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terspersed with explanatory or critical comments, and copious patches from other books. It is in fact "Remarks on the Life of Erasmus ;' no more a biography than the Remarks on Ecclesiastical History' are a history of the Church. Of the later writers there is a laborious but heavy work by Hess, in two volumes, Zürich, 1790; a shorter by Adolf Müller, Hamburg, 1828, with a long, wearisome, and very German preface on the development of mankind, and of the individual man. The life, however, has considerable merit; but Müller labours so hard not to be partial to Erasmus, as to fall into the opposite extreme. Perhaps the best appreciation, on the whole, of the great Scholar is in an article in Ersch and Gruber's Cyclopædia. M. Nisard has a lively and clever sketch, which originally appeared in the · Revue des Deux Mondes, and was reprinted in his · Études sur la Renaissance,' but, as is M. Nisard's wont, too showy, and wanting in grave and earnest appreciation of a character like Erasmus.
Erasmus was born in the city of Rotterdam, October 28, 1467. Even fore his birth he was the victim of that irreligious and merciless system which showed too plainly the decay and degeneracy of the monastic spirit. It blighted him with the shame of bastardy, with which he was taunted by ungenerous adversaries. His father before him was trepanned against his inclinations, against his natural disposition and temperament, into that holy function, of which it is difficult enough to maintain the sanctity with the most intense devotion of mind and heart. If we did not daily witness the extraordinary influence of a strong corporate spirit, we might imagine that it was the delight of the monks of those days, and their revenge upon mankind, to make others as miserable as they found themselves. In the words applied by Erasmus himself, they might seem to compass heaven and earth to make proselytes, such proselytes usually fulfilling the words of the Scripture. That strange passion for what might be called, in a coarse phrase, crimping for ecclesiastical recruits,-a phrase, unless kidnapping be better, often used by Erasmus,—without
regard to their fitness for the service, lasted to late times, and became extinct, if it be extinct (which we sadly doubt), with monkhood itself. Our readers may recollect how the Jesuits laid their snares for promising youths, and nearly caught Marmontel and Diderot; though perhaps it was easier to make clever Jesuits of clever boys, than devout or even decent monks of those who had no calling for cloistral austerities or ascetic retreat. In the days of Erasmus the system was carried on without any scruple. "What boy was there of hopeful genius, of honourable birth, or of wealth, whom they did not tempt with their stratagems, for whom they did not spread their nets, whom they did not try to catch by their wiles, the parents often being ignorant, not rarely decidedly adverse. This wickedness, which is more wicked than any kidnapping (plagio), these actors dare to perpetrate in the name of piety.?? This was intelligible when they sought to enlist sons of family or wealth, who might fill their coffers or extend their influence; or men of very high promise, who might advance or extend their cause.
But Gerard, the father of Erasmus, was one of ten sons, born of decent but not opulent parents, at Gouda (Tergau) in Holland. One, at least, of that large family (the desire to disembarrass themselves of the charge and responsibility of troublesome younger brothers was ever unhappily conspiring with the proselytising zeal) must be persuaded or compelled to enter into holy orders or the cloister. Gerard might seem by temperament and disposition the least suited to a life of mortification and sanctity. He was gay and mirthful; even in later life he bore a Dutch name, best rendered 'the facetious.' But there was a graver disqualification, of which neither his parents nor the monks were ignorant; he had formed a passionate attachment to the daughter of a physician. The opposition of his parents to the marriage, fatal to their design of driving him into the cloister, did not break off, but rendered the intimacy too close; he fled from
his home. Margarita, who shouid have been his wife, retired to Rotterdam, where she gave birth to a son destined to a world-wide fame. Gerard, after many wanderings, had found his way to Rome. There he earned his livelihood by transcribing works, chiefly those of classical authors, the office of transcriber not being yet superseded by the young art of printing. He is said to have acquired a strong taste for those writers, and a fair knowledge of their works. A rumour was industriously spread, and skilfully conveyed to his ears, that his beloved Margarita was dead. In his first fit of desperation he severed himself from the world, and took the irrevocable
On his return to his native Gouda he found the mother of his son in perfect health. But he took the noblest revenge on the fraud which had beguiled him into Holy Orders: he was faithful to his vows. He was presented by the Pope with a prebend, a decent maintenance, in his native country. No suspicion seems from this time to have attached to his conduct, though he still preserved his animal spirits and wit, and the lighter appellation of his youth still clung to him. The mother, too, from that time lived with unsullied fame. It was said of her
Huic uni potuit succumbere culpæ.3
Gerard, the son of Gerard (the name was fancifully, it does not appear by whose fancy, Latinized into Desiderius, and Desiderius again repeated in the Greek Erasmus), was sent to the school at Gouda, kept by a certain Peter Winkel. Winkel held him for a dunce; but the dulness may have been in the
: Was there another son three years older than Erasmus ? The earlier lires, those of which Erasmus himself furnished the materials, are silent about him ; but if the narrative, in the celebrated Epistle to Grunnius, be the early life of Erasmus himself—and this cannot be reasonably doubted—there was; and a passage in another letter, indicated by Jortin, seems conclusive. If so, the elder was a dull, coarse boy, who, having determined with Erasmus to resist, deserted his more resolute brother, and became a monk-a stupid and profligate one, whom Erasmus might be glad to forget, and for whose death he felt no very profound
But this makes the case of the deception practised on the father even worse. Dupin, a sound authority, and M. Nisard, admit the existence of the elder brother as certain.
teacher, not in the pupil. He is said to have profited as little by the scanty instruction which he received as a chorister at Utrecht. At nine years old he was sent to the school at Deventer, accompanied by his mother, seemingly an accomplished woman, who, in addition to his ordinary studies, obtained him lessons in design and drawing. Deventer was a school kept by a religious brotherhood, not bound by vows. The “brothers of the common life' were the latest, and not the least devout and holy effort of monachism to renew its youth. The Order was founded by Gerard Groot, no unworthy descendant of the monks of Clugny, of St. Bernard, or St. Francis; they were rivals of the mystic school of Tauler, Rysbroeck, and De Suso, in the south of Germany. Their monastery of Zwoll, near Brunswick, had nursed in its peaceful shades Thomas of Kempen (near Cologne), in our judgment the undoubted author of the last, most perfect, most popular manual of monastic Christianity, the De Imitatione Christi.' And now, as ever, in less than a century, among the brothers of Deventer, few hearts beat in response to the passionate, quivering ejaculations of that holy book,—they had become low, ignorant, intriguing, worldly friars. The light of the new learning was, however, struggling at Deventer against the old scholastic system. At the head of the school was Alexander Hegius, a pupil of the celebrated Greek scholar Rudolph Agricola, the first who brought the Italian learning over the Alps. Of Hegius Erasmus ever spoke with profound respect. But Sinheim, the sub-rector, was his chief instructor; he was too young, perhaps too poor, to come under the former. Sinheim was the first to discern the promise of Erasmus. On one occasion he addressed him: 'Go on as thou hast begun; thou wilt before long rise to the highest pinnacle of letters.' Agricola himself, on a visit to Hegius, was so much struck by an exercise of the boy that, having put a few questions to him, and looked (at the shape of his head and at his eyes,' he dismissed him with the words, “You will be a great man.' Erasmus himself says that at Deventer he went through the
whole course of scholastic training, logic, physics, metaphysics, and morals,—with what profit may be a question; but he had learned also Horace and Terence by heart. What a step for one to whom Latin was to be almost his vernacular language ! Yet even at Deventer he was exposed to those trials, with which inveterate monkish proselytism had determined to beset him. “There was no youth of candid disposition and of good fortune whom they (the monks and friars) did not study to break and subdue to their service. They spared neither flatteries, insults, petty terrors, entreaties, horrible tales, to allure them into their own, or to drive them into some other, fold. I myself was educated at Deventer. When I was not fifteen, the President of that Institution used every endeavour to induce me to enter into it. I was of a very pious disposition; but though so young, I was wise enough to plead my age and the anger of my parents if I should do anything without their knowledge. But this good man, when he saw that his eloquence did not prevail, tried an exorcism. mean?” He brought forth a crucifix, and, while I burst into tears, he said, with a look as of one inspired, “Do you acknowledge that He suffered for you?” “I do fervently.” “ By Him, then, I beseech you that you suffer Him not to have died in vain for you; obey my counsels, seek the good of your soul, lest in the world you perish everlastingly."'4
But the boy was obliged to leave Deventer. The plague bereft him of his mother; the widowed father pined away with sorrow, and died at forty years of age. Erasmus was cast upon the world an orphan, worse than friendless, with faithless friends.
His father appointed three guardians not of his own family ; he may have still cherished a sad remembrance of their unkindly conduct. Of these, one was Peter Winkel, master of the boy's first school. There was property-whence it came appears not, but sufficient for his decent maintenance, and for an University
“ What do you
• De Pronunciatione, Opera, rol. i. p. 121, 122.