Page:Machiavelli, Romanes Lecture, 2 June 1897.djvu/12

This page has been validated.

ever a bad name floated into currency, it was flung at Machiavelli, and his own name was counted among the worst that could be flung at a bad man. Averroes for a couple of centuries became a conventional label for a scoffer and an atheist, and Machiavelli, though he cared no more for the abstract problems that exercised the Moslem thinker, than he would have cared for the inward sanctities of Thomas à Kempis, was held up to odium as an Averroist. The Annals of Tacitus were discovered: his stern ironies on Tiberius and the rest did not prevent one school of politicians from treating his book as a manual for tyrants, while another school applied it against the Holy Roman Empire; his name was caught up in the storms of the hour, and Machiavellism and Tacitism became convertible terms.5

It is not possible here to follow the varying fates of Machiavelli's name and books.[1] The tale of Machiavellian criticism in our own century is a long one. That criticism has followed the great stream of political events in continental Europe; for it is events after all that make the fortune of books, rather than books that create events. Revolutions in France, unification in Italy, unification in Germany, the disappearance of the Temporal Power, the activity of the principle of Nationality, the realisation of the idea of the Armed People, have all in turn and in different forms

  1. The edition of the Prince, published by the Clarendon Press, with Mr. Burd's most competent and copious critical apparatus, and Lord Acton's closely packed introduction, supplies all that is wanted. The same Press has republished the English translation of the Prince by N. H. Thomson, who has also executed a translation of the Discourses (1883).