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Critics and Skeptics in the Seventeenth-Century Republic of Letters

  • Patrick J. Lambe (a1)

The literature on the history of biblical criticism is voluminous, but remarkably consistent in its postulation of the Reformation and the Enlightenment as the two mainsprings of modern biblical criticism. That this history is written almost exclusively by heirs of the liberal Protestant tradition ought to sound a warning bell, especially since the extremely rare dissenting accounts of biblical criticism come from the Roman Catholic camp.

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1 Diestel, So Ludwig, Geschichte des Alten Testaments in der christlichen Kirche (Jena: Hermann Dufft, 1869); Farrar, Frederic W., History of Interpretation (London: Macmillan, 1886); Cheyne, T. K., Founders of Old Testament Criticism (London: Methuen, 1893); Lias, J. J., Principles of Biblical Criticism (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1893); Duff, Archibald, History of Old Testament Criticism (London: Watts, 1910); Kraeling, Emil G., The Old Testament since the Reformation (London: Lutterworth, 1955); The Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. 3 (ed. Greenslade, S. L.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963); Scholder, Klaus, Ursprünge und Probleme der Bibelkritik im 17. Jahrhundert (Munich: Kaiser Verlag, 1966); Kümmel, W. G., The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of Its Problems (London: SCM, 1973); Frei, Hans W., The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974); Gunneweg, A. H. J., Understanding the Old Testament (London: SCM, 1978); Stuhlmacher, Peter, Historical Criticism and Theological Interpretation of Scripture (London: SPCK, 1979); Kraus, H.-J., Geschichte der historisch-kritischen Erforschung des Alten Testaments (3d ed.; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1982); Hayes, John H., An Introduction to Old Testament Study (London: SCM, 1982); Reventlow, Henning Graf, The Authority of the Bible and the Rise of the Modern World (London: SCM, 1984); Grant, Robert M. with David Tracy, A Short History of the Interpretation of the Bible (revised ed.; London: SCM, 1984); Hayes, John H. and Prussner, Frederick C., Old Testament Theology: Its History and Development (London: SCM, 1985).

2 See Steinmann, Jean, Biblical Criticism (London: Burns & Oates, 1959), ET of La critique devant la Bible; Daniel-Rops, H., The Church in the Eighteenth Century (London: J. M. Dent, 1964), ET of L'Église des temps classiques.

3 On the view that biblical criticism is distinctively formed by interaction between Protestantism and the Enlightenment, transmitted through English deism into German Protestant scholarship, see Stephen, Leslie, History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century (3d ed., 1902; reprinted London: Harbinger, 1962) 1. 170–71; Farrar, Adam S., A Critical History of Free Thought in Reference to the Christian Religion (London: John Murray, 1862) 13, 236, 310ff.; Lecky, W. E. H., History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe (2d ed.; 2 vols.; London: Longmans, Green, 1865) 2. 78; Cheyne, Founders, 2ff.; Kraeling, Old Testament, 33ff.; Hayes, Introduction, 113; Cambridge History, 3. 238ff.; Frei, Eclipse, 92; Gunneweg, Understanding the Old Testament, 66; Reventlow, Authority of the Bible, 5. Bomkamm, Heinrich's Luther and the Old Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969) attempts to support this view from another direction by linking Luther's biblical commentaries with later, critical insights.

4 Elizabeth Eisenstein traces the idea back to ideas of “rinascita” and the recovery of ancient texts in the correspondence of Francesco Barbero and Poggius Bracciolini in 1417: The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (2 vols. in 1; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980) 137 n. 287. Cf. her reference to Gordon, Phyllis W. G., ed., Two Renaissance Book-hunters (New York: Columbia University Press, 1974) 199.

5 For examples related to Strasbourg, see Chrisman, Miriam, Lay Culture, Learned Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), a survey of printing in Strasbourg, 14801599.

6 P. S. Allen's studies of the career of Erasmus give an excellent insight into these relationships: The Age of Erasmus (Oxford: Clarendon, 1914); Erasmus: Lectures and Wayfaring Sketches (Oxford: Clarendon, 1934); Erasmus' Relations with His Printers,” Transactions of the Bibliographical Society 13 (19131915) 297323. On scholar-printers, see Eisenstein, Printing Press, 443–49 and references. Aldus Manutius (1440–1515), the great Venetian printer, dissatisfied with simply printing scholarly editions, long harbored the ambition of founding a Platonistic “Academy” which would attract the greatest scholars in Europe; though his scheme was ultimately unsuccessful (largely due to political instability in the northern Italian states), his influence was nevertheless considerable. See Lowry, Martin, The World of Aldus Manutius: Business and Scholarship in Renaissance Venice (Oxford: Blackwell, 1979) esp. chap. 5, “Academic Dreams,” 180–207.

7 See Steinberg, S. H., Five Hundred Years of Printing (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955) 3741.

8 On the arrival of humanism in Strasbourg, and its effects on the education system in that city, see Chrisman, Lay Culture, 92–102. The modeling of the University of Leiden (founded 1575) on humanistic ideas of education had an immense impact on European scholars, and for a time represented the epitome of the humanists' ideal. See Dibon, Paul, “L'Université de Leyde et la République des Lettres au 17e siècle,Quaerendo 5 (1975) 538. Leiden was also closely associated with the transition to a humanistic appreciation of vernacular language: Daniel Heinsius (1580–1655) was an influential exponent of Renaissance poetry in the vernacular; see Tuynman, P., “Petrus Scriverius 12 January 1576–30 April 1660,” Quaerendo 7 (1977) 545, esp. 13.

9 The rise of the merchant publishers also meant the creation of quite new categories of patronage for the scholar, who no longer had to depend on private means, ecclesiastical favor or employ, or private patronage. These new forms maintained the independence of humanist scholars from the church. The patronage of printers did not, however, take the form of remuneration for books. Until the eighteenth century it was considered “bad form” to make a living from one's books; patronage would usually take the form of hospitality and living expenses, with, perhaps, payment for proof-reading and editorial work; see Steinberg, Five Hundred Years, 145. It is important to note that “independence” from traditional ecclesiastical structures does not necessarily imply an antipathy of humanism towards the church. Hugo Grotius's “Respublica litteraria” was also a “Respublica Christiana.”

10 Lowry, Aldus Manutius, 207.

11 In Strasbourg, a sodalitas literaria was established in 1510, which attracted visitors from all over Europe, including, notably, Erasmus; Chrisman, Lay Culture, 92–93. Jean Nicolas de Parival wrote of the humanists of Leyden in 1661: “Autour de ces professeurs dont le mérite est connu et espandu par toute l'Europe, se forme encore un cercle de relations, d'amis, de visiteurs” (Les Délices de la Hollande [2d ed.; Leiden: Pierre Didier, 1662] 51). Cf. Dibon, “L'Université de Leyde,” 14–15.

12 Spinoza, e.g., frequently complained in his letters that visitors left him little time for correspondence: A Theologico-Politico Treatise (trans. Elwes, R. H. M.; London: George Routledge & Sons, 1895) xiv.

13 Eisenstein, Printing Press, 448; see also 139–40.

14 Tuynman, “Petrus Scriverius,” 11.

15 Eisenstein, Printing Press, 140.

16 Rétat, Pierre, Le Dictionnaire de Bayle et la lutte philosophique au XVIIIe siècle (Lyons: Audin, 1971) 6162.

17 Pierre Bayle, Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres (March 1684; Amsterdam: Henry Desbordes, 1684) sig. * 6r.

18 Barnes, Annie, Jean Le Clerc (1657–1736) et la République des Lettres (Paris: Droz, 1938) 10. For detailed accounts of some of the quarrels she is referring to, see chap. 7.

19 Voltaire, So, Le siecle de Louis XIV. Publié par M. De Francheville … (2 vols.; Berlin: C. F. Henning, 1751). Setting the scene for his account of the development of the sciences in the seventeenth century, Voltaire began with a passionate account of the dark and inauspicious beginning to the century (vol. 2, chap. 29, 158–67). The whole tenor of his perception of the age is that of something entirely new beginning to occur, comparable, but not continuous, with previous ages. As Voltaire clarified his view of this “new thing” in later editions he focused much more on the role of the individual in bringing it about.

20 Voltaire, who did so much to fix the age of Louis XIV as a glittering epoch in the historical imagination, is at his most eloquent when writing of the liberation from the shackles of ignorance and superstition achieved in the seventeenth century; Siècle de Louis XIV par Voltaire. Edition Classique (Paris: Delalain, 1861) 504: “Jamais la correspondance entre les philosophes ne fut plus universelle: Leibniz servait à l'animer. On a vu une république littéraire établie insensiblement dans l'Europe malgré les guerres, et malgré les réligions différentes: Toutes les sciences, tous les arts ont reçu ainsi des secours mutuels; les academies ont formé cette république. L'ltalie et la Russie ont été unies par les lettres.” This was by no means, however, the achievement solely of enlightened government, but of the heroic freethinker (made, one sometimes suspects, in Voltaire's own image): “On doit ces progrès à quelques génies répandus en petit nombre dans quelques parties de l'Europe, presque tous longtemps obscurs, et souvent persécutés: ils ont éclairé et consolé la terre, pendant que les guerres la désolaient” (Ibid., 505). Voltaire only came to this view of the importance of the inidividual gradually: the first edition of his Louis XIV (1751) lacks the passages quoted above, but implies instead a corporate development of spirit: “L'esprit de sagesse & de la critique, qui se communiquait de proche en proche, détruisit insensiblement beaucoup de superstitions” (Le siècle de Louis XIV [1751] 2. 164).

21 Cf. Dibon, “L'Université de Leyde,” 26. In Hamburg, the Monatsgespräche began in 1663; in Paris the Journal des Sçavans, and in London the Philosophical Transactions in 1665; in Rome the Giornale de' Letterati began in 1668. Many others, more transient, sprang up and disappeared with increasing rapidity towards the end of the century. Bayle's Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres was of this variety; See Steinberg, Five Hundred Years, 162–69.

22 Barnes, Jean Le Clerc, 11: “Un autre caractère de l'activité littéraire de ce temps, c'est ce qu'on pourrait appeler, en se servant d'un terme tout moderne, son caractère de haute vulgarisation. Les érudits, si ardue soit leur matière, ne perdent jamais de vue le public, et un public vaste et mélangé.”

23 Ibid., 12–13, where the times are described by Barnes as, “Rationaliste, vulgarisatrice, encyclopédique d'une manière assez superficielle.”

24 Montaigne's Acaste in Le Misanthrope was to parody this attitude in an eighteenth-century context: ‘'juger sans étude et raisonner de tout.” Noémi Hepp traces the decline in terms of the concept of the “honnête homme”: “Entre le siècle de l'honnête homme et le siècle du philosophe: ‘La Bibliothèque curieuse et instructive’ du P. Menestrier,” Revue Française d'Histoire du Livre n.s. 24 (1979) 737–45. Bayle uses a more polite form of words: “Les gens sont aujourdhui moins savans & plus habiles” (Dictionnaire historique et critique [1st ed.; Rotterdam: Reinier Leers, 1697] 1. 88, col. b).

25 Pierre Bayle's Dictionnaire is the clearest example of the new and all-consuming interest in personalities. Bayle's comments on philosophy, literature, and life are all made in the context of a commentary on the life and works of other people. “Les savants” became in Bayle and in his readers “media”figures who were more important in themselves than for their work; René Rapin, in his commentary on Thucydides and Titus Livy (which is paraphrased by Bayle in his article on “Aconce”), argues that the new generation is not satisfied merely with reconstructing the critical apparatus of the ancient authors, but wishes to gain greater illumination by entering into their spirit (Comparaison de Thucydide et de Tite-Live avec un jugement des defaits et des beautez de leurs ouvrages [Paris, 1681] preface). Rétat observes (Dictionnaire de Bayle, 64) that the “new” men of letters of Bayle's generation preoccupied themselves with “les détails curieux sur la vie des auteurs et leur personne.” Jean Lerond D'Alembert, a contemporary of Voltaire and a companion in his praise of the age of Louis XIV, wrote that in that century “les Grands commencent à rechercher non-seulement les ouvrages, mais la personne même des Ecrivains, tant célebres que médiocres” (“Essai sur la société des gens de lettres et des grands,” Mêlanges de littérature, d'histoire, et de philosophic (2 vols.; Berlin, 1753) 2. 91. Pierre Des Maizeaux, Bayle's biographer and translator into English, wrote in the preface to his edition of Bayle's letters that one attaches oneself to the Republic of Letters “à éclaircir les particularitez de la Vie des Savans, de leurs Ecrits, de leurs Disputes” (Lettres de Mr Bayle, publiées sur l'originaux (3 vols.; Amsterdam: Aux depens de la Compagnie, 1729) 1. xxiii. This definition of “la critique” is a far cry from Jean Le Clerc's definition, still in the humanistic mode, but written only thirty years before: “Criticem vocamus artem intelligendorum veterum scriptorum, sive numeris adstricta, sive soluta oratione utentium; & dignoscendi quaenam eorum genuina scripta sint, quae spuria” (Joannis Clerici Ars Critica, in qua ad studiam linguarum latinae, graecae, & hebraicae via munitur [2 vols.; Amsterdam: George Gallet, 1697] 1.1).

26 Rétat speaks of the reactions of the humanists to Bayle's philosophy: “L'érudition de ces savants est ennemie des aventures de l'esprit” (Dictionnaire de Bayle, 143–44). D'Alembert speaks rather humorously of the change in climate: “Arrachés à leur solitude, les Gens de Lettres se voyent emportés dans un tourbillon nouveau, où ils ont de fréquentes occasions de se trouver fort déplacés” (Mélanges, 2. 91).

27 Commonly abbreviated to “V. C.” The form of address for nobles would be “illustrissimo,” pointing up a distinction between the two.

28 So, e.g., Daniel Heinsius, Poemata (4th ed.; Leyden: Orlers & Maire, 1613). It was common practice for humanists to exchange complimentary epistles and poems on each other's works for publication. The Frankfurt edition of Critici sacri prefaced the first volume with an extensive compilation of epistles and poems celebrating Hugo Grotius, who had died fifty years earlier; Criticorum Sacrorum, sive lectissimarum in sacro sancto Biblia (9 vols.; Frankfurt-am-Main: J. P. & J. N. Andreae, 16951701) 1. sigs. b4r–clv.

29 Pattison, Mark, “Erasmus,” Encyclopaedia Britannica (1929 edition) 8. 679.

30 See Dibon, “L'Université de Leyde,” 32: “Grotius s'impose vraiment à nous comme l'archétype du citoyen de la Respublica Literaria et Christiana, ignorant le cloisonnement des disciplines, comme le montre son oeuvre tout à la fois juridique, théblogique, philologique, poétique et historique.”

31 So Lorenzo Valla, in his Dialecticae disputationes contra Aristotelicos (published 1499); Erasmus, for all his emphasis on the importance of grammar, criticizes those who pay attention only to it, and not to deeper values contained in the ancient authors. In Praise of Folly Erasmus compares such people to Plato's philosopher in the cave who mistakes shadows for the reality ([trans. Radice, Betty; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971] 137).

32 Bayle, Dictionnaire, 1. 88, col. b.

33 Voltaire, Le siécle de Louis XIV (1751 edition) 2. 191–92: “La route était difficile au commencement du siécle, parce que personne n'y avait marché: elle l'est aujourd'hui, parce qu'elle a été battue. Les grands hommes du siécle passé ont enseigné a pensér & à parler; ils ont dit ce qu'on ne savait pas. [Aujourd'hui] il s'est devenue si facile d'écrire des choses médiocres, qu'on a été inondé de livres frivoles.”

34 Bayle expands on this sense of liberty in his article on Cato, Dictionnaire, 1. 809: “Cette Republique est un état extremement libre. On n'y reconoît que l'empire de la verité & de la raison…. Chacun y est souverain, & justiciable en même tems de chacun. Les lois de la societé n'ont pas fait de prejudice à l'independance de l'etat de nature, par raport à 1'erreur & à l'ignorance; tous les particuliers ont à cet égard le droit du glaive, & le peuvent exercer sans en demander la permission à ceux qui gouvement.”

35 An anonymous participant in the controversy over Richard Simon in the 1690s puts his finger squarely on the communication revolution as the root of the problem: “Divers impious books have been published, not only in Latin, but also in French, in English, and in Dutch; which many unlearned Persons read with much greediness. Abundance of People are fond of Spinoza's Opinions, because they have read his Books in French, in English, and in Dutch, though they never study'd Philosophy nor Criticism. We are in Times wherein every body pretends to depth of Learning, freedom of Thought, and strength of Judgment; and this Reputation is easily acquir'd by reading those Books” (Five letters concerning the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures translated out of the French [London, 1690] 125). Spinoza himself asked the common reader not to look at his work, because he would not understand it (A Theologico-political treatise, 11).

36 Beaumarchais, , Le Barbier de Seville (Lyons, 1775) 1. 2: “La république des lettres était celle des loups, toujours armés les uns contre les autres.” Robert Damton has described the disillusionment of the young writers who flocked to Paris in the 1770s and 1780s: expecting to find “a society of independent but fraternal individuals,” they found instead “a labyrinth of baroque institutions” (Damton, Robert, “The Grub Street Style of Revolution: J.-P. Brissot, Police Spy,” Journal of Modern History 40 [1968] 301–27, esp. 99. This article is reprinted in idem, The Literary Underground of the Old Regime [London: Harvard University Press, 1982] 4170).

37 Darnton, Literary Underground, passim. Honoré de Balzac's novel, Les illusions perdues, portrays a later, but strikingly similar, Parisian literary world. Paul F. Grendler describes the evolution of a literary underworld in sixteenth-century Venice: Critics of the Italian World 1530–1560 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969) chap. 1, and The Rejection of Learning in Mid-Cinquecento Italy,” Studies in the Renaissance 13 (1966) 230–49.

38 See esp. Darnton, Robert, “The High Enlightenment and the Low-Life of Literature in Pre-Revolutionary France,” Past and Present 51 (1971) 81115, esp. 83–85; reprinted in idem, Literary Underground, 1–40.

39 D'Alembert thought that the aristocracy at their best were merely “demi-connoisseurs” (Mélanges, 2. 98).

40 Ibid., 2. 114–15.

41 It has until quite recently been a common assumption that the literary journals took over the role of personal correspondence in the Republic of Letters. So Dibon, “L'Université de Leyde,” 27, 32; Pomian, K., “De la lettre au périodique: la circulation des informations dans les milieux des his toriens au XVIIe siècle,” Organon 10 (1974) 2543. Françoise Waquet has recently challenged this view. She points out that journals such as Bayle's depended upon his voluminous personal correspondence in order to stay abreast of current issues. The nature of the periodical and the uncertainty of its distribution network meant that it could never represent itself as an up-to-date survey of the Republic of Letters as a letter could. The journal was difficult to produce, even more difficult to disseminate on a wide scale, and expensive. Some resented its popularism, others saw it as a supplement to their personal correspondence, which should merely act as an objective bulletin signalétique rather than transmitting subjective opinions. Waquet points to a continuing dependence on private correspondence into the eighteenth century within the Republic of Letters (Waquet, Françoise, “De la lettre érudite au périodique savant: les faux semblants d'une mutation intellectuelle,” Dix-Septième Siècle 140 [1983] 347–59).

42 Henri Estienne, De criticis vet. Gr. et Latinis eorúmque variis apud poetas potissimùm reprehensionibus, dissertatio (Paris: H. Stephen, 1587) sig. * iiiir.

43 Ibid., sig. * iiiir–iiiiv. There are strong links between the sciences of biblical and legal hermeneutics in this period. See Mueller-Vollmer, Kurt, ed., The Hermeneutics Reader: Texts of the German Tradition from the Enlightenment to the Present (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986) 34.

44 Pierre Des Maizeaux gives one in his English edition of Bayle: “Tho Valla who us'd none to spare / Mute in his grave is found / If you shou'd ask what he does there / Ev'n now he bites the ground” (The Dictionary Historical and Critical of Mr. Peter Bayle. The Second Edition [ed. and trans. Maizeaux, Pierre Des; 5 vols.; London, 17341738] 5. 434b). It was supposed by contemporaries that even Pluto would have to guard his Latin, for fear of reproof by the defunct, yet still fearsome, Valla.

45 Antoine Godeau, Histoire de l'Église (5 vols.; Paris: Augustin Courbé 1653–73) 2. 197.

46 Morery, Louis, Le grand dictionnaire historique ou le mélange curieux de l'histoire sacrée et profane (4 vols.; Paris: Jean-Baptiste Coignard, 1707) 2. 420. Morery's Grand dictionnaire was first published at Lyons in 1674. By 1694 it had gone into seven editions. Quotations here are taken from the edition of 1707.

47 Godeau, Histoire, 2. 198. See also 127 for other slighting comments on the audacity of critics.

48 Bayle, Pierre, Dictionnaire Historique et Critique (5th ed.; 4 vols.; Amsterdam, 1740) 2. 76: “On peut dire aussi que rien ne répand plus de faussetez, que la licence qu'on se donne d'étendre plus qu'il ne faut les autoritez, sur lesquelles on se veut fonder.” Idem, Nouvelles, * 3v – * 4r: “Mais au reste l'on se croit obligé d'avertir de bonne heure le Public, à cause de ce qui a été touché cy-dessus, de la liberté dont jouïssent nos libraires, qu'on ne prétend point établir un Bureau d'Adresse de médifiance, ni employer les Memoires qui n'auroient pour but que de flêtrir la reputation des gens. C'est une licence indigne d'un honnête homme, & rien ne nous a choquez davantage dans le Mercure Sçavant, que l'affectation qui y regne de mal-traiter des Personnes tres-illustres.…. On s'éloignera ici de cette methode, & l'on se contentera d'un raisonnable milieu entre la servitude des flateries, & la hardiesse des censures.”

49 Bayle, Dictionnaire, 3. 128: “La Critique est un travail périlleux; car si l'on ignore certains faits particuliers, toutes les autres connoissances n'empêchent pas qu'on ne juge mal des choses.” The article on Archelaus does most to display Bayle's views on the difficulty (pace Morery) involved in the task of criticism. Ibid., 1. 292: “La plupart des gens ne lisent que pour s'instruire sans se fatiguer: c'est pourquoi, ils ne s'appercoivent guere des fautes de raisonnement, lorsqu'elles demandent quelque attention, ou quelque retour sur ce qui précede. En tout cas, ils se contentent de dire, ceci est obscur, cela me passe; mais il n'arrive de là aucun remede, la faute demeure toujours où elle éoit. Les Critiques, & principalement les Critiques Traducteurs, n'en usent pas de la sorte. Ils s'apperçoivent des fautes de sense, & ils en cherchent la correction: ils comparent ensemble des Manuscrits, ils son valoir les conjectures de leur génie. Mais dans cet endroit d'Athenée, comme Casaubon le leur reproche, leur gout fut fort émoussé.”

50 Bayle, Dictionnaire, 1. 292.

51 See Labrousse, Elisabeth, Pierre Bayle (2 vols.; The Hague: Nijhoff, 19631964) 2. 235–36: “La critique, pour Bayle, c'est une comparaison de témoignages complémentaires ou parallèles, diligemment réunis, qui permet de discerner et de qualifier la teneur et l'étendue des renseignements historiques qu'ils fournissent effectivement; le terme est donc encore pris dans son sens humaniste, il n'implique pratiquement aucun jugement esthétique et moins encore une nuance de blâme.”

52 Morery, Grand dictionnaire, 2. 420. The supplement to Morery brought out in 1716 is less obviously partial in its selection for the hall of fame: “Les grands critiques des demiers siecles ont été Erasme, Lipse, les deux Scaligers pere & fils, Budée, Turnebe, Saumaise, Casaubon, & c”(Supplement aux editions du grand dictionnaire historique [2 vols.; Amsterdam, 1716] 1. 526).

53 Bayle, Nouvelles, * 4r: “Nous ne prétendons pas établir aucun préjugé ou pour, ou contre les Auteurs: il faudroit avoir une vanité ridicule pour prétendre à une autorité si sublime.”

54 Bernard, John Peter, etc., A general dictionary, historical and critical: in which a new and accurate translation of that of the celebrated Mr. Bayle …. The whole containing the history of the most illustrious persons of all ages and nations, particularly those of Great Britain and Ireland (10 vols.; London: James Bettenham, 17341741) 9. 406a.

55 F. B., A free but modest censure on the late controversial writings and debates … (London: A. Baldwin, 1698) 16.

56 Morery is certainly of this opinion, and he cites a number of cases from 1614 onwards where eminent writers were protected against “presumptuous” critics by the authorities (Grand dictionnaire, 2. 420).

57 In England, for a long time in the vanguard of press toleration, the concern for social stability meant that when the general censorship laws were abandoned in 1695, the main avenue of censorship remained seditious libel. See Feather, John, “The English Book Trade and the Law 1695–1799,” Publishing History 12 (1982) 5175.

58 See Soman, Alfred, “Press, Pulpit and Censorship in France before Richelieu,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 120 (1976) 439–63.

59 Bayle, “Dissertation sur les Libelles defamatoires,” in Dictionnaire (1697 edition) 2. 1294–1309. Here he agrees that defamatory libel against leading figures is indeed a crime against the social fabric and indirectly, therefore, a crime against the state in the person of the King. The arrival of the printing press amplifies the problem, and Bayle produces a series of quotes from Erasmus onwards, complaining of the effects of libel disseminated by the presses (1303). But Bayle questions the extent of the danger to the state of such libels. He concedes that “la langue & la plume d'un seul homme sont quelquefois plus utiles à une cause qu'une armée de 40. mille soldats” (1304), but he points out that such situations are very rare. He concedes that libels can cause a degree of disorder and dissatisfaction, but they rarely cause sedition or wars. In his article on Catius, Bayle makes it plain that the advantages of a free press in his eyes vastly outweigh the problems posed by defamatory literature: “II est bien aisé de conoïtre pourquoi la Puissance Souveraine a dû laisser à chacun le droit d'écrire contre les Auteurs qui se trompent, mais non pas celui de publier des satires. C'est que les satires tendent à depouiller un homme de son honneur, ce qui est une espece d'homicide civil, & par consequent une peine, qui ne doit être infligée que par le souverain; mais la critique d'un livre ne tend qu'à montrer qu'un Auteur n'a pas tel & tel degré de lumiere…. On n'a rien de commun avec les faiseurs de libelles diffamatoires; on n'avance rien sans preuve; on se porte pour temoin & pour accusateur, exposé à la peine du Talion; … mais un faiseur de libelles se cache, afin de n'être pas obligé à prouver ce qu'il publie, & afin de pouvoir faire du mal sans en être responsable” (Dictionnaire, 1. 809–10).

60 Bayle, Dictionnaire, 1. 810.

61 Reprinted in Richard Simon, Histoire critique du Vieux Testament (Rotterdam: Reinier Leers, 1685) 670: “Enfin il fait demeurer d'accord, que nôtre Auteur, generalement parlant, est un peu trop libre & trop hardi, & qu'il avance beaucoup de choses qui ne sont gueres appuyées que sur la propre autorité. Mais quoi? l'Auteur n'a pas prétendu être plus infaillable que les autres qu'il critique.”

62 Bayle, Dictionnaire, 1. 810.

63 Richelet, Pierre, Dictionnaire françoise contenant generalement tous les mots tant vieux que nouveuax [sic] … Nouvetle edition (Amsterdam: Jean Elzevier, 1706) 242.

64 Kraus, So Hans Joachim, Geschichte der historisch-kritischen Erforschung des Alten Testaments (3d ed.; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1982) 72: “Dabei half die Philologie namentlich im 17. Jahrhundert mit, allmählich das Inspirationsdogma zu lockem und einem sachgemäßen Sprach- und Textverständnis Raum zu geben.”

65 Popkin, Richard H., The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza (revised and expanded ed.; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979).

66 Ibid., xv.

67 Ibid., xviii.

68 Popkin, History of Scepticism, 236–37.

69 Mini, F. Saverio, Richard Simon e it metodo storio-critico di B. Spinoza (Florence: Felice le Monnier, 1972); Reventlow, Henning Graf, “Richard Simon und seine Bedeutung für die kritische Erforschung der Bibel,” in Schwaiger, Georg, ed., Historische Kritik in der Theologie: Beiträge zu ihrer Geschichte (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1980) 1136.

70 Mirri, Richard Simon, 77. See also Reventlow, “Richard Simon,” 30.

71 Mirri, Richard Simon, 78–79. Reventlow supposes (“Richard Simon,” 33–34) that this unconscious adoption of Spinozism on the part of Simon is the point of departure for seventeenth and eighteenth-century biblical criticism.

72 Mirri, Richard Simon, 78 n. 18.

73 Reventlow, “Richard Simon,” 34.

74 Harth, Philip, Contexts of Dryden's Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968) 180.

75 Voltaire, , Dictionnaire philosophique, portatif (London [Amsterdam], 1764) 156. But for all his skepticism, he still closes his entry for criticism with a remark that is uncannily close to Morery's comments on the necessary qualities for a good critic: “Un excellent critique serait un artiste qui aurait beaucoup de science & de goût, sans préjugés & sans envie. Cela est difficile à trouver” (Dictionnaire, 162).

76 Voltaire, , La Bible enfin expliquée par plusieurs aumonier de S.M.L.R.D.P. (2 vols.; London [Amsterdam], 1776) 2. 313. Later on, again with heavy irony, Voltaire equates “les Critiques” with “les Incrédules” (Ibid., 2. 435–36).

77 Ernest Renan wrote in his preface to the French translation of Kuenen's Histoire critique des livres de l'Ancien Testament in 1866: “Voltaire's success killed scholarship in France; the Benedictines stopped publishing for lack of readers. In the particular branch of research with which we are concerned here the encyclopedists did no serious work, and unfortunately did not provoke their adversaries to any either” (Ibid., xix); quoted in Steinmann, Biblical Criticism, 56.

78 Rogerson, John, Old Testament Criticism in the Nineteenth Century: England and Germany (London: SPCK, 1984) 292.

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Harvard Theological Review
  • ISSN: 0017-8160
  • EISSN: 1475-4517
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