Revival of Bohemian Literature, from A.D. 1774-80 to the present time.
In A.D. 1774, the marshal count Kinsky published a work on the advantages and necessity of a knowledge of the Bohemian language. At that time so great was the neglect of the mother tongue, that even for a work of so patriotic a nature, he had to employ a foreign language in order to be understood! One year later appeared an apology for the vernacular tongue of the country, written a hundred years before by the Jesuit Balbin in Latin, and edited by Pelzel. These two writings created a deep sensation; and even the government would seem to have taken notice of them. We find, at least, that in the same year teachers of the Bohemian language were appointed in the university of Vienna and in two other institutions in that city. At the same time, the royal normal school at Prague began to print several Bohemian books for instruction. When the tolerant views and principles by which Joseph II was actuated, became known, more than a hundred thousand concealed Protestants immediately appeared; their hidden books were brought to light again; and many works, of which only single copies existed, were reprinted. In 1781 the severe edict of Ferdinand II was repealed, and a censorship established upon more reasonable principles. In 1786, the Bohemian language had gained friends enough to induce the government to institute a Bohemian theatre; which, with a short interruption during the present century, has ever since existed. The unfortunate system of general centralization adopted by Joseph II, was on the whole not favourable to the cultivation of any but the German language; but during the reign of his two successors, the Bohemian received more encouragement. In 1793 a professorship for the language and literature of the country was founded in the university of Prague; the use of that language in all the schools was ordained by several decrees of the government; and by a law of A.D. 1818, a knowledge of it was made a necessary qualification for holding any office.