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considered, possess greater variety, are more strongly modified by the genius of successive ages, or are more influenced by the personal character of the reigning sovereign. Yet, in all times, to the Roman Catholic the dazzling halo of sanctity, to the Protestant the thick darkness which has gathered round the pontifical tiara, has obscured the peculiar and distinctive lineaments of the Gregories, and Innocents, and Alexanders. As a whole, the Papal history has been by no means deeply studied, or distinctly understood ; in no country has the modern spiritual empire of Rome found its Livy or its Polybius; no masterly hand has traced the changes in its political relations to the rest of Europe from the real date of its temporal power, its alliance with the Frankish monarchs—nor the vicissitudes of its fortunes during its long struggle for supremacy. Almost at the same time the slave of the turbulent barons of Romagna, or of the ferocious populace of the city, and the powerful protector of the freedom of the young Italian republics—the unwearied and at length victorious antagonist of the German emperors—the dictator of transalpine Europe ;-now an exile from the imperial and Holy City, yet in exile swaying the destinies of kingdoms-triumphing even over its own civil dissensions, and concentrating its power, after it had been split asunder by schisms almost of centuries, not merely unenfeebled, but apparently with increased energy and ambition : -no subject would offer a more imposing or more noble theme for a great historian than that of the Papacy; none would demand higher qualifications—the most laborious inquiry, the most profound knowledge of human nature, the most vivid and picturesque powers of description, the most dignified superiority to all the prepossessions of age, of country, and of creed.
Of all periods in the Papal history, none perhaps is less known to the ordinary reader, in this country at least, than that comprehended within the work of Mr. Ranke, the centuries which immediately followed the Reformation. Just about the time of that great ara in the religious and civil
history of mankind, the reign of Charles V., the extraordinary characters of the ruling pontiffs, and the prominent part which they took in the affairs of Europe, have familiarized the least diligent readers of history with the names and the acts of Alexander VI., of Julius II., and of Leo X. The late Mr. Roscoe's life of the latter pontiff, though, from its feebler and less finished execution, it disappointed the expectations raised by that of Lorenzo de' Medici, filled up some part of this great chasm in our history. But, after the Protestant nations of Europe had seceded from the dominion of Rome, they seem to have taken no great interest in the state of the Papacy; they cared not to inquire by what hands the thunders of the Vatican were wielded, now that they were beyond their sphere: so that they scarcely perceived the effects of the Reformation itself upon the Papal system, the secret revolution in the court of Rome and in the whole of its policy, the different relation assumed by the Papal power towards that part of Europe which still acknowledged its authority.
This extraordinary fact, of the silent retirement of the Papal power almost entirely within its ecclesiastical functions ; the complete subordination of the temporal interests of the Pope, as an Italian prince, to those of his spiritual supremacy ; the renovation of the Papal energy in its contracted dominion over Southern Europe and its foreign possessions ; its confirmed and consolidated power in the countries which had not rejected its supremacy, from the higher personal character of the pontiffs, who, from this time, if darkened, to our judgement, by the varying shades of bigotry, were invariably men of high moral character, and of earnest and serious piety; the extension of its influence by the activity of the Religious Orders, more particularly the new institution of the Jesuits; the assumption of the general education of the people by this most skilfully organized and sagaciously administered community ;—these subjects have been first placed in a clear and attractive point of view by Professor Ranke. If we should find a fault in the history before us, it would be that on which
we are most rarely called upon to animadvert, especially in German writers. Brevity is an offence against which our statutes are seldom put in force. Still where the author has made such laborious and extensive researches, and where his subject possesses so much inherent interest, we could have wished at times that he was less rapid, concise, and compressed -we could have borne greater fulness of development, a more detailed exposition of the course of events, and of the motives of the influential agents—more of the life and circumstance of history. In many parts the present reads like a bold and vigorous outline for a larger work. But, having exhausted our critical fastidiousness on this point, we have only the more gratifying duty of expressing our high estimate of the value of the present volume, and our confident reliance on the brilliant promise of those which are to follow. To the high qualifications of profound research, careful accuracy, great fairness and candour, with a constant reference to the genius and spirit of each successive age, common to the historians of Germany, Mr. Ranke adds the charm of a singularly lucid, terse, and agreeable style. We do not scruple to risk our judgement on this point, which it is sometimes thought presumptuous in any one but a native to pronounce; as we are inclined to think, that for an historical style, which, above all others, demands fluency, vivacity, and perspicuity, there can be no testimony more valuable than the pleasure and facility with which it is read by foreigners.
Mr. Ranke is, we believe, the colleague of Mr. von Raumer in the historical department at the University of Berlin; and there can be no better proof of the wisdom with which the higher as well as the lower system of Prussiam education is conducted, than the selection, or indeed the command, of two such men as connected with this distinguished province of public instruction.
Before we enter on the consideration of Mr. Ranke's history, it is right to give some account of his labours in searching out original sources of information, in order that we may justly
appreciate the diligence of the writer, and the authority of his statements. We are the more anxious to do this, because the Professor seems to have derived great advantage from collections, the existence of which, at least to the extent and value described in his preface, is little suspected. Having exhausted the archives of Berlin, Mr. Ranke proceeded to Vienna. Vienna has long been a great centre of European politics. Besides the relations of Austria with Germany—from her connections with Spain, with Belgium, with Lombardy, and with Rome, the Imperial archives have been constantly accumulating their treasures of public documents. The court of Vienna has for a long time had a passion for collecting, amassing, and arranging such papers. The Court Library (Hof-Bibliothek) has been enriched by many important volumes from Modena, and the “invaluable' Foscarini manuscripts from Venice—the collections of the Doge Marco Foscarini for the continuation of the Italian Chronicles--and a very valuable collection made by Prince Eugene. The Imperial Archives are still richer ; the greater part of the treasures which belonged to Venice have been restored to that city, but there is still a vast stock of papers relating to the history of Venice, original despatches, extracts from the customs of the state, called Rubricaria ; narratives, of some of which no other copy is known to exist; lists of state-officers, chronicles, and diaries. The archives of Vienna were of great value in illustrating the pontificates of Gregory XIII. and Sixtus V. Mr. Ranke's researches were next directed to the Venetian libraries. That of St. Mark is not only valuable for its own proper wealth, but as having received in latter days the wrecks of many old private collections. This last is the department which has been first discovered and explored by Mr. Ranke. Both at Venice and at Rome the nobility took a pride in the collection of familypapers, which, of course, are constantly interwoven with public affairs. In Venice, the great houses almost always possessed a cabinet of manuscripts attached to their libraries ; some of these still remain, many were dispersed at the downfall of the
Republic in 1797. At Rome, the great houses, almost invariably the descendants of the Papal families, the Barberinis, the Chigis, the Altieris, the Corsinis, the Albanis, have preserved vast collections relating to the period of their power and splendour. Mr. Ranke describes the importance of these documents as not inferior to those of the Vatican. The free and liberal access to these collections compensated to him for the somewhat restricted use of the Vatican treasures, imposed partly, it should seem, by some mere personal jealousy on the part of Monsignor Maio, the librarian, and partly from the natural reluctance to open at once all the secrets of that mysterions treasure-house to a foreigner and a Protestant. Mr. Ranke, however, observes with some justice on the impolicy of this concealment at the present day, as inquiry can scarcely bring to light things worse than suspicion, thus awakened, will imagine, or than the world is inclined to believe.
The present work, professing to be the History of the Popes during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, properly commences with the two last years of the pontificate of Alexander VI. The prefatory chapters trace with rapidity, but with skill, the development of the Papal power from the establishment of Christianity. Already, before the opening of the sixteenth century, some ominous signs of resistance had menaced the universal autocracy established by Hildebrand and Innocent III. The national spirit in many countries had asserted its independence. In France, in England, in Germany, even in Spain and Portugal, a strong reluctance to the interference of the Papacy in the nomination to the most opulent benefices, and to the grinding taxation of the court of Rome, began to betray itself; and the nation, as represented by its parliament or its nobles, had invariably supported the rebellious sovereign in his struggles against the ecclesiastical despotism. Towards the close of the fifteenth century, new objects of ambition opened upon the minds of the pontiffs. The nepotism, which had hitherto been contented with the accumulation of ecclesiastical benefices, and the spoils of the tributary kingdoms,