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Nun of Kent, whose history is so admirably told by Mr. Froude. The successor of Erasmus, Robert Master, was, if not the author, deeply implicated in that for a time successful, but in the end most fatal, imposture. Even Warham, to say nothing of More and Fisher, listened with too greedy or too credulous ears to this monstrous tale.
During the whole of this visit, his longest sojourn in England, his intimacy increased with the two Englishmen who obtained the strongest hold on his admiration and affections—More and Colet. The genial playfulness of More, his as yet liberal views on the superstitions and abuses of the Church, and as yet unquestioned tolerance, qualified him beyond all men to enjoy the quiet satire, the accomplishments, the endless learning of Erasmus. To Colet he was bound by no less powerful sympathies; the love of polite letters, the desire of giving a more liberal and elegant tone to education, the aversion to scholastic teaching, the avowed determination to supersede St. Thomas and Duns Scotus by lessons and sermons directly drawn from St. Paul and the Gospels, the contempt for much of the dominant superstition. Whatever made Colet an object of suspicion and jealousy, of actual prosecution as a heretic by Fitzjames, Bishop of London, against which he was protected by the more enlightened Warham-all, in short, which justified to him and may justify to the latest posterity the elaborate, most eloquent, and affectionate character which he drew of the Dean of St. Paul's, with Vitrarius, the Franciscan, his two model Christians—all conspired to unite the two scholars in the most uninterrupted friendship. Erasmus did great service to Colet's school at St. Paul's; that most remarkable instance of a foundation whose statutes were conceived with a prophetic liberality, which left the election of the students and the course of studies absolutely free, with the avowed design that there should be alterations with the change of times and circumstances. He composed hymns and prayers to the Child Jesus, and grammatical works, the De Copiâ Verborum,' for the institution of his friend. Erasmus remained in England
during this visit about four years—from the beginning of 1510 to 1514. Either disappointment, or restlessness, or ambition, the invitations of Charles of Austria, afterwards the Emperor, now holding his court at Brussels, or sanguine hopes, on account of the elevation of Cardinal de' Medici, who had shown him so much favour at Rome, to the Papal throne as Leo X., drew him forth again into the world. From Charles he received the appointment of honorary counsellor, to which was attached a pension of 200 florins. A bishopric in Sicily was held out as a provision for the northern scholar; but the bishopric turned out not to be in the gift of Charles, but of the Pope. His old convent of Stein began to covet the fame of the great scholar whom they had permitted to leave their walls. His friend Servatius had become prior, and endeavoured to induce Erasmus to join again the brotherhood from which he had departed. The answer of Erasmus is among the most remarkable of his letters; free, full, fearless on the degeneracy of the monastic life, of which he acknowledges the use and excellence in former times, but of which he exposes in the most uncompromising language the almost universal abuses. What is more corrupt and more wicked than these relaxed religions ? Consider even those which are in the best esteem, and you shall find in them nothing that resembles Christianity, but only I know not what cold and Judaical observances. Upon this the religious Orders value themselves, and by this they judge and despise others. Would it not be better, according to the doctrines of our Saviour, to look upon Christendom as one house, one family, one monastery, and all Christians as one brotherhood? Would it not be better to account the Sacrament of Baptism the most sacred of all vows and engagements, and never trouble ourselves where we live so we live well ? '2 For the six or seven following busy years Erasmus himself might seem to care little where he lived; and, if indefatigable industry, if to devote transcendent abilities to letters, and above all to religious letters, be to live
2 Jortin's Translation, p. 61.
well, he might look back to those years of his life as the best spent, and, notwithstanding some drawbacks, some difficulties from the precariousness of his income, much suffering from a distressing malady, which enforced a peculiar diet and great care, as the happiest.
But no doubt the frequent change of residence during this period of the life of Erasmus arose out of his vocation. Books and manuscripts were scattered in many places : if he would consult them, far more if he would commit the works of ancient authors to the press, he must search into the treasures of various libraries, most of them in disorder, and very few with catalogues. The printers, too, who would undertake, and to whom could be entrusted, the care of printing and correcting voluminous works in the ancient languages, were rare to be found. The long residence of Erasmus at Basil was because he there enjoyed not only the courtesy of the bishop and clergy and many learned men, but because the intelligent and friendly printer Frobenius was boldly engaged in the most comprehensive literary enterprises. He had, of course, no domestic ties; in fact, no country. His birth precluded any claim of kindred; his brother, if he had a brother, was dead; his family had from the first repudiated him. After his death Rotterdam might take pride in her illustrious son, and adorn her market-place with his statue; but it never had been and never was his dwelling-place. Once free, and now released by Papal authority from his vows of seclusion in the monastery of his Order, he would not submit to the irksome imprisonment of a cloister. He had refused all preferment which bound him to residence; his home was wherever there were books, literary friends, and printers. He was, in truth, a citizen of the world;
This was the motire which led him so often to meditate a retreat to Rome. ‘Decretum erat hyemare Romæ, cum aliis de causis, tum ut locis nonnullis Pontificiae bibliothecæ præsidiis uterer. Apud nos Sacrorum Voluminum Græcorum magna penuria. Nam Aldina officina nobis præter profanos auctoces adhuc non ita multum dedit. Romæ, ubi bonis studiis non solum tranquillitas rerum etiam honos.'—Epist. DXLVII.
In other letters he expresses his determination to live and die in England.
and the world welcomed him wherever he chose for a time to establish himself, in any realm or in any city. It was the pride of the richest or most famous capital in Europe to be chosen even as the temporary residence of Erasmus.
l'p to the year 1520 (the fifty-fourth of his life) Erasmus thus stood before the world, acknowledged and honoured as the greatest scholar, in a certain sense as the greatest theologian, not only on this side of the Alps, but fairly competing with or surpassing the greatest in Italy. Reuchlin, now famous for his victory, extorted even in Rome herself from his stupid and bigoted persecutors, was chiefly strong in Hebrew and Oriental learning—knowledge more wondered at than admired; and to which Erasmus, as we have said, made no pretension. Budæus alone (in Paris) was his superior in Greek, and in his own province of more profound erudition, but that province was narrow and limited. Some of the Italian scholars, Sadolet and Bembo and Longolius, might surpass him in the elegance and purity of their Latinity; but he was hereafter to give a severe shock to these purists in his Ciceronianus,' and had already shown himself at least their equal, if not their master, in his full command of a vigorous, idiomatic, if less accurate style. In his wit and pungent satire he stood almost alone; he was rivalled only by the inimitable Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum' and the Julius Exclusus, which in its lofty and biting sarcasm, its majestic rebuke and terrible invective, soars above anything in the more playful and genial “Colloquies.' Of the authorship of both of these, indeed, Erasmus, notwithstanding his reiterated protestations,
* Erasmus is accused of doing scanty honour to Reuchlin, of having timidly stood aloof from the contest with Pfefferkorn and the Cologne Divines. One of the Letters (Obscurorum Virorum) rather taunts him with this, ' Erasmus est homo pro so.' But Erasmus could not, from his acknowledged ignorance of Hebrew, mingle in the strife with any authority. He was not only ignorant,' he writes himself, ' but he had no interest in the dispute.' Cabala et Talmud quicquid hoc est, mihi nunquam arrisit.' – Epist. Albert. Mogunt. But he made ample compensation after Reuchlin's death by his Apotheosis. Reuchlin is received into heaven, placed by the side of St. Jerome, and duly installed as the patron Saint of Philologists—'O sancta anima! sis felix linguarum cultoribus, faveto linguis sanctis, perlito malas linguas, infectas veneno Gehennæ.'
could hardly escape the honours and the perils. But the * Praise of Folly, and the Colloquies,'5 in which the surprised and staggered Monks hardly had discovered, what they afterwards denounced as the impiety, even the atheism, ran like wildfire through Europe. They were in every house, every academy, every school, we suspect in almost every cloister. The first indignant remonstrances of the Ecclesiastical censure only acted, as in our days, as an advertisement. On the intelligence of their proscription, a bold printer in Paris is said to have struck off above 20,000 copies of the Colloquies,' thus implying a demand for which the publishers of Scott, and almost of Macaulay, might hesitate to provide, in our days of universal reading. It is difficult, indeed, for us to comprehend the fame, the influence, the power, which in those times gathered around the name of a scholar, a writer in Latin. Thus far he had ridden triumphant through all his difficulties, and surmounted all obstacles. He was the object, no doubt, of much suspicion, much jealousy, but still more of fear. There had been many attacks upon him, especially on his Theological works, but they had not commanded the public ear; he had rejoined with dauntless and untiring energy, and in general carried the learned with him. Through him Scholasticism was fast waning and giving place to polite letters, to humanities as they were called: the cloisters, and more orthodox Universities, might seem almost paralyzed; it might appear as if the world-we might certainly say it of England—was ERASMIAN.
There was one other name, indeed, destined shortly to transcend, in some degree to obscure, that of Erasmus. But as yet men had only begun to wonder and stand appalled at the name of Luther. It had not yet concentered on itself the passionate indelible attachment of his countless followers, nor the professed implacable animosity of his more countless foes. Luther had denounced Tetzel and his Indulgences; he had affixed
• The Colloquies were first printrd by Erasmus in 1522, but there had been two imperfect and surreptitious editions in 1518, 1519, which compelled Erasmus to publish a more accurate and complete copy.