Originally published in Medievalia et Humanistica, New Series, Number 12 (1984), 187-200.
It has long been recognized that the literary movement we know today as Humanism was under attack around the year 1400. Yet a contemporary denigration of classical letters by one of the chief French humanists themselves has received little scholarly attention. The present essay examines the dispute in which this attack occurred and locates it in the broader historical context, in the hope of shedding some light upon this puzzling event.
Both the humanist critic of the classics, Laurent de Premierfait, and his interlocutor, Jean de Montreuil, were clerics and secretary - notaries. Both were French practitioners and proponents of the classical Latin style, whose popularity with this social class had recently spread throughout Italy through the efforts of Petrarch and his admirers. In 1405, the approximate date of the dispute at hand. Jean was probably a secretary in the service of Jean, Duc de Berry, upon whose behalf he had participated in an embassy to Germany two years earlier. Throughout the 1390s he had been active in establishing literary liaisons with like-minded secretaries at the papal court at Avignon, principal point of cultural contact between France and Italy. 1
Jean's reputation as a classicist appears to have been little regarded in his own day, but it was far otherwise with his fellow disputant. Laurent de Premierfait was well known in court circles in Paris as a translator of the Latin classics and the Italian humanists. 2 Laurent also composed classical poetry which at least one Italian humanist regarded highly, and he tended to share the "Italian" view of French letters first enunciated by Petrarch in the lapidary phrase "Poetae et rhetores extra Italiam non quaerantur." 3 How came it that this accomplished and recognized humanist should have dispraised humanist activity, while Jean de Montreuil, Laurent's inferior in classical learning, should have defended it?
The occasion for the dispute is set out in a subsequent letter by Jean to an unnamed friend: "Justinus, in the Epitome of Trogus, quoted ten (I believe) of the laws of Lycurgus, as I am sure is known to you through your assiduous studies. I recently arranged to have them put prominently on the porch of my home, at which opportunity Laurentius wrote reproaching me; see the enclosed copy." 4 An extraordinary zeal for classical culture had led Jean to have the pagan decalog carved above or around the door of his home. 5 Although Laurent's letter is not extant, Jean's reply preserves the essence of his critic's positions. Laurent's main points were two. First, Jean should turn from the classics to the study of Christian literature: "I thank you greatly both for the profound admonitions and also for your wholesome advice, since with these injunctions you call on me to turn from secular to divine letters" 6 and, second, that Jean's action was inconsistent with Christianity: "In persuading me, you call the laws of Lycurgus 'chiefly barren nonsense and worthless words,' because, as you add, 'Jesus and Lycurgus have nothing in common." 7
The burden of Jean's reply is that he can see no contradiction between classical and Christian thought and literature. He begins with praise for Laurent, declaring himself a grateful pupil (discipulus, 1.1) and Laurent his preceptore (1.2). He does not disagree with Laurent's suggestion that he study Christian literature, calling this advice profundis monitionibus and consiliis salubribus tuis (1.4). We may suspect Jean of distorting Laurent's meaning here, for the latter clearly counseled Jean to turn away from classical literature to Christian studies. It is significant that Jean praises Laurent's style by comparing it to that of Saint Peter and of Persius: "you call on me with words no less vehement than eloquent, so that even if it were Simon Peter or Persius, they would seem to add nothing." 8 If the whole point of Laurent's criticism seems to have been that Scripture (Saint Peter) and pagan Latin literature (Persius) cannot be compared, then the surely intentional effect of Jean's reply is not only to compare, but to equate them, at least with respect to eloquence (non minus vehementi quam altiloquo sermone, 1.6).
Jean carefully restricts the area of his disagreement with Laurent to the latter's radical rejection of Lycurgus. Laurent had called Lycurgus's words steriles nugas et inania verba (1.8). With this Jean must demur: "But in this matter -- if, with the master's permission, a poor scholar dare to mutter a word -- I am not with you, but disagree most strongly." 9
Jean emphasizes the similarities between classical philosophy (as embodied in the laws of Lycurgus) and Christian morality. Both Old and New Testaments urge one to live et civiliter et moraliter (1. 12). But such a life is exactly what the Spartans were famous for: "But that Lycurgus taught them to live in a civilized and moral manner (as has been said), and even to live well and blessedly, the customs and traditions of the Spartans have proven to the degree that, for their own time, I set no nation above them in authority." 10 He chides Laurent for condemning the Spartans along with their lawgiver, and closes the first part of the letter by reiterating how much he agrees with Laurent's praise for Christian literature: "aside, however, from your rich advice concerning the words of the Gospels and the Scriptures, which I embrace obediently with all my mind and in all respect; may I hold fast to them to the end of time." 11 In the second part Jean quotes at length from Cicero on the virtues of philosophy (11.31-45). But these virtues, Jean adds, are also among those required by the laws of Christ. He ends rhetorically: "Therefore go and, as a clergyman, preach that the law of Christ lacks these aforesaid things; an action which would be foolish even for a professor of philosophy." 12
Cicero might seem a strange authority to refer to in a debate with an opponent of classical literature. But this passage reflects important limits to the disagreements in this debate. At this very time Laurent de Premierfait was probably engaged in translating Cicero's philosophical essay "On Old Age" into French. 13 Jean was no doubt well aware of Laurent's interest in this author. At any rate, Laurent's own career as a humanist shows that he cannot have meant the words steriles nugas et inania verba literally. This is evidently an unusual kind of literary dispute, one which raises special problems. For if Laurent deliberately overstates his position for some reason, we may wonder how much of the disagreement between the two men is genuine and due to differences of opinion about the course of humanism, and how much is merely rhetorical exaggeration -- and for what purpose?
There is a clue in the fact that Jean included both Laurent's attack and his own reply in yet a third letter to another (unnamed) friend, one whom he had always found to be a good master of classical style: "in whom [Jean himself] you have heretofore roused the desire and for whom you have furnished a whetstone for more accomplished writing than you profitably recognize." 14 Jean expatiates upon his desire to find a more tranquil job somewhere. one in which his humanist accomplishments would be better appreciated: "You see, therefore, how little peace I have, writing now to you, now to him, now to another, and another, and another, and to the first again, so that, among the turbulence of the common affairs of this realm, where good and evil are reversed, I might find me any port; let the Provost [Jean himself, Provost of Lille] be strong in activity, since he can achieve nothing by ability." 15
Whatever the original occasion for the debate with Laurent, then, Jean used it sometime later as an illustration of his grammatical and dialectical skill which, he hoped, could be used by another humanist friend to find him a better secretarial post. Since Petrarch's day at least, admiration for and practice of humanistic style had been spread, through conscious campaigns on the part of humanists to advance their cause and their careers, through networks of like-minded friends. Recent research has shown that Jean de Montreuil and other early French humanists devoted much attention to forming such networks. 16 The history of the humanist movement prior to the debate at hand reveals why this was necessary. Humanism as a literary movement met with a great deal of resistance in certain quarters. Every Italian humanist of the fourteenth century was attacked for his devotion to pagan literature, and every one composed one or more defenses of his humanist pursuits. 17 It is not surprising that later humanists read, and attempted to improve and expand upon, the defenses of their predecessors. Jean's writings show that he had closely studied the most encyclopedic of these defenses, the fourteenth and fifteenth books of Boccaccio's Genealogies of the Pagan Gods. 18
Jean de Montreuil was involved in at least seven other literary debates with French and Italian humanists during his lifetime. In each of these debates one or more of the participants attacked some aspect of humanist literary practice, as Laurent does here. 19
The defense of classical studies was an urgent question for every humanist of the fourteenth century. If, at the turn of the century, the position of the Italian humanists was threatened, that of their French imitators was downright precarious. They needed to have convincing justifications and rationalizations clearly in mind, with which to fend off attacks upon the literary activity that was also the source of their livelihoods. Engaging in limited disputes with one another could help them polish and improve their eloquence; debating the merits of classical studies provided them with arguments that could help to arm them against attacks by the many genuine, determined detractors of pagan literature. Both of these aims are evident in jean's use of the documents of his debate with Laurent for job hunting." 20
We can now begin to see what kind of debate was involved. On the one hand, it was for literary exercise; it offered the humanist- secretaries an opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills. Jean de Montreuil used it to show off his eloquence, and sent it to some members of his humanist network in hopes of advancing his career on the basis of the Latin eloquence he showed in it. On the other hand, the topic for the dispute was of constant concern to all humanists, beset as they continually were by criticism of their activity. Laurent clearly exaggerated his position beyond what he could have really believed; while Jean's defense of displaying Lycurgus's laws at his door was both a vindication of the compatibility of classical philosophy with Christian morality -- hence a vindication of the study of that philosophy -- and a demonstration of Jean's stylistic mastery.
But was Laurent de Premierfait's criticism of Jean's enthusiasm for Lycurgus's laws merely a pretext necessary to launch the debate? Or did this criticism, however exaggerated for forensic purposes, nonetheless represent some genuine disagreement within the humanist camp? The answer might be sought from Jean's answer to Laurent, from what is known about Laurent's attitudes through his other writings, and from the similarity of Laurent's position in the debate with other criticisms of humanism.
In the final paragraph of his reply to Laurent, Jean avers that, for a man of the active life such as himself, religious matters need not occupy more than a certain amount of time. He does not feel compelled in the least to devote all his attention to them: "I will be perfectly content, Laurent, to chant the canonical hours at their appropriate time and to attend the customary ecclesiastical services"--i.e., to follow Church ritual suo tempore, at the time allotted to them. 21 He adds, with palpable irony, that Laurent is welcome to pray, read Scripture, even to fast, as much as he wants to: "But you shall pray, or contemplate the Apocalypse, the prophets, the lives of the Fathers, or the canticles, as much as you like, utterly neglecting your fields and flocks, and the threshing of your grain; indeed, if you please, the Provost [Jean] will not prevent you from abstaining from food and drink." 22
Too much devotion to religion and the Scriptures would force Laurent to "utterly neglect your fields and flocks, and the threshing of your grain" -- to give up his humanist pursuits (the two activities correspond to Eclogues and Georgics). Laurent felt there was a contradiction between Christianity and classical studies. Jean, in contrast, holds that each has its place, and for him, the place of religion was strictly circumscribed.
The significance of these views may be more fully appreciated by recalling the literary atmosphere of the decade around the year 1400. Most modern scholars, following Hans Baron, interpret the attacks on poetry in Italy of these years as a conservative reaction to the advance of a novel, secular concept of culture, during a time of both socio-political and spiritual upheaval. What this secular conception implied is illustrated best, for Baron, in a work almost exactly contemporary to the debate at hand. In his Contra Oblocutores er Detractores Poetarum (Against the Slanderers and Opponents of Poets) of about 1405, Francesco da Fiano made it clear that he considered classical literature to be the equal of Scripture in morality and its superior in eloquence. And this notion was present, at least implicitly, in humanism from its very inception. 23 Ever since Albertino Mussato first dared to suggest that classical poetry was a kind of theology in no way inferior to Christian theology, his argument had been taken up and, with varying degrees of boldness, elaborated by succeeding humanists such as Petrarch, Boccaccio, and Salutati. 24
The humanists' desire to equate the dignity of classical and Christian culture had long made humanism unpalatable to some intellectuals, and throughout the fourteenth century attacks on humanism appeared regularly. Many were composed by Dominican friars, influenced by Aquinas's denial that any work composed by human beings could validly be said to possess any but a literal sense. It seemed to follow that the study of any non-Christian poetry was sinful, since poetry lacking Christian truth in its literal sense could possess no other moral or allegorical sense. 25 For this reason fourteenth-century humanists were concerned above all to justify the adaptation of Biblical exegesis to pagan poetry. Along with Chaucer, they urged their critics: "Taketh the fruyt and let the chaf be stille"; behind the admittedly false letter of pagan poetry, they insisted, there lurked allegorical senses akin to those of Scripture, from which Christian truth could be extracted. 26
At the turn of the fifteenth century Italy was ravaged by civic wars and bands of soldier-brigands. while France was still suffering the devastation of the seemingly endless Hundred Years' War. More serious yet, the Great Schism had rent the fabric of Christendom in two and cast doubt upon its central institutions. Just as writers and painters in Italy had interpreted the advent of the Black Death fifty years earlier as evidence of a sharp growth in moral depravity, 27 so many churchmen, laymen. and princes saw in the wars and the Schism divine retribution for increasing immorality. The humanist movement was spreading rapidly, its advocates, of non-aristocratic origins, valued worldly fame and upward social mobility. Just as their rise accompanied a relative decline in the status of other groups, the humanists' admiration for the classics involved a relative devaluation. at least, of Christian writings and religious values. No wonder then that attacks upon poetry and humanism were especially numerous in the decade around the year 1400. 28
There is evidence of an anti-humanist reaction in Paris at about the same time, perhaps for similar reasons. In at least three letters Jean de Montreuil attests to the presence in Paris of detractors of humanist style; all three have been tentatively dated about this time. 29 In the "Quarrel of the Roman de la Rose" of 1399-1403, its humanist champions, Jean de Montreuil among them, advance in the Roman's favor all the arguments they and earlier humanists traditionally used to defend pagan poetry, for the basic issue was the same: to justify the study of a poem which, immoral in its literal sense, could be construed to possess supraliteral senses in which Christian values were reinforced. Christine de Pisan and jean Gerson, the Roman's critics, use arguments similar to those cited by earlier opponents of humanism. Gerson even denounces the study of Ovid. 30
Gerson, though a theologian and high church official at the time of the Quarrel of the Roman, had been a secretary in his youth. He had not only composed humanist poetry as well, but indeed had defended the classics before an audience of hostile clerics just a few years before this. 31 According to Hans Baron, even Salutati retreated to a more conservative position as compared to his younger followers at this same time:
Just as Salutati continued to cling to the medieval, prehumanistic aspects of Dante's thought, so he eventually drew near to Augustine's condemnation of the paganism implicit in the virtus Romana. This is a change which has been insufficiently emphasized, and even denied outright, by some students of Salutati; yet it is one of the keys to the enigma of the abundant contradictions in Salutati's writings. . . . Suspicion of the political heroes of antiquity, totally absent from the writings of his youth, colored his every approach to the ancient exempla especially during the last decade of his life, from 1396 to 1406 32
Chief among examples of what, in the immensely suggestive chapter of that title, Baron calls "the dangers of humanism" was the exaltation of worldly aspirations, fame, and glory so evident in the classics and increasingly apparent among the younger humanists as well. Respect for traditional religious values seemed increasingly absent from their writings. As a prime example, Baron cites Francesco's letter to Leonardo Bruni (of about 1415) about his uninspiring duties as a cleric:
In order to devote myself to the honor of my clerical profession, in which I enrolled so as not to be without food and clothing, I am obliged at matins, in the unbearable cold of the season and with shivering voice, to read, and sometimes to chant, the homilies of Bede, Origen, John Chrysostome, and Gregory. If the authors of these homilies be placed in comparison with the most lucid fertility of the admirable eloquence of the ancient bards and orators, even though they were saints, they would appear as dead coals, in the words of Dante Alighieri, the Florentine poet. 33
In this passage we can hear, though more boldly expressed, Jean de Montreuil's view that clerical duties should not be permitted to interfere with classical pursuits.
The "generation gap" that Baron thus discerns between older, more established humanists in Italy, like Salutati and the younger men, has been noted among the French humanists also. Nicholas de Clamanges was the foremost humanist of late fourteenth-century France, one to whom Jean de Montreuil constantly turned for advice in Latin style. Yet Jean was in a real sense a more single-minded cultivator of humanist trends than Nicolas, even though the splendidissimus stilus clemanginus (to use Jeans' words) far excelled Jean's own. Jean de Montreuil never expresses more traditional, less "humanistic" views, while Clamanges sometimes does. 34 We have seen that Laurent de Premierfait, in the debate over Lycurgus with Jean de Montreuil, did so as well.
The more prominent and senior humanists of these years seem to have shared one feature with the opponents of humanism: a sensitivity for the profound moral and religious issues underlying the literary discussions. Jean Gerson, Salutati, Clamanges and, in this instance, Laurent de Premierfait acknowledged the inherent moral dilemma in equating pagan and Christian literature. Such men as Francesco da Fiano and Jean de Montreuil appear not to have been equally alive to these questions; at least their extant works contain no suggestion that they grappled seriously with the contradictions in the position they advance with such vigor. No doubt this moral obtuseness would have further troubled the more accomplished, recognized, and prominent humanists, since it would appear, in the eyes of many, to vindicate some of the criticisms leveled by the outright opponents of humanism.
It is difficult to generalize about early French humanists because of the paucity of extant texts. Of them all, we possess a significant corpus of work only from Jean de Montreuil, Nicolas de Clamanges, and Laurent de Premierfait. We do know, however, that in France as in Italy all of the "vanguard" of humanism, those most wholeheartedly devoted to its propagation, were men whose jobs depended on their mastery of good Latin style. The "professional humanists" who were "completely identified with it" were the secretary-notaries. 35 Gerson began his career as one, but soon attained higher status in the Church and, with it, a more qualified, even critical view of pagan poetry. 36 When Laurent de Premierfait questioned the value of classical studies in his debate with Jean de Montreuil, then, he was voicing doubts previously expressed by other prominent humanists like himself.
The evidence suggests that the less highly-placed humanists, whose fortunes were still entirely dependent upon advancement in classical style, were the more unqualified and ardent in their support of secular, classical values. Jean de Montreuil certainly fits this description. Nicolas de Clamanges does not; as a papal secretary (of the Avignon Pope Benedict XIII) his position was established from an early date. Laurent de Premierfait was largely occupied with providing translations of the classics, with adaptations in a conventionally Christian, moralizing vein, for wealthy aristocratic or middle-class audiences. 37 His hesitation in adopting an attitude of uncritical enthusiasm toward humanism, as Jean de Montreuil did in the debate at hand, probably reflects some genuine ambivalence toward the pagan classics and their cultivation.
The debate between Laurent de Premierfait and Jean de Montreuil, therefore, in all likelihood reflects the real disagreement among humanists, in France as in Italy, over the degree of devotion to pagan culture that was consistent with Christian religious and moral standards. But it remained a disagreement among allies in a common cause. Laurent's letter was certainly not hostile in tone, or Jean de Montreuil could not have used it as he did to try to further his career. What was being questioned was not whether humanist studies should be pursued at all, but rather the limits that ought to be observed in the pursuit.
1. Ezio Ornato, editor of Jean de Montreuil's works, has published the only study of the debate, and dates it about 1405 from MS evidence; sec Ornato, Jean Muret et Ses Amis Nicolas de Clamanges et Jean de Montreuil (Geneva: Droz. 1969), p. 238, n.24; on Jean's service with the Duc de Berry, see p. 112. n.69. Previously Jean had apparently also served Louis, duc d'Orléans; see p. 97, and n.100. Back
2. On Laurent's translations, see Jacques Monfrin. "Humanisme ct traduction au moyen-âge," in L'Humanisme médiéval dans les Littératures Romanes du XIIe au XIVe siècles (Paris: Fourrier. 1964), pp. 217-46. esp. 233 ff.; R. H. Lucas, "Medieval French Translations of the Latin Classics to 1500," Speculum 45 (1970):225-53. He had previously been a secretary to Amadée de Saluces, an Avignon cardinal who appears to have avidly patronized the study of the classics: see references under Saluces in Ornato, Jean Muret, p. 277. On Laurent's life and career see the book by Alfred Coville cited in note 3: also, Patricia May Gathercole, "Fifteenth-century translation. The development of Laurent de Premierfait." MLQ 21 (1960): 365-90. Back
3. See Ornato, Jean ,Muret, p. 30, for praise in verse of Laurent's poetic skill by the Italian humanist Giovanni Moccia; for Laurent's sharing Petrarch's view of French poetry. see Ornato, "La prima fortuna del Petrarca in Francia," Studi Francesi 5 ( 1 96 1 ):2 1 4- ] 6. Laurent's importance in early French humanism was first signaled by H. Hauvette, Dc Laurentio de Primo Fato (Paris, 1903); a good summary of his literary career is in Alfred Coville, Gontier ct Pierre Col ct l'Humanisme en France au temps de Charles VI (Paris: Droz. 1934). pp. 175-86.Back
4. "Ligurgi e legibus leges credo decem excerpit Justinus in epythomate Trogi, prout tue sedulitati non ambigo notum esse: quas cum poni pro notabilibus in porticu domus nuperius ordinassem. huius occasione invexit in me Laurentius, prout est exemplum interclusum." Jean de Montreuil, Opera. Vol. I -- Parte Prima. Epistolario. Edizione critica, ed. Ezio Ornato (Turin: Giappichelli, 1963), No. 29, p. 42, 11. 1-4. Further citations in the text and notes of this essay to this edition will be followed by the letter and line numbers assigned by Ornato. This reference by Montreuil to a copy of Premierfait's letter (exemplum interclusum) surely indicates that an exchange of letters did take place, and thus the debate is not merely a fiction fabricated by Montreuil. Ornato, Jean Muret, pp. 233. 237-38, and 92, n.897, believes the debate was a real one. and notes that Montreuil frequently sent copies of debates he was involved in to other correspondents. Back
5. In porticu is vague; Ornato, Jean Muret, p. 233. translates "sur la facade de sa maison." Back
6. "Ego . . . de profundis monitionibus necnon consiliis salubribus tuis ingentes ago gratias, quibus siquidem preceptis a secularibus litteris ad divinas me revocas" (No. 30, p. 43. 11. 3-5).Back
7. "Precipue steriles nugas et inania verba Ligurgi ita vocas tu michi persuadens cum, ut subdis, Jhesu nichil sit commune Ligurgo" (No. 30, p. 43, 11. 7-9).Back
8. "[M]e revocas non minus vehementi quam altiloquo sermone, ut si Symon Petrus ipse foret aut Persius, nil addere viderentur" (No. 30. p. 43. 11. 5-7). Jean de Montreuil means that even Peter and Persius would not add anything, since Laurent is so eloquent.Back
9. "In quo, si pace magistri mutire audeat scolaris exiguus, non sum tecum, sed permaxime dissentio" (No. 30. p. 43, 11. 9-11). Back
10. "Sed quod Ligurgus civiliter et moraliter. ut dictum est. immo bene beateque vivere docuerit, Lacedemoniorum mores ac instituta hactenus demonstrarunt, quorum auctoritati pro tempore nullam prepono nationem" (No. 30, p. 43, 11. 16-19). Back
11. "[S]i dempsero tamen que de evangelicis et sacrosanctis sermonibus abunde suggeris; quequidem submissius tota mente ac tota veneratione complector, hereamque usque in consummationem seculi" (No. 30, p. 441 11. 25-27). Back
12. "1 ergo, et tu, tam canonicus, legem Christi hiis carere predicatis, predica; quod etiam Sophie professori minime sanum esset" (No. 30, p. 44. 11. 46-47).Back
13. See Lucas, "Medieval French Translations." p. 226 and n.102; Monfrin, "Humanisme," p. 233. Back
14. "[C]ui hactenus provocasti salivam et cotem ad eruditius scribendum prebuisti quam utiliter recogniscis" (No. 29, p. 43, 11. 10-12). Back
15. "Vides igitur, quam minime sim quietus scribere, nunc ad te, nunc ad hunc, nunc ad illum, illum ct illum, rursus ad illum maxime. ut inter hos turbinum fluctus communis rei huius regni, ubi fas versum atque nefas, portum michi quempiam inveniam, et qui nichil ex ingenio quit [sic]. exercitio valeret aliquid prepositus" (No. 29. p. 42, 11. 6-10). The prepositus is Jean himself, Provost of Lille (prepositus Insuli), who often refers to himself as such; cf. Ep. 152, p. 219, 1.25; Ep. 161, p. 230, 1. 90. Back
16. On Petrarch's campaign, see Giuseppe Billanovich. "Pietro Piccolo da Monteforte tra ii Petrarca e ii Boccaccio,"Medioevo e Rinascimento. Studi in Onore di Bruno Nardi(Florence: Sansoni. 1955), pp. 3-4; on that of the French humanists, see Ornato, Jean Muret, passim. Back
17. For a detailed discussion of those attacks, see Grover Carr Furr III, The Quarrel of the 'Roman de la Rose' and Fourteenth Century Humanism (Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1979), pp. 60-89, "Attacks upon Poetry on Grounds of Immorality." Back
18. Ornato, "Per la fortune del Boccaccio in Francia: una lettera di Jean de Montreuil," Studi Francesi 4 (1960):260-67. The letter itself is No. 102, pp. 142-44, in Ornato's edition. Back
19. Five of these debates are extensively discussed in Furr, pp. 289-396. Ornato's list in Jean Muret, p. 233, is incomplete and could be misleading, since his "polémiques" Nos. 1 and 2. and 3-5. really involve only two separate debates. For the other two of the seven disputes, see Furr, Quarrel, Appendix I, and Chaps. 1. 3, 5 . See also Furr. "France vs. Italy: French Literary Nationalism in 'Petrarch's Last Controversy' and a Humanist Literary Dispute of ca. 1395," Proceedings ol` the P.M.R. Conference, vol. 4 (Villanova, PA, 1979), pp. 115-125. Back
20. Petrarch's mastery of Latin style had made him so famous that for most of his life he served no master, twice rejected the offer of a Papal secretaryship, and was sought after by kings and princes. Coluccio Salutati rose to wealth and political power as Chancellor of Florence solely because of his eloquence. Nicolas de Clamanges, the most prominent of the early French humanists, became secretary of the University of Paris, then a longtime protege of the Avignon Pope Benedict XIII. See Ernest Hatch Wilkins, Life of Petrarch (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), pp. 62, 109-10, 180, 188-89. On Salutati, see Lauro Martines, The Social World of the Florentine Humanists, 1590-1460 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), pp. 105-108, 147-49. On Clamanges, see Ornato, Jean Muret, pp. 14 ff.; Furr, Quarrel, pp. 175 ff. Back
21. "Perquamsatis michi fuerit, Laurenti, horas suo tempore psallere canonicas et ecclesiasticis insistere obsequiis institutis" (No. 30, p. 44. 11. 49-51). Back
22. "Tu vero quoad voles, orabis, aut Apocalypsim contemplaberis prophetas vitasque patrum vel cantica, agros tuos et pecudes prorsus negligendo, ac avenarum excussionem tuarum; immo. si libuerit, esum pretermittes nil impedit prepositus atque potum" (No. 30. p. 44, 11. 52-56). Back
23. Hans Baron,The Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissancerev. ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966), pp. xxvi-xxvii, 8-11, 291-331; on Francesco da Fiano, pp. 300-314. Back
24. See Alfredo Galletti, "La 'ragione poetica' di Albertino Mussato ed i poeti-theologi," Scritti Varii di Erudizione e di Critica in onore di Rodo!fo Renier (Turin: Fratelli Bocca, 1912). pp. 331-59; Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), pp. 214 if, Robert Hollander. "Dante Theologus-Poeta," Dante Studies 94 (1976).91-136; Roland G. Witt, "Coluccio Salutati and the Conception of the Poeta Theologus in the Fourteenth Century," Renaissance Quarterly 30 (1977):540-42; Furr, Quarrel, pp. 61-64, 92-96. Back
25. See Aquinas, ST, I, i, 10; Quodlibeta, VII, a.16, quoted in Hollander, "Dante," p. 122, n.19; also see Henri de Lubac, Exégèse médiévale: Les Quatre Sens de l'Écriture, vol. 2, pt. 2 (Paris: Aubier, 1964), pp. 273 ff. Back
26. Robert Hollander, Allegory in Dante's 'Commedia' (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), pp. 15-23 and passim; Chaucer, Nun's Priest's Tale, 1. 3443; Furr, Quarrel, pp. 55-59 and 90-142, "The Defense of Allegory." Back
27. Millard Meiss, Painting in Florence and Siena After the Black Death (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951). Boccaccio gives the moral interpretation of the plague in the introduction to Day 1, Tale 1 of his Decameron. Back
28. About 1405 the Dominican monk Giovanni Dominici composed the Lucula noctis, a lengthy diatribe against Salutati and humanist defenses of poetry in general. About the same year Francesco da Fiano responded at length to unnamed detractors of poetry around the Papal court at Rome. While Salutati composed his response to Dominici, Leonardo Bruni translated St. Basil's Epistola ad nepotes de utilitate studii in libros gentilium, prefacing it with an introduction rebuking the critics of humanism. A few years earlier Cino Rinuccini, a merchant of Florence, had violently attacked the humanists in a work which survives only in an Italian translation.
Perhaps most dangerous, the Italian prince Carlo Malatesta had destroyed a statue of Venus in Mantua after his victory at Governolo (31 August 1397). This desecration of classical culture by a man who possessed an army to back up his critical judgments greatly disturbed the Italian humanists. At least four of them -- Salutati, Pellegrino Zambeccari, Jacopo da Fermo, and Pier Paolo Vergerio -- exchanged letters of concern.
On Dominici, see Edumund Hunt's introduction to his edition of the Lucula nocfis (Notre Dame: Notre Dame Univ. Press. 1940): on Fiano,see Baron. Crisis. pp. 300 ff. and Igino Taú's introduction to his edition. "Il 'Contra Oblocutores et Detractores Poetarum' di Francesco da Fiano," Archivio Italiano Per la Storia Della Pietà vol. 4 (1965). pp. 253-350. Salutati's unfinished reply to Dominici is in Francesco Novati. ed.. Epistolario di Coluccio Salutati (Rome: Instituto Storico Italiano, 1911). pp. 205-40. Rinuccini's work. "Invettiva contra a cierti caluniatori di Dante" is in Giovanni da Prato, II Paradiso degli Alberti: Ritrovi e Ragionamenti del 1389, ed. Alessandro Wesselofsky, vol. I. ii (Bologna, 1867). pp. 303-16, and is discussed in Baron. Crisis, pp. 286 ff.: Bruni's introduction to his translation is in Hans Baron, Leonardo Bruni. Aretino: Humanistisch-Philosophische Schriften(Leipzig and Berlin: Teubner, 1928), pp. 99-100. On Malatesta and the humanist reaction. see Taú. ed.. "Oblocutores et Detractores." p. 260. and Leonardo Smith, ed., Epistolario di Pier Paolo Vergerio (Rome. Tipografia del Senato. 1934). pp. 189-202. Back
29. Quoted in Ornato, Jean Muret p. 138.Back
30. See Furr, Quarrel, Chaps. 1. 2. 5. Gerson's attack on Ovid is in his "Traictie" against the Roman; see Eric Hicks, ed.. Le débat sur le Roman de la Rose: Edition critique, introduction. traductions, notes (Paris: Champion, 1977), pp. 76-77. Back
31. In August and September 1392: see Ornato, Jean Muret, pp. 148-51, and the texts quoted there. Back
32. Baron. Crisis, p. 113. Back
33. "Ut honestati clericalis mee professionis deserviam, cui ne victu vestituque caream asscriptus sum, cogor omelias et Bede. Orizenis. Johannis Crisostomi Gregoriique in matutinis non sine insupportabili algore seculi et tremula voce legere et quandoque cantare; qui, si cum lucidissima felicitate admirabilis eloquentie priscorum vatum et oratorum in comparationem ponantur, licet carum omeliarum autores sancti fuerunt, ut Danti Alditherij poete Florentini verbis utar, tibi carbones extincti viderentur." Quoted in Hans Baron. The Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissance, vol. 2 (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1955). p. 567, n.45. Back
34. See Dario Cecchetti. "L'elogio delle arti liberali nel prime Umanesimo francese," Studi Francesi 10 (1966):3. 5. 9. 11; Furr. "Quarrel." pp. 157 ff. discusses other evidence. Back
35. The phrases quoted are those of Jerrold Seigel, Rhetoric and Philosophy in Renaissance Humanism (Princeton: Princeton University) Press, 1968), p. 339: who notes this significant sociological fact in regard to the Italian humanists; Ornato shows it to be equally true for the early French humanists (Jean Muret). Back
36. See the poem by Gerson quoted and discussed by Gilbert Ouy, "Le thème du 'Taedium Scriptorum Gentilium' chez les humanistes, particulièrement en France, au début du XV' siècle," Cahiers de I'Association Internationale des Etudes Françaises 27 (1970).22-26; also the texts cited by Ornato, Jean Muret, p. 151, n.228. Even Gerson's earlier humanist work is rather traditionally religious in attitude; see Gilbert Ouy, "Gerson Emule de Pétrarque," Romania 88 (1967):180; Furr, Quarrel Chap. 3, discusses this issue. Back
37. Jacques Monfrin makes it clear that Laurent's translations were done for wealthy aristocratic patrons, rather than for a wider audience; see his article cited in note 2, and also Monfrin, "Traducteurs et leur public en France au moyen-âge," Journal des Savants January-March 1964, pp. 5-20. Ornato, "Per la fortuna," p. 261, n.5, says that Laurent never explicitly mentions Boccaccio's defense of poetry in Genealogie, XIV, although he certainly used it, and concludes that, for Laurent, Boccaccio's work probably represented only a learned, mythological encyclopedia; that is, Laurent's attitude toward the classics was quite traditional. In contrast, Jean de Montreuil quoted extensively from Genealogie, XIV; see note 18 of this essay. Back
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