The letters of John Hus/Part 2

Part II.—From the Death of Zbinek to the Exile of Hus

(September 1411—September 1412)

The death of Zbinek was not the end of strife, only its transference to new spheres. Henceforth for Hus there was no peace; but the constant struggle was not altogether the fault of his foes. In September 1411 Hus was engaged in a controversy with the Englishman, John Stokes, in defence of Wyclif. As, however, The Letters of Hus make no reference to this interesting if one-sided tournament, we pass it by (see Age of Hus, pp. 158 ff.).

In the autumn of this year we mark the commencement of the activity of Michael the Pleader. Michael Smradař of Deutsch Brod was at this time priest of St. Adalbert’s, Prague. Soon afterwards he entered the King’s service with a project for a reformed method of extracting gold from the diggings at Jilowy. According to his enemies, a tale endorsed by Mladenowic, he absconded with a part of the money; more probably, on achieving nothing, he deemed it wise to retire. He returned with the office of papal ‘procurator de causis fidei,’ whence the name Michael de Causis, or the Pleader, by which he is usually known. His attack upon Hus came about in this wise. In the spring of 1411 Hus, who had once more been appointed the special preacher before the Synod, dared to defend in a sermon, by quotations from Wyclif’s De Officio Regis—to which for once he acknowledged his indebtedness—the harsh measures that Wenzel had taken against the clergy who sided with Zbinek. In a sermon to the people on All Saints’ Eve, he again denounced the vices, especially the avarice, of the priests, singling out certain scandals connected with masses for the dead. The clergy, led on by Michael, retorted by a lawsuit, to which Hus refers in the following appeal (infra, p. 59). We see how powerless at this time the clerical party were to restrain the Reformer in the Contra Occultum Adversarium (Mon. i . 135–43), a tract which Hus finished on February 10, 1412, and of which we shall hear again at Constance. In one of his sermons to the people, undaunted by the lawsuit of Michael, Hus had again dwelt on the vices of the clergy. ‘Immediately after dinner’ he had been answered from the pulpit by some one whose name Hus does not give us. In his reply to this unknown disputant, Hus maintained the right of the secular authorities to control and correct scandalous priests, a matter which Rome always regarded with the utmost jealousy. He further defended his constant attacks upon the lives of the clergy from the charge that by this means he was destroying their order and honour. About this time, certainly before the outbreak of the dispute over indulgences in the May of 1412, Hus was also engaged in a controversy with a certain preacher of Pilsen (Replica contra Prædicatorem Plznensem, Mon. i. 144–8), of whose views Hus speaks at length in the latter part of Letter XII.

The following Appeal to the Supreme Court of Bohemia is without date. According to a marginal note in the MS. it was written ‘shortly before Christmas MCCCCXII.,’ a mistake for 1411. It is characteristic of Hus’s intense nationalism that it should have been written in Czech; a mark also of the practical drift of his reformation that he should dwell so strongly upon the duty of preaching. In part, of course, this last was an answer to the attempt of his enemies to silence him because of his excommunication.