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Title: The Age of Erasmus - Lectures Delivered in the Universities of Oxford and London
Author: Allen, P. S. (Percy Stafford), 1869-1933
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Age of Erasmus - Lectures Delivered in the Universities of Oxford and London" ***

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       *       *       *       *       *

                 AGE OF ERASMUS

              OF OXFORD AND LONDON


                P.S. ALLEN, M.A.



       *       *       *       *       *



       *       *       *       *       *



The importance of biography for the study of history can hardly be
overrated. In a sense it is true that history should be like the law
and 'care not about very small things'; concerning itself not so much
with individual personality as with fundamental causes affecting the
rise and fall of nations or the development of mental outlook from one
age to another. But even if this be conceded, we still must not forget
that the course of history is worked out by individuals, who, in spite
of the accidental condensation that the needs of human life thrust
upon them, are isolated at the last and alone--for no man may deliver
his brother. In consequence, it is only in periods when the stream of
personal record flows wide and deep that history begins to live, and
that we have a chance to view it through the eyes of the actors
instead of projecting upon it our own fancies and conceptions.

One of the features that makes the study of the Renaissance so
fascinating is that in that age the stream of personal record, which
had been driven underground, its course choked and hidden beneath the
fallen masonry of the Roman Empire, emerges again unimpeded and flows
in ever-increasing volume. For reconstruction of the past we are no
longer limited to charters and institutions, or the mighty works of
men's hands. In place of a mental output, rigidly confined within
unbending modes of thought and expression, we have a literature that
reflects the varied phases of human life, that can discard romance and
look upon the commonplace; and instead of dry and meagre chronicles,
rarely producing evidence at first hand, we have rich store of memoirs
and private letters, by means of which we can form real pictures of
individuals--approaching almost to personal acquaintance and
intimacy--and regard the same events from many points of view, to
perception of the circumstances that 'alter cases'.

The period of the Transalpine Renaissance corresponds roughly with the
life of Erasmus (1466-1536); from the days when Northern scholars
began to win fame for themselves in reborn Italy, until the width of
the humanistic outlook was narrowed and the progress of the reawakened
studies overwhelmed by the tornado of the Reformation. The aim of
these lectures is not so much to draw the outlines of the Renaissance
in the North as to present sketches of the world through which Erasmus
passed, and to view it as it appeared to him and to some of his
contemporaries, famous or obscure. And firstly of the generation that
preceded him in the wide but undefined region known then as Germany.

The Cistercian Abbey of Adwert near Groningen, under the enlightened
governance of Henry of Rees (1449-85), was a centre to which were
attracted most of the scholars whose names are famous in the history
of Northern humanism in the second half of the fifteenth century:
Wessel, Agricola, Hegius, Langen, Vrye, and others. They came on
return from visits to Italy or the universities; men of affairs after
discharge of their missions; schoolmasters to rest on their holidays;
parish priests in quest of change: all found a welcome from the
hospitable Abbot, and their talk ranged far and wide, over the pursuit
of learning, till Adwert merited the name of an 'Academy'.

Earliest of these is John Wessel (d. 1489), and perhaps also the most
notable; certainly the others looked up to him with a veneration which
seems to transcend the natural pre-eminence of seniority.
Unfortunately the details of his life have not been fully established.
Thirty years after his death, when it was too late for him to define
his own views, the Reformers claimed him for their own; and in
consequence his body has been wrangled over with the heat which seeks
not truth but victory. His father, Hermann Wessel, was a baker from
the Westphalian village of Gansfort or Goesevort, who settled in
Groningen. After some years in the town school, the boy was about to
be apprenticed to a trade, as his parents were too poor to help him
further; but the good Oda Jargis, hearing how well he had done at his
books, sent him to the school at Zwolle, in which the Brethren of the
Common Life took part. There, as at Groningen, he rose to the top,
and in his last years, as a first-form boy, also did some teaching in
the third form, according to the custom of the school. He came into
contact with Thomas à Kempis, who was then at the monastery of Mount
St. Agnes, half an hour outside Zwolle, and was profoundly influenced
by him. The course at Zwolle lasted eight years, and there is reason
to suppose that he completed it in full. He was lodged in the Parua
Domus, a hostel for fifty boys, and we are told that he and his next
neighbour made a hole through the wall which divided their
rooms--probably only a wooden partition--and taught one another:
Wessel imparting earthly wisdom, and receiving in exchange the fear
and love of the Lord. In the autumn of 1449 he matriculated at
Cologne, entering the Bursa Laurentiana; in December 1450 he was B.A.,
and in February 1452, M.A.

By 1455 he had arrived at Paris and entered upon his studies for the
theological degree. Within a year he conceived a profound distaste for
the philosophy dominant in the schools; and though he persevered for
some time, his frequent dissension from his teachers earned for him
the title of 'Magister contradictionis'. After this his movements
cannot be traced until 1470, when he was at Rome in the train of
Cardinal Francesco della Rovere. In the interval he studied medicine,
and, if report be true, travelled far; venturing into the East, just
when the fall of Constantinople had turned the tide of Hellenism
westward. In Greece he read Aristotle in the original, and learnt to
prefer Plato; in Egypt he sought in vain for the books of Solomon and
a mythical library of Hebrew treasures.

In 1471 his Cardinal-patron was elected Pope as Sixtus IV. The
magnificence which characterized the poor peasant's son in his
dealings with Italy, in his embellishment of Rome and the Vatican, was
not lacking in his treatment of Wessel. 'Ask what you please as a
parting gift', he said to the scholar, who was preparing to set out
for Friesland. 'Give me books from your library, Greek and Hebrew',
was the request. 'What? No benefice, no grant of office or fees? Why
not?' 'Because I don't want them', came the quiet reply. The books
were forthcoming--one, a Greek Gospels, was perhaps the parent of a
copy which reached Erasmus for the second edition of his New

After his return to the North, Wessel was invited to Heidelberg, to
aid the Elector Palatine, Philip, in restoring the University, _c._
1477. He was without the degree in theology which would have enabled
him to teach in that faculty, and was not even in orders: indeed a
proposal that he should qualify by entering the lowest grade and
receiving the tonsure, he contemptuously rejected. So the Theological
Faculty would not hear him, but to the students in Arts he lectured on
Greek and Hebrew and philosophy. For some years, too, he was physician
to David of Burgundy, Bishop of Utrecht, whom he cured of gout by
making him take baths of warm milk. The Bishop rewarded him by
shielding him from the attacks of the Dominicans, who were incensed
by his bold criticisms of Aquinas; and when age brought the desire for
rest, the Bishop set him over a house of nuns at Groningen, and bought
him the right to visit Mount St. Agnes whenever he liked, by paying
for the board and lodging of this welcome guest.

Wessel's last years were happily spent. He was the acknowledged leader
of his society, and he divided his time between Mount St. Agnes and
the sisters at Groningen, with occasional visits to Adwert. There he
set about reviving the Abbey schools, one elementary, within its
walls, the other more advanced, in a village near by; and Abbot Rees
warmly supported him. Would-be pupils besought him to teach them Greek
and Hebrew. Admiring friends came to hear him talk, and brought their
sons to see this glory of their country--Lux mundi, as he was called.
Some fragments of his conversation have been preserved, the
unquestioned judgements which his hearers loyally received. Of the
Schoolmen he was contemptuous, with their honorific titles: 'doctor
angelic, doctor seraphic, doctor subtle, doctor irrefragable.' 'Was
Thomas (Aquinas) a doctor? So am I. Thomas scarcely knew Latin, and
that was his only tongue: I have a fair knowledge of the three
languages. Thomas saw Aristotle only as a phantom: I have read him in
Greece in his own words.' To Ostendorp, then a young man, but
afterwards to become head master of Deventer school, he gave the
counsel: 'Read the ancients, sacred and profane: modern doctors, with
their robes and distinctions, will soon be drummed out of town.' At
Mount St. Agnes once he was asked why he never used rosary nor book of
hours. 'I try', he replied, 'to pray always. I say the Lord's Prayer
once every day. Said once a year in the right spirit it would have
more weight than all these vain repetitions.'

He loved to read aloud to the brethren on Sunday evenings; his
favourite passage being John xiii-xviii, the discourse at the Last
Supper. As he grew older, he sometimes stumbled over his words. He was
not an imposing figure, with his eyes somewhat a-squint and his slight
limp; and sometimes the younger monks fell into a titter, irreverent
souls, to hear him so eager in his reading and so unconscious. It was
not his eyesight that was at fault: to the end he could read the
smallest hand without any glasses, like his great namesake, John
Wesley, whom a German traveller noticed on the packet-boat between
Flushing and London reading the fine print of the Elzevir Virgil, with
his eyes unaided, though at an advanced age.

On his death-bed Wessel was assailed with scepticism, and began to
doubt about the truth of the Christian religion. But the cloud was of
short duration. That supreme moment of revelation, which comes to
every man once, is no time for fear. Patient hope cast out
questioning, and he passed through the deep waters with his eyes on
the Cross which had been his guide through the life that was ending.

Of Rudolph Agricola we know more than of the others; his striking
personality, it seems, moved many of his friends to put on record
their impressions of him. One of the best of these sketches is by
Goswin of Halen (d. 1530), who had been Wessel's servant at Groningen,
and had frequently met Agricola. Rudolph's father, Henry Huusman, was
the parish priest of Baflo, a village four hours to the north of
Groningen; his mother being a young woman of the place, who
subsequently married a local carrier. On 17 Feb. 1444 the priest was
elected to be warden of a college of nuns at Siloe, close to
Groningen, and in the same hour a messenger came running to him from
Baflo, claiming the reward of good news and announcing the birth of a
son. 'Good,' said the new warden; 'this is an auspicious day, for it
has twice made me father.'

From the moment he could walk, the boy was passionately fond of music;
the sound of church bells would bring him toddling out into the
street, or the thrummings of the blind beggars as they went from house
to house playing for alms; and he would follow strolling pipers out of
the gates into the country, and only be driven back by a show of
violence. When he was taken to church, all through the mass his eyes
were riveted upon the organ and its bellows; and as he grew older he
made himself a syrinx with eight or nine pipes out of willow-bark. He
was taught to ride on horseback, and early became adept in
pole-jumping whilst in the saddle, an art which the Frieslanders of
that age had evolved to help their horses across the broad rhines of
their country. In 1456, when he was just 12, he matriculated at
Erfurt, and in May 1462 at Cologne. But the course of his education is
not clear, and though it is known that he reached the M.A. at Louvain,
the date of this degree is not certain. He is also said to have been
at the University of Paris.

Of his life at Louvain some details are given by Geldenhauer (d. 1542)
in a sketch written about fifty years after Agricola's death. The
University had been founded in 1426 to meet the needs of Belgian
students, who for higher education had been obliged to go to Cologne
or Paris, or more distant universities. Agricola entered Kettle
College, which afterwards became the college of the Falcon, and soon
distinguished himself among his fellow-students. They admired the ease
with which he learnt French--not the rough dialect of Hainault, but
the polite language of the court. With many his musical tastes were a
bond of sympathy, in a way which recalls the evenings that Henry
Bradshaw used to spend among the musical societies of Bruges and Lille
when he was working in Belgian libraries; and on all sides men frankly
acknowledged his intellectual pre-eminence as they marked his quiet
readiness in debate and heard him pose the lecturers with acute
questions. By nature he was silent and absorbed, and often in company
he would sit deaf to all questions, his elbows on the table and biting
his nails. But when roused he was at once captivating; and this
unintended rudeness never lost him a friend. There was a small band of
true humanists, who, as Geldenhauer puts it, 'had begun to love purity
of Latin style'; to them he was insensibly attracted, and spent with
them over Cicero and Quintilian hours filched from the study of
Aristotle. Later in life he openly regretted having spent as much as
seven years over the scholastic philosophy, which he had learnt to
regard as profitless.

From 1468 to 1479 he was for the most part in Italy, except for
occasional visits to the North, when we see him staying with his
father at Siloe, and, in 1474, teaching Greek to Hegius at Emmerich.
Many positions were offered to him already; gifts such as his have not
to stand waiting in the marketplace. But his wits were not homely, and
the world called him. Before he could settle he must see many men and
many cities, and learn what Italy had to teach him.

For the first part of his time there, until 1473, he was at Pavia
studying law and rhetoric; but on his return from home in 1474 he went
to Ferrara in order to enjoy the better opportunities for learning
Greek afforded by the court of Duke Hercules of Este and its circle of
learned men. His description of the place is interesting: 'The town is
beautiful, and so are the women. The University has not so many
faculties as Pavia, nor are they so well attended; but _literae
humaniores_ seem to be in the very air. Indeed, Ferrara is the home of
the Muses--and of Venus.' One special delight to him was that the
Duke had a fine organ, and he was able to indulge what he describes as
his 'old weakness for the organs'. In October 1476, at the opening of
the winter term of the University, the customary oration before the
Duke was delivered by Rodolphus Agricola Phrysius. His eloquence
surprised the Italians, coming from so outlandish a person: 'a
Phrygian, I believe', said one to another, with a contemptuous shrug
of the shoulders. But Agricola, with his chestnut-brown hair and blue
eyes, was no Oriental; only a Frieslander from the North, whose cold
climate to the superb Italians seemed as benumbing to the intellect as
we consider that of the Esquimaux.

During this period Agricola translated Isocrates _ad Demonicum_ and
the _Axiochus de contemnenda morte_, a dialogue wrongly attributed to
Plato, which was a favourite in Renaissance days. Also he completed
the chief composition of his lifetime, the _De inuentione dialectica_,
a considerable treatise on rhetoric. His favourite books, Geldenhauer
tells us, were Pliny's Natural History, the younger Pliny's Letters,
Quintilian's _Institutio Oratoria_, and selections from Cicero and
Plato. These were his travelling library, carried with him wherever he
went; two of them, Pliny's Letters and Quintilian, he had copied out
with his own hand. Other books, as he acquired them, he planted out in
friends' houses as pledges of return.

In 1479 he left Italy and went home. On his way he stayed for some
months with the Bishop of Augsburg at Dillingen, on the Danube, and
there translated Lucian's _De non facile credendis delationibus_. A
manuscript of Homer sorely tempted him to stay on through the winter.
He felt that without Homer his knowledge of Greek was incomplete; and
he proposed to copy it out from beginning to end, or at any rate the
Iliad. But home called him, and he went on. At Spires, in quest of
manuscripts, he went with a friend to the cathedral library. He
describes it as not bad for Germany, though it contained nothing in
Greek, and only a few Latin manuscripts of any interest--a Livy and a
Pliny, very old, but much injured and the texts corrupt--and nothing
at all that could be called eloquence, that is to say, pure

When he had been a little while in Groningen, the town council
bethought them to turn his talents and learning to some account. He
was a fine figure of a man, who would make a creditable show in
conducting their business; and for composing the elegant Latin
epistles, which every respectable corporation felt bound to rise to on
occasions, no one was better equipped than he. He was retained as town
secretary, and in the four years of his service went on frequent
embassies. During the first year we hear of him visiting his father at
Siloe, and contracting a friendship with one of the nuns[1]; to whom
he afterwards sent a work of Eucherius, bishop of Lyons, which he had
found in a manuscript at Roermond. Twice he visited Brussels on
embassy to Maximilian; and in the next year he followed the Archduke's
court for several months, visiting Antwerp, and making the
acquaintance of Barbiriau, the famous musician. Maximilian offered him
the post of tutor to his children and Latin secretary to himself; the
town of Antwerp invited him to become head of their school. He might
easily have accepted. He was not altogether happy at Groningen. His
countrymen had done him honour, but they had no real appreciation for
learning, and some of them were boorish and cross-grained. It was the
old story of Pegasus in harness; the practical men of business and the
scholar impatient of restraint. His parents, too, were now both
dead--in 1480, within a few months of each other--and such homes as he
had had, with his father amongst the nuns at Siloe and with his mother
in the house of her husband the tranter, were therefore closed to him.
And yet neither invitation attracted him. Friesland was his native
land; and for all his wanderings the love of it was in his blood.
Adwert, too, was near, and Wessel. He refused, and stayed on in his
irksome service.

     [1] In view of Geldenhauer's testimony to Agricola's high
         character in this respect, we need not question, as does
         Goswin of Halen, the nature of this intimacy.

But in 1482 came an offer he could not resist. An old friend of Pavia
days, John of Dalberg, for whom he had written the oration customary
on his installation as Rector in 1474, had just been appointed Bishop
of Worms. He invited Agricola for a visit, and urged him to come and
join him; living partly as a friend in the Bishop's household, partly
lecturing at the neighbouring University of Heidelberg. The opening
was just such as Agricola wished, and he eagerly accepted; but
circumstances at Groningen prevented him from redeeming his promise
until the spring of 1484. For little more than a year he rejoiced in
the new position, which gave full scope for his abilities. Then he set
out to Rome with Dalberg, their business being to deliver the usual
oration of congratulation to Innocent VIII on his election. On the way
back he fell ill of a fever at Trent, and the Bishop had to leave him
behind. He recovered enough to struggle back to Heidelberg, but only
to die in Dalberg's arms on 27 Oct. 1485, at the age of 41.

Few men of letters have made more impression on their contemporaries;
and yet his published writings are scanty. The generation that
followed sought for his manuscripts as though they were of the
classics; but thirty years elapsed before the _De inuentione
dialectica_ was printed, and more than fifty before there was a
collected edition. Besides his letters the only thing which has
permanent value is a short educational treatise, _De formando studio_,
which he wrote in 1484, and addressed to Barbiriau--some compensation
to the men of Antwerp for his refusal to come to them. His work was to
learn and to teach rather than to write. To learn Greek when few
others were learning it, and when the apparatus of grammar and
dictionary had to be made by the student for himself, was a task to
consume even abundant energies; and still more so, if Hebrew, too, was
to be acquired. But though he left little, the fire of his enthusiasm
did not perish with him; passing on by tradition, it kindled in others
whom he had not known, the flame of interest in the wisdom of the

Another member of the Adwert gatherings was Alexander of Heck in
Westphalia, hence called Hegius (1433-98). He was an older man than
Agricola, but was not ashamed to learn of him when an opportunity
offered to acquire Greek. His enthusiasm was for teaching; and to that
he gave his life, first at Wesel, then at Emmerich, and finally for
fifteen years at Deventer, where he had many eminent humanists under
his care--Erasmus, William Herman, Mutianus Rufus, Hermann Busch, John
Faber, John Murmell, Gerard Geldenhauer. Butzbach, who was the last
pupil he admitted, and who saw him buried in St. Lebuin's church on a
winter's evening at sunset, describes him at great length; and besides
his learning and simplicity, praises the liberality with which he gave
all that he had to help the needy: living in the house of another
(probably Richard Paffraet, the printer) and sharing expenses, and
leaving at his death no possessions but his books and a few clothes.
And yet he was master of a school which had over 2000 boys.

Rudolph Langen of Munster (1438-1519) was another who was known at
Adwert. He matriculated at Erfurt in the same year as Agricola, and
was M.A. there in 1460. A canonry at Munster gave him maintenance for
his life, and he devoted his energies to learning. Twice he visited
Italy, in 1465 and 1486; and in 1498 he succeeded in establishing a
school at Munster on humanistic lines, and wished Hegius to become
head master, but in vain. Nevertheless it rapidly rivalled the fame of

Finally, Antony Vrye (Liber) of Soest deserves record, since he has
contributed somewhat to our knowledge of Adwert. He also was a
schoolmaster, and taught at various times at Emmerich, Campen,
Amsterdam, and Alcmar. In 1477 he published a volume entitled
_Familiarium Epistolarum Compendium_, the composition of which
illustrates the catholic tastes of the humanists; for it contains
selections from the letters of Cicero, Jerome, Symmachus, and the
writers of the Italian Renaissance. But he chiefly merits our
gratitude for including in the book a number of letters which passed
between the visitors to Adwert and their friends, together with some
of his own. The pleasant relations existing in this little society may
be illustrated by the fact that when Vrye's son John had reached
student age, the Adwert friends subscribed to pay his expenses at a
university; and thus secured him an education which enabled him to
become Syndic of Campen.

A few extracts from their letters will serve to show some of the
characteristics of the age, its wide interest in the past, theological
as well as classical; its eager search for manuscripts, and the
freedom with which its libraries were opened; its concern for
education, and its attitude towards the old learning; and the extent
of its actual achievements. The earliest of these letters that survive
are a series written by Langen from Adwert in the spring of 1469 to
Vrye at Soest. Despite the grave interest in serious study that the
letters show, there are human touches about them. One begins: 'You
promised faithfully to return, and yet you have not come. But I cannot
blame you; for the road is deep in mud, and I myself too am so feeble
a walker that I can imagine the weariness of others' feet.' Another
ends in haste, not with the departure of the post, but 'The servants
are waiting to conduct me to bed'. Here is a longer sample:

I. LANGEN TO VRYE: from Adwert, 27 Feb. <1469>.

     'Why do you delay so long to gratify the wishes of our devout
     friend Wolter? With my own hand I have transcribed the little
     book of _Elegantiae_, as far as the section about the reckoning
     of the Kalends. I greatly desire to have this precious work
     complete; so do send me the portion we lack as soon as you can.
     The little book will be my constant companion: I know nothing
     that has such value in so narrow a span. How brilliant Valla
     is! he has raised up Latin to glory from the bondage of the
     barbarians. May the earth lie lightly on him and the spring
     shine ever round his urn! Even if the book is not by Valla
     himself, it must come from his school.

     'I write in haste and with people talking all round me, from
     whom politeness will not let me sit altogether aloof. But read
     carefully and you will understand me. At least I hope this
     letter won't be quite so barbarous as the monstrosities which
     the usher from Osnabruck sends you every day: they sound like
     the spells of witches to bring up their familiar spirits, or
     the enchantments "Fecana kageti", &c., which open locks whoever
     knocks. Poor Latin! it is worse handled than was Regulus by the
     Carthaginians. Forgive this scrawl: I am writing by

We shall have other occasions to notice the admiration of the Northern
humanists for Lorenzo Valla (d. 1457), the master of Latin style, and
the audacious Canon of the Lateran, who could apply the spirit of
criticism not only to the New Testament but even to the Donation of

2. VRYE TO ARNOLD OF HILDESHEIM (Schoolmaster at Emmerich): .

     'I have still a great many things to do, but I shall not begin
     upon them till the printed books from Cologne arrive at
     Deventer. My plan was to go to Heidelberg, Freiburg, Basle and
     some of the universities in the East and then return to
     Deventer through Saxony and Westphalia. But at Coblenz I met
     four men from Strasburg who declared that Upper Germany was
     almost all overrun by soldiers. This unexpected alarm has
     compelled me to dispose of the 1500 copies of _The Revival of
     Latin_ amongst the schools.[2] After visiting Deventer and
     Zwolle I shall go to Louvain, and then, if it is safe, to
     Paris. I thought you ought to know of this change in my plans;
     that you might not be taken by surprise at finding me gone
     westwards instead of into Upper Germany.

     'Please take great pains over the correction of the

     [2] particularibus studiis.

3. AGRICOLA TO HEGIUS : from Groningen, 20 Sept. 1480.

     'I was very sorry to learn from your letter that you had been
     here just when I was away. There are so few opportunities of
     meeting any one who cares for learning that you would have been
     most welcome. My position becomes increasingly distasteful to
     me: since I left Italy, I forget everything--the classics,
     history, even how to write with any style. In prose I can get
     neither ideas nor language. Such as come only serve to fill the
     page with awkward, disjointed sentences. Verse I hardly ever
     attempt, and when I do, there is no flow about it; sometimes
     the lines almost refuse to scan. The fact is that I can find no
     one here who is interested in these things. If only we were

     'My youngest brother Henry has been fired with the desire to
     study. I have advised him against it, but as he persists, I do
     not like to do more. For the last six months he has been with
     Frederic Mormann at Munster, and has made some progress: but
     now Mormann 
     has been sent as Rector to a house , and Henry has
     come home. If you can have him, I should like him to come to
     you. He will bring with him the usual furniture,[3] money will
     be sent to him from time to time, and he will find himself a
     lodging[4] wherever you advise. I should be glad to know
     whether there are any teachers who give lessons out of school
     hours, as Mormann does; and whether any one may go to them on
     payment of a fee, whether candidates for orders[5] or not. I
     should like him to get over the elements as quickly as
     possible; for if boys are kept at them too long, they take a
     dislike to the whole thing. The Pliny that you ask for shall
     come to you soon. I use it a great deal; but nevertheless you
     shall have it.'

     [3] victui necessaria, vt solent nostrates. Victus is commonly
         used in the technical sense of 'board'; but here the meaning
         probably is 'the usual outfit for a schoolboy'. Gebwiler, in
         1530, required a boy coming to his school at Hagenau to be
         provided with 'a bed, sheets, pillow, and other necessaries'.
     [4] diuersorium.
     [5] capitiati.

In answer to a question from Hegius, Agricola goes on to distinguish
the words mimus, histrio, persona, scurra, nebulo; with quotations
from Juvenal and Gellius. 'Leccator', he says, 'is a German word; like
several others that we have turned into bad Latin, reisa,
burgimagister, scultetus, or like the French passagium for a military
expedition, guerra for war, treuga for truce.'

He then proceeds to more derivations in answer to Hegius. [Greek:
Anthrôpos] he considers a fundamental word, which, like homo, defies
analysis: but nevertheless he suggests [Greek: ana] and [Greek:
trepô], or [Greek: terpô], or [Greek: trephô]. To explain vesper he
cites Sallust, Catullus, Ovid, Pliny's Letters, Caesar's Civil War,
Persius and Suetonius. (We must remember that in those days a man's
quotations were culled from his memory, not from a dictionary or
concordance.) He goes on: 'About forming words by analogy, I rarely
allow myself to invent words which are not in the best authors, but
still perhaps I might use Socratitas, Platonitas, entitas, though
Valla I am sure would object. After all one must be free, when there
is necessity. Cicero, without any need, used Pietas and Lentulitas;
and Pollio talks of Livy's Patauinitas.' Other words explained are
tignum, asser, [Greek: dioikêsis]; and then Agricola proceeds to
correct a number of mistakes in Hegius' letter. Rather delicate work
it might seem; but there is such good humour between them that, though
the corrections extend to some length, it all ends pleasantly.

4. HEGIUS TO AGRICOLA; from Deventer, 17 Dec. <1484>.

After apologies for not having written for a long while, he proceeds:

     'You ask how my school is doing. Well, it is full again now;
     but in summer the numbers rather fell off. The plague which
     killed twenty of the boys, drove many others away, and
     doubtless kept some from coming to us at all.

     'Thank you for translating Lucian's Micyllus. I am sure that
     all of us who read it, will be greatly pleased with it. As soon
     as it comes, I will have it printed. If I may, I should much
     like to ask you for an abridgement of your book on Dialectic:
     it would be very valuable to students. I understand that you
     have translated Isocrates' Education of Princes. If I had it
     here, I would expound it to my pupils. For some of them, no
     doubt, will be princes some day and have to govern.

     'I have been reading Valla's book on the True Good, and have
     become quite an Epicurean, estimating all things in terms of
     pleasure. Also it has persuaded me that each virtue has its
     contrary vice, rather than two vices as its extremes. I should
     like to know whether the authorities at Heidelberg have
     abandoned their Marsilius[6] on the question of universals, or
     whether they still stick to him.'

     [6] Of Inghen, first Rector of Heidelberg University (1386),
         the author of the _Parua Logicalia_.

5. AGRICOLA TO HEGIUS; from Worms, Tuesday , in reply.

After thanks and personalities he writes:

     'Certainly you shall have the Lucian, and I will dedicate it to
     you: but not just yet, as I am too busy to revise it. My public
     lectures take up a good deal of my time. I have a fairly large
     audience; but their zeal is greater than their ability. The
     majority of them are M.A.'s or students in the Arts course;[7]
     who are obliged to spend all their time on their disputations,
     so they have only a meagre part of the day left for these
     studies. In consequence, as they can do so little, I am not
     very active.

     'In addition to this I am trying to keep up my Latin and Greek
     (though they are fast slipping from me) and am beginning
     Hebrew, which I find very difficult: indeed to my surprise it
     costs me more effort than Greek did. However, I shall go on
     with it as I have begun: also because I like to have something
     new on hand, and much as I like Greek, its novelty has somewhat
     worn off. I have made up my mind to devote my old age, if I
     ever reach it, to theology. You know how I detest the
     barbarisms of those who fill the schools. On their side they
     are indignant with me for daring to question their decisions;
     but this will not deter me.

     'My greetings to your host, Master Richard (Paffraet), and his

     'Worms, in great haste, on the third day of the week: as I have
     determined to call it, instead of our unclassical Feria
     secunda, tertia, &c., or the heathen names, Monday, Mars' day,
     Mercury's day, Jove's day.'

     [7] Scholastici, vt nos dicimus, artium.

We may notice the anticipation of the Quakers, who in a similar way
would only speak of first day and sixth month.

6. HEGIUS TO WESSEL; from Deventer .

     'I am sending you the Homilies of John Chrysostom, and hope
     you will enjoy reading them. His golden words have always been
     more acceptable to you than the precious metal itself from the

     'I have been, as you know, at Cusanus' library, and found there
     many Hebrew books which were quite unknown to me; also a few
     Greek. I remember the names of the following: Epiphanius
     against heresies, a very big book; Dionysius on the Hierarchy;
     Athanasius against Arius; Climacus.

     'These I left behind there, but I brought away with me: Basil
     on the Hexaëmeron and some of his homilies on the Psalms; the
     Epistles of Paul and the Acts of the Apostles; Plutarch's Lives
     of Romans and Greeks, and his Symposium; some writings on
     grammar and mathematics; some poems on the Christian religion,
     written, I think, by Gregory Nazianzen; some prayers, in Latin
     and Greek.

     'If there are any of these you lack, let me know and they shall
     come to you: for everything I have is at your disposal. If you
     could spare the Gospels in Greek, I should be grateful for the
     loan of it. You enquire what books we are using in the school.
     I have followed your advice; for literature which is dangerous
     to morality is most injurious.'

The library mentioned above was that of Nicholas Krebs (d. 1464), the
famous Cardinal who took part in the Council of Basle and was the
patron of Poggio. Cues on the Moselle was his birthplace, and gave him
his name Cusanus. In his later years he founded a hostel, the Bursa
Cusana, at Deventer, where he had been at school, and at Cues built a
hospital for aged men and women, with a grassy quadrangle and a chapel
of delicate Gothic; and there in a vaulted chamber supported by a
central column he deposited the manuscripts, mainly theological but
with some admixture of the classics, which he had gathered in the
course of his busy life.

In 1496 we hear of another visit to it; when Dalberg, who was a prince
of humanists, led thither Reuchlin and a party of friends on a voyage
of discovery. Their course was from Worms to Oppenheim, where his
mother was still living: by boat to Coblenz and up the Moselle to
Cues: then over the hills to Dalburg, his ancestral home, and finally
to the abbey of Sponheim, near Kreuznach, where they admired the rich
collection of manuscripts in five languages formed by the learned
historian Trithemius, who was then Abbot. Whether this gay party of
pleasure also carried off any treasures from Cues is not recorded.

But lest this view of the Adwert Academy should appear too uniformly
roseate, we will turn to the tradition of Reyner Praedinius (1510-59),
who was Rector of the town school at Groningen, and whose fame
attracted students thither from Italy, Spain, and Poland. He had in
his possession several manuscripts of Wessel's writings, some of them
unpublished; and he had been intimate with men who had known both
Wessel and Agricola. One of these--very likely Goswin of Halen--as a
boy had often served at table, when the two scholars were dining; and
had afterwards shown them the way home with a lantern. He used to say
that he had frequently pulled off Agricola's boots, when he came home
the worse for his potations; but that no one had ever seen Wessel
under the influence of wine. Wessel, indeed, lived to a green old age,
but killed himself by working too hard.



Erasmus was born at Rotterdam on the vigil of SS. Simon and Jude, 27
October: probably in 1466, but his utterances on the subject are
ambiguous. Around his parentage he wove a web of romance, from which
only one fact emerges clearly--that his father was at some time a
priest. Current gossip said that he was parish priest of Gouda; a
little town near Rotterdam, with a big church, which in the sixteenth
century its inhabitants were wealthy enough to adorn with some fine
stained glass. There in the town school, under a master who was
afterwards one of the guardians of his scanty patrimony, Erasmus'
schooldays began, and he made acquaintance with the Latin grammar of
Donatus. After an interval as chorister at Utrecht, he was sent by his
parents to the school at Deventer, which, with that of the
neighbouring and rival town of Zwolle, enjoyed pre-eminence among the
schools of the Netherlands at that date. It was connected with the
principal church of the town, St. Lebuin's; and doubtless among those
aisles and chapels, listening perhaps to the merry bells, whose chimes
still proclaim the quarters far and wide, he caught the first breath
of that new hope to which he was to devote his whole life. The school
was controlled by the canons of St. Lebuin, who appointed the head
master; but, as at Zwolle, some of the teachers were drawn from that
sober and learned order, the Brethren of the Common Life, whose parent
house was at Deventer.

Of Erasmus' life in the school we have little knowledge. He tells us
that he was there in 1475, when preachers came from Rome announcing
the jubilee which Sixtus IV had so conveniently found possible to hold
after only twenty-five years. From one of his letters we can picture
him wandering by the river side among the barges, and marking the slow
growth of the bridge of boats which it took the town of Deventer
several years to throw across the rapid Yssel. He probably entered the
lowest class, the eighth, and by 1484, when at the age of eighteen he
left in consequence of the outbreak of plague mentioned in Hegius'
letter to Agricola, he had not made his way above the third; thus
giving little indication of his future fame. An explanation may
perhaps be found by supposing that his time in the choir at Utrecht
was an interlude in the Deventer period; but in any case the school in
his time was still 'barbarous', to use his own word, that is, it was
still modelled on the requirements of the scholastic courses, the
_literae inamoenae_, which from his earliest years he abhorred.
Zinthius (or Synthius), who was one of the Brethren, and Hegius
'brought a breath of something better', he tells us: but both of them
taught only in the higher forms, and Hegius he only heard during his
last year, on the festivals when the head master lectured to the whole
school together.

A few years later the school numbered 2200 boys. It is difficult to us
to imagine such a throng gathered round one man. There were only eight
forms, which must therefore have had on an average 275 in each; and
even if subdivided into parallel classes, they must still have been
uncomfortably large to our modern ideas. On the title-pages of early
school-books are sometimes found woodcuts which represent the children
sitting, like the Indian schoolboy to-day, in crowds about their
master, taking only the barest amount of space, and content with the
steps of his desk or even the floor. Some idea of the character of the
teaching may be derived from the experiences of Thomas Platter
(1499-1582) at Breslau about thirty years later. 'In the school at St.
Elizabeth', he says, 'nine B.A.'s read lectures at the same hour and
in the same room. Greek had not yet penetrated into that part of the
world. No one had any printed books except the praeceptor, who had a
Terence.[8] What was read had first to be dictated, then pointed, then
construed, and at last explained.'[9] It was a wearisome business for
all concerned. The reading of a few lines of text, the punctuation,
the elaborate glosses full of wellnigh incomprehensible
abbreviations; all dictated slowly enough for a class of a hundred or
more to take down every word. Lessons in those days were indeed
readings. For a clever boy who was capable of going forward quickly,
they must have been great waste of time.

     [8] It is worth remarking that in the fifteenth century Terence
         was regarded as a prose author, no attempt having been made
         to determine his metres. As late as 1516 an edition was
         printed in Paris in prose.
     [9] Here, and later on, I follow Mrs. Finn's translation, 1839.

At Deventer Erasmus began with elementary accidence. The books which
he first mentions, _Pater meus,_ a series of declensions, and
_Tempora_, the tenses, that is the conjugations of the verb, were
probably local productions of a simple nature which never found their
way into print. From this he proceeded to the versified Latin grammars
which mediaeval authorities on education had invented to supersede the
prose of Priscian and Donatus; metre being more adapted to the
learning by heart then so much in fashion. 'Praelegebatur Ebrardus et
Joannes de Garlandia', he says: a line or two was read out by the
master and then the commentary was dictated--the boys writing down as
much as they could catch. Let us see the kind of thing. Here are some
extracts from the _Textus Equiuocorum_ of John Garland, an Englishman
who taught at Toulouse in the thirteenth century.

     Latrat et amittit, humilis, vilis, negat, heret:
       Est celeste Canis sidus, in amne natat.

'Firstly it is a thing that barks': three verses of quotation follow.

'Secondly it loses; canis being the name for the worst throw with the
dice': one verse of quotation.

'Thirdly it is something humble: David to Saul, "After whom is the
King of Israel come out? after a dead dog? after a flea?"

Fourthly it is something contemptible: Goliath to David, "Am I a dog
that thou comest to me with staves?"

Fifthly it denies, like an apostate: "A dog returned to its vomit."

Sixthly it adheres.' But here the interpreter goes astray under the
preoccupation of the times: 'heret significat hereticum et infidelem;
hence "It is not good to take the children's bread and cast it unto
dogs, that is to heretics and infidels."

Seventhly it is a star; hence are named the dog days, in which that
star has dominion.

Eighthly it swims in the sea; the dog fish.'

The qualities of the dog are also expressed in this verse: 'Latrat in
ede canis, nat in equore, fulget in astris. Et venit canis
originaliter a cano--is.' So Garland, or his commentator, abridged.

Of sal he says:

      Est sal prelatus, equor, sapientia, mimus,
      Sal pultes condit, sal est cibus et reprehendit.

Here again there is a full commentary; but the only interpretation
that we need notice is the first, 'Salt denotes a prelate of the
Church; for it is said in the Gospels, Ye are the salt of the earth.'
When he composed these lines, Garland must surely have had his eye on
ecclesiastical preferment.

Another line is interesting, as illustrating the confusion between c
and t in mediaeval manuscripts:

      Est katonque malum, katademon nascitur inde.

The commentary runs: 'Kathon est idem quod malum. Inde dicitur
kathodemon, i.e. spiritus malignus seu dyabolus, et venit a kathon,
i.e. malum, et demon, sciens, quasi mala sciens.' You will notice also
the inconstancy of h, and the indifference to orthography which allows
the same word to appear as katademon in the text and kathodemon in the

Garland's _Textus_ is mostly Latin; but in the last composition of his
life, the forty-two distiches entitled _Cornutus_, 'one on the horns
of a dilemma', he is mainly occupied with Greek words adopted into
Latin: using of course Latin characters. Some specimens will show the
mediaeval standards of Greek: I quote from the text and commentary
edited in 1481 by John Drolshagen, who was master of the sixth class
at Zwolle.

     Kyria chere geram cuius ph[=i]lantr[)o]pos est bar, Per te doxa
     theos nect[=e]n [)e]t [)v]r[=a]n[)i]c[)i]s ymas.

In the commentary we are told that Kyria means the Virgin: but we are
to be careful not to write it with two r's, for kirrios means a pig (I
suppose [Greek: choiros]), and it would never do to say Kirrieleyson.
Chere is of course [Greek: chaire], salue. Geran (geram in the text)
is interpreted sanctus, and seems from a lengthy discussion of it to
be connected with [Greek: gerôn] and [Greek: ieros].[10] Philantropos
(notice the quantities) is Christ, the Saviour. 'Bar Grece est filius
Latine.' 'Necten in Greco est venire Latine: vnde dicit Pristianus in
primo minoris, antropos necten, i.e. homo venit.' (For this remarkable
form I can only suggest [Greek: ênthein] or [Greek: hêkein]: -en is
probably the infinitive; ne might arise from en; and ct, through tt,
from th.) Ymas is explained as nobis, not vobis. The construction of
the distich is then given: 'Hail, sacred queen, whose son is the lover
of men; through thee divine and heavenly glory comes to us.'


      'Clauiculis firmis theos antropos impos et ir mis
       Figor ob infirmi cosmos delicta, patir mi.'

Impos = in pedibus. Ir = a hand (probably [Greek: cheir],
transliterated into hir, and h dropped) and mis is explained as = mei,
according to the form which occurs in Plautus and early Latin. The
lines are an address from Christ to God, and are interpreted: 'O my
father, I God and man am fastened with hard nails in my feet and hands
(upon the cross) for the sins of a weak world.'

Another work dictated to Erasmus at Deventer was the metrical grammar
of Eberhard of Bethune in Artois, composed in the twelfth century. Its
name, _Graecismus_, was based upon a chapter, the eighth, devoted to
the elementary study of Greek--a feature which constituted an advance
on the current grammars of the age. A few extracts will show the
character of the assistance it offered to the would-be Greek scholar.

     [10] Cf. Gerasmus and Hierasmus as variations of the name
          Herasmus or Erasmus.

      Quod sententia sit b[)o]l[)e] comprobat amphibol[=i]a,
        Quodque fides br[)o]g[)e] sit comprobat Allobroga.

The gloss explains the second line thus: 'Dicitur ab alleos quod est
alienum, et broge quod est fides, quasi alienus a fide'; and thus we
learn that the Allobroges were a Burgundian people who were always
breaking faith with the Romans.

      Constat apud Grecos quod tertia littera cima est,
        Est quoque dulce c[)i]m[=e]n, inde c[)i]m[=e]t[)e]rium;
      Est [)v]n[)i]uersal[=e] c[)a]t[)a], fitque c[)a]tholicus inde, ...
        C[=a]ta breuis pariter, c[=a]talogus venit hinc.
      Die decas esse decem, designans inde decanum ...
        Delon obscurum, Delius inde venit.
        Ductio sit gogos, hinc isagoga venit.
        Estque geneth mulier, inde gen[=e]th[=e][=u]m.

Here the confusion of c with t begins the misleading; which is carried
further by the gloss, 'Genetheum: locus subterraneus vbi habitant
mulieres ad laborandum, et dicitur a geneth quod est mulier, et thesis
positio, quia ibi ponebantur mulieres ad laborandum'; or 'Genetheum:
absconsio subterranea mulierum'.

      Estque decem gintos, dicas hinc esse viginti,
        Vt pentecoste, coste valebit idem.

      Pos quoque pes tibi sit, compos tibi comprobat illud,
        Atque p[)e]dos puer est, hinc pedagogus erit.
        Dic zoen animam, die ind[=e] z[=o][)e]c[)a]isychen.

This last word appears in eleven different forms in the manuscripts.
The gloss interprets it plainly as 'vita mea et anima mea'; but
without this aid it must have been unintelligible to most readers,
especially in such forms as zoychaysichen, zoycazyche, zoichasichen,

The 'breath of something better' which Hegius and Zinthius brought was
seen in the substitution of the _Doctrinale_ of Alexander of
Ville-Dieu, near Avranches (_fl._ 1200), as the school Latin grammar.
This also is a metrical composition; and it has the merit of being
both shorter and also more correct. It was first printed at Venice by
Wendelin of Spires (_c._ 1470), and after a moderate success in Italy,
twenty-three editions in fourteen years, it was taken up in the North
and quickly attained great popularity. By 1500 more than 160 editions
had been printed, of the whole or of various parts, and in the next
twenty years there were nearly another hundred, before it was
superseded by more modern compositions, such as Linacre's grammar,
which held the field throughout Europe for a great part of the
sixteenth century. The number of Deventer editions of the _Doctrinale_
is considerable, mostly containing the glosses of Hegius and Zinthius,
which overwhelm the text with commentary; a single distich often
receiving two pages of notes, so full of typographical abbreviations
and so closely packed together as to be almost illegible. This very
fullness, however, probably indicates a change in the method of
teaching, which by quickening it up must indeed have put new life into
it; for it would clearly have been impossible to dictate such lengthy
commentaries, or the boys would have made hardly any progress.

Thirty years ago in England a schoolboy of eleven found himself
supplied with abridged Latin and Greek dictionaries, out of which to
build up larger familiarity with these languages. Erasmus at Deventer
had no such endowments. A school of those days would have been thought
excellently equipped if the head master and one or two of his
assistants had possessed, in manuscript or in print, one or other of
the famous vocabularies in which was amassed the etymological
knowledge of the Middle Ages. Great books are costly, and scholars are
ever poor. The normal method of acquiring a dictionary was, no doubt,
to construct it for oneself; the schoolboy laying foundations and
building upon them as he rose from form to form, and the mature
student constantly enlarging his plan throughout his life and adding
to it the treasures gained by wider reading. A sure method, though
necessarily circumscribed, at least in the beginning. We can imagine
how men so rooted and grounded must have shaken their heads over
'learning made easy', when the press had begun to diffuse cheap
dictionaries, which spared the younger generation such labour.

Though they were scarcely 'for the use of schools', it will repay us
to examine some of the mediaeval dictionaries which lasted down to the
Renaissance in general use; for they formed the background of
educational resources, and from them we can estimate the standards of
teaching attained in the late fifteenth century. First the
_Catholicon_, compiled by John Balbi, a Dominican of Genoa, and
completed on 7 March 1286; a work of such importance to the age we are
considering that it was printed at Mainz as early as 1460, and there
were many editions later. Badius' at Paris, 1506, for instance, was
reprinted in 1510, 1511, 1514. In his preface Balbi announces that his
dictionary is to be on the alphabetical principle; and, what is even
more surprising to us, he goes on to explain at great length what the
alphabetical principle is. Thus: 'I am going to treat of amo and bibo.
I shall take amo before bibo, because a is the first letter in amo and
b is the first letter in bibo; and a is before b in the alphabet.
Again I have to treat of abeo and adeo. I shall take abeo before adeo,
because b is the second letter in abeo and d is the second letter in
adeo; and b is before d in the alphabet.' And so he goes on: amatus
will be treated before amor, imprudens before impudens, iusticia
before iustus, polisintheton before polissenus--the two last being
from the Greek. 'But note', he continues, 'that in polissenus, s is
the fifth letter and also the sixth, because s is repeated there. A
repetition is therefore equivalent to a double letter; and thus this
arrangement will show when l, m, n, r, s or indeed any other letter is
to be doubled. And in order that the reader may find quickly what he
seeks, whenever the first or second letter of a word is changed, we
shall mark it with azure blue.' His preface ends with an appeal. 'This
arrangement I have worked out with great labour; yet not I, but the
grace of God with me. I entreat you therefore, reader, do not contemn
my work as something rude and barbarous.'

The most striking feature of the dictionary is its etymology. Almost
every word is supplied with a derivation, often very far-fetched. Thus
glisco is derived from 'glykis, quod est dulcis; que enim dulcia sunt
desiderare solemus': gliscere therefore is equivalent to desiderare,
crescere, pinguescere and several other words. After this we are not
surprised at the following account of a dormouse. 'Glis a glisco:
quoddam genus murium quod multum dormit. Et dicitur sic quod sompnus
facit glires pingues et crescere.' Here is another piece of natural
history. 'Irundo ab aer dicitur: quia non residens sed in aere capiens
cibos edat, quasi in aere edens.' There is simplicity in the
following: 'Nix a nubes, quia a nube venit.' Again: 'Ouis ab offero
vel obluo: quia antiquitus in inicio non tauri sed oues in sacrificio
mactarentur. Priscianus vero dicit quod descendit a Greco ... oys.'
Besides his philology the good Dominican was also a theologian; and
when he comes to the words upon which his world was built, he cannot
dismiss them as lightly as the snow. So Antichristus has two columns,
that is to say a folio page: confiteor 1½, conscientia 2¼, ordo 2½,
virgo two columns.

Much light is thrown on Balbi's work by the dictionary of his
predecessor, Huguitio of Pisa, Bishop of Ferrara (d. 1210). The title
of this, _Liber deriuationum_, indicates its character. Instead of the
alphabetical principle the words are arranged according to their
etymology; all that are assigned to a given root being grouped
together. This made it necessary, or at any rate desirable, to find a
derivation for every word; and with ingenuity to aid this was done as
far as possible. Besides derivatives even compounds came under the
simple root; and in consequence it must have been extremely difficult
to find a word unless one already knew a good deal about it. It is no
wonder that the book was never printed; although it occurs frequently
in the catalogues of mediaeval libraries.

A few examples will suffice. Under capio are found capax, captiuus,
capillus, caput with all its derivatives, anceps, praeceps,
principium, caper, capus, caupo, cippus, scipio, ceptrum; and even
cassis and catena. Similarly under nubo come nubes, nebula, nebulo,
nix, niger, nimpha, limpha, limpidus. With such a book as one's only
support it was clearly of the highest importance to be good at
etymology; with ouis, for instance, not to be troubled by Priscian's
fanciful derivation from the Greek, but to know that it came from
offero, and was therefore to be found under fero; or again to look for
hirundo under aer. Nor need we be surprised at the strange derivations
upon which arguments were sometimes founded: that Sprenger, the
inquisitor, could explain femina 'quia minorem habet et seruat fidem';
or the preacher over whom Erasmus' Folly makes merry, find authority
for burning heretics in the Apostle's command 'Haereticum deuita'.

We are now in a position to understand Balbi's performance in the
_Catholicon_. From the apologetic tone of his preface it is clear that
he felt Huguitio's work to be the really scientific thing, the only
book that a scholar would consult: but evidently experience had shown
the difficulty of using it, and therefore for the weakness of lesser
men like himself he reverted to the sequence of the alphabet. In
cumbering himself with derivations, too, he shows that he knows his
place. He may have had a glimmering that some of them were absurd; and
that Priscian with his reference to the Greek was a safer guide. But
to a scholar brought up on Huguitio derivations were of the first
importance; and to leave them out would have been only another mark of

Beyond Huguitio we may go back to Papias, a learned Lombard (_fl._
1051), whose Vocabulary was still in use in the fifteenth century, and
was printed at Milan in 1476. The editions of it are far fewer than
those of the _Catholicon_; a fact which presumably points to the
superiority of the later work. Papias also used the alphabetical
principle; and his lengthy explanation of it, which lacks, however,
the lucidity of Balbi's, probably implies that his predecessors had
adopted the etymological arrangement by derivations, or the divisions
of Isidore according to subjects. In a few cases he makes concession
to etymology, by giving derivatives under their root, e.g. under ago
come all the words derived from it: but he has regard to the weak, and
places them also in their right alphabetical position. Not many
derivations are given; but one of them is well known. Lucus is defined
as 'locus amenus, vbi multae arbores sunt. Lucus dictus [Greek: kata
antiphrasin] quia caret luce pro nimia arborum vmbra; vel a colocando
crebris luminibus (_aliter_ uiminibus), siue a luce, quod in eo
lucebant funalia propter nemorum tenebras.' This in the hands of Balbi
becomes 'per contrarium lucus dicitur a lucendo', or, as we say
popularly, 'lucus a non lucendo.' December, again, is derived from
decem and imbres 'quibus abundare solet'; and so too the other
numbered months.

It is noticeable that Papias has some knowledge of Greek, for
derivations in Greek letters occur, e.g. 'Acrocerauni: montes propter
altitudinem & fulminum iactus dicti. Graece enim fulmen [Greek:
keraunos] ceraunos dicitur, et acra [Greek: akra] sumitas'; and a
great many Greek and Hebrew words are given transliterated into Latin,
ballein, fagein, Ennosigaeus. Like Balbi, Papias travels outside the
limits of a mere dictionary, and his interests are not restricted to
theology. Aetas draws him into an account of the various ages of the
world, regnum into a view of its kingdoms. Carmen provokes 7 columns,
3½ folio pages, on metres; lapis 2 columns on precious stones. Italy
receives 2 columns, and ¾ of a column are given to St. Paul.
Contrariwise there is often great brevity in his interpretations:
'Samium locus est', 'heroici antiqui', 'mederi curare'. His treatment
of miraculum is interesting; 'A miracle is to raise the dead to life;
but it is a wonder (mirabile) for a fire to be kindled in the water,
or for a man to move his ears.' The next heading is mirabilia, for
which his examples are taken from the ends of the earth. He begins:
'Listen. Among the Garamantes is a spring so cold by day that you
cannot drink it, so hot at night that you cannot put your finger into
it.' A fig-tree in Egypt, apples of Sodom, the non-deciduous trees of
an island in India--these are the other travellers' tales which serve
him for wonders.

The alphabetical method did not hold its own without struggle. It
prevailed in Robert Stephanus' Latin _Thesaurus_ (1532), the most
considerable work of its kind that had been compiled since the
invention of printing; but Dolet's Commentaries on the Latin Tongue
(1536), are practically a reversion to the arrangement by roots. Henry
Stephanus' Greek _Thesaurus_ (1572) and Scapula's well-known
abridgement of it (1579) are both radical; and as late as the
seventeenth century this method was employed in the first Dictionary
of the French Academy, which was designed in 1638 but not published
till 1694. That, however, was its last appearance. The preface to the
Academy's second Dictionary (1700 and 1718), after comparing the two
methods, says: 'The arrangement by roots is the most scientific, and
the most instructive to the student; but it is not suited to the
impatience of the French people, and so the Academy has felt obliged
to abandon it.'[11] The ordinary user of dictionaries to-day would be
surprised at being called impatient for expecting the words to be put
in alphabetical order.

     [11] Cf. R.C. Christie, _Étienne Dolet_, ch. xi.

In mediaeval times there was one very real obstacle to the use of the
alphabetical method, and that was the uncertainty of spelling. Both
Papias and Balbi allude to it in their prefaces; but it did not deter
them from their enterprise. Even in the days of printing language
takes a long time to crystallize down into accepted forms, correct and
incorrect. You may see Dutchess with a t at Blenheim, well within the
eighteenth century, and forgo has only recently decided to give up its
e. In the days of manuscripts men spelt pretty much as they pleased,
making very free even with their own names; and uncritical copyists,
caring only to reproduce the word, and not troubling about the exact
orthography of their original, did nothing to check the ever-growing
variety. Such licence was agreeable for the imaginative, but it made
despairing work for the compilers of dictionaries. Some of their
difficulties may be given as examples. In the early days of minuscule
writing, when writing-material was still scarce, to save space it was
common to write the letter e with a reversed cedilla beneath it to
denote the diphthongs -ae and -oe. In the Middle Ages the cedilla was
commonly dropped, leaving the e plain; and so mostly it remained until
the sixteenth century revived the diphthong, or at least the two
double letters.

At all periods down to 1600, some hands are found in which it is
impossible to distinguish between c and t; and hence in mediaeval
times, and even later, such forms as fatio, loto, pecieris, licterae
are not infrequently found for facio, loco, petieris, litterae. An
extreme example of the confusion which this variability must have
caused is in the case of the fourteenth-century annalist, Nicholas
Trivet, whose surname sometimes appears as Cerseth or Chereth.

The doubling of consonants, too, was often a matter of doubt, and the
Middle Ages, possibly again for reasons of space, used many words with
single consonants instead of two--difficilimus, Salustius, consumare,
comodum, opidum, fuise. The letter h was the source of infinite
trouble. Sometimes it was surprisingly omitted, as in actenus, irundo,
Oratius, ortus--in the latter cases perhaps under Italian influence;
sometimes it appears unexpectedly, as in Therentius, Theutonia,
Thurcae, Hysidorus, habundare, and even haspirafio; or in abhominor,
where it bolstered up the derivation from homo: or it might change its
place from one consonant to another, as in calchographus, cartha.
Papias found it a great trouble, and indeed was quite muddled with it,
placing hyppocrita, hippomanes among the h's, but hippopedes and
several others under the i's, though without depriving them of initial
h. In France, h between two short i's was considered to need support,
and so we find michi, nichil, occurring quite regularly. The
difficulty of i and y was met by the suppression of the latter; so
that though it sometimes appears unexpectedly, as in hysteria, it is
only treated as i. Between f and ph there was much uncertainty; phas,
phanum, prophanus are well-known forms, or conversely Christofer,
flenbothomari, Flegeton. B and p were often confused, as in babtizare,
plasphemus; and p made its way into such words as ampnis, dampnum,
alumpnus. A triumph of absurd variation is achieved by Alexander
Neckam, who begins a sentence 'Coquinarii quocunt'.

With the increased learning of the Renaissance these varieties
gradually disappear. The printers, too, rendered good service in
promoting uniformity, each firm having its standard orthography for
doubtful cases, as printers do to-day. The use of e for ae is abundant
in the first books printed North of the Alps; but it steadily
diminishes, and by 1500 has almost vanished. In manuscripts, where it
was easy to forget to add the cedilla, the plain e lasts much longer.
There was also confusion in the reverse direction. Well into the
sixteenth century the cedilla is often found wrongly added to words
such as puer, equus, eruditus, epistola; in 1550 the Froben firm was
still regularly printing aedo, aeditio; and in the index to an edition
of Aquinas, Venice, 1593, aenigma and Aegyptus, spelt in this way, are
only to be found under e. Other forms of error persisted long. To the
end of his life Erasmus usually wrote irito, oportunus; in 1524 he
could still use Oratius. The town of Boppard on the Rhine he styles
indifferently Bobardia or Popardia: just as, much later, editors
described the elder Camerarius of Bamberg as Bapenbergensis in 1583,
as Pabepergensis in 1595. As late as 1540 a little book was printed in
Paris to demonstrate that michi and nichil were incorrect.

In such a state of flux we need not wonder that the mediaeval writers
of dictionaries found the alphabetical arrangement not the way of
simplification they had hoped, but rather to be full of pitfalls; nor
again that the men of the Renaissance thought the work of their
predecessors so lamentably inadequate. We shall do better to admire in
both cases the brilliance and constancy which could achieve so much
with such imperfect instruments.

To complete our sketch of the books on which the scholars of the
fifteenth century had to rely we may consider two more. The first is
the great encyclopaedia of Vincent of Beauvais, a Dominican friar
(_c._ 1190-1264). It was printed in 1472-6 by Mentelin at Strasburg,
in six enormous volumes; and no one can properly appreciate the
magnitude of the work who has not tried to lift these volumes about.
Vincent was not the first to attempt this encyclopaedic enterprise,
for his work is based on that of another Frenchman, Helinand, who died
in 1229. In his preface he states that his prior had urged him to
reduce his _Speculum_ to a manual; being doubtless an old man, and
appalled at these colossal fruits of his friar's industry. But this
was too much for the proud author after all his labour. He did,
however, consent to cut it up into portions. The _Speculum naturale_
gives a description of the world in all its parts, animal and
vegetable and mineral; the _Speculum doctrinale_ taught how to
practise the arts and sciences; the _Speculum historiale_ embraced the
world's history down to 1250; and the _Speculum morale_, which is
perhaps not by Vincent, found room for the philosophies.

But few libraries can have possessed this work in full. Our other book
was much more compassable and more widely circulated. Its author was a
certain Johannes Marchesinus, of whom so little is known that his date
has been put both at 1300 and at 1466. Even the title of the book was
uncertain. Marchesinus names it Mammotrectus or Mammetractus, which he
explains as 'led by a pedagogue'; but a current form of the name was
Mammothreptus, which was interpreted as 'brought up by one's
grandmother'. The book consists of a commentary on the whole Bible,
chapter by chapter; and also upon the _Legenda Sanctorum_, upon
various sermons and homilies, responses, antiphons, and hymns, with
notes on the Hebrew months, ecclesiastical vestments, and other
subjects likely to be useful to students in the Church, especial
emphasis being laid on pronunciation and quantity. It was intended,
Marchesinus tells us in his preface, for the use of the poor clergy,
to aid them in writing sermons and in reading difficult Hebrew names;
and from the sympathy with which he enters into their troubles, it
seems clear that he knew them from personal experience.

From its scope the book might be expected to be as large as Vincent's
_Speculum_, but in fact it can be printed in a quarto volume. It was
not intended to compete with the great commentaries of Peter the
Lombard, or Nicholas Lyra, or Hugh of St. Victor, which fill many
folios. It was to be within reach of the poor parish priest, and so
must not be costly. But the surprising part of the book is its
triviality. With so little space available, one would have expected to
find nothing admitted that was not important: but the fact is that it
has nothing which is not elementary. There is nothing historical,
nothing theological, only a few simple points of grammar and quantity.
For example, in the story of Deborah, Judges iv, the commentary runs
as follows:

     2. Sisara: middle syllable short.

     4. Debbora: middle syllable short. Prophetes masc., Prophetis
     fem.; meaning, propheta.

     10. Accersitis: last syllable but one long; meaning, vocatis.

     15. Perterreo, perterres; meaning, in pauorem conuertere.

     17. Cinci (the Kenites): middle syllable long.

     15. Desilio, desilis, desilii or desiliui: middle syllable
     short in trisyllables in the present; meaning, de aliquo salire
     siue descendere festinanter.

     21. clauus, masc., claui: meaning, acutum ferrum, malleus,
     masc., mallei: meaning, martellus.

     tempus, neut.: meaning, pars capitis, for which some people say

For Daniel vi, the story of Daniel in the lions' den, the commentary
is even briefer:

     6. surripuerunt: meaning, falso suggesserunt. Surripio,
     surripis, surrepsi(!): meaning, latenter rapere, subtrahere,

     10. comperisset; meaning, cognouisset. Comperio, comperis,
     comperi: fourth conjugation.

     20. affatus: meaning, allocutus. From affor, affaris; and
     governs the accusative.

We must not exalt ourselves above the author. He is very humble. 'Let
any imperfections in the book', says his preface, 'be attributed to
me: and if there is anything good, let it be thought to have come from
God.' He gave them of his best, explaining away such as he could of
the difficulties which had confronted him. But one can imagine the
disgust of even a moderate scholar if, wishing to study the Bible more
carefully, he could obtain access to nothing better than

Though Erasmus has not much to tell us of his time at Deventer, a
fuller account of the school may be found in the autobiography of John
Butzbach (_c._ 1478-1526), who for the last nineteen years of his life
was Prior of Laach.[12] Indeed, his narrative is so detailed and so
illustrative of the age that it may well detain us here. He was the
son of a weaver in the town of Miltenberg (hence Piemontanus) on the
Maine, above Aschaffenburg. At the age of six he was put to school and
already began to learn Latin; one of his nightly exercises that he
brought home with him being to get by heart a number of Latin words
for vocabulary. After a few years he came into trouble with his master
for laziness and truancy, and received a severe beating; his mother
intervened and got the master dismissed from his post, and Butzbach
was removed from the school.

     [12] Butzbach's manuscripts from Laach are now in the
          University Library at Bonn, but have never been printed.
          I have used a German translation by D.J. Becker, Regensburg,

An opportunity then offered for him to get a wider education. The son
of a neighbour who had commenced scholar, returned home for a time,
and offered to take Butzbach with him when he went off again to pursue
his courses for his degree. The consent of his parents was obtained;
and the scholar having received a liberal contribution towards
expenses, and Butzbach being equipped with new clothes, the pair set
out together. The boy was now ten, and looked forward hopefully to the
future; but the scholar quickly showed himself in his true colours.
He treated Butzbach as a fag, made him trudge behind carrying the
larger share of their bundles, and when they came to an inn feasted
royally himself off the money given to him for the boy, leaving him to
the charity of the innkeepers. At the end of two months the money was
spent, and they had found no place of settlement. Henceforward
Butzbach was set to beg, going from house to house in the villages
they passed, asking for food; and when this failed to produce enough,
he was required to steal. The scholar treated him shamefully and beat
him often; and as it was a well-known practice for fags, when begging,
to eat up delicacies at once, instead of bringing them in, Butzbach
was sometimes subjected to the regular test, being required to fill
his mouth with water and then spit it out into a basin for his master
to examine whether there were traces of fat.

The scholar's aim was to find some school, having attached to it a
Bursa or hostel, in which they could obtain quarters; apparently he
was not yet qualified for a university. They made their way to
Bamberg, but there was no room for them in the Bursa. So on they went
into Bohemia, where at the town of Kaaden the rector of the school was
able to allot them a room--just a bare, unfurnished chamber, in which
they were permitted to settle. Such teaching as Butzbach received was
spasmodic and ineffectual, and after two years of this bondage he ran
away. For the next five years he was in Bohemia in private service,
longing for home, hating his durance among the heathen, as he called
the Bohemians for following John Hus, but lacking courage to make his
escape from masters who could send horsemen to scour the countryside
for fugitive servants and string them up to trees when caught.
However, at length the opportunity came, and after varying fortunes,
Butzbach made his way home to Miltenberg, to find his father dead and
his mother married again.

For the substantial accuracy of Butzbach's narrative his character is
sufficient warranty. He was a pious, honest man, and at the time when
he wrote his autobiography at the request of his half-brother Philip,
he was already a monk at Laach. But the picture of a young student's
sufferings under an elder's cruelty can be paralleled with surprising
closeness from the autobiography of Thomas Platter, mentioned above;
the wandering from one school to another, the maltreatment, the
begging, the enforced stealing, all these are reproduced with just the
difference of surroundings.

Platter's account of his life at Breslau is worth quoting. 'I was ill
three times in one winter, so that they were obliged to bring me into
the hospital; for the travelling scholars had a particular hospital
and physicians for themselves. Care was taken of the patients, and
they had good beds, only the vermin were so abundant that, like many
others, I lay much rather upon the floor than in the beds. Through the
winter the fags lay upon the floor in the school, but the Bacchants in
small chambers, of which at St. Elizabeth's there were several
hundreds. But in summer, when it was hot, we lay in the church-yard,
collected together grass such as is spread in summer on Saturdays in
the gentlemen's streets before the doors, and lay in it like pigs in
the straw. When it rained, we ran into the school, and when there was
thunder, we sang the whole night with the Subcantor, responses and
other sacred music. Now and then after supper in summer we went into
the beerhouses to beg for beer. The drunken Polish peasants would give
us so much that I often could not find my way to the school again,
though only a stone's throw from it.' Platter wrote his autobiography
at the age of 73, when his memories of his youth must have been
growing dim; but though on this account we must not press him in
details, his main outlines are doubtless correct.

On his return, Butzbach was apprenticed to Aschaffenburg, to learn the
trade of tailoring; and having mastered this, he procured for himself,
in 1496, the position of a lay-brother in the Benedictine Abbey of
Johannisberg in the Rheingau, opposite Bingen. His duties were
manifold. Besides doing the tailoring of the community, he was
expected to make himself generally useful: to carry water and fetch
supplies, to look after guests, to attend the Abbot when he rode
abroad (on one occasion he was thrown thus into the company of Abbot
Trithemius of Sponheim, whose work on the Ecclesiastical writers of
his time he afterwards attempted to carry on), to help in the hay
harvest, and in gathering the grapes. Before a year was out he grew
tired of these humble duties, and bethought him anew of his father's
wish that he should become a professed monk. He had omens too. One
morning his father appeared to him as he was dressing, and smiled upon
him. Another day he was sitting at his work and talking about his wish
with an old monk who was sick and under his care. On the wall in front
of his table he had fastened a piece of bread, to be a reminder of the
host and of Christ's sufferings. Suddenly this fell to the ground. The
old man started up from his place by the stove, and steadying his
tottering limbs cried out aloud that this was a sign that the wish was
granted. He had the reputation among his fellows of being a prophet
and had foretold the day of his own death. Butzbach accepted the omen,
and obtained leave to go to school again.

His choice was Deventer. One of the brethren wrote him an elegant
letter to Hegius applying for admission; and though, as he says, he
answered no questions in his entrance examination (which appears to
have been oral), on the strength of the letter he was admitted and
placed in the seventh class, a young man of twenty amongst the little
boys who were making a beginning at grammar. But he had no means of
support except occasional jobs of tailor's work, and hunger drove him
back to Johannisberg. There he might have continued, had not a chance
meeting with his mother, when he had ridden over to Frankfort with the
Abbot, given him a new spur. She could not bear to think of his
remaining a Lollhard, that is a lay-brother, all his days; and
pressing money privily into his hands, she besought the Abbot to let
him return to Deventer. In August 1498 he was there again, was
examined by Hegius, and was placed this time in the lowest class, the
eighth, in company with a number of stolid louts, who had fled to
school to escape being forced to serve as soldiers. There was reason
in their fears. The Duke of Gueldres was at war with the Bishop of
Utrecht. A hundred prisoners had been executed in the three days
before Butzbach's return, and as he strode into Deventer to take up
his books again, he may have seen their scarce-cold bodies swinging on
gibbets against the summer sunset. The schoolboy of to-day works in
happier surroundings.

Butzbach's career henceforward was fortunate. He was taken up by a
good and pious woman, Gutta Kortenhorff, who without regular vows had
devoted herself to a life of abstinence and self-sacrifice; taking
special pleasure in helping young men who were preparing for the
Franciscan or the reformed Benedictine Orders. For nine months
Butzbach lived in her house, doubtless out of gratitude rendering such
service as he could to his kind patroness. From the eighth class he
passed direct into the sixth, and at Easter 1499 he was promoted into
the fifth. This entitled him to admission to the Domus Pauperum
maintained by the Brethren of the Common Life for boys who were
intending to become monks; and so he transferred himself thither for
the remainder of his course. But he suffered much from illness, and
five several times made up his mind to give up and return home--once
indeed this was only averted by a swelling of his feet, which for a
prolonged period made it impossible for him to walk. After six months
in the fifth, and a year in the fourth class, he was moved up into the
third, thus traversing in little over two years what had occupied
Erasmus for something like nine.

Butzbach was by temperament inclined to glorify the past; in the
present he himself had a share, and therefore in his humility he
thought little of it. In consequence we must not take him too
literally in his account of the condition of the school; but it is too
interesting to pass over. 'In the old days', he says, 'Deventer was a
nursery for the Reformed Orders; they drew better boys, more suited to
religion, out of the fifth class, than they do now out of the second
or first, although now much better authors are read there. Formerly
there was nothing but the Parables of Alan , the
moral distichs of Cato, Aesop's Fables, and a few others, whom the
moderns despise; but the boys worked hard, and made their own way over
difficulties. Now when even in small schools the choicest authors are
read, ancient and modern, prose and poetry, there is not the same
profit; for virtue and industry are declining. With the decay of that
school, religion also is decaying, especially in our Order, which drew
so many good men from there. And yet it is not a hundred years since
our reformation.'

He does not indicate how far back he was turning his regretful gaze;
whether to the early years of the fifteenth century when Nicholas of
Cues was a scholar at Deventer, or to the more recent times of
Erasmus, who was about three school-generations ahead of him. But of
the books used there in the last quarter of the fifteenth century we
can form a clear notion from the productions of the Deventer printers,
Richard Paffraet and Jacobus of Breda. School-books then as now were
profitable undertakings, if printed cheap enough for the needy
student; and Paffraet, with Hegius living in his house, must have had
plenty of opportunities for anticipating the school's requirements.
Between 1477 and 1499 he printed Virgil's Eclogues, Cicero's _De
Senectute_ and _De Amicitia_, Horace's _Ars Poetica_, the _Axiochus_
in Agricola's translation, Cyprian's Epistles, Prudentius' poems,
Juvencus' _Historia Euangelica_, and the _Legenda Aurea_: also the
grammar of Alexander with the commentary of Synthius and Hegius,
Agostino Dato's _Ars scribendi epistolas_, Aesop's Fables, and the
_Dialogus Creaturarum_, the latter two being moralized in a way which
must surely have pleased Butzbach. Jacobus of Breda, who began
printing at Deventer in 1486, produced Virgil's Eclogues, Cicero's _De
Senectute_ and _De Officiis_, Boethius' _De consolatione philosophiae_
and _De disciplina scholarium_, Aesop, a poem by Baptista Mantuanus,
the 'Christian Virgil', Alan of Lille's _Parabolae_, Alexander, two
grammatical treatises by Synthius and the _Epistola mythologica_ of
Bartholomew of Cologne.

This last, as being the work of a master in the school, deserves
attention; and also for its intrinsic interest. As its title implies,
it is cast in the form of a letter, addressed to a friend Pancratius;
and it is dated from Deventer 10 July 1489--nine years before Butzbach
entered the school. It opens with the customary apologies, and after
some ordinary topics the writer, Bartholomew, says that he is sending
back some books borrowed from Pancratius, including a Sidonius which
he has had on loan for three years. At this point there is a
transformation. Sidonius is personified and becomes the centre of a
series of semi-comic incidents, which afford an opportunity for
introducing various words for the common objects of everyday life; and
a glossary explains many of these with precision. There is a long and
vivid account of the waking of Sidonius from his three years' slumber.
The door has to be broken open, and Sidonius is found lying to all
appearances dead. A feather burnt under his nose produces slight signs
of life; and when a good beating with the bar of the door is
threatened, he at length rouses himself. Servants come in, and their
different duties are described. They fall to quarrelling and become
uproarious; and in the scuffle Sidonius is hurt. A lotion is prepared
for his bruises, and he is offered diet suitable for an invalid:
boiled sturgeon, washed down with wine or beer, the latter being from
Bremen or Hamburg.

Afterwards the room is cleared up, and thus an opportunity is given to
describe it. Then a table is spread for the rest of the party, and
the various requisites are specified--tablecloth and napkins, pewter
plates, earthenware mugs, a salt-cellar and two brass stands for the
dishes. Bread is put round to each place, chairs are brought up with
cushions; and jugs of wine and beer placed in the centre of the table.
Finally a basin is brought with ewer and towel for the guests to wash
their hands, and as one o'clock strikes, dinner appears, and all sit
down together, including the servants. After the meal a dice-box and
board are produced; but one of the guests demurs, and it is put aside.
In the conversation that ensues it is arranged that Sidonius shall go
back to his master next morning after breakfast. The servant who is to
accompany him asks that they may go in a carriage; but this is
overruled, because of a recent accident in which one had been upset,
and it is determined that a Spanish palfrey of easy paces shall be
provided for Sidonius. At six supper is served; and then the curtain
falls, the letter relapsing into normal matters--inquiries for a
Euclid, regrets at being unable to send to Pancratius Hyginus and the
_Astronomica_ of Manilius.

It is clear that the object of the book, which is of no great length,
was to give boys correct Latin words for the material objects of their
daily life: something like Bekker's _Gallus_ and _Charicles_ on a
small scale. In carrying out this idea Bartholomew of Cologne has
provided us with a sketch of the world that he knew.



Erasmus was not fitted for the monastic life. This is not to say that
he was a bad man. Few men outside the ranks of the holy have worked
harder or made greater sacrifices to do God service. But his was a
free spirit. His work could only be done in his own way; and to live
according to another's rule fretted him beyond endurance. His
experience in the matter was not fortunate. In 1483 his mother died of
plague at Deventer, whither she had accompanied him. His father
recalled him next year to Gouda, but died soon afterwards; and his
guardians then sent him with his elder brother to a school kept by the
Brethren of the Common Life at Hertogenbosch--doubtless to a Domus
Pauperum for intending monks, such as Butzbach entered at Deventer;
for in this connexion Erasmus describes the schools of the Brethren as
seminaries for the regular orders. After two years they returned to
Gouda, and Erasmus begged to be sent to a university; but no means
were forthcoming, and the guardian prevailed upon the elder brother
Peter to enter the monastery of Sion, near Delft. Erasmus held out for
some time; but he was without resources and the influences at work
upon him were strong. One day he fell in with a school-friend,
Cornelius of Woerden, who had recently entered the house of
Augustinian canons at Steyn, near Gouda. In his loneliness any friend
was welcome. He paid visits to Steyn and saw that the life there
offered leisure and even possibilities of study; Cornelius, too,
seemed inclined to be a ready companion in literary pursuits. Urged by
his guardian, invited by his friend, he gave way at length to the
double pressure and entered Steyn.

After a novitiate of a year, during which life was made easy to him,
he took his canonical vows; and soon began to repent of the step he
had made. For about seven years he lived in what seemed to him a
prison. There were, no doubt, good men amongst his fellow-canons. In
all his diatribes against monasticism he was ready to admit that the
Orders contained plenty of God-fearing souls, doing their duty
honestly; and the evidence shows clearly enough that this was correct.
It is, however, equally true that there were mediocrities among them,
and even worse; men with low standards and no ideals, who brought
their fellows to shame. Vows in those days were indissoluble, except
in rare cases; as a rule it was only by flight and disappearance for
ever that a man could escape social disgrace and the penalties
threatened by the spiritual arm to a renegade monk. To-day, when
orders can be laid down at the holder's will, the Church of England
contains priests of whom it cannot get rid.

The good, even when they rule, do not always lead; nor are they always
learned. Erasmus found the atmosphere of Steyn hopelessly distasteful.
It was not that he was prevented from study. His compositions of this
period show a wide acquaintance with the classics and the Fathers; and
his style, though it had not yet attained to the ease and lucidity of
his later years, has much of the elegance beyond which his
contemporaries never advanced. The fact, too, that he left Steyn to
become Latin Secretary to a powerful bishop implies that he must have
had many opportunities for study and have made good use of them. But
from what he says it is clear that the tone of the place was set by
the mediocrities. We need not suppose that vice was rampant among
them, to shock the young and enthusiastic scholar. There was quite
enough to daunt him in the prospect of a life spent among the
narrow-minded. Sinners who feel waves of repentance may be better
house-mates than those who have worldly credit enough to make them

Fortunately all houses of religion were not alike, any more than
colleges are alike to-day. Butzbach's lot was very different; and it
is a pleasant contrast to turn to his experiences at Laach, an
important Benedictine abbey some miles west of Andernach. In the
autumn of 1500, when he had been two years at Deventer, there appeared
one day in the school the Steward of the Abbey of Niederwerth, an
island in the Rhine below Coblenz. What the business was which had
brought him from his own monastery, is not stated; but he had also
been asked to do some recruiting for the Benedictines at Laach. The
Abbot there was nephew of the Prior at Niederwerth, and had taken
this opportunity to extend his quest further afield. The Steward
brought with him letters from the Abbot to the Rector of Deventer, now
Ostendorp, and also to the Brethren of the Common Life, asking for
some good and well-educated young men. The Rector's first appeal
evoked no response; so the Steward went on about his business. After
three weeks he returned, having visited other schools, but bringing no
one with him. Once more Ostendorp addressed the third and fourth
classes in impressive words. But all seemed in vain. The students had
paid their school fees for the half-year, and were ashamed to ask for
them back from the Rector and other teachers--into whose pockets they
appear to have gone direct. Their money paid for board and lodging
would have been sacrificed also. It happened, too, to be exceptionally
cold--not the weather in which any one would lightly set out on a
journey. We must remember that the calendar had not yet been
rectified, and that they were about ten days nearer to midwinter than
their dates show.

On occasions the whole school came together to hear the Rector--it was
at such times, Erasmus tells us, that he heard Hegius. At one of these
gatherings during the Steward's second visit Butzbach was sitting next
to two friends from his own part of the world, Peter of Spires and
Paul of Kitzingen. They were above him in the school, having passed
their entrance examination before the Rector with such credit that
they were placed at once in the third class--a rare distinction--and
Paul indeed at the end of his first half-year had come out top and
passed into the second. The friends talked together of the life of the
cloister, of the happiness of study amid the practice of holiness and
in the presence of God. At the end Peter and Butzbach sought out the
Steward and gave him their names: Paul, the brilliant leader of the
trio, remained behind in the world, and became a professor at Cologne.

Butzbach said farewell to the masters who had taught him, and to his
various benefactors in the town, all of whom applauded his decision.
On St. Barbara's Day, 4 Dec. 1500, the party set out, and were
accompanied out of the town by students who swarmed about them like
bees; Butzbach, when they at length took leave, urging them to follow
his example. Two days later they were at Emmerich, and after crossing
the Rhine on the ice, so bitter was the frost, they were overtaken by
the night at a convent and sought shelter. It proved to be a house of
Brigittines, with separate orders of men and women. One of the party,
a priest from Deventer, had a kinswoman among the nuns, but was not
allowed to see her. On 8 December the feast of the Conception of the
Virgin, as they passed through a village, the two priests asked leave
to say a mass for themselves in the parish church; and only with
difficulty obtained it from the pfarrer in charge, so great was the
jealousy between seculars and regulars. At night they found
hospitality in a Benedictine house at Neuss, where Butzbach notes the
peculiarity--which he discusses at length but is quite unable to
explain--that no one could be accepted as a monk with the name of

Next day the party was obliged to divide. Peter of Spires, who from
the first had been ailing and easily tired, was suffering acute pain
from a sore on his finger; so Butzbach remained behind with him in a
village, while the others went on to Cologne. After twenty-four hours
the sufferer was no better; and as sleep for either of them seemed
impossible, they arose at midnight, hired a cart, and journeying under
the stars, arrived at Cologne just as the gates were being opened.
They rejoined their friends, and the whole party was entertained in
the house of a rich widow, whose son, recently dead, had been a monk
at Niederwerth.

The Steward had business at Cologne; so for two days the young men
were free to wander about the town, looking into the churches and
worried by the schoolboy tricks of the university students. Three days
journeying brought them late at night and dead tired to Niederwerth.
The aged Prior--he had been sixty years in the monastery--on learning
their destination showed them great courtesy and kindness; and when
they had supped, insisted, despite all their protests, on washing
their feet himself. Next day he showed them over the monastery, took
them into the rooms where the brethren were at work, and explained
what each of them had to do: 'just as though we were his equals,' says
Butzbach, on whom his modesty and friendliness made a deep impression.
Indeed, his conversation greatly strengthened them in their
determination to enter the religious life; although he did not conceal
from them the temptations which they might expect, from the Devil.

On 17 December he gave them leave to proceed, and sent one of the
monastery servants and a lay-brother to escort them. Their way lay
through Coblenz; and Peter as a weaker vessel was sent on, to go
slowly ahead with the lay-brother, whilst the servant and Butzbach
stopped in the town to execute some commissions. But they had
under-estimated Peter's weakness. After a midday meal the second pair
set out briskly, in the comfortable reflection that the others were
already part-way to Laach. To their disgust as they crossed the bridge
over the Moselle, they found Peter and his companion lolling outside
an inn, unable to talk properly or to stand upright. The Prior's
warning against the Devil had been speedily justified. Peter had been
tempted to spend his last day of freedom in a carouse, and every penny
he possessed had gone over a fine dinner and costly wines.

To Butzbach this was the more serious, because he had given his purse
to Peter to carry, and all that had gone too. Johannisberg still had
strong ties for him. He had found peace there and made friends, and it
was near his home. Many times, at silent moments as he journeyed along
from Deventer, it had come into his head to wonder whether Laach too
could give him peace, whether he could settle so far off. Now, if the
old ties should be too strong to resist, thanks to Peter, he would
have to set out on his way penniless.

Sharp words brought the offenders to some measure of their senses; but
it was a dismal party that splashed along the muddy roads that
December afternoon. Evening brought them to Saffig, and hospitable
reception in the house of George von Leyen, brother of the Prior of
Niederwerth and father of the Abbot to whom they were going; and the
parents' praises of their son's goodness and kindness were comforting
to hear. Ten miles next morning brought them to Laach; and when they
came over the hill, and saw the great abbey with its towers and dome
beside the lake, which even in winter could smile amid its woods,
Butzbach felt that in all his travels he had seen no sight more
lovely. Their guide led them straight into the church, and as
Butzbach's eye glanced along the plain Romanesque columns, past the
gorgeous tomb of the founder, to the dim splendours of the choir, the
words of the familiar Psalm rose to his lips: 'Haec requies mea in
saeculum saeculi; hic habitabo, quoniam elegi eam.' Peace had come to
him at once, and he received it.

After a generous meal in the refectory they were brought in to the
tall, dignified Abbot; and while they stood before him answering his
questions, they felt that he had not been praised more highly than was
his due. Abbot and Prior took them round the monastery; the latter a
busy little man in whom they could hardly recognize so exalted a
dignitary. At the back they found the brethren busy with the week's
washing. All crowded round them, full of questions and congratulations
and pleasant laughter. For three days they were lodged in the
guest-chambers, and then the Prior asked them whether they stood firm
in their wish to enter the Order. On their assent he expounded to them
the severities of the life, the self-abnegation that would be required
of them, bidding them consider whether they could face it; at the same
time instructing them in all the customs and practices of the house.
The dress was put upon them, they were led into the convent and cells
allotted to them; and told that till St. Benedict's Day (21 March)
they would be on probation. Before the day came Peter's spirit
faltered, and he went. But his weakness was not for long. He repented
and found his peace in a Cistercian house near Worms; and Butzbach's
sympathy went with him, back to the Upper Germany which both loved.

The time of probation was hard to Butzbach; not because of the life,
which the good Prior tempered to his tenderness, but through the
temptations of the Devil, who seemed ever present with him. He was
specially tormented with the thought of Johannisberg, and the feeling
that he had deserted it. But the wise heads in charge of him gave
comfort and stablishment; and he persevered. On the Founder's Day,
1501, he entered upon the novitiate, which was followed a year later
by his profession; and in 1503 he was sent to Trèves and ordained

In the course of his numerous writings Butzbach gives sketches of
many of the inmates of Laach. The senior brother at the time of his
arrival was Jacob of Breden in Westphalia, a man of strong character
and force of will. As a boy, when at school at Cleves, he was laughed
at for his provincial accent; and therefore determined henceforward to
speak nothing but Latin, with the result that he acquired a complete
mastery of it. He had at first joined the Brethren of the Common Life
at Zwolle, then became a Benedictine in St. Martin's at Cologne, and
came to Laach to introduce the Bursfeld reforms. So tender-hearted was
he that he would not kill even the insects which worried him, but
would catch them and throw them out of window. John of Andernach is
mentioned as having appeared to the brethren after his death; and he
and Godfrey of Cologne are praised for their skill in astronomy. We
hear of various activities among the monks. One is good at writing,
another at dictating and correcting, another has taste in painting
flowers and illuminating. Henry of Coblenz combined the offices of
precentor, master of the robes, gardener, glazier and barber; and also
unofficial counsellor to the young, who frequently turned to him for
sympathy. Antony of St. Hubert, besides the care of the refectory, was
bee-master and hive-maker; and a great preacher in German, though he
had come to Laach knowing only his native French. At the end of the
list came the lay-brothers and the pensioners (donati), one of whom
was nearly 100.

Shortly after his ordination Butzbach was appointed master of the
novices, to superintend their education--which included learning the
Psalter by heart--until the time of their profession. He protested his
unfitness, but the Abbot held him to it nevertheless. The standard of
his pupils was low: many of them, though they came as Bachelors and
Masters of Arts from the universities, he judged not so good as boys
in the sixth form at Deventer. But he found lecturing in Latin
difficult; and so to make up his deficiencies he set himself to read
all the Latin classics and Fathers that he could find. One day two
young kinsmen of the Abbot were at dinner. They had been at Deventer
and then at Paris, and were full of their studies. Butzbach as
novice-master represented the humanities, and was called upon for a
poem. Readiness was not his strong point; as a preacher he never could
overcome his nervousness. He asked leave to retire to his cell, and
there in solitude wrung out some verses of compliment; which found
such favour that, to his regret, he was often called upon again.

In 1507, when only thirty, he was made Prior, and thus became
responsible for much of the management of the abbey. In spite of this
he kept up his studies; but only at the cost of great physical
efforts, robbing himself of sleep and working through long hours of
the night. To this period, 1507-9, belongs his most considerable
undertaking, an _Auctarium de scriptoribus ecclesiasticis_, which had
its origin in his admiration for Trithemius. In his Johannisberg days,
as we have seen, he had met the great historian-abbot, though in a
humble capacity. His own Abbot shared with Trithemius the duty of
making the triennial visitations of the Benedictine houses in that
district; and Butzbach, as the Abbot's servant, often rode with them.
Trithemius noticed the young lay-brother who seemed so interested in
study, and occasionally gave him a word of encouragement. Indeed it
was the story of Trithemius' life--repeated with wonder by many
lips--which had spurred Butzbach on to go to Deventer: how as a boy he
had worked with his stepfather in the mill at Trittenheim, and at
twenty-one was still labouring with his hands. One day he was carting
material for a new pilgrimage-church on the hill, when the call came
to him. He returned home, put up his horse and wagon, and without a
word to any one walked off to Niederwesel to begin learning grammar
amongst the little boys; and yet in a short time he had risen to be
Abbot, and had won a wide reputation.

At Laach Butzbach for the first time set eyes on Trithemius' works.
One of these was a _Liber de scriptoribus ecclesiasticis_, printed by
John Amorbach at Basle in 1494--a sort of theological _Who's Who_,
giving the names of authors ancient and modern with lists of their
writings. Butzbach continued it with an _Auctarium_, into which he
hooked almost every writer he could find, whether ecclesiastical or
not. It is a large book, still remaining in manuscript at Bonn, as it
was written out for him by two very inefficient novices. The date of
its composition is abundantly indicated by the notes with which he
terminates his notices of living authors: 'Viuit adhuc anno quo hec
scribimus 158' or 159.[13] Such a compilation, in so far as it deals
with contemporary writers, might have had considerable value; but
unfortunately, like some of Trithemius' work, it is an uncritical
performance and contains ridiculous blunders, which impair the credit
of its statements when they cannot be checked. Industry and devotion
to learning are not the sole qualifications for a scholar.

     [13] = 1509. By a reverse process Bruno Amorbach writes 10507
          for 1507.

But it was not altogether a happy time for Butzbach, even though he
was honoured by correspondence with Trithemius. There were few among
the monks who actually sympathized with his studies; and from a
certain section they brought him actual persecution. When, as Prior,
he emphasized before the brethren the section in Benedict's rule which
enjoins to study, they mocked at him. 'No learning, no doubts' said
one. 'Much learning doth make thee mad' said another. 'Knowledge
puffeth up' said a third; and heeded not his gentle reply, 'but love
edifieth'. They protested against his allowing the novices to read
Latin poetry. They appealed to the Visitor and got the supplies of
money for the library cut off; even what he earned himself by saying
masses for the dead was no longer allowed to be appropriated to him
for the purchase of books. Finally when the visitation came round in
1509, they delated him for spending too much time on writing, to the
neglect of the business of the monastery. But here they overreached
themselves. The Visitors called for his books, opened them and saw
that they were good--possibly they found their own names among the
ecclesiastical writers. The Prior was acquitted, and the mouths of his
enemies were stopped.

One cause of dissension in monasteries at this period was the
existence of an unreformed element among the monks; though in
Butzbach's time it had probably disappeared at Laach. Ever since the
Oriental practice of monasticism spread into the West, Christendom has
seen a continual series of endeavours towards better and purer ideals
of human life. Of all the monastic orders the Benedictine (520) was
the oldest and the most widely spread. But time had relaxed the
strictness of its observance; and indeed some of the younger orders,
such as the Cluniac (910) and the Cistercian (1098), had their origins
in efforts after a more godly life than what was then offered under
the Benedictine rule, the strictness of which they sought to restore.
In the fifteenth century reform of the monasteries was once more in
the air.[14] In 1422 a chapter of the Benedictine houses in the
provinces of Trèves and Cologne met at Trèves to discuss the question,
which had been raised again at the Council of Constance, and to
consider various schemes. The Abbot of St. Matthias' at Trèves, John
Rode, learning of the stricter code practised in St. James' at Liège
since the thirteenth century, introduced it into his house; borrowing
four monks from St. James' to help him in the process. A few years
later John Dederoth of Minden, Abbot of Bursfeld near Göttingen, after
examining the new practice at Trèves, decided to follow Rode's
example, and carried off four brethren from St. Matthias' to Bursfeld.
His influence led a number of neighbouring Benedictine houses to adopt
the new rule; and very soon a Bursfeld Union or Congregation was
formed of monasteries which had embraced what Butzbach calls 'our
reformation', with annual chapters and triennial visitations.

     [14] At this point and again later about Chezal-Benoît I have
          made much use of Dom Berlière's _Mélanges d'histoire
          bénédictine_, 3^e série, 1901.

By the end of the fifteenth century there were more than a hundred
constituents of the Congregation. The usual method of introducing the
new practice was, as Rode and Dederoth had done, to borrow a number of
monks from a house already reformed, who either settled in the new
house or returned home when their work was done. As may be supposed,
the reforms were not everywhere welcomed. A zealous Abbot or Prior
returning with his band of foreigners was often met by opposition and
even forcible resistance. When Jacob of Breden, Butzbach's 'senior
brother', came in 1471 with seven others from St. Martin's at Cologne
to renew a right spirit in Laach, a number of the older monks resented
it, especially when he was made Prior for the purpose. One cannot but
sympathize with them. Jacob was only thirty-two, and it is a delicate
matter setting one's elders in the right way. At length the seniors
became exasperated and took to violence. Not content with belabouring
him in his cell, they attacked him one night with swords, and he only
escaped by leaping out of the dormitory window. The rest of his
company were ejected, and for three years found shelter in St.
Matthias' at Trèves, the parent house of the new rule; and it was not
till 1474 that the Archbishop, with the Pope's permission and the
co-operation of the civil official of the district, forced his way
into Laach and turned out the recalcitrants.

But this movement for reform was not confined to Germany nor to the
Benedictines. In the beginning of the fifteenth century the house of
Augustinian canons at Windesheim near Zwolle instituted for itself a
new and stricter set of statutes, and soon gathered round it nearly a
hundred houses of both sexes, forming the Windesheim Congregation:
besides which, other monasteries bound themselves into smaller bodies
to observe the new statutes. Thus, for instance, Erasmus' convent at
Steyn was a member of the Chapter of Sion, with only a few others; two
of which were St. Mary's at Sion, near Delft, to which his brother
Peter belonged, and St. Michael's at Hem, near Schoonhoven. The fame
of Windesheim spread into France. In two successive years--1496,
7--parties were invited thence to reform French Benedictine houses.
The first, headed by John Mauburn of Brussels, was brought in by the
Abbot of St. Severinus' at Château-Landon near Fontainebleau. It was
completely successful and Château-Landon was made the head of a new
Chapter: after which Mauburn proceeded to reform the Abbey of Livry, a
few miles to the north-east of Paris. The second mission, though
promoted by influential men in Paris, had less result. St. Victor's,
the Benedictine Abbey which the Bishop of Paris wished to reform, was
one of the most important in his diocese; and its inmates were averse
from the proposed changes. For nine months the mission from Windesheim
sat in Paris, expounding, demonstrating, hoping to persuade. One of
the party, Cornelius Gerard of Gouda, an intimate friend of Erasmus'
youth, enjoyed himself greatly among the manuscripts in the abbey
library; but that was all. In August 1498 they went home, leaving St.
Victor's as they had found it.

The strenuous endeavours made at this time towards monastic reform
from within may be illustrated from the lives of Guy Jouveneaux
(Juuenalis) and the brothers Fernand. Jouveneaux was a scholar of
eminence and professor in the University of Paris. Charles Fernand was
a native of Bruges, who, in spite of defective eyesight, which made it
necessary for him regularly to employ a reader, had studied in Italy,
had been Rector of Paris University, 1485-6, and had attained to
considerable skill in both classical learning and music. John Fernand,
the younger brother, also excelled in both these branches of study.
Symphorien Champier, the Lyons physician, speaks of him with
Jouveneaux as his teacher in Paris. Charles VIII made him chief
musician of the royal chapel.

In 1479 Peter du Mas became Abbot of the Benedictine house at Chezal
Benoît, which lay in the forests, ten miles to the South of Bourges.
His first care was to restore the buildings, which had been partially
destroyed during the English wars earlier in the century. When that
was achieved, he set himself to reform the conditions of religious
observance, and for that purpose invited a band of monks from Cluny.
His policy was continued by his successor, Martin Fumeus, 1492-1500,
and a bull was obtained from Alexander VI in 1494 permitting the
foundation of a Congregatio Casalina, which was joined by a large
number of Benedictine houses in the neighbourhood: St. Sulpice, St.
Laurence and St. Menulphus at Bourges, St. Vincent at Le Mans, St.
Martin at Séez, St. Mary's at Nevers, and even by more distant
foundations, St. Peter's at Lyons and the great Abbey of St. Germain
des Prés at Paris. One point of the new practice, that Abbots should
be elected for only three years at a time, struck at the prevailing
abuse by which members of powerful families, non-resident and often
children, were intruded into rich benefices, to the great detriment of
their charges.[15] Consideration was also had of the rule adopted at
St. Justina's at Padua, the centre of reform in Northern Italy; and
thus it was not till 1516 that the new ordinances were finally
sanctioned by Leo X.

[15] Thus the family of d'Illiers at this time almost monopolized the
see of Chartres; members of it holding the bishopric consecutively for
fifty years, the deanery for a hundred, the arch-deaconry and the rich
abbey of Bona Vallis also for fifty.

About 1490, Jouveneaux, fired with enthusiasm by the success of du
Mas' reforms at Chezal Benoît, determined to quit his professor's
chair at Paris and take upon him the vows and the life of a monk under
du Mas' rule; and subsequently he was the means of bringing into the
Congregation the Abbey of St. Sulpice at Bourges, being invited
thither by John Labat, the Abbot, to introduce the new rule, and
himself succeeding to the abbacy for a triennial period. A year or two
after his retirement from the world, he was followed to Chezal Benoît
by Charles Fernand, who subsequently went on to St. Vincent's at Le
Mans. John Fernand also ended his days at St. Sulpice in Bourges.

Charles Fernand is a personality who deserves more attention than he
has received. Whilst he was in the world he enjoyed considerable
esteem amongst the learned. He was a friend of Gaguin, and published a
commentary on Gaguin's poem on the Immaculate Conception; he also
dedicated to Gaguin a small volume of Familiar Letters. But his most
important literary work was done in the retirement of his cell: a
volume of Monastic Conversations, composed at sundry times, and
published in 1516; a treatise on Tranquillity (1512), in which he
gives an account of the motives which led him to take the monastic
habit; and a Mirror of the Monastic Life (1515), dwelling at length on
the ideals that should be held before the eyes of novices and animate
their lives when they were professed. Unfortunately his style is so
excessively elegant, with wide intervals between words closely
connected in sense, that he is difficult to read; and hence, perhaps,
in some measure the neglect which has been meted out to him.

Of his four Monastic Conversations the first and the last are
concerned with the question whether monks should be allowed to read
the books of the Gentiles, that is to say, the classics. He handles
his theme sensibly and liberally. Piety, of course, is to come before
eloquence, and there is to be choice of books. Anything of loose
tendency is to be forbidden, but he would encourage the reading of
Cicero, Seneca, and Aristotle's Ethics. The last was only accessible
to himself, he says regretfully, in Latin, because he knew no Greek--a
loss which he greatly deplores, desiring to read the Greek Fathers.
The third conversation is about the Benedictine rule, directed to the
lawless monks who contended that they were only bound by the customs
of the particular monastery they had entered, and not by the general
ordinances of their founder. He combats at length the contention that
the world has grown old, and that latter-day men cannot be expected to
undergo the rigorous fasts and penances achieved by St. Antony and St.
Benedict. He is quite alive to the weakness of the age, to the need
for improvement in the monasteries; and the word Reformer is applied
with praise to the leaders of the movement. This was before the days
of Luther, though only just before.

Incidentally, an argument is reported between a Christian and an
agnostic. After their diverse opinions have been rehearsed, the
Christian concludes with what is meant to be a crushing
reply--certainly it silences his opponent: 'On your own theory you
don't know what will happen after death. On mine you will prosper, if
you believe; if not, you will go to hell. Therefore safety lies in
believing mine.'

There are one or two glimpses of the life of the monks. At the end of
one conversation, the other brother hears the bell ringing for prayers
and runs off to chapel; Fernand, being old and lame, will be forgiven
if he is a little late, and not fined of his dinner. In other ways
consideration was shown to him, and he was often sent to dine in the
infirmary, not being expected with his toothless jaws to munch the dry
crusts set before the rest of the house. This, it seems, was a custom
which had been learnt from St. Justina's at Padua, to put out the
stale crusts first, before the new bread, to break appetite upon: just
as in the old Quaker schools a hundred years ago, children were set
down to suet-pudding, and then broth, before the joint appeared; the
order being, 'No ball, no broth; no broth, no beef'.

We are in a position to view from the inside another Benedictine house
at this period, that of Ottobeuren, near Memmingen, which lies about
mid-way between Augsburg and the east end of the Lake of Constance.
The source of our information is the correspondence of one of the
brothers, Nicholas Ellenbog (or Cubitus); 890 letters copied out in
his own hand, and only 80 of these printed. It is not so continuous a
narrative as Butzbach's, but the picture that it gives is rather more

Nicholas' father was Ulrich Ellenbog, a physician of Memmingen, who
graduated as Doctor of Medicine from Pavia in 1459, and became first
Reader in Medicine at Ingolstadt. The letters introduce us to most of
his children. One son, Onofrius, went for a soldier, became attached
to Maximilian's train, and received a knighthood; another, Ulrich,
became M.D. at Siena, but died immediately afterwards; another, John,
became a parish priest. Of the daughters three remained in the world;
one, Elizabeth, married; another, Cunigunde, died of plague caught in
nursing some nuns. The fourth daughter, Barbara, at the age of nine
entered the convent of Heppach, and lived there forty-one years,
rising to be Prioress and then Abbess. We shall hear of her again.

Nicholas Ellenbog, 1480 or 1481-1543, was the third son. After five
years at Heidelberg, 1497-1502, in which he met Wimpfeling and was
fellow-student, though a year senior, to Oecolampadius, he went off to
Cracow, the Polish university, which was then so flourishing as to
attract students from the west. Schurer, for example, the Strasburg
printer, was M.A. of Cracow in 1494; and some idea of the condition of
learning there may be gained from a book-seller's letter to Aldus from
Cracow, December 1505, ordering 100 copies of Constantine Lascaris'
Greek grammar. For some months Ellenbog heard lectures there on
astronomy, which remained a favourite subject with him throughout his
life. Then an impulse came to him to follow his father's footsteps in
medicine, and at the advice of friends he went back across half Europe
to Montpellier, which from its earliest days had been famous for its
medical faculty. In the long vacation of 1502 he spent two months with
a friend in the château of a nobleman among the Gascon hills, and on
their return journey they stayed for a fortnight in a house of
Dominican nuns. The sisters were strict in their observances, and gave
a good pattern of the unworldly life, which attracted Ellenbog
strongly. In 1503 he went home for the long vacation to Memmingen. On
the way he was taken by the plague, and with difficulty dragged
himself in to Ravensburg. For three months he lay ill, and death came
very close. As its unearthly glow irradiated the world around him,
reversing its light and shade, the visions of the nunnery recurred. He
vowed that if his life were still his to give, it should be given to
God's service; and on recovering he entered Ottobeuren.

In his noviciate year he was under the guidance of a kind and
sympathetic novice-master, who allowed him to study quietly in his
cell to his heart's content; and during this period he composed what
he calls an epitome or breviary of Plato. Its precise character he
does not specify, but its second title suggests that it may have been
a collection of extracts from Plato: not from the Greek, for he had
little acquaintance with that yet, but presumably from such of Plato's
works as had been translated into Latin. On Ascension Day, 1504, which
appears from other indications to mean 15 August, he made his
profession, and in September 1505 he went to Augsburg to be ordained
as sub-deacon. Writing to a friend to give such news as he had
gathered on this outing, he tells a story to convict himself of hasty
judgement. During the ordination service he noticed that one of the
candidates, a bold-eyed fellow who had been at several universities,
and had been Rector at Siena, let his gaze wander over the ladies who
had come to see the ceremony, instead of keeping it fixed on the
altar. Ellenbog censured him in his mind, but later he noticed that as
the man kneeled before the bishop with folded hands to receive
unction, his eyes were filled with tears of repentance--others perhaps
would have called it merely emotion.

On his way back to Ottobeuren, Ellenbog arrived at a village, where he
had counted on a night's rest, only to find it crowded with a
wedding-party; the followers of the bridegroom, who were escorting him
to the marriage on the morrow, a Sunday. It was with great difficulty
that he found shelter, in the house of a cobbler, who let him sleep
with his family in the straw; but it was so uncomfortable that before
dawn he crept out and started on his way under the moon. In the half
light he missed the road and found himself at the bride's castle;
where he learnt that her sister was just dead and the wedding
postponed. As he passed in that evening through the abbey-gate, there
was thankfulness in his heart that he was back out of the world and
its petty disappointments.

On Low Sunday, 1506, he was ordained priest at Ottobeuren, and
celebrated his first mass. Some of his letters are to friends inviting
them to be present, and adjuring them to come empty-handed, without
the customary gifts. In these early years there was ample leisure for
study. In 1505 he began Greek, and in 1508 Hebrew. He speaks of
reading Aeneas Sylvius, Pico della Mirandola, Cyprian, Diogenes
Laertius, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Dionysius the Areopagite. He went on
with his astronomy, and cast horoscopes for his friends. Binding books
was one of his occupations; and in 1509, when a press was set up in
the monastery, he lent a hand in the printing. He was very fortunate
in his abbot, Leonard Widemann, who had been Steward when he entered
Ottobeuren, but was elected Abbot in 1508, and outlived him by three
years, dying in 1546. Widemann called upon him for service.
Immediately on election he made him Prior--at 28--and only released
him from this office after four years, to make him, though infinitely
reluctant, serve ten years more as Steward.

But if the Abbot knew how to exact compliance, he knew also how to
reward. He gave Ellenbog every assistance in his studies, allowed him
to write hither and thither for books, made continual efforts to
procure him first a Hebrew and then a Greek Bible, wrote to Reuchlin
to find him a converted Jew as Hebrew teacher, and in 1516 built him a
new library; for which Ellenbog writes to a friend asking for verses
to put under the paintings of the Doctors of the Church, which are to
adorn the walls. As results of his studies we hear of him correcting
the abbey service-books, where for _stauros_, a scribe with no Greek
had written _scayros_, and explaining to the Abbot mistaken
interpretations in the passages read aloud in the refectory during
meals. One of these, in a book written by some one who had recently
been canonized--some mediaeval doctor--illustrates the learning of the
day; deriving [Greek: gastrimargia], gluttony, from _castrum_ and
_mergo_, 'quod gula mergat castrum mentis,' because gluttony drowns
the seat of reason.

Of Ellenbog's official duties occasional mention is made in his
letters. As Steward he has to visit the tenants of the monastery; in
the autumn he journeys about the country buying wine. We hear of him
at Westerhaim, on the river Iller, settling a dispute among the
fishermen. On one of his journeys to fetch wine from Constance, at the
hospice there he fell in with a man who could fire balls out of a
machine by means of nitre, and who boasted that he could demolish with
this weapon a certain castle in the neighbourhood. Over supper they
began to argue, the artillerist maintaining that nitre was cold, and
that the explosion which discharged the balls was caused by the
contrariety between nitre and sulphur; Ellenbog contending that nitre
was hot, and supporting this view by scraps remembered from his
father's scientific conversation.

The general life of the Abbey is also reflected. Ottobeuren lay on one
of the routes to Italy, and so they had plenty of visitors bringing
news from regions far off: a Carthusian, who had been in Ireland and
seen St. Patrick's cave; a party of Hungarian acrobats with dancing
bears; a young Cretan, John Bondius, who had seen the labyrinth of
Minos, but all walled up to prevent men from straying into it and
being lost. A great impression he made, when he dined with the Abbot;
he was so learned and polished, and spoke Latin so well for a Greek.
In 1514 Pellican, the Franciscan Visitor, passed on his way south, and
had a talk with Ellenbog, which was all too short, about Hebrew
learning. Next year came Eck, the theologian, the future champion of
orthodoxy, returning from Rome. Eck's mother and sisters were living
under the protection of the abbey--it is not clear whether they were
merely tenants, or whether they were occupying lay quarters within its
walls, as did Fernand's at St. Germain's in Paris. At any rate, Eck
came and made himself agreeable. He preached twice before the
brethren; and when he left, he promised to send them the latest news
from America. In 1511 a copy of Vespucci's narrative of his voyage had
been lent to the monastery, and had been read with great interest.

A grave question arose whether the new races discovered in the West
were to be accounted as saved or damned. Ellenbog quotes Faber
Stapulensis' statement that nothing could be more bestial than the
condition of the Indians whom da Gama had discovered in 1498 in
Calicut, Cannanore, and Ceylon; it was to be feared that the Indians
of the West were no better. In writing to Ellenbog six months later to
say that he had no clear opinions on the question, Eck uses an
interesting expression: 'To ask what I think is like looking for
Arthur and his Britons.'[16] The reference is to the Arthurian legend
and the long-expected, never-fulfilled, return of the great king; but
the humanists usually leave the whole field of mediaeval romance
severely alone.

     [16] Arcturum cum Britannis exspectatis. For another allusion
          to Arthur, see Pace, _De Fructu_, p. 83.

One September morning, when the dew was still heavy, Ellenbog went out
with some brethren to gather apples. At the top of the orchard[17] one
of them called out that he had found 'a star'. It was a damp white
deposit on the grass, clammy and quivering, cold to the touch, very
sticky, with long tenacious filaments. Ellenbog had never seen
anything like it, but he found out that the peasants and the shepherds
believed such things to be droppings from shooting stars,[18] if not
actually fallen stars, and that they were thought to be a cure for
cancer. His letter describing it is to ask the opinion of a friend who
was a doctor, that is to say, the scientist of the age.

     [17] ortus.
     [18] stellae emuncturam et purgamentum.

The affairs of Ellenbog's family often appear. His father had been a
great collector of books, which he had corrected with his own hand,
and which at his death he had wished to be kept together as a common
heirloom for the whole family. A great many of them were medical, and
therefore it had seemed good that the enjoyment of the books should go
to Ulrich, the son who was studying medicine at Siena. On his way
home, after completing his course, Ulrich died; and Nicholas composed
a piteous appeal on behalf of the books, bewailing their fate that
after ten years of confinement their hope of being used had come to
nothing. Onofrius was the only brother from whom might be hoped a
younger generation of Ellenbogs, one of whom might study medicine.
Elizabeth's children were Geslers, and so apparently did not count.

How long the books were kept together is not known. One of them is now
in the University Library at Cambridge, and has been excellently
described in an essay by the late Robert Proctor. It consists of
several volumes bound together: Henry of Rimini on the Cardinal
Virtues, the Journey of a penitent soul through Lent, a treatise _de
diuina predestinacione_, and John Peckham, Archbishop of Canterbury,
_de oculo morali_--all of a definitely religious or moral character.
They are freely annotated by the father's hand, with marginalia which
throw light on his life and times, his dislike of the Venetians for
their anti-papal policy, his experiences as physician to the Abbey of
St. Ulrich in Augsburg, and the part that he played in the
introduction of printing there. On Lady Day, 1481, shortly after
Nicholas' birth, perhaps when he had lived just a week and seemed
likely to thrive, the father composed an address to his four living
sons--four being already dead--, and wrote it into this volume. He
adjures them to follow learning and goodness, and finally bids them
take every care of the books; and not let them be separated. This it
was which inspired Nicholas' appeal thirty years later, when Ulrich,
the son, was cut off, just as his eyes seemed about to follow his
father's up and down the pages.

Ellenbog's letters to his sister Barbara are amusing. She was four or
five years older than he, but being a woman had not had his
opportunities. He begins by trying to teach her Latin. But the
difficulties were many, and apparently she did not progress far enough
to write in the tongue. At any rate, Ellenbog copied none of her
letters into his book; a fact which is to be deplored both from her
point of view and from ours. One would like to know what reply she
made to some of his homilies. She invited him once to come and see her
at Heppach, with leave from her Abbess. He replies cautiously that, if
he comes, he hopes they will be able to talk without being overheard;
for Onofrius had been once, and when he made a rather coarse remark,
there had been giggles outside the door. In 1512 Barbara became
Prioress, and Ellenbog took the opportunity to lecture her at length
upon spiritual pride and the importance of humility; sweetening his
dose of virtue with a present of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

Once she let fall some regrets that she had brought nothing into her
convent, and was dependent on it for food and clothing; evidently she
would have liked some share of the patrimony which had been divided
between her married sisters and the brothers who remained in the
world. Nicholas' reply was that Heppach, like other monasteries, was
well endowed; she had given herself, and that was quite enough. In
1515 Barbara was elected Abbess; and received another discourse about
spiritual pride. John and Elizabeth wrote to Nicholas saying that they
had been invited to Heppach to salute the new Reverend Mother, and
suggesting that he should come too. But his plain speaking had had its
reward, no invitation had come for him. Under the circumstances, he
writes, he could not think of going; besides he had been there several
times before, and had found it very dull; it was clearly John's duty
to go, as he had not been once in twenty years, although his parish
was only three miles from Heppach. However the breach was healed, and
a proper invitation came for Nicholas; but the business of his
stewardship prevented him from accepting.

The relations with John, the parish priest of Wurtzen, are more
harmonious. There is a frequent exchange of presents, John sending
tools for wood-carving, and crayfish; which seem to have been common
in his neighbourhood, for Nicholas occasionally asks for them. The
only lecture is one passed on from Barbara. John had been created a
chaplain to Maximilian, an honorific title, with few or no duties; and
Barbara had feared that he might neglect the flock in his parish. On
another occasion Nicholas urges him to follow Elizabeth's advice, and
get an unmarried man to be his housekeeper. He had proposed to have a
man with a family; and Elizabeth was afraid for his reputation. John
was a frequent guest at Ottobeuren, and one of Nicholas' invitations
contains what is unusual among the humanists, an appreciation of the
charms of the country: 'Come,' he says, 'and hear the songs of the
birds, the shepherds' pipes and the children's horns, the choruses of
reapers and ploughmen, and the voices of the girls as they work in the

By his younger relatives, Ellenbog did his duty unfailingly.
Elizabeth's eldest son, John Gesler, was at school at Memmingen. When
a new schoolmaster was appointed, Ellenbog wrote to bespeak his
interest in the boy, and to suggest the books that he should read:
Donatus' Grammar and the letters of Filelfo. At 14 he persuaded the
parents to send John to Heidelberg, and took a great deal of trouble
in arranging that the boy should be lodged with his own teacher, Peter
of Wimpina. When two years later Elizabeth grew anxious about John's
health and proposed to take him with her to some of the numerous
baths, which then as now abounded in Germany and Switzerland, it was
again Nicholas who made the arrangements; and in 1515, when John had
left Heidelberg, Nicholas proposed to exchange letters with him daily,
in order that he might not forget his Latin. In January 1515
Elizabeth's eldest daughter, Barbara, was married to a certain Conrad
Ankaryte. In December 1530 he writes to one of the nuns at Heppach to
announce that he has persuaded two girls, the children of this
marriage, to embrace the religious life. The elder, Anna, aged 13, was
forward with her education, as she was well acquainted with German
literature and was reading Latin with her father[19]; by the following
summer she would be ready to come to Heppach. For the younger, who was
not yet 7, he begged a few years' grace, though she was eager to come
at once. Truly children developed earlier in those days.

     [19] quae legere literas vernaculae linguae satis expedite
          nouit, nunc per patrem imbuitur Latinis.

The happiest time of Ellenbog's life began in the summer of 1522, when
after ten years' service he was allowed by the Abbot to resign his
Stewardship. His accounts were audited satisfactorily, and he was
discharged, to what seemed to him a riotous banquet of leisure. 'In
the quiet of my cell,' he wrote to his brother, 'I read, I write, I
meditate, I pray, I paint, I carve'. His interest in astronomy was
resumed, and he set himself to make dials for pocket use, on metal
rings or on round wooden sticks. The latter he turned for himself upon
a lathe; and for this work John sent him a present of boxwood,
juniper, and plane. By the New Year of 1523 he had made two sundials;
one which showed the time on five sides at once, he sent to John at
Wurtzen, the other to Barbara at Heppach. His cell looked South, and
thus he could study the movements of the moon and the planets, and
note the southing of the stars. He could turn his skill to profit,
too, and exchange his dials for pictures of the saints.

In 1525 his peace was broken by the Peasants' Revolt, which swept like
a hurricane over South Germany. Hostility to religion was not one of
its moving causes, but the monks were vulnerable, and had always been
considered fair game, especially by local nobles whom in the plenitude
of their power they had not troubled to conciliate. The peasants of
the Rhine valley had not forgotten the burning of Limburg, near
Spires, by William of Hesse in 1504. The abbey church had scarcely a
rival in Germany, and the flames burned for twelve days. With such an
example, and with their prey unresisting, the peasants were not likely
to stay their hands. At Freiburg they brought to his death Gregory
Reisch, the learned Carthusian Prior of St. Johannisberg, the friend
of Maximilian. Ellenbog enumerates four monasteries burned in his
neighbourhood during the outbreak--three by the peasants incensed
against their landlords, and one by a noble who bore it a grudge. When
the first attack came in April, Ellenbog was staying at the monastery
of St. George, at Isny, about twenty miles away. The peasants there
destroyed everything belonging to the monks that they could find
outside the walls, and threatened dire treatment when they should
force their way in; but mercifully the walls were strong, and held

Ottobeuren was less fortunate. Being in the country, it had to rely
upon itself, and so fell an easy prey. The buildings were defaced, the
windows broken, the stoves and ovens wrecked, and all the ironwork
carried off. Scarcely a door remained on its hinges, and the furniture
of the rooms disappeared. The church was violated, its pictures
soiled, and its statues smashed; Christ's wounds should be wounds
indeed, hard voices cried, as axe and hammer rung over their pitiless
work. The library was emptied of its books. Walls and roofs and floors
were all that the monks found when they ventured back. Ellenbog,
however, fared better than many. A friendly brother had seized up some
of his books and papers and hidden them in the clock-tower; and the
abbey carpenter thinking this insecure had found them better cover,
presumably in his own house. The tempest over, calm soon returned. The
countryfolk, many of whom had remained friendly, began bringing back
spoil which they had wrested from wrongful possessors. Some of
Ellenbog's books were brought in; and as much as two years later he
recovered one of his astronomical instruments. He lost, however, a
number of his father's papers, which he had been on the point of
editing; a Hebrew Bible given to him by Onofrius; and the first two
books of his collection of his own letters. 'God knows whether they
will ever come back,' he wrote at the beginning of the third book; and
to him they never did. They are now safe at Stuttgart, though in
permanent divorce from the other seven books, which are in Paris.

Ellenbog was no coward. In the autumn the vineyards belonging to the
Abbey were to be inspected, and the due tithes of wine exacted. Unless
this were done the monks would suffer lack; so some one had to be
sent, in spite of the last mutterings of the revolt. One vineyard lay
at Immenstadt, some distance to the South, and thus Ellenbog at Isny
was already part way thither. Moreover, having served as Steward, he
would know what was required. The Abbot sent down a horse and bade him
go: though the roads were held by armed outlaws, who were reported to
be specially hostile to monks. He was afraid; but he summoned his
courage and went. If the Abbey seemed a haven before, when he came
back to it from the experiences of his ordination at Augsburg, this
time it was a refuge and strength against the fear that lurketh in
forests and the imagination of pursuing footsteps.



In the autumn of 1495 Erasmus was at length at liberty to go to a
university. His patron, the Bishop of Cambray, gave him a small
allowance, and the authorities at Steyn were prevailed upon to
consent. His purpose was to obtain a Doctor's degree in Theology; and
so he entered the College of Montaigu at Paris, which had been founded
in 1388, but had fallen into decay and only recently been revived. In
1483 a certain John Standonck had volunteered to become Principal. By
his efforts the college buildings were restored; and by taking in rich
pupils he secured means to maintain the Domus Pauperum attached to the
College. He was an ardent, enthusiastic person, but rather lacking in
judgement; and starved his _pauperes_ in order to be able to have as
many as possible on the slender resources available. Erasmus, being
delicate and therewith fastidious, complained of the rough and meagre
fare--rotten eggs and stinking water; and with good reason, for it
made him ill, and he had to spend the summer of 1496 with his friends
in Holland.

Having established himself in the college he introduced himself to the
literary circle in Paris, through its head, Robert Gaguin, the aged
General of the Maturins, who had served on many embassies, to Spain,
to Italy, to Germany, to England. Gaguin had written much himself,
and had been one of the promoters of printing in Paris. To know him
was to be known of many. Erasmus began by addressing to him a poem and
some florid letters, and showed him some of his work. Then an
opportunity came to do him a service. Gaguin had composed a history of
the French, and it was just coming through the press. At the end the
printer found himself with two pages of the last sheet unfilled,
despite ample spacing out, and the author was too ill to lend any
help. Erasmus heard of the difficulty, and came to the rescue with a
long and most elegant epistle to Gaguin, comparing him to Sallust and
Livy, and promising him immortality. Time has turned the tables:
Gaguin's name lives, not because of his history, but because the young
and unknown Augustinian canon thought fit to court his acquaintance.

Once blooded with the printers, Erasmus went steadily on. In a few
months he published some poems of his own, on Christ and the
angels--_de casa natalitia Jesu_, a very rare volume, of which only
two copies are known. It was dedicated to a college friend, Hector
Boys, of Dundee, subsequently the first Principal of King's College,
Aberdeen, and historian of Scotland. It may be wondered what was
Erasmus' motive. A dedication of a book had a market value and usually
brought a return in proportion to the compliments laid on. Correctness
certainly required that the book should be sent to the Bishop of
Cambray. Boys was only a fellow-student, whose acquaintance Erasmus
had made at Montaigu. The explanation perhaps lies in the fact that
Bishop Elphinstone was then negotiating with Boys to come to Aberdeen;
in the newly-founded university Erasmus may have sighted hopes for
himself. The following year saw another volume produced by him; the
poems of his Gouda and Deventer friend, William Herman, with a few of
his own added. This time the Bishop of Cambray did not fail of his

When Erasmus came to Paris, he was nearly 29, older by far than the
ordinary arts student, but not old for the theological course, which
lasted longer than the others. To reach the first step, the Bachelor's
degree, he had to attend a number of lectures; and very tedious he
found them. Theologians are apt to be conservative. The method of
instruction had not advanced far beyond the dictation of text and
gloss and commentary, which had been current before the days of
printing. Erasmus yawned and dozed, or wrote letters to his friends
making fun of these 'barbarous Scotists'. 'You wouldn't know me,' he
says, 'if you could see me sitting under old Dunderhead, my brows knit
and looking thoroughly puzzled. They tell me that no one can
understand these mysteries who has any traffic with the Muses or the
Graces. So I am trying hard to forget my Latin: wit and elegance must
disappear. I think I am getting on; maybe some day they will recognize
me for their own.' They did, and he proceeded B.D.; when is not known,
but probably by Easter 1498.

At the present day in England our systems are very set. A man
matriculates at a university and completes his course there: to change
even from one college to another is becoming almost unknown. Abroad,
however, things are more fluid, and students pass on from university
to university in search of the best teacher for special parts of their
course. So it was in Erasmus' time. A course of lectures attended in
one university could be reckoned in another; and thus men often
proceeded to their degrees within a short time of their matriculation.
Having taken his Bachelor's degree at Paris, Erasmus at once proposed
to convert it into a Doctor's in Italy; but one hope after another of
going there was disappointed. In 1506 he wished to take it in
Cambridge; but after obtaining his grace, he was offered a chance to
go to Italy as tutor to the sons of Henry VII's Italian physician. He
accepted with delight, and was made D.D. as he passed through Turin;
the formalities apparently requiring only a few days.

The art of reasoning is an excellent thing; and so long as man
continues to live according to reason, some training in this art will
continue to be a part of education. Indeed, an elementary knowledge of
it is as necessary as an elementary acquaintance with the art of
arithmetic. Both arts have this in common that though their feet walk
upon the earth, their heads are lost in the clouds. A moderate
attainment of them is indispensable to all; but their higher
developments can only be comprehended by the acutest minds. In the
Middle Ages the art of reasoning had been raised to such a pitch of
perfection that it entirely dominated the schools. Its exponents were
so proud of it that its bounds were continually extended; and it
became impossible to obtain a university degree without a high level
of proficiency in disputation. For his examination a candidate was
required to dispute with all comers--in practice this came to be a
small number of appointed examiners, three or four--on questions which
had been announced beforehand. It was not a hasty affair--time was
allowed for reflection, and the examination might easily last several
hours or even all day. But clearly readiness in debate was likely to
count in a man's favour, and so besides knowledge of standard authors
to be adduced in support of opinions--the Bible, the Fathers, the
mediaeval commentators, the Canon Law and the glosses upon it--it was
important to a candidate to be able to handle a question properly, to
divide it up into its different parts by means of distinctions, to
shear off side issues, to examine the various facets which it
presented when approached from different points of view; and all this
without hesitation, and of course in Latin.

In order to train candidates in this art, university and college
teachers gave frequent exhibitions of disputations, which from being
on any subject, de quolibet, were styled 'quodlibeticae questiones',
or 'disputationes'. A high dignitary presided, with the title of
'dominus quodlibetarius', and propounded questions, usually one
supported by arguments and two plain; and then the disputer, who
presumably came prepared, delivered his reply, clear cut into fine
distinctions and bristling with citations from recognized authorities.
Such work necessarily cost trouble and forethought, and the
hard-working teacher of the day, instead of printing his lectures on
philosophy or history or editing and commentating texts, gave to his
pupils in permanent form the quodlibetical disputations which the busy
among them had struggled to copy down into note-books, and over which
the inattentive, like Erasmus, had yawned.

These are some of the subjects disputed at Louvain, 1488-1507, by
Adrian of Utrecht; first as a young doctor, then as professor of
theology, and finally for ten years as vice-chancellor, before he was
carried away to become tutor to Prince Charles, and entered upon the
public career which led him finally to Rome as Adrian VI.

     1488. Whether to avoid offending one's neighbour it is
     permissible to break a vow or oath duly made.

     1491. Whether one is bound to act on the command of a superior,
     contrary to one's own opinion, knowing that in former days the
     matter had been regarded as doubtful.

     1492. Whether it is lawful to administer the Eucharist or to
     confer the benefit of absolution on one who declares that he
     cannot abstain from crimes.

     1493. Whether of the two is more likely to be healed and
     offends God the less, the man who sins from ignorance or
     infirmity, or the man who sins of deliberate intent.

     1495. Whether a priest who gives advice that tithes ought not
     to be paid on the fruits of one's own labours, can receive
     remission of his sin without undergoing severe punishment.

     Whether transgression of human laws constitutes mortal sin.

     1499. Whether prayer on behalf of many is as beneficial to the
     individuals as if one prayed as long a time for each one.

     1491.  Whether it is permissible to give money to any
     one to procure one a benefice by praising one's dignity and
     merits to the provisor to the benefice.

Here are some of John Briard of Ath, a notable theologian, who was
subsequently Vice-chancellor of Louvain:

     1508. Whether a man who has confessed all his mortal sins but
     has omitted his voluntary occasions of stumbling, is bound to
     confess over again.

     Whether we are bound by the law of love to deliver a neighbour,
     against his will, from oppression, infamy, or death, when we
     cannot do so without hurt or danger to ourselves.

     Whether beneficed students on account of their studies are
     excused from reading their canonical hours.

We will now consider in brief Briard's handling of the following
question: 'Whether a prize of money won at Bruges or elsewhere by the
hazard known as the game of the pot, or what is commonly called the
lottery, may be retained with a clear conscience as a righteous

     'For the decision of this question I premise:

     1. Firstly, that gain is not to be considered unlawful because
     it comes by good fortune, and not by one's own labour.

     The truth of this preamble is shown thus: If gain coming by
     good fortune is unlawful, it follows that all gain arising from
     division by lot is unlawful. But this is false: therefore, &c.

     The consequent is proved by the fact that all such gain rests
     on good fortune. The falsity is shown by the opinions of almost
     all the doctors who write on this subject:

     St. Thomas, 2.2, question 95, article 8, shows that there is
     nothing wrong in dividing by lot, between friends who cannot
     otherwise decide.

     In this opinion agree Alexander of Hales, part 2 of his
     _Summa_, question 185, membrane 2; Angelus in his _Summa_ under
     the word _sors_, section 2, after the gloss in _Summa 26_,
     question 2; Antoninus, part 2, title 12, chapter 1, section 9.

     2. Secondly, that gain is not to be considered unlawful because
     it comes without labour. This would exclude gifts.

     3. Thirdly, that gain is not to be considered unlawful because
     it comes from cupidity, avarice, forbidden trade, or opus
     peccaminosum , unless there is
     fraud, deception, or the like.

     See Petrus de Palude, book 4, distinction 15, question 3,
     conclusion 4, about the gain arising from acting. Also Angelus
     in his _Summa_ under _restitutio_, part 1, section 6.

     4. Fourthly, that a work which brings public advantage, either
     spiritual or temporal, is not necessarily unlawful because some
     people are thereby provoked to sin.

     Otherwise it would be unlawful to manufacture arms or to make

     On these premises I base the following propositions:

     1. The lottery is not in itself unlawful.

     Proof. It is not prohibited by any law, divine, human, or
     natural: divine, because it is not forbidden in Scripture;
     human, because there is no law against it as there is against
     hazard or dicing; natural, because it is not excluded as (_a_)
     coming by good fortune, (_b_) provoking others to sin, (_c_)
     vain and useless.

     _a_ and _b_ are proved by premiss 1 and 4. _c_ is proved
     because we are supposing that the lottery is undertaken in
     order that the city of Bruges may make a profit with which to
     pay off some of its municipal debt, or be lightened of some of
     its common burdens, so that its citizens may be free to
     journey whither they please. (That this last refers among other
     things to pilgrimage, may be inferred from a reference to the
     Canon Law on the undertaking of journeys, chapter on Sacred

     2. The lottery is not prohibited by the human laws forbidding
     hazard and dice.

     Proof. The laws prohibiting these do not forbid the lottery,
     nor can it be included under them by parity of reasoning. For
     hazard is not forbidden because it depends on chance, or else
     all gaming would be forbidden; and it is not forbidden to play
     for small stakes or on the occasion of a party. But it (hazard)
     is forbidden because, as Petrus de Palude says in book 4,
     distinction 15, question 3, article 5, the person who loses is
     wont to blaspheme; and also because men are tempted to lose
     more than they can afford.'

We need not follow the argument in detail, but the fourth proposition
is interesting, 'That there is an injustice in the lotteries as
practised by some cities, in that the creditors of the city are
compelled against their will to take part in the lottery, and so
probably make a loss, for fear of not recovering the money owed to
them'. After six propositions come two contrary arguments, which are
refuted by five and two considerations; and then there is a brief
summing up.

Excellent reasoning this doubtless was, and the student who could
dispute over these intricacies for hours together, must have had at
least a competent knowledge of Latin, understanded of the examiners;
but it is not surprising that the humanists desired something better.

The universities did not live upon the teaching of the colleges alone.
Scholars came from abroad and competed with the home-bred talent to
supply such private tuition as was required, and when their ability
had been proved, received licence from the university to teach
publicly. The advantage generally rested with the new-comer. _Omne
ignotum pro mirifico._ When there was so much to learn, so much
novelty that the stranger might bring with him, it was little wonder
that a new arrival aroused excitement, especially if he came with a
reputation. Teachers travelled from one university to another in
search of employment, and any one with a knowledge of Greek or Hebrew
was sure to find pupils and attentive audiences. So great was the
enthusiasm on both sides, that lectures often lasted for hours.

Aleander, when he returned from Orleans to Paris in 1511, kept quiet
for a month, in order to awaken public interest. Then he announced a
course of lectures on Ausonius, to begin on 30 July. His device was
entirely successful. Two thousand people gathered, and he was obliged
to lead them over from his own college, de la Marche, to a larger
building, known as the Portico of Cambray. He had composed an
elaborate oration of twenty-four pages. 'It took me two hours and a
half to deliver,' he says, 'and would have taken four, if I hadn't
been a quick reader; but no one showed the least sign of fatigue, in
spite of the heat. My voice lasted very well. Next day I had nearly as
good an audience, although it was the day for the disputation at the
Sorbonne. On the day after, all seats were taken by 11, though I do
not begin till 1.' His success was not mere imagination. One who was
present tells us that men looked upon him as if he had come down from
heaven, and shouted 'Viuat, viuat', as they were accustomed to do to
Faustus Andrelinus, another witty Italian who was then lecturing in
Paris. A lecturer to-day who went on into the third hour would
scarcely be so popular.

But Aleander was not alone in his powers of speech, and others besides
Parisians could listen. Butzbach tells us, not without humour, of a
certain Baldwin Bessel of Haarlem, a learned physician with a
wonderful memory, who was summoned to Laach to heal their Abbot, who
lay sick. On one occasion at Coblenz he harangued an audience of 300
for three hours on end on the power of eloquence, and stimulated by
the sight of such a gathering, worked himself up in his peroration,
until he believed himself to be a second Cicero. His hearers perhaps
did not agree. Anyway, Butzbach is the only person who mentions him,
and he would have preferred a little less eloquence and a little more
medicine; for the Abbot, instead of recovering, died under the hands
of the new Cicero in two days.

Besides lecturing at the university, young men also maintained
themselves by working for the printers, correcting proof-sheets and
composing complimentary prefaces and verses. Another service which
they could render to both printers and authors was to give public
'interpretations', as they were called, of new books on publication,
for the purpose of advertisement. These interpretations probably took
place at the printer's office, and were of the nature of a review,
describing the book's contents; and they were doubtless repeated at
frequent intervals before new groups of likely purchasers.

Erasmus, however, had been sent to Paris to take a degree in Theology,
and his patrons expected him to occupy himself with this. When he
returned from Holland in 1496 he could not face again the rigours of
Montaigu, and so he took shelter in a boarding-house kept by a
termagant woman--'pessima mulier' the bursar of the German nation, her
landlords, called her when she would not pay her rent--, the wife of a
minor court official. So long as his supplies lasted, he kept strictly
to his work; but when the Bishop failed him, he was obliged to support
himself, and took to private teaching. Two of his pupils were young
men from Lubeck, who were under the care of a teacher from their own
part of the world, Augustine Vincent, a budding scholar, who
afterwards published an edition of Virgil, but who as yet was glad to
be helped by Erasmus. Another pair came from England, one a kinsman
of John Fisher, and were in the charge of a morose North-countryman.
In great poverty, Erasmus made his way somehow, occasionally writing
little treatises for his pupils, on a method of study, on
letter-writing--an important art in those days--, a paraphrase of the
_Elegantiae_ of Valla; and finally, one of his best-known works, the
Colloquies, had its origin in a little composition of this period,
which he refers to as 'sermones quosdam quotidianos quibus in
congressibus et conuiuiis vtimur'--a few formulas of address and
expressions of polite sentiments, which develop into brief

The poor scholar's hardships were mitigated by the generosity of a
friend. Whilst with the Bishop of Cambray Erasmus had made the
acquaintance of a young man from Bergen-op-Zoom, the Bishop's
ancestral home; one James Batt, who after education in Paris had
returned to be master of the public school in his native town. About
1498 Batt was engaged as private tutor to the son of Anne of
Borsselen, widow of an Admiral of Flanders and hereditary Lady of
Veere, an important sea-port town in Walcheren which then did much
trade with Scotland, and whose great, dumb cathedral and ornate
town-hall still tell to the handful of houses round them the story of
former greatness. From the first Batt applied himself to win his
patroness' favour to his clever and needy friend. Erasmus was invited
to visit them, money was sent for his journey; and within a short time
he was receiving pecuniary contributions from the Lady more frequently
than if she had been allowing him a pension. His letters to Batt--the
replies which came he never published--are remarkable reading, and do
credit to both sides. Conscious of high powers and pressed by urgent
need, Erasmus begins by begging without concealment, for money to keep
him going and give him leisure. But as time goes on and the Lady
wearies of much giving, Erasmus' tone grows sharper and more
insistent; until at last he scolds and upbraids his patient
correspondent for not extorting more, and even bids him put his own
needs in the background until Erasmus' are satisfied. Batt's name
deserves to be remembered as chief amongst faithful friends, for
putting up with such scant gratitude after his inexhaustible devotion;
and we must needs think more highly of Erasmus, if his friend could
accept such treatment at his hand and not be wounded. To the great
much littleness may be forgiven. The surprising thing is that Erasmus
should have allowed such letters to be published.

In the summer of 1499 Erasmus was carried off to England by another
friend whom he had captivated, the young Lord Mountjoy, who had come
abroad to study until the child-bride whom he had already married
should be old enough to become his wife. After a summer spent among
bright-eyed English ladies at a country-house in Hertfordshire, then
studded with the hunting-boxes of the nobility, and a visit to London
which brought him into quick friendship with More, ten or eleven years
his junior, Erasmus persuaded his patron to take him for a while to
Oxford. Mountjoy promised but could not perform. The Earl of Warwick
was to be tried in Westminster Hall, and Mountjoy as a peer must be in
his place. So Erasmus rode in to Oxford, over Shotover and across
Milham ford, alone.

As an Austin canon he had a claim on St. Mary's, a college which had
been established in 1435 at the instance of a number of Augustinian
abbots and priors, for the purpose of bringing young canons to Oxford
to profit by the life and studies of the university; in much the same
way that Mansfield and Manchester Colleges have joined us in recent
years. For two or three months he was here, enjoying the society of
the learned and attending Colet's lectures on the Epistles of St.
Paul; invited to dine in college halls, as a congenial visitor is
to-day, and spending the afternoons, not the evenings, in discussions
arising out of the conversation over the dinner-table. His ready wit
and natural vivacity, his wide reading and serious purpose, made
themselves felt. Even Colet the austere was delighted with him and
begged him to stay. He was lecturing himself on St. Paul; let Erasmus
take some part of the Old Testament and expound it to fascinated
audiences. Oxford laid her spell upon the young Dutch canon--upon whom
does she not?--but he was not yet ready. To give his life to sacred
studies was the purpose that was riveting itself upon him; but he
could not accomplish what he wished without Greek at the least--he
never made any serious attempt to learn Hebrew--and Greek was not to
be had in Oxford, hardly indeed anywhere in Western Europe outside
Italy and perhaps Spain. Indeed, for some years to come this
university was to display her characteristic, or may be her admirable,
caution towards the new light offered to her from without.

We must bear in mind the well-reasoned hostility of the Church to--or
at least hesitation about--the revival of learning. In the period we
are considering the powers of evil were very real. Men instinctively
accepted the existence of a kingdom of darkness, extending its borders
over the sphere of knowledge as over the other sides of human
activity. Greek was the language of some of the most licentious
literature--Sappho's poems were burnt by the Church at Constantinople
in 1073--and of many detestable heresies; and thus though the Council
of Vienne, with missionary zeal, had recommended in 1311 that lectures
in Greek--as in other languages of the heretical East--should be
established in the universities of Paris, Bologna, Oxford, and
Salamanca, the decree had not been carried out, and Greek was still
regarded with suspicion by the orthodox. Their opposition dies with
their lives, these guardians of the thing that is. Of the thing that
cometh they know, that 'if it be of God, they cannot overthrow it'.
The silent flooding in of the main is to them more to be desired than
the swift wave which in giving may destroy. Let us not think too
lightly of them because they feared shadows which the light of time
has dispelled. It needs no eyes to see where they were wrong: where
they were right--and they were right often enough--can only be seen by
taking trouble to inquire.

Of the condition of learning in England in the second half of the
fifteenth century we do not yet know all that we might. Manuscripts
that men bought or had written for them, books that they read,
catalogues of libraries now scattered can tell us much, even though
the owners are dead and speak not. Single facts, like cards for
cardhouses, will not stand alone. There is still much to be done.
Great libraries are only just beginning to gather up the manuscript
minutiae which their books contain; to identify handwritings; to
decipher monograms; to collect facts. But some day when the work has
been done, we may well hope to be able to put bone to bone and breathe
new life into them in a way which will make valuable contributions to
our knowledge.

There is sometimes an inclination now to underestimate the effect of
the Renaissance. The writers of that age were unsparingly contemptuous
of their predecessors, and their verdict was for long accepted almost
without question. The reaction against this has led to an undue
extolling of the Middle Ages. It is true enough that many of the
Schoolmen, though the humanists speak of them as hopelessly barbarous,
were capable of writing Latin which, if not strictly classical, had
yet an excellence of its own. But in view of the extracts given above
from Ebrardus and John Garland it can hardly be maintained that there
was much knowledge of Greek in Western Europe before the Renaissance.
England was not ahead of France and Germany in the fifteenth century;
and if Deventer school in 1475 was fed upon the monstrosities we have
seen, it is not likely that Winchester and Eton had any better fare.
Some sporadic examples there may have been of men who added a
knowledge of the Greek character to their reminiscences of the
_Graecismus_; just as at the present day it is not difficult to
acquire a faint acquaintance with Oriental languages, enough to
recognize the formation of words and plough out the letters, without
any real knowledge. Colet and Fisher only began to learn Greek in
their old age. One, the son of a Lord Mayor of London, made a name for
himself as a lecturer at Oxford, and was advanced to be Dean of St.
Paul's; the other, as head of a house at Cambridge and Chancellor of
the University, promoted the foundation of the Lady Margaret's two
colleges, Christ's and St. John's, which were to bring in the spirit
of the Renaissance. It is impossible to suppose that men of such
position would have spent the greater part of their lives without
Greek, if there had been any facilities for them to learn it when they
were young. Nor again would Erasmus, when teaching Greek at Cambridge
in 1511, have chosen the grammars of Gaza and Chrysoloras to lecture
upon, if his audience had been capable of anything better. Eminent
scholars do not teach the elements at a university if boys are already
learning them at school.

The condition of things may fairly be gauged by Duke Humfrey's
collections for his library at Oxford. Of 130 books which he presented
to the University in 1439, not one is Greek; of 135 given in 1443,
only one--a vocabulary--is certainly Greek, four more are possibly,
but not probably so. A little later in the century four Oxford men
were pupils of Guarino in Ferrara; Grey (d. 1478) brought back
manuscripts to Balliol and became Bishop of Ely; Gunthorpe (d. 1498)
took his books with him to his deanery at Wells; but to only two of
the four is any definite knowledge of Greek credited--Fleming (d.
1483), who compiled a Greek-Latin dictionary, and Free (d. 1465), who
translated into Latin Synesius' treatise on baldness.

A discovery recently made by Dr. James of Cambridge has thrown
unexpected light on the history of English scholarship at this period;
and as it affords an example of the fruits to be yielded by careful
research and synthesis, it may be detailed here. New Testament
scholars have long been interested in a manuscript of the Gospels
known, from its present habitation in the Leicester town-library, as
the Leicester Codex; its date being variously assigned to the
fourteenth or fifteenth century. In the handwriting there are some
marked characteristics which make it easy to recognize; and in course
of time other Greek manuscripts were discovered written by the same
hand, two Psalters in Cambridge libraries, a Plato and Aristotle in
the cathedral library at Durham, a Psalter and part of the lexicon of
Suidas in Corpus at Oxford. But no clue was forthcoming as to their
origin, until Dr. James found at Leiden a small Greek manuscript in
the same hand, containing some letters of Aeschines and Plato, and a
colophon stating that it had been written by Emmanuel of
Constantinople for George Neville, Archbishop of York, and completed
on 30 Dec. 1468. Where the various manuscripts were written and from
what originals is not plain--the Suidas perhaps from a manuscript
belonging at one time to Grosseteste; but the classical manuscripts
were probably done for Neville in England during the prosperous years
before his deportation to Calais in 1472, the Psalters and Gospels
probably after that date at Cambridge; for the Paston Letters show
that some of his disbanded household made their way to Cambridge, and
Dr. Rendel Harris has ingeniously demonstrated that one Psalter and
the Gospels were in fact at Cambridge with the Franciscans early in
the sixteenth century. The presence of a Greek scribe in England about
1470 is an important fact.

Neville was released from prison through the intervention of Pope
Sixtus IV, who about 1475 sent to England another Greek scribe and
diplomatist, George Hermonymus of Sparta, charged with a letter to
Edward IV. Besides Andronicus Contoblacas at Basle, Hermonymus was at
the time the only Greek in Northern Europe who was prepared to teach
his native tongue; in consequence most of the humanists of the day,
Reuchlin, Erasmus, Budaeus and many others, turned to him for
instruction, though he was indeed a poor teacher. He secured the
Archbishop's release, and therewith a handsome reward to himself; but
lingering on, he found himself compelled to spend about a year in
London--in prison: some Italian merchants having trumped up against
him a charge of espionage, from which he only escaped by paying the
uttermost farthing. That he suffered such a disagreeable experience
perhaps indicates that no one in London was much interested in him or
his language.

Another Greek who was copying manuscripts in England at this time was
John Serbopoulos, also of Constantinople, who between 1489 and 1500
wrote a number of Greek manuscripts at Reading: two copies of Gaza's
Grammar, Isocrates _ad Demonicum_ and _ad Nicoclem_, several
commentators on Aristotle's Ethics, Chrysostom on St. Matthew, a
Psalter and the completion of the Corpus Suidas which his
fellow-countryman Emmanuel had begun. In one of his colophons (1494)
he specifies Reading Abbey as his place of abode; for the others he
merely says Reading. Possibly he was in the abbey the whole time; but
even a temporary visit, during which he wrote Gaza and Isocrates, is
an indication that one at least of the monastic houses was not hostile
to the revival of learning.

Not that any doubt is possible on this point, since the researches of
Abbot Gasquet into the life of William Selling, who was Prior of
Christchurch, Canterbury, 1472-95. After entering the monastery,
about 1448, Selling was sent to finish his studies at Canterbury
College, the home of the Benedictines in Oxford.[20] In 1464 he was
allowed to go with a companion, William Hadley, to Italy; where they
spent two or three years over taking degrees in Theology, and heard
lectures at Padua, Bologna, and Rome. Twice in later years Selling
went to Italy again; and he brought back with him to England
manuscripts of Homer and Euripides, and Livy, and Cicero's _de
Republica_. Some of these have survived and are to be found in
Cambridge libraries; others perished in the fire which broke out when
Henry VIII's Visitors came to Canterbury to dissolve Christchurch. But
Selling's interest in learning was not confined to the collection of
manuscripts. A translation of a sermon of Chrysostom made by him in
1488 is extant; and an antiquarian visitor to Canterbury copied into
his note-book 'certain Greek terminations, as taught by Dr. Sellinge
of Christchurch'.

[20] The Canterbury gate of Christ Church, Oxford, still marks its
site. A generation or so later Linacre and More were students there;
both having a connexion with Canterbury.

Another Churchman of this period who was interested in the revival of
learning has recently been revealed to us by his books, John Shirwood,
Bishop of Durham, 1483-93. He was an adherent of Neville whom we
mentioned as the patron of Emmanuel of Constantinople; and having
risen to prosperity as Neville rose, he did not desert his patron when
Fortune's wheel went round. It does not appear that he was educated in
Italy; but for a number of years he was in Rome, as a lawyer engaged
in the Papal court; and to his good service there as King's proctor he
probably owed his advancement to Durham. Whilst at Rome, he bought
great numbers of the Latin classics, especially those which were
coming fresh from the press of Sweynheym and Pannartz. Cicero seems to
have held the first place in his affections, six volumes out of
forty-two; the Orations, the Epistles, _de Finibus_ and _de Oratore_,
the two last being duplicated. History is well represented with Livy,
Suetonius, Josephus, Plutarch, Polybius, and Dionysius of
Halicarnassus; the last four in translations. In poetry he had Plautus
and Terence, Horace, Martial, Juvenal, Seneca, and Statius; in
archaeology Vitruvius and Frontinus; of the Fathers, Jerome,
Lactantius, and the Confessions of Augustine.

Twice after becoming Bishop Shirwood went to Rome again, as
ambassador; once in 1487 in company with Selling and Linacre: on the
second occasion, in 1492-3, he died. His books, however, had already
found their way home to Durham, where they were acquired by Foxe,
Shirwood's successor in the see; and Foxe subsequently presented them
to his newly-founded college of Corpus Christi in Oxford. It is
interesting to contrast Shirwood's collection with books presented to
the library of Durham monastery by John Auckland, who was Prior
1484-94. Not a single one of them is classical, not one printed;
Aquinas, Bernard, Anselm, Grosseteste, Albertus Magnus, Chrysostom in
Latin, Vincent de Beauvais, _Summa Bibliorum, Tractatus de scaccario
moralis iuxta mores hominum, Exempla de animalibus_. The Prior's
outlook was very different from the Bishop's.

Leland tells us that Shirwood had also a number of Greek books, which
Tunstall found at Auckland in 1530; but only one of these has been
traced, a copy of Gaza's Grammar written by John Rhosus of Crete in
1479, and bought by Shirwood at Rome. Where the rest are no one knows;
doubtless scattered in many libraries, among people to whom the name
of Shirwood has no meaning. One wonders why Foxe did not secure them
for Corpus when he took the Latin books. He wanted Greek, but perhaps
he considered the set of Aldus' Greek texts which he actually gave to
Corpus, more worth having than Shirwood's manuscripts (for when
Shirwood was collecting in Italy, the first book printed in Greek, the
Florentine Homer, 1488, had not yet appeared): possibly he never saw

Time would fail us to tell of all the famous Englishmen who went to
study in Italy in the last years of the fifteenth century, let alone
those who went and did not win fame. Langton who became Bishop of
Winchester, and, not content with Wykeham's foundation, started a
school in his own palace at Wolvesey; Grocin, Linacre and William
Latimer, who took part in Aldus' Greek Aristotle; Colet; Lily who went
further afield, to Rhodes and Jerusalem; Tunstall and Stokesley and
Pace--all these were Oxford men, and yet few of them returned to
settle in Oxford and teach. Of their later lives much is known, though
not so much as we could wish; but their connexion with this
University cannot be precisely dated, because the university registers
for just this period, 1471-1505, are missing. We cannot tell just when
they graduated; and we miss the chance of contemporary notes added
occasionally to names of distinction. We cannot even discover to what
colleges they belonged.

In the last half of the fifteenth century there had been a beginning
of Greek in Oxford. Thomas Chandler, Warden of New College, 1454-75,
had some knowledge of it; and under his auspices an Italian adventurer
of no merit, Cornelio Vitelli, came and taught here for a short time.
For about two years, 1491-3, Grocin returned to lecture on Greek, as
the result of his Italian studies. Colet was here about 1497-1505,
until he became Dean of St. Paul's; but his lectures, as we have said,
were on the Vulgate, not the Greek Testament. Of the rest that shadowy
and fugitive scholar, William Latimer, was the only one of this band
of Oxonians who definitely came back to live and work in the
University; and he perhaps did not cast in his lot here until 1513.
When he did return, he was not to be torn away again from his rooms at
All Souls, under the shadow of St. Mary's tower. In 1516 More and
Erasmus wished him to come and teach Greek to Fisher, Bishop of
Rochester; but could not prevail with him. It would seem strange
to-day for an Oxford scholar to be invited to become private tutor to
the Chancellor of the sister University: he would probably shrink, as
Latimer did, and find refuge in excuses. For eight or nine years,
Latimer said, his studies had led him elsewhere, and he had not
touched Latin and Greek. For the same reason he declared himself
unable to help Erasmus in preparing for the second edition of his New
Testament. What these studies were is nowhere told--Latimer's only
printed work is two letters, one a mere note to Aldus, the other a
long letter to Erasmus--but there is some reason to suppose that they
were musical. He urged, too, that it was useless to hope the Bishop
could make much progress in a month or two with such a language as
Greek, over which Grocin had spent two years in Italy, and Linacre,
Latimer, and Erasmus himself had laboured for many years: it would be
much better to send to Italy for some one who could reside for a long
time in the Bishop's household.

Though he remained faithful to Oxford, Latimer in his later years held
two livings near Chipping Campden: in one, Weston-sub-Edge, he rebuilt
his parsonage-house and left his initials W.L. in the stonework, in
the other, Saintbury, there is a contemporary medallion of him in the
East window, showing the tall, thin figure which George Lily

At the time of Erasmus' first visit to England, 1499, London was far
more a centre of the new intellectual life than either Oxford or
Cambridge. He rejoiced in his first meeting with Colet, and in their
walks in Oxford gardens in the soft October sunshine; his Prior at St.
Mary's was benign and helpful; and he found a young compatriot, John
Sixtin, of Bolsward in East Friesland, studying law, and engaged with
him in a contest of that arid elegance which the taste of the age
still demanded. But in London he found Grocin at his City living,
ready to lend him books, and perhaps already contemplating those
lectures delivered two years later, on the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy of
Dionysius, which brought him to such a surprising conclusion--a denial
of the attribution of them to Dionysius the Areopagite, which in
agreement with Colet he had set out to prove. In London was Linacre,
just returned from Venice, full of Aldus' Greek Aristotle; to a
supplementary volume of which he had sent a translation of Proclus'
Sphere, a mathematical work then highly esteemed. He had been working
on Aristotelian commentators, and was soon to lecture on the
_Meteorologica_--a course which More, who was working for the Bar in
London, attended. More himself not long afterwards lectured publicly
in London on Augustine's _de Ciuitate Dei_, also a favourite work with
the humanists. William Lily, returned from his pilgrimage, was at work
perhaps already as a schoolmaster in London; and vying with More in
translating the Greek Anthology into Latin elegiacs. Bernard Andreas,
the blind poet of Toulouse, after trying his fortune in vain at
Oxford, had insinuated himself into Henry VII's confidence, and was
now attached to the court as tutor to Prince Arthur--an office from
which Linacre attempted unsuccessfully to oust him--and busy with his
history of the king's reign: a project which enjoyed royal favour, and
was the forerunner of Polydore Vergil's creditable essay towards a
critical history of England.

When Erasmus was again invited to England in 1505-6, the position had
not changed. He writes to a friend in Holland: 'There are in London
five or six men who are thorough masters of both Latin and Greek: even
in Italy I doubt that you would find their equals. Without wishing to
boast, it is a great pleasure to find that they think well of me.' To
Colet in the following year, when he had said farewell, he writes from
Paris: 'No place in the world has given me such friends as your City
of London: so true, so learned, so generous, so distinguished, so
unselfish, so numerous.' With the string of epithets we are not
concerned: the point to remark is that it is of London he writes, not
of either of the universities.

Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that Erasmus did not
at once accept Colet's proposition in 1499 that he should stay and
teach in Oxford. Whether provision was offered him or not, we do not
know: he might perhaps have stayed on by right at St. Mary's, but he
loved not the rule. We do know, however, that at Paris there certainly
was no provision for him. In quest of Greek, in quest of the proper
equipment for his life's work, he went back to the old precarious
existence, pupils and starvation, the dependence and the flattery that
he loathed. It is this last, indeed, that puts the sting into his
correspondence with Batt. That loyal friend, ever coaxing money out of
his complacent and generous patroness for dispatch to Paris, would
now and then ask for a letter to her, to make the claims of the absent
more vivid. At this Erasmus would boil over: 'Letters,' he writes,
'it's always letters. You seem to think I am made of adamant: or
perhaps that I have nothing else to do.' 'There is nothing I detest
more than these sycophantic epistles.' Well he might; for this is the
sort of thing he wrote.

You will remember that the Lady of Veere was named Anne of Borsselen.
A letter of Erasmus to her begins: 'Three Annas were known to the
ancients; the sister of Dido, whom the Muses of the Romans have
consecrated to immortality; the wife of Elkanah, with whose praises
Jewish records resound; and the mother of the Virgin, who is the
object of Christian worship. Would that my poor talents might avail,
that posterity may know of your piety and snow-white purity, and count
you the fourth member of this glorious band! It was no mere chance
that conferred upon you this name, making your likeness to them
complete. Were they noble? So are you. Did they excel in piety? Yours,
too, redounds to heaven. Were they steadfast in affliction? Alas that
here, too, you are constrained to resemble them. Yet in my sorrow
comfort comes from this thought, that God sends suffering to bring
strength. Affliction it was that made the courage of Hercules, of
Aeneas, of Ulysses shine forth, that proved the patience of Job.'
This, of course, is only a brief epitome. After a great deal more in
this strain, he concludes: 'I send you a poem to St. Anne and some
prayers to address to the Virgin. She is ever ready to hear the
prayers of virgins, and you I count not a widow, but a virgin. That
when only a child you consented to marry, was mere deference to the
bidding of your parents and the future of your race; and your wedded
life was a model of patience. That now, when still no more than a
girl, you repel so many suitors is further proof of your maiden heart.
If, as I confidently presage, you persevere in this high course, I
shall count you not amongst the virgins of Scripture innumerable, not
amongst the eighty concubines of Solomon, but, with (I am sure) the
approval of Jerome, among the fifty queens.'

The taste of that age liked the butter spread thick, and Erasmus' was
the best butter. He relieved his mind the same day in a letter to
Batt--which he did not shrink from publishing in the same volume with
his effusion to the Lady Anne: 'It is now a year since the money was
promised, and yet all you can say is, "I don't despair," "I will do my
best." I have heard that from you so often that it quite makes me
sick. The minx! She neglects her property to dally and flirt with her
fine gentleman' (a young man whom Erasmus feared she would marry, as
in fact she did, shortly afterwards). 'She has plenty of money to give
to those scoundrels in hoods, but nothing for me, who can write books
which will make her famous.' _In ira veritas._ But for Erasmus--and
Batt--the rather simpering statue of Anne on the front of the
town-hall at Veere would have little meaning for us to-day.

We must not judge Erasmus too hardly in his double tongue. Scholars of
to-day, secure in their endowments, can hold their heads high; of
their obligations to pious Founders no utterance is required save
_coram Deo_--'vt nos his donis ad Tuam gloriam recte vtentes'. We hear
much now of the artistic temperament which brooks no control, which at
all costs must express its message to the world. No artist has ever
burned with a fiercer fire than did Erasmus for the high tasks which
his powers demanded of him; but at this period of his life there was
no pious Founder to make his way plain. Later on, in all time of his
wealth, he was generosity itself with his money, and inexorable in
refusing honours and places that would have hindered him from his



In August 1511 Erasmus returned to Cambridge. He was a different man
from the young scholar who had determined twelve years before that it
was no use for him to stay in Oxford. In the interval he had learnt
what he wanted--Greek; he had had his desire and visited Italy; and
now he came back to sit down to steady work, in accordance with his
promise to Colet, in accordance with the purpose of his life, to
advance the study of the Scriptures and the knowledge of God. It had
been no light matter to learn Greek. Books were not abundant, and the
only teacher to be had, Hermonymus of Sparta, was useless to him,
neither could nor would impart the classical Greek that scholars
wanted. So Erasmus was compelled to fall back on the best of all
methods, to teach himself. He had no Liddell and Scott, no Stephanus;
probably nothing better than a manuscript vocabulary copied from some
earlier scholar, and amplified by himself. No wonder that he found
Homer difficult and skipped over Lucian's long words. He exercised
himself in translation, from Lucian, from Libanius, from Euripides.
But that ready method of acquiring a new language--through the New
Testament, was probably not open to him, for copies of the Gospels in
Greek were rare, and not within the reach of a needy scholar's purse.
However, he persevered, and at length he was satisfied. He never
attained to Budaeus' mastery of Greek, but he had acquired a working
knowledge which carried him as far as he wished to go.

His visit to Italy need not detain us long. Twenty-five years later he
wrote to an Italian nobleman with whom he was engaged in controversy,
to say that Italy had taught him nothing. 'When I came to Italy, I
knew more Greek and Latin than I do now.' In the excitement of
contention he perhaps 'remembered with advantages', for in Italy he
had one great opportunity. He had published in 1500 at Paris a
chrematistic work entitled _Collectanea Adagiorum_, a collection of
Latin proverbs with brief explanations designed to be useful to the
numerous public who aspired to write Latin with elegance. After the
book was out, as authors do, he went on collecting, and on his way to
Italy in 1506, he published a slightly enlarged edition, also in
Paris. In Italy he made acquaintance with Aldus, and after finishing
his year of superintendence over the pupils he had brought with him,
he went, about the beginning of 1508, to dwell in the Neacademia at
Venice. In September 1508 there appeared from Aldus' press a Volume on
the same subject, but very different in bulk; no longer _Collectanea
Adagiorum_, but _Adagiorum Chiliades_. The Paris volume, a thin
quarto, had contained about 800 proverbs, Aldus' had more than 3,000,
and the commentary became so amplified, with occasional lengthy
disquisitions on subjects moral and political, that nothing but a
folio size would accommodate it.

Where this work was done, Erasmus does not specifically state. One
passage gives the impression that he had made his new collections in
England; but as one reason for his dissatisfaction with the first
edition was the absence of citations from the Greek, it seems more
probable that he really wrote the new book in Aldus' house at Venice.
There, surrounded by the scholars of the New Academy, Egnatius,
Carteromachus, Aleander, Urban of Belluno, besides Aldus himself and
his father-in-law Asulanus, having at hand all the wealth of the
Aldine Greek editions and the Greek manuscripts which were sent from
far and near to be printed, Erasmus was thoroughly equipped to
transform his quarto into folio, his hundreds into thousands. He tells
us that the compositors printed as he wrote, and that he had hard work
to keep pace with them. Some of his rough manuscripts--written rapidly
in his smooth hand and flowing sentences--survive still to help us
picture the scene. It is remarkable how little correction there is.
Here and there a whole page is drawn straight through, to be
rewritten, or a passage is inserted in the neat margin; but there is
little botching, little mending of words or transposing of phrases,
such as make the rough work of other humanists difficult reading. As
he wished the sentences to run, so they flowed on to his pages, and so
they actually were printed.

The importance of Erasmus' time in Italy is, then, that he completed,
or at any rate published, the enlarged _Adagia_, his first
considerable work, a book which carried his name far and wide
throughout Europe, and won him fame amongst all who had pretensions to
scholarship. No one reads it to-day. Except the composition of the
schools, for which Erasmus is considered unclassical, there is little
Latin writing now; but in its youth the book had a great vogue, and
went through hundreds of reprints.

This second visit of Erasmus to Cambridge was under pleasant
conditions. Fisher was interested in his work, and having been until
recently President of Queens'--the foundation of Margaret of Anjou,
which Elizabeth Woodville had succoured, York coming to the rescue of
Lancaster--he was able without difficulty to secure rooms in college
for his protégé. High up they are, at the head of a stair-case, where
undergraduates still cherish his name, and where his portrait--an
heirloom from one generation to another--may be seen surrounded by
prints of gentlemen in pink riding to hounds; quite a suitable
collocation for this very humanly minded scholar. Besides his own work
he lectured publicly for a few months. He began to teach Greek, and
lectured on the grammar of Chrysoloras. Finding that this did not
attract pupils, he changed to Gaza; which he evidently expected to be
more popular. But he did not persevere. If his position was public
(which is doubtful), there was no money to pay him for long; and it
is a sign of the state of the University, that he found it no use to
lecture on anything more advanced than grammar. The Schoolmen were
still strongly entrenched.

Besides teaching Greek he also lectured on Jerome's Letters and his
Apology against Ruffinus, books which, as we shall see, he was working
at privately. He is said to have held for a time the professorship of
Divinity founded in Cambridge, as in Oxford, in 1497 by the Lady
Margaret, but the records are inadequate; and here too it is possible
that his teaching was a private venture. He had no regular income
except a pension from Lord Mountjoy, to which in 1512 Warham added the
living of Aldington in Kent; and these were supplemented by occasional
gifts from friends, which he courted by dedicating to them
translations from Plutarch and Lucian, Chrysostom and Basil. But this
was not enough. He was free in his tastes, and liked to be free in his
spending. He needed a horse to ride, and a boy to attend upon him. In
consequence we hear a good many complaints of penury, all through his
three years at Cambridge, 1511 to 1514.

It is worth while to examine in detail the work that he completed
during this period on the Letters of Jerome and the New Testament. One
afternoon in Oxford in 1499 he had had a long discussion with Colet,
and in the course of it had argued strongly against a point of view
which Colet had derived from Jerome. Whether this set him on to read
Jerome again--he was already quite familiar with him--is not clear;
but a year later, when he was hard at work in Paris, he was already
engaged upon correcting the text of Jerome, and adding a commentary,
being specially interested in the Letters. So far did his admiration
carry him that he writes to a friend, 'I am perhaps biased; but when I
compare Cicero's style with Jerome's, I seem to feel something lacking
in the prince of eloquence himself'. After he left Paris in 1501, we
hear no more of Jerome till 1511. It may therefore fairly be argued
that his early work was done on manuscripts found in Paris libraries,
very likely those of the great abbeys of St. Victor or St.

Subsequently, in Cambridge, he again had access to manuscripts and
completed his recension of the Letters. Robert Aldridge, a young
Fellow of King's, afterwards Bishop of Carlisle, speaks of working
with him at Jerome in Queens', probably helping him in collation. An
early catalogue of the Queens' library does not contain any mention of
Jerome, so that Erasmus had probably borrowed his manuscripts from
elsewhere--perhaps, like those of the New Testament, from the Chapter
Library at St. Paul's; for later on, when the book was in the press,
he returned from Basle to England to consult the manuscripts again,
and there is no reason to suppose that during his brief stay--not a
full month--he went outside London. If this surmise were correct, the
destruction of St. Paul's library in the fires of 1561 and 1666 would
explain why so little has been discovered about the manuscripts which
Erasmus had for his Jerome. He himself, in his prefaces, gives little
indication of them, beyond saying that they were very old and
mutilated, and that some of them were written in Lombardic and Gothic
characters. Perhaps some day a student of Jerome will arise who will
be able to throw light on the matter from examination of the text at
which Erasmus arrived.

To the New Testament--the other work which occupied his time at
Cambridge--he had also turned his attention shortly after his return
to Paris in 1500, beginning a commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul.
At the first start he wrote four volumes of it, but then for some
reason threw it aside, and never completed it, though his mind
recurred to it at intervals; and on one occasion after a fall from his
horse, in which he injured his spine, he vowed to St. Paul that he
would finish it, if he recovered. Probably he felt that his vow was
redeemed by his Paraphrases of the New Testament, which he wrote a few
years later, beginning with St. Paul, and completing the Epistles
before he undertook the Gospels.

His next work on the New Testament came to him at Louvain in 1504.
Walking out one day to the Abbey of Parc, outside the town--a house of
White Canons, Erasmus himself being a Black--he came upon a manuscript
in their library, the Annotations of Valla on the New Testament. There
was an affinity between his mind and that of the famous scholar-canon
of St. John Lateran, who, in spite of his dependence on Papal
patronage and favour, had been unable to keep his tongue from asking
awkward questions, from inquiring even into the authenticity of the
Donation of Constantine. Erasmus read the Annotations and liked their
critical, scholarly tone, and the frequent citations of the original
Greek. With the characteristic generosity of the age he was allowed to
carry the manuscript away and print it in Paris, with a dedication to
an Englishman, Christopher Fisher, perhaps a kinsman of the Bishop of

From Paris he wrote to Colet to report progress, saying that he had
learnt Greek and was ready to turn to the Scriptures, and asking him
to interest English patrons in their common work. By this time Colet
himself had become a patron, having been appointed Dean of St. Paul's.
It is therefore not surprising to find that within a year Erasmus was
established in London, living in a bishop's house, endowed by his old
pupil Lord Mountjoy, and rejoicing in the society of the learned
friends gathered in the capital. Chief among these was Colet, who lent
him manuscripts from the Chapter Library of St. Paul's, and provided a
copyist to write out the fruits of his labours, a one-eyed Brabantine,
Peter Meghen by name, who acted also as Colet's private
letter-carrier. Meghen wrote a bold, well-marked hand, which is easily
recognizable, and in consequence his work has been traced in many
libraries. The British Museum has a treatise of Chrysostom, translated
by Selling, and written by Meghen for Urswick, afterwards Dean of
Windsor and Rector of Hackney, to present to Prior Goldstone of
Canterbury. (Urswick was frequently sent on embassies, and had
doubtless enjoyed the hospitality of Christchurch on his way between
London and Dover.) At Wells there are a Psalter and a translation of
Chrysostom on St. Matthew, which Urswick, as executor to Sir John
Huddelston, knight, caused Meghen to write in 1514 for presentation to
the Cistercians of Hailes, in Gloucestershire. The Bodleian has a
treatise written by him in 1528 for Nicholas Kratzer to present to
Henry VIII; and Wolsey's Lectionary at Christ Church, Oxford, is
probably in Meghen's hand.

But what concern us here are some manuscripts in the British Museum
and the University Library at Cambridge, written by Meghen in 1506 and
1509 at Colet's order for presentation to his father, Sir Henry Colet,
Lord Mayor of London, and containing in parallel columns the Vulgate
and another Latin translation of the New Testament, 'per D. Erasmum
Roterodamum'. Part and possibly all of this work was done by Erasmus,
therefore, during this second residence in England in 1505-6. He tells
us that he received two Latin manuscripts from Colet, which he found
exceedingly difficult to decipher; but one cannot make a new
translation from the Latin. To the Greek manuscripts used on this
occasion he gives no clue.

In connexion with this help and encouragement shown by Colet as Dean
to a foreign scholar, it is worth while to mention the visit to
London in 1509 of Cornelius Agrippa, the famous philosopher and
scientist, who had been sent to England by Maximilian on a diplomatic
errand, which he describes as 'a very secret business'. During his
stay, which lasted into 1510, he tells us that 'I laboured much over
the Epistles of St. Paul, in the company of John Colet, a man most
learned in Catholic doctrine, and of the purest life; and from him I
learnt many things that I did not know'. Erasmus was in England at the
time of this visit of Agrippa; but unfortunately he makes no allusion
to it, neither in his life of Colet, nor in his later correspondence
with Agrippa, nor, so far as I know, elsewhere in his works. If he had
done so, it might have solved a problem which is very curious in the
case of a public man of his fame and position, and of whom so much is
otherwise known. From the autumn of 1509, when he returned from Italy
and wrote the Praise of Folly in More's house in Bucklersbury, until
April 1511, when he went to Paris to print it, Erasmus completely
disappears from view. He published nothing, no letter that he wrote
survives, we have no clue to his movements. If it had been any one
else, we might almost conjecture that, like Hermonymus, he was in
prison. It was just during this period that Cornelius Agrippa was in
London. If either had mentioned the other, we should have a spark to
illumine this singular belt of darkness.

When Erasmus returned to Cambridge in 1511, he was already familiar
with the field in which he was going to work; but the precise order in
which his scheme unfolded itself, whether the Greek text was his first
aim or an afterthought, is not clear, his utterances being perhaps
intentionally ambiguous. During these three years in Cambridge he
refers occasionally to the 'collation' and 'castigation' of the New
Testament, so that evidently he was engaged with the four Greek
manuscripts, which, according to an introduction in his first edition,
he had before him for his first recension. One of these has been
identified, the Leicester Codex written by Emmanuel of Constantinople,
which, as already mentioned, was with the Franciscans at Cambridge
early in the sixteenth century.

By 1514 he was ready. In the last three years he had completed Jerome
and the New Testament, and had also prepared for the press some of
Seneca's philosophical writings, from manuscripts at King's and
Peterhouse; besides lesser pieces of work. A difficulty arose about
the printing. In 1512 he had been in negotiation with Badius Ascensius
of Paris to undertake Jerome and a new edition of the _Adagia_. What
actually happened is not known. But in December 1513 he writes to an
intimate friend that he has been badly treated about the _Adagia_ by
an agent--a travelling bookseller, who acted as go-between for
printers and authors and public; that instead of taking them to Badius
and offering him the refusal, the knavish fellow had gone straight to
Basle and sold them, with some other work of Erasmus, to a printer
who had only just completed an edition of the _Adagia_. Erasmus'
indignation does not ring true. It is highly probable that he was in
search of a printer with greater resources than Badius, who as yet had
produced nothing of any importance in Greek, and would therefore be
unable to do justice to the New Testament; and that accordingly he had
commissioned the agent to negotiate with a firm which by now had
established a great reputation--that of Amorbach and Froben, in Basle.
His attention had perhaps been aroused by a flattering mention of him
in a preface written in Froben's name for the pirated edition of the
_Adagia_, August 1513, to which Erasmus was referring in the letter
just quoted. Rumour had spread through Europe that Erasmus was
dead--it was repeated six months later in a book printed at
Vienna--and the Basle circle deplored the loss that this would mean to

There were other reasons for this choice, apart from the excellence of
the printers. Erasmus had never been happy in Paris. He had often been
ill beside the sluggish Seine, and had only found his health again by
leaving it. The theologians were still predominant there, and Louis
XII had a way of interfering with scholars who discovered any freedom
of thought. Standonck, for instance, the refounder of Montaigu, had
had to disappear in 1499-1500. For Erasmus to sit in Paris for two or
three years while his books were being printed, would have been at
least a penance. But Basle was very different. The Rhine, dashing
against the piers of the bridge which joined the Great and Little
towns, brought fresh air and coolness and health. The University,
founded in 1460, was active and liberally minded. The town had
recently (1501) thrown in its lot with the confederacy of Swiss
cantons, thereby strengthening the political immunity which it had
long enjoyed. Between the citizens and the religious orders complete
concord prevailed; and finally, except Paris, there was no town North
of the Alps which could vie with Basle in the splendour and number of
the books which it produced. This is how a contemporary scholar[21]
writes of the city of his adoption. 'Basle to-day is a residence for a
king. The streets are clean, the houses uniform and pleasant, some of
them even magnificent, with spacious courts and gay gardens and many
delightful prospects; on to the grounds and trees beside St. Peter's,
over the Dominicans', or down to the Rhine. There is nothing to offend
the taste even of those who have been in Italy, except perhaps the use
of stoves instead of fires, and the dirt of the inns, which is
universal throughout Germany. The climate is singularly mild and
agreeable, and the citizens polite. A bridge joins the two towns, and
the situation on the river is splendid. Truly Basle is [Greek:
basileia], a queen of cities.'

     [21] Beatus Rhenanus, _Res Germanicae_, 1531, pp. 140, 1.

In 1513 the two greatest printers of Basle were in partnership, John
Amorbach and John Froben. Amorbach, a native of the town of that name
in Franconia, had taken his M.A. in Paris, and then had worked for a
time in Koberger's press at Nuremberg. About 1475 he began to print at
Basle, and for nearly forty years devoted all his energies to
producing books that would promote good learning; being, however, far
too good a man of business to be indifferent to profit. His ambition
was to publish worthily the four Doctors of the Church. Ambrose
appeared in 1492, Augustine in 1506, and Jerome succeeded. The work
was divided amongst many scholars. Reuchlin helped with the Hebrew and
Greek, and spent two months in Amorbach's house in the summer of 1510
to bring matters forward. Subsequently his province fell to Pellican,
the Franciscan Hebraist, and John Cono, a learned Dominican of
Nuremberg, who had mastered Greek at Venice and Padua, and had
recently returned from Italy with a store of Greek manuscripts copied
from the library of Musurus. Others who took part in the work were
Conrad Leontorius from the Engental; Sapidus, afterwards head master
of the Latin school at Schlettstadt; and Gregory Reisch, the learned
Prior of the Carthusians at Freiburg, who seems to have been specially
occupied with Jerome's Letters.

Amorbach's sons, Bruno, Basil, and Boniface, were just growing up to
take their father's place, when he died on Christmas Day, 1513. The
eldest, Bruno, was born in 1485, and easily paired off with Basil, who
was a few years younger. They went to school together at Schlettstadt,
under Crato Hofman, in 1497. In 1500 they matriculated at Basle; in
1501 they went to Paris, where in 1504-5 they became B.A., and in 1506
M.A. Bruno was enthusiastic for classical studies, and enjoyed life in
Paris, where he certainly had better opportunities, especially of
learning Greek, than he had at Basle; so his father allowed him to
stay on. Basil was destined for the law, and was sent to work under
Zasius at Freiburg. The youngest son, Boniface, 1495-1562, also went
to school at Schlettstadt; but when his time came for the university,
his father preferred to keep him at home under his own eye. He was
rather dissatisfied with Bruno, who as a Paris graduate had begun to
play the fine gentleman, and was spending his money handsomely, as
other young men have been known to do. The vigorous, straightforward
old printer had made the money himself by steady hard work, and he had
no intention of letting his son take life too easily. So he wrote him
a piece of his mind, in fine, forcible Latin.


     'I cannot imagine, Bruno, what you do, to spend so much
     money.[22] You took with you 7 crowns; and supposing that you
     spent 2, or at the outside 3, on your journey, you must have
     had 4 left--unless perhaps you paid for your companion, which I
     did not tell you to do. Very likely his father has more money
     than I have, but does not give it to him; no more do I give you
     money to pay for other people. It is quite enough for me to
     support you and your brothers, indeed more than enough.

     Then, directly you reached Paris, you received 12 crowns from
     John Watensne. Also you had 9 for your horse, as you say in
     your letter. Also 9 more from John Watensne, which I paid to
     Wolfgang Lachner at the Easter fair at Frankfort; also 15 at
     midsummer. Add these together and you will see that you have
     had 52 crowns in 9 months.

     Perhaps you imagine that money comes to me anyhow. You know
     that for the last two years I have not been printing. We are
     living upon capital, the whole lot of us.[23] I have to provide
     for my household.[24] I have to provide for your brother Basil,
     and for Boniface, whom I have sent to Schlettstadt. I ought,
     too, to do something for your sister: for several sober and
     honourable men are at me about her, and I do not like to be
     unfair towards her. So just remember that you are not the only

     You may take it for sure that I cannot, and will not, give you
     more than 22 or 23 crowns a year, or at the most 24. If you can
     live on that at Paris, well: I will undertake to let you have
     it for some years. But if it is not enough, come home and I
     will feed you at my table. Think it over and let me know by the
     next messenger: or else come yourself.

     I have been told on good authority that in the town (lodgings,
     as opposed to a college) one can live quite decently on 16 or
     at most 20 crowns: also that sometimes three or four students,
     or more, take a house or a room, and then club together and
     engage a cook, and that their weekly bills scarcely amount to a
     teston <1/5 of a crown> a head. If that is so, join a party
     like that and live carefully.

     Good-bye. Your mother sends her love.

     Your affectionate father, John Amorbach.

     [22] Bruno, satis admirari non possum quid agas vt tot pecunias
     [23] Consumimus omnes de capitali.
     [24] Habeo prouidere domui meae.

No answer came back, and on 18 August John Amorbach wrote again. Think
of a modern parent waiting a month for an answer to such a
communication and getting none! It might quite well have come. But
posts were slow and uncertain; and when he wrote again, the father's
righteous indignation had somewhat abated. It was not till 16 October
that Bruno replied, but with a very proper letter. He was a good
fellow, and knew what he owed to his father. After expressing his
regrets and determination to live within his allowance in future, he
goes on: 'There is a man just come from Italy, who is lecturing
publicly on Greek.  I have so long been wishing to
learn this language, and here at length is an opportunity. I have
plunged headlong into it, and with such a teacher I feel sure of
satisfying my desires, which are as eager as any inclinations of the
senses. So please allow me to stay a few months longer, and then I
shall be able to bring home some Greek with me. After that I will come
whenever you bid me.' Next summer he did return and settled down to
work in the press. It was well worth while, even for a scholar who was
eager to go on learning, and was inclined to grudge time given to
business: for with Jerome beginning and all the scholars whom we
mentioned coming in and out, Amorbach's house in Klein-Basel became an
'Academy' which could bear comparison with Aldus' at Venice. It was
worth Boniface's while, too, to take his course at Basle under such
circumstances; especially as in 1511 John Cono began to teach Greek
and Hebrew regularly to the printer's sons and to any one else who
wished to come and learn. It is worth noticing that not one of these
young men went to Italy for his humanistic education.

Amorbach's partner, John Froben, 1460-1527, was a man after his own
heart: open and easy to deal with, but of dogged determination and
with great capacity for work. He was not a scholar. It is not known
whether he ever went to a University, and it is doubtful whether he
knew any Latin; certainly the numerous prefaces which appear in his
books under his name are not his own, but came from the pens of other
members of his circle. So the division came naturally, that Amorbach
organized the work and prepared manuscripts for the press, while
Froben had the printing under his charge. In later years, after
Amorbach's death, the marked advance in the output of the firm as
regards type and paper and title-pages and designs may be attributed
to Froben, who was man of business enough to realize the importance of
getting good men to serve him--Erasmus to edit books, Gerbell and
Oecolampadius to correct the proofs, Graf and Holbein to provide the
ornaments. For thirteen years he was Erasmus' printer-in-chief, and
produced edition after edition of his works, both small and great; and
whilst he lived, he had the call of almost everything that Erasmus
wrote. It is quite exceptional to find any book of Erasmus published
for the first time elsewhere during these years 1514-27. A few were
given to Martens at Louvain, mostly during Erasmus' residence there,
1517-21, one or two to Schurer at Strasburg, one or two more to a
Cologne printer; but for one of these there is evidence to show that
Froben had declined it, because his presses were too busy. It is
pleasant to find that the harmony of this long co-operation was never
disturbed. Erasmus occasionally lets fall a word of disapproval; but
what friends have ever seen eye to eye in all matters?

When Froben died in October 1527 as the result of a fall from an upper
window, Erasmus wrote with most heartfelt sorrow a eulogy of his
friend. 'He was the soul of honesty himself, and slow to think evil of
others; so that he was often taken in. Of envy and jealousy he knew as
little as the blind do of colour. He was swift to forgive and to
forget even serious injuries. To me he was most generous, ever seeking
excuses to make me presents. If I ordered my servants to buy
anything, such as a piece of cloth for a new coat, he would get hold
of the bill and pay it off; and he would accept nothing himself, so
that it was only by similar artifices that I could make him any
return. He was enthusiastic for good learning, and felt his work to be
his own reward. It was delightful to see him with the first pages of
some new book in his hands, some author of whom he approved. His face
was radiant with pleasure, and you might have supposed that he had
already received a large return of profit. The excellence of his work
would bear comparison with that of the best printers of Venice and
Rome. Six years before his death he slipped down a flight of steps on
to a brickwork floor, and injured himself so severely that he never
properly recovered: but he always pretended that the effects had
passed away. Last year he was seized with a serious pain in his right
ankle, and the doctors could do nothing except to suggest that the
foot should be taken off. Some alleviation was brought by the skill of
a foreign physician, but there was still a great deal of pain in the
toes. However, he was not to be deterred from making the usual
journeys to Frankfort (in March and September for the book-fairs) and
rode on horseback both ways. We entreated him to take more care of
himself, to wear more clothes when it was cold; but he could not be
induced to give in to old age, and abandon the habits of a vigorous
lifetime. All lovers of good learning will unite to lament his loss.'

If Erasmus was fortunate in his printer, he was still more fortunate
in the friend and confidant whom he found awaiting him at Basle, Beat
Bild of Rheinau, 1485-1547, known then and now as Beatus Rhenanus, one
of the choicest spirits of his own or any age. His father was a
butcher of Rheinau who left his home because of continued ravages by
the Rhine which threatened to sweep away the town. Settling in
Schlettstadt, a free city of the Empire near by, he rose to the
highest civic offices, and sent his son to the Latin school under
first Crato Hofman and then Gebwiler. Beatus was contemporary there
with Bruno and Basil Amorbach, and staying on longer than they did,
rose to be a 'praefect' in the school, which a few years later,
according to Thomas Platter, had 900 boys in it. This number seems
large for a town of perhaps not more than four or five thousand
inhabitants; but it was equalled by the school at Alcmar in the days
of Bartholomew of Cologne, and by Deventer, as we have seen, it was
far surpassed. In 1503 Beatus went to Paris, and there overtook the
Amorbach boys who had two years' start of him; becoming B.A. in 1504
and M.A. in 1505, a year before Bruno. After his degree he stayed on
in Paris as corrector to the press of Henry Stephanus for two years;
and then returning home engaged himself in a similar capacity to
Schurer at Strasburg, also giving a hand with editions of new texts.
In 1511, attracted by the fame of the good Dominican, John Cono, he
went to Basle to work for the elder Amorbach and take lessons under
Cono with the sons. When Erasmus came, Beatus at once fell under his
spell, and subordinated his own projects to the requirements of his
friend's more important undertakings.

That indeed is Beatus' great characteristic throughout his life. He
was well off, for his father 'by the blessing of God on his ingenious
endeavour had arisen to an ample estate'; and thus the son was not
obliged to seek reward. He gave himself, therefore, unstintingly to
any work that needed doing for his friends, editing, correcting,
supervising; and usually suppressing the part he had taken in it. His
own achievements are nevertheless considerable. The bibliographers
have discovered sixty-eight books in which he had a capital share; and
though a large number of these appear to be mere reprints of books
printed in France or Italy--the law of copyright in those days was, as
might be expected, uncertain--, there is a residue in which he really
did original work: some notes on the history and geography of Germany
which he composed, and editions of Pliny's Natural History, Tacitus,
Tertullian and Velleius Paterculus--the latter having an almost
romantic interest from the fortunes of the manuscript on which it is
based. A measure of the confidence which Erasmus subsequently reposed
in both his judgement and his good faith is that in 1519 and 1521,
when he had decided to publish some more of his letters, he just sent
to Beatus bundles of the rough drafts he had preserved, and told him
to select and edit them at his discretion.

A sketch of Beatus, written at his death by John Sturm of Strasburg,
the friend of Ascham, gives a picture of the life he led at
Schlettstadt during his last twenty years: the plain, simple living in
the great house inherited from his father, without luxury or display,
attended upon by an old maidservant and a young servant-pupil, given
to friends but not allowing hospitality to infringe upon his work,
lapped in such quiet as to seem almost solitude; the daily round being
dinner at ten, in the afternoon a walk in his gardens outside the city
walls, and supper at six. Gentle and accommodating, modest and
diffident in spite of his learning, reluctant to talk of himself, and
slow to take offence--it is no wonder that he held the affections of
his friends. Well might Erasmus liken him to the blessed man of the
first Psalm, 'who shall be as a tree planted by the waterside.'

We have seen Beatus' enthusiasm for queenly Basle. Of his native town
he was not so proud; though it has good Romanesque work in St. Fides'
church and rich Gothic in the minster, and though Wimpfeling had just
built a beautiful Renaissance house with Italian designs round its bay
window and medallions of Roman Emperors on the pilasters. The school,
too, was famous throughout Germany; and Lazarus Schurer had started a
creditable printing-press. Yet to Beatus the minster is only 'rather
good, but modern', the Dominicans' house 'mediocre', the nuns'
buildings 'unhealthy', the people 'simple and resourceless, as you
would expect with vine-growers, and too fond of drinking'. 'There is
nothing remarkable here', he says, 'but the fortifications; indeed we
are a stronghold rather than a city. The walls are circular, built of
elegant brick and with towers of some pretensions.' What pleased him
as much as anything was that the ramparts were covered in for almost
the whole of their length, and thus afforded protection to the
night-guards against what he calls 'celestial injuries'.

One reason that we know Beatus so well is that his library has
survived almost intact, as well as a great number of letters which he
received. At his death he left his books to the town of Schlettstadt;
and there they still are, forming the major and by far the most
important part of the town library. It is a wonderful collection of
about a thousand volumes, some of them extremely rare; many bought by
him in his Paris days, some presents from friends sent or brought from
far with dedicatory inscriptions. Hardly a book has not his name and
the date when he acquired it, or other marks of his use. But they have
not yet come to their full usefulness, for there is no adequate
catalogue of them. In many cases their direct value has passed away.
No one wishes to read the classics or the Fathers in the texts current
in the sixteenth century; yet behind printed books lie manuscripts,
and from examination of manuscripts on which printed texts are based,
we can gather many useful indications to throw light on the tradition
of the classics, the gradual steps by which the past has come down to
us. Besides such texts there are multitudes of original compositions
of Beatus' own period, books of great value for the history of
scholarship; many of them requiring to be dated with more precision
than is attainable on the surface. It will be a signal service to
learning when a trained bibliographer takes Beatus Rhenanus' books in
hand and gives us a scientific catalogue.

These were some of the friends who were in Basle when Erasmus first
began to think of sending his work there to be printed. By the summer
of 1514 the preliminary negotiations had been satisfactorily concluded
and he set out. The story which he tells of his arrival is well known.
Amorbach was now dead; so he marched into the printing-house and asked
for Froben. 'I handed him a letter from Erasmus, saying that I was a
familiar friend of his, and that he had charged me to arrange for the
publication of his works; that any undertaking I made would be as
valid as if made by him: finally, that I was so like Erasmus that to
see me was to see him. He laughed and saw through the joke. His
father-in-law, old Lachner, paid my bill at the inn, and carried me
off, horse and baggage to his house.'

He was not at first sure whether he would stay: he might get the work
better done at Venice or at Rome. But the attractions of the printer's
house and circle were not to be resisted; and gradually, one after
another, the books which he had brought were undertaken by Froben, a
new edition of the _Adagia_, Seneca, the New Testament, Jerome. The
way in which the printing was carried out illustrates the critical
standards of the age. Erasmus was absent from Basle during the greater
part of the time when Seneca was coming through the press; and the
proofs were corrected by Beatus Rhenanus and a young man named Nesen.
Under such circumstances a modern author would feel that he had only
himself to thank for any defects in the book. Not so Erasmus. He boils
over with annoyance against the correctors for the blunders they let
pass. The idea that so magnificent a person as an editor or author
should correct proofs had not arisen. It was the business of the young
men who had been hired to do this drudgery; and all blame rested with
them. So far as the evidence goes, it was the same all through
Erasmus' life. In the case of one of his most virulent apologies
(1520) he says that he corrected all the proofs himself; but from the
stress he lays on the loss of time involved, it is clear that he
regarded this as something exceptional, and not to be repeated. With
the _Adagia_ published by Aldus (1508) he says that he cast his eye
over the final proofs, not in search of errors, but to see whether he
wished to make any changes. But in the main his books, like everybody
else's, were left to the care of others.

The fact is that in the splendour of the new invention of printing,
the possibilities of accompanying error had not been realized. In just
the same spirit the idea went abroad that when a book had been
printed, its manuscript original had no value. We have seen how
Erasmus was allowed to carry off the manuscript of Valla from Louvain
to Paris. Aldus received codices from all parts of Europe, sent by
owners with the request that they should be printed; but no desire for
their return. In 1531 Simon Grynaeus came from Basle to Oxford and was
given precious texts from college libraries to take back with him and
have published. Generosity helped to mislead. To keep a manuscript to
oneself for personal enjoyment seemed churlish. If it were printed,
any one who wished might enjoy it. That any degeneration might come in
by the way, that the printed text might contain blunders, was not
perceived. The process seemed so straightforward, so mechanical; as
certain a method of reproduction as photography. But the human element
in it was overlooked. _Humanum est errare_.

It was the same with the New Testament as with Seneca. When the form
of the work had been decided upon--a Greek text side by side with
Erasmus' translation, and notes at the end--two young scholars,
Gerbell and Oecolampadius, were installed in charge of the book. For
the Greek Erasmus had expected, he tells us, to find at Basle some
manuscript which he could give to the printers without further
trouble. But he was annoyed to find that there was none available
which was good enough, and he positively had to go through the one
that he selected from beginning to end before he could entrust it to
his correctors. In addition to this he put into their hands another
manuscript, which had been borrowed from Reuchlin; presumably to help
them in case they should have any difficulty in deciphering the
first. However, after a time he discovered that they were taking
liberties, and following the text of the second manuscript, wherever
they preferred its reading: as though the editing were in their own
hands. He took it from them and found another manuscript which agreed
more closely with the first. For the book of Revelation only one Greek
manuscript was available; and at the end five verses and a bit were
lacking through the loss of a leaf. Erasmus calmly translated them
back from the Latin, but had the grace to warn the reader of the fact
in his notes.

As to the translation, an interesting point is that it is modified
considerably from the translation which he had made in 1505-6, and is
brought closer to the text of the Vulgate. In the second edition of
the New Testament, March 1519, he explains in a preliminary apology
that he had changed back in this way in 1516 from fear lest too great
divergence from the Vulgate might give offence. But the book was on
the whole so well received that he soon realized that the time was
ripe for more advanced scholarship. His earlier version was the best
that he could do, in simplicity of style and fidelity to the original.
Accordingly in 1519 he introduced it with the most minute care, even
such trivial variations as _ac_ or _-que_ for _et_ being restored. The
transformation was not without its effects. Numerous passages were
objected to by the orthodox; as for example, when he translates
[Greek: logos] in the first verse of St. John's Gospel by _sermo_,
instead of _verbum_, as in the Vulgate and the edition of 1516.

The New Testament appeared in March 1516, dedicated by permission to
the Pope; in the following autumn came Jerome, in nine volumes, of
which four were by Erasmus, dedicated to the Archbishop of Canterbury:
and thus the Head of the Church and one of his most exalted suffragans
lent their sanction to an advancement of learning which theological
faculties in the universities viewed with the gravest suspicion.

Erasmus had now reached his highest point. He had equipped himself
thoroughly for the work he desired to do. He was the acknowledged
leader of a large band of scholars, who looked to him for guidance and
were eagerly ready to second his efforts; and with the resources of
Froben's press at his disposal, nothing seemed beyond his powers and
his hopes. Wherever his books spread, his name was honoured, almost
reverenced. Material honours and wealth flowed in upon him; and he was
continually receiving enthusiastic homage from strangers. He saw
knowledge growing from more to more, and bringing with it reform of
the Church and that steady betterment of the evils of the world which
wise men in every age desire. In all this his part was to be that of a
leader: not the only one, but in the front rank. He enjoyed his
position, feeling that he was fitted for it; but he was not puffed up.
In his dreams of what he would do with his life, he had ever seen
himself advancing not the name of Erasmus but the glory of God. In
his later years he became impatient of criticism, and resented with
great bitterness even difference of opinion, unless expressed with the
utmost caution; to hostile critics his language is often quite
intolerable. But the spirit underlying this is not mere vanity. No
doubt it wounded him to be evil spoken of, to have his pre-eminence
called in question, to be shown to have made mistakes: but the real
ground of his resentment was rather vexation that anything should
arise to mar the unanimity of the humanist advance toward wider
knowledge. Conscious of singleness of purpose, it was a profound
disappointment to him to have his sincerity doubted, to be treated as
an enemy by men who should have been his friends.

Into the discord of the years that followed I do not propose to enter.
They were years of disappointment to Erasmus; disappointment that grew
ever deeper, as he saw the steady growth of reform broken by the
sudden shocks of the Reformation and barred by subsequent reaction.
Throughout it all he never lost his faith in the spread of knowledge,
and gave his energies consistently to help this great cause. He
produced more editions of the Fathers, either wholly or in part:
Cyprian, Arnobius, Hilary, Jerome again, Chrysostom, Irenaeus,
Athanasius, Ambrose, Augustine, Lactantius, Alger, Basil, Haymo, and
Origen; the last named in the concluding months of his life. The
storms that beat round him could not stir him from his principles. To
neither reformer nor reactionary would he concede one jot, and in
consequence from each side he was vilified. He was drawn into a series
of deplorable controversies, which estranged him from many; but of his
real friends he lost not one. It is pleasant to see the devotion with
which Beatus Rhenanus and Boniface Amerbach comforted his last years;
never wavering in the service to which they had plighted themselves in
the enthusiasm of youth.

The chance survival of the following note enables us to stand by
Erasmus' bedside in his last hours. It was written by one of the
Frobens, possibly his godson and namesake, Erasmius, to Boniface
Amerbach, and it may be dated early in July 1536, perhaps on the 11th,
the last sunset that Erasmus was to see. 'I have just visited the
Master, but without his knowing. He seems to me to fail very much: for
his tongue cleaves to his palate, so that you can scarcely understand
him when he speaks. He is drawing his breath so deep and quick, that I
cannot but wonder whether he will live through the night. So far he
has taken nothing to-day except some chicken-broth. I have sent for
Sebastian . If he comes, I will have him
introduced into the room, but without the Master's knowledge, in order
that he may hear what I have heard. I am sending you this word, so
that you may come quickly.'

Erasmus' last words were in his own Dutch speech: 'Liever Got'.

No account of Erasmus must omit to tell how he laboured for peace.
Well he might. In his youth he had seen his native Holland torn
between the Hoeks and the Cabeljaus, the Duke of Gueldres and the
Bishop of Utrecht, with occasional intervention by higher powers. Year
after year the war had dragged on, with no decisive settlement, no
relief to the poor. One of his friends, Cornelius Gerard, wrote a
prose narrative of it; another, William Herman, composed a poem of
Holland weeping for her children and would not be comforted. _Dulce
bellum inexpertis._ War sometimes seems purifying and ennobling to
those whose own lives have never been jeoparded, who have never seen
men die: but not so to those who have known and suffered. Throughout
his life Erasmus never wearied of ensuing peace; and for its sake he
reproved even kings. In 1504 he was allowed to deliver a panegyric of
congratulation before the Archduke Philip the Fair, who had just
returned from Spain to the Netherlands; and after sketching a picture
of a model prince, inculcated upon him the duty of maintaining peace.
In 1514 he wrote to one of his patrons, brother of the Bishop of
Cambray, a letter on the wickedness of war, obviously designed for
publication and actually translated into German by an admirer a few
years later, to give it wider circulation. In 1515 the enlarged
_Adagia_ contained an essay on the same theme, under the title quoted
above: words which, translated into English, were again and again
reprinted during the nineteenth century by Peace Associations and the
Society of Friends. In 1516 he was appointed Councillor to Philip's
son, Charles, who at 16 had just succeeded to the crowns of Spain. His
first offering to his young sovereign was counsel on the training of a
Christian prince, with due emphasis on his obligations for peace. In
1517 he greeted the new Bishop of Utrecht, Philip of Burgundy, with a
'Complaint of Peace cast forth from all lands', _Querela Pacis vndique
profligatae_. And besides these direct invocations, in his other
writings, his pen frequently returns upon the same high argument. For
a brief period in his life it seemed as though peace might come back.
Maximilian's death in 1519 followed by Charles' election to the Empire
placed the sovereignty of Western and Central Europe in the hands of
three young men, who were chivalrous and impressionable, Henry and
Francis and Charles: only the year before they had been treating for
universal peace. If they would really act in concord, it seemed as
though the Golden Age might return, and Christendom show a united face
against the watchful and unwearying Turk. But though the sky was
clear, the weather was what Oxfordshire folk call foxy. Strife of
nations, strife of creeds cannot in a moment be allayed. Suddenly the
little clouds upon the horizon swelled up and covered the heaven with
the darkness of night; and before the dawn broke into new hope,
Erasmus had laid down his pen for ever, and was at rest from his
service to the Prince of Peace.



As you stand on the Piazza dei Signori at Verona, at one side rises
the massive red-brick tower of the Scaliger palace, lofty, castellated
at its top, with here and there a small window, deep set in the old
masonry, and the light that is allowed to pass inwards, grudgingly
crossed by bars of rusty iron--a place of defence and perhaps of
tyranny, within which life is secure indeed, but grim and sombre.
Opposite, in an angle of the square, stands a very different building,
the Palazzo del Consiglio. It has only two storeys, but each of these
is high and airy; above is a fine chamber, through whose ample windows
streams in the sun; below is a pleasant loggia, supported by slender
columns. Marble cornices and balustrades give a sense of richness, and
the wall-spaces are bright with painting and ornament. The spacious
galleries invite to enjoyment, to pace their length in free
light-hearted talk, or to stand and watch the life moving below, with
the sense of gay predominance that the advantage of height confers.

The two buildings typify most aptly the ages to which they belong: the
contrast between them is as the gulf between the Middle Ages and the
Renaissance. Step back in thought to the twelfth century, and we find
civilization struggling for its very existence. Few careers were
possible. Above all was the soldier, ruthlessly spreading murder and
desolation, and expecting no mercy when his own turn came; in the
middle were the merchant and the craftsman, relying on strong city
walls and union with their fellows, and the lawyer building up a
system, and profiting when men fell out; underneath was the peasant,
pitiably dependent on others. On all sides was bestial cruelty and
reckless ignorance: the overmastering care of life to find shelter and
protection. How strong, how luxuriously strong seemed that tower, with
so few apertures to admit the enemy and the pursuer! once inside, who
would wish to stir abroad? For the man who would think or study there
was only one way of life, to become sacrosanct in the direct service
of God. The Church, with splendid ideals before it, was exerting
itself to crush barbarism, and its forts were garrisoned by men of
spirit, whose courage was not that of the destroyer. In the
monasteries, if anywhere, was to be found that peace which the world
cannot give, the life of contemplation, in which can be felt the
hunger and thirst after knowledge.

By the middle of the sixteenth century the scene has changed. Much
blood has flowed through the arches of time; and now the conqueror has
learnt from the Church to be merciful, from nascent science to be
strong. He can spread peace wherever his sword reaches; and fear that
of old ruled all under the sun, now can walk only in dark places.
Walls no longer bring comfort, and soon they are to be thrown down to
make way for the broad streets which will carry the movement outwards;
and, most significant change, the country house with 'its gardens and
its gallant walks' takes the place of the grange. From the thraldom of
terror what an escape, to light, air, freedom, activity! The gates of
joy are opened, the private citizen learns to live, to follow choice
not necessity, to give the reins to his spirit and take hold on the
gifts that Nature spreads before him.

In the pursuit of peace, human progress has lain in the enlargement of
the units of government capable of holding together; from villages to
towns, from towns to provinces, from provinces to nations. The last
step had been the achievement of the Middle Ages, though even by the
end of the fifteenth century it was not yet complete: the twentieth
century finds us reaching forward to a new advance. We have spoken of
Erasmus' efforts to bring back peace from her exile, of the
experiences of his youth when Holland had wept for her children. In
1517, when he wrote his 'Complaint of Peace cast forth from all
lands', he was a man and one of Charles' councillors; but Holland was
still weeping and refusing comfort. She had good reason. The provinces
of the Netherlands were disunited, no sway imposed upon them with
strength enough first to restrain and then to knit together. On either
side of the Zuider Zee lay two bitter enemies: Holland, which had
accepted the Burgundian yoke, and Friesland, which after a long
struggle against foreign domination, had been reduced by the rule of
Saxon governors, Duke Albert and Duke George. To the south was
Gueldres, which, under its Duke, Charles of Egmont, had thrown in its
lot with France against Burgundy, and was continually instigating the
subjugated Frieslanders to rebellion. Then was war in the gates.

This was the kind of thing that happened. In 1516, after a fresh
outbreak of the ceaseless struggle, Henry of Nassau, Stadhouder of
Holland and Zeeland, ordered that all Gueldrians or Frieslanders who
showed their faces in his dominions should be put to death; and some
who were resident at the Hague were executed on the charge of sending
aid to their compatriots. A raid by the Gueldrians ended in the
massacre of Nieuwpoort. Nassau replied by ravaging the country up to
the walls of Arnhem, the Gueldres capital.

Duke Charles had terrible forces at command. A body of mercenary
troops, known as the Black Band, had been used by George of Saxony for
the repression of Friesland in 1514, and since then had been seeking
employment wherever they could find it. At the same time, one of the
conquered Frieslanders, known as Long Peter, had turned to piracy as
an effective way of revenging himself on Holland. Proclaiming himself
'King of the Sea', he seized every ship that came in his way, showing
no mercy to Hollanders and holding all others to ransom.

In May 1517, the Duke, violating a truce not yet expired, renewed
hostilities. The Black Band, some of whom had strayed as far as Rouen
in quest of fighting, flocked back. At the end of June 3000 of them
crossed the Zuider Zee in Long Peter's ships and disembarked suddenly
at Medemblik, in North Holland. The town was quickly set on fire, and
everything destroyed except the citadel; the fleet carrying back the
first spoils. Then they marched southwards, burning what they list;
and happy were those whose offer of ransom was accepted, to escape
with plunder only.

There was no fixed plan. The murderous horde wandered along, turning
to right or left as fancy suggested. After burning five country towns,
they appeared at Alcmar, the chief town of North Holland, into which
the most precious possessions of the neighbourhood had been hurriedly
conveyed. By a heavy payment, the burghers purchased immunity from the
flames; but for eight days the town was given up to the lust and
ferocity of an uncontrolled soldiery, from whose senseless destruction
it took thirty years to recover. Egmond, with its great abbey, was
pillaged; and then it was Haarlem's turn to suffer. But by this time
resistance had been organized. Troops had been called back from
garrison work in Friesland, and a strong line drawn in front of
Haarlem. Headed off, the Black Band turned suddenly away. Passing
Amsterdam and Culemborg, it penetrated down into South Holland, whence
it would be easy to pass back into Gueldres. Asperen was its next
prey. Three times the citizens beat off the cruel foe: a few more to
man their walls, and they might have driven him right away, to
overwhelm others less fortunate and less brave.

But it was not to be. At the fourth attempt the marauders were
successful, and massacre ensued. Death to the men, worse than death to
the women: nor age nor innocence could touch those black hearts. A
schoolmaster with his boys fled into a church and hid trembling in the
rood-loft. Before long they were discovered. Thirsting for blood, some
of the monsters rushed up the steps and tossed the shrieking victims
over on to the pikes of their comrades below. When all the butchery
was finished, a few helpless and infirm survivors were dragged out of
hiding-places. The miserable creatures were driven out of the city and
the gates barred in their faces. For a month the Black Band held
Asperen as a standing camp, living upon the provisions stored up by
the dead. Then Nassau came with troops and drove them forth, pursuing
into Gueldres, where he burned '46 good villages' in revenge. The
sight of fire blazing to heaven is appalling enough when men are
ranged all on one side, and the battle is with the element alone. Our
peace-lapped imaginations cannot picture the terror of flames kindled
aforethought. As those poor fugitives scattered over the country,
cowering into the darkness out of the fire's searching glow, they
cannot but have recalled the words: 'Woe unto them that are with child
and to them that give suck in those days.' At least they could give
thanks that their flight was not in the winter.

Meanwhile Long Peter had not been idle. On 14 August he had a great
battle with the Hollanders off Hoorn. Eleven ships he took, and cast
their crews into the sea: 500 men, save one, a Gueldrian, struggling
in the calm summer waters and stretching out their hands to a foe who
knew no pity. In September he surrounded a merchant fleet. The
Easterlings escaped at heavy ransom; but the crews of three Holland
vessels were flung to the waves. Then he carried the war on to the
land, to glean what the Black Band had left. With 1200 men he took
Hoorn by escalade; plunder-laden and sated, they returned to the sea.
Nothing was too small or too helpless for his rapacity. Along the
coast they picked up a barge of Enckhuizen. Its only crew, master and
mate, were thrown overboard, and Peter's fleet sailed upon its way. We
must remember that the provinces engaged in this internecine strife
were not widely diverse in race, and that to-day they are peacefully
united under one governance.

The winter of 1517-18 was spent by the Black Band in Friesland. Three
thousand men who are prepared to take by force what is not given to
them, do not lie hungry in the cold. We may be sure that under them
the land had no rest. At Easter they began to move southwards in quest
of other victims and other employ. But as they halted between Venlo
and Roermond, resistance confronted them. Nassau had arrayed by his
side the Archbishop of Cologne and the Dukes of Juliers and Cleves:
the gates of the cities were closed and the ferry-boats that would
have carried them across the Maas had been kept on the other side.
Caught in a trap, the freebooters promised to lay down their weapons
and disperse. The disarmament proceeded quietly till one of the
company-leaders refused to part with a bombard, the new invention, of
which he was very proud. A trumpeter, seeing the man hesitate, sounded
a warning, and the containing troops stood on the alert. Readiness led
to action. Suddenly they fell on the helpless horde, for whom there
was no safety but in flight. A thousand were massacred before Nassau
and his confederates could check their men.

Erasmus was about to set out from Louvain to Basle, to work at a new
edition of the New Testament. Bands such as these were, of course, a
peril to travellers. Half exultant, half disgusted, he wrote to More:
'These fellows were stripped before disbandment: so they will have all
the more excuse for fresh plundering. This is consideration for the
people! They were so hemmed in that not one of them could have
escaped: yet the Dukes were for letting them go scot-free. It was mere
chance that any of them were killed. Fortunately, a man blew his
trumpet: there was at once an uproar, and more than a thousand were
cut down. The Archbishop alone was sound. He said that, priest though
he was, if the matter were left to him, he would see that such things
should never occur again. The people understand the position, but are
obliged to acquiesce.' To Colet he exclaimed more bitterly: 'It is
cruel! The nobles care more for these ruffians than for their own
subjects. The fact is, they count on them to keep the people down.'
Let us be thankful that Europe to-day has no experience of such

A sign of the troubles of the times was the existence of the French
order of Trinitarians for the redemption of prisoners. This need had
been known even when Rome's power was at its height, for Cicero[25]
specifies the redemption of men captured by pirates as one of the ways
in which the generously minded were wont to spend their money. The
practice lasted down continuously through the Middle Ages. Gaguin, the
historian of France, Erasmus' first patron in Paris, was for many
years General of the Trinitarians, and made a journey to Granada to
redeem prisoners who had been taken fighting against the Moors. Even
in the eighteenth century, church offertories in England were asked
and given to loose captives out of prison.

     [25] _De Officiis_, 2. 16.

Where the king's peace is not kept and the king's writ does not run,
men learn to rely on themselves. Those who protect themselves with
strength, discover the efficacy of force, and soon are not content to
apply it merely on the defensive. It is not surprising, therefore, to
find in Erasmus' day many cases of resort to violence to remedy
defective titles. Nowadays we never hear of a defeated candidate for
a coveted post trying to obtain by force and right of possession the
position which has been given to another. It is unthinkable, for
instance, that a Warden of Merton duly elected should have to eject
from college some disappointed rival who had possessed himself of the
Warden's office and house: as actually happened in 1562. It is,
perhaps, not so much that we have become more law-abiding, as that we
realize that any such attempt must be fruitless when the strong arm of
the State is at hand, ready to assert the rights of the lawful

In Erasmus' day might was often right. Thus in 1492 the Abbot of St.
Bertin's at St. Omer died, and the monks elected in his place a
certain James du Val, who was duly consecrated in July 1493. The
Bishop of Cambray, however, had had the abbey in his eye for his
younger brother Antony, who had been ejected ten years before by the
powerful family of Arenberg from the Abbey of St. Trond in Limburg,
and meanwhile had been living unemployed at Louvain. The Bishop
persuaded the Pope to annul du Val's election and appoint Antony in
his place, probably on some technical ground. Armed with this
permission he appeared at St. Omer in October 1493 and violently
installed his brother; who held the abbey undisturbed till his death
nearly forty years later. The Bishop's success with the Pope is the
more noteworthy, as for a period of seven years he himself had refused
to surrender an abbey near Mons to a papal nominee, who was not strong
enough to wrest it from him. Again, during the five years of the
English occupation of Tournay, 1513-18, there was a continual struggle
between two rival bishops, appointed when the see fell vacant in
1513--Wolsey nominated by Henry VIII and Louis Guillard by the Pope.
It goes without saying that Wolsey won; and Guillard did not get in
till 1519, the year after the evacuation by the English.

Fernand tells a story of violence at the monastery of Souillac, which
was closely connected with his own at Chezal-Benoît. When the Abbot
died, a monk of St. Martin's at Tours, who was a native of Souillac,
with the aid of a brother who was a court official, got himself put in
as abbot before the monks had time to elect. They appealed to the
king, but quite in vain; for instead of giving ear to their complaint
he sent down a troop of soldiers to support the invading Abbot. It was
a grievous time for the poor monks. The garrison did whatever they
pleased: imprisoned the faithful servants of the monastery, introduced
hunting-dogs and birds, roared out their licentious choruses to the
sound of lute and pipe, and gave up the whole day to games of every
sort, in which the weaker brethren joined. Those who refused to do so
or to violate their vows by eating flesh were insulted; and as they
held divine service, coarse laughter and clamour interrupted them.
Strict watch was kept upon them, too, lest they should speak or write
to any one of their injuries. We need not deplore the passing of such
'good old days'.

It is necessary to realize the certainty which in the sixteenth
century men allowed themselves to feel on subjects of the highest
importance; for nothing short of this intense conviction is adequate
to explain the ferocity with which they treated those over whom they
had triumphed in matters of religion. Burning at the stake was the
common method of expiation. The fires of Smithfield consumed brave,
humble victims, while Erasmus jested over the rising price of wood, In
France the Inquisition entrapped many men of literary distinction,
Louis de Berquin 1529, John de Caturce 1532, Stephen Dolet 1546; on
the charge of heresy or atheism which could only with great difficulty
be refuted. To kill a fellow-creature or to watch him put to death
would be physically impossible to most of us, in our unruffled lives;
where from year's-end to year's-end we hardly even hear a word spoken
in anger. In consequence it is difficult for us to understand the
indifference with which in the sixteenth century men of the most
advanced refinement regarded the sufferings of others. Between rival
combatants and claimants for thrones fierce measures are more
intelligible; especially in days when stone walls did not a prison
make--such a prison, at least, as the prisoner might not some day hope
to break. Things had improved somewhat since the Middle Ages. We hear
less of the varieties of mutilation, the blinding, loss of nose,
hands, breasts, which were the portion of either sex indiscriminately,
when the death-penalty had not been fully earned. But it was still
fashionable to suspend your adversary in a cage and torture him, or
to confine him for years in a dungeon which light and air could never
reach. The executions of heretics became public shows, carefully
arranged beforehand, and attended by rank and fashion; to whom to show
any sign of sensibility would have been disgrace. Impossible it seems
to believe. We must remember that the perpetrators of such noble acts
had persuaded themselves that they were serving God. They were as
confident as Joshua or as Jehu that they knew His will; and they had
no hesitation in carrying it out.

If you may take a man's life in God's name, there can be no objection
to telling him a lie. The violation of the safe-conduct which brought
Hus to Constance was a fine precedent for breaking faith with a
heretic. When Luther came to Worms to answer for himself before
Emperor and Diet, the Pope's representatives reminded Charles of the
principle which had lighted the fires at Constance and ridded the
world of a dangerous fellow. Fortunately Charles had German subjects
to consider, and the Germans had a reputation for good faith of which
they were proud. Let us credit him too with some generosity; he was
scarcely 21, and the young find the arguments of expediency difficult.
Anyway, Luther with the help of his friends got off safely. The
intrigues and subterfuges of diplomatists are still very often
revolting to honest men. But there is some excuse for them; they act
on behalf of nations, who have to look to themselves for protection
and can rarely afford to be generous and aboveboard. But so barefaced
a violation of faith to an individual before the eyes of the world
would no longer be tolerated, not even in the name of the Lord.

The following example will illustrate the ideas of the age about the
treatment of heretics; an example of faith continually broken and of
incredible cruelty. In 1545 the Cardinal de Tournon and Baron
d'Oppède, the first president of the Parliament of Aix, were moved to
extirpate that plague-spot of Southern France, the Vaudois communities
of Dauphiné, who went on still in their wickedness and heresy. The
intriguers prepared a decree revoking the letters patent of 1544,
which had suspended proceedings against the Vaudois; and when the
keeper of the seals refused to present it to the king for signature,
by unlawful means they presented it through a secretary and unlawfully
procured the affixion of the seals. But this was a mere trifle:
greater things were to follow.

On 13 April 1545 the Baron entered the Vaudois territory at the head
of a body of troops, reinforced by the papal Vice-legate and a
fanatical mob of countryfolk. The inhabitants offered little
resistance, and soon villages were in flames on every side. At
Mérindol the soldiers found only one inhabitant, a poor idiot; all the
rest had fled. The Baron ordered him to be shot. Above by the castle
some women were discovered hiding in a church; after indescribable
outrages they were thrown headlong from the rocks. Cabrières being
fortified was prepared to stand a siege; but on a promise of their
lives and property the inhabitants opened the gates. Without a
moment's hesitation the Baron gave orders to put them all to death.
The soldiers refused to break plighted faith; but the mob had no
scruples and the ghastly work began. 'A multitude of women and
children had fled to the church: the furious horde rushed headlong
among them and committed all the crimes of which hell could dream.
Other women had hidden themselves in a barn. The Baron caused them to
be shut up there and fire set to the four corners. A soldier rushed to
save them and opened the door, but the women were driven back into the
fire with blows of pikes. Twenty-five women had taken shelter in a
cavern at some distance from the town. The Vice-legate caused a great
fire to be lighted at the entrance: five years afterwards the bones of
the victims were found in the inmost recesses.'[26] La Coste had the
same fate; the promise made and immediately violated, and then all the
terrors of hell. In the course of a few weeks 3000 men and women were
massacred, 256 executed, and six or seven hundred sent to the galleys;
while children unnumbered were sold as slaves. The offence of these
poor people was that they had been seeking in their own fashion to
draw nearer to the God of Love.

     [26] R.C. Christie, _Étienne Dolet_, ch. xxiv.

But public morals ever lag behind private; and in the sixteenth
century private standards of truth and honour were not so high as they
are now. Here again we may find one main cause in the absence of
personal security. In these days of settled government, when thought
and speech are free, it is scarcely possible to realize what men's
outlook upon life must have been when walls had ears and a man's foes
might be those of his own household. In Henry VII's reign England had
not had time to forget the Wars of the Roses, and claimants to the
throne were still occasionally executed in the Tower. Even under the
mighty hand of Henry VIII ministers rose and fell with alarming
rapidity. When princes contend, private men do well to hold their
peace; lest light utterances be brought up against them so soon as
Fortune's wheel has swung to the top those that were underneath. In
matters of faith, too, it was supremely necessary to be careful; for
unguarded words might arouse suspicions of heresy, to be followed by
the frightful penalties with which heresy was extirpated. On great
questions, therefore, men must have kept their tongues and thoughts in
a strict reserve: candour and openness, those valuable solvents of
social humours, can only have been practised by the unwise.

Truth is one of those things in which to him that hath shall be given.
It is a common jest in the East that professional witnesses come daily
to the law-courts waiting to be hired by either side. The harder truth
is to discover, with the less are men content. With many inducements
to dissimulation and no great expectations of personal honesty, men
are likely to traffic with expediency and to be adept in justifying
themselves when they forsake the truth.

Some examples of this may be found in Erasmus' letters. When he was
in Italy in 1509, Henry VII died. His English patron, Lord Mountjoy,
was intimate with Henry VIII. A few weeks after the accession a letter
from Mountjoy reached Erasmus, inviting him to return to England and
promising much in the young king's name. The letter was in fact
written by Ammonius, an Italian, who afterwards became Latin secretary
to the king. He was recognized as one of the best scholars of the day;
and there can be no doubt that the letter was his composition.
Mountjoy was a sufficiently keen scholar to sit up late at night over
his books, and to be chosen as a companion to the young Prince Henry
in his studies; but such autograph letters by him as survive show that
he wrote with difficulty even in English, and it is impossible to
suppose that he would have kept an accomplished Latinist in his employ
merely to act as copyist to his effusions. Moreover, Erasmus, writing
a few years later, says that he recognized the letter as Ammonius'
work, not from the handwriting, which he had forgotten, but from the
style. Nevertheless he allowed it to be published in 1519 as his
patron's. Of his connivance in the matter there is actual proof; for
in 1517 he had the letter copied by one of his servant-pupils into a
letter-book, and added the heading himself. What he first wrote was:
'Andreas Ammonius Erasmo Roterodamo S.D.,' but afterwards he scratched
out Ammonius' name and wrote in 'Guilhelmus Montioius'. In a sense, of
course, he was correct; for the letter was written in Mountjoy's name.
But he cannot have been unaware that in an age which valued elegant
Latinity so highly, his patron would be gratified by the ascription.

It was no great matter, and did no harm to any one. But it throws some
doubt on Erasmus' statement as to the scholarship of Henry VIII. When
Henry's book against Luther appeared in 1521, people said that Erasmus
had lent him a hand. In denying the insinuation Erasmus avers that
Henry was quite capable of doing the work himself, and adds that his
own suspicions of Henry's capacity had been dispelled by Mountjoy, who
when tutor to the young prince had preserved rough copies of Latin
letters written by Henry's own hand; and these he produced to convince
the doubter. Erasmus had a double motive in asserting Henry's
authorship, to play the courtier and to avoid provoking Luther; and
Mountjoy, as we have seen, is not above suspicion. But there is some
further evidence in support of them all, prince and patron and
scholar. Pace, Colet's successor at St. Paul's, speaks of hearing
Henry talk Latin quickly and readily; and Giustinian, the Venetian
ambassador, quotes a few remarks made to him by Henry in Latin by way
of greeting. Till more evidence is forthcoming, Erasmus must be let
off on this count with a Not proven.

Another example of scant regard for truth is his disowning of the
_Julius Exclusus_. This was a witty dialogue, in Erasmus' best style,
on the death of Pope Julius II. The Pope is shown arriving at the gate
of heaven, accompanied by his Genius, a sort of guardian angel, and
amazed to find it locked, with no preparation at all for his
reception. His amazement grows when St. Peter at length appears and
makes it plain that the gate is not going to be opened, and that there
is no room in heaven for Julius with his record of wars and other
unchristian deeds; whereupon there is a fine set-to, and each party
receives some hard knocks.

That Erasmus was its author there can be no doubt; for there is
evidence in two directions of the existence of a copy or copies of it
in his handwriting, and we cannot suppose that at that period of his
life, when he regularly had one or more servant-pupils in his employ,
he would have troubled to copy out with his own hand a work of that
length by another. There was nothing very outrageous in the dialogue,
nothing much more than there was in the _Moria_; but it was not the
sort of thing for a man to write who was so closely connected as
Erasmus was with the Papal see, and who wished to stand well with it
in the future. The _Julius_ appeared in print in 1517, of course
anonymously, and Erasmus was pleased with its reception; but he soon
found that people who were not in the secret were attributing it to
him. That would never do; so he set to work to repudiate it. The
friends that knew he exhorted to know nothing; the rest he endeavoured
to persuade that he was not the author, using many forms of
equivocation. He rises to his greatest heights in addressing
cardinals. To Campegio, then in London, he writes on 1 May 1519:

     'How malicious some people are! Any scandalous book that comes
     out they at once put down to me. That silly production, _Nemo_,
     they said was mine; and people would have believed them, only
     the author (Hutten) indignantly claimed it as his own. Then
     those absurd Letters (of the Obscure Men): of course I was
     thought to have had a hand in them. Finally, they began to say
     that I was the author of this book of Luther; a person I have
     hardly ever heard of, certainly I have not read his book. As
     all these failed, they are trying to fasten on me an anonymous
     dialogue which appears to make mock of Pope Julius. Five years
     ago I glanced through it, I can hardly say I read it.
     Afterwards I found a copy of it in Germany, under various
     names. Some said it was by a Spaniard, name unknown; others
     ascribed it to Faustus Andrelinus, others to Hieronymus Balbus.
     For myself I do not quite know what to think. I have my
     suspicions; but I haven't yet followed them up to my
     satisfaction. Certainly whoever wrote it was very
     foolish;'--that sentence was from his heart!--'but even more to
     blame is the man who published it. To my surprise some people
     attribute it to me, merely on the ground of style, when it is
     nothing like my style, if I am any judge: though it would not
     be very wonderful if others did write like me, seeing that my
     books are in all men's hands. I am told that your Reverence is
     inclined to doubt me: with a few minutes' conversation I am
     sure I could dispel your suspicions. Let me assure you that
     books of this kind written by others I have had suppressed: so
     it is hardly likely that I should have published such a thing
     myself, or ever wish to publish it.'

Not bad that, from the author of the _Julius_. A fortnight later he
wrote to Wolsey to much the same effect, instancing as books that had
been attributed to him Hutten's _Nemo_ and _Febris_, Mosellanus'
_Oratio de trium linguarum ratione_, Fisher's reply to Faber, and even
More's _Utopia_. As to the _Julius_ he says: 'Plenty of people here
will tell you how indignant I was some years ago when I found the book
being privately passed about. I glanced through it (I can hardly be
said to have read it); and I tried vigorously to get it suppressed.
This is the work of the enemies of good learning, to try and fasten
this book upon me.' Finally, to clinch his argument, he asseverates
with audacious ingenuity: 'I have never written a book, and I never
will, to which I will not affix my own name.'

Jortin points out that the only thing which Erasmus specifically
denies is the publication of the _Julius_. As we have seen, an author
of consequence in those days rarely troubled to correct his own
proof-sheets. Erasmus left his _Moria_ behind in Paris for Richard
Croke to see through the press; More committed his _Utopia_ to
Erasmus, who had it printed for him at Louvain; Linacre sent his
translations of Galen to Paris by the hands of Lupset, who supervised
the printing. It is therefore quite probable that Erasmus did not
personally superintend the publication of the _Julius_; but until
students of typography can tell us definitely which is the first
printed edition, and where it was printed, we cannot be certain. But
besides this point of practice born of convenience, there was another
born of modesty. With compositions that were purely literary--poems
and other creations of art and fancy, as opposed to more solid
productions--the convention arose of pretending that the publication
of them was due to the entreaties of friends, or even in some cases
that it had been carried out by ardent admirers without the author's
knowledge. Printing, with its ease of multiplication, had made
publication a far more definite act than it was in the days of
manuscripts. In the prefaces to his early compositions, Erasmus almost
always assumes this guise. More actually wrote to Warham and to
another friend that the _Utopia_ had been printed without his
knowledge. Of course this was not true, but nobody misunderstood him.
Dolet's _Orationes ad Tholosam_ appeared through the hand of a friend,
but with the most transparent figments.

There was, therefore, abundant precedent for denying authorship. But
there is a difference between the light veil of modesty and clouds of
dust raised in apprehension. The publication of the _Julius_ certainly
placed Erasmus in a dilemma; he extricated himself by equivocation,
which barely escapes from direct untruth. It is possible that a public
man of his position at the present day might find himself driven to a
similar method of escape from a similar indiscretion.[27] But
experience has taught men not to write lampoons which they dare not
avow, and a more effective law of copyright protects them against
publication by pirate printers.

     [27] An example of this may be seen in the new _Life of Edward
          Bulwer, First Lord Lytton_, 1913, ii. 71-6. Bulwer-Lytton's
          letter, 15 March 1846, denying the authorship of the _New
          Timon_, might almost have been translated from Erasmus' to
          Campegio, except that it goes further in falsehood.



An interesting parallel is often drawn between Indian life to-day and
the life with which we are familiar in the Bible. The women grinding
at the mill, the men who take up their beds and walk, the groups that
gather at the well, the potter and his wheel, the marriage-feasts, the
waterpots standing ready to be filled, the maimed, the leper, and the
blind--all these are everyday sights in the streets and households of
modern India.

But we may also make an instructive comparison between India and
mediaeval, or even Renaissance, Europe. As soon as one gets away from
the railway and the telegraph--indeed even where they have already
penetrated--one still finds in India conditions prevailing which
continued in Europe beyond the Middle Ages. The customary tie between
master and servant, lasting from one generation to another, preserves
the community of interest which prevented the feudal bond from being
irksome. The modern severance of classes, the modern desire for
aloofness, has not yet come. The servants are an integral part of the
household, sharing in its ceremonies and festivities, crowding into
their master's presence without impairing his privacy, and following
him as escort whenever he stirs abroad. The child-marriage which we
condemn in modern India, was frequently practised in Europe in the
sixteenth century, when the uncertainty of life made men wish to
secure the future of their children so far as they could. The
foster-mothers with whom young Mughal princes found a home, whose sons
they loved as their own brothers, had their counter-part in these
islands as late as the days of the great Lord Cork. Walled cities with
crowded houses looking into one another across narrow winding alleys,
were an inevitable condition of life in sixteenth-century Europe
before strong central government had made it safe to live outside the
gates. Even the houses of the great were dark, airless, cramped, with
tiny windows and dim, opaque glass; such as one may still see at
Compton Castle in Devonshire or the Château des Comtes at Ghent.
Communications moved slowly along unmetalled roads or up and down
rivers. Carriages with two or four horses were occasionally used; but
the ordinary traveller rode on horseback, and needy students coming to
a university walked, clubbing together for a packhorse to carry their
modest baggage. These are features which may still be matched in many
parts of India.

The ravages of plague, the absence of sanitation, the recurrence of
famine and war, all combined in sixteenth-century Europe to produce an
uncertainty in the tenure of life, which modern India knows only too
well from all the causes except the last; but India does not follow
Europe in the resulting practice of frequent remarriage on both sides.
In Erasmus' day a marriage in which neither side had previously or
did subsequently contract a similar relation must have been quite
exceptional. A certain German lady, after one ordinary husband, became
the wife of three leading Reformers in succession, Oecolampadius,
Capito, and Bucer--almost an official position, it would seem. She
survived them all, and when Bucer died at Cambridge in 1551, was able
to return to Basle, to be buried beside Oecolampadius in the
Cathedral. Katherine Parr married four times. To her first husband,
who left her a widow at fifteen, she was a second wife; to her second,
a third wife; to her third, who was Henry VIII, a sixth; and only her
fourth was a bachelor.

The custom of the year's 'doole' after the death of husband or wife
was just at this period breaking down. In 1488 Edward IV declined a
new marriage for his sister, Margaret of York, the new-made widow of
Charles the Bold, on the ground that 'after the usage of our realms no
estate or person honourable communeth of marriage within the year of
their dool'. But Tudor practice was very different. For Mary, Queen of
France, who married her Duke of Suffolk as soon as her six weeks of
white mourning were out, there was some excuse of urgency; Henry, too,
in his rapid marriage with Jane Seymour had special reasons. But
Katherine Parr, when her turn to marry him came, was but a few months
a widow; and later, in being on with her old love, Thomas Seymour,
when her grim master was only just dead, she had no motive beyond the
wishes of lovers long delayed. The Princess Mary, however, considered
this latter action highly improper.

John Oporinus (Herbst), the Basle printer (1507-68), had a varied
experience; taking four widows to wife. At the age of 20 he
married--almost, it seems, out of a sense of duty--the widow of his
teacher, Xylotectus of Lucerne; an elderly lady who persecuted him
sorely, and once in a passion threw dirty water over him. After eight
years, two of which he had spent roving through Germany with
Paracelsus, she died, leaving her property to relations. Oporinus'
next widow had three children, girls, who grew up to share their
mother's expensive tastes. For nearly thirty years their extravagance
vexed him, though his wife had tact enough to keep from open quarrels.
Then one day he returned from the Frankfort fair to find her dead of
the plague. The same visitation, 1564, by carrying off first John
Herwagen the younger and then Ulrich Iselin, Professor of Law at
Basle, made two more widows, successively to bear Oporinus' name.
Herwagen's widow, Elizabeth Holzach, was a sweet woman, but died in
the fourth month of her new marriage, 17 July 1565. Iselin's was
Faustina, daughter of Boniface Amerbach, born in 1530. To her seven
children by Iselin, she added one for Oporinus, Emmanuel, born 25 Jan.
1568; but the father of 60 did not live six months to have pleasure in
his firstborn.

With such frequent changes the marriage-tie cannot have given the same
personal attachment that is possible at the present day: indeed such
unions can scarcely have seemed more lasting than the temporary
associations of friends. One need only recall the bargainings that
occur in the Paston Letters to realize that there was not much romance
about their marriages, at any rate beforehand. Thus wrote Sir John
Paston in 1473 of a suitor for his sister Anne: 'As for Yelverton, he
said but late that he would have her if she had her money; and else

Thomas More is rightly regarded as a man in whom the spirit burned
brighter and clearer than in most of his contemporaries; and yet his
matrimonial relations savour more of convenience or even of business
than of affection. For his first wife, we are told--and there is no
reason to doubt the story--, his fancy had lighted on an Essex girl,
the daughter of a country-gentleman; but on visiting her at home he
found that she had an elder sister not yet married. Feeling that to
have her younger sister married first would be a grief to the elder,
he 'inclined his affection' towards her and made her his wife in place
of his first choice. The interpretation that when he saw the elder
sister, he preferred her before the other, might be probable to-day:
to apply it to the story of More would be a case of that commonest of
'vulgar errors' in history,--judging the past by the ideas of the
present. For five or six years More lived with his girl-bride, whose
country training and unformed mind caused much trouble and difficulty
to them both. The unequal relation between them appears in a story
told by Erasmus; that More delighted her once by bringing home a
present of sham jewels, and apparently did not think it necessary to
undeceive her about them. Happiness came in time; but after bearing
him four children, she died. Within a month the widower came to his
father-confessor by night and obtained leave to be married next
morning. His new wife was a middle-aged lady of no charms--indeed she
seems to have been a regular shrew--who served him as a capable
housekeeper and looked after his children while they were young. But
she never engaged his affections; and it was his eldest daughter,
Margaret, who became the chosen partner of his joys and sorrows in
later years.

The habitual remarriage of widows proceeded in part from the desire,
or even need, for a husband's protection; and in consequence it was
not only the young who were open to men's addresses. Beatus Rhenanus,
writing to a servant-pupil who had recently left him to launch forth
into the world, counsels him to marry, if possible, a rich and elderly
widow; in order that in a few years by her death he may find himself
equipped with an ample capital for his real start in life. Such advice
from a man like Beatus can only have been in jest: but if there had
not been some reality of actual practice, the jest would have fallen
flat. Indeed Beatus goes on to indicate that this course had been
taken by Reuchlin; whose elderly consort was, however, disobliging
enough to live for many years. The ill-success attending Oporinus'
essay in this direction we have already seen.

But it was not so with all. Not infrequently Erasmus deplores the
imprudence of the young men who had left his service, in allowing
themselves to fall in love and marry without securing proper dowries
with their young brides. He was indeed, considering his natural
shrewdness, singularly ignorant of women; as his advice to youthful
husbands sometimes shows. To one, for example, who had written to
announce that before long he hoped to become a father, he replies with
congratulations, and then says: 'Now that your wife no longer needs
your care, you will be able to betake yourself to a university and
finish your studies'--advice which we may surely suppose was not

During the insecurity of the Middle Ages, the seclusion of women for
their own protection had been severely necessary. In the East the
'purdah-system' reached the length of excluding women of the better
classes from the society of all men but those of their own family. Of
such rigidity in Europe I cannot find any traces except under Oriental
influence;[28] but there is no doubt that women's life at the
beginning of the Renaissance in the North was circumscribed. Such
higher education as they received was given at home, by father or
brothers or husband, or by private tutors. But there are not a few
examples of educated women. In the well-known Frisian family, the
Canters of Groningen, parents and children and even the maidservant
are said to have spoken regularly in Latin. Antony Vrye of Soest, one
of the Adwert circle, wrote to his wife in Latin; and his daughter
helped him with the teaching of Latin in the various schools over
which he presided, at Campen and Amsterdam and Alcmar. Pirckheimer's
sisters and daughters, Peutinger's wife, are famous for their
learning. In England throughout the Renaissance period the position of
women and their education steadily improved. Alice, Duchess of
Suffolk, the foundress of Ewelme, had an interest in literature; and
the great Lady Margaret, besides the endowments which are her memorial
at the universities, constantly fostered the efforts of Wynkyn de
Worde, and herself translated part of the _Imitatio_ from the French.
The Princess Mary, as the result of the liberal training of Vives and
other masters, could translate from Aquinas, take part in acting a
play of Terence, and read the letters of Jerome; and before she was
30, made a translation of Erasmus' Paraphrase of St. John's Gospel,
which formed part of the English version of those Paraphrases ordered
by Injunctions of Edward VI to be placed beside the Bible in every
parish church throughout the realm.

     [28] In 1729 the Abbé Fourmont found the seclusion of women
          extensively practised in Athens for fear of the Turks; see
          R.C. Christie, _Essays and Papers_, p. 69.

More, for his dear 'school', engaged the best teachers he could find.
John Clement, afterwards Wolsey's first Reader in Humanity at Oxford,
and William Gonell, Erasmus' friend at Cambridge, read Sallust and
Livy with them. Nicholas Kratzer, the Bavarian mathematician, also one
of Wolsey's Readers at Oxford, taught them astronomy: to know the
pole-star and the dog, and to contemplate the 'high wonders of that
mighty and eternal workman', whom More could feel revealed himself
also to some 'good old idolater watching and worshipping the man in
the moon every frosty night'.[29] Richard Hyrde, the friend of
Gardiner and translator of Vives' _Instruction of a Christian Woman_,
continued the work after the 'school' had been moved to Chelsea;[30]
and when Margaret, eldest and best-beloved scholar, was married. Not
that this interfered. The love of learning once implanted brought her
with her husband to keep her place among her sisters in that bright
Academy. Her fame is well known, how the Bishop of Exeter sent her a
gold coin of Portugal in reward for an elegant epistle; how familiarly
she corresponded with Erasmus; how she emended the text of Cyprian,
imitated the Declamations of Quintilian, and translated the
Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius.

     [29] More, _English Works_, 1557, f. 154 E.
     [30] See F. Watson, _Vives and the Renascence Education of
          Women_, 1912.

It is evident that in England, for women as well as men, the seed of
the Renaissance had fallen on good ground. By the middle of the
century the gates of the kingdom of knowledge were open, and the
thoughtful were rejoicing in the infinite variety of their Paradise
regained. In 1547-8, Nicholas Udall, in a preface for Mary's
translation of Erasmus' Paraphrase, writes with enthusiasm: 'Neither
is it now any strange thing to hear gentlewomen, instead of most vain
communication about the moon shining in the water, to use grave and
substantial talk in Greek or Latin with their husbands in godly
matters. It is now no news in England to see young damsels in noble
houses and in the courts of princes, instead of cards and other
instruments of vain trifling, to have continually in their hands
either Psalms, "Omelies" and other devout meditations, or else Paul's
Epistles or some book of Holy Scripture matters, and as familiarly
both to read and reason thereof in Greek, Latin, French or Italian as
in English. It is now a common thing to see young virgins so "nouzled"
and trained in the study of letters that they willingly set all other
vain pastimes at nought for learning's sake.' It is melancholy to
reflect how soon the gates of the kingdom were to be closed again, and
its trees guarded by the flaming sword of theological certainty
mistaking itself for truth.

Besides marriage, almost the only vocation open to women in the
fifteenth century was the monastic life. It was not uncommon for
several daughters in a family to embrace religion: parents, apart from
higher considerations, regarding it as a sure method of providing for
girls who did not wish to marry, or for whom they could not find
husbands. As heads of religious houses women held positions of great
dignity and influence, and discharged their duties worthily. Within
convent walls, too, it was possible for some women to become learned;
though in later times the achievements of Diemudis were never
rivalled. She was a nun at Wessobrunn in Bavaria at the end of the
eleventh century, and during her cloistered life her active pen wrote
out 47 volumes, including two complete Bibles, one of which was given
in exchange for an estate.

We also hear of women of means, usually widows, dispensing hospitality
on a large scale to the needy and deserving. Wessel of Groningen, as
we saw, was adopted by a wealthy matron, who saw him shivering in the
street on a winter's day and fetched him into her house to warm.
Erasmus describes to us a Gouda lady, Berta de Heyen, whose kindness
he repeatedly enjoyed in his early years; and in addition to her
general charities mentions that she was wont to look out for promising
boys in the town school who were designing to enter the Church,
receive them into her family amongst her own children, and when their
courses were completed, bestir herself to procure them benefices--an
indication of the possession of influence outside her own home. He
goes on to say that when widowhood came to her, she refused to think
of a second marriage, and almost rejoiced to be released from the
bonds of matrimony, because she found herself free to practise her
liberality. But we must not lay too much stress on these latter
utterances. They come from a funeral oration composed after the good
lady's death, and addressed to her children, some of whom were nuns:
to whom therefore the conventional representation of the Church's
attitude towards marriage would be acceptable. Butzbach describes the
wife of a wealthy citizen of Deventer as entertaining daily six or
seven of the poorer clergy at her table, besides the alms that she
distributed continually before her own door. To him she frequently
gave food and clothes and money, with much sympathy.

It is noticeable how the charity is represented as proceeding from the
wife and not from the husband. A mediaeval moralist urges wives to
make good their husbands' deficiencies in this respect; and against
the remark Ulrich Ellenbog, the father, notes that he had always left
this burden to his wife. The inference is probable that though the
sphere of women was in many ways restricted, they were within their
own dominion, the household, supreme--more so perhaps than they are
to-day. Yet in spite of this domestic authority, I do not see how we
can escape the conclusion that the real power rested with the husband,
when we read such passages as this in the _Utopia_, where, speaking of
punishment, More says: 'Parents chastise their children, husbands
their wives.' Indeed, it was recognized as one of the primary duties
of a husband, to see that his wife behaved properly.

What we have been saying may be well illustrated by the letter just
alluded to from Antony Vrye 'to his dear wife, Berta of Groningen'. It
was written 'from Cologne in haste'; and as it appears in Vrye's
_Epistolarum Compendium_, it may be dated _c._ 1477. 'Your letter was
most welcome, and relieved me of anxiety about you all. I rejoice to
hear that the children are well and yourself; your mother too and the
whole household. You write that you are expecting me to return by 1
March, to relieve you of all your cares. I wish indeed that I could;
but besides our own private matters, there is some public business for
me to discharge, and this will take time. So be diligent to look after
our affairs, and pray to God to keep you in health and free from
fault: my prolonged absence will make my return all the more joyful.
It is great pain to me to be absent from you so long, who art all my
life and happiness. But as I must, it falls to you to guard our honour
and property, and to care for our family. This, Jerome says, is the
part of a prudent housewife, and to cherish her own chastity. Bide
then at home, most loving wife, and be not tempted by such amusements
as delight the vulgar; but patiently and modestly await my return. I
too will be a faithful husband to you in everything. Be a chaste and
honoured mother to our boy and little girls; and cherish your mother
in return for the singular kindness she has showed us.'

One feature of life at this time which materially affected the lives
of women, was the length of families and the accompanying infant
mortality. It was common enough in all classes down to the middle of
the last century; and it is still only too common among the poor. On
the walls of churches, more especially in towns, one frequently sees
tablets with long lists of children who seem to have been born only
to die: and yet the parents went on their way unthinking, and content
if from their annual harvest an occasional son or daughter grew up to
bless them. Examples of this may be collected on every side. Cole
(1467-1519), for instance, was the eldest of twenty-two sons and
daughters; and by 1499 he was the only child left to his parents. His
father, who was twice Lord Mayor of London, lived till 1510; the
mother of this great brood survived them all, and, so far as Erasmus
knew, was still living in 1521.

Another case which may be cited is that of Anthony Koberger, the
celebrated Nuremberg printer, 1440-1513: and it is the more
interesting, since owing to his care for genealogy, we have accurate
records of his two marriages and his twenty-five children. The first
marriage produced eight, born between 1470 and 1483; of these, three
daughters lived to grow up and marry, but of the remaining
five--including three sons, all named Anthony, a fact which tells its
own tale--none reached a greater age than twelve years. In September
1491 the first wife died; and in August 1492--without observing the
full year's 'doole'--Anthony married again, the second wife being
herself the sixteenth child of her parents. At first there was only
disappointment; in 3½ years four children were born and died, two of
these being twins. But better times followed: of the remaining
thirteen only three died as infants. Anthony the fifth and John the
third, and three sons named after the three kings, Caspar, Melchior
and Balthasar, were more fortunate. When 21 years had brought 17
children, the sequence ended abruptly with the death of Anthony the
father; leaving, out of the 25 he had received, only 13 children to
speak with his enemies in the gate.

A family Bible now in the Bodleian[31] enumerates 16 children born to
the same parents in 24 years, 1550-74. One girl was married before she
was 16; one son at 20 died of exposure on his way home from Holland;
two reached 10, one 8, one 6. None of the remainder ten lived for one

     [31] Biblia Latina, 1529, c. 2.

Of public morals in the special sense of the term this is not the
place to speak in detail. But it may suitably be stated that
sixteenth-century standards in these matters were not so high as those
of the present day. 'If gold ruste, what shal iren do?' The highest
ecclesiastical authorities were unable to check a nominally celibate
priesthood from maintaining women-housekeepers who bore them families
of children and were in many cases decent and respectable wives to
them in all but name; indeed in Friesland the laity for obvious
reasons insisted upon this violation of clerical vows. A letter from
Zwingli, the Reformer, written in 1518 when he was parish priest of
Glarus, gives an astonishing view of his own practice. Under such
circumstances we need not wonder that the standards of the laity were
low. The highest record that I have met with is that of a Flemish
nobleman, who in addition to a large family including a Bishop of
Cambray and an Abbot of St. Omer, is said to have been also the
father of 36 bastards. Thomas More as a young man was not blameless.
But it is surprising to find that Erasmus in writing an appreciation
of More in 1519, when he was already a judge of the King's Bench,
stated the fact in quite explicit, though graceful, language; and
further, that More took no exception to the statement, which was
repeated in edition after edition. We can hardly imagine such a
passage being inserted in a modern biography of a public character,
even if it were written after his death. Just about the same time More
published among his epigrams some light-hearted Latin poems--doubtless
written in his youth--such as no public man with any regard for his
character would care to put his name to to-day.

There is another matter to which some allusion must be made, the
grossness of the age, though here again detail is scarcely possible.
The conditions of life in the sixteenth century made it difficult to
draw a veil over the less pleasant side of human existence. The houses
were filthy; the streets so disgusting that on days when there was no
wind to disperse the mephitic vapours, prudent people kept their
windows shut. Dead bodies and lacerated limbs must have been frequent
sights. Under these circumstances we need not be surprised that men
spoke more plainly to one another and even to women than they do now.
Sir John Paston's conversations with the Duchess of Norfolk would make
less than duchesses blush now. The tales that Erasmus introduces into
his writings, the jests of his Colloquies, are often quite
unnecessarily coarse; but one which will illustrate our point may be
repeated. One winter's morning a stately matron entered St. Gudule's
at Brussels to attend mass. The heels of her shoes were caked with
snow, and on the smooth pavement of the church she slipped up. As she
fell, there escaped from her lips a single word, of mere obscenity.
The bystanders helped her to her feet, and amid their laughter she
slunk away, crimson with mortification, to hide herself in the crowd.
Nowadays great ladies have not such words at command.

Theological controversy has a proverbial name for ferocity; in the
sixteenth century other qualities were added to this. In 1519 a young
Englishman named Lee, who was afterwards Archbishop of York, ventured
to criticize Erasmus' New Testament, with a vehemence which under the
circumstances was perhaps unsuitable. Erasmus of course resented this;
and his friends, to cool their indignation, wrote and published a
series of letters addressed to the offender: 'the Letters of some
erudite men, from which it is plain how great is the virulence of
Lee.' Among the contributors was Sapidus, head master of the famous
school at Schlettstadt, which was one of the first Latin schools of
the age. His letter to Lee concludes with a disgusting piece of
imagery, which would shock one if it proceeded from the most
unpleasantly minded schoolboy. One cannot conceive a Head Master of
Rugby appearing in print in such a way now.



There is one thing in the world which is constantly with us, and which
has probably continued unchanged throughout all ages of history: the
weather. Yet Erasmus' writings contain no traces of that delight in
brilliant sunshine which most Northerners feel, nor of that wonder at
the beauties of the firmament which was so real to Homer. He
frequently remarks that the weather was pestilent, that the winds blew
and ceased not, that the sea was detestably rough and the clouds
everlasting; but of the praise which accompanies enjoyment there is
scarcely a word. His utmost is to say that the climate of a place is
salubrious. He often describes his journeys. As he rode on horseback
across the Alps or was carried down the Rhine in a boat, he must have
had ample opportunity to behold the glories which Nature sometimes
spreads before us in our Northern clime, and lavishes more constantly
on less favoured regions. But the loveliness of blue skies and serene
air, the glitter of distant snows, the soft radiance of the summer
moon, and the golden architrave of the sunset he had no eyes to see.

Such indifference to the beauties of Nature admits, however, of some
explanation. With a scantier population than that which now covers the
earth, there was less agriculture and more of waste and unkempt
places not yet reduced to the service of mankind. Solitudes were
vaster and more complete. In a country so well cared for as England is
to-day, it is difficult to imagine how unpleasing can be the aspect of
land over which Nature still has the upper hand, how desolate and
dreadful the great mountain areas which men now have to seek at the
ends of the earth, where the smoke rises not and even the lone
goatherd has not penetrated. To-day our difficulty is to escape from
the thronging pressure of millions: we rarely experience what in the
sixteenth century must often have been felt--the shrinking to leave,
the joy of returning to, the kindly race of men. Ascham in the
_Toxophilus_ (1545), when discussing the relaxations open to the
scholar who has been 'sore at his book', urges that 'walking alone
into the field hath no token of courage in it'. But though this may
have been true by that time in the immediate neighbourhood of English
towns, it was not yet true abroad; for Thomas Starkey in his
_Dialogue_ (1538), almost as valuable a source as the _Utopia_,
praises foreign cities with their resident nobles by comparison with
English, which are neglected and dirty 'because gentlemen fly into the
country to live, and let cities, castles and towns fall into ruin and

It is tantalizing, too, considering how abundant are Erasmus' literary
remains, that we get so little description of places from him. He
travelled far and wide, in the Low Countries, up and down the Rhine,
through France, southwards to Rome and Naples. He was a year in
Venice, three years at Cambridge, eight years at Basle, six at
Freiburg. What precious information he might have given us about these
places, which then as now were full of interesting buildings and
treasures of art! what a mine of antiquarian detail, if he had
expatiated occasionally! But a meagre description of Constance, a word
or two about Basle in narrating an explosion there, glimpses of
Walsingham and Canterbury in his colloquy on pilgrimages--that is
almost all that can be culled from his works about the places he
visited. When he came to Oxford, Merton tower had been gladdening
men's eyes for scarcely fifty years, and the tower of Magdalen had
just risen to rival its beauty; Duke Humfrey's Library and the
Divinity School were still in their first glory, and the monks of St.
Frideswide were contemplating transforming the choir of their church
into the splendid Perpendicular such as Bray had achieved at
Westminster and Windsor for Henry VII. But Erasmus tells us nothing of
what he saw; only what he heard and said. This lack of enjoyment in
Nature, lack of interest in topography and archaeology, was probably
personal to him. It was not so with some of his friends. More and
Ellenbog, as we have seen, could feel the beauty in the night

      'Of cloudless climes and starry skies'.

Aleander in a diary records the exceptional brilliance of the planet
Jupiter at the end of September 1513. He pointed it out to his pupils
in the Collège de la Marche at Paris, and together they remarked that
its rays were strong enough to cast a shadow. Ellenbog enjoyed the
country, and Luther also was susceptible to its charms. Budaeus had a
villa to which he delighted to escape from Paris, and where he laid
out a fine estate. Beatus Rhenanus after thirty years retained
impressions of Louis XII's gardens at Tours and Blois and of a
'hanging garden' in Paris; and could write a detailed account of the
Fugger palace at Augsburg with its art treasures. Or think of the
painters. The Flemings of the fifteenth century had learnt from the
Italians to fit into their pictures landscapes seen through doors or
windows, gleaming in sunshine, green and bright. Van Eyck's 'Adoration
of the Lamb' is set in beautiful scenery; grassy slopes and banks
studded with flowers, soft swelling hills, and blue distances crowned
with the towers he knew so well, Utrecht and Maestricht and Cologne
and Bruges. Even in the interiors of Durer and Holbein, where no
window opens to let in the view, Nature is not left wholly
unrepresented; for flowers often stand upon the tables, carnations and
lilies and roses, arranged with taste and elegance. On the whole the
enjoyment of Nature formed but a small part in the outlook of that age
as compared with the prominence it receives in modern literature and
life; but we should be wrong in inferring that it was wholly absent.

To the men of the fifteenth century the earth was still the centre of
the universe: the sun moved round it like a more magnificent planet,
and the stars had been created

                                        'to shed down
      Their stellar influence on all kinds that grow'.

Aristarchus had seen the truth, though he could not establish it, in
the third century B.C. But Greek science had been forgotten in an age
which knew no Greek; and it was not till after Erasmus' death that an
obscure canon in a small Prussian town near Danzig--Nicholas
Copernicus, 1473-1543--found out anew the secret of the world. This
fruit of long cold watches on the tower of his church he printed with
full demonstration, but he scarcely dared to publish the book: indeed
a perfect copy only reached him a few days before his death. Even in
the next century Galileo had to face imprisonment and threats of
torture, because he would speak that which he knew. But when Erasmus
was born, the earth itself was but partially revealed. Men knew not
even whether it were round or flat; and the unplumbed sea could still
estrange. The voyages of the Vikings had passed out of mind, and the
eyes of Columbus and Vespucci had not yet seen the limits of that
western ocean which so long fascinated their gaze. Polo had roamed far
into the East; but as yet Diaz and da Gama had not crowned the hopes
which so often drew Henry the Navigator to his Portuguese headland.

In the world of thought the conception of uniformity in Nature,
though formed and to some extent accepted among the advanced, was
still quite outside the ordinary mind. Miracles were an indispensable
adjunct to the equipment of every saint; and might even be wrought by
mere men, with the aid of the black arts. The Devil was an
ever-present personality, going about to entrap and destroy the
unwary. Clear-minded Luther held converse with him in his cell; and
lesser demons were seen or suspected on every side. Thus in 1523 the
Earl of Surrey writes to Wolsey describing a night attack on Jedburgh
in a Border foray. The horses took fright, and their sudden panic
threw all things into confusion. 'I dare not write', he says, 'the
wonders that my Lord Dacre and all his company do say they saw that
night, six times, of spirits and fearful sights. And universally all
their company say plainly the Devil was that night among them six
times.' In that gaunt and bleak Border country the traveller overtaken
by night may feel a disquieting awe even in these days when the rising
moon is no longer a lamp to guide enemies to the attack. Four hundred
years ago, when it lay blood-stained and scarred with a thousand
fights, bearing no crops to be fired, no homesteads to be sacked, we
need not wonder if teams of demons swept down in the darkness and
drove through and through the trembling ranks.

Again, in 1552 Melanchthon writes thus to a friend: 'In some cases no
doubt the causes of madness and derangement are purely physical; but
it is also quite certain that at times men's bodies are entered by
devils who produce frenzies prognosticating things to come. Twelve
years ago there was a woman in Saxony who had no learning of books,
and yet, when she was vexed by a devil, after her paroxysms uttered
Greek and Latin prophecies of the war that should be there. In Italy,
too, I am told there was a woman, also quite unlearned, who during one
of her devilish torments was asked what is the best line of Virgil,
and replied, "Learn justice and to reverence the gods "'.[32] In this
second case it would seem that the Devil scarcely knew his own

     [32] _Aen._ 6. 620.

Sudden death descending upon the wicked was a judgement of heaven,
letting loose the powers of hell; and if the face of the corpse
chanced to turn black, there was never any doubt but that Satan had
flown off with the soul. Suspicions and accusations of witchcraft were
rife; and an old woman had to be careful of the reputation of her cat.
Wanderers among the mountains saw dragons; in the forests elves peeped
at the woodmen from behind the trees, and fairies danced beneath the
moon in the open places. The world had not been sufficiently explored
for the absence of contrary experience to carry much weight; and the
means for the dissemination of news were quite inadequate. In
consequence men had not learnt to doubt the evidence of their senses
and to regard things as too strange to be true. It was felt that
anything might happen; and as a result almost everything did happen.

For example, in 1500 there was an outbreak of crosses in two villages
not far from Sponheim; and next year the same thing happened at Liège.
They appeared on any clothing that was light enough of hue; coloured
crosses that no washing or treatment could remove. Men opened their
coats to find crosses on their shirts: a woman would look down at her
apron, and there, sure enough, was a cross. Clothes that had been
folded up and put away in presses, came out with the sacred sign upon
them. One day during the singing of the mass thirty men suddenly found
themselves marked with crosses. They lasted for nine or ten days, and
then gradually faded. It was afterwards remarked that where the
crosses had been, the plague followed. Such is Trithemius' account in
his chronicle: we may wonder how closely he had questioned his

It is difficult for us to conceive a world in which news spreads
mainly by word of mouth. Morning and evening it is poured forth to us,
by many different agencies, in the daily press; and though many of
these succumb to the temptation to be sensational, among the better
sort there is a healthy rivalry which restrains exuberance and
promotes accuracy. There is safety, too, in numbers. News which
appears in one paper only, is looked at doubtfully until it is
confirmed by the rest; but even unanimity amongst all papers will
scarcely at first win acceptance for what is at all startling and out
of the common, until time and the absence of contradiction may perhaps
corroborate. In practice men of credit have learnt not to see the
sea-serpent. For a picture of conditions in the sixteenth century we
must sweep all the newspapers away. Kings had their heralds and towns
their public messengers who took and of course brought back news.
Caravans of merchants travelled along the great trade-routes; and
their tongues and ears were not idle. Private persons, too, sent their
servants on journeys to carry letters. But even so news had to travel
by word of mouth; for even when letters were sent, we may be sure that
any public news of importance beneath the seals and wafers had reached
the bearers also.

But for what they told confirmation was not to be had for the asking.
Not till chance brought further messengers was it possible to
establish or contradict, and till then the first news held the field.
Rumour stalked gigantic over the earth, often spreading falsehood and
capturing belief, rarely, as in Indian bazars to-day, with mysterious
swiftness forestalling the truth. In such a world caution seems the
prime necessity; but men grow tired of caution when events are moving
fast and the air is full of 'flying tales'. The general tendency was
for them, if not to believe, at any rate to pass on, unverified
reports, from the impossibility of reaching certainty. In such a world
of bewilderment, sobriety of judgement does not thrive.

Two examples may show the difficulty of learning the truth. In 1477
Charles the Bold was killed at Nancy. That great Duke of Burgundy was
not a person to be hidden under a bed. Yet nearly six years later
reports were current that he had escaped from the battle and was in
concealment. Again, Erasmus, during his residence at Bologna in 1507,
made many friends. One of these was Paul Bombasius, a native of that
town, who became secretary to Cardinal Pucci, and lost his life at
Rome in May 1527, when the city was sacked by Charles V's troops;
another was the delightful John de Pins, afterwards diplomatist and
Bishop of Rieux. To him in 1532 Erasmus wrote asking for news of
Bombasius. The Bishop replied that he had heard a rumour of his death,
but hoped it was not true. Not till May 1535 could Erasmus report the
result of inquiries made through a friend visiting Bologna, that
Bombasius had fallen a victim to the Bourbon soldiery eight years

That the movements of the stars should affect human life is not easy
to disprove even now, to any one who is determined to maintain the
possibility of it; but under the training of modern science scarcely
any one retains such a belief. Of the influence formerly attributed to
the planets, traces survive in such epithets as mercurial, jovial,
saturnine. Comets appearing in the sky caused widespread alarm, and
any disasters that followed close were confidently connected with
them. The most learned scientists observed the stars and cast
horoscopes: Cardan, for instance, published a collection of the
horoscopes of great men. The Church looked askance on astrology,
suspecting it of connexion with forbidden arts; but it could not
check the observance of lucky days and the warnings of the heavens.
Even a Pope himself, Julius II, deferred his coronation until the
stars were in a fortunate conjunction.

Every university student should be familiar with the story of Anthony
Dalaber, undergraduate of St. Alban's Hall in Oxford, which Froude
introduced into his _History of England_ from Foxe's _Book of
Martyrs_; it is the most vivid picture we have of university life in
the early sixteenth century. Dalaber was one of a company of young men
who were reading Lutheran books at Oxford. Wolsey, wishing to check
this, had sent down orders in February 1528 to arrest a certain Master
Garret, who was abetting them in the dissemination of heresy. The
Vice-Chancellor, who was the Rector of Lincoln, seized Dalaber and put
him in the stocks, but was too late for Garret, who had made off into
Dorsetshire. He took counsel with the Warden of New College and with
the Dean of Wolsey's new foundation, Cardinal College; and at length,
as they could find out nothing, being 'in extreme pensiveness', they
determined to consult an astrologer. They knew they were doing wrong.
Such inquiries were forbidden by the law of the Church, and they were
afraid; but they were more afraid of Wolsey. The man of science drew a
figure upon the floor of his secret chamber, and made his
calculations; at the end he reported that the fugitive was fled in a
tawny coat to the South-east. The trembling officials hastily
dispatched messengers to have the ports watched in Kent and Sussex,
hoping that their transgression might at least be justified by
success. They were successful: Master Garret _was_ caught--trying to
take ship at Bristol. It would need awesome circumstances indeed to
send a modern Vice-Chancellor through the night to inquire of an

In the realm of medicine, too, magic and the supernatural had great
weight, and claimed a measure of success which is not unintelligible
in these days, when the value of the will as an ally in healing is
being understood. Erasmus, suffering from the stone, was presented by
a Hungarian physician with an astrological mug, shaped like a lion,
which was to cure his trouble. He used it and felt better, but was not
sure how much to attribute to the lion. The famous Linacre, one of the
founders of the College of Physicians, sent to Budaeus, a French court
official and the first Greek scholar of the age, one gold ring and
eighteen silver rings which had been blessed by Henry VIII, and had
thus been made preservative against convulsions; and Budaeus presented
them to his womenkind. We need not take this to imply that he thought
little of them; more probably he reflected that convulsions are most
frequent among the race of babies, and therefore distributed them
where they would be most useful. Anyway, it was Linacre who sent them.
With such notions abroad, quackery must have been rife, and serious
medical practitioners had many difficulties to contend with. Some idea
of these may be gained from a letter written by Wolfgang Rychard, a
physician of high repute at Ulm, to a friend at Erfurt, whither he was
thinking of sending his son to practise. He asks his friend to inquire
of the apothecaries what was the status of doctors, whether they were
allowed by the town council to hire houses for themselves and to live
freely without exactions, as at Tubingen and universities in the
South, or whether they were obliged to pay an annual fee to the town,
before they might serve mankind with their healing art.

The feeble-minded and half-witted are nowadays caught up into asylums,
for better care, and to ensure that their trouble dies with them. Of
old it was thought that God gave them some recompense for their
affliction by putting into their mouths truths and prophecies which
were hidden from the wise; and thus the village soothsayer or witch
often held a strong position in local politics. But it is surprising
to find the Cardinal of Sion, Schinner, a clever and experienced
diplomatist, writing in 1516, with complete seriousness: 'A Swiss
idiot, who prophesies many true things, has foretold that the French
will surfer a heavy blow next month'; as though the intelligence would
really be of value to his correspondent.

But the prophet's credit varied with his circumstances. Early in the
sixteenth century a Franciscan friar, naming himself Thomas of
Illyria, wandered about through Southern France, calling on men to
repent and rebuking the comfortable vices of the clergy. A wave of
serious thought spread with him, and all the accompaniments of a
religious revival, such as the twentieth century saw lately in Wales.
As the 'saintly man' set foot in villages and towns, games and
pleasures were suddenly abandoned, and the churches thronged to
overflowing. His words were gathered up, especially those with which
he wept over Guienne, that 'fair and delicious province, the Paradise
of the world', and foretold the coming of foes who should burn the
churches round Bordeaux while the townsmen looked on helplessly from
their walls. For a time he retired to a hermitage on a headland by
Arcachon, where miracles were quickly ascribed to him. An image of the
Virgin was washed ashore, to be the protectress of his chapel. His
prayers, and a cross drawn upon the sand, availed to rescue a ship
that was in peril on the sea. When English pirates had plundered his
shrine, the waves opened and swallowed them up. Later on he withdrew
to Rome, where he won the confidence of Clement VII, and he died at
Mentone. But his fame remained great in Guienne. Half a century
onward, during the war of 1570, when from Bordeaux men saw the church
of Lormont across the river burning in the name of religion, the old
folks shook their heads and recalled the words of the saintly Thomas.

Less fortunate was a young Franconian herdsman, John Beheim, of
Niklashausen--a 'poor illiterate', Trithemius calls him. In the summer
of 1476, as he watched his flocks in the fields, he had a vision of
the gracious Mother of God, who bade him preach repentance to the
people. His fame soon spread, and multitudes gathered from great
distances to hear him. The nearest knelt to entreat his blessing,
those further off pressed up to touch him, and if possible, snatched
off pieces of his garments, till he was driven to speak from an upper
window. But his way was not plain. Instigated seemingly by others, he
began to touch things social: taxes should not be paid to princes, nor
tithes to clergy; rivers and forests were God's common gifts to men,
where all might fish or hunt at will. Such words were not to be borne.
The Bishop of Wurzburg, his diocesan, took counsel with the Archbishop
of Mainz; and the prophet was ordered to be burnt. But death only
increased his fame. Still greater crowds flocked to visit the scene of
his holy life, until in January 1477 the Archbishop had the church of
Niklashausen razed to the ground as the only means of suppressing this
popular canonization.

We make a great mistake if we allow ourselves to suppose that because
that age knew less than ours, because its bounds were narrower and the
undispelled clouds lower down, it therefore thought itself feeble and
purblind. By contrast with the strenuous hurry-push of modern life
such movement as we can see, looking backwards, seems slow and
uncertain of its aim; before the power of modern armaments how
helpless all the might of Rome! It is easy to fall into the idea that
our mediaeval forefathers moved in the awkward attitudes of
pre-Raphaelite painting, that their speech sounded as quaint to them
as it does to us now, and that it was hardly possible for them to take
life seriously. But in fact each age is to itself modern, progressive,
up-to-date; the strong and active pushing their way forward, impatient
of trifling, and carrying their fellows with them. A future age that
has leapt from one planet to another, or even from one system to
another sun and its dependants, that has 'called forth Mazzaroth in
his seasons, and loosed the bands of Orion', that has covered the
earth with peace as with a garment and pierced the veil that cuts us
off from the dead, will look back to us as groping blindly in
darkness. But they will be wrong indeed if they think that we realize
our blindness.

A still greater pitfall before us is that we read history not as men,
but as gods, knowing the event. The name of Marathon to us implies not
struggle, not danger, but triumph; and as we think of the little band
of Athenians defiling from the mountains and looking on the sea, with
the utmost determination we cannot quite enter into their thoughts. Of
how little avail must have seemed this handful of lives, their last
and best gift to Athens, against the might and majesty of Persia
afloat before them. We know of that runner and of the rejoicing that
broke out upon his words; and at the very opening of the scene the
darkness is pierced by a gleam they could not see, a gleam which for
us will not go out. Or think of Edwardes besieging the Sikhs in
Multan with his puny force, half of whom, when he began, were in
sympathy with the besieged. We know that the terrier's courage kept
the tiger in; and, conscious of that, we cannot really place ourselves
beside the young Engineer of 29, as with only one or two volunteers of
his own race round him he kept the field during those four burning
months in which British troops were not allowed to move. The tiger's
paw had crushed those whom he had hastened to avenge: he did not know,
as we know, that it was not to fall on him too.

There is the same difficulty with the course of years. With the
history of four centuries before our minds, only by sustained effort
of thought can we realize that the men of 1514 looked onward to 1600,
as we to-day look towards 2000, as to a misty blank. We hardly trouble
our heads with the future. The air is full of speculations, of
attempts to forecast coming developments, the growth, the improvement
that is to be. But we do not really look forward, more than a little
way. The darkness is too dense: and besides, the needs of the present
are very urgent. As we think of the sixteenth century, behind Henry
VIII's breach with Rome, behind Edward VI's prayer-books, waits the
figure of Pole, steadfast, biding his time; coming to salute Mary with
the words of the angel to the Virgin; coming, as he hoped, to set
things right for ever. And behind Pole are the Elizabethan settlement
and the Puritans; ineradicable from our consciousness. To the
Englishmen of 1514 Henry VIII was the divine young king whose prowess
at Tournay, whose victory at Flodden seemed to his happy bride the
reward of his piety: the name of Luther was unknown: Pole was an
unconsidered child. Into their minds we cannot really enter unless we
can think away everything that has happened since and call up a mist
over the face of time.



To go on pilgrimage is an instinct which appears in most religions and
at all ages. The idea underlying the practice seems to be that God is
more nigh in some spots than in others, the desire to seek Him in a
place where He may be found: for where God is, there men hope to win
remission of sins. So widespread is this sentiment that both in
Catholic Europe and in Asia it is not possible to travel far without
coming upon sites invested in this way with a special holiness. The
objects which draw men to peregrinate may be divided into three
classes: natural features which are in themselves remarkable; places
difficult of access, which can only be reached at cost of risk and
effort; and sites which have been rendered holy by the visitation of
God or the preservation of sacred relics. But this classification is
not always clearly defined; for the same object of pilgrimage often
falls into two categories at once.

Of striking natural features--self-created objects of veneration, as
the Hindus call them--many kinds are found. There are chasms from
which issue mysterious vapours, stimulating prophecy, such as Delphi,
or Jwala Mukhi, sacred to Hindus and Sikhs, or the Grotta del Cane,
near Naples. Caves with their dreadful gloom inspire a sense of
supernatural presence. Such are the cave of Trophonius in Boeotia, St.
Patrick's cave in Ireland, the grotto of Lourdes, Mariastein near
Basle, and the great fissure of Amarnath in Kashmir, with its icy
stalactite which is the special object of worship. Some of these add
to their sanctity by difficulty of access: St. Patrick's cave is on an
island in Lough Derg; Mariastein lies over the edge of a steep cliff;
Amarnath is hidden among lofty mountains at 17000 feet above the sea.

Enormous stones, too, are apt to acquire holiness, arousing interest
by their vast mass; as though they could hardly have been brought into
independent existence, detached from the great earth, without some
direct intervention of divine power. Such are the stone at Delphi, or
the great rock, now enshrined in a Muhammadan mosque, which no doubt
caused men to go up to Jerusalem in Jebusite days, before Israel came
out of Egypt. (It is thought by pious Muhammadans to rest in the air
without support; their tradition being that at the time of Muhammad's
ascension into heaven this stone, which was his point of departure,
sought to accompany him but was detained by an angel. To the Hebrews
it was sacred as the rock on which Abraham was ready to offer Isaac;
and also as a stone which kept down within the earth the receded
waters of the Flood.) Meteoric stones have a sanctity as having fallen
from heaven: for example, the _lingam_ of Jagannath at Puri, and the
famous black stone at Mecca. Wells also, for obvious reasons, tend to
attract worship.

Of places inaccessible to which pilgrims toil, some are the sources of
rivers, like Gangotri, whence springs the Ganges: others are islands,
such as the Îles de Lérins off Cannes, Iona and Lindisfarne, or many
off the West coast of Ireland: or distant headlands, like the Spanish
Finisterre, or Rameshwaram, the extreme southern cape of the Indian
peninsula. More numerous are those which lie high up on mountains or
above precipitous rocks; such as the many peaks of Sinai, the lake on
Haramuk in Kashmir, the cliffs of Rocamadour in Central France, which
Piers Plowman mentions,[33] or the grey cone of Athos. In a mild form
such places may frequently be seen, in the pilgrimage churches and
chapels which crown modest eminences beside many villages and towns of
Catholic Europe: akin no doubt to the high places and hill-altars
where lingered the heathen worship that the Israelite priests and
prophets were continually trying to exterminate.

    [33] Right so, if thou be religious, renne thou never ferthere
         To Rome ne to Roquemadoure: but as thy rule techeth,
         Holde thee to thine obedience: that heighway is to heaven.

The third class of pilgrimage sites is of those which are sanctified
through association with divinities or saints or relics: Gaya in
Bihar, with its pilgrims' way leading pious Buddhists by long flights
of steps up and down the circle of hills, like the great way at
Bologna; Jerusalem, Rome, Canterbury, Trèves; and Santiago (St.
James) de Compostella, rendered attractive also by remote distance. Or
a settlement of hermits in a wilderness might become a place of
pilgrimage, especially when death had heightened the fame enjoyed
during their lives: such as Gueremeh in Cappadocia, St. Bertrand among
the Pyrenees, or Einsiedeln above the Lake of Lucerne, where in 1487
died Nicholas the Hermit, reputed to have lived for twenty years
without food. And we may make a special category for sacred houses;
the Bait-ullah or Qaabah at Mecca, the house of the Virgin at Loretto,
St. Columba's at Glencolumbkill, and the house in which St. Francis
died, in dei Angeli at Assisi.

In many cases there is definite evidence to show that pilgrimage sites
remain sacred even when religions change. Mecca was a resort of
pilgrims in the first century B.C., 700 years before Muhammad. The
Central-Asian shrines visited by Buddhist pilgrims from China on their
way to India, Fa-hsien in the fifth and Hsuan-tsang in the seventh
century, are now appropriated to Islam. The so-called foot-mark on
Adam's Peak in Ceylon has been attributed by Brahmans to Siva, by
Buddhists to Sakyamuni, by Gnostics to Ieu, by Muhammadans to Adam,
and by the Portuguese Christians to either St. Thomas or the eunuch of
Candace, queen of Ethiopia.[34]

     [34] J.E. Tennent's _Ceylon_ (1860), ii. 133, quoted in Yule's
          _Marco Polo_, ed. H. Cordier, 1903, ii. 321.

In the age we are considering, we hear of Henry VII, Henry VIII, and
even Wolsey going as pilgrims to Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk;
and Colet took Erasmus with him to Canterbury. But the most renowned
places of Christian pilgrimage were Rome, Santiago, and Jerusalem.
Thither journeyed pilgrims in great numbers from all parts of Europe;
bishops and abbots and clergy, both regular and secular, noblemen of
every degree, wealthy merchants, scholars from the universities, civil
officials and courtiers, and occasionally even women. Piety or
superstition were doubtless the usual motives which led men to face
the very considerable perils of the journey; but besides this there
was probably in some cases the desire to see new scenes, and a love of
adventure for its own sake. Holiday travel was scarcely known in those
days. The discomforts were great, and there were still dangers of the
ordinary kind, even in the most settled parts of Europe. The beginning
of a story in one of More's English works shows how such travel was
regarded--as at least unwise, and perhaps extravagant: 'Now was there
a young gentleman which had married a merchant's wife. And having a
little wanton money which him thought burned out the bottom of his
purse, in the first year of his wedding he took his wife with him and
went over the sea, for none other errand but to see Flanders and
France, and ride out one summer in those countries.' But in the
company of pilgrims there was some security, and accordingly the
adventurous availed themselves of such opportunities. Thus Peter Falk,
burgomaster of Freiburg in Switzerland, went on pilgrimage to
Jerusalem in 1515 and again in 1519; and had he not died on the second
journey, he was projecting a visit to Portugal and Spain, perhaps to
Compostella. He was a keen, interested man. A companion, who was a
Cambridge scholar, describes him as taking an ape with him on board to
make fun for his shipmates; wearing a gun hanging at his belt, being
curious in novelties; carefully noting the names of places and the
situations of towns, and using red ink to mark his guide-book.

The literature of pilgrimages is abundant, and consists primarily in
narratives written by pilgrims themselves. A few of these were printed
by the writers in their own day; many have been published by
antiquarians in isolated periodicals; and in the volumes of the
Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society there is a collection of
translations. Professor Röhricht of Innsbruck has made a wonderful
bibliography of German pilgrims to the Holy Land, replete with
information and references. The narratives necessarily traverse the
same ground, and repeat one another in many points; often reproducing
from an early source exactly identical information of the guide-book
order as to sites, routes, preparations, precautions, and so forth.

We have three English narratives of Erasmus' period: by William Wey,
Fellow of Eton, who went to Jerusalem in 1458 and again in 1462; by
Sir Richard Guilford, a Court official who made the journey in 1506;
and by Sir Richard Torkington, a parish priest from Norfolk, who went
in 1517. But besides these some Baedekers of the time survive; one
entitled 'Information for Pilgrims unto the Holy Land'[35] which was
printed by Wynkyn de Worde at Westminster in 1498, and again by him in
London in 1515 and 1524; another written by Hermann Kunig of Vach in
1495 and several times printed before 1521, 'Die Walfart und Strass zu
sant Jacob'[36] which gives the distance of each stage and notes inns
and hospitals at which shelter might be found.

     [35] It has been reproduced with an introduction by Mr. E.G.
          Duff, London, 1893.
     [36] It has been reproduced with an introduction by Professor
          K. Häbler, Strasburg, 1899.

The Compostella pilgrimage was popular for many reasons, and no doubt
began long before St. James had ousted St. Vincent from being
patron-saint of Spain. The spot was remote, literally then at the end
of the earth, 'beyond which', as another pilgrim says, 'there is no
land any more, only water'. There was a great stone, too, in which
later piety found the boat that had borne the saint's body from
Jerusalem. And there were islands to be visited, one a St. Michael's
Mount, round the shores of which should be gathered the cockle shells
that were the emblems of pilgrimage duly performed: though the less
active bought them at stalls high-heaped outside the cathedral doors,
and the rich had them copied in silver and gold.

To the 'end of the earth' Northern Europe went most easily by sea,
all others by land. Convoys gathered in Dartmouth in the lengthening
days of spring, and crept along Slapton sands and round the unlighted
Start, until there was no land any more, and summoning their courage
they must steer out into the Bay of Biscay. This way went John of
Gaunt to St. James in 1386, to be crowned King of Castile in the great
Romanesque cathedral; and so, too, Chaucer must have pictured the Wyf
of Bath visiting 'Galice'.

But Kunig's route lay overland: from Einsiedeln to Romans and Valence;
over the Rhone by the famed bridge of the Holy Spirit, which even
kings must cross on foot, to Uzès, Nîmes and Béziers; and then
westwards into the sandy scant-populated lands where the track was
scarcely to be found, except for the pilgrims' graves, often nameless,
sometimes perhaps marked with such simple inscriptions as may still be
seen on trees and crosses among the forests of the Alps. A Pyrenean
pass led him to Roncesvalles; at Logroño the ancient bridge brought
him over the Ebro, and so by Burgos and Leon to his journey's end,
blessing the patrons--Kings of France and England and Navarre, Dukes
of Burgundy--who had raised shelters for poor pilgrims on the way, and
above all the Catholic Kings whose munificence had built a huge serai
to welcome them in Santiago itself.

For Jerusalem the usual point of departure was Venice. Pilgrims
congregated there from all parts of Western and Central Europe, and
there were regular services of ships, sailing mostly in the summer
months. The competition between shipmasters, or 'patrons', to secure
custom was very keen. Thus Torkington records: 'On 3 May the patron of
a new goodly ship with other merchants desired us pilgrims that we
would come aboard and see his ship within: which ship lay afore St.
Mark's Church. We all went in, and there they made us goodly cheer
with diverse subtilties, as comfits and march-panes and sweet wines.
Also 5 May the patron of another ship which lay in the sea five miles
from Venice, desired us all pilgrims that we would come and see his
ship. And the same day we all went with him; and there he provided for
us a marvellous good dinner, where we had all manner of good victuals
and wine.' Ultimately, Torkington sailed in a new ship of 800
tons,[37] under a patron named Thomas Dodo. Only three days later
another ship set sail with a large party of German pilgrims.

[37] If the figure is correct, she was a large vessel for the times;
for a century later, the _Pelican_, in which Drake sailed round the
world, was only 100 tons, the _Squirrel_, in which Sir Humfrey Gilbert
was cast away in an Atlantic gale, only 10.

In all ages a great ship is a great wonder, representing for the time
the final triumph of the shipwright's art. The monster vessel that set
Lucian's friend dreaming at the Piraeus had but one mast; yet the
curious from Athens flocked down to see her extraordinary proportions
and to admire the sailors who had beaten up in her from Egypt against
the Etesian winds in only seventy days. She was the ship of the hour:
anything greater scarcely conceivable. Again, Macaulay returning from
India in 1837 compares his comfortable sailing-ship to a huge floating
hotel. Burton on his way to Mecca in 1853, when steaming across the
Bay of Biscay in a vessel of 2000 tons, prophesies that sea-sickness
is at an end now that such monsters ply across the ocean and laugh at
the storm. How puny do they seem beside the Olympic and Imperator, at
which we in our turn gaze wonderingly and think that engineering can
no further go. It is amusing to find the same proud admiration in a
traveller of 1517: 'Our ship was so great that when we came to land,
we could not run her upon the beach like a galley, but must remain in
deep water', the passengers going ashore in boats.

Quite a number of contracts between patron and pilgrim have been
preserved. Some of the terms are as follows: 'that the ship shall be
properly armed and manned, and carry a barber and a physician; that it
shall only touch at the usual ports, and not stay more than three days
at Cyprus, because of malaria there.' The Holy Land was in Turkish
hands, and the Turks, though willing to receive the pilgrims, for the
sake of the money they brought into the country, were not sorry to
have opportunities of teaching the 'Christian dogs' their place. The
authorities maintained some semblance of order and justice, but took
little trouble to control their underlings; and in consequence the
pilgrims suffered all kinds of minor oppressions. It is not surprising
therefore to find that the contract stipulated that the patron should
accompany them on all their journeyings in the Holy Land, even as far
as the Jordan, and that he should pay all the tolls and tributes for
them, except the small tips, just as Cook does to-day, and also make
all arrangements for such pilgrims as wished to go on to Sinai. In
view of this last possibility the stipulation was sometimes made that
only half the passage-money should be paid at Venice; the other half
at Jaffa on the return-journey. If a pilgrim died on the journey, the
patron might not bury him at sea, unless there was no immediate
prospect of reaching land.

The voyage outwards could be done in a month, but often took longer if
the weather was bad, or if long halts were made at Rhodes and Cyprus.
On shore the pilgrims worked as hard as any 'conducted' party to-day,
being herded about to one sacred site after another, to the Holy
Sepulchre, the vale of Josaphat, the Mount of Olives, Bethlehem, the
mountains of Judea, the Jordan, and receiving in each place 'clean
absolution'. Twelve or thirteen days was a fair time to allow for all
this, including one or two days each way between Jaffa and Jerusalem;
but Guilford's party were given 22. On the other hand we hear of
another company which did it in nine.

The Holy Land guide-book of which we spoke is full of practical advice
of all sorts: about distances, rates of exchange, terms of contract
with a ship-master, tributes to be paid to the Saracens, and finally
vocabularies of useful words, in Moresco, Greek, Turkish. Here are a
few specimens:

'If ye shall go in a galley, make your covenant with the patron
betime; and choose you a place in the said galley in the overmost
stage. For in the lowest under it is right evil and smouldering hot
and stinking.' The fare in this to Jaffa and back from Venice,
including food, was 50 ducats, 'for to be in a good honest place, and
to have your ease in the galley and also to be cherished'. In a
carrick the fare was only 30 ducats: there 'choose you a chamber as
nigh the middes of the ship as ye may; for there is least rolling or
tumbling, to keep your brain and stomach in temper'. Amongst other
arrangements to be made with the patron, 'Covenant that ye come not at
Famagust in Cyprus for no thing. For many Englishmen and other also
have died. For that air is so corrupt there about, and the water there
also. Also see that the said patron give you every day hot meat twice
at two meals, the forenoon at dinner and the afternoon at supper. And
that the wine that ye shall drink be good, and the water fresh and not
stinking, if ye come to have better, and also the biscuit.'

The traveller is recommended to buy in Venice a padlock with which to
keep his cabin locked, three barrels, two for wine and one for water,
and a chest to hold his stores and things: 'For though ye shall be at
table with the patron, yet notwithstanding, ye shall full ofttimes
have need to your own victuals, as bread, cheese, eggs, wine and other
to make your collation. For some time ye shall have feeble bread and
feeble wine and stinking water, so that many times ye will be right
fain to eat of your own.' Besides this he will want 'confections and
confortatives, green ginger, almonds, rice, figs, raisins great and
small, pepper, saffron, cloves and loaf sugar'. For equipment he
should take 'a little caldron, a frying-pan, dishes, plates, saucers,
cups of glass, a grater for bread and such necessaries'. 'Also ye
shall buy you a bed beside St. Mark's Church in Venice, where ye shall
have a featherbed, a mattress, a pillow, two pair sheets and a quilt'
for three ducats. 'And when ye come again, bring the same bed again,
and ye shall have a ducat and a half for it again, though it be broken
and worn. And mark his house and his name that ye bought it of,
against ye come to Venice.' Further needs are 'a cage for half a dozen
of hens or chickens' and 'half a bushel of millet seed for them': also
'a barrel for a siege for your chamber in the ship. It is full
necessary, if ye were sick, that ye come not in the air.' The malady
here considered is probably not that which is usually associated with
the sea; though pilgrims were not immune from this any more than from
other troubles.

On coming to haven towns, 'if ye shall tarry there three days, go
betimes to land, for then ye may have lodging before another; for it
will be taken up anon'. Similarly at Jaffa in choosing a mount for the
ride up to Jerusalem 'be not too long behind your fellows; for an ye
come betime, ye may choose the best mule' and 'ye shall pay no more
for the best than for the worst'. 'Also take good heed to your knives
and other small japes that ye bear upon you: for the Saracens will go
talking by you and make good cheer; but they will steal from you if
they may.' 'Also when ye shall ride to flume Jordan, take with you out
of Jerusalem bread, wine, water, hard eggs and cheese and such
victuals as ye may have for two days. For by all that way there is
none to sell.'

Let us turn now to an individual narrative,[38] that of Felix Fabri, a
learned and sensible Dominican of Ulm (1442-1502). He had already made
the journey once, out of piety, in 1480, with the company mentioned
above, which had only nine days on shore. He was desirous to go also
to St. Catherine's at Mount Sinai because she was his patroness-saint,
to whom he had devoted himself on entering the Dominican order on her
day (25 November) in 1452; and accordingly for the second time, in
1483, he procured from the Pope the permission, which every one
needed, to visit the Holy Land: those that went without this being
ipso facto excommunicate, until they did penance before the Warden of
the Franciscans at Jerusalem. He gives us a picture of all that he
went through, in the most minute details. During the day we see the
pilgrims crowded together on deck, some drinking and singing, others
playing dice or cards or that unfailing pastime for ship-life, chess.
Talking, reading, telling their beads, writing diaries, sleeping,
hunting in their clothes for vermin; so they spend their day. Some for
exercise climb up the rigging, or jump, or brandish heavy weights:
some drift about from one party to another, just watching what is
going on. Our good friar complains of the habits of the noblemen, who
gambled a great deal and were always making small wagers, which they
paid with a cup of Malmsey wine. He also tells how the patron, to
beguile the journey, produced a great piece of silk, which he offered
as a prize for the pilgrims to play for.

     [38] It has been translated by Mr. Aubrey Stewart for the
          Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society, vols. 7-10, 1892-3.

At meal times, to which they are summoned by trumpets, the pilgrims
race on to the poop: for they cannot all find seats, and those that
come late have to sit among the crew. Noblemen, who have their own
servants, are too fastidious to mingle with the crowd; and pay extra
to the cooks,--poor, sweating fellows, toiling crossly in a tiny
galley--for food which their servants bring to them on the main-deck,
or even below. After the pilgrims, the captain and his council dine in
state off silver dishes; and the captain's wine is tasted before he
drinks it. At night all sleep below, in a cabin the dirt of which is
indescribable. They wrangle over the places where they shall spread
their beds, and knives are drawn. Some obstinately keep their candles
burning, even though missiles come flying. Others talk noisily; and
the drunken, even when quiet, snore. No wonder the poor friar longed
for the peace of his own cell at home in Ulm.

Fabri has much practical advice to give. He bids his reader be careful
in going up and down the companion, veritably a ladder in those times;
not to sit down upon ropes, or on places covered with pitch, which
often melts in the sun; not to get in the way of the crew and make
them angry; not to drop things overboard or let his hat be blown off.
'Let the pilgrim beware of carrying a light upon deck at night; for
the mariners dislike this strangely, and cannot endure lights when
they are at work.' Small things are apt to be stolen, if left about:
for on board ship men have no other way to get what they want. 'While
you are writing, if you lay down your pen and turn your face away,
your pen will be lost, even though you be among men whom you know: and
if you lose it, you will have exceeding great trouble in getting

To Fabri's annoyance the ship's company included one woman, an elderly
lady, who came on board at the last moment with her husband, a
Fleming. 'She seemed,' he says, 'when we first saw her, to be restless
and inquisitive; as indeed she was. She ran hither and thither
incessantly about the ship, and was full of curiosity, wanting to hear
and see everything, and made herself hated exceedingly. Her husband
was a decent man, and for his sake many held their tongues; but had he
not been there, it would have gone hard with her. This woman was a
thorn in the eyes of us all.' His delight was great, when she was left
behind at Rhodes, having strayed away to some church outside the town.
'Except her husband, no one was sorry.' But their peace was
short-lived, for this active lady procured a boat and overtook them at
Cyprus; and Fabri could not help pitying the straits she had been put
to. We may rather admire her courage in undertaking the pilgrimage at
all, and especially the resource which she displayed on this very
unpleasant emergency.

On the eve of St. John Baptist, after dark, the sailors made St.
John's fire; stringing forty horn lanterns on a rope to the maintop,
amid shouts and trumpeting and clapping of hands. Upon which Fabri
makes this curious remark: 'Before this I never had beheld the
practice of clapping the hands for joy, as it is said in Psalm 46. Nor
could I have believed that the general clapping of many men's hands
would have such great power to move the human mind to rejoicing.' With
some misgiving he goes on to record that after the festivity the ship
was left to drive of itself, both pilgrims and sailors betaking
themselves to rest.

At Cyprus they had a few days, and Fabri led some of his companions to
the summit of Mount Stavrovuni, near their port Salinae (Citium by the
salt lakes of Larnaka), to visit the Church of Holy Cross--the cross
of Dismas, the thief on the right hand, said to have been brought by
that great finder of relics, the Empress Helena. By the way he was
careful to explain that they must expect no miracle: 'we shall see
none in Jerusalem, so how can there be one here?' In the church he
read them a mass and preached, and at departing rang the church bell,
saying that they would hear no bells again till they returned to

When they set sail again, all eyes were turned Eastwards: happy would
he be who should first sight the land of their desire. Fabri crept
forward to the prow of the galley and sat for hours upon the horns,
straining his gaze across the summer seas which whispered around the
ship's stem: almost, he confesses, cursing night when it fell and cut
off all hope till dawn. Before sunrise he was there again, and on 1
July the watchman in the maintop gave the glad shout. The pilgrims
flocked up on deck and sang Te Deum with bounding joy. It was a tumult
of harsh voices; but to Fabri in his happiness their various
dissonance made sweet harmony.

On reaching Jaffa they lay for some days awaiting permission to land.
At length all was ready. The ship's officers collected the tips due to
them, and the pilgrims were put on shore: falling to kiss the ground
as they struggled out of their boats through the surf. One by one they
were brought before Turkish officials, who took record of their names
and their fathers' names--an occasion on which noblemen often tried to
pass themselves off as of low degree, to escape the higher fees due.
Fabri notes that his Christian name, Felix, gave the official
recorders some trouble: that he pronounced it again and again for
them, but they could get nothing at all like it. Each pilgrim, when
entered, was hurried off by Saracens, like sheep into a pen, and
thrust into a row of caves along the sea-shore, known as St. Peter's
Cellars. If they had suffered on board ship, their sufferings were
multiplied now tenfold. Strict watch was kept upon them, and no one
was allowed to leave the caves. Within, the ground was covered with
semi-liquid filth. From the ship, as they lay waiting to land, Fabri
had noticed the Saracens running in and out of the caves; and he
argued that they were intentionally defiling them, to make it more
disagreeable to the Christian dogs. But this seems hardly necessary.
There had doubtless been other pilgrims before them. Droves of mankind
can tread ground into a foul swamp as cattle tread a farmyard. With
their feet the poor pilgrims managed to collect some of the impurities
together into a heap in the centre; each man clearing enough space to
lie down upon. Fabri found solace to his offended senses in thinking
of his dear Lord lying in a hard manger, amongst all the defilements
of the oxen.

After a time came traders selling rushes and branches of trees to make
beds, unguents and perfumes and frankincense to burn, and attar of
roses from Damascus. Others brought bread and water and lettuces and
hot cakes made with eggs, which the pilgrims gladly bought; and, as
the day wore on, with the much going to and fro the ground was slowly
dried under their feet. At nightfall appeared a man armed, whom they
took to be the owner of the caves. With menaces he extorted from each
of them a penny, and in the morning again, before they could come out,
another penny; to their great indignation against the captains and
dragoman, who were sleeping in tents higher up the hill, and had by
contract undertaken all these charges. So long as they were there, the
pilgrims suffered continual annoyance from the Turks, who ran in among
them pilfering, breaking any wine bottles they found, and provoking
them to blows, in order to secure the fines of which the pilgrims
would then be mulcted. One young man was so disgusted at it all that
he went back on board and gave up his pilgrimage; living with the crew
till the party came back from Jerusalem. They were indeed entirely in
the hands of the Turks. It was not a case of moving when they were
inclined. When the Turks wished, they were allowed to go forward: till
then they were confined like prisoners. No date was fixed: the
pilgrims just had to wait in patience, hoping that tomorrow or
tomorrow or tomorrow would see them start.

Fabri records, however, that there was some justice available. Petty
wrongs must go unredressed; but a pilgrim who had been gulled into
buying coloured glass as gems to the value of five ducats, recovered
his money by complaining to the local governor. A subordinate came
down, took the money from the fraudulent trader by force, and restored
it to its owner. Again Fabri testifies to the careful way in which the
escort protected the company from molestation on its way up to
Jerusalem. He is also at pains to refute the idea that the Turks
compelled them to ride on donkeys, lest the land should be defiled by
Christian feet: rather, he says, it is for our comfort and
convenience. And indeed there was sufficient refutation in the
regulation which compelled them to dismount on reaching any village
and proceed through its narrow streets on foot.

Whilst waiting at Jaffa, Fabri to his great delight fell in with the
donkey-boy who had gone up with him three years before; and was able
to secure him again. The boy welcomed him, especially as Fabri had
brought him a present of two iron stirrups from Ulm; and all the way
served him most faithfully, picking him figs and grapes from the
gardens they passed, sharing water and biscuit, and even giving him a
goad for his mount--a concession which was not allowed to the ordinary

Their first march was to Ramlah, and on arrival they were penned for
the day into a great serai, built by a Duke of Burgundy. It was still
early, only 9 o'clock, for they had started before sunrise. After
barring the gate to keep out the Turks, they set up an altar and
celebrated mass. A sermon was preached by the Franciscan Warden of
Jerusalem, in the course of which he gave them advice as to their
behaviour towards those to whose tolerance they owed their position
there--counsels which forty years later the fiery spirit of Loyola
burned to set at nought, till the Franciscans were thankful to get him
safely out of Jerusalem without open flouting of the masters--: not to
go about alone; not to enter mosques or step over graves; not to
insult Saracens when at prayer or by touching their beards; not to
return blow for blow, but to make formal complaints; not to drink
wine openly; to observe decorum and not rush to be first at the sacred
sites; and generally to be circumspect in presence of the infidels,
lest they mark what was done amiss and say, 'O thou bad Christian', a
phrase which was familiar to them in both Italian and German. He
further charged them that they must on no account chip fragments off
the Holy Sepulchre and other sacred buildings; nor write their names
or coats of arms upon the walls; and finally, he advised them to be
careful in any money-transactions with Muhammadans, and to have no
dealings at all with either Eastern Christians or German Jews.

After mass was over, they opened the gate and found the outer court
filled with traders who brought them excellent food: fowls ready
roasted, puddings of rice and milk, capital bread and eggs, and fruit
of every kind, grapes, pomegranates, apples, oranges (pomerancia),
lemons and water-melons; and in the afternoon they were allowed to go
and have hot baths in the splendid marble hamáms. In the evening came
a rumour that they were to proceed. They packed up their bundles and
sat waiting for an hour or two; and then the rumour proved to be
false. Meanwhile the sleeping-mats which they had hired for their stay
had been rolled up by their owners and carried off; and the pilgrims
had to sleep as best they might. Fabri made his way up on to the roof
and passed the night there.

Waking early before sunrise he was much impressed to observe the
devotion of the Muhammadans at their morning prayers: the long rows of
kneeling figures, swaying forward together in reverent prostration,
the grave faces and solemn tones. Surely, as he looked, he must have
felt that God, even his God, was the God of all the earth, and would
be a Father to those that sought Him so earnestly. At any rate he
turned away, with a strong sense of contrast, to his own comrades
waking to the day with laughing chatter and no thought of prayer. An
episode of this halt was a visit from a Saracen fruit-seller upon whom
Fabri looked with curiosity. Then, taking the man's hat, he spat upon
it with every expression of disgust at its Saracen badge. The man,
instead of resenting it, looked cautiously round and then spat on the
badge himself, at the same time making the sign of the Cross. He was a
Christian who had been forced into conversion, probably in expiation
of some crime; and now hated his life. It was no uncommon thing. As
their procession wound through village streets, the pilgrims would
often see furtive signs made to them from inner chambers: unwilling
converts signalling the symbol that they loved, to eyes that were sure
to be sympathetic.

As Fabri made his way along, his heart was glad. His foot was on holy
ground, and at every step new associations came floating into his
thoughts. These were the mountains to which Moses had looked from
Pisgah; here Jephthah's daughter had made plaint for her young life;
hither had come Mary in the joy of the angel's message; the stones on
which he stumbled might have felt the feet of Christ. At the hill
called Mount Joy they should have seen Jerusalem; but the air was
thick, and they could only make out the Mount of Olives. So they
toiled on along their dusty way, between dry stone walls and thirsty
vegetable-gardens, until, as they reached the crest of a low ridge,
suddenly like a flash of light it shone before them, the City, the
Holy City.

At once their footsteps quickened with new life; and when at length
they found themselves in the courtyard of the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre, their pent-up emotions burst forth, into tears and groans,
sweet wailings and deep sighs. Some lay powerless on the ground,
forsaken by their strength and to all appearances dead. Others drifted
from one corner to another, beating their breasts, as though urged by
an evil spirit. Some knelt bare-kneed; as they prayed, stretching out
their arms like a rood. Others were shaken with such violent sobs that
they could only sit down and hold their heads in their hands. Some
lost all command of themselves, and, forgetting how to behave, sought
to please God with strange and childish gestures. On the other hand,
Fabri noted some who stood quite unmoved, and merely mocked at the
strange display: dull, unprofitable souls he calls them, brute beasts,
not having the spirit of God. Their self-contained temperament
misliked him, especially as thereafter they held aloof from those who
had given way to such enthusiasm or, as they felt it, weakness.

We cannot company with the party to all the numerous sites that piety
bade them visit. It was prodigiously fatiguing for them under the July
sun, and the ranks grew thin as the weaker spirits fell out dead
tired, to rest awhile in hospitable cloister or by cooling well. Fabri
found it very toilsome to struggle after mental abstraction, to rise
to such heights as he desired of devotion and comprehension of all the
holy influences around him, to seize every opportunity of
contemplation and lose nothing; being soon thoroughly exhausted with
his bodily exertions. Some alleviation there was: when holy
women--nuns of his own Order, who had a house in Jerusalem--washed his
scapular and tunic for him, and wrought other works of charity for
which he was very grateful.

The pilgrims had been warned not to wander away from their party. One
day as they went to the Dead Sea, they halted at a monastery; and
Fabri was tempted to ramble off alone to inspect a cliff which had
been hollowed out by hermits into innumerable caves. It was a
precipitous place; and at one point, where the path was narrow and the
cliff fell sheer below, he encountered an Eastern Christian. Seeing
that Fabri was afraid, the fellow began to trifle with him and
demanded money; and in the end Fabri was obliged to open his slender
purse. 'Ever since then', he says, 'I have abhorred the company of
Christians of that sort more than that of Saracens and Arabs, and have
trusted them less. Though perhaps he would not have thrown me down
the precipice, even had I given him nothing, yet it was wicked of him
to play with me in a place of such danger. If an Arab had done so, I
should have been pleased at his play, and should have held him to be a
good pagan; but I believe no good of that Christian.' When he rejoined
his party, the patron told him that the Eastern Christians were least
to be trusted of any men.

On arrival at Jordan there was much excitement. To bathe in that
ancient river was thought to renew youth, and so all the pilgrims were
eager to immerse themselves; even women of 80--a rather doubtful
figure--plunging into the lukewarm stream. Some had brought bells to
be blessed with Jordan water, others strips of material for clothes;
and wealthier members of the party jumped in as they were, in order
that the robes they had on might bring them luck in the future. Three
things were forbidden to the pilgrims: (1) to swim across the stream,
because in the excitement of emotion and amongst such crowds
individuals had often been drowned; (2) to dive in, because the bottom
was muddy; (3) to carry away phials of Jordan water. The first
regulation was openly violated. On his first journey Fabri had swum
across, but on the return had been seized with panic and nearly
drowned. So this time he contented himself with drawing up his
garments round his neck and sitting down in the shallow water among
the crowd who were splashing about and jestingly baptizing one
another. The prohibition of Jordan water was to appease the shipmen;
for it was thought to cause storms when carried over the sea.

We have not time to follow Fabri in more detail. On 24 August he left
Jerusalem with a small company of pilgrims who had not been deterred
from undertaking the journey to Sinai. There was much dispute about
the route they should follow. Some were for going by sea to
Alexandria, others wished to march down the sea coast; but finally
they made up their minds to go straight South across the desert.
Starting from Gaza on 9 September they reached St. Catherine's on the
22nd. Five days of very hard work sufficed for them to see all the
sacred sites and ascend the many towering peaks; and here again Fabri
impressed upon his companions that the days of miracles were over, and
that in these evil times God would show no more. On 27 September they
set forth again, and journeying through Midian reached Cairo on 8
October; having picked up on the shore of the Red Sea oyster shells
which should be an abiding witness of their pilgrimage. On 5 November
they set sail from Alexandria; but summer had departed from the sea,
and the winds blew obstinately. Three times they beat up to Cape
Malea, before they could round the point and make sail for the North;
and it was not till 8 Jan. 1484 that they landed in Venice. The
pilgrimage was over after seven months, and with what Guilford's
chaplain calls 'large departing of our money'.



Hitherto we have viewed the age mainly through the personality of
individuals. It remains to consider some of the features of the
Renaissance when it had spread across the Alps--to France, to Spain,
to Switzerland, to Germany, to England--and some of the contrasts that
it presents with the earlier movement in Italy. The story of the
Italian Renaissance has often been told; and we need not go back upon
it here. On the side of the revival of learning it was without doubt
the great age. The importance of its discoveries, the fervour of its
enthusiasm have never been equalled. But though it remains
pre-eminent, the period that followed it has an interest of its own
which is hardly less keen and presents the real issues at stake in a
clearer light. Awakened Italy felt itself the heiress of Rome, and
thus patriotism coloured its enthusiasm for the past. To the rest of
Western Europe this source of inspiration was not open. They were
compelled to examine more closely the aims before them; and thus
attained to a calmer and truer estimate of what they might hope to
gain from the study of the classics. It was not the revival of lost
glories, thoughts of a world held in the bonds of peace: in those
dreams the Transalpines had only the part of the conquered. Rather the
classics led them back to an age before Christianity; and pious souls
though they were, the scholar's instinct told them that they would
find there something to learn. Christianity had fixed men's eyes on
the future, on their own salvation in the life to come; and had
trained all knowledge, even Aristotle, to serve that end. In the great
days of Greece and Rome the world was free from this absorbing
preoccupation; and inquiring spirits were at liberty to find such
truth as they could, not merely the truth that they wished or must.

Another point of difference between Italy and the Transalpines is in
the resistance offered to the Renaissance in the two regions. The
scholastic philosophy and theology was a creation of the North. The
greatest of the Schoolmen found their birth or training in France or
Germany, at the schools of Paris and Cologne; and with the names of
Duns, Hales, Holcot, Occam, Burley and Bradwardine our own islands
stand well to the fore. The situation is thus described by Aldus in a
letter written to the young prince of Carpi in October 1499, to
rejoice over some translations from the Greek just arrived from
Linacre in England: 'Of old it was barbarous learning that came to us
from Britain; it conquered Italy and still holds our castles. But now
they send us learned eloquence; with British aid we shall chase away
barbarity and come by our own again.' The teaching of the Schoolmen
made its way into Italy, but had little vogue; and with the Church,
through such Popes as Nicholas V, on the side of the Renaissance,
resistance almost disappeared. The humanists charging headlong
dissipated their foes in a moment, but were soon carried beyond the
field of battle, to fall into the hands of the forces of reaction.
Across the Alps, on the other hand, the Church and the universities
stood together and looked askance at the new movement, dreading what
it might bring forth. In consequence the ground was only won by slow
and painful efforts, but each advance, as it was made, was secured.

The position may be further illustrated by comparing the first
productions of the press on either side of the Alps: in the early
days, before the export trade had developed, and when books were
produced mainly for the home market. The Germans who brought the art
down into Italy, Sweynheym and Pannartz at Rome, Wendelin and Jenson
at Venice, printed scarcely anything that was not classical: Latin
authors and Latin translations from the Greek. Up in the North the
first printers of Germany, Fust and Schoeffer at Mainz, Mentelin at
Strasburg, rarely overstepped the boundaries of the mediaeval world
that was passing away or the modern that was taking its place.

The appearance of the _Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum_ in 1515 exposed
the scholastic teachers and their allies in the Church to such
widespread ridicule that it is not easy for us now to realize the
position which those dignitaries still held when Erasmus was young.
The stream of contempt poured upon them by the triumphant humanists
obscures the merit of their system as a gigantic and complete engine
of thought. Under its great masters, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas,
Duns Scotus, scholasticism had been rounded into an instrument capable
of comprehending all knowledge and of expressing every refinement of
thought; and, as has been well said, the acute minds that created it,
if only they had extended their inquiries into natural science, might
easily have anticipated by centuries the discoveries of modern
days.[39] In expressing their distinctions the Schoolmen had thrown to
the winds the restraints of classical Latin and the care of elegance;
and with many of them language had degenerated into jargon. But in
their own eyes their position was unassailable. Their philosophy was
founded on Aristotle; and while they were proud of their master, they
were prouder still of the system they had created in his name: and
thus they felt no impulse to look backwards to the past.

     [39] Cf. F.G. Stokes, _Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum_, 1909, p.

In the matter of language they had been led by a spirit of reaction.
The literature of later classical times had sacrificed matter to form;
and the schools had been dominated by teachers who trained boys to
declaim in elegant periods on any subject whatever, regardless of its
content; thus carrying to an extreme the precepts with which the great
orators had enforced the importance of style. The Schoolmen swung the
pendulum back, letting sound and froth go and thinking only of their
subject-matter, despising the classics. In their turn they were
confronted by the humanists, who reasserted the claims of form.

There was sense in the humanist contention. It is very easy to say the
right thing in the wrong way; in other spheres than diplomacy the
choice of language is important. Words have a history of their own,
and often acquire associations independent of their meaning. Rhythm,
too, and clearness need attention. An unbalanced sentence goes
haltingly and jars; an ambiguous pronoun causes the reader to stumble.
An ill-written book, an ill-worded speech fail of their effects; it is
not merely by sympathy and character that men persuade. But of course
the humanists pushed the matter too far. Pendulums do not reach the
repose of the mean without many tos and fros. Elegance is good, but
the art of reasoning is not to be neglected. Of the length to which
they went Ascham's method of instruction in the _Scholemaster_ (1570)
is a good example. He wished his scholar to translate Cicero into
English, and then from the English to translate back into the actual
words of the Latin. The Ciceronians did not believe that the same
thing could be well said in many ways; rather there was one way which
transcended all others, and that Cicero had attained. Erasmus,
however, was no Ciceronian; and one of the reasons why he won such a
hold upon his own and subsequent generations was that, more than all
his contemporaries, he succeeded in establishing a reasonable accord
between the claims of form and matter in literature.

In their neglect of the classics the Schoolmen had a powerful ally.
For obvious reasons the early and the mediaeval Church felt that much
of classical literature was injurious to the minds of the young, and
in consequence discouraged the use of it in schools. The classics were
allowed to perish, and their place was taken by Christian poets such
as Prudentius or Juvencus, by moralizations of Aesop, patchwork
compositions known as 'centos' on Scriptural themes, and the like. The
scholars, therefore, who went to Italy and came home to the North
carrying the new enthusiasm, had strenuous opposition to encounter.
The Schoolmen considered them impertinent, the Church counted them
immoral. To us who know which way the conflict ended, the savage blows
delivered by the humanists seem mere brutality; they lash their fallen
foes with what appears inhuman ferocity. But the truth is that the
struggle was not finished until well into the sixteenth century. Biel
of Tubingen, 'the last of the Schoolmen', lived till 1495. Between
1501 and 1515 a single printer, Wolff of Basle, produced five massive
volumes of the _Summae_ of mediaeval Doctors. Through the greater
part, therefore, of Erasmus' life the upholders of the old systems and
ideals, firmly entrenched by virtue of possession, succeeded in
maintaining their supremacy in the schools.

Between the two periods of the revival of learning, the Italian and
the Transalpine, a marked line is drawn by the invention of printing,
_c._ 1455: when the one movement had run half its course, the other
scarcely begun. The achievements of the press in the diffusion of
knowledge are often extolled; and some of the resulting good and evil
is not hard to see. But the paramount service rendered to learning by
the printer's art was that it made possible a standard of critical
accuracy which was so much higher than what was known before as to be
almost a new creation. When books were manuscripts, laboriously
written out one at a time, there could be no security of identity
between original and copy; and even when a number of copies were made
from the same original, there was a practical certainty that there
would be no absolute uniformity among them. Mistakes were bound to
occur; not always at the same point, but here in one manuscript, there
in another. Or again, when two unrelated copies of the same book were
brought together, there was an antecedent probability that examination
would reveal differences: so that in general it was impossible to feel
that a fellow-scholar working on the same author was using the same

Even with writers of one's own day uniformity was hardly to be
attained. Not uncommonly, as a mark of attention, an author revised
manuscript copies of his works, which were to be presented to friends;
and besides correcting the copyists' errors, might add or cut out or
alter passages according to his later judgement. Subsequent copies
would doubtless follow his revision, and then the process might be
repeated; with the result that a reader could not tell to what stage
in the evolution of a work the text before him might belong: whether
it represented the earliest form of composition or the final form
reached perhaps many years afterwards. To understand the conditions
under which mediaeval scholars worked, it is of the utmost importance
to realize this state of uncertainty and flux.

Not that in manuscript days there was indifference to accuracy.
Serious scholars and copyists laid great stress upon it. With
insistent fervour they implored one another to be careful, and to
collate what had been copied. But there are limits to human powers.
Collation is a dull business; and unless done with minute attention,
cannot be expected to yield perfect correctness. When a man has copied
a work of any length, it is hard for him to collate it with the
original slowly. Physically, of course, he easily might: but the
spirit is weak, and, weary of the ground already traversed once, urges
him to hurry forward, with the inevitable result.

With a manuscript, too, the possible reward might well seem scarcely
worth the labour; for how could any permanence be ensured for critical
work? A scholar might expend his efforts over a corrupt author, might
compare his own manuscript with others far and near, and at length
arrive at a text really more correct. And yet what hope had he that
his labour was not lost? His manuscript would pass at his death into
other hands and might easily be overlooked and even perish. Like a
child's castle built upon the sand, his work would be overwhelmed by
the rising tide of oblivion. Such conditions are disheartening.

Thus mediaeval standards of accuracy were of necessity low. In default
of good instruments we content ourselves with those we have. To draw a
line straight we use a ruler; but if one is not to be had, the edge of
a book or a table may supply its place. In the last resort we draw
roughly by hand, but with no illusions as to our success. So it was
with the scholar of the Middle Ages. His instruments were imperfect;
and he acquiesced in the best standards he could get: realizing no
doubt their defects, but knowing no better way.

But with printing the position was at once changed. When the type had
been set up, it was possible to strike off a thousand copies of a
book, each of which was identical with all the rest. It became worth
while to spend abundant pains over seeking a good text and correcting
the proofs--though this latter point was not perceived at first--when
there was the assured prospect of such uniformity to follow. One
edition could be distinguished from another by the dates on title-page
and colophon; and work once done was done for all time, if enough
copies of a book were taken off. This necessarily produced a great
change in methods of study. Instead of a single manuscript, in places
perhaps hopelessly entangled, and always at the mercy of another
manuscript of equal or greater authority that might appear from the
blue with different readings, the scholar received a text which
represented a recension of, it may be, several manuscripts, and whose
roughnesses had been smoothed out by the care of editors more or less

The precious volumes to which modern book-lovers reverently give the
title of 'Editio princeps', had almost as great honour in their own
day, before the credit of priority and antiquity had come to them; for
in them men saw the creation of a series of 'standard texts', norms to
which, until they were superseded, all future work upon the same
ground could be referred. As a result, too, of the improved
correctness of the texts, instead of being satisfied with the general
sense of an author, men were able to base edifices of precise argument
upon the verbal meaning of passages, in some confidence that their
structures would not be overset.

But the new invention was not universally acclaimed. Trithemius with
his conservative mind quickly detected some weaknesses; and in 1492 he
composed a treatise 'In praise of scribes', in vain attempt to arrest
the flowing tide. 'Let no one say, "Why should I trouble to write
books, when they are appearing continually in such numbers? for a
moderate sum one can acquire a large library." What a difference
between the results achieved! A manuscript written on parchment will
last a thousand years: books printed on paper will scarcely live two
hundred. Besides, there will always be something to copy: not
everything can be printed. Even if it could, a true scribe ought not
to give up. His pen can perpetuate good works which otherwise would
soon perish. He must not be amazed by the present abundance that he
sees, but should look forward to the needs of the future. Though we
had thousands of volumes, we must not cease writing; for printed books
are never so good. Indeed they usually pay little heed to ornament and
orthography.' It is noticeable that only in this last point does
Trithemius claim for manuscripts superior accuracy. In the matter of
permanence we may wonder what he would have thought of modern paper.

The first advance, then, rendered possible by the invention of
printing was to more uniform and better texts: the next step forward
was no less important. To scholars content with the general sense of a
work, a translation might be as acceptable as the original. Improved
standards of accuracy led men to perceive that an author must be
studied in his own tongue: in order that no shade of meaning might be
lost. Here again the two periods are easily distinguished. Nicholas V
set his scholars, Poggio and Valla, to translate the Greeks, Herodotus
and Thucydides, Aristotle and Diodorus. The feature of the later epoch
is the number of Greek editions which came out to supplant the
versions in common use. The credit for this advance in critical
scholarship must be given to Aldus for his Greek Aristotle, which
appeared in 1495-9; and he subsequently led the way with numerous
texts of the Greek classics. At the same time he proposed to apply the
same principle to Biblical study. As early as 1499 Grocin in a letter
alludes to Aldus' scheme of printing the whole Bible in the original
'three languages', Hebrew, Greek and Latin; and a specimen was
actually put forth in 1501.

In this matter precedence might seem to lie with the Jewish printers,
who produced the Psalms in Hebrew in 1477, and the Old Testament
complete in 1488; but as the Jews never at any period ceased to read
their Scriptures in Hebrew, there was no question of recovery of an
original. Aldus did not live to carry his scheme out; and it was left
to Ximenes and the band of scholars that he gathered at Alcala, to
produce the first edition of the Bible complete in the original
tongues, the Complutensian Polyglott, containing the Hebrew side by
side with the Septuagint and the Vulgate, and for the Pentateuch a
Syriac paraphrase. The New Testament in this great enterprise was
finished in 1514, and the whole work was ready by 1517, shortly before
Ximenes' death. But as publication was delayed till 1522, the actual
priority rests with Erasmus, whose New Testament in Greek with a Latin
translation by himself appeared, as we have seen, in 1516.

Thus by an accident Germany gained the credit of being the first to
assert this new principle, the importance of studying texts in the
original, in the field where resistance is most resolute and victory
is hardly won. And now it was about to enter upon a still greater
contest. Erasmus' New Testament encountered hostile criticism in many
quarters: conservative theologians made common cause with the friars
in condemning it. But at the very centre of the religion they
professed, the book was blessed by the chief priests. The Pope
accepted the dedication, and bishops wished they could read the Greek.
Far otherwise was it with the impending struggle of the Reformation:
there the cleavage of sides followed very different lines. Into that
wide field we cannot now expatiate; but it is important to notice an
element which the German Renaissance contributed to the Reformation,
and which played a considerable part in both movements--the
accentuation of German national feeling.

At the middle of the fifteenth century Italy enjoyed undisputed
pre-eminence in the world of learning. The sudden splendour into which
the Renaissance had blazed up on Italian soil drew men's eyes thither
more than ever; and to its ancient universities students from the
North swarmed like bees. To graduate in Italy, to hear its famous
doctors, perhaps even to learn from one of the native Greeks brought
over out of the East, became first the ambition, and then the
indispensable requirement of every Northern scholar who could afford
it; and few of Erasmus' friends and colleagues had not at some time or
other made the pilgrimage to Italy. Consequence and success brought
the usual Nemesis. The Italian _hubris_ expressed itself in the
familiar Greek distinction between barbarian and home-born; and the
many nations from beyond the Alps found themselves united in a common
bond which they were not eager to share. We have seen the kind of gibe
with which Agricola's eloquence was greeted at Pavia. The more such
insults are deserved, the more they sting. We may be sure that in many
cases they were not forgotten. Celtis returning from Italy to
Ingolstadt in 1492 delivered his soul in an inaugural oration: 'The
ancient hatred between us can never be dissolved. But for the Alps we
should be eternally at war.' In other countries the feeling, though
less acute, was much the same. Thus in 1517 spoke Stephen Poncher,
bishop of Paris, after his first meeting with Erasmus: 'Italy has no
one to compare with him in literary gifts. In our own day Hermolaus
and Politian have rescued Latin from barbarism; and their services can
never be forgotten. When I was there, too, I met a number of men of
rare ability and learning. But with all respect to the Italians, I
must say that Erasmus eclipses every one, Transalpine and Cisalpine

Of the foreign 'nations' at the universities of Italy none was more
numerous than the German, a title which embraced many nationalities of
the North: not merely German-speaking races such as the Swiss and
Flemish and Dutch, but all who could by any stretch of imagination be
represented as descendants of the Goths; Swedes and Danes, Hungarians
and Bohemians, Lithuanians and Bulgars and Poles. That they went in
such numbers is not surprising. The prestige of Italian teaching was
great and well-established, whereas their own universities were few
and scarcely more than nascent; indeed, when the Council of Vienne had
ordained the teaching of Greek and other missionary languages in 1311,
its injunctions went to France and Italy and England and Spain: but
Germany had no university to which a missive could be directed. From
Southern Germany, too, and Switzerland and Austria, the distance was
small, notwithstanding the obvious Alps and the difficulties of the
passes. Even Celtis, in spite of his denunciations, sent on his best
pupils to Italy. So there were many who brought home with them to the
North recollections of lofty condescension and of ill-disguised
contempt for the foreigner: insults that they burned to repay.

Italy might vaunt the glories of ancient Rome; but Germany also had
deeds to be proud of. Rome might have founded the World-empire; but
Charlemagne had conquered the dominions of the Caesars and made the
Empire Germanic. Classic antiquity, too, could not be denied to the
land and people whom Tacitus had described; and Germans were not slow
to claim the virtues found among them by the Roman historian. Arminius
became the national hero. German faith and honour, German simplicity,
German sincerity and candour--these are insisted upon by the
Transalpine humanists with a vehemence which suggests that while
priding themselves on the possession of such qualities, they marked
the lack of them in others. We may recall Ascham's horror of the
Englishman Italianated. Not that Germans could not make friends in
Italy. Scheurl loved his time at Bologna, and was eager to fight for
the Bentivogli against Julius II. Erasmus was made much of by the
Aldine Academy at Venice; and ten years later Hutten was charmed with
his reception there. But with many, conscious of their own defects[40]
and of the reality of Italian superiority, the charge of barbarism
must have rankled. To Luther in 1518 Italian is synonymous with

     [40] Thus a worthy abbot in the Inn valley, writing to Erasmus
          in 1523, manages to achieve a Latin letter, but apologizes
          for only being able to write in German characters.

The rising German feeling expresses itself on all sides in the letters
of the humanists. A young Frieslander, studying at Oxford in 1499,
writes to a fellow-countryman there: 'Your verses have shown me what I
never could have believed, that German talents are no whit inferior to
Italian.' Hutten in 1516 writes of Reuchlin and Erasmus as 'the two
eyes of Germany, whom we must sedulously cherish; for it is through
them that our nation is ceasing to be barbarous'. Beatus Rhenanus, in
editing the poems of Janus Pannonius (d. 1472), says in his preface,
1518: 'Janus and Erasmus, Germans though they are and moderns, give me
as much satisfaction to read as do Politian and Hermolaus, or even
Virgil and Cicero.' Erasmus in 1518 writes to thank a canon of Mainz
who had entertained him at supper. After compliments on his host's
charming manners, his erudition free from superciliousness--if he
could have known Gibbon, he surely must have used those immortal words
of praise, 'a modest and learned ignorance'--and his wit and elegance
of speech, he goes on: 'One might have been listening to a Roman. Now
let the Italians go and taunt Germans with barbarism, if they dare!'
In 1519 a canon of Brixen in Tirol writes to Beatus: 'Would to God
that Germany had more men like you, to make her famous, and stand up
against those Italians, who give themselves such airs about their
learning; though men of credit now think that the helm has been
snatched from their hands by Erasmus.' This is how Zwingli writes in
1521 of an Italian who had attacked Luther and charged him with
ignorance: 'But we must make allowances for Italian conceit. In their
heads is always running the refrain, "Heaven and earth can show none
like to us". They cannot bear to see Germany outstripping them in
learning.' Rarely a different note is heard, evoked by rivalry perhaps
or the desire to encourage. Locher from Freiburg could call Leipzig
barbarous. Erasmus wrote to an Erfurt schoolmaster that he was glad to
see Germany softening under the influence of good learning and putting
off her wild woodland ways. But these are exceptions: towards
insolence from the South an unbroken front was preserved.

In another direction the strong national feeling manifested itself; in
the study of German antiquity and the composition of histories.[41]
Maximilian, dipping his hands in literature, stimulated the
archaeological researches of Peutinger, patronized Trithemius and
Pirckheimer, and even instituted a royal historian, Stabius. Celtis
the versatile projected an elaborate _Germania illustrata_ on the
model of Flavio Biondo's work for Rome; and his description of
Nuremberg was designed to be the first instalment. As he conceived it,
the work was never carried out; but essays of varying importance on
this theme were produced by Cochlaeus, Pirckheimer, Aventinus and
Munster. The most ardent to extol Germany was Wimpfeling of
Schlettstadt, a man of serious temperament, who was prone to rush into
controversy in defence of the causes that he had at heart. His
education had all been got in Germany, and he was proud of his
country. His first effort to increase its praise was to instigate
Trithemius to put together a 'Catalogue of the illustrious men who
adorn Germany with their talents and writings'. The author's preface
(8 Feb. 1491) reveals unmistakably the animosity towards Italy: 'Some
people contemn our country as barren, and maintain that few men of
genius have flourished in it; hoping by disparagement of others to
swell their own praise. With all the resources of their eloquence they
trick out the slender achievements of their own countrymen; but
jealousy blinds them to the great virtues of the Germans, the mighty
deeds and brilliant intellects, the loyalty, enthusiasm and devotion
of this great nation. If they find in the classics any credit given
to us for valour or learning, they quickly hide it up; and in order to
trumpet their own excellences, they omit ours altogether. That is how
Pliny's narrative of the German wars was lost, and how so many
histories of our people have disappeared.'

     [41] Cf. A. Horawitz in Sybel's _Historische Zeitschrift_, xxv.
         (1871), 66-101; and P. Joachimsen, _Geschichtsauffassung und
         Geschichtschreibung in Deutschland unter dem Einfluss des
         Humanismus_, pt. 1, 1910.

The book was sent to Wimpfeling, who collected a few more names and
added a preface of his own (17 Sept. 1492) in the same strain. 'People
who think that Germany is still as barbarous as it was in the days of
Caesar should read what Jerome has to say about it. The abundance of
old books in existence shows that Germany had many learned men in the
past; who have left carefully written manuscripts on oratory, poetry,
natural philosophy, theology and all kinds of erudition. All down the
Rhine you will find the walls and roofs of monasteries adorned with
elegant epigrams which testify to German taste of old. To-day there
are Germans who can translate the Greek classics into Latin; and if
their style is not pure Ciceronian, let our detractors remember that
styles change with the times. Mankind is always discontented, and
prefers the old to the modern. I can quite understand that our German
philosophers adapted their style to their audiences and their lofty
subjects. So foreign critics had better let this provocative talk
alone for ever.'

A few years later Wimpfeling edited a fourteenth-century treatise by
Lupold of Bebenburg entitled 'The zeal and fervour of the ancient
German princes towards the Christian religion and the servants of
God'; the intention of which clearly fell in with his desire. In his
preface, addressed to Dalberg, Agricola's patron, he tells a story
which explains a peculiarity occasionally found in mediaeval
manuscripts; of being written in sections by several different hands.
Some years before, the Patriarch of Aquileia was passing through
Spires. To divert the enforced leisure of a halt upon a journey, he
prowled round the libraries of the town; and in one discovered this
treatise of Lupold, which pleased him greatly. As he was to be off
again next morning, there was no time to have it copied, at least by
one hand: so the manuscript was cut up and distributed among a number
of scribes, and in the space of a night the desired copy was ready.
Subsequently Wimpfeling heard of the incident from one of the brethren
in the monastery, and obtained the original manuscript to publish.
When such things could happen, no wonder that some manuscripts are
imperfect and others have disappeared.

Wimpfeling's next endeavour to assert the glories of Germany was
completed in 1502; but did not appear till 1505. It was based upon the
work of a friend, Sebastian Murrho of Colmar (d. 1494). The title,
_Defensio Germaniae_ or _Epithoma Germanorum_, sufficiently explains
its purpose. After a brief account of Germany in Roman times--his hero
being not Arminius, but 'the first German king, Arioviscus, who fought
with Julius Caesar',--and fuller records of the Germanic Emperors
since Charlemagne, Wimpfeling comes to the praise of his own days;
the men of learning, the famous soldiers, the architects who could
build the great tower of Strasburg, the painters, the inventors of
printing and of that terrible engine the bombard. But nearest to his
heart lay a question debated then as now: to whom should rightfully
belong the western part of the Rhine valley, between the river and the
Vosges? It was there that his home lay, Schlettstadt, one of the
fairest cities of the plain. With all the 'zeal and fervour of the
ancient German princes' he sets out to prove that it must be German:
'where are there any traces' he cries 'of the French language? There
are no books in French, no monuments, no letters, no epitaphs, no
deeds or documents. For seven or eight centuries there is nothing but
Latin or German.' The cathedral of Spires, the fine monastery of St.
Fides in his native town, supply him with a further argument: would
the good Dukes of Swabia have lavished so much money, the substance of
their fathers, upon Gallic soil, to pour it out among the French? With
such arguments he convinced himself and others. Almost at the same
time Peutinger put out a little volume of 'Conversations about the
wonderful antiquities of Germany'; supporting Wimpfeling with further
evidence and concluding satisfactorily that French had never ruled
over Germans.

A work of very different calibre which appeared about this time was
the _Germaniae Exegesis_ of Francis Fritz, who Latinized his name into
Irenicus. Wimpfeling was growing grey when he had made his defence of
Germany: the new champion was a young man of 23, who had scarcely
emerged from his degree. The book was published in 1518; printed at
Hagenau by Anshelm at the cost of John Koberger, the great Nuremberg
printer, and fostered by Pirckheimer. In his later years Irenicus
became a Lutheran and displayed some dignity in refusing to sacrifice
his convictions to worldly interests; but at this time he was
enthusiastic and heady, and as a result his work is an uncritical
jumble. 'Puerile and silly' Erasmus called it, when he saw some of the
proof-sheets at Spires in 1518. 'A most unfortunate book', wrote
Beatus Rhenanus in 1525, 'without style and without judgement.' To
Aventinus in 1531 it was 'an impudent compilation from Stabius and
Trithemius, by a poor creature of the most despicable intelligence'.
But even a bad book can be a measure of the time, showing the ideas
current and the catchwords that were thought likely to attract the
reading public. It is much larger than Wimpfeling's Defence, and even
more miscellaneous; ranging over many aspects of Germany ancient and
modern. To us in the present inquiry its interest lies in the
frequency with which the excellence of Germany is asserted against
Italian sneers. The following specimen will illustrate this point, and
also explain Erasmus' epithets. In the chapter on the German language
(ii. 30) Irenicus is throughout engaged in refuting the charge of
German barbarism. 'It may be true', he says, 'that German is not so
much declined as Latin: but complexity does not necessarily bring
refinement. Germany is as rich in dialects as Italy, and to speak
German well merits high praise. Italian may be directly descended from
Latin; but German too has a considerable element of Latin and Greek
words. Guarino and Petrarch have written poetry in their vernaculars,
and so the Italians boast that their language is more suited to
poetry. But more than 1000 years ago Ovid wrote a book of German
poetry[42]; and Trebeta, son of Semiramis, is known to have been the
first person to compose in German.'

     [42] Ovid, _Pont._ 4. 13. 19: Getico sermone.

In spite of such stuff, Pirckheimer, who saw the book in manuscript,
was delighted with it. 'You have achieved what many have wished but
few could have carried out. Every German must be obliged to you for
the lustre you have brought to the Fatherland.' After stating that he
had arranged with Koberger for the printing, he points out details
which might be improved: more stress might be laid on the connexion of
the Germans with the Goths, 'which the dregs of the Goths and
Lombards--by which I mean the Italians--try to snatch from us'; and
the universal conquests of the Goths might be more fully treated.
Finally he suggests that before publication the work should be
submitted to Stabius: 'the book deserves learned readers, and I should
wish it to be as perfect as possible.'[43]

     [43] The letter is printed in Pirckheimer's _Opera_, 1610, p.
          313: but is addressed wrongly, to Beatus Rhenanus.

This brief survey may close with a far more considerable work, the
_Res Germanicae_ of Beatus Rhenanus, published in 1531; from which we
have made some extracts above. The book is sober and serious, and the
subject-matter is handled scientifically; but in his preface Beatus is
careful to point out that German history is as important as Roman,
modern as much worth studying as ancient.

Such was the soil into which fell the seed that Luther went forth to
sow. When Tetzel came marching into German towns, with the Pope's Bull
borne before him on a cushion, and brandishing indulgences for the
living and the dead, when the coins were tinkling in the box, and the
souls, released by contract, were flying off out of purgatory, the
religious sense of thinking men was outraged by this travesty of the
Day of Judgement; but scarcely less were they angered to see the
tinkling coins, honest German money, flying off as rapidly as the
souls, to build palaces for the supercilious Italians. In the great
struggle of the Reformation the main issue was of course religious;
but even its leader could feel added bitterness in the knowledge that
this shocking traffic was ordained from Italy to benefit an Italian
Pope. If the sympathies of educated Germany had not already been
strongly moved in the same direction, it is conceivable that Luther's
intrepid protest might have lacked the support which carried it to



(A paper read before the third International Historical Congress, in
London, April 1913.)

Whatever may still be the troubles of the great, amongst men of
learning at any rate visits of ceremony are mercifully no longer in
fashion. At first sight one is inclined to find the cause of this in
an improved sense of the value of time. Modern inventions have taught
first the business man and then the world in general that time is
money. Improved communications with time-tables that may be relied
upon enable us to arrange our days in such a way as to be at least
more busy, if not more useful; and we have acquired a wholesome
respect for the time of others. But I do not think we should be right
in accounting for the change in this way. At all ages the scholar,
looking round him at tasks which exceed the capacity of a lifetime,
has been avaricious of the hours--'labuntur anni', 'pereunt et
imputantur' ever in his thoughts: and though the world of old moved
slower, the man of business has rarely belied his name. A more
plausible explanation is that the custom has died of surfeit. As
increased facilities of travel made the world smaller, the circle of
those that might be visited and saluted by the active grew boundless;
so that on both sides limits were desired. Another consideration is
that with new facilities came increased opportunities and hopes.
To-day we live in the happy consciousness that friends, however
distant, may be brought across the world to our doors by the urgencies
of business or pleasure; and thus no one knows what the coming year
may bring forth. In the sixteenth century men knew that opportunities
lost might never recur, and that they must seize or make them as best
they might.

At that time visits of ceremony were in great vogue. Officials and
scholars alike groaned under them. After a visit to the Court Erasmus
writes: 'If Pollio (a disguised name, as he was writing of a man who
afterwards became an intimate friend) has been with you, you will
understand what I suffered at Brussels; every day hosts of Spanish
visitors, besides Italians and Germans.' A little later he apologizes
to a correspondent for having given him a chilly welcome: 'just then I
had escaped from Brussels, quite worn out with the salutations of
these persistent Spaniards.' The custom was widespread. An English
graduate, studying for a time at Louvain, congratulates himself on
having escaped from it at Cambridge. Clenardus found it thriving at
Salamanca; Casaubon complained of it at Montpellier; in Oxford it was
even obligatory for intending disputants in the schools to pay formal
visits beforehand to their examiners.

In 1517 Erasmus' fame was at its zenith; and in consequence visitors
came to him from every side, some to seek counsel, others to adore.
His correspondence gives us many instances. In the spring of 1517,
when the Cardinal of Gurk attended Maximilian to the Netherlands, his
two secretaries, Richard Bartholinus of Perugia and Ursinus Velius, a
Silesian, prepared panegyrical verses with which to greet Erasmus if
they should have the good fortune to meet him. For some reason
Bartholinus alone came, and, presenting both the poems, elicited a
complimentary letter in reply. A more distinguished visitor received
less attention. In the summer of 1518 Erasmus was at Basle, printing
the notes to his second edition of the New Testament. The Bishop of
Pistoia, nephew of one of the most influential cardinals, and Papal
nuncio in Switzerland, also came to Basle. Wishing to see the great
scholar, he asked him to dinner. But Erasmus could not spare the time.
He declined, and in his place sent his friends, Beatus Rhenanus and
the young Amerbachs. Three times he made excuse; and at length the
Nuncio went on foot to seek in Froben's press the scholar who would
not come to him. What their conversation was we do not know; but
before leaving, the Nuncio ordered a copy of the Amerbach-Froben
Jerome to be sent to the binders and equipped with his arms and

Later in the year the enthusiastic Eobanus of Hesse appeared in
Louvain. He had come from Erfurt where he was teaching, and the main
purpose of his journey was to see Erasmus. His _Hodoeporicon_,
printed on his return, describes his course in detail. With a young
companion, John Werter, also from Erfurt, he entered Louvain in the
evening. Next morning early they sent in their 'callow' verses to the
great man, and followed shortly themselves. Erasmus came down to greet
them at the door with a kindly welcome, and Eobanus describes a
banquet to which he invited them, entertaining them with serious talk
and light-hearted jest. But it was at no light cost to Erasmus' time:
for when his admirers left five days later, he had been cajoled into
writing six letters of compliment, two to the travellers themselves
and four more to friends at Gotha and Erfurt. But this was not the
only cost. Eobanus imbued others of the Erfurt circle with his
hero-worship; and next year came two more, Jonas and Schalbe, to
trouble Erasmus' leisure, when he was taking a spring holiday at
Antwerp, 'by the sea', and to bear off more letters to Erfurt. The
spirit that animated these visitors is shown in a letter of John
Turzo, bishop of Breslau, a man of Erasmus' own age. In 1518 Ursinus
Velius, the disappointed secretary of the Cardinal of Gurk, had become
canon of Breslau on Turzo's presentation; and had doubtless talked to
his patron of Erasmus' attractive gifts. 'I am most eager to visit
you' wrote the Bishop, from Breslau. 'If ever I had heard that you
were anywhere within a week's journey from here, I should have rushed
over at once: indeed I would have gone as far as Belgium, if only the
business of my office allowed. The men of Cadiz who journeyed to Rome
to see Livy were not more eager.'

A picture of the interruptions to which Erasmus was exposed is given
in a preface written in Froben's name for the new edition of Erasmus'
_Epigrammata_ combined with More's and with the _Utopia_, March 1518.
'Most of these verses' Froben is made to say 'were written not for
publication, but to give pleasure to friends; to whom he is always
very obliging. When he was here bringing out his New Testament and
Jerome, heavens! how he worked! toiling away untiringly day after day.
Never was any one more overwhelmed in composition; and yet certain
great persons thought themselves entitled to come and waste his time,
coaxing out of him a few lines of verse or a little letter. So
compliant was he that they made it very difficult for him. To refuse
seemed uncivil when they pressed him so. But to write when his mind
was intent elsewhere, and not a minute to spare from his labours----!
However, he did write, on the spur of the moment, turning aside for a
little to the groves of the Muses.'

Some other visitors can be traced in this period. John Alexander
Brassicanus, poet laureate, came from Tubingen in September 1520 and
saw Erasmus at Antwerp; whence in reply to a letter of self-introduction
he bore away a complimentary letter that he afterwards printed, and
the sound piece of advice, that if he wished to become learned, he
must never think himself so. More distinguished was Ferdinand
Columbus, the explorer's natural son and heir, who in October 1520,
on one of those journeys on which he gathered his famous library,
received at Louvain a copy of Erasmus' _Antibarbari_, with his name
inscribed in it by the author. A visitor to whom we must pay more heed
was John Draco, one of the Erfurt circle, who in July 1520 came to pay
homage at Louvain.

In the autumn of 1518 the agent of a Leipzig bookseller trading to
Prague received a letter to carry back with him and forward on to
Erasmus at Louvain. The writer was a certain Jan Slechta, a Bohemian
country gentleman, who was living at Kosteletz on the upper waters of
the Elbe, a few miles to the North-east of Prague. He was a man of
education and position. After taking his M.A. at Prague in 1484, he
had served for sixteen years as a secretary to King Ladislas of
Bohemia and Hungary; but about 1507, disgusted with the turmoils of
court life in that very troubled time, he had retired to his home, to
give his later years to the education of his son and the personal
management of his estates. The world of affairs had not extinguished
his love of learning. He was an intimate friend of Bohuslaus of
Hassenstein, scholar and traveller, and corresponded with him in
elegant Latin. Attracted by the reputation for eloquence won by the
notorious Hieronymus Balbus, he had persuaded him _c._ 1499 to come
and teach in Prague--a step which in view of Balbus' bad life he
afterwards deeply regretted. He was also the author of a dialogue on
the relations of body and soul, entitled _Microcosmus_; which with
characteristic modesty he kept for more than twenty years known only
to his intimate friends--indeed it was only in the last year of his
life that he composed a dedication for it, and it seems never to have
been printed.

The tone of Slechta's thoughts in his later years was grave and
serious; as well it might be. The two kingdoms, then but loosely
united, were torn with internal factions and racial jealousies; while
in church towers and over city gates the bells hung ready to proclaim
to the countryside the advent of that ever-present menace, the Turk.
In the priesthood men could mark much that was amiss; and the seamless
robe of Christ was rent with schism, the candle that Hus and Jerome
had lighted a century before, still burning clearly among less sober
heresies, which drew down on it, as upon themselves, spasmodic
outbursts of retributive violence. Uneasy sat the crown on Ladislas'
head; and when Death, coming as a friend, took it from him in 1516, it
was only to thrust this sad office upon a ten-year-old boy, who after
ten more years of childish government was miserably to perish at
Mohacz. No wonder that Slechta and his friends looked anxiously upon
the future. 'The times of Hus and Wycliffe which our grandfathers
detested, seem golden beside our own' wrote Bohuslaus to Geiler of
Kaisersberg--a member of that grave circle of Strasburg humanists,
with which, it may be noted in passing, our Bohemians had much in
common. The letters of Slechta contain two disquisitions, one on the
frailties of a celibate clergy, the other on the duties of a parish
priest; advocating reforms by which he hoped to check the continuous
growth of 'those unutterable heretics, the Pyghards': by whom he meant
the Bohemian Brethren.

What moved Slechta to correspond with Erasmus we do not know; possibly
a slighting reference in one of the latter's printed letters to 'those
schismatic Bohemians, who have infected most of Europe'. Slechta's
letter is unhappily lost; but from Erasmus' reply, dated 23 April 1519
from Louvain, its general tenor may be gathered. It began, of course,
with eulogies of Erasmus and his work; and then, after some account of
the writer's life and fortunes, it proceeded to assure him that there
were persons in Bohemia who were not merely interested in good
learning but prepared to advance it. Finally it invited him to come to
Prague. Erasmus' answer to his unknown correspondent was courteous,
but firmly declined the invitation. 'What I can do at Prague I do not
see. It is considerate of you to offer me an escort for my journey;
but I confess I do not like regions where such company is necessary.
In this country one can go about wherever one likes, alone. I am sure
that, as you say, I should find among you plenty of learned and pious
men, who are not contaminated with the errors of schism. But how is it
that this division is suffered to remain? Better unity with some
hardship than to hold one's own at the cost of discord. I fear it is
money that stands in the way. Paul suffered the loss of all things
that he might win Christ. The world is full of cardinals and princes
and bishops; if only one of these would take up this matter in a truly
Christian spirit! If Paul were on the Pope's throne, I am sure he
would allow not only his revenues but his authority to be diminished,
if his loss would purchase unity.' Erasmus concludes cordially: 'If we
cannot meet, at any rate we can write. I will walk and talk with you
sometimes beside your Elbe, you shall come and dwell with me in
Brabant. Friendship can flourish without actual contact.'

This letter was handed to Slechta on 11 September, four and a half
months after it was written. Nearly a year had elapsed since his
letter had been dispatched and he had given up hopes of a reply: so
that these amiable and encouraging words were the more welcome, and he
at once proceeded to act upon them. Within a month he had composed a
letter of some elegance, in which while subscribing to Erasmus'
prayers for unity, he pointed out the difficulties of the task. To the
remarks about coming to Prague he rejoined regretfully: 'I can quite
see that there is nothing for you to do here. There are many of us who
would have been glad of your coming; but I understand that we must
hope to see you at another time and elsewhere. That travellers in our
country need an escort you would not wonder if you could see how the
roads run, among lofty mountains shrouded in impenetrable forests.
These give cover to hordes of brigands, who prey upon travellers and
merchants, robbing and killing indifferently. Almost every month
there are punitive raids made from the towns, and brigands are
captured and put to death. But the pest seems ineradicable.'

Slechta then proceeds to the religious troubles, and after expressing
general agreement with Erasmus, describes the three main parties into
which the life of Bohemia and Moravia was cloven. First the orthodox
Romanists, loyal to the Church and in unity with Germany and the rest
of Christendom; finding their adherents amongst the upper classes,
together with some of the King's cities and the monasteries, many of
which, though once rich, had now fallen into decay. Secondly, the
Utraquists, otherwise orthodox but practising communion in both kinds,
and at their services reading the Epistle and Gospel in the
vernacular: with some supporters among the nobility, a good many
gentry, and nearly thirty royal cities. After tracing their history
from the Council of Basle and briefly stating their views, he adds
that no one in the kingdom is able to propound a solution of the
difficulties existing. Thirdly, the Bohemian Brethren, whom he styles
Pyghards. This name, from the opprobrious sense in which it is
generally used, is now thought to be derived from the Beghards, a
mediaeval sect whose vagaries drew down upon it frequent persecution;
but Slechta traces it to a foreign vagabond who came from Picardy in
1422 and infected with his pestilent doctrines the army of John Ziska,
the Taborite, an army of those that were in distress, in debt, in

This sect, Slechta tells us, lasted continuously down to the times of
the late King Ladislas (d. 1516), and indeed increased considerably
under him; for his thoughts were much occupied with Hungary, and he
was content if Bohemia could be maintained in an outward appearance of
peace. Then follows a description of their opinions. 'The Pope and all
his officials they regard as Antichrist. They choose their own
bishops, rude unlettered laymen, with wives and families. They salute
one another as Brother and Sister; and recognize no authority but the
Bible. Their priests celebrate mass without vestments, use leavened
bread and only the Lord's Prayer. Transubstantiation they deny, and
the worship of the host they regard as idolatry. Vows to the saints,
prayers for the dead, and confession to priests they ridicule; and
they keep no holy days but Sundays, Christmas, Easter and Whitsun.' 'I
will not waste your time with more of these pernicious views. My
feeling is that if the two first-named parties could only be
reconciled, this nefarious sect might, with the aid of the King, be
exterminated or at any rate reduced to a better state of faith and

The roads in Bohemia might be dangerous, but the distance to Louvain
was not so great as it had seemed at first; for Erasmus' reply is
dated 1 Nov. 1519, only three weeks after Slechta's letter. He begins
again with the roads. 'Prevention is better than punishment. It would
be wiser if, instead of these avenging raids, the more frequented
roads could be cleared of forest on either side, and held by
block-houses and armed posts at intervals. Indeed it is somewhat
discreditable that the great towns and princes of Germany cannot
achieve what the Swiss do by co-operation and local action.' He then
turns to the religious dissensions, and in his passion for concord
exclaims that it would be better that a nation should be united in
error than so numerously divided: experience shows that there is no
opinion so wild but that some one will be found to embrace it. Of the
orthodox party he has nothing to say beyond extolling the system by
which the Pope might act as judge and father of all, and as supreme
court of appeal. To the Utraquists he would counsel conformity to the
practice of the majority; although unable to understand why the Church
should have allowed a practice instituted by Christ to fall into

Then he comes to the Brethren, and after admitting that they have
strayed further than the Utraquists from the rule of Christian life,
he continues: 'If they go on still in their wickedness, they must be
restrained; but this is not the duty of any one who likes, nor must
violence be used, lest the innocent suffer with the guilty. Their
practice of electing their own priests and bishops has authority in
antiquity; but it certainly is unfortunate if their choice falls on
men bad as well as unlearned. With the titles of Brother and Sister I
see no fault to find: it is a pity they are not more widely used among
Christians. To prefer God's word in the Bible to the judgements of
Doctors is sound: though to reject the latter altogether is as uniform
an error as to embrace them to the exclusion of everything else. To
celebrate the mass in everyday dress is not contrary to the truth;
but it is a pity to abandon customs sanctioned by use and authority:
though perhaps the Pope might be persuaded to concede to them the use
of their own rites, as he does to the Greeks and the Milanese. The
Lord's Prayer is, of course, part of our own use; and though it seems
narrow to confine themselves to this, I doubt whether they do worse
than those who weave in long strings of intercession from any source.
Their opinions about the sacraments are certainly impious; but at any
rate they are under no temptation to exploit these holy mysteries for
the sake of gain or futile glory or tyrannous imposition. I do not see
why they should reject vigils and fasts in moderation; but these are
matters for encouragement rather than positive command. About
festivals they seem to follow the usage current in the days of Jerome:
better, I think, than the modern calendar, full of saints-days which
end in riot and carouse, and on which the honest journeyman is
forbidden to work for his children's bread.' As Slechta read these
words, he must surely have felt as did Balak, the son of Zippor, when
he listened to the seer from Mesopotamia taking up his parable upon
Israel in the plains of Moab. The man whose eyes were open, had
blessed the Brethren instead of cursing them; and literary Europe
might well follow his lead.

The history of the Bohemian Brethren is of exceptional interest,
affording an example of a community professing a plain, simple faith
and ruling their lives by modest conceptions of ordinary goodness,
who, guided by leaders almost unknown to the world, through the
trials of good and evil repute, through tribulation and prosperity,
kept serenely upon the path they had marked out for themselves, living
and growing into one of the most flourishing and devoted missionary
bodies of the present day. As is natural under such conditions, their
origin is not free from obscurity. Men connected them with the
Waldensians of Southern France, or traced them, as we have seen, to a
leader from Picardy. Through the fifteenth century they grew steadily
in strength and unity, sheltered by the toleration which Rome
unwillingly granted to the Utraquists as a result of the Compacts of
Basle; and as compared with other dissentient bodies their name was
singularly free from gross imputations. Throughout that age such
imputations were freely made and believed against heretics. This was
not unreasonable. In the low state of public and private morals faith
was regarded as an indispensable bulwark to conduct, the faith which
taught indeed that a man should love God and his neighbour, but
stablished him into practising what he professed, by lurid pictures of
the fate awaiting him if he did not. Without this bulwark it was not
thought possible that a man could lead a godly, righteous and sober
life; and so he was considered capable of every form of vice, if he
ventured to doubt the truth of those opinions on which the Church had
set its seal, in realms into which it now seems that human knowledge
cannot penetrate.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century fresh attempts were being
made to win back the Brethren to orthodoxy; and in this work the
ardour of the Dominicans burned bright. In 1500 one of them, Henry
Institor, a Doctor of Theology, procured from Alexander VI bulls which
recognized him as 'Inquisitor into heresy throughout Germany and
Bohemia', and empowered him to collect heretical books and send them
to the Bishop of Olmutz, the chief see of Moravia, to be burned; also
to join to himself two or three other Masters of Theology and preach
against the heretics. These bulls are printed at the head of a great
volume written by Institor, with the title 'A shield for the faith of
the Holy Roman Church against the heresy of the Waldensians or
Pickards, who on all sides are infecting with virulent contagion
certain races in Germany and Bohemia, to hatred of the clergy and
enervation of the ecclesiastical power'. In 1501 the volume appeared
at Olmutz, with an enumeration of thirty-six erroneous articles in
which the Pickards denied the authority of the Church; followed of
course by a vigorous refutation. At the same time one of their own
countrymen, Augustine Kasenbrot of Olmutz was writing a series of open
letters on the Brethren and their views.

But the most succinct account of the position is contained in an
attack made upon them by a learned and fair-minded Dominican, Jacobus
Lilienstayn. His book, 'a Treatise against the erroneous Waldensian
Brethren, commonly known as the Pickards, without rule, without law,
and without obedience, of whom there are many in Moravia, more than
in Bohemia', was composed in 1505 and is dedicated to the Dean of
Prague. It begins by setting forth five general and twelve special
errors of the Waldensians. The former are as follows:

     1. They call the Gospels, the Epistles and the Acts, together
     with the Old Testament where it agrees with the New, 'the Law
     of Christ'; and they attack and deride the Doctors of the

     2. They say the Pope has no more power in administering the
     sacraments of the Church, and in other ecclesiastical matters,
     than a simple priest has.

     3. They say that in the practice of the Church nothing is to be
     added to what Christ and the Apostles taught and did.

     4. They hold the pure text of the Gospel without any gloss.

     5. They allege that the Church is in error, and that they
     themselves are the brethren of Christ and the true imitators of
     the Apostles.

Amongst the special errors are denials of the validity of indulgences
and of the efficacy of masses for the dead; and the general simplicity
of their conduct is shown in their practices at birth and death,
baptism requiring only pure water, not holy oil and the chrism, and
extreme unction banished from the death-bed.

Finally the good Dominican gives a brief account of the life of these
Brethren 'without obedience'. In his preface he expresses his
difficulty in gathering the truth about them: 'for they are as
inconstant as the moon, and the practices alleged against them in the
past are denied by them to-day.' But he concludes honestly that though
their faith is 'abhominable' to true Christians, their life is good
enough. His good sense is further shown by his refusal to accept an
absurd story about their method of choosing their leaders. 'When one
of these is to be chosen', so ran the tale, 'the community meets
together. And as they sit in silence, the windows being open, a great
fly enters and buzzes over them, settling at length on the head of
one; who is then set apart for a season. And when he is brought back,
he is found to be learned in Latin and theology and whatever else is
necessary, though he were rude and ignorant before.' This Lilienstayn
finds clearly false: the simple life of the Brethren he illustrates by
their practice. 'They have Bibles in Bohemian, which they read. Their
women wear veils, and no colours, only black, white and grey. They all
labour with their hands.' Thus their life to him was 'good enough'. It
may remind us in many points of the Quakers.

The attacks upon them led the Brethren to reply. In 1507 they composed
an _Apologia_ addressed to the King, to show that they were not
without rule, without law and without obedience, and to defend the
manner of their life. This was printed at Nuremberg in 1507, and again
in 1518; but of the original editions I have not been able to see a
copy. The attacks continued. In 1512 another ponderous volume
appeared, composed by Jacob Ziegler, the well-known Bavarian
scientist, to demonstrate the falsity of their opinions. What finally
impelled the Brethren to court countenance from Erasmus is not clear;
possibly the cool reception the Utraquists had had from Luther the
year before, with the rather contemptuous suggestion that their style
and opinions were more like Erasmus' than his own. The episode has
escaped Erasmus' biographers; and I cannot find any mention of it
except an allusion in one of his letters, and a description in a
treatise on the Brethren by Joachim Camerarius the elder (1500-1574).
Camerarius' book was not published till 1605; but we can perhaps trace
the source of his information. From 1518 onwards he spent some years
at Erfurt. In January 1521 Erasmus describes the visit of the
Brethren's envoys as having occurred six months before; at Antwerp,
according to Camerarius, where he may be traced in June 1520. If we
recall that it was in July that Draco came from Erfurt to pay his
visit of homage, it seems quite likely that on his return he may have
given to Camerarius the detailed record which the latter has

By that time Erasmus' name was well known in Central Europe. 'Both
from Hungary and Bohemia' he says in 1518 'bishops and men of position
write to thank me for my New Testament.' Apart from the learned world
there were others, too, who must have known him; for a Bohemian
translation had just appeared of the new preface to his _Enchiridion_,
a preface in which he had written with an almost Lutheran freedom
about abuses in the Church, and had extolled the life of simple
Christianity. This was a book to appeal at once to the Brethren.
Another of his works which may have had its effect in attracting them
was the _Julius Exclusus_. This exquisitely witty satire dealt freely
with the Pope and his office, the Pope whom the Brethren accounted no
more than a simple priest; and though its licence was too bold for
Erasmus ever to admit its authorship--indeed, as we have seen, he
consistently denied it--, it was attributed to him on all sides, in
company with others, his secret being on the whole well kept. The
_Julius_ was translated into Bohemian, somewhere about this time: but
from the nature of it, a kind of book to which publishers as well as
authors were loath to put their names, it cannot be definitely placed.
So it was, too, with the _Moria_, which had been translated by Gregory
Hruby Gelenski, father of the scholar, Sigismund Gelenius; but of
which no contemporary edition survives.

If the Brethren had seen Erasmus' final letter to Slechta, they might
well have been encouraged to hope much from him. But of this there is
no indication. Slechta was hardly likely to communicate it to them;
and though such documents often leaked out against the owner's will,
its first appearance in print was in 1521, in Erasmus' _Epistolae ad
diuersos_. I cannot find any translation into a vernacular except a
German version by John Froben of Andernach which appeared at Nuremberg
in 1531.

Whatever was the motive attraction, the Brethren sent as their
envoys, so Camerarius tells us, Nicholas Claudianus, a learned
physician, and Laurence Voticius (Woticky), a man of many
accomplishments, who died at a good age in 1565--a date, which, if it
be not a later interpolation, is an indication as to when Camerarius
composed his narrative.[44] They brought with them a copy of their
_Apologia_, printed at Nuremberg in 1511--a date which appears to be
wrong--and presented it to Erasmus at Antwerp with the request that he
would read it through and see if there was anything in it that he
would wish to have changed. If that were so, they would readily defer
to his criticisms; but if, as they hoped, he approved of what they
said, it would be a help and consolation to them if he would express
that opinion.

     [44] L. Camerarius, in his preface, 1 Jan. 1605, describes the
          book as composed 'more than thirty years ago'.

He took the book and said he would be glad to read it; but when after
a few days they came for his answer, he told them he had been too busy
to do more than glance through it: so far as he had gone, he found no
error and nothing that he would wish to alter. He declined, however,
to bear testimony about it, as this would bring them no help, and only
danger to himself. 'You must not think', he said, 'that any words of
mine will bring you support; indeed, my own influence, such as it is,
requires the backing of others. If it is true that my writings are of
any value to divine and useful learning, it seems to me unwise to
jeopardize their influence by proclaiming publicly the agreement
between us: such actions might lead to their being condemned and torn
from the hands of the public. Forgive me for this caution, you will
perhaps call it fear: and be assured that I wish you well and will
most gladly help you in other matters.' The envoys were disappointed,
Camerarius records, but took his refusal in good part: for they relied
not on the judgements of men to be the foundation of their heavenly
edifice of truth. The good sense of his words no doubt appealed to
them; for the Brethren were above all things moderate men, averse from
violence, convinced perhaps by their own experience that a display of
courage is unwise when it provokes opposition and raises obstacles to

The matter was not, however, allowed to rest. In the same year an
appeal on behalf of the Brethren was made to Erasmus from another
quarter. One of the features of their movement had been the number of
the nobility who had become sympathizers, if not actual members of the
community. One of these was Artlebus of Boskowitz, a kinsman perhaps
of that 'nobilis virgo, Martha de Boskowitz' whom the Brethren in
addressing the King had adduced as one of their supporters. From the
castle of Znaim, his official residence as Supreme Captain of Moravia,
Artlebus wrote, telling Erasmus of the steady growth of the Brethren,
and of the futility of all attempts to withstand their doctrines by
argument; and sending him a copy of their Rule, with the request that
he would read it and frame thereupon a standard of Christian piety,
which all men, including the Brethren, might follow. He turned then
to praise Luther for the courageous fight he was making, and urged
Erasmus to join with him in sowing the seed of the Gospel.

Erasmus' reply, dated 28 Jan. 1521 from Louvain, has no address but
'N. viro praepotenti'; and in consequence its connexion with Artlebus
of Boskowitz has escaped notice. As was to be expected, he declined
the proposal that he should set up a standard of Christian observance.
He might criticize with all freedom the practices of monks and clergy
and speak straightly of Papal iniquities: but the standard of the
Church was still the life of Christ, and he would not arrogate to
himself the right to draw the picture of this anew. He took the
opportunity to lament, as he had done to Slechta, the discord
prevailing in Bohemia, and to urge that a serious attempt should be
made to reconcile the Brethren to the Church. But since his
correspondence with Slechta the world had gone forward. Luther had
burned the Pope's bull at Wittenberg, and Aleander at Worms was
pressing the Diet to annihilate him. Erasmus has less to say to
Artlebus in favour of the Brethren than he had said to Slechta:
indeed, after the appeal for moderation, he goes no further than to
condemn the attitude of the opponents of the Papacy, doubtless
intending to include among them the Brethren. About Luther he would
give no decided opinion. 'It is absurd how men condemn Luther's books
without reading them. Some parts of Luther's writings are good; but
parts are not, and over these I skip. If Luther stands by the
Catholic Church, I will gladly join him.' Artlebus' reply is not
extant; but a sentence in a letter of Erasmus to Wolsey a year later
shows that the 'Bohemian Captain' was greatly vexed by the failure of
his overtures.

This is the last trace of Erasmus' correspondence with Bohemia. But,
uncompromising as he had been in his refusal to both appeals, his
influence there was only just at its commencement, if we may judge by
the list of his works translated into Bohemian, which the Ghent
bibliography has brought to light. The translation of his preface to
the _Enchiridion_ was followed by his version of the _Saturnalia_ of
Lucian (first published in 1517) in 1520; the _Precatio dominica_
(1523) in 1526; his version of the New Testament in 1533; some of the
Colloquies in 1534; the _De Ciuilitate_ (1530) in 1537; the Paraphrase
on St. Matthew (1522) and the _De puritate Ecclesiae_ (1536) in 1542;
the _De immensa Dei misericordia_ (1524) in 1558 and 1573; the
_Apophthegmata Graeciae sapientum_ (1514) in 12 editions between 1558
and 1599; the _De praeparatione ad mortem_ (1534) in 1564 and 1786;
and the _Vidua Christiana_ (1529) in 1595. The envoys of the Brethren
were perhaps wise enough to see that they had much to learn from the
man who was courageous enough to preach caution and to let himself
appear afraid.

       *       *       *       *       *


Aberdeen University, 103-4.

accuracy, new standards of, 258-61.

Adrian VI, 107.

Agricola, R., 14-21, 25-9, 31, 32, 63.

Agrippa, H.C., 143.

Aldus, 126, 128, 129, 135-6, 151, 253, 262-3.

Aleander, 112, 136, 209, 297.

Alexander of Ville-Dieu, 41.

alphabetical principle, 43, 47-9.

America, 92.

  Ba., 147-9;
  Bo., 147-9, 151, 164, 193, 278;
  Br., 147-51;
  J., 77, 146-51.

Andreas, B., 129.

Andrelinus, Faustus, 113, 186.

Aquinas, 12, 255.

Arnold of Hildesheim, 24.

Arthurian legend, 93.

Artlebus of Boskowitz, 296-8.

Ascham, 156, 208, 256, 266.

Asperen, destruction of, 172.

astrology, 216-18.

Augustinian Canons, reformed, 81;
  house at Oxford, 117.

Balbi, J., 43 seq., 49.

Balbus, H., 186, 281.

Bartholomew of Cologne, 63-5.

Basle, 146.

Batt, J., 115-16, 130.

Beatus Rhenanus, 154-8, 164, 278;
  his _Res Germanicae_, 146, 156, 275;
  extracts from his letters, 195, 210, 267, 268, 273.

Beheim, J., of Niklashausen, 220.

Benedictines, at Neuss, 70;
  at Ottobeuren, 86 seq.;
  at Oxford, 124;
  reformed, 61-2, 79-85.

Bergen, Ant. of, abbot of St. Omer, 165, 176, 205.

Bergen, Henry of, bp. of Cambray, 68, 102, 104, 176, 204.

Bessel, B., 113.

Black Band, 170-5.

Bohuslaus of Hassenstein, 281-2.

Bondius, J., 92.

books, supervision of, by others, 155, 159-61, 187.

Boys, H., 103.

Brassicanus, J.A., 280.

Breslau, 35, 58, 279.

Brethren of the Common Life, 69, 75;
  as teachers, 9, 25-6, 34, 61, 66.

Briard, J., 108.

Budaeus, 122, 135, 210, 218.

Bursfeld reforms, 75, 80.

Burgundy, David of, bp. of Utrecht, II;
  Philip of, bp. of Utrecht, 166.

Butzbach, 21, 56-62, 68-79, 113, 201.

Camerarius, J., 52, 293, 295.

  Christchurch, 123-4;
  pilgrimages to, 209, 228-9.

Catholicon, 43-6.

Celtis, C., 265, 266, 269.

Château-Landon, 81-2.

Chezal-Benoît, 83-4.

child-marriage, 116.

Colet, 117, 127, 128, 130, 138, 141-3, 175, 203, 229.

Columbus, F., 280.

Complutensian Polyglott, 263.

Compostella, 231-2.

Cono, J., 147, 151.

Copernicus, N., 211.

Cracow University, 87.

Crete, labyrinth of Minos in, 92.

Cues, library at, 30-1.

Cusanus, N., 30.

Dalaber, A., 217.

Dalberg, John of, bp. of Worms, 19, 20, 31, 271.

Dederoth, J., 80.

Deventer school, 21, 30, 33-6, 39, 60-4, 69, 76;
  plague at, 27, 34;
  printers, 63.

Dominicans, 43, 52, 88, 146, 147, 238, 249, 290, 291.

'doole', 192.

Draco, J., 281, 293.

Drolshagen, J., 38.

Ebrardus, 36, 39-41.

Eck, J., 92.

  B., 87, 95-6, 99;
  J., 87, 96-7, 99;
  N., 87-101, 209, 210;
  U., 87, 92, 94-5, 201;
  U. jun., 87, 94.

Emmanuel of Constantinople, 122.

Eobanus of Hesse, 278-9.

Erasmus, form of name, 39 n.;
  early life, 11;
  at school, 21, 11;
  at Steyn, 66-8;
  in Paris, 102-5, 114-15, 139-41;
  in England, 116-17, 130;
  at Oxford, 117, 128;
  at Cambridge, 120, 134,137-44;
  in Italy, 135-7;
  rumour of death, 145;
  at Basle, 158-64;
  death, 164;
  labours for peace, 164-6;
  indifferent to Nature, 207-9;
  uses astrological mug, 218;
  pilgrimage to Canterbury, 229;
  appreciations of, 265, 267-8;
  visitors to, 277-81;
  relations with the Bohemians, xi.

  _Adagia_, 135-7, 144, 158, 165;
  _Antibarbari_, 281;
  compositions in Paris, 115;
  early poems, 103-4, 132;
  editions of the Fathers, 163;
  _Enchiridion_, 293;
  _Epigrammata_, 280;
  Jerome, 138-40, 158, 280;
  _Julius Exclusus_, 184-9, 294;
  _Moriae Encomium_, 46, 143, 187, 294;
  New Testament, 11, 140, 158, 160-2, 263-4, 280;
  Paraphrases, 197;
  _Querla Pacis_, 166;
  Seneca, 144, 158-9;
  translations into Bohemian from, 293-4, 298.

Fabri, F., 238-51.

families, length of, 202-4.

Fernand, C., 82, 84-6, 92, 177;
  J., 82, 84.

Franciscans, 92, 144, 147;
  at Jerusalem, 238, 245.

Frankfort, book-fairs at, 149, 153.

Froben, J., 151-3, 158.

Gaguin, 84, 102-3, 175.

Garland, J., 36-9.

Gebwiler, H., 26 n.

Geldenhauer, G., 15, 16, 17, 18, 21.

Gerard, Cornelius, 82, 165.

Germany, national feeling in, 264-75;
  historical studies in, 268-75.

Goswin of Halen, 14, 31-2.

Greek, study of, 10, 11, 12, 16, 18, 27-30, 38-41, 43-8, 85, 88, 90,
    91, 117, 120, 126, 127, 134, 137, 150, 151, 262-3;
  manuscripts, 11, 18, 30, 31, 147, 160-1.

Grocin, W., 126-9, 263.

grossness, 205-6.

Grynaeus, S., 160.

Gueldres, 61, 165, 170-3.

Hebrew, study of, 11, 12, 29, 30, 47, 54, 90, 91, 92, 100, 117, 147,
  151, 263.

Hegius, 16, 21, 25-30, 34-5, 41-2, 60, 61, 63, 69.

Heidelberg University, 11, 20, 28, 87, 97.

Helinand, 53.

Henry VIII, scholarship of, 184.

Herman, W., 21, 104, 165.

Hermonymus of Sparta, 122, 134.

Huguitio, 45.

humanists, attitude towards mediaeval romance, 93;
  feeling towards Nature, 207-10.

Hungarian acrobats, 92.

Hus, 58, 179, 282.

Hyrde, R., 198.

India, religious condition of, 93.

interpretations, 114.

Irenicus, F., 272-4.

Jacobus of Breda, 63.

Johannisberg, Abbey of, 59, 60, 72, 74, 76.

Jouveneaux, G., 82, 84.

Kempis, Thomas à, 10.

Koberger, A., 203-4.

Kortenhorff, Gutta, 61.

Kratzer, N., 142, 197.

Kunig, H., 231-2.

Laach, 68, 73-81.

Langen, R., 21, 23.

Lascaris, C., 88, 150.

Latimer, W., 126-8.

Lily, W., 126, 129.

Limburg, burning of, 99.

Linacre, 41, 126, 129, 187, 218, 253.

Lollhard, 60.

London, scholars in, 128, 130.

Louvain University, 15, 107-8.

Loyola, 245.

Luther, 212, 267, 268, 275, 293;
  at Worms, 179;
  Erasmus' attitude towards, 186, 298;
  love of nature, 210.

Mammotrectus, 53-5.

manuscripts, free lending of, 30, 136, 140-2, 160;
  free access to, 82, 271.

Marchesinus, J., 53.

Mary, Princess, 193, 197, 198.

Mas, P. du, 83.

Mauburn, J., 81-2.

medicine, practice of, 218-19.

Meghen, P., 141-2.

Melanchthon, 212.

Merton College, Oxford, ejection of Warden, 176.

Milanese rite, 288.

morals, 204-5.

More, T., 127, 129, 143, 197-8, 205, 229;
  _Utopia_, 187, 188, 201;
  matrimonial relations, 194-5;
  love of Nature, 209.

Mormann, F., 25-6.

news, dissemination of, 214-16.

Oda Jargis, 9, 200.

Oporinus, J., 193.

Ostendorp, 12, 69.

Ottobeuren, 86-101.

Paffraet, R., 29, 63.

Papias, 46-8, 49.

Paris University, 10;
  lectures at, 104, 112;
  life in, 112-15, 145, 148-51;
  Montaigu College, 102;
  Collège de la Marche, 112, 210.

Parr, Katherine, 192.

Paston, Sir John, 194, 205.

Pavia University, 16.

Peasants' Revolt, 99-101.

Pellican, C., 92, 147.

Peter, name of, 71.

Platter, T., 35, 58-9, 154.

Poncher, S., 265.

Praedinius, R., 31.

Prague University, 281.

press, early productions of, 254.

prisoners, redemption of, 175.

proofs, correction of, 159, 187.

Quakers, 29, 86, 292.

quodlibetical disputations, 105-11.

Reading Abbey, 123.

Rees, Henry of, 8, 12.

Reisch, G., 99, 147.

remarriage, 192-5.

Reuchlin, 31, 91, 122, 147, 195, 267.

Rode, J., 80.

Roper, M., 195, 198.

Rychard, W., 219.

St. Patrick's cave, 92, 226.

Santiago de Compostella, 229, 231-2.

Sapidus, J., 147, 206.

Schinner, M., 219.

Schlettstadt, 147, 154, 156-8, 206, 272.

schools, books used in, 62-5, 257;
  numbers of, 154.

Selling, W., 123, 141.

Serbopoulos, J., 123.

Shirwood, J., 124-6.

Sion, near Delft, 66, 81.

Sixtus IV, 10, 11, 34, 122.

Slechta, J., 281-8.

Souillac, 177.

spelling, uncertainty in, 49-52.

Spires, libraries at, 18, 271.

Sprenger, 46.

Standonck, J., 102, 145.

Synthius, _v._ Zinthius.

Thomas of Illyria, 219-20.

Tournay, dispute over bishopric, 177.

Trithemius, 31, 59, 76-8, 214, 269, 273;
  'In praise of scribes', 261-2.

Trivet, Nic., 50.

Turzo, J., 279.

Urswick, C., 142.

Utraquists, 285, 287, 289, 293.

Valla, L., 23, 24, 27, 28, 115, 140-1, 262.

Vaudois, 289;
  crusade against, 180-1.

Veere, Lady of, 115, 131.

Vienne, Council of, 118, 266.

Vincent of Beauvais, 52.

visits of ceremony, 276-81.

Vrye, A., 22-5, 197, 201-2.

Vrye, J., 22.

Wesley, J., 13.

Wessel, 9-13, 29-32, 200.

Wimpfeling, 87, 269.

Windesheim, 81.

women, seclusion of, 196;
  education of, 196-200;
  position of, 200-2.

Ximenes, 263.

Zinthius, 34, 41-2, 63.

Zwingli, 204, 268.

Zwolle, 9, 10, 33, 34, 38.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Note:

    _text_ represents text that was italicised in original.
    [=x] represents letter 'x' with macron.
    [)x] represents letter 'x' with crescent.
    [Greek: xxx] contains transliteration of Greek in original.

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