that the state should exist for the sake of the individual, and that the individual should have some voice in the management of its affairs. The writing of his great poem in a modern language is no small evidence of independence. He has some feeling for the beauty of the world and of life, and some real sense of a living connection with the men of antiquity.
These modern traits, however, though they may be found in Dante, are expressed but faintly. The great mass of his thought is medieval. It is only the slight beginnings of the current which we can detect in him.
But in the next generation, in Petrarch, we have the full tide. In him we clearly find, as controlling personal traits, all those specific features of the Renaissance which give it its distinguishing character as an intellectual revolution, and from their strong beginning in him they have never ceased among men. In the first place, he felt as no other man had done since the ancient days the beauty of nature and the pleasure of more life, its sufficiency for itself ; and he had also a sense of ability and power, and a self-confidence which led him to plan great things, and to hope for an immortality of fame in this world. In the second place, he had a most keen sense of the unity of past history, of the living bond of connection between himself and men of like sort in the ancient world. That world was for him no dead antiquity, but he lived and felt in it and with its poets and thinkers, as if they were his neighbors. His love for it amounted almost, if we may call it so, to an ecstatic enthusiasm, hardly understood by his own time, but it kindled in many others a similar feeling which has come down to us. The result is easily recognized in him as a genuine culture, the first of modern men in whom this can be found.
It led, also, in his case, to what is another characteristic feature of the Renaissance an intense desire to get possession of all the writings which the ancient world had produced. It was of vital importance, before any new work was begun, that the modern world should know what the ancients had accomplished, and be able to begin where they had left off. This preliminary work of collection was one of the most important services tendered by the men of the revival of learning. For the writings of the classic authors Petrarch sought with the utmost eagerness wherever he had an opportunity, and though the actual number which he was able to find, of those that had not been known to some one or other in medieval days, was very small, still his collection was a large one for a single man to make, and he opened that active search for the classics which was to produce such great results in the next hundred years.
In another direction, also, Petrarch opened the age of the Renaissance. The great scientific advance which was made by this age over the middle ages does not consist so much in any actual discoveries or new contributions to knowledge which were made by it, as in the overthrow of authority as a final appeal, and the recovery of criticism and observation and comparison as the effective methods of work. Far more important was this restoration of the true method of science than any specific scientific work which was done in the Renaissance age proper. Here again it is with Petrarch that the modern began. He attacked more than one old tradition and belief supported by authority with the new weapons of criticism and comparison, and in one case at least, in his investigation of the genuineness of charters purporting to have been granted by Julius Caesar and Nero to Austria, he showed himself thoroughly imbued with the spirit and master of the methods of modern science.
Finally, Petrarch first put the modern spirit into conscious opposition to the medieval. The Renaissance meant rebellion and revolution. It meant a long and bitter struggle against the whole scholastic system, and all the follies and superstitions which flourished under its protection. Petrarch opened the attack along the whole line. Physicians, lawyers, astrologers, scholastic philosophers, the universities all were enemies of the new learning, and so his enemies. And these attacks were not in set and formal polemics alone, his letters and almost all his writings were filled with them.' It was the business of his life. He knew almost nothing of Plato, and yet he set him up boldly against the almost infallible Aristotle. He called the universities " nests of gloomy ignorance," and ridiculed their degrees. He says : " The youth ascends the platform mumbling no-body knows what. The elders applaud, the bells ring, the trumpets blare, the degree is conferred, and he descends a wise man who went up a fool."'
In the world of the new literature Petrarch obtained so great glory in his own lifetime, and exercised such a dictatorship that the ideas which he represented obtained an influence and extension which they might not other-wise perhaps have gained so rapidly. When he died, in 1374, the Renaissance was fully under way in Italy as a general movement, and, while in his own lifetime there, is hardly another who is to be placed beside him in scholarship and knowledge of antiquity, there soon were many such, and before very long not a few who greatly surpassed him in these respects. But if his scholarship cannot be considered great according to modern standards, it will always remain his imperishable glory to have inaugurated the revival of learning.'
The next age immediately following Petrarch had for its great work the revival of Greek literature and knowledge, taught by Greeks from Constantinople. It continued, also, the work of collecting and carefully studying the writings of the ancients. Before the middle of the fifteenth century the material in hand, both of the Latin and of the Greek classics, was large enough and well enough understood to form the foundation of a real scholarship which still commands respect.
One generation later still, and a scholar, in the modern sense, appeared, Laurentius Valla. There are many things now perfectly familiar which he did not know ; he had all the pride and insolence and hardly disguised pagan feeling and morals of the typical humanist ; but in spirit and methods of work he was a genuine scholar, and his editions lie at the foundation of all later editorial work in the case of more than one classic author, and of the critical study of the New Testament as well. One piece of work which fell to him made more noise at the time than these, and in it the scholar had an opportunity to contribute directly to the political movements of his time. At the request of King Alfonso of Naples he subjected the so-called Donation of Constantine to the tests of the new criticism and showed its historical impossibility to the conviction of the world, thus depriving the papacy of one source of argument in support of its pretensions.
Valla was still living when the invention of the printing-press in the north put a new weapon into the hands of the humanists, and enabled them to bring the results of their labors to bear upon a vastly wider circle than before. The great results of this invention for civilization are to be found, not so much in the preservation as in the cheapening of books, and the popularizing of the means of knowledge. If the printing-press reduced the price of books to one-fifth the former price, as it seems to have done before it had been in operation very long, it much more than multiplied by five the number of persons who could own and use them. Although the spread of printing throughout Europe was slow as compared with the rate of modern times an invention of similar importance to-day would probably get into use in the principal places of the world within a year or two —it was rapid for the middle ages. Invented, apparently, in a shape at least to be called really printing, about 1450, it was introduced into Italy in 1465, possibly slightly earlier ; into France and Switzerland in 1470, into Holland and Belgium in 1473, into Spain in 1474, and into England between 1474 and 1477. By 1500 it was in use in eighteen countries, and at least two hundred and thirty-six places had printing-presses. Venice alone had more than two hundred, and three thousand editions had been printed there.
One immediate consequence of this invention was that the results of the revival of learning, its new spirit of in-dependence, and its methods of criticism, could no longer be confined to one country or to those who were by calling scholars. They spread rapidly throughout Europe, affected large masses of the people who knew nothing of the classics, and became vital forces in that final revolution of which Luther's work forms a part.
Up to nearly the end of the fifteenth century the humanistic movement had been confined almost wholly to Italy. The names and achievements which could be claimed by any other country were very few. But as the century drew to a close such names became more numerous out of Italy, and the movement passed to Europe at large.
Among the northern nations the Renaissance not merely aroused the same enthusiasm for antiquity and the same eager application, in various directions, of the new methods of study, but it also took on among them a far more earnest and practical character than it ever had in Italy. Investigation and learning ceased to be so entirely ends in themselves or means to secure personal glory, but were put to the service of answering practical questions and meeting popular needs. The most eminent representative of this tendency, and the greatest scholar of the Renaissance age proper, was Erasmus.
Given by the circumstances of his childhood an opportunity to devote himself to study from an early age, Erasmus, earnest and eager, and of extraordinary ability, made remarkable use of the scanty means of learning at his command in the monastery in which he was placed. A little later, at the University of Paris, in spite of poverty, and ill-health, and other discouragements, his progress was still more rapid. In these early stages of his education Laurentius Valla seems to have had more influence over him than anyone else, especially in training his judgment in respect to a correct style, a training which may have been the birth, perhaps, of a larger critical sense. At the age of thirty he went over to England to study Greek at Oxford, and there he came under the influence of two remarkable men, John Colet and Thomas More, and, if we may trust our scanty evidence, this influence was very important in the development of his character and purposes, especially the influence of Colet.
Colet had gone to Italy for study while Erasmus was at Paris, and while there, apparently, an earnest religious purpose was awakened in his mind by some influence under which he came, possibly by the spiritualistic philosophy of Pico della Mirandola, then but recently dead, perhaps by some other of the Platonic influences of that age, more likely by the strong outburst of religious and ethical emotion in Florence under the influence of Savonarola. We know so little of Colet's stay in Italy that we can affirm nothing about it with confidence, and it is quite as probable that the deeply earnest purpose which he displayed in his work on his return was natural to him, strengthened perhaps by Italian influences, possibly as much by a repugnance to what he saw there as by anything directly helpful.
Upon his return to England Colet began to lecture upon the New Testament, with a distinctly practical purpose. He sought, for example, to reproduce the thought of Paul as Paul held it, to gain an understanding of it by considering the circumstances in which it was written, and of those to whom it was written ; in other words, to treat it as a living argument, with a definite historical purpose, and so to make clear what Paul sought to teach. This was the application of the spirit and the methods of the Renaissance to the living reconstruction of a past age. It was treating the New Testament as a historical document, not as a collection of scholastic propositions. And this was done not for purposes of mere scholarship, but in order to learn what that age had to give in the way of instruction and help, and to reproduce, for the benefit of the present, the spirit and ideas of the early Christianity.
The carrying out of such a purpose was, in the end, whether as a result of Colet's influence or not, the great work of Erasmus's life. His ambition was to put the documents of primitive Christianity, the New Testament and the early fathers, in carefully prepared editions, that is, as nearly as possible exactly as they were written, in the hands of all men, so that they could judge for them-selves what the primitive Christianity was. The idea that the only true method of reaching a knowledge of Christianity was to go to the original sources of that knowledge, itself a direct result of the revival of learning, was constantly in his mind after he began his real work, and he expresses it over and over again, with varying degrees of clearness. If anyone wants to know what Christianity is, he says, in effect, what Christ taught, what Paul taught, what the Christianity was of those who founded it, let him not go to the schoolmen or the theologian. He cannot be sure that they represent it truly. Let him go directly to the New Testament. There he will get it plainly and simply, so plainly that all men can see and understand exactly what it was.
His first step in this work was to publish, in 1505, an edition of Valla's Annotations, his criticism of the Vulgate, with a prefatory letter of his own. Then, in 1516, was published the first edition of his own New Testament, with revised Greek text, new Latin translation, and critical notes, in which he defended his variations from the Vulgate, and called attention to interesting features of the early Christianity which he thought needed present emphasis.' This passed through five authorized, and a few pirated, editions in his own lifetime, and sold in thousands of copies all over Europe. Be-sides his work on the New Testament he prepared editions of a very large number of the early fathers of the church.
While no doubt the special object in everything that Erasmus undertook was to do a genuine piece of scientific work, still the distinctly reformatory purpose in it all is evident. He wished to show men what the primitive Christianity was, and so to induce them to reject the abuses and corruptions which passed under its name. It will be evident, however, when we come to take up the Reformation that this reformatory purpose of his was not of the same sort as Luther's, and that he could not have followed his lead.
The fact that Luther, during this time was moved also by the same controlling idea as Erasmus, and cherished the same wish to restore a truer Christianity, and that he came upon this thought independently, does not make the contribution of Erasmus to the final success of Luther's reform any less important. The idea of the necessity of an appeal to the original sources of knowledge was in the air, as an essential part of the Renaissance age. In relation to Christianity, it was absolutely certain that this appeal would be taken, and the results of it be made clear to the minds of common people as well as to the learned. This Luther did. But he could hardly have done his work, certainly not so well, but for Erasmus. Erasmus's work not merely helped to arouse and make general the idea of such an appeal, but it also put into Luther's hand, prepared for use, the material which he needed for his argument. Luther was the revolutionary leader, Erasmus the scholar.
In the connection established with the Reformation is to be found one of the ways in which the Renaissance movement became an important force in the other great movements of the time, and passed into the general revolution social, political, and religious-with which modern history opened. One other of its direct results brings it into close connection with our own time as opening one of the lines of our greatest advance.
The application to the natural and physical sciences of the new methods of investigation which the Renaissance had brought into use was not made so early as it had been to the sciences of historical and philological criticism. In these latter fields the work of positive advance had already begun, while the sciences of nature were still mainly engaged in collecting and recovering the facts known to the ancients, the work which Petrarch and the generation following him represent for classical scholarship. But the first great step of modern science, and one of the greatest ever taken in the importance of its results, the Copernican theory of the solar system, falls legitimately within the history of the Renaissance, though Copernicus did not publish his conclusions until 1543.
In his dedicatory epistle to Pope Paul III., Copernicus describes the almost ideally perfect scientific method which he had followed in his work. This method he may have learned in Italy, where he studied about ten years, going there in 1496, probably the year in which Colet returned to England. He notes, as the first step, his dissatisfaction with the old theory, then his search of ancient literature to see if another theory had been pro-posed, his reflection upon the suggestion which he found there until it assumed the form of a definite theory, the years of observation in which he tested the theory by the facts, and finally the order and harmony to which the facts observed were reduced by the theory.' From the great advance thus made by Copernicus the progress of astronomy has been constant and rapid, and the other sciences were not far behind.
In following down the main thread of intellectual work which runs through the age of the Renaissance, we have passed over various facts of interest in themselves, and perhaps as characteristic of it as those which have been mentioned, and of some bearing upon later times, but which can now receive but slight notice.
Of value in illustration of the perpetual conflict between the old and the new, if we could go into the de-tails of it, would be the struggle of the new methods of study and their results for a place in the universities and for general acceptance. The universities held them-selves obstinately closed to the new methods long after they had achieved brilliant results outside their walls. When admission was at last grudgingly allowed a few representatives of the new learning, it was accompanied with many petty slights and indignities. Inaugural addresses were required to be submitted for examination before delivery, the use of the library was denied, a share in the government of the university was refused, or, as we should say, the right to attend the meetings of the faculty, or no place was given the new studies in the schedule of lecture hours. The church, so bound up with the scholastic system, came to its defence. Greek was judged a heretical tongue. No one should lecture on the New Testament, it was declared, without a previous theological examination. It was held to be heresy to say the Greek or Hebrew text reads thus, or that a knowledge of the original languages is necessary to interpret the Scripture correctly.
But all the forces that make history were with the new, and it could not be held back. The opening years of the sixteenth century resounded with the noise of its at-tack, now assured of victory, and led by Erasmus and Ulrich You Hutten and others of almost equal name. But hardly had the new learning obtained possession of the universities before it degenerated into a scholasticism of its own almost as barren as the old. Cicero became as great a divinity as Aristotle, and the letter far out-weighed the spirit. When a new age of great scientific advance came on, in the seventeenth century, the new ideas of that time, led by Descartes and Leibnitz and Locke and Newton, had the same old battle to fight over again.
Of equal interest is the marked sceptical tendency which accompanied the Renaissance, especially in Italy, and which would seem to be an almost inevitable attend-ant of times of intellectual progress. The unsettling of so many old beliefs, some of them apparently closely bound up with the Christian teaching, tended to unsettle all, and to produce a dispassionate and intellectual scepticism which in the Renaissance age is to be carefully distinguished from the emotional and aesthetic abandonment of Christian ethics which was also characteristic of the time. Gemistos Pletho, in the middle of the fifteenth century, stated his belief that men were about to abandon Christianity for some form of paganism, and Pomponazzi said, about 1520, that religions have their day of inevitable decline and Christianity is no exception to the general rule, and that signs could be discerned at that time of approaching dissolution in the fabric of our creed.' With this may be compared, perhaps, Voltaire's remark, that Christianity would not survive the nineteenth century.
A single paragraph is so utterly inadequate a space to give to the product of the Renaissance age in the fine arts, that all mention of it will be omitted except to notice one fact, which is especially important from our point of view, the fine expression which it gives to the leading thought of the Renaissance, that which is often called " the discovery of man "—the supremacy of man over nature the power and grace and beauty of the ideal nature above and beyond mere physical beauty. And the value of this expression as a true exponent of the Renaissance age lies largely in the fact that it was unconscious.
Other characteristic products of the Renaissance age are also of great interest ; its morals, or rather its want of morals, its calm and unconscious immorality, and often brutality, united with high aesthetic culture, of which we have so remarkable a photograph in the autobiography of Cellini, to which some would add the Prince of Machiavelli. But Machiavelli is one of the typical men of the time in more ways than one. He unites in himself at least two of its most marked tendencies, the political and the scientific, marvellous both for the ideal of a united Italian nation, which seems to be the mainspring of his thought, and for the example which he gives us of the calmness and total absence of feeling with which a purely scientific mind dissects a diseased organ in a living body.
The geographical explorations of the age belong partly to the history of commerce and have been considered there, but in certain aspects of them, represented best perhaps by Columbus, they are peculiarly the results of the Renaissance forces, and deserve extended notice here both as an outgrowth of the age and as an essential factor in its influence upon the future.
The belief that the earth is round had never been entirely forgotten. It was clearly and explicitly taught by the ancient scientists, and, though in the times of superstition and darkness a popular belief that the earth is flat did corne to prevail, it was never held even in those days by men who had any trace of knowledge at all, or did any thinking on the more simple facts of astronomy. With the growth of a more general knowledge of antiquity, as a result of the revival of learning, the ancient views began to prevail again. In 1410 Peter d'Ailly had collected the opinions of the ancients on the subject with an occasional opinion from a medieval source, like Roger Bacon, in his book called Imago Mundi, a book which was much read and seems to have had a decided influence upon Columbus. Probably a still earlier and more decisive influence upon him was that exerted by the great Italian scientist of the time, Toscannelli, who wrote him, in 1474, a very interesting letter calling his attention in the clearest way to the possibilities which lay in a voyage to the west.1 Toscannelli's ideas, however, were based, like Peter d'Ailly's, upon a study of the ancients. These views, derived from the ancient science, were confirmed in Columbus's mind by some facts of observation which he had gathered from various sources, stories of sailors, traditions, and other things of the sort, which tended to show the existence of land to the west.
These facts make it evident then, that, just as in the case of the first great step in advance in physical science, Copernicus's theory of the solar system, so also in the first great enlargement of our practical knowledge of the earth itself, the new progress takes its departure from a revived knowledge of what the ancient world had learned, and that the modern science rests upon the ancient.
But not merely in his sources of knowledge was Columbus a child of the Renaissance. He was still more clearly so in the spirit which moved and sustained him.
The thing which was especially new and original with him, and which led to his great success, was not his knowledge of the scientific facts. The whole scientific world of his time believed in these as thoroughly as he did. But it was this, that, believing in the truth of the scientific conclusion, he dared to act upon that belief ; it was his strong and unwavering self-confidence and daring which carried him through to the end. In this he was entirely a modern man. But it is necessary to remember that no modern explorer of Central Africa or of the polar lands has needed to be quite so daring, or to have so obstinate a spirit of determination and pluck and willingness to meet the unexpected and overcome it. The modern man has a sort of confidence in the validity of science which was not possible for Columbus, and, a thing which is still more to the point, he lias a knowledge of the probable dangers which he will have to face, such as Columbus could not have.
In Columbus the Renaissance age is seen not only to have recovered the knowledge upon which a new progress could be founded, but also it had produced the new spirit, the firm confidence of man in his own powers and in his mastery of nature, which was both to discover a new world in geography and to create a new world in ideas. Hardly any man, indeed, who lived in those days is so complete a representative of the age as Columbus. It was a mixed age, old and new mingled together in strange proportions and motley results ; old superstitions and medieval ideas side by side with scientific criticism and modern beliefs. And so it was in the case of Columbus. He was a mod-em man with a strong faith in the results of science and a vigorous self-reliance. But he was also a medieval man, holding to the scholastic theology, believing that the prophets specifically foretold his enterprise, and apparently led to his undertaking quite as much by the desire to get the means for a new crusade to rescue the Holy Sepulchre as by scientific or commercial motives.
The effects of Columbus's expedition were not confined to science or to commerce. It was a most revolutionary discovery, and its intellectual results were as great as its practical ones. They were, perhaps, greater than those which have followed any other discovery of the sort. With them can be compared only the enlargement of mind which followed such scientific events as Newton's discoveries, or, in the present century, Lyell's proof of the geologic ages, or Darwin's explanation of the method of creation.
Other events of the same sort combined to produce the same character of mind and to make it the prevailing intellectual tone of the times--the explorations of the Portuguese, the invention of printing, the discoveries of new classical material, the wide enlargement of the field of historical knowledge, and the overthrow of old beliefs in every direction. These events led not merely to a rapid broadening of thought and mental experience, but also to a hospitality toward new ideas which is characteristically modern.
The intellectual atmosphere which the Renaissance produced, and which was an essential prerequisite of the Reformation, can be compared, indeed, to nothing so well as to that of our own century. In spirit, in ambitions, and in methods, in openness of mind and in expectation of a greater future it was the same. The obstructive conservatism with which it had to contend was identical with that of today, and the same weapons were in use on both sides. In actual attainment and insight, of course, it was not the same. The conditions were more narrow and the tools it had to work with were far inferior. But that is a fact of relatively little importance, and if we would gain a right understanding of the age, and of its permanent contributions to history, we can do it best, perhaps, by comparing it, under its own conditions, with the spirit and work of today.