Abbildungen der Seite

that, after performing the ceremonial part of this embassy, he should be permitted to confer with the German Powers upon the best means of maintaining reformed principles and upholding political liberties. Instructions were accordingly drawn up which empowered the youthful envoy to touch upon these points. At the end of February he set out upon his travels, attended by Fulke Greville and by a train of gentlefolk. In the houses where he lodged he caused tablets to be fixed, emblazoned with his arms, under which ran a Latin inscription to this effect: “Of the most illustrious and well-born English gentleman, Philip Sidney, son of the Viceroy of Ireland, nephew of the Earls of Warwick and Leicester, Ambassador from the most Serene Queen of England to the Emperor.” This ostentation was not out of harmony with the pompous habits of that age. Yet we may perhaps discern in it Sidney's incapacity to treat his own affairs with lightness. He took himself and all that concerned him au serieux; but it must also be observed that he contrived to make others accept him in like

As Jonson puts it, when comparing himself, under the name of Horace, with men of less sterling merit:


“If they should confidently praise their works,

In them it would appear inflation;
Which, in a full and well-digested man,
Cannot receive that foul, abusive name,
But the fair title of erection."

He first proceeded to Heidelberg, where he failed to find the Elector Lewis, but made acquaintance with the younger prince, his brother Casimir. The palatinate, like many of the petty German states, was torn by religious factions, The last elector had encouraged Calvinism; but his son Lewis was now introducing Lutheran ministers into his dominions. The Calvinists, after enduring considerable hardships, had to emigrate; and many of them took refuge with Prince Casimir. It seems that before he reacbed Heidelberg, Sidney had been met by Hubert Languet; and this good counseller attended him through all his German wanderings. They went together to Prague, where the new emperor was holding his Court. Here, even more than at Heidelberg, the English Envoy found matter for serious disquietude. Rodolph had grown up under Catholic influences, and the Jesuits were gaining firm hold upon his capital. Students of history will remember that a Jesuit Father had negotiated the participation of the Emperor Ferdinand in the closing of the Tridentine Council. Austria, under his grandson Rodolph's rule, bid fair to become one of their advanced posts in northern Europe. Sidney meant, so far as in him lay, to shake the prestige of this extremely Spaniolated” and priestridden emperor. It was his intention to harangue in Germany against the “fatal conjunction of Rome's undermining superstition with the commanding forces of Spain." Fulke Greville has sketched the main line of his argument; but it is hardly probable that he bearded the lion in his den and spoke his mind out before the imperial presence. The substance of the policy he strove to impress upon those German princes who took the Protestant side, and upon all wellwishers to the people, was that the whole strength of their great nation could not save them from the subtle poison which Sarpi styled the Diacatholicon, unless they made a vigorous effort of resistance. Rome, by her insidious arts and undermining engines-by her Jesuits and casuistical sophistications-sapped the social fabric and dissolved the ancestral loyalties of races. Into the dismembered and disintegrated mass marched Spain with her might of arms, her money, her treaties, marriages, and encouragement of sedition. In short, Sidney uttered a prophecy of what happened in the Thirty Years' War, that triumph of Jesuitical diplomacy. As a remedy he proposed that all the German Powers who valued national independence, and had a just dread of Spanish encroachment, should “associate by an uniform bond of conscience for the protection of religion and liberty." In other words, he espoused the policy of what was known as the Fædus Evangelicum.

Theoretically, this plan was not only excellent, but also necessary for stemming the advance of those reactionary forces, knit together by bonds of common interest and common enthusiasm, which governed the Counter Reformation. But unfortunately it rested upon no solid basis of practical possibilities. A Protestant Alliance, formed to secure the political and religious objects of the Reformation in its warfare with Catholicism, had been the cherished scheme of northern statesmen since the days of Henry VIII. The principles of evangelical piety, of national freedom, of progressive thought, and of Teutonic emancipation upon regulated methods, might perhaps have been established, if the Church of England could have combined with the Lutherans of Germany, the Calvinists of Geneva, and of France, Sweden, and the Low Countries, in a solid confederation for the defence of civil and religious liberty. But from the outset, putting national jealousies and diplomatic difficulties aside, there existed in the very spirit of Protestantism a power antagonistic to cohesion. Protestantism had its root in critical and sceptical revolt. From the first it assumed forms of bewildering diversity on points of doctrine. Each of its sects passed at an early stage into dogmatism, hardly less stubborn than that of the Catholic Church. It afforded no common or firin groundwork for alliance. Lutherans, Zwinglians, Anglicans, Anabaptists, Hussites, Calvinists, Sacramentarians, Puritans, could not work together for a single end. It has always been thus with the party of progress, the Liberals of world-transforming moments in the march of thought. United by no sanctioned Credo, no fixed Corpus Fidei, no community of Conservative tradition ; owing no allegiance to a spiritual monarch; depending for their being on rebellion against authority and discipline; disputing the fundamental propositions from which organisation bas hitherto been expanded,—they cannot act in concert. These men are innovators, scene-shifters, to whom the new scene, as in the plan of God it will appear, is still invisible. They are movers from a fixed point to a point yet unascertained. Each section into which they crystallise, and where as sects they sterilise, conceives the coming order according to its narrow prejudices. Each sails toward the haven of the future by its own ill-balanced compass, and observes selfchosen stars. The very instinct for change, the very apprehension which sets so-called Reformers in motion, implies individualities of opinion and incompatibilities of will. Therefore they are collectively weak when ranged against the ranks of orthodoxy and established discipline. It is only because the life of the world beats in their hearts and brains, because the onward faces of humanity are with them, that they command our admiration. The victory of liberalism in modern Europe was won at the cost of retrograde movements—such as the extinction of free thought in Italy and Spain, the crushing of the Huguenots in France, the bloody persecution of the Netherlands, the Thirty Years' War, and the ossification of the Reformed Churches into inorganic stupidity. And the fruits of the victory fall not to any sect of Protestantism, but to a new spirit which arose in Science and the Revolution. To expect, therefore, as Sidney and the men with whom he sympathised expected, that a Protestant League could be formed, capable of hurling back the tide of Catholic reaction, was little short of the indulgence of a golden dream. Facts and the essence of the Reformation were against its possibility. As a motive force in the world, Protestantism was already well-nigh exhausted. Its energy had already passed into new forms. The men of the future were now represented by philosophers like Bruno and Bacon, by navigators of the world like Drake, by explorers of the heavens like Galileo, by anatomists and physicists like Vesalius, Servetus, Sarpi, Harvey.

Whatever Sidney's hopes and dreams may have been, the religious discords of Germany, torn asunder by Protestant sectarians and worm-eaten to the core by Jesuitical propagandists, must have rudely disilluded him. And no one was better fitted than Languet to dissect before his eyes the humours and imposthumes of that unwieldy body politic. They left Prague at the end of April, travelled together to Heidelberg, visited the Landgrave of Hesse, and arrived at Cologne in May. Here Sidney thought that he must turn his face immediately homewards, though he greatly wished to pass into Flanders. Languet dissuaded him, on grounds of prudence, from doing so without direct commission from the queen. Great therefore was the satisfaction of both when letters arrived from England, ordering Sidney to compliment William the Silent, Prince of Orange, on the birth of his son. During this visit to the Netherlands he made acquaintance with the two most distinguished men there, and won the respect of both. Don John of Austria, the victor of Lepanto, was then acting as viceroy to the King of Spain. Sidney paid him his respects, and

« ZurückWeiter »