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The Political and Ideological Context of Innocent Gentillet's Anti-Machiavel

  • Antonio D'Andrea (a1)

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Machiavelli's controversial reputation secured an easy, though ambiguous, success to the Discours … Contre Nicolas Machiavel Florentin. While the author, the Huguenot jurisconsult Innocent Gentillet, remained virtually unknown outside of Geneva and the Dauphiné even to his contemporaries, his work, first published anonymously in 1576, was for a long time widely read and discussed in the light of the controversy stirred up by Machiavelli's doctrines. As early as 1580, Montaigne very likely alludes to Gentillet's work and puts it alongside Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy.

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1 The full title is: Discours sur les moyens de bien gouverner et maintenir en bonne paix un Royaume ou autre Principauti. Divisez en trois parties: assavoir, du Conseil, de la Religion et Police que doit tenir un Prince, Contre Nicolas Machiavel Florentin. But the book is already referred to as the Anti-Machiavel before its publication, in a letter of March 7, 1576, written from Geneva by Simon Goulart to Bonaventura Vulcanius: ‘Ego brevi ad te mittam Gallicum Antimachiavellicum, seu tractatus de consilio, religione et politia principum ab amico quodam meo, nuper scriptos. Proxima hebdomada colophon huic operi addetur, turn libello alio, quern simul accipies’ (Correspondance de Bonaventura Vulcanius pendant son séjour à Cologne, Genèoe et Bâle, ed. H. de Vries de Heckelingen, The Hague, 1923, p. 325). This title was frequently used to designate the book in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, though it actually appeared on the title page in only one edition, the German edition of 1624. It appears again on the title page of a recent edition—the first to be published after more than three centuries—with commentaries and notes by C. Edward Rathe': Innocent Gentillet, Anti-Machiavel (Geneve, 1968).

2 Essais, II.xvii, ed. Thibaudet, A., Bibliothèque de la Pléiade (Paris, 1958), p. 740 . The passage quoted is to be found in the 1580 edition of the Essais. Concerning Montaigne's allusion to Gentillet's Discours in this and other passages of the Essais, see Villey, P., Les sources et l’évolution des Essais de Montaigne (Paris, 1908), 1, 308310 and passim.

3 See under ‘Anti-Machiavel’ in Baillet, A., Les satires personnelles qui portent le titre d'Anti (Paris, 1689).

4 Conring, for instance, though basically in disagreement widi Gentillet considers him to be a very learned man, ‘vir caeteroquim doctissimus’ (Nicolai Machiavelli aliaque nonnulla curante Hermanno Conringio, Helmestadii, 1660; I quote from the 1686 edition, sig. b 2r-v); and J. F. Christ affirms: ‘Doctrina tamen et eruditionis apparatus abiudicando Gentilleto non sunt, neque in eo sentiendum cum Adriano Bailleto, quod, nulla habita rerum et verborum Machiavelli ratione, controversiam ei fecerit’ (De Nicolao Machiavello libri tres, Halle, 1731, p . 30).

5 See, e.g., Mohl, R., Die Ceschichte und Literatur der Staatswissenschaften (Erlangen, 1858), III, 549551 ; and Burd's Introduction to his edition of The Prince (Oxford, 1891), PP- 51-55.

6 Meinecke, F., Die Idee der Staatsrason in der neueren Ceschichte (Miinchen, 1924); Eng. trans. (London, 1957), pp. 51-56. Only recently has Meinecke's suggestion been followed to any extent in a book on Gentillet just published by a former student of mine: Stewart, P. D., Innocent Gentillet e la suapolemica antimachiavellica (Firenze, 1969), pp. 6566 , 88, 95-107, 132.

7 The whole episode runs from p. 149 to p. 170; concerning the possibility of its being a source of Swift's Tale of a Tub, see Baughan, D. E., ‘Swift and Gentillet,’ Studies in Philology, XXXVII (1940), 6474. As for the canon. Ego Berengarius, referred to by Gentillet in the passage quoted above, see Corpus iuris canonici, 1, Decretum Magistri Gratiani, Pars m, De Consecratione, Distinctio ii, Canon xlii, ed. Richter-Friedberg (Leipzig, 1879), coll. 1328-29. The canon in question concerns the meaning of the bread and wine used during the Mass.

8 In quoting Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy I have always used the English translation by L.J. Walker (London, 1950).

9 Principe, xx, Eng. trans. Gilbert, Allan, in Machiavelli, the chief works and others (Durham, North Carolina, 1965), I, 78.

10 See Discourses on Livy, II.xxiv: ‘If you kill their leaders and suppress all other signs of insurrection, like the heads of the Hydra other leaders will arise.'

11 See De Caprariis, V., Propaganda e pensiero politico in Francia durante le guerre di religione (Napoli, 1959), pp. 461465. Even the metaphor of the salmon and the frogs, used by Gentillet in the passage I quote below, had been used before 1572: ‘et ce suivant Padvis de Due d'Albe, qui leur avoit mandé entr'autres conseils que Mieux vault la teste d'un Saulmon que de cinquante grenouilles’ (Memoires de la troisieme guerre civile, et des derniers troubles de France, s. 1., 1571, p. 28).

12 For the text of the decisions taken at Millaud in July and August 1574, see Memoires de Vestat de France sous Charles IX, Seconde Edition, Revue, corrigee, et augmentee (A Meidelbourg, Par Henry Wolf, 1578), vol. in, fols. 405-410”, 4i6v-420v, 420V-422v.

13 Catherine is openly attacked by the Latin translator of the Discours in the Epistle Dedicatory prefaced to the 1577 Latin edition. All references to the queen mother were carefully removed from the Epistle Dedicatory in the 1578 Latin edition.

14 The earliest edition I have come across is dated 1575. Pierre de l'Estoile, however, seems to refer to this same work as already published in September 1574: Mimoires- Journaux de Pierre de l'Estoile, ed. Brunet et aL (Paris, 1875-96), I, 27-28. See also Clement, L., Henri Estienne et son oeuvre francaise (Paris, 1899), p. 34.

15 The text of the Protestation is printed in La Popeliniere, La vraye et entiere histoire des troubles ct choses memorables advenues … depuis Van mil cinq ceens soixante et deux (A Basle, Pour Barthelemy Germain, 1579), n, 158 ff.

16 Archives d'etat de Geneve, Registres du Conseil, 27 December, 1575, quoted by Fazy, H., Genève, le parti huguenot et le traité de Soleure (Genève, 1883), p. 49 , n. 2.

17 Douglas, , Vie et pohies de Soffrey de Calignon (Grenoble, 1874), p. 307.

18 ‘A Edimbourg, De rimprimerie de Jaques James. Avec permission. 1574,’ p. 40.

19 See, for instance, Discours, sig.+3v, pp. 39-50, 484, 486-487, 595.

20 The first edition of the Francogallia was published in Geneva, in 1573.1 quote from the second edition: Franc. Hotomani Iurisconsulti Francogallia (Colonia, Ex officina Hieronymi Bertulphi, 1574), sig. ¶ 4; see also pp. 124-129. On the composition of the Francogallia, see Giesey, E. R. ‘When and why Hotman wrote the Francogallia,’ Bibliotlxique d'Humanisme et Renaissance, XXIX (1967), 581611.

21 Discours, p. 278; concerning Louis XI's humility, see also pp. 116, 117, 202, and Commynes, Mèmoires, Bibliotheque de la Pléiade, p. 991.

22 Discours, p. 8; see also sig.+2, pp. 9, 11-12, 139-140, etc.

23 Du droit des magistrats sur leurs subjets (s.L, 1574), p. 52. Concerning the question of whether it is better for the ruler to be loved or feared, see Principe, XVII; but see also, for instance, Seneca, Phoenissae, 645-660, Octavia, 456-457, Agamemnon, 72-73. On Beza's Du droit des magistrats, see Gardy, F., Bibliographic des oeuvres théologiques, littéraires, historiques et juridiques de Theodore de Bkze (Genève, 1960), p. 162 ; Droz, E., ‘Fausses adresses typographiques,’ Bibliotheque d'Humanisme et Renaissance, XXIII (1961), 380386 , 572-574; Giesey, p. 582. On the first phase of Beza's political thought, see Kingdom, R. M., ‘The first expression of Theodore Beza's political ideas,’ Archivfür Reformationsgeschichte, XLVI (1955), 8899.

24 Du droit des magistrats, pp. 12-13. See Principe, vII, Discorsi, n.xiii; but see also Aristotle's Politics, v.x., 1313a, 5-10.

25 Codex Ittstinianus, l.xiiii, De legibus et constitutionibus principum et edictis, 4, ed. P. Krueger (Berlin, 1906), p. 68.

26 I Sam. 8:10-18. On this passage, see also Calvin's, Institution de la religion chreslienne, ed. Pannier, J. (Paris, 1936), IV, 232233.

27 The Vindiciae were published in 1579 with the false imprint ‘Edimburgi.'

28 Gerber, A., Niccoli Machiavelli (Gotha, 1913), Dritter Teil, Die Uebersetzungen, pp. 6075.

29 Gerber, pp. 68-69.

30 Animadversionespoliticae in Nicolai Machiavelli librum de Principe (Helmestadii, 1661), sigs. biv-b2.

31 Vindiciae, sig. A 3v: ‘… quae caelitum et hominum contemptrix, calliditatis et perfidiae viribus artibusque subnixa, eo ingenium omne contulit, potentiam et robur, ut Gallos natura liberos, et omnis antiquitatis moribus, legibus et insritutis penitus ingenuos, in barbarae crudelitatis servitutem redigat.'

32 Vindiciae, sig. A 4v: ‘Itaque cum de Galliae calamitatibus mihi multo cum Bruto, erudito, prudente, nobilique viro, sermo esset circiter abhinc biennium, et ultro citroque non pauca de earum originibus, caussis, initiis et progressibus percurrissemus, eo tandem ventum est, ut, inter cetera, studio librorum Machiavellij, maxime crederemus acui quorundam ingenia, quo, artes perturbandi Remp. ex eorum auctoritate, qui earn regunt, amplecterentur. Quarum artium fundamenta, eum in iis libris, sparsim pessimis ea de re praeceptionibus editis iecisse, satis utrique constirit.'

33 Gentillet obtained permission from the Genevan authorities to publish the Discours on October 21, 1575, after the book had been examined by Beza: Archives d'Etat de Geneve, Registres du Conseil, October 21, 1575. From the concluding passage of the Remonstrance au roy tres-chrestien Henri III, first published towards the end of 1574, it seems that, already at that time, Gentillet—almost certainly the author of the Remonstrance— intended to write a book against Machiavelli.

This is an expanded version of a paper read on December 29, 1967, at a Session of the Eighty-Second Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association.

The Political and Ideological Context of Innocent Gentillet's Anti-Machiavel

  • Antonio D'Andrea (a1)

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