No Comment, Quotation — May 17, 2008, 4:40 pm

Hutten’s nobilitas litteraria

holbein-gisze

Jedes Verlangen nach Ruhm ist ehrbar, aller Kampf um das Tüchtige lobenswürdig; mag doch jedem Stand seine eigene Ehre bleiben ihm eine eigene Zierde gewährt sein; jene Ahnenbilder will ich nicht verachten so wenig als die wohlausgestatteten Stammbäume, aber was auch deren Wert sei, ist nicht unser eigen wenn wäre es nicht durch Verdienste erst eigen machen auch kann es nicht bestehen wenn der Adel nicht Sitten, die ihm geziemen, annimmt. Vergehens wird ein fetter und beleibter jener Hausväter die Standbilder seiner Vorfahren Dir aufzeigen, indes er selbst untätig eher einem Klotz ähnlich, als daß es jenen die ihm mit Tüchtigkeit voranleuchteten zu vergleichen wäre.

All longing for fame is honorable, all struggle for the virtuous is worthy of praise. Even if we accord to every class its own honor as an individual ornament—still, all those portraits of ancestors I will not despise so much as the well-drawn family trees, whatever their worth may be, the nobility they show is not our own unless it is so made through our own achievements, and neither can it subsist unless the nobility take on the good morals which behoove them. In vain will an unseemly character among these nobles show you the portrait gallery of his ancestors, for if he himself is unworthy of the comparison to those who showed the way before him with their virtues, then he will seem more a klutz than a nobleman.

Ulrich von Hutten, letter to Wilibald Pirckheimer, Oct. 25, 1518 (transl. of the Latin original, epistola vitae suae rationem exponens, by Jacob Burckhardt; English transl. S.H.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

April 2015

The Joke

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Abolish High School

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Beat Reporter

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Going It Alone

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Rotten Ice

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Life After Guantánamo

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

[Browsings]
Photograph by the author
Article
Rotten Ice·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“When I asked if we were going to die, he smiled and said, ‘Imaqa.’ Maybe.”
Photograph © Kari Medig
Article
Life After Guantánamo·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I’ve seen the hell and I’m still in the beginning of my life.”
Illustration by Caroline Gamon
Article
Going It Alone·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The call to solitude is universal. It requires no cloister walls and no administrative bureaucracy, only the commitment to sit down and still ourselves to our particular aloneness.”
Photograph by Richard Misrach
Article
No Slant to the Sun·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“She didn’t speak the language, beyond “¿cuánto?” and “demasiado,” but that didn’t stop her. She wanted things. She wanted life, new experiences, a change in the routine.”
Photograph © Stuart Franklin/Magnum Photos

Years it would take Jim Bakker to earn enough to pay his federal fine at his current job cleaning prison toilets:

2,331

Zoologists speculated that cannibalism among hippos might have led to an anthrax outbreak in Uganda that has killed at least 220 of the beasts. “I knew hippos were nasty,” said one anthrax expert, “but I didn’t know they went around eating each other.”

A white man in St. Louis was charged with punching a black man at a gas station after telling him to “go back to Ferguson.” “I’m going to let the authorities handle this,” said the victim, a former Major League baseball player, “but I’ve had enough of St. Louis.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Driving Mr. Albert

By

He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.

Subscribe Today