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ART. VI.-1. Aus Vier Jahrhunderten. Mittheilungen aus dem Haupt-Staatsarchive zu Dresden, von (Out of four Centuries. Selections from the Chief State Archives at Dresden. By) Dr. KARL VON WEBER, Ministerialrath, Director des Haupt-Staatsarchives. Two volumes. Leipzig: 1857. 2. Aus Vier Jahrhunderten, &c. &c. Neue Folge. 1861. THE author of this compilation is one of those zealous public functionaries whom it would be both cruel and impolitic to check by Talleyrand's famous injunction against zeal. Public loss as well as private mortification would be the result. Instead of dozing over the miscellaneous and multitudinous heaps of parchments and papers confided to him in 1849 as Director of the State Archives of Saxony, or pocketing occasional fees for extracts, Dr. Karl von Weber set about examining and selecting from them; and from the description he gives of his treasures we should say that few antiquarians have undertaken a more appalling task.
The State Record-office of Dresden, established in 1834, contains (he tells us) besides a great number of original records, about 300,000 reports or documents (Actenstücke) out of the repositories of more than fifty dissolved or expired provincial jurisdictions, commissions, embassies, &c. It also possesses an inexhaustible mine for history, in the shape of letters to and from members of the ruling family, high officials, and other influential persons. If, for example, in earlier times there died any one directly or indirectly connected with the local or central administration, it was customary to despatch a commissary to the house of mourning, to take possession of all writings belonging to the State; and if he chanced to be of an anxious turn of mind, he laid hands on all the written paper that met his eye. The sorting and sifting were postponed, or reserved for some superior, by whom the papers were commonly laid aside and forgotten. The State Office has inherited in this fashion a vast quantity of private papers, unpaid tailors' bills inclusive, 'which are now only fit for the paper mill; but mixed up with them have frequently been found interesting letters and confidential communications concerning events which were 'kept strictly secret in their day, many which were not even 'trusted to official reports necessarily circulating through many hands.' A tailor's bill, paid or unpaid, may be turned to good account by a biographer; witness the curious illustration of
the circumstances and habits of Goldsmith drawn by Mr. Forster from the bills of Filby of Fetter Lane, the maker of the famous peach-coloured coat; and many of Lord Macaulay's most striking remarks on characters and events are based on scraps and remnants, which a writer of less discernment would have passed unnoticed on a stall.
When Dr. Weber had completed his selection of materials, the next step was to compound them into a book, 'at the earnest ' request of friends.' The encouragement given to the first specimen naturally led to a second; and the result is a collection which may often be consulted with advantage, whether the object be to verify a disputed point in history, to throw light on manners, to gratify a taste for the wonderful, or to find new proofs of the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction.
It matters little with which volume or class of subjects we begin. Extracting at random from such a book is like dipping into the kettle of Camacho. The ladle is pretty sure to contain something racy and appetising. We alight, for example, on an article headed A Journey to Milan in 1571;' an expedition set on foot by Augustus Elector of Saxony, with the laudable object of promoting industrial enterprise. With this view Bartholomew Rabozot and Jacob Dunus, natives of Ticino, were commissioned to institute such inquiries and make such purchases in Italy as might facilitate the establishment of the silk and velvet manufactures in Saxony. The sum to be laid out by them was 5000 florins, with which they purchased thirty-five horses at Frankfort, expecting to realise a handsome profit by reselling them in the South. Unfortunately they got no further than Milan, where religious bigotry put a decisive stop to all hopes of international barter; Milan being at that time an appanage of the Spanish crown with a cardinal for governor. Rabozot, who, on his arrival, was more afraid of horsestealers than priests, was reposing booted and spurred in the stable with his stud, when he was suddenly roused at midnight and carried off to a place of confinement with six of his grooms. Early the next morning he was brought before the cardinal-governor, who handed him over to the tender mercies of the Holy Office. After lying forty-eight hours in a dark cell, he was visited by the Inquisitor and examined as to some fifty heads of doctrine or belief, with a most unreasonable disregard to his own personal faith or means of knowledge. For example: What was the Elector of Saxony's religious creed? Was his highness a Lutheran heretic or not? whether he himself held that belief? to which last ques
tion he replied affirmatively. He was next asked whether he attended mass, and on his replying that he had his affairs to look after, they told him that, if he had traded ten years in their country and neglected the mass, he was a child of Satan. Whether he had brought any Lutheran letters or 'books with him?' 'No.' Whether he had eaten flesh at 'forbidden times?' 'No, for the very sufficient reason that no 'one there would give him any;' to which they rejoined that there were inn-keepers who would give him his crop-full of 'what he asked for.' Secondly, Whether he had spoken ill of 'the priests whom he had met in the streets or elsewhere?' 'No.' 'Whether he had thought evil of them? and what was his opinion of the mass?'
The last question was a poser, and he did his best to evade it by appealing to his former professions, but the inquisitors were not to be put off in this fashion, and they remanded him with the ominous warning that they would find a mode of getting what they wanted out of him. The next day they hung heavy weights on his feet, and told him he must confess or be torn in two, and especially declare whether he deemed the mass good or not. On being lifted from the ground he cried out that he must speak on compulsion, and said that, as to his opinion of the mass, he had never tried nor witnessed it, and therefore did not know whether it was good or bad. They then drew him up again, and the chief official gave him many hard words, to which he replied boldly: 'If we were 'alone together, you would not dare to talk thus, and although 'I am now in your power, and must suffer all you choose to 'inflict, the time may come when I shall be notably revenged.' 'By whom?' they scoffingly asked. 'By the Swiss?' They 'would take good care not to meddle. Who would put them'selves against the Pope and King Philip, who had upheld the Inquisition.' This last speech was accompanied by an indecent gesture of contempt. They kept him suspended in the air two hours longer, to the best of his reckoning, for he fainted and does not know when he was let down. He lay sixteen days in prison, much weakened by spitting of blood and fainting fits, before he was permitted to return to his hotel, from whence he at length managed, probably by the connivance of the authorities, to escape across the border and return to lay his complaint before the Elector.
After setting forth his pecuniary losses and bodily sufferings, he petitioned to be remunerated for the former in cash, and to be compensated for the latter by subjecting to the same mode of treatment which he had undergone at Milan, all Milanese
or others concerned in the affair who should be apprehended in Saxony or other parts of Germany. And he especially prays that, as Milanese may not be found in his Highness's dominions, letters might be addressed to the Palatine and Landgraves, requiring them, should the Milanese in question, most particularly certain Milanese horsedealers from Frankfort who were suspected of betraying him, pass through their States, to arrest them bodily with their goods and belongings. The Elector, after vainly trying to obtain satisfaction for his emissary by regular means, issued letters of mark and reprisal authorising Rabozot, should he meet with these or any other 'Milanese, to throw them into prison, so that Rabozot's bodily 'pains and many losses might be made good to him by them.' Whether he was fortunate enough to encounter them, or in what form he retaliated, is not stated in the record.
We are wont to laugh at the blundering indignation of the Irishman who knocked a man down in Covent Garden because he himself had been knocked down by another in Drury Lane; yet it is hardly a caricature of the received mode of obtaining redress for real or fancied injuries, over a large part of Europe little more than a century ago. The heirs of Urban Ulrich a Saxon had a claim of 600 florins on the town of Eisleben, which remained unpaid after repeated demands. Thereupon the Elector issued a command to the mayor of Leipzig to summon before him the burgesses and traders of Eisleben attending the Christmas fair, lay the matter in detail before them so that they might communicate it to their fellow townsmen, and notify to them that if the debt was not discharged by the ensuing Easter fair, disagreeable consequences might ensue. This intimation proving fruitless, the mayor, on the eve of the Easter fair, was further commissioned to take summary measures against the bodies, goods, and belongings of all Eislebeners whom he should encounter within or without the fair, and so compel payment of the debt.
It is a common belief that local and family feuds were carried to the highest and most mischievous pitch in Corsica, but Dr. Weber heaps case upon case to show that German revenge frequently led to results as disastrous and widespread as the vendetta; nor was the assumed privilege of private war confined to the noble or the great. Anthony Birnstiel, a carrier by trade, was indebted to Christopher Schnee, who, not choosing to rely on the uncertain and tedious process of the law, stopped Birnstiel's team in the highway and carried off the horses as a pledge. Failing, as he afterwards alleged, to obtain legal redress, although it is far from clear that he applied
for it, Birnstiel declared war against the entire township of Geyer in which Schnee lived as an ordinary member of the community, and repaired to the nearest district of Bohemia to levy troops. He there fell in with a countryman, a Saxon cattle-driver, who had just begun a similar feud with a Bohemian noble by burning down his farmhouses. With the co-operation of this ally, Birnstiel managed to get together a formidable band, with which, preceded by drums and trumpets, he marched across the borders and beleaguered Geyer so closely that no one could go in or out without being stopped and laid under contribution by his gang. The mayor or chief magistrate of the district earnestly pressed the Duke-not to punish the violators of the public peace, but-to bring about a conciliation between the parties, which Schnee declined under an apprehension that he might be compelled to make good the damage done and repay the money extorted by Birnstiel; so this system of organised robbery continued over a space of four years, namely from 1539 to 1543, when the record suddenly breaks off, and we are left in ignorance whether Birnstiel succeeded in his enterprise or was hanged.
The following narrative illustrates the wild notions that prevailed in one of the principal seats of the Reformed faith at a time, 1568, when we should have thought true religion had begun to exercise its healing influences. Salzman, judge (Richter) of Canitz, wished to marry his deceased wife's brother's daughter, which the German Consistory then deemed illegal and antichristian for reasons which a majority of the English bishops still think unanswerable. On the refusal of the parson of Thallwitz, the parish in which Canitz was situate, to bestow the marriage blessing, the lovesick and irritated judge formally proclaimed feud against the parson and all the villages and hamlets comprised in his cure. A band of supporters was easily got together, and the parishioners had no alternative but to keep watch and ward night and day to protect their persons and property from being burned by the magistrate. They contrived to take captive one of the most formidable of his retainers, Pegenau by name, a truculent-looking scoundrel, who could speak German, Bohemian, and a little Latin besides several provincial dialects, wore a hood and trunkhose of scarlet lined with green, which he could wear inside-out on occasions, and was famous for the murders and robberies he had committed, and the many pregnant women he had ripped up-the hands of unborn children being highly prized for amulets. This worthy readily proffered to turn king's evidence against another by whom he alleged he had been hired to shoot the