Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/318

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Spain.—There was probably no country where restrictions on the liberty of the press were at one time more stringent than in Spain. From the first use of printing up to 1521 censorship was exercised by the Crown; after that date the Inquisition began to assume the right, and continued to do so up to its suppression in 1808. In 1558 Philip II. denounced the penalty of death against even the possessor of a book upon the Index expurgatorius of the Inquisition. Some of the greatest names in Spanish literature were sufferers: Castillejo, Mendoza, Mariana and Quevedo incurred the displeasure of the Inquisition; Luis Ponce de Leon was imprisoned for his translation of the Song of Solomon. The last Index appeared in 1790.[1] In 1812 the constitution promulgated by the regency in the name of Ferdinand VII. provided by art. 371 that all Spaniards should have liberty to write, print and publish their political ideas without any necessity for licence, examination or approbation previous to publication, subject to the restrictions imposed by law. Art. 13 of the constitution of the 30th of June 1876, promulgated on the accession of Alphonso XII., practically re-enacts this provision.

Sweden.—The press law of the 16th of July 1812 is one of the fundamental laws of Sweden. It is an expansion of art. 86 of the constitution of the 6th of June 1809. Liberty of the press is declared to be the privilege of every Swede, subject to prosecution for libellous writing. Privileges of individuals as to publication are abolished. The title and place of publication of every newspaper or periodical must be registered, and every publication must bear the name of the printer and the place of printing. Press offences are tried by a jury of nine, chosen respectively by the prosecutor, the prisoner, and the court. The verdict of two-thirds of the jury is final.

Switzerland.—Liberty of the press is secured by art. 45 of the constitution of 1848, re-enacted by art. 55 of the constitution of the 29th of May 1874. Each canton has its own laws for the repression of abuse of the liberty, subject to the approbation of the federal council. The confederation can impose penalties on libels directed against itself or its officers.

PRESTEIGN, a market town, urban district, and assize and county town of Radnorshire, Wales, situated on the Lug amidst beautiful scenery. Pop. (1901), 1245. Presteign is the terminus of a branch of the Great Western railway running north from Titley Junction in Herefordshire. The old-fashioned town contains the fine parish church of St Andrew, dating chiefly from the 15th century, and an interesting old inn, the “Radnorshire Arms,” once the residence of the Bradshaw family in the 17th century. To the west rises the Wardon, a wooded hill laid out as a public park. Presteign is the most easterly spot on the Welsh border, a circumstance that is noted in the Cymric expression to mark the extreme breadth of the Principality—o Tyddewi i Llanandras (“from St Davids to Presteign”). Although the Welsh name of Llanandras is said to denote a foundation by St Andras ap Rhun ap Brychan in the 5th century, the place seems to have been an obscure hamlet in the lordship of Moelynaidd until the 14th century, when Bishop David Martyn of St Davids (1290-1328) conferred valuable market privileges upon this his native place, which on doubtful authority is said to derive its English name from this priest. In 1542 Presteign was named as the meeting-place of the county sessions for Radnorshire in conjunction with New Radnor, and it has ever since ranked as the county town. Although an ancient borough by prescription, Presteign was not included in the Radnor parliamentary district until the 19th century, and of this privilege it was deprived by the Redistribution Act of 1885.

PRESTER JOHN, a fabulous medieval Christian monarch of Asia. The history of Prester John no doubt originally gathered round some nucleus of fact, though what that was is extremely difficult to determine. But the name and the figure which it suggested occupied so prominent a place in the mind of Europe for two or three centuries that a real history could hardly have a stronger claim to exposition. Before Prester John appears upon the scene we find the way prepared for his appearance by a kindred fable, which entwined itself with the legends about him. This is the story of the appearance at Rome (1122), in the pontificate of Calixtus II., of a certain Oriental ecclesiastic, whom one account styles “John, the patriarch of the Indians,” and another “an archbishop of India.” This ecclesiastic related wonderful stories of the shrine of St Thomas in India, and of the miracles wrought there by the body of the apostle, including the distribution of the sacramental wafer by his hand. We cannot regard the appearance at Rome of the personage who related these marvels in presence of the pope as a mere popular fiction: it rests on two authorities apparently independent (one of them a letter from Odo of Reims, abbot of St Remy from 1118 to 1151), for their discrepancies show that one was not copied from the other, though in the principal facts they agree.

Nearly a quarter of a century later Prester John appears upon the scene, in the character of a Christian conqueror and potentate who combined the characters of priest and king, and ruled over vast dominions in the Far East. This idea was universal in Europe from about the middle of the 12th century to the end of the 13th or beginning of the 14th. The Asiatic story then died away, but the name remained, and the royal presbyter was now assigned a locus in Ethiopia. Indeed, it is not improbable that from a very early date the title was assigned to the Abyssinian king, though for a time this identification was overshadowed by the prevalence of the Asiatic legend. At the bottom of the double, allocation there Was, no doubt, that confusion of Ethiopia with India which is as old as Virgil and perhaps older.

The first mention of Prester John occurs in the chronicle of Otto, bishop of Freisingen. This writer states that when at the papal court in 1145 he met with the bishop of Gabala (jibal in Syria), who related how “not many years before one John, king and priest (rex et sacerdos), who dwelt in the extreme Orient beyond Persia and Armenia, and was, with his people, a Christian but a Nestorian, had made war against the brother kings of the Persians and Medes, who were called Samiards (or Sanjards), and captured Ecbatana their capital. After this victory Presbyter John—for so he was wont to be styled—advanced to fight for the Church at Jerusalem; but when he arrived at the Tigris and found no means of transport for his army, he turned northward, as he had heard that the river in that quarter was frozen over in winter-time. After halting on its banks for some years in expectation of a frost he was obliged to return home. This personage was said to be of the ancient race of the Magi mentioned in the Gospel, to rule the same nations that they ruled, and to have such wealth that he used a sceptre of solid emerald. Whatever impression was made by this report, or by other rumours of the event on which it was founded, was far exceeded, about 1165, by the circulation of a letter purporting to be addressed by Prester John to the emperor Manuel. This letter, professing to come from “Presbyter Joannes, by the power and virtue of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, Lord of Lords,” claimed that he was the greatest monarch under heaven, as well as a devout Christian. The letter dealt at length with the wonders of his empire. It was his desire to visit the Holy Sepulchre with a great host, and to subdue the enemies of the Cross. Seventy-two kings, reigning over as many kingdoms, were his tributaries. His empire extended over the three Indies, including that Farther India, where lay the body of St Thomas, to the sun-rising, and back again down the slope to the ruins of Babylon and the tower of Babel. All the wild beasts and monstrous creatures commemorated in current legend were to be found in his dominions, as well as all the wild and eccentric races of men of whom strange stories were told, including those unclean nations whom Alexander Magnus walled up among the mountains of the north, and who were to come forth at the latter day—and so were the Amazons and the Bragmans. His dominions contained the monstrous ants that dug gold and the fish that gave the purple; they produced all manner of precious stones and all the famous aromatics. Within them was found the Fountain of Youth; the pebbles which give light, restore sight, and render the possessor invisible, the Sea of Sand was there, stored with fish of wondrous savour; and the River of Stones was there also; besides a subterranean stream whose sands were of gems. His territory produced the worm called “salamander,” which lived in fire, and which wrought itself an incombustible envelope from which were manufactured robes for the presbyter, which were washed in flaming fire. When the king went forth to war thirteen

  1. See Ticknor, Hist. of Span. Lit. i. 422 seq., iii. 366.