Edinburgh Review/1883/Prowe's Life of Copernicus

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THE

EDINBURGH REVIEW,

OCTOBER, 1883.

No. CCCXXIV.

Art. I. -

  1. Nicolaus Coppernicus. Von Leopold Prowe. Erster Band: Das Leben. Berlin: 1883.
  2. Nicolai Copernici Torunensis De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium Libri sex. Warsaw: 1854.
  3. Nicolaus Coppernicus aus Thorn über die Kreisbewegungen der Weltkörper. Uebersetzt und mit Anmerkungen von Dr. C. L. Menzzer. Thorn: 1879.

The task which Dr. Prowe has successfully accomplished was one of no common difficulty. His undaunted industry and perseverance were heavily weighted by the lapse of time and the relentless progress of destruction. Since Nicholas Copernicus drew his last breath at Frauenburg, 340 years have gone by, not innocuously or in vain. Indeed, it seems as if an evil fate had from the first pursued the most authentic records of the life of that great man. The biographical narrative of his pupil Rheticus, written under his own eyes, and therefore absolutely trustworthy, perished, it might be said, at the birth ; one man alone is known to have read it, and his high estimate of its value serves but to quicken our regret at its disappearance. The loss was, in truth, an altogether irreparable one. No subsequent efforts have availed to supply or even to mitigate it. Of all those who stood near to Copernicus in his declining years, or were in a position to gather up the yet living traditions of his youth, not one except the young stranger from Wittenberg (and he in but fugitive fashion) took heed of the responsibilities towards unnumbered generations to come, which those facilities laid upon them. Yet the silence which covered his grave was not the silence of ignorance or indifference. Far and near, on the banks of the Tiber no less than on the banks of the Vistula, the name of the Prussian ecclesiastic was known and reverenced as that of the founder of a new and more sublime astronomy. In the Interests of posterity, it would have been better had it been otherwise. The modern biographers of Copernicus would be well content if the memorials of their hero had been suffered to lie embalmed in the secure dust of forgetfulness. But, by a singular fatality, zeal conspired with neglect to intercept the sources of information. Some, who could have spoken much that we would now very gladly hear, kept silence; others, in their eagerness to promote an already wide-spread and ever-growing reputation, served as the unconscious agents of a devastation especially malignant because deliberately selective.

The most prominent example of such unlucky though well- meant activity is afforded by Johannes Broscius, an astronomical professor of high reputation at the University of Cracow in the early part of the seventeenth century. In an evil hour he resolved to erect a literary monument to the memory of Copernicus, and undertook, in 1612, a journey to the scene of his life and labours in the Prussian province of Ermland for the purpose of collecting materials. The laudable end which he was known to have in view secured for him abundant opportunities, and he returned to Cracow laden with a rich booty of original documents, destined, as it was supposed, for immediate publication — destined rather, as it proved, to irretrievable destruction. Of the whole mass of invaluable papers which he had secured, two letters only saw the light; all the rest went the trackless ways of loss and ravage. Nor was this an isolated instance. Broscius and his fellows were succeeded by the armies of Gustavus Adolphus and the tenth and twelfth Charleses. But warlike pillage proved on the whole less deadly than learned curiosity. Many of the books and manuscripts carried off by the invaders are still safely preserved in Swedish libraries; others have been restored at the request of the Prussian Government; much, no doubt, has irrevocably disappeared.

It will thus be seen that the harvest which remained to be garnered by the labourers of recent times was a scanty and a scattered one. Indeed, it might be said that the sheaves of com were long ago borne out of sight — in large measure, alas! to be trampled under foot or cast into the fire — while only the niggardly gleanings neglected amidst the profusion of early plunder were left to recompense the patient diligence of late comers. The most conspicuous amongst these is the author of the work now in part before us. Some idea of the enormous amount of labour embodied in it may be gathered from the fact that its publication has been delayed ten years, and is still far from complete. Preparations were indeed being made for its production before the generation now in the prime of life had as yet assumed that ' muddy vesture ' so unconsciously put on, so reluctantly put off. In 1852, Dr. Prowe made a journey to Sweden for the express purpose of searching out Copernican relics, and was rewarded with many valuable and interesting discoveries. We are not aware over what length of previous time his studies in the same direction had extended, but it may be presumed that no novice in Copernican literature could have been led to take such a step, or would have been capable of profiting by the opportunities which it offered when taken. The expedition, at any rate, formed the starting- point for a series of essays on separate points in the life of the great astronomer, which prepared, and have been absorbed into, the exhaustive biography published a few months back. This, however, constitutes only the first volume of the work, albeit a volume consisting of two ' parts,' each a goodly tome of some 500 pages ; the second, if we apprehend the author's design rightly,[1] will comprise the few minor works and extant letters of Copernicus, together with a number of illustrative documents ; the third will be devoted to commentary and explanation ; the whole forming a worthy sequel to the centenary edition of the Copernican opus magnum issued at Thorn in 1873.

The biography, however, may be treated as a finished performance. Nothing has been excluded from it by which the personal history of its subject could be even remotely elucidated. Nor are we obliged to take a single statement on trust. A running commentary in the shape of foot-notes accompanies each page, setting forth the ipsissima verba of the authorities upon which the narrative is founded, together with an array of facts, arguments, and illustrative details of the highest value, but threatening at times to swamp and submerge the text in a flood of voluminous erudition. The book, indeed, is by no means one to tickle the palate of the epicure in reading, but requires for its enjoyment a good healthy appetite for knowledge, such as we fear is, at least m this country, under the influence of circulating libraries, a multifarious periodical literature, and what we may call potted learning in the form of popular abridgments, becoming daily rarer. Dr. Prowe's design was a widely different one from that of the meritorious writers who cater for the subscribers to Mudie's and the Grosvenor ; but on the execution of that design he is well entitled to congratulation. He has set before us a figure carved out of the granite of bare fact, neither polished up nor rounded off for the sake of pleasing effect, in the rough where details were wanting, set off by no showman's trickery, but impressive in the simplicity of unadorned truth.

The earliest biographer of Copernicus worthy the name was separated by an interval of above a hundred years in time, and of many hundred miles in space, from the life which he portrayed. Gassendi was, moreover, an astronomer writing of an astronomer, and it was inevitable that he should lean towards a scientific treatment of his subject. Indeed, the information at his disposal was of such a nature as to leave him no alternative. It referred almost exclusively to the contemplative function of the great man ; it passed by with slight notice his personal relations and practical activities. From Gassendi's biography was formed the mental image of Copernicus which has, during the last two centuries, occupied a more or less prominent place in every cultured mind. We have all in some dim fashion, pictured to ourselves a dark-browed ecclesiastic watching, amid the wintry mists of the Baltic, for glimpses of the wandering luminaries whose movements he had, in the course of long vigils, reduced to a marvellous and novel harmony ; thinking thoughts that were not those of other men ; heedless of, and unheeded by, the vulgar, the worldly, even, with few exceptions, the learned ; but the various capacities of politician, scholar, economist, physician, administrator, which m the real man accompanied, and at times over-shadowed, that of astronomer, were all but wholly ignored, and indeed have never until now been united into a complete, detailed, and authentic portrait.

This result has been achieved by the labours of many men extending over many decades. The field of enquiry was almost coextensive with Europe. The libraries and archives of Italy, Bohemia, Sweden, Prussia, and Poland, have all been examined, and have all yielded something to the search. Slowly and painfully, as the fruit of these toilsome enquiries, the true life of Copernicus has, at least partially, emerged from the shadow of four centuries. The simplicity of tradition is replaced by the complexity of actual existence. The four times nine years, during which the author held communion with his book, is perceived to have been not a span of unbroken leisure, but a period diversified by numerous avocations and distracted by urgent cares. Dr. Prowe's pages, in which the scattered items of information gleaned by his fellow-workers are collected and combined with data furnished by his original researches, bring us well within sight, if they do not admit us to the intimacy, of the astronomer of Frauenburg. We stand, it is true, too far off to hear the tones of his voice or feel the pressure of his hand; but we can watch him as he passes to and fro along the various paths of his life, with the satisfactory conviction that the figure before us is no legendary creation, but a being of flesh and blood like ourselves.

A powerful tendency of our time impels us to demand this species of intercourse with the past. We can no longer accept ideal presentments of historical personages. We want to see them in the working clothes of everyday life, or, better still, in the dressing-gown and slippers of familiar privacy, rather than in the stately robes in which early biographers thought it only decent to array their heroes for introduction to a respected and respectful posterity. Moreover, as regards Copernicus, this critical and realistic ' movement ' has been aided by another and an equally energetic sentiment.

The credit of having given birth to the modern Ptolemy was from the first claimed by both Germany and Poland. But it was not until 1807, when his bust by Schadow found a place in the Bavarian Walhalla, that the dispute can properly be said to have begun to rage. The challenge conveyed in marble was met with a counter-challenge in bronze. Thorwaldsen received from the Polish authorities a commission to execute a national monument, which, emphasised by the defiant inscription, 'Nicolao Copernico grata patria,' was solemnly unveiled at Warsaw, May 11, 1830. The dogs of war were now fairly let loose. Graven and moulded demonstrations were succeeded by the fiercer and sharper battle of pens. And the world of thought and letters has derived no small profit from the contest. Nothing quickens industry like a quarrel. No trouble, it is well known, can be too great if only an advantage can thereby be gained over an adversary. The ardour of enquiry was accordingly redoubled. Associations were set on foot, distant explorations were conducted, dusty archives ransacked, crabbed manuscripts deciphered, in part, no doubt, out of a natural and noble enthusiasm for a great name, but also in considerable measure for the sake of gratifying a childish national vanity. The purer zeal which tempered party spirit in some was, we readily admit, uncontaminated by it in others. But if its stimulus had been altogether wanting, the stream of Copernican research would assuredly have flowed in a more sluggish current. The admixture of vulgar motive may thus be freely pardoned for the sake of the gain secured through it. The question as to whether Copernicus was a German or a Pole is still far from being decided; it may be doubted whether it is capable of decision. The truth is, that argument on the subject is idle, because turning on the meaning of a word incapable of exact definition. In the eyes of the law, a man's nationality depends, at least primâ facie, on the place of his birth ; but in common parlance the idea signified by that much-abused term is a highly complex one, into which birth, parentage, and education enter in proportions varying with varying circumstances. It may indeed be stated without fear of contradiction that the earliest of modem astronomers was a Prussian ; but that statement is only the beginning of perplexities. For the term ' Prussia ' bore a widely different signification, both geographical and political, four centuries ago, from that which it conveys to our minds.

Then, as now, on the great Sarmatian plain stretching down to the Baltic, a Slav and a German power stood confronting each other. The kingdom of Poland and the Teutonic Order were, it is true, but puny representatives of the two great Northern empires of modern times ; but Europe still bears profound traces of their compacts and conflicts, their short friendship and long enmity, of the jostlings and swayings of the rival populations subject to them. Into this seething cauldron of incipient nationalities the lot of Copernicus was cast. Let us try to realise its conditions a little more distinctly.

The ' Teutonic Knights of St. Mary of Jerusalem ' made their first appearance on the banks of the Vistula in the year 1228. They had a great work before them, and they prospered in doing it. Hermann of Salza, their fourth Grand Master, had once declared that he would give an eye to be able to lead ten knights into the field. He lived to see two thousand ready to spring into the saddle at his word. It took them, however, rather more than half a century fully to subdue the heathen Prussian tribes who had long harried the Masovian fields with impunity, and to compact their land of moor and fen and forest into an independent state, subject to the exclusive sovereignty of the Order. The province of ' Prussia ' thus energetically won for the Gospel was not less energetically secured for civilisation. German immigrants thronged in, towns and villages were founded, and German burgher-life took root in the soil. Nobles who had come to aid in a sacred warfare remained to build castles and cultivate estates. Agriculture was promoted with a persistent zeal which still excites astonishment and admiration. A judicious system of drainage turned unprofitable marshes into waving meadows and smiling cornfields. Forests were eradicated ; low-lying lands protected against inundation ; sandy hillocks were planted with the vine,[2] and the exiled fruit of the South was persuaded to swell and sweeten under the reluctant rays of a northern sun ; bees were taught to labour disinterestedly ; even the sea yielded its precious tribute of amber, and its scarcely less precious tribute of herrings and sturgeon. The prosperitv of the Order culminated about the close of the fourteenth century. Its territory then extended from the mouth of the Oder to the Gulf of Finland ; its net revenue amounted to 800,000 Rhenish florins; 55 towns, 48 fortified castles, and numerous villages had sprung up on Prussian soil.

But its fall was already at hand. The spirit of its original foundation waned with the waxing of its fortunes. The straw pallet and bread and water of the first knights were replaced by luxurious living, and all the splendours that pride could devise or power compass. The white mantle and black cross gradually came to be associated no longer with heroic abnegation, but with insolent self-indulgence, not untainted with debauchery. The Galahads and Godfreys of the Order, in short, became few and fewer ; the Bois-Guilberts and De Bracys crept into the ascendant.

To internal degeneracy was added external disaster. The bloody defeat of Tannenberg in 1410 brought in its train all the circumstances which accompany and precipitate the fall of a State — financial collapse, disaffection of mercenaries, infatuated counsels, rejection of timely reform. Rebellion ensued, and was successful. The Prussian 'Bund,' in which cities and nobles for once sank their differences under the influence of a common detestation, invoked the aid of Poland in 1453. The resulting war lasted thirteen years, and cost the lives, it is said, of 350,000 men. It issued in a treaty signed at Thorn, October 19, 1466, according to the provisions of which the tract watered by the Vistula and its tributaries, thenceforward known as ' Royal ' or ' West Prussia,' became incorporated with the Polish kingdom, though retaining local independence; while for the eastward-lying remnant of its ancient possessions the Order was compelled to do homage to the triumphant Slav power.

In one of the earlier years of this long struggle, a merchant named Niklas Koppernigk [3] removed the seat of his business from Cracow to Thorn. His patronymic was of the local character ordinarily found in Poland. It indicated a migration, of his ancestors from the village of Kopirnik near Frankenstein in Silesia, and possibly also commemorated their early relations with certain then existent copper-mines, from the neighbourhood of which the village in question had derived its title. Nicholas was a well-to-do-man. He carried on mercantile transactions on a considerable scale in Dantzic and Breslau, as well as in Cracow and Thorn ; in 1458 he was admitted to the citizenship of his adopted town, and exercised judicial or assessorial functions there during nineteen years.[4] Although well advanced towards middle life when he left Cracow, he was still unmarried; but repaired the omission, some time previous to 1464, by taking to wife Barbara Watzelrode, a member of a distinguished family in which the highest civic dignities of Thorn had been hereditary for close upon a century. The youngest of four children — two sons and two daughters — born of this union, came into the world in an old house, of which the walls are still standings at the corner of St. Anne's Street and the Street of Bakers, on February 19, 1473, and was baptised by his father's name.

Thorn was at that time a thriving town of about 20,000 inhabitants. In aspect it appears to have remained substantially unchanged. It is even now enclosed by the ancient walls, and access is had to its quaint streets by the ancient gates ; only the busy suburbs have disappeared which, in the fifteenth century, formed the scene of its most active trades. Nevertheless, its prosperity was then already on the decline.

Founded in 1231 [5] by the Teutonic Knights, the com mercial capital of the new State quickly rose to importance. The hands of its merchants held for above one hundred years the threads of communication between central and western Europe. Its ships bore the produce of the Hungarian mines and the Sarmatian plains to the mouth of the Scheldt, and brought back Flemish cloths and Lisbon salt, wine and oil and fruits from the Souths spices and silks from the East. Contingents from Thorn joined the warlike expeditions of the Hanseatic League, and deputies from Thorn attended its councils ; it was not, in fact, until Dantzic, towards the close of the fourteenth century, began to assert the superiority of its maritime situation, that the ' Queen of the Vistula ' ceased to be regarded as the chief representative of Prussian civic existence.

Now Prussian civic existence bore, from the first, a purely German stamp. Although one half of the inhabitants of Thorn are said to have been of Slav origin,[6] they were mainly of the poorer sort, and were held in little account. The merchant-aristocracy of the town was Teutonic in speech and blood ; the municipal laws were framed on German models ; German (or Latin) was the language of courts, of councils, and of guilds. This Teutonic character was jealously maintained during three centuries and upwards of Polish sovereignty. From the epoch of its foundation within five miles of the Polish frontier until now. Thorn has in fact been as an outpost of the Fatherland in a strange country.

Our readers will by this time have perceived that the conflicting national pretensions o ownership in the reformer of astronomy afford a subject of debate as little likely to be speedily exhausted as the succession of the Khalifs or the purpose of the Great Pyramid. His father was a Pole, his mother a German, He was born in a town owing allegiance to the Polish crown, but clinging closely to its German privileges. He was, in a word, a German citizen, but a Polish subject. We shall see that a cosmopolitan education completed the mixed associations of his life.

His father died when he was ten years old, leaving him, with his elder brother Andrew, to the guardianship of his maternal uncle. The charge could not have been placed in more competent hands. Lucas Watzelrode was a man deeply imbued with the culture of his time. Before he was twenty-two he had studied at three universities, and at one of them had taken a doctor's degree. Nevertheless, unsatisfied with all that Cracow, Leipzic, and Prague could teach him, he sold a portion of his patrimony, and equipped himself with the proceeds for a journey across the Alps. He returned, after four years of study at Bologna, bringing with him the diploma of a doctor of canon law. The brilliant prospects which his acquirements, his family connexions, and his known abilities held out before him, were abundantly, and with little delay, realised. As Bishop of Ermland, he attained, February 19, 1489, to the highest temporal as well as spiritual dignity of his native land. His care for his orphaned nephews was active, untiring, and judicious. That they should be provided for in the Church was a matter of course. The utmost required by the public conscience of the time was that they should be suitably prepared to occupy positions of which the privileges were kept more fully in sight than the responsibilities. This duty Bishop Lucas discharged with truly paternal zeal.

Nicholas Copernicus matriculated at Cracow towards the close of the year 1491. The reputation of the ' Jagellonian University ' stood then at its highest. Students flocked to it from all parts of Germany as well as from Hungary and Sweden ; a thousand auditors daily thronged the lecture-halls in St. Anne's Street, where the 'Æneid,' the ' Georgics,' and the ' Metamorphoses ' already competed for favour with the more austere attractions of Boethius ' De Consolatione,' Aristotle ' De Animâ',' Donatus, Priscian, and Franciscus Niger. Nor did they compete with the arms of rhetoric and the charms of style alone. Swords were sharpened, and bludgeons weighted, for the attack and defence of the new learning lately imported from Italy by the vagrant humanists, Filippo Buonaccorsi (Callimachus) and Conrad Celtes ; national animosities added virulence to scholastic debates; and the ill-named Alley of Brothers was the frequent scene of bloody frays between the Hungarian students of ' De Ente et Essentiâ,' and the German admirers of the ' De Officiis ' and the 'De Amicitiâ.' In such excesses we may be sure that Copernicus was no participator. His serious and profound intelligence was incapable of admitting, scarcely even of comprehending, the extravagances of folly and of faction. He imbibed, it is true, a considerable share of that enthusiasm for classical antiquity which an ardent band of neo-pagan renovators had almost raised to the dignity of a new worship ; but it was a regulated enthusiasm, such as animates, without enslaving, thought.

Of far greater importance, however, for the future work of Copernicus than humanistic fervours or grammatical subtleties, were the scientific teachings of Albert Brudzewski. These, in the dearth of efficient mathematical training north of the Alps, formed at that period the chief glory and the most potent attraction of the Polish University. But the sole title to honour with posterity of the once famous professor is that the charm and distinctness of his method of imparting knowledge originated or confirmed the astronomical vocation of one illustrious pupil.

We learn with interest that Copernicus attained at this time some proficiency in the use of the pencil, as well as of the astrolabe and quadrant. Gassendi tells us [7] that he studied optics and ' perspective,' or drawing, and succeeded, with the help of a mirror, in making an excellent portrait of himself. This afterwards came into the possession of Tycho Brahe, and unluckily perished by fire at Uranienburg in 1597.

No degree was taken by him at Cracow. Dr. Prowe makes it appear highly probable that he quitted the university at the end of three years, whereas a residence of four was a sine quâ non for obtaining the baccalaureate. But those three years were not the least momentous, as they were perhaps amongst the most brilliant and hopeful, of his life. He made many friends ; his connexions were numerous and influential. Social pleasures and distinctions must have been abundantly at his command had he chosen to avail himself of them. Moreover, at Cracow (so far as the available information enables us to judge), his intellectual life first took shape and strength. Regiomontanus [8] was then the idol of the Northern schools of astronomy. His authority was held supreme. He had brought the science as near to perfection as the shortness of his dazzling career rendered possible. His name was held in honour second only to that which encompassed the unapproachable reputation of Ptolemy. Yet Regiomontanus did not seem to Copernicus to have spoken the last word concerning the science of the skies. Or, if he had, nature expressed herself in different language. The great question arose, was that language intelligible to the human mind, or must facts and their interpretations remain for ever fundamentally incongruous, held together in a strained and unnatural union? Copernicus believed that there was a truth of things as well as of words ; that not delusively, or in vain, had the world been delivered over to the contemplation of man ; and that the perplexing appearances presented by the heavenly bodies were no will-o'-the-wisp deceptions, but faithful indications of real facts, needing only to be sincerely expounded by simple, straightforward reasoning, apart from the crooked ways of prejudice.

With the germs at least of these thoughts in his mind, he left Cracow, as it would seem, in the autumn of the year 1494. He found his native town in a ferment of political excitement. The arrival of John Albert, the new Polish king, to receive the homage of his Prussian subjects, gave occasion to agitated debates and anxious negotiations, in which the nearest relatives of Copernicus were deeply engaged. Privileges had to be secured, jealousies appeased, the accumulated mutual distrust of years obliterated. That is to say, all this was desired, something of it was attempted, a very little accomplished. A modus vivendi was, however, arranged. The oath was taken, the king departed, and Thorn had leisure to reflect on another event highly disturbing to the equanimity of a mercantile community. Strange news had recently penetrated to the Baltic. It was said that a bold Genoese navigator had reached the Indies sailing west, and an uneasy apprehension as to the consequences began to gain ground among the thriving members of the Hansa. What if the ancient trade-routes came ere long to be deserted for the broad ocean-track leading to anew world? Could it reasonably be expected that the demand for dried fish and timber, for tar, ashes, and hemp from Northern seas and shores, would retain its briskness in Iberian markets flooded with the produce of an Eldorado, a land of Ophir, and an Araby the Blest in one? Many an earnest discussion on these and similar topics doubtless met the ears of Copernicus ; but very different must have been the meditations inspired to him by the intelligence of the marvellous voyage. The world was widened — to the imagination — indefinitely ; possibilities became more immediate, enterprise more hopeful. In the heavens, as well as on the earth, adventure might be attempted. The vast regions of space, navigated only by the shining craft of the skies, might prove not inaccessible to arduous thoughts, and the system of the sun and planets might, in its turn, find a Columbus.

An interval of two years broke the sequence of the young astronomer's academical studies. There is some reason to believe that he was waiting for an appointment secured somewhat more tardily than had been hopefully expected. In September, 1495, a vacancy occurred in the chapter of the diocese of Ermland. But it fell in a 'papal' month,[9] and Bishop Watzelrode's influence at Rome was insufficient to obtain the nomination for his nephew. Two years later, however, the incumbent was obliging enough to die in August, whereupon Nicholas Copernicus, at the age of twenty-four, attained the dignity, and was ensured the emoluments of Canon of Frauenburg.

He was by that time already in Italy. Of the influences which he there encountered we have spoken in an article designed to indicate the origin and trace the development of his cosmical ideas.[10] It suffices here to state the chief results of recent enquiries into his personal history and circumstances.

Copernicus entered the University of Bologna, as a student of canon law, at the opening of the winter term of 1496-7. The occurrence of his name in the annals of the 'Natio Germanorum'[11] must be regarded as a strong point in favour of the upholders of his Teutonic origin. Indeed, taken in connexion with his unquestioned use of German as his mother-tongue, it might — at least by impartial outsiders possessing intelligence of the ordinary blunt, though serviceable type — be fairly held to terminate the controversy. This, however, seems beyond hope. Controversies rarely die save of inanition. For adverse facts they not unfrequently prove to have the digestion of ostriches. And in the present instance, where common sense and technical argument might be said to be arrayed one against the other, it is plain that the view taken depends, in great measure, upon the natural bias of the mind.

The next that we hear of the brothers Copernicus (for Andrew followed, after the lapse of two years, in the steps of Nicholas) relates to their pecuniary difficulties. The expenses of even the most frugal life in Bologna were, according to the standard of that time, extremely high. And frugality was by no means the rule amongst the medley of tribes frequenting the professorial haunts in the Via San Mamolo. How far the two Prussian youths allowed themselves to be carried by the whirl of undisciplined existence around them we have no means of knowing, but it is certain that in the autumn of 1499 they were completely at the end of their resources,[12] and that their necessities were relieved by a loan of a hundred ducats, raised in Rome, at beggaring interest, on the security of their uncle's name. The transaction, however, was a strictly honourable one, and the money borrowed appears to have been promptly repaid. Holy Week of the Jubilee year found them both in Rome, and they were, no doubt, amongst the two hundred thousand who knelt in the piazza of St. Peter's to receive the Easter blessing of Alexander VI. Their stay lasted a full year. Nicholas himself informs us that he there, on November 6, 1500, observed an eclipse of the moon ; [13] and we learn from Rheticus that he lectured during the ensuing winter on mathematical (or astronomical) subjects before brilliant and crowded audiences.[14] The summer was consumed in a journey to Frauenburg for the purpose of obtaining from the Chapter (of which the elder brother became a member in 1499) leave to prolong their absence ; and on their return to Italy, Andrew proceeded once more to Rome, while Nicholas halted at Padua.

The ' University of the Ox' [15] was the classic school of medicine, and to medicine Copernicus had pledged himself to devote the years of study yet before him. The earlier canons against the practice of the healing art by ecclesiastics had, before then, fallen obsolete, or rather they had gradually become restricted to the surgical branch of the profession. The service of the altar, even the dignity of the episcopate, was no longer held incompatible with the skilled treatment of disease ; but no sacred office was permitted to be exercised by those whose hearts (it was supposed) were hardened by the familiar use of the knife and the cautery. Copernicus, however, although the holder of two benefices,[16] never became a priest ; and the remedies with which he was conversant were of the milder kind provided in the pharmacopoeia. Moreover, his application to astronomy peculiarly fitted him, according to the ideas prevalent in those days, for application to medicine. Planetary conjunctions, it was firmly believed, powerfully affected the action of drugs ; the occurrence and course of diseases were included in die horoscope of the patient ; each part of the body had its appropriate constellation ; the choice between potions, pills, and electuaries depended on the situation of the moon in the zodiac. Medical students were accordingly compelled to acquaint themselves with the science of the celestial revolutions ; and the physician might be regarded in Copernicus as the natural development of the astronomer.

His residence at Padua lay, until quite recently, under a cloud of uncertainty. The fact was asserted by Papadopoli [17] in 1726, and found a place in all subsequent biographies of Copernicus ; but the decorative particulars added by the historian of the Patavian university having been shown to be wholly incorrect, it seemed unreasonable to rely on his discredited authority for the fundamental circumstance. Fortunately, however, in this instance destructive criticism was corrected by further research. The discovery by Signor Cittadella, of Ferrara, in 1876, of the doctoral diploma of the illustrious foreigner, proves that the older statements corresponded with, though they somewhat distorted, the real state of the case. This document [18] lets us know that Nicholas Copernicus ' of Prussia,' having studied at Bologna and at Padua, was decorated with the ring and berretta of a doctor in canon law, on the last day of May, 1503, in the episcopal palace at Ferrara. That a student of three universities should have gone for his degree to a fourth, where he did not attend a single lecture, or enrol himself as the pupil of a single professor, appears sufficiently strange. It was, however, at that period by no means an unusual proceeding. The expenses of graduation, both at Bologna and Padua, were large, and its conditions arduous. Ferrara offered facilities in both respects, of which Copernicus did not disdain to avail himself. With the completion of his medical studies at Padua, his prolonged academical career was finally brought to a close. He recrossed the Alps, and left Italy, to visit it no more, in the summer of 1505.

A new and totally untried life now opened before Copernicus. He was thirty-two years of age, but his pursuits had hitherto been exclusively those of a student. The time had at length come for using the materials so carefully and copiously accumulated. His work in the world was about to begin.

He seems to have plunged straightway into the agitated politics of his native land. Long-forgotten records of the proceedings of certain local assemblages in the autumn months of 1505 and 1506 have given up his name as that of one sharing in their deliberations. But physicians were scarcer than politicians in those remote regions, and his uncle claimed both his services and his society. By a resolution of the Chapter, dated January 7, 1507, he was appointed permanent medical attendant on the bishop, and had already, it is tolerably certain, taken up his quarters at the episcopal residence.

The Castle of Heilsberg, still one of the most imposing relics of feudal times, was situated about forty-six miles from the cathedral-town of Frauenburg, in the heart of the diocese of Ermland. The undulating country by which it was surrounded was then richly wooded with oak and beech ; from the battlements the eye commanded a view of extensive forests varied by frequent sheets of standing water ; while the rivers Alle and Simser, which united to encompass the building with a kind of natural moat, cut their way between pleasant pastures, blue-green patches of flax, and fields waving with barley, rye, and oats. The lowering front of the walls, however, somewhat belied the peaceful aspect of their environment. And in truth the normal condition of the country was one of peril and disturbance.

The gloomy suggestions of the exterior were, however, replaced within by impressions of a totally different character. The fortress was transformed, as the grand entrance was left behind, into the palace of a mediæval prince. The open square, round which the edifice was built, was continually thronged with a motley crowd of ecclesiastics, pages, serving-men, jugglers, rope-dancers, bear-leaders ; its graceful Gothic arcades echoed the songs of wandering minstrels, the shrill jest of the court-fool, the stem command of the majordomo ; envoys hurried through it, big with important missions from the Court of Cracow, or the Chapter-house of Königsberg; vaivodes, castellans, burgomasters, deputies from the Prussian States, grave prebendaries dismounting from their palfreys, messengers spurring from the scene of the latest frontier-outrage, jostled with young noblemen in waiting, the lounging favourites of society, and with mendicants expecting their dole, its shrinking outcasts. Precisely at noon each day, the tolling of the great bell gave the signal to all the inmates of the castle to assemble for the midday meal under the groined and granite-pillared porticoes of the arcade. Then the doors of the episcopal apartments were flung open ; the castle mastiffs, just unloosed, rushed out, loudly baying their exultation in liberty and expectancy of food ; and the bishop, clad in full choir-costume, attended by vicar, chief justice, chaplain, marshal, and chamberlain, and followed by his guests and retainers in orderly procession, led the way across the courtyard to the grand banqueting-hall. There eight separate tables were spread, corresponding to eight different degrees of dignity;[19] for, from the mitred ruler himself to the lowest scullion in his kitchen, each had his ascertained place, fixed by ordinance and assigned by authority. It is curious to read that one of these eight tables was set apart for jugglers and buffoons, and was placed in a conspicuous position — in medio cœnaculi — so that the whole company might freely and equally enjoy the quaint antics, fantastic gestures, quips and sallies, with which these Prussian Touchstones and Wambas repaid the episcopal hospitality. A table was also provided for certain poor persons chosen daily by the bishop, and these were served at the same time with the highest dignitaries, while the attendants, in two relays, took their food later, the inferior menials waiting upon the superior, and being at last regaled with the ragged remnants of the feast.

Day after day, for six years, Copernicus formed part of the stately procession to the banqueting-hall of the Castle of Heilsberg. Day after day, too, he must have shared the anxieties which weighed heavily on its chief inmate. The position of the Bishop of Ermland was, at that juncture, a singularly anomalous and a singularly onerous one. Contradictory obligations were forced upon him, irreconcilable privileges conferred upon him. He was at once a Prince of the Empire and a vassal of Poland ; he was ex officio a member of the Polish Senate and virtual vicegerent of the Polish king in West Prussia; yet he was expected, as president of the assemblies of his native country, to give a voice to the sullen murmurs of Prussian discontent with the Polish Government, and to represent and organise the stirrings of Prussian resistance to Polish encroachments. By an arrangement conferring on them in perpetual possession one full third of the territory conquered by the Teutonic Knights, the Prussian bishops were, from the first, placed on the footing of temporal princes. Ermland was the largest of four Prussian dioceses erected on these terms in 1243, and Ihe only one which succeeded in preserving its independence. The Bishops of Ermland thus continued to rule a little State about the size of Lancashire as sovereign princes, though with a sovereignty limited in practice by the near neighbourhood and admitted suzerainty of the Order. Its mode of government remained unaffected by the Treaty of Thorn, save only that the paramount rights previously vested in the Grand Masters were transferred to the kings of Poland.

The political problem which presented itself for solution to Lucas Watzelrode was one which might have tasked the astuteness of a Mazarin or a Philip II. It was required of him to conciliate and hold in check three near neighbours, all mutually hostile, two of them powerful and ambitious, and the third restless and discontented. Of these the most imminently menacing was the Teutonic Order. From that once splendid and energetic body the old spirit had long ago departed. Its very existence was a standing sacrilege. Immorality and irreligion had deeply tainted the life-blood which once flowed bright with the vital spirit of ardent, austere, and chivalric devotion. Its removal or reform had become an urgent necessity ; but to speech neither of removal nor of reform would the Order itself listen. Its designs were of a widely different kind, and it seemed as if power would not be wanting for their execution. The interests and the honour of Germany were deeply involved in the maintenance of an institution which, even in its decay, was still an outwork of the German Empire, and offered a dignified provision to the lack-land scions of noble German houses. In reliance, accordingly, upon German promises of support, successive Grand Masters persistently refused the stipulated oath of fealty to Poland, and nothing less was dreamed of than the recovery of the province alienated by the disastrous Treaty of Thorn. A sullen and lowering peace was meantime a visible prelude to war, of which the first and surest victim must be the defenceless territory of Ermland.

Under these circumstances the bishop leaned upon Poland for protection against the still formidable power on the east. But by so doing he bitterly offended his neighbours on the west. Hatred of the Teutonic Order was, in all the three estates of West Prussia, being rapidly superseded by hatred of Poland. It was not that they detested their former masters lees, but that they detested their new rulers more. They did not repent having shaken off one yoke, but they had not bargained for finding it replaced by another. They began to discover that they had acted not unlike the horse in Æsop's fable, who consented to be bitted and mounted in order to secure the alliance of the man against his enemy the stag. The truth was that they had flattered themselves with the hope of receiving all and giving nothing in exchange. They had expected to reap all the advantages of union, while bearing none of its burdens. They had invoked the aid of a strong power ; they refused to pay the price which that power was certain, sooner or later, to exact. The articles of incorporation had been loosely drawn ; they were naturally interpreted in widely different senses by the two contracting parties. The Prussians clung passionately to the separate privileges secured by them ; the Poles insisted on the reality of the covenanted union. And on their side were time, force, and the natural assimilative power of a victorious nationality.

It is thus easily seen that Lucas Watzelrode's position was a delicate one. Nor were his qualities of the kind to enable him to steer his way prosperously in such dangerous waters. He was a strenuous rather than a successful politician. He had abundance of energy, but was deficient in suppleness and resource. The numerous and admirable designs, upon the formation of which he expended abilities of no common order, uniformly failed. And the uprightness of his intentions availed little to appease the wrath excited by his unacceptable proposals of reform.

Of the last disquieted years of his uncle's life, Copernicus was the almost inseparable companion. A contemporary poet, not unwilling to air a Virgilian allusion, compared their relations to those of Æneas and Achates; and a prevalent impression of intimacy and fidelity may very possibly be recorded by the trite illustration. They were, at any rate, seldom apart; not only dwelling together at Heilsberg, but travelling together to Elbing and Marienburg for meetings of the Prussian deputies, to Petrikau, Thorn, and Cracow on the occasions of Polish Diets, conferences, and royal solemnities. The prolongation of one of these numerous absences from February 22 to May 4, 1509, gave Copernicus the opportunity of sending to the recently founded press of Cracow a little work interesting chiefly fiom the circumstances of its appearance. It was the first translation from the Greek published in Sarmatian regions, and it was the only work of any kind which Copernicus voluntarily chose to publish. The Epistles of Theophylactus Simocatta, a late Byzantine writer, were used as a text-book in Italy from 1499, the year of their publication by Aldus. Copernicus seems to have read them with Codrus Urceus before leaving Bologna, and thought them worthy of being introduced to his countrymen in a Latin translation. Dr. Prowe gives us to understand that the Copernican version betrays more enthusiasm for Greek culture than proficiency in Greek scholarship; but it must be remembered (as our author hastens to point out) that the study was then in its infancy, and that the absence of modern facilities rendered shortcomings inevitable, even in men of high acquirements, which would not now be tolerated in the fifth form at Eton.

Three years later. King Sigismund of Poland celebrated his wedding-feast at Cracow, and the Bishop of Ermland was bidden to attend. His nephew was, as usual, in his train, but, for some unexplained reason, failed to accompany him on his return — a circumstance which he had reason to regret. For, soon after leaving Cracow, the bishop showed symptoms of illness, and, refusing to allow his journey to be interrupted, reached Thorn in aspect more like a corpse than a living man. The municipal physician was out of the way, no other medical aid was at hand, nor would it, we may be assured, have been of any avail, for the sickness was visibly unto death. Yet it must have been a bitter reflection to Copernicus that his post was found vacant just at the moment of the fatal surprise.

Lucas Watzelrode died three days after reaching his native town, March 29, 1512, at the age of sixty-four. He was a man to whom life presented itself in no festal guise. Seldom seen to smile, he lacked the arts whether to conciliate goodwill, or to appease malice; yet both were sorely needed under the arduous circumstances amidst which his lot was cast. The force of his mind, his clear discernment, unbending will, and indefatigable energy rendered him a formidable opponent; and he had no faculty of social endearment by which to soften the austere impressions of his uncompromising vigour and unhesitating love of justice. His life was accordingly pursued by malignant hatred, and softened by few affections. As an ecclesiastical ruler, he merits high praise for his earnestness in the reform of abuses,[20] and intrepidity in defence of the menaced liberties of his Church; and as a man of letters he was not unworthy to fill the see once occupied by Æneas Silvius Piccolomini.

Shortly after the death of his uncle, Copernicus resumed his place in the Chapter of Frauenburg. But here a fresh sorrow awaited him. His brother Andrew's early career had, as we have already in part seen, run strictly parallel with his own. They had been together at Cracow, at Bologna, at Rome ; they had obtained admittance to the same religious corporation, and together closed their years of study and travel. But, not long after their return from Italy, Andrew showed the first symptoms of a disease terribly familiar in medieval times, though in our part of the world now happily unknown. The number of leper hospitals in Europe in the thirteenth century was estimated by Matthew Paris at 19,000; religious orders were founded for the care of those afflicted with the loathsome malady, and their treatment was a prominent object of medical study. The disease had, however, before the close of the fifteenth century, ceased to be epidemic, and only kept alive the memory of its horrors by seizing upon an occasional victim. One of these was Andrew Copernicus. Few and dismal are the particulars known relative to the calamity by which he was overwhelmed. In 1508 he left Frauenburg to try the effect of southern air and southern skill. He returned only to encounter aggravated sufferings. In 1512 his infectious presence was dispensed with at the sittings of the Chapter. Whither he now carried his burden of misery is doubtful — probably once more to Italy — but it is certain that he finally laid it down some time between the years 1516 and 1519.

The life which Copernicus was henceforth to share with a score of other prebendaries at Frauenburg resembled a collegiate rather than an ecclesiastical one. It was learned, it was decorous, it was profitably occupied, but it was in little more than in name devoted to the service of religion. Here, as elsewhere, much of the laxity had crept in, which the stringent regulations of the Council of Trent were later directed to counteract. Very few of the canons were in priest's or even in deacon's orders; most of them (Copernicus, there is every reason to believe, amongst the number) had not passed beyond the preparatory stage of an acolyte. It can only occasion surprise to find so many admirable bishops — some of them still held in venerated memory — issuing from a body of men who were willing to take the wages, while reluctant to perform the work, of the Church.

The functions of the Chapter were largely administrative. Their domains constituted an imperium in imperio within the diocese. Indeed, the organisation of Ermland reminds us of nothing so much as of certain Chinese toys, which exhibit a seemingly endless succession of delicately wrought spheres, each contained within the other, and each perfect in itself. Out of the original territory of the Order a third had been carved to form the endowment of the bishop; out of the territory of the bishop a third was again carved to form the endowment of the Chapter. Moreover, to each canon was assigned an allodium, or manor, within the bounds of which, as well as in his household, he exercised jurisdiction, both criminal and civil; and like powers were freely delegated to feudal tenants. This complicated system — in which, however, some degree of unity was maintained by the reservation to the Chapter of the right of appeal — would seem, in defiance of theoretical objections, to have worked well. No complaints of misgovernment, at least, have become audible even to the attentive ears of modern enquirers.

An existence of no small dignity, some usefulness, and little trouble, was that led by a canon of Frauenburg in those days. His income was equivalent to about 450l. a year of our money. He had a convenient dwelling-place (curia) within the precincts of the cathedral, as well as a demesne in the country adjacent to it. His establishment consisted of at least two serving-men and three horses. His colleagues were men of good birth, superior education, and cultivated tastes, united not only by the pressure of corporate interests, but by the closer ties of kindred and fellow-citizenship. The Chapter, indeed, was so extensively recruited from mutually related families belonging to the mercantile aristocracies of Thorn and Dantzic, that it might almost be called a family coterie. Learning was held there in especial honour. Academical studies were not only encouraged, but required. A large proportion of the canons had taken degrees in Italy, and a minimum residence of three years at some university was obligatory upon all.

It was thus in no uncongenial atmosphere that Copernicus spent the last thirty years of his life. His amiable and earnest character won for him affection; his scientific attainments commanded admiration. He could, it is true, in his efforts towards the reform of astronomy, expect no competent assistance, and little technical understanding; but he was sure of intelligent sympathy. His labours must be solitary, but they would at least be respected.

As regards the progress of his thoughts on cosmical subjects, we can gather from his noble epistle to Pope Paul III., combined with a single remark of Rheticus, that he had no sooner begun to examine the contradictory teachings of the schools, and to compare them with what was visible in the skies, than he conceived a profound distrust of the prevalent systems. With ideas thus loosened from their foundations — animo liber, as Kepler said of him — he went to Italy, and there heard much of the so-called Pythagorean tenets as to the celestial revolutions. He resolved to examine for himself, unsealed the fount of rejuvenescent knowledge with the help of Codrus Urceus and the scanty Greek vocabulary of the monk Chrestonius, read eagerly, thought deeply, and at last, invoking antiquity against antiquity, Samos and Sicily against Alexandria, threw off the yoke which Ptolemy had imposed upon forty generations. The main lines of his immortal work were laid down at Heilsberg during the years 1506-12. The still more laborious task remained of testing the novel theory by comparison with observations, old and new, of patiently trying it with the facts it was designed to fit, of altering and amending where discrepancies became visible.

At Frauenburg, Copernicus may be said to have first begun systematically to note and record the places of the heavenly bodies. He chose for his observatory and abode a tower still pointed out to visitors as the ' curia Copernicana.'[21] It formed part of the fortifications by which the ecclesiastical citadel of Ermland was (as the event proved) not altogether ineffectually protected, and overlooked a spacious horizon to the north, south, and west. The Cathedral of Frauenburg stood on a gentle eminence close to the 'Frische Haff,' an extensive sheet of nearly fresh water, connected with the Baltic by a single narrow channel, and separated from it by a ridge of blown sand known as the 'Nehrung.' From a species of terrace adjacent to the 'Copernican tower,' the eye wandered undisturbed across the blue expanse of this species of inland sea (327 square miles in area) to the white dunes beyond, and, in clear weather, even to the azure line of the Baltic ; while on the landward side a faintly undulating plain stretched south as far as the eye could see, well wooded and watered, rich with cornfields and meadows, and enlivened by cheerful homesteads ; the view on the east side alone being interrupted by the rusty-red brick gable of the pinnacled cathedral. It was here that Copernicus set up his 'Triquetrum', [22] an instrument for taking the altitudes of the stars, constructed by himself, according to Ptolemaic precepts, of three strips of deal marked in ink with numerous divisions. Aided by this rude implement, which afforded, with the utmost care, a degree of accuracy at least 2,400 times inferior to that at the command of modern astronomers,[23] he effected the most complete and surprising scientific revolution known in the history of human progress.

It was soon discovered, however, that he possessed other gifts besides those needed for star-gazing, and that his clear judgment and strong sense could be made eminently useful in practical affairs. Nor does he seem to have raised any objection to the interruption of his studies. Whether from duty or inclination, services, of whatever kind they might be that were demanded of him, were no less cheerfully rendered than those of Clorinda to King Aladin : —

'Son pronta, imponi pur, ad ogni impresa ;
L'alte non temo, e l'umili non sdegno.'

Thus, he undertook and fulfilled, as 'administrator ' of the distant capitular domains of Allenstein and Mehlsack, duties of the most heterogeneous character. He was at once bailiff, military governor, judge in civil and criminal cases, of first instance and of appeal, tax-collector, vicar-general. Some records of his daily labours in the allotment of lands have been preserved, and show the minuteness of the details with which he was obliged to be conversant. The conditions of tenure in Ermland were various and complicated. The difficulties at the best of times attending their regulation were increased tenfold by the disturbed state of the country.

Albert, Margrave of Brandenburg-Anspach, became Grand Master of the Teutonic Order in 1511. He was young, he was resolute, he had powerful relatives, he came of a race conscious of, and bent upon, a future, and he was determined, by any means that came to hand, to rescue from an anomalous and intolerable position the body of which he had assumed the guidance. He accordingly looked round him in every direction for allies. The elastic quality of the Emperor Maximilian's pledges —

'Lunga promessa con l'attender corto ' —

became ere long discernible to him ; but he thought he could reckon on his cousin at Berlin, and even upon the Grand Duke at Moscow. From both he received encouragement, from neither efficient aid. It was precisely during the period of his most active warlike preparations, 1516-19, that the first residence of Copernicus at Schloss Allenstein fell.

The nominal peace which still prevailed was attended by all the inconveniences and by many of the worst horrors of open warfare. Communications were interrupted, trade was brought to a standstill, life and property were without safeguard. The ill-paid but well-mounted mercenaries of the Order swept in robber-raids over its borders, harrying, burning, devastating ; peasants fled in terror from their holdings ; customary services could no longer be exacted ; the ordinary conditions of peaceful country life were disturbed or destroyed. The heavy anxieties and responsibilities under these circumstances attending the situation of capitular delegate were borne by Copernicus without a murmur for no less than three years.

Scarcely had he been restored to his ordinary position in the Chapter, when war broke out in real earnest. On New Year's Day, 1520, Margrave Albert spread consternation through the diocese by seizing the important town of Braunsberg. Bishop Fabian attempted to negotiate, and it is probable, though not certain, that Copernicus was one of his envoys. But no tolerable terms could be obtained, and things had to be left to pursue their disastrous course. From its vicinity to the captured town, where a large body of Teutonic troops were maintained, Frauenburg was regarded as a highly unsafe residence, and most of the canons sought a refuge in Dantzic, Elbing, or Allenstein. Copernicus nevertheless refused to quit his tower and terrace, but calmly continued his planetary observations in the midst of disquietudes of the most urgent kind. Danger, indeed, at one moment had almost yielded its place to disaster. Loudly boasting of his intention to ravage the ecclesiastical ' nest,' the Teutonic commander at Braunsberg led a party to Frauenburg with a view to its realisation. Fortunately, however, the coup de main failed ; the treasures of the 'curia Copernicana ' were preserved to posterity ; and Friedrich von Heideck was forced to content himself with working more facile mischief on farms and country-houses. At Martinmas we find Copernicus acting once more as the representative of the Chapter at Allenstein. No more striking proof could be afforded of the confidence reposed in him by his colleagues. The war was still raging. The Castle of Allenstein was regarded as the 'antemural' of the entire diocese. Its possession was a leading object with the Grand Master. Its retention was vital to the interests, present and future, of the Chapter. And its defence had to be conducted not against foes alone. For to have committed it to Polish allies would have been hardly less perilous than to have surrendered it to Teutonic assailants. Its restoration in the one case would have been only a shade less problematical than in the other. The anxiety felt on the subject in capitular circles is vividly reflected in two letters addressed to Copernicus by one of the three canons remaining in Ermland. Had he but two coats in the world, John Scultetus assures him, he would willingly (quam lubentissime) give one to secure the safety of Allenstein ; in lieu whereof, more effectual aid in the shape of powder and provisions, bullets and arquebuses, is proffered, with abundant exhortations to steadfastness against enemies and wariness with friends. The recent triumphant defence of Heilsberg, however, offered little encouragement to attempt a siege, and the military qualities of the astronomer consequently remained in abeyance. An armistice of four years brought to a close, April 10, 1521, the inglorious ' War of the Frankish Troopers.' Its conduct was marked by neither enterprise nor ability. Emulative atrocities were unredeemed by brilliant achievements. Devastation was simply let loose, and, when it had done its work, paused. What was called peace ensued. Solitudinem faciunt ; pacem appellant.

On Copernicus devolved the arduous task of bringing back to its old channel the deviated current of rural existence within the capitular domains. Only to a slight extent was this possible. The larger operations of war had ceased ; its minor vexations were scarcely alleviated. The mercenaries of the Order, eager to indemnify themselves for long arrears, hung like a cloud on the frontier, rendering the operations of agriculture wellnigh impracticable, unless on the distasteful sic vos non vobis principle. Cultivators accordingly were scarce ; tenements remained forsaken. And before time had well begun to lay its soothing hand on these troubled places, Copernicus, in June, 1521, was recalled to Frauenburg, where, as 'commissary ' of the diocese, he undertook new and, to us, obscure functions.

Far from obscure, however, were his political activities during the next ten years. His name continually appears at meetings of the States of West Prussia and of Ermland ; he composed the formal memorial in which the grievances of the Chapter against the Order were laid before the Diet of Graudenz, July 25, 1521 ; above all, he was deeply concerned in efforts for the reform of the Prussian coinage.

Never was reform more urgently needed. Successive Grand Masters had sought a no less fatal than facile exit from accumulated embarrassments by debasing the currency. The Prussian towns of Thorn, Dantzic, and Elbing, to which the privilege of separately coining money had been reserved by the Treaty of Thorn, appear not to have been behindhand in imitating the evil example. Indescribable and intolerable confusion ensued. The commerce of the country was threatened with extinction. A remedy was, on all sides, called for, and, when found, was on all sides rejected.

Copernicus, after his fashion, went to the root of the matter. He had found that no peddling cure would help the disorders of planetary theory, and he applied the lesson to the dis- tempers of his native country. In a paper [24] marked by clear and sound economical views, he recommended to the Diet of Graudenz in 1522 the establishment of a single mint for the whole of Prussia, both East and West, which should issue money of a certain definite and high standard of intrinsic value. But the proposal regarded the general welfare rather than special interests, and accordingly met with little countenance. The towns clung to their noxious privilege; the bankrupt Order was unwilling or unable to replace bad money with good ; the King of Poland was bent on a complete assimilation of the currency throughout his dominions. Thus nothing was done, or worse than nothing ; for an edict prohibiting trade between the adjacent Prussian provinces can have only added new, without alleviating old, mischiefs.

Meantime, a serious change was looming on the political horizon. Margrave Albert had been twice admonished from Rome to reform the degenerate religious corporation of which he was the head. He went for advice on the subject to Wittenberg. The remedy for the evils complained of which Luther recommended was a drastic one. 'Dissolve the Order,' he counselled, ' take a wife, and found an hereditary principality.' Albert smiled inscrutably, but laid the precept to heart. Conformably to it was framed the treaty concluded at Cracow, April 8, 1525, whereby he exchanged the spiritual dignity of Grand Master for the temporal one of Duke of Prussia. The transition was effected with perfect smoothness; it had been long in preparation. Lutheran opinions were already extensively diffused among the knights ; vows, once sacred, had become a burden or a mockery ; and only one conspicuous member of the Order raised a protest against its dissolution.

The revolution, however, brought no mitigation of economic difficulties. The currency question came up for discussion year after year ; at one Diet after another the unanswerable arguments of Copernicus were reiterated; resolutions were passed, edicts were issued, of which the attempted enforcement added to the confusion. The last glimpse we catch of the matter is in 1530, when the Frauenburg astronomer still occupies the foreground, though having left far behind his last hope of bringing it to a successful issue. It was evidently one for the strong hand to deal with.

Copernicus might with great probability have attained, had he aspired to, the episcopate ; but he appears to have been totally devoid of personal ambition. His colleagues, however, showed their belief in his fitness to wield the crozier by electing him to the office of Administrator-general of the diocese during a seven months' interregnum following on the death of Bishop Fabian, January 30, 1523. It was a most critical time. The independence of Ermland was menaced both from the Polish and from the Teutonic side, and moral vigour was sorely needed to come to the rescue of material helplessness. This Copernicus displayed in ample measure. He not only obtained from King Sigismund an edict for the restoration of all places in Ermland occupied by Polish troops during the war, but — what was probably more difficult — secured its execution. The lawless forces of the Order, on the other hand, both kept (for the time) what they had got, and, when occasion offered, seized more. It has further, by diligent enquiry, been ascertained that in the years 1524, 1526, 1531, and 1538, Copernicus acted as 'nuncius capituli,' or itinerant inspector of the secular possessions of the Chapter, and that, under the title of ' visitator,' he filled the same office in purely ecclesiastical matters in December, 1535. So much has been briefly transmitted to us ; and we know that the record must be incomplete. It is, however, amply sufficient to excite our amazement when we consider that these evidences of lifelong familiarity with affairs, sometimes momentous, sometimes minutely vexatious, always exacting, refer to a man who accomplished, alone and unaided, one of the greatest and most laborious works that ever quitted the factory of the human brain.

And all this time we have left out of sight his medical capacity. Yet be was a physician in high repute, and active if not constant practice during a period of close upon thirty years. Gassendi tells us [25] that he was 'regarded as another 'Æsculapius,' and interprets the phrase (possibly upon traditional authority) to signify a special dedication of his skill to the service of the poor. The gloss, however, must be taken on trust ; for documentary evidence naturally regards only his more distinguished patients. Even within the Chapter his prescriptions were a matter of course, and, as a matter of course, were left unrecorded ; but the memory of episcopal maladies has in some cases survived. Letters demanding his instant presence at Heilsberg are even now extant, the hot haste of suffering still legible in their hurried lines ; he was repeatedly at Löbau in attendance on the Bishop of Culm, and the wide reach of his fame as a healer was attested by a summons to Königsberg.

Notwithstanding his heretical proceedings, Duke Albert of Prussia remained on the best terms with the strictly Catholic ecclesiastics of Ermland. Bishop Dantiscus,[26] one of the most accomplished men of his time, and one of the most earnest in combating the new opinions, kept up a confidential correspondence with him ; and the Chapter, whether from policy or goodwill, showed, on occasion, the utmost readiness to oblige him. Thus, when the Duke wrote in much distress, April 6, 1541, to implore the aid of the capitular physician for a trusted counsellor who lay dangerously ill, ' Doctor Nicholas ' was not only despatched to Königsberg without delay, but his absence was permitted to extend over nearly a month, and that too at the time of Easter. His treatment was so far successful that the sick man lived two years longer ; indeed, his patients seem, as a rule, to have thriven in his hands. Yet, so far as we are able to judge of his practice from his principles, the fact is one to occasion some surprise. Amongst the fortunate discoveries of Dr. Prowe at Upsala were some of the medical works once in constant use by Copernicus for purposes of reference and consultation. Some of them exhibit, on fly-leaf or cover, recipes copied by his hand, and, we may therefore presume, approved by his experience. We thus gain a very fair insight into his views as to the treatment of disease. They may be described as those introduced by Avicenna five hundred years previously, and followed as the ' canon ' of the "Western schools until Leonicenus in Italy, and Linacre in England (both contemporaries of the Frauenburg physician), raised the standard of revolt against the ' Sheik Reyes ' (prince of leeches), in the name of Galen and Hippocrates. In most places, however, and certainly on the banks of the Vistula, the Arab pharmacopoeia held its ground for some time longer. Very characteristic of it is a recipe to which Copernicus must have attached some importance, since he took the trouble of copying it twice — on the cover of his Euclid, as well as on the fly-leaf of a ' Chirurgia.' It exhibits the multiplicity of ingredients (some of them better placed in a witches' cauldron than in an apothecary's gallipot), and the incoherent jumble of rare or precious substances, fancifully endowed with curative efficacy, which caused the druggists' trade to flourish during the long reign of Ibn Sina. We have the gold and silver, the sandal wood and Armenian earth, the pearls and precious stones which he first introduced to the familiar acquaintance of man's internal economy ; with scraped and burnt ivory, the horn of a unicorn, the 'bone' of a stag's heart, mixed with spices and medicinal herbs, and all compounded with a quantum suff. of sugar. We can only hope that this highly recondite remedy was but sparingly employed, and that its costliness proved a bar to its destructiveness.

It may indeed be hopefully conjectured that Copernicus dealt chiefly in the less pretentious nostrums which find a modest place in the same collection ; nor should he be held responsible for the follies of a certain Regimen sanitatis to which he (rashly, as regards his credit with posterity) appended his name. He undoubtedly believed in medical astrology, but he believed in it on grounds which had at least the semblance of rationality. The influence of the stars on the course of disease recognised by him was of what we should now call a meteorological character — it was exercised, not immediately, but through changes produced in the state of the atmosphere.[27] But it is scarcely credible that he should have been imposed upon by such ignorant dogmatism as that of the 'Regimen ' above mentioned, which menaces, prognosticates, and prescribes in complete exemption from the constraints of reason, and implicit reliance upon popular fatuity. The vary- ing significance of thunder throughout the year, as regards human destinies, the weather, and the crops, is carefully ex- pounded ; certain dies nefasti are singled out in each month, on which bloodletting will infallibly prove fatal ; we are warned not to expect long to survive a wound received, or a potion drunk, on April 1 ; we are instructed to eat parsley- and fennel-seed each day in March, to take for supper in June zedoary, betony, and agrimony, and to avoid tasting lake-fish or potherbs in July.[28] The mere fact that these and other similar imbecilities should have been deemed worthy of preservation in writing by one of the most esteemed physicians of his time and country is curiously instructive, especially when we remember who and what that physician was.

There is reason to believe that the position of Copernicus in the Chapter became less agreeable as time went on. One by one his early friends dropped off, and a new generation of a totally different stamp arose. A great religious revolution had in the meantime passed over Germany. From the Alps to the Baltic, the doctrines of Luther had been received either with open acclamation, with tacit approval, or with mild dissent. Those who remained true to the old teachings clung to the hope that by charity and patience they might still win back the wanderers, and maintain the unity of the Church. Amongst these was Copernicus. He has, it is true, left no direct record of his theological opinions ; but it was by his advice that the ' Antilogikon ' of Bishop Gysius, one of his most intimate friends, was published. The conciliatory spirit which pervades this work was better suited to win esteem for the author than to meet the fierce exigencies of the time. It appealed to the reason of men, while talking little account of their passions ; yet we all know that by the whirlwind of their passions the mass of mankind are swept across great epochs of change.

As the quarrel became more visibly irreconcilable, sterner counsels, distasteful to the older and more tolerant school, began inevitably to prevail. Distrust and estrangement made themselves felt ; the past easy life was gone for ever ; and the long-relaxed bonds of discipline were not drawn tighter without causing some uneasy rubs in the process. Even the Chapter had its black sheep, and with this black sheep — one Alexander Scultetus — Copernicus was accused of undue intimacy. To the delicately conveyed remonstrances of Bishop Dantiscus on the subject he however submitted, though not, it would seem, without reluctance; and Scultetus eventually succeeded in clearing himself at Rome from the charges brought against him at Frauenburg. But the incident must have been in every respect a painful one.

A fresh source of scientific sympathy was, however, opened late and unexpectedly to the great astronomer. In the early summer of 1539, a traveller rode up to the gate of the cathedral-close, and asked to see Canon Nicholas Copernicus. He was unknown, and (so far as can be ascertained) without recommendation of any sort; moreover, he came from Wittenberg, the metropolis of heresy ; he followed the spiritual guidance of Luther, and was deeply indebted to the temporal patronage of Melanchthon. Nevertheless, the hospitable warmth of his reception encouraged him to prolong his stay for above two years, and inspired the glowing eulogy of Prussia, its rulers, ecclesiastical and civil, the products of its soil, and the high culture of its inhabitants, appended to the 'Narratio Prima.' [29] George Joachim von Lauchen — usually styled 'Rheticus ' from the situation of his birth-place — was born at Feldkirch in the Vorarlberg (near the borders of the ancient Rhætia) February 16, 1514. He studied at Wittenberg, wandered from one German university to another, returned to fill a mathematical chair procured for him by Melanchthon, and at last, set on fire by reports concerning a new system of astronomy devised at Frauenburg, he resolved to repair thither, and enquire for himself into its merits. He was then twenty-five years of age; of an ardent, affectionate, restless disposition ; eager for novelty, rapid in assimilating the thoughts of others, and generous in appraising them at their highest value. Between him and his ' preceptor ' a warm attachment sprang up, and to their intercourse posterity is indebted for the publication of De Revolutionibus orbium cœlestium.

This memorable work was virtually finished about the year 1530. But from the irrevocable notoriety of print its author shrank with sensitive dread. He was aware that his con clusions must be incomprehensible to most, unacceptable to wellnigh all. The long processes of laborious thought by which he had convinced himself that the motions of the heavenly bodies could only be rendered intelligible by being shown to be in large measure apparent, were not such as could profitably be followed by the ignorant, the impatient, or the prepossessed. Yet he knew that a vast majority even of the reading public were all three. He thus laid deeply to heart the Pythagorean maxims of reticence, and, while not unwilling to communicate the bare results of his theory, he resolved to entrust the principles from which those results were derived to the exclusive guardianship of an esoteric few. It was for this purpose that he wrote the 'Commentariolus,' a short popular account of the new system, of which a few copies were circulated in manuscript.[30] These appear to have been read with no less avidity than admiration. Widmannstad, in 1533, derived from this source the substance of a lecture which Clement VII. recompensed with the gift of a rare Greek text; Calcagnini was encouraged to denounce the absurdity of attributing a diurnal rotation to the sphere ; and Cardinal Schönberg transmitted to Copernicus a formal request for the full publication of his system. There was, indeed, a countercurrent. The doctrine of the earth's motion was made the subject of a farce put upon the stage at Elbing during the Carnival of 1531 or 1532 ; Luther pronounced it contrary to Holy Writ, and stigmatised its chief advocate as a ' fool who thought to turn the whole art of astronomy upside down ; ' [31] and Melanchthon went so far as to desire the sup- pression by the secular power of such mischievous doctrines. [32]

Such demonstrations, we may be sure, added to the difficulties of those friends of Copernicus who sought to impress upon him the duty of unreserved publication. The meet earnest and persistent among them was Bishop Gysius ; but it was not until his arguments were reinforced by the eager protests of Rheticus that Copernicus, worn out by their united importunities, at length consented to place the manuscript, upon the fate of which depended the whole future of astronomy, in the hands and at the absolute disposal of the Bishop of Culm. By him it was jubilantly despatched to Rheticus (then in Saxony), and preparations were made for its immediate publication at Nuremberg.

Not a moment was to be lost, were any spark of joy to be derived by the writer from the permanence secured to his work. For already he stood on the verge of the years allotted to him. Towards the close of 1542 he was seized with apoplexy, accompanied by paralysis of the right side. It was his first recorded illness, and it proved his last. For many months death lingered at his threshold; he made no rally from the enfeebled state of mind and body into which he had fallen ; but it seemed as if there were still something to be waited for before he could depart in peace. On May 24, 1543, the first printed copy of 'De Revolutionibus ' arrived at Frauenburg. It was brought to the bedside of Copernicus ; it met his eyes, and his dying hands touched it ; but it may be doubted whether memory any longer retained its hold of the associations which gave to an insignificant object such profound and pathetic import. A few hours later he expired, thus quitting life to find a twofold immortality.[33]

If, however, he did not survive to enjoy the full privileges of authorship, he was at least spared some of its troubles. Under the cover which his trembling fingers had no longer strength to open, lurked a hidden sting. The principal conduct of the book through the press had been delegated by Rheticus [34] to Andrew Osiander, a man not destitute of mathematical attainments, but better known as a zealous preacher of Lutheran doctrines. A stormy petrel of reform in religion, in matters of science he nevertheless claimed the peaceful prerogatives of the halcyon. He was well aware that from Wittenberg violent opposition to the reception of the Copernican theory might be expected; and Wittenberg was then to Germany what Rome was to the world. Its decisions carried not only moral weight, but very serious practical issues. He sought to anticipate and disarm them by a virtual fraud.

It would be unfair to assume that personal motives alone suggested to Osiander the expedient of the 'præfatiuncula ; ' he was also without doubt sincerely desirous to conciliate favour for the system of which he had undertaken to act as sponsor, and to secure for it a quiet, if a furtive, entrance into the temple of received knowledge. But its author had expressly declined to avail himself of subterfuge or disguise. He had endeavoured, to the best of his power, to trace the plan of the Divine Artificer of the world; and he rejected, as ineffably unworthy of so lofty an aim, the proposal that he should set a lie in the front of a work destined to promulgate a sublime truth. When, however, he lay in the long trance of helplessness through which he passed to death, his best known wishes were set aside. Osiander used his opportunity. He wrote an anonymous preface stating that the theories set forth in the pages which followed were simple hypotheses, framed for the purpose of facilitating calculation, but standing, as regarded intrinsic truth or even probability, precisely on a level with the homocentrics of Eudoxus and the epicycles of Ptolemy. Let no one, he added, look for certainty in the speculations of astronomers, or mistake for fact what professes itself to be pure fiction. Inscrutable to human reason the movements of the heavenly bodies are, and, unless by the succour of Divine revelation, must ever remain.[35]

The unexpected appearance of this notable addition to his work excited equal anger and amazement amongst those to whom the memory of Copernicus was dear and his fame precious. No words were too strong to express the indignation of the Bishop of Culm at the breach of trust. He did not scruple to denounce it to Rheticus as an impiety and a crime. He even hoped for the ejection of the intruded admonition, and advised an application for that purpose to the Senate of Nuremberg. It was too late. The 'excellent doorkeeper ' of the Copernican mansion, belaboured so vigorously by Giordano Bruno, had his way. Only on conditions arbitrarily imposed by him could access be had to its fair and spacious halls. If, however, we are bound to find him guilty of a misdemeanour, we must, in strict justice, acquit him of a felony. He committted no forgery. His remarks did not professedly come from the pen of Copernicus ; it might even be gathered by implication that they owned a different origin from the Epistle to the Pope, the bold and manly simplicity of which contrasted so strikingly with their tone of deprecatory cunning. But few indeed were the readers who detected the anomaly. In spite of the warnings of Bruno, Kepler, and Gassendi, the fraudulent ' præfatiuncula,' reprinted in every edition of ' De Revolutionibus,' passed, down almost to our own times, and amongst well-informed writers, as faithfully representative of Copernican sentiments.

The scope of the reform effected by the great man whose life we have thus briefly attempted to trace was twofold ; it was to show, first, that the vicissitudes of day and night are produced, not by a revolution from east to west of the celestial sphere once in twenty-four hours, but by a rotation from west to east of the earth on its own axis in the same period; secondly, that the annual changes of the seasons result from a circulation of the earth round the sun, instead of, as had previously been supposed, of the sun round the earth, in a period of 365¼ days. Thus was our steadfast terrestrial habitation lifted from its immemorial foundations, and, degraded to the level of a mere planet, hurled, spinning, into the void of space ; while the glorious luminary of day was placed in the seat of honour which his insignificant satellite had so long usurped, on a golden throne in the centre of the universe. An instinct of congruity and truth told Copernicus that so it was fitting that it should be ; and this instinct was the vivifying spark of his intellectual life. The harmonious orderliness of his nature revolted from the idea that the visibly pre-eminent body which was the source of life and light to the world, should be compelled to play a subordinate part, and abdicate the 'sole dominion ' rightfully belonging to it, in order to move obediently amidst the ' various rounds ' of the planets. And he cherished with unshaken confidence the belief that the pattern of creation which seemed good to him had also, in the beginning, seemed good to the Creator. His scheme might, then, be accurately described as a remodelling of the received astronomy on the basis of symmetry and simplicity. It is extremely difficult for us, in our superabundant wealth of conviction, to realise the paucity of cogent evidence as to the truth of the heliocentric system at the disposal of Copernicus. Proof of the rotation of the earth he had absolutely none to offer; all he could do was to point out the reasonableness and probability of the supposition. One of his arguments indeed, though of a highly abstract kind, had almost the force of a demonstration ; but its cogency was not likely to be perceived in the confusion of thought respecting the metaphysical foundations of mechanics then prevailing. Its drift may be conveyed as follows : — Motion is an attribute of matter. Space may be its scene, but cannot be its subject. But the 'celestial sphere' signifies nothing more than the depths of space surrounding us on every side. Its movement is then only apparent — an optical transference of the real movement of the earth.[36]

The reasons alleged by him in favour of the earth's revolution round the sun were of a more special and technical character. They rested mainly on the simplification which the adoption of such an hypothesis introduced into the complicated theories of the several planets. The backward loopings of the paths pursued by them in the heavens were then at once seen to have no substantial existence — to be, in fact, mere perspective effects of the combination of their real movements with the no less real movement of the earth. And the circumstance that the so-called ' stations and retrogradations ' of all the planets could be abolished, as it were, at one stroke, by simply making the point from which they were viewed revolve in their midst in a period of one year, was in itself a powerful argument in favour of that assumption.

It would, however, be a mistake to suppose that the system of the world was wrought up at Frauenburg into anything approaching its present state of perfection. By retaining the ancient postulate of ' uniform circular motion,' and the epicycles thus rendered necessary for the ' saving of appearances,' Copernicus gave to his scheme somewhat of a hybrid character. The irregularities of Mercury still required a combination of seven circles to explain them ; each of the other planets was dexterously conveyed by means of five associated orbs ; the moon made a shift to get along with four ; the earth itself was modestly content with three. ' Thus,' Copernicus exclaimed, in a rare outburst of exultation, ' thirty-four circles suffice to make plain the entire structure of the world — the entire mazy round of the starry dance ! ' [37]

It was reserved for Kepler to banish from astronomy these anomalous survivals of an earlier time. No subtle conspiracy of circular motions could abide the touch of the Ithuriel-spear of his genius. The first of his three ' Laws ' declared that the planets revolve in ellipses, of which the sun occupies one focus ; the second showed their velocity to depend upon the position occupied in those ellipses ; the third pointed out the existence of a determinate relation between the mean or average velocity of each, and its mean distance from the sun. The geometrical plan of the solar system was thus completed ; it remained to show that these beautiful and harmonious relations had a physical cause. This, the eminent work of Newton, was prepared and facilitated by the efforts of Galileo. The Tuscan astronomer's detection of the phases of Venus removed a formidable objection to the new views of which he was the enthusiastic champion, and his discovery of the satellites of Jupiter offered an exquisite illustration of their truth; but still more effective in securing their irrevocable adoption were his investigations into the nature of motion, and the clear and sound mechanical ideas thereby attained. All these partial researches — the laborious reform of Copernicus, the eager yet patient divinations of Kepler, the bold inductions of Galileo — were embraced and perfected in the sublime generalisation of Newton. By the conception of one universal force ruling the movements of the heavenly bodies, yet no other than that familiar power of gravity by which our globe clasps its constituting particles together, and asserts its right of property over every object on its surface, the human mind attained its highest triumph over the material universe. The working of the machine was at last laid bare, and its motive power — however unfathomable in its secret springs — was brought within the range of exact calculation. It might, in this limited sense, be said that the How ? as to the arrangements of the solar system was answered by Copernicus and Kepler, the Why ? by Newton. And in this answer was the fullest justification of the profound intuitions, the intrepid confidence, and the earnest reasonings of the Frauenburg astronomer.

  1. We have looked in vain for a statement of the plan of the work. The reader is compelled to gather it piecemeal from scattered notes.
  2. Prowe, ' Westpreussen in seiner geschichtlichen Stellung zu Deutschland und zu Polen,' p. 9. Dr. Hirsch tells us (' Danzigs Handelsgeschichte,' p. 262) that all the Prussian vines perished in the cold winter of 1436-7; and were replanted only at Thorn.
  3. The Latinised form of the name belongs exclusively to the astronomer, having been constructed by himself for literary purposes. Up to his sixtieth year he spelt it Coppernicus ; and the 'Coppernicus-Verein ' of Thorn has formally decreed the adoption of the double p. But, in our opinion, the prescription of three and a half centuries, combined with the example of the bearer of the appellation during the last ten years of his life, and the authority of the title-page of his immortal work, fully justify the rejection of the proposed innovation.
  4. The merit of clearing up the manifold obscurities which surrounded the father of Copernicus belongs to Dr. Prowe.
  5. There seems little doubt that an earlier town of ' Thorun ' had existed on the same site. See R * * *, ' Beiträge zur Beantwortung der Frage nach der Nationalität des N. Copernicus,' p. 201.
  6. R * * *, 'Beiträge,' p. 73. The father of Copernicus may be regarded as a Slav germanised by his connexions and associations.
  7. Vita Copernici, p. 5.
  8. Johannes Müller, called ' Regiomontanus ' from his birthplace, Königsberg in Franconia. He died at Rome, aged 40, July 6, 1476.
  9. In the odd months of the year, according to the stipulations of the German Concordats, nominations to vacant canonries were reserved to the Roman Curia ; in the even months they belonged to the bishop of the diocese. (Prowe, Th. i. p. 172, note.)
  10. Edinburgh Review, vol. cxlvi. pp. 102-114.
  11. Malagola, 'Della Vita di Antonio Urceo,' Bologna, 1878, pp. 313, 561.
  12. Dr. Hipler points out ('Kopernikus und Luther,' p. 24) that the regular allowance made to them by the Chapter — forty-five marks a year each — was entirely inadequate to meet their inevitable expenditure, unless supplemented by private means or an allowance from their uncle.
  13. De Revolutionibus Orbium Cœlestium, lib. iv. cap. 14.
  14. ' Narratio Prima,' p. 490 of Baranowski's edition of the works of Copernicus cited at the head of this article.
  15. So called from the gilt figure adorning the building in which the lectures were delivered.
  16. He was ' Scholasticus' in Breslau as well as Canon of Frauenburg. The first office appears to have been a pure sinecure. He was in possession of it certainly in 1503, probably earlier, and held it until 1538.
  17. Hist. Gymnasii Patavini, t. ii. p. 195.
  18. See the ' Ordinancia castri Heilsbergk ' quoted by Prowe, Th. i. pp. 859-62, note.
  19. He issued, for instance, Sept. 1, 1489, a strict edict against hawkers of indulgences, and proceeded rigorously against bad priests. See A. Thiel in ' Zeitschrift für die Geschichte und Alterthumskunde Ermlands,' Band i. p. 245.
  20. Humboldt has shown ('Cosmos' vol. ii. p. 685, Otté's trans.) on the authority of Voigt, that the waterworks at Frauenburg, the construction of which is traditionally ascribed to Copernicus, cannot have been begun until twenty-eight years after his death. No less apocryphal are the supposed relics of his ingenuity at Allenstein. See Prowe, Th. ii. p. 130.
  21. Alias 'Instrumentum parallacticum,' or ' Regulæ Ptolemaicæ.' That of Copernicus was presented to Tycho Brahe in 1584, and was lost or destroyed at Prague during the Thirty Years' War.
  22. Copernicus aspired to render his observations exact within ten minutes (of arc); good instruments may now well be depended upon (apart from unfavourable conditions) within a quarter of a second.
  23. Disinterred from the Royal Archives of Stockholm in 1852 by Dr. Prowe. It was, like the previously mentioned memorial of grievances, composed in German; and it may be added that German was the language of the Prussian Diets until that of Lublin in 1569. (Prowe, Th. ii. p. 145.)
  24. 'Vita Copernici,' p. 39. Gassendi took the statement from Starowolski, who took it from Bishop Gysius. See Prowe, Th. i. p. 294.
  25. So called from Dantzic, the place of his birth.
  26. A copy of Stöfler's Ephemerides preserved at Pulkowa, which Copernicus annotated with his own hand, affords clear evidence of his views on this subject. See M. Curtze, 'Ueber eine Copernicus- Handschrift;,' 1873.
  27. J. Hipler, ' Kopernikus und Luther,' pp. 68-70.
  28. This was the title of a preliminary sketch of the Copernican system, published by Rheticus in 1540.
  29. One of these was discovered by M. Curtze in the Hof-Bibliothek of Vienna, and published in the ' Mittheilungen ' of the Coppernicus-Verein for 1878. The existence of the work was until then unknown.
  30. Luther's ' Tischreden,' ed. Walch. p. 2260, quoted by Prowe, Th. ii. p. 282.
  31. Beckmann has conclusively shown ('Zur Gesch. des Kop. Systems,' Zeitschrift für die Gesch. Ermlands, Bd. ii.) that, in the sixteenth century, no serious theological objections were made to the Copernican system save from the Protestant side. Catholic ecclesiastics were, in general, extremely well disposed towards it, so that Giordano Bruno's advocacy of it cannot be held responsible for his tragical end. A full discussion of the Reformers' attitude towards the new astronomy will form part of Dr. Prowe's third volume.
  32. 'Exitus vitae fuerit immortalitatis ortus'. — Sniadecki.
  33. It seems to us that Rheticus is not exempt from at least a suspicion of neglect in the matter. Indeed, if we rightly judge of his character, the successful completion of his undertakings was continually impeded by the volatility of his mind. We can scarcely forgive him for omitting to print his biography of Copernicus (alluded to at the opening of this article), which, if the wish of Bishop Gysius had been attended to, would have been prefixed to the Copernican magnum opus.
  34. Beckmann argues with some plausibility ('Zur Gesch.' &c. pp. 258, 353) that the Congregation of the Index would never have passed the famous decree of March 5, 1616, but for the discredit thrown on the Copernican system by Osiander's remarks ; and it is at least certain that the book was ordered to be corrected into conformity with the preface under the belief that both were by the same author.
  35. De Revolutionibus, lib. i. cap. 5, 8.
  36. Concluding words of the ' Commentariolus,' Prowe, Th. ii. p. 292.