The letters of John Hus/Stanislaus and Palecz; Quarrel with Hus; Stephen Dolein

The opposition of Hus to the indulgences separated the Reformer for ever from his former friends Stanislaus and Palecz. The first cause of their ‘backsliding like a crab,’ as Hus termed it, is somewhat obscure. In the autumn of 1408, in furtherance of Wenzel’s policy, an embassy was despatched to the Pisan cardinals. It consisted of John Cardinalis of Reinstein, the usual envoy of Wenzel, Mařik Rwačka, Stanislaus of Znaim, and Stephen Palecz. The two last, for some reason or other—perhaps because of their well-known sympathy with the Wyclifists—incurred the suspicion of Cossa. They were arrested at Bologna, ‘deprived of their goods, and imprisoned.’ Hus, Jesenicz, and Christian Prachaticz at once laboured for their release. At length, after petitions from the University (December 8, 1408) and from the Pisan cardinals themselves (February 12, 1409), this was procured, though not before Palecz was robbed of ‘207 gold knights.’ They returned to Prague to find the University wrecked by the disruption. Whether this last event, or some subtle influences brought to bear upon them in their imprisonment, or the greater conservatism of maturer years, led to a change of view, we know not. Certain it is that they slowly drifted from alliance with Hus into the bitterest opposition. They first became what Hus called ‘Terminists’—i.e., Nominalists—then by a natural sequence the persecutors of their old associates. But we must beware of doing them the injustice of supposing that the drift was on their side only. Nor must we forget that by Hus’s expulsion of the Germans from the University the triumphant Czechs, no longer united by a common hatred, had now opportunity to discover unsuspected lines of cleavage among themselves.

On the outbreak of the dispute over the indulgences, Palecz, for the moment, had wavered. A meeting on the matter was held at the rectory of Christian Prachaticz. ‘If Palecz is willing to confess the truth,’ said Hus, ‘he will remember that he was the first to give me with his own hand the articles of indulgence, with the remark in writing (manu) that they contained palpable errors. I keep the copy to this day as a witness. But after he had consulted with another colleague he went over to the other camp. The last word I said to him—for I have not spoken to him since—was this: “Palecz is my friend, Truth is my friend; of the two it were only right to honour Truth most.”’

The theologians, in fact, were unaminous that it was not their business to inquire into the value of the apostolic letters, but ‘as obedient sons to obey, and fight those who opposed.’

Palecz and Stanislaus were not the only foes whom Hus at this time was driven to encounter. In Letter XIV. we are introduced to his most unsparing literary opponent, Stephen, the prior of the Carthusian monastery of Dolein, near Olmütz, in Moravia. According to Stephen’s own statement, Hus and he at one time had been ‘men of one mind who had taken sweet meat together’; but they had long since drifted apart. As early as 1408 we find Stephen refuting Wyclif’s Trialogus in his In Medullam Tritici (“The Marrow of Wheat”), dedicated to Kbel, whom we have already met (supra, p. 12). In this work the references to Hus are few and slight, but his condemnation of Wyclif, whom Stephen recognises as the master, is unsparing.

The following letter of Hus was written in the summer of 1412. ‘To which writing,’ Stephen tells us, ‘when the purport had been told me, and I had seen and ascertained it for myself, I composed the following brief answer’—to wit, that he would reply at length when a suitable opportunity arose. A few months later (autumn 1412) Stephen fulfilled his promise by bringing out his Antihussus, dedicated to Stanislaus of Znaim, in the preface of which he incorporated this letter of Hus. The work ends with a prayer and a curse: ‘Holy Mary and all saints pray for us that the truth may be confirmed. Thou muck-sack (sacce) Wyclif pray for thy own that falsehood be condemned. Amen.’ In September 1414, to anticipate his further writings, Stephen brought out his Dialogus Volatilis inter Aucam et Passerem, seu Mag. Hus et Stephanum, dedicated to the Bishop of Leitomischl, while in 1417, after Hus’s death, he wrote his long Epistle to the Hussites. (All the above works are in Pez, Thesaurus, iv. pt. ii.)