Page:Edinburgh Review Volume 158.djvu/322

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1883. Prowe's Life of Copernicus. 307

of Ermland. But it fell in a 'papal' month,[1] 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.[2] 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'[3] 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

  1. 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.)
  2. Edinburgh Review, vol. cxlvi. pp. 102-114.
  3. Malagola, 'Della Vita di Antonio Urceo,' Bologna, 1878, pp. 313, 561.