BLTC Press Titles

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The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

A study in comparative symbolics

by Henry Eyster Jacobs


Luther's act of October 31st, 1517, was not altogether unexpected. Who was to break the silence and first utter the protest, or in what form or place, it was to be given, no one, indeed, could divine. But many eyes were looking for the crisis, in which the oppressed conscience would speak with a power that could not be restrained. As Mr. Froudesays: "The thing which all were longing for was done, and in two years from that day, there was scarcely perhaps a village from the Irish channel to the Danube, in which the name of Luther was not familiar as a word of hope and promise." * "As early as 1520, Polydore Vergil mentions the importation into England of a great number of 'Lutheran books.'"8 To such an extent were Luther's writings diffused, and with such effect, that in March 1521, Archbishop Warham wrote to Cardinal Wolsey concerning the condition of affairs at the University of Oxford, in a letter which Sir William Ellis, formerly librarian of the British Museum, has published:4

"I am enformyd that diverse of that Universitie be infectyd with the heresyes of Luther and others of that sorte, havyng theym a grete nombre of books of the saide perverse doctrine. . . It is a sorrowful thing to see how gredyly inconstaunt men, and specyally inexpert youthe, falleth to newe doctrynes be they never so pestilent. . . Pytie it were that through the lewdnes of on or two cankerd members, . . the hole Universitie shuld run infamy ofsoo haynouse a cryme, the heryng whereof shuld be right delectable and plesant to open Lutheranes beyond the see. . . If all the hole nombyr of yong scolers suspectyd in this cause (which

1 Paracltsis adlect.pium, Vaughan's Revolutions in English History- 1: 101.

* History of England, II: 40.

* Ilardwick's History of the Reformation, p. 182.

* Original Letters, First Series, 1: 239 sqq.

as the Universitie writeth to me be marvelouse sory and repentaunt that ever they had any such books or redde or herde any of Luther's opynyon) shulde be callyd up to London, yt shuld engendre grete obloquy and sclandre to the Universite, bothe behyther the see and beyonde . . the said Universite hathe desyred me to move Your Grace, to be so good and gracyouse unto theym, to gyve in commission to some sadd father which was brought up in the Univeristie of Oxford to syt ther, and examyne, not the hedds, but the novicyes which be not yet yet thoroughly cankered in the said errors. . . Item, the said Universite hath desieryd me to move your good Grace to ncte out, besyde werks of Luther condemyd alredy, the names all other suche writers, Luther s adherents andfautors."/ The request for such inquisition was in accordance with a proclamation which Warham had succeeded in inducing Wolsey to publish, entitled "A commission to warn all persons, both ecclesiastical and secular, under penalty of excommunication and of being dealt with as heretics, that, within the time assigned [fifteen days], they bring and deliver into the hands of the bishop or his deputy, all writings ana books of Martin Luther, the heretic."* The proclamation was accompanied by the rehearsal of forty-two alleged errors of Luther/quoted from the Papal bull of excommunication, some of which are the greatest perversions of what he taught, while others, even as stated by enemies, can condemn only those who deem them reprehensible, as e. g: "32. In every good work, the just man sinneth." "33- A good work done best, is a venial sin." "34. To burn heretics is contrary to the will of the Spirit." * The fact that this demand to surrender the writings of Luther was to be read in every church at the time of mass, shows the progress which they had made throughout the Kingdom. The day before this proclamation, Fisher, bishop of Rochester, had preached in St. Paul's "Again ye pernicious doctryn of

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