Banned History Books

This is taken from P.H. Ditchfield's Books Fatal to Their Authors.


Antonius Palearius—Caesar Baronius—John Michael Bruto—Isaac Berruyer—Louis Elias Dupin—Noel Alexandre—Peter Giannone—
Joseph Sanfelicius (Eusebius Philopater)--Arlotto—Bonfadio—De Thou—Gilbert Genebrard—Joseph Audra—Beaumelle—John Mariana—
John B. Primi—John Christopher Ruediger—Rudbeck—Francois Haudicquer—Francois de Rosieres—Anthony Urseus. 

Braver far than the heroes of Horace was he who first dared to attack the terrible Inquisition, and voluntarily to incur the wrath of that dread tribunal. Such did Antonius Palearius, who was styled Inquisitionis Detractator, and in consequence was either beheaded (as some say) in 1570, or hanged, strangled, and burnt at Rome in 1566. This author was Professor of Greek and Latin at Sienna and Milan, where he was arrested by order of Pope Pius V. and conducted to Rome. He stated the truth very plainly when he said that the Inquisition was a dagger pointed at the throats of literary men. As an instance of the foolishness of the method of discovering the guilt of the accused, we may observe that Palearius was adjudged a heretic because he preferred to sign his name Aonius, instead of Antonius, his accuser alleging that he abhorred the sign of the cross in the letter T, and therefore abridged his name. By such absurd arguments were men doomed to death.

The Annales Ecclesiastici of Caesar Baronius, published in twelve folio volumes at Rome (1588-93), is a stupendous work, which testifies to the marvellous industry and varied learning of its author, although it contains several chronological errors, and perverts history in order to establish the claims of the Papacy to temporal power. The author of this work was born of noble family at Sora, in the kingdom of Naples, A.D.  1538, and was a pupil of St. Philip de Neri, the founder of the Congregation of the Oratory, whom he succeeded as General of that order.  In 1596 Pope Clement VIII. chose him as his confessor, made him a cardinal and librarian of the Vatican. On the death of Clement, Baronius was nominated for election to the Papal throne, and was on the point of attaining that high dignity when the crown was snatched from him by reason of his immortal work. In Tome IX. our author had written a long history of the monarchy of Sicily, and endeavoured to prove that the island rightfully belonged to the Pope, and not to the King of Spain, who was then its ruler. This so enraged Philip III. of Spain that he published an edict forbidding the tome to be bought or read by any of his subjects. Two booksellers who were rash enough to have some copies of the book on their shelves were condemned to row in the galleys. When the election for the Papal throne took place, thirty-three cardinals voted for Baronius, and he would have been made Pope had not the Spanish ambassador, by order of the King, who was practically master of Italy at that time, excluded the author of the Annals from the election. This disappointment and his ill-health, brought on by hard study, terminated his life, and he died A.D.  1607. The Annales Ecclesiastici occupied Baronius thirty years, and contain the history of the Church from the earliest times to A.D. 1198.  Various editions were printed at Venice, Cologne, Antwerp, Metz, Amsterdam, and Lucca. It was continued by Rainaldi and Laderchi, and the whole work was published in forty-two volumes at Lucca 1738-57. It is a monument of the industry and patience of its authors.

Another luckless Italian historian flourished in the sixteenth century, John Michael Bruto, who was born A.D. 1515, and was the author of a very illustrious work, Historia Florentina (Lyons, 1562). The full title of the work is: Joh. Michaelis Bruti Historiae Florentinae, Libri VIII., priores ad obitum Laurentii de Medicis (Lugduni, 1561, in-4). He wrote with considerable elegance, judgment, and force, contradicting the assertions of the historian Paolo Giovio, who was a strong partisan of the Medicis, and displaying much animosity towards them.

This book aroused the ire of the powerful family of the Medicis, and was suppressed by public authority. Bruto encouraged the brave citizens of Florence to preserve inviolate the liberties of their republic, and to withstand all the attempts of the Medicis to deprive them of their rights.  On account of its prohibition the work is very rare, for the chiefs of the Florentines took care to buy all the copies which they could procure. In order to avoid the snares which the Medicis and other powerful Italian factions knew so well how to weave around those who were obnoxious to them—an assassin’s dagger or a poisoned cup was not then difficult to procure—Bruto was compelled to seek safety in flight, and wandered through various European countries, enduring great poverty and privations.  His exile continued until his death, which took place in Transylvania, A.D. 1593.

The Jesuit Isaac Joseph Berruyer was condemned by the Parliament of Paris in 1756 to be deposed from his office and to publicly retract his opinions expressed in his Histoire du Peuple de Dieu. The first part, consisting of seven volumes, 4to, appeared in Paris in 1728, the second in 1755, and the third in 1758. The work was censured by two Popes, Benedict XIV. and Clement XIII., as well as by the Sorbonne and the Parliament of Paris.  Berruyer seems to have had few admirers. He delighted to revel in the details of the loves of the patriarchs, the unbridled passion of Potiphar’s wife, the costume of Judith, her intercourse with Holophernes, and other subjects, the accounts of which his prurient fancy did not improve. His imaginative productions caused him many troubles. The Jesuits disavowed the work, and, as we have said, its author was deposed from his office.

The French ecclesiastical historian Louis Elias Dupin, born in 1657 and descended from a noble family in Normandy, was the author of the illustrious work La Bibliotheque Universelle des auteurs ecclesiastiques. Dupin was a learned doctor of the Sorbonne, and professor of the College of France; and he devoted most of his life to his immense work, which is a proof of his marvellous energy and industry. He gives an account of the lives of the writers, a catalogue of their works, with the dates when they were issued, and a criticism of their style and of the doctrines set forth therein. But the learned historian involved himself in controversy with the advocates of Papal supremacy by publishing a book, De Antiqua Ecclesiae disciplina, in which he defended with much zeal the liberty of the Gallican Church. He lived at the time when that Church was much agitated by the assumptions of Pope Clement XI., aided by the worthless Louis XIV., and by the resistance of the brave-hearted Jansenists to the famous Bull Unigenitus. For three years France was torn by these disputes. A large number of the bishops were opposed to the enforcing of this bull, and the first theological school in Europe, the Sorbonne, joined with them in resisting the tyranny of the Pope and the machinations of Madame de Maintenon.

Dupin took an active part with the other theologians of his school in opposing this Unigenitus, and wrote his book De Antiqua Ecclesiae disciplina in order to defend the Gallican Church from the tyranny of the Bishop of Rome. In this work he carefully distinguishes the universal Catholic Church from the Roman Church, and shows that the power of the Papacy was not founded on any warrant of Holy Scripture, nor on the judgments of the Fathers. He allows that the power of keys was given to St. Peter, but not to one man individually, but to the whole Church represented by him. The authority of the Pope extends not beyond certain fixed boundaries, and the temporal and civil power claimed by the Papacy is not conjoined to the spiritual power, and ought to be separated from it. This plain speaking did not commend itself to the occupier of the Papal throne, nor to his tool Louis XIV., who deprived Dupin of his professorship and banished him to Chatelleraut. Dupin’s last years were occupied with a correspondence with Archbishop Wake of Canterbury, who was endeavouring to devise a plan for the reunion of the Churches of France and England. Unhappily the supporters of the National Church of France were overpowered by the Ultramontane party; otherwise it might have been possible to carry out this project dear to the hearts of all who long for the unity of Christendom. Dupin died A.D. 1719.

A companion in misfortune was Noel Alexandre, a French ecclesiastical historian who lived at the same period and shared Dupin’s views with regard to the supremacy of the Pope. His work is entitled Natalis Alexandri Historia Ecclesiastica Veteris et Novi Testamenti, cum Dissertationibus historico-chronologicis et criticis (Parisiis, Dezallier, 1669, seu 1714, 8 tom en 7 vol. in-fol.). The results of his researches were not very favourable to the Court of Rome. The Inquisition examined and condemned the work. Its author was excommunicated by Innocent XI. in 1684. This sentence was subsequently removed, as we find our author Provincial of the Dominican Order in 1706; but having subscribed his name to the celebrated Cas de Conscience, together with forty other doctors of the Sorbonne, he was banished to Chatelleraut and deprived of his pension. He died in 1724.

Italian historians seem to have fared ill, and our next author, Peter Giannone, was no exception to the rule. He was born in 1676, and resided some time at Naples, following the profession of a lawyer. There he published in 1723 four volumes of his illustrious work entitled Dell’ Historia civile del Regno di Napoli, dopo l’origine sino ad re Carlo VI., da Messer P. Giannone (Napoli, Nicolo Naro, 1723, in-4), which, on account of certain strictures upon the temporal authority of the Pope, involved him in many troubles.

This remarkable work occupied the writer twenty years, and contains the result of much study and research, exposing with great boldness the usurpations of the Pope and his cardinals, and other ecclesiastical enormities, and revealing many obscure points with regard to the constitution, laws, and customs of the kingdom of Naples. He was aware of the great dangers which would threaten him, if he dared to publish this immortal work; but he bravely faced the cruel fate which awaited him, and verified the prophetic utterance of a friend, “You have placed on your head a crown of thorns, and of very sharp ones.”

This book created many difficulties between the King of Naples and the occupant of the Papal See, and its author was excommunicated and compelled to leave Naples, while his work was placed on the index of prohibited books. Giannone then led a wandering life for some time, and at length imagined that he had found a safe asylum at Venice. But his powerful enemies contrived that he should be expelled from the territory of the Venetian republic. Milan, Padua, Modena afforded him only temporary resting-places, and at last he betook himself to Geneva. There he began to write Vol. V. of his history. He was accosted one day by a certain nobleman, who professed great admiration of his writings, and was much interested in all that Giannone told him. His new friend invited him to dinner at a farmstead which was situated not far from Geneva, but just within the borders of the kingdom of Savoy. Fearing no treachery, Giannone accepted the invitation of his new friend, but the repast was not concluded before he was arrested by order of the King of Sardinia, conveyed to a prison, and then transferred to Rome. The fates of the poor captives in St. Angelo were very similar. In spite of a useless retractation of his “errors,” he was never released, and died in prison in 1758. His history was translated into French, and published in four volumes in 1742 at the Hague. Giannone’s work has furnished with weapons many of the adversaries of Papal dominion, and one Vernet collected all the passages in this book, so fatal to its author, which were hostile to the Pope, and many of his scathing criticisms and denunciations of abuses, and published the extracts under the title Anecdotes ecclesiastiques (The Hague, 1738).

The work of Giannone on the civil history of the kingdom of Naples excited Joseph Sanfelicius, of the order of the Jesuits, to reply to the arguments of the former relating to the temporal power of the Pope. This man, assuming the name of Eusebius Philopater, wrote in A.D. 1728 a fatal book upon the civil history of the kingdom of Naples, in which he attacked Giannone with the utmost vehemence, and heaped upon him every kind of disgraceful accusation and calumny. This work was first published secretly, and then sold openly by two booksellers, by whom it was disseminated into every part of Italy. It fell into the hands of the Regent, who summoned his council and inquired what action should be taken with regard to it. With one voice they decided against the book; its sale was prohibited, and its author banished.

A book entitled Histoire de la tyrannie et des exces dont se rendirent coupables les Habitans de Padoue dans la guerre qu’ils eurent avec ceux de Vicence, par Arlotto, notaire a Vicence, carries us back to the stormy period of the fourteenth century, when Italy was distracted by war, the great republics ever striving for the supremacy. Arlotto wrote an account of the cruelties of the people of Padua when they conquered Vicenza, who, in revenge, banished the author, confiscated his goods, and pronounced sentence of death on any one who presumed to read his work. Happily Vicenza succeeded in throwing off the yoke of Padua, and Arlotto recovered his possessions. This book was so severely suppressed that its author searched in vain for a copy in order that he might republish it, and only the title of his work is known.

Genoa too has its literary martyrs, amongst whom was Jacopo Bonfadio, a professor of philosophy at that city in 1545. He wrote Annales Genuendis, ab anno 1528 recuperatae libertatis usque ad annum 1550, libri quinque (Papiae, 1585, in-4). His truthful records aroused the animosity of the powerful Genoese families. The Dorias and the Adornos, the Spinolas and Fieschi, were not inclined to treat tenderly so daring a scribe, who presumed to censure their misdeeds. They proceeded to accuse the author of a crime which merited the punishment of death by burning. His friends procured for him the special favour that he should be beheaded before his body was burnt. The execution took place in 1561. The annals have been translated into Italian by Paschetti, and a new Latin edition was published at Brescia in 1747.

Books have sometimes been fatal, not only to authors, but to their posterity also; so it happened to the famous French historian De Thou, who wrote a valuable history of his own times (1553--1601), Historia sui temporis. [Footnote: The title of the edition of 1604 is Jacobi Augusti Thuani in suprema regni Gallici curia praesidis insulati, historiarum sui temporis (Parisiis Sonnius, Patisson, Drouart, in-fol.).] This great work was written in Latin in one hundred and thirty-eight books, and afterwards translated into French and published in sixteen volumes. The important offices which De Thou held, his intimate acquaintance with the purposes of the King and the intrigues of the French Court, the special embassies on which he was engaged, as well as his judicial mind and historical aptitude, his love of truth, his tolerance and respect for justice, his keen penetration and critical faculty, render his memoirs extremely valuable. In 1572 he accompanied the Italian ambassador to Italy; then he was engaged on a special mission to the Netherlands; for twenty-four years he was a member of the Parliament of Paris. Henry III. employed him on various missions to Germany, Italy, and to different provinces of his own country, and on the accession of Henry IV. he followed the fortunes of that monarch, and was one of the signatories of the Edict of Nantes. But his writings created enemies, and amongst them the most formidable was the mighty Richelieu, who disliked him because our author had not praised one of the ancestors of the powerful minister, and had been guilty of the unpardonable offence of not bestowing sufficient honour upon Richelieu himself. Such a slight was not to be forgiven, and when De Thou applied for the post of President of the Parliament of Paris from Louis XIII., the favourite took care that the post should be given to some one else, although it had been promised to our author by the late monarch. This disappointment and the continued opposition of Richelieu killed De Thou, who died in 1617. But the revenge of the minister was unsated. Frederick Augustus de Thou, the son of the historian, and formerly a protege of Richelieu, was condemned to death and executed. Enraged by the treatment which his father had received from the minister, he had turned against his former patron, and some imprudent letters to the Countess of Chevreuse, which fell into Richelieu’s hands, caused the undying animosity of the minister, and furnished a pretext for the punishment of his former friend, and the completion of his vengeance upon the author of Historia sui temporis. Casaubon declares that this history is the greatest work of its kind which had been published since the Annals of Livy. Chancellor Hardwicke is said to have been so fond of it as to have resigned his office and seals on purpose to read it. The book contains some matter which was written by Camden, and destined for his Elizabeth, but erased by order of the royal censor. Sir Robert Filmer, Camden’s friend, states that the English historian sent all that he was not suffered to print to his correspondent Thuanus, who printed it all faithfully in his annals without altering a word.

On the tomb of our next author stands the epitaph Urna capit cineres, nomen non orbe tenetur. This writer was Gilbert Genebrard, a French author of considerable learning, who maintained that the bishops should be elected by the clergy and people and not nominated by the king. His book, written at Avignon, is entitled De sacrarum electionum jure et necessitate ad Ecclesiae Gallicanae, redintegrationem, auctore G.  Genebrardo (Parisiis, Nivellius, 1593, in-8). The Parliament of Aix ordered the book to be burned, and its author banished from the kingdom and to suffer death if he attempted to return. He survived his sentence only one year, and died in the Burgundian monastery of Semur. He loved to declaim against princes and great men, and obscured his literary glory by his bitter invectives. One of his works is entitled Excommunication des Ecclesiastiques qui ont assiste au service divin avec Henri de Valois apres l’assassinat du Cardinal de Guise (1589, in-8). Certainly the judgment of posterity has not fulfilled the proud boast of his epitaph.

Joseph Audra, Professor of History at the College of Toulouse, composed a work for the benefit of his pupils entitled Abrege d’Histoire generale, par l’Abbe Audra (Toulouse, 1770), which was condemned, and deprived Audra of his professorship, and also of his life. He died from the chagrin and disappointment which his misfortunes caused.

The author of Memoires et Lettres de Madame de Maintenon (Amsterdam, 1755, 15 vols., in-12) found his subject a dangerous one, inasmuch as it conducted him to the Bastille, a very excellent reformatory for audacious scribes. Laurence Anglivielle de la Beaumelle, born in 1727, had previously visited that same house of correction on account of his political views expressed in Mes Pensees, published at Copenhagen in 1751. In his Memoires he attributed to the mistress-queen of Louis XIV.  sayings which she never uttered, and his style lacks the dignity and decency of true historical writings. Voltaire advised that La Beaumelle should be fettered together with a band of other literary opponents and sent to the galleys.

Among Spanish historians the name of John Mariana is illustrious. He was born at Talavera in 1537, and, in spite of certain misfortunes which befell him on account of his works, lived to the age of eighty-seven years. He was of the order of the Jesuits, studied at Rome and Paris, and then retired to the house of the Jesuits at Toledo, where he devoted himself to his writings. His most important work was his Historiae de rebus Hispaniae libri xxx., published at Toledo 1592-95. But the work which brought him into trouble was one entitled De Mutatione Monetae, which exposed the frauds of the ministers of the King of Spain with regard to the adulteration of the public money, and censured the negligence and laziness of Philip III., declaring that Spain had incurred great loss by the depreciation in the value of the current coin of the realm. This book aroused the indignation of the King, who ordered Mariana to be cast into prison. The Spanish historian certainly deserved this fate, not on account of the book which brought this punishment upon him, but on account of another work, entitled De Rege ac Regis institutione Libri iii. ad Philippum III., Hispaniae regem catholicum. Toleti, apud Petrum Rodericum, 1599, in-4. In this book Mariana propounded the hateful doctrine, generally ascribed to the Jesuits, that a king who was a tyrant and a heretic ought to be slain either by open violence or by secret plots. It is said that the reading of this book caused Ravaillac to commit his crime of assassinating Henry IV. of France, and that in consequence of this the book was burned at Paris in 1610 by order of the Parliament.

The historian of the Dutch war of 1672 endured much distress by reason of his truthfulness. This was John Baptist Primi, Count of Saint-Majole. His book was first published in Italian, and entitled Historia della guerra d’Olanda nell’ anno 1672 (In Parigi, 1682), and in the same year a French translation was issued. The author alludes to the discreditable Treaty of Dover, whereby Charles II., the Sovereign of England, became a pensioner of France, and basely agreed to desert his Dutch allies, whom he had promised to aid with all his resources. The exposure of this base business was not pleasing to the royal ears. Lord Preston, the English ambassador, applied to the Court for the censure of the author, who was immediately sent to the Bastille. His book was very vigorously suppressed, so that few copies exist of either the Italian or French versions.

Amongst historians we include one writer of biography, John Christopher Ruediger, who, under the name of Clarmundus, wrote a book De Vitis Clarissimorum in re Litteraria Vivorum. He discoursed pleasantly upon the fates of authors and their works, but unhappily incurred the displeasure of the powerful German family of Carpzov, which produced many learned theologians, lawyers, and philologists. The chief of this family was one Samuel Benedict Carpzov, who lived at Wittenberg, wrote several dissertations, and was accounted the Chrysostom of his age (1565-1624).  Ruediger in Part IX. of his work wrote the biography of this learned man, suppressing his good qualities and ascribing to him many bad ones, and did scant justice to the memory of so able a theologian. This so enraged the sons and other relations of the great man that they accused Ruediger of slander before the ecclesiastical court, and the luckless author was ordered to be beaten with rods, and to withdraw all the calumnies he had uttered against the renowned Carpzov. On account of his books Ruediger was imprisoned at Dresden, where he died.

Haudicquer, the unfortunate compiler of genealogies, was doomed to the galleys on account of the complaints of certain noble families who felt themselves aggrieved by his writings. His work was entitled La Nobiliaire de Picardie, contenant les Generalites d’Amiens, de Soissons, des pays reconquis, et partie de l’Election de Beauvais, le tout justifie conformement aux Jugemens rendus en faveur de la Province. Par Francois Haudicquer de Blancourt (Paris, 1693, in-4). Bearing ill-will to several illustrious families, he took the opportunity of vilifying and dishonouring them in his work by many false statements and patents, which so enraged them that they accomplished the destruction of the calumniating compiler. The book, in spite of his untrustworthiness, is sought after by curious book-lovers, as the copies of it are extremely rare, and few perfect.

It is usually hazardous to endeavour to alter one’s facts in order to support historical theories. This M. Francois de Rosieres, Archdeacon of Toul, discovered, who endeavoured to show in his history of Lorraine that the crown of France rightly belonged to that house. His book is entitled Stemmatum Lotharingiae et Barri ducum, Tomi VII., ab Antenore Trojano, ad Caroli III., ducis tempora, etc. (Parisiis, 1580, in-folio). The heroes of the Trojan war had a vast number of descendants all over Western Europe, if early genealogies are to be credited. But De Rosieres altered and transposed many ancient charters and royal patents, in order to support his theory with regard to the sovereignty of the House of Lorraine. His false documents were proved to have been forged by the author. The anger of the French was aroused. He was compelled to sue for pardon before Henry III.; his book was proscribed and burnt; but for the protection of the House of Guise, he would have shared the fate of his book, and was condemned to imprisonment in the Bastille.

The learned Swedish historian Rudbeck may perhaps be included in our list of ill-fated authors, although his death was not brought about by the machinations of his foes. He wrote a great work on the origin, antiquities, and history of Sweden, but soon after its completion he witnessed the destruction of his book in the great fire of Upsal in 1702.  The disappointment caused by the loss of his work was so great that he died the same year.

Rudbeck is not the only author who so loved his work that he died broken-hearted when deprived of his treasure. A great scholar of the fifteenth century, one Anthony Urseus, who lived at Forli, had just finished a great work, when unhappily he left a lighted lamp in his study during his absence. The fatal flame soon enveloped his books and papers, and the poor author on his return went mad, beating his head against the door of his palace, and raving blasphemous words. In vain his friends tried to comfort him, and the poor man wandered away into the woods, his mind utterly distraught by the enormity of his loss.

Few authors have the bravery, the energy, and amazing perseverance of Carlyle, who, when his French Revolution had been burned by the thoughtlessness of his friend’s servant, could calmly return to fight his battle over again, and reproduce the MS. of that immortal work of which hard fate had cruelly deprived him.





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