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Henry Cornelius Agrippa, a descendant of the noble house of Nettesheim, was born in September, 1486-that is, three years after Luther first saw the light, and one year after Richard the Third ceased to behold it. The name Agrippa has given rise to some speculation, because it was anciently applied to those who came into the world feet foremost.* The question is of little consequence. He got into the world, he continued in the world for nearly half-a-century, and though for him it proved to be a rough sort of world at best, yet his life would doubtless have been precisely the same had he entered the planet in the more popular fashion. His birthplace was Cologne, that town of monks and bones, and pavements fanged with murderous stones.' His education must have been liberal, for he learnt several languages, and acquired a wonderful stock of information before many lads have forced their way across the pons asinorum. At a very early age he is to be heard of at the Court of Maximilian the First, Emperor of Germany, by whom he was received as secretary. In that capacity he displayed such marked ability, that, whilst still a minor, he was despatched on a secret embassy to the capital of France. It was soon discovered, in fact, that Cornelius was a sort of ruling spirit, likely to make a figure on this sublunary stage if a proper part could be devised for the aspiring youth. There was power in abundance within him, but it was difficult to say how far it could be usefully applied. The danger seemed to be, that one so restless and adventurous would take to some erratic way of living, in which the love of excitement and the longing for supremacy could be readily indulged. At Paris, indeed, he quickly connected himself with a secret society of theosophists; and, though his stay there was not very protracted, it appears to have involved him in some political enterprise, of which he and his correspondents subsequently spoke in the most mysterious terms. A great blow was to be struck. It was to be for the honour of his Majesty the Emperor. If successful, it would redound to the glory of all who were concerned. Their letters read as if the conspirators were in charge of a Gunpowder Plot. But in time the tone changes. Some of them had begun to talk big at the Imperial Court. This had excited great expectations on the part of the courtiers. His Majesty was looking for something considerable from Cornelius and his confederates. It was necessary, therefore, that the dark project should be put in execution without delay. But now Agrippa, as the commander-in-chief of the conspiracy, found himself involved in an awkward scrape. For the aspect of the business appears to

*Ab ægritudine et pedibus. Aulus Gellius, Noct. Attic. lib. xvi., cap. 16.

His First Military Exploit.


have undergone a material change, and it seemed doubtful whether the blow they were about to launch at the head of another would not fall upon themselves. The chances of success were greatly reduced: if they failed, their credit would be lost, and their services would be repaid in persecution; if they prevailed, it was questionable whether new perils would not spring out of their very victory, and only draw them on to a surer destruction. Nay, worse still, the scheme assumed a complexion which troubled the conscience of Agrippa, and rendered it almost an act of insanity to persevere. But the pressure was such that the confederates were compelled to proceed, though with every probability, as was admitted, of being tumbled into Styx' for their pains.

And what was the enterprise só enigmatically discussed? Judging from events, it seems to have consisted in a foray into Spain with the view of restoring a young Catalonian nobleman, the Señor de Gerona, to certain possessions from which he had been expelled, there doubtless being ulterior purposes for the special benefit of his Majesty the Emperor. The attempt was made. Cornelius and his associates fell, like a little military avalanche, upon a fort near Tarragon, and captured it without difficulty; but the peasantry flew to arms, the invaders were driven from their position, and soon found themselves in a species of mountain-trap. They were so closely beleaguered in a town near Villarodona that their lives did not seem worth purchasing at a groat. By means of a cleverly-concocted stratagem, however, they were enabled to slip through the fingers of their enemies and to beat a safe, but undignified, retreat to the border.

It says little, perhaps, for Cornelius, that his manhood was inaugurated by so equivocal an exploit. Far more engaging is the aspect under which he next appears. Instead of the conspirator we have now the elegant scholar and the academic orator. Reuchlin, the great Hebraist of the day-he who was gravely empowered to report upon the propriety of exterminating Jewish literature, when the ignorant fanaticism of the monks regarded Hebrew and Greek as heretical acquirements-had written a cabalistical treatise, De Verbo Mirifico. Men of genuine learning received this book with considerable respect; the Pope devoured its contents with gluttonous delight; and many who cared for nothing but fighting or intriguing were soon deep in the mysteries of Gemantria, Notaricon, and Themura. In other words, they were pondering over the new meanings and the multiplied readings which might be given to Scripture by transposing or rearranging the letters of the Sacred text. Believing that the

dead characters were instinct with significance, and that everything which could be wrung out of them when dissected according to rule, was a part of their original import, the cabalists occupied themselves in playing at biblical anagrams, though doubtless in a spirit of reverent recreation. Great at all times

is the power of words, but great in particular is the power of names. For these, as the cabalist thought, were originally given by God, and must therefore embody some mystic virtue specially appropriate to the person or thing denoted. Knowing certain sacred appellations, you might perform miracles by their means: Moses did so when he baffled the magicians of Pharaoh; Elijah did so when he drew down fire from the skies; Daniel did so when he sealed up the mouths of the ravening lions. But there was one name which surpassed all others in potency, this was the hidden name of God-the Shemhamphoresh-the Word of Words. Such was its might that it moved all things, both in heaven and earth, and he who had been initiated into that grand secret might work whatever marvels he desired. It was this mirific word which constituted the great theme of Reuchlin's book; and it was Reuchlin's book upon which Cornelius now undertook to deliver a course of lectures before the University of Dôle. Crowds came to hear him; the Parliament and magistrates were there; so were many learned professors and grave divines. The Vice-Chancellor of the University was deeply interested in the young orator, and attended every prelection in the course. The public, admitted without pay, were charmed with one who appeared to be as deeply versed in Hebrew lore as if he had sat at the feet of Gamaliel every hour of his life. When the discourses were concluded, the authorities conferred upon him the degree of Doctor in Divinity, with something additional in the shape of sterling coin. Cornelius, however, had not been without an eye to business, though innocently enough. He was anxious to secure the patronage of Margaret of Burgundy, and had availed himself of so favourable an opportunity for launching forth vehemently in her praise. Could he but secure her smiles and obtain a place near her person, his fortunes would surely be made.

But it was not enough to propitiate a single princess. Dr. Cornelius had more chivalry in him than could be consumed in the cause of the fair governess of the Netherlands. He resolved, therefore, to strike a good stroke in favour of woman at large. The idea which occurred to him was just such as might be expected from a youth of three-and-twenty, who is indulging in dreams of matrimonial bliss, and who persists in regarding every damsel as an angel, and every agreeable dame as a demi-goddess.

His Treatise on Female Superiority.


He discovered, one fine morning, that the female sex is infinitely superior to the male. Snarling people would doubtless say that this is a discovery which every man makes within a week after he is smitten, and relinquishes within a month after he is married; but we are bound to suppose that in the case of Agrippa the revelation was exceedingly impressive, for instead of confining himself to private declarations of his belief in his love-letters, where, of course, he might have been as outrageous as he liked, he proceeded to write an elaborate treatise on the topic, setting forth the pre-eminency of woman in a grave but determined tone, and enforcing his views with all the learning and research of a sage. If the leading idea of the work is that of an impassioned youth, the execution is that of a cool, skilful, and ingenious philosopher.

The Essay, De Nobilitate et Præcellentia Feminei Sexús, was composed in the year 1509. Many of its arguments are such as we moderns should deem hopelessly absurd; but as three centuries and a half have been told off on the clock of time since it was written, we need not be surprised if much of its matter is now laughably obsolete. Cornelius begins at the beginning. Like a true pundit he starts with the creation of the world. Man was called Adam-that is, earth; woman was called Eva-that is, life. The latter is therefore superior to the former, because the thing represented by her name is infinitely nobler than the thing represented by his. As much as the subtle principle of vitality transcends the mud and slime of earth, so did the mother of the race surpass the father of mankind in dignity and worth. Without, however, insisting too strenuously upon the significance of these names, though Agrippa heaps up many learned illustrations in favour of his view, he contends that woman is more excellent than her master because she was the latest in the order of production. First, the meanest things were brought forth-minerals and inorganic matter, then came vegetables, afterwards zoophytes; next, fishes, fowl, quadrupeds, creeping things, and penultimately, man. But it was not until every living thing had entered and taken its place on the planet-not until the great procession, continually swelling in importance, had fully debouched upon the stage, that she who was destined to be the charm as well as the crown of creation was permitted to appear. Nor was the place of her origin less expressive of her superiority; for was not she produced in Paradise itself, whilst all other beings, her husband included, were extra-parochial in their birth? Then, too, woman was constructed of worthier materials than her partner: he was fashioned of inanimate clay, she of clay which had already been honoured and etherealised by the possession of life. Hence it

follows that she never turns giddy, even on the brink of a precipice; whereas poor frail men are apt to lose their heads and topple to destruction. For the same reason, should a man happen to fall into the water, he will sink in a few moments to the bottom; but when the catastrophe happens to a female, she will float for a considerable time on the surface. Cornelius might easily have explained the fact, so far as it is a fact, by attributing it to the greater buoyancy of the feminine garb; and had he lived in the present age of 'inflated petticoats,' he would have doubted whether it was possible to submerge a lady at all. So, if a man should be drowned, he lies on his back; but a woman floats face downwards, out of pure deference to the modesty of the sex. Then we are assured that whilst gentlemen are frequently bald, ladies are never under the necessity of appealing, if the anachronism may be allowed, to Rowland's Macassar. Nature will not permit the fair countenance of woman to be defiled by a beard or a moustache; but less solicitous about the men, she allows them to grow as much capillary furze as they choose, and to go like wild beasts, if they think proper. And if these statements fail to convince the reader of the nobler quality of female clay, can he resist when told that if a woman just washed should undergo another cleansing, the water employed will not be dirtied in the least; whereas a brute of a man would visibly pollute it, though it were the tenth ablution the Ethiop had undergone.

Nor does Agrippa hesitate to claim as a merit what most satirists agree to regard as a 'fair defect.' Her power of tongue is ranked amongst the proofs of her surpassing excellence! The faculty of talking, he intimates, has been conferred upon her with such prodigality, that a taciturn woman is rare, and a lady perfectly mute is a phenomenon the world has hardly ever witnessed. Equally slashing are the theological arguments adduced by this erudite author in support of the pretensions of the sex. With amazing coolness he tells us that all original sin was derived from Adam, none from Eve. It is true that the temptation was addressed to the latter, and that the apple was plucked from the mysterious tree by feminine hands. But Cornelius adroitly contends that the interdict was laid exclusively on the husband, and that if she, who was free to take for herself, sinned in giving the fruit to her spouse, the blame of the transaction must rest with the Devil, who acted scandalously in deceiving her instead of going boldly to work with the man. With singular subtlety, too, does Cornelius elevate the evil deeds which women have occasionally done into positive evidences of their superiority. Was not Samson the strongest of mortals, and did not Delilah overmatch his brawn with her cunning? Was not Solomon the

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