The letters of John Hus/Delays in the Trial; The Papal Difficulty; The Way of Cession; A Letter from Chlum; That Tattered Bit of Paper; The Rhymes of Hus

In the recently published Diary of Cardinal Fillastre we read: ‘In the meantime’—i.e., before February 16—‘we dealt with the errors of Wyclif. But the whole business was put off, through our handling the way of cession.’ (ed. Finke, op. cit. p. 166). This last was a proposal of the French Cardinals D’Ailli and Fillastre—first made on February 15—that the three rival Popes should all resign. This led to the delays in the further treatment of the case of Hus to which Chlum alludes—‘the foreign and irrelevant matter’—in the following letter to Hus. The matter of the cession was further discussed on February 21 and 28, and by the beginning of March had become the settled conviction of the Council. On March 5—the day of the arrival of the embassy of the French King (Charles)—the Council proposed to the Pope that he should issue a bull consenting to this ‘method of cession,’ and naming proctors who should carry out his resignation. John of course refused (Hardt, iv. 523, Finke, op. cit. 167). John of Chlum’s optimism shows how little he and the other Bohemians understood the working of the Inquisition. For the time being, however, further proceedings were postponed.

John of Chlum to John Hus

(Without date: first week in March 1415)

Dearest friend, you ought to know that your case and the cause of truth never moved on so brightly as at present, although some other foreign and irrelevant matters have cropped up, so that your case is delayed for the moment.

All your friends, especially Christian, are paying court to the good widow, who is a second widow of Sarepta![1]

That tattered three-cornered bit of paper has come to hand and has been duly read.[2] Its arrival without the least delay could not have been so quickly anticipated.

Our doctor of Biberach[3] only asks for a reasonable excuse for writing; from which you can guess his incurable itch for scribbling! I beg you to send some comforting words to your good-hearted friends.

In the following letter we are introduced to the ‘consolatory rhymes,’ which Hus wrote in prison, as Mladenowic puts it, ‘to pass the time and console himself.’ Their value as hexameters may be judged from the third line,

Jonam, Danielem, tres pu. Susannam, quia fuere’ (!)

The complaint of ‘negligence in writing,’ would point to a date later than the preceding letter to Chlum, while the references to John Barbatus, as well as to Easter, add strength to this argument. From the tone of the letter it is evident that Hus was depressed. It is evident also that the visit of the inquisitors had been interrupted by the new stir over the Pope’s proposed abdication. The answer to Gerson, it seems, still hangs fire.

  1. 1 Kings xvii. 9 ff. Christian Prachaticz, whose attentions to Hus’s landlady, widow Faithful of the bakehouse, with the sign of the White Pigeons, Chlum here jokingly mentions, soon after this was arrested on the suit of Michael the Pleader and brought before the Patriarch of Constantinople. Thirty articles were presented against him. But on the intervention of Sigismund, who had a special interest in him as a learned astronomer, he was released, and allowed to return to Prague (March 18–19) with a letter from Lacembok: ‘There it is feared he will sow other lies, as is the manner of all the Wycliflsts’ (Doc. 512). This helps to fix the date of the letter.
  2. Cf. p. 172. Paper evidently once more running out.
  3. See p. 155. Chlum had written only a day or two before. See p. 191. Hence the allusion and the date.