Selling your Scholarly Soul for the Vices of Court Life

Hutten, Ulrich von (1488-1523)

Aula. Dialogus.

Augsburg: S. Grimm and M. Wirsung, 26 March 1519


Quarto: 20 x 15.5 cm. [23] ff. A-E4, F4 (lacking final blank leaf F4)

SECOND AUGSBURG EDITION (the first edition was printed in 1518).

This is a fine copy with only a little light staining to the title page. The contents are clean; the margins are wide. There is contemporary foliation in the upper blank corners of the leaves.

Hutten’s famous satire on courtly life. It is dedicated to Heinrich Stromer von Auerbach, court physician of the Mainz Elector. At the end is a verse “Prognosticon ad annum. M.D.XVI. ad Leonem .X. Pont. Max.” (Hutten’s warning that if Leo X engaged in war with the Emperor Maximilian, Italy would be destroyed) and a publisher’s advertisement of Hutten’s “Ebrietatis laus” (in praise of drunkenness.)

“Ulrich Von Hutten (1488-1523) was an important German humanist, neo-Latin poet, and political publicist in the service of the Reformation. Born into a family of imperial knights in Steckelberg castle in Franconia, Hutten entered the school of the Benedictine abbey in nearby Fulda in 1499. Against the will of his parents he left that school in 1505 and spent the following six years at the universities of Mainz, Cologne, Erfurt, Frankfurt an der Oder, Leipzig, Greifswald, and Rostock, where he became part of the broad humanist circle…

“On his way to Italy to study law he visited Joachim Vadian in Vienna and other humanists in the circle of the Emperor Maximilian. He then turned from personal literary interests to political matters. After studying at the universities of Pavia and Bologna and serving briefly in the army of Maximilian, Hutten returned to Germany in 1514. There he met Erasmus, who expected much of the young poet and who dedicated his epistolary biography of Thomas More to the young aristocrat… During his second stay in Italy (1515-17) he wrote a series of epigrams denouncing not only the enemies of the Emperor Maximilian-the French and the Venetians-but also Pope Julius II.

“On his return from Italy Hutten was crowned poet laureate by Maximilian and entered the service of Albert of Brandenburg, archbishop of Mainz, as councilor; in four dialogues Hutten nonetheless castigated not only the luxury and moral excess of the papal court and the concept of celibacy but also Rome’s fiscal exploitation of the German nation.

Hutten’s “Aula”:

“The moral dilemma posed by court life was acute for university graduates who found themselves faced with the advancement potential offered by the court and the threat of damnation implicit in its many vices. The challenge to lead a life in the imitatio Christi tradition lay not only in the display of wealth in court life but also in the mainly secular ends served by court activities.

“The critique of Hutten, emphasizing his literary intentions in using fictions and satire, seems to ignore the fact that his criticisms are drawn from personal experiences. Recognizing the potential for misinterpretation, however, Hutten sought to deflect any notion that his criticisms were directed at the man he served, Prince Elector / Cardinal Al­brecht v. Brandenburg, rather than at the nature of court life itself. Hutten’s approach is didactic, using the dialogue form to cloak the seriousness of his intent in a light-hearted, inoffensive exchange between friends Castus and Misaulis.

“Hutten’s dialog is a conversational mirror with a caution for those who had not yet made the choice of life at court and with an implied self-criticism that he had himself become part of a life he was advising others to avoid. Hutten’s diverse life reflected his commitments to the nobility to which he belonged, to humanistic scholarship and study, to joining professional skills and private interests in service to public responsibilities, and to life in a society, however corrupt, in which he could achieve fame and success for himself and respect for his social class. The fact that he died in seclusion, separated from friends and family, suffering from syphilis, underlines the gap between ideals and realities in his life.” (Richard Ernest Walker)

“Despite his antipapal stance, Hutten initially viewed the controversy following Luther’s postings of the Ninety-five Theses in Wittenberg as a monk’s squabble and a welcome rift among his opponents. It was only after two years of virtually ignoring Luther, after the Leipzig Disputation of June-July 1519, that Hutten began to consider himself as an ally... Although Luther’s opposition to Rome was rooted primarily in religious-theological concerns and Hutten’s was prompted by political-national aspirations, the two men exercised considerable influence on each other.

“In 1520 Hutten embarked on a feverish campaign in which he challenged the Emperor, the German nobility, the princes, the cities and the general reader to take up the fight against Rome, if necessary, with arms... During the Diet of Worms he, next to Luther became the most prominent representative of the antipapal party in Germany. Realizing in the wake of the Diet that a general uprising would not occur, Hutten launched the so-called “Priests’ War” in the hope that it would provide the spark that would ignite the German powder keg. In 1522, having lost the protection of Sickingen, Hutten fled to Basel and then, in 1523, to Zurich, where he died, alone, on 29 August of Syphilis” (Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation)

VD-16 H-6299. Benzing (Hutten) 75. STC German (BL) 426. Not in Adams