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The study of Uie ancient languages was subject to strong and dangerous suspicions as being the fountain-head from which the German heretics were supposed to have drawn their tenets. Such Spanish divines of that period as understood Greek and Hebrew were, without exception, imprisoned in the Inquisition, or obliged to undergo a long and anxious examination. The public schools, originally founded for teaching the learned languages, and encouraging polite literature, were soon deserted. Even Latin, which, under the tuition of the Jesuits, flourished in all other parts of Europe, was, with very few exceptions, converted in Spain into a barbarous jargon, the language of her host of school divines of the seventeenth century. The prohibition of books was carried to such an extravagant pitch that it embraced editions of the classics with notes from the hand of a protestant. As for their works on controversial subjects, the law visited the owners or readers with the penalty of death. A few years were sufficient to develope the consequences of such a barbarous system. The literary Spaniards, whom the influence of the awakening genius of Europe directed into the real path of knowledge, had died away about the end of Philip II.'s long and withering reign. Spanish talent blazed forth in Cervantes; and flared from the tinsel of Lope de Vega, betraying in the works of both, the neglect of classical knowledge which was becoming general in the nation. The votaries of science, who, since the time of Ferdinand the Catholic, and his truly great minister, Ximenez, had yielded to none in the ardour of their pursuits, found themselves discouraged by the ignorance of their country, and the mortifying indifference with which the government looked on their labours.* 'Ever since that time,' exclaims the enlightened and virtuous Jovellanos, ' these important studies have disappeared among us, without any benefit to other departments of knowledge. Science with us ceased to be the means of investigating truth, and became a mere shift to get a livelihood. The number of students increased, aud with their numbers increased also the decay of every sort of knowledge. Like insects, which, being bred of corruption, are sure to carry it wherever they go, the school divines, the casuists, the pettifoggers, the absurd metaphysicians destroyed all useful learning, and by holding it up> to contempt, have almost effaced the memory of its existence.'— Ley Agraria, \ 342.
Such being the intellectual condition of the professional classes,
* Jovellanos, on the authority of a work addressed by Guevara to Philip II. mentions a trigonometrical survey of Spain, performed by Pedro Esquivel, by order of that monarch. The maps, which were the result of this laborious undertaking, are not in existence. Guevara proposed their being drawn on the walls of the royal palace; but Philip cared little about geography, being then fully employed with the massacre of his Flemish subjects; and the maps perished.
immediately after the effectual destruction of the energetic principles which urged the most eminent among the Spaniards to attempt an emancipation from the intellectual thraldom to which their church had reduced them, we may easily conceive the state of the other classes of society in the extensive dominions of the Castilian monarchs. From that peculiar mixture of thoughtfulness and animation, that imaginative vivacity which so generally marks the natives of Spain, we might deduce, as a natural inference, that the intellectual pleasures of reading must be agreeable to their native taste. The general eagerness after books of chivalry, which suggested the inimitable work of Cervantes, though partly resulting from the romantic turn of the nation, yet evinces a strong and general disposition for mental pursuits and amusements. The Spaniard is a compound of indolence and fancy. He has a universe of his own, where he finds himself at the head of all other limited beings. It is there that he revels in the consciousness of his natural powers, and takes refuge from the untoward accidents to which his dislike of exertion exposes him. Had books been allowed to circulate in such a country—had the intellectual repast been freely and abundantly spread before the thoughtful Castilian, the penetrating Arragonese, the vehement Andalusian, the Germans themselves would have proved dainty guests by their side. The pleasures of reading were just what the retired habits of their women required, when they could not be seen except in their way to church, and then under a veil. The Spanish Hidalgo who, under the great stir and bustle of the new constitution, would give up one half of his scanty fortune to be allowed again his daily walks in the great square of a country town; his four or five hours smoking at the Noble Club, which no plebeian breath was allowed to contaminate; his lolling the rest of the day by the side of the lady of his own choice, would, of all men in the world, have delighted in the active repose of a library, had his country afforded the means of collecting one. But his ancestors, whom political circumstances had led, for a time, into the field of glory, where they displayed those martial qualities with which, though not near the surface, nature has abundantly endowed the natives of Spain, were afterwards compelled to live in idleness and ignorance. Thus, a degrading sloth was entailed upon the best families, and sensual pleasure engrossed the higher and the second class of the nobility. The jealousy of the Inquisition against all books but those of devotion left the general reader without resources. A passage in the life of Saint Theresa, written by herself about the time of the great persecution against the protestants, gives a striking idea of the scarcity of books occasioned by the inquisitorial edicts. Like all Spanish ladies of the same period, that amiable enthusiast, whose works present the
R 2 wildest wildest waste of talent enlivened by the softest tints which style can shed through the noblest of modem languages, had in her youth delighted in books of chivalry. Though her feelings had taken a religious bent, which ended in that peculiar sort of insanity which peoples the imagination with incorporeal beings, and turns the slumbering dreams of a morbid mind into scenes of the most striking reality, she still preserved her early taste for reading, and allayed the suffering of a growing hypocondriasis by the perusal of some instructive works, in Spanish. The sweeping prohibitions of the Holy Tribunal snatched from her hands the soothing companions of her solitude. Her regret upon this occasion is thus recorded by herself: 'When such a number of Spanish books were prohibited, my grief was exceeding great; for many among them were to me a constant source of consolation. What could I do for reading, being ignorant of Latin? In this distress, the Lord said unto me: Theresa, be of good cheer; I will give thee the book of life.'*
An opposition so decided and powerful against the circulation of thought, at those critical seasons when the general mind is ready to expand itself into full life and vigour, is the greatest calamity that can befal a nation. It is missing the moment when the waters are moved by the descending angel, and being left helpless and motionless, a prey to the fatal workings of thwarted internal activity. But, in estimating the blessings which were lost to the nations who did not join in the religious change of the sixteenth century, we must not take for our standard the value of that kind of knowledge which is chiefly to be acquired from books. Knowledge, among a certain number of individuals, whose circumstances allow them leisure to obtain it, can of itself contribute but little to the mental improvement of a whole nation. Great knowledge has existed among the studious, in Italy, since the restoration of letters, and in France, since the reign of Louis XIV. But what has that knowledge done to ameliorate the intellectual condition of the people? The glorious display of talent, the rich stores of learning which the Reformation has produced, would be comparatively of little value, did they not spring from a principle, which pervaded all classes of society, and raised, at once, the poor and illiterate far above the degree of mental energy which is still their lot in Roman Catholic countries.
It is a trite observation that, where Catholic and Protestant states are contiguous, the superior condition of the latter appears with irresistible evidence. We believe that the true cause of this
* Our pious readers must not misunderstand the language of Spanish revelation. The Book of Life could not be the Bible, of which all translations into the vernacular languages were prohibited. . .
moral moral phenomenon is not generally understood. The difference of the religious creeds is too inconsiderable, and the nature of the doctrines they contain too far removed from political and economical concerns to account for the superior activity and intelligence which place the protestants above their neighbours. Had the Reformers stripped the Roman church of her powers, and claimed them for any particular set of individuals, the mere weeding of their church from superstition, though a most useful and meritorious work, would not have essentially altered the intellectual condition of the people. But the supreme authority which, in matters of belief, had till that time been tyrannically exercised by the church of Rome, was suddenly devolved upon the great body of Christians, wherever they were bold enough to divide the rich spoil. Religion, the only subject on which all classes of men possess some information, invited even the humblest individual to exert his intellectual faculties. The bible, the only foundation of revealed knowledge, was equally in the hands of all; no man or set of men dared to claim the exclusive right of interpretation: every one was his own expositor; all thought, all discussed, all decided. True, the flood-gates of absurdity were opened, and a spirit of division seemed to threaten the very existence of reformed Christianity. But there is no unmixed good under heaven. Nay, what, at first sight, appears an evil is constantly and visibly turned into a most powerful instrument of good in the hands of an all-wise Providence. In the improvement of the intellectual faculties much may be done independently of the direct advancement of truth. Heaven has treated the world, in its intellectual infancy, as we treat children whose bodily powers we wish to develope: we make them use their limbs without any view to immediate utility. The regular application of strength, which alone can produce a useful piece of workmanship is, indeed, but ill calculated to make a child grow into a strong and healthy man. We will not rashly pursue the analogy, or assert that the uncontrolled range in which the human mind exercised its powers before it submitted to the strict and manly discipline of the Baconian philosophy, was the only method by which it could obtain a vigorous maturity.. But this we will be bold to say, the wisest system of instruction, carried on for a century under the most liberal government, would have failed of imparting to the bulk of the people even a small portion of the intellectual energy which, in a few years, they owed to the liberty of religious speculation. No man loves to be taught: you must either force him to learn, or persuade him that it is his interest. He must, next, accumulate materials to work upon—those elements of knowledge which appear so little worth the trouble of storing up, till in full possession of the art itself. A long methodical system of dell 3 mentary mentary instruction, under a combination of favourable circumstances, may, in the course of ages, raise the standard of intellect in the great bulk of a nation: but the discipline of learning, however useful in the formation of regular and subordinate habits, cannot, by any direct operation, produce that sudden and general change in the intellectual energies, which the liberty of discussing religious questions gave, in a short time, to whole nations, at the beginning of the sixteenth century. If, as we may judge from events, the object of Providence was suddenly to rouse a certain portion of mankind into mental activity, nothing could so effectually produce a general impulse as placing before them a subject of the highest interest, seemingly within the reach of every individual, where every man might flatter himself to become a proficient without submitting to the authority of a worldly master. It is impossible to conceive a higher degree of self-complacency than that which appears to have been enjoyed by the puritans, especially of the lower classes. They boasted an internal change; and surely none could be greater than that of their consciousness with regard to their own dignity and importance. Were it possible for a man of moderate accomplishments to find himself, suddenly and miraculously, possessed of Newton's whole science and powers, he could not feel more elated by such an influx of knowledge, than the peasant or mechanic, who, in the space of a few days, found himself transformed into a judge of religious truth, and felt confident of his personal right to assert and maintain his decisions. The power which upset the throne of these kingdoms was only the result of this mental stimulus, which, in that instance, showed the formidable extent of its activity. But it is the nature of all moral as well as physical energies to be liable to exceed the limits beyond which they are destructive to man; yet it is to them that man is indebted for happiness, for life itself.
The salutary change once effected, its consequences were visible in the whole frame of society; a new spirit, a new energy pervaded the mass of the people. The instrument which Providence had allowed to act with the fearful violence which appears at times, in some of its physical agents, lost, in the course of two generations, the stormy activity which was scarcely more than adequate to the enormous resistance opposed to its operation; while the inheritance of those blessings which are inseparable from the unfettered exertion of the mental powers, and the absence of intellectual servility, will be transmitted to the descendants of the first protestants so long as they shall exist collected into independent nations.
The blind policy of a despotic government might triumph in the idea that, by smothering the seeds of religious controversy, Spain had been made quietly to surrender her civil and religious