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extensive progress had been accomplished; but Italy attracts our regret at its early fall the more, because it never allowed the march of human progress to flag while under its guidance, nor retained the lead among the nations, like the ancient Greeks and Romans, after its capacity for the leadership had ceased. On the contrary, the wonderful anticipations of Leonardo da Vinci, who foresaw the discoveries that made Galileo, and Kepler, and Maestlin, and Maurolycus, and Castelli, and others famous; who prediscovered the system of Copernicus; laid down a century before his time the great axiom of the father of experimental philosophy, and thought out the theories which geologists have propounded only in the present generation *, - his anticipations indeed foreshadowed what Italy would have accomplished had it longer retained the leadership of the world; and the name of Galileo, if Italy had none other to boast, would alone entitle her to a magnificent rank in the class of progressive nations.
We speak of Italy as one nation, though in truth it was but a cluster of independent and rival states, as we speak of Greece as a nation, though the Panhellenic feeling was, during the days of Grecian greatness, scarcely less weak than the feeling of union arising from a common language and a common civilisation which, if it had been allowed its due operation, might have made the glory of Italy more lasting but perhaps not more striking. Indeed it is difficult to estimate how much of the activity and energy of the little republics was due to their rivalry ; and this good at least, their entire independence and separation from each other has secured to the science of history, that we are able to trace in each of them, with great distinctness, the characteristics belonging to the social forces which were present in no two states in the
Hallam, Lit. of Europe, i. 323. Humbolt's Cosmos, ii. 285; xciv. and iii. 10. Whewell, Hist. Inductive Sciences, ii. 125. Most of Leonardo da Vinci's physical works belong to the year 1498.
same proportion ; for example, in Florence we see all the effects of a military aristocracy which soon became refined and literary, and reduced to an equality with a commercial democracy ; while in Venice we trace the consequences of a total absence of a military aristocracy, and of the growth of a plutocracy which ultimately mastered the democracy out of which it had arisen.
The next civilisation which took up and advanced the progress of humanity, was composed of elements still more unlike to and unconnected with each other than the Italian ; yet common interests bound them together into a commercial and political alliance, and we think and speak of the free towns of Germany and Flanders, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as members of a common order and civilisation which, while Italy was in its acme, arose to power and prestige, and when the energy of Italy declined, stepped forward to the Primacy of the world.
How many an interesting hour is often spent in reading the small beginnings of those centres of busy and humble industry which afterwards burst forth into the opulent and splendid cities of the Hanseatic league! So early as the twelfth century Flanders was celebrated for its woollen manufactures, and in the fourteenth it was resorted to by the merchants of every state. But it was not till the beginning of the sixteenth century that the real glory of the Flemish and German towns appeared in its truest magnificence. By that time Antwerp, Bruges, Nuremberg, Frankfort, and Augsburg were full of opulence and splendour. Argosies returned from every clime laden with its richest products, and the overflowing wealth of the new plutocracy called forth the school of Durer and the school of Holbein, to adorn the halls which resounded with the most elegant and subtle discussions of literature and philosophy.
The knowledge which humanity had acquired came not to these German cities without the usual antagonism
on the part of those who were brought up in the old code of morals and belief, and few contests have been more celebrated than that between the old scholastic theologians of the German universities, and the “Humanists” or “ Poets,” as they were styled, the sophists of the period, who, with Reuchlin at their head, introduced about 1513 the knowledge of the arts and learning of the ancients into the circle of subjects taught to the generous youth of these German towns.* Blood constantly flowed in the cause of literature, and the teachers of Greek were continually expelled, to return however at last with renewed strength, and finally to lead the way for that great uprising of the national spirit which brought about the Reformation, ---a crisis which was most materially assisted by the revolt of the new learning and the free and inquiring spirit which it engendered against the intolerance of the old theology, seeking to retain its dominion too long. And throughout Europe (except Italy), the sophists, who sought to introduce to nations hitherto barbarous the knowledge then acquired by humanity, became in time identified with the Protestants. John XXII. wrote to his legate at Paris to look after the teachers of strange languages, lest their dogmas be as strange. “Heretic” was one of the gentlest terms used by the “ Trojans,” and it certainly was not unfounded, for most of the scholars who frequented these new teachers were like Ascham, who as he became a Grecian, became a Protestant; and so important to the cause of the Reformation was this overthrow of the old German scholastic notions by Reuchlin and his allies, that Luther (December 1518) acknowledges that “he only followed in Reuchlin's steps, only consummated his victory with inferior strength, but not inferior courage, in breaking the teeth of the Behemoth.” †
* See especially Sir W. Hamilton's Essay on the Epistolæ Obscuroruin Virorum (Discussions on Philosophy).
† Hamilton's Discussions, 215, 216. Naudé (Considérations PoliAmong the leading nations of the world we ought not to omit Spain and Portugal :-- Portugal, which began with Henry the Navigator a period of meteoric splendour -a burst into eminence, like the sudden burst of a tiques sur les Coups-d'état, cap. iv.) traces the connection between the revival of letters and the Reformation. “Le trop grand nombre de collèges, séminaires, étudians, joints à la facilité d'imprimer et transporter les livres, ont déjà bien ébranlé les sectes et la religion."
Immediately after Reuchlin, came the great men of those German towns who assisted the advance of humanity. The sum of the knowledge hitherto attained was collected in the Margarita Philosophica of Reisch, Prior of the Chartreuse of Freiburg at the close of the fifteenth century; and from that time the history of human knowledge is to be read in the history of the German towns till the Dutch stepped forward to their place. Galileo—the last of Italians — still, by his single energies, retarded Italy from falling utterly to the background. But Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Stevinus of Bruges, Kepler, George Purbach, Regiomontanus, and Walther of Nuremberg*, all these and the long catalogue of scientific and inventive men of whom they were the leaders, will attract for ever the historian of the human race to the German civilisation of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Indeed, in the grandest of the exact sciences there was absolutely no progress from the time of the ancients till the free towns of Germany arose. There was none in astronomy from Ptolemy, who died about A.D. 150, till Copernicus, who flourished about A.D. 1500, for the Arabians effected no substantial progress. In mechanical knowledge not a single step was made from the time of Archimedes, who died B.C. 212, till that of Stevinus, who was born A.D. 1548+; while Conrad Gesner of Zurich and Basle (flourished 1550), was the first who advanced natural history beyond the point where Aristotle, Theophrastus, and Dioscorides had left it. I
* Humbolt's Cosmos, iii. 56.
Swedish summer and continued till the time of Louis Camoens to make a series of discoveries, which has written her name as the Mother of the Sextant, and the names of her sons, Diaz, Gama, Cabral, and Albuquerque, on the most enduring tablets in the temple of fame :-Spain, which colonised a new hemisphere with the European race, but has done little beyond that to assist the progress of our knowledge. These nations, for reasons I will hereafter develop, scarce received the learning which is the inheritance of nations, and such of it as they did receive they did not decompose, and therefore could not improve and increase the store. The old codes of faith and of belief which belong to a military aristocracy and an organised priesthood were never dispelled, but hovered over them in the periods of their greatness, and closed in upon them with a deadening darkness ere they had ! fairly seized the torch of human knowledge.
As the German towns succeeded to the Italian republics, so the Dutch republic succeeded to the German towns. At the close of the sixteenth century Holland was still, in the phrase of its native, Erasmus, a “ beer and butter land ;” but learning had already come, and the capacity of progress soon after followed, so that during the seventeenth century Holland may justly be said to have been the centre of the world's improvement. To Holland came the men of other countries, who afterwards were to render those countries famous, so that while we honour Holland for having produced jurists and moral philosophers like Grotius ; mathematicians, natural philosophers, and astronomers like Huyghens; antiquaries like Gruter; statesmen like the brothers De Witt; mechanical discoverers like Lippersberg; painters like Paul Potter and the Vandeveldes; we ought also to remember that in Holland lived, by his own choice, during the most important years of his life, Descartes, the first who in France decomposed the ancient knowledge, and led the way to discovery; and from Holland and Denmark the