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Bohemia: An Historical Sketch/Introduction

< Bohemia: An Historical Sketch

INTRODUCTION

 

By Professor T. G. MASARYK,

First President of the Czecho-Slovak Republic.

 

The History of Bohemia, by Count Lützow, whose untimely death during the War was equally lamented by the Czech and English peoples, presents the English reader with an accurate picture of our past. In this work Count Lützow succeeded in correctly interpreting the spirit of Bohemian history, the significance of which lies as much in the nation's fight for freedom of conscience as in a struggle for national existence against the mighty pressure of Germanism. There is much in Bohemian history that will appeal to the English reader. What Englishman could fail to find interest in the history of that nation which was once ruled over by the "Goode King Wenceslaus" of the old English carol and by the blind King John, the news of whose valiant death brought tears to the eyes of Edward III; of that nation which gave England one of her most popular queens—Queen Anne, wife of Richard II and daughter of the greatest of our Czech kings?

Bohemia, though one of the lesser nations, gave more than one man to the world," revered in all hearts that love light." Huss, whose teachings and death gave rise to the Hussite Reformation and thus brought about the inauguration of modern spiritual life; Chelčickỳ, the founder of the Unitas Fratrum, the Church of Bohemian (Moravian) Brethren, who in his interpretation of Christian love in its form of non-resistance to evil anticipated the famous teachings of Tolstoy; Komenskỳ (Comenius) the great humanitarian teacher of all nations and apostle of universal peace; the democratic king George of Poděbrad, who was bending his endeavours toward the same end; all these are men whose significance stretches far beyond the frontiers of their native country. Palackỳ, our greatest historian, rightly observed that the Czech Reformation contained the germ of all modern teachings and institutions; and, as M. Denis, the French historian of Bohemia, adds, it was at once the merit and happiness of Bohemia that its own cause was always bound up with the cause of humanity in general.

To the second edition of this book Count Lützow added a chapter dealing with Bohemian history subsequent to the year 1620, the date of the battle of White Mountain. It seemed to him that an history coming to an end in the darkness which at that time fell over Bohemia, and with it over all Europe, must leave in the reader a feeling of depression and disappointment. But at the time when he concluded this additional chapter the outlook seemed no better; he foresaw, indeed, very dark prospects for Bohemia—darker than they had been for many a year. "Dark clouds seem to surround the future of Bohemia," are his last words. It was not granted to Count Lützow to see how these dark clouds dispersed after the tempest of the War, a tempest which had already begun to gather when he wrote his book: it was not granted him to see the sun of freedom shine down once more upon the Czech and Slovak people, re-united in one free nation and claiming their part in the task of the regeneration of Europe and humanity.

It affords an interesting illustration of the conditions from which the Czecho-Slovak people escaped by their revolution against Austria-Hungary, to add that the Czech translation of the present book was at first suppressed by the Austrian authorities, and that subsequently not more than twenty pages of it were allowed to be read by the very nation to whose history it was devoted.

Finally let me add a little personal reminiscence which emphasises Count Lützow's devotion to the Czech cause. When I was in Geneva in 1915 the Count was also near in Switzerland, and was closely watched by Austrian agents. Desiring in no way to compromise him I kept aloof, but I soon found out that the Count was in touch with our agents who worked in Switzerland, and that he was rendering them substantial financial support.

 
 

Prague,
December 15th, 1919.