Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/412
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
offensive turn, might serve as evidence of the faithfulness of his memory.
The fact is, that the reason of Galileo's taking up his pen again to treat a forbidden subject was not that he had forgotten the formal prohibition. He might have made answer, with great frankness, that, though he had been ordered to hold his peace, yet he had not been convinced, and that, after so many years of silence, the need of proclaiming the truth had more power over him than the fear of disobeying. But it was not for a mind so subtile, nor for a character so wary as that of Galileo, to be tied down to a categorical declaration, and so to shut every portal of escape. He chose rather to use evasions with his judges, to plead extenuating circumstances, to produce the impression that he might have misunderstood, but that he had not acted with evil intent and with his eyes open. Even while undergoing the first interrogatory, he was still in hopes of finding in the sovereign pontiff some remnant of friendship, or, at least, of good-will; and this was another reason why he made an evasive reply, and did not compromise himself by an explicit admission of his offenses. He appears to have believed, at this first session, that it would be possible for him to have a private interview with the holy father. Being questioned as to what had been said to him by Cardinal Bellarmin in 1616, he replied that some of the details of their conversation he could intrust only to the ear of the sovereign pontiff. This plainly was a request for an interview with Urban. His judges seemed not to understand him, or, if they carried his words to the holy father, they obtained from him no favorable answer; but, in the course of the trial, it became evident that Galileo could expect neither indulgence nor commiseration from his old friend.
All of Galileo's answers at the first interrogatory present the same character of ambiguity. On being asked whether, before he begged of Father Riccardi license to print his "Dialogues," he had informed the master of the Sacred Palace of his having previously been forbidden to treat certain subjects, his reply was that he had not mentioned that to Father Riccardi, "for he did not think it necessary to do so, having no scruples, nor having supported or defended in his book the opinion of the earth's motion and the stability of the sun." It is not altogether certain that, by thus altering the truth, Galileo chose the best line of defense; probably a little more of frankness would have served him better. He was simply trifling with his judges and taking them for fools, when he tried to make them believe that, in his "Dialogues," his purpose had been to demonstrate the "weakness and insufficiency " of Copernicus's arguments. The disguises in which the author clothes his thoughts fail to deceive the thoughtful reader. Throughout the work, the defender of Ptolemy's theory, Simplicio (in whom it has been wrongfully supposed that some of the traits of Urban VIII. may be found), is overthrown by his opponents'