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the rich libraries of the universities and abbeys of England, collected by the pious and learned churchmen through so many ages, were nearly all destroyed by the enlightened Reformers in the sixteenth century; or repress his disgust at the Protestant journalist, who, after his brethren have done their best to obliterate every literary monument of Catholic antiquity, has the effrontery to come forward in open day and charge the Catholic Church with having "ever waged a deadly war upon literature." Alas! none are so blind as those who will not
The period of which we speak was no less remarkable for the number and ripeness of its scholars. The scholars at the universities, unless we must discredit all accounts, numbered, taking into consideration the difference of population, as fifty to one to what they do now. It must be remembered, that, in those days of Popish ignorance and superstition, the schools were open to the poorest, and in most cases nearly free of expense. Hence it was that the great body of the clergy, and the majority of the eminent prelates and dignitaries of the Church, were from the lowest ranks of social life. This, too, may account for the number of scholars, and the general diffusion of education. History informs us of the thousands of scholars that flocked from all parts of Europe to attend upon the lectures of the famous Abèlard, and that, when he retreated to a solitary spot at some distance from Paris, they flocked around him, and actually built up a not inconsiderable village, solely for the purpose of residing near him. At Oxford, in England, one thousand scholars were annually educated gratis. One writer informs us, that, at the same university, there were above fifteen thousand students in 1264, of those only whose names were entered on the matriculation books. We are told, that, in 1300, the number there was thirty thousand, which also was the number in 1340. The university of Cambridge was also crowded to a degree which seems at the present time almost incredible. "At the Reformation, all these things. were altered. A great part of the houses of both universities went to ruin; all the schools attached to the monasteries were destroyed; most of the cathedral schools and colleges were converted to private purposes; education was discouraged in every possible manner, was allowed only to the rich, and positively forbidden to the poor, as a most dangerous and pernicious article. At the period of the English Revolution, in 1688, the mass of the English people were buried in the grossest ignorance; even long after, when the Wesleys first started,
they talked almost in the same style of the ignorance of the people of Cornwall, nay, of the people in the very heart of London, as they would of the South Sea islanders; and the correctness of their description was allowed to be but too faithful."* And yet one of the spiritual sons of Wesley has the temerity to come forward and charge the Catholic Church with hostility to learning! Really, this is too bad. After the Protestants, a new race of Goths and Vandals, have swept over half of Europe, destroyed the schools Catholicism had founded, dispersed or burned the libraries which she had with immense labor and expense been collecting for ages, and succeeded in reducing the mass of the people to a state of grovelling ignorance, it is too bad for a descendant of these same Goths and Vandals to turn round and charge this very ignorance upon the Catholic Church. And this is what the maligners of the Roman Catholic Church are continually doing; and if the outraged Catholic attempts to repel the charge by quoting facts, the mob stands ready to shoot him down in the street, or to enlighten him by the blaze of his Church or his dwelling in flames! Well did the bluff old Samuel Johnson say: Sir, the Catholic Church is the most calumniated Church in the world."
We have not room to speak of what was taught in the schools to which we have referred, but in the more renowned was taught at least what were called the seven liberal arts, which embraced as wide a range of studies as is common in our schools and colleges now. The number of literary men in the period of which we are speaking was proportionally much greater than it is now in Protestant countries. Of their eminence, of the value of their attainments, doubtless, different opinions may be formed. Guizot, an unsuspected authority, Protestant and philosopher as he is, commends the poetry of St. Fortunatus in the sixth century, and institutes a comparison between the poems of St. Avitus, Bishop of Vienna, in the same century, on the Creation, the Fall, and Expulsion from Paradise, and the Paradise Lost of Milton, and even in some respects awards the palm to the Catholic Bishop. Speaking of the literary state from the sixth century to the eighth, he says, indeed, that the literature was then religious and practical, but he is astonished at the wonderful intellectual activity and development, at the immense number of literary works which
Arbitrary Power, Popery, Protestantism. Philadelphia. Fithian, 1842, pp. 99, 100.
were produced, and which form a veritable and rich litera
In the seventh and eighth centuries, learning, we all know, flourished in England. In the ninth century, it suffices to mention the great Alcuin, Scotus Erigena, and the celebrated Raban Maur. Scotus Erigena was a native of Ireland, and flourished as chief of the School of the Palace under Charles-le-Chauve of France. As a speculator, he fell into some errors; but he was a man of extensive learning, had travelled in Greece and the East, was a profound Greek scholar, and was probably acquainted with Hebrew. He was familiar with the philosophers, especially Plato and Aristotle. In the eleventh century, literary studies and intellectual activity strike us everywhere throughout the Latin world. It is enough for us to mention St. Anselm, an Italian, and Archbishop of Canterbury. His Monologium, to say nothing of his other writings, is sufficient to immortalize his name as a writer and a philosopher. It is the most successful effort to demonstrate the existence of God we have ever seen. That single work were more than enough to redeem the age in which it was written.
From the eleventh century down to the sixteenth, literature and science received no check. The four hundred years which preceded the Reformation were ages of prodigious activity. In them we meet with the great names of Abèlard, under whom Heloïsa studied philosophy, Greek, and Hebrew, St. Bernard, Albert the Great, whose works make up twenty-two huge folio volumes, Vincent de Beauvais, St. Thomas Aquinas, the prince of the scholastics, and who, as a metaphysical writer, has never been surpassed, St. Bonaventure, Roger Bacon, Petrarch, Dante, &c. All these were Catholics, many of them Italians, men who stand out as the great men of the race; and yet the Church that produced them, and reveres their memory, has ever warred upon thought and intelligence, and sought to produce and perpetuate ignorance!
If we come down to the period since the Reformation, we shall find the Church of Rome the steadfast friend of literature, and in every department maintaining at least an equality with her Protestant rivals. Italy was distinguished in the sixteenth century for her literary preeminence over all the rest of Europe. German literature slept from the Reformation, till awakened about the middle of the last century; English genius half expired with the establishment of the Protestant religion. Shak
* Civilization en France. Leçon xvi. Paris. 1829.
VOL. II. NO. 1.
speare belongs to the Catholic world, not to the Protestant; for not a thought or expression can be detected in all his works which indicates even a Protestant tendency, and, if not technically a Catholic, he was at least formed under Catholic influences and nourished by Catholic traditions. Milton was a strange compound of heathenism and Catholicism, with a dash of Puritanism. But the most successful portions of his great poem are those in which he remains true to Catholic tradition. What was the boasted literature of England in the days of Queen Anne, but a feeble imitation of the French school of Louis Quatorze? Dryden and Pope were both Catholics. The Society of Jesus, founded by Ignatius Loyola, has always been considered as peculiarly dear to the Popes of Rome; and the members of this Society, we all know, have not been more remarkable for their missionary zeal and enterprise, than for their literary and scientific attainments. Yet the Church of Rome has ever waged a deadly war upon literature !
The Northern nations of Europe are Protestant; the Southern are Catholic. Which are really the most distinguished for literary attainments, even at this moment? Surely, France and Italy will not be obliged to yield the palm to England and Germany. In simple erudition, Germany may rank respectably; but Italy or France can boast scholars at least the equal of her own. And Catholic Germany is no longer behind Protestant Germany. England is out of the question. She is distinguished only for her industrial enterprises, her commercial ambition, her overgrown wealth, and the ignorance and destitution of the immense majority of her population.
The fatal influence of the Reformation on literature is well known, and is admitted by many Protestant writers, as the following passage from Blackwood's Magazine may testify.
"The pontificate of Leo the Tenth commenced in 1513. His patronage of literature is too well known to be long dwelt upon; yet, during his life, literature was fated to receive the severest check it had ever yet received. This was occasioned by the Reformation, whose dawn, while it shed light upon the regions of theology, looked frowningly upon those of profane learning. In fact, the all-important controversy then at issue so thoroughly engrossed the minds of men, as to divert them for a while from other studies. The quick eye of Erasmus saw this; and, casting down the weapons of theological strife, which he had grasped in the first onset, he left the field, exclaiming, in a tone of heartfelt anguish, Ubicumque regnat Lutherismus, ibi literarum est interitus; Wherever Lutheranism prevails, there learning perishes."
As to the present state of education in Catholic countries, we quote the following from Mr. Laing's Notes of a Traveller, which have just appeared. He says:
"In Catholic Germany, in France, and even Italy, the education of the common people in reading, writing, arithmetic, music, manners, and morals, is at least as generally diffused and as faithfully promoted by the clerical body as in Scotland. It is by their own advance, and not by keeping back the advance of the people, that the Popish priesthood of the present day seek to keep ahead of the intellectual progress of the community in Catholic lands; and they might perhaps retort on our Presbyterian clergy, and ask if they too are in their countries at the head of the intellectual movement of the age. Education is in reality not only not repressed, but is encouraged, by the Popish Church, and is a mighty instrument in its hands, and ably used. In every street in Rome, for instance, there are at short distances public primary schools for the education of the children of the lower and middle classes. Rome, with a population of 158,687 souls, has three hundred and seventy two [381, at least] primary schools, with four hundred and eighty two teachers, and fourteen thousand children attending them. Has Edinburgh so many schools for the instruction of those classes? I doubt it. Berlin, with a population about double that of Rome, has only two hundred and sixty four schools. Rome has also her University, with an average attendance of six hundred and sixty students; and the Papal States, with a population of two and a half millions, contain seven universities. Prussia, with a population of fourteen millions, has but seven."
After this Protestant testimony, showing that education is much better provided for in the Papal States than in either Scotland or Prussia, the two boasted countries of common schools, shall we still be told that "learning has ever been the doomed victim of the perennial despotism" of the Church of Rome? The doomed victim! It is to Rome and her general policy we owe it, that learning has not been a doomed victim; and the generous encouragement which she has never ceased to bestow on literature and the arts should command our respect and gratitude, whatever may be our estimate of her theology. We may remark, in concluding this division of our subject, that these Popish schools are, many of them, supported by private charity, while those of Protestant countries are supported only by burdensome taxation.*
* See D'Aubigne's History of the Great Reformation reviewed. By M. J. Spalding, D. D. Ch. xiv. We cannot too earnestly commend this work to our readers. It is the work of a scholar, of a man of learning and ability; though, for aught we know, he may have been educated at Rome.