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CZECHO-SLOVAK MINISTER IN LONDON
You have asked me to write a few words by way of introduction to the new edition of The Life and Times of Master john Hus by your late husband, Francis Count Liitzow. It is with pleasure that I comply with your request. I regard it as a special distinction to be acting as Czecho-Slovak Minister in London at the time when a new edition of Count Liitzow’s book on Hus is being issued for the purpose of acquainting the English reading public with that important epoch in the history of the Czecho—Slovak nation, the outstanding representative of which is Master John Hus, who fought so nobly for freedom of conviction. It was his martyrdom which gave birth to that abhorrence of oppression, but also to that unshaken belief in the final victory of justice and truth which accompanied our nation through centuries of suffering, until, having attained their liberty and independence, they could proudly inscribe the motto " Pravda vitézi " (Truth prevails) upon the escutcheon of their own State.
I cannot of course presume to pronounce any judgment on a work whose value has long since been acknowledged by those best qualified to appreciate its merits, but I think that in my capacity as representative of the CZecho-Slovak State in Great Britain I may venture to express the feelings of deep gratitude which are cherished by every Czech heart towards the author’s life-work, devoted as it was to furthering the interests of the Czech cause in this country. When the book first appeared in the year 1909, nobody could have surmised that the dawn of our liberty was so soon to scatter the dark clouds which, in the concluding words of Count Liitzow’s History of Bohemia, seemed to surround the future of our country. But Count Liitzow, the Ambassador of a State yet unborn, prompted by the strongest affection for his native country, unswervingly advocated the justice of our claims, and by his literary works as well as by his own personal endeavours he propagated beyond the Czech frontiers a knowledge of our nation's glorious past, its sufferings and aspirations. It is a matter for eternal regret that he who thus achieved pioneer work of such enormous significance did not live to see the structure of our liberty for which he had helped to lay the foundation stone.
But the results of the work which he performed for his nation have remained, and the nation will never forget him. And you, madam, who were his life’s companion, have received the legacy of his noble achievement. I know—and nobody knows it better than I do—how you cherish this legacy as a lasting memorial to your husband, and although not of Czech birth yourself, you are proceeding on the same paths which were trodden by him. Thus our nation is deeply indebted to you also for continuing to uphold those national ideals with which the name of Count Liitzow is so closely associated.
Accept then, madam, this introduction as a token of gratitude to yourself also which I offer you as a representative of the Czecho- ' Slovak State in London.
With the expression of my profound esteem,
I beg to remain,
IT is hardly necessary to state that it is not without diffidence that I attempt to give an account of the life and times of John Hus. So much has been written on the great subject of the Bohemian reformation, and yet so little that is satisfactory. Hus has often been described as a martyr and as a forerunner of the German reformation, and both statements are to a certain extent true. It has equally often been attempted to blacken the memory of Hus, frequently by the most unworthy means. I write as a fervent admirer of Hus, both as an enthusiastic Bohemian patriot and as a fervent and pious Christian, whose life-purpose was to strive for a return to the conditions of the apostolic church, and to rescue the Church of Rome from the state of unspeakable corruption into which it had then fallen; and from which, partly by the action of Hus, it has since been delivered. It is no part of my task to attempt to prove that Hus was perfect. No man, indeed, would have resented such an attempt more than he, who in his writings constantly refers in a childlike and touching manner to his—very insignificant—shortcomings.
The very fact that my sympathy is entirely with Hus has, I hope, been to me an inducement to sift carefully all reliable evidence that may be contrary to him, and to study diligently the writings of all those who have written unfavourably of Hus. This impartiality appears to me as a duty for those who attempt, as historians, to pass judgment on the great men of bygone days. Not one of these great men has been judged more differently than Hus; and recent German historians have with great ingenuity attempted to classify the writers who have dealt with the life of the greatest man who belonged to the Czech or Bohemian race. It is sufficient to note here that these writers are either favourable to the Church of Rome and therefore, though often with great limitations, hostile to Hus, or opponents of Rome, who revere' in him one of the earliest champions of religious liberty and one of the forerunners of the German reformers. This division may appear obvious, but it is far less absolute than might be imagined. Thus Romanist writers who belong to the Czech or Bohemian nationality have often written somewhat favourably of Hus. Though condemning those of his views—far less numerous than has often been thought— which are opposed to Rome, these writers have done thorough justice to the beauty of his truly saintly character, and they have admitted that it was the virtuous indignation caused in him by the immoral life led by many—and principally the higher— ecclesiastics of the Roman Church that induced him to denounce that church in very strong terms.
On the other hand, Protestant German writers have, principally within the last years, violently attacked the memory of Hus. They saw in him mainly the undaunted champion of the oppressed Czech or Bohemian nationality. It was found easier in Germany to render justice to Hus at a time when the national cause for which he struggled so manfully appeared to be doomed, than it is now, when the Bohemian language, which owes so much to Hus, has attained a development that was undreamt of a century ago. Incidentally, and no doubt unintentionally, these German writers have done great service to the fame of Hus by drawing attention to the great part which he played as a Bohemian patriot. It was the word of Hus, as well as the sword of Zizka, which preserved the autonomy and the national character of Bohemia, which at the period of the Hussite wars were seriously menaced by the. numerous German colonists whom the policy of the Premyslide princes had established in the Bohemian towns. It will, of course, be my duty to point out the great part that Hus played as a Bohemian patriot. He believed as firmly as the Bohemian patriots of the present day that the nation as an individuality stands and falls with its language. Hus devoted much time and care to the development of that language, and a little-known part of his