Open main menu

Page:The letters of Martin Luther.djvu/23

This page has been validated.
xix
PREFACE

splendid continental libraries, the Koenigliche in Berlin, the Grand Ducal in Weimar, and the Johanneum in Hamburg, where even a stranger, by finding a guarantor, may take home an armful of volumes for a month; also for permission to consult Walch and De Wette in the Glasgow University Library.

The translator would never have presumed to undertake what has proved an even more arduous task than she expected had there been a collection of Luther’s letters in English. There is no such collection. The small volume of his Letters to Women is all that exists. The reader’s kind indulgence is therefore claimed for all shortcomings.

In the selection of the letters, those referred to in Koestlin’s Life and Works of Luther and in the lives of many of his friends were used; also an excellent collection of ninety-one letters by Dr. Buchwald published in 1898 was consulted, as well as Dr. Theodore Kolde’s excellent Life of Luther, published 1884, from which letters for insertion were selected.

Of course the text-book all through has been De Wette. The letters have been rendered into the simplest English, as more in accordance with the original, and with Luther’s ideas in general. The following anecdote may show the reason for such rendering: — Complimenting Bücer when in Wittenberg in 1536 on his fine sermon, Luther said: “And yet I am a better preacher than you!” As Bücer cordially admitted this, Luther explained: “I did not mean it so, for I know my weakness, and could not preach so learnedly, but when I enter the pulpit, and see my audience before me, mostly ignorant peasants and Wends, I preach to them even as a mother feeds her babes with milk.” “And thus,” says Koestlin, “even in jest did Luther characterize his own preaching.” A few very long letters had to be shortened