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Title: Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam
Author: Emerton, Ephraim
Language: English
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   I.--Martin Luther (1483-1546). THE HERO OF THE REFORMATION. By
   Henry Eyster Jacobs, D.D., LL.D.

   II.--Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560). THE PROTESTANT PRECEPTOR
   OF GERMANY. By James William Richard, D.D.

   III.--Desiderius Erasmus (1467-1536). THE HUMANIST IN THE
   SERVICE OF THE REFORMATION. By Ephraim Emerton, Ph.D.


    _Heroes of the Reformation_

    Samuel Macauley Jackson

    Διαιρέσεις χαρισμάτων, τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα.






    O Erasme Roterodame, wo wiltu bleiben? Sieh, was vermag die
    ungerecht tyranney der weltlichen gewahlt, der macht der
    finsternuss? Hör, du ritter Christi, reith hervor neben den
    herrn Christum, beschüz die wahrheit, erlang der martärer cron.
                                         A. DÜRER'S DIARY, 1521.

    The Knickerbocker Press

    COPYRIGHT, 1899
    Entered at Stationers' Hall, London

    The Knickerbocker Press, New York


A complete and satisfactory life of Erasmus of Rotterdam still
remains to be written. Its author will have to be a thorough student
of the classic literatures, a theologian familiar with every form
of Christian speculation, a historian, to whom the complicated
movement of the Reformation is altogether intelligible, an educator,
a moralist, and a man of humour. Only to such a person--if such there
ever were--could the writing of this life be a wholly congenial task.
The subject has been approached by different writers from all the
points of view indicated, but no biography has yet shown the whole
range or value of Erasmus' varied activities.

The limitations of the present volume have fortunately been clearly
defined by the title of the series in which it forms a part. Its
function is to deal with Erasmus as a factor in the Protestant
Reformation of the sixteenth century. With the very peculiar and
often elusive personality of the man it has to do only in so far
as it serves to suggest an explanation of his attitude towards the
world-movement of his time. I say "suggest an explanation" rather
than "explain," because, with all diligence, I cannot hope to have
made clear all of the many problems involved in the inquiry. At
every stage of the study of Erasmus one has to ask first what he
believed himself to be doing, then what he wished others to believe
he was doing, then what others did think he was doing, and finally
what the man actually _was_ doing. And all this has to be learned
chiefly from his own words and from his reports of the words of

His life was full of strange incongruities, and any story of his life
which should seek to cover these incongruities by any fictitious
theory of consistency would but ill reflect the truth. And yet,
with all its pettinesses and weaknesses, its contradictions and its
comings-short of natural demands upon it, this life has, after all,
an element of the heroic. If there be a heroism of persistent work
and cheerful endurance, of steady exclusion of all distractions, of
refusal to commit oneself to anything or anybody which might impede
one's chosen line of duty, then we may gladly admit Erasmus into the
choice company of the Heroes of the Reformation.

Such a distinction would vastly have amused him. He would have seized
his pen and dashed off to some friend, who would spread the word,
some such disclaimer as this: "Well, of all things in the world, now
they are calling me a hero! If you never laughed before, laugh now to
your heart's content. I a hero! a man afraid of my shadow,--a man of
books, a hater of conflict, a man, who, if he were put to the test
would, I fear, follow the example of Peter and deny his Lord. And,
not content with this, they add 'of the Reformation.' I, who never,
by word or deed, drunk or sober, gave so much as a hint of belonging
to any of their accursed 'movements'! Well, no man can strive against
the Fates."

I have chosen the chronological method because it serves best to
illustrate the development of the man in his relation to his time.
Such selections from Erasmus' writings have been chosen for detailed
examination as bear most directly upon the main objects of the book.
It has seemed wiser to make them long enough to show their true
meaning rather than to use a greater number of mere scraps, which
might in almost every case be contradicted by other scraps. So far as
possible the merely controversial has been avoided. For example, I
have barely alluded to the prolonged discussions with Archbishop Lee,
the Frenchman Bedda, the Spaniard Stunica, and the Italian prince of
Carpi. The detail of these controversies tends rather to confuse than
to illuminate the point of chief interest to us. Yet no treatment of
Erasmus could escape entirely the tone of controversy. He set that
tone himself and the student of his writings inevitably falls into it.

The translations have been kept as close to the originals as was
consistent with a freedom of style somewhat corresponding to Erasmus'
own. It would be hopeless to attempt, by any paraphrasing whatever,
to improve upon the freshness and vivacity of the author.

My thanks are due to many friends for kind assistance and suggestion,
but especially to my colleague, Professor Albert A. Howard of the
Latin department of Harvard University, to whose careful revision
the accuracy of the translations is chiefly due.

References to the Leyden edition of Erasmus' works in 1703-1706 are
given simply by volume, page (column), and division of the column,
as, _e. g._, iii.¹, 157-B.



    PREFACE                                               iii

    INTRODUCTION                                         xiii

    BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE                                xxiii


    SCHOOL AND MONASTERY.  1467-1490                        1


    PARIS AND HOLLAND.  1492-1498                          26


    FIRST VISIT TO ENGLAND.  1498-1500                     62


    1500-1506                                              87




    COPIA VERBORUM ET RERUM."                             179


    CHRISTIANI."  1515-1518                               218


    1518-1519                                             268


    "EXPOSTULATIO" AND ERASMUS' "SPONGIA." 1520-1523      336


    OF THE WILL--THE EUCHARIST--THE "SPIRIT." 1523-1527   380


    BASEL--DEATH. 1523-1536                               420

    INDEX                                                 465



    ERASMUS                               _Frontispiece_
      From the portrait by Holbein in the Louvre.

    STATUE OF ERASMUS AT ROTTERDAM                          2

      From Knight's "Life of Erasmus."

    PARISH CHURCH AT ALDINGTON, KENT                       20
      From Knight's "Life of Erasmus."


    THOMAS MORE                                            64
      From the drawing by Holbein in Windsor Castle.

    JOHN COLET                                             70
      From the drawing by Holbein in Windsor Castle.

    HENRY VIII. AND HENRY VII.                             77
      Fragment of a cartoon by Holbein in possession of
      the Duke of Devonshire.

    FOLIE," PUBLISHED AT LEYDEN IN 1715                   124

    ALDUS P. MANUTIUS                                     134
      From an old print.

    CARDINAL REGINALD POLE                                146
      From "Erasmi Opera," published at Leyden, 1703.

    CARDINAL PETER BEMBO                                  154
      From "Erasmi Opera," published at Leyden, 1703.

    ERASMUS.--"FOLLY" AS PROFESSOR.                       158
      Holbein's illustrations to the "Praise of Folly"

      Holbein's illustrations to the "Praise of Folly"

    CONCLUDES HER LECTURE.                                166
      Holbein's illustrations to the "Praise of Folly"

    TITLE-PAGE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, 1519                 180

      From a painting by Holbein in the Louvre.

    QUEEN'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE                            190
      From Knight's "Life of Erasmus."

    JOHN FISHER, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER                      195
      From the drawing by Holbein in Windsor Castle.

    CARDINAL XIMENES                                      200
      From a portrait by C. E. Wagstaff, in the Florence

    DEVICE OF THE HOUSE OF FROBEN                         205

    DEVICE OF FROBEN                                      207

    ERASMUS--FACSIMILE OF HANDWRITING                     232
      From Knight's "Life of Erasmus."

    BONIFACE AMERBACH OF BASEL                            236
      From "Erasmi Opera," published at Leyden, 1703.

    CHARLES V.                                            262
      From an engraving by Bartel Beham, 1531.

    PHILIP MELANCHTHON                                    280
      From the drawing by Holbein in Windsor Castle.

    PUBLISHED AT LEYDEN, 1703                             296

    ERASMUS WITH "TERMINUS"                               315
      From a woodcut by Holbein in the Basel Museum.

    ERASMUS                                               334
      From a copper engraving by Albert Dürer.


    ULRICH VON HUTTEN                                     364
      From a contemporary woodcut.

    BILIBALD PIRKHEIMER OF NUREMBERG                      415
      From an engraving by Albrecht Dürer, in "Erasmi
      Opera," published at Leyden, 1703.

    AT AMSTERDAM, 1693                                    424
      Portrait of Erasmus and others.


      From Knight's "Life of Erasmus."


The student of Erasmus is at first overwhelmed by the abundance of
the material before him. A man who has left to posterity enough
to fill eleven folio volumes would seem to have made a biographer
unnecessary. Especially when two of these volumes are filled with
personal letters, more than eighteen hundred in number, and addressed
to some five hundred correspondents, it might well seem that the best
biography would be a faithful transcript of what the man himself has
given us. And, in fact, almost all that we know about Erasmus comes
through himself. The singular thing is that with this great mass of
material we know so little that is definite about him.

He lived in one of the most eventful periods of the world's history,
and was in some kind of personal relation with its leading actors;
and yet his life, from beginning to end, has not one event more
important or stirring than a journey in winter, an attack of illness,
a quarrel with some fellow scholar, or a change of residence. Our
whole knowledge of his early life up to the period of production is
derived from a very brief record made by himself many years afterward
and made obviously with both a literary and a practical purpose.

His letters were largely collected and published by himself long
after they were written, and were, so he himself tells us, freely
altered for publication. Their chronology is hopelessly confused.
Erasmus says that he supplied many of them with the day and year
when he came to edit them. He was himself at all times curiously
indifferent to the merely historical. It was always subordinate in
his mind to the broadly human and philosophical. The letters must
therefore be read with constant reference to their immediate purpose,
and few of them are without purpose, though it would require a bold
man indeed to be always sure just what it is. Luther's judgment
upon them was unjustly severe: "In the epistles of Erasmus you find
nothing of any account, except praise for his friends, scolding and
abuse for his enemies, and that's all there is to it." The principles
which governed Erasmus as editor of his own correspondence are
indicated in a letter[1] of 1520 to Beatus Rhenanus.

  [1] iii.¹, 552.

He represents himself as driven to edit them in order to check the
publication of unauthorised editions, of which several had certainly
appeared before 1519. He determined to make at least a selection and
judiciously to modify the contents. "With this purpose I revised
the collection. Some things I explained, which certain persons had
interpreted unfavourably. Some, which I found had offended the
oversensitive and irritable tempers of certain persons, I struck out.
Some things I softened." But, after all, he says, as time went on, he
repented him of his plan and urged Froben, to whom he had sent the
"copy," to suppress it entirely or put it off to a more fitting time.
But the work was so far along that Froben declared he would not throw
away all that expense, and Erasmus just had to humour him. "I had to
give way to him and incur myself perhaps the risk of my reputation in
order to save him the risk of his money."[2]

  [2] See also the long treatise, _de conscribendis epistolis_, i.,

Erasmus shared with most scholars of the Renaissance the _cacoethes
scribendi_. He says of himself that his words were rather poured out
than written. When he took his pen in hand it became an independent
force, against which he had to contend lest it run away with him
altogether, and it is one of his claims to greatness as a writer that
on the whole he kept the mastery over it. This essentially literary
quality must be constantly borne in mind by the historian and he must
always be striving to fix the line where history ends and literature

Again,--and here also Erasmus was eminently a Renaissance man,--he
felt himself to be the centre of the world. In a sense that is,
of course, true of every thinking man; but in Erasmus this newly
awakened individual consciousness took on a form of acute personal
sensitiveness which affected his relation to all persons and all
things about him. Especially it reacted upon his writing. He could
not be objective upon any question into which his personality entered
ever so slightly. Whatever touched him as a man, as a scholar, a
theologian, a churchman, or a citizen, began at once to lose its
true perspective. He saw it only in its relation to himself, or
at best to the cause of pure learning, which he always felt to be
embodied in himself.

No writer upon Erasmus has failed to notice these qualities. The
singular thing has been that, recognising them, the biographers have
not tried in any consistent fashion to measure them as affecting
the value of our sources of knowledge. It has generally sufficed
to refer to them and then to treat the sources as pure historical
information. Plainly the solution is not an easy one. If we should
reject, for example, the letter to Grunnius[3] or the Colloquy on The
Eating of Fish[4] as sources for Erasmus' early life, we should have
very little left. If we should accept them as history we should be
mingling fact and fancy in altogether uncertain proportions. The only
safe method is, therefore, to try in each case to weigh the value of
the text before us with fullest reference to all the circumstances.

  [3] iii.¹, 1821.

  [4] i., 787-810.

This rule applies as well to the treatises as to the letters,
whenever the personal element enters into the account. Where no such
issue can be raised, as, for example, in the purely philological
essays or in the treatises against war, or in abstract moral or
didactic writing, we are often forced to admire the vigour and
decision of Erasmus' utterance. But if his personal judgment was
assailed, as it frequently was, then even on a merely grammatical
question his sensitive temper was readily roused to a kind of defence
which we find very difficult to accept as a calm statement of fact.

Another source of confusion is Erasmus' amazing command of classic
literature and his cleverness in utilising, not merely the forms, but
at times the ideas and even the phrases of ancient authors. How much
of what he says, for example, in his descriptions of persons, whether
favourably or unfavourably, is really his own and how much borrowed
is often quite impossible to discover. This borrowing or adapting is
so much a habit that he obviously borrows from himself, using under
similar circumstances what seem to have become almost formulas of his
thought. He _must_ be literary; he _might_ be accurate.

Of contemporary biographical attempts we have almost nothing.
Erasmus' younger friend, Beatus Rhenanus of Schlettstadt in Alsatia,
one of the Basel circle of scholars, has left us two fragments, one a
dedication to the Emperor Charles V. of the 1540 edition of Erasmus'
works, and the other from the dedication to an edition of Origen in
1536 with Erasmus' revision. These two brief sketches fill but six
printed folio pages. They are disfigured by elaborate panegyric, not
only of Erasmus, but of the emperor as well, are obviously drawn
from Erasmus' own account of himself, and contribute little original
material to our knowledge.

In regard to his writings, Erasmus on two occasions made attempts to
summarise his work, once in 1524 at the request of John Botzheim, a
canon of the church at Constance, and again, during his residence
at Freiburg, in reply to an inquiry from Hector Boëthius of the
University of Aberdeen. The latter is a mere table of contents for
a possible complete edition of his works, but the former includes a
great deal of description of the circumstances under which many of
the works were written. These descriptions are at times so trivial
that they can hardly command our respect, and yet it would of course
be impossible to deny that a work of great importance may have had
a trivial suggestion. This longer catalogue gives us also a good
many sidelights upon Erasmus' personality and movements. The general
arrangement and division into volumes suggested by Erasmus himself
were followed in the first Basel edition of 1540, and have been
preserved in the Leyden edition of Leclerc in 1703-1706 which we have

That the following pages will give a clear and consistent impression
of Erasmus' motive at each stage of his career is more than we
can hope for. The best we can offer is an honest appreciation of
his great service to the cause of reform, often in ways he little
expected or desired, often very indirectly, and always without
relation to any definite scheme of action. We may, however, fairly
hope that as each occasion arises, we have so plainly set the
possibilities before the reader that he may form an intelligent
judgment as to the probability.

The most serious problem at every step is what weight to give to
Erasmus' statements about himself. The only reasonable test is to
be found in what he actually did. If, for example, he professes
undying love for the city of Rome and an uncontrollable desire to
end his days there; at the same time protests that everyone at Rome
is longing to have him there, and yet takes no steps to go, we are
forced to inquire what were the reasons which kept him away, and may
have to conclude that all this was a bit of comedy arranged for some
effect which we, as plain historians, should be glad to understand.

In applying these tests to Erasmus' declarations about the
Reformation we find the largest scope for the critical method. All
that is mysterious in his personality up to that time becomes doubly
so when he finds himself--he would have us believe quite against
his will--thrust forward into prominence as a rebel against the
existing order. Several courses of action were open to him: First,
and most obvious, to keep silent; second, to join with the party of
reform, try to hold it to the essential things, and supply it with
the weapons of learning which none could prepare so well as he;
third, to denounce the reform, seek his safety in close alliance with
Rome, and then try to moderate, as far as he could, the extremes of
Roman abuse. No one of these methods commended itself wholly to his
judgment or to his nature. He could not be silent; he would not lend
himself to what he called "sedition"; and he neither could, nor did
he quite dare, trust himself in the hands of the Church he professed
to serve, lest he find his liberty of action restricted beyond

The world into which Erasmus was born was a world of violent
contrasts. The papal system, having come victorious out of the
struggle with the conciliar movement of the fifteenth century,
seemed to control without resistance every current of ecclesiastical
life and thought. Yet the deep and steady flow of sincere and simple
faith best represented by the mystical writers, individual and
associated, was gaining in force and was making Europe ready for a
revolt they never even thought of. The spirit of modern science,
which is nothing more than a desire to see things in their true
relations, was making itself felt in invention and discovery and in
the revelation of Man to himself as a being worth investigating.
Yet over against this spirit of light and liberty hovers the dark
shadow of the Inquisition and its kindred manifestations of an
exclusive claim to the knowledge and control of the Truth. Vast
political powers were contending for the possession of long-disputed
territories, while within their borders great social and industrial
discontents were gathering to a demonstration whenever the strain of
these dynastic struggles should become unbearable.

There were men in this vast conflict of ideas to whom it was
given to lead others along some visible and definable road to
some determinable end: Thomas à Kempis along the way of faith
to the haven of religious peace; Luther and Calvin along the
way of doctrinal clearness through ecclesiastical revolution to
deliberate reconstruction; Descartes through a single, all-inclusive
philosophical proposition to ultimate certainty of thought; the
great artists through "painting the thing as they saw it" to a new
basis of æsthetic judgment. The special function of Erasmus in the
Great Readjustment was, as he conceived it, to bring men back to
the standards of a true Christianity by constant reference to the
principles of ancient learning, and by an appeal to the tribunal
of common sense. His activity took many forms; but he was always,
whether through classical treatise or encyclopædic collection or
satirical dialogue or direct moral appeal--always and everywhere, the
preacher of righteousness. His successes were invariably along this
line. His failures were caused by his incapacity to perceive at what
moment the mere appeal to the moral sense was no longer adequate. His
services to the Reformation were warmly recognised even by so violent
an opponent as Hutten; his personal limitations were in danger of
making those services of no avail, and there was the point where he
and those with whom he ought to have worked parted company.

Our work divides itself naturally into two parts: First, the
development of Erasmus up to the outbreak of the Lutheran Reformation
in 1517, and second, his relation to the leading persons and ideas
of the next twenty years. In treating the former period we shall
examine the traditional story of Erasmus' early education, and shall
illustrate by selections showing as fairly as may be what proved to
be the dominant traits of his mind and character. In the second part
we shall endeavour to show how the traits thus formed determined his
attitude towards the unexpected demands of a new time.


It would be idle to attempt here an Erasmian bibliography, since
the elaborate undertaking of the University Library at Ghent in
1893[5] has placed the material available up to that date in a form
accessible to every reader. The same editors are now engaged upon a
still more stupendous enterprise, a bibliography,[6] in 16º form,
giving complete titles of all known editions of every work. Begun
in 1897, it thus far includes only the editions of the _Adagia_. I
give here, therefore, only the sources likely to interest the general
reader and especially such as I have consulted in the preparation of
this volume.

  [5] _Bibliotheca Erasmiana; Repertoire des œuvres d'Érasme._
  Ghent, 1893.

  [6] _Bibliotheca Erasmiana; Bibliographie des œuvres d'Érasme._
  Ghent, 1897.

I have used constantly the Leyden edition of Erasmus' works[7] based
upon the Basel edition of 1540. The arrangement is roughly according
to the nature of the material. The editorial work is meagre and
careless. The indexes are elaborately and exasperatingly useless. In
the case of the letters, though the editor is perfectly conscious of
false arrangement and dating, he leaves them as he finds them, and
the reader is compelled to discover the inaccuracies for himself.
Professor Adalbert Horawitz of Vienna was preparing to write a Life
of Erasmus when he was interrupted by death in 1888. His preliminary
studies[8] have supplied much new material and given us many valuable
critical suggestions. In 1876 Professor W. Vischer of Basel, acting
on the suggestion of Horawitz, published a series of very interesting
documents which he had discovered in the Basel University Library,
and which throw much light upon several obscure points in the life of
Erasmus.[9] An article by the late Dr. R. Fruin,[10] which came to
my knowledge after the completion of the manuscript, quite confirms
my view of the utter untrustworthiness of Erasmus' accounts of his
early life. Jortin's _Life of Erasmus_, first published in 1758-60,
2d ed., in 3 vols., 1808, is little more than a translation of
Leclerc's _Vie d'Érasme_[11] which was published as a kind of résumé
and advertisement at once of the Leyden _Opera_. Jortin gives,
however, in addition, a good many documents and a mass of more or
less relevant remarks.

  [7] _Desiderii Erasmi Roterodami opera omnia, emendatiora et
  auctiora_, etc., ed. Johannes Clericus (Jean Leclerc), 10 vols.,
  folio. Leyden, 1703-1706.

  [8] Horawitz, Adalbert, _Erasmiana_; in _Sitzungsberichte der
  K. Akademie der Wissenschaften_. Vienna, 1878-1885. Text and
  documents. _Ueber die Colloquia des Erasmus_; in Raumer's
  _Historisches Taschenbuch_. 1887.

  [9] Vischer, Wilhelm, _Erasmiana_. Basel, 1876.

  [10] Fruin, R., _Erasmiana_; in _Bijdragen voor vaderlandsche
  geschiedenis en ouheidkunde_, new series, x., 1880; 3d series,
  i., 1882.

  [11] Jean Leclerc, _Vie d'Érasme tirée de ses lettres_, etc., in
  _Bibliothèque choisie_. Amsterdam, 1703 _sqq._, vols. i., v.,
  vi., viii.

Of more recent biographies, that of R. B. Drummond[12] is, all things
considered, the best; careful and serious, but showing the almost
universal tendency to take Erasmus at his word, even while admitting
his incapacity to tell the truth.

  [12] Drummond, Robert B., _Erasmus, his Life and Character as
  shown in his Correspondence and Works_. 2 vols. London, 1873.

Durand de Laur[13] gives in his first volume a sketch of Erasmus'
life with little critical sifting of evidence, and in the second an
interesting examination of his achievements in the several lines of
his activity.

  [13] Durand de Laur, H., _Érasme, précurseur et initiateur de
  l'esprit moderne._ 2 vols. Paris, 1872.

Froude's _Life and Letters_[14] illustrates the author's familiar
qualities,--his remarkable distinctness of view and his complete
indifference to accuracy of detail.

  [14] Froude, James Anthony, _Life and Letters of Erasmus_;
  lectures delivered at Oxford, 1893-94. London and New York, 1894.

Samuel Knight's _Life_,[15] 1726, is still readable. It deals chiefly
with the relations of Erasmus to England, and gives a great deal of
"curious information" about persons incidentally connected with him.

  [15] Knight, Samuel, _The Life of Erasmus_. Cambridge, 1726. With
  many valuable documents.

Other works likely to be of interest to the reader and student are:

   Altmeyer, J. J., _Les précurseurs de la Réforme aux Pays-bas_.
   Brussels, 1886. _Érasme et les hommes de son temps_, vol. i.,
   pp. 258-343.

   Amiel, Émile, _Un Libre-penseur du XVI siècle: Érasme_. Paris,

   Burigny, J. L. de, _Vie d'Érasme_. 2 vols. Paris, 1757.

   Butler, Charles, _Life of Erasmus_. London, 1825.

   Feugère, Gaston, _Érasme,--Étude sur sa vie et ses ouvrages_.
   Paris, 1874.

   Hartfelder, Karl, _D. Erasmus von Rotterdam und die Päpste
   seiner Zeit_; in Raumer's _Historisches Taschenbuch_, 1891.

   Hartfelder, Karl, _Friedrich der Weise und D. Erasmus
   von Rotterdam_; in _Zeitschrift für vergleichende
   Literaturgeschichte_, etc., new series, iv., 1891.

   Janssen, Joh., _Geschichte des Deutschen Volkes seit dem Ausgang
   des Mittelalters_. Freiburg, 1879, and in repeated editions. On
   Erasmus in vol. ii.

   Kämmel, H., _Erasmus in Deventer_; in _Jahrbücher für classische
   Philologie_, vol. cx.

   Müller, Adolph, _Leben des Erasmus_. Hamburg, 1828.

   Nolhac, Pierre de, _Érasme en Italie; étude sur un épisode de la
   Renaissance avec douze lettres inédites d'Érasme_. Paris, 1888.

   Pennington, A. R., _The Life of Erasmus_. London, 1875.

   Richter, Arthur, _Erasmus-Studien_. Dresden, 1891.

   Seebohm, Frederic, _The Oxford Reformers of 1498: Colet,
   Erasmus, More_. London, 1867; 3d ed., 1887.

   Staehelin, R., _Erasmus' Stellung zur Reformation_. Basel, 1873.

   Stichart, F. O., _Erasmus von Rotterdam, Seine Stellung zu der
   Kirche und zu den kirchlichen Bewegungen seiner Zeit_. Leipzig,

   Woltmann, A., _Holbein und seine Zeit_. Leipzig, 1866-68, 2
   parts; 2d ed., 1874-76, 2 vols. English translation, _Holbein
   and his Time_. London, 1872.






In a letter[16] written by Erasmus, in 1520, to Peter Manius occurs
a passage so characteristic of the writer that one can hardly have a
better introduction to the study of his life. Manius had urged him to
declare frankly that he was not a Frenchman but a German, in order
that Germany might not be defrauded of so great a glory. Erasmus

  [16] iii.¹, 582-C.

   "In the first place it seems to me to make little difference
   where a man is born, and I think it a vain sort of glorification
   when a city or a nation boasts of producing a man who has become
   great through his own exertions and not by the help of his
   native land. Far more properly may that country boast which has
   made him great than that which brought him forth. So far I speak
   as if there were anything in me in which my country might take
   pride. It is enough for me if she be not ashamed of me,--though
   indeed Aristotle does not wholly disapprove that kind of pride
   which may add a spur to the pursuit of a worthy aim.

   "If there were any of this kind of pride in me I should wish
   that not France and Germany alone should claim me, but that
   each and every nation and city might go into the strife for
   Erasmus. It would be a useful error which should incite so many
   to worthy effort. Whether I am a Batavian or no is not even yet
   quite clear to me. I cannot deny that I am a Hollander, born in
   that region which, if we may trust the map-makers, lies rather
   towards France than towards Germany; although it is beyond a
   doubt that that whole region is on the borderland between the

Erasmus cared not where he was born and certainly was in no way
identified with Rotterdam, his native place. He often speaks of
"us" and "our people," referring to Low Germans generally, but he
preferred to be called a citizen of the world, and his whole life is
the illustration of this indifference. Though born a Dutchman, it has
been doubted whether he could speak with readiness his native tongue,
and it seems certain that no other modern language came as readily to
his lips as did the speech of ancient Rome.[17] During a long life he
was continually in motion, never resting more than a few years in any
one place, always seeking more favourable conditions for the work he
had in hand.

  [17] I quite agree with Dr. A. Richter, _Erasmus-Studien_, 1891,
  that Erasmus cannot be accused of any contempt for the vulgar
  tongues or any lack of sympathy with common human life, but I
  do not find his arguments for a thorough command of any modern
  language altogether convincing. That he could speak French
  enough for travelling purposes and write it, as he says himself,
  "badly," is probable.


Holland, Belgium, England, France, Switzerland, were equally his
homes, "_ubi bene, ibi patria_." If he had a preference of sentiment
for any country it was possibly for England, but the demands of
his work and the pressure of untoward circumstances carried him
hither and yon, so that his visits to England seem rather like busy
vacations in his arduous life. Patriotism, citizenship, loyalty to
a place, seemed to him like so many limitations upon that dominant
individuality which was the key-note of his character.

As he was indifferent to the place, so was he also to the time of
his birth. It is even probable that he did not know precisely when
he was born. At all events he nowhere tells us, excepting that the
day was the 27-28th of October. As to the year we are left to later
conjecture, and 1467, the date placed by the citizens of Rotterdam
upon their monument to his memory, is as likely to be correct as any

  [18] The careful inquiry of Dr. Richter into the birth-year
  of Erasmus attempts to fix the year 1466 as the correct date,
  but rather succeeds in showing the hopeless confusion of our
  material, and the evident ignorance and indifference of Erasmus
  himself on the subject.

In regard to his family and the circumstances of his birth, Erasmus
was also reticent to the point of obscurity. That he was born out
of wedlock is clear. His enemies made what little they could out of
the fact, and he never took the trouble to deny it. We may safely
conclude that he cared as little to what family he belonged as to
what land he owed his affection. Our actual knowledge on the subject
is limited to the pathetic little opening paragraph of the very
brief _Compendium Vitæ_, which he sent, under the impression of
approaching death, to his intimate friend, Conrad Goclenius, Latin
professor at the University of Louvain. "Nothing," he says in the
letter accompanying it, "was ever more unfortunate than my birth, but
perchance there will be those who will add fictions to the facts."
"My father Gerard," he writes, "had secretly an affair with Margaret,
daughter of a physician of Zevenberge, in the hope of marriage, and
some say that they had plighted their troth (_intercessisse verba_)."

The marriage was delayed by the desire of Gerard's parents that one
of their family of ten sons should be devoted to the Church and by
the jealousy of the brothers lest their property be diminished.
Meanwhile Gerard, "as desperate men are wont to do," took himself
out of the way and wandered to Rome. Our Erasmus was born after
his departure. The relatives, learning Gerard's whereabouts, sent
him word that Margaret was dead, and the poor fellow, who had been
earning his living as a copyist and decorator of manuscripts,
sought refuge in ordination as a priest. On his return to Holland
he discovered the fraud, but lived the short remnant of his days
faithful to his priestly vows.


One or two obscure references in later writings give some reason to
think that Erasmus had an older brother, who figures also in the
letter to Grunnius mentioned in the Introduction. This brother can
interest us only as affecting the question of the relation between
the father and mother of Erasmus. His appearance in the letter
to Grunnius reminds one so strongly of the characters introduced
by Erasmus in his Colloquies to serve as foils for the principal
speakers, that one can hardly help suspecting a similar device here.
At all events the brother is too shadowy a personage to warrant us in
drawing from his previous existence any instructive conclusion as to
the origin of Erasmus.

In spite of so unfavourable a start in life, the early years of
the lad seem to have been as well sheltered and cared for as could
be desired. The little Gerard, as tradition would have him called
during his childhood, was early sent to school in Gouda (Tergouw),
his father's native place, to an uncle, Peter Winckel by name, and
served for some time before he was nine years old as choir-boy at the
Cathedral of Utrecht.[19]

  [19] A papal brief of the year 1517, found recently at Basel, is
  endorsed: _Dilecto filio Erasmo Rogerii Roterodamensi clerico_.
  The editor, W. Vischer, believes, on this evidence, that the
  family name of our scholar was Roger and his baptismal name
  Erasmus. He thinks it probable that Erasmus had been more frank
  in his statements to the Pope than he usually cared to be and had
  given his true name in the petition to which this brief is the

He says of himself at this tender age, that he "made but little
progress in those unattractive studies for which he was not made by
Nature," but we are hardly warranted in drawing from this phrase the
conclusion that he was ever a backward scholar.

At nine he was sent to the famous school at Deventer. His mother
accompanied him and cared for him as before. Of the Deventer school
Erasmus says that it was "as yet a barbarous place," by which he
means that it had not yet been reformed in the direction of the
New Learning. The boys had to learn their "_pater meus_,"[20] (?)
to conjugate their verbs, and to master their Latin grammar in the
text-books of Everard and John Garland. It was a dreary method and
Erasmus' recollection doubtless made it seem worse than it really
was. The error of it to his maturer mind was that it was rather
practical than scientific, especially that it did not introduce the
pupil from the outset to the models of Latin style, which the great
classic authors alone could furnish. He looked back upon these, as
indeed upon all his years of pupilage, as to a time of struggle and
hardship. Yet the fact is that he was making rapid progress, and at
the close of his four years at Deventer he found himself the equal in
learning of many older lads.

  [20] H. Kämmel, "Erasmus in Deventer," in _Neue Jahrbücher für
  Philologie und Paedagogik_, 1874, Bd. 110, p. 305, quotes from
  Wm. Bates, an English editor of Erasmus' _Compendium Vitæ_ in
  1687, the desperate conjecture that this phrase refers to some
  manual prepared by the father of Erasmus! I suspect--assuming
  that we have a correct text--that the reference is to some
  forgotten Latin phrase-book, beginning perhaps with the words
  "_pater meus_." "_Tempora_" can hardly refer to anything but the
  tenses of the grammar.

The head-master of Deventer at the time was a German, Alexander
Hegius, from whom and from John Sintheim, one of the teachers,
Erasmus says the school was beginning to get a glimmer of the great
light, which, spreading from Italy, was enlightening the world.
Erasmus' younger friend and biographer, Beatus Rhenanus, speaks of
this Hegius as a man of very moderate learning, who knew no Greek at
all, but says that he was open to the merits of the learning he did
not share and gladly accepted the instruction of the younger German
scholar, Rudolf Agricola, who had just returned from Italy fresh with
the eager enthusiasm of that land of all promise. Erasmus fancied
that the most he got out of his Deventer days was a "certain odor of
better learning" which came to him from his older mates, who enjoyed
the direct teaching of Sintheim, and from the occasional hearing of
Hegius, who on feast days lectured to the whole school. There can be
no doubt, however, that he had got on famously in Latin and made at
least a beginning in Greek.[21] Beatus tells a very pretty story of
Sintheim,--that having heard Erasmus recite, he kissed him and said,
"Go on, Erasmus, you will some day reach the very summit of learning."

  [21] See in ii., 166, 167, the adage, "_quid cani et balneo_."

After four years at Deventer an outbreak of the plague carried off
the faithful mother and within a few weeks the father also, both
just over forty years of age. Gerard, so Erasmus says, left a modest
fortune, sufficient, if it had been properly husbanded, to provide
for his own education at a university. The guardians, however, to
whom he had intrusted his little property, the uncle Peter Winckel
especially, were determined not to give the boy an academic training,
but instead to turn him into the monastic life. Beatus speaks of
Deventer as "a most prolific nursery of monks of every kind," and
Erasmus employs this phrase, with every shade of anger and contempt,
for the next institution in which his lot was to be cast.

This was a house of the so-called "Brethren of the Common Life" at
's Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc). This widespread organisation had for
more than a century played a large part in the religious life of the
Low Countries. Founded by one Gerard Groot of Deventer, about 1380,
it had come into existence as above all else a protest against the
dominant monasticism of the Middle Ages. It was not an "order" in
the stricter sense; the brethren were not bound by irrevocable vows;
they were not regularly chartered by the authority of the Church.
It was a free association of men who simply came to live together,
giving up their private property, in order that they might the more
effectively, as they believed, live the life of the Spirit.

Their chief occupation was the copying of sacred writings, but they
professed to support themselves by manual labour. Without calling
into question any of the teachings of the Church, their greater
lights, Gerard himself, Thomas à Kempis, John Wessel, had given
to them a deeper spiritual meaning. They had sought to emphasise
rather the inner life of the individual than the outward, visible
institutions of the Church. Naturally they had from the first been
suspected by all those elements of the Church organisation which saw
their future thus threatened; the regular orders, the Inquisition,
the secularised priesthood, had each in its turn sought to check this
growing protest against their peculiar interests. On the other hand,
the communities in which the brethren had established themselves had
come to value them as examples of piety and types of a virtue which
did not tend to separate men too widely from the life of the world.

Now all this would seem to point precisely in the direction towards
which all the thought of Erasmus naturally turned. Of the two early
instructors who chiefly impressed him, Hegius and Sintheim, the
latter was certainly of the Brethren. The school of Deventer, while
probably not directly under their control, was profoundly influenced
by them. Yet we find in his writings repeated reflections upon their
houses as training-schools for the monasteries and upon themselves as
enemies of sound learning and practical virtue.

At 's Hertogenbosch he spent--or, as he himself says, wasted--about
three years. Yet he admits that at the end of that time he had
made good progress, had acquired a ready style, and in some good
authors was "_satis paratus_." We may be quite sure that he would
not have exaggerated any attainments he might have made under such
circumstances. His residence at 's Hertogenbosch was cut short by
an illness, a quartan fever, as he describes it, to which he seems
to have been subject. He was thrown back upon his guardians and, if
we may believe his own later testimony, he found the whole world in
a conspiracy to force him into the monastic life. The uncle Peter,
whom he describes as a man of good outward reputation, but selfish,
ignorant, and bigoted, was especially determined on this point.
Erasmus makes what he can out of the ruin of his little fortune as
a motive for getting rid of him, but rather spoils the force of his
argument by representing Peter as upon principle devoted to getting
his pupils into monasteries. "He used to brag about how many youths
he had captured every year for Francis or Dominic or Benedict or
Augustine or Bridget."

That the effort of the guardians was to persuade Erasmus to become
a member of the Brethren of the Common Life is made probable by
his use of the term "_Fratres Collationarii_." This was one of the
popular names for the Brethren, derived from their peculiar practice
of giving moral instruction by means of conferences (_collationes_).
Erasmus includes them all in his sweeping denunciations of all
schools and monasteries as "man-stealers." "Formerly," he says,
"they were not monks at all; now they are a half-way kind of people,
monks in what suits them, non-monks in what they don't like." "They
have nested themselves in everywhere and make a regular business of
hunting up boys to be trained." A clever lad of quick parts was an
especial prize. "They ply him with torments, break him with threats,
reproofs, and many other arts, and call this 'training.' Thus they
mould him for the monastic life. If this is not 'man-stealing,' what

One might have supposed that the more stupid the boy, the greater
the reason for urging him to a life whose essence is described as
stupidness; but Erasmus declares the opposite and makes himself the
illustration. All these devices were tried upon him. Violence worked
as badly with him then as ever afterward, and so one of the teachers,
for whom he shows some real affection, was set to try the method of
persuasion. Erasmus, however, declared that he was too young, that
he knew neither the world nor himself, and that it seemed much wiser
for him to pass some years yet in the study of good literature before
making so important a decision. These were not bad people; they were
simply ignorant men, shut up in a corner, always comparing themselves
one with the other, but never with men of the world--what could be
expected of them but narrowness and bigotry? In the reflected light
of later years the great scholar saw himself already at fourteen the
champion of pure learning as against the benumbing influence of the

A final assault was made by one of the guardians. Erasmus and his
elder brother--we are following the Grunnius letter--had prepared
themselves by an agreement to stand by each other. The younger was
to be spokesman and was very doubtful of the elder's firmness of
purpose. The guardian came in all kindness to congratulate the boys
on their good fortune in having, through his good offices, obtained a
place among the canons. Erasmus thanked him kindly, but said, as he
had said to his teacher, that they had decided not to venture upon
this unknown way of life until they should have gained in years and
knowledge. The guardian, instead of being pleased with the manliness
of the answer, "flared up as if someone had struck him, could hardly
keep his hands off them, and began to call names,"--"you recognise
the voice of the monks," Erasmus adds slyly to the papal secretary.
The end of it was that the guardian threw up his trust, declared that
the boys' estate was all spent and they might see to it how they got
on in the world. "Very well," Erasmus heard himself saying through
his tears, "we accept your resignation and release you from all care
of us."

Then the guardian sent his brother, a man famous for his gentle
ways. He invited the lads into the garden, offered them wine, and
with all gentleness entertained them with the marvellous charms
of the monastic life. "Many a lie he told them of the wondrous
happiness of that institution." At this the elder gave way, and this
gives Erasmus a pretext for an assault upon the good name of his
dead brother--supposing this brother to be a real person. He was a
dull fellow, eager only for gain, sly, crafty, a wine-bibber and
worse--"in short, so different from the younger that one might think
him a changeling; for he had nothing in common with him but his evil

Hereupon follows Erasmus' famous description of the pressure which
finally drove him into the monastery. It is plainly a work of
literary art, with little of the directness of simple truth; but we
have no reason to doubt that it fairly represents one side of the
impressions under which a youth of Erasmus' tastes and condition
would naturally be brought. He describes it as a conspiracy
deliberately set in motion by a hostile guardian, but one hardly
needs this explanation to account for the fact that a lad in the
year of grace 1483 should hear every manner of description of the
monastic life. These things were in the air. To be a scholar had,
up to that time, been almost the same thing as to be a monk, and if
Erasmus desired to be a scholar, here was, apparently, the line of
least resistance.

The youth was at that crisis which comes to every young man, when
for the first time he is called upon to decide for himself, with
such help as he can get from others, what course of life he ought
to follow. He describes himself as just entering upon his sixteenth
year, without experience of the world and by nature disinclined to
everything but study; of frail body, though strong enough for mental
occupation. He had passed all his life in schools and believed that
the low fever, from which he had suffered more than a year, was the
consequence of this narrow and dreary training. Deserted on every
side, with no one to turn to,--was not this enough to break a tender
youth like him?

Still he held out, and then began a new series of persecutions.
"Monks and semi-monks, relatives, both male and female, young and
old, known and unknown," were set upon him.

   "Some of these," he says, "were such natural born fools that
   if it had not been for their sacred garments, they might have
   gone about as clowns with cap and bells. Others sinned through
   superstition rather than through any ill-will,--but what matters
   it whether one be choked to death by folly or by evil intention?
   One painted a lovely picture of monastic repose, picking out
   only the most attractive features;--why, the quartan fever
   itself might be made attractive after this fashion."

Another gave an overdrawn picture of the evils of this world--as if
monks were not of this world! Indeed they do represent themselves
as safe on board ship while all the rest of the world is struggling
in the waves and must surely perish unless they cast out a spar or
a rope. Another spread before his eyes the frightful torments of
hell--as if there were no open road from the monasteries into hell!

Others sought to alarm him with "old wives' tales" of prodigies and
monstrous visions. They praised the monkish communion in good works,
"as if they had a superfluity of these, when really they need the
mercy of God more than laymen." In short, there was no engine of any
sort that was not set at work on the poor lad, and they spent upon
him as much energy as would go to the taking of an opulent city. So
he hung "between the victim and the knife," waiting for some god to
show him a hope of safety, when by chance he met an old friend who
had been from his earliest years an inmate of the monastery at Steyn,
near Gouda. This Cantelius, or Cornelius, whom Erasmus describes as
driven into the monastery partly by the love of ease and good living,
partly as a last resort, because he had failed to make his fortune
in Italy, conceived a mighty affection for the boy and joined in the
chorus of exhortation. Especially, knowing his taste, he dwelt upon
the abundance of books and the leisure for study until "to hear him
one would suppose that this was not so much a monastery as a garden
of the Muses." Erasmus returned this affection, "ignorant as yet of
human nature and judging others by himself." Cornelius left no stone
unturned, but still Erasmus resisted, until finally some "yet more
powerful battering-rams" were applied. What these were he does not
precisely say, but only enumerates again the loss of property and the
pressure of his friends. At last, "rather tormented than persuaded,"
he goes back to Cornelius, "_tantum fabulandi gratia_,"--whatever
he may wish to imply by that,--and consents to try the experiment,
without, however, committing himself to remain permanently. His only
condition was that he would not go to "the filthy, unwholesome place,
unfit for oxen, which his guardian had recommended."

Still Erasmus cannot help fancying himself abused. He was charmingly
treated; no duties were pressed upon him; everybody flattered him
and coddled him to his heart's content. He had a capital chance to
read all the "good literature" he wished, for Cornelius soon came to
regard him as a kind of private tutor and kept him at it whole nights
long, much to the injury, he says, of his poor little body. "After
all," thought Erasmus, "this was what the selfish fellow wanted me
here for." In a few months the friends had thus read through the
principal Latin authors; so that this novitiate must have been for
Erasmus a time of great profit along the very line for which he
professed unlimited enthusiasm.

As the time drew near for putting off the secular and donning the
"religious" garb, the same conflict is repeated. Erasmus, looking
back upon his youth, says that his only ambition was for scholarship,
pure and simple, and that, therefore, his natural wish was to go to a
university. His experience in the monastery had made it clear to him
that this was not the life he wished to lead, but precisely why, he
does not satisfactorily explain. Reasons, indeed, he gives in plenty:
his health was not good; he needed plenty of good food and at regular
intervals; he could not bear to be broken of his sleep, and so forth.
His delicate constitution was plainly a source of pride to him as
evidence of a finer spirit than those about him possessed.

   "All these things are a mere joke to the coarse-bred beasts
   who would thrive on hay and enjoy it. But skilled physicians
   know that this delicacy is the peculiarity of a specially
   refined body and of the rarer spirits, and prescribe for them
   food cooked so as to be digestible and eaten frequently but
   sparingly; whereas you will find others who, if you once fill
   them up, can hold out a long time without inconvenience, like

Especially against fish, Erasmus says, he had such a loathing that
the very smell of it gave him a headache and fever.

These objections are highly trivial. They agree, for one thing, very
ill with Erasmus' charges against monks, for of all things he accuses
them most often of easy and luxurious living. There were ways enough,
as he found out afterward for his own convenience, of getting
around the burdensome requirements of the cloister and, on the other
hand, out of these very restrictions there had gone forth many a
vigorous leader of human thought and action. The fact is, probably,
that Erasmus felt already stirring within him that restless impulse
towards the free, unfettered development of his own individuality
which was to be the guide and motive of his life. He accepted the
monastery because under the circumstances there was nothing else to
do; but it could not satisfy him.

Such, at all events, is the impression he desired to produce when
writing this account. He says:

   "In such a place learning had neither honour nor use. He
   [meaning himself] was not an enemy of piety, but had no liking
   for formulas and ceremonies in which pretty much their whole
   life consists. Besides, in an association like this, as a rule
   the dull of intellect are put to the front, half fools, who
   love their bellies more than letters. If any exceptional talent
   appears among them, one who is born for learning, he is crushed
   down lest he rise to distinction. And yet such creatures must
   have a tyrant, and it generally happens that the dullest and
   wickedest, if only he be of sturdy body, is of most account in
   the gang. Now then, consider what a cross it would be for a man
   born to the Muses to pass his whole life among such persons.
   There is no hope of deliverance unless, perchance, one might be
   set over a convent of virgins, and that is the worst slavery
   there is."

Here indeed we may see what was really troubling Erasmus. It was
not any special hostility to the monastery. It was a dread of
anything and anybody that could make any lasting claims upon him.
The monastery simply came in for a larger share of his abuse because
its claim upon him was more burdensome and more evident. It was not
true that a man bred a monk could not rise to almost any distinction
in almost any field. The times just before Erasmus were filled with
examples of men who, through their own talent and energy, had made
their monastic connection the ladder by which they had mounted to
far-reaching usefulness. Even Luther, fiery spirit as he was, worked
his way to liberty along the path of monastic conformity.

For Erasmus a thorough-going conformity to anything was an
impossibility. Making all allowance for the effect of later
experience upon his record of youthful feeling, we may well believe
that he really felt at the moment of his struggle something of what
he puts into his defence:

   "What could such a mind and such a body do in a monastery? As
   well put a fish into a meadow or an ox into the sea. When those
   fathers knew this, if there had been a spark of true human love
   in them, ought they not, of their own accord, to have come
   to the aid of his youthful ignorance or thoughtlessness and
   have advised him thus: 'My son, it is idle to make a hopeless
   struggle; you are not suited to this way of life nor this way of
   life to you; choose another while as yet no harm is done. Christ
   dwelleth everywhere, not here alone; piety may be cultivated
   under any garment, if only the heart be right. We will help you
   to return to liberty under suitable guardians and friends, so
   that in future you may not be a burden to us, nor we prove your
   destruction.'[22] That would have been a speech worthy indeed
   of pious men. But no one gave a word of warning; nay, rather,
   they moved their whole machinery to prevent this one poor little
   tunny from being drawn out of the net."

  [22] Compare page 27.

Above all, he says, they worked upon his acute sense of shame. If he
should turn back now he would be disgraced in the sight of God and
man. His friends and guardians again joined in the cry and finally

   "by baseness they conquered. The youth, with abhorrence in his
   heart and with reluctant words, was compelled to take the cowl,
   precisely as captives in war offer their hands to the victor to
   be bound, or as conquered men go through protracted torments,
   not because they will, but because it pleases their master. He
   overcame his spirit, but no man can make his body over new. The
   youth did as men in prison do, consoled himself with study as
   far as it was permitted him;--for this had to be done secretly,
   while drunkenness was openly tolerated."

It has seemed worth while to follow rather closely this account of
his early years, as given chiefly by Erasmus himself, partly because
it is almost our only source of information and partly because it
gives at the outset so good an illustration of his way of dressing up
every subject he touched to suit the occasion.[23] His biographers
have generally done little more than copy out the Grunnius letter
as an authentic record of his early experience, and its contents
have become the common property of our books of reference. It must,
however, be carefully studied in view of the circumstances under
which it was written and by comparison with the little we can learn
from other sources. Especially must all Erasmus' later criticism
of the monastic life be referred to one of his earliest literary
performances, the treatise, On the Contempt of the World (_de
contemptu mundi_), written, probably, while he was still at Steyn,
and when he was about twenty years old. This is an essay on the
charms of the monastery as compared to "the world." It purports to be
written by a monk to a nephew who was considering how his life should
be spent. Excepting in the concluding paragraph there is hardly an
indication of even a question as to the superiority of the solitary
life over the life of society. The tone throughout is serious to
the point of dulness. There is hardly a trace of the sparkle and
liveliness which marked most of Erasmus' later writing. He begins
with the same laboured comparison between human life and a troubled
sea which he later ridicules:--the sea with its storms, its hidden
rocks, its violent alternations, its siren voices luring the sailor
to destruction. There is danger on the land, but one is far nearer
to it on the sea. Life offers many joys, but none to compare with
safety. Earthly joys are so hedged about with miseries that they lose
their proper charm.

  [23] On the question of the value of Erasmus' letter see note to
  p. 223.


   "Oh, bitter sweetness, so walled in before, behind and on
   every side with wretchedness. I said just now that man was
   coming to the condition of the brutes; but here I think the
   brutes have greatly the advantage of us; for they enjoy freely
   whatever pleasures they will. But man,--good God! how brief and
   how low a thing is this tickling of the throat and the belly!"

Marriage is all very well for those who cannot live otherwise, but it
is a necessary evil. Earthly honours are vain and fleeting. If the
great king Alexander himself could look upon the present world he
would unquestionably warn us that even his unparalleled powers and
dignities were as nothing compared with the victory of the man who
knows how to govern himself. Death makes an end of all and does not
wait for all to come to maturity, but cuts down many in the flower of
their youth.

Then the argument turns to the positive attractions of the monastery
and these are chiefly three: liberty, tranquillity, and happiness.
As to the last two the line of defence is tolerably obvious; but to
represent the monastery as the abode of liberty required no little
ingenuity. Erasmus solved the difficulty by showing that all the
relations of human life were but so many restraints on personal
freedom, while the life in the monastery, imposing limits only upon
the body, allows the soul to enjoy the highest kind of freedom.

Now which of these documents, the _de contemptu mundi_, written
at the time, or the Grunnius letter written perhaps thirty years
afterward, represents the true Erasmus as he was at the age of
twenty? If one tries to form an opinion from facts rather than from
words, one must feel that there is at least room for the question.
Erasmus speaks in the letter as if his intellectual life had been
utterly crushed by the discipline of the monastery, but on the other
hand there is every indication that he had all the opportunity for
study that he could desire. Even if we think of the _de contemptu
mundi_ as a mere piece of sophomoric composition, it shows a very
great acquisition, both of knowledge and of power, in a lad of
twenty. It cannot have been written to please any teacher, for he was
at this time under no regular instruction.

He was no longer at school, but was simply educating himself by
the only pedagogical method which ever yet produced any results
anywhere,--namely, by the method of his own tireless energy in
continuous study and practice. This essay shows a command of classic
literature in quotation and allusion quite inconceivable except as
a result of persistent study. Almost as much may be said of the
style. If it lacks much of the vivacity and personality of the
later Erasmus, it has already gained a very considerable degree
of correctness and force. The conclusion is irresistible that the
description of the charm of the monastery as a place of refuge from
the distractions of the world, and as affording leisure for the
higher life, is a fair reflection of Erasmus' own experience up to
that time. The monastery had served his purpose and now he was ready
for something wider and freer, but he could not justify his quitting
the monastic life without piling charges upon charges against the
institution that had tided over for him, as gently as its conditions
permitted, these years of helplessness.

Nor had his life been by any means a solitary one. He had formed an
intimate friendship with a certain William Hermann of Gouda and with
him "he spent," says Beatus, "days and nights over his books. There
was not a volume of the Latin authors which he had not thoroughly
studied. The time which their companions basely spent in games, in
sleep, in guzzling, these two spent in turning over books and in
improving their style."

Another friendship dating from this period was that with Servatius,
a fellow-monk and afterward prior of Steyn. No one of Erasmus'
correspondents seems to have stood nearer to his heart. The group of
letters addressed to him, probably just before and just after the
writer had left the monastery, show a warmth of affection and a real
desire for affection in return which bear every mark of sincerity.
Even long after their ways had parted for ever Erasmus writes to
Servatius with a respect which has no tinge of bitterness in it. If
his hatred of monasticism had been as furious as he would often have
men believe, hardly anyone would have been a more natural victim for
him than this prior of the house where he is popularly believed to
have suffered such a grievous experience.

So far as the two things which he always described as the requisites
of a happy life, books and friendship, could go, the life of Erasmus
at Steyn ought to have been a happy one.

Let us add one more contribution to the problem,--a letter[24]
written at the age of sixty to a certain monk who had grown restless
during the stirring time of the Reformation:

  [24] iii.¹, 1024.

   "I congratulate you on your bodily health, but am very sorry to
   hear of your distress of mind.... I fear you have been imposed
   upon by the trickery of certain men who are bragging nowadays,
   with splendid phrases, of their apostolic liberty. Believe me,
   if you knew more of the affair, your own form of life would be
   less wearisome to you. I see a kind of men springing up, from
   which my very soul revolts. I see that no one is growing better,
   but all are growing worse, so far at least as I have made their
   acquaintance, so that I greatly regret that formerly I advocated
   in writing the liberty of the spirit, though I did this with a
   good purpose and with no suspicion that a generation like this
   would come into being....

   "You have lived now so many years in your community without
   blame, and now, as you say, your life is inclining toward its
   evening--you may be eight or nine years my junior. You are
   living in a most comfortable place, and in a most healthful
   climate. You derive great happiness from the conversation of
   learned men; you have plenty of good books and a clever talent.
   What can be sweeter in this world than to wander in such meadows
   and taste beforehand, as it were, the joys of the heavenly life?
   especially at your age and in these days, the most turbulent and
   ruinous that ever were. I have known some, who, deceived by the
   phantom of liberty, have deserted their orders. They changed
   their dress and took to themselves wives, destitute meanwhile,
   living as exiles and hateful to their relatives to whom they
   had been dear....

   "Finally, my dearest brother in Christ, by our ancient and
   unbroken friendship and by Christ I beg, I beseech, I implore
   you to put this discontent wholly out of your mind; and to give
   no ear to the fatal discourses of men who will bring you no
   comfort, but will rather laugh at you when they have trapped
   you into their snare. If with your whole heart you shall turn
   yourself entirely to meditation on the heavenly life, believe me
   you will find abundant consolation, and that little restlessness
   you speak of will vanish like smoke."




It may well be doubted, especially in view of his later experience,
whether a residence at Paris or at any other university during just
these years of probation would have been more profitable to Erasmus
than his life at Steyn. He had been learning the invaluable lesson
of self-education, and all his life was to be the richer for it. No
doubt he was beginning to be restless under restraint, and thinking,
as any monk had a perfect right to do, of how he might widen his

He says, we remember, that there was no way out of the monastic life
except to become the head of a nunnery, a remark so obviously foolish
that it is worth recalling only to notice how completely his own
experience contradicted it.

The Bishop of Cambrai, planning to go to Italy, wanted a young
scholar of good parts to help him out with his necessary Latin. He
had heard of Erasmus, how we do not know, and invited him to join
his court and make the Italian journey with him. This may well have
seemed to the young man a glorious opportunity. Italy was then,
even more than it has ever been since, the goal toward which every
ambitious youth of scholarly taste naturally turned. Doubtless,
also, in the larger liberty (or bondage) of the great world, his
monastic experience seemed narrow and sordid enough. He calls the
Bishop his god ἀπὸ μηχανῆς. "Had it not been for this deliverance
his distinguished talent would have rotted in idleness, in luxury
and in revelling." Evidently he would have had no reason to dread
the severity of discipline for which he fancied his health was too
delicate. The Bishop made sure of his prize by securing the approval
of the Bishop of Utrecht, in whose diocese the monastery lay, and
also of the prior and the general of the order. The excellent prior
himself had long been convinced that Erasmus and the monastery were
unsuited to each other and had recommended him to take some such
opportunity as now offered.[25] This was the kind of especially
unreasoning beast whom Erasmus says the monks were wont to choose for
their tyrant!

  [25] iii.²; 1529-D.

The relation into which Erasmus now entered with the Bishop of
Cambrai was one of the most agreeable that could present itself to
a young scholar. It demanded of him but small services, and those
of a kind most attractive to him, and yet it gave him a sense of
usefulness which saved his self-respect. As a member of the Bishop's
household his living was provided for, and leisure was secured for
the studies toward which he was now eagerly looking forward. Once for
all we have to bear in mind in studying the life of a scholar, that
pure scholarship is never, and never has been, self-supporting. The
only question has been how to provide for its maintenance in ways
least dangerous to its integrity and least offensive to its own sense
of dignity. In our day we are familiar with endowments by which the
earlier stages of the scholar's life are made accessible to talent
without wealth, but in its later stages scholarship is held to a
pretty strict account and is expected to give a very tangible _quid
pro quo_ for all it receives.

In Erasmus' time this dependence of learning upon endowment was
more frankly acknowledged, and might be indefinitely prolonged.
Undoubtedly the easiest form of such dependence was the monastic.
There is no doubt that Erasmus' _de contemptu mundi_ gives a
perfectly fair ideal picture of the normal monastic liberty and
its suitableness for the scholar, but for him this life had also
its dangers and its limitations. Next to the endowment through the
monastery there was provision by private patronage. It had come
to be more than ever before in Europe, the duty and the pride of
all princes, lay and clerical, to devote some part of the revenue
which came from their people to promoting their higher intellectual
interests. Scholars were thought of as a decoration as indispensable
to the well equipped princely court as was the court jester or the
private religious counsellor.

With the progress of a new classic culture, all public documents
were taking on a higher tone and demanded a more highly trained
body of scholars for their preparation. But such a position might
become laborious, too mechanical and professional for men of real
genius. Then there was the alternative of teaching, either privately
in the employ of some rich family, or publicly at a university. In
Erasmus' time we find traces of university freedom, but they were
not significant of the normal condition of things. The university
was a great corporation with a reputation to keep up, and compelled
to preserve at least a decent uniformity in its instruction. A man
of independent genius could hardly have found himself entirely at
his ease there, even if he were able to win one of the endowments
by which to live. We shall see that Erasmus was not attracted by
the university career, and only resorted to the method of private
tutoring when other resources failed.

Another form of endowment of scholarship was through the application
of church foundations to this purpose. Of course this was in a sense
a perversion of trusts, but there were many excuses for it. For one
thing, the ends of religion and of education have always, under
Christianity, been largely identified. Even in our own country, and
down to the present moment, endowments for education have been almost
primarily thought of as made in the service of religion. The prime
function of Christian scholarship has been the maintenance of the
religious tradition. So that, when a man was given a "living" out of
church funds, it was felt that he might properly make use of this
income to carry on his personal studies. Especially if, as a result
of those studies, he produced works of religious edification, the
purpose of the endowment was not thought to be violated. Furthermore,
if with this endowment there were connected distinct duties involving
the "cure of souls," no one was shocked if the scholarly holder of
the "living" hired a lesser talent with a small percentage of the
income to perform these duties, while he himself devoted his leisure
to the higher studies for which he was fitted. Such a living may
fairly be compared to a university scholarship in our day--as in fact
the majority of our American scholarships will be found to have a
religious origin.

It must have required an unusual sense of the fitness of things for
a man of Erasmus' time to decline so easy and so honourable a means
of subsistence. What his own real views on the subject were we shall
have occasion to see later when the temptation comes to him. Enough
to say here that, at least so far as the cure of souls was concerned,
it seemed to him, in his better moments, a scandal that the man
who did the work of a "living" should not receive at least a large
part of its emoluments. Doubtless, also, the sense of confinement,
always an unbearable one to Erasmus, had its part in making a church
benefice unacceptable to him. Another consideration no doubt had its
weight. The mediæval scholar had served the cause of religion by
agreeing in every detail with its traditions as the organised church
handed them to him. The scholar of the Renaissance, though he might
be equally devoted to the religious system, thought of his learning
as something having an independent right to existence, and might well
hesitate to commit himself to such obligations toward the traditional
views of religion as were implied in the holding of a clerical office.

Distinctly the most agreeable form of support for the scholar of the
early Renaissance was a regular pension from some rich patron. He had
no need to feel himself humbled by this relation, for he could always
fall back on the pleasant reflection that he was giving back to his
patron in honour quite as much as he received from him in money. In
fact, this was the very essence of such patronage. The relation was
quite different from that of the public official, clerk, secretary,
or what not, hired to perform a definite kind of service. It was a
relation of honour, not to be reduced to commercial terms. The money
given was not paid for the scholar's services; it was given to secure
him the leisure needed for the proper pursuit of his own scholarly
aims. It bound him only to diligence in pure scholarship, not to a
servile flattery of his patron, nor to any direct furtherance of the
patron's ends.

Plainly this system was open to abuses; but so is every relation of
honour between men, and even the more exposed to abuse in proportion
as it calls upon the principle of honour and not upon that of
commercial equivalents. The _quid pro quo_ is the scholar's devotion
to the highest aims of scholarship, and if he fulfils his part to the
best of his ability he may hold up his head in the presence of any
man, even in an age of exclusively commercial standards.

All these forms of support were at one time or another employed by
Erasmus. He seems to have disliked teaching, both public and private,
though the evidence points towards his success, at least in the
latter kind. The cure of souls he never undertook, but was willing to
accept livings, if he were permitted to resign them for a handsome
percentage as pension. Excepting with the bishop of Cambrai he never
stood to any patron in the relation of secretary, clerk, librarian,
or in any other similar form of service. His choice was a good
liberal pension, and as to the _quid pro quo_, there was never in his
case any room for doubt.

Whatever else Erasmus was, he certainly was not lazy. The impulse to
produce was in him an irresistible one. All he asked was opportunity,
and the several patrons who, from time to time, contributed to his
support must have felt that on his side the point of honour was fully
met. One other consideration will perhaps help us to understand the
exact feeling of Erasmus in entering upon what seems to us, perhaps,
a condition of personal dependence. How, we may ask, could any
man have that confidence in his own talent which would assure him
against the dread that after all he might prove a bad investment? The
answer is twofold: the man must have a profound confidence either in
the greatness of the cause he stands for or in his own surpassing
merit. In Erasmus both these elements of assurance were united.
He always thought and spoke of pure scholarship, when applied to
the advancement of a pure Christianity, as the noblest occupation
of man, and he shared in a high degree that exaggerated sense of
personal importance which is the especial mark of the Renaissance

The acceptance of a pension from a private person was, then, the
most untrammelled form of financial dependence which a poor scholar
could assume, and it is the form chosen by Erasmus whenever he had an
opportunity of choice. His first relation to the bishop of Cambrai
was, indeed, intended to be one of actual, definite service. He was
to go with him to Italy as his Latin secretary, and might well feel
that he was to give a fair equivalent for his support. The journey
to Italy, however, was indefinitely postponed. Erasmus says the
bishop could not afford it. Meanwhile the young scholar lived at the
episcopal court until, as the Italian plan seemed to be abandoned,
the bishop gave him money enough to get to Paris. He promised a
regular pension, but it was not forthcoming: "such is the way of

  [26] It was at the same time that he received from the bishop of
  Utrecht ordination as priest. Strictly speaking, this ordination
  was uncanonical, on account of his defect of birth, but we have
  no reason to think that it caused him or anyone else any scruples
  until many years afterward, when the point is distinctly covered
  in a papal dispensation of 1517.--W. Vischer, _Erasmiana_, pp.
  26, 27.

As to further detail of the life of Erasmus with the bishop we are
quite in the dark. Even how long he was there is not clear and is
cheerfully disregarded by most recent writers. It would probably be
safe to conclude with Drummond that it was not more than about two
years and that Erasmus' residence at Paris, therefore, began about
1491 or 1492, when he was about twenty-five years of age. As he had
up to this time consistently complained of every situation in which
he had found himself, we shall be quite prepared to find him making
the worst possible of a manner of life which at the best cannot have
been too attractive to a lover of ease and comfort.

The organisation of the University was such that the instruction was
largely separate from the detail of discipline and maintenance of the
student. Each student lived as he could, sought the teaching of such
masters as suited his immediate purpose, and presented himself for
academic honours whenever he was ready. A student of means lodged at
his own cost in a private house or private Hall, and lived subject
only to the general discipline of the University and the town. For
poor students there existed, as in England, "colleges"--_i. e._,
primarily lodging- and boarding-houses under a stricter oversight.
These colleges were not primarily intended to provide instruction,
a function which was only gradually assumed by them as their
endowments grew to be larger than were needed to provide the ordinary
necessities of living. Their teachers were rather tutors or "coaches"
than men of independent scholarship; their function was to supplement
by repetition and personal attention the public teaching of the more
eminent university professors.

The Collége Montaigu, into which Erasmus entered, was a foundation of
some antiquity, but during the previous generation had fallen into
complete decay, so that nothing was left of it but the buildings.
About 1480 it had taken a new lease of life under one John
Standonch,[27] who devoted himself to its service. As master of the
college he could make something by teaching, and gradually, through
his own activity and that of his fellows, had got together enough so
that he could give lodging and partial board to a certain number of
poor students. By the year 1493 he was thus partially maintaining
over eighty. The rest of their support they got as they could, by
begging or otherwise.

  [27] Car. Jourdain, _Index chronologicus chartarum Universitatis
  Parisiensis_, 1862, p. 301, n. I cannot quite adopt Mr.
  Rashdall's rendering that Master Standonch "took rich boarders
  and made them support the '_Pauperes_.'" H. Rashdall, _The
  Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages_, 1895, i., 512, n.

Erasmus was, then, a charity boarder and ought, in all reason, to
have been grateful for even this poor opportunity of enjoying the
privileges toward which he had for years been looking forward as
the summit of his hopes. Yet he can nowhere mention these Parisian
days without the most doleful complaints of his sufferings from
foul air, bad food, and severe discipline. The most famous of these
diatribes occurs in the Colloquy called Ἰχθυοφαγία--"The Eating
of Fish." Erasmus' theme is here the excessive devotion to formal
rules and observances in religion to the sacrifice of more important
things. The eating of fish is only a text on which he hangs extremely
bold and acute criticism of would-be religious persons, who for
their lives would not violate the rules of the Church against the
eating of meat, but were ready on the other hand to run into any
excesses of fleshly dissipation. The speakers are a butcher and a
salt-fishmonger. After they have gone on matching stories for a long
time, the fishmonger suddenly breaks out:

   [28] "'Thirty years ago I lived at Paris in a college which has
   its name from vinegar (_acetum_).' [The Latin form of Montaigu
   was _Mons acutus_.] The butcher answers: 'Well, that is a name
   of wisdom! What are you giving us? A salt-fishmonger in such
   a sour college? No wonder he's such a keen one at quibbles of
   theology! For there, as I hear, the very walls have theological

   "_Fishm._--'You're right, but all I got there was a body infected
   with the worst kind of humours and a plentiful supply of lice. But
   let me go on as I began. The college was at that time governed by
   John Standonch, a man whose disposition (_affectum_) you would not
   condemn, but in whom you would like to see more discrimination. For
   you couldn't help greatly approving his regard for the poor, mindful
   as he was of his own youth passed in extreme poverty. If he had so
   far relieved the poverty of youths that they might go on with honest
   study, yet not so far that abundance would have led to extravagance,
   he would have deserved praise. But he went into the thing with beds
   so hard, food so coarse and so scanty, vigils and work so severe that
   within a year the first trial brought many youths of excellent parts
   and of great promise, some to their deaths, some to blindness, some
   to madness and not a few to leprosy. Some of these I knew myself,
   and surely not one escaped danger. Now can't anybody see that that
   is cruelty to one's neighbour? And not content with this he put on
   (them) hood and cloak and took from them all animal food--and then he
   transferred such nursery-gardens as this into far-distant regions.
   If every one should indulge his impulses (_affectus_) as far as he
   did, the result would be that the like of these people would fill
   up the whole world. From such beginnings arose monasteries, which
   now threaten both kings and pontiffs. It is a pious deed to boast of
   bringing one's neighbour to piety, but to seek for glory by one's
   dress or one's food is the part of a Pharisee; it is piety to relieve
   the want of one's neighbours, and to see to it that they do not
   abuse the generosity of good men by excess, is good discipline. But
   to drive your brother by these things into sickness, into madness
   and death, that is cruelty, that is murder. The intention to kill
   is perhaps wanting, but the murder is there all the same. What
   forgiveness shall these men have then? The same as a physician,
   who, through notable lack of skill, kills a patient. Does anyone
   say:--"but no one forces them into this mode of life; they come of
   their own accord; they long to be admitted and are free to leave
   when they are tired of it"? Ah! An answer worthy of a Scythian. They
   do ask this, as youths who know what is good for them better than a
   man of years, full of learning and experience! Thus might one excuse
   himself to a famished wolf, after he had drawn him into a trap with
   bait. Can one who has put unwholesome or even poisonous food before a
   frightfully hungry man excuse himself by saying:--"Nobody compels you
   to eat; you have willingly and gladly devoured what was set before
   you"? Would he not properly reply:--"You have given me not food but
   poison"? Necessity is a mighty weapon; hunger is a terrible torment.
   So let them do away with that high-sounding phrase:--"the choice was
   free," for he who uses such torments is really using force. Nor has
   this cruelty ruined poor men alone; it has carried off many a rich
   man's son and corrupted many a well-born talent.'"

  [28] _Colloquia Fam._, i., 806.

So Erasmus goes on to tell other details of student-life at Montaigu.
In the depths of winter a bit of bread was given out for food
and they were obliged to draw water from a polluted well. Some
of the sleeping-rooms were on the ground-floor and in such close
neighbourhood to the common resort that anyone who lived there was
sure to get his death or a dangerous illness. Frightful beatings were
inflicted even on the innocent, "in order, as they say, to take the
ferocity out of them,--for so they call a noble spirit,--and break
it down on purpose to make them fit for monasteries. How many rotten
eggs were devoured there! What a quantity of foul wine was drunk!"

And then, having made his fishmonger say all the vile things about
Montaigu that he can think of, Erasmus, true to his nature, begins
to hedge. Perhaps these things have been corrected since, but this
is too late for those who are dead or are carrying about the seeds
of disease in their bodies. Nor does he say all this from any
ill-will to the college, but only to warn against the corruption of
youth through the cruelty of man under the disguise of religion. He
protests that if he could see good results from the monastic life he
would urge everyone to take the cowl. In fact, however, he seldom
goes into a Carthusian house without finding there someone who is
either gone silly or is a regular madman. There can be no doubt that
the rules for the Collége Montaigu published by Master Standonch in
1501 were sufficiently harsh. They were so made in order to check
the abuse of too great freedom for the very young boys admitted to
such foundations. In confirmation of Erasmus' picture of the horrors
of Montaigu we find regularly quoted Rabelais' famous passage[29] in
which the youth Gargantua on his return from Paris combs cannon-balls
out of his hair and thus gives occasion to his father and tutor for
an attack upon this same "college of vermin" as the haunt of cruelty
and wretchedness. When Rabelais wrote this passage he had not yet
been at Paris. It is practically certain that he was acquainted with
the writings of Erasmus, and the conclusion seems obvious that he
borrowed his illustration directly from the _Ichthyophagia_.

  [29] _Gargantua_, i., 37. See also H. Schönfeld, "Rabelais and
  Erasmus," in _Publications of the Modern Language Association of
  America_, viii. 1.

This description of "Vinegar College" has been almost universally
taken as a serious account of Erasmus' own experience in Paris,
and probably it has its foundation of truth. The commonest laws of
sanitary decency are a thing almost of our own day, and not much
more can be said of the principles of proper food and care of the
body. No one could expect much from a charity-school in the fifteenth
century. But these stories must be considered in their context. They
are introduced, not as actual autobiography, but as illustrations
of one of Erasmus' favourite themes, the evils of monasticism, and
especially they are made to bear on an idea which seems to have been
almost an _idée fixe_ with him,--that all the powers of religion
and learning were in league to drive young men into monasteries.
As before in his recollections of Deventer and Steyn, so now here
in his memories of the Collége Montaigu, this spectre still, after
thirty years, haunts his imagination. He forgets that he was enjoying
the fruits of the devotion and self-sacrifice of the founders and
interprets all their actions by this same governing motive. He had
called his schools "_seminaria_" for monks; now he calls his Paris
college a "_plantarium_" for the same kind of a crop.

In fact, these early studies at the University were full of profit to
Erasmus. He was at the centre of the best culture of the earlier time
and the reviving spirit of the new classic learning was beginning
to make itself felt. In his references to this experience it suited
his purpose and his disposition always to throw contempt upon his
teachers and upon all learning except that which seemed to him to
reflect the glory of antiquity. Indeed, if he had been forced to
content himself with the dry quibbling of the "Scotist" theologians
who were still the dominant party at Paris, he would have found
himself in dreary company enough. But we find no reason to think
that there was any compulsion upon him to take any teaching he did
not like. Greek had already begun to make its way as an attainable
subject at Paris, and Erasmus was beginning to feel the charm which
this, the choicest vehicle of human expression, was to exercise upon
his whole life.

His first Paris residence was interrupted by illness, in consequence
of which he returned for a time to the bishop of Cambrai. The bishop
seems to have been willing to keep him indefinitely at his court,
but not to have provided for his further maintenance elsewhere.
With restored health Erasmus was back again at Paris and now, for
the first time, on a really independent footing. For the moment
he ceased to consider the question of patronage and began to give
lessons to private pupils. Beatus, unquestionably prompted by Erasmus
in all details, says that "the Englishmen at the university could
find no one among the professors of liberal study in the whole place
who was able to teach more learnedly or accustomed to teach more
conscientiously." And then he goes on to make a comparison between
this youth and the two best-known professors of literature at the
time in Paris. One of these, Faustus Andrelinus, was evidently a type
of the gay, reckless spirits who found in classic study an enjoyment
purely intellectual and who used its moral standard as an excuse for
all looseness of life. His manner of teaching was "popular" to the
point of flippancy, designed rather to catch the applause of the
crowd than to merit the approval of the learned. It is to Erasmus'
credit that he did not allow his classic enthusiasm to carry away
his judgment of this person. The other teacher, Gaguinus, was a
more serious scholar, but not so far advanced and not yet regularly
teaching publicly.

So it appears that, in spite of his doleful stories, our scholar had
as usual been making the most of his time, and we come now happily
to a point where evident facts and the testimony of other men can
be made use of to show his growing value and power. There seems
little reason to doubt that he was now a distinctly popular figure
in academic circles. He was in steady demand as a private tutor for
young men who could afford to pay well for his services. Among such
youths Englishmen, then as ever since, were naturally most prominent,
and it is through this relation to English pupils at Paris that
the way was opened for Erasmus to many of the most interesting and
important connections of his later life.

During this second Paris residence, Erasmus evidently got into some
rather serious scrape, of which we get only vague suggestions in
his correspondence. What it was and precisely the nature of the
charges it brought upon him we cannot say. It seems to have had some
connection with his relation to a mysterious personage, who has
been supposed to be almost every possible person from the bishop
of Cambrai down. Froude, in his hit-or-miss fashion, suggests that
this person, whom Erasmus always refers to as _senex ille_, was the
aged Marquis of Veere in Holland, son of a bastard of Duke Philip of
Burgundy. Unfortunately for this theory, the Marquis of Veere was
already dead and is of interest to Erasmus only on account of his
charming widow, who at about this time begins to dawn on his horizon
as a possible patroness. Beatus tells us with a word that Erasmus
after his Montaigu experience went over (_emigravit_) to a certain
noble Englishman who had with him two noble youths, of whom Beatus
thinks Lord Mountjoy was one. This Mountjoy was certainly a pupil and
afterward a faithful friend of Erasmus, and we have references to the
"old man" in letters to Mountjoy which show plainly that the young
nobleman was a confidant of the writer in the Paris unpleasantness,
whatever that may have been. The same is also true of the other
English youth whom Erasmus now met and learned to love, Thomas Grey,
son of the Marquis of Dorset. An extract from a letter to him will
give us an indication of how our scholar had got on in the art of
vigorous expression. The letter[30] is dated at Paris, 1497 (?),
and was evidently written soon after the trouble of which the old
man is the alleged cause. It begins with extravagant expressions of
affection for Grey. "Of the whole race of men none is dearer to me
than you." He would have written him earlier, but dreaded to open up
again the wound which he was just hoping would begin to heal.

  [30] iii.¹, 18-B.

   "Nothing is more intolerable," he goes on, "than abuse in
   return for kindness. Would that I might drink so deep of the
   waters of Lethe that that old man and his insults might wholly
   flow forth out of my mind. As often as I think of him I not
   only fall into a rage, but I marvel that so much poison, so
   much envy, treachery and faithlessness could dwell in a human
   breast. So help me God! when I think of the scoundrelly soul of
   that man, the Poets, men so keen, so eloquent, in describing
   human nature, seem to me either never to have seen poison
   of this sort or to have been unequal to its description. For
   what panderer so false, what ruffian so boastful, what old man
   so ill-conditioned, or what monster so envious, so full of
   bitterness, so ungrateful, have they ever dared to depict, as
   this old humbug, who even sets up for a pietist and invents fine
   names for his very vices? You bid me not to be distressed, and
   indeed, my dear Thomas, I am bearing the thing patiently when
   you think how horrible it is. So unexpected misfortunes can
   but grieve one. How ever could I, in return for my frankness,
   my kindnesses, my faithfulness, my almost brotherly affection,
   expect from a man so venerable as he appeared, so noble as
   he boasted himself to be, so pious as he pretended, such
   extraordinary abuse? I supposed it to be basest ingratitude not
   to return favour for favour. I had read that there was a kind
   of men whom it was safer to offend than to oblige by kindness.
   I did not believe, until I had learned it by experience, that
   it was far more dangerous to do good to evil men than evil to
   good men. For when the ungrateful rascal found that he was under
   greater obligations to me than he could repay, he turned his
   attention away from literature, which he had been wretchedly
   tormenting up to that time, and bent all his energies to ruining
   me with his infamous tricks. And when he despaired of doing this
   by his actions (_laboribus_) he sought to crush me with his
   tongue steeped in the poison of hell, and he did it, too, as
   far as he could. That I am alive at all, that I have my health,
   I ascribe to my books, which have taught me to give way to no
   storm of fate. It is a blow to a man thus born to crime to find
   that he does but little harm.

   "But not satisfied with raging against me with such fury when
   I was present, he pursued me when I had fled from him and,
   out of hatred to me, rages against you, the dearest part of my
   soul--rages, I say, with that most terrible of human weapons,
   with slander. O poison of snakes, worse than any aconite,
   than any froth from the fangs of Cerberus! That a monster
   like this should gaze upon the fair light of the sun, should
   breathe,--nay! poison the vital air! That our common earth
   should bear such a disgrace! The imagination of the Poets was
   never able to conjure up a mischief so horrible, so pestilent,
   so accursed that this monster would not easily surpass it. For
   what Cerberus, what Sphinx, what Chimæra, what Tisiphone, what
   hobgoblin can rightly be compared with this evil thing which
   _Gothia_ [?] has lately spewed out upon us? What scorpion, what
   viper, what basilisk has its poison handier? Venomous things
   seldom give forth their poison except when irritated. Lions
   repay kindness with kindness; dragons grow gentle under kind
   treatment; but this old man is made mad by good-will. There is a
   poisoned soul for you!

   "Now that you may see how solid is my proof; if one marks
   carefully his savage face, the whole habit of his body, does
   not one seem to see as it were the very image of all vices? And
   herein is the wisdom of Nature to be praised, that she has pent
   this soul of deformity in a fitting body. Beneath the bristling
   forest of his eyebrows lurk his retreating eyes with their
   savage gaze. A brow of stone, that in his evil doing no blush
   of shame may ever be seen. His nostrils, filled with a grove of
   bristles, puff out a polypus. His cheeks are drooping, his lips
   livid, his voice belched out rather than breathed out--such is
   the man's impotence--you would think him barking rather than
   speaking. His twisted neck, his crooked legs--nothing that
   Nature has not branded with some stigma. So we brand criminals
   and malefactors; so we hang a bell upon a biting dog; so we mark
   a vicious ox by the hay bound about his horns.

   "To share my learning with this base monster! for his sake
   to waste so much time, talent and energy! If this had gone
   for naught, I should be less wretched, for now I see that I
   have sown the dragon's teeth and they are springing up to my

This is about one half of the letter. It is evident that Erasmus was
in good training for the choicest specimens of personal abuse which
he was later to produce. The remainder of the letter is filled with
flattery of young Grey laid on with as liberal a hand as was the
abuse of the unfortunate "old man." The burden of this part of the
letter is to console Grey for being still under the power of his
tormentor, and to urge him to new effort and to self-reliance in his
studies. Out of the confusion of vague references and later surmises
as to who this unpleasant being was, one can get a certain unity
and form such conjecture as one will. It seems probable that he was
some Englishman of mature years and of good family who had been sent
over to Paris as a guardian for the two young noblemen, Mountjoy and
Grey; that he had engaged Erasmus as tutor, to live at their lodgings
and to include himself in his instruction; that some cause, perhaps
some looseness of morals on Erasmus' part, had brought them to a
quarrel, in consequence of which Erasmus was forced to throw up his
engagement. On the other hand, it is clear that no father would have
intrusted his son to such a monster of physical and moral deformity
as is here described. Just what Erasmus means by saying that "Gothia"
was responsible for him I cannot make out. The whole episode is
interesting only as throwing light on the development of our scholar
in his style and his character.

That Erasmus, eager and diligent student as he surely was, did not
entirely escape the allurements of the Latin Quarter is plain from
later references of his own. Probably he is referring to some such
experiences in a letter[31] written about this time to the friend
whom Mr. Froude jauntily calls William Gauden, and who is the same
William Hermann of Gouda to whom we have already alluded. This
William had evidently written him a reproachful letter, but we do
not learn clearly the grounds of his reproof. Erasmus ascribes his
irritation to the tattling of some enemy and beseeches him at great
length to trust rather his own personal knowledge and his memory
of their lifelong friendship than any such calumny. He represents
himself as plunged in the depths of misery. He would rather die than
endure longer the burden of such a life. It is not life at all; it
is mere existence. Doubtless this is mostly rhetoric, but the true
state of the writer's mind seems to come out in a passage in which he
refers to certain definite persons well known to the receiver, though
obscure to us. The upshot of his gloomy reflections is:

  [31] iii.¹, 13.

   "This is the kind of a moral atmosphere (_moribus_) we have to
   live in; and so we have to follow that saying of Chilo: 'So love
   as if thou wert one day to hate, and so hate as if thou wert one
   day to love.'"

This letter illustrates well traits of Erasmus which were to become
very marked in his future work. He was already showing that joy in
the idea of being persecuted which later seems to have reacted on his
memory of his earliest years. It flattered his vanity to think that
men cared enough about him to abuse him, and such abuse gave him an
added claim upon the devotion of his friends. His nature demanded
affection and admiration, and he was ready to repay them in kind, so
long as he thereby incurred no lasting or burdensome obligation.


These singular contradictions of Erasmus' nature are most clearly
brought out in his early correspondence with his friend Battus, a
young man whom he met at Cambrai, and who became tutor to the son of
the Marchioness of Veere. In connection with Battus, also, we learn
to know Erasmus for the first time as a suitor for patronage. The
Battus letters, some score in number, cover the period just before
and just after his first trip to England, that is, about the year
1500. We are to think of him at this time as firmly fixed in his
determination to be a scholar and, to this end, to get to Italy as
soon as ever it might be possible. He wanted to take his doctor's
degree there, and thought of Italy as a scholar's paradise. But to
gain this great privilege he was not prepared for every sacrifice.
One is apt to think of Erasmus as a wanderer, and with good
reason, but after all he had little of the typical Bohemian in
him. He was, it is true, a poor youth, but his poverty was always
a comfortable poverty. There was nothing, apparently, to prevent
him from taking his staff in his hand and making his way on foot,
if need were, as many another poor scholar had done, to the goal of
his desires. That was Luther's method of seeing Italy, under a very
different impulse. Probably nothing would have done so much to chase
away the megrims that were always pestering him. He would have had
less reason to complain of his digestion and his bad sleeping--but
if he could not have complained he would, perhaps, have been
unhappier still. Meanwhile, he had to have books, he must eat only
just such food as seemed to suit him, he kept a horse, and could
not think of a journey without at least one servant and two horses.
Italy seemed indefinitely far away. Private tutoring was a slippery
source of revenue; frequent visitations of the plague scattered his
pupils and he had to cast about him for ways and means. There were
two resources: a place with an income and, presumably, with duties
attached to it, or a patron. For obvious reasons, he preferred the

Battus, his dear Battus, was pretty comfortably fixed at the castle
of Tournehens on the island of Walcheren, the residence of the
Marchioness of Veere. He was a good fellow and might be counted on
to do his friend a good turn. We have Erasmus, then, in the Battus
letters in an entirely new character,--as the flatterer of the great
for his own personal advantage. The earliest indication of relations
with the marchioness is in a Paris letter[32] to Battus, which begins:

  [32] iii.¹, 27-F.

   "I can quite understand, Battus, best of men, how surprised you
   are that I don't fly to you at once, now that our affair has
   turned out so much better than either of us dared to hope. But
   when you know my reasons you will cease to wonder and will see
   that I have consulted your advantage no less than my own. I can
   hardly tell you how delighted I was at your letter. Already I am
   seeing visions of a happy life with you. What freedom to chatter
   away together! How we will live in common with our Muses! I just
   long to be free from this hateful slavery. 'Why then hesitate?'
   you say. You will see that I do so not without reason. I had not
   expected your messenger so soon. There are some little sums due
   me here, and you know very little is a great thing for me. I
   have unfulfilled obligations with certain persons, which I could
   not leave without injury. I am just beginning a month with the
   count; I have paid my room-rent," etc.

Then follows an account of some troubles about certain manuscripts
and money lost by unsafe messengers, and then he returns to the
subject of the marchioness.

   "I don't need to urge you, dear Battus, for I know your
   loyalty and your affection, to consider at once my profit and
   my dignity. I am not a little in dread of a court and I am
   very conscious of my unlucky star. I rejoice greatly that the
   Lady is so favourably disposed towards me, but what says the
   _antistes_? what hope does he offer? Was ever anything colder? I
   would rather you had named a fixed sum than talked about a great
   one. I will not remind you of Vergil's line

              "'_... varium et mutabile semper,
        Fœmina ..._'

   for I count her not among common women, but among those of manly
   quality (_viragines_). Yet how many are there in that place
   who care for my writings? or is there anyone who does not hate
   learning altogether? My whole fortune depends upon you. But
   if--which Jove forbid!--the affair should fall out contrary to
   both our wishes,--you, burdened with debt as you are, will be
   worse off in that respect, and what help, pray, can you be to me?

   "I will not admit that your zeal for me is any hotter than mine
   for you; but I am sure we ought to take the greatest care not to
   be too eager in this matter. I write this not as having changed
   my opinion or as being fickle in my intentions, but to rouse
   your watchfulness; for we are both in the same position. Now if
   I hadn't so high an opinion of your loyalty, your prudence and
   your carefulness that, when I have turned the thing over to you
   I feel that I can sleep on both ears, I might be alarmed at this
   beginning of the business as at a very unfavourable omen. They
   have sent me a two-for-a-cent hired nag and an allowance for the
   journey that is just about nothing at all. Now, my dear James,
   if the beginning is so cold will the end be likely to boil? When
   will there be a more honourable or more fitting chance for you
   to ask a favour in my name than now, when they will have to get
   me away from this city and from such favouring circumstances?
   With such a pittance I could hardly come on foot; how should I
   manage it on horseback and with two companions? If the affair
   is to be paid for with my Lady's money, as I suppose, this
   beginning doesn't suit me; but if it is at your expense, I like
   it still less, for it would not only be unfair, but it would
   have to be done with borrowed money. What is more unlike the man
   you have always taken me for, than to come flying at the first
   nod and especially under such conditions? Who wouldn't think
   me either a greenhorn or a knave or at any rate in the last
   extremity? Who wouldn't despise me? If I weren't so awfully fond
   of you, Battus, my dear fellow, so that to live with you would
   repay me for any inconvenience, these things might turn me from
   my plans; but they don't move me in the least. I am only warning
   you to keep up my dignity with all diligence. Now you ask my
   opinion and here it is:--I will arrange my affairs here, collect
   my writings and settle up my business. Meanwhile you will be
   copying out what I send you. Write me, by the lad who they say
   is shortly coming hither to study, precisely how the land lies;
   then, when you have copied the Laurentius, send by the same lad
   who brings it--I mean Adrian--an allowance for the journey and
   some very definite statement; an allowance, mind you, suitable
   for me. I can't come at my own expense, dead broke as I am,
   and it is not right that I should leave my present fair enough
   position. Besides I want you to send me a better horse, if you
   can. I am not asking for a splendid Bucephalus, but one that a
   respectable man would not be ashamed to ride; and you understand
   that I need two horses, for I am determined to bring my servant
   and I intend this second horse for him. You will easily persuade
   my Lady of all this. You have an excellent case and I well know
   you are clever enough to make a good case out of the very worst.
   If she refuses to do this--well then, I pray you, how will she
   ever give a pension if she would refuse my travelling expenses?
   Now, then, you understand why I had to postpone our writing, as
   I said at the beginning, and I am sure you will approve it. I
   have told you how to keep up my dignity and all you have to do
   is to push the thing as fast as you can. I'll not be napping
   here; do you keep on the watch there."

This letter is one of the most important revelations of Erasmus'
methods of providing for himself. Battus, his friend, had apparently
held out to him a prospect of nothing less than a regular settlement
at the court of the Marchioness Anna. Erasmus speaks especially of a
settled life of study, with Battus as the chief attraction. But he is
not going to give himself away too easily. He admits that he is at
the end of his resources, but it would never do to let my Lady know
this. His cue is to raise his own value in her eyes. So he delays,
on the plea of important engagements; he reminds Battus that his
stake in the affair is the same as his own--though one hardly sees
why--and he urges him to caution lest he seem too eager in his suit.
He flatters him with praise of his eloquence and with expressions of
entire confidence. It is not a guileless youth whom we meet here, but
a man of the world, conscious of himself to the point of morbidness,
and yet willing to go pretty far along the road of sycophancy to the

The journey to Tournehens took place in the winter of 1497. In his
account of it in a letter[33] to Mountjoy, Erasmus figures himself
as the especial victim of hostile gods. He might have been Hannibal
crossing the Alps, so magnificent is his language. Even the testimony
of the oldest inhabitant is not omitted in proof of the terrors of
the way. It is worth noticing that the gorgeous spectacle of trees
encrusted with ice, the deep-drifted snow, the castle gleaming in
a complete icy shroud, roused in Erasmus no sense of beauty or
of grandeur. He was occupied solely with his own discomforts and
describes all this as so much evidence of a malignant fate.

  [33] iii.¹, 5.

   "We reached the princess Anna of Veere but just alive. What
   shall I say of the gentleness, the kindness, the liberality of
   this woman! I am aware that the exaggerations of fine writers
   are wont to be suspected, especially by those who have some
   skill at such things; but I beg you to believe that I exaggerate
   nothing;--nay rather that the truth goes beyond my skill.
   Nature never brought forth a being more modest, more clever,
   more spotless, more kindly. To put it all in one word:--her
   kindness to me was as far beyond my merits as the malice of
   that old scamp was contrary to my deserts. She, without any
   effort of mine, loaded me with as many kindnesses as he, after
   my endless kindness to him, heaped insults upon me. And Battus,
   dear fellow,--what shall I say of him, the simplest and most
   affectionate soul in the world! Now at last I really begin to
   hate those ingrates. To think that I should have been the slave
   of those monsters so long!"

We seem to have here a reference to his _bête noire_, the Paris
persecutor, with whom Mountjoy was in some way associated.

The same tone of extreme laudation is kept up in a short and hurried
letter[34] sent back to Battus from Antwerp on his way home. He
has evidently been well treated, but is not yet at his ease about
future favours from the lady. "I will fly back," he writes, "as
soon as ever I can, if the gods permit." The remaining letters of
this correspondence may belong to a later period, but will serve
here to show how Erasmus continued his suit. While he is exhausting
the language of flattery about his fair patron, he makes mysterious
allusions to possible checks upon her liberality. She is in trouble;
there are demands made upon her by unworthy persons. Finally it
appears that she married someone quite below her station. The burden
of Erasmus' song is that Battus ought to get ahead of these other
claimants on the lady's bounty and make sure of his case before it
is too late. One letter[35] shows downright ill-temper towards his
dear friend, which he partly excuses on the ground of continued
ill-health. Battus, it seems, had been urging him to write something,
probably as an equivalent for favours to come. He replies:

  [34] iii.¹, 6.

  [35] iii.¹, 46.

   "I hope to die if I ever in my life so hated to write anything
   as I did those trifles, nay, those Gnathonisms, which I have
   written for my Lady, for the Provost and for the Abbot. I know
   you will say this is my ill-temper; but you won't say that,
   Battus, if you think of my condition or if you consider how
   hard it is to force the mind to the writing of a great work,
   and how much harder yet, when it is all in a glow, to have it
   called off to other and trifling things. Because you haven't
   tried this yourself you fancy that my mind is always in perfect
   order, always on the alert, as yours is when you are enjoying
   the greatest possible leisure. Don't you understand that there
   is no worse burden than a mind wearied by writing, and don't
   you think I am doing enough here to satisfy those whose favours
   I enjoy? You are asking me for bales of books, but you don't
   help me to get the leisure which the writing of books demands.
   It isn't enough for you if I shall some day immortalise our
   friendship and the favour of my Lady by my books, but I must
   be writing you six hundred letters every day. It is now a year
   since you promised me money and meanwhile you send me nothing
   but hopes: 'I don't despair, I will push your case with all
   zeal.'--This sort of thing has been crammed into my ears too
   long; it makes me sick. And finally you lament the hard fortune
   of your mistress. You seem to me to be ailing with another's
   sickness. She neglects her fortune; you feel the pain! She fools
   and trifles with her N. and you snarl out: 'She hasn't anything
   to give.' Well! the only thing I see clearly is that if she
   gives nothing for these reasons she will never give anything,
   for reasons of this sort are never wanting to the great. How
   little it would be, with such vast wealth, fairly running to
   waste, to send me two hundred francs. She has plenty to keep
   those cowled whoremongers, those low-lived wretches,--you know
   whom I mean,--but she has nothing to provide leisure for a man
   who might write books worthy to live--if I may brag a little
   of myself. She gets into many a tight place, but it's her own
   fault, if she prefers to keep that pretty fellow rather than
   a grave and serious man, as becomes her age and sex. If she
   doesn't change her mind I foresee still greater troubles;--and
   yet I am not writing in anger against her, for indeed I love
   her as I ought, considering what she has done for me. But, come
   now, how can it hurt her fortune if I get two hundred francs?
   In seven hours she will never know it. The whole business comes
   to this: that we get the money out of her, if not in cash, then
   from her banker, so that I can draw it here at Paris. You have
   been writing letters and letters to her in this affair, asking,
   hinting, going round about; but what could be more useless? You
   ought to have watched your chance, gone at it carefully and
   then put it through boldly; now the same thing has got to be
   done, but too late. I hope to die, but I believe you might have
   carried it through as I wish, if you had only taken hold of
   it with more spirit. You can be a little more pushing in your
   friend's cause without offending my modesty.... Good-bye, my
   dear Battus, and take in good part what I have written, not in
   temper nor in a panic, but as to the man who is the very dearest
   of all men to me."

Another letter,[36] written from Orleans after his return from
England, begins with similar references to some misunderstanding and
goes on to the most barefaced of all Erasmus' begging efforts. Here
occurs his first appeal for a church living, and this plainly not as
a makeshift, but as the beginning of a regular speculation in livings:

  [36] iii.¹, 86.

   "Then persuade her to look out for some church living for me so
   that when I come back I may have a quiet place to devote myself
   to my books. And not this only; give her some reason, the best
   you can make up for yourself, why she should promise me the
   first of the many livings she has. A pretty good one if not the
   best, and one that I can change for a better whenever it turns
   up. Of course I know there are many seeking for livings, but say
   that I am a man apart, one whom, if she compare him with all
   others, etc., etc.--you know your good old way of pouring out
   lies for your Erasmus. See to it that your Adolphus writes the
   same things, most seductive petitions namely, at your dictation.
   Keep it up until the promise of a hundred francs be fulfilled
   and if possible let it be handed over to your Adolphus, so
   that if,--which Heaven forbid!--any accident should take away
   the mother, I may get it from the son. Put in at the end that
   I have complained in my letters that I am suffering as Jerome
   often complains he suffered, from loss of eyesight and that I
   look forward to beginning to study as Jerome did with ears and
   tongue alone. Persuade her, with what elegant words you can,
   that she send me some sapphire or other gem that is good for
   strengthening the eyes. I would have written her myself what
   gems have this power, only I haven't my Pliny by me; do you find
   out for yourself from your medical man."

We have but one letter[37] from Erasmus to the lady of his hopes.
It was written after his return from England and is an excellent
illustration of the type of literature it represents. It is really
an essay in classical composition, with its object, the getting of
money, partly concealed under the cover of literary digression.
This was probably the kind of thing which Erasmus liked to call
_nugæ_ and which he affected to consider a waste of time. He begins
with a fantastic allusion to three other Annas, the sister of Dido,
the mother of Samuel, and the grandmother of Jesus. These have all
been sufficiently lauded by great writers. He will now proceed to
add her as a worthy fourth to the list. We may spare ourselves his
fulsome eulogies of the woman whom he has treated in his letters to
Battus with something pretty close to contempt, and will quote only
a specimen. He has shown how the great men of antiquity favoured the
scholars of their day:--

  [37] iii.¹, 83.

   "But I, thou muse of mine, would not change thee for any Mæcenas
   or any Cæsar. As for what I can give in return, I will strive,
   as far as this little talent and this manly strength of mine
   may go, that future ages shall know my Mæcenas and shall marvel
   that one woman at the ends of the earth strove to revive by her
   benevolence the cause of letters corrupted by the ignorance of
   the unskilled, cast down by the fault of princes, neglected
   through the indolence of men; that she would not suffer the
   labours of Erasmus, deserted by splendid promise-makers,
   despoiled by a tyrant, buffeted by all the blows of fortune,
   to fall away into poverty. Go on then, as thou hast begun. My
   writings, thy foster-children, stretch forth suppliant hands to
   thee and beseech thee by the fortune which thou spurnest when
   favourable and bearest bravely when hostile, by their own ever
   hostile fates, against which they stand by thy favour alone,
   and by the love of that excellent queen--I mean the ancient
   Theology--whom the divine Psalmist (as Jerome interprets) says
   stood at the right hand of God, not in foul rags as she is now
   seen in the fooleries of the sophists, but in golden vestments,
   girt with varied colours, to whose recovery from the mould all
   my vigils are devoted."

Then he becomes more explicit: two things he must have,--the trip to
Italy and the doctor's degree, both of them really follies; he says:

   "for it is quite true, as Horace tells us, that no one changes
   his intellect by running over the sea, and the shadow of a big
   word will not make one a hair's breadth more learned; but one
   must fit one's conduct to the times as they are and nowadays, I
   will not say the vulgar, but even those who are at the very top
   of learning, think no one can be truly a learned man unless he
   is called "_magister noster_," though Christ himself, the prince
   of theologians, forbids it. In former times no one was called
   "_doctus_" because he had bought the title of Doctor, but they
   were called Doctors who by putting forth books had given evident
   witness of their learning."

A very apt and pretty comment on the doctor-fabrication of our own
day and land.

He concludes with certain definite statements as to the work he
has in hand, which show that in spite of all his complaints he was
going steadily on with his studies and with his production as well.
They show further that he was perfectly sincere in his declarations
that he needed money in order that he might do a kind of work from
which he could hope for little pecuniary profit excepting in the
form of payment for dedications. The Veere episode throughout is
full of mysteries. We have no means whatever of knowing how long it
went on, how often, or for how long periods, Erasmus was a guest at
Tournehens, nor how much help he actually received from his noble
patroness. The only date which clearly connects this correspondence
with other events is a reference in the letter to the Marchioness to
the anniversary of his departure from England, and that is, on other
accounts, extremely uncertain. We may safely guess, however, that
this connection covers several years just before and just after 1500.
Battus died in 1502 and by that time the Lady Anna had contracted
a marriage "_plusquam servile_." The letter[38] which tells these
facts was written the same year at Louvain, whither Erasmus says he
had fled from the plague. He complains that he has little chance of
earning anything there and yet says he had declined an offer of a
place to teach made to him by the magistrates. "I am wholly devoted
to the study of Greek and have not been playing with my work; for I
have got along so well that I can write fairly in Greek whatever I
wish to say, and that _ex tempore_."

  [38] iii.², 1837. The approximate date is fixed by a reference
  to the death of the Bishop of Besançon, Francis Busleiden, on the
  twenty-third of August, 1502, in whom Erasmus says he had the
  highest hopes.




Mr. Seebohm, in his amiable study of the Oxford Reformers,[39] is
inclined to find the motive of Erasmus' first visit to England in his
desire to pursue his studies, and especially that of Greek, under
circumstances more favourable than he could find elsewhere; but
connecting this visit with his earlier experiences and especially
recalling the struggle for maintenance in which he was just then
engaged, we can hardly fail to find at least suggestions of other
motives. That his visit did, in fact, powerfully influence his study
and his thought there can be little doubt.

  [39] Third ed., 1887.

The immediate occasion of the journey, which we may safely place
in the summer or autumn of 1498, was an invitation of young Lord
Mountjoy. Of all the English youths whom Erasmus had known intimately
at Paris, Mountjoy was the favourite. He seems to have been sincerely
attached to his teacher and to have done his part in making easier
for him the rugged path of pure scholarship. Writing from England
to Robert Fisher, another of these young men, who was then in Italy,
Erasmus says[40]:

  [40] iii.¹, 12.

   "You would have seen me there, too, long since had not Lord
   Mountjoy, even as I was girded for the journey, carried me off
   to his own England. For whither would I not follow a youth so
   cultivated, so gentle, so amiable? I would follow him, so help
   me God! to the infernal regions."

The English trip must be regarded in a way as a substitute for the
Italian. He was "girded" for Italy in every way but one. He could not
find the money, and he took this chance of living on that English
generosity of which he had made so successful trial at Paris. Nor
was he in any way disappointed. During the year and a half, perhaps,
of his first visit he was entertained by one and another of the
patrons of English learning, or by some of the English scholars
themselves--for scholarship in England was taking on that character
which it has ever since maintained, of being joined with wealth and
station. This was a type of scholarship so far unfamiliar to Erasmus
and it made its due impression upon him. He liked everything in
England. He writes to Fisher:

   "You will ask me how I like your England. Well, if you ever
   believed me in anything, my dear Robert, I pray you believe me
   in this, that nothing has ever pleased me so much. I have found
   here a climate pleasant and healthful, and such cultivation
   and learning, not of the hair-splitting and trivial sort, but
   profound, exact and classic, both in Latin and in Greek, that
   now I feel no great longing for Italy, except for what is to be
   seen there. When I hear my friend Colet I seem to be listening
   to Plato's self. Who does not marvel at the complete mastery of
   the sciences in Grocyn? Was ever anything keener, more profound
   or more acute than the judgment of Linacre? Has Nature ever made
   a more gentle, a sweeter or a happier disposition than Thomas

There is a touch of sincerity about these expressions, in spite of
their conventional form, which is borne out by the whole future
relation of Erasmus to the English group of scholars. For the first
time in his life he forgets to grumble and has no occasion to beg.

  [Illustration: THOMAS MORE.

In England, too, Erasmus found himself, for the first time, in
relations with men who he had to confess were his superiors in many
ways. We know nothing of the circumstances of Erasmus' arrival,
but it seems that Mountjoy soon sent him on to Oxford and that he
was received there in a college of Augustinian Canons known as
the College of St. Mary. So far as any place could be called his
English headquarters, this was it. The prior of the college, Richard
Charnock, was far from being the kind of person Erasmus became so
fond of representing as the natural head of a monastic establishment.
He was a cultivated gentleman and sound scholar after Erasmus' own
heart and in the friendliest relations with the most "advanced" of
the early English humanistic scholars. On just what terms Erasmus
lived at St. Mary's is not quite clear. He refers often to the
Prior's "hospitality," but we find him asking Mountjoy to send him
"his money" (_pecunias meas_) at once that he might repay Charnock
his many obligations. Erasmus was very careful in his use of all the
parts of speech except adjectives, and this phrase seems to indicate
on the one hand that he was a boarder at the college, and on the
other that he had some regular understanding with Mountjoy as to a
supply of money.

Through prior Charnock, probably, Erasmus was introduced to the
leading scholars of the University. Among these by far the most
interesting to him was John Colet, a young man of just his own age,
who was living at Oxford as a private or independent teacher. He was
a man of admirable character, of rare acuteness of mind, already well
out of the fogs of mediæval scholasticism which were still clinging
around Erasmus. Colet seems at once to have impressed himself upon
the visitor as a new type. He was, first of all, a man of fine
culture, the son of a Lord Mayor of London, reared in ease and
plenty and given from the outset that wider outlook into the world
of thought which Erasmus was just beginning to get for himself. He
had enjoyed the great advantage of the Italian journey with all that
it implied by the way. He was a theologian, but as far as possible
removed from the quality which had made the very name of theology
hateful in Erasmus' ears. At Paris, as he continually complains,
theology still meant the futile struggle of hair-splitting schools
of a pseudo-philosophy to explain the how and the why of Christian
truth. For the truth itself they seemed to have little comprehension
and little care. New light was coming into theology, as into all
science, through the larger and freer dealing with ancient learning;
but how to connect this learning of antiquity with the present
problems of religion and of life--that was the all-important question
to every serious mind.

That the very clever mind of Erasmus was already fixed on serious
things there can be no doubt. He was thirty years old; he had largely
overcome the mechanical difficulties of the scholar's work. He had
read the vast mass of the Latin classic authors with great diligence
and with profound personal interest. He had had his fling as well as
his trials at Paris. If he had aimed to be merely a classicist he
was well fitted to join the great army of those flippant scoffers
who had already brought discredit upon learning by failing to give
it a serious and a modern content. Learning, divorced from life, was
already beginning to lose its hold upon many circles of European
interest. Every such failure was only another argument given to the
surviving mediæval methods why men should not desert them until
something better had been found.

And if Erasmus was fitted by his training to imitate the gay and
brilliant shallowness of the Italian Humanists, he was perhaps still
more drawn their way by the natural cast of his mind. He liked
bright things and bright people. He was fond of ease and comfort.
His interests were largely bounded by his own personality. He loved
praise and could not endure reproach. He demanded friendship, but
would not be bound by any ties that threatened his own convenience.
His vanity called for continual food, and he often provided it by
protestations of modesty which called forth devoted expressions from
his admirers. The impression of his quality at this time is not a
lovely one, and yet he was plainly more attractive in person than he
is to us in his correspondence. He made friends and, on the whole,
considering his motto, "to love as if thou wert some day to hate and
hate as if thou wert some day to love," he kept them remarkably well.

The English visit was a critical time to Erasmus. His mood in the
months just before had been one of discouragement, just the mood
which might well have turned a man of his tastes and apparent
character into a life of brilliant literary flippancy. A glimpse
into his own reflections on this point is given in the letter[41] to
Mountjoy above quoted, written from Oxford:

  [41] iii.¹, 41.

   "I am getting on here splendidly and better every day. I
   can't tell you how delighted I am with your England, partly
   through custom which softens all hard things, partly through
   the kindness of Colet and Prior Charnock; for there was never
   anything more gentle, sweeter or more lovable than their
   characters. With two such friends I could live in farthest
   Scythia. What Horace wrote, that even the common people see
   the truth sometimes, experience has taught me:--you know his
   well-worn saying that things which begin the worst are wont to
   have the best ending. What was ever more inauspicious than my
   coming here?--and now everything goes better from day to day. I
   have cast away all that depression from which you used to see me
   suffering. For the rest, I beseech you, my pride, as formerly,
   when my courage failed, you supported me with your own, so now,
   though mine is not lacking, let not yours desert me."

Erasmus in England found his better self awakening to renewed
courage and exertion. Even before he came over, he had begun to see
that perhaps a solution of his life-problem might be found in a
deliberate rejection of the mediæval method in theology by throwing
it all away and going straight back, first to the original documents
of Christianity themselves, and then to the early commentators on
Christianity who had expounded these documents under the direct
influence of the classic culture. Jerome, especially, seemed to him
worthy of the most careful study and of a new and scientific edition.
This was the "great work" to which he refers in his correspondence
with Battus as being interrupted by Battus's trivial demands for some
show-pieces to please their patroness.

Underneath all his thought there lay continually this purpose to
apply his learning to making clearer the ways of God to man. The
Oxford friends were eminently men to strengthen his intention, and
we may feel sure that here was the real source of Erasmus' higher
content in England. Let us try to make acquaintance with them through
Erasmus' own words; and first with Colet, beginning at the point of
their first meeting. In a long letter bearing date 1519, just twenty
years later, and written under the first shock of Colet's death,
Erasmus gives a short but feeling sketch of his friend's life. This
sketch[42] forms the basis of all subsequent treatment of Colet.

  [42] iii.¹, 451.

   "On his return from Italy he chose to leave his home and go
   to Oxford, and there publicly, and without pay, he expounded
   all the epistles of Paul. There I began his acquaintance, sent
   thither by some divine leading. He was then about thirty years
   old, two or three months younger than I. He had never taken
   nor tried for a degree in theology and yet there was no doctor
   in the place, either of theology or of law, and no abbot or
   person of any rank whatever, who did not go to hear him and even
   take his note-book along,--a credit alike to the learning of
   Colet and to the interest of those hearers, that old men were
   not ashamed to learn of a younger one and doctors from one who
   was not a doctor. The doctor title was voluntarily offered him
   afterward and he accepted it rather to please his friends than
   because he really cared for it.

   "From this sacred task he was called to London by the favour of
   King Henry VII. and made Dean of St. Paul's, president of his
   congregation, whose writings he so dearly loved. This is the
   highest dignity in England, though there be others with more
   ample revenue. This man, as if called to the labour, rather than
   to the dignity of the office, restored the decayed discipline
   of his congregation and, a novelty in that place, undertook
   to preach on every holy day in his own church, besides the
   extraordinary sermons which he delivered in the royal chapel and
   in various other places. In his preaching he did not take his
   subject by fragments from the Gospels or the apostolic letters,
   but he proposed some one topic and carried it out to the end
   in successive discourses: as for example the Gospel of Matthew,
   the Creed, the Lord's Prayer. He preached to crowded audiences
   in which were generally to be found the foremost men of the city
   and of the royal court.

   "The Dean's table, which had formerly under the name of
   hospitality degenerated into luxury, he brought within frugal

The occasion of eating was improved by learned and serious

   "He delighted especially in friendly discussions, which he often
   prolonged until late into the night, but all his discourse was
   of learning or of Christ. He often asked me to walk with him and
   then he was as gay as anyone, but ever a book was the companion
   of our walk and our discourse was still of Christ. He was
   impatient of all uncleanness and could not bear to hear language
   ungrammatical and defiled with barbarisms. All his household
   furniture, his dress, his books, he wished to have perfectly
   nice, but did not strive for show. He wore only sad-coloured
   garments, whereas priests and theologians there are generally
   clad in purple. His outer dress was always of plain woollen,
   lined with fur in winter. The whole income of his see he gave
   over to his agent to be spent in household matters and gave away
   his own ample income for pious purposes."

  [Illustration: JOHN COLET.

Then follows an account of the endowment by Colet of the famous St.
Paul's school, to which he gave the best energies of his later years.

   "While everyone approved this work, many wondered at his
   building a splendid house on the grounds of the Carthusian
   monastery near the king's palace at Richmond. He used to
   say that he was preparing a retreat for his old age when he
   should be unequal to his work or broken by disease. It was his
   intention to live there the philosopher's life with two or three
   choice friends, among whom he used to count me, but his death
   came too soon."

The careful analysis of Colet's character which concludes this sketch
is quite different from Erasmus' usual undiscriminating praise of
what suited himself. He presents Colet to us as an eminently human
personage, inclined by nature to all the joys of earthly life, and
yet subduing all lower temptations by the force of his unconquerable
will. He was a man of strongly marked individual opinions, yet
so careful of the feelings of others that he avoided discussion
excepting among friends or when it was forced upon him. At such
times, however, he spoke as one compelled by an inner impulse of
which he was no longer master. In the first interview of which we
have any record, at a dinner at St. Mary's, in Oxford, a discussion
arose on the very speculative question of the meaning of the story
of Cain's sacrifice. Erasmus and an unknown theologian took sides
against Colet[43]:

  [43] iii.¹, 42-F.

   "'Not Hercules himself can prevail against two' say the Greeks,
   but he alone conquered us all. He seemed to be intoxicated
   with a sacred frenzy and to utter things more lofty and more
   noble than belong to men. His voice took on another sound, his
   eyes a different expression, his face and figure were changed;
   he seemed to grow larger, and at times to be inspired with a
   something divine."

So in this later, more careful account Erasmus refers to Colet's view
of Thomas Aquinas. He himself, it appears, had come to have some
respect for Aquinas and had made various attempts to draw out Colet
on the subject. He had so far failed, but one day, returning again to
the charge, he found Colet's eyes fixed upon him,

   "as if watching whether I were in jest or in earnest. But when
   he saw that I was speaking from my heart, he cried out, as if
   inspired by some spirit:--'Don't speak to me of the man! If he
   had not been a most arrogant creature he would not have defined
   all things with such boldness and with such haughtiness. If he
   had not had something of the spirit of this world, he would not
   so have corrupted the whole teaching of Christ with his profane

The result was that Erasmus looked more carefully into his Aquinas
and greatly revised his judgment of him.

Remembering that this sketch of Colet was written two or three years
after Luther had nailed his Theses on the church door at Wittenberg,
we may gain from it a good insight into the views not only of Colet,
but of Erasmus as well, upon many of the doubtful questions of the
early Reformation days. Nowhere, perhaps, in Erasmus' writings do we
find more temperate and cautious suggestions. Already we may discern
in clear outline the determining motives of his position in the great
struggle. In his pet abhorrence, the monastic system, Colet went
with him to the point of free criticism of faithless and irreligious
monks, but, like Erasmus himself when he was, so to speak, in the
witness-box, he had nothing to say against the monastic life in
itself. He had little to do with monks and gave them nothing at his
death, but he professed great affection for the life of seclusion and
often declared that he would enter it himself

   "if he could find anywhere an order really devoted to apostolic
   living. When I was setting out for Italy, he commissioned me
   to inquire on this point, saying that he had heard that in
   Italy there were some monks really sensible and pious. For he
   did not follow the vulgar opinion which calls that 'religion'
   which is sometimes only weakness of intellect. He used to say
   that he nowhere found greater virtue than among married people,
   since they were restrained from falling into many vices by
   their natural affections, by the care of children and by their
   household duties.

   "On this account he was more charitable towards the fleshly sins
   of the clergy. He used to say that he hated pride and avarice in
   a priest more than if he kept a hundred concubines. Not indeed
   that he thought incontinence in priest or monk was a trifling
   fault, but that the other vices seemed to him farther removed
   from true piety. There was no kind of person more hateful to
   him than those bishops who acted more like wolves than like
   shepherds, commending themselves to the crowd by their sacred
   offices, their ceremonies, their benedictions and indulgences
   when really they were heart and soul devoted to this world, to
   glory and to greed.

   "From Dionysius and the other early Fathers he had learned
   certain things which he did not so far adopt as ever to go
   against the laws of the church, but yet far enough to make
   him less opposed to those who did not approve the worship
   everywhere in the churches of images painted or in wood, stone,
   bronze, gold and silver. He had the same feeling toward those
   who doubted whether a priest openly and plainly wicked could
   properly perform the sacraments;--not by any means that he
   favoured their error! but in wrath against those who by a life
   openly and every way corrupt gave ground for such suspicions.
   The numerous colleges, founded in England at vast expense, he
   used to say only stood in the way of good learning and were
   nothing but so many enticements to laziness. Nor did he have a
   very high opinion of the Universities where the all-corrupting
   ambition and greed of the professors destroyed the integrity of
   all science.

   "While he strongly approved the auricular confession, saying
   that nothing gave him such comfort and good feeling, yet he as
   strongly condemned its too anxious and frequent repetition.
   While it is the custom in England for priests to celebrate
   mass almost every day, he was content to do so on Sundays and
   holidays and very rarely on other occasions.... Yet he by no
   means condemned the practice of those who go daily to the
   Lord's table. Although he was himself a most learned man, yet
   he disapproved of that painful and laborious learning which,
   gathered from a knowledge of all branches and the reading of
   all authors, is as it were lugged in by every handle. He always
   said that in this way the native soundness and simplicity of the
   mind were worn away and men were made less sane and less adapted
   to the innocence and to the pure affection of Christianity. He
   greatly admired the apostolic letters, but so reverenced the
   wonderful majesty of Christ that compared with this the writings
   of the apostles seemed to become as it were defiled.... There
   are countless things accepted to-day in the universities from
   which he greatly differed and which he used to discuss at times
   with his intimate friends. With others, however, he concealed
   his views for fear of two evils, first, that he would make the
   matter worse, and second, that he would ruin his own reputation.
   There was no book so heretical that he would not read it
   carefully, saying that he often got more profit from it than
   from the books of those who make such fine definitions and often
   come to worship the leaders of their school and sometimes even

In this affectionate, but at the same time discriminating, review of
Colet's life and character we may easily see outlined certain ideals
of Erasmus himself. He admires in his friend a quality of discretion,
which, under some circumstances, might come pretty near to duplicity.
On many matters he had two opinions, one for himself and his intimate
friends, and another for the public. That is a condition of mind that
will do very well so long as the great issues of a dispute are not
brought out into sharp relief. In the times that try men's souls,
when events will no longer bear nice distinctions, but demand that
men shall stand up and be counted--yes or no--on the question of the
hour, then this quality of discretion may be the ruin of a man. It
was toward precisely such a crisis that the affairs of the Christian
Church were rapidly tending when Erasmus learned to know John Colet
in the delightful intercourse of the college at Oxford. Colet had the
good fortune to die (in 1519) before the supreme test came to him.
Erasmus was to spend the best energy of his declining years in the
struggle to live up to the difficult standard of having one opinion
for himself and another for the world.

In the several subjects touched upon in the review of Colet's
opinions we hear plainly the echoes of discussions, growing ever more
intense, upon the secondary issues of the Reformation. Colet approved
of monks, of secret confession, of an elaborate ceremonial, of a
priesthood resting upon divine consecration, and he would not for
the world question the validity of recognised church law. Yet he was
ready to deal fearless blows at faithless monks, at a superstitious
repetition of confession, an overdoing of the ceremonies of worship,
and the worldliness of the parish clergy. He approved of all
learning, but he condemned the application of learning to a fruitless

The first letter we have from Colet to Erasmus is an address of
welcome to England, a graceful little note, as full of flattery as
any of Erasmus' own and of interest to us chiefly as showing that the
visitor had not come to England unknown. He had, it is true, written
nothing of consequence, but Colet had seen some little things of
his at Paris, and Erasmus' acquaintance there with young Englishmen
of high social rank could hardly fail to have carried at least his
name across the Channel. The same impression of a reputation already
grounded is embodied in the well-known story of Erasmus' first
meeting with another Englishman, with whom his relations, at least
by correspondence, were to be still more intimate,--Thomas More.
The incident is told in the life of More by his great-grandson as

  [44] _The Life of Sir Thomas More_, by his great-grandson,
  Cresacre More, 1828, p. 93. This life is largely made up from
  earlier sources.

   "it is reported how that he, who conducted him in his passage,
   procured that Sir Thomas More and he should first meet together
   in London at the Lord Mayor's table, neither of them knowing
   each other. And in the dinner-time, they chanced to fall into
   argument, Erasmus still endeavouring to defend the worser part;
   but he was so sharply set upon and opposed by Sir Thomas More,
   that perceiving that he was now to argue with a readier wit
   than ever he had before met withal, he broke forth into these
   words, not without some choler:--'_Aut tu es Morus aut nullus_.'
   Whereto Sir Thomas readily replied, '_Aut tu es Erasmus aut
   diabolus_,' because at that time he was strangely disguised, and
   had sought to defend impious positions...."

  [Illustration: HENRY VIII. AND HENRY VII.

This story plainly implies a considerable degree of reputation for
both persons concerned, but as More was at most twenty years old and
known only as a very bright young student at the time of Erasmus'
arrival, we are compelled either to give up the story or to place
it some years later and suppose that Erasmus did not meet More at
all during his first visit. This latter supposition, however, is
quite impossible, since Erasmus speaks plainly of More at this time
as among his most valued friends. The author indeed prefaces the
anecdote with the statement that the two scholars had long known and
loved each other and that their affection "increased so much that he
[Erasmus] took a journey of purpose into England to see and enjoy his
personal acquaintance and more entire familiarity,"--most of which
lacks support in known facts.[45] We can only accept so much of it
as implies previous acquaintance by correspondence, and that may
well have taken place while Erasmus was at Oxford and More in London
working with as much zeal as he could command at his preparation for
the bar. If we strip off the decorations and suppose the meeting to
have occurred during some visit of Erasmus in London from Oxford,
this very pretty story is not altogether improbable. At all events
it strikes the key-note of a friendship which was to last as long as
life. The disparity in age (eleven years) was more than made up by
the great activity and originality of More's mind and the singular
charm of his engaging personality. During this first visit to England
we have no specific record of Erasmus' relations with More, except
this one anecdote of the dinner and another of a visit paid by the
two friends to the children of King Henry VII. at the royal villa of
Eltham, near Greenwich. Erasmus' account of this visit, given many
years afterward,[46] is an explanation of how he came to write an ode
to the young prince. He was dragged into it, he says, by Thomas More,
who came to him while he was staying at Lord Mountjoy's in Greenwich
and invited him to take a walk for pleasure into the neighbouring

  [45] The earliest known letter of Erasmus to More (iii.¹, 55), a
  mere note, bears date Oxford, Oct. 28, 1499. It refers to former
  correspondence, and Mr. Seebohm, anxious to save the anecdote
  of the dinner, is inclined to imagine an even earlier date and,
  of course, a place other than Oxford. My impression is that the
  date is correct, that Erasmus heard of More first at Oxford, then
  began to correspond with him, and out of this correspondence
  saved only the little note in question.

  [46] In _Catalogus omnium Erasmi Rot. lucubrationum ipso autore.
  Basil_, 1524, i., _ad init._

   "There all the royal children were being educated, with the
   exception of Arthur the eldest.... In the centre stood Henry,
   a boy of nine, but already with a certain regal bearing, that
   is a loftiness of mind joined with a singular courtesy of
   demeanour. At his right was Margaret, then about eleven, who
   afterward married James, king of Scotland. At his left Mary,
   a child of four, was playing, and Edmund, a babe, was carried
   in his nurse's arms. More and his friend Arnold, having paid
   their respects to the lad Henry, under whose reign Britain
   now rejoices, offered him some writing--I know not what. I,
   expecting nothing of this sort and having nothing to offer,
   promised that I would prove my devotion to him in some way and
   at some time or other. Meanwhile I was vexed with More, because
   he had given me no warning and especially because the youth sent
   me a note at dinner, challenging my pen. I went home, and though
   the muses, from whom I had long been divorced, were hostile to
   me, I produced an ode in three days. Thus I avenged the affront
   and patched up my chagrin. It was a task of only three days and
   yet a task, for it was several years since I had read or written
   any poetry."

This rather silly tale is of interest only as giving the first
hint of any connection of Erasmus with the English royal family, a
connection not wholly without influence on his future. If More was
playing a joke on his friend, as has been generally assumed, it was
certainly a very poor one. Other indications of Erasmus' occupations
in England are found in a famous letter to his former teacher in
Paris, Faustus Andrelinus. It is a merry letter to a merry fellow and
must not be taken too seriously.[47]

  [47] iii.¹, 56.

   "I, too, in England have gone ahead not a little. That Erasmus
   whom you used to know is almost a good hunter, a horseman not
   the worst, and no slouch of a courtier; he knows how to salute
   more gracefully and smile more sweetly and all this with Minerva
   against him. How are my affairs? Well enough. If you are a wise
   man you will fly over here too. Why should a man with a nose
   like yours grow old in that Gallic dung-heap? But then your
   gout--bad luck to it, saving your presence!--keeps you away.
   And yet if you knew the delights of Britain, Faustus, you would
   hurry over here with winged feet, and if your gout wouldn't
   let you, you'd pray to be turned into a Daedalus. Why, just
   to mention one thing out of many: the girls here have divine
   faces; they are gentle and easy-mannered. You'd like them better
   than your Muses. Besides, there is a fashion here which can't
   be praised enough. Wherever you go everyone kisses you, and
   when you leave you are dismissed with kisses; you come back,
   the sweets are returned. Someone comes to see you--your health
   in kisses! he says good-bye--kisses again! You meet a person
   anywhere,--kisses galore!--so wherever you go everything is
   filled with these sweets. If you, Faustus, should just once
   taste how delicious, how fragrant they are, you would long to
   travel in England, not like Solon, for ten years only, but to
   the end of your days. The rest we will laugh over together, for
   I hope to see you very soon."

Two other Englishmen, both his seniors by some years, became
friends of Erasmus during this first visit,--William Grocyn and
Thomas Linacre. Grocyn was primarily a scholar and teacher, versed
especially in Greek. Linacre was a physician of the highest repute in
his day, and identified with the whole future of medical science in
England through his foundation of the London College of Physicians.
Both had studied in Italy and there had put themselves under
the influence of the leading personages in the later humanistic
generation. Both had become skilled in Greek learning, and were doing
their parts, each in his own way, to further the advancement of Greek
study in England. Grocyn was probably teaching Greek at Oxford when
Erasmus came thither, and so far as he ever acknowledged obligations
to any teacher, the younger man admits the great profit he derived
from this riper talent. In regard to Linacre he notes especially a
severe and painful accuracy which was, probably, the reason why he
left so little behind to attest his scholarship. He could not satisfy
his own exacting standards. With both these men Erasmus seems to have
lived on terms of affectionate intimacy. There are indications that
they were at times rather tired of his persistent begging, but this
did not interfere with their friendly interest, which ended only
with their lives.

Delighted as he plainly was with everything and everybody in England,
better treated than he had ever been in his life, why did not Erasmus
take his own advice and settle down there in some regular occupation?
So cosmopolitan a genius as his could hardly have dreaded a change
of residence; the scholar's home was wherever the sun shone, and
certainly never was man more free to follow the bent of his own
wishes than was Erasmus. That the idea was not a strange one to him
is clear from many indications. Especially was it forced upon him
by a suggestion from Colet that he might stay on at Oxford and join
him in what seemed then likely to be his life-work of expounding
the fundamental documents of Christianity upon the "new" basis of
science and common sense. What Colet's arguments were on this point
we can only guess from a reply of Erasmus, but they seem to have been
such as would come naturally from one scholar to another in whom
he thought he recognised a spirit kindred to his own. Colet lived
in that new world of thought which was the old, and saw before him
the mission of clearing away the mediæval rubbish that had piled up
in the long interval between the really old theology of the Greek
Fathers and the new thought of his own times. And here he seemed to
have found the man of all others best fitted to help him--young,
learned in the language and filled with the spirit of the ancients,
free from all ties of family or home and, apparently, deeply serious
in his interest in religious things. Colet had had a test of his
quality in several active discussions on points of theology, which
had brought out at once his learning and his desire for truth even at
the sacrifice of his own less well-considered opinions. Erasmus had
shown a docility in revising his judgments in very marked contrast
to his firmness when dealing with other opponents. The difference
was, that in facing Colet he found an opponent who was using his own
weapons with equal skill and even greater courage. In the letter
of Erasmus declining to remain at Oxford we hear nothing of the
question of ways and means. It is impossible that it should not
have been in his mind, but there is every reason to suppose that
it did not influence his decision. The only trustworthy patron he
had yet found was an Englishman; there was a chance of a university
appointment, and, failing this, the prospect of private pupils was
better in England than anywhere else. We are told _ad nauseam_ of a
considerable money loss which he suffered on leaving England. So that
we are sure almost beyond a doubt that his reasons for declining what
must have been a very tempting proposition were somehow connected
with his larger scholarly ambitions. [48]Of course he makes as much
as possible of his own modesty: Colet "is (to quote Plautus) asking
water of a rock." How should he have the face to teach what he has
never learned; how warm the frost of others when he himself was all
of a shiver with fear? He praises Colet for his courage and zeal in
the cause of the "ancient" theology as against the "new-fangled
race of theologians, who spend their lives in mere arguments and
sophistical quibbling." Not that he altogether condemns these
studies, for he approves of every kind of study,

  [48] _Ep. ad Coletum_, v., 1263-1264.

   "but taken by themselves, with no admixture of more refined
   and ancient letters, they seem to make a man a conceited and
   disputatious fellow--whether they can ever make him a wise man,
   let others decide. For they seem to exhaust the mind with a kind
   of crude and barren subtlety; there is no sap in them, nor any
   real breath of life.

   "I am not speaking against learned and approved professors of
   theology, for I look up to them with the greatest respect, but
   against that mean and haughty herd of theologians who think
   all the writings of all authors are worth nothing compared to
   themselves. When you, Colet, went into the fight against this
   unassailable horde that, so far as in you lay, you might restore
   that ancient and pure theology, now overgrown with their thorns,
   to its early splendour and dignity, you took upon yourself, so
   help me God!--a task in many ways most admirable, most loyal to
   the name of Theology itself, most wholesome for all studious men
   and especially for this blooming University of Oxford--but, I
   don't conceal it, a task full of difficulty and of opposition.
   Yet you will overcome the difficulty with your learning and
   your industry, and your great soul can afford to overlook the
   opposition. There are, too, among those theologians not a few
   who are both willing and able to help such honest efforts as
   yours. Nay, there is no one who would not join hands with you,
   since there is not a doctor in this famous school who has not
   listened most attentively to your lectures on St. Paul, now
   going on for the third year....

   "I am not wondering that you should take upon your shoulders a
   burden to which you may be equal, but that you call me, a man
   of no account whatever, to share in so great an enterprise. For
   you ask me--nay you urge upon me, that as you are lecturing
   upon Paul so I, by expounding the ancient Moses or the
   eloquent Isaiah, should strive to rekindle the studies of this
   school--chilled, as you say, by these long months of winter."

He goes on to protest his unfitness for the task and especially to
defend himself against the charge that he had given Colet reason to
believe he might accept his suggestion.

   "Nor did I come hither to teach poetry or rhetoric, which have
   ceased to be agreeable to me since they ceased to be necessary.
   I refuse the one, because it does not accord with my plans, the
   other because it is beyond my powers. You blame me wrongly in
   the one case, my dear Colet, because I have never had before me
   the profession of so-called secular literature, and you urge me
   in vain to the other, because I know that I am unequal to it.
   Besides, if I were never so fit, I could not do it, for I must
   soon go back to my deserted Paris."

We seem to find here a suggestion that Colet had laid before him two
propositions,--one that he might become a teacher of the classic
literature in which he was already a master; the other that he should
join with himself in setting the meaning of Scripture free from the
absurd trammels which the scholastic methods of interpretation had
laid upon it. Either of these tasks, with a reasonable prospect of
support and the delightful intercourse of academic life, would, one
must suppose, have been a supreme attraction for Erasmus. The only
possible explanation of his refusal is his dread of putting his neck
into any yoke whatever, no matter how easy it might be. A possible
suggestion of this motive is found in the somewhat enigmatic sentence
that "poetry and rhetoric had ceased to interest him since they had
ceased to be necessary." This may have meant that literature in
itself was important to him only as a means of livelihood, and since
he was, at least temporarily, provided for, he did not care to teach
it at Oxford. Literature was henceforth to be a means to the higher
end of redeeming theology, the _regina disciplinarum_, the "queen of
sciences," from her present degradation. But for this latter work he
was not as yet prepared. If we ask why he did not choose to continue
his preparation under the very favourable conditions at Oxford, we
may perhaps find a partial answer in his deep-seated dislike of the
work of teaching. He could talk beautifully about it, but it seems
pretty clear that he always hated it. So Oxford lost a professor, but
the world gained a man.




His "deserted Paris," "that Gallic dung-heap," was calling to
Erasmus, perhaps with the same siren voice that has drawn thither
so many another homeless genius, and he went. He was, if we may
believe his later wails, pretty well supplied with money, which he
had turned into French coin. He is very careful to insist that he
had not received this money in England, but if not, it is difficult
to imagine where it could have come from. He was aware of a law
forbidding the exportation of gold from the realm, but had been
advised by his friends that this law applied only to English coin and
so felt safe. The customs officers at Dover, however, took another
view of the matter and left him nothing but the small amount allowed
by law, nor could his connections in high quarters ever avail him to
make good his loss.

An account of the affair, written, so Erasmus says, "unless he is
mistaken," twenty-seven years afterward, brings this incident into
direct connection with the earliest piece of writing in which
Erasmus presented himself to the world in his true character.
Speaking[49] of his mishap from the lofty position of a famous
scholar before whose biting satire the great ones of the earth might
well tremble a little, he gives himself great praise for not having
taken immediate vengeance on the king and the country which had
used him so badly, by writing something against them. He refrained
partly because it seemed an unworthy thing to do, and partly because
he would not be the means of bringing down the royal wrath upon his
dear friends in England; and so, having no resources, he determined
to publish something that might pay. He had nothing on hand, but
by reading hard for a few days he "got together in haste quite a
'forest' of adages, thinking that a book of this sort, whatever
its quality, would, by its very usefulness, go into the hands of

  [49] _Catalogus lucubrationum_, _op._ i.

This account of the origin of the famous Adages of Erasmus seems in
the main reasonable. It was in the strictest sense a bread-and-butter
undertaking, calculated to meet a demand which every writer of
that day must feel and for which there was no adequate supply. The
scholar, no matter how great his claim to individuality, could not
get on without continual references to classical literature. They
were, so to speak, the certificates of his scholarship; they took
the place of the references to the Christian and Hebrew Scriptures
by which the mediæval scholar had at once supported his views and
demonstrated his learning. Of course such decoration ought to come
naturally as a result of the writer's own wide reading and profound
reflection in the classic literature, and during the really great
times of the Revival of Learning, while scholarship was confined to
comparatively few men, and these men of really commanding powers,
such had been the case. By the time of Erasmus, however, the new
learning was falling rapidly into its second stage; it was becoming
more widely diffused and, naturally, was drawing to itself ever
more and more second-rate material. Learning was coming to be
fashionable, and at just that stage all aids to a ready acquirement
of at least the appearance of scholarship were sure to be in demand.
It is an evidence of Erasmus' practical good sense that he was
ready to advance his most serious purposes by contributing to this
popularisation of learning.

Erasmus was always fond of telling how rapidly he worked, but in
the present case we have every reason to believe that his work was
hasty and experimental in the extreme. Nothing more unscientific
in form can well be imagined than this collection of scattered
sayings from the writings, chiefly, of classic authors. The method,
practically unchanged in the many later editions, was simply to jot
down at random some verse of poetry or some word having a peculiar
meaning and then to give a very brief explanation of its origin and
value; then if the occasion warranted, upon this as a text to write
a little essay. In this personal and individual comment lies the
real importance of the Adages, in giving us an idea of their author.
It was this personal element also which appealed most strongly
to those of his own time who were capable of valuing it, but it
was not this which commended the Adages, probably, to the widest
circle of readers. To the great mass of young students and to the
increasing numbers of men everywhere who were trying their hands at
Latin composition, the book was rather an encyclopædia of classical
quotations, from which they could select the needed decorations of
their style without the trouble of going to the original sources.

To these two lines of patronage the Adages owed their great and
immediate popularity. The first edition was printed at Paris in 1500
and contained about eight hundred selections. As to the method of the
future editions Erasmus gives us some information. When he saw that
the book was received with gratitude by scholars and was apparently
going to live, and moreover that publishers were vying with each
other in printing it, he kept enriching it from time to time as his
own leisure or the supply of available books gave him opportunity.
What he regarded as the final edition was printed at Basel by Froben
in 1523. After that he merely annotated previous editions, "rather
as giving to others material for a future work than as really making
a new book with proper care."[50] This first edition of the Adages
was dedicated to Mountjoy. Without the later additions it must, one
would think, have been as dry reading as could well be imagined, but
the fact of its popularity is unquestionable. Edition after edition
appeared with great rapidity, so that we are now able to record no
less than sixty-two within the author's lifetime.

  [50] _Catalogus lucubrationum_, i.

As for the pecuniary rewards which Erasmus may have had in view,
there is no indication that they were immediate or considerable. The
ethics of book-publishing were at that time in a highly rudimentary
state. So far as one can see there was nothing to prevent any printer
from putting forth any writing that by any chance got into his hands.
Erasmus in a dedicatory letter to Mountjoy with a later edition[51]
says that his reason for the new publication was that the earlier
editions had been printed so badly that one might suppose the errors
had been made intentionally. In another place[52] he says, with an
unusual effort at accuracy, that the first edition of the Adages was
published on the 15th of June, 1500, while he was absent from Paris.
This date is certainly a very early one, and we have to bear in mind
that Erasmus' object in giving it was to prove that he had got ahead
of a rival compiler of proverbs who had accused him of stealing his
thunder. It agrees, however, with our other indications. The most
singular thing about it is that a young author, putting forth his
first ambitious publication, should have been willing to absent
himself from the place where the work was being done. The fact was,
probably, that Erasmus was frightened half out of his wits by the
presence of the plague in Paris, and this impression is strengthened
by the pains he takes to convince his friend Faustus Andrelinus of
his uncommon freedom from the vulgar emotion of fear. He was at
Orleans and Faustus had urged him to come back to Paris; had even, so
Erasmus says, called him a coward by the mouth of his own servant.

  [51] ii., _ad init._

  [52] iii.¹, 57.

   "This reproach would not be endured even if made against a Swiss
   soldier; against a poet, a lover of ease and quiet, it doesn't
   stick at all. And yet, in matters of this sort, to have no dread
   whatever seems to me rather the part of a log than of a brave
   man. When the fight is with an enemy that can be driven back,
   whose blows can be returned, who can be conquered by fighting,
   then if a man wants to seem brave, let him, for all I care. The
   Lernean Hydra, last and hardest of all the labours of Hercules,
   could not be overcome with steel but could be beaten by Greek
   fire; but what can you do against an evil that can be neither
   seen nor conquered? There are some things which it is better to
   run away from than to conquer. The brave Æneas did not go into
   battle with the sirens, but turned his helm far away from that
   shore of danger. 'But,' you say, 'there is no danger'--well,
   meanwhile I, on the safe side of danger, see a great many
   persons dying. I imitate the fox in Horace:--'I am alarmed at
   the footsteps, so many leading towards you and so few away.' In
   this condition of things I wouldn't hesitate to fly, not merely
   to Orleans, but to Cadiz or to the farthest of the far Orkneys;
   not because I am a timid person or of less than manly courage,
   but because I really do fear--not to die, for we are all born to
   die--but to die by my own fault. If Christ warned his disciples
   to flee from the wrath of their persecutors by straightway
   changing their residence, why should I not evade so deadly a foe
   when I conveniently can?"

Yet he is not happy at Orleans; the Muses grow chilly in that city
of law-books; he means to come back, and meanwhile he begs Faustus
to write a prefatory letter to his Adages, which he has just put
forth. He asks this not for the merit of the work, for he does not
flatter himself so far as not to see how poor it is--but the worse
the goods the more they need recommendation. Faustus gave the letter
and it duly appeared, but whether it did not just suit Erasmus, or
whether he could not quite bear to have his work recommended by
anyone, he saw fit later to declare that the printer had wormed it
out of Faustus. Perhaps, too, Faustus had a little overdone it and
in the extravagance of this festive person's praise Erasmus may have
detected a little sting of sarcasm. In a letter to his friend and
pupil, Augustinus, Erasmus reproves him for taking too flattering a
tone towards himself and says, by the way,

   "that exaggeration of Faustus, in which he says that in me alone
   is the very sanctuary of letters, was not so very delightful to
   me, both because extravagant praise suits neither my modesty
   nor my deserts and because such figures of speech are as a rule
   not believed and simply arouse envy. They are moreover akin to
   irony, just as what you wrote me, although in most flattering
   terms, did not really flatter me at all: 'O, most attentive
   teacher, I, thy devoted pupil, dedicate myself to thee; command
   me as thou wilt; naught that I have is mine, but all is thine!'
   All that kind of talk, it seems to me, ought to be kept as far
   as possible from a sincere attachment. For where there is real
   affection as there is, I think, between us, what use is there in
   such figures of speech? And where affection is insincere they
   are wont to be turned into a suspicion of malice. Therefore you
   would greatly oblige me if you would completely banish such
   exaggerations from your letters, that simple affection may find
   its proper language and that you may bear in mind that you are
   writing to an attached friend and not to a tyrant."

This sounds very fine and would impress one with a great sense of
Erasmus' ingenuous nature, if one could forget that this is precisely
the time when he was carrying on the correspondence with Battus and
the Marchioness of Veere which we have already examined.[53] Indeed
the years from 1500 to 1506 are the most perplexing in Erasmus' whole
life. He was continually on the move, now at Paris, now at Orleans,
again in the Low Countries, visiting this friend and that, with no
regular source of income, yet somehow pulling himself through. During
all this time there is hardly a letter which does not speak of him
as the victim of a cruel fate. Of course it is always the fault of
someone else, but human nature has not so greatly changed in four
hundred years that we can afford to take his word for it that all
his patrons had deserted him with no cause whatever on his part. To
get the proper perspective for an understanding of the situation
we must remind ourselves that Erasmus was as yet a very doubtful
investment. His real individuality was hardly showing itself. He
had positively rejected all proposals of regular occupation; he was
making considerable demands on life, but he would take life only on
his own terms.

  [53] See p. 48 & _ff_.

The motive of Erasmus' wanderings in these early years of the century
is not clear. More easily perceptible than any other is his fear of
the plague and a nervous dread of other illness. When things went
badly in one place he betook himself to another, but it is hard to
find much principle even in his health-seeking. He speaks of finding
relief in his native land and again writes that Zeeland is hell to
him, he "never felt a harsher climate or one less suited to his
poor little body." The bishop of Cambrai had long since failed him.
The bishop's brother, the abbot of St. Bertin, formerly a great
friend, was of no use; the Marchioness was herself in some mysterious
trouble; Battus alone, his precious Battus, was quite true to him,
but not able to do much for him. Altogether it seems most probable
that the conspiracy of the fates against our scholar may have been
nothing more than a common feeling of distrust toward a sturdy
beggar, who had not yet proved his value and who was not inclined to
put up with any half-way charity.

But meanwhile Erasmus was always at work. His real, permanent, and
persistent interest was his own self-culture--not in any narrow or
mean sense, but that he might be equal to the great demands he was
preparing to make upon himself. Of all things he wished to make
himself strong in Greek, and it is clear that he was dissatisfied
with any teaching which thus far had been open to him. From this we
ought not hastily to draw conclusions as to the badness of Greek
teaching at Paris. Erasmus, like most men of original genius, was
not a docile pupil. He knew intuitively, what it takes most of us a
lifetime to find out, that every man must teach himself all that he
ever really and effectively knows, and that this is especially true
of all linguistic knowledge. Erasmus complains of his Greek teachers,
but he did not sit down and wait for better ones. He went to work
with such appliances as he had and read Greek books and gradually
came to read them well. He learned Greek, in short, as he had learned
Latin, by _using_ it.

From time to time, however, he gave evidences of his progress in
culture by some production intended for wider circulation. A specimen
of such occasional writing is his _Enchiridion militis christiani_,
a title which has almost invariably been rendered, "A Handbook of
the Christian Soldier," but which bears equally well the meaning,
"The Christian Soldier's Dagger." The essential point is that it
was a something "handy," a _vade mecum_ for the average gentleman
who aimed to be a good Christian. Erasmus uses the word in both
meanings at different times. Writing, according to his own reckoning,
nearly thirty years afterwards,[54] Erasmus gives us an account of
the origin of this treatise, which is interesting as showing how
unsystematic were the motives which led, or which he imagined led,
to the writing of many of his most famous works. He says "the thing
was born of chance." He was at Tournehens to escape the plague then
raging in Paris and there came into relations with a friend of
Battus, a gentleman who was "his own worst enemy," a gay and reckless
liver. This gentleman's wife was a woman of singular piety and in
great distress for her husband's soul. She begged Erasmus to write
something which might move him to repentance, but to be careful that
this warning should not appear to come from her; for "he was cruel to
her even to blows, after the manner of soldiers." So Erasmus noted
down a few things and showed them to his friends, who approved them
so highly that some time afterward at Louvain he employed his leisure
in putting them into shape. For a while the book attracted little
attention; but later it became one of the most popular and widely
read of its author's more serious works. It was first printed in 1503
and after that ran through edition after edition with great rapidity.
Naturally, it brought out also no little opposition; but that will
explain itself when we have examined a little more carefully the aim
and contents of the book.

  [54] _Catalogus lucubrationum_, i.

Its object is especially to emphasise the difference between a
true religion of the heart and an outward, formal religion of
observances. It is divided into thirteen chapters of varying length,
each headed with a caption rather vaguely indicating its contents.
After a somewhat long introduction he proceeds to a definition of
the human soul, following in the main the lead of the early Fathers,
especially of Origen. He distinguishes between the soul of man and
a something higher yet, which they describe as spirit. The body is
the purely material, the spirit is the purely divine, but the soul,
living between the two, belongs permanently to neither, but is tossed
back and forth from one to the other according as it resists or
gives way to the temptations of the flesh. The body is the harlot,
soliciting to evil. "Thus the spirit makes us gods; the flesh makes
us beasts; the soul makes us men." This distinction is again and
again illustrated, and the chapter ends with a declaration of the
true rule of Christian piety; viz., that every man see to it that he
judge himself according to his own temptation.[55]

  [55] v., 20-D.

   "One man rejoices in fasting, in sacred observances, in going
   often to church, in repeating psalms, as many as possible--but
   in the spirit. Now ask, according to our rule, what he is
   doing:--if he is looking for praise or reward, he smacks of the
   flesh--not of the spirit. If he is merely indulging his own
   nature, doing what pleases him, this is not a thing to be proud
   of, but rather to be feared. There is your danger. You pray
   and you judge the man who prays not; you fast and you condemn
   the man who eats. Whoever does not do as you do, you think is
   inferior to you. Look out that your fasting be not to the flesh!
   Your brother needs your help, but you meanwhile are mumbling
   your prayers to God and neglecting your brother's poverty: God
   will be deaf to such prayers as that.... You love your wife just
   because she is your wife; that is very little, for the heathen
   do the same. Or you love her only for your own pleasure; then
   your love is to the flesh: but if you love her chiefly because
   you see in her the image of Christ, piety, modesty, sobriety,
   chastity, then you love her not in herself, but in Christ--nay,
   you love Christ in her and so God in the spirit."

The book then goes on to more specific injunctions to the Christian
life, always with the undernote of sincerity as the main thing. Here
is a striking passage from the second canon of the eighth chapter:[56]

  [56] v., 23-A.

   "Christ said to all men that he who will not take up his cross
   and follow after him is not worthy of him. Now you have no
   concern with dying to the flesh with Christ, if living in his
   spirit does not concern you. It is not yours to be crucified
   to the world, if living to God be not yours. To be buried with
   Christ is nothing to you, if rising in glory is nothing to you.
   Christ's humility, his poverty, his trial, his scorn, his toil,
   his struggle, his grief, are nothing to you, if you have no care
   for his kingdom. What more base than to claim for yourself the
   reward with others, but to put off upon a certain few the toil
   for which the reward is offered? What more wanton than to wish
   to reign with our Head, when you are not willing to suffer with
   him? Therefore, my brother, do not look about to see what others
   do and flatter yourself with their example;--a difficult thing
   indeed and known to very few, even to monks, is this dying to
   sin, to carnal desire and to the world. Yet this is the common
   profession of all Christians."

So again in the fourth canon:[57]

  [57] v., 26-D.

   "You fast,--a pious work indeed to all appearance; but to what
   purpose is this fasting? Is it to save provisions or to seem to
   be more pious than you are? Then your eye is evil. Or do you
   fast to keep your health? Why then do you fear disease? Lest
   it keep you from pleasure? Your eye is evil. Or do you desire
   health that you may devote yourself to study? Then to what end
   is this study?--that you may get a church office? But why do
   you wish the office?--that you may live to yourself and not
   to Christ? Then you have wandered from the standard which the
   Christian ought to have set up everywhere. You take food that
   your body may be strong, but you desire this strength that
   you may be equal to the study of sacred things and to holy
   vigils:--you have hit the mark; but if you look after your
   health lest you lose your beauty and so be incapable of sensual
   pleasure, then you have fallen away from Christ and have set up
   another God for yourself.

   "There are those who worship certain divinities with certain
   rites. One salutes Christopher every day, but only while he is
   gazing upon his image, and for what? because he has persuaded
   himself that he will thus be safe for that day from an evil
   death. Another worships a certain Rochus, and why? because he
   fancies he will drive the plague away from his body. Another
   mumbles prayers to Barbara or George, lest he fall into the
   hands of his enemy. This man fasts to Apollonia to prevent
   the toothache. That one gazes upon an image of the god-like
   Job, that he may be free of the itch. Some devote a certain
   part of their profits to the poor, lest their business go to
   wreck. A candle is lighted to Jerome to rescue some business
   that is going to pieces. In short, whatever our fears and our
   desires, we set so many gods over them and these are different
   in different nations; as, for example, Paul does for the French
   what Jerome does for our people, and James and John are not
   good everywhere for what they can do in certain places. Now
   this kind of piety, unless it be brought back to Christ instead
   of being merely a care for the convenience or inconvenience of
   our bodies, is not Christian, for it is not far removed from
   the superstition of those who used to vow tithes to Hercules in
   order to get rich--or a cock to Æsculapius to get well of an
   illness, or who slew a bull to Neptune for a favourable voyage.
   The names are changed, but the object is the same. You pray to
   God to escape a sudden death and not rather that he may grant
   you a better mind, so that whenever death overtakes you it may
   not find you unprepared. You never think of changing your way
   of life and yet you pray God to let you live. What then are
   you asking?--why, only that you may keep on sinning as long as
   possible. You pray for wealth and know not how to use wealth; so
   you are praying for your own ruin. If you pray for health and
   then abuse it, is not your piety impious?

   "An objection will be made here by some 'religious' fellows, who
   look upon piety as a profession, or, in other words, by certain
   sweet phrases of blessing seduce the souls of the innocent,
   serving their own bellies and not Jesus Christ: 'What,' they
   will say, 'do you forbid the worship of the saints, in whom God
   is honoured?' Indeed I do not so much condemn those who do this
   from a certain simple superstition as those who, seeking their
   own profit, put forth things that might perhaps be tolerated
   with pure and lofty piety, but encourage for their own advantage
   the ignorance of the common people. This ignorance I do not
   in the least despise, but I cannot bear to have them taking
   indifferent things for the most important, the least for the
   greatest. I will even approve their asking Rochus for a life
   of health if they will consecrate their life to Christ; but I
   should like it still better if they would simply pray that their
   love of virtue may be increased through their hatred of vice.
   Let them lay their living and dying in God's hands, and say with
   Paul 'whether we live or whether we die, we live or die to the
   Lord.' ... I will bear with weakness, but, like Paul, I will
   show you a more excellent way."

It will be noticed that even thus early in Erasmus' moral appeal, he
does not aim at destroying anything. Even for the worship of saints
he has plenty of room in his thought, but he says:[58]

  [58] v., 31-D.

   "the way to worship the saints is to imitate their virtues. The
   saint cares more for this kind of reverence than if you burn
   a hundred candles for him. You think it a great thing to be
   borne to your grave in the cowl of Francis; but the likeness
   of his garment will profit you nothing after you are dead, if
   your morals were unlike his when you were alive.... You pay the
   greatest reverence to the ashes of Paul, and no harm if your own
   religion is consistent with this. But if you adore these dead
   and silent ashes and neglect that image of him which lives and
   speaks and, as it were, breathes to this day in his writings, is
   not your religion preposterous? You worship the bones of Paul
   laid away in a shrine, but you do not worship the mind of Paul
   enshrined in his writings. You make great things of a scrap of
   his body seen through a glass case, but you do not marvel at
   the whole soul of Paul that gleams through his works.... Let
   infidels, for whom they were given, wonder at these signs, but
   do you, a believer, embrace the books of that man, so that,
   while you doubt not that God is able to do all things, you may
   learn to love Him above all things. You honour an image of the
   face of Christ, badly cut in stone or painted in colours, but
   far more honour ought to be given to that image of his soul
   which by the work of the Holy Spirit is made manifest in the
   Gospels.... You gaze with awe upon a tunic or a handkerchief
   said to be those of Christ, but you fall asleep over the oracles
   of the law of Christ."

With constant reference to Paul as the greatest of human teachers,
Erasmus comes to the monastic life in some detail.[59]

  [59] v., 36-A.

   "'Love,' says Paul, 'is to edify your neighbour,' and if only
   this were done, nothing could be more joyous or more easy than
   the life of the 'religious'; but now this life seems gloomy,
   full of Jewish superstitions, not in any way free from the vices
   of laymen and in some ways more corrupt. If Augustine, whom they
   boast of as the founder of their system, were to come to life
   again, he would not recognise them; he would cry out that he
   had never approved this sort of a life, but had organized a way
   of living according to the rule of the apostles, not according
   to the superstition of the Jews. But now I hear some of the
   more sensible ones say:--'We must be on our guard in the least
   things lest we gradually slip into greater vices.' I hear and
   I approve; but we ought none the less to be on our guard lest
   we get so bound up in these lesser things that we wholly fall
   away from the greater. The danger is plainer on that side, but
   greater on this. Look out for Scylla, but do not fall into
   Charybdis. To do those things is well, but to put your trust
   in them is perilous. Paul does not forbid us to make use of the
   'elements,' but he would not have the man who is free in Christ
   made a slave to them. He does not condemn the law of works, but
   would have it properly applied. Without these things you will
   perchance not be a pious man, but it is not these that make you

   "What, then, shall the Christian do? Shall he neglect the
   commands of the Church, despise the honourable traditions of
   the Fathers, and condemn pious observances? Nay, if he is a
   weakling he will hold on to these as necessary; if he is strong
   and perfect, he will observe them so much the more, lest through
   his wisdom he offend his weak brother, and slay him for whom
   Christ died. These things he ought to do and not leave the
   others undone.... Your body is clothed with the monkish cowl;
   what, then, if your soul wears an earthly garment? If the
   outer man is veiled in a snowy tunic, let also the vestment of
   the inner man be white like snow. You keep silence outwardly;
   see to it so much the more that your mind within is fixed in
   silent attention. You bend the knee of the body in the visible
   temple; but that is nothing if in the temple of the heart you
   are standing upright against God. You adore the wood of the
   cross;--follow much more the mystery of the cross. Do you go
   into a fast and abstain from those things which do not defile
   the man and yet not refrain from obscene conversation which
   defiles both your own conscience and that of others? Food is
   withheld from the body and shall the soul gorge itself upon
   the husks of the swine? You build a temple of stone; you have
   places sacred to religion; what profits it if the temple of
   the soul, whose wall Ezekiel dug through, is profaned with the
   abominations of the Egyptians?... If the body be kept pure and
   yet you are covetous, then the soul is polluted. You sing psalms
   with your bodily lips, but listen within to what your soul is
   saying: you are blessing with the mouth and cursing with the
   heart. Bodily you are bound within a narrow cell, but with your
   thoughts you wander over the wide earth. You hear the word of
   God with your bodily ear: hear it rather within."

So much for the monks. As to the general moral standards of his day
Erasmus is equally clear and vigorous and is interesting especially
from the comparison he makes with the morals of ancient times.[60]

  [60] v., 40-D.

   "Turn the annals of the ancients," he bursts out, "and compare
   the manners of our time. When was true honour less respected?
   When were riches, no matter how gained, ever so highly esteemed?
   In what age was ever that word of Horace[61] more true--

  [61] Horace, _Epp._, i., 6, 36. Conington's translation.

    'A dowried wife, friends, beauty, birth, fair fame,
    These are the gifts of money, heavenly dame.'

When was luxury ever more reckless? When were vice and adultery ever
more widespread or less punished or less condemned?... Who does not
think poverty the last extreme of misfortune and disgrace?"

It is the cry, familiar to all ages, especially of course at times
when civilisation has reached a high point, that all honour may
be bought for money and place. It shows no especial acuteness on
Erasmus' part, but it does prove his courage and his clear Christian
insight. That he should fancy the heroes of the classic world to
have been superior to the modern Christians of his own day was a
natural part of the classic enthusiasm in which he lived. Nor can we
doubt that it greatly strengthened the moral argument in his time to
add these examples of purely non-Christian virtue to those furnished
by the well-worn heroes of the Jewish past.

A very characteristic touch is found in Erasmus' reference to the
prevailing rage for information, also a vice of an over-eager age.[62]

  [62] v., 44-A.

   "Let me speak of another error. They call him a clever man and
   skilled in affairs who, catching at all kinds of rumours, knows
   what is going on all over the world: what is the fortune of the
   merchants, what the tyrant of the Britains is planning, what
   is the news at Rome, what is the latest happening in Gaul, how
   the Dacians and Scythians are getting on, what the princes are
   thinking about,--in short, the man who is eager to do battle
   about every kind of affairs among every race of men, that man
   they call wise. But what is more senseless, more foolish, than
   to be running after things remote, that have nothing to do with
   yourself, and not even to think of what is going on in your own
   heart and what belongs especially to you. You talk about the
   troubles in Britain; tell rather what is troubling your own
   heart,--envy, lust, ambition; how far these have been sent under
   the yoke,--what hope there is of victory,--how far the war is
   advanced,--how the plan of campaign is laid out. If in these
   things you are watchful, with eyes and ears well trained, if you
   are cunning and cautious, then indeed I will declare you to be a
   clever man."

A very interesting example of Erasmus' insistence upon the essential
thing and his indifference to names and forms is in the chapter which
describes the opinions worthy of the Christian. It has almost a
socialistic ring, so sharply does he emphasise the duty of Christian

  [63] v., 47-D.

   "You thought it was only monks to whom property was forbidden
   and poverty enjoined? You were wrong; both commands apply to
   all Christians. The law punishes you if you take what belongs
   to another; it does not punish you if you take what is yours
   away from your brother when he needs it; but Christ will punish
   both. If you are a magistrate the office should not make you
   more fierce, but the responsibility should make you more
   cautious. 'But,' you say, 'I do not hold a church office; I am
   not a priest or a bishop.' Quite so, but you are a Christian,
   are you not? See to it whose man you be, if you are not a man
   of the Church. Christ is come into such contempt in the world,
   that they think it a fine thing and a royal to have no dealings
   with him and despise a person the more, the more closely he
   is bound to him. Do you not hear every day some angry layman
   throwing in our faces as a violent reproach the words 'Clerk!'
   'Priest!' 'Monk!' and that with the same temper and the same
   voice as if he were charging us with incest or sacrilege? Of
   a truth I wonder why they don't attack Baptism, or like the
   Saracens assault the name of Christ as something infamous. If
   they would say '_bad_ Clerk!' '_unworthy_ Priest!' '_impious_
   Monk!' we could bear it as coming from those who were rebuking
   the character of the man and not the profession of virtue. But
   those who call the rape of virgins, the plunder of war, the
   gain and loss of money at dice deeds of glory, these people have
   no word to throw at another more full of contempt and shame
   than 'Monk!' or 'Priest!'--though it is clear enough what these
   people, Christians in nothing but the name, think of Christ.

   "There is not one Lord for bishops and another for civil rulers;
   both are vicegerents of the same Lord and both must render an
   account to him. The office of the Christian prince is not to
   excel others in wealth, but, as far as possible, to seek the
   advantage of all. Turn not what belongs to the public to your
   own profit, but spend whatever is yours, even yourself, for the
   public good. The people owe much to you, but you owe everything
   to them. High-sounding names, '_Invictus_,' '_Sacrosanctus_,'
   '_Majestas_,' though your ears are forced to hear them, yet
   ascribe them all to Christ, to whom alone they belong. The
   crime of _læsæ majestatis_, which others bring forward with
   frightful clamour,--let this be to you a very small matter. He
   alone violates the majesty of the prince who, under the name
   of a prince, does things contrary to law, cruel, violent, or
   criminal. Let no attack move you so little as one which touches
   you personally. Remember that you are a public person, and that
   it is your duty to think only of the public good. If you are
   wise consider, not how great you are, but how great a burden
   rests upon your shoulders. The greater danger you are in, so
   much the less seek indulgence for yourself, and choose the model
   for your administration, not from your fathers or from your
   partisans, but from Christ. What can be more absurd than that a
   Christian prince should set up Hannibal, Alexander, Cæsar, or
   Pompey as an example to himself?... Nothing is so becoming, so
   splendid, so glorious in kings as to attain as nearly as may be
   to the perfect likeness of Jesus, the supreme king, greatest
   and best.... '_Apostolus_,' '_Pastor_,' '_Episcopus_,' these are
   names of duties, not of government; '_Papa_,' '_Abbas_,' are
   titles of love, not of dominion. But why should I go into this
   ocean of vulgar errors?"

The Enchiridion closes with five chapters of remedies against
certain vices: lust, avarice, ambition, arrogance, and anger. These
prescriptions have to us so obvious a sound that one easily overlooks
their real importance. Their value consists in this: that in an age
of formal righteousness they direct the conscience of the individual
man straight back to the sources of all Christian living, to the
plain teaching of Jesus and the plain argument of common sense. We
ought to follow Scripture,--yes, but because Solomon kept a harem
of concubines, that is no example for us. Peter denied the Christ
for whom he afterward died; but that is no excuse for perjury. The
Christian law is thus made plain to the individual conscience.

It has seemed worth while to go into the contents of this little
book with more care than its extent might appear to warrant, because
it is the earliest formulated expression of those principles of
interpretation which form the basis of Erasmus' whole mature life and
thought. It is for him, as it were, a programme, which he was to fill
out in detail, in the long series of writings that now began to flow
rapidly from his pen. In it he made his challenge to the world, yet
with such moderation, such careful weighing and balancing of views,
that he evidently hoped to win the support of all classes in what he
began to feel was his life-work.

We are always told that Erasmus here in the Enchiridion began his
unceasing warfare upon the monks; but if we read closely we see how
carefully he guarded himself against direct assault upon this or any
other established institution. Not the name "monk" was a reproach,
but the name "bad monk." He even goes so far as to identify himself
with the clerical order. It was well enough to fast or even to use
images and relics, so long as one saw through the forms to the
meaning underneath; but the moment a man found himself _relying_ upon
the forms, no matter who he was, pope, priest, or layman, that moment
he was in danger.

Erasmus says that the Enchiridion attracted little attention at
first, but afterward had a great sale. We can well believe that the
full force of its criticism was not felt until the first stirrings
of the Protestant Reformation brought men sharply face to face
with the problems it had outlined. It cannot be called precisely a
controversial book, yet the germs of the bitterest controversies
of the Reformation time are contained in it. Erasmus professed the
utmost reverence for the existing institutions of the Church, and
there is nothing in his later life to make us doubt the sincerity
of this profession. He was by nature averse to all the violence and
confusion that must attend any great social change. But it was clear
to him that his age had wandered far from the ideals of the founders
of these institutions. His remedy was to point out to men how widely
they had erred and to show them once more in plain and direct
language the true foundations of the Christian life.

It is noticeable that with all his protests of respect, Erasmus
nowhere urges the appeal to the existing order in the Church as
final. Men _may_ fast, worship saints, take vows, seek absolution;
but their real salvation is to be found in none of these things.
As this little book went out into the world in the year 1503, it
remained to be seen which aspect of its teaching would prove the more
effectual, whether its real meaning would penetrate alike to friends
and enemies. Some light on this point may be gained from a letter[64]
of Erasmus written in 1518 to his friend Volzius and afterward
published as a preface to a new edition of the Enchiridion. In this
letter he says that his work was criticised as unlearned, because
it did not use the quibbling methods of the schools. But he was not
trying "to train men for the prize-ring of the Sorbonne, but rather
for the peace which belongs to the Christian." There is no lack of
books on theology;

  [64] iii.¹, 337.

   "there are as many commentaries on the 'Sentences' of Petrus
   Lombardus as there are theologians. There is no end of little
   _summas_, which mix up one thing with another over and over
   again and after the manner of apothecaries fabricate and
   refabricate old things from new, new from old, one from many,
   and many from one. The result is that there are so many books
   about right living that no one can ever live long enough to read
   them. As if a doctor should prescribe for a man in a dangerous
   illness that he should read the books of Jacobus à Partibus and
   all the likes of them and there he would find out how to mend
   his health."

There were books enough, Heaven knew! but not life enough to read
them, and this multitude of quarrelling doctors were only obscuring
the true art of living, which Christ meant to make plain and simple
to all. These so-called philosophers are obstacles, not helps, to the
true Christian life.

   "They could never have enough of discussing in what words they
   ought to speak of Christ, as if they were dealing with some
   horrid demon, who would bring destruction upon them if they
   failed to invoke him in proper terms, instead of with a most
   gentle Saviour, who asks nothing of us but a pure and upright

Erasmus makes here the very practical and constructive suggestion,

   "a commission of pious and learned men should bring together
   into a compendium from the purest sources of the gospels and the
   apostles and from their most approved commentators, the whole
   philosophy of Christ, with as much simplicity as learning, as
   much brevity as clearness. What pertains to the faith should be
   treated in as few articles as possible; what belongs to life,
   also in few words, and so put that men may know that the yoke
   of Christ is easy and pleasant, not cruel; that they have been
   given fathers, not tyrants; pastors, not robbers; called to
   salvation, not betrayed into slavery.

   "Now then," he says, "that is precisely the purpose I was
   filled with when I wrote my Enchiridion. I saw the multitude
   of Christians corrupted, not only in their passions, but also
   in their opinions. I saw those who professed to be pastors
   and doctors generally abusing the name of Christ to their own
   profit,--to say nothing of those at whose nod the affairs of
   men are tossed hither and thither, but at whose vices, open as
   they are, it is hardly permitted to raise a groan. And in such a
   turmoil of affairs, in such corruption of the world, in such a
   conflict of human opinions, whither was one to flee, except to
   the sacred anchor of the Gospel teaching?

   "I would not defile the divine philosophy of Christ with human
   decrees. Let Christ remain what he is, the centre, with certain
   circles about him. I would not move the centre from its place.
   Let those who are nearest Christ, priests, bishops, cardinals,
   popes, whose duty it is to follow the Lamb wherever he goes,
   embrace that most perfect part and, so far as may be, hand
   it on to the next in order. Let the second circle contain
   temporal princes, whose arms and whose laws are in the service
   of Christ.... In the third circle let us place the mass of the
   people as the dullest part of this world, but yet, dull as it
   is, a member of the body of Christ. For the eyes are not the
   only members of the body, but also the hands and the feet. And
   for these we ought to have consideration, so that, as far as
   possible, they may be called to those things which are nearer to
   Christ,--for in this body he who is now but a foot may come to
   be an eye.... So a mark is to be set before all, toward which
   they may strive, and there is but one mark, namely Christ and
   his pure doctrine. But if, instead of a heavenly mark you set
   an earthly one, there will be nothing towards which one may
   properly strive. That which is highest is meant for all, that we
   may at least attain to some moderate height.... The perfection
   of Christ is in our motives, not in the form of our life, in
   our minds, not in dress or food. There are some among the monks
   whom the third circle would scarcely accept,--I am speaking now
   of good ones, but weak. There are some, even among men twice
   married, whom Christ would think worthy of the first circle. It
   is no offence to any particular form of life if what is best and
   most perfect is put forth as a standard for all. Every kind of
   life has its own peculiar dangers and he who shows them up makes
   no reflection upon the institution, but is rather defending its

This highly characteristic letter closes with a review of the early
history and purpose of the monastic orders and emphasises still
further Erasmus' point that he has no quarrel with monks as such, but
only in so far as they set more value upon forms than upon the true
following of Christ.

   "I would have all Christians so live that those who alone are
   now called 'religious' should seem very little religious--and
   that is true to-day in not a few cases; for why should we hide
   what is open to all?"

His picture of the true monks, as Benedict and Bernard would have had
them, must have seemed Utopian indeed. They were merely voluntary
communities of friends, living

   "in the liberty of the spirit according to the Gospel law, and
   under certain necessary rules about dress and food. They hated
   riches, they avoided all offices, even those of the church;
   they laboured with their hands, so that they might not only be
   no burden upon others, but might have a surplus to relieve
   distress; they dwelt upon mountain-peaks, in swamps, and sandy

Now let whoever will compare all this with the monks of his own day!

Things had moved very rapidly in the fifteen years since Erasmus
had written the Enchiridion, but the tone of this defence is quite
in harmony with that of the book itself. It is not loose and vulgar
abuse of the "religious" orders, but rather a calm and consistent
appeal to the one true standard of Christian life, namely to the
teaching and example of Christ himself.

This is the great interest of this little manual of the Christian
gentleman. It shows Erasmus as a clear-eyed critic of existing
institutions, rather than as a man who had any definite scheme of
reform to propose. Throughout the book there is but one concrete
proposition: that a commission be appointed--by whom is not
suggested--to reduce the substance of Christian faith and morals to
such simple form that it could be understood by everyone. A very
pretty and amiable suggestion indeed, but hardly suited to a moment
when the irreconcilable nature of the great conflict between a
religious system founded upon formalism and the simple morality of
the Gospel was beginning to be more and more clearly felt.

In the year following the publication of the Enchiridion, while
Erasmus was quietly going on with his studies, living where he could
find a comfortable place for the moment, he was suddenly called upon
to perform one of the very few public functions of his life. Philip,
Duke of Burgundy, son of the Emperor Maximilian and administrator of
the government in the Low Countries, was returning from a journey to
Spain and France in the year 1504 and was to be received at Brussels
with all fitting demonstrations of loyalty and affection. Among other
things the community desired to show its appreciation of learning by
inflicting upon the young man a public oration in as good style as
they could pay for.

Erasmus was chosen for this task and fulfilled it with success if
not with enthusiasm. His extravagant phrases of laudation, in which
the prince is credited with almost more than human qualities, cannot
interest us. They are purely conventional and can convince us neither
of the prince's merit nor of the orator's insincerity. More important
for us is the evidence that even through such formal surroundings,
the originality of the man cannot fail to make itself here and there

The oration was delivered in the ducal palace at Brussels. In its
printed form it fills over twenty folio pages and can hardly have
occupied less than three or four hours in delivery. One would imagine
that even the divine virtues of the young prince could hardly have
kept up his spirits while these ponderous paragraphs were being read
to him, and it is certainly to be hoped that he was let off with
an abbreviated edition. He may well have yawned over the tedious
narrative of his journey to Spain and his magnificent reception in
France, but he was, probably seldom privileged to hear such sound
instruction as Erasmus dealt out to him from point to point of his

  [65] iv., 529-F.

   "Even to-day," said the orator, "there are not wanting those who
   croak into the ears of kings such stuff as this:--'Why should
   you hesitate? Have you forgotten that you are a prince? Is not
   your pleasure the law? It is the part of kings to live not by
   rule but by the lust of their own hearts. Whatever any of your
   subjects has, that belongs to you. It is yours to give life and
   to take it away; yours to make or to ruin the fortunes of whom
   you will. Others are praised or blamed, but to you everything is
   honourable, everything praiseworthy. Will you listen to those
   philosophers and scholastics?... Seal your ears with wax, most
   noble Duke, against the fatal song of these Sirens; like Homer's
   Ulysses, or rather, like Virgil's Æneas, steer your course so
   far from their coast that the poison of their seductive voices
   may not touch the soundness of your mind."

   "By what names we call you, it matters little to you, for you
   do not think yourself to be other than what Homer calls the
   'shepherd of the people' or Plato its 'guardian.' You have
   discovered a new way to increase the revenues of your nobles and
   of yourself: by diminishing expense instead of increasing taxes.
   Oh! wonderful soul! you deprive yourself that your subjects may
   abound; you deny yourself that there may be the more for the
   multitude. You keep watch, that we may sleep in safety. You are
   wearied with continual anxieties, that your own may have peace.
   You wear your princedom, not for yourself, but for your land."

   "The Astrologers declare that in certain years there appear
   long-tailed stars which bring mighty convulsions into human
   affairs, touching both the minds and the bodies of men with
   fatal force and terribly affecting rivers, seas, earth, and air.
   But no comet can arise so fatal to the earth as a bad prince,
   nor any planet so healthful as a blameless ruler."

The most striking part of the panegyric, however, is that which
compares the virtues of peace with those of war. Here Erasmus
makes his first great declaration of principles as to the absolute
wickedness and folly of war and henceforth, during his whole life,
he never failed to repeat and to emphasise them. We cannot account
for this consistent attitude on any theory of personal timidity or
even on the ground that the scholar's work demanded peace for its
full development. This latter argument we do find in Erasmus, but it
might equally well be turned in favour of war as furnishing those
stirring episodes and kindling that enthusiasm for heroic deeds which
have always been inspiring to literary genius. Erasmus was sincerely
and profoundly impressed with the enormous waste of energy which war
seemed to imply and believed with all his heart that the motives
leading to it were almost invariably bad. In a day when the peoples
of Europe were continually involved in wars and rumours of wars, it
was an act of no little courage for this solitary scholar to stand
before a great assembly of princes and plead the sacred cause of

Considerable ingenuity is shown in his clever reply to the argument
that peace is enervating to the ruler. Bravery, Erasmus says, is far
easier in war, for we see that a very poor kind of man may show it
there; but to govern the spirit, to control desire, to put a bridle
upon greed, to restrain the temper,--that kind of courage is peculiar
to the wise and good. Of all these peaceful virtues he declares
Philip to be the model, and it is of little account to us whether
this praise be well or ill applied. Our interest is in the growth
of Erasmus' own ideas and the part they had in fitting him for the
work he was to do. His description of the miseries of war is a really
noble piece of eloquence and reason.

We shall have occasion again to refer to Erasmus' peace propaganda.
Enough here that he had the courage to speak his mind under
circumstances which might well have led a less manly orator to dwell
upon the glory and profit of a warlike policy. His listener, involved
as he was at that moment in as tangled a web of negotiations as ever
European diplomacy had yet woven, must have smiled in his sleeve at
this harmless pedantry of the worthy scholar. Certainly no action
of his life up to that time or in the short years left to him can
indicate any preference for peace for its own sake.

More grateful, doubtless, to the princely ears were Erasmus'
prognostications of his future. He had no faith in astrology,
but he seemed to see in the evident trend of European affairs an
accumulation of powers in the hand of duke Philip, which was to be
realised in the person of his son Charles. The orator lets himself
go in laudation of Maximilian, Ferdinand, Joanna, and Philip
himself, with confident prediction of a magnificent future. In fact
Maximilian's career was a series of brilliant failures. Ferdinand
was in continual dread of Philip and often in open hostility with
him. Joanna was already showing traces of that hopeless insanity,
aggravated it was said by the cruel frivolities of Philip, which was
to taint the house of Habsburg to this day. Finally Philip was to die
of disease within two years, without realising any of the schemes of
aggrandisement to which his life was devoted.

But if Erasmus' prophecy was bad, his scheme of princely morals, as
here laid down, was good, and it indicates clearly the bent of his
serious thought. A man with his sense of humour--in other words, with
his common sense--could not fail to see the discrepancy between the
actual Philip and the being whom he had here depicted. When he came
to publish his panegyric he found it necessary to defend himself
against the charge of falsehood. In a letter[66] to his friend
Paludanus, professor of rhetoric at Louvain, he goes at considerable
length into the obligation of a writer of such things to tell the
truth. He supports his own action by reference to classic panegyrists
and lays down the general principle, that one can do more to help a
prince by praising him for virtues he has not, than by blaming him
for the faults he has.

  [66] iv., 550.

   "Just," he says, "as the best of physicians declares to his
   patient that he likes his colour and the expression of his
   face, not because these things are so, but that he may make them
   so. Augustine, so they say, confesses that he told many a lie in
   praise of emperors. Paul the apostle himself not infrequently
   employs the device of pious adulation, praising in order that he
   may reform."

The panegyric to Philip, in its published form, was dedicated to
Nicholas Ruterius, bishop of Arras. In the dedicatory letter Erasmus
professes that this kind of writing was distasteful to him, and
defends himself again by the reflection that

   "there is no way so effectual for improving a prince, as to
   present to him, under the form of praise, the model of a good
   prince,--provided only that you ascribe virtues to him and take
   faults away from him in such wise that you urge him to the one
   and warn him from the other."

We are led to believe that Prince Philip was graciously pleased to
approve the discourse of Erasmus. Doubtless he was as quick as the
orator himself to explain it in a Pickwickian sense wherever it
verged too closely upon unpleasant facts. He gave him a handsome
present and is said to have offered him a place in his service which
Erasmus, as usual, declined.




We have already noted Erasmus' often-expressed desire to visit
Italy. It is the alleged motive of his begging correspondence with
the Marchioness Anna in and about the year 1500. At that time he
professes to have little interest in Italy for its own sake, but
to be yielding to a popular delusion that a doctor's degree was
absolutely indispensable to a scholarly reputation and that an
Italian doctorate was worth more than any other. In England he is
quite satisfied that he has done just as well for his Greek and his
scholarly advancement in general as if he had gone to Italy; yet the
idea of the Italian journey seems never to have left him. It is an
interesting inquiry precisely what the real attraction of Italy to
Erasmus was.

One can easily draw a fancy picture of what ought to have attracted
him. Italy had naturally for the scholar of the Renaissance a
double interest, first as the seat of ancient Roman culture, and
again as the source and spring of that modern revival in which he
himself formed a part. It might well appeal to the instinct of the
antiquarian and the sight-seer, eager to bring visibly before
himself the remains of ancient splendour, the living and vivid
reminders of a mighty past. He might hope to live again in the
charmed atmosphere of Virgil and Horace, to sit amid the scenes
already familiar to him in the glowing pages of Cicero, and to
bring into his mind some more adequate understanding of the vast
achievements he had read of in the pregnant story of Livy or of
Julius Cæsar.

The appeal of Italy, in short, to the historical imagination is,
one would say, perhaps the most powerful that has ever come to a
scholar's mind from that land of enchantment. It was a time, too,
when men's thoughts and activities were turning eagerly to all that
side of the new classical study. For a century and a half, ever
since the days of Petrarch and Rienzi, the treasures of ancient
art, Greek as well as Roman, had been brought to light, gathered
into great collections, and made to do their part in the education
of Europe. The limits of the Eternal City had been turned into one
great treasure-house of precious reminders of former and presages of
a future greatness. The visitor to Rome or to Florence might study
from the originals the choicest forms in which the art of the ancient
world had expressed itself.

It is hard to fancy that Erasmus, in his thoughts of Italy, can
have failed to be drawn by the anticipation of living thus bodily
in the presence of the human world from which he drew his literary
inspiration and toward which all his serious thought went back
as to its natural source. Yet the fact is that neither in the
anticipation nor in the reality of his Italian journey do we find
such reference to these things as would warrant us in thinking that
they formed any essential part of his ideas about Italy. That sense
of an overwhelming grandeur, a something indescribably greater than
all that had come since, which has fallen upon so many an Italian
traveller, seems to have been entirely absent in his case. When
Goethe entered Italy, it was with bated breath and reverent awe at
the stupendous remains of a civilisation whose influence was even
then potent in the lives of men. So far as Erasmus has left us any
witness of himself his mind was occupied solely with the immediate
profit of the moment: his doctor's degree, his new publisher, the
petty comforts and discomforts of daily life.


Still more curious is his attitude towards that other aspect of Italy
which might have been expected to impress him even more. As a man of
the Renaissance one might have looked to find Erasmus, even before
his departure, in correspondence with some of the lights of the later
Italian Humanism; yet, so far as we know, he went over the Alps a
stranger, except for the slight reputation of his own writings, and
chiefly of the Adages. The enormous activity of all those great
producers in every field of art, who have made the turning-point of
the fifteenth to the sixteenth century one of the great epochs in
human history, seems simply to have escaped his notice. We do not
hear of it as attracting him from the North; when he is in the midst
of it, it finds no echo in his correspondence, and when he leaves
it, there is nothing in his later writing to show that it had greatly
affected him. With the really greatest men of the land he seems not
to have come into any intimate personal relation, and he certainly
avoided here, as he had always done elsewhere, any complication with
political or social movements of any sort.

Our information in regard to the Italian journey and residence is
curiously meagre. In the great collection of Erasmus' letters,
there are but a half-dozen in the three years from 1506 to 1509. M.
Nolhac[67] has published four others written by Erasmus to Aldus, his
printer, but these latter are occupied almost wholly with unimportant
business details. Four of the former group are written from Paris
just after the party had left England and give us only some scattered
hints as to Erasmus' departure for Italy.

  [67] P. de Nolhac, _Érasme en Italie, Étude sur un épisode de la
  Renaissance, avec douze lettres inédites d'Érasme_, 1888.

The long-sought opportunity came to him in a form which he had once
vowed he would never accept, namely, through an engagement as private
tutor to the two sons of Battista Boerio, the Genoese physician of
King Henry VII. Beatus takes some pains to tell us that Erasmus was
not to teach these youths, but it is not quite clear what else his
function was. They had an attendant (_curator_) named Clyston, whom
Erasmus describes in one of these early letters as the most pleasant,
lovable, and faithful fellow in the world. The lads, too, were, he
says, most modest, teachable, and studious. He has great hopes that
they will fulfil the expectations of their father and reward his own
pains. The voyage across the Channel was a dreadful one, lasting
four days, so that a report spread in Paris that they were lost, and
Erasmus appeared among his friends, he says, like one risen from the
dead. The result was that he was taken with an illness, which he
describes so exactly as to leave no doubt that he had a good clear
case of the mumps.

From Paris the journey was by way of Lyons and the western Alps.
We have a brief account of it in that singular hodge-podge, the
catalogue of his writings, made by Erasmus eighteen years afterward
and sent to John Botzheim of Constance. The story of the journey
there given is only incidental to the account of a little poetical
dissertation[68] on the approach of old age which he wrote on the way
and sent back to Paris to his medical friend, William Cop. Erasmus
was only about forty years old, but he felt himself getting on in
life and declares here his determination to give up the charms of
pure literature and devote the rest of his days to Christ alone.
Most serious men of the Renaissance from Petrarch and Boccaccio down
had had their moments of self-reproach for their over-devotion to
the heathen Muses and perhaps Erasmus' feeling on this point was as
sincere as that of his colleagues. Surely his life up to this time
had not been so frivolously classical as to cause him any deserved
regrets. He represents this poem as written to relieve his mind from
the unpleasantness of his companions, especially the distinguished
Clyston, who was now already as dreadful a being as a few weeks
before he had been charming. While Clyston was alternately brawling
and drinking with an English man-at-arms whom the king had specially
deputed for their protection, Erasmus was, he says, devoting himself
to poetical reflection and composition. Another reference to this
journey is probably found in the well-known colloquy "_Diversoria_,"
in which one of the speakers describes the charms of the French
inns, their cleanliness, their good wines and cookery, and the
great efforts of the landladies and their fair attendants to make
things pleasant for the traveller. All this is then made the more
effective by a counter-description of the swinish customs of the
inns in Germany.[69] Again we have an illustration of Erasmus'
æsthetic indifference. It is not a sufficient answer to say that
joy in outward nature is a purely recent emotion. The whole art of
the Renaissance is the witness that men had long since escaped from
this form of mediæval bondage and were quite able to understand that
they were living in a good world, made for their delight and not
wholly under the dominion of Satan. A journey on horseback across the
Alps! and, so far as we know, this prince of learned men, who could
discourse so eloquently upon every human feeling, had not one emotion
beyond a desire to get across as soon as possible and a lively sense
of the comforts and discomforts of his inns.

  [68] _Carmen equestre vel potius Alpestre_, iv., 755.

  [69] See page 226.

If a doctor's degree was one of Erasmus' objects in coming to Italy,
he certainly lost no time in fulfilling it. The degree was conferred
on him at Turin September 4, 1506.[70] Erasmus took especial pains to
state in at least four letters that he took this degree to please his
friends, not himself; but made no objection to its immediate use in
his publications. From Turin he went on to Bologna where he proposed
to settle for his own studies, as well as for those of his young
pupils. The country was in a distressing state of confusion and that
of a kind especially offensive to Erasmus. War was bad enough at the
best, but a papal war was a scandal to the name of Christianity, and
a fighting pope was to him a monster of iniquity. He held his pen
quietly enough at the time, but the impression of this pope, Julius
II., leading a campaign for the recovery of Bologna from the French
never quite left him. It served him for a text whenever he felt free
to speak his mind on the subject of war or on the decline of virtue
in the church. A turn in affairs gave Bologna to Julius II. and
furnished to Erasmus the opportunity of seeing the triumphal entry
of the pope into his city. He simply reports the event to Servatius,
his old comrade at Steyn, without mentioning that he had witnessed
it, and only long afterward casually refers to his presence, in the
course of a formal defence against the charge of abusing the papacy.

  [70] See the diploma in W. Vischer, _Erasmiana_, Basel, 1876.

   "In the passage ... I compare the triumphal entries
   (_triumphos_) which, in my presence, Julius II. made first at
   Bologna and afterwards at Rome, with the majesty of the apostles
   who converted the world by divine truth and who so abounded in
   miracles that the sick were healed by their very shadow, and
   I give the preference to this apostolic splendour; yet I say
   nothing abusive against those [other] triumphs, although to
   speak frankly I gazed upon them not without a silent groan."

Two little notes to Servatius at this time are quite in the usual
tone of Erasmian discontent. He says that his principal object in
coming to Italy was to study Greek but "_jam frigent studia, fervent
bella_" "studies are cold, but wars are hot,"--he will endeavour to
fly back again very soon and hopes to see his friend the following
summer. While wars are planning study takes a holiday. He makes an
identical promise to another friend and was probably quite sincere
in fancying that Italy, like every other place he had tried, was a
failure. Evidently he was in trouble about his pupils. Writing to one
of them twenty-five years afterward[71] he says:

  [71] iii.², 1397.

   "it was the fault of that fellow, whom you nickname the
   '_scarabeus_,' not only that I had to leave you sooner than I
   had intended, but that the pleasure of our companionship was
   so embittered that if I had not been kept by a sense of duty,
   I could not have endured that monster for a month. I have
   often wondered that your cautious father could have been so
   thoughtless as to intrust his most precious treasures to a man
   who was scarce fit to keep swine, nay, who was of such feeble
   mind that he rather needed a keeper himself."

The whole affair is almost an echo of the trouble with the "old man"
at Paris and would be too trifling for notice were it not almost the
only incident in connection with Erasmus' residence of more than a
year at Bologna which has come down to us. Of course the climate was
bad and especially unsuited to his requirements.

The summer of 1507 found Erasmus still at Bologna. It was an
exceptionally hot season--so he says--and the plague broke out with
violence. It is apropos of this plague and an incident which he
relates in connection with it, that we come once more to the famous
letter, mentioned early in our narrative,[72] in which Erasmus begs
to be released from the obligation of wearing the monastic dress.
The letter is addressed to Lambertus Grunnius, a papal secretary
at Rome, and contains, by way of introduction, that long series of
details about the compulsory entrance into the monastery of a youth
called Florentius, which has been generally accepted as a truthful
narrative of the writer's own experience. We have already followed
the indications of this letter with some care down to the point where
Erasmus was safely invested with the monastic garb and had made up
his mind to make the best of it. At this point, with one of those
jumps so common in his style, he comes to the time of his Italian
visit and continues:

  [72] See Introduction.

   "Some time afterward it happened that he went into a far country
   for the purpose of study. There, according to the French
   custom, he wore a linen scarf above his gown, supposing that
   this was not unusual in that country.[73] But from this he
   twice was in danger of his life, for the physicians there who
   serve during a plague, wear a white linen scarf on their left
   shoulder, so that it hangs down in front and behind, and in this
   way they are easily recognised and avoided by the passers-by.
   Yet, unless they go about by unfrequented ways they would be
   stoned by those who meet them, for such is the horror of death
   among those people, that they go wild at the very odour of
   incense because it is burned at funerals. At one time when
   Florentius was going to visit a learned friend, two blackguards
   fell upon him with murderous cries and drawn swords and would
   have killed him, if a lady fortunately passing had not explained
   to them that this was the dress of a churchman and not of a
   doctor. Still they ceased not to rage and did not sheathe their
   swords until he had pounded on the door of a house near by and
   so got in.

  [73] In another place he says that he changed his dress in Italy
  to conform to the custom of the country, iii., 1527.

"At another time he was going to visit certain countrymen of his
when a mob with sticks and stones suddenly got together and urged
each other on with furious shouts of 'Kill the dog! Kill the dog!'
Meanwhile a priest came up who only laughed and said in Latin in a
low voice: 'Asses! Asses!' They kept on with their tumult, but as a
young man of elegant appearance and wearing a purple cloak came out
of a house, Florentius ran to him as to an altar of safety, for he
was totally ignorant of the vulgar tongue and was only wondering what
they wanted of him. 'One thing is certain,' said the young man: 'if
you don't lay off this scarf, you'll some day get stoned; I have
warned you, and now look out for yourself.' So, without laying aside
his scarf, he concealed it under his upper garment."

Such is the cock-and-bull story with which Erasmus, we know not
how many years later, amused the excellent Grunnius as a preface
to his petition for a papal dispensation from the duty of wearing
the monastic dress. It is too silly even for Mr. Drummond, who very
properly says that it is quite too much to believe either that
Erasmus would be in a plague-stricken city when he could get out of
it, or that any Italian could be so blind as not to know a monk from
a doctor! Certainly Erasmus would never wait to be pounded in the
street before finding out what dress he might safely wear. The reply
of Grunnius shows how the whole matter looked at Rome.

   "MY DEAREST ERASMUS: I never undertook any commission more
   gladly than the one you have intrusted to me and scarcely ever
   succeeded in one more to my own mind. For I was moved not
   so much by my friendship for you, strong as that is, as by
   the undeserved misfortune of Florentius. Your letter I read
   from beginning to end to the pope in the presence of several
   cardinals and men of the highest standing. The most holy father
   was extremely delighted with your style and you would hardly
   believe how hot he was against those man-stealers; for greatly
   as he favours true piety, by so much the more does he hate
   those who are filling the world with wretched or wicked monks
   to the great injury of the Christian faith. 'Christ,' he says,
   'loves piety of the heart, not workhouses for slaves.' He has
   ordered your permit to be made out at once and _gratis_ too....
   Farewell, and give Florentius, whom I regard as I do yourself,
   an affectionate greeting from me."

However much of truth or of fiction there may have been in this
famous letter, we may be tolerably sure that Erasmus thought of it
very much as he would of his Colloquies, as a piece of literary work
with a purpose at the bottom of it. At the time he sent it, perhaps
1514, his views were well known to the papal circle, and the abuse of
monks was far from unwelcome to the "enlightened" views of a monarchy
as worldly as any in all Europe. Doubtless Erasmus knew his Rome well
enough before he ventured to send such a fulmination as this into the
midst of it.

Of his other occupations at Bologna we know little. He does not
appear to have been a regular student at the famous university, but
rather to have worked by himself and to have got what help he could
from a Greek teacher named Bombasius, with whom he had later some

  [74] Beatus Rhenanus, in his brief summary of Erasmus' life,
  says: "With the exception of the rudiments, he may truly be said
  to have been self-taught. For the journey into Italy ... was
  undertaken for the sake of visiting that famous land, not to take
  advantage of the professors there. At Bologna he heard no one
  of the public lecturers, but, satisfied with the friendship of
  Paulus Bombasius ... he devoted himself to his studies at home."

"I never passed a more disagreeable year," he said long afterward;
but we have learned the formula by this time and could hardly expect
any other opinion from him of a year in which he had reached the
goal of his desires, was free from all burdens except the oversight
of two excellent pupils, was at one of the principal seats of
learning, in as good health as usual and working away at several
pieces of composition which he had undertaken of his own free choice.
It is as certain that this was a profitable year to Erasmus as it is
that he profited by those early monastic years of which he affected
later to have only the gloomiest recollections.

If any proof of this were wanting it would be found in the earliest
acquaintance of Erasmus with the famous Venetian printer and
publisher, Aldus Manutius, which begins at the close of the year at
Bologna and was to continue for many years to the great pleasure and
profit of both parties. Erasmus' first request to Aldus, introduced
by plentiful compliments upon his work, is that he will undertake
to reprint the translation of two tragedies of Euripides which had
already been published by Badius at Paris. That unlucky publisher, it
seems, had offered to make a second and better edition, but Erasmus
confides to Aldus his dread that Badius would only patch up old
errors with new ones, and says[75]:

  [75] Nolhac, _Érasme en Italie_, Ep. i.

  [Illustration: ALDUS P. MANUTIUS.

   "I should feel that my productions were on the way to
   immortality if they should see the light by the aid of your
   types, especially those small ones, the most tasteful of all.
   Let it be so done that the volume shall be very small and let
   the thing be put through with very slight expense. If it
   shall seem good to you to undertake the business, I will furnish
   _gratis_ the corrected manuscript which I am sending by this
   messenger and will only ask for a few copies to give to my

He urges Aldus to haste because he may have to leave Italy very soon.

Everything thus points to an entire absence of plan in Erasmus'
mind. His only fixed intention was to go to Rome at Christmas, as he
informs Aldus in his next letter. The great publisher had evidently
agreed to print the tragedies and had made certain suggestions in
regard to readings, which indicate at once how much more than a mere
printer or publisher he was. Erasmus replies with his own views on
the passages in question and with very warm words of admiration
for Aldus. He wants these plays, he says, as New Year gifts to his
learned friends at Bologna, and these include "all who either know
or profess the classic literature." At Rome, also, he will want to
have some little work to recall him to his former acquaintances and
to make new ones; so he begs Aldus for a short introductory note,
which he will leave entirely to his discretion. It is an interesting
comment on Erasmus' relation to the Italian scholars that he should
have needed a publisher's introduction to commend him to them. Will
Aldus be so good as to send him twenty or thirty copies _de luxe_
(_codices estimatos_) for which he will pay in advance, c.o.d. or
in any way Aldus may direct? A singular reference in this letter is
worth noting for the light it sheds upon--I know not exactly what
aspect of Erasmus' character. He says:

   "Leave out the epigram at the end of the tragedies. It was
   written by a certain young Frenchman, at that time a servant of
   mine, whom I had led to believe, by way of a joke, that these
   verses ought to be printed, and I had given them to Badius at my
   departure in the youth's presence to make him keep on hoping.
   But I wonder whatever put it into Badius' head to print them,
   for I told the man that I was only playing a joke on the lad."

In both these letters there is shown a studied disrespect for Badius
and an evident effort to gain the good will of Aldus, to whom Erasmus
speaks as to a superior person. "No doubt you will find many errors,
but in this matter I do not even ask you to be cautious."

This friendly beginning with Aldus had its immediate consequence for
Erasmus. He gave up his intention--if he had ever had it--of going to
Rome at Christmas, 1507, and we next find him in the early part of
1508 at Venice. He had thrown up the care of the young Boerios, for
reasons, perhaps, connected with his dislike of their attendant, but
certainly without any break with the lads themselves.

The specific purpose of Erasmus in going to Venice was to prepare a
new edition of his Adages, the first edition of which we noted as
made at Paris in 1500. Eight years of continuous occupation with
classic literature, and especially the progress he had meanwhile
made in the study of Greek, had given him an immensely increased
acquaintance with the kind of material he wished to use for this
collection. How far he had prepared the way by correspondence we do
not know; but it would seem that he went at the work at once and kept
on with it very steadily for about nine months. The peculiar nature
of the Adages, a mere collection of disconnected paragraphs without
any natural order or arrangement of any sort, made it possible for
Erasmus to work in a fashion very different from his usual one. It
was simply a question of getting the thing along bit by bit, and so
we find him sending in a daily instalment of "copy" and taking away a
daily batch of proof. The first typographical corrections were made
by a paid proof-reader, then the author corrected, and finally Aldus
himself read the proof, not so much, as he once said in reply to a
question of Erasmus, to ensure correctness as for his own instruction.

We gain from many scattered indications a picture, on the whole
very attractive, of this new activity.[76] It was Erasmus'
first experience as a fellow-worker with anyone, and it had its
uncomfortable aspects of course, or he would not have been Erasmus.
His critics, notably Scaliger, would have it afterward, on the
authority of Aldus himself, that Erasmus was little more than a paid
assistant in the printing-office, and one is at a loss to know why so
honourable an occupation should have seemed an occasion for reviling
him or worth his own while to deny. The obvious refutation lies in
the great amount of work required by the Adages themselves. He must
have been busy enough to refute other charges of Scaliger as to his
laziness. Whatever else he may have been, he was not lazy then nor
at any other time of his life. As to still another accusation we may
perhaps have our doubts. Scaliger says: "While you were doing the
work of half a man, reading [proof?] in Aldus' office, you were a
three-bodied Geryon for drinking."

  [76] See the adage _Festina lente_, ii., 405, B-D.

The view of Erasmus at Venice which is reflected in Scaliger's tirade
may have come from the undoubted familiarity of Erasmus' relation
with Aldus and his family. Probably the most vivid conception of
such an early printing-office may be gained to-day by a visit to the
great house of Plantin at Antwerp, now happily preserved by the piety
of the municipality and kept as nearly as possible in the condition
it was in at the time of its great activity but little later than
that of the house of Aldus. It is an ample burgher residence, with
spacious living-rooms and every indication of a generous family life;
but under the same roof and in close connection with the living
apartments are also the rooms devoted to business. The working force
was in an intimate sense the "family" of the publisher, and from the
earliest moment of his arrival Erasmus seems to have formed one in
the Aldine corps. The principal account of this Venetian life is,
unfortunately to be found in the colloquy, "The Rich Miser," one
of the most scurrilous of all Erasmus' writings. The person here
exposed to the biting sting of his humour is Andreas d'Asola, the
father-in-law of Aldus Manutius. He seems to have been the economic
head of the Aldine household and, in some form, a partner in the
business, as were also his two sons, Federigo and Francesco. Erasmus
was received into this family on the same terms, apparently, as other
workers. The household consisted of thirty-three persons. Beatus
represents this arrangement as a kindness to Erasmus, to save him
from going to a hotel and, at all events, he remained a fellow-member
of this clan as long as he stayed in Venice. There was certainly no
compulsion upon him to do so unless he pleased, and common courtesy
ought to have prevented him from holding up to the ridicule of
the world a family and a people to whom, as he elsewhere freely
acknowledges, he owed every kind of assistance in his work and every
personal attention. The principal speaker in the _Opulentia sordida_
is one Gilbertus, who presents himself to his friend Jacobus in such
lean and pitiful guise that the friend inquires whether he has been
serving a term in the galleys. "No," he replies, "I have been at
Synodium, boarding with Antronius." The weather had been for three
months continually cold, so that he was nearly frozen to death; for
the only firewood they had had was green stumps which Antronius
rooted up by night out of the common land. In summer it was worse on
account of vermin, but Antronius never minded that, he was brought up
to it; and besides he was always off trading in everything that would
bring him in a penny of profit. Even on the funerals that went out
of his house he made his gain, and these were two or three at least
in the most healthful year; for he played such tricks with his wine
that some were always dying of the stone. Yet he weakened his wine by
throwing in a bucketful of water every day, and adulterated the meal
of which his bread was made by mixing chalk with it. The son-in-law
Orthrogonus, who stands for Aldus himself, comes in for his share of
abuse for aiding and abetting in this villany. Frequently Antronius
would come home pretending to be very ill and without appetite, and
then the whole family would have to starve on grey peas with a little
oil on them. Finally, however, dinner would be served, but such a
dinner! First a soup of water with lumps of old cheese soaked in
it, then a piece of fortnight-old tripe covered up with a batter of
eggs to cheat the eye, but not enough to deceive the sense of smell,
and, to close, some of the same stale cheese. The luckless boarder
saved his life by having a quarter of a boiled chicken served up with
each meal, but even this was a poor wretched fowl and he was stinted
in his meagre ration. Even his own private fresh eggs were stolen
by the women and rotten ones given him instead, and his own cask
of good wine was broached by the same thieves and drunk up without
remonstrance from the host.

The worst of it was that when they found out that the poor Northerner
was trying to keep soul and body together by buying extra things,
they set a doctor upon him to persuade him not to be such a glutton.
The doctor was a very good-natured fellow and finally compromised on
a supper of an egg and a glass of wine, admitting that he allowed
himself this indulgence, and, as Erasmus testifies, kept himself fat
and hearty on such a diet. The dialogue concludes with good Erasmian
hedging; for the grumbler confesses that if the food had been of good
quality he would have got on very well with the quantity, and, after
all, eating was largely a matter of habit and he, being used to a
different method, simply could not do with this. The final fling at
poor Andreas is to say that his sons, for whom he was doing all this
scraping and pinching, would make up for their scanty fare at home by
throwing their money away in riotous living outside.

Make what allowance we may for the humorous exaggeration of this
tirade, it cannot give us any but the lowest notion of its author's
fineness of feeling. The bit of truth contained in it was probably
that to Erasmus the usual manner of living of the well-to-do Italians
seemed meanly insufficient, while to the Italians his natural demands
seemed those of a glutton and a wine-bibber. Very likely his friends,
in the kindness of their hearts, called in a physician to persuade
him to consider his health by living more as they did. It is simply
the ever-repeated struggle of the Northerner, accustomed to much
animal food and to strong drink, to understand the frugal ways of
the South. Our interest in the whole incident is to notice that here
Erasmus contracted the disease which to his great bodily distress,
but also, it must be admitted, often to his great moral comfort, he
was to carry about with him to his death. He writes from Basel in
1523 to Francesco d'Asola, one of the youths to whom he gives such
a villainous character in his _Opulentia sordida_: "I have not
forgotten our former intimacy, nor would my gravel let me do so if I
would, for I first got it there and every time it comes it reminds me
of Venice." His own explanation of this attack is the badness of his
fare, especially the wine, which, he says, caused two or three deaths
from stone every year in the Aldine family; but we may be permitted
a doubt whether it was not rather due to his own imprudence and his
refusal to adapt himself to the simple manners of the country.[77]

  [77] It seems quite clear that Erasmus was a victim to what is
  now known as the "uric acid or gouty diathesis," a condition much
  more likely to be produced by high living and heavy drinking than
  by any such experience as he describes in the _Opulentia sordida_.

The Aldine printing establishment was a kind of literary club-house
for the finer spirits of the Republic, and Erasmus was here
introduced to them all. All were interested in his work and helped
him with manuscripts and suggestions; to such a degree, indeed, that
this was one of the counts in Scaliger's indictment against him.
Such aid may, however, easily be explained by the peculiar nature of
the Adages. Every available source, written, printed, or oral, was
properly laid under contribution for a work which was essentially a

Of these men, none was of the first rank as a scholar; they were
the fair representatives of that humanistic generation which had
come into the great inheritance of culture prepared for it by two
previous generations. The early original impulse with its extravagant
individualism had settled down into a calmer, wider, and more
polished method of thought and work. Culture had made its way into
all departments of life and proved its right to exist by useful
service. Of the Venetian scholars we need mention but few. Two
Greeks, Marcus Musurus and Johannes Lascaris, were famous, the one
as a Greek teacher, the other as the literary purveyor of Lorenzo
the Magnificent and, at the time of Erasmus, as ambassador of King
Louis of France to the Republic. Girolamo Aleander, then a man of
twenty-eight, was preparing himself to teach Greek at Paris and, in
fact, went thither in 1508 with letters of introduction from Erasmus.
The two were to meet on another field when Aleander as legate of Leo
X. at the court of Charles V. was to be the chief agent in the papal
policy against Luther and was to reproach Erasmus in bitter terms for
his half-way policy towards the Reformation. Erasmus believed that he
was the author of the attacks of Scaliger, of whom he knew nothing,
and says in this connection that they were co-frequenters at Aldus's
and that he knew him as well as he knew himself.

Everything goes to show that the nine months of the Venetian visit
were months of eager work, relieved by intercourse with men of
genuine culture and of unbroken friendliness. That Erasmus should
have dwelt more upon the petty inconveniences of his life than upon
these weightier things is quite in character. The real monument of
his Venetian days is the great second edition of the Adages, in
substantially their final form.

From Venice Erasmus moved in the early autumn to Padua, the
university city of the Venetian territory. His immediate business
there was to take charge of a pupil, the young illegitimate son of
King James IV. of Scotland. This amiable youth, Alexander by name,
was already, at eighteen, burdened with the title of Archbishop of
Saint Andrews. He had come to Italy to study, and was commended to
Erasmus by his father to receive instruction in rhetoric. Erasmus
once uses him as an illustration of near-sightedness: "he could see
nothing without touching his nose to the book." Yet he was a most
clever fellow with his hand. Writing in 1528 to his Nuremberg friend
Pirkheimer about certain alleged manuscript forgeries, Erasmus tells
a pretty tale of Alexander, which shows a very pleasant relation
between them:

   "he once showed me a printed book which I knew for certain I
   had never read; but in the numerous marginal notes I recognised
   my own handwriting. I asked him where he had got the book. 'I
   acknowledge the writing,' I said, 'but the book I have never
   read nor had in my possession.' 'Oh, yes,' he replied, 'you read
   it once, but you have forgotten it; otherwise where did this
   writing come from?' Finally, with a laugh, he confessed the

Marcus Musurus, his acquaintance at Venice, was here at Padua the
best friend and helper of Erasmus. He was in full activity as
professor of Greek, and though we have no record of any regular
instruction to the visitor, it is certain that Erasmus applied to him
for many details of his own work and held him always in grateful
memory. Indeed his short residence of but a few weeks at Padua seems
to have been an exception to the rule of tediousness. He refers to
Padua afterwards as the seat of a more serious scholarship than was
to be found at other Italian university towns. The formation of the
League of Cambrai between King Louis XII. of France, Pope Julius II.,
the Emperor Maximilian, and the King of Spain against the republic
of Venice broke up the quiet circle of Paduan scholars. Troops of
the allies began to make their appearance in Venetian territory
and Erasmus, reluctantly he says, was forced to move southward. He
travelled in the suite of the boy-archbishop, stopping first at
Ferrara, where he met a choice circle of resident scholars, among
whom was the young Englishman, Richard Pace. It was at Pace's house
that he was presented to the Ferrarese Humanists. A very pretty
little story is recalled by one of them, Cœlius Calcagninus, who in
writing to Erasmus in 1525 reminds him of their meeting in Ferrara,
and gives him a brief account of the other scholars whom he had met

   "We were talking," he writes, "of Aspendius the harp-player, and
   the question came up as to the meaning of _intus canere_ and
   _extra canere_, when you suddenly drew forth from your pouch a
   copy of your Adages, just printed at Venice. From that moment I
   began to admire the genius and learning of Erasmus, and scarce
   ever have I heard mention of his name without recalling that
   conversation almost with reverence. My witness is Richard Pace,
   that man most learned himself and by nature made to be the
   promoter of the studies of the most learned men."

Only a few days were spent at Ferrara and still less time at Bologna.
The party reached Siena at the very end of 1508 or the beginning
of 1509, and there settled definitely for the work of the young
archbishop. We have a very engaging picture of Erasmus as a teacher
of rhetoric in his comments upon the Adage, "Thou wast born at
Sparta; do honour to it."[78] He represents his pupil as a model of
all the virtues and gives us again an insight into his method of
teaching. It is always the same which he had himself employed in
learning, the method of persistent practice in repeating and writing
the language itself. A style was to be formed only by becoming
absolutely familiar with the classic model.

  [78] ii., 554.

Yet the life at Siena, serene and charming as it may have been
for the pupil, was, if we may judge by his expressions in other
connections, more or less a bore to the master. He liked to think of
himself as an authority on the art of teaching, but he seems always
to have regarded teaching as being, for himself, an interruption to
the higher interests of his life. After a few weeks he was restless
again, and begged permission of his pupil to go on alone to Rome.


It is easy for a modern to picture the charm which the Eternal City
with its countless memorials of the ancient world must have exercised
upon a man whose life was devoted to the study of that world, who
spoke and wrote its language, and who drew from it almost the whole
material of his intellectual occupation. None of the biographers of
Erasmus has been quite able to resist the temptation to tell what
he must have thought and felt in this august presence; but candour
compels us to say that his own witness on this point is as meagre as
can well be imagined. Only one or two scattered expressions give us
any reason to think that his impressions of Rome were at all of the
kind they ought in all reason to have been. It was the pontificate of
Julius II., a man indeed chiefly devoted to the political interests
of his great place, but also an eager patron of art and learning,
doing his part in the attempt, never quite successful, to make Rome
a real centre of culture. What was true of the pope was true also
of that group of great prelates who formed around him a court more
splendid and not less worldly than that of any purely temporal ruler.
Say what one may and, in all truth, must say of the corruption and
scandal of the Roman institution, it was a life of immense activity
and, for a thinking man, one of great interest. Rome was alive with
building; painting and sculptural decoration were being carried to a
height unheard of in human history. The ancient monuments were, it is
true, fast disappearing to make room and to furnish material for new
construction, but enough was left to give the interested traveller
abundant suggestion of what had been. That Erasmus saw and, after
his fashion, noted these things is certain; but he felt no impulse
to dwell upon them or to speak of them to others. His life during
this first[79] visit at Rome was more completely that of the literary
traveller and sight-seer than it had ever been anywhere. There is no
pretence that he busied himself with study or with composition. So
far as he had any aim it seems to have been to make acquaintance with
men of his own kind and their patrons,--nor is there the slightest
room for suspicion that in making these connections he had in view
any ulterior advantage to himself. His best introduction was the book
of Adages, by this time widely known and everywhere justly welcomed
as a monument of vast learning, immense industry, and an originality
of thought not less noteworthy.

  [79] There seems to be no sufficient reason to accept, as
  Drummond does, a previous trip of Erasmus to Rome during his
  residence at Bologna.

Perhaps the most intimate companion of these Roman days was Scipio
Carteromachos, a Tuscan scholar, with whom Erasmus had made
acquaintance at Bologna, and for whom he expresses unusual regard.
"He was a man," he writes, "of curious and accurate learning, but so
averse to display that unless you called him out you would swear that
he was quite ignorant of letters." They had met again at Padua, and
now lived for awhile at Rome apparently in the greatest intimacy,
sharing the same bed at times, though this it would seem was not
an unusual proof of friendship with Erasmus. Through Carteromachos
he was introduced to many others, scholars of the same type and
frequenters of the papal court. The result was that he found himself
brought into relation with the most distinguished Roman circle. He
makes the most of this fact afterward in defending himself from the
charge of unfaithfulness to the papal cause, and there would seem
to be no room for doubt that he was at least a well tolerated guest
of the men who were giving the tone to the ruling society of the
capital. He claims intimate acquaintance with Tommaso Inghirami, the
most popular preacher of the city, the type of religious orator who
gave scandal to the more serious by garnishing his oratory rather
with classic allusion and quotation than with proofs and texts
of the Bible. In his treatise on a false purity of style called
_Ciceronianus_, Erasmus gives us a choice specimen of this kind of

  [80] i., 993, 994.

He says that he was urged by his learned friends at Rome to attend
the discourse of a famous pulpit orator whose name he would rather
have understood than expressed. The subject was the death of Christ.
Pope Julius II. himself was present, a most unusual honour, and with
him a great crowd of cardinals, bishops, and visiting scholars. The
opening and closing parts of the discourse, longer than the real
sermon itself, were occupied with praises of Julius, whom the orator

   "'Jupiter Optimus Maximus, brandishing in his all-powerful right
   hand the three-forked fatal thunderbolt and by his nod alone
   doing what he will.' Everything that had happened in recent
   years, in France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Africa, Greece, he
   declared had been done by the will of that man alone. All this
   was said at Rome, by a Roman, in the tongue of Rome, and with
   the Roman accent. But what had all this to do with Julius, the
   high-priest of the Christian religion, the vicar of Christ, the
   successor of Peter and Paul?--or with the cardinals and bishops,
   the vicegerents of the other Apostles? As to the topic he had
   undertaken to treat, nothing could be more solemn, more real,
   more wonderful, more lofty, or more suited to kindle emotion.
   Who, though he were endowed with but a very common kind of
   eloquence, could not with such an argument have drawn tears from
   men of stone? The plan of the discourse was this:--first to
   depict the death of Christ as sad and then by a change of style
   to describe it as glorious and triumphant--in order, of course,
   that he might give us a specimen of Cicero's δεινώσεως, by which
   he was able to carry away the emotions of his hearers at will.

   "HYPOLOGUS:--Well, did he succeed?

   "BULEPHORUS:--For my part, when he was working his hardest upon
   those melancholy feelings which the rhetoricians call πάθη, to
   tell the truth I was more inclined to laugh. I did not see a
   person in that whole concourse one whit the sadder, when he was
   piling up with the whole force of his eloquence the unmerited
   sufferings of the innocent Christ. Nor, on the other hand, did
   I see anyone the more cheerful when he was wholly occupied with
   showing forth His death to us as triumphant, praiseworthy, and

   "Not to make more words about it, this Roman talked in such
   a very Roman fashion that I heard nothing about the death of
   Christ. And yet, because he was so eagerly striving after a
   Ciceronian diction, he seemed to the Ciceronians to have spoken
   marvellously. Of his subject he said hardly a word; he seemed
   neither to understand it nor to care for it. Nor did he say
   anything to the point nor rouse any emotion. The only reason
   for praising him was that he spoke like a Roman and recalled a
   something of Cicero. If such a discourse had been delivered by a
   schoolboy to his mates it might have been praised as an evidence
   of a certain talent; but on such a day, before such an audience,
   and on such a topic, I pray you, what sense was there in it?"

Among the cardinals two are especially mentioned as friendly to our
traveller, Raffaelle Riario, nephew of Julius II., and the Venetian
Grimani. If we may trust Erasmus' allusions, he was in the way of
frequently going in and out at the houses of great men, but his
character as a man of letters, whom it was their pride and pleasure
to favour, seems to have been strictly maintained. In the great
throng of followers of a princely establishment, one wandering
scholar more or less made no great matter, and it would not do, from
the words "hospitality" and "familiarity" to argue any very close
personal intimacy.

What strikes one most forcibly is the almost total absence of
anything like discussion on public affairs. The only topic on which
Erasmus thinks it worth while to make any report is classical
studies, and on this he gives us only brief detail. There is no
indication that this visit to Rome had any decisive influence upon
Erasmus' attitude towards the Church. That was already determined.
Nothing could be more distinct than his declarations in the
Enchiridion and now, quite recently, in the Adages. Rome could hardly
fail to furnish him with new suggestions and illustrations, but it
was as far from forcing him into any new attitude of opposition as it
was from so influencing Luther on his visit a year later. Both saw
many things which startled and shocked them, but Erasmus had already
reached the limit of his critical development and Luther had hardly
as yet begun to formulate his criticism of the Roman institution.

The only exception to the rule of exclusion from public affairs is
found in the invitation of Cardinal Riario to write a dissertation
on the subject of the proposed war against Venice. It was a most
ticklish commission, and Erasmus' solution of it was more than
Erasmian. He wrote two treatises, one for the war and the other
against it, that those who were to pay their money might have their
choice. He put more heart into the second, he says, but the advice
of the first was followed. Both these treatises were lost, he tells
us, by the treachery of some person. There was an unfounded rumour
that the grim old soldier-pope, finding Erasmus' sentiments against
war very little to his taste, sent for the author and warned him in
future to let politics alone; but it is highly improbable that if
Erasmus had had an interview with the pope, even under so untoward
circumstances, he would have failed to make some mention of it.

Yet it would be far from true that Erasmus lived in Rome with his
eyes shut. Numerous little allusions to Roman and Italian traits in
his later writings show that he was here, as everywhere, very much
of a human being, keenly alive to what was going on about him and
mindful of its use on future occasions.

The young archbishop was soon recalled to Scotland, and four years
afterward he met his death, fighting bravely by his father's side
on the fatal field of Flodden. Before leaving Italy he desired to
see Rome, and in his company Erasmus, who had meanwhile returned to
Siena, went back again as learned guide and companion. They seem to
have gone southward as far as Naples, but to have made only a flying
visit even in Rome. Erasmus remained there after his pupil had left,
and it is during this final visit that the question of a permanent
residence begins to be discussed.

As to the possibility or probability that Erasmus would definitely
settle at Rome, there is room for difference of opinion. If one may
judge from his own allusions there was no country, in which he made
any considerable stay, which did not at one time or another occur
to him as a possible residence for his declining years, and on this
general principle, why not Rome as well as another place? Our study
of his character up to this point, however, should lead us at once to
understand that, of all places in the world, Rome was least suited
to his peculiar genius. Although he was quite capable of defending
both sides of any argument, he could not be happy where he must
either do this all the time or else commit himself without reserve
to the dominant tone of a society which would eventually absorb him
completely. Furthermore, the almost inevitable condition of a Roman
residence was the holding of an ecclesiastical office and this,
no matter how high it might be--the higher in fact the worse--was
as far as possible from the line of Erasmus' ambition. Beatus says
he was offered the very high function of papal penitentiary, with
a hint that this might be a stepping-stone to higher dignities.
When we consider the kind of official places filled by many of the
Italian humanists, such an offer does not seem improbable. Less clear
is one's feeling about a proposition made by the Venetian Cardinal
Grimani that Erasmus should attach himself to his personal following
and, presumably, continue to live the life of an independent scholar.
Erasmus' account of his interview with the cardinal is worth while
for us because of its many details. It was written in 1531, after the
death of Grimani, and is given in a letter[81] apropos of a reference
to the cardinal's services to the cause of letters, especially in
maintaining so large and valuable a library.

  [81] iii.², 1375 A-D.

  [Illustration: CARDINAL PETER BEMBO.

   "When I was at Rome I was invited once and again by him, through
   Pietro Bembo, if I am not mistaken, to an interview with him,
   and though I was at that time very averse to seeking the company
   of great men, I at last went to his palace more from shame than
   from desire. Neither in the courtyard nor in the vestibule did
   the shadow of a human being appear. It was the afternoon hour.
   I gave my horse to my man and went up alone, found no one in
   the first hall, nor in the second, and still on to the third,
   finding not a door closed and wondering at the solitude. Only
   in the last did I find one man, a Greek physician I believe,
   with shaven head, guarding the open door. I inquired what the
   cardinal was doing. He replied that he was within talking with
   some gentlemen, and as I said no more he asked what I wished.
   'To make my compliments to him,' I said, 'if convenient, but as
   he is not at leisure, I will call again.' Then, as I was about
   to go and was looking out of the window, the Greek returned to
   me and waited to see if I had any message for the cardinal.
   'There is no occasion to interrupt his conference,' I said; 'I
   will come again soon.' Finally he asked my name and I gave it
   to him. When he heard it he rushed in before I knew it and soon
   coming out said I was not to go away and I was summoned at once.
   As I came in the cardinal received me not as a cardinal and such
   a cardinal might receive a man of the lowest condition, but as
   a colleague. A chair was set for me and we talked more than two
   hours, during which he did not permit me to take off my hat.
   For a man at the very height of fortune his graciousness was
   marvellous. Among the many things he said about study, showing
   that he had then in mind what I learn he has since done about
   his library, he began to urge me not to leave Rome, the nurse
   of genius. He invited me to share his palace and the enjoyment
   of all his fortunes, adding that the warm and moist climate of
   Rome would suit my health, and especially that part of the city
   where he had his dwelling, a palace built by a former pope who
   had chosen the site as being the most healthful in the city.
   After we had had considerable discussion he sent for his nephew,
   who had just been made archbishop, a youth of an almost divine
   disposition. As I started to rise he forbade me, saying:--'It is
   becoming for the pupil to stand before the master.' At length he
   showed me his library of books in many tongues.

   "If I had known this man earlier I should never have left a
   city which I found favourable to me beyond my deserts. But I
   had already arranged to go and matters had gone so far that I
   could hardly have remained honourably. When I said that I had
   been summoned by the king of England, he ceased to urge me, but
   begged me over and over again not to suspect him of not meaning
   what he had said nor to judge him according to the usual manners
   of courtiers. With difficulty I got away from the conference;
   but when he was unwilling to detain me longer, he laid it upon
   me with his last words that I should see him again on the
   subject before I left the city. I did not return, unhappy man
   that I was, lest I should be overcome by his kindness and change
   my mind. But what can one do against the fates!"

This interview was held at the last moment of Erasmus' stay in
Rome, before his departure for England. His account makes it clear
that he had not known Grimani before, so that we cannot reckon him
among Erasmus' Roman patrons. Nor can we give too much weight to
the promises of employment. From the connection in which Erasmus
introduces the story it seems quite probable that the cardinal had
some idea of making use of him in connection with his library; but
the great scholar had no fancy for being anybody's librarian. His
laments that he had not listened to Grimani's proposition may safely
be treated as conventional.

From Rome Erasmus journeyed rapidly by way of Bologna, through
Lombardy, over the Splügen Pass to Chur, Constance, and Strassburg,
where he took ship on the Rhine for Holland. We hear of him at
Louvain and Antwerp and then in England early in July, 1509. What
was the fruit of his nearly three years in Italy? He had perfected
himself in Greek, as far at least as he needed to go for the
purposes he had most at heart. He was Doctor Erasmus, and needed no
longer to feel himself overshadowed by the superior display of some
inferior talent. He had given to the world in his Adages a great and
serious work, which was welcomed with the greatest approval by those
most competent to judge. He had seen for himself something of the
life of that people which had done most to bring pure learning to
honour. Finally he had made personal connections within the world of
scholars, which were likely to be of great future service to him.

It would be most interesting if we could perceive with any
distinctness the direct effect of this experience upon Erasmus'
literary production, but such effect cannot be traced in any
instructive way. There are of course references to Italy to be found
henceforth in many of his writings, but it would be too much to say
that the Italian visit was in any way epoch-making for his literary
character. Literature was not a thing of nationalities; it was
cosmopolitan, and the scholar was as much, or as little, at home in
one place as in another. The genius of Erasmus ripened slowly and
naturally, following the lines of its early choice and moving on
without noteworthy interruption to its highest achievement.

Still, few biographers have failed to fancy a connection of cause
and effect between the Italian impressions of Erasmus and the famous
satire, in which almost at once on his arrival in England he gave
free rein to his criticism of church and society. Certainly his
illustrations in the Praise of Folly point often to abuses which he
might have seen and felt in Italy. His direct attacks upon popes and
cardinals can hardly fail to have gained an added point from his
observation at first hand. What is not clear is that such stimulus to
his reforming zeal was anything more than incidental.


In all the earlier writing of Erasmus we have noted especially the
quality of the moral preacher. Whatever he touched took on inevitably
the tone of exhortation. And this same quality continues to appear
in all his work, whenever the subject rises, even ever so little,
above the level of mere grammatical detail. One ought to have this
prevailing seriousness of purpose especially in mind in coming to
such a piece of work as the Praise of Folly.[82] Of all Erasmus'
writing, none was and is more widely known than this. It is called a
satire and was intended to make men laugh. Erasmus had to apologise
for it, as he did for most things he wrote, and in the introductory
epistle to his dear More he apologises in advance for allowing
himself so lively a diversion. There can be no doubt that the men
of his day were vastly amused by it. It had for them the charm that
always belongs to literary references to familiar types and figures,
especially if these references are couched in colloquial phrase.
Erasmus was tolerably sure of his audience, and could count upon
applause from every class for the amusement it got out of his
criticism of all other classes of men. Yet it is a little difficult
for one of us to raise more than an honest smile at this elaborate
fooling. After all, one feels the sermon underneath, and pays his
tribute to the author, not primarily as a humourist, but as a man of
sense who lightens his style a little, to be sure, yet remains all
through plainly conscious of his mission. If one seeks an analogy,
one may say, perhaps, that the Praise of Folly is about as funny as
an average copy of Punch.

  [82] iv., 405-503.

Erasmus' account of the origin of the Μωρία is as trifling as in
the case of most of his works. He tells More that he thought it out
during his journey from Italy to England in 1509, and he put it
into form at More's house in London soon after. The title, Μωρίας
ἐγκώμιον, he explains as a pun on More's name, the humour of it
being that More was "as far from the thing as his name was near it."
The book is written under the form of an oration, a _declamatio_
the author calls it, delivered by Folly in person to an imaginary
audience made up of all classes and conditions of men. Folly is a
female, and this is quite in harmony with most of Erasmus' references
to the sex. She wears cap and bells as her academic garb and brings
to the lecture-room her attendant spirits, Self-love, Flattery,
Oblivion, Laziness, Pleasure, Madness, Wantonness, Intemperance,
and Sleep. Folly is the offspring of Wealth and Youth, born in the
Fortunate Isles, where all things grow without toil, and nursed by
the jovial nymphs, Drunkenness and Ignorance.

The oration begins by Folly commending herself as indispensable to
the well-being of men. Their very existence is owing to her, for no
man would put his head into the halter of marriage if he thought it
over carefully beforehand as a wise man would; and no woman would
marry if she carefully considered the sorrows of childbirth. Marriage
therefore is owing wholly to Madness, the companion of Folly. But no
woman, having once experienced the pains of child-bearing, would ever
submit herself to them again but for another of Folly's ministers,
Oblivion, who comes in thus to save the race. From this first example
we can see how Erasmus plays with the meaning of the word "folly." It
is quite impossible to define it by any one term which would cover
his numerous variations, but we may see plainly from the start that
it is very far from being what we mean, in plain modern English, by
the word "foolishness." It comes nearer to the meaning we find in
Shakespeare of "innocent" or "thoughtless." "Folly" is the opposite
of studied calculation for a mere material end. It is the impulse by
which men perform their noblest actions. It is imagination, idealism,
sacrifice of self for others. Nowhere does Erasmus lay down any such
general definition as this, but his examples show that some such
meaning was in his mind, and the Folly whom he allows to praise
herself is therefore really a very praiseworthy person. She hates the
materialism of the Philistine--the cool, calculating merchant-spirit
which would reduce life to a thing of dollars and cents--and she
finds her illustrations of what is noble pretty nearly where an
optimistic philosopher of modern times would find them.

The happiest times of life, says Folly, are youth and old age, and
this for no reason but that they are the times most completely under
the rule of folly, and least controlled by wisdom. It is the child's
freedom from wisdom that makes it so charming to us; we hate a
precocious child. So women owe their charm, and hence their power,
to their "folly," _i. e._, to their obedience to impulse. "But if,
perchance, a woman wants to be thought wise, she only succeeds in
being doubly a fool, as if one should train a cow for the prize-ring,
a thing wholly against nature." A woman will be a woman, no matter
what mask she wear, and she ought to be proud of her folly and make
the most of it.

In dealing with Friendship, Folly first reminds her hearers that
every man has his faults and plenty of them, and that everyone is
all too keen in spying out the faults of others and forgetting his
own. But now there could be no such thing as friendship "were it not
for that which the Greeks so beautifully call εὐήθεια, and which may
be translated 'folly' or 'good nature.'" Here Erasmus himself makes
"_stultitia_" the equivalent of "_morum facilitas_." And not the
relation of friends merely, but of husband and wife, ruler and ruled,
scholar and tutor, all human relations, in short, are made tolerable
by this rule of human kindness. And as the blindness of love to
others makes human life bearable, so Self-love, one of Folly's
intimates, is the indispensable aid to happiness, since if a man were
continually ashamed of himself, of his person, his country, he would
never rise to any worthy action. Courage is the very inspiration of
Folly, and the proof is the stupid bungling of great thinkers when
they try to do things. Socrates could not make a political speech,
and showed his wisdom by declaring that a wise man ought to keep out
of public business. Plato's famous saying: "happy the state that
is ruled by a philosopher, or whose ruler is given to philosophy,"
is false, for history shows that there were never more unfortunate
states than those so governed. Theorisers, in short, have ruined what
they undertook to manage, but states have been saved by such divine
folly as that of Quintus Curtius, who, possessed by some demon of
vainglory, sacrificed himself to the infernal gods. Wise men would
condemn such acts, but the pens of eloquent men have glorified them.
Strange as it may seem, even the virtue of prudence is owing to folly,

   "for the wise man goes to the books of the ancients and gets out
   of them nothing but wordy discussions, while the fool, grappling
   with the world in hand-to-hand conflict, learns, if I mistake
   not, the true prudence." "Modesty and fear are the two great
   obstacles to the understanding of affairs; but Folly, being
   hindered by neither of these, blushes at nothing and attempts


The wise man thinks of reason only and leaves all the passions to
Folly, but when this kind of thing has its perfect work, as among the
Stoics, then you have left

   "not so much a man as a new kind of god that never yet
   existed anywhere and never will; or rather, to say it plainly,
   a marble image of a man, dull and almost devoid of human
   sensibility; a man who measures everything by the line, never
   makes any mistakes himself, but has the eye of a lynx for the
   least failings of others. That's the kind of a beast your truly
   wise man is!"

But who has any use for such a creature? Who would have him for a
ruler, a general, a husband, a friend?

   "Who would not prefer one taken out of the very midst of the
   crowd of fools, who being a fool himself would know how to
   command and obey fools, who would be agreeable to his kind,
   namely, the great majority of men, pleasant to his wife, merry
   with his friends, a lively table-companion, a good-tempered
   comrade, in short a man '_qui nihil humani a se alienum
   putet_'--'who holds nothing human foreign to himself.'"

This comes as near a definition of his "_stultus_" as any hinted at
by Erasmus. In this sense the book might have been called "the praise
of human nature," for "wisdom" is treated systematically as meaning
something contrary to natural human instinct. Such over-wise wisdom
embitters life, but folly makes it sweet and precious.

   "Now, I think, you see what would happen if men were wise all
   the time. Faith! we should have need of another clay and another
   Prometheus for a potter. But I, Folly, sometimes by ignorance,
   sometimes by thoughtlessness, sometimes by forgetfulness
   of evils or the hope of good, and scattering the sweetest
   pleasures, so comfort men in the greatest misfortunes that
   they are not glad to die even when the measure of the Fates is
   fulfilled and life has actually left them. The less reason they
   have to cling to life the more they rejoice in living, so far
   are they from being wearied with its burden."

Real misery is to be out of harmony with Nature--shall we call man
miserable because he cannot fly like the birds, nor walk on all fours
like beasts? "We might as well call a war-horse unhappy because he
doesn't know grammar and cannot eat pie." So Erasmus goes on, in
extravagant praise, to glorify Nature as contrasted with Art. That
life alone is happy which comes near to Nature, as that of bees and
birds; the nearer these natural creatures are brought to the life of
man, the more they degenerate. Of all men the happiest are those we
call "_moriones_," "_stultos_," "_fatuos_," "_bliteos_"; they have no
fears, no ambitions, neither envy nor love. They are always merry;
everyone likes them and pets them; the very beasts recognise in them
a kind of sacred being. Princes cannot live without them, and value
their plain-speaking more than the flatteries of their counsellors.

How much pleasure comes in this world from hobbies! One man delights
in hunting, with all its absurd ceremonies; another has a rage for
building; others are chasing after new inventions, hunting for a
fifth essence. Others take to gaming and go to ruin with it, but
Folly is not quite clear whether to claim these as her children or
not. She has no doubt, however, about those who show their folly
by superstitious observances in religion, and here, it will be
observed, Erasmus' definition of folly gradually shifts. From this
point on it begins to slide over into a meaning something more nearly
like what we should be inclined to give it. Folly herself cannot be
consistent when she comes to religious fraud. Self-deception is a
very useful and pleasant thing, but no gentleness of judgment is due
to those

   "who hug the silly though pleasant persuasion that if they see a
   wooden or painted Polyphemus-Christopher, they will not die that
   day; or who salute a statue of St. Barbara with a fixed formula
   of words if they get home safe from a battle; or, if they call
   upon Saint Erasmus on certain days with candles and prayers,
   fancy that they will soon get rich. Now they have invented a
   George-Hercules, like a new Hippolytus, and come precious near
   worshipping the very horse of him, decked out with breastplates
   and ornaments." "But what shall I say of those who flatter
   themselves so sweetly with counterfeit pardons for their crimes,
   who have measured off the duration of Purgatory without an error
   as if by a water-clock, into ages, years, months, and days like
   the multiplication-table?... Now suppose me some tradesman,
   or soldier, or judge, who by paying out a penny from all his
   stealings, thinks the whole slough of his life is cleaned out at
   once--all his perjuries, lusts, drunkennesses, all his quarrels,
   murders, cheats, treacheries, falsehoods, bought off by a
   bargain and bought off in such a way that he may now begin over
   again with a new circle of crimes!... And isn't it much the same
   thing when the several countries claim for themselves each its
   special saint with his special function and his special forms of
   worship?--as, for example, this one is good for the toothache,
   that one helps women in travail, another restores stolen
   property; this one shines upon shipwreck and that one takes
   care of the flocks and so on--for it would be too long a story
   to go through the whole list. There are some that are good for
   more things than one and of these especially the virgin mother
   of God, to whom the mass of men now pay more honour than to the

And yet after all, the things men get from the saints are only the
appurtenances of Folly.

The world is full of fools, yet the priests are glad to get them all
for their own profit.

   "But if some hateful wise man were to arise and say what is
   true:--'to live well is the way to die well; you will best get
   rid of your sins by adding to your money hatred of vice, tears,
   vigils, prayers and fasting, and a better life; the saint will
   help you if you imitate his life'--I say if a wise man were to
   come prating such stuff as this, how much happiness he would
   destroy and what trouble he would bring upon mortals!"

There is no class of fools to whom Erasmus pays his respects with
heartier good will than to those whom he calls "grammarians." Folly
claims these for her choicest sons. Nothing could be more wretched
than their profession were it not for their foolish self-esteem and
the skill with which they make others have as good an opinion of them
as themselves. The pettiness of their aims, the nastiness of their
schoolrooms, the tumult of their pupils, are all concealed by the
friendly aid of Folly, who makes them believe themselves "rulers of a
kingdom as great as that of Phalaris or Dionysius."


   "What a joy if they find out who was the mother of Anchises
   or discover some little word unknown to the vulgar, for
   instance, '_bubsequa_' (a cowherd), '_bovinator_' (a brawler),
   '_manticulator_' (a cut-purse), or dig up somewhere a piece of
   an old rock, cut with worn-out letters--by Jove! what bragging,
   what triumphs, what glorification! as if they had conquered
   Africa or taken Babylon."

The grammarians enjoy nothing so much as rubbing each other's
back--unless it be roundly abusing each other.

The quibblings of the philosophers are among Folly's choicest
products, and from these she runs on naturally to Erasmus' especial
black beasts, the scholastic theologians. Quite in the spirit of the
_Epistolæ obscurorum virorum_, but more decently, he enumerates the
problems which, so Folly says, chiefly interest them,--

   "whether there was any instant of time in the divine generation?
   whether there was more than one 'filiation' in Christ? is it a
   possible proposition that the Father could hate the Son? Could
   God have taken the form of a woman, a devil, an ass, a squash,
   or a stone? How the squash would have preached, done miracles,
   hung upon the cross? What would Peter have consecrated if he had
   celebrated the Eucharist while Christ was still hanging on the
   cross? etc."

Not the eyes of Lynceus, which could see through a stone wall, could
penetrate the refinements of these people. And these difficulties are
all increased by the multitude of the schools,

   "so that one might sooner get out of a labyrinth than out of
   the windings of Realists, Nominalists, Thomists, Albertists,
   Occamists, Scotists. And these not all by any means, only the
   chief of them. In them all there is so much learning, so much
   refinement, that I should say the very apostles themselves
   would have to be of another spirit if they were compelled to
   discuss these matters with this new race of theologians. Paul
   knew something about faith; but when he says 'faith is the
   substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,'
   that is far from being a definition fit for a _Magister_; and
   though he knew well enough about charity, his definition and
   division of it in the thirteenth chapter of his first letter
   to the Corinthians was by no means good dialectics." "The
   apostles knew the mother of Jesus, but which of them has shown
   as philosophically as our theologians have done, how she was
   preserved from the sin of Adam? Peter received the keys, and
   from one who would not have given them to an unworthy keeper,
   but I doubt whether he ever reached the subtilty of knowing
   how one who has no knowledge can hold the keys of knowledge."
   "The apostles worshipped, but in spirit, following simply that
   apostolic rule:--'God is a spirit, and they that worship him
   must worship him in spirit and in truth'; but it does not appear
   that it was revealed to them that an image drawn with a crayon
   on the wall was to be worshipped, provided only it have two
   fingers held upright, hair flowing, and three rays in the halo
   about its head. For who can understand these things unless he
   has ground out six and thirty years in the study of physics and
   the superhuman notions of Aristotle and the Scotists?

   "Meanwhile the actual words of the apostles are utterly
   neglected. While they keep up their fooleries in the schools,
   they fancy that, like Atlas in the poets, they are holding up
   the tottering Church with their syllogistic pillars, and what
   joy they take in moulding and remoulding Scripture according to
   their will as if it were made of wax; yet their own conclusions,
   if a few schoolmen have subscribed to them, they think more
   weighty than the laws of Solon or the decretals of popes, and
   like censors of the world, if anything does not square to the
   line with their conclusions implicit and explicit, they declare
   as by an oracle 'this proposition is scandalous; this is lacking
   in reverence; this smacks of heresy; this hasn't the right
   sound.' So that, by this time, neither Baptism, nor Gospel, nor
   Paul, nor Peter, nor St. Jerome, nor Augustine--nay, not even
   the most Aristotelian Thomas himself, can make a man a Christian
   unless the reckoning of these bachelors be added."

The same method of direct denunciation, with no special reference
to the main thesis of Folly, is pursued in the case of the monks,
or "religious," both titles false, Erasmus says, for the greater
part of them are as far as possible from religion, and there is no
kind of men whom you are more apt to meet in all places. They pride
themselves upon their ignorance, carry the psalm-books they cannot
read into the churches, and bray out their words as if they could
thereby please the ear of God. Some of them crowd the taverns,
waggons, and ships, showing off their poverty and filth and howling
for alms. Yet the merry knaves try to pass themselves off as living
the life of the apostles.

   "What a joke it is that they do all things by rule, as it were
   by a kind of sacred mathematics; as, for instance, how many
   knots their shoes must be tied with, of what colour everything
   must be, what variety in their garb, of what material, how many
   straws' breadth to their girdle, of what form and of how many
   bushels' capacity their cowl, how many fingers broad their
   hair, and how many hours they may sleep. Now who cannot see
   what an unequal equality this is, when there is such a variety
   of persons and tastes? and yet with all this nonsense, they not
   only make light of others, but come to despise one another, and
   these men who profess apostolic charity make a terrible row at a
   dress girded in another fashion or at a colour a little darker
   in shade. Some of them are so very 'religious' that they wear no
   outer garment but one of hair-cloth, with soft linen underneath;
   others on the contrary wear linen without and woollen within.
   Others again would as soon touch poison as money, but meanwhile
   make free with wine and women. They are all trying not to agree
   in their manner of life; none of them to follow the example of
   Christ, but all to be different one from the other....

   "The greater part of them have such faith in their ceremonies
   and human traditions that they think one heaven is not reward
   enough for such great doings, never that the time will come when
   Christ shall set all this aside and claim his rule of charity.
   One will show his belly stuffed with every sort of fish; another
   will pour out a hundred bushels of psalms; another will count
   up myriads of fasts and make up for them all again by almost
   bursting himself at a single dinner. Another will bring forward
   such a heap of ceremonies that seven ships would hardly hold
   them; another will boast that for sixty years he has never
   touched a penny except with double gloves on his hands; another
   wears a cowl so greasy and filthy that no sailor would think it
   decent. Another will boast that for eleven lusters he has led
   the life of a sponge, always fixed to the same spot; another
   will display his voice hoarse with much chanting; another a
   drowsiness contracted from solitary living; another a tongue
   palsied by long silence. But Christ will interrupt their endless
   bragging and will demand:--'whence this new kind of Judaism?
   One law and that my own I recognise, and that is the only thing
   I hear nothing about. In that day I promised openly and using
   no twisted parables, the inheritance of my Father, not to cowls
   and prayers and fastings, but to deeds of love.' And yet no one
   dares reproach those people, who belong, as it were, to another
   commonwealth--and especially the Begging Friars, because they
   know everybody's secrets through what they call 'confessions.'"

Erasmus more than hints that the friars had ways enough of playing
fast and loose with the secrets confided to them, and, running
together his assaults upon the schoolmen and the monks, shows up the
scholastic preaching of the friars by some excellent specimens.

   "I myself have heard one distinguished fool--I beg his pardon,
   a scholar I would say--who, in a famous sermon on the mystery
   of the Holy Trinity, in order to show his uncommon learning and
   please the ears of the theologians, took a quite new method,
   namely from the letters, syllables, and discourse itself and
   then from the agreement of nouns and verbs, of adjective and
   substantive, to the great admiration of some, but causing others
   to grumble in the words of Horace: 'what is all this rot about?'

   "At last he got the thing down so fine, that he showed as
   plainly as any mathematician could chalk it out, that the
   mystery of the whole Trinity is expressed in the rudiments of
   grammar. This most highly theological person sweat away for
   eight months over that speech, so that the whole sight of his
   eyes ran into his wits and he is now as blind as a mole; but the
   creature cares naught for his eyesight and thinks his glory very
   cheaply bought.

   "Then I have heard another, an octogenarian and such a
   theologian that you would think Scotus had been born again in
   him. He set out to explain the mystery of the name of Jesus
   and showed with marvellous subtilty that in those letters lay
   concealed whatever could be predicated of him. For a word that
   is inflected with but three cases is evidently the image of the
   divine Trinity. Then because the first case, _Jesus_, ends in
   _s_, the second, _Jesum_, in _m_, the third, _Jesu_, in _u_,
   beneath this fact there lies an unspeakable mystery, the three
   letters indicating, of course, that he is the beginning, middle,
   and end. Still there remained a mystery more obscure than all
   this, according to the principles of mathematics: he so divided
   the word Jesus into two equal parts that the third letter was
   left alone in the middle; then he showed that this was called by
   the Hebrews _syn_ and that _syn_ in the language, I believe, of
   the Scots [_Scotorum_], means _sin_, and hence it was plainly
   demonstrated that Jesus was he who should take away the sin of
   the world."

The assault on the friars ends with some amusing criticism of their
manner of public speaking, which they seem to have acquired by
misapplying and exaggerating the good principles of rhetoric they
have somehow picked up here and there.

As to secular princes and courtiers, Folly borrows from the oration
of "her friend Erasmus" to Duke Philip, and adds little to the
commonplaces of criticism upon their wild and reckless living and
their disregard of the good of their subjects. She carries her
argument along from secular to clerical princes and finally reaches
the pope, to whom she pays her respects in this monumental passage:

   "Those supreme pontiffs, who stand in the place of Christ, if
   they should try to imitate his life, that is his poverty, his
   toil, his teaching, his cross, and his scorn of this world, or
   if they should think of the meaning of 'pope,' that is 'father,'
   or even of 'most holy,' what position in the world could be
   more dreadful? Who would buy it with all his resources, or,
   when he had bought it, would defend it by sword and poison
   and every violence? What joys they would lose, if once wisdom
   should get hold of them! Wisdom, say I? nay, even a grain of
   that salt Christ tells us of. What wealth, what honours, riches,
   conquests, dispensations, taxes, indulgences, horses, mules,
   guards, pleasures, they would lose!... and in their place they
   would have vigils, prayers, fasts, tears, sermons, study, groans
   and a thousand other painful toils of the same sort.

   "And we ought not to forget that such a mass of scribes,
   copyists, notaries, advocates, promoters, secretaries,
   mule-drivers, grooms, money-changers, procurers, and gayer
   persons yet I might mention, did I not respect your ears,--that
   this whole swarm which now burdens--I beg your pardon--honours
   the Roman See, would be driven to starvation. This would be an
   inhuman and an abominable deed, but still more execrable would
   it be that those chief princes of the Church and true lights of
   the world should be reduced to scrip and staff. As it is now,
   if there is any work to be done, it is left to Peter and Paul,
   who have plenty of leisure for it; but if there is anything of
   show or of pleasure, they keep that for themselves. And so it
   happens that, through my assistance, there is scarce any class
   of men who live more jovially and less burdened with care. They
   think they are fulfilling the rule of Christ if they play the
   part of bishops with mystical and almost theatrical decorations,
   ceremonies, titles of benediction, of reverence, of sanctity,
   with blessings and cursings. Doing miracles is quite antiquated
   and out of date; to teach the people is hard work; to interpret
   the holy scripture is a matter for the schools; praying is
   tedious; shedding tears is a wretched business fit for women; to
   be poor is base; to be conquered is dishonourable and unworthy
   of him who will scarce allow the greatest of kings to kiss his
   blessed feet; to die is unbecoming and to be lifted on a cross
   is infamous."

The end of the Μωρία is an attempt on Folly's part to support her
case by references to authority, and especially, of course, to the
classics and to Scripture. It is laboured, and neither very ingenious
nor very amusing. The joke-machine goes a little hard at this stage
of its progress--yet the solid seriousness of the author's purpose
is as clear here as anywhere. In his references to Scripture he
cannot resist the temptation to give a parting fling at the foolish
interpretations which it was the most important work of his life to
correct. For instance, he makes Folly say:

   "I was myself but lately present at a theological
   discussion--for I often go to such meetings--when someone asked
   what authority there was in Holy Writ for burning heretics
   instead of convincing them by argument. A certain hard old
   man, a theologian by the very look of him, answered with great
   scorn, that the apostle Paul had laid down this law when he
   said '_hereticum hominem post unam et alteram correptionem
   devita_'--'avoid an heretic after one or two attempts to
   convince him.' And when he had yelled out these same words over
   and over again and some were wondering what had struck the man,
   he finally explained '_de vita tollendum hereticum_'--'the
   heretic must be put out of life.' Some burst out laughing, but
   there were not wanting some to whom this commentary seemed
   perfectly theological."

An opportunity for Erasmus to express his usual detestation of war
is furnished by his references to the papal warfare, which seemed to
him the most unjustifiable of all forms of military action. Indeed
one may fairly say that in this year, 1509, Erasmus had clearly in
mind and had already given expression to the views which were to
form the ground-work of the Reformation. This was the year before
Luther's journey to Rome, and Erasmus himself was just fresh from
the impressions of an Italian residence. The worldly lives of
clergymen, from pope to friar, the burden of monastic vows, the
ignorance of theologians and their scholastic backers, the wickedness
of indulgences, the follies and superstitions of saint-worship,
the cruel weight of ceremonies which had no support in any worthy
authority--all these things were as boldly pointed out by Erasmus in
1509 as ever they were to be shown by any reformer of a later day.
The Praise of Folly carried his proclamation into a thousand hands
that would never have touched the more sober, but not more serious,
criticism of less broadly human critics.

Naturally the Praise of Folly called forth a certain criticism from
individuals belonging to some of the classes attacked. To this
criticism Erasmus replied only by renewed and more bitter comment
in the same spirit. Quite different, however, was the admonition he
received from his excellent friend, Martin Dorpius of Louvain, and
different to correspond was the spirit of his reply.[83] He addresses
Dorpius throughout as a sincere man and scholar, whose view had
been obscured by the misunderstandings of others; in fact, when you
came to the bottom of it, of one man, by whom is doubtless meant
the unhappy scapegoat, Nicholas Egmund. Dorpius had disapproved the
_Moria_ chiefly on account of what seemed to him its flippant tone
and the tendency it must have to excite hostility against really
good and valuable things. Erasmus defends himself on the ground that
the flippancy is only apparent, a mere lightness of touch to commend
the serious purpose underneath. He had been bitterly abused, but he
abuses no man; on the contrary, he has taken great pains to avoid any
personal attack or even an attack upon any class of men as such.

  [83] _Epistola apologetica ad Martinum Dorpium Theologum_, ix., 1.

"I had in view no other object in the _Moria_ than I have had in
other works, but used only a different method." He mentions specially
the _Enchiridion_, the _Institutio Principis_, and the Panegyric
on Philip of Burgundy, serious works enough in all conscience. He
gives the familiar story of the composition and first publication
of the book. He had just returned from Italy, ill and worn out by
the journey. He was at More's house and began to play with the idea
of the _Moria_, not with any intention of publication, but just to
while away the time.[84] He showed his friends what he had written,
only that he might enjoy his laugh the better in company. They liked
it, and not only urged him to finish it, but sent it over to Paris,
and there it was printed, but from corrupt and even mutilated copy.
How displeasing it was Dorpius may judge from the fact that within a
few months it was reprinted seven times in different places. "If you
think this was a foolish performance on my part, I shall not deny it."

  [84] He says elsewhere that More was the cause (_auctor_) of his
  writing the book. iii.¹, 474-D.

Yet it has been approved by the most famous theologians, men of the
highest character and learning, "who have never been more friendly
with me than since its publication, and who like it far better than I
do." He would give their names and titles were it not that this might
expose them to the abuse of

   "those three theologians or rather, when you come to that, of
   _that one_." "If I should paint him in his true colours no one
   could wonder that the _Moria_ is displeasing to such a man; nay,
   I should be sorry if it did not displease such people, though it
   does not suit me either. Yet it comes the nearer to pleasing me
   because it does not suit such characters as that."

If Dorpius could only look into his soul he would see how many things
Erasmus has _not_ touched upon, lest he give offence, and lest he say
anything indecent or seditious.

Our analysis of the _Moria_ is well sustained by Erasmus' attempt
here to show that by _stultitia_ he does not mean mere human
foolishness. "There is no danger that any person will here imagine
that Christ and the apostles were really fools." They only had a
certain element of weakness common to all humanity, and which,
compared with the eternal wisdom, may well seem not altogether wise.
The tone of the whole defence is admirably calm, and shows a sincere
regard for Dorpius, though, like certain islanders, he does need to
have a joke explained now and then.

Erasmus did not exaggerate the immense and immediate popularity of
the _Moria_. Our bibliography enumerates forty-three editions in
the author's lifetime, and it has been translated and reprinted
since then an infinite number of times. Holbein amused himself
by decorating the margin of his copy with these rude but clever
wood-cuts which have come to be the permanent types of the various
orders of Erasmian fools.



The third visit of Erasmus to England was brought about, if we may
trust his own account of it, by very urgent requests on the part of
his English friends. He liked to speak of the "mountains of gold"
which had been promised him if he would only come thither, and it
was a delightful grievance for him to fancy that he had been torn
from his beloved Italy, where he had consistently complained of his
lot, and to which he looked back as the source of all his later
physical ills, only to suffer a new series of misfortunes in England.
The fact very likely was that, hearing of the change of government
in England, and having done what he went to Italy to do, he hoped
for some advantage from a move, and sounded his English friends
on the prospect. Our earliest clue is a letter from Mountjoy,[85]
to which, curiously enough, the date 1497 has been affixed in the
collection. Mountjoy speaks of receiving two letters from him, which
are, unfortunately, lost to us, and also of having written him
personally a congratulatory letter on the completion of his Adages,
which letter, together with the bearer, had been lost on the way.
It is evident, therefore, that so far as Mountjoy was concerned,
Erasmus had not, in any strict sense, been "invited" to come into
England. Evidently he had complained of his misfortunes in Italy, and
consulted with Mountjoy about a change:

  [85] iii.¹, 7-E.

   "Your letters gave me at once joy and pain. That you should, as
   you ought, familiarly and as a friend, confide to your Mountjoy
   your plans, your thoughts, your misfortunes and troubles, was a
   joy indeed; but to learn that you, my dearest friend, to whom
   above all I desire to be of service, were assailed by such
   varied shafts of fortune, that was a grief."

Even before the king's death a letter[86] had been sent to Erasmus
by the Prince of Wales, but it contained nothing more than a formal
compliment upon the great clearness of his style, and a mild reproof
that he had had the bad tact to recall to him the recent loss of his
royal brother, the King of Castile. Next time, he hopes, he may write
of something more agreeable.

  [86] iii.², 1840-E. The letter, 1839-E, from Henry as king, used
  by Mr. Froude at this point to show how urgently Erasmus had been
  invited to England, belongs probably many years afterwards.

But, if he was not "called" to England, certainly Erasmus had reason
to believe he would be welcome there. The accession of the young
king, whose generous disposition and taste for the refinements of
life were well known, seemed to open up a vista of promise for all
kinds of talent. Mountjoy writes[87]:

  [87] iii.¹, 7-E.

  [Illustration: TITLE-PAGE OF NEW TESTAMENT, 1519.]

   "I have no fear, my dear Erasmus, but that when you hear that
   our prince Henry _octavus_, or rather Octavius, has by the death
   of his father succeeded to the kingdom, all gloom will at once
   vanish from your mind. For what may you not promise yourself
   from a prince whose extraordinary--nay, almost divine character
   is well known to you; to whom especially you are not merely
   known, but known familiarly--why, you have even received letters
   from him written with his own hand--a thing which has happened
   to few men. If you knew how like a hero he now appears, how
   wisely he conducts himself, how he loves truth and justice, what
   favour he is showing to men of letters, I dare swear, though you
   have no wings, you would fly over to us in all haste to greet
   this new and auspicious star.

   "Oh! my dear Erasmus, if you could only see how wild with joy
   everyone here is, how they are congratulating themselves on
   having such a prince, how they pray for nothing more earnestly
   than for his life, you could not help weeping for joy. The very
   air is full of laughter, the earth dances, everything flows with
   milk and honey and nectar. Avarice slinks away far from the
   people; generosity scatters wealth with lavish hand. Our king is
   eager, not for gold, not for gems and precious stones, but for
   virtue, glory, and immortality. I will give you a taste:--the
   other day he was wishing himself more learned--'nay,' I said,
   'that is not what we wish for you, but rather that you may
   welcome and encourage learned men.' 'Why should I not,' he
   replied, 'for indeed without them I can scarce exist.' What
   nobler word could have fallen from a prince's lips? But I am a
   rash fellow to venture out upon the ocean in my slender bark;
   let this task be reserved for you. I wanted to preface my letter
   with these few words in praise of our divine prince, so that,
   if any gloom remains in your heart, I might straightway banish
   it, or, if it is all gone, that I might not only confirm the
   hope you have formed, but more and more increase it....

   "I could console you and bid you be of good cheer, did I not
   believe that whatever you could dare to wish for, you have
   already on your own account very reasonable hopes of attaining.
   You shall think that the last day of your troubles has dawned.
   You shall come to a prince who will say:--'here are riches; be
   the chief of my poets.'"

The letter then briefly summarises the contents of the lost epistle
and continues:

   "I will now go back to your work, which all are praising to the
   skies. Above all the archbishop of Canterbury was so pleased
   and delighted, that I could not get it out of his hands. 'But,'
   you will say, 'so far nothing but praises.' The same archbishop
   promises you a living if you will return and has given me five
   pounds cash to be sent to you for the journey. I add as much
   myself, not really as a gift, for this is not the kind of thing
   to be called a gift, but only that you may hasten to us and no
   longer torment us with longing for you.

   "Finally, there remains only this bit of advice to give: don't
   imagine that anything can be more grateful to me than your
   letters or that I could be offended by anything from you. I am
   exceedingly troubled that your health has become impaired in
   Italy; you know I was never greatly in favour of your going
   there. But when I see how much work you accomplished and how
   much fame you have won there, by Jove! I am sorry I did not go
   with you. For I think that such learning and such fame would
   be well bought with hunger, poverty, and pain, nay, even with
   death. Please find enclosed a draft for the money; look out for
   your health and come to us as soon as you can."

Certainly a more than friendly letter. True, Mountjoy makes no
definite promises on his own account, but his glowing picture of
the great times coming for English letters was enough to fire the
ambition of a less credulous scholar than Erasmus. The definite
promise from Archbishop Warham of a church-living and the earnest of
a gift for travelling expenses were attractions not to be resisted.

Erasmus arrived in England in 1509, and remained there until the
early part of 1514. Of these nearly five years we have but little
satisfactory account. There is no indication that it was anyone's
affair to look after him in any way. We know that he lived chiefly
at Cambridge and London. He may even have made a short trip to the
Continent in the interval. He was evidently much concerned with money
matters, making continual complaints of poverty; but at the same time
he lived in apparent comfort, not to say a kind of luxury. What he
meant by poverty was the absence of a sufficient estate from which
to live as he would have liked to live. He certainly had money more
or less regularly from Mountjoy, and at some time during his English
residence he was also handsomely furnished with a regular income by
Warham. The peculiar thing about these English pensions was that they
were generally paid when due, and that was more than could be said
of any of the other benefits promised to Erasmus, either before or

The arrangement with Warham was one quite in accord with the practice
of the day in such cases, but not altogether in harmony with some
of Erasmus' lofty pretensions about pecuniary burdens. When Warham
offered Erasmus the "living" of Aldington in Kent, it was rather a
severe test of the famous critic's sincerity in his utterances on
church morality. A more flagrant case of abuse of church funds, so
far as the principle was concerned, could hardly be imagined. Here
was a needy foreigner, who had, to be sure, the ordination of a
priest, but who from the moment of his ordaining had never done a
single clerical act, to be set over a congregation of English souls,
only that their contributions might go to support him in a life of
scholarly production. To be sure there were excuses enough in the
habits of the day, but it was precisely as a critic of such corrupt
practices that Erasmus was now before the world. Another palliation
may be found in the nature of the work which the scholar hoped to do
in the leisure thus acquired. He was laying great and far-reaching
plans for such an advancement of theological study as should bring
in a really new era of Christian faith and practice. Still all such
reasoning could not obscure the real fact that to accept such a
parish living meant to take money for which no proper equivalent was
given to those who furnished it. This was not Warham's money, but
only a trust in his hands for the benefit of the souls of Aldington.


Erasmus' own account[88] of the transaction represents himself as
very reluctant to take the benefice, and Warham as insisting upon
it so urgently that he finally could no longer resist. Fortunately
we have the original documents[89] in Warham's own words, and there
is no hint of any reluctance on Erasmus' part. The fact was, at all
events, that he took the living, did nothing by way of service, and
in a few months resigned it in exchange for an annual pension of
twenty pounds. Warham's account of the matter goes far beyond the
ordinary limits of a deed of record, and is in fact nothing less than
a frank apology for a practice which he did not himself approve. It
was far too common for a parish priest to resign a living with duties
in exchange for a substantial life-pension without duties, and Warham
declares his determination not to permit this sort of thing in the
diocese of Canterbury. He makes, however, an exception in Erasmus'
case, he says, for several reasons: First, he is

  [88] Knight's Life of Erasmus, p. 155, note a.

  [89] Knight, Appendix, xl., and Vischer's _Erasmiana_, 1876, pp.

   "moved by the countless good qualities of Erasmus, a man of
   consummate ability in Latin and Greek literature, who adorns
   our age with his learning and talent like a star, to draw back
   a little from our general principle. And no one ought to think
   it strange if in the case of so rare a man and one placed
   beyond every hazard of genius, we thought we ought to change
   somewhat of our previous custom. For when we had conferred on
   him a benefice with the cure of souls, namely, the church of
   Aldington, although he was extremely learned in theology,
   as in every other branch of learning, still as he could not
   preach the word of God to his parishioners in English or hold
   any communication with them in their own tongue, of which he
   is entirely ignorant; for this reason desiring to give up the
   before-mentioned church, _he begged us to provide for him an
   annual pension_ in the same. We thought that _to agree to his
   suggestion_ would be profitable to the souls, and at the same
   time he would be able the more freely to pursue those literary
   studies to which _he is completely devoted_. We were also not
   a little moved by his unusual affection toward the English,
   for he had given up Italy, France, and Germany, where he might
   have lived prosperously enough, and preferred to betake himself
   hither, that he might pass the remnant of his life here among
   friends, and that these in turn might enjoy the companionship of
   so learned a man."

Here is the plain evidence of a serious document of record that
Erasmus not only took his pension gladly, but actually begged for
it, and it is quite in harmony with this that we afterwards find him
quarrelling with his successor about certain tithes which the latter
thought were to be deducted from the twenty pounds.

This document bears date the last day of July, 1512, so that Erasmus
was unquestionably well provided for from that day on. The date of
his first induction into the parish was March 22, 1511, and as he
thus had a right to the whole income of the place during a year and
a third, there is no reason why he should not have had a tidy sum to
his credit.

The letters of Erasmus during this English visit are few and give
but little insight into his way of life. The most interesting of them
are those written from Cambridge to another foreigner, an Italian,
Andreas Ammonius, who, like himself, had wandered to England to
seek his fortune, and had become a Latin secretary to the young
King Henry VIII. In addition to this function he appears later
as holding some papal commission in England. With this cheerful
and practical specimen of the gay Italian Humanism of the day our
scholar corresponded with great freedom. Ammonius was not troubled
by Erasmus' dread of place-holding, and was frankly enjoying the
sunshine of the court. He seems to have advised Erasmus to try his
fortune also in London. Erasmus replies:

   "As for your serious advice that I should pay my court to
   Fortune, I acknowledge the true and friendly counsel, and I
   will try it, though my mind rebels against it most strongly and
   predicts no good and happy outcome. If I had exposed myself to
   the risks of Fortune I should have put myself under the laws
   of a game, and, if I had got beaten, should be making the best
   of it, knowing, as I do, that this is just Fortune's trick, to
   set up some and restore others as she pleases. But I thought
   I had provided myself against having anything to do with this
   wanton mistress, since Mountjoy had brought me into harbour and
   into a settled thing. Nor does the kindness of Fortune towards
   others, no matter how unworthy, trouble me one particle, so help
   me God! The success of you and the like of you brings me a real
   and uncommon pleasure. Even if I were compelled to go into a
   calculation of my merits, my present fortune would seem beyond
   my deserts, for I measure myself by my own foot and not by your

Little inclined as Erasmus was to try his hand at court, it was not
for lack of theories as to how one might best get on there. He gives
Ammonius the benefit of them in this classic passage[90]:

  [90] iii.¹, 122-B.

   "Now then I, the sow, will proceed to teach Minerva; but, since
   you forbid it, I will not philosophise too much. The first thing
   is, give your forehead such a rubbing that you will never blush
   at anything. Mix yourself in everybody's business. Elbow aside
   everyone you can. Love no one and hate no one with your whole
   heart, but measure all things by your own advantage. Let the
   whole ordering of your life be turned to this one aim. Give
   nothing without hope of a return; agree to all things with all
   men. 'But,' you say, 'these are commonplaces.' Well, then, since
   you insist upon it, I will give you a special piece of advice,
   but in your ear, mind you. You know the jealousy of these
   Britons; make use of it for your own good. Ride two horses at
   once. Hire various suitors to keep at you. Threaten to leave
   and begin to pack up. Show letters calling you away with great
   promises; take yourself off somewhere, that absence may sharpen
   their desire for you."

This is a very exact description of Erasmus' own tactics in the
Battus days, and continues to fit his action very well whenever he
was considering a change of residence.

In 1511 he writes to Ammonius:

   "If you have any trustworthy news, I wish you would let me know
   it. I want especially to hear whether Julius is really playing
   Julius, and whether Christ keeps up his ancient custom of
   specially trying with the storms of adverse fortune those whom
   he desires to make specially his own."

Writing from Queen's College in August, 1511, he says:

   "I am sending you some letters which I have written to Bombasius
   [his learned friend, we remember, in Bologna]. As to myself
   I have nothing new to write, save that the journey was most
   uncomfortable and that my health is so far very dubious on
   account of that over-exertion. I expect to make a somewhat
   longer stay in this college, but as yet I have not given much of
   myself to my hearers, desiring to look out for my health. The
   beer in this place I don't like at all and the wine is far from
   satisfactory. If you can order me a flagon of Greek wine, the
   very best you can find, you will make your Erasmus happy, but
   let it be very far from sweet. Don't worry about the money; I
   will pay in advance if you like."

Ammonius sent the wine, not so much as Erasmus had expected, but
refused with some heat to hear of pay, and we have Erasmus' reply:

   "You have given me a double pleasure, most amiable Ammonius,
   by sending with your merry wine letters far merrier still, and
   smacking exactly of your genius and disposition, and these in my
   judgment are the sweetest that ever were. As to my mention of
   pay which makes you so angry, indeed I was not ignorant of your
   character, which is worthy of a kingly fortune. But I supposed
   you were going to send me a great flagon, enough to last me
   several months--yet even this is too large for a modest man to
   receive without pay.... I marvel that you stick to your nest so
   perpetually and never take a flight away. If you should ever be
   pleased to visit this Academy you would be welcomed by many, by
   me first of all. You bid me come back to you if I get too tired
   here, but I can't see any attraction for me in London except the
   companionship of two or three friends."

Ammonius accompanied the English army in the Flemish campaign of
1513, and Erasmus writes to him in camp, thanking him for the vivid
description of army life which he has sent home, and introducing him
to various friends of his own in the Low Countries.

   "O happy man," he says, "if God permits you to return safely
   to us! What merry tales your experience of these horrors
   will supply you with for the rest of your life! But, my dear
   Ammonius, I beseech you again and again, as I have cautioned
   you in my recent letters, by the Muses and Graces, look out
   that you do your fighting from a safe distance. Be as furious
   as you like--with your pen,--and slay with it ten times ten
   thousand men a day." As for himself, he says he is hanging on at
   Cambridge, "looking about me every day for a convenient chance
   to fly away. Only no opportunity offers. I am kept also by
   the thirty nobles which I am expecting at Michaelmas. I am so
   on fire with zeal to re-edit Jerome and to illustrate it with
   commentaries, that I seem to be inspired by some god. I have now
   nearly completed the revision and have collated many ancient
   texts, and all this at great expense to myself."


At Cambridge, as elsewhere, Erasmus seems always to have been on the
eve of flight, working away at what interested him, but neglecting
everything else as far as possible.

   "I wrote to you once and again in camp," he says to Ammonius,
   "but meanwhile was in a no less serious warfare here with my
   emendations of Seneca and Jerome than you with the Frenchmen.
   Although I was not in camp, Durham has given me ten crowns
   from the French plunder;--but I'll tell you all about this
   when I see you, and meanwhile will be on the lookout for your
   military letters.--Good-bye, best of friends. I don't need to
   ask of you what you are always doing of your own accord, and
   yet I do ask that if any chance offers you will help me along
   with a word of recommendation. For these few months I have cast
   anchor securely. If things go well, I will fancy that here is my
   native land, which I have preferred to Rome and where old age
   is coming upon me; if not I will break away, it doesn't much
   matter whither, and will at all events die somewhere else. I
   will call upon all the gods to bear witness to the confidence by
   which _he whom you know_ has ruined me. If I had promised with
   three words what he has repeated so often and in such sounding
   phrases, I know that what I promised I would have performed.
   May I be damned if I wouldn't rather die than let a man who was
   dependent on me go destitute. I congratulate you, dear Ammonius,
   that Fortune, not always so unjust as she is to me, is now, as I
   hear, smiling upon you. Good-bye again."

   "For months now," he writes, "I have been living the life of a
   snail, shut up at home and brooding in silence over my studies.
   There is a great deal of solitude here; many are away through
   fear of the plague,--though even when everyone is here it is a
   solitude. The expense is intolerable and there is not a farthing
   of profit. Think of it! I swear by all that's sacred that in the
   five months since I came here I have spent sixty nobles and have
   only received one from some of my hearers and that with much
   reluctance on my part. It is certain that during this winter I
   shall leave no stone unturned and, as they say, shall weigh the
   anchor of my safety. If things go well, I shall make myself a
   nest somewhere; if not, I shall certainly fly away from here, I
   know not whither; if nothing else I will at least die elsewhere."

Ammonius reports upon his progress in begging for Erasmus, and
Erasmus, quite in the tone of the old correspondence with Battus,
thanks him and urges him to further effort.

These dolorous letters bear date 1511, but cannot all belong in that
year, and month and day are often obviously incorrect. Dated early in
1512 we have a letter to the abbot of St. Bertin. After explaining
why he had not reported himself earlier, Erasmus goes on to say:

   "If you care to hear how I am getting on: Erasmus is almost
   completely transformed into an Englishman, with such
   distinguished consideration am I treated by very many others,
   but especially by my incomparable (_unicus_) Mæcenas, the
   archbishop of Canterbury,--patron not of me alone, but of all
   learned men, among whom I hold the lowest place, if indeed I
   hold any place at all. Eternal God! how happy, how productive,
   how ready is the talent of that man! What skill in unravelling
   the most weighty matters of business! what uncommon learning!
   what unheard-of graciousness towards all! what geniality in
   company, so that,--a truly royal quality,--he sends no one
   away from him sad. And besides all this: what great and ready
   generosity! Finally, in such a conspicuous position of fortune
   and rank, how absolutely free from haughtiness,--so that he
   seems to be the only one who is ignorant of his own greatness.
   In caring for his friends no one is more faithful or more
   constant. In short he is indeed _Primas_, not in rank alone but
   in all praiseworthy things. Since I have this man for a friend,
   why should I not deem myself exceptionally fortunate, even if
   there were nothing more?"

It is idle to attempt to determine which of these moods represents
the real state of mind of Erasmus at Cambridge. Probably he was at
his old tricks of making himself valued by threatening to leave an
unbearable situation, and at the same time making that situation
appear as delightful as possible to anyone outside who might
conceivably raise a bid for him in another quarter. He tells Ammonius
again how charming Italy was to him and what a prospect he had given
up there to come to England. He thinks he will come to London, and
begs Ammonius to find him a warm lodging not too far from St. Paul's.
He cannot go to Mountjoy's so long as "that Cerberus" is there.
Evidently he did not have the run of many hospitable homes in London.

As regards Erasmus' official position at Cambridge there is some
room for doubt. He appears in the lists of university officers as
the "Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity," but precisely what this
means is not clear. The Lady Margaret was the Countess of Richmond,
mother of King Henry VII., never queen herself, but claiming the
doubtful honour of blood-relationship to sixty or seventy persons of
royal lineage. This benevolent lady, influenced undoubtedly by the
advice of John Fisher, afterward Bishop of Rochester, had founded
in 1503 a readership in divinity at each of the great English
universities. The endowment had been intrusted to the abbey of
Westminster with instructions to pay over the salary to the holder.
The election to the office was to be biennial, and besides the
chancellor all doctors, bachelors, and inceptors in divinity were to
have the right to vote. The place was to be no sinecure. The reader
must read _libere_, _sollenniter_, and _aperte_. He was to have no
fees beyond his salary, and must read such works in divinity as the
chancellor with the "college of doctors" should judge necessary.
He must "read every accustomed day in each term, and in the long
vacation up to the eighth of September, but might cease in Lent, if
the chancellor should think fit, in order that during that season
he and his auditors might be occupied in preaching." Evidently it
was contemplated that the reader of the Lady Margaret should devote
himself wholly to this work. The salary was the very respectable
sum of sixty-five dollars a year, enough to provide a modest living
for a man of quiet habits. We are almost wholly without information
as to Erasmus' performance of the duties of this office. Everything
points toward the belief that in the sense described by the act of
foundation he never filled it at all. The only references he makes
are to his attempts to teach Greek, certainly not one of the
functions of the Lady Margaret Professor. It has often been assumed
that[91] Erasmus' complaints about his Cambridge life were caused
by a sense of failure in his work as a teacher. We are prepared to
believe from all his previous experience that he never cared to
succeed as a teacher, and, further, we may be tolerably sure that,
for this quite sufficient reason, he was not a very good teacher.
He held his readership, we may believe, for two terms of two years
each--if indeed he held it at all--and meanwhile tried to give Greek
lessons, but could get neither pupils nor pay. Mr. Mullinger says,
"Disappointed in his class-room, he took refuge in his study," as if
his literary work were a kind of last resort on the failure of his
true profession.

  [91] For example, by Mr. Mullinger in his History of the
  University of Cambridge, p. 50 & _ff._


The truth would seem to be just the opposite of this. What really
commanded the allegiance of all that was best and most effective
in Erasmus' makeup was his study and writing. His proper medium of
self-expression was his pen, and until he took his pen in hand he was
not his best self. If he was capable of any sincere utterance he was
sincere when he said to Ammonius that he felt himself moved by an
almost divine inspiration when he got going on his Jerome. A few more
glimpses at the working of his mind at Cambridge and we will pass
on to see what he accomplished there in the way of contributions to

Besides Ammonius his other most important correspondent during this
time was his old friend, John Colet, now definitely settled in
London as dean of St. Paul's and greatly absorbed in the work which
was to be his most lasting monument, the new school for boys. The
correspondence seems to have begun by a begging letter from Erasmus
in which he had gone beyond the limits of good taste, and to which
Colet had replied with some heat. It is not beyond our belief that
Erasmus may have given his letter a jocose form, and that Colet,
Englishman as he was, had not seen the joke. At all events, Erasmus

   "You answer seriously a letter written in jest. Perhaps I ought
   not to have joked with so great a patron, yet it pleased my
   fancy just then to try a little 'Attic salt' on such a very dear
   friend, being mindful rather of your gentle character than of
   your high position. It will be the part of your friendliness
   to make allowances for my awkwardness. You write that I am in
   your debt whether I like it or not. Indeed, my dear Colet, it
   is hard, as Seneca says, to be an unwilling debtor, but I know
   no man to whom I would more willingly be in debt than to you.
   You have always had such kind feelings towards me that, even
   if no good offices had been added, still I should have been
   greatly your debtor; but now you have added so many services and
   kindnesses that if I did not acknowledge them I should be the
   most ungrateful of men. As to your embarrassments I both believe
   in them and grieve for them, but my own difficulties were so
   much more pressing that I was compelled to take advantage of
   yours. How unwilling I was to do this you may gather from the
   fact that I was so long in asking what you had long since
   promised. I don't wonder that you, occupied as you are with so
   many affairs, should have forgotten your promise; but when we
   were in your garden talking about the _Copia_,[92] I proposed
   to dedicate some juvenile work to our youthful prince, and you
   asked me to dedicate the new work to your new school. I answered
   with a smile that your new school was a trifle poverty-stricken
   and what I needed was someone who would pay cash down. Then you
   smiled. Then, when I had told over many reasons for expense, you
   said with some hesitation that you could not give me as much
   as I needed, but would gladly give fifteen angels. When you
   repeated this with an eager face, I asked if you thought that
   was enough. You answered eagerly again that you would willingly
   pay that. Then I said I would gladly take it. This reminder
   will perhaps bring the matter to your memory. I might pile up
   more arguments, if you had not faith in me of your own accord.
   There are some, and friends, too,--for I have no dealings with
   enemies and don't value their words one hair,--who say that
   you are a little hard, and in giving money a trifle exacting.
   They say that this does not come from meanness--so I understand
   them--but because from the very gentleness of your nature you
   cannot resist those who press and urge themselves upon you,
   and are the less generous with your modest friends because you
   cannot satisfy both.... If it would not burden you to send me
   the remnant of what you promised, as my affairs are at present,
   I will take it, not as a debt, but as a gift to be repaid when
   I can do so. I was sorry to hear, at the end of your letter,
   that you were so unusually burdened by business cares. I could
   wish you were as far as possible removed from the cares of
   this world, not for fear that the world's allurements can lay
   hold upon you, but because I should like to see such genius,
   eloquence, and learning as yours wholly devoted to Christ. If
   you cannot escape, look out that you do not sink deeper and
   deeper. It might be better to fail than to buy success at so
   great a price, for the highest good is peace of mind. These
   are the thorns that accompany riches.... I have finished the
   collation of the New Testament and am going on to Jerome. When I
   have finished him I will fly to you."

  [92] _De duplici copia verborum et rerum._

Singular that in all Erasmus' complaints of his Cambridge life he
makes no reference to any failure on the part of the authorities
to pay him his due stipend. It seems clear either that he held no
position which carried a salary with it, or that his begging was for
"extras" beyond the modest needs of a celibate scholar. Some light is
thrown upon this point in a letter to Colet, dated October, 1513, but
quite as likely belonging, as Mr. Drummond suggests, in 1511.

   "I am now wholly absorbed in the _Copia_, so that it seems like
   a regular enigma to be in the midst of plenty [_copia_] and yet
   in the depths of want. And would that I might bring both to a
   conclusion at once; for I will quickly make an end of my _Copia_
   if only the Muses will favour my studies more than Fortune has
   up to the present time favoured my estate....

   "In your offer of money I recognise your ancient good feeling
   toward me and I thank you with all my heart. But there is
   one phrase, though you use it in jest, that stings me to the
   soul:--'if you would beg humbly.' Perhaps you mean, and very
   properly, that to bear my lot with such impatience comes wholly
   from human pride, for, indeed, a gentle and Christian spirit
   makes the best of everything. Still more, however, I marvel how
   you put together humility and shamelessness: for you say, 'if
   you would beg humbly and make your demand shamelessly.' If,
   according to common usage, you mean by humility the opposite of
   arrogance, how are impudence and modesty to be put together? But
   if by 'humbly' you mean 'servilely' and 'abjectly' you differ
   very much from Seneca, my dear Colet, who thinks that nothing
   comes higher than what is bought with prayers, and that he does
   a far from friendly service who demands of his friend that lowly
   word, 'I beg you.' Socrates once said, conversing with some
   friends:--'I should have bought me a cloak to-day if I had had
   the money,' and Seneca says:--'he gave too late who gave after
   those words.' ...

   "But now, I pray you, what could be more shameless than I,
   who have been a public beggar all this time in England? From
   the archbishop I have had so much that it would be more than
   infamous to take any more, even if he should offer it. From N.
   I have begged boldly enough, but as I asked without shame so
   has he without shame repulsed me. Why now I seem too shameless
   even to my dear Linacre, who, when he saw me going away from
   London with barely six angels in my pocket, and knew how feeble
   my health was, and that winter was coming on, yet eagerly warned
   me to spare the archbishop, to spare Mountjoy! But I will rather
   pull myself together and learn to bear my poverty bravely. Oh!
   that was a friendly counsel! This is why I especially loathe my
   fate, that it does not permit me to be a modest man. As long
   as my strength would carry me, it was a pleasure to hide my
   need--now I cannot do that unless I choose to neglect my life.
   And still I am not yet so lost to shame that I ask all things
   of everyone. From others I ask not, lest I get a refusal, but
   from you with what face, pray, can I ask? Especially since you
   yourself have none too much of this kind of goods. Yet, if it is
   boldness you like, I will end my letter with the very boldest
   clause I can. I cannot so put aside all shame as to beg of you
   with no excuse,--but I am not so proud as to refuse a gift, if
   such a friend as you should give it me willingly, especially in
   the present state of my affairs."

  [Illustration: CARDINAL XIMENES.

These selections from the English correspondence have made it clear
that Erasmus in England was precisely what he had always been, a
keen-sighted observer of men and things, a hater of all shams but
his own, a sturdy beggar, a jovial companion and correspondent when
he was in the mood, above all an independent liver and thinker,
dreading any routine that was not self-imposed, but capable of steady
and persistent work when he could put his time on congenial tasks.
Of these labours, to which he devoted himself in England, the new
edition of the Greek New Testament, or, as he preferred to call it,
the "New Instrument," held the first place in his interest. It was
not to be published until 1516, a year or more after he had left
England, and Erasmus says that he consulted manuscripts in Brabant
and Basel before printing; but it seems tolerably clear that a
considerable part of the preparatory work was done at Cambridge.
He writes to Colet,[93] as early as 1511: "I have finished the
collation of the New Testament," by which he must mean that he had
done all that he intended to do at it in England. In speaking of
the work at Basel he refers to the great haste with which it was
pushed, the object being, probably, on Froben's part, to get ahead
of a similar undertaking reported to be under way in Spain. This
latter work, to be known as the "Complutensian Polyglot," was going
on under the direction of Cardinal Ximenes at Alcalá (Complutum).
It was to include the whole Bible, and though the New Testament was
completed in 1514 it was held back to appear with the rest in 1520.
When Erasmus says[94] that he used "very many manuscripts in both
languages, and those not the readiest to hand, but the most ancient
and most correct," he is speaking after the standards of his day.
In fact, recent scholarship has shown that he not only used very
defective manuscripts of no great antiquity, but that he failed to
make adequate use of the best one at his disposal.[95]

  [93] iii., 107-E. It really seems a little too much to place this
  begging letter, as Mr. Drummond does, in 1512, after Erasmus had
  received his pension from Warham.

  [94] vi., _ad init._

  [95] C. R. Gregory, _Prolegomena_ to Tischendorf's New Testament,
  i., 207-210.

In spite of the fact, then, that the actual work of publication was
done at Basel, we may fairly count this great work as one of the
fruits of the English period. Rightly to estimate the value of this
service to the cause of a reasonable Christianity, we must consider
for a moment the conditions of biblical scholarship in the year
1511. That the ultimate appeal in matters of Christian faith lay
to the inspired word of the recognised canon of Scripture, no one
doubted for a moment. True, the governing powers of the Church had
insisted that alongside this source of truth there were two others
of equal importance, the tradition of the Church and the authority
of the Roman papacy; but Church and papacy had always been conceived
of as expressing their own judgment through their interpretation
of Scripture. Nothing which they could lay down could ever be in
contradiction to the true teaching of the canonical writings. A
modern mind would say, therefore, that nothing could have seemed
more important to these interpreting agents than to know precisely
what the writers whom they were interpreting had said and meant.
One would think that every effort would have been made from the
beginning to secure and maintain a version of the Scriptures in their
original form, of such unquestionable accuracy that all deviations of
interpretation could be anticipated and checked.

The immense prestige which the Roman government of the Church might
thus have secured to itself was deliberately thrown away. Not only
did the chief church authority do nothing itself to promote so
practical and so profitable an undertaking, but it systematically
checked the efforts of individuals and groups of scholars to
contribute toward this end. It rested all its own interpretation
upon a translation into Latin, the so-called _Vulgata_, which had
been made by Jerome in the years just before and just after 400, and
repeatedly declared by the Church to be the sole authorised version.
This translation was, so far as the New Testament was concerned,
a revision of earlier Latin versions carefully compared with the
Greek originals. The Old Testament was translated from the original
Hebrew with close reference to the Septuagint and the early Greek
commentators. The obvious motive of the Church in clinging to this
defective presentation of its own supreme authority was the motive of
uniformity. The longer the correction of errors could be postponed,
the more hope that no effective criticism of institutions resting,
perhaps, on errors would arise.

Of all tendencies in human society none was so greatly and so
justly dreaded by church authority as the tendency to criticism.
And by criticism we do not mean a carping opposition. We mean
only what the word properly denotes: inquiry into the exact facts
about any given subject. In proportion as the great structure
of ecclesiastical authority had grown more complicated, this
nervous dread of free inquiry had increased. Nor was the central
authority alone responsible for this state of mind. Every part
of the church organisation had done its share to fix this notion
of an unchanging uniformity upon the Christian world. The whole
philosophy of the Middle Ages, which prided itself, above all else,
upon being a Christian philosophy, had exhausted itself in giving a
pseudo-scientific form to the most unscientific view of truth the
world had ever seen.

The great service of Erasmus was, therefore, that he proposed to find
out as nearly as he could what the writers of the New Testament had
actually said. Of course his apparatus for this inquiry was still,
from the point of view of modern science, very defective. He had no
earlier scientific commentators to consult, with the single exception
of Laurentius Valla, the Italian humanist, who a few years before had
published annotations to the Greek text. His criteria of judgment had
to be evolved from his own sense of accuracy as he went along. All
that vast assistance to intelligent editing which in recent times has
come from the cultivation of the historic sense was wanting to him.
Nothing was farther from Erasmus' mind than any radical discussion of
Christian doctrines. He continually declares his fixed determination
to abide by the faith of the Church, and whatever adverse criticism
he had to make was against evil practices which always seemed to
him only perversions of the essential Christianity of apostolic
times. So we are not to look to his New Testament for startling
innovations. What gave offence to his enemies was the same quality
which gave value to the book,--namely, the single effort to put
things as they were. What the "men of darkness" who had come largely
to control the practical working of religious affairs least of all
desired was precise truth to facts. They were getting on comfortably
with a version of truth which suited them very well, and were not
inclined to see their precious ease invaded by any restless seeking
for ultimate accuracy. They felt, and quite truly, that any jarring
of the foundations might bring the whole structure of ceremonies and
usages in which they were thriving, about their ears. Erasmus might
protest as he would, but the instinct of self-preservation on the
part of those who were enjoying the high places of the Church was
rightly alarmed.


The other work on which Erasmus spent most of his time in England was
his share in a new edition of St. Jerome, which was being brought
out by the great printing house of Froben at Basel. It will be more
in order, perhaps, to speak of this when we have followed Erasmus
to the Continent and seen him established in the full career of an
editor and author which was to occupy the remainder of his life. It
may not be out of place here to quote his own description of the
principles which governed him in his editorial work. He was accused
of inaccuracy and undue haste in giving to the world the results of
unripe scholarship. He acknowledges the facts, but defends himself as
follows,[96] speaking at the moment of the epistles of Jerome:

  [96] _Catalogus lucubrationum_, i.

   "I gave such care to this work [the edition of 1524] that the
   attentive reader may easily see that I did not undertake this
   revision in vain. The control of ancient manuscripts was not
   lacking, but these could not preclude the use of conjecture in
   some places; but these conjectures I so modified in the notes
   that they could not easily deceive anyone, but could only
   stimulate in the reader a zeal for investigation. And I hope it
   may come to pass that someone equipped with more correct texts
   may restore also those points which have escaped me. To these
   I will gladly render the praise due to their industry and they
   will have no reason to find fault with my attempts; for while I
   have been fortunate in restoring many points, in some I have
   been compelled to follow the ancient proverb:--'not as we would,
   but as we can.'

   "For there are men of such a disposition that if they can add
   anything to the efforts of their predecessors, they claim all
   the praise for themselves and make a tremendous fuss if one
   has even nodded at any point or not accomplished what one has
   undertaken. I know not whether we ought to despise more the
   rudeness of such persons or their ingratitude. No one stands in
   their way, if they wish to produce something better. They say
   that nothing ought to be published that is not perfect. Now,
   whoever says that, simply says that nothing at all should be
   published; nor was ever anything properly edited down to the
   present day. I was editing these things for Batavians, for monks
   and theologians, who were for the most part without classic
   learning; for liberal study had not yet penetrated so far as

   "If one will just consider, he will see that I am entering
   upon no unworthy or unfruitful field. Will not Italian critics
   give the same indulgence to barbarians which they have been
   compelled, willing or unwilling, to give to their own scholars,
   to Filelfo, to Hermolaus, or to Valla, whenever during the
   past sixty years they have aided the learning of the community
   by their zeal in translating Greek authors or emending Latin
   ones? Those who publish nothing avoid all blame, but earn no
   praise;--nay, while they are barely avoiding the blame of men,
   they fall into the worst kind of blame;--unless, indeed, he is
   less blameworthy who gives to his famished friends nothing from
   his splendid table, than he who freely and gladly gives what he
   has and would be glad to give more sumptuous things if he had
   them.... I confess myself greatly indebted to Beatus Rhenanus,
   who has given us Tertullian emended at many points, though
   it is incomplete and beside that is thick-sown with blunders.
   He does no injury to his reputation who gives a service
   proportioned to his day and opens the way to others to do more
   finished work. Nor have I suffered from any more unjust critics
   than those who publish nothing and do not even teach, as if they
   begrudged any usefulness to the world, or as if whatever they
   gave to the community were a loss to themselves. And if ever
   they detect a human error, what snickerings, what abuse, what a

  [Illustration: DEVICE OF FROBEN.]

These are really admirable sentiments, worthy of a man of literary
courage and generosity. On the whole Erasmus lived up to them. He was
impatient of criticism and inclined to believe his critics actuated
by motives of personal dislike; but where he felt the friendly note
in criticism he was ready to accept it and to discuss the point
in the spirit of worthy rivalry. Much that he wrote was hasty and
incomplete, but _he wrote_, and he did indeed open the way for others
of less individual quality to follow his leading.

As a fruit of the English residence, we must briefly notice the
treatise, _de duplici copia verborum et rerum_,[97] written by
Erasmus, as he says, at the request of Colet, and dedicated to him in
a really beautiful and touching preface. The _Copia_ of Erasmus is a
text-book of rhetoric, intended for advanced Latin scholars who have
already mastered the principles of grammar and are well on the way
to the acquisition of a good style. Its value for our purpose is in
giving a clue to the principles of composition which were to govern
Erasmus in all his writing; and thus preparing us to interpret what
he says with the greater intelligence. No opinion as to his meaning
on any question can be worth much which is not based upon a clear
comprehension of his literary method. He was a literary artist and we
are here introduced to some of the most valuable secrets of his art.
They must never be forgotten when we try to find out what he really
means at a given moment.

  [97] i., pp. 1-110.

The word _copia_ is a difficult one to translate. Its first meaning
of "abundance" is liable, as Erasmus begins by showing, to be
understood as mere verbosity.

   "We see not a few mortals, who, striving to emulate this divine
   virtue with more zeal than success, fall into a feeble and
   disjointed loquacity, obscuring the subject and burdening the
   wretched ears of their hearers with a vacant mass of words and
   sentences crowded together beyond all possibility of enjoyment.
   And writers who have tried to lay down the principles of this
   art have gained no other result than to display their own
   poverty while expounding abundance."

He proposes to give only certain directions, and to illustrate them
by formulas which may prove convenient to writers. _Copia_ includes
the ideas of richness and variety, but must avoid the errors of mere
quantity and change. Not all fulness contributes to completeness
of effect, and not all variation in style helps towards real
illustration of the thought. Here, as elsewhere, we find Erasmus
the true apostle of common-sense. After all, the purpose of rhetoric
is primarily to say something worth saying, and to say it in such a
way that it will commend itself to the reader. The purpose of these
directions will therefore be to show how the essential point may be
condensed into few words and yet nothing be left out, and how, on
the other hand, one may expand into _copia_ and yet have nothing in

The first rule of the _Copia verborum_ is

   "that speech should be fitting [_apta_], good Latin, elegant
   and pure [_pura_].... What clothing is to the body, style is to
   the thought; for just as the beauty and dignity of the body are
   heightened or diminished by dress and care, so is thought by
   words. They are therefore greatly mistaken who think it makes
   no difference in what words a given thought is expressed if
   only it can be understood. So also there is the same principle
   in changing the dress and in varying the speech. It is our
   first care that our dress be neither mean, nor unsuited to our
   figure, nor of a wrong pattern. It would be a pity if a figure
   good in itself were to be spoiled by mean garments; it would be
   ridiculous if a man were to appear in public in woman's dress,
   and a disgrace if one were to be seen in a preposterous garb or
   with his clothes turned back side before.

   "And so, if anyone tries to put on an affectation of _copia_
   before he has attained the purity of the Latin tongue, he is,
   in my judgment, no less ridiculous than a poor beggar, who,
   having not a single garment fit to wear, should thereupon change
   one set of rags for another and come out into the market-place
   to show off his beggary for wealth. And the oftener he should
   do this, would he not seem so much the more foolish? I think
   he would. And just as foolish are those who affect _copia_ and
   yet cannot say in plain words what they want to say. As if they
   were ashamed to appear to stammer a little, they make their
   stammering only the more offensive in every possible way, as if
   they were on a wager with themselves to talk as barbarously as
   ever they can. I like to see a wealthy house furnished in great
   variety, but I want it all to be elegant and not to be filled
   up with articles of willow and fig-wood and vessels of Samian
   crockery. At a splendid banquet I like to have many kinds of
   food brought on, but who could bear it if anyone should serve a
   hundred sorts of food not one of which was fit to eat?"

Having thus admirably laid down the rule of moderation and good
taste, Erasmus goes on to details. He shows what kinds of words
are to be avoided and to what extent. His comments on the use of
obscene words are interesting in view of the general practice of his
time and, indeed, upon occasion, of his own practice. Certain words
are obscene because they represent obscene things; others because
they are twisted from their harmless meanings. "What then is the
principle of obscenity?--nothing more nor less than the usage, not
of anybody and everybody, but of those whose speech is correct." Of
himself it must be said that in general he lived pretty well up to
his principles. Where he offends in this respect it is generally in a
kind of composition, as, for example, in many of the Colloquies, in
which he simply lets himself go, producing his effect by a freedom
which he carefully avoids in other forms of writing. He was, if one
may say so, artistically obscene.

In spite of his admiration for pure Latinity, he does not hesitate to
admit Greek words according to a rather dangerous canon. Greek words,
he says, may be used when they are more significant, or shorter, or
stronger, or more graceful, "for no Latin word can equal the grace of
a Greek word." In short,

   "whenever any certain appropriateness [_commoditas_] invites us
   we may properly interweave Greek with Latin, especially when
   we are writing to learned men; but when we are not so invited
   and deliberately weave a discourse that is half Latin and half
   Greek, this may perhaps be pardoned in youths who are training
   themselves to readiness in both languages, but for men this
   kind of display is, in my judgment, far from becoming and is as
   undignified as if one should write a book in prose and verse
   mixed up together, as, in fact, has been done by some learned

As to repetition, a trick of rhetoric often employed by Erasmus, he
disapproves it in theory, but admits that it may be done "when the
repetition helps the thought and when the weariness of it can be
avoided by a certain variety." Cicero repeats, but he says "things
similar, not the same things."

   "I insist upon this the more earnestly because I have heard
   preachers of considerable fame, especially in Italy, wasting
   their time in affected synonyms of this sort, as, for example,
   if one interpreting the word of the Psalmist, 'create in me a
   clean heart, O God!' should say, 'create in me a clean heart, a
   pure heart, a spotless heart, a stainless heart, a heart free
   from baseness, a heart unspoiled by vice, a heart purified, a
   heart made clean, a heart like snow,' and then should do the
   same in other words, this kind of _copia_ is not far removed
   from mere babble."

So he goes on, through the whole range of figures of speech, laying
down a general principle and illustrating it with a wealth of
classical learning that is simply overwhelming. It is rather dreary
reading, but is relieved every now and then by flashes of sense and
humour that must have commended the book to all fair-minded men. "No
word ought to seem to us harsh or obsolete which is to be found in
an approved author. On this point I differ far and wide from those
who shudder at every word as a barbarism which is not to be read in

When he has made his principles clear he proceeds to illustrate still
further by ringing all possible changes on a model sentence, _tuæ
literæ me magnopere delectarunt_, to the extent of a printed folio
page. The development of _semper dum vivam, tui meminero_, fills
two folio pages. The pupil who should carry out these illustrations
intelligently would be almost a master of Latin prose. The greater
part of the rest of the _copia verborum_ is filled with formulas
for the expression of a multitude of ideas most likely to occur in
the work of the classical pupil. This is pure hack-work, a mere
mechanical enumeration, but likely to be of great use to those for
whom it was intended. It would be an admirable thing if our own
high-school pupils could be made to commit great parts of the _de
copia verborum_ to memory.

The plan of the _Copia rerum_ is similar to that of the former part.
It is an elaborate analysis of the various ways in which discourse
may be enriched and amplified. Erasmus puts much less of himself into
this part, but at the close sums up the argument with his usual good
sense and judgment.

   "He who likes the brevity of the Spartans will first of all
   avoid prefaces and expressions of feeling in the manner of the
   Athenians. He will state his case simply and concisely. He will
   use arguments,--not all but at least the chief ones, and will
   present these not in detail, but compactly, so that the argument
   shall be almost in the very wording, if anyone cares to work it
   out. Let him be content to make his point and be very sparing
   with amplifications, similes, examples, etc., etc., unless these
   be so essential that he may not omit them without offence. Let
   him also abstain from all kinds of figures which make language
   rich, splendid, telling, elaborate, or attractive. Let him not
   treat the same subject in various forms, or so explain single
   words by expressions of meaning, that much more is understood
   than is heard and one thing may be gathered from another. On the
   other hand he who seeks for _copia_ will desire to expand his
   material pretty nearly according to the rules I have laid down.

   "But let each beware, lest through affectation he be carried
   over into the fault which lies nearest him. Let the lover of
   brevity see to it that he does not merely use few words, but
   that he says in the fewest words the very best thing he can....
   For nothing is so conducive to brevity of style as aptness and
   elegance of words, and if we add simplicity, it will be easy to
   avoid obscurity, a vice which is very apt to follow a striving
   after brevity. But here again we must look out that our speech
   does not grow cold through lack of all warmth of feeling.
   Therefore let the matter be so put before the eye that, of
   itself, it may silently take a certain hold upon the mind. Let
   all be sweetened with the Attic charm."

The _Copia_ proved its value by a great and rapid sale. It was first
printed in 1511, and went through nearly sixty editions in the
author's lifetime. Since then it has been repeatedly reprinted and
epitomised. Coming as it did so soon after the Praise of Folly, and
written as it was in the intervals of very serious occupation with
the New Testament and Jerome, it gave to the world a very striking
proof of Erasmus' immense versatility of talent and wide-reaching
intellectual interests. Taken together these works make it quite
clear that when Erasmus left England in 1514 he had commended
himself to every class of thinking men by some direct appeal to what
specially concerned it.

In all the biographies of Erasmus it seems to be tacitly assumed that
he was on intimate terms with Thomas More during this long residence
in England. In fact, however, contemporary evidence on this point
is almost entirely wanting. There is but one letter from Erasmus to
More in this period, and none whatever from More to him. If it be
said that there was no need of correspondence, since the friends
could meet at any time in London, the same is true of Colet and
Ammonius, from and to whom we have so many letters. When Erasmus
goes to London it is Ammonius who finds him a lodging; he it is who
sends him his wine and helps him to a horse. More was certainly
greatly occupied with public affairs at this time, but he found
leisure to write his Utopia, which was published in 1515, very soon
after Erasmus' departure from England. The real relations between
these men, who, in spite of similar tastes, were of quite different
character, seem to have been expressed rather in their later
correspondence than in any close intimacy at this time.

During this residence in England occurred doubtless the visits of
Erasmus to the shrine of the Virgin Mary at Walsingham and to that
of Thomas à Becket at Canterbury, which are immortalised in the
very famous colloquy, _Peregrinatio religionis ergo_, the Religious
Pilgrimage.[98] Though published some years afterwards, there is
every reason to believe that this dialogue faithfully represents the
writer's state of mind in 1513-14. The essential part of it is the
skilful balancing between conformity to prescribed usage and an open
contempt for the whole paraphernalia of relics, miracles, votive
offerings, and lying tales, of which these and similar places were
the centres. Erasmus represents himself as a devout believer in the
Holy Virgin and in the holiness of saints; but as a total sceptic
regarding the whole machinery of their worship. His cautious language
and his protestations of charity for ignorance and human frailty
cannot in the least conceal his real disgust at these perversions of
an honest and honourable sentiment.

  [98] i., 774-787.

In the visit to Canterbury, Erasmus represents himself as accompanied
by a high clerical dignitary of England, whose open expressions
of distrust and scandalised piety he endeavours to moderate. That
this person was Colet is made clear by a later reference. The fact
serves to connect Erasmus with the feeling, growing henceforth more
intense and finally culminating in the suppression of the English
monasteries, that a vast perversion of true religion had taken
place. It was only a question of time when the evil would become
intolerable. Erasmus doubtless contributed his share in the fostering
of this rebellious feeling; but he was far from being alone in his
opinions. The enlightenment of his generation was all pointing
the same way. All that was needed was a formulation into some
definite programme of action, and for this, of course, Erasmus was
conspicuously incompetent. The impulse was to come from a mixture of
motives, many of them as unworthy as those they sought to replace.

In his treatise on the True Way of Prayer, 1523, Erasmus sums up his
attitude on the question of relic-worship in a few words[99]:

  [99] _Modus orandi Deum_, v., 1119-F.

   "In England they expose to be kissed the shoe of St. Thomas,
   once bishop of Canterbury, which is, perchance, the shoe of
   some harlequin; and in any case what could be more foolish than
   to worship the shoe of a man! I have myself seen them showing
   the linen rags on which he is said to have wiped his nose.
   When the shrine was opened the Abbot and the rest fell on their
   knees in worship, raised their hands to heaven, and showed their
   reverence by their actions. All this seemed to John Colet, who
   was with me, an unworthy display; I thought it was a thing we
   must put up with until an opportunity should come to reform it
   without disturbance."

This is the key-note of the "Erasmian Reform," and we shall hear it
sounded many times again before the moment of action arrives.




Erasmus left England in early summer, 1514, on good terms with his
English friends but without making such connections as could have
served to keep him permanently in the country. He was bound to
have explanations ready for any emergency, but we need not trouble
ourselves to seek other reasons for his leaving England than that
he did not wish to stay. He had accumulated a considerable stock of
manuscripts and knew that he could get them into print better at
Basel than in London. If we may trust a letter[100] sent back to
Ammonius from the castle of Ham, in Picardy, of which Lord Mountjoy
was governor, he came near losing these precious papers through what
he always fancied to be the special malice of the English customs
officials; but happily they were safely restored to him.

  [100] iii.¹, 137.

The short stay at Ham is memorable for a famous letter written
from there to Prior Servatius of the monastery at Steyn, where,
we remember, Erasmus had passed the few years of his monastic
experience. We gather from this letter that Servatius, a former
companion of his at Steyn, had written to offer him a residence there
where he might pass the remnant of his days in peace. Erasmus, in
respectful and serious language, reminds Servatius that he had never
really felt any calling to the life of seclusion, and goes over
the familiar ground of his bodily and mental unfitness for it, the
absurdity of supposing that a boy of seventeen could know himself
well enough to decide once for all so momentous and complicated a
question, and the compelling attraction of a free life devoted to
intercourse with the highest things. He shows that his life has
been, humanly speaking, a worthy one: he has cultivated virtue and
avoided vice; he has had a delicate body to take care of and knows
that Holland would be death to him. As to the conventual life itself,
Erasmus lets himself go in sweeping condemnation, yet preserving
still a certain dignity that is far more convincing than any
extravagant abuse.[101]

  [101] iii.², 1528-A.

   "You, perhaps, would think it the highest felicity to die among
   the brethren. In fact not only you but almost everyone is
   deceived and imposed upon by this notion that Christ and true
   piety are to be found in certain places, in dress, in food, in
   prescribed ceremonies. We fancy a man is ruined, if he put on
   a black gown instead of a white one, if he change a cowl for a
   hat, if he from time to time change his residence. But I dare
   say the opposite, that great injury to Christian piety has come
   from those so-called 'religious' acts, although they were,
   perhaps, first introduced with a pious purpose. Gradually they
   have increased and broken up into six thousand diversities. The
   approval of the supreme pontiffs has been given to them, but in
   many ways quite too easily and indulgently; for what is more
   corrupt and impious than those loose religious practices? Why,
   if you speak only of praiseworthy, even of the most praiseworthy
   ones, I know not what image of Christ you will find in them
   beyond certain chilling and Judaising ceremonies. By these
   things they please themselves and condemn others,--although it
   is the teaching of Christ that all the world is as one great
   house, or as it were one monastery, and all men are its canons
   and its brethren; that the sacrament of baptism is the supreme
   act of religion and that we are to consider, not _where_ we
   live, but _how_ we live."

He justifies his wandering life by the good character he has
everywhere maintained.

   "If I am not approved by everyone--a thing I do not strive
   for--surely I am in good standing with the chief men at Rome.
   There was not a cardinal who did not receive me as a brother,
   though I had no such ambition for myself, especially the
   cardinal of St. George, the cardinal of Bologna, cardinal
   Grimani, the cardinal of Fornovo [?], and he who is now supreme
   pontiff, to say nothing of archdeacons and men of learning; and
   this honour was paid, not to wealth, which I neither have nor
   desire, nor to ambition, to which I was ever a stranger, but to
   letters alone, which our countrymen laugh at, but the Italians

   "In England there is not a bishop who is not glad to salute me,
   who does not seek me as a table-companion, who does not wish
   me as an inmate of his house. The king himself, just before my
   departure from Italy, wrote me a most affectionate letter with
   his own hand, and still speaks of me in the most honourable
   and friendly fashion. As often as I pay my respects to him
   he embraces me most affectionately and looks at me with such
   friendly eyes that you can see that he thinks as well of me as
   he speaks. The queen wished me to be her teacher; everyone knows
   that, if I had chosen to spend even a few months at the royal
   court, I might have heaped up as many benefices as you please,
   but I subordinate everything to the opportunity of leisure for

Then follows a very glowing account of the money he has received in
England from Warham, Mountjoy, and others.

   "The two universities, Oxford and Cambridge, are vying with each
   other to get possession of me; at Cambridge I taught for many
   months Greek and sacred literature, and that for nothing as I
   am determined always to do.[102] There are colleges there, in
   which there is so much of true religion that you could not fail
   to prefer them to any 'religious' life, if you should see them.
   There is at London John Colet, dean of St. Paul's, a man who
   combines the greatest learning with the most admirable piety,
   a man of great influence with all men; he is so fond of me, as
   everyone knows, that he lives not more intimately with anyone
   than with me,--to say nothing of countless others, lest I weary
   you at once with my boasting and my much speaking."

  [102] If this means anything, it must mean without fees from
  students, for, supposing Erasmus to have held the Lady Margaret
  foundation, there was certainly a salary attached to his position.

As to his writings he calls the attention of Servatius to the
_Enchiridion_ as adapted to lead many to piety, the _Adagia_ as
useful to all kinds of learning, and the _Copia_ as serviceable to
preachers. The Praise of Folly he naturally and prudently leaves

   "During the last two years, besides much other work, I revised
   the epistles of Jerome, marking with an obelus spurious and
   interpolated passages. By a comparison of ancient Greek texts
   I have emended the whole New Testament and have annotated
   more than a thousand passages, not without profit for the
   theologians. I have begun commentaries to the epistles of Paul
   and shall complete them when I have disposed of the others.
   For I have made up my mind to spend my life in sacred studies
   and to this end I am devoting all my spare time. In this work
   men of great repute say that I can do what others cannot; in
   your kind of life I should simply accomplish nothing at all. I
   am on intimate terms with many learned and serious men, both
   here [England?] and in Italy and in France, but I have thus far
   found no one who would advise me to return to you, or think it
   the better course. Nay, more, even your predecessor, Nicholas
   Wittenherus, always used to advise me rather to attach myself to
   some bishop, adding that he knew both my nature and the ways of
   his brethren."

Finally he goes into the old story of his monastic gown, "laid
aside in Italy lest I be killed, in England because it would not be
tolerated," and concludes by repeating his determination not to
return to a kind of life in which, now more than ever, there was no
place for him.[103] This letter shows us how Erasmus could paint his
English life when it was a question of raising his market price. The
same note of self-valuation is sounded in a letter to his old friend,
the abbot of St. Bertin in Flanders, written from London in 1513 or
1514. He is seriously considering returning to his own country and
would be glad to do so, if only the prince--presumably Charles of
Burgundy, the future emperor--would give him a fortune sufficient
for his modest leisure (_ociolum_). "Not that Britain displeases me
or that I am tired of my Mæcenases." He gets enough and could get
more, if he would go round about it ever so little,--we remember his
letters to Ammonius,--only times are bad; an island is an isolated
kind of place anyway, and wars are making England doubly an island.
Then comes one of his usual tirades against war in the abstract.

  [103] It is quite possible that the famous Grunnius letter,
  asking the papal dispensation from the monastic dress, was
  despatched to Rome at the same time that this letter to Servatius
  was written from the castle of Ham. The interesting manuscript
  discoveries of Professor Vischer of Basel[A] have led the
  learned finder to take a step beyond my suggestion of a strong
  resemblance between the form of this letter and that of the later
  Colloquies (see p. 5). He goes so far as to believe that both
  the letter and the reply to it were a deliberate fabrication
  of Erasmus after the whole matter of the dispensation had been
  settled. Its object was, he thinks, to cover up the traces of a
  previous negotiation with the papacy carried on through Ammonius
  and intended to free Erasmus once for all from any danger of
  being forced back again into the monastic life. Vischer's
  documents give us indeed a very satisfactory explanation of some
  of the mysterious allusions in the correspondence with Ammonius
  in 1516 and 1517. They show us plainly that Ammonius, who is here
  described by the pope as a papal "Collector," was not only the
  mediator in Erasmus' behalf, but was the papal agent in granting
  the dispensation issued in 1517. All this, however, does not make
  it even reasonably clear that the Grunnius letters were a pure
  fabrication. With all his shiftiness Erasmus would hardly have
  gone as far as that. These letters still remain, as to their
  date and precise interpretation, as mysterious as ever; and
  their value as history is not increased. Vischer's view that the
  especial occasion for Erasmus' anxiety about the dispensation was
  the tumult roused by his New Testament is a reasonable one.

  [A] Vischer, W., _Erasmiana_. Basel, 1876.

Gradually an almost conventional form of reference to England
develops itself in his writing. From a letter[104] written to
Cardinal Grimani in 1515, evidently after he had been in Basel and
returned to England again, we quote a specimen. He begins with an
apology for not accepting the invitation given by the cardinal
at their first and only meeting to return to him with a view to
remaining in Italy.

  [104] iii.¹, 141-C.

   "I will explain this to you very simply and, as befits a German,
   frankly. At that time I had fully decided to go to England. I
   was called thither by ancient ties of friendship, by the most
   ample promises of powerful friends, by the devoted favour of
   the most prosperous of kings. I had chosen this country as my
   adopted fatherland; the resting-place of my declining years [he
   was forty-one at the time]. I was invited, nay I was importuned
   in repeated letters and was promised gold almost in mountains.
   From all this I, hitherto a man of severe habits, a despiser of
   wealth, conceived a picture in my mind of such a power of gold
   as ten streams of Pactolus could hardly have washed down. And
   I was afraid that if I should return to your Eminence I might
   change my mind.

   "For if you so weakened, so fired my mind at that first
   interview, what would you not have done, if I had come into
   closer and more permanent relations? For what heart of adamant
   would not be moved by the gentle courtesy of your manner, your
   honeyed speech, your curious learning, your counsel so friendly
   and so sincere; especially by the evident good-will of so great
   a prelate. I already felt my decision perceptibly weakening and
   began even to repent of my plan and yet I was ashamed to seem so
   inconstant a person. I felt my love for the City, which I had
   hardly thrust aside, silently growing again, and in short, had I
   not torn myself away from Rome at once, never should I have left
   it. I snatched myself away, lest I should be blown back again
   and rather flew to England than journeyed thither. [Flying we
   have seen, was Erasmus' favourite method of travelling on paper.]

   "Now, then, you will ask, have I repented of my decision?
   Do I regret that I did not follow the advice of so loving
   a counsellor? Lying is not my trade. The thing affects me
   variously. I cannot help a longing for Rome as often as the
   great multitude of attractions there crowds upon my thoughts."

Then he enumerates freedom, libraries, literary associations, and so

   "These things make it impossible that any fortune, however kind,
   could banish this Roman longing from my heart. As to England,
   though my fortune has not been so bad as to make me regret it,
   yet, to tell the truth, it has not at all corresponded either to
   my wishes or the promises of my friends."

He recounts the favours, actual and expected, of his English patrons,
especially of Warham, to whom he here pays one of his usual glowing
tributes: "So it came about that what I had abandoned at Rome from so
many distinguished cardinals, and so many famous bishops and learned
men, all this I seemed to have recovered in this one man." After all,
the picture grows a little brighter as he goes on. Now he is ready
for Rome again. True, things are looking up again in England,--he
wishes it to be quite clear that he is not being turned out of the
country, but he hears that under the patronage of the great Leo all
talent is streaming towards Rome. He tells what he has done and what
he proposes to do, puts in a good word for the persecuted Reuchlin,
and promises to be in Rome the coming winter (1515).

A letter of the same date to Raphael, the cardinal of St. George,
repeats the same impressions of England--vast promises, of which we
have no other documentary evidence, and disappointments, equally
without witness. On his own evidence we know of a sufficient
provision in England to supply all modest requirements of a scholar,
and we have a right to take him at his word that he wanted nothing

From Ham, Erasmus made his way pretty directly to Basel, taking the
route by the Rhine valley. His travelling experiences are summed up
in the very amusing Colloquy called _Diversoria_, "The Inns," which
has been so effectively employed by Mr. Charles Reade in his "The
Cloister and the Hearth." The especial point of this dialogue is
the difference between the inns of France and of Germany. As to the
former, Erasmus takes those of Lyons as typical. Bertulphus begins
by saying that he cannot see why so many people want to stay two or
three days at Lyons--for his part, he always wants to get to his
journey's end as fast as he can. William replies:

   "Why, I wonder how anyone can ever tear himself away from there."

   BERT. "Why so?"

   WILL. "Because it is a place from which the companions of
   Ulysses could not be torn away; there are sirens there. One
   could not be better treated in his own house than there in an

   BERT. "What do they do?"

   WILL. "At table there was always some woman present, who
   enlivened the meal with her humour and her charms. Then you find
   there the most agreeable manners. The first one to meet you is
   the lady of the house, who salutes you, bids you be merry and
   excuse the faults of what is set before you. Then follows the
   daughter, an elegant person, so gay in speech and manner that
   she would have cheered up Cato himself. They converse with you
   not as with strange guests, but as with familiar friends."

   BERT. "I recognise the refinement of the French."

   WILL. "But, as these could not always be present on account of
   domestic duties and the welcoming of other guests, there was
   always at hand a maid-servant thoroughly posted in all kinds of
   chaff; she alone could take up the jokes of everyone, and kept
   things going until the daughter came back. The mother was quite
   along in years."

   BERT. "But how about the provision? for one can't fill one's
   belly with stories."

   WILL. "Really splendid. I can't understand how they can
   entertain at so small a price. Then after dinner they amuse you
   with merry tales, so that you cannot get tired. I thought I was
   at home and not in a strange land."

   BERT. "How about the chambers?"

   WILL. "Always some girls about, laughing, frolicking, and
   playing. They asked of their own accord if we had any soiled
   linen, washed it, and brought it back resplendent. Need I say
   more? We saw everywhere only girls and women, except in the
   stables, and even there the maids were often bursting in.
   When you go away, they embrace you and dismiss you with as
   much affection as if you were all brothers or the nearest of

   BERT. "I dare say that suits the French well enough, but for
   my part I like better the customs of the Germans as being more
   suited to men."

   WILL. "I have never happened to be in Germany, so, if you don't
   mind, pray let us hear how they receive a guest."

   BERT. "I cannot say whether it is the same everywhere, but I
   will tell what I have seen. No one welcomes the newcomer, nor do
   they seem to want guests; for that would seem to them mean and
   low and unworthy the seriousness of a German. When you have been
   calling a long time, someone sticks his head out of the little
   window of the room where the stove is, like a tortoise out of
   its shell. They live in these rooms almost until midsummer. You
   have to ask him whether you may stay, and if he doesn't say 'no'
   you know that you are to have a place. You ask where the stables
   are and he shows you with a motion of his hand, and you may
   take care of your horse as best you can. In the larger inns a
   man shows you to the stables and points out a poor enough place
   for your horse. The better places they keep for the late-comers,
   especially for the nobility. If you complain, the first thing
   you hear is, 'If you don't like it here, go to another inn.' In
   the cities it is all you can do to get a little hay and you have
   to pay for it about as much as for grain. When you have cared
   for your horse you go over into the common room, riding-boots,
   baggage, mud, and all."

   WILL. "In France they show you a separate room where you can
   change your dress, brush up, get warm, and even take a nap if
   you please."

   BERT. "There's nothing of the sort here. In the common furnace
   you pull off your boots, put on your slippers, change your dress
   if you will; your dripping clothes you hang by the stove and
   betake yourself there to dry off. Water is ready if you wish
   to wash your hands, but generally so nasty that you have to go
   hunting about for more water to wash away that first ablution."

   WILL. "It's a fine thing for men not to be spoiled by luxury!"

   BERT. "If you arrive at four o'clock in the afternoon you'll not
   get your supper before nine or ten."

   WILL. "Why is that?"

   BERT. "They get nothing ready until they see all their guests,
   so that they may serve them all at one time."

   WILL. "They are trying to cut it close."

   BERT. "You're right, they are. Sometimes they will crowd into
   that sweat-box eighty or ninety persons, footmen and horsemen,
   merchants, sailors, carters, farmers, boys, women, sick and

   WILL. "Why, that's a regular monastery!"

   BERT. "There is one combing his hair; another wiping off his
   sweat, another pulling off his cowhides or his riding-boots;
   another smells of garlic. In short there is a confusion of men
   and tongues as once in the tower of Babel. But if they see a
   foreigner of a certain dignity they all fix their eyes upon him,
   staring at him as if he were some new kind of animal brought
   from Africa; even after they have sat down at table they screw
   their necks about and continue their gazing, even forgetting to

   WILL. "At Rome, or Paris, or Venice, no one marvels at anything."

   BERT. "Meanwhile it is a crime to ask for anything. When the
   evening is far gone and there is no prospect of any further
   arrivals, there appears an old servant, with white hair, a
   shaven head, a crooked face, and dirty clothes."

   WILL. "Such a fellow ought to be cupbearer to a Roman cardinal!"

   BERT. "He casts his eyes about and counts the guests, and
   the more he finds the more he heats up the stove, though the
   weather be boiling hot. For in Germany it belongs to good
   entertainment to set everyone to dripping with sweat, and if
   anyone unaccustomed to this steaming opens a crack of a window
   to save himself from suffocation, he hears at once: 'Shut it!
   shut it!' and if you answer: 'I can't stand it!' you hear: 'Go
   find another inn then!'"

William enlarges _ad nauseam_ on the dangers of this herding of men
together, but Bertulphus answers:

   "They are tough people; they laugh at these things and take no
   thought of them.... Now hear the rest of the story. This bearded
   Ganymede comes back and spreads as many tables as are enough for
   the guests--but, ye gods! not with linen of Miletus; one would
   say with the canvas of old sails. To each table he assigns at
   least eight guests. They who know the ways of the country drop
   where they are put; for there is no distinction of rich and
   poor, master or servant."

   WILL. "This is that ancient equality which tyranny has now
   driven from the world. I suppose that's the way Christ lived
   with his disciples!"

   BERT. "After all are seated, that crooked old Ganymede appears
   again, and again counts his company. Then he gives each one a
   wooden bowl, a spoon of the same metal, and a glass cup--some
   time afterward some bread, which everyone eats up to pass the
   time while the soup is cooking; and so they sit sometimes the
   space of an hour."

   WILL. "Does no guest meanwhile ask for food?"

   BERT. "Not one who knows the ways of the country. At last they
   bring on wine--good God! what a taste of smoke! The sophists
   ought to drink it, it is so keen and sharp. If any guest, even
   offering extra money, asks for another sort, they first put him
   off, but look at him as if they would murder him. If you press
   them they answer--'So many counts and marquises have put up here
   and there was never a complaint of my wine; if you don't like
   it, get you to another hostelry.' They think their own nobles
   are the only men in the world and are always showing you their
   coats of arms."

So the banquet moves on to its end, through alternate courses of
meat and soup, giving Erasmus abundant opportunity for gibes at his
despised Germans. Could any good thing come out of a land where
people washed their bed-linen once in six months? We may be tolerably
sure that these early impressions of Erasmus were not without their
effect upon his conception of the meaning of the Reformation. Indeed,
he was not the only one who was inclined to reject the whole movement
of Luther from the start, partly for the reason that it came from the
reputed coarse and drunken folk of Germany.

Erasmus remained in Basel only a few months. In March, 1515, he was
again in England. The visit at Basel was, however, of lasting import
to him in many ways. It made him familiar with the place which, more
than any other, was to be his home during his remaining life. He
found himself honourably treated, the climate suited him, good wine
could be procured without too great difficulty, and he was near a
group of scholars who were to be among his most efficient helpers
in all his future work. Foremost among these was John Froben, the
great printer and publisher, to whom we owe many of the very finest
products of the early sixteenth century press. Froben was a man of
the Aldus type, a scholar himself and with a talent for enlisting
scholars in his service. Two pictures, one from the brush of Holbein,
and one from the pen of Erasmus, have given us a clear impression
of this amiable but forceful personality. Erasmus wrote after his

  [105] iii., 1053-E.


   "The loss of my own brother I bore with great equanimity; but
   I cannot overcome my longing for Froben. I do not rebel at my
   grief, reasonable as it is, but I am pained that it should be
   so great and so lasting. As it was not merely affection which
   bound me to him in life, so it is not merely that I miss him
   now that he is gone. For I loved him more on account of the
   liberal studies which he seemed given us by Providence to adorn
   and to promote, than on account of his kindness to me and his
   genial manners. Who would not love such a nature? He was to his
   friend just a friend, so simple and so sincere that even if he
   had wished to pretend or to conceal anything he could not do
   it, so repugnant was it to his nature; so ready and eager to
   help everyone that he was glad to be of service even to the
   unworthy, so that he was a natural and welcome prey to thieves
   and swindlers. He was as pleased to get back money from a thief
   or from bad debtors as others are with unexpected fortune.

   "He was of such incorruptible honour that never did anyone
   deserve better the saying 'He is a man you could throw dice with
   in the dark,' and, incapable of fraud himself, he could never
   suspect it in others though he was often deceived. What the
   disease of envy was he could no more comprehend than a man born
   blind can understand colour. Even serious offences, he pardoned
   before he asked who had committed them. He could never remember
   an injury, nor forget even the smallest service. And here, in
   my judgment, he was better than was fitting for the wise father
   of a family. I used to warn him sometimes that he should treat
   his sincere friends becomingly, but that while he used gentle
   language towards impostors he should protect himself and not at
   the same time get cheated and laughed at. He would smile gently,
   but I told my tale to deaf ears. The frankness of his nature
   was too much for all warnings. And as for me, what plots did he
   not invent, what excuses did he not hunt up to force some gift
   upon me? I never saw him happier than when he had succeeded
   by artifice or persuasion in getting me to accept something.
   Against the wiles of the man I had need of the utmost caution,
   nor did I ever need my skill in rhetoric more than in thinking
   up excuses to refuse without offending my friend; for I could
   not bear to see him sad. [One feels that Erasmus' rhetoric was
   running away with him a little at this point.] If by chance my
   servants had bought cloth for my clothes, he would find it out
   and pay the bill before I suspected it; and no entreaties of
   mine could make him take payment for it. So it was if I wanted
   to save him from loss; I had to make pretences and there was
   such a bargaining; quite different from the usual course, where
   one tries to get as much as possible and the other to give as
   little as possible. I could never bring it to pass that he
   should give me nothing; but that I made a most moderate use of
   his kindness, all his household will bear me witness. Whatever
   work I did for him I did for love of learning. Since he seemed
   born to honour, to promote, and to embellish learning, and
   spared no labour or care, thinking it reward enough if a good
   author were put into the hands of the public in worthy form, how
   could I prey upon a man like this?

   "Sometimes when he showed to me and other friends the first
   pages of some great author, how he was transported with joy!
   how his face glowed! what triumphant words! You would say
   that he had already taken in the profits of the whole work in
   fullest measure and was expecting no other return. I am not
   exalting Froben by decrying others; but it is notorious what
   incorrect and inelegant editions some publishers have sent us
   even from Venice and from Rome. From his office, within a few
   years what volumes have gone forth, and in what noble form! And
   he has always kept his house free from books of controversy,
   by which others have gained great profit, lest the cause of
   good literature and learning should be defiled by any personal
   hostilities.... Surely it will be an act of gratitude for us all
   to pray for the welfare of the departed, to celebrate his memory
   by due praises, and to lend our favour to the house of Froben,
   which is not to be closed by the death of its master, but will
   ever strive to its utmost to carry forward what he has begun to
   still greater and better things."

This charming companion picture to the account of the Aldine
establishment in Venice is probably in the main correct. It suggests
the relation between publisher and author, which we have already
tried without entire success to make clear. Apparently, on his own
statement, Erasmus was in a way an employee of Froben. The anxiety
which he betrays not to seem to take pay from the publisher, was
plainly the same feeling which made him reject with such scorn the
charge of Scaliger, that he had been in Aldus's employ. He was
not ashamed of his work, any more than a European physician of a
generation ago was ashamed of his; but he desired to have this work
viewed as a labour of love, and any reward--which, of course, he
could not entirely do without--was to be considered as a gift freely
offered, and to be accepted only under a kind of protest.

Besides Froben himself, we find Erasmus making friends with the
brothers Amerbach, sons of Froben's predecessor in the business.
Writing to Pope Leo X.,[106] to ask his acceptance of the dedication
to the works of Jerome, Erasmus enumerates his co-labourers in the
great undertaking:

  [106] iii.¹, 154-C.

   "The weightiest contribution was that of the brothers Amerbach,
   at whose expense and by whose labours, in common with those
   of Froben, the work was mainly carried through. The Amerbach
   family was, as it were, pointed out by the fates, that Jerome
   might live again through their exertions. The excellent father
   had his three sons educated in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, for
   this very purpose. Upon his death he commended the work to his
   children as an inheritance, devoting to its accomplishment all
   his resources. And these admirable youths entering upon the fair
   field committed to them by an admirable father, are labouring
   diligently therein, and have so divided the Jerome with me that
   they are doing everything except the epistles."

It would appear, then, that Erasmus' share in the Froben Jerome
was the personal responsibility for the epistles, the writing of
a dedication which was, after all, not addressed to Pope Leo,
but to Archbishop Warham, and the use of his name as a general
recommendation of the whole. Perhaps also he exercised a general
supervision over the work of the others.


It was here also, probably, that Erasmus had his first personal
relations with John Reuchlin, a man after his own heart, but already
too much involved in active controversy with established powers to
make him altogether a safe investment for a prudent scholar who could
see something worth having on both sides of every question. Erasmus
speaks of him to Leo[107] as

  [107] iii.¹, 154-B.

   "that illustrious man, almost equally skilled in Latin, Greek,
   and Hebrew, and so well versed in every sort of learning that he
   can hold his own with the best. Wherefore all Germany looks up
   to him and reveres him as the phenix and the chief glory of the

In the letters to Cardinals Grimani and Raphael, dated just a month
earlier than this to Leo, Erasmus speaks much more heartily of
Reuchlin. He has been expressing his determination to devote the
remainder of his days to what our fathers used to call "curious
learning," unless envy, "more fatal than any serpent," shall

  [108] iii.¹, 144-B.

   "as I have lately seen with the utmost regret in the case of
   that great man John Reuchlin. For it was fitting and it was time
   that this man of reverend years should enjoy his noble studies
   and should be reaping the happiest harvest from the faithful
   planting of his youthful labours. A man skilled in so many
   tongues, and in so many kinds of learning, ought to have been
   able, in this autumn of his days, to pour forth into all the
   world the rich products of his genius. He ought to have been
   spurred on by praise, called out by rewards, fired by others'
   zeal. And I hear that men have arisen--I know not who they
   are--who, unable of themselves to bring anything great to pass,
   are seeking for reputation by the basest of methods. Immortal
   God! what a tumult they have stirred up and on what frivolous
   grounds! From a little book, a mere letter, which he neither
   published nor wished to have published, such a storm has arisen!
   Who would ever have known that he wrote this letter if those
   fellows had not published it to the world?

   "How much better it would have served the cause of peace,
   supposing he had erred in any way,--as all men do err,--to
   conceal this, or frankly interpret it, or surely to pardon it
   out of consideration for the distinguished virtues of the man.
   I am not saying this because I have found any errors in him;
   that is for others to decide; but this I will say, that if
   anyone after the same malicious fashion,--and as the Greeks say,
   ἀποτόμως, should explore the books of St. Jerome, he would find
   many a thing very widely differing from the views of our
   theologians. To what end then was it that a man venerable
   in years and in letters should for an affair of no moment, be
   dragged into turmoils of this sort, in which he has now, I
   believe, lost seven years. Would that he might have spent this
   labour and this time in furthering the cause of honest study!
   Instead of this, he, a man worthy of all reward, is involved in
   vexing quarrels to the great grief and anger of all learned men,
   and indeed of all Germany. And yet all have hopes that through
   your assistance, so distinguished a man may be restored to
   learning and to the world."

This appeal to Rome in behalf of Reuchlin was doubtless a piece of
pure friendly service on Erasmus' part. So far the cause of Reuchlin
was the cause of sound learning, pure and simple, and appealed
therefore powerfully to all Erasmus' sympathies. Later, when the
names of Reuchlin and Luther came to be joined together as of allies
in one great movement, then we shall find Erasmus hesitating and even
declaring himself wholly ignorant of the real questions in dispute.
Already, we notice, he carefully avoids the question whether Reuchlin
may have erred in any way--that was not his affair.

One other of Erasmus' early Basel acquaintances was Beatus Rhenanus,
of Schlettstadt, in Alsatia. Erasmus mentions him to Pope Leo as "a
young man of rare learning and the keenest critical scent."

Precisely what was accomplished at Basel during the eight months or
so of Erasmus' first visit we cannot say. It seems to have been a
period of beginnings. He writes to Ammonius in October:

   "I was getting on finely here until they began to heat up their
   stoves. Jerome is in progress. They have already begun on the
   New Testament. I cannot stay on account of the intolerable
   stench of the stoves, and I cannot leave on account of the work
   that is begun and which cannot possibly be carried through
   without me.... If my health permits, I shall stay here until
   Christmas; if not, I shall either return to Brabant or go
   straight to Rome."

Evidently, in spite of congenial work, carried on under the most
favourable conditions, the restless creature was already uneasy
and looking about him for chances, which he was quite sure not to
improve. If we could take him at his word a hot room was of more
account in his plans than the proper completion of his work. Happily
his deeds speak loudly in his own defence and we know by the results
that he must have been very busy during his first Basel days.

In March, 1515, the dates of his letters show him again in England,
for what purpose we do not know. His connection with Cambridge
was broken, his pension was secured, he was not, so far as we
know, seeking any further employment. Possibly he may have been
re-examining manuscripts for his New Testament. It is fairly certain
that he was on the continent again by the early summer.

If we follow, even with allowance for palpable errors, the dating of
Erasmus' letters we should have to conclude that he was in England
for a while in 1516, and again in 1517. Meanwhile he would have been
twice in Basel and have spent more or less time at Louvain, Brussels,
and elsewhere. Mr. Drummond accepts this result, but, even with
Erasmus' restless temper, it seems hardly possible that he could
have accomplished the work he did, with the continual interruptions
inevitable to such frequent and prolonged journeyings. On the other
hand we find it brought up as a charge against him by his critics
that he wasted his time in aimless wanderings. He defends himself
by declaring that he never undertook a journey without good and
sufficient reasons connected with the work of his life.

We shall probably be safe in thinking that Erasmus had a great
gift of settling promptly to work and putting other things out of
his mind while the spell of work was on him, the marvellous gift
of concentration which has made more reputations than the gift of
genius. Still, if we consider the peculiar demands of the work
of editing texts, the necessity of an apparatus of books, the
accumulation of material, all of which ought to be at hand for
correction and comparison, the disadvantages of frequent change
become more obvious and Erasmus' wanderings are so much the more

His correspondence during these three years, from 1515 to 1518, is
full of references to the question of a permanent residence. To judge
from these one would suppose him to be firmly fixed in the notion of
a settlement for life. Now it is England, now Flanders, now Basel,
now Paris, with ever and anon the distant thought of Italy rising in
the background as a possibility. We should not be going far wrong if
we were to describe this period as that in which Erasmus was enjoying
to the full a newly acquired sense of power and value. Not until
after the appearance of his New Testament in 1516 could he feel that
he had demonstrated to the world at once the grasp of his scholarship
and the deep seriousness of his purpose. It was probably true then,
as it may not have been quite true when he was bidding on himself to
Servatius two years before, that any country in Europe would be glad
to have him, and almost on his own terms. He liked to feel himself
a citizen of the world and was tasting the joys of a universal
popularity, too great to last for ever.

Here and there we get glimpses of his way of life, which indicate
a very considerable degree of prosperity. A letter[109] written to
young Beatus and dated at Louvain in the autumn of 1518 gives a
detailed account of his journey thither from Basel.

  [109] iii.¹, 371-C.

   "I left Basel," he says, "in a languid and enervated condition,
   like a man who has not yet got on good terms with out-of-doors,
   so long had I been shut up in the house, and yet busied with
   incessant work. [This refers to a long illness which had kept
   him indoors through the summer.] The sail was not unpleasant,
   only that towards noon the heat of the sun was rather
   oppressive. We dined at Breisach,--the worst kind of a dinner.
   The stench was enough to kill you and the flies worse than the

   "Towards night we were turned out into a chilly town, whose name
   I didn't care to know, nor if I knew it, should I care to speak
   it. There I was just about killed."

Here follows a description, almost the same as that in the
_Diversoria_, of the horrors of a German inn, always with the unlucky
stove as the central figure.

   "In the morning we were routed out of bed by the shouts of the
   sailors and I went on board ship without supper and without
   sleep. We reached Strassburg at about nine o'clock in the
   forenoon and were pretty well entertained there, especially
   as Schürer furnished the wine. A part of the fraternity was
   on hand and soon they all came to welcome us.... Thence we
   went on to Speier by horse and saw never a shadow of a soldier
   though dreadful rumours were abroad. My English horse was just
   about used up and scarcely got to Speier. That scoundrel of a
   blacksmith had so abused him that both his ears were burned
   with a hot iron. At Speier I took myself quietly out of the
   inn and went to my friend Maternus near by. There the dean, a
   man of learning and culture, entertained me for two days with
   great kindness. We met there by chance Hermann Busch. Thence we
   journeyed by carriage to Worms and Mainz. There happened into
   the same carriage a certain Ulrich, a secretary of the emperor,
   whose surname was Farnbul--as who should say, 'Fern-Hill.' He
   paid me the greatest attention on the journey and at Mainz would
   not suffer me to go to the common inn, but took me to the house
   of a certain canon and saw me to the boat when I started off.
   The weather was very agreeable and the voyage well enough only
   that the sailors tried to make it longer than was necessary, and
   the smell of the horses was unpleasant....

   "At Boppard I was walking on the river-bank while they were
   locking up a boat and someone who knew me gave my name to
   the toll-collector. This man's name was Christopher and, I
   believe, Cinicampius, or in the vulgar tongue, Eschenfeld. It
   was marvellous how the fellow jumped for joy. He dragged me to
   his house and there on a little table, among his toll-receipts,
   lay the writings of Erasmus. He cries out that he is a blessed
   man, calls his wife, his children, and all his friends. To
   the clamorous boatmen he sends two jugs of wine and when they
   burst out into new clamours he sends some more, and promises
   that on their return he will remit the toll because they have
   brought him so great a guest. From here I was escorted as far
   as Coblenz by John Flaminius, head of a convent of women there,
   a man of angelic purity, of sound and sober judgment, and of
   unusual learning. At Coblenz Matthias, a chaplain of the bishop,
   took me to his house,--a young man, but of settled ways, of
   accurate Latin learning, and thoroughly trained in the law as
   well. There we had a merry supper. At Bonn the canon [one of
   his fellow-travellers] left us, in order to avoid the city of
   Cologne, which I also desired to avoid. My servant had, however,
   gone ahead thither with the horses; there was no safe person on
   the boat whom I could send after him, and I had no confidence
   in the sailors. On Sunday morning before six o'clock, in dismal
   weather, I arrived at Cologne, went to an hotel, gave orders
   to the servants to get a two-horse carriage, and called for
   breakfast at ten. I went to mass, but no breakfast! Nothing was
   done about the carriage. I tried to get a horse, for mine were
   of no use,--no result. I saw what was up; they were trying to
   keep me there. At once I ordered my horses to be got ready,
   packed one portmanteau and gave over the other to the innkeeper;
   then on my lame nag I hurried off to the Count of Neuenaar, a
   ride of five hours. He was staying at Bedburium and I spent five
   days with him so pleasantly and quietly that I got through a
   good part of my revision there; for I had brought with me a part
   of the New Testament."

From this point the real troubles of the journey began. Erasmus
had suffered from boils at Basel and his two days of riding from
Strassburg to Speier had aggravated them. Now he caught a heavy cold
by foolish exposure to wind and rain in an open carriage. "Some
Jupiter or evil genius robbed me, not of half my senses as Hesiod
says, but of the whole; for one half he had stolen when I ventured
into Cologne." The story is too long for our purpose and quite too
minute for our taste, though as a study in pathological history it
might interest a modern physician. The poor man's digestion was
completely upset; his boils troubled him so that he did not know
whether riding or driving was the worse. Finally, in the last stage,
he found a four-horse carriage going to Louvain, got a place in it,
and arrived there more dead than alive. Of course he was afraid of
the plague, and, indeed, the first physician summoned quietly told
the people of the house that he had the plague, promised to send a
poultice, but came near him no more. Others were called and gave
various opinions. A Jew doctor said he only wished he had as sound
a body. One did one thing and one another until finally, "disgusted
with doctors I commend myself to Christ the Great Physician." After
this sensible conclusion, he began to grow better, was soon taking
food, and at once began to work on his New Testament proofs. He had
warned his friends not to come to see him, but they came and sat with
him and so made the four weeks of his imprisonment pass quite happily.

This account of the journey from Basel to Louvain indicates with
tolerable distinctness that Erasmus commanded considerable resources.
He had more than one horse and at least one servant. The horses were
shipped on the boat whenever he travelled by water, and apparently
this was regarded as the safer way to travel. He speaks with especial
relief of meeting no soldiers on the land journey. Carriages he seems
to have hired; but he twice uses expressions which go to show that
such carriages were not exclusively for the use of the hirer. He says
that Ulrich Farnbul came by chance into the same carriage with him,
and again on the last stage he himself gets into a carriage going to
Louvain. It is too early to think of regular public conveyance, but
apparently a traveller did not object to sharing his carriage and
expense with another. Our interest is to observe that such travelling
must have implied a large outlay and must have gone far to account
for Erasmus' persistent complaints of poverty.

From Louvain Erasmus wrote back a semi-humorous little letter to his
friend, the learned toll-gatherer of Boppard[110]:

  [110] iii.¹, 353-D.

   "What could have been more unexpected than that I should find
   at Boppard an Eschenfeld, a student of my works?--a publican
   devoted to the Muses and to liberal learning! Christ made it
   a reproach to the Pharisees that harlots and publicans should
   go before them into the kingdom of heaven; tell me, is it not
   equally shameful that priests and monks should be living for
   luxury and the service of their bellies, while publicans are
   embracing the cause of liberal learning? They are consecrating
   themselves wholly to guzzling, while Eschenfeld divides himself
   between the Kaiser and his studies! You showed plainly enough
   what opinion you had formed of me; and I shall have done well,
   if the sight of me has not rubbed off a little of it.

   "But, alack! alack! that jolly red wine of yours mightily
   tickled our boatman's wife, a full-breasted and bibulous female;
   she wouldn't share a drop of it, though they kept calling for
   some. She drank all she wanted and then what a row! She nearly
   slew a maid-servant with a mighty ladle and we could hardly
   stop the fight. Then when she got on board she went for her
   husband, and came near throwing him into the Rhine. There you
   see the power of your wine.

It is worth noticing that Erasmus represents his settlement at
Louvain as the result of a freak on the part of those evil fates of
which he liked to fancy himself the especial victim. To make his
climax more effective he pictures the joys of meeting his Louvain

   "What dinners! what a welcome! what talks I was promising
   myself! I had decided, if the autumn should be a pleasant one,
   to go over to England and to accept what the king has so many
   times offered me--but oh! deceitful hopes of mortal men--etc!"

He has an illness of a few weeks, during most of which time he is
steadily at work, and then he goes quietly back to his lodgings in
the University and we hear no more of England. We know of no renewed
offers from King Henry, nor indeed, so far, of any direct offers from
him whatever.

While Erasmus was at Basel, he was, so he tells us, invited by Duke
Ernest of Bavaria to come to his university at Ingolstadt. He speaks
of this in a letter to the bishop of Rochester, as one among the
numerous indications of the favour with which the first edition of
the New Testament had been received. He had so many offers that he
could not remember them. "Some bishop in Germany whose name I have
forgotten" wanted him for his university. He knows he is unworthy
of all these honours, but is pleased to find that all his pains
have earned the approval of good men. "Many are now reading the
sacred Scriptures who confess that they would never have read them
otherwise, and many persons everywhere are beginning to study Greek."

In a letter[111] to Ammonius from Brussels in 1516 Erasmus tells of
an offer of a bishopric in Sicily:

  [111] iii.¹, 137-D. Leclerc's date, 1514, is probably incorrect.

   "Do you want to laugh? When I got back to Brussels, I went to
   call on my Mæcenas, the chancellor [Selvagius]. He turned to the
   councillors who were standing about and said: 'This man doesn't
   know yet what a great man he is." Then to me: 'The Prince is
   trying to make you a bishop and had already given you a very
   desirable see in Sicily. But then he discovered that this see
   was on the list of those which are called "reserved," and has
   written to the pope to get his approval for you.' When I heard
   this, I could not help laughing; yet I am glad to know the good
   feeling of the king towards me--or rather of the chancellor,
   who, in this matter, is the king himself."

Somewhat less apocryphal than these stories is the report of an offer
from King Francis I. of France. It comes to us in a letter written by
the French scholar, William Budæus, to Erasmus while he was in the
Low Countries. Budæus says that William Parvus (Guillaume Petit),
an ecclesiastic who stood very near the king, had told him that one
day in the course of a conversation about literary men, the king had
expressed his determination[112]

  [112] iii.¹, 169-A.

   "to gather the choicest spirits into his kingdom by the most
   ample rewards and to found in France a seminary, if I may so
   call it, of scholars. Parvus had long been watching for such an
   opportunity, being not merely a supporter of all learning, but
   also a special admirer of yours, and said that in his opinion
   Erasmus ought to be invited the very first one, and that this
   could most properly be done by Budæus ... and finally, that the
   king, moved by some noble impulse, was brought to the point of
   saying that this offer should be made to you by me in his name:
   that if you could be persuaded to come here to live and devote
   yourself to literary work here as you are wont to do over there,
   he would promise to give you a living worth a thousand francs
   and more. Now you understand that my influence comes in only
   so far as I assume the part of a mediator, not of a sponsor,
   and simply pass on to you in good faith what I have heard from

Budæus then goes on to say that he has little to do with court
affairs, but that if Erasmus likes it, he may well promise himself a
fine position in Paris.

   "Immortal gods! what an honour for you! what a splendid fortune
   in the judgment of all learned men, to be summoned into a
   distant land by the greatest and most illustrious of kings on
   the sole recommendation of your learning!... As far as one can
   guess, he desires to be the founder of a splendid institution,
   so that in the future, quite otherwise than in the past, liberal
   learning may seem to be a thing of profit."

Lest Erasmus should fancy this wish of the king to be "a whim, rather
than a carefully considered and settled judgment," he refers to the
very favourable opinion of Erasmus held by Stephen Poncher, bishop of
Paris, and quotes him as saying that the king had at heart the cause
of elegant learning and had conversed with him on the subject of
bringing together men eminent in scholarship.

   "I said to him at the time, that you might be called into
   France with an honourable provision and promised that I would
   take it upon myself and bring it to pass. I said that you had
   studied in Paris and knew France as well as the place of your
   birth. I think he will be most favourable to you.... I expect
   that William Cop, the king's physician, a man learned in both
   tongues, a friend and well-wisher of yours, will write to you
   about this and, others perhaps by the king's order; or even the
   king himself."

Cop did write, in contrast with the intolerable verbosity of Budæus,
a very brief note, in which he says that the king, persuaded by
Parvus and others, had ordered him to write and sound Erasmus as to
the conditions under which he would be willing to come to Paris.

That seems to have been the whole story of Erasmus' "call" to
Paris: a report by one man of a conversation with others, moderate
expressions of good will on the part of the Parisian scholars, but
hardly a definite promise of anything. At best, the proposal was that
he should take a church living, and to this he was, more or less to
his credit, always disinclined. His reply to Budæus is interesting.
He says:

   "I had hardly got myself well out of that very wordy letter,
   which I guess will be as tedious to you in the reading as it was
   to me in the writing, when another letter of yours came to me
   in which you express the kind intentions of the Most Christian
   King towards me. I will answer briefly, not to bore both you and
   myself to death with verbosity and also because I have to write
   to many others. The king's purpose is worthy of a prince and
   even of such a prince as he. I approve it most highly.

   "His splendid plans for me I owe chiefly to you, my friend,
   who have pictured me, not as I am, but as you would wish me
   to be;--and that at your own risk as much as mine. The same
   subject was most eagerly pressed in the king's name by that most
   illustrious advocate, the bishop of Paris, whom you describe in
   your letter no less truly than graphically. It would be a long
   story to compress into one letter all the pros and cons. I see
   what your advice is, and I value it the more because it is given
   by a man at once very cautious, and very friendly to me. For if
   ever there is a place for the Greek proverb: 'The gifts of the
   unfriendly are no gifts at all,' I think it is in matters of
   advice. But while I confess that I am deeply indebted, not only
   to you all, but especially to your most excellent and generous
   king, I cannot make any definite answer until I have discussed
   the plan with the Chancellor of Burgundy, who has gone on a
   journey to Cambrai.... I will only say at present that France
   was ever dear to me on many accounts [we remember his affection
   for the Collége Montaigu, and his reference to that 'dunghill
   of a Paris'] and is now attractive to me for no reason stronger
   than that Budæus is there. Indeed there is no reason to make me
   out a stranger as you do for, if we may believe the map-makers,
   Holland too is a part of France."

Nor does Erasmus commit himself any more decidedly in the personal
letter which he sent at the same time to King Francis.[113] The
letter is filled with adulation, but expresses also the writer's
honest approval of the king's momentary policy of peace. The final
phrase, "to whom I wholly give and dedicate myself," must not be
construed as having any meaning whatever. The offer was neither
accepted nor repeated. We may well doubt whether in the year 1516
Erasmus would really have cared to attach himself to the French court
or to any other on any terms.

  [113] iii., 185.

He mentions in several places, as a sign of the great favour shown
him by Francis I., the fact that he had received a most friendly
autograph letter from the king. Such a letter has indeed been found
among papers relating to Erasmus at Basel. How much it may have meant
the reader may judge for himself:

   "Cher et bon amy. Nous avons donne charge a notre cher et bien
   ame messire Claude Cantiuncula, present porteur, de vous dire
   et declairer aucunes choses de par nous, desquelles vous prions
   tres affectueusment le croyre, et y adjouster entiere foy, comme
   feriez a notre propre personne. Cher et bon amy, notre Seigneur
   vous ait en sa garde.

   "Escript a Sainct Germain en Laye le 7me jour de juillet.

    [In Erasmus' hand],           "Je vous avertys que sy vous
    "_Hec rex scripsit pro-   voules venyr que vous seres le
    pria manu._"              byen venu

It has been usual to explain his reluctance to attach himself
anywhere at this time, by certain obligations towards the young King
Charles I. of Spain, later the Emperor Charles V., arising from his
appointment to a counsellor's position in the royal household. That
some such office was given him in or about the year 1516 is quite
certain; but that he was ever asked for his advice may be doubted,
and his own complaints would indicate that he never received any
considerable emoluments from his office. A letter to the imperial
counsellor Carondiletus in 1524 throws light upon both the French
call and the imperial pension.[114]

  [114] iii.¹, 794.

   "To reply at once to your letter and that of the Lady Margaret,
   I will say in few words that it is not merely smoke that the
   French are showing. On the contrary, some time ago, when
   Poncher, Bishop of Paris, was the French ambassador at Brussels,
   before Charles was emperor, he offered me in his own name, over
   and above the king's bounty, four hundred crowns besides all
   expenses, promising me also that my leisure and my freedom of
   movement should be undisturbed.... The reason why the king of
   France called me so many times he explained by his messenger.
   He had determined to establish at Paris a College of the Three
   Languages, such as there is at Louvain, and he wanted me to be
   the head of it. I excused myself, however, remembering how
   much enmity and trouble I had borne there from some theologians
   on the score of the Busleiden College. Yet my servant, when he
   came back from France, reported on certain information that a
   treasury order for a thousand pounds was ready and waiting for
   me there.

   "I have not so far been much of a burden on the treasury of my
   prince, for my pension has only once been paid therefrom. It
   has been procured by another process, without any expense to
   the treasury. It costs me a great deal to live here, especially
   on account of my frequent illnesses--though indeed I am in
   other ways not at all a good manager with money. I have already
   contracted a good many debts, so that, even if my health would
   permit me to leave, perhaps my creditors would not. I should,
   therefore, be very glad, if it can be done, to have the pension
   for at least one year paid over to this messenger, to relieve my
   immediate necessity. I send a letter of the emperor, making the
   same request."

Again in 1525 he writes[115]:

  [115] iii.¹, 874-F.

   "By the first of September there will be due me eight hundred
   gold florins, the payment, that is, of four years. I don't see
   what good I am to get out of this delay unless perchance I am to
   need money in the Elysian Fields."

And once more in 1527 to Laurinus[116]:

  [116] iii.¹, 1009-F.

   "I have written to your brother as you wished, but I see no hope
   of the emperor's pension unless I return thither. For the matter
   was once for all brought up in council and the reply was made me
   in the name of the Lady Margaret that both the pension and other
   things worthy of me were ready for me if I would come back. So
   I do not think that your brother, eloquent and earnest patron
   as he is, ought to be wearied with this affair. The emperor has
   twice ordered the pension to be paid to me out of course, but he
   is more easily obeyed when he orders a tax than when he commands
   a payment."

We cannot for a moment believe that the holding of this honourary
title required any personal attendance at the royal court which
hindered Erasmus' freedom of motion when he desired to move. The
principal fruit of his appointment was the little treatise called
the _Institutio Principis Christiani_,[117] written, probably, in
acknowledgment of the honour and dedicated to the young prince. This
very amiable bit of advice is a companion-piece to the panegyric
upon the prince's father written about twelve years before. It is
unlike that early performance in being almost entirely free from
exaggerated personal adulation; it is like it in the freedom with
which it lays down for the guidance of the prince rules of conduct
similar to those which ought to govern the individual Christian man
in his dealings with the world of his fellow-men. Yet the principles
are not the mere commonplaces of morality. The prince ought to be a
good man in the Christian meaning of that term, but not merely good,
as any private man might be. Erasmus has at every point a reason
for the particular exercise of virtue he may be commending, and his
illustrations, drawn chiefly from the best rulers of antiquity, are
pertinent and show, of course, the widest and readiest command of the
ancient literatures. To estimate aright the significance and value
of Erasmus' declarations on public policy, we must remember that we
are dealing with a contemporary of Macchiavelli, whose _Principe_,
with its total indifference to the moral point of view, was already
written and undoubtedly in circulation in manuscript, though not
printed until 1532. Whether it was known to Erasmus we cannot say. If
it was, he could hardly have made a more complete reply to it than
this. Macchiavelli took the world as it was, especially that Italian
part of it which he knew best, and, assuming that the process of
state-building which he saw going on all about him was to continue
along similar lines, he simply laid down the principles of success in
that process. Erasmus, on the other hand, assuming that human society
was a moral organism, was not concerned chiefly with outward or
momentary success, but rather with the higher moral function of the
ruler. He believed that success founded upon morality would be higher
and more enduring than that which rested upon mere expediency. The
central point of view with Macchiavelli was the person of the prince;
Erasmus thought of the prince only as the servant of his people.
Both drew, or thought they drew, their inspiration from classic
tradition; but Macchiavelli sought for his illustrations at those
points of ancient history where his principles seemed to be worked
out into great and enduring political structures, while Erasmus drew
from the decay of precisely the same institutions his lesson of the
permanence of moral obligation and of that alone.

  [117] iv., 593-612.

Perhaps the best and most pertinent example of his method of
treatment is found in the chapter on taxation. It will be evident
that the questions which were disturbing his mind have not yet ceased
to agitate the world. Substitute for "prince" the word "government,"
and it will appear that most of the financial problems of our present
day were burning questions in the days of Erasmus and Thomas More;
for in More's Utopia we have in the main the same moral elevation
applied to the same questions as in the _Institutio_. Erasmus

  [118] iv., 593-594.

   "The ancient writers tell us that many rebellions have arisen
   from immoderate taxation. The good prince ought therefore to
   see to it that the minds of his people should be as little
   as possible disturbed by these matters. Let him if possible
   govern without expense to them. The office of the prince is too
   lofty to be used for money-making. The good prince has for his
   own whatever his loving subjects have. There have been many
   heathen who put nothing into their treasuries from serving
   the state save glory alone; and some, like Fabius Maximus and
   Antoninus Pius, despised even this. How much more, then, ought
   the Christian prince to be satisfied with the consciousness
   of rectitude, especially since he serves a Master who leaves
   no good deed without ample reward. There are men who busy
   themselves with nothing but finding out new devices for cheating
   the people, and think they are best serving the prince by
   making themselves the enemies of his subjects. Let him who
   listens to them know that he is far from the true ideal of a

   "The very best way to increase the revenue is to cut off
   unnecessary expense, doing away with burdensome service,
   avoiding wars and journeys that are like wars, checking the
   greed of officials, and trying rather to govern well what the
   prince has, than to get more. Otherwise, if he is to measure
   his taxes by his greed or his ambition, what limit or end of
   taxation will there be? For desire is infinite and is always
   pressing and straining at what it has once begun until,
   according to the old proverb, the overdrawn rope will break and
   the exhausted patience of the people burst forth into rebellion,
   whereby the most powerful empires have been ruined.

   "But, if necessity demands that something shall be exacted
   of the people, then it is the part of a good prince to do it
   in such a way that the least burden may fall upon those who
   have least. For it may be a good thing to summon the rich to
   frugality, but to compel the poor to hunger and the gallows
   is not merely inhuman, but dangerous as well.... Let him well
   ponder this, that an expense once incurred at some emergency as
   pertaining to the advantage of the prince or the nobility, can
   never be abolished. When the emergency is past, not only ought
   the burden to be taken from the people, but the outlay of that
   former period ought, as far as possible, to be remedied and made
   good. Let him who cares for his people beware of the corrupt
   precedent. If he rejoices in the calamity of his own citizens
   or gives no thought to it, he is as far as can be from being a
   prince, no matter by what name he is called.

   "It ought to be provided for that there be not too great
   inequality of wealth;--not that I would have anyone deprived
   of his goods by force, but that care should be taken lest the
   wealth of the whole community be limited to a certain few. For
   Plato would have his citizens neither too rich nor too poor,
   because the poor man cannot be of profit to the state, and the
   rich man, after his kind, does not want to profit it. Nor do
   princes even gain wealth by exactions of this sort. If anyone
   would prove this, let him consider how much less his ancestors
   took from their subjects, how much more they gave, and yet how
   much more of everything they had, because a great part of these
   present taxes slips between the fingers of those who collect and
   receive them, but only a very small part ever gets to the prince

   "Then, whatever things are in common use by the mass of the
   people, these a good prince will tax as lightly as possible, as
   for example, corn, bread, beer, wine, clothing, and other things
   without which human life cannot go on. But now these things are
   especially burdened, and that in many different ways: first, by
   the very heavy exactions of the contractors which the people
   call assizes, then by duties which have also their contractors,
   and finally by monopolies which bring little to the prince, but
   crush the poor by higher prices.

   "So then, as I have said, let the income of the prince be
   increased by economy, according to the old proverb: 'Thrift is
   a great revenue.' But if some duties cannot be avoided and the
   interest of the people demands it, then let the burden fall upon
   foreign and outlandish wares, which have to do rather with the
   luxury and refinements of life than with necessity, and which
   are used by the rich alone, as for example, fine linen, silks,
   purple, perfumes, unguents, gems, and everything of that sort.
   For this burden is felt only by those whose fortunes can bear
   it and who by these payments are not reduced to want, but
   perchance are rendered more frugal, so that by loss of money,
   good morals are improved."

It would be going too far to say that these economic and financial
views of Erasmus are purely original; they are doubtless gathered
from his reading of the ancients, especially from Plato and
Aristotle; they are, however, addressed with perfect directness to
evils of his own time and they show us that his mind was working
upon matters of large public import, as well as upon his more purely
scholarly interests.

It would be impossible for Erasmus to go through any treatise on
public affairs without saying something about the wickedness and
folly of fighting, and so we find him concluding his _Institutio_
with a chapter on the undertaking of war. It is his familiar
argument, but especially follows the point that war should not be
undertaken until all other methods of composing differences shall
have failed. "If we were of this mind there would hardly ever be a
war anywhere." He shows very clearly how seldom the alleged cause
of war affects the people of a country. Such causes are usually the
private affair of princes.

   "Because one prince offends another in some trifle, and that
   a private matter, about relationship by marriage or some such
   thing, what is this to the people as a whole? The good prince
   measures all things by the advantage of the people, otherwise he
   were not even a prince. The law is not the same towards men and
   towards beasts.... But if some dissensions arise between princes
   why not rather resort to arbiters? There are so many bishops,
   so many abbots, scholars, serious magistrates, by whose judgment
   such a matter might far more decently be composed than by so
   much murder, pillage, and misfortune throughout the world."

Here is international arbitration, pure and simple, a doctrine not
appearing in the Utopia, and, so far as I know, not to be found in
any modern writer before Erasmus; a dream as yet in his time and long
to remain so, but, in the vast ebb and flow of human affairs, coming
ever nearer to some definite realisation.

Perhaps the most striking argument of Erasmus against war is the
utter hopelessness of it as a means of gaining the ultimate good of
the state.

   "'But,' they say, 'what safety will there ever be, if no one
   pursues his right?' By all means let right be pursued, if
   this be of advantage to the state, but let not the right of
   the prince be too costly to the people. And pray what safety
   is there now, when everyone is pursuing his right to the very
   death? We see wars arising from wars, war following upon war,
   and no limit or end to the confusion. So it is clear enough that
   by these means nothing is accomplished. Therefore other remedies
   ought to be tried. Even between friends there would be no bond
   unless they sometimes made concessions, one to the other. The
   husband often pardons certain things to his wife, that harmony
   between them may not be broken. What does war breed, but war?
   while gentleness calls forth gentleness and equity invites

The closing paragraph has almost a ring of irony in view of the
future course of the young prince, for whose edification all this
wisdom was put forth.

   "I doubt not, most illustrious Prince, that you are of the same
   mind; for so you were born and so you have been taught by the
   best and most sincere teachers. As for the rest, I pray that
   _Christus optimus maximus_ may prosper your noble efforts. He
   has given you an empire without bloodshed; his will is that
   you preserve it ever free from blood. May it come to pass that
   through your goodness and wisdom we may at last have a rest from
   these mad wars. Peace will be made precious to us by the memory
   of evils past and our gratitude to you will be doubled by the
   misfortunes of other times."

All this to Charles of Burgundy, already Most Catholic King of Spain,
within a year to be elected Holy Roman Emperor, and destined for
the next generation to turn Europe into a battle-field for objects
in which no one of his numerous subject peoples had the remotest
interest! Evidently the man who could give only such counsel as this
was not likely to be sought as an intimate adviser of the prince. In
fact we have no reason to suppose that Erasmus' settlement at Louvain
had more than a nominal connection with his appointment as imperial
councillor. He was a councillor much in the sense of the modern
German "Geheimrath."

  [Illustration: EMPEROR CHARLES V.

Erasmus took up his residence at Louvain in 1516, not, so far as we
know, in the capacity of a regular teacher, though he occupied a room
in the university. There is the usual uncertainty as to his motives
and feelings about the change. Writing to Ammonius from Brussels in
the autumn of 1516,[119] he says, "I am most eager to hear how our
business is getting on." Such passages of mysterious meaning occur
in almost every letter to this fellow-scholar and indicate clearly
that Ammonius was continually working in Erasmus' interest. They are
now made somewhat clearer by the discoveries of W. Vischer at Basel.
The reference is probably to the negotiations with the papacy in
regard to the dispensations which bear date a few months later. It
is probable also that Ammonius was putting in a word as he could in
England to secure the regular payment of his friend's allowances. The
letter goes on:

  [119] iii., 137 E-F.

   "I am going to winter in Brussels. Whatever you may send to
   Tunstall [the English ambassador at Brussels] will be handed
   to me at once; I am in continual relations with him. I am not
   disposed to go to Louvain. There I should have to be paying my
   duty to the scholastics at my own cost. The young men would be
   yelping at me all the time: 'correct this ode; or this epistle,'
   one will be calling for this author, one for that. There is
   no one there who can be either a help or an attraction to me.
   Besides all this I should have to listen sometimes to the
   snarlings of the pseudo-theologians, the most unpleasant kind
   of men. Lately there has arisen one of these who has stirred up
   almost a tumult against me, so that I am now holding the wolf by
   the ears, able neither to kill him nor to get away. He flatters
   me to my face and bites behind my back, promises me a friend and
   offers me an enemy. Would that mighty Jove would smash up this
   whole class of men and make them over again; for they contribute
   nothing to make us better or wiser, but are always making
   trouble with everyone."

But having had his grumble, Erasmus made up his mind to go. During
the next four years Louvain was more his home than any other place.
He left it, as we have seen, often and for months together, but it
seems to have suited him as well as he was willing to be suited
anywhere. His accounts of his relations with the place and the people
are as apparently inconsistent as his utterances on other subjects.
Within a short time after his settlement he writes to Tunstall:

   "I find the theologians at Louvain men of high character and
   culture, especially John Atensis, Chancellor of this University,
   a man of incomparable learning and endowed with rare refinement.
   There is here no less theological learning than at Paris, but it
   is of a less sophistical and arrogant sort."

Again, in the autumn of 1518, he writes:

   "The air thus far remains pure; there have been few cases of
   illness, and those of disease imported from elsewhere."

As to the individual scholars, he found himself on the best of terms
with Martin Dorpius, the critic of his _Moria_, of whom he said in
1520, "on account of his distinguished talents for learning and
eloquence I could not hate him even when he was made use of against
me by evil managers." Dorpius continued to be his friend and admirer,
as appears from the letter to Beatus, in which he is described as one
of Erasmus' chief comforters during his tedious illness after the
Rhine journey.

During Erasmus' residence at Louvain occurred the foundation of
the College of the Three Languages by Jerome Busleiden, brother of
a former archbishop of Besançon, and himself a councillor of the
King of Spain. Erasmus writes in 1518 to a third brother, Ægidius,
referring to his attempts at making an epitaph for Jerome:

   "How many attractions have we lost in this one man! I can
   easily imagine your feelings at the loss of your brother, when
   the whole chorus of good and learned men is breaking into one
   lament. But why these empty regrets, why these useless tears? We
   are all born to this fate."

He is not well satisfied with his epitaphs and evidently has some
fear that the bequest will not be carried out.

   "As to founding the college, see that you are not led away from
   that purpose. Believe me, this thing will not only contribute
   more than I can say to every branch of learning but will also
   add to the name of Busleiden, already so distinguished in many
   ways, no little increase of honour and splendour."

These fears were not justified; the college was founded and the
advice of Erasmus was sought in the difficult matter of finding
suitable teachers to fill the new chairs. We have several of the
letters written by him in the discharge of this commission. One of
these, to John Lascaris, a native Greek scholar, is interesting in
several ways. It is one of the clearest illustrations of Erasmus'
power of direct statement when a matter of business was in hand. He
first states the terms of Busleiden's bequest to found a college

   "in which shall be taught publicly and without expense
   the three languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, with the
   sufficiently splendid salary of about seventy ducats, which may
   be increased according to the value of the person. The Hebrew
   and Latin teachers are on hand. Many are competing for the
   Greek professorship, but it has always been my opinion that a
   native Greek should be procured, so that the hearers may get
   the correct pronunciation at once. All the trustees of this
   undertaking agree with me and have commissioned me to invite,
   in their behalf, whomever I should judge suitable for this
   position. I therefore beg you, both by your wonted kindness
   to me and your devotion to the cause of learning, if you know
   anyone who you think would do honour to yourself and to me, to
   send him hither as soon as you can. He will have money for the
   journey, his salary, and his lodgings. He will have to do with
   men of honour and refinement. He may have the same confidence in
   my letter as if the affair were sealed with a hundred contracts.
   Between good men a bargain may be as well made without bonds.
   You select the proper man, and I will see to it that he shall
   not regret coming."

The Hebrew teacher referred to was a Jew named Adrian, chosen, it
would appear, on the same principle of employing native teachers. It
must have required a steady nerve to recommend the appointment of a
Jew, even a converted one, at a time when the affair of Reuchlin,
turning on just this question of respect for Hebrew learning, had
barely ceased to agitate the world of scholars. Erasmus commends
Adrian to Ægidius Busleiden in a letter[120] of sound practical
sense. Fortune has just thrown him in their way;

  [120] iii., 353-A.

   "he is a Hebrew by birth but long since a Christian by religion,
   a physician by profession, and so skilled in the whole Hebrew
   literature that in my judgment there is no one at this day to be
   compared with him. But if my opinion has not sufficient weight
   with you, all whom I have known in Germany or in Italy who were
   versed in that language, have borne the same testimony. He not
   only knows the language perfectly, but is thoroughly acquainted
   with the mysteries of the authors and has them all at his
   fingers' ends.... Pray command me if there is anything in which
   you think I can assist you."

The Latin professor mentioned was Conrad Goclenius, the man of all
others whom Erasmus selected some few years later, when he thought he
was going to die, as the confidant of his most intimate thoughts and



On many accounts, the residence at Louvain ought to have been one
of the most satisfactory of Erasmus' life. He was in the midst of a
congenial activity not limited by any prescribed duties, free from
great anxiety about money, secure at any moment of some honourable
appointment if he chose to accept it, in fairly good health, and with
working powers quite undiminished by advancing years.

In the year 1518 there can be no question that the name of Erasmus
was the most widely known and honoured among European scholars.
His New Testament with its display of learning and its revelation
of a new principle of criticism, had demonstrated his character as
a serious thinker upon the most important questions of religious
faith and practice. If we seek to define this principle we shall be
unable to fix it by any categories of philosophy or of theological
precedent. In the last analysis we are brought back every time to the
principle of common sense working upon the accepted dogmatic bases of
the existing church system.

His freedom of speech had always been kept carefully within the
bounds of doctrinal orthodoxy. He could safely defy his critics to
point to a single instance of anything that might by any reasonable
interpretation be described as heresy. He knew that in his criticism,
so far as it had gone, he was supported by the best opinion of the
men of enlightenment everywhere, and relying upon this support he
could put on the confident tone of a man who feels himself on the
winning side.

The generation in which Erasmus had grown up to his fiftieth year
was eminently one of progress in every form of enlightenment and
expansion. He was twenty-five when Columbus discovered America and
gave the first impulse to that intoxicating sense of limitless
possibility which from time to time has seized upon a generation
of men and carried it on to great triumphs--but always also to
disappointments more keenly felt than its successes. Along with the
discovery of the earth had gone with equal, even with more rapid
pace, the discovery of man. The ban which throughout the Middle
Ages had lain upon the human spirit as individual, with powers of
its own and the right to use them, was rapidly being lifted. The
cunning plebeian who had learned how to mix the subtle ingredients
of gunpowder and put it into the hands of his fellow-plebeians, had
taught the world an argument against the rights of princes, more
potent than all the philosophers from Marsiglio of Padua down had
been able to furnish. That other plebeian group who had lit upon
the marvellously simple device of multiplying copies of writings by
means of movable types, had opened up possibilities of education and
therefore of achievement, whose end the imagination of man could not

At first, doubtless, this vast outlook into the unknown had terrified
as well as fascinated the world. All established institutions whose
claim to existence rested upon an undisputed tradition, trembled lest
their foundation should be shaken. Princes dreaded the union of the
long-oppressed peasants and citizens with gunpowder in their hands.
The guardians of the treasure of thought which had come down from
the past shuddered at the spreading of "dangerous" ideas broadcast
through the land by the busy printing-press.

But gradually these apprehensions had been allayed. The social
revolution threatened by gunpowder was delayed as has been so far
that which is threatened by dynamite. Economic laws would not
be broken and the forces of discontent, active during the late
fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, had been gradually brought
into an apparent harmony with the forces of order and tradition.
Once more the great leading powers had come out of a long conflict
victorious, though modified. The state-governments had overcome the
attacks of constitutionalism, and seemed to be more independent
of control than ever. The monarchy of Francis I., of Henry VIII.,
and Charles V. seemed to have beaten down every opposition, but it
had also learned its lessons. If it would control the public life
of its several states, it must itself meet the evident demands of
its subjects, so far as it could do so without abandoning its own
supreme prerogative. So the papacy, threatened by the aggressive
constitutionalism of the fifteenth-century councils, had overcome
that danger and during the lifetime of Erasmus had seemed to recover
more than its ancient prestige. But it had purchased this recovery
by vast adjustments to conditions it could not change. It, too, in
its turn had become "enlightened" and gone so far into the prevailing
liberalism of thought that it had deprived it of its sting. It might
well seem an idle task to turn the weapons of the "higher criticism"
against a papacy which was itself supporting the cause of critical
learning with every resource at its command.

No greater proof of this apparent readjustment of opposing forces
could be offered than the dedication of Erasmus' New Testament, the
ripest product of the critical scholarship of the time, to Pope Leo
himself. It was a bold stroke, but it paid. The unstinted approval of
the pope gave Erasmus a backing worth more to him at the moment than
any praise of scholars like himself. But it bound him also the more
firmly to an allegiance he dared not break, lest the form of success
most precious to him in life should be endangered.

We have spoken of the constitutional opposition to the papacy by the
fifteenth-century councils. Parallel with this and often combined
with it had gone an opposition growing out of national interests.
This, too, the papacy seemed to have overcome by the same policy of
adjustment. It had allowed the largest scope to national control of
the Church consistent with its supreme leadership, and had even
given emphasis to the national idea by pushing to the utmost its
claim to be one among the powers of Europe. The whole political
activity of the papacy during this most active generation was based
upon a recognition of the national states and a steady aim to gain
their recognition in turn for its own well developed sovereignty. A
pope's "niece" or "nephew" was as good a _parti_ for a royal house as
the offspring of any princely family in Europe.

So complete, apparently, was this adjustment of all the forces of
European society that the great outbreak of the Lutheran reform
movement was a complete surprise and an incredible shock to all
established institutions. The historian can, indeed, trace with
perfect continuity the lines of development which centre in that
wonderful movement, when a monk, in an obscure town in the remote
north of Germany, drew the eyes of all Europe to himself by gathering
up into one passionate expression the long-suppressed protest against
the tyranny of the dominant church system. But, on the surface of
things, in the year 1517, there was little to point to this historic
continuity. To all appearance the great impulse of Wiclif in England
had died out with the suppression of open Lollardry just a hundred
years before. John Hus, the spiritual heir of Wiclif, had been
sacrificed at Constance in 1415 to a combination of forces, some of
which were to prove themselves in reality the stoutest allies of the
ideas he represented. True, the fires at Constance had kindled a
flame in Bohemia, which defied all efforts of pope and emperor to
put it out until dissensions within the party of revolt scattered
and quenched the material on which it fed. But after the Council at
Basel (1431-1443) the great readjustment carried Bohemia, too, along
into the general scheme of conciliation. At that moment a party,
henceforth to be known as the party of enlightenment, seized upon the
papacy, and with Thomas Parentucelli (Nicholas V., 1447-1455) began
that series of humanistic popes, Æneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pius
II., 1458-1464), Giuliano delle Rovere (Julius II., 1503-1513), and
Giovanni de' Medici (Leo X., 1513-1521), who were ready to sacrifice
all other interests to the aggrandisement of their personal power and
the advancement of a higher cultivation and refinement of life.

It must be said that in the things men cared most about in the two
generations before the year 1517, the government of the Church was
such as suited the peoples of Europe. It was an easy-going system.
It did not call for any application of the new spirit of inquiry to
the prevailing institutions in Church and State. It was not insisting
upon any too rigid morality either in the clergy or in the laity.
Nor, on the other hand, was it overzealous in pressing its own claims
too far. There is a grim sense of humour in the attitude of the
Church towards its own institutions, so long as their existence was
not threatened and no diminution of revenue was in sight. All the
system asked was to be let alone. The Church knew that many of its
claims had come to be absurd. Nowhere was this so well understood as
in Italy and above all at Rome. So frank a "heathen" as Leo X. was
not likely to insist too eagerly upon ideas or practices which he
knew to be mere superstitions of the vulgar--not likely, that is, to
press these matters until they were attacked.

If, on the other hand, they should be attacked, would this papacy
be thorough-going enough in its enlightenment and its indifference
to let them go, or would it rally to their defence all the forces
of reaction? That was the problem of the Reformation period. If
one approaches it from the side of enlightenment, one is at once
impressed with the vast opportunity opened to the papacy. It had
already adjusted itself to so many changes, it had so often found
ways of taking the sting out of ideas and movements which seemed to
threaten its very life, that sanguine men, like Erasmus, might well
feel encouraged to hope that it would once more rise to the occasion.
The world of Europe was filled with friendly criticism of its forms
and methods; but as yet there had been few voices raised against its

Dante, in his treatise on a single government for the world (_de
Monarchia_), still clings to the mediæval conception of a twin
administration of Christendom, only with the religious side
distinctly subordinated to the temporal. Even Wiclif and Hus had
been led to defy the papacy only by the logic of events; hostility
to a papal organisation of church life was not an essential part of
their original programme. Even Marsiglio of Padua had reserved to the
papacy a wide sphere of activity, limited only by constitutional
rights of governments and peoples. The literature of the conciliar
period, covering the first half of the fifteenth century, does not
succeed in casting off the spell of the papal idea, but aims to check
and control its dangers to the public welfare. A constitutional
papacy was the ideal of that time, not a Church without a papacy.
All these attacks the mediæval system had met with amazing success.
It had dealt its blows sparingly, but with great effect. Where its
enemies had been backed up by powerful interests, as was Wiclif in
England, it had seemed to fail and had bided its time. Where it could
itself combine with other interests against them, as against Hus at
Constance, it had hit hard and with precision.

It may be said with some certainty that if the papacy of the second
half of the fifteenth century had been inclined to meet criticism
half-way, criticism would not have turned into hostility. As one
looks over the field of European society and politics in the two
generations before 1517 one fails to find anything that can be
called an anti-Roman "party." By "party" we mean here a nucleus of
organisation with a programme or "platform" of its own towards the
accomplishment of which it bends its chief efforts. In that sense,
there was no party in Christendom which aimed at the overthrow of the
papal system.

On the other hand it might be said that there was no great public
interest in Europe which was not more or less directly threatened
by the papacy and likely, therefore, at any inopportune moment, by
some slip in the papal policy or even by the mere insistence of
the papacy upon some point it could not give up, to be turned from
apparent friendliness to open opposition. First among these public
interests was the principle of nationality. The papacy had, as we
have seen, apparently adjusted itself to this opposition, but this
adjustment was obviously unstable. How great a strain would it
bear? To what lengths of concession could the papacy afford to go
in recognising the right of kings to manage the affairs of their
kingdoms without interference? Were there questions of religion, or
of public morals so obviously beyond the sphere of temporal control,
that any conceivable papacy must cling to the right of final judgment
in them or go to the wall? When in the year 1341 the Emperor Ludwig
the Bavarian, had claimed for himself the divine right to declare a
certain princess divorced from an inconvenient husband, that he might
marry her to his son and bring her dowry to increase the Bavarian
estates, there was an almost universal cry of horror at this assault
upon a sacred prerogative of the Church. How would it be now, two
hundred years later, if a king, let us say of England, should find
it convenient to divorce a wife and marry another for no reason
but that he willed it so? Could the papacy afford to pay the price
of acquiescence, or could it better afford to lose for ever the
allegiance of England? That was the kind of question presented to the
papacy from the side of the national states.

So again from the point of view of the advancing thought of the
day;--how far could the papacy safely go in meeting this advance?
Men were moving on step by step from one audacious thought to
another, until it was beginning to seem as if there were no limit
to the speculation of this awakened human spirit. The Church had
grown great upon a system of thought in which the institution, the
established order, the class, the tradition, had been everything,
and the individual had been nothing. It had been a man's first duty,
not to have ideas of his own, but to take those which were offered
to him by the highest prevailing authority. So far all opposition
to this method of thought had been effectually silenced. John Hus
had declared that the essence of the Church lay in its being the
assembly of believers acknowledging Christ alone as its head. Hus
had been disposed of, and again the papacy had risen triumphant. The
same men who had pressed most eagerly the condemnation of Hus were at
that moment aiding his cause by putting forward a theory of church
life which thrust the papacy into the background and would have
brought into its place a legislature of national churches as the true
expression of the will of Western Christendom. That opposition too
had been overcome.

But now a more subtle development of individualism was beginning
to make itself felt. The Church had thus far succeeded in keeping
itself before the world as the one sole and sufficient medium of
salvation for sinful man. It had developed a vast and imposing
system of mediation between man and God by its priesthood, its
ceremonies, its philosophy of morals, and its elaborately conducted
methods of bookkeeping with the consciences of the faithful.
Indeed, so elaborate had this soul-saving machinery become that
the wear and tear of it threatened the durability of its parts. An
immense proportion of its energy had to be devoted to keeping the
system going. What now would happen if somehow it should be made
clear to the Christian conscience that there was a shorter way to
salvation, a more direct, a less expensive, and, more than all, a
better-established way? How far would the Church dare to carry its
policy of going half way toward such an idea as that?

The test upon this point came in the revival of all that group of
notions which, for lack of a better term, we express by the word
"Augustinianism." Setting aside all refinements of theology for
the moment, the word Augustinian represents to us the conception
of the individual human soul as a sinful thing, thrown out in all
its nakedness and isolation upon an angry sea of retribution, from
which nothing can save it but the arbitrary action of the grace of
God. Here was individualism indeed! We have seen how the Church had
got on with the æsthetic individualism of the Renaissance--with its
sham heathenism, its theatrical exploiting of antiquity to justify
a license which affronted all true Christian self-respect, and yet,
after all, its readiness to conform itself to all existing forms
of social and religious organisation. From such individualism as
this the Church had little direct injury to fear. It laughed with
it and at it and used it for its purposes. Poggio Bracciolini, the
most foul-mouthed blackguard of the second generation of Italian
Humanists, spent his life as papal secretary without fear and
without reproach.

Strange collocation of ideas, that the same impulse which drove
these unchecked scoffers into an æsthetic defiance of literary
tradition should have forced Luther and Calvin into a death-struggle
with the whole existing church order! The Church had tolerated the
individualism of taste; how far could it tolerate the individualism
of the soul? The one had declared that the salvation of the human
mind was to be found by going back to the unfailing sources of
culture in the Greek and Latin classics. The other was to declare
that the only salvation of the soul was to be found by overleaping
all the vast accumulation of forms and traditions of the past
thousand years and going straight back to the early proclamations of
the divine grace through faith in Christ alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

While Erasmus was studying, writing, planning, and travelling, with
Louvain as the centre of his manifold activities, the great assault
was gathering its force in a quarter of the world from which it
might least have been expected. The north of Germany lay almost
entirely beyond the circle of vision of Erasmus and such as he.
The Universities of Leipzig and Erfurt, the most important of the
Saxon schools, had thus far contributed little to the advance of
general culture. They were still mainly under the influence of the
scholastic traditions, guided by such men as those who had been made
the butts of the _Epistolæ obscurorum virorum_. The University of
Wittenberg, founded in 1502 by the Elector Frederic of Saxony, was
just in time to gain for its chairs some of the first-fruits of the
revived classical spirit, which men like Reuchlin and Rudolf Agricola
had imported into Germany from the Italian fountainhead. The call
of Martin Luther in 1508 from the Augustinian cloister at Erfurt
to a professorship of theology at Wittenberg, while it cannot be
described as a demonstration in favour of the New Learning, brought
a young man into active professional work who was already familiar
with the new spirit of study and who was likely to apply it to his
theological teaching, without being seduced by its æsthetic charm.
The invitation of Philip Melanchthon four years later to teach Greek
was a more pronounced declaration that Wittenberg was to look forward
and not back in setting the tone of its instruction. Melanchthon was
a promising youth of twenty-one, a relative and pupil of Reuchlin and
recommended by him for this place. He was already well known as an
accomplished Grecian, an amiable, but decided personality, destined
to be through a lifetime of contention the balance-wheel of the
Lutheran party.

  [Illustration: PHILIP MELANCHTHON.

It cannot be our purpose to rehearse here the familiar story
of Luther's early career. Friends and enemies alike have done
their utmost to set before us the engaging but often mysterious
personality of the man. Our only interest can be to review very
briefly such aspects of his development as may serve to illustrate
the similarities and the differences between his course and that of
Erasmus and thus prepare us to understand the connection of the
latter with the reform movement of Luther. If our earlier judgments
as to the youth of Erasmus are correct we shall have to believe
that Luther's years of apprenticeship were far more truly years of
hardship and struggle than were his. Poverty, stern discipline,
and unsatisfied desire left their lifelong marks upon a physical
constitution none too strong, but could not crush the inherent
cheerfulness and courage which proved his dominant characteristics.

We seek in vain through the record of Luther's earlier years for
indications of that stormy, passionate zeal for improvement in the
conditions about him which almost any student of the later reform
would suppose to be the moving impulse of his character. Conformity
to the demands of his immediate surroundings is as marked a trait
with him as were resistance and restlessness with Erasmus. He goes
and does as he is bidden. He enters a monastery of his own free
will and conforms with painful exactness to the requirements of the
rule. Even long after he has begun to lead the fight against the
limitations of the existing order, he continues to wear the dress
and to live in the cloister of the local Augustinians. The impulse
to the Lutheran reform cannot, therefore, be found in any restless
impatience of personal limitation on Luther's part. It must be sought
in some great, overpowering conviction which drove him out of the
attitude of conformity into the attitude of resistance.

This overmastering impulse came in the form of that Augustinian
proposition we were just now examining--the proposition that the
salvation, or, better still, the justification, of a man's soul was
to come, not through any institution, nor through the due performance
of anything whatever, but through the direct act of the grace of God,
and, furthermore, that the only condition of receiving such grace
was an honest opening of the soul to its action,--or, in theological
language, "faith." Luther was not a great "theologian," as that word
was used, in reverence by some and in ridicule by others. He had
not worked himself out into clearness by a scholastic process, and
whenever he tried to defend himself by scholastic methods, he was
almost sure to confuse himself in contradictions and exaggerations.
His clearness of vision came rather by an indefinable process of
revelation and self-realisation, and then it became his life-problem
to interpret to others what had brought such abundant illumination
and satisfaction to himself. The boldness of Luther was not that of
a man defiant by nature, who enjoys the game of give and take, but
rather that of a man who puts off the moment of his attack until he
can do so no longer, and then lets himself go, driven from behind,
as it were, by a will greater than his own and against which he is

With a nature and a method like this Erasmus could never have had
much sympathy. Compare their two views of Italy. We have seen Erasmus
seeking there the rewards of scholarship, cultivating the society
of learned men, playing the rôle of the famous scholar himself,
making himself acceptable to the powers that were, getting out of
Italy what he could--then coming away and letting all the shafts of
his biting satire play upon this society where he has been feeling
himself at home. He could eat the bread and take the pay of Aldus,
and then hold him up to the laughter of the world.

Luther went to Italy at almost the same time on an errand from the
Saxon Augustinians to the general chapter at Rome. He travelled as
a monk, stopping at the houses of his order along the way. At Rome
he visited all the shrines of the saints, like the most pious of
pilgrims. He was almost sorry, he says, that his parents were living,
so many were the advantages offered to the souls of the departed
at these altars of divine grace. He performed his commission, went
back to his place, and continued for seven years longer to fulfil
his duties as monk, priest, and teacher, without any outward show of
hostility to the Roman system. Only in his preaching and writing, one
can trace the steady advance of confidence in his guiding principle
of "faith" as the one sufficient guarantee of a life "justified" or
"adjusted" to the divine requirement. He did not seek the fight; he
waited in his place until the battle sought him out and then he dared
not refuse the challenge.

Compare again the animating principle of these two men. If it be
true that faith alone is the sufficient basis of all justification
before God, then it would seem to follow that the individual will
has little to do with determining the fate of man either here or
hereafter. Superficially viewed, this doctrine seems to place man
within the circle of a kind of blind fatalism. Such reproaches have
been heard ever since the days of Augustine, whenever this subject
has been prominently before men's minds. "Has Christianity brought us
out of the old fatalism of the Greeks only to plunge us into a new
fatalism, as hard, but not as picturesque, as the old one?" was asked
in Augustine's own time. Nor had the Augustinian party ever failed
to draw more or less strictly the evident conclusion from its own
premises. It had always insisted that the will of man was not morally
free, but was enslaved by a certain principle of evil, which had
entered into man with the "fall of Adam" and been transmitted from
father to son ever since.

Now the Church had always regarded Augustine as one of its greatest
ornaments. He was one of the "four Fathers" upon whom, as upon four
pillars, rested its majestic structure. Yet in practice, the Church
had never lived up to the doctrine of the enslaved will. When,
in the ninth century, the Saxon Gottschalk, spiritual progenitor
of the Saxon Luther, had turned his unpractised logic upon this
subject and had worked out to a conclusion the doctrine of a double
predestination, the Church, through its ablest representative,
Hincmar of Rheims, had promptly flogged him and shut him up for life
where he would do no harm. So far as the Church had ever formulated
its views on the matter, it had been "Semi-Pelagian." It recognised
in human justification both the grace of God and the will of man,
but did not draw with absolute clearness a conclusion as to the
preponderance of one over the other. In fact the Church had done
something better than to speculate. It had acted. It had evolved a
marvellous system of justifying agencies, administered by itself,
and had said to its members, in practice if not in theory, "Do these
things and you shall be saved." While this excellent machinery
worked, there was obviously no occasion for any good Christian to
worry about the conditions of justification, and in fact, from the
ninth to the fifteenth century, the Augustinian doctrines are not
once brought prominently before the world for discussion. It was only
when men began once more to doubt whether the church method of doing
specific things and getting certificates for them was, after all, the
only way, or even the best way, to find one's adjustment with God,
that this whole group of subjects began, once more, to demand their
attention. The doctrine of the enslaved will, narrow and revolting
though it may seem to the larger thought of our time, was the opening
gate through which a way might be found into that very same largeness
of view. The world learns slowly and the dim vision of to-day becomes
the flooding glory of a newly risen to-morrow.

Where should we expect to find Erasmus, as we have been making
acquaintance with him to the year 1518, on this great new question of
human justification? Our answer must follow two main lines. First,
as to the general notion of the freedom of the will, we may fairly
conclude from all his moral teaching up to that time, that the idea
of Luther in itself would be most repugnant to him. The whole tone
of the Enchiridion, for example, is to emphasise the function of
the individual conscience in determining action. The call to duty
is imperative; the assumption is that man can do what he ought to
do. The freedom of the will in human action is so completely assumed
that there is no need of discussing it. The ultimate appeal is never
to any outside power. If, on the one hand, Erasmus avoids all final
reference to an ecclesiastical authority, so, on the other hand, he
equally avoids reference to a theological "grace of God" which is
to do our moral work for us. The same impression comes from a study
of the Christian Prince. The prince is a "good prince," not because
he is a special instrument in the hand of God, nor because he is a
faithful servant of any church authority, but because he does his
duty as a man, in the station to which he is called. He ought to do
this thing or that simply because it is the right and the wise thing
to do, tending most directly toward the welfare of his subjects and
the interest of the prince himself. The Christian state is such
because it tends toward a realisation of the teaching of Christ, not
because it corresponds to any abstract ideal set for it by the church
power or by any direct working of the divine agency.

Our second point of view is thus already suggested. In so far as the
Lutheran position dealt with man as an individual being, responsible
directly to God, without the need of any intervening human agency, in
so far it could not fail to command the sympathy of whatever was most
sound and most sincere in the thought of Erasmus. His moral appeal
throughout is completely free from any really convincing reference
to a highest church tribunal, whose decisions must be final. One can
find plenty of passages in which he has, even before 1518, expressed
his respect for the papal system; but it would be hard to think of
any one of these as representing his really deepest convictions.
Either they are purely conventional, having no bearing upon the issue
of the Reformation, or they are evident "hedging," put in to guard
their author against the suspicion of having gone too far on the way
of criticism. It is always difficult to know which of his selves is
the real self; but wherever in Erasmus' moral writing we seem to feel
the ring of a sincere emotion, it is always when he is appealing to
the essential manliness of man--never when he is making his apologies
to the powers that be.

Again, it was plain, once for all, as early as 1518, that Erasmus had
not in him the stuff out of which great leaders of men in critical
times are made. No one would have acknowledged this more readily
than he, and nothing could have been farther from the line of his
ambition than such leadership. Even if we make large deductions from
his account of the great positions he had declined, enough remains
to make us quite sure that, if he had chosen, he might have held any
one of many places, which, by their very importance, would have given
him an effective leverage upon European affairs. Such influence lay
within the field neither of his gifts nor of his desires. Such effect
as he might have upon the course of events must come through the
natural channel of his work as a scholar and a critic.

The difficulty of our problem is greatly increased by the almost
hopeless complication of questions which entered into that one
great demonstration we call the Reformation. Even at this distance
of time it is impossible, without resorting to some rather large
generalisation, to say in a single phrase what the issue of the
Reformation was. Still less, of course, was such clear discrimination
possible to one who stood, as Erasmus did, in the midst of these
rapid and ever-shifting and often conflicting currents and was called
upon to say just where his standing-ground was, or with which one of
these currents he was willing to drift.

Luther nailed his Theses on Indulgences to the door of the
Palace-Church at Wittenberg on the last day of October in the year
1517. When and where the news of this action reached Erasmus we
do not know. It is impossible that it can have been more than a
few weeks before he, in common with all intelligent persons, had
read this first proclamation of a war that was to be to the death.
The Theses attacked indulgences, but these were only the outward
form under which the whole theory of a mechanical salvation was
expressed. If the indulgence was wrong, not merely in practice, but
in theory as well, then the whole church system, in so far as it was
a soul-saving apparatus, was wrong too. Doubtless there was room for
infinite refinements upon this simple deduction. The same thesis
about indulgences had been put forth many times before. Men had
come to the same conclusions by many different roads; but never yet
had any one person travelled so many of these roads. In Luther there
spoke the monk, who had tried faithfully the method of conformity;
the priest, who had gone directly to the souls of men with the
consolations of religious hope; the scholar, who had caught the gleam
of that new light of reason which was changing the whole aspect of
human thought; the patriot, who saw his fellow-countrymen victimised
by a vast foreign oppression; and finally the man, who had worked
through the awful problem of human sinfulness until he saw it clearly
solved by reference to the common inheritance of humanity.

That is why Luther's appeal was heard. Everyone to whom it came found
in it some echo of his own experience. From every part of Europe
and from every human interest came almost immediately a response
which showed that a voice had been heard for which men had long
been waiting. The Theses were a temperate document. The tone of
impatience, even of violence, that was to mark so much of Luther's
later writing, was here as yet only suggested by a rare decision and
certainty of utterance. Already Luther spoke as one who could not
help it. At last the conflict had forced itself upon him, and for
him, being the man he was, there was no alternative. The form of the
Theses was that of a challenge to discussion. Luther put himself
forward as a learner, who was prepared to change his view whenever
a better one should appear. The replies, in so far as they were
hostile, simply continued the discussion.

Probably there was no other man in Europe from whom a decisive word
in his favour would have been so welcome to Luther as a word at this
moment from Erasmus. Nor, on the other hand, was there a champion
whom the existing system would more gladly have seen on its side.
The word was not spoken, but neither did Erasmus array himself as
yet frankly in opposition to Luther. Indeed we have no reason to
believe that the issue in all its magnitude was clearly present to
his thought.

Some things he saw only too clearly. His clever, analytical mind
perceived that usages and forms might in themselves be innocent or
even helpful, while the wrong use of them was harmful in the extreme.
So his instinct was in every case to say: Let us amend the wrong use
of these things, but let us not disturb the innocent and helpful
practice itself. Whatever subject he touched called out at once this
overfine discriminating power. He drew a picture of the thing he
wanted to express and believed himself to be heightening the effect
of this picture when he refined upon it until its outlines became
obscured and the very effect he had aimed at was defeated. The art
of fine distinctions was an admirable one. The question of the hour,
however, was not to be solved in that way. The time had come when men
were going down deep below these refinements and were about to ask
the fatal question: whether forms and systems which could not bear
the strain of daily use by plain human nature without gross abuses,
were not better reformed out of existence once for all. Erasmus
said, "Be good and all these evils will vanish." Quite true, but if
all men were good there would be no need of institutions at all. The
question was, whether the experiment had not been tried long enough,
and that was the issue which Erasmus seems not to have grasped.

For the moment the discussion turned on the question of indulgences.
On this subject Erasmus had made no utterance which could be
understood as committing him on the theory as a whole. In the Praise
of Folly he had ridiculed the grosser absurdities of the practice,
especially the counting up of the days and years of redemption from
Purgatory, as if salvation were a thing of the multiplication-table.
The teaching of the Enchiridion was hopelessly against any such
conception of moral regeneration. Anyone who had read Erasmus could
not have a moment's doubt that the system of indulgences, as it was
practised throughout Europe, must have been repulsive to him in the
extreme. The idea that Erasmus could ever have invested a penny in
such traffic for the advantage of his own soul or that of anyone dear
to him, was grotesquely absurd. Moreover the circumstances of that
special sale of indulgences in Germany which called out the wrath of
Luther were such as must have seemed equally outrageous to Erasmus.
The barefaced openness with which the Prince Elector of Mainz had
lent himself to the papal exaction, on condition that half the
plunder should go into his own pocket to pay for the _pallium_ which
the papacy itself had just granted him, brought out into clearest
relief the purely mercantile nature of the whole transaction. It
required all the hair-splitting of all the schools to carry a man
through the stages of that bargain and leave him at last with any
tenderness whatever for the system that made it possible. Yet this
was precisely the feat which Erasmus was apparently to perform.

We gain a glimpse at the working of his mind on this subject in the
letter to Volzius, called forth by criticism of the Enchiridion, and
dated in August, 1518[121]:

  [121] iii.¹, 343-E.

   "If anyone finds fault with the preposterous opinion of the
   vulgar, which gives to the highest virtues the lowest place and
   _vice versa_ and is specially shocked by unimportant evils and
   the reverse, then one is straightway called to account as if
   one favoured those evils which seem to him less than some other
   evil; or as if he were condemning certain good actions because
   he thinks others are even better. So if one teaches that it is
   safer to trust in good deeds than in the papal pardons, he is
   not condemning those pardons, but is giving the preference to
   what is more certainly in accord with the teaching of Christ.
   So also, if one thinks that they act more wisely who stay at
   home and look after their wives and children, than they who go
   running about to Rome or Jerusalem or Compostella, and that
   the money wasted in long and dangerous journeys were much more
   piously spent upon the worthy and honest poor, one is not
   condemning the pious impulse of those persons, but is only
   preferring what comes nearer to true piety. In truth it is not
   a fault of our times alone to attack certain evils as if they
   were the only ones, while we smooth over, as if they were not
   evils at all, others far worse than those we are abusing."

One feels here an allusion to that overemphasis on outward
organisation which was to be Erasmus' great objection to the
German reform. Instead of this he would have the true value of the
institution so clearly brought out that it would counteract all
tendency to abuse. This letter was one of the last pieces of Erasmus'
writing at Basel before the long illness of which he speaks in the
letter about his journey to Louvain. He had spent the year 1518
chiefly at Basel in tireless industry. He arrived at Louvain only,
as we have seen, to break down again. It was 1519 before we find him
drawn directly into the Lutheran controversy.

The letter to Volzius just quoted was printed as a preface to a
new edition of the Enchiridion in 1518. The first step in the
correspondence with Luther was taken by Luther himself in March,
1519, and seems to have been suggested by the very passage we have
here made use of to show Erasmus' feeling about indulgences. Luther's
tone in this first letter is eminently characteristic of his attitude
during these early years of his public activity. It is modest
and self-depreciating to a degree. Words fail him to express his
admiration for the great scholar. It is really monstrous that they
should not know each other, when he has so long been worshipping in

  [122] i., 423-D.

   "Who is there whose inmost being is not filled by Erasmus?
   Who is not being taught by Erasmus? In whom does not Erasmus
   reign?--I mean, of course, among those who have a true love of
   letters. For I am glad enough and I reckon it among the gifts of
   Christ, that there are many who do not approve of you. By this
   test I discern the gifts of a loving from those of an angry God,
   and I congratulate you that while you are most acceptable to all
   good men, you are equally disliked by those who would like to be
   thought the only great ones and the only ones to be accepted.
   But here am I, clumsy fellow, approaching you thus familiarly
   with unwashed hands and without formal phrases of reverence and
   honour, as one unknown person might address another. I beg you
   by your kind nature, lay this to the account of my affection
   or my inexperience. In truth, I whose life has been passed
   among the schoolmen, have not so much as learned how to address
   a truly learned man by letter. Otherwise, how I would have
   wearied you already with epistles! I would not have suffered
   you alone to speak to me all this time in my study. Now, since
   I have learned from Fabricius Capito that my name is known to
   you through my trifles about indulgences and learned also from
   your most recent preface to the Enchiridion, that my notions
   have not only been seen, but have also been accepted by you, I
   am compelled to acknowledge, even though in barbarous style,
   your noble spirit, which enriches me and all men.... And so, my
   dear and amiable Erasmus, if you shall see fit, recognise this
   your younger brother in Christ, indeed a most devoted admirer of
   yours, but worthy, in his ignorance, only to be buried in his
   corner and to be unknown to the same sky and sun with you."

The letter closes with an affectionate eulogy of Philip Melanchthon
as the indispensable companion of his studies.

There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Luther's attitude at
this critical moment. It was quite true that Erasmus was far beyond
him in scholarly attainment and reputation. It was true also that the
plain meaning of Erasmus' reference to indulgences in the preface to
the Enchiridion was directly in accord with Luther's own position in
the Theses. If he could be made now, in some more decided manner, to
commit himself to Luther's cause, it would be a great point gained
for reform.

Erasmus gave himself two months before answering these first advances
of Luther. His reply is what we might, from our previous knowledge,
have predicted. The letter appeals to him strongly[123]:

  [123] iii.¹, 444-D

   "Beloved brother in Christ, your letter was most acceptable, at
   once showing the subtilty of your genius and breathing the very
   spirit of Christ."

Then his own personality comes in and he is completely absorbed in
the effect of Luther's action upon himself.

   "I have no words to tell you what an excitement your books have
   raised here. Up to the present moment the false suspicion cannot
   be torn from the minds of these creatures that your works have
   been written by my assistance and that I am the standard-bearer
   of this 'faction' as they call it. Some think that a handle is
   given them for attacking sound learning, toward which they have
   a deadly hatred as an offence against Her Theological Majesty,
   for whom they care vastly more than they do for Christ,--and
   also for quashing me, whom they fancy to be of some avail in
   encouraging learning.

   "The whole affair is carried on with shoutings, with insolent
   cunning, with slander and trickery, so that if I had not seen
   it--nay, even felt it myself, I would never have believed, on
   any authority, that theologians could be so insane. You might
   suppose it was a regular plague; and yet the poison of this evil
   began with a few and crept into the many, so that now a great
   part of this much frequented university is infected with this
   poisonous disease. I have sworn that you were totally unknown
   to me, that I had not yet read your books, and therefore that
   I neither approved nor disapproved anything in them. I only
   advised them not to keep bawling out so hatefully to the people
   about your books, which they had not yet read, but to await the
   judgment of those whose opinion ought to have most weight. I
   begged them to consider whether it was well to abuse before a
   promiscuous crowd things which ought more properly to be refuted
   in books or discussed by learned men, especially as there was
   but one opinion as to the excellence of the author's life. But
   nothing did any good;--so furious are they in their underhanded
   and scandalous discussions."


He, Erasmus, becomes at once the central point in his own field of
vision. Luther has friends in England, even some in Louvain.

   "But I keep myself, so far as I can, _integrum_ [shall we say
   'uncompromised'?] in order that I may the better serve the
   reviving cause of letters; and I think a well-mannered reserve
   will accomplish more than violence, etc. We ought to keep an
   even temper, lest it be spoiled by anger, hatred, or vainglory;
   for in the very midst of a zeal for religion these things are
   apt to be lying in wait for us. I am not urging you to do all
   this, but just to keep on as you are doing. I have glanced over
   (_degustavi_) your commentaries on the Psalms; they appeal to me
   greatly and I hope they will be of great value."

We have omitted a string of commonplaces about moderation and
gentleness, which must have helped to make this letter rather cold
comfort to Luther. If it meant anything to him, it meant that Erasmus
really agreed with his views on indulgences and the state of the
Church in general, but was already dreading the effect of putting
these views boldly and clearly before the world. What Luther wanted
in the spring of 1519 was not pious exhortation to keep his temper,
but a grip of the hand and a frank word of approval. Whether Erasmus
was going to have a bad time with the men of darkness at Louvain
could not interest him. The question was: would Erasmus stand by
him,--yes or no? and so far the answer was not encouraging. To one
who knew the kind of language Erasmus was wont to apply to his
opponents, it must have seemed grotesquely out of place for him to
exhort Luther to gentleness of speech.

The dread of being charged with the authorship of Luther's works and
of others similar in their purpose, seems to have been the one thing
uppermost in the mind of Erasmus during these years 1518 and 1519.
His correspondence is full of it. He took pains, in a fashion which
he had never before shown, to set himself right with all the great
persons with whom he had any connection.

The earliest in the group of apologetic letters brought out by the
charge that Luther was only expressing Erasmus' ideas in somewhat
bolder form is one written to Cardinal Wolsey in May, 1518.[124] Here
begin the phrases afterwards to become so familiar:

  [124] This is Leclerc's date. Stichart prefers Dec. 18, 1517.

   "Luther is as unknown to me as he is to anyone, nor have I
   had leisure to turn over his books except here and there
   a page;--not that I shrank from the work, but that other
   occupations left me no time for it. And yet certain persons,
   as I hear, are saying that I have been helping him. If he
   has written well I deserve no praise; if otherwise I merit
   no blame--since in all his writings not so much as one jot
   is mine, and anyone can prove this who wishes to investigate
   it. The man's way of life is approved by all, and this is no
   slight argument in his favour, that his character is so sound
   that not even enemies can find anything to criticise. But even
   if I had ever so much time for reading him I cannot take upon
   myself to pronounce upon the writings of so great a man, even
   though nowadays boys are everywhere, with the greatest boldness,
   declaring this to be false and that to be heretical. At one time
   indeed I was a little hard upon Luther, fearing that some cause
   for enmity against sound learning might be given, and desiring
   not to see that cause burdened any further. For I could not
   help seeing how much enmity would be aroused if things were
   to be broken up from which a rich harvest was being reaped by
   priests and monks.

   "There appeared first quite a number of propositions about papal
   indulgences; then one and another pamphlet about confession and
   penance. When I heard that certain persons were eager to publish
   these I seriously advised against it, lest they should be
   adding to the enmity against learning. There will be witnesses
   of this, even men who wish well to Luther. Finally there came
   a swarm of pamphlets; no one saw me reading them; no one heard
   me praising them or not praising them. For I am not so rash as
   to approve what I have not read, nor such a trickster as to
   condemn what I know nothing about,--though this is nowadays a
   regular practice of those who ought to know better. Germany has
   some young men who give great promise of learning and eloquence,
   through whose work I predict that she may some day have cause to
   boast as England is now boasting with the best of reasons. Of
   these no one is personally known to me except Eobanus, Hutten,
   and Beatus. These men are fighting with every form of weapon
   against the enemies of the languages and of sound learning,
   which all good men are favouring. I should admit myself that
   their freedom of speech was intolerable, did I not know in
   what shameful fashion they are annoyed both in public and in
   private. Their opponents allow themselves in public preaching,
   in schools, in banquets, to declaim anything they please in the
   most hateful, nay, in the most treasonable manner, before the
   ignorant multitude, yet think it an unbearable thing if one of
   these scholars dares to comment. Why! the very bees have stings
   to strike with when they are hurt and flies have teeth to defend
   themselves if they are attacked. Whence comes this new race of
   gods? They make 'heretics' of whom they will, but move heaven
   and earth if anyone calls them slanderers....

   "I am in favour of these scholars in this sense: that I look
   rather to their virtues than to their vices. And when one
   considers how soaked in vice were those men who in Italy
   and France gave the first impulse to the revival of ancient
   learning, one cannot help favouring these men of ours whose
   characters are such that their theological censors would do well
   to imitate them rather than abuse them.

   "Now whatever they write is suspected to be my work, even with
   you in England, if only men of affairs who come hither from
   there are telling the truth. Indeed, I confess frankly: I cannot
   help admiring their talent, but a too free pen I approve in no
   man. First Hutten sent out as a joke his _Nemo_; everyone knows
   the argument of it was mere folly, but the Louvain theologians
   kept saying it was my work, and they fancy themselves more
   sharp-sighted than Lynceus himself. Then came the _Febris_
   [also by Hutten]; that was mine too! though the whole spirit
   and style of it differed from mine. Then appeared the _Oratio_
   of Mosellanus in which he takes the part of the three languages
   against these tongue-lashers. They thought to make me smart
   for it, even when I had not yet heard that the _Oratio_ was in
   existence; as if whatever comes into the head of this man or
   that man to write, I must be accountable for it or as if I had
   not enough to do to defend what I have written myself. They
   are Germans; they are young men; they have pens; they are not
   wanting in ability; nor are there lacking those who irritate
   them by their hatred, nor those who spur them on, and then pour
   cold water on them.

   "All these I have warned in my letters to keep their freedom
   within bounds; at all events not to attack the leading men of
   the Church, lest they provoke against learning the hostility of
   those very men through whose patronage it is standing up against
   its enemies and thus burden the defenders of polite letters with
   this enmity. But what can I do? I can warn, but I cannot compel.
   To moderate my own style is within my power, but not to answer
   for another's pen. The most ridiculous thing is that the recent
   work of the bishop of Rochester against Faber is ascribed to me,
   whereas the difference of style is as great as I am far removed
   from the learning of that divine prelate. Why! there were some
   who charged More's _Utopia_ upon me! whatever appears is mine,
   willing or no....

   "I have never sent forth a work, and I never will, without
   putting my name to it. Some time ago I wrote for amusement my
   _Moria_, without malice though perhaps with more than enough
   freedom of speech. But I have always taken pains that nothing
   should go forth from me which could corrupt youth by its
   obscenity, or could in any way offend religion, or give rise to
   sedition or party violence, or make a single black line upon the
   good name of another. The sweat I have spent up to this time
   has been spent in aiding solid learning and in advancing the
   religion of Christ. All are thanking me for it on every hand,
   excepting a very few theologians and monks, who refuse to be
   made either better or more learned....

   "If anyone cares to make the trial he will find Erasmus serving
   the See of Rome with his whole heart and especially Leo the
   tenth, to whose piety he is well aware how much he is indebted."

Precisely the same tone of nervous anxiety about himself appears in
a letter to Cardinal Campeggio, the papal legate in England.[125] He
assures him that, so far as in him lay, he has tried to maintain the
cause of Christ and the Church. Of course he cannot please everyone,
but he has been satisfied with the praise of the best men from Pope
Leo down.

  [125] iii.¹, 436.

   "But see," he cries, "the perverse and ungrateful ill-will of
   some men. They do not trust to writings and arguments, but
   attack me with slanderous tricks. Whatever books come out in
   these days, in which anybody is too free with his pranks, they
   put it upon me. There appeared the _Nemo_--for that is the name
   of a certain silly book; they charged me with it and would
   have made out their case if the angry author had not appeared
   and claimed his work for himself. There came out certain
   foolish letters and there were plenty of people to say I had
   helped to write them. Finally there came--I know not with what
   parentage--a work of Martin Luther, an author as unknown to me
   as the most unknown person in the world; I have not yet read the
   book through and yet at the very beginning they kept saying it
   was my work, the truth being that not one stroke in it is mine."

He begs Campeggio to contradict these scandalous lies, and to rest
assured that he never has written and never will write books of this
sort. The cardinal's reply was as friendly and reassuring as could
be wished, but may interest us especially because it makes no direct
reference to the Lutheran movement.

To Pope Leo Erasmus wrote in regard to the second edition of his New
Testament.[126] The first edition had been, he says, well received
by all but very few. His description of these few critics is highly

  [126] iii.¹, 490.

   "Some are too stupid to be convinced by reasonable argument;
   some too conceited to be willing to learn better; some too
   obstinate to give up their position, bad though it be; some too
   old to hope ever to do anything worth doing; some so ambitious
   that they cannot bear to seem to have been ignorant of anything;
   but all are men of such a kind, that it is not worth while to
   try for their approval. Indeed that was a clever saying of
   Seneca: 'There are people by whom it is better to be abused than

   "Among these people there is scarce one who has read my books.
   They were afraid for their power, some even for their gain,
   if the world should begin to grow wiser. What they themselves
   really think I know not, but they try to make the uneducated
   crowd believe that a knowledge of the languages and what
   they call good letters are opposed to the study of theology,
   whereas there is no science to which they are a greater help
   and adornment. These men, born under the wrath of the Muses and
   the Graces, are fighting ceaselessly against learning, which in
   these our days is just rising to greater fruitfulness. Their
   chief hope of victory is in slanderous trickery. If they come
   out in books they simply betray their folly and ignorance.
   If they are met by reasoning, the evident truth overcomes
   them at once. So they confine themselves to making an uproar
   with the ignorant mob and among foolish women, who are easy
   to impose upon, especially under the pretext of religion,
   which these people are wonderfully clever in assuming. They
   put forth terrible words--'heresy!' 'Antichrist!' They keep
   declaring that the Christian religion is in danger and already
   toppling over, and pretend that they are holding it up on their
   shoulders; and in all these hateful charges they mingle the
   names of the languages and of polite literature. These horrible
   things, they say, have sprung from 'poetry'--for so they call
   whatever belongs to elegant learning--that is, whatever they
   themselves do not understand. Such nonsense as this they do not
   hesitate to blather out in public sermons, and then ask to be
   called heralds of apostolic doctrine! They abuse the name of the
   Roman pontiff and of the Roman see, a thing sacred to everyone,
   as it ought to be.

   "By these trickeries they are preparing to assault the cause
   of letters, now just beginning to flourish, and also that
   purified theology which is learning to know once more its own
   true sources. Nothing is left untried; every sort of calumny
   is thought out against those by whose work these studies seem
   to be growing; and among these they reckon me. Now, how much
   of importance I have contributed I know not, but surely I have
   striven with all my might to kindle men from those chilling
   argumentations in which they had so long been frozen up, to
   zeal for a theology which should be at once more pure and more
   serious. And that this labour has so far not been in vain I
   perceive from this, that certain persons are furious against me,
   who cannot value anything which they are not able to teach and
   are ashamed to learn. But, trusting to Christ as my witness,
   whom my writings above all would guard, to the judgment of your
   Holiness, to my own sense of right, and the approval of so many
   distinguished men, I have always disregarded the yelpings of
   these people. Whatever little talent I have, it has been, once
   for all, dedicated to Christ; it shall serve his glory alone; it
   shall serve the Roman Church, the prince of that Church, but
   especially your Holiness, to whom I owe more than my whole duty.

   "I might, if I had listened to other arguments, have been
   advanced to wealth and dignities; I can prove by the most solemn
   testimony that what I am saying is true. But this seemed to me a
   greater reward; I preferred to serve the glory of Christ, rather
   than my own. From a boy I have made it my care never to write
   anything irreligious or scurrilous or against authority. Or if I
   formerly chattered away a little too freely, after the habit of
   youth, certainly nothing becomes my present age but serious and
   holy things. No one was ever made one hair the blacker or the
   less religious by my writings; no disturbance has ever arisen
   or ever shall arise on my account. No malice of my accusers
   shall ever overcome this fixed determination of my mind. Let
   others see to it what they write; I am not judging the slave of
   another; let every man stand or fall to his own master. My only
   grief is that through the bitter controversies of some persons
   the peace of learning and of the Christian commonwealth is being

Here he seems to shift his ground from the attacks of the men of
darkness to the Lutheran "tragedy."

   "The affair seems no longer to be conducted with the weapons of
   argument, but the battle rages with violent abuse on both sides;
   biting pamphlets are the weapons and the uproar is swelling
   into madness, with mutual maledictions. There is no one, unless
   he were more than man, who does not sometimes slip, but these
   human lapses, if they are of such sort that we cannot wink at
   them, ought to be corrected with Christian charity. Now they
   are turning to evil even that which is rightly spoken, often
   that which they do not understand. With bitter words they make
   raw sores which might have been healed by Christian gentleness;
   they alienate by harshness men whom they might have kept by
   kindness. The word 'heresy' is straightway in their mouths, if
   at any point they differ or wish to seem to differ. If anything
   does not exactly suit them, they raise seditious cries among the
   rude and untaught people. These things, springing from slight
   beginnings, have often kindled a widespread conflagration, and
   it comes to pass that an evil, overlooked at first as of small
   account, increasing little by little, finally bursts forth
   into a serious disturbance of the peace of Christendom. Great
   praise is due to those excellent kings who have quieted the very
   beginnings of these dissensions, as Henry VIII. in England,
   and Francis I. in France. In Germany, because that country is
   divided up among so many little kings, the same cannot be done.
   Among us, since we have but just acquired our prince [Charles
   V. was elected emperor, June 28, 1519], great and excellent as
   he is, yet he is so far removed that, up to the present time,
   certain men are exciting tumults without reproof. I think,
   therefore, that your Holiness would be acting most acceptably
   to Christ if you should impose silence upon such contentions as
   these and should do for the whole Christian world what Henry
   and Francis have done, each for his own kingdom. Your piety is
   bringing the most powerful kings into harmony; it remains for
   you, by the same means, to restore to learning the peace which
   is its due. This will come to pass, if by your order they who
   cannot speak shall cease their babbling against polite learning,
   and they who have no tongues for blessing shall cease cursing
   those who are devoted to the tongues."

This letter rewards somewhat careful reading. Two ideas are obviously
before the writer's mind: First, the cause of sound learning and its
application to theology, the cause with which he identifies himself
so completely that every attack upon it seems a personal assault upon
him, and _vice versa_. Second, the Lutheran uprising, now beginning
to show its possibilities of danger. Erasmus names no names, but
the solemn warning to the pope as to the little flame that may grow
to a consuming fire seems to point plainly enough to Luther, and
the distinction so carefully drawn between Germany and the compact
monarchies of France and England confirms this idea. It is a warning
prophetic in its clearness of insight, but naïve to the point of
childishness in its suggestions of a remedy. The new little emperor
was not only _ingenti semotus intervallo_ from the field of Luther's
activity, but the very constitution of Germany made it utterly out of
the question that he could take any action whatever against Luther
except by the consent of the prince who was his immediate sovereign.
The "_reguli_," the "little kings" in Germany, had not bought their
independence by centuries of conflict to suffer any such burnings at
the stake and cutting-off of heads by any emperor as those capable
youths, Henry and Francis, could command at will in London or Paris.

Nor was there any more promise in Erasmus' suggestion that the pope
should order the parties in conflict to keep silence. The Leipzig
disputation of Luther with John Eck in July of this same year (1519)
was to bring out clearly that, after all, the real issue touched the
papal authority, and when that was questioned it was idle to imagine
that any papal action whatever could really affect the course of

There is a certain variation upon this suggestion in the dedication
to Cardinal Campeggio of the paraphrases of certain epistles of Paul
in 1519.[127] After a most flattering eulogy of Leo X. for his great
interest in sound learning, Erasmus says:

  [127] vii., 969.

   "If a means of pacification is sought for, I think it might
   most easily be accomplished if the pope should command that
   each person prepare a statement of his own belief and set it
   forth, without abuse of opposing views, so that the madness
   of tongue and pen may be restrained, especially by those to
   whom such control belongs. But if there is a difference, as
   it often happens that our judgments differ like our tastes,
   let the whole contention be held within the limits of courtesy
   and not run over into mad excess. And if there be any point
   specially touching upon doctrine--for everything ought not to be
   dragged in, neck and heels, under the head of doctrine--let it
   be discussed by men who are thoroughly versed in the mysteries
   of the faith, who will not seek their own interests under the
   pretence of the faith and who will carry on the affair with
   prudent judgment, not with seditious disturbances."

Erasmus thinks he can easily persuade Campeggio and that the cardinal
will easily persuade the excellent Leo. Where the superhuman beings
are to be found who will carry out his innocent suggestions he does
not say. We are bound to give him credit for any constructive ideas
he may have had, and in all his writings there is nothing that comes
much nearer to positive constructive planning than this.

If one may judge from the letter to Leo, Erasmus' early conception
of the Lutheran movement was much like that which prevailed at Rome.
It was a squabble of monks; Luther was an Augustinian, Tetzel a
Dominican. Most monks were enemies of learning--Luther was a man of
learning, but inclined to violence and not willing to keep the matter
to a purely intellectual issue. He was, of course, right on many
points, but was going too fast and was drawing after him many foolish
people, who ought to be held in check by the established powers.

Quite the same tone appears in a long letter[128] to Albert of
Brandenburg, archbishop of Mainz, the papal agent in the German
indulgence of 1517 and the principal clergyman in Germany. Erasmus
takes the opportunity of acknowledging the gift of a loving-cup from
the archbishop to go at length into the Lutheran question. He reaches
it again through the medium of his own personal difficulties. For a
time, he says, he had made peace with the "theologians" at Louvain.
They were to hold their scandalous tongues; he was to do his best
to keep his pen still. If only they had had the archbishop's cup to
drink their mutual faith in, the agreement might have lasted longer.
As it is, an unhappy letter, badly understood and worse interpreted,
has brought on an attack more furious than ever. He begs to

  [128] iii., 513-D.

  [129] iii.¹, 514-A.

   "In the first place, I have never had anything to do, either
   with the Reuchlin business or with the affair of Luther.
   Whatever Cabala and Talmud may be, they have never attracted
   me. Those contentions between Reuchlin and the followers of
   Hoogstraaten were most displeasing to me. Luther is to me
   unknown as the most unknown of men. His writings I have not had
   time to read, excepting that I have just barely skimmed over
   some of them."

It is very difficult to believe that these statements are true.
Erasmus had interested himself in Reuchlin's affairs enough to write
to two Roman cardinals in his behalf. He knew enough about Luther's
writings to have convinced himself that their tone was too decided to
suit him; if he had not read every word of them, he was thoroughly
informed as to their contents. The motive of his denial appears in
the next words:

   "If he has written well, no praise belongs to me, if not there
   is nothing which can be laid to my charge.... I was sorry that
   the books of Luther were published and when first some writings
   or other of his began to be shown about, I did my best to
   prevent their publication, especially because I feared that
   some tumult would be caused thereby. Luther had written me a
   letter in what I thought a very Christian spirit and I answered,
   warning the man not to write anything seditious or insolent
   against the Roman pontiff, but to preach the apostolic doctrine
   with pure heart and in all gentleness. I did this politely that
   it might have the more effect. I added that there were some here
   who favoured him, that he might the more accommodate himself to
   their judgment. Now some have most stupidly interpreted these
   words as if I favoured Luther, whereas no one of those persons
   gave him any advice; I was the only one who warned him. I am
   neither the accuser of Luther, nor his patron, nor his judge. As
   to the man's spirit, I dare not judge him, for that is a most
   difficult matter, especially if I must judge him unfavourably.

   "And yet, even if I did favour him as a good man, which his
   enemies admit him to be; or as an accused man, and that the laws
   permit even to sworn judges; or as a man oppressed and crushed
   down by those who, under some made-up pretext, are working all
   they can against pure learning, what ground of fault-finding
   against me were that, so long as I do not mix myself in the
   matter? In fine, it seems to me the part of a Christian to
   favour Luther, in this sense, that if he is innocent I do not
   wish him to be crushed by the factions of the wicked; if he is
   wrong I wish him to be set right, not ruined....

   "But now certain theologians whom I know are neither warning
   nor teaching Luther, but are only with mad howlings reviling
   him before the people and tearing him in pieces with the most
   violent abuse and continually having in their mouths the words
   'heresy!', 'heretic', 'heresiarch!', 'schism!', 'antichrist!'
   It cannot be denied that these clamours were raised among the
   people chiefly by men who had never seen the books of Luther.
   It is well proved that things are condemned by these people as
   heretical in Luther which in Bernard or Augustine are read as
   orthodox, nay, as pious words. I warned them at the beginning
   to abstain from clamour of this sort and to carry on the
   affair rather with writings and arguments. I said they ought
   not publicly to condemn what they had not read and carefully
   thought out, I will not say, understood. Then I told them it
   was unbecoming for theologians to carry anything through by
   violence, for their judgment ought to be of the most serious
   kind, and that it was not an easy thing to gain their point
   by raging against a man whose life was approved by everyone.
   Finally, that perhaps it was not a safe thing to touch upon
   such matters before a mixed crowd, in which there are many who
   greatly dislike the confession of secret sins and if these
   should hear that there are theologians who say one need not
   confess all faults, they will readily snatch at it and get a
   perverted notion. Now though all this must strike every man of
   spirit as it does me, yet from this friendly admonition they
   have conceived the suspicion that Luther's books are in great
   part mine, and produced at Louvain, whereas not one stroke in
   them is mine or published with my knowledge or my will. Still,
   acting upon this false suspicion and in spite of all denial,
   they have raised here disturbances more furious than I have ever
   seen in my life.

   "Further, though the special function of theologians is to
   teach, I see many nowadays who are doing nothing but compelling
   men, bringing them to ruin or to silence, whereas Augustine,
   even in the case of the Donatists, who were not merely heretics
   but furious brigands, does not approve those who would merely
   compel, without also teaching them. Men to whom gentleness is
   a duty, seem to be simply thirsting for human blood, so eager
   are they to ensnare and ruin Luther. Now this is playing the
   butcher, not the theologian. If they want to show themselves
   great theologians let them convert the Jews, let them turn to
   Christ those who are strangers to him, let them mend the public
   morals of Christians, even more corrupt than those of Turks.
   What justice is there in leading him to punishment, who has now
   first proposed for discussion things which have always been
   discussed in all the schools of theologians? Why ought he to be
   persecuted, who begs to be instructed, who submits himself to
   the judgment of the Roman See and of the schools, which they
   call 'universities?' And if he refuses to trust himself in the
   hands of certain persons who would rather see him crushed than
   instructed, surely that is not strange."

For a man who was a total stranger to Luther and his books, Erasmus
shows himself surprisingly well informed.

   "Let us examine into the origin of the present troubles. The
   world is burdened with human devices, with the opinions and the
   dogmas of the schools, with the tyranny of the Mendicant Friars,
   who, though they are the servants of the Roman See, are making
   themselves a danger to the pope himself and even to kings, by
   their power and their numbers. When the pope is working for
   them he is more than a God; if he does anything contrary to
   their convenience, he is of no more account than a dream. I am
   not condemning them all; but very many are the kind of persons,
   who for the sake of power and gain are seeking to ensnare
   the consciences of men. With shameless effrontery they were
   beginning to leave out Christ entirely and to preach nothing but
   their own novel and impudent doctrines. About indulgences they
   were talking in a way that not even idiots could stand. Through
   this and many other things the vigour of apostolic teaching was
   gradually disappearing and it was likely to happen that things
   would go from bad to worse until that spark of Christian piety
   should be extinguished, from which the dying flame of Christian
   love might have been rekindled. The whole of religion was
   turning towards more than Jewish ceremonialism. Good men grieved
   over all these things. Even theologians who are not monks, and
   some monks, confessed to them in private conversation. These are
   the things, as I think, which first moved the heart of Luther to
   set himself boldly against the intolerable insolence of certain
   persons. For what else can I suspect of a man who is aiming at
   neither honours nor wealth? As to the propositions which they
   object to in Luther, I am not at present discussing them, but
   only the manner and the occasion of them.

   "Luther dared to have doubts about indulgences, but others
   before him had made bold enough statements about these. He
   dared to speak rather unrestrainedly about the authority of the
   Roman pontiff; but others had shown little enough restraint in
   this matter, and among them especially Alvarus, Sylvester, and
   the cardinal of San Sisto. He dared despise the judgment of
   St. Thomas, but the Dominicans had almost set Thomas above the
   Gospels. He dared in the matter of the confessional to discuss
   certain scruples, but in this thing the monks have entangled the
   consciences of men without limit. He dared in part to despise
   the conclusions of the schools; but they had laid far too
   great weight upon these, and yet cannot agree upon them among
   themselves, but are always changing them, cutting out the old
   and putting in new. This was a pain to pious souls: to hear in
   the schools scarcely a word about the apostolic teaching,
   but to learn that the ancient sacred writers, long approved by
   the Church, were now quite antiquated, and to hear in public
   preaching seldom a word of Christ, but always of the power of
   the pope and the opinions of the moderns; to know that the
   whole discourse was filled with lust of gain, with flatteries,
   ambition, and deceit.

  [Illustration: ERASMUS WITH "TERMINUS."

   "I think the blame ought to be put upon these things, if Luther
   wrote a little too violently. Whoever defends the apostolic
   doctrine defends the pope, who is its chief herald, as the rest
   of the bishops are his heralds. All bishops stand in the place
   of Christ, but among them the Roman pontiff stands first. We
   must believe of him that he cares for nothing more than the
   glory of Christ, whose minister he boasts himself to be. They
   deserve very badly of him who ascribe to him things which he
   would not himself recognise and which are far from helpful to
   the flock of Christ. And yet some who are stirring up these
   disorders are not doing it out of love for the pope, but are
   abusing his authority for their own profit and power. We have,
   as I believe, a pious pope; but in the vast flood of affairs
   there are many things of which he is ignorant, which even if
   he would he cannot get at, but as Virgil says, the driver is
   'swept along by the steeds and the car heeds not the rein.' He
   therefore is aiding the good-will of the pope, who exhorts him
   to those things that are especially worthy of Christ.

   "It is no secret that there are persons who are stirring up
   his Holiness against Luther and against all who dare to murmur
   against their dogmas. But the great princes ought rather to
   consider what is demanded by the permanent will of the pope,
   than by a loyalty extorted by base means. What kind of people
   the authors of these dissensions are I could make perfectly
   clear, if I did not fear that while I am telling the truth I
   may seem to be uttering abuse. Many of them I know intimately;
   many have declared their quality by their writings, so that no
   mirror could more clearly reflect the image of their heart and
   life. Would that they who take up the Censor's rod to drive out
   of the Senate of Christians whomever they will, had drunk more
   deeply of the teaching and the spirit of Christ....

   "I say these things the more freely because I stand in every way
   utterly apart from the case of Reuchlin and Luther. I should
   never care to write things of that sort, nor can I claim so much
   learning for myself as to defend what others have written, but
   I cannot help making this mystery plain: that those men [the
   opponents of Luther] are aiming at something quite different
   from what they pretend. They have long been unable to bear
   the idea of sound learning and the languages flourishing, the
   ancient authors coming to life, who were until just now lying
   covered with dust and eaten up by moths, the world called back
   to the original sources themselves. They tremble for their own
   emptiness, they are unwilling to appear ignorant of anything;
   they fear to lose something of their own authority. They have
   long been pressing upon this sore, and at last it has broken,
   for the pain could no longer be concealed. Before the books of
   Luther appeared they were most urgent in this thing, especially
   Dominicans and Carmelites, of whom I would that many were not
   more wicked than ignorant.

   "When Luther's books came out they seized upon them as a
   handle and began to bring the cause of the languages, of sound
   learning, of Reuchlin and Luther, nay, even my cause also,
   together into one bundle,--making not only a bad exposition, but
   also a bad distinction. For, in the first place, what has sound
   learning to do with the question of faith, and, in the next
   place, what have I to do with the case of Reuchlin and Luther?
   But these people have cunningly mingled these matters together
   so as to involve in one common hatred all who cultivate sound
   learning. That they are not acting honestly is evident from this
   fact: they confess that there is no one among ancient or modern
   writers who has not made mistakes and they will make a heretic
   of anyone who obstinately defends himself; but why do they pass
   over the rest and so persistently examine into one or two? They
   are not disturbed because Alvarus and the cardinal of San Sisto
   and Sylvester Prierias have often erred; they say not a word of
   these because they are Dominicans. They cry out against Reuchlin
   alone because he is an enthusiastic lover of the languages;
   against Luther because they imagine him to be endowed with our
   learning, whereas he has but just barely touched it. Luther has
   written many things rather rashly than wickedly, and among these
   things they are especially enraged because he has little respect
   for Thomas Aquinas, because he is diminishing the revenue from
   indulgences, because he cares little for the begging Friars,
   because he pays less respect to the dogmas of the schools
   than to the Gospels, because he takes no account of human
   argumentations about disputed points. Intolerable heresies these

   "But these things they pass over and make hateful charges to the
   pope, these men who are united and eager only in doing harm.
   Formerly the heretic was heard respectfully and absolved if he
   gave satisfaction, but if he persisted and was convicted, the
   extreme penalty was that he was not admitted to the communion
   of the Catholic Church. Now the charge of heresy is a different
   thing and yet, for some slight reason, no matter what,
   straightway their mouths are full of the cry: 'This is heresy!'
   Formerly he was a heretic who differed from the Gospels or the
   articles of faith or from something which had an authority equal
   to these. Now, if anyone differ from Thomas, he is called a
   heretic; nay, if he differ from some new-fangled logic, patched
   up but yesterday by any sophist of the schools. Whatever they do
   not like, whatever they do not understand, is heresy! to know
   Greek is heresy! to speak correctly is heresy! whatever they do
   not do is heresy! I confess that the charge of violation of the
   faith is a serious one, but not any and every question ought to
   be turned into a question of faith. They who deal with matters
   of faith ought to be far removed from every form of ambition,
   of money-making, of personal hatred, or of revenge. But what
   these people are chiefly concerned with, who can be in doubt?
   If once the reins of their greed are let loose, they will begin
   everywhere to rage against every good man. Finally they will
   threaten the bishops themselves and even the Roman pontiffs;
   and in fact you may call me a liar, if we are not seeing this
   done by some already. How far the order of the Dominicans will
   dare to go we may learn from Jerome Savonarola and the crime
   of Bern.[130] I am not bringing up again the bad name of that
   order, but I am only giving warning as to what we must look out
   for if they are to succeed in whatever they are bold enough to
   undertake. What I have said thus far has nothing to do with
   Luther's cause; I am speaking only of the manner and the danger
   of it. The case of Reuchlin the pope has taken upon himself.
   Luther's business is referred to the universities and whatever
   they may decide is no risk of mine."

  [130] The reference is to a celebrated fraud perpetrated by the
  Dominicans of Bern to demonstrate their superiority over their
  Franciscan rivals. The fraud was detected and the ringleaders
  were burned alive, 1509.

The letter concludes with the now familiar protestations that he,
Erasmus, has nothing whatever to do with the present troubles, but is
merely giving a timely warning.

This letter to Archbishop Albert is the most important in the group
we are now considering. It shows us practically every aspect of
Erasmus' position in the year 1519, and suggests the numerous lines
of comment thereon. The least convincing parts of it are those which
refer to himself personally. These may be sufficiently explained by
that joy in fancying himself persecuted which we have noted in him
from the first. It needed but very slight foundations for him to
build up a whole fabric of imaginary assaults, aimed at him because
he was the one great source from which all intellectual energy might
seem to flow. It was like his vanity to be vastly flattered if
someone suggested that Luther could never have done what he had done
without Erasmus' help, and he magnified that suggestion by saying
it over and over to his numerous correspondents in every possible
variation. The repeated declaration that he knew nothing about Luther
or his books is too silly to deserve attention. He shows the most
complete comprehension of what Luther was doing, and practically
contradicts himself within the space of a few lines by stating that
he has "taken a taste" of certain Lutheran books and been greatly
attracted by them.

Another curious point is his insistence upon grouping Luther and
Reuchlin together and setting himself over against them. In fact the
points of view of these two men were at least as different as was
that of Erasmus from either of them. Reuchlin was above all things a
Humanist, a man of "the languages," and the "tragedy" in which he was
concerned, his quarrel with the Dominicans of Cologne, had reference
to the use which might properly be made of Hebrew by a sound
Christian scholarship. All this was certainly very closely allied
with the work of Erasmus and had no direct connection with that of
Luther; yet Erasmus, furiously anxious not to seem to have anything
in common with either, has no scruple in joining them together in one
common reproach.

All this gives an effect of pettiness to Erasmus' attitude towards
the Reformation and tends to obscure his actual service. So far as
one can get at his real meaning, it is something like this: the real
authors of the present troubles are the mysterious people whom he
here continually refers to as "certain persons" or "those men," and
whom he occasionally defines more specifically as the monks or the
enemies of sound learning. Luther is right in calling attention to
the evils of church life; he is not the first to do it, and Erasmus
heartily agrees with him. "Those people" are attacking Luther because
they feel, as well they may, that their rights and privileges are
in danger, if men are going to listen to his criticism. They are
catching, therefore, at every excuse to charge him with heresy.
Erasmus affects to believe that pope, cardinals, and all good and
reasonable men will see through these attempts and will hasten to
save the Church by accepting what is valuable in this Lutheran
criticism and acting upon it at once.

But,--and here is the line of distinction,--there was also in
Luther's appeal an element of doctrine, an implication at least that
the Church was false to its own teaching as to the direct relation
between God and the soul of man. The consequences of this doctrinal
implication were, as Erasmus must have felt at once, of the most
far-reaching sort, and he was not prepared to follow them up. An
unconditional declaration in Luther's favour would have seemed to
commit him to the doctrinal as well as to the practical conclusions
from Luther's premises.

This gives at least a shadow of reasonableness to his refinement
of distinction between merely reading over the works of Luther and
making such careful study of them as would enable him to attempt a
reply. On the 23rd of September, 1521, he writes to Bombasius in

  [131] iii.¹, 665-B.

   "I am wholly occupied with revising my New Testament and some
   other works, trying like the bears gradually to lick into shape
   the crude product of my talents. But soon I hope to have more
   leisure. I have been trying hard to persuade Aleander to give
   me permission to read Luther's writings; for nowadays the world
   is full of sycophants and prize-fighters. He said emphatically
   he could not do this without a special permit from the pope; so
   I wish you would get this for me in the form of some kind of a
   brief. For I do not want to give a handle to these knaves, who
   would like nothing better."

His _bête noire_ at Louvain seems to have been a person called
Egmund, a Carmelite monk, who may serve us as the type of "those
persons" who were trying to identify Erasmus with the Lutheran cause.
Writing[132] to the _Rector Magnificus_ of the University of Louvain,
still in 1519, Erasmus says that this Egmund had been expressing the
pious hope that as St. Paul had been converted from a persecutor
to a doctor of the Church, so Erasmus and Luther might some day be

  [132] iii.¹, 537.

   "What will become of these men? The one thing they want is
   to do harm in some way, and it offends them that I am not a
   Lutheran, as indeed I am not, except in so far as Luther serves
   the glory of Christ. I know that I am rather free of tongue,
   but yet no one has heard me approve the doctrine of Luther. I
   have never taken pains to read his books, excepting a few pages,
   and these rather skimmed than read. Your contentions against
   Luther I have always consistently favoured, but far more your
   writings, especially those of John Turenholtius, who, as I hear,
   has carried on the discussion in a scholarly way and without

He has not read Luther, yet he has steadily approved the Louvain
contentions against him and especially the writings of a man of whom
he knows only by hearsay that he writes in good temper!

   "If his [Luther's] books were to be burnt, no one would find me
   any the sadder. I have written privately and said many things to
   prevent him from writing so seditiously, and yet I am called a
   Lutheran! If these jokes amuse your university, I am man enough
   to bear them; for I would rather do this than take revenge for
   them; but in my judgment the cause would be better served by
   other methods. Vincentius is charging me with the tumult in
   Holland, in which after a most foolish discourse, he came near
   being stoned to death; whereas the truth is I have never written
   to any Dutchman either for Luther or against him."

He writes to Mountjoy in the same year[133]:

  [133] iii.¹, 538-C.

   "While you are happy for so many reasons I am compelled to fight
   with certain monsters rather than men. By Hercules! I would like
   to try what eloquence might do, were it not that as I lay my
   hand upon the hilt a certain Christian modesty, like Pallas in
   Homer, seizes me by the hair and restrains me."

So far Erasmus had stood in an attitude of studied neutrality. We
have to gather from his emphasis and from the undercurrent of his
eloquence our impression as to the side on which his sympathies
really lay. If the world could only have stood still long enough
for his wise and cautious suggestions to affect the parties, all
might yet have been well. Unhappily for the Erasmians of all times,
the world moves, and it does not move strictly according to rule.
Even while Erasmus was exhorting to mildness, events were forcing
men into partisan attitudes which made his counsel of no avail.
There were enough men who felt passionately the wrongs which he
felt only academically, to force the discussion into the fighting
stage. The more this becomes evident, the more clearly we see Erasmus
moving over from the position of sympathetic neutrality towards the
reforming party into that of suspicion and declared hostility.

In the correspondence we have just quoted, the weight of emphasis is
on the provocation which the reformers had received. They were pretty
violent, but their enemies were worse, and if the highest authority
were to act at all, it would do better to compel the men of darkness
to silence rather than the excellent Luther and his worthy followers.
How far Erasmus, whether in 1519-20 or at any later time, really
changed his opinion on any of the points at issue, will probably
always remain a subject for controversy. We are concerned with the
change of emphasis by which his final attitude was determined.

Two letters of 1519, one to Philip Melanchthon, in the centre of the
Lutheran camp, and one to the Dominican Jacob Hoogstraaten, the head
of the Inquisition at Cologne, will serve to show how evenly at this
time Erasmus distributed the discipline he felt himself called upon
to administer to the new and more tumultuous generation.

One can hardly help smiling at this passage from the letter
to the gentle and peace-loving Melanchthon, by all means the
sweetest-natured of all the Reformation champions. Erasmus makes him
some very pretty compliments on his books and then goes on[134]:

  [134] iii.¹, 431.

   "But, if you will take advice from Erasmus, I wish you would
   take more pains in setting forth good learning than in attacking
   its enemies. They are indeed worthy of being assailed by good
   men with every sort of abuse, but, if I am not mistaken, we
   shall accomplish more in the way I advise. Besides, we ought to
   fight in such fashion that we may seem to be their superiors,
   not only in eloquence but also in modesty and in good breeding.
   Everyone here approves of Martin Luther's character, but there
   are divers opinions as to his beliefs. I myself have not yet
   read his books. Certain things he is right in calling attention
   to, but I wish he had done it as happily as he has boldly. I
   have written about him to Duke Frederic."

This letter to Frederic of Saxony,[135] wanting in our collection,
emphasises as strongly as possible the excellence of Luther as a
man, and, while disclaiming all interest in his doctrine, urges the
Elector to defend him against his persecution.

  [135] Karl Hartfelder, "Friedrich der Weise von Sachsen und D.
  Erasmus," in _Zeitschrift für vergleichende Literaturgeschichte_,
  etc., N. F., iv., 1891.

Doubtless he was no less favourable to Luther than he was in the
following year, when the Elector Frederic, finding himself at Cologne
on imperial business, had an interview with Erasmus, of which his
intimate counsellor and biographer Spalatin gives an account[136]:

  [136] _Friedrichs des Weisen Leben und Zeitgeschichte_, von G.
  Spalatin, Jena, 1851, p. 164.

   "There at Cologne the most learned Erasmus of Rotterdam was with
   the Elector, who talked with him on all kinds of subjects and
   asked him if he believed that Doctor Martin Luther had erred in
   his writing and preaching. Thereto he answered in Latin: 'Yes,
   on two points, namely, that he has attacked the crown of the
   pope and the bellies of the monks.'"

Thereat the Elector laughed and he recalled the saying a year or so
before his death (1525).

Luther contributes to our impression of this interview in his

   "Doctor Martin said that the Elector Frederic of Saxony had an
   interview with Erasmus at Cologne in 1519 and had given him a
   cloak and said afterward to Spalatin: 'What kind of a man is
   Erasmus? one cannot tell where one stands with him.' And Duke
   George said, after his fashion: 'Plague take him! One never
   knows what he is at. I like better the way of the Wittenbergers;
   they say yes and no.'"[137]

  [137] Walch, Luther's _Werke_, xxii., 1623-4.

The letter to Hoogstraaten, who had been the chief enemy of Reuchlin,
was the boldest venture of Erasmus in this early stage of the
Lutheran contest. It is a monument to the writer's skill in defending
two sides of a question at once. It is dated in August, 1519, and

  [138] iii.¹, 484.

   "When I was reading, some time ago, the books in which your
   quarrel with Reuchlin is contained, I was often impelled to
   write to you, first by Christian love, then by the profession
   of our common studies and further by the special affection
   with which from a boy I have ever regarded your Order [!], and
   lastly by an uncommon attraction towards you, whom I understand
   to be a man of agreeable and courteous manners. That you are
   most eagerly devoted to our new studies, your writings clearly
   proclaim, which affect throughout refinement and elegance of
   diction and leave no doubt what your opinion is as to sound

All this tempted Erasmus to give him some good advice; but then, on
the other hand, he reflected that good advice is seldom acceptable
and generally harms the adviser. The bishop of Cologne, however, had
removed this scruple, and, if he tells the truth about Hoogstraaten,
Erasmus thinks he may venture on some gentle admonition. At first he
was dreadfully afflicted at Reuchlin's violence; but then friends
told him that Reuchlin must have had terrible provocation, for that
he was naturally the mildest of men. Then certain persons said hard
things of Hoogstraaten, and finally, when Erasmus came to read him,
he was compelled to say that he had liked him better before he
began to defend himself. Then, a little while after, he had picked
up "in another person's library" certain furious letters against
Hoogstraaten and, little as these pleased him, he was able partly to
excuse them, having read the pamphlets which had called them forth.
He is not fighting Reuchlin's battle; rather Hoogstraaten's, for he
is trying to tell him what will be for his advantage. If he answers
that this is simply his office as inquisitor, very well; let him
perform his office, but in such a manner that he may seem to everyone
to be doing solely the service of Christ.

   "Had you not done your duty when after so many years and such a
   storm of pamphlets you had persecuted a quite obscure man, who
   perhaps would never have been known at all, if you had not made
   him famous? and this after the Roman pontiff, learning that the
   affair was of such a kind that it was better to drop it than
   keep it in agitation any longer, had ordered silence. If any
   error dangerous to Christian piety appears, it is first to be
   carefully worked out by the discussions of learned men and then
   is to be reported to the bishop. When you have done that your
   part as inquisitor is done. You have made the inquiry and have
   brought it before the proper authorities. You are not called
   upon to stir up heaven and earth and to raise such tumults as
   these. Would that you had spent as much pains, as much money
   and time, in preaching the Gospel of Christ. If you had, I am
   greatly mistaken or Jacob Hoogstraaten would be a greater man
   than he is now, and his name would be far more honoured among
   all good men, or at least would be less hated. As it is, a
   great part of this hatred falls upon your Order, which, heavily
   burdened already by serious hostilities on many accounts, ought
   not to be weighed down by new ones."

Then follows a long defence of some words of Erasmus quoted by
Hoogstraaten, without naming their author, but which seemed to draw
him into the Reuchlin quarrel. "May Christ be as favourable to me as
I am little favourable to the Cabbala!" He cares nothing for the Jews:

   "Who is there among us who does not sufficiently hate this
   race of men? If it is a Christian thing to hate Jews, we are
   all good Christians enough! The one thing that makes all the
   trouble is the neglect of learning. You will be serving much
   better the cause, not only of the Dominican order, but also of
   Theology as a whole, if you will check by your authority the
   vacant abuse of certain persons who everywhere, in public and
   private discourses, in disputations, at banquets, and what is
   most serious, in public preaching are brawling against skill in
   the languages and against polite letters, mingling with their
   hatred of these, cries of 'Antichrist!' 'heresy!' and other
   violent words of this sort, whereas it is perfectly clear how
   greatly the Church is indebted to men skilled in languages and
   in eloquence. These studies do not hide the dignity of theology,
   but make it more plain; do not oppose it, but serve it. You
   would not straightway brand the art of music as heretical, if
   perchance some musician were to be apprehended as a backslider.
   The error of the man is to be condemned, but honour is still to
   be paid to his studies.... If Theology will join in doing honour
   to these studies she will in turn be adorned by them; but if
   she abuses and reviles them, I fear it will come to pass, as
   Paul says, that while they are assailing each other with mutual
   bites, they will simply be the death of each other."

In view of this correspondence of 1518-19 we may well consider here
the much-discussed question of Erasmus' personal courage. Of all
the charges brought against him on both sides that of timidity is
the most frequent. Of all the explanations of his attitude toward
the Reformation this is the most obvious and the most popular. If
one can accept it, it settles promptly and once for all a multitude
of perplexing questions. "Why did Erasmus not do or say this thing
or that thing? He was afraid." In pursuance of our principle not to
pretend to know the motive of every act of Erasmus' life, we shall
not attempt to give one answer that will fit all cases, but shall
venture to be a little Erasmian ourselves and try to view this matter
from more than one side.

We shall have done our work but badly so far if we have not made
it clear that Erasmus believed in his right to bring all human
institutions to judgment at the bar of his own mind and conscience.
Nothing which offended his own sense of right could be wholly
acceptable to him. In so far he was an individual, and claimed his
right as such. As an individual, with a mind and conscience of his
own, he had a right, not only to have opinions upon every subject of
human interest, but to express them. There was no call upon him, any
more than upon a hundred others, to address himself thus to kings,
princes, prelates, popes, inquisitors, and instruct them as to their
duty in a great public crisis. He did this out of some impelling
sense of duty and of right. If we may put any confidence in anything
he ever said or did, we may rely upon this: that he felt himself the
spokesman of a cause greater than himself,--the cause of a free and
sane scholarship.

He was an individual, but of the fifteenth, not of the eighteenth
century. The great word of deliverance to the modern mind, the
"_cogito ergo sum_," had not yet been spoken. Man was still content
to think of himself as hemmed in by standards of thought and action
not created for him by his own mind, but given to him as a part of
his human inheritance from the traditions of the past. No estimate of
individual force can be complete without this limitation. If Erasmus
had lived in the eighteenth century, he might have been a Voltaire;
but he was not living in the eighteenth century. He saw where his
time was out of joint, but he did not believe himself called upon to
set it right. His function was only to point out the evils and, so
far as he could, to appeal to those in authority to remedy them.

A man merely timid and nothing more could have found a far easier
way to keep himself safe from any danger of persecution. He might
simply have kept silent, and no one could have said it was his duty
to speak out. It required a very considerable exercise of courage
to say even as much as Erasmus was willing to say, in a day when
Savonarola had so lately been done to death for merely attempting
to set up in Florence a kingdom of Christ without the help of the
pope. The arm of the Inquisition was long, its watch was vigilant,
and its weapons were subtle. A man who valued merely his own peace
of mind would hardly be likely to incur its displeasure. So far we
may go in granting to Erasmus the quality of courage. He knew he was
making enemies among powerful vested interests. If his principles
of sound learning and reasonable criticism were to prevail, then, as
he frequently said, the profits of a vast body of place-holders and
traders in all sacred things were going to be diminished, and they
would not suffer this without making a great demonstration of their

On the other hand, nothing was farther from his nature than any kind
of open rupture with established forms of organisation. His hatred of
war extended to the world of institutions. Revolution was abhorrent
to him, because he thought its evils were greater than any advantage
it might bring. The moment he fancied he saw this spectre of
revolution, even in the far distance, he was impelled to modify and
explain and warn until he had, for the moment, satisfied his sense of
what was wise and prudent.

The genius of Erasmus was eminently critical, not constructive.
His misfortune was to live at a crisis when the merely critical
attitude would no longer serve. The struggle for new construction
was beginning, and there was where Erasmus began to fail. Men were
looking to him for leadership. Probably he grossly exaggerates the
degree to which all the criticism of the day was charged upon him.
That exaggeration was nothing more than we might expect from his
nervous vanity and his uncontrollable impulse to make literature
whenever he took pen in hand. Still it contains just this germ of
truth: that the world of scholars felt his power and would have been
glad to follow his lead if he had chosen to take a leader's place.

How natural the expectation was that Erasmus would do this we may
see from an entry in the diary of Albert Dürer.[139] It was the year
1521. Luther on his return from Worms had been spirited away, no one
knew whither. Rumours of his death were spread abroad and carried
terror to his numerous followers. The simple-hearted painter who the
year before had visited Erasmus in the Low Countries was overwhelmed
with dismay. In the midst of his prosaic little jottings down of
travels, paintings, presents, and petty bargainings he suddenly
breaks out into a wail of despair:

  [139] Albrecht Dürer's _Tagebuch der Reise in die Niederlande_.
  Ed. Fr. Leitschuh, 1884, pp. 83, 84.

   "Ah God! is Luther dead; who will henceforth so clearly set
   forth the Gospel to us? Ah God! what might he not have written
   in the next ten or twenty years! Oh! all ye pious Christian men,
   help me earnestly to pray and mourn for this God-inspired man,
   and pray to God that he send us another enlightened man.

   "Oh! Erasmus of Rotterdam, where art thou? Behold what the
   unjust tyranny of earthly power, the might of darkness, can do.
   Hear, thou champion of Christ! ride forth by the side of the
   Lord Christ; defend the truth; gain the martyr's crown! As it
   is, thou art but a frail old man. I have heard thee say thou
   hadst given thyself but a couple more years of active service;
   spend them, I pray, to the profit of the Gospel and the true
   Christian faith and believe me the gates of Hell, the See of
   Rome, as Christ has said, will not prevail against thee. And
   though thou becomest like thy master Christ and bearest shame
   from the liars of this world and so diest a little earlier,
   yet wilt thou so much the sooner pass from death unto life and
   be glorified in Christ. For if thou shalt drink of the cup he
   drank of, so wilt thou reign with him and judge with equity them
   that have done foolishness. O Erasmus! stand by us, that God may
   praise thee, as is written of David; for thou art mighty and
   thou canst slay Goliath; for God stands by the holy Christian
   churches, as he stands also among the Romans, according to his
   divine will."

Doubtless this heartfelt petition of the excellent Dürer represents
the first impulse of many an honest soul who thought of Erasmus as
a man straightforward as himself, and without any special knowledge
of him jumped to the conclusion that here was the natural leader of
a redeemed generation. No such illusion could long affect anyone who
had come to know him in his true character.

  [Illustration: ERASMUS.

It is somewhat difficult to imagine what Erasmus would have done if
his personal safety had been seriously brought into question. It
is not impossible that, if the issue of retraction or punishment
had ever been squarely presented to him by any authority capable of
enforcing its judgment, he might have risen to a higher plane of
action than he was ever in fact called upon to reach. Such attacks
as he had to meet were wholly from individuals, representing no
recognised authority either of Church or State, and his defence was
always that the highest persons in both these worlds had approved
him. This judgment is at all events more favourable than Erasmus was
sometimes inclined to demand for himself. Writing to Richard Pace
in the critical year 1521 he says[140]:

  [140] iii.¹, 651-C.

   "What help could I give Luther, by making myself the companion
   of his danger, except that two men should perish instead of
   one? I cannot wonder enough at the temper in which he has
   written, and surely he has brought great enmity upon the friends
   of sound learning. He has given us many splendid sayings and
   warnings; but would that he had not spoiled his good things by
   his intolerable faults. But even if everything he wrote had been
   right, I had no intention of putting my head in danger for the
   sake of the truth. It isn't every one that has the strength for
   martyrdom, and I sadly fear that if any tumult should arise,
   I should follow the example of Peter. I obey the decrees of
   emperor and pope when they are right, because that is my duty;
   when they are wrong I bear it, because that is the safe plan.
   This I believe to be permitted even to good men if there is no
   hope of improvement."

There was precisely the point. Erasmus was ready to bear the ills of
the world because he saw no power at hand disposed to remedy them.
When others began to take the remedy into their own hands, then he
could see in their efforts only riot, confusion, sedition, and all
their attendant brood of horrors.




We have followed the course of Erasmus' thought during these first
critical years, 1518 and 1519, when the purpose of the Lutheran
movement was shaping itself into a definite policy. It could not
be said that Luther had at the outset any "programme" whatever.
His leadership was to be defined by the resistless logic of the
events which were now following in swift succession, each leading
to the next with compelling force. In 1518 Luther had gone as far
as Augsburg to meet the papal legate Cajetanus, who had simply
ordered him to retract. Luther had replied that he was ready to
be instructed, but until better informed, he was _bound_ by the
word of God and could not think otherwise than as he did. He had
got safely out of Augsburg, but never again risked himself within
the papal grasp. In 1519 he had accepted the challenge of John
Eck of Ingolstadt, one of the most skilful disputants of the day
according to the scholastic method, to meet him at Leipzig under the
protection of Duke George of Saxony and there discuss the issues
presented by the Theses. So long as the discussion had kept to the
traditional lines of mediæval argumentation Luther had felt himself
at a disadvantage. He had chafed under this feeling and finally
had allowed himself to be entrapped into that magnificent burst
of passion in which he had declared that in the writings of the
condemned heretic, John Hus, there was much that was "right Christian
and evangelical." For the first time and partly without his own will
he had said that the papacy was not an essential element of the
church organisation.

Henceforth there was no room for compromise. The papacy, now fairly
aroused to the magnitude of the situation, replied in 1520, at Eck's
prompting, with its last weapon, the bull of excommunication. This
weapon fell absolutely harmless. The academic youth of Wittenberg,
with Luther at their head, marched in festive procession to the
Elstergate, kindled a bonfire, and threw into it the offending
document. But this was not all. Papal bulls had often met this fate
before, without serious loss of prestige for the authority which lay
behind them. This time, however, not merely the bull in question, but
also a copy of the Canon Law, the whole body of legal authority on
which the power to issue bulls rested, was committed to the flames.
That meant, not merely that Luther and all who supported him refused
to obey this particular decree, but that they proposed to emancipate
themselves, once for all, from the control of the whole system which
it represented. With this step the Lutheran movement passed from the
stage of Reformation to the stage of Revolution.

At this point the eminently constructive nature of Luther's genius
began to display itself. He had not rejected one authority in order
to escape all authority. He had not thrown aside one ecclesiastical
order, to leave the Church without any order at all. In those
splendid proclamations of the year 1520, "The Babylonian Captivity of
the Church," the "Address to the Christian Nobility of Germany," and
the "Freedom of the Christian Man," he unfolded his programme for a
new and purified church order on the basis of the Christian state.
Luther's apologists in Germany have sought to save him from the
charge, dreadful to German ears, of being a revolutionist. Let us,
citizens of a nation to which revolution has meant only the entrance
into a larger and a better-ordered public life, admit frankly that
the action of North Germany in the years following 1520 was, so far
as church matters were concerned, revolutionary, and that only as
such can it be justified or understood. True, it was defended then
and has been defended ever since as being merely a return to an order
of things once realised in the early Church. But when a body of
institutions have held their own for a thousand years their overthrow
cannot be disguised by any gentle figures of speech about mere
reformation and restoration.

That the world of Europe in 1520 felt itself involved in a work
of revolution is abundantly proved by the action of every party
concerned. That the papacy should so regard it was self-evident. All
reformation which should go beyond the stage of merely commending
virtue and condemning vice must seem to it revolutionary. Its
fundamental proposition was that all which was had, in its essence,
always been, and that every innovation must therefore tend to destroy
something essential to the very nature of the Church. From the moment
when the papal government began at all to comprehend the meaning of
the German revolt, it began to treat it as revolution.

More striking still, however, is the rapidity with which all the
restless elements of society recognised that here was an idea closely
akin to their own instinct of revolution. Hardly had Luther's first
propositions, temperate and modest as they were, been put forth,
when, in his immediate circle of influence, men were found who were
ready to draw the last logical consequences from them. If it was true
that men were justified in the sight of God solely by faith, then
obviously there was no need of any mediating agency whatever. Away
with all forms, priesthoods, ceremonies, and sacraments as so much
useless rubbish piled up by centuries of wrong! If it was true that
God's dealing with man was direct and not indirect, then why might
not men look for immediate inspiration of the divine spirit as of old
before all this machinery of priests and forms had been invented? If
the word of God was not to be bound by a papacy, why let it be bound
by an ancient book, in which, as was well known, there was a plenty
of errors and falsities? Had God, then, ceased to communicate with
man? All these questions were asked by men of thought and education;
and the answers were not slow in coming. They came, as in times of
great social unrest they always come, in the form of wild theories
and passionate claims, none of which was quite without a basis of
reason, but which, taken together, called up a ghastly spectre that
could bear no other name than Revolution. The message of deliverance
from the bondage of personal sin without the aid of a corrupt and
greedy church establishment swelled rapidly into a summons to
deliverance from every form of restraint and oppression. The men of
theory, the Carlstadts and the Münzers, carried the word to the men
of action and of suffering. From 1522 to 1524 the gospel of freedom
through faith was being worked over to suit the needs of the vast
peasant population of Middle and Western Germany. In 1524 and 1525 it
burst out in the furious cry of these oppressed classes for equality
of rights as the social expression of the equality of salvation.
Subtle economic causes were, as always, at work and were leading in
the same direction.

Just as the papacy was quick to recognise the revolutionary meaning
of the Lutheran propositions, so Luther recognised how essentially
revolutionary were all these wider movements which, quite against his
will, had made use of his initiative to gain headway for themselves.
In his retreat on the Wartburg after the Diet at Worms he heard of
the radical doings of Carlstadt and the prophets from Zwickau at
Wittenberg. At once he saw the danger and hurried to meet it. He
succeeded in purifying Wittenberg from the taint of fanaticism only
to scatter its seeds far and wide over the land. Henceforth it became
perhaps the most important and distinctly the most difficult problem
of the Lutheran party to show to the world its conservative and
constructive side, without withdrawing for a moment from its original
position of hostility to the papal system.

And, finally, from the political side, the revolutionary tendencies
of the Lutheran position were no less clearly visible. Luther's
perfectly sound instinct had shown him from the first that the German
people were not to be carried away by any abstractions of democracy.
Nor, on the other hand, was there any hope of reviving the ancient
authority of the emperor. Luther's appeal to the German nobility
was based on the fact that whatever political virtue there was in
Germany was to be found in its princes, and the response of the
princes proved them equal to the emergency. The call to defend the
new religion involved also the prospect of complete deliverance from
all imperial control.

The full meaning of the Lutheran movement is, of course, far clearer
to us than it could have been to anyone in the year 1520, and yet
as early as 1525 every one of the points of view just indicated had
been clearly recognised by every thoughtful observer. The tendencies
were plain; the question was, how soon and how far would tendencies
develop into facts.

In such a mortal strife as this where was there room for poor
Erasmus? The answer to this question is the history of the seventeen
remaining years of his life--years as full of activity as any that
had gone before them. Protest as he might that this struggle was
none of his, it is evident that it formed the real undertone of his
thought and drew from him the utterances by which his character as
a public man has ever since been estimated. We may, without unduly
stretching the meaning of his changing attitude towards the reform,
divide it into three stages. Until 1520 we feel the note of sympathy
and the desire merely to restrain excesses. After that year, and
increasingly as the economic and social results began to appear,
we find the attitude of direct hostility becoming more pronounced.
Finally, under the increasing pressure to justify himself in this
hostility, we find Erasmus laying down in more formal shape his
philosophical and theological position as against that of the
Lutheran party.



      S. p. Vir optime. Lei me miseresceret, ni tam virulenter rem
    gessisset, ita tractatur etiam a suis Anglis. Habet et Hispania
    Leum alterum. Zuniga quidam edidit librum ut audio satis
    virulentum adversus Fabrum ac me. Vetuerat Cardinalis Toletanus
    defunctus. Eo mortuo prodidit sua venena. Opus nondum vidi. Id
    caveat ne liber veniat in manus meas. Nescio quem finem hic
    tumultus sit habiturus. Nam omnino res ad seditionem spectat,
    a qua semper abhorrui. Si necesse est ut oriantur scandala,
    certe a me [non] proficisci. Devotis animis conspirant isti,
    ac summorum regum aulas oppugnant, ac vereor, ne expugnent.
    De Philippo, Œcolampadio quod scio cognoveram ex aliorum
    litteris. Utramque epistolam tuam accepi. Bene vale vir in
    domino mihi colende.
      LOVANII, postrid. Cal. Aug.
                                        ERASMUS ex animo tuus.


        I should be sorry for Lee, if he had not been so violent in
    the matter; so badly is he treated even by his own Englishmen.
    In Spain there is a second Lee. A certain Zuniga has, I hear,
    published a tolerably savage book against Faber and me. The late
    Cardinal of Toledo had prohibited it, but now that the cardinal
    is dead, he has given forth his poison. I have not seen the
    work, and let him beware that it does not come into my hands! I
    know not what will be the end of this disturbance. Everything
    points towards revolution, a thing I have always abhorred. If
    it must be that offences come, at any rate they shall [not]
    come from me. Those people are conspiring with all their might;
    they are besieging the courts of the most potent kings and I
    fear they will overcome them. All that I know about Philip and
    Œcolampadius I have learned from the letters of others. Both of
    your letters I have received.
                             Farewell, beloved in the Lord.
                                        Your most devoted
      LOUVAIN, Aug. 2, [1521?].]

The group of letters cited above reflect an agitated, nervous
uncertainty of mind on Erasmus' part. They are filled largely with
negations, so arranged as to balance each other with considerable
success. They leave on our minds the impression of a dual
personality: on the one hand a man childishly sensitive to abuse
and fancying that every misdirected shaft of the popular wit or
feeling was aimed at him; on the other hand, a man of wide and clear
vision, with an outlook over the whole field of human interests and
with a perfectly sound comprehension of the ultimate principles by
which these interests must be regulated. His chief source of
difficulty was his failure to admit the distinctions between the
destructive and the constructive forces of the reform. While Luther
was using all his energies to make clear to the world that what
he aimed at was reconstruction, Erasmus persisted in confounding
in one sweeping condemnation all the elements of disturbance he
saw abroad in the world. As he had connected Luther and Reuchlin
in his declarations of ignorance and hostility, so, as time went
on, he mingled Lutherans, Anabaptists, Zwinglians, and all the
swarm of popular agitators in his indictments. Yet he constantly
lets it appear that he knew as well as anyone the deep-seated
distinctions in the reforming groups. He chose to confuse them in his
public utterances, in order to keep himself right with that great
Establishment which was the mortal enemy of them all.

Meanwhile the practical problem of the Lutheran reform was shaping
itself rapidly in accordance with the whole previous development of
the German people. The death of the Emperor Maximilian was an event
of slight importance, excepting as it opened the way for one of those
great electoral contests, which from time to time came to remind
the German nation of its own peculiar political character. We must
dismiss once for all the fancy that the elected emperor resembled,
except in the vaguest fashion, the great hereditary monarchs of
England, France, or Spain. So far as his imperial quality was
concerned, he had long since become the merest anachronism. He was
emperor of nothing but a title; and he owed his title to a group of
princes whose liberties he was bound to respect, even to the point
of self-destruction. Territorially, he might be strong or weak,
according to the personal sovereignty which he held before he became
emperor. Politically he had as much weight as he could personally
command, and no more. He might be a German or he might not.

The electoral canvass of 1519-20 was the most elaborate the empire
had ever seen. The kings of Spain, France, and England were all, at
one time or another, among the candidates. A German national party,
which saw the hope of the nation in a policy of separation from all
"imperial" interests, was eager for a purely German emperor and put
forward as its candidate the venerable Frederic, Prince-Elector of
Saxony, the immediate sovereign of Luther. If Frederic had acted
promptly and put himself decidedly at the head of this German
national party it seems as if he might have been elected. He
hesitated, declined on grounds of personal distrust, and finally gave
his electoral vote for that one among the foreign candidates who
seemed least likely to abuse the constitutional privileges of the
German princes.

Charles V., grandson of Maximilian through that Archduke Philip
to whom Erasmus had written his panegyric in 1504, grandson also
of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain through their daughter Joanna,
grandson again of that Mary of Burgundy who had carried the Low
Countries as her most precious dower to her husband Maximilian, was
a youth of twenty, a German only by virtue of a strain of badly
diluted Habsburg blood, educated under Spanish influence in the Low
Countries, ignorant of the German tongue, and totally unsympathetic
with the character and traditions of the German people. The very
conception of the German state as a loose federation of practically
independent principalities was utterly foreign to his training and
his inheritance.

The election of Charles V. gave courage to all defenders of the
existing church order. As to his personal orthodoxy there could be no
question whatever. Nor was there any more reason to doubt his loyalty
to the traditions of his family as to the duty of a Christian ruler
toward the institutions of what passed for Christianity. If there
had been any room for question on these points, it would have been
removed by Charles's action in the Low Countries in the very first
years of the Lutheran revolt. He had taken hold of the matter with
a strong hand and demonstrated his loyalty by prompt action against
heretical books and persons. His first great public declaration of
policy, however, was at his first appearance on German soil at the
famous Diet at Worms in 1521. It was, properly, regarded as a piece
of liberality that Luther was invited to come personally to Worms and
defend himself before the emperor and the legate of Pope Leo X., that
same Aleander who had been a fellow-worker with Erasmus in the Aldine
workshop at Venice. Luther was already a condemned heretic. The only
question was whether the Empire as such would ratify the action of
the pope and lend its arm to enforce the papal decrees.

Luther's journey from Wittenberg and his appearance in Worms were a
demonstration of his popularity throughout Northern Germany. Charles
V., youth as he was, was too clever a politician to offend too
deeply at this outset of his reign a whole people whose services he
might at any moment sorely need. He heard Luther with patience, he
respected his safe-conduct, and let him return to Saxony in safety;
but he published as the formal decision of the Diet the Edict of
Worms, wherein Luther was declared in the ban of the Empire as he was
already in the ban of the Church, and his books were condemned to be
burned wherever found.

The Edict of Worms defined the official attitude of the Empire
towards the reform from this time forth. It lacked nothing in
clearness and finality. Henceforth, whoever within the limits of the
Empire harboured either the man or his ideas was subject to immediate
punishment. The question, however, still remained, how the Edict
of Worms was to be enforced, and the answer to that question is
the history of Germany and even of Europe for the next generation.
Enough for our present purpose to say that the immediate pressure of
political and military demands outside of Germany compelled the young
emperor to postpone definite aggressive action against the Lutheran
party until the course of events had separated the whole north of
Germany from all but a nominal connection with the Empire. We are
concerned with the action of Erasmus upon these events and their
reaction upon his course of life.

Erasmus left Louvain in 1521. As to his motives in this change we
are as much in the dark as about any of his former migrations. We
know what his critics said about it and what he replied to their
criticisms. They said he was afraid to stay in a country where
heretics were being arrested every day and where, as he had all
along been declaring, he was regarded as the head and front of this
whole offending. He replied that this was pure nonsense, as could
be clearly proved by the fact that after leaving Louvain he still
lingered for several months in the Low Countries before taking up his
journey to Basel. He went to Basel, he said, for the same reasons
which had carried him thither before; namely, to superintend the
publication of some of his works.

The most detailed account of this interval between Louvain and Basel
is given in a long letter,[141] dated in 1523, to Marcus Laurinus,
dean of St. Donatian at Bruges. The tone of this letter is that which
had now become habitual with Erasmus, namely, of elaborate defence
against all charges, no matter from what source, which could in any
way affect his loyalty to the Roman Church on the one hand or to his
own principle of free criticism on the other. His especial grievance
is the charge of cowardice in leaving Louvain.

  [141] iii.¹, 748.

   "As long as I was at Louvain," he writes, "whenever I went to
   Brussels or Mechlin, though I had promised to return within ten
   days, those people, who are ashamed of nothing, would spread
   a rumour that I had run away through fear. Then when I was
   taking a holiday for my health at Anderlech, a place close by
   Brussels, where the king's palace is, and often running back to
   Louvain,--why then, I was in hiding! Frequently, I was at the
   same moment down with a hopeless fever at Louvain and had fallen
   from my horse and died of apoplexy at Brussels; and this at a
   time when I was--thanks be to Christ!--never better in my life.
   It was not enough to have killed the hapless Erasmus once for
   all, but they must needs butcher him with so many diseases, slay
   him with such a variety of tortures!

   "I did not go to the assembly at Worms,--or as learned men are
   now beginning to call it at 'Mutton-headtown,'--although I was
   invited, partly because I did not wish to be involved in the
   affair of Luther, which was then violently discussed; partly
   because I easily foresaw that in such a great sewage of princes
   and men of various races, the plague could not fail to appear as
   it did at Cologne when the emperor was first there.

   "When the emperor came back to Brussels, there was scarcely
   a day that I did not ride through the market-place and past
   the court and often I was about the court; in fact, I was
   almost more a resident at Brussels than at Anderlech. I daily
   paid my compliments to the bishops, though ordinarily I was
   not overzealous in such matters. I dined with the cardinal. I
   conversed with both nuncios; I visited ambassadors and they
   called upon me at Anderlech. Never in my life was I less in
   concealment, never more openly before the eyes of all men. And
   meanwhile there were some among those babblers who wrote to
   Germany that Erasmus was somewhere in hiding,--which I never
   found out until I got here in Basel. And again when the emperor
   was at Brussels with the king of Denmark, and Thomas, cardinal
   of York, was there as ambassador of the king of England, you
   know yourself, even if I had kept myself to your house, how much
   in hiding I should have been; since you had all, or at least the
   chief dignitaries of the court at your table and I was sitting
   among them a welcome guest, as I believe, to them all. How often
   I lunched or dined with the foremost men, even with the king of
   Denmark, who wanted me as his daily table-companion! Where did I
   not go riding, often in company with you! At what festivity of
   the great people was I not present--now at the imperial court,
   now in the family of the cardinal of York, now at one house, now
   at another! Yet I often refused invitations; for I am by nature
   a home-lover and my studies require a home-keeping life.

   "In the same way that I was then hiding, I afterward ran away!
   For six whole months I was getting ready for my journey to Basel
   and that openly before all men. Why, the emperor's treasurer
   paid over my pension before it was due, because I told him I was
   going to Basel! Nor was the reason for my journey unknown, it
   being the same for which I had already so often gone to Basel
   before I became afraid of those heroes!... I was all ready to
   start, waiting only to decide upon the road and to have a safe
   escort. Meanwhile I had to collect money in divers places and
   for this purpose spent six days at Louvain,--hiding there too,
   of course, as my custom was,--at an inn where no guests ever
   came, so that it is a most retired place! It is at the sign of
   The Savage. By the purest accident there was there at the time
   Jerome Aleander, with whom I lived on the most friendly terms,
   sometimes sitting with him over literary talk until far into the
   night. We agreed that if a safe escort should offer, we would
   journey together. Returning after a few days I found Aleander
   getting ready to start, just as I was.... It was my birthday and
   that of the apostles Simon and Jude."

Having thus proved that up to the very moment of his departure he was
on the best of terms with everyone in the Low Countries from whom he
could have anything to fear, even with Aleander, the archfiend of the
Lutherans, Erasmus goes on to describe his journey. There is nothing
especially noteworthy in this description. It is the same old story
of dangers and wearinesses by the way, of German inns and German
stoves and the troubles they brought him. Yet in the little notes of
persons whom he met and how they received him we get some of the most
significant and attractive glimpses of the widespread relations of
Erasmus with every grade of scholarly activity. In these accounts of
journeys occur frequently the words _sodalitium_ and _fraternitas_.
At Strassburg Jacob Spiegel, an imperial secretary, presented him
to "the fraternity." From Schlettstadt "certain of the fraternity"
escorted him to Colmar. These words seem to refer to the group of
scholars in any city and give us a pleasant suggestion of the growing
comradeship of learning all through the northern centres of culture.

He tells us how warmly he was received at Basel by the bishop, the
magistrates, and other chief men of the church and the university.
Everybody knew that he was there, and yet

   "those fools were spreading the story that I had gone over to
   Wittenberg. Is there anything they would be ashamed of? My
   health was fairly good at Basel until the rooms began to be
   cold. When I found that this cold was unbearable to others, I
   suffered a moderate fire to be built now and then, but this
   good-nature cost me dear. Soon a vile rheum broke out and
   thereupon followed the gravel."

Then his digestion went to pieces--until, what with one thing and
another, he was wretched enough "to suit even Nicholas Egmund," his
Carmelite terror at Louvain.

In spite of his pains, however, he went to work and kept at it so
steadily that within a short time he finished his annotations to
the third edition of the New Testament, and did the whole of his
Paraphrase of Matthew. This latter work he sent to the emperor, and
was informed that it had been received with great favour. The best
proof of this was, that at a moment when many pensions were being
taken away or cut down, he was promised that his should be maintained
and perhaps even increased. He takes this occasion to defend himself
against the charge of staying so long away from the emperor through
fear, as was alleged. The only thing he feared was that he might
be called upon to write against Luther "by one whose request could
not be denied. Not that I favoured that seditious affair, being as
I am a man who shrinks from all controversy by a certain instinct
of nature; so that if I might gain a landed estate by a lawsuit I
would rather lose my estate than push my claim." He goes on in this
strain at such length that one can hardly avoid the conclusion that
we are here touching upon the real reason of his leaving Louvain.
It is a tolerably safe principle that when Erasmus is especially
insistent he is trying to make the worse appear the better reason. He
insists that he was totally unfit for such work of controversy and
ends up by saying that in spite of all this he would have gone back
to meet the emperor if his disease had permitted. Indeed he tried
the journey, got as far as Schlettstadt, broke down completely, and
barely got back alive to Basel. By this time it was too late to see
the emperor, who was to sail for Spain about May 1st. So Erasmus
stayed a while longer at Basel, restless and fidgeting as usual. Now
it was a new dream of Italy that haunted him. He was, or believed
himself to be, or wished others to believe that he was, invited by
a host of distinguished well-wishers there to come and take up his
residence among them. In fact he made a journey to Constance with his
young friends Eppendorf and Beatus. They were charmingly entertained
by John Botzheim, a canon of the place, and we owe to this visit one
of the very few descriptions of natural scenery which Erasmus has
left us. He seems for once really to have been captivated by the
delightful situation of Constance, the beautiful lake, the course
of the Rhine, "holding islands in its smiling embrace," the falls
at Schaffhausen, and the towering Alps looking down upon the whole
scene. We may well believe that, at least when he wrote these words,
the sentiment of Italy was strong upon him. An escort, he says, was
just ready to start for Trent. "The Alps smiling down upon me close
at hand beckoned me on. My friends dissuaded me, but they would have
done so in vain, if the gravel, that potent orator, had not persuaded
me to go back to Basel and fly up into my nest again."

He remained three weeks at Constance in great suffering, took ship as
far as Schaffhausen, and so back as fast as he could ride to Basel. I
confess to a strong impression that these two trips, to Schlettstadt
and to Constance, were merely excursions, such as Erasmus was
constantly making from any point where he happened to be living, and
that he had no more intention of going to Italy in the one case than
of returning to Louvain in the other. Yet one would equally hesitate
to say that he had a fixed purpose of remaining permanently at Basel.

On his return Erasmus enjoyed a genuine sensation, which seems almost
to have marked an epoch in his life. This seemed the favourable
moment to open a package of choice Burgundy, sent to him some time
before by the episcopal coadjutor of Basel. "At the first taste it
did not wholly please the palate, but the night brought out the
native quality of the wine." He felt himself a new man. He had always
believed that his disease was brought on by vile sour and adulterated
wines, "worthy to be drunk by heretics, punishment fit for the worst
malefactor." He had tried Burgundian wines before, but they were
harsh and heating. This was just right, neither sweet nor sour, but
pleasant, and so on. He bursts out into a eulogy of Burgundy, that
happy land, "worthy to be called the mother of men, since thou hast
milk like this in thy breasts!" "I tell you, my dear Laurinus, it
would take little to persuade me to move over for good into Burgundy.
'For the wine's sake?' you ask. Why, I would rather migrate to
Ireland than try another attack of the gravel." This sends him off
again into declarations that he is everywhere a welcome guest.

The point of all this seems to be that he wishes to have it quite
clear that while it is on the one hand perfectly safe for him to
go or stay where he will, he is, on the other hand, equally free
from any permanent ties anywhere. Someone had reported that he had
bought a house and acquired the right of citizenship at Basel. This
he denies. To be sure, the house in which he is now living had been
offered him by some friends, but he has not accepted it. As for
citizenship, he has never so much as dreamed of it. "A certain person
of importance at Zürich has more than once written to offer me the
right of citizenship there. I wondered why he should do this, and
replied that I preferred to be a citizen of the world, rather than of
any one city."

Once set going on this subject it seems as if Erasmus could not stop.
He now pays his respects to those who reported, with some reason,
he says, that he was thinking of going to France. Having found the
secret of his disease in the badness of his wines, he begins to
wonder what will happen to him if, by reason of wars, he should be
unable to get his Burgundy direct. Perhaps, after all, it would be
wiser to go over into France, where he would at least be sure of
his wine. He even went so far as to get from the French king through
his ambassador at Basel a safe-conduct for the journey, and kept
reminding himself how fond he had always been of France--a fondness
which, by the way, he had shown by keeping out of France for now
about fifteen years. If he had only accepted that "magnificent offer"
of six years before, he would have been spared all these "tragedies"
with those stupid babblers at Louvain. Perhaps his health and his
fortunes might have been better too. It would be pleasant to be near
the borders of Brabant, so that he might run over and see his friends
there. But there was just one obstacle: the war between the three
kings. To Charles he was bound by an oath; to Henry and the whole
English people by ties of affection; to Francis also by irresistible
attachment on account of the king's interest in him. Of course it
would never do for so important a personage as Erasmus to offend two
of his royal friends by going to live with the third.

Why did he not come back to Brabant? He hears that there is there
just now a great scarcity of everything, but especially of French
wines, and besides "a sword has been given to certain violent men,
to whom one can be neither a colleague nor an opponent." There are
enemies in every direction.

   "Rome has her Stunica; Germany has some who can't say a good
   word of me. I hear that certain 'Lutherans,' as they call them,
   are complaining because I am too gentle with the princes and
   too fond of peace. I confess I would rather err on this side,
   not only because it is safer, but because it is a more holy
   cause. Everyone to his taste. There are those on the other side
   who try to cast on me the suspicion of being in league with the

Now each party seemed to Erasmus to be trying to catch him by
stirring him up against the other. They told him his books had been
burnt in Brabant by Hoogstraaten, hoping to make him write something
against the inquisitor which would drive him over definitely into the
Lutheran camp. Poor Botzheim at Constance wrote, _pene exanimatus_
("scared almost to death,"), that Erasmus' books had been publicly
condemned at Rome by papal order. These traps had been sprung in
vain. He had seen through the trick and kept his peace and the
truth had come out. Far from condemning him, the papal party at
Rome had done its best to win him to its service, even offering
him a considerable benefice if he would come. Then this again had
produced countercharges of bribery, which he very properly dismisses
by saying: "If I could have been drawn into this fight by bribes I
should have been drawn in long ago." Now he hears a third rumour,
worse than the other two: the pope has written some kind of a
pamphlet against him! but again he sees the trick; they want to make
him say something against the pope. Others say that Lutherans are
flocking to Basel to consult with him, some even that Luther is in
hiding there.

   "Would that it were true that all Lutherans and anti-Lutherans
   too, would come for my advice and agree to follow it; the
   world would be far better off in my opinion. Many persons have
   come hither to see and to salute me, sometimes in companies and
   generally unknown to me; but never has one called himself a
   Lutheran in my presence; it is not my business to make inquiries
   and I am no prophet. Before this trouble broke out I was in
   literary correspondence with almost all the scholars of Germany,
   to me a most agreeable relation. Of these some have given me the
   cold shoulder, some are quite estranged from me, and some are
   my open enemies and seeking my ruin. Some were good friends of
   mine, who are now more severe towards Luther than I could wish
   and more than is good for their cause. I dismiss no one from my
   friendship either because he is too friendly or too hostile to
   Luther; each acts in good faith.

   "Men have come to Basel who were said to be under suspicion
   of being partisans of Luther, and I am ready to have this all
   charged upon me, if a single one of them has ever come by my
   invitation or if I have not protested to my friends that it
   was exceedingly disagreeable to me. If persons of this or that
   faction come hither, with what reason can this be laid upon me?
   I am not the gatekeeper of Basel and hold no magistracy here!
   Hutten was here as a visitor for a few days and neither came to
   see me nor did I visit him. And yet if it had depended upon me,
   I would not have denied him an interview, an old friend and a
   man whose wonderfully happy and genial talents I cannot even now
   help admiring.... He could not do without a stove, on account of
   his health, and I cannot bear one, and so the fact is, we did
   not see each other."

He would not hesitate, he says, to receive Luther himself, and would
give him some wholesome warnings. There is good on both sides. "I
am not sure that either side can be put down without grave disaster
to many good things." If only it might be permitted him to be a mere
spectator of events! But here he is, pulled hither and yon by the
parties, each trying to make him declare himself squarely against the
other. While one party was accusing him of being the author of most
of the Lutheran writings, the other suspected him of having written
King Henry's famous answer to Luther. Upon this welcome text Erasmus
builds up a long story of his first acquaintance with this royal
treatise, a story as unimportant as the book itself. The outcome of
it all is that he is firmly convinced that the king wrote the book
with his own wits. "Even if he desired the help of scholars, his
court is filled with learned and eloquent men." Again they tell him
that four years ago he ought to have retired from the stage, content
with his great services to theology, his restoration of the true
sources of Christianity, etc. All this is very flattering, but he is
held to his work by a _choragos_ whose orders he dare not disobey.

Once more, he is charged with speaking too highly of the pope. What
he says of Leo is very well, but, they say, how can we be sure of
Leo's successor. Well, there have been good popes before Leo, and why
not after him? They say "Erasmus ought to declare: 'Thou, pope, art
Antichrist! you, bishops, are false leaders! that Roman see of yours
is an abomination to God!' and many other such things and worse."
This is the old Erasmian method, which he had consistently followed
from the beginning--to confine his criticism to evil men and refrain
from criticising institutions. If men were good, institutions would
be good.

Finally we come to the charge that Erasmus, in his paraphrase of the
ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, had allowed "a little
something" to the freedom of the human will. This is our first
encounter with a strictly dogmatic question, the one by which the
whole Lutheran position was to stand or fall. We have, however,
prepared ourselves for Erasmus' inevitable attitude on this point by
noting his insistence, throughout all his moral teaching, upon the
individual will as the dominant motive. For the moment he defends
himself only by declaring that in his Paraphrase he is merely
following all the best authorities in the Church from Origen to
Aquinas. He wrote the passage in question in 1517, before Luther had
appeared, so that it can in no way be thought of as an attack upon
him. Moreover, it is the mildest possible statement of a free-will

   "_Some_ weight is to be given to our will and our endeavour,
   but so little that in comparison with the grace of God it seems
   to be as nothing. No man is condemned, except by his own fault;
   but no one is saved, except by God's grace.... I saw on the
   one hand Scylla luring us on to confidence in works, which I
   believe to be the worst plague of religion. On the other hand I
   saw Charybdis, a worse monster yet, by whom many are now being
   attracted, who say: Let us follow our own lusts; whether we
   torment ourselves or indulge our wills, what God has decreed
   will happen all the same."

So his language has been moderate, and he has hoped simply to aid
men to virtue. The close of this letter is a really eloquent bit of

   "If any there be, who cannot love Erasmus because he is a feeble
   Christian, let him think of me as he will. I cannot be other
   than I am. If any man has from Christ greater gifts of the
   Spirit and is sure of himself, let him use them for the glory of
   Christ. Meanwhile it is more to my mind to follow a more humble
   and a safer way. I cannot help hating dissension and loving
   peace and harmony. I see how obscure all human affairs are. I
   see how much easier it is to stir up confusion than to allay
   it. I have learned how many are the devices of Satan. I should
   not dare to trust my own spirit in all things and I am far from
   being able to pronounce with certainty on the spirit of another.
   I would that all might strive together for the triumph of Christ
   and the peace of the Gospel, and that without violence, but in
   truth and reason, we might take counsel both for the dignity of
   the priesthood and for the liberty of the people, whom our Lord
   Jesus desired to be free. To those who go about to this end to
   the best of their ability Erasmus shall not be wanting. But if
   anyone desires to throw everything into confusion, he shall not
   have me either for a leader or a companion. These people claim
   for themselves the working of the Spirit. Well, let people on
   whom the divine spirit has breathed jump with good hopes into
   the ranks of the prophets. That Spirit has not yet seized upon
   me; when it does, then perhaps I too shall be counted as Saul
   among the prophets."

In this long letter, written obviously with a view to publication,
we have epitomised, as Erasmus himself wished it to appear, the
story of his leaving Louvain and his attitude toward the chief
questions of the great reform. Nothing that we can add would be more
significant than the concluding paragraph. If only all men could see
both sides of every question as he did, and would join with him in
pious exhortation to everyone else to be good, he would be delighted
to be their leader and companion. This is only one of those numerous
"ifs"--though an unusually large one--by which Erasmus so often
saved himself in difficult places. It meant simply that he did not
propose to commit himself at all. The Laurinus letter was the reply
to numerous criticisms against the course of Erasmus in the years
between 1520 and 1523, years in which the various aspects of the
great reform movement were becoming more and more clearly defined. We
discern in it with great distinctness the view of Erasmus taken by
the leading spirits of the Lutheran party.

Nowhere is this Lutheran judgment of his position so vigorously
demonstrated as in his famous conflict with Ulrich von Hutten.
Hutten's personality was totally antipodal to that of Erasmus. Born
of a noble family in Würtemberg in 1488, Hutten received the training
of a soldier and took his part in the violent feuds which, in the
absence of a strong central government in Germany, were continually
wasting the energies and the resources of the great class of the
lower nobility. But Hutten was more than a soldier. He had early
come under the influence of Reuchlin, his countryman, and had given
himself with great zeal to the cause of learning. He had mastered
the technique of the scholar's profession, had made himself an
accomplished Latinist in both prose and verse, and had learned as
much Greek as was needed to decorate his Latin style. In his way
he was as marked an individual as Erasmus. He, too, was a homeless
man, an outcast from his family and his narrower Swabian fatherland,
a wanderer, seeking a living by methods even more precarious and
more questionable than Erasmus had employed, everywhere at home
if only the sun of princely or private favour would shine upon
him for the moment. But here the resemblance ends. Hutten let his
individuality carry him into wild and reckless living and finally to
ruin, but he did not let it alienate him from the great movements
of humanity going on about him. In the Reformation he was quick
to discern all those elements of social and economic change which
were sure to follow upon the religious appeal. What repelled and
estranged Erasmus, the man of peace, attracted and held Hutten, the
man of strife. In Luther's proclamation of a salvation by faith he
saw the hope of a social and religious reconstruction, in which,
inevitably, the religious system of the Middle Ages must go to the
wall. He was too little of a speculative genius to be drawn into the
logical extravagances of the radical party of Münzer and his like,
but the prospect of a glorious fight, with the weapons alike of the
intellect and of the flesh, filled him with a holy joy as it filled
Erasmus with a holy horror. Without waiting to consider or to make
certain whither it would lead him, he threw himself with passionate
energy into the Lutheran cause. Already he had made himself known,
admired, and feared by his part in the _Epistolæ obscurorum virorum_,
that merciless satire on the schoolmen which had done more than
any other one thing to draw the forces of light together into one
camp over against the forces of darkness. This contribution to what
others regarded as his own work did not, however, if we may take his
word for it, please Erasmus. He wanted to keep all the satirising
to himself, that it might be held within prudent limits. Thus his
earliest impressions of Hutten were not favourable. He seems to have
felt in him by "a certain instinct of nature," as he might have said,
an "unsafe" person. His early approach toward him is cautious. Hutten
sends him his works and begs for his friendship. Erasmus replies with
reserve, counsels him to keep out of fights, to devote himself to the
Muses, and to preserve his own dignity. Then we have the famous and
charming letter[142] in which Erasmus describes to Hutten the work
and character of Thomas More. But soon it is evident that Hutten is
getting out of all patience with Erasmus. The letters of 1518 and
1519, with their anxious balancing of views, were in circulation, and
had made upon this upright and downright fighting man the impression
of a trimming, fretful, petty spirit. In August, 1520, he writes to
Erasmus in a totally altered style.[143] He has now no time or temper
for compliments. In short, rapid sentences he puts the case to the
great man as one in which all shilly-shallying was out of place.

  [142] iii.¹, 472.

  [143] _Hutteni opera_, ed. Böcking, 1859, i., 367.

  [Illustration: ULRICH VON HUTTEN.

   "While Reuchlin's affair was all in a glow, you seemed to be in
   a more weakly terror of those people [_istos_] than you ought
   to have been. And now in Luther's case, you have been trying as
   hard as you can to persuade his enemies that you were as far as
   possible from defending the common good of the Christian world,
   while they knew you really believed just the opposite. That does
   not seem to be an altogether becoming thing to do.... You know
   with what glee they are carrying about certain letters of yours
   in which while you are trying to escape from blame, you are
   putting blame on others in a hateful fashion enough. In the same
   way you have been abusing the _Epistolæ obscurorum_, though you
   admired them powerfully once; and you are damning Luther because
   he has set in motion some things that ought not to have been
   moved, when you yourself have been handling the same subjects
   everywhere throughout your writings. And yet you will never make
   them believe that you are not desirous of the same things. You
   will just hurt us and at the same time will not pacify them. You
   are irritating the more and rousing hatred by trying to hide a
   thing so open as this."

We are quite prepared to understand how unwelcome to Erasmus such
direct and unequivocal language as this must have been. He had no use
for any argument that had not two sides to it. Events were moving
rapidly. While the affair of Luther was being tried at Worms in the
summer of 1521 Hutten was watching and planning for the social
overturn which he confidently expected, and out of which, he hoped,
a new Germany, regenerated in body and soul, was to arise. In the
winter of 1521-22 he drifted to Basel and spent some time there. As
yet there was no open breach between him and Erasmus. He seems to
have wished to meet him personally and to have met a flat refusal. In
the letter to Laurinus Erasmus declares that he was perfectly willing
to see Hutten, but as he could not endure a room with a stove in it,
and Hutten could not be in a room without a stove, an interview was
impossible! This silly story reappears in various other connections.
It is quite unworthy of serious examination, but was undoubtedly
a mere cover for some deeper cause. What this was may readily be
supplied. Writing to Melanchthon _after Hutten's death_,[144] Erasmus

  [144] iii., 817-B.

   "As to my refusing Hutten an interview, the reason was not so
   much the fear of exciting hostility; there was another thing
   which, however, I did not touch upon in my _Spongia_. He was in
   utter poverty and was seeking some nest to die in. Now I was
   expected to take this '_miles gloriosus_,' pox and all, into
   my house and with him that whole chorus of 'evangelicals' by
   name--and nothing but the name."

We may be quite sure that here was Erasmus' real grievance. He might
pretend that he had never seen anyone at Basel who called himself
a Lutheran, but he knew that if he took Hutten into his house and
appeared on friendly terms with him, he could keep up this pretence
no longer. He knew also by a former experience that any expressions
favourable to Luther would be made the most of by Hutten. He could
not afford such a friend and he shut his door in his face.

Hutten's patience, never, we may believe, overmuch enduring, was at
an end. He made up his mind to make such a public attack upon Erasmus
as would compel him to speak out and thus commit himself once for all
on one side or the other. Erasmus heard of this intention and wrote
him a short letter[145] of expostulation, warning and threatening
him at once. In this letter he gives away his case as to the Basel
incident in the most complete fashion. He says:

  [145] iii.¹, 790. Also in _Hutteni opera_, ed. Böcking, ii., 178.

   "I did not refuse you an interview when you were here, but
   begged you through Eppendorf, in the gentlest manner, that,
   if it was only a complimentary visit, you would stay away, on
   account of the enmity with which I have long been burdened even
   to the risk of my life. What use is there in gaining enmity when
   one cannot thereby be any help to one's friend?"

Then comes in the stove again.

Hutten was, as well he might be, rather more angered than appeased by
this missive, and soon printed his _Expostulatio cum Erasmo_.[146]

  [146] _Hutteni opera_, ii., 180.

Erasmus had had to hear a good many bitter words in the years just
past, but never such stinging reproaches as these. Doubtless the
personal element played its part in adding a final goad to Hutten's
indignation; but the _Expostulatio_ is far from being a mere personal
reply to real or fancied wrongs. It is a scathing review of the whole
attitude of Erasmus towards the reform. The chief note of the charge
is cowardice, deceit, and time-serving. The underlying assumption
throughout is that Erasmus was really in sympathy with the whole
attack upon the church order from Reuchlin onwards. This assumption
is proved out of his own mouth. At every new stage of the reform he
was shown to have expressed approval, only to change approval into
condemnation as soon as there was a prospect that anything would be
done. So, on the other hand, Hutten shows Erasmus attacking all the
enemies of reform, the pope, Aleander, Hoogstraaten, and the rest,
and then changing his tone to a weak, snivelling flattery as soon
as he saw any danger in prospect. A few specimens will illustrate
the vigour and openness of Hutten's method. After the twistings and
turnings of Erasmus' style, his reads like a model of strength and

   "Because of my health, or for some other reason, I could not be
   away from my stove long enough to speak with you once or twice
   in the whole fifty days I spent at Basel, though I would often
   stand talking with friends in the midst of the market-place for
   three hours at a time! Well, that is quite like your sincerity,
   to take a perfectly simple thing and give it a false colouring
   and to cover up the truth with an empty show.

   "As I thought the matter over attentively several reasons
   occurred to me why, perhaps, you might thus have fallen away
   from yourself. First, your insatiable ambition for fame,
   your greed for glory, which makes it impossible for you to
   bear the growing powers of anyone else; and then the lack of
   steadiness in your mind, which has always displeased me in you
   as unworthy of your greatness and led me to believe that you
   were terror-stricken by the threats of these men.... Finally I
   explain it to myself by the pettiness of your mind, which makes
   you afraid of everything and easily thrown into despair; for you
   had so little faith in the progress of our cause, especially
   when you saw that some of the chief princes of Germany were
   conspiring against us, that straightway you thought you must
   not only desert us, but must also seek their good-will by every
   possible means."

Referring to Erasmus' charge that the Lutherans had set on foot a
rumour that Hoogstraaten had burned his books, in order to make him
write against the Church, Hutten says:

   "Now, supposing it was our purpose to draw you into our party,
   how could we hope to do it easily in this way, since it was
   perfectly certain that you would never dare to do anything
   against him or anybody else until you saw exactly how the land
   lay--unless, indeed, Switzerland be so far from Brabant that we
   could hope you would hear nothing from there for a whole year!
   Away with this simple-heartedness of yours to some other world!
   Our Germany knows no such morals as these.

   "When the _Epistolæ obscurorum_ came out, you approved and
   applauded more than anyone else; you gave the author a regular
   triumph; you said there had never been discovered a more
   complete way of attacking those people; that barbarians ought
   to be ridiculed in barbarous language; and you congratulated us
   on our cleverness. Before our fooleries were printed, you copied
   some of them with your own hand, saying: 'I must send these to
   my friends in England and France.' But soon after, when you saw
   that the whole muck of the theologers were much disturbed and
   that the hornets were stirred up in all directions and were
   threatening ruin, you began to tremble, and lest suspicion might
   fall upon you that you were the author or that you approved the
   plan, you wrote a letter with that same candour of yours to
   Cologne, trying to get ahead of the rumours and making a great
   pretence of sympathy with them and regret at the affair and
   saying many things against the whole business and abusing the

If Erasmus is such a man of peace, why, asks Hutten, does he now so
bitterly attack the reformers? Some people had long since accused him
of treachery, but at that time no one would believe them and Erasmus
was satisfied to put it all upon the Fates:

   "a fine notion and, as we now see, truly Erasmian! You say
   that, being the man you are, you must deal with Germans after
   their own fashion. Well, this is not the way of Germans, but
   of men whose fickleness and inconstancy are altogether foreign
   to Germans, men who can be tossed about hither and thither by
   every change of wind, with whom nothing is fixed, but everything
   slippery and shifting with the changes of fortune. Get you to
   Italy with such doings, to those cardinals whom you are now
   taking under your wing, where everyone may live according to his
   own morals and his own character! Or else get back to your own
   French-Dutchmen, if, perhaps, this is a national vice and one
   common to you and them!"

Referring to the use of the term "Lutherans," about which Erasmus was
so much distressed, Hutten says:

   "Therefore, although I have never had Luther for my master or my
   companion and am carrying on this business on my own account,
   and although I am most terribly opposed to being counted in any
   party whatever, nevertheless, since it is a fact that those who
   are opposed to the Roman tyranny--among whom I desire above all
   things to be reckoned--and those who dare to speak the truth
   and who are turning back from human ordinances to the teaching
   of the Gospel, are commonly called Lutherans, therefore I am
   ready to bear the burden of this nickname, lest I seem to deny
   my faith in the cause.... Now you know why I accept the name of
   Lutheran, and anyone can see that for the same reasons you too
   are a Lutheran, and that so much the more than I or anyone else
   as you are a better writer and a more accomplished orator."

One may search the writings of Erasmus from beginning to end without
finding an utterance to compare with this in decision and clear-cut
discrimination of the truth. At great length and with the appearance
of entire sincerity Hutten warns Erasmus of the danger he is now in
of appearing to be only the hired man of the papacy. He may still, in
his heart, be true to his former convictions; but who will believe
it? All this bragging about his great friends at Rome with their
flattering offers can only confirm the Lutherans in their distrust of
him. If he will not be warned now, then let him go on

   "to fulfil the hopes of those who have long been looking about
   for a leader for the enemies of the truth. Gird yourself; the
   thing is ripe for action; it is a task worthy of your old age;
   put forth your strength; bend to the work! You shall find your
   enemies ready! the party of the Lutherans, which you would
   like to crush to earth, is waiting for the battle and cannot
   refuse it. Our hearts are full of courage; we are sustained by
   a certain hope and, relying upon our conscious rectitude and
   honour, we will decline no challenge, no matter whither you may
   call us. Nay, that you may see how great is the faith that is
   in us, the more furiously you assault us, the keener you shall
   find us in defending the cause of truth.... One half of you will
   stand with us and be in our camp; your fight will be, not so
   much with us as with your own genius and your own writings. You
   will turn your learning against yourself and will be eloquent
   against your own eloquence. Your writings will be fighting back
   and forth with each other."

The Lutherans will trust in God and joyfully take up the encounter.

There can be no doubt that Hutten was uttering the voice of the
great Lutheran party, as it must now be called. Although called out
by a personal attack, the _Expostulatio_ keeps itself throughout on
higher than personal grounds. It is not an apology for Hutten; it is
a fierce outburst of honest indignation against a man who seemed to
be throwing away a noble mind and conspicuous gifts through lack of
courage and simple honesty. Hutten's expressions of admiration for
his opponent have the ring of absolute sincerity. He had admired him
above all other men, and his wrath is tempered by pain and honest
sorrow at his failure to lead where none could lead so well. If
Hutten made the mistake which so many have made since his time, of
asking from Erasmus a kind of service for which he was by nature
unfitted, it was a mistake which honours him who made it. The time
for balancing good and evil had gone. If anything was to be done, it
must be by the united action of all who were in substantial agreement
upon the great essential questions of the hour. There had been enough
of apologising and trimming, and this great word of Hutten was the
proclamation of what was inevitably to come.

When it came into Erasmus' hands he determined at once to reply, and
the result was the famous pamphlet which he called _Spongia adversus
aspergines Hutteni_, "a sponge to wipe out the bespatterings of
Hutten." It is a work twice as long as the _Expostulatio_, written,
so its author says, in six days during the month of July, 1523,
but not published until the autumn and after the death of Hutten,
which occurred August 29th. The _Spongia_ is as distinctly a work of
personal apology as the _Expostulatio_ was the opposite. It takes
up, one by one, the points made by Hutten and deals with them after
the fashion with which we are now so familiar that any extended
examination would in no way enlarge our understanding of Erasmus'
true position. The greater part of Hutten's charges he accepts in
one or another sense and then tries to take away their force. The
most common way of doing this is by showing that he has never really
been inconsistent with himself, but has only adapted himself for the
moment to given conditions lest the one great cause of pure learning
should suffer by too great zeal. Nowhere does Erasmus show himself
a more complete master of the word "if." He will admit everything
with an "if." Hutten has accused him of keeping on too good terms
with the pope after all the abuse which he has heaped upon things
papistical--very well, he has praised popes, but he has done this
because he believed them to be men who meant well to the cause of
Christ. If otherwise he would be the last to praise them.

Erasmus' analysis of the papal power here is a monument of his skill
in turning about words to suit his purpose.

   "I have never," he says, "spoken inconsistently of the Roman
   See. Tyranny, greed, and other vices, ancient grounds of
   complaint common to all good men, I have never approved. Nor
   have I ever totally condemned indulgences, though I have
   always hated this shameless trade in them. What I think about
   ceremonies, my books declare in many places. But when have I
   abused the Canon Law or the papal decretals? Whatever he means
   by 'calling the pope to order' I am not quite clear. I suppose
   he will admit that there is a church at Rome; for the multitude
   of its sins cannot cause it to be any the less a church--if this
   is not so then we have no churches at all. And I assume that it
   is an orthodox church; for if certain bad men are mingled with
   the rest, yet the church abides in the good ones. And I suppose
   he will allow that this church has a bishop, and that this
   bishop is a metropolitan ... now then among metropolitans what
   is there absurd in giving the first place to the Roman pontiff?
   for this great power which they have been usurping to themselves
   during several centuries, no one has ever heard me defend.

   "But Hutten will not endure a wicked pope;--why, that is what we
   are all praying for, that the pope may be a man worthy of his
   apostolic office. But, if he be not that, let him be deposed;
   and by the same token, let all bishops be deposed who do not
   duly perform their functions. But an especial plague of the
   world has been flowing now for many years from Rome. Would
   that it could be denied! Now, however, has come a pope who is
   striving, as I believe, with all his might, to give back to us
   that See and that Curia purified."

Yet Erasmus had been overwhelming the dead Leo, the source of this
pestilent flood, with every conceivable kind of flattery. Now he
abuses him, in order to make his point that things are all going to
be set right by the excellent Adrian. But this way of setting things
right is just what Hutten does not hope for, he says.

   "Yet there are many reasons for this hope, and charity,
   according to Paul, 'hopeth all things.' If Hutten were declaring
   war upon evils, not upon men, he would hasten to Rome and help
   this pope who is now trying to do the very same things he is
   himself striving for. But Hutten has declared war upon the Roman
   pontiff and all his followers.... The Romanists would like
   always to have such enemies as Hutten."

If there was an honest Erasmus anywhere under this mass of words, it
seems pretty clear that he was for Hutten rather than against him.
That Erasmus had any such honest side one is tempted to doubt when
one reads his defence against the charge of trifling with the truth.
Hutten had accused him[147] of saying that the truth ought not always
to be spoken, and that a great deal depended upon how it was put

  [147] _Expostulatio_, § 180.

   "That blasphemous speech of yours," he had said, "ought to have
   been thrust down your throat (my cause compels me to speak more
   angrily than I would) if those had done their duty who are now
   compelling heretics to recant or throwing them to the flames."

Erasmus could not deny the words, but replies[148]:

  [148] _Spongia_, § 274, x., 1660-E, and _Hutteni opera_, ii., 306.

   "When Christ first sent out the Apostles to preach the Gospel he
   forbade them to declare that he was the Christ. If, then, the
   Truth himself ordered that truth to be kept in silence, without
   the knowledge of which there is no salvation to any man, what is
   there strange in my saying that the truth ought sometimes to be

Then he gives several similar illustrations of repression of truth by
silence on the part of Jesus, and goes on:

   "If I had to defend the cause of an innocent man before a
   powerful tyrant should I blurt out the whole truth and ruin
   the case of the innocent man, or should I keep many things
   silent? Hutten, a brave man and most zealous for the truth,
   would, no doubt, speak thus: 'O most accursed tyrant, you who
   have murdered so many of your fellow-citizens, is your cruelty
   not yet sated, that you must tear this innocent man from their
   midst?' Well, that is about as clever as the way in which some
   are defending the cause of Luther, by raging against the pope
   with seditious writings. Or if he [Hutten] were asking from a
   wicked pope a benefice for some good man, he would write to
   him after this style: 'O impious Antichrist, destroyer of the
   Gospel, oppressor of civil liberty, flatterer of princes, thou
   givest basely so many a benefice to wicked men and still more
   basely sellest them, grant this one to this good man that all
   may not fall into evil hands.' You smile, reader; but these
   people are pleading the cause of the Gospel with no more caution
   than that.... But what is more foolish than to call me back from
   a place where I never was and to summon me to the very place I
   am now in? He calls me back from the party of the wicked who
   support the tyranny of the Romanists, who overturn the truth of
   the Gospel, who darken the glory of Christ; but I have always
   been fighting those very men. He summons me to his own side; but
   as yet I am not clear where Hutten himself stands."

The whole aim of the _Spongia_ and its effect upon the world were
simply to make it perfectly plain that Erasmus would not take sides.
If the purpose of the _Expostulatio_ was to force him to do so, it
was a conspicuous failure. Nothing could be plainer than Erasmus'
own declaration[149]:

  [149] _Spongia_, § 176, x., 1650-B, and _Hutteni opera_, ii., 291.

   "in so many letters, so many books, and by so many proofs, I am
   continually declaring that I am unwilling to be involved with
   either party. I give many reasons for this determination, but
   have not put forth all of them. And in this matter my conscience
   makes no charge against me before Christ my judge. In the midst
   of such confusion and danger to my reputation and my life I have
   so moderated my judgments as neither to be the author of any
   disturbance nor to help any cause which I do not approve. If
   Hutten is enraged because I do not support Luther as he does, I
   protested three years ago in an appendix added to my Familiar
   Colloquies at Louvain, that I was totally a stranger to that
   faction and always would be. I am not only keeping outside of it
   myself, but I am urging as many friends as I can to do the same,
   and I will never cease to do so. I mean by 'faction' the zeal of
   a mind sworn as it were to everything that Luther has written or
   is writing or ever will write. This kind of a sentiment often
   imposes upon good men; but I have openly announced to all my
   friends that if they cannot love me except as a Lutheran they
   may have whatever feeling they like about me. I am a lover of
   liberty. I will not and I cannot serve a party."

Here once more Erasmus saves himself by a definition. If to be a
Lutheran were to swear to every word of Luther's, then, of course,
no man in his senses would confess to the party name. Erasmus knew
as well as anyone that parties for action were never formed by any
such test. Men joined a party because they were in general sympathy
with others and believed that the time for common action had come.
This common action was the thing he could not bear to think of. To
him it meant _confusiones_, _tumultus_, _tragœdias_, and all the
other horrors of open conflict. We leave the Hutten episode, closed
as it was by the untimely death of the brilliant, reckless genius
who had brought it on, with the feeling that Hutten's charge was
substantially true. Erasmus, with all the best part of him, was
fighting the Lutheran battle and knew he was doing it. He recoiled
before the fear of violence and then had to justify himself.

It would be interesting to know how far the definition of the papacy
as a metropolitan see among others represented a real opinion of
Erasmus. Probably it was a rhetorical conclusion; but it can hardly
have made the _Spongia_ a welcome visitor at Rome, and it is not
surprising that this passage was expurgated by the Roman censorship.

An incident of the year 1524 well illustrates the temper of Erasmus
at the time and also the decline in regard for him on the Lutheran
side. A certain Scotch printer at Strassburg had published some
writing of Hutten against Erasmus, probably the _Expostulatio_,
with offensive illustrations, and in a second edition had added an
invective by another author, in which "whatever one blackguard could
say of another" was said of Erasmus. What touched him especially
was that he was called a traitor to the Gospel, and charged with
having been hired for money to fight against it, and moreover was
accused of being ready to be pulled in any direction by the chance
of a crumb of bread. Erasmus wrote two very angry letters[150] to
the magistrates of Strassburg asking them to punish the printer, and
defending himself in his usual fashion from these charges.

  [150] iii.¹, 793, 804.

Evidently nothing was done about it, for some time later
Erasmus wrote to Caspar Hedio, one of the Lutheran preachers at
Strassburg,[151] complaining of this neglect. His suggestions about
the way to treat an offending printer are amusing.

  [151] iii.¹, 844.

   "You say this Scotchman has a wife and little children. Would
   that be thought an excuse if he should break open my money-chest
   and steal my gold? I should say not; and yet he has done a thing
   far worse than that. Or perhaps you think I care less for my
   reputation than for my money. If he can't feed his children,
   let him go a-begging. 'That would be a shame,' you say. Well,
   aren't such actions as this a shame? Let him prostitute his wife
   and snore away with watchful nose over his cups. 'Horrible,'
   you say. And yet what he has done is more horrible still. There
   is no law to punish with death a man who prostitutes his wife;
   but everyone approves capital punishment for those who publish
   slanderous writings."




There can be no doubt that Erasmus was urged from many sides to write
something decisive against the Lutheran party. He held back as long
as he could, partly, we may be sure, from real sympathy with the
chief purpose of the reform and partly from a dread of committing
himself to, he knew not precisely what. To estimate his position
aright we must bear in mind that the real meaning of the reform
party was developing year by year, taking on ever new aspects as one
interest after another came to be connected with the original kernel
of opposition. So far as outward things were concerned Erasmus was
barred from many lines of attack by his own damning record. In these
matters he could only indulge in vague exhortations to moderation and
in voluminous, but not very convincing, apologies.

He was therefore compelled, if he wished to meet the pressure of the
Roman party by some open service, to turn to the more speculative
side of the reform. He there found a topic naturally adapted to draw
out his hostility, the topic of the freedom of the human will. It
was a subject especially suited to the Erasmian method. Its problem
involved the riddle of the ages: To what degree is the action of man
determined by his own will and to what degree by some power--Fate,
God, Devil, call it what we may--outside himself? That man had a will
of his very own had never been totally denied. The question was, how
far was this will free to act?

Within the history of Christianity this problem had early found its
expression in the great Augustinian-Pelagian controversy of the fifth
century. Both of these parties had admitted that man's will was
somehow affected by the divine will. The difference, the hopeless and
perpetual difference, had been on the question of the possibility of
_good_ action through the human impulse alone. This possibility the
Pelagian party had maintained, adding, however, that such original
good impulse of the human will was immediately aided by the divine
grace. The party of Augustine had denied the possibility of any
_good_ action without a _previous_ impulse of the divine grace.
The Church, sane and clever always in the long run, had steered
its course carefully between the two extremes. It had condemned
Pelagius as a heretic and reverenced Augustine as a saint; but it had
never gone to those lengths of opinion which might be discovered in
Augustine's writings by one who wished to find them there.

In other words, the Church had instinctively recognised that the
problem is insoluble. As the practical administrator of a system
of morals, it had concerned itself only with providing a machinery
whereby the consequences of evil action could be averted from its
faithful members. It had never said to them, "You are compelled to
these sins by a power you cannot resist," but it had said, "You will
infallibly sin and you will suffer for your sins, unless you remove
them by the means we offer." So far that had worked. The world had
accepted the situation and gone merrily on, knowing when it sinned,
but knowing also that a kind and indulgent Church would see to it
that its sins were taken care of at a very reasonable charge. Only
from time to time men like Savonarola and groups of men like the
Waldensians had raised their cry of protest and called men back again
to the sense of direct responsibility to, and direct dependence on,
God alone.

That was the essence also of Luther's protest. Every individual
Christian was once again called upon to deal directly with his God.
So far the Lutheran teaching was in complete harmony with the whole
drift of Erasmus' thought. But here we find another illustration
of similar conclusions reached by different ways. Erasmus was
quite satisfied to let the whole speculative side of the question
take care of itself. Luther could not rest until he had harmonised
his practical aims with some theological principle, which should
give them consistency and support. That principle he found in
the Augustinian doctrine of predestination and the unfree will.
Erasmus was content, as the Church was, to accept both sides of
the controversy at once, and trim them to suit each other. Luther
cared little for nice distinctions, but convinced himself that the
salvation of his cause lay in emphasising, so far as a mind so
eminently sound and human as his could do, the idea of a divine fate,
responsible--yes, he would even say this if he must--responsible even
for the seeming evil of this world.

Now it is obvious that, viewed abstractly, the whole group of ideas
we call "Augustinian" are open to the gravest question. They seem to
sap the foundations of Christian morality and to throw men back upon
the dreary fatalisms from which it was the mission of Christianity to
release them. In fact, however, it cannot be denied that from time
to time they have worked, where other means have failed, to recall
men sharply and uncompromisingly to the sense of sin and thereby to
a more vivid and convincing moral purpose. Such a time was come once
more in the day of Luther and Erasmus and Calvin. This theology may
have been illogical, but it worked. It ought, perhaps, in all reason,
to have sent men flying off into a mad indifference to morality,
since nothing they could do would influence their ultimate fate; but
for every weak and shuffling conscience which broke under this burden
there were a hundred others that were steeled and nerved by it to a
complete moral regeneration. The doctrine of the impotent will has
produced some of the most masterful wills before which the world has
ever had to bend.

Here, then, was a point upon which Erasmus might safely attack
Luther without compromising himself. His essay on the Freedom of
the Will[152] was announced some time before its appearance. In the
course of the year 1523 he sent a rough draft to King Henry VIII.,
promising, if this seemed worth while to the king "and other learned
men," to finish it as soon as his health and certain engagements
would permit. A letter of Luther to Erasmus in 1524 suggests that he
had heard of his intention to attack in some way the doctrines of the
Reformation, though he nowhere alludes to the subject of free will.
This letter is interesting as showing the lofty tone of a man who
believes himself to be the spokesman of a cause higher than any human
considerations. He, like Hutten, sees in Erasmus an ally who, after
the measure of the gift of God, is fighting the same battle. Only he
feels the limitations of that gift.

  [152] _De libero arbitrio Διατρίβη sive collatio_, ix., 1215-1247.

   "I see that God has not yet granted you the courage and the
   insight to join freely and confidently with me in fighting those
   monsters. Nor am I the man to demand of you what goes beyond
   my own strength and my own limitations. But weakness like my
   own and a measure of the gift of God I have borne with in you
   and have respected it. For this plainly the whole world cannot
   deny: that learning flourishes and prevails, whereby men have
   come to the true understanding of Scripture and this is a great
   and splendid gift of God in you. In truth I have never wished
   that you should go beyond your own limitations and mingle in our
   camp, for though you might help us greatly with your genius and
   eloquence, yet since your heart is not in it it would be safer
   to serve within your own gift. The only thing to be feared was
   that you would sometime be persuaded by our enemies to publish
   some attack upon our _doctrine_, and then necessity would compel
   me to answer you to your face. I have restrained others who
   were trying to draw you into the arena with things they had
   already written, and that was the reason why I wished Hutten's
   _Expostulatio_ had never been published,--and still more your
   _Spongia_, through which, if I am not mistaken, you now see how
   easy it is to write about moderation and to accuse Luther of
   lacking it, but how difficult, nay, impossible it is to practice
   it except through a singular gift of the Spirit.

   "Believe me, then, or not, yet Christ is my witness that I pity
   you from my heart, because the hatred and the active efforts of
   so many and so great men are stirred up against you. I cannot
   believe that you are not disturbed by these things, since your
   human virtue is unequal to such a burden. And yet perchance
   they too are moved by a justifiable warmth, because they feel
   themselves attacked by you with unworthy methods....

   "I, however, have up to this time restrained my pen, no matter
   how bitterly you have stung me, and have told my friends, in
   letters which you have read, that I was going to restrain it
   until you should come out openly.... Now then, what can I do?
   Either way is most trying to me. I could wish--if I could be
   the mediator--that my allies would cease to attack you with
   such zeal and would permit your old age to fall asleep in the
   peace of God and this they would do, in my opinion, if they
   would consider your infirmity and the greatness of our cause,
   which has long since passed beyond your limitations; especially
   now that the matter has gone so far that there is little to
   fear for our cause, even if Erasmus fight against it with all
   his might, nay, though sometimes he scatter stings and bites.
   Yet, on the other hand, my dear Erasmus, if only you would
   consider their weakness and would restrain from those biting
   and cutting figures of rhetoric, so that if you cannot or dare
   not go with us altogether, you may at least leave us alone and
   deal with your own subjects. For that they [Erasmus' 'Lutheran'
   assailants] are but ill bearing your attacks, there is good
   reason, namely, because their human weakness greatly dreads the
   name and authority of Erasmus and because to be once bitten by
   Erasmus is quite a different thing from being crushed by all the
   papists together.

   "I desire to have said these things, most excellent Erasmus,
   in witness of my friendly feeling towards you. I pray that God
   may give you a spirit worthy of your fame; but if God delays
   with his gift to you, I beg you meanwhile, if you can do no
   more, to remain a spectator of our conflict and not to join
   forces with our opponents, especially not to publish books
   against me, as I will publish nothing against you. Finally,
   consider that those who complain that they are attacked under
   the Lutheran name are men like you and me, in whom much ought to
   be overlooked and forgiven. As Paul says: 'Bear ye one another's
   burdens.' There has been biting enough; now let us see to it
   that we be not consumed by mutual strife, a spectacle the more
   wretched inasmuch as it is perfectly certain that neither side
   is at heart opposed to true piety and that if it were not for
   obstinacy, each would be quite satisfied with its own. Pardon my
   feeble speech and farewell in the Lord."

The impression of this letter is one of sad but confident sincerity.
Luther is not afraid of Erasmus because he is unshakably convinced
of the justice of his own cause, but he would gladly be spared the
necessity of going into an encounter which would make even more
evident to the world than it was already the difference between his
own and Erasmus' views of reform. His tone is lofty, arrogant if we
will, because he is speaking for what he believes to be divine truth
and to a man who seemed to him as yet untouched by the real divine
spark. He acknowledges his indebtedness to the great scholar, but
cannot see why Erasmus may not continue to find full scope for his
talents on the lines he has been following. He did not succeed in
staying the publication of the essay on free will, but at all events
the moderation of its tone shows a notable effort on the part of
Erasmus to avoid irritating language.

The treatise, published in 1524, is a short one, covering sixteen
folio pages. It consists chiefly of a careful historical examination
of passages of Scripture, both of the Old and New Testaments, in
which the subject seems to be alluded to. So far as the argument
itself is concerned, the work is of little interest. Erasmus for the
most part carefully avoids original discussion and holds himself
closely to authority. Since the beginning, he says, there has never
been anyone to deny free will entirely except "Manichæus" and Wiclif.
Yet Luther gives no weight to all this and falls back upon Scripture.
Very good, but this is only what all do. "Both sides accept and
revere the same Scripture. The battle is only about the meaning of
Scripture," and in getting at the meaning we ought to pay respect to
talent and learning. Of course the only sound interpretation comes
through the gift of the Spirit; but where is the Spirit? The chances
are much greater that it is to be found among those to whom God has
given ordination, just as we believe more easily that grace is given
to a baptised man than to an unbaptised one.

   "If Paul commands his time, in which the gift of the Spirit was
   flourishing, to prove the spirits, whether they be of God, what
   must we do in this fleshly age? How then shall we judge the
   spirits? by learning? On both sides there are men of learning.
   By the life? there are sinners on both sides. In the other life
   is the whole choir of the saints who approve the freedom of the
   will. 'But,' they say, 'those were mortals'; true, and I am
   comparing men with men, not men with gods. I am asked: 'What
   have majorities to do with the meaning of Scripture?' I answer:
   'What have minorities to do with it?' I am asked: 'How does the
   mitre help in understanding Scripture?' I answer: 'How does the
   cloak help or the cowl?' I am asked: 'What has the understanding
   of philosophy to do with the understanding of Scripture?' I
   answer: 'What has ignorance to do with it?' I am asked: 'What
   can be done for a knowledge of Scripture by a Council, in which
   it may happen that no one has the Spirit?' I answer: 'What can
   be done by private gatherings of a few men, among whom it is far
   more probable that no one has the Spirit?' ...

   "If you ask them by what proof they know the true sense of
   Scripture, they reply, 'By the witness of the Spirit.' If you
   ask how _they_ come to have the Spirit, rather than those
   whose miracles have been known to all the world, they reply as
   if there had been no Gospel in the world for thirteen hundred
   years. If you ask of them a life worthy of the Spirit, they
   reply that they are justified by faith, not by works. If you ask
   for miracles they tell you that these have long since ceased
   and that there is no need of them in the present clear light of
   Scripture. If you deny that Scripture is clear on this point,
   upon which so many of the greatest men have been involved in
   darkness, the circle comes round again to its beginning."

Now all this is very clever--too clever, in fact; for it amounts to
nothing but an elaborate defence of the principle of human authority
in belief. By means of this introduction, Erasmus sets himself
squarely against the principle of free interpretation of the original
sources of Christianity by the light of reason and knowledge, for
which the Reformation was really working and towards which he himself
by his own New Testament work had been contributing.

Another principle of Erasmus, especially irritating to Luther, was
that the truth should not always be spoken, a maxim as obviously true
as the application of it was liable to gross abuse.

   "Let us then suppose," he says, "that it be true in some sense,
   as Wiclif and Luther have said, that 'whatever is done by us,
   is done, not by free will but by pure necessity,' what more
   inexpedient than to publish this paradox to the world? Or, let
   us suppose that in a certain sense it is true, as Augustine
   somewhere says: 'God works both good and evil in us, and
   rewards his own good works in us and punishes his own evil
   works in us,' what a door to impiety this saying would open to
   countless mortals, if it were spread abroad in the world!...
   What weak man would keep up the perpetual and weary conflict
   against the flesh? What evil man would strive to correct his
   life? Who could persuade his soul to love with his whole heart a
   God who has prepared a hell glowing with eternal tortures that
   he may there avenge upon miserable men his own misdeeds as if he
   delighted in human tortures?"

Here was an objection to Augustinianism as old as Augustine himself,
but the fact was that it had never yet been sustained and was
not likely to be. Even if it had been, that could not affect the
principle Erasmus was now concerned with; namely, that truth which
seemed likely to make any confusion in the world ought not to be

  [153] In a letter to Aloisius Marlianus (iii.¹, 545-C), Erasmus
  says: "I know that everything ought to be borne rather than that
  the public order should be disturbed; I know it is the part of
  piety sometimes to hide the truth, and that the truth ought not
  to be put forth in every place, nor at every time, nor in every
  presence, nor in every way, nor always in its entirety."

Having fortified himself on these preliminary points, Erasmus lays
out the problem with great clearness and then proceeds with the
examination of scripture passages on both sides. It would be idle
to follow this process, by which, proverbially, anyone can prove
anything. Of course Erasmus finds the weight of Scripture on his
side, as his opponents found it on theirs. Far more important and
interesting is his own personal declaration of faith. Put in a word,
it was that one ought to allow to man _some_ share in his own good
actions; not a great share, only "_non nihil_." In fact, this is
really the only thing he finds to criticise in the Lutheran doctrine,
the overemphasis on the element of grace in human action.

   "[154]Doubtless to them [the Lutherans] it seems perfectly in
   harmony with the simple obedience of the Christian soul that man
   should depend wholly upon the will of God, should place all his
   hope and trust in His promises, and, knowing how wretched he is
   of himself, should marvel and adore His boundless mercy which
   is poured out upon us freely in such large measure and should
   entrust himself wholly to His will, whether He wishes to save
   or to condemn; that man should take no credit to himself for
   His kindnesses, but should ascribe all the glory to His grace,
   bearing in mind that man is only the living organ of the divine
   spirit, purified and consecrated by His free goodness, ruled
   and governed by His inscrutable wisdom. There is nothing here
   which anyone can claim for his own strength and yet one may with
   confidence hope from Him the reward of eternal life--not because
   he has deserved it by good deeds, but because it has seemed best
   to His goodness to promise it to His faithful. It is the part of
   men earnestly to pray God that he may impart and increase His
   spirit in us, to give thanks if any good is done through us, to
   worship His power in all things, to marvel at His wisdom, and to
   love His goodness.

  [154] ix., 1241-F.

"All this I too most heartily approve. It agrees with holy
Scripture. It answers to the profession of those who, once dead to
the world, are at the same time buried with Christ by baptism, so
that through mortifying the flesh, they may live and act in the
spirit of Jesus, in whose body they are implanted by faith. Truly a
pious opinion and worthy of all approval, which takes away from us
all pride, which lays all the glory and all our hope upon Christ,
which casts out all fear of men or demons and makes us distrustful
of our own defences, but bold and full of courage in God. I applaud
all this gladly until it becomes extravagant. For when I hear that
man is so completely without merit that all the works, even of pious
men, are sinful; when I hear that our wills can do no more than clay
in the hand of the potter; when I hear that all we do or will is to
be referred to absolute necessity,--my mind is disturbed by many

We see how near he comes to the Lutheran position. Its emphasis on
the sinfulness of man and the direct responsibility to God appeals
to him. Only, like so many before and since, he revolts against the
injustice of a theory which would punish man for sins he has not
committed. He cannot escape from the ordinary standards of human
reward and punishment. His idea of God is offended by what seems to
him a cruel and unfeeling conception. He cannot ascribe to God any
quality which would be a disgrace to manhood.

   "Surely everyone would call him a cruel and unjust master,
   who should flog a slave to death because he was not beautiful
   enough or had a crooked nose or was otherwise deformed. Would
   not the slave be right in complaining to the master who was
   slaying him: 'Why should I be punished for what I cannot help?'
   And he would be still more justified in saying this if it were
   in the power of the master to remedy the defect of the slave,
   as it is in the power of God to change our wills or if the
   master had caused in the slave the very defect at which he now
   takes offence, as, for example, if he had cut off his nose
   or disfigured his face with scars, as God, according to some
   people, has wrought all the evil that is in us."[155]

  [155] ix., 1243-B.

This is the familiar argument of all anti-Augustinianism from the
beginning until now. So long as the discussion has to be carried on
with the weapons of the ancient theology, it is hard to see how the
issue can be stated otherwise. So long as both parties were acting
on the theory of a universe with a God outside of it and assumed
the existence of good and evil as absolute entities, they must
necessarily part company in their definitions of this God and of
his relation to good and evil. Each would fall back upon such human
analogies as seemed to come nearest to his own divine ideal. The real
issue was far beyond the comprehension of either party. Each was
seeking a solution where no solution was possible. Erasmus said:

   "In my judgment free will might have been so defined as to avoid
   that confidence in our own merits and those other difficulties
   which Luther avoids and also the difficulties I have enumerated
   above, without losing those valuable things which Luther
   praises. This solution seems to me to be found in the opinion
   of those who ascribe entirely to grace the first impulse by
   which our minds are set in motion, and only in the course of
   this motion allow a something to the will of man which has not
   withdrawn itself from the grace of God. But since all things
   have three parts, beginning, progress, and completion, they
   ascribe the two extremes to grace and only in the progress
   admit that the free will does something;--but even this it does
   in such a way that in the same individual act two causes work
   together, the grace of God and the will of man, grace being
   the principal cause and the will the secondary cause, which of
   itself can do nothing, whereas the principal cause is sufficient
   to itself. Just as the native force of fire burns and yet the
   principal cause [of the burning] is God, who acts through the
   fire and would be sufficient alone, whereas the fire if this
   should withdraw itself could accomplish nothing without it."[156]

  [156] ix., 1244-A.

This has an almost Pelagian sound. It is in fact nearly the attitude
of the moderate anti-Augustinian party of the fifth century, when it
was trying to show how orthodox it was. Erasmus goes on to illustrate
the same point with abundant and clever illustration, and finally
comes to the question of "original sin," the inevitable _crux_ of the
whole discussion.

   "[157]They exaggerate original sin beyond all measure," he
   says; "they would have it that the most splendid powers of our
   human nature are so corrupted by it, that we can do nothing of
   ourselves except to be ignorant of God and to hate Him. Not even
   he who is justified by faith can do any act which is not a sin;
   this very _tendency_ to sin left over to us from the sin of our
   first parents they call sin, and declare it irresistible, so
   that there is no command of God which even a man justified by
   faith can fulfil; but so many commands of God have no other aim
   than that God's grace may be magnified through his granting of
   salvation without regard to our merits!... If God has burdened
   man with so many commands which have no other effect than to
   make him hate God the more, do they not make him out more
   unmerciful than Dionysius, tyrant of Sicily, who purposely made
   many laws which he expected most persons would not obey unless
   insisted upon, then for a while overlooked offences until he saw
   that almost everyone had violated them, and then began to call
   them to account, and so made everyone hate him?

  [157] ix., 1246-B.

"This kind of extravagance Luther seems to delight in, in order that
he might, as the saying is, split the evil knot of others' excesses
with an evil wedge. The foolish audacity of certain men had gone to
extremes. They were selling the merits, not only of themselves, but
of all the saints. And for what kind of works? for incantations, for
muttering of psalms, eating of fish, fastings, vestments, titles.
Now Luther drove out this nail with another by saying that there are
no merits of saints at all, but that all the works of pious men are
sins, and will bring damnation, unless faith and God's mercy come to
their aid.

"Again, the other party was making a profitable trade out of
confessions and penances, wherein they had terribly ensnared the
consciences of men; and also out of Purgatory, about which they had
handed down certain marvellous notions. This error their opponents
would correct by saying that confession is a device of Satan and
ought not to be required; that works can give no satisfaction for sin
since Christ has completely paid the penalty for the sins of all men,
and, finally, that there is no such thing as Purgatory. So one side
says that the decrees even of their little priors can bind us by the
pains of hell and does not hesitate to promise eternal life to those
who obey them. The other side tries to moderate this extravagance
by saying that all the decrees of popes, councils, and bishops are
heretical and anti-Christian. If one side had exalted extravagantly
the power of the pope, the other says such things about him as I dare
not repeat. Again, one party says that the vows of monks and priests
bind men by the pains of hell, and that for ever; the other says that
such vows are utterly impious and ought not to be taken;--or, if they
have been taken, ought not to be kept. Now it is from the collision
of such excesses as this that the thunders and lightnings have arisen
which are now shattering the world. If both sides are to go on thus
bitterly defending their extreme views I perceive that the battle
will be like that between Achilles and Hector, who were so equal in
savagery that only death could separate them.... I prefer the opinion
of those who attribute something to free will, but a great deal to
grace. For we ought not so to avoid the Scylla of pride as to be
swept into the Charybdis of despair and indifference."

So the treatise ends as it began, by showing what all reasonable
men knew before, that the question has two sides to it, but without
giving that kind of decided utterance which the critical moment
demanded. Viewed as an abstract treatment, quite independently
of the circumstances, it was a moderate, clever, good-tempered
discussion of a philosophic problem; but it did not give that clear
note of leadership for which, above all else, men were listening.
Intellectually, Erasmus' position was as superior to that of Luther
as was the temper of his argument better than that of Luther's reply.
The _De libero arbitrio_ was welcomed by all the moderates of the
day and doubtless did its work in holding to the _status quo_ many
a wavering spirit which otherwise might have been drawn into the
reforming ranks. While the weight of the argument is obviously thrown
as far as possible on Luther's side, it called attention sharply to
the weakest points in the Reformation theology.

As soon as the "Free Will" was published, Erasmus hastened, as usual,
to justify himself by writing in all directions to the persons
whose approval was of most value to him,--to Henry VIII., Wolsey,
and Fisher in England, to Melanchthon and Duke George in Germany,
and to Aleander in Italy. He represents the work as a proof of his
courage--"a bold deed in Germany," he says to Wolsey, while to
Aleander he complains that enemies of his in Italy are abusing him
for unsound scholarship.

   "They call me '_Errasmus_' in Rome, as if your writers had
   never made a mistake. They say I am unfriendly to Italy,
   whereas no one speaks more heartily than I of the genius of
   the Italians.... I have no doubt that you and I would get on
   beautifully, if we could only live together."

Luther waited a full year before replying to the Diatribe. It was a
year of especial trial to him, for within those months it seemed as
if the worst prophecies of his worst enemies were being fulfilled.
All the social and economic restlessness of the time was beginning to
make use of his teaching as a justification for revolt against the
existing order of society. Wholly against his will he found himself
held responsible for confusions he abhorred and for doctrines which
seemed to him worse, if possible, than those he had undertaken to
combat. His immediate duty was to clear himself of these imputations;
to show how utterly foreign to his spirit and his aims were the
theology of Carlstadt, the communistic speculations of Münzer, and
the revolutionary radicalism of the peasant leaders. He accomplished
this for all who were able to follow his argumentation in the
remarkable series of pamphlets published in 1524 and 1525. Then he
returned to the assault of Erasmus. The most striking quality of the
long and laboured treatise, _De servo arbitrio_,[158] with which he
replied to the Diatribe, is its perfect frankness. Indeed Luther
was almost compelled to frankness by his detestation of what seemed
to him the perilously shifty method of his opponent. Erasmus had
deprecated violence; Luther reminds him that no great good ever came
into the world without commotion and overturn of an existing order.
Christ came, not to send peace, but a sword. Erasmus had said that
true things were not to be uttered at all times and had given certain
illustrations; Luther disposes of this point by showing that the
things proposed in these illustrations were not true and therefore,
of course, ought not to be told at any time. Erasmus had asked: "If
there is no freedom of will, who will try to amend his life?" Luther
frankly replied, "No man. No man can. The elect will be amended by
the divine spirit; the rest will perish unamended." Erasmus had said
that a door would be opened to all iniquity by this doctrine. Luther
says: "So be it; that is a part of the evil that is to be borne; but
at the same time there is opened to the elect a door to salvation, an
entrance into heaven, a way to God."

  [158] Walch, Luther's _Werke_, xviii., 2049. An English
  translation by Henry Cole. London, 1823.

On the crucial point of authority for faith, Erasmus had especially
assailed what seemed to him the vague and uncertain evidence of
"the Spirit." Luther replies that he is far enough from agreeing
with those whose sole reliance is upon the "Spirit," of which they
boast. He has had a bitter enough fight with them for a year past.
In the same way he has been attacking the papacy because there one
is always hearing that the Scriptures are obscure and ambiguous, and
that we ought to seek at Rome for the interpreting Spirit,--the most
disastrous thing possible.

   "Now we hold this, that spirits are to be tried and proved
   by a twofold judgment; the one an internal, whereby a man,
   enlightened by the Holy Spirit or by a special gift of God may,
   so far as he and his own salvation are concerned, decide with
   the utmost certainty and distinguish the doctrines and opinions
   of all men. As is written [1 Cor. ii. 15.], 'the spiritual
   man judgeth all things, but is judged by no man.' This is an
   essential part of faith, and is necessary for everyone, even
   for a private Christian. This is what we have called above the
   internal clearness of Holy Scripture and is perhaps what those
   persons meant who replied to you, that all things were to be
   decided by the judgment of the Spirit. But this kind of judgment
   cannot avail for another person, and is not in question here;
   for no one, I believe, can doubt that it stands as I have said.

   "Therefore there is a second kind of judgment, an external,
   whereby, not only for ourselves but for others and as regards
   the salvation of others, we may most surely judge the spirits
   and opinions of all men. This judgment belongs to the public
   ministry of the Word and to the external office and especially
   to the leaders and heralds of the Word. This we make use of when
   we strengthen the weak in the faith and confute our opponents.
   This we have called above the 'external clearness of Scripture.'
   And so we say that all spirits are to be tried in the sight of
   the Church with Scripture as the judge."

After this long introduction, Luther proceeds to take up, one after
another, Erasmus' references to Scripture, and to show that he has
misunderstood them because he has applied to them a false principle
of judgment. We are not concerned with this theological fencing.
Our interest is in the attitude of the two men towards the ultimate
question of authority. Erasmus, the "individual," the man of the
Renaissance, the apostle of light, the fearless critic of evils in
Church and society, approaches this great doctrinal question with
the timidity of a scholastic, and refers it finally to the judgment
of the great authorities of the Church. Luther, the man of feeling,
the thinker who only prayed to be instructed, who gloried in being
the slave of a higher will, comes out here in reality as a champion
of the boldest liberty of human judgment. He would settle all things
by Scripture, but he would read his Scripture with his own eyes and
interpret it by the light of that evidence of the Spirit which he and
he alone could read for himself. His tone is one of mingled humility
and arrogance, but we have no reason to question his sincerity in
either character. His arrogance was that of a man who felt with Paul:
"Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel." He closes, as he began,
by praising Erasmus' learning, thanking him for having gone straight
at the heart of the question, instead of worrying him, as others were
doing, "about the papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and such nonsense,"
and warning him that henceforth he had better stick to his trade of
literature and let theology alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

By the year 1525 the Lutheran doctrine may be regarded as
substantially complete, in the form which it was to take in the
Augsburg Confession of 1530. Erasmus had indeed, as Luther said, gone
straight to the point by which that doctrine must stand or fall, and
in rejecting it he had made it impossible for anyone to rank him with
the reforming party. At the same time he had shown how completely he
was out of sympathy, even theologically, with the system of salvation
by _bona opera_, which the Church was trying to maintain. More than
ever therefore he found himself out of tune with both parties and,
since all the world was now rapidly ranging itself on one side or the
other, he experienced a growing sense of isolation that was to colour
his remaining years.

Logically this isolation was the natural outcome of lifelong habit.
To be free of all obligations was, we have continually noted,
Erasmus' chief desire, and that motive, consistently followed, could
lead nowhere else than to isolation. Yet here we touch once more upon
that other side of his nature which had always been in conflict with
the instinct of freedom. In spite of his individuality he needed
approval. The breath of adulation was sweet to him. He could be
shabby enough to a friend, if he thought himself injured, but that
very sensitiveness betrayed his need of friendship. We cannot wonder
therefore that henceforth, with increasing age and infirmity, his
utterances take on a tone of increasing sadness and sense of loss.

More and more, too, as the doctrines of the reformers spread downward
into all classes of society and outward over all countries, it
became clearer and clearer to the established authorities that their
real quarrel was not with this or that doctrinal quibble, nor with
one or the other religious sect or social organisation, but with
the underlying spirit of all these. It availed little that Erasmus
rejected the doctrine of the Unfree Will, that he refused to be a
Lutheran or a Zwinglian, an Anabaptist or a socialist. The powers
threatened by all these felt, and rightly felt, that he stood for
something more dangerous still,--a something without which none of
the sects could have stood alone for a moment. That something was the
spirit of criticism and of science based upon a first-hand knowledge
of the sources of Christian truth.

The year 1525 marks a distinct reactionary movement. As, on the one
hand, the social and economic disturbances were the severest strain
on the new religious awakening, so, on the other hand, they were
the final argument to convince the powers of conservatism that it
was now or never with them. For a moment the Church had seemed to
waver. In electing as pope Adrian VI., a Northerner, an intimate of
the young emperor, a school-fellow of Erasmus, and well known as a
man of enlightened and moderate views, the Roman Curia had seemed to
cut itself loose from an exclusively Roman policy. That policy had
more than once brought the papacy to the brink of ruin and was to do
so more than once again, but for the moment reformers of all grades
believed that a substantial progress had been made. The early action
of Adrian had confirmed this belief; but the pressure was too great;
the papacy was stronger than the pope. Adrian died in 1523 after a
disappointing administration of a single year, and the proverbial
swing of the papal pendulum brought to the chair of Peter once more
an Italian--not indeed a Roman, but a man as completely identified
with the curial policy as Adrian had been unfamiliar with it.

Giulio dei' Medici, nephew of the great Lorenzo, devoted from his
earliest years to the ecclesiastical profession, a politician
trained in the same school with Macchiavelli, and accepting the
papacy as the natural culmination of his ambition, was precisely the
kind of man to rally all the resources of the Church in defence of
its imperilled traditions. In that rally, at this perilous crisis,
no half-way allegiance could be useful. Whatever hopes might have
been placed upon Erasmus by Leo and Adrian were by this time pretty
effectually dissipated. The kind of sledge-hammer blows which the
papacy of 1525 needed to have struck in its defence were certainly
not to come from such an arm as this.

Yet there occurred no official breach with any of the great Catholic
powers. On the accession of Clement VII. Erasmus sent him an early
letter of congratulation. He almost repeats the language of similar
addresses to former popes. Things have been going badly enough, but
now the right man for the emergency has come. Especially the cause of
learning may well expect the greatest things from a Medicean pope. He
has resisted all pressure to take sides against the papacy, and yet
Stunica is raging against him in Italy unpunished, to the disgrace of
Rome and the injury of the papal name.

   "[159]Believe me, most holy Father, whoever is hiring that
   play-actor, a man born for this kind of trickery, is doing a
   very poor service to the papacy or to the cause of the public
   peace; he is simply serving some private hatred and to that
   end making use of another's folly.... I have always submitted
   myself and all my works to the judgment of the Roman Church,
   not intending to resist, even if it should give a verdict
   unfavourable to me. For I will suffer everything rather than be
   a rebel; and therein I place my confidence that your Holiness'
   sense of justice will not permit me to be given up to the mad
   hatred of a few men.... The Emperor and the Lady Margaret are
   calling me back to Brabant. The French king is inviting me with
   mountains of gold to come to him. But nothing shall tear me from
   Rome but death,--or the gravel more cruel than death,--if only
   I can be sure that your justice will protect me against false

  [159] iii.¹, 783-E.

The familiar reference to the mountains of French gold, which
have been serving their turn with him any time these ten years
past, but which have no foundation in fact, serve to indicate the
value of these declarations. It is unlikely that Erasmus had the
least intention of going to Rome. The phrase about his call to
Brabant appears again, somewhat elaborated, in a letter to Cardinal
Campeggio, dated 1526, but almost certainly of even date (February,
1524) with the one to Clement just quoted. He speaks here of his very
feeble health, which has compelled him to take a house by himself
where he can have an open fireplace. He cannot leave in the winter,
but is planning a vacation trip for the coming summer, and would
gladly betake himself _isthuc_,--presumably to the German Diet at
Nuremberg whither Campeggio was coming as papal legate. He goes on
to say of how little use he can be under the circumstances, though
he will gladly do what he can in the cause of peace. He promises
Campeggio to come to the Diet if he can, at the same moment that he
is assuring Clement that nothing shall tear him (_avellere_) from
his beloved Rome, if he is able to move from Basel at all. If we
doubt his intention to go to Rome we may be still more certain that a
German Diet in 1524 was the very last place where he would have cared
to show himself. This, by the way, was the Diet at which Campeggio
was warned not to wear his cardinal's hat, and not to make the sign
of benediction or of the cross.[160]

  [160] Ranke, History of Germany, bk. iii., ch. iv.

So far as we can ever say that Erasmus had intentions about his
future, we may venture to believe that he meant to end his days at
Basel. On one subject it was almost impossible for him to exaggerate,
and that was the awful agony of his disease in its acute stages and
the great weakness and depression in the interval. The wonder is that
he could have kept so steadily at work and could so often, in the
midst of his reproaches upon fortune and his enemies, display that
keen, playful humour which was his greatest charm.

       *       *       *       *       *

On one other doctrinal question, of vast importance in the history of
the Reformation, we must examine the utterances of Erasmus; namely,
on the question of the Eucharist. While the problem of the freedom
of the will involved the most profound philosophical speculation,
the eucharistic controversy had to deal with a matter which, viewed
from one side, was a mere question of usage, but from another led at
once into a region where blind faith was plainly set in opposition
to human reason. From an early day the organised Church had seen
the value of the ideas which had taken form in the service of the
Eucharist and had insisted with absolutely unwavering determination
upon the doctrinal formula which expressed them. First brought
sharply before the mediæval world by the controversy of Paschasius
in the ninth century, the issue was revived by Berengar of Tours in
the eleventh, and all the ingenuity of the early scholasticism of
Anselm's day was displayed in giving to the idea a foundation that
could be neither misunderstood nor evaded. Thus crystallised into
a philosophic reality by the great formulators of the thirteenth
century, the crass statement of the Church had been questioned anew
by Wiclif. Hus had, on this point, it is true, professed allegiance
to the Church, but the Hussite party, by its passionate insistence
upon the right of the laity to receive the Eucharist under both
forms, had protested against the whole conception of the sacrament as
a sacrifice. So also the tendency of the great mystical movement had
been to accustom men's minds to a spiritual interpretation of outward

That was the stage in which the Reformation found the whole subject
of the Eucharist. Luther early became clear on two points: first,
that the celebration of the Eucharist as a repetition of the
sacrifice of Christ upon the cross, without any reference whatever
to the individual communicant,--indeed, as was oftenest the case,
without any lay communicant at all,--was an outrageous violation
of every truly Christian conception of the institution, a mere
piece of heathen idolatry. But, secondly, Luther still clung to the
notion that a something mysterious and miraculous took place when the
formula of benediction was duly uttered by the priest, and that this
something must still be expressed in terms of the church tradition.
"_Hoc est corpus meum_" must have some literal and physical meaning.
Especially as he saw the "fanatics," who were not afraid to use
their reason and take the consequences, going far ahead of him and
repudiating all the mystery of the consecrated symbol, he found
himself drawn more and more into sympathy with the traditional view.
The Eucharist question thus became the test of distinction not only
between Catholic and Protestant but between moderate and radical
Protestant as well. Plain men like Landgraf Philip of Hessen, who
wanted above all else to see all the forces of Protestantism united
in one great assault, were shocked and puzzled to find that men who
seemed to them to stand for precisely the same things were held apart
by such a mere speculative problem as this.

Luther said, and said truly, of his Protestant doctrinal opponents,
"these men are of another spirit," and at the Conference of Marburg,
in 1529, when the whole future of Protestantism seemed to hang
upon the union of the Swiss with the German branch, his personal
insistence upon the out-and-out literalness of the Catholic symbol
prevented that union forever. He saved the Lutheran Church from the
reproach of fanaticism and left the Swiss Church free to follow
its more liberal course. That is where the Eucharist question
drew near Erasmus. He began to feel the approach of danger and,
characteristically, to prepare for it. We have no special treatise
on the subject from his hand, though he is said to have written and
suppressed two such. His expressions in regard to it are scattered
through his apologetic writings. In the "Apology against Certain
Spanish Monks," published in 1528, there is a chapter[161] in which
he replies to criticism on this point. Here, as everywhere, he
tries to draw a clear line between what is essential and what is
non-essential to the Christian faith. Hutten, he says, found fault
with him because he was not willing to expose himself to all perils
for the sake of Luther's doctrine, but he had replied:

  [161] ix., 1064-1066.

   "I would gladly be a martyr for Christ, if he would give me
   strength, but I am not willing to be a martyr for Luther....
   Now if it were an important article of faith that the Mass
   is not a sacrifice, as Luther maintains, death ought to be
   sought and inflicted on its account.... What I call articles
   of faith are those handed down in all the creeds which the
   Church repeats,--and yet I do not deny the use of this phrase
   for some doctrines that are not expressed in the creeds. As to
   the reasons why the Eucharist is called a sacrifice, there is
   still a difference among theologians as there is also on many
   points about the primacy of the pope.... When I have stated that
   we ought to agree with the Church in all points, even if man's
   reason and the apparent meaning of Scripture were opposed, I
   make it clear enough that I will conform at once, if anyone
   will prove to me what the Church teaches on this point."

As regards the communion in both kinds, his critics tried to trip
him on the ground of a letter to Bohemia in which he had seemed to
show some favour to the new-old doctrine. He protests that he never
meant to question the teaching of the Church but only to suggest
that more weighty reasons than he had as yet heard ought to be given
for changing a practice which undoubtedly prevailed in the early
centuries of the Church.

   "Nor do I doubt that there were such reasons, which perhaps on
   account of some scruple they preferred not to mention;--for
   it is not an impious thing in itself to partake under both
   forms.... As for the charge that on this point as on many
   others I agree with Luther, if I should say that is a straight
   lie, they would think me lacking in courtesy; but bad luck to
   that crafty book from which these extracts are taken! I try to
   persuade men to conform to the requirements of the Roman Church
   in partaking of the Eucharist; is that agreeing with Luther? Let
   anyone read what he writes on this business!"

So anxious was Erasmus to set himself right with the world on this
all-important topic, that in 1530, after his removal to Freiburg,
he published an edition of a treatise by one Algerus, a Benedictine
monk of Liege, who died at Cluny in 1131. This work, entitled A
Treatise on the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord, was
written in refutation of Berengar of Tours. In his dedication[162]
Erasmus says: "I have never doubted the reality of the body of the
Lord, and yet somehow by the reading of this work my faith has been
not a little confirmed, and my reverence increased." In the course
of this dedication he shows us very plainly the working of his mind.
The _doctrine_ he admits to be of original validity, but as to its
_form_, and as to the precise expressions one ought to use, there
has been an historical development and this has come about by human
means, through the natural process of controversy.

  [162] iii., 1274-1277.

   "Would that they who have followed Berengar in his errors would
   follow him also in his repentance, and that their error may turn
   to the advantage of the Church! There are innumerable questions
   about this sacrament, as, how the change of substance takes
   place; how accidents can exist without a substance; how the
   bread and the wine retain the colour, the smell, the taste, the
   power of satisfying, of intoxicating, and of nourishing which
   they had before they were consecrated; at what moment they begin
   and cease to be the body and blood of Christ; whether, if the
   form be destroyed another substance succeeds; how the same body
   may be in innumerable places; how the very body of a man can be
   under the least crumb of bread and many other things which may
   properly be discussed by those of trained intelligence. For the
   multitude it is enough to believe that after the consecration
   the bread and the wine are the true body and blood of the Lord,
   which cannot be divided, nor injured, nor is exposed to any
   harm, whatever may happen to the elements.... In short, in
   answer to all the doubts of human reasoning, there comes to us
   the unlimited power of God, to whom nothing is impossible and
   nothing difficult."

In other words, Erasmus in 1530 is perfectly satisfied with the same
mental attitude which Paschasius had displayed in the ninth century,
at a moment when European culture was but just rising above its
lowest point. His only criticism is reserved for the excesses of the
Church system. His description of the proper state of mind of the
devout worshipper is spiritual enough to be adopted by the most eager

   "Once," he says, "when the Church was in its best estate, it
   knew but one sacrament and the bishop alone performed it. The
   throng of sacramental persons were attracted first by piety and
   then by gain. At length the thing has gone so far that many
   study for the priesthood precisely as one man learns to be a
   mechanic, another a cobbler, another a mason or a tailor. To
   these the Mass is only a means of livelihood."

Whenever we find Erasmus protesting with especial vehemence that
he does not believe a thing, we may be tolerably sure that he has
already given good reason for suspicion that he did believe it. In
the case of the Eucharist such suspicion was well grounded. The
objections to the doctrine, even on its philosophical side, were such
as must have appealed strongly to his common sense. The abuses of it
in practice, especially the whole theory of the Mass as a sacrifice,
performed by the priest at so much per performance, were precisely
of the kind against which he had declaimed all his life long. When
the doctrine began to be criticised by the reformers, especially
by his Swiss neighbours, he allowed himself some tolerably free
expressions of opinion. The leader of Swiss thought on this, as on
most theological subjects, was Œcolampadius, the reformed preacher
of Basel. He had published his view, and Erasmus' friend, Bilibald
Pirkheimer of Nuremberg, had replied, defending a view resembling
that of Luther. In June, 1526, Erasmus wrote to Pirkheimer reviewing
very briefly the state of the reforming ideas in the several European
countries. He says[163]:

  [163] iii.¹, 941-A.

   "I should not be displeased with the view of Œcolampadius,
   if the consent of the Church were not against it. _For I see
   no meaning in a body without sensible form_, nor what use it
   could be if it were perceived by the senses, provided only
   that a spiritual grace were present in the elements. And yet I
   cannot depart from the consent of the Church and never have so
   departed. You differ from Œcolampadius in such a way that you
   seem to prefer to agree with Luther rather than with the Church.
   You quote Luther with a little more respect than was necessary,
   when you might have cited the authority of others.... With your
   usual prudence _you will not show this letter to anyone_."

In the year following he begins a letter to Pirkheimer thus[164]:

  [164] iii.¹, 1028-A.

   "From your pen, my dear Bilibald, I have never feared anything,
   having long tested your cautious considerateness and your
   persistent loyalty in friendship; but it did offend me to have
   Œcolampadius mixing up my name in his books without any reason,
   when he knows from me, that it is unpleasant to me to be named
   by him, more unpleasant to be abused, and most unpleasant to be
   praised. He keeps it up without end. I have never ascribed
   anything of this to my dear Bilibald; for many things grieve us
   which we can ascribe to no one. If I had some little doubt about
   your unusually long silence, that ought not to surprise you,
   considering the changeableness of human affections.... And I do
   not regret my little suspicions since they have brought me these
   longed-for letters."

Apparently Erasmus suspected that Pirkheimer had, after all, let
Œcolampadius know that he was inclined to the spiritual view of the
Eucharist. Farther on he writes:

   "I said _among friends_ that I could follow his opinion, if the
   authority of the Church would approve it; but I added that I
   could by no means differ from the Church. But by 'Church' I mean
   the consent of all Christian people.... How much the authority
   of the Church avails with others I know not, but it is so
   important to me that I could agree with Arians or Pelagians, if
   the Church should approve what they taught. Not that the words
   of Christ are not sufficient for me, but it is no wonder that I
   follow as interpreter the Church, upon the authority of which I
   believe in the canonical Scriptures. Others perhaps have more
   talent or more strength than I, but I rest nowhere so safely
   as in the certain judgment of the Church. Of reasons and
   argumentations there is no end."

  AT LEYDEN, 1703.]

In short, Erasmus had on this subject, as he had usually had on all
controverted points, one opinion for his friends and another for the
world. His array of "ifs" and "buts" was only a cover for his nervous
dread of committing himself to something. His attitude on this
question is throughout characteristic. If it meant anything, it would
be a complete justification for the suspension of all thought on any
speculative question. To say that one would be inclined to a belief
if only the Church would approve it, is to emasculate one's own
intelligence. It could not help things to say that the Church meant
to him the consent of all Christian people. At that moment there was
no consent of all Christian people, and the only conceivable way by
which such consent could be reached was by a full and free comparison
of the honest views of honest men, in order that essentials might be
emphasised and non-essentials eliminated. It is a poor defence of the
brightest and clearest mind of his day, to say that he refused to
take his manly part in the clearing up of precisely those speculative
questions about which discussion must necessarily arise. It was idle
for him to talk about avoiding dissensions. The dissensions were
there, and the real question was not how to suppress them, but how to
solve them so that right-minded and intelligent men could know where
they stood.

The worst thorn in Erasmus' side on this question was Conrad
Pelicanus, one of the reformed preachers of Basel. The chief offence
of Pelicanus was that he had sought to support his spiritual view of
the Eucharist by declaring that Erasmus really believed just as he
did. We have three letters of Erasmus to him, all of 1526, and each
more violent than the other. Let us notice only the most decided of
these expressions.

   "It is my way when I am with learned friends, especially when
   there are present none of the weaker sort, to discourse freely
   on all kinds of subjects, for the purpose of making inquiries,
   sometimes to try them or for mental exercise, and perhaps I am
   more outspoken in this matter than I ought to be. But I will
   confess to the charge of murder, if any mortal has ever heard me
   say in jest or in earnest this word: that in the Eucharist there
   is merely bread and wine or that it is not the real body and
   blood of our Lord as some are now maintaining in their books.
   Nay, I call upon Christ himself to be my enemy, if that opinion
   ever found a lodgment in my mind. For if ever at any time any
   flighty thoughts have touched my mind I have easily thrown
   them off by considering the measureless love of God to me, and
   by weighing the words of Holy Scripture, which have compelled
   even Luther, whom you set above all schools, all popes, all men
   of sound doctrine, and councils, to profess what the Catholic
   Church professes though he is wont freely to differ from her....

   "If I should confess to you as to a friend debauchery or theft,
   how utterly against all laws of friendship it would be if you
   were to babble it even to one person, to the peril of your
   friend. Now, when you are scattering abroad among all men the
   most dreadful of all charges, of things which my tongue, though
   a free one, has never uttered, nor my mind ever conceived, how
   can you be forgiven for what you are doing, my Evangelical
   friend? Did you think to abuse the authority of my name in order
   to enforce a belief you have yourself but lately begun to hold?
   I pray you, in the name of Christ, is that an Evangelical thing,
   to make so dreadful a charge against a friend in order to drag
   more persons into a new sect, as if we had not sects enough
   already? If your doctrine is a truly pious one, have you no
   other means of persuading men to it except this empty statement,
   that Erasmus agrees with you? But if my opinion is worth so much
   to you, why do you hold it of no account on the many points on
   which I differ from you?...

   "If you are convinced that in the Eucharist there is nothing
   but bread and wine, I would rather be torn limb from limb than
   profess what you profess and would rather suffer anything than
   depart this life with such a crime confessed against my own
   conscience.... I will suffer you to babble out before all men
   whatever I have said, in intimate discourse, sober or drunk, in
   jest or in earnest, but I will not suffer you to make me the
   author or the supporter of that dogma; for it was never either
   on my tongue or in my heart."

The best summary of the view he wished others to take of his own
opinions on this point is found in a letter to his former pupil, the
Polish baron John à Lasco.[165]

  [165] iii.¹, 917, D-F.

   "I seem to read between the lines of Luther's writings, that
   Pelicanus has given him some hints from our conversations,--the
   same who has nearly stirred up another disturbance here. He had
   spread a rumour that he had the same opinions on the Eucharist
   as I had. I wrote him a letter of remonstrance, but without
   giving names. This letter of [to?] Pelicanus was shown by Berus
   and Cantiuncula to a few persons, was even read in the Council,
   and finally was translated into German and spread far and wide,
   to my great distress. Pelicanus replied by letter. I wrote him
   to stop his writing and, if he wanted anything of me, to come
   to me. He came. I asked the man what he meant by his letters.
   He tried various evasions, but when I pressed him he finally
   confessed that he had said he believed the same as I. I asked
   him what then he did believe that could be in agreement with
   me? He replied after many attempts at evasion: 'I believe that
   in the Eucharist are the body and blood of the Lord; isn't that
   what you believe?' 'Assuredly,' I replied. 'Do you believe they
   are there by way of a symbol?' 'No,' he said, 'but I believe
   the _efficacy_ (_virtutem_) of Christ is present.' I went on:
   'Don't you believe that the _substance_ of the body is present?'
   He confessed that he did not believe it. After that I asked
   him if he had ever professed this opinion in my presence. He
   confessed what is the truth, that he had never done so. Then I
   demanded whether he had ever heard this opinion from me. He said
   he had never heard it and, what was more, he had often heard the
   opposite. I continued: 'You pretend to others that I agree with
   you, and when you say this, you understand in your own mind that
   you agree with me so far as to believe that the body of the Lord
   is present; while those who hear you understand that I agree
   with you in accepting the opinion of Œcolampadius.'"

The more Erasmus protested, the less could he convince the advanced
reformers that he did not in his heart agree with them. His fate
was that of any man who tries to shift and shuffle in a crisis when
honest men are forming their opinions and are grouping themselves
accordingly. He was left outside all the groups, and could not even
persuade the one all-embracing, ever hospitable Church that he
belonged heartily within her fold.




With all Erasmus' anxiety to demonstrate in words his entire
independence of the rapidly organising reform parties and his
unswerving loyalty to the papacy, his action during these critical
years was as far as possible from timidity or half-heartedness. Of
this no better proof can be given than the repeated editions of his
Familiar Colloquies. The Colloquies, like the Adages, have a history
of their own. They were begun, probably, as early as the residence of
Erasmus in Paris,[166] about the year 1500, and consisted at first
of brief conversations on familiar subjects, arranged for the use of
beginners in Latin.

  [166] Adalbert Horawitz, _Ueber die Colloquia des Erasmus von
  Rotterdam_; in Raumer's _Historisches Taschenbuch_, 1887, pp.

As years went on, these early experiments were extended, partly by
expansion, partly by addition. In 1523-24 appeared an edition,
practically complete, with a charming little dedication to the
author's namesake, John Erasmius Froben, the eight-year-old son
of the publisher. This dedication, we have a right to believe,
represents fairly the serious thought of Erasmus as to the real
meaning and purpose of his book.[167]

  [167] i., 627.

The Colloquies were written to instruct by amusing. They touch
upon every class of society and upon every vice and weakness of
human nature. Some are sparkling with humour, some are too plainly
didactic to be very amusing, and some, especially the later ones,
are downright dull. As in the Praise of Folly, the sermon is heard
through all the rush of words and no one of these tales is quite
without its moral lesson. The subjects most welcome to Erasmus'
satire are of course the extravagances of monks and schoolmen and the
superstitions of religion. We have already quoted freely from some
of the more important for the knowledge of the writer's own life. A
brief survey of one or two of the more widely popular will indicate
the great range of interest and the keen human desire which commended
them to so large a circle of readers.

In The Abbot and the Learned Lady we have one of several proofs that
Erasmus regarded the education of women as desirable and profitable
to the community. The abbot reproves the lady because he finds Latin
books in her chamber. French or German he could bear with, but not

   "_Abbot._ 'I have sixty-two monks at home, but you will never
   find a book in my chamber.' _Magdalia._ 'That's a fine lookout
   for your monks.' _Ab._ 'I can stand books, but not Latin ones.'
   _Mag._ 'Why so?' _Ab._ 'Because that tongue is not suited to
   women.' _Mag._ 'I should like to know why.' _Ab._ 'Because it
   is far from helpful in maintaining their purity.' _Mag._ 'Do
   those French books, then, full of idle tales, make for purity?'
   _Ab._ 'Then there is another thing.' _Mag._ 'Well, out with it,
   whatever it is.' _Ab._ 'They are safer from the priests if they
   know no Latin.' _Mag._ 'Oh! but there is least danger of all
   from that quarter according to your practice, for you do all you
   can to keep from knowing Latin.' _Ab._ 'People in general are of
   my mind because it is such a rare and unusual thing for a woman
   to know Latin.' _Mag._ 'Don't talk to me of the people, the very
   worst source of good actions--nor of custom, the mistress of all
   evils. Let us accustom ourselves to what is good, then what was
   formerly unusual will become usual, what was rude will become
   polished, and what was unbecoming will grow to be fitting.'
   ... _Mag._ 'What think you of the Virgin Mother?' _Ab._ 'Most
   highly.' _Mag._ 'Was she not versed in books?' _Ab._ 'Quite so,
   but not in these books.' _Mag._ 'What, then, did she use to
   read?' _Ab._ 'The Canonical Hours.' _Mag._ 'According to what
   form?' _Ab._ 'That of the Benedictine order.'"

The Youth and the Harlot brings us to perhaps the best illustration
of that freedom of language which was the most common charge against
the Colloquies. The argument is one employed previously by the Saxon
nun Roswitha in the tenth century in her comedy _Paphnutius_. An
edition of Roswitha had been published at Nuremberg in 1501, so that
Erasmus may well have taken his model at first-hand. The conversation
is of the slipperiest, and yet the impression conveyed is not that
of immoral or even of unmoral writing. It is simply the baldest
"realism" of treatment, and the issue is distinctly a moral one. As
in Roswitha the erring woman is won to virtue by the Christian faith,
so here she is reformed by arguments of a more practical sort. The
dig at the monks is not lacking. The youth has been on a journey to

   "_Sophronius._ 'I journeyed with an honest man and by his advice
   I took with me not a bottle but a book, the New Testament
   translated by Erasmus.' _Lucretia._ 'Erasmus! why they say he
   is a heretic and a half!' _Soph._ 'Has his name got into this
   place too?' _Luc._ 'No one is better known here.' _Soph._ 'Have
   you ever seen him?' _Luc._ 'Never; but I should like to see
   him. I have heard so many bad things about him.' _Soph._ 'From
   bad men, I dare say.' _Luc._ 'Oh, no! from most reverend men.'
   _Soph._ 'Who are they?' _Luc._ 'Oh! it won't do to say.' _Soph._
   'Why not?' _Luc._ 'Because if you should blab and they should
   hear it, I should lose a great part of my gains.' _Soph._ 'Don't
   be afraid. I am mum as a stone.' _Luc._ 'Put down your ear.'
   _Soph._ 'Stupid! Why need we whisper when we are alone? Doesn't
   God hear us?... Well, by the eternal God! you are a pious harlot
   to help along _Mendicants_ by your charity!'"

The Colloquies became the especial object of attack from all who
cared to assail the reputation of Erasmus. Typical was the action
of the Paris theological tribunal, the Sorbonne, which in 1526
condemned the book as dangerous to the morals of the young, and worse
still as containing the same errors as the works of Arius, Wiclif,
the Waldensians, and Luther. In presenting their case to the supreme
court, the "Parlement" of Paris, for its action, the theologians
of the Sorbonne review the steps already taken by the spiritual
authorities toward the suppression of the Colloquies. They had done
what they could, but now demand the aid of the temporal powers. King
Francis I. appears to have opposed the action of the Parlement, and
it was not until 1528 that the University as a body condemned the
book and forbade its students to read it.


Equally unfavourable was Luther's judgment of the Colloquies. In his
Table-Talk he refers frequently to them as the most offensive to him
of all Erasmus' writings.[168]

  [168] Luther's _Werke_, ed. Walch, xxii., 1612-1630.

   "If I die I will forbid my children to read his Colloquies, for
   he says and teaches there many a godless thing, under fictitious
   names, with intent to assault the Church and the Christian
   faith. He may laugh and make fun of me and of other men, but let
   him not make fun of our Lord God!

   "See now what poison he scatters in his Colloquies among his
   made-up people, and goes craftily at our youth to poison them."

Another product of the years of greatest party stress were the Latin
Paraphrases of the New Testament books. No one of the serious
works of Erasmus was so widely influential as this. Erasmus began
his work on them immediately after the first publication of the New
Testament in 1516, and continued it at intervals during the next
seven or eight years. The timeliness of the Paraphrases is shown by
their immediate translation into the common tongues. Erasmus himself
says that they brought him very little odium, but abundant thanks.
In a preface addressed to the "Pious Reader"[169] he makes an ample
and admirable defence of bringing the Bible to the people both in the
form of paraphrases and of translations. "I greatly differ," he says,
"from those who maintain that the laity and the unlearned should be
kept from the reading of the sacred volumes, and that none should be
admitted to these mysteries except the few who have spent years over
the philosophy of Aristotle and the theology of the schools."

  [169] vii., _ad init._

There are two ways to this end: either all men must learn "the three
tongues," or else the Scriptures must be translated. Erasmus makes
the somewhat startling suggestion that, as the energy of the Roman
princes had compelled all the world to speak Greek and Latin, merely
to maintain their temporal Empire, it was quite within the bounds of
possibility for the princes of Christendom to compel all men to learn
Hebrew, Greek, and Latin that the eternal kingdom of Christ might be
spread over the whole earth. However, he realises that this is not
likely to happen very soon and meanwhile will be content if each may
know the Scripture in his own tongue:

   "if the farmer, as he holds the plough, shall sing to himself
   something from the Psalms; if the weaver, sitting at his web,
   shall lighten his toil with a passage from the Gospels. Let the
   sailor, as he holds the rudder, repeat a Scripture verse, and
   as the mother plies the distaff, let a friend or relative read
   aloud from the sacred volume."

Our limits forbid us to go in detail into the several long and
bitter controversies in which Erasmus found himself engaged with
the defenders of the ancient faith. They begin with the publication
of his New Testament and continue for twenty years with little
interruption. They were without exception undertaken by unofficial
persons, representing the governing powers of neither Church nor
State. It was Erasmus' constant boast that all the really important
elements of European life were on his side and that the attacks
upon him were only so many reflections upon the highest authorities
themselves. There is truth enough in this boast to make it evident
that these controversies were a private matter between himself and
his immediate opponents; but it was plain also that at any critical
moment the powers that were might be enlisted against him.

The charges which caused him most anxiety may be reduced to two.
First, the accusation of scholarly inaccuracy, and second, the far
more difficult and wide-reaching accusation of heresy with all its
multitudinous meanings. As to the former charge of inaccurate
scholarship, Erasmus had two forms of defence. Sometimes he admitted
it and sought to explain it away by alleging hasty work and
defending himself by readiness to accept correction and to prepare
new editions of the faulty texts. He liked to represent himself as
a pioneer, breaking the way for others more learned than himself
and, he would venture to hope, stimulated to better things by his
example. Or, again, he would deny the truth of the criticism and
would then proceed to demonstrate at great length and, with all the
amenities common to literary controversy in his day, to demolish the
contentions of his opponent. In these discussions of purely literary
and scholarly themes, where his antagonists were really men of some
consideration, he kept his argument in the main to a reasonably high
standard. Where, however, they seemed to him men of small account he
descends to unmeasured personal abuse.

In the other kind of controversy called out by his attacks upon
ignorant and vulgar superstitions or upon the excesses of clerical
abuse, his method was somewhat different. Here he was always ready
to repay slander by slander, to exaggerate the personal element
both in attack and defence, and especially to insist that he was
absolutely sound in his doctrinal beliefs. To the former class of
controversies belong notably that with Edward Lee, later archbishop
of York, called out by the early edition of the New Testament, that
with Budæus, which was a liberal give-and-take of sharp criticism
on purely literary matters, and that with the Spaniard Stunica. To
the latter class belong such wranglings as his dealings with Natalis
Bedda of Paris, Nicholas Egmund of Louvain, and Gerhardt of Nymwegen,
the reformed preacher of Strassburg.

This controversial literature gives us but little insight into the
real thought of Erasmus. Its value for us is only in furnishing us
with evidence of his astonishing cleverness in winding his way out of
difficulties and his immense command of the language of vituperation.
Its study leaves one with an unpleasant sense of powers diverted for
the time from their most profitable exercise into issues which did
not tell with any great effect upon the final result of the scholar's

The anxiety of Erasmus as to the reception of his works begins to
show itself from about the year 1526 in his dealing with the person
and the probable fate of Louis de Berquin. The story of this first
martyr to the reformed faith in France reflects better than any other
episode the course of events and ideas in the early stages of the
reformatory movement there. Berquin was a gentleman of Artois, a
man of liberal education, serious in his character, and moved from
the start to apply his learning to the remedy of obvious abuses in
the clerical life. Through Lefèvre he was led to the study of the
Lutheran leaders and became convinced that here he had found the true
way to liberty and recovery from the low condition of the dominant
religion. Like Erasmus he attacked principally those errors and
abuses which seemed to rest mainly upon ignorance and superstition
in those to whom the world had a right to look for learning and
enlightenment. The scholars of the Sorbonne, the heads of the French
ecclesiastical fabric and the leaders of French monasticism, were
at once alarmed. They began, early in the movement of the reform,
to bring every possible pressure upon the young, enlightened, and
would-be liberal king to act promptly and with decision against these
first threatening demonstrations of what they were ready instantly
to stamp as "heresy." For six years, from 1523 to 1529, Berquin was
subjected to one stage after another of a persecution which he was
too brave to avoid. His chief offence in the eyes of his theological
persecutors was that he had studied and translated into French, with
"blasphemous" commentaries, several of the most dangerous writings
of Erasmus and other alleged leaders of sedition. Twice arrested
and imprisoned, he was twice released by the special order of the
king, who seems to have taken his case very much to heart. Meanwhile
were occurring that series of unhappy events,--the Italian campaign
of 1525, the capture of Francis I., the treaty of Madrid, and the
negotiations following it,--which were driving the king inevitably
into the hands of the French clerical party. To save his kingdom and
his "honour" he was forced to make sacrifices, and a ready victim
was found in this man, who had defied the powers which were now
clamouring for a royal edict of persecution. The king withdrew his
protection and Berquin died upon the scaffold on the 17th of April,

The relations of Erasmus with Berquin began by a letter from the
latter written in 1526 and expressing the greatest admiration for the
learning and services to true religion of the man to whom he looked
up as his chief example. He assures Erasmus that the main object in
persecuting him had been to throw suspicion upon Erasmus' own works;
but that he had assured his judges that if anything in these works
seemed contrary to the faith it was the result of misunderstanding
or perversion of the original text. He exhorts Erasmus to write,
not casually, as he has already done to Bedda, but at length, with
arguments and with the authorities from Scripture, to refute these

This letter of Berquin[170] is a noble and touching appeal. Not a
word of complaint or of fear for himself, though he had just for the
second time barely escaped from the clutches of enemies who were
determined to destroy him. He appeals to Erasmus, not in his own
behalf, but in behalf of that truth which he found above all in the
writings of the man he was glad to call his master.

  [170] iii.², 1713-F.

The reply[171] was as brief and cold as could well be.

  [171] iii.¹, 884.

   "I have no doubt that you are acting with the best of
   intentions, most learned Berquin, but meanwhile you are bringing
   upon me, who am too heavily burdened already, a weight of odium
   by translating my books into the common tongue and bringing them
   to the knowledge of theologians."

Two later letters[172] have the same tone of petulant self-interest
and cold indifference to the fate which he predicts if Berquin does
not moderate his attacks.

  [172] iii.², 1132, 1133.

After Berquin's death he wrote to Pirkheimer,[173] giving an account
of the affair as he had heard it, and added:

  [173] iii.², 1189-F.

   "If he deserved this, I am sorry; if he did not deserve it, I am
   doubly sorry. The real facts in the case are not quite clear to
   me. I had no acquaintance with Berquin, except from his writings
   and from the reports of several persons.... I always feared that
   things would end with him as they have, and I never wrote to him
   except to urge upon him to cease from contentions which could
   only have an evil end."

The same story is repeated, with more detail, in a letter to

  [174] iii.², 1206. We are fairly well informed as to Berquin
  through French sources, quoted, for example, by H. M. Baird,
  History of the Rise of the Huguenots of France, 1879, i., 130.
  The account of Erasmus agrees strikingly with these other
  sources, but it seems a little too much to reproduce it with all
  its literary decoration as a history of Berquin's trial, as is
  done by Mr. Drummond and in Haag, _France Protestante_, s. v.

In these letters there is not a word of real sympathy with the fate
of a man whose worst fault was the publication of Erasmus' own
writings! Not a word of honest admiration for his courage--only a
grudging admission that he was an honest fellow, but really too
obstinately determined upon ruining himself! Worst of all is the
shabby pretence that Erasmus had not really looked into the case of
Berquin and after all was not quite sure whether he had deserved his
punishment or not. Of all the triumphs of the Erasmian "If," none is
more complete or more significant than this.

For several years, from about 1523 on, Erasmus had been engaged in
personal controversy with individual theologians at Paris; but it
was not until 1525 that the Sorbonne Faculty as a body was brought
to act in the premises. A decree of that year condemned certain
passages in the translations of several of Erasmus' books. In 1526
another attack was made especially against the Familiar Colloquies
and the Paraphrases of the New Testament. The former were definitely
prohibited to students who were candidates for degrees. The decree of
the Faculty was arranged under thirty-two headings, each concerning
some special point of alleged divergence from the true teaching of
the Church. In his reply,[175] published in 1529, Erasmus takes up
these points one by one and fills over seventy printed folio pages
with specific answers. As to the style of his defence we are prepared
to anticipate it. His method is precisely that of Berquin,--to
declare that he is true to the real doctrine of the Fathers and
that his critics--not, of course, the learned Faculty itself--are
those who are in error. How these charges can really come from the
Faculty as a whole he cannot comprehend, but he proposes to appeal
from the Faculty asleep to the Faculty awake. He has made errors:
to err is human. But why condemn as error in him what the greatest
lights of the Church have said without reproof? When Augustine is
praising virginity he goes a little far in dispraise of marriage; is
it strange if Erasmus in defending marriage has seemed to have too
little respect for virginity?

  [175] _Desiderii Erasmi Declarationes ad Censuras Lutetiae_,
  etc., _IX._, 813-954.

We are not for a moment to suppose that the real audience to
which this reply was addressed was the Faculty of Paris asleep or
awake; it was the reading world. A more splendid advertisement
for the Colloquies than this theological prosecution could hardly
be imagined. Erasmus says[176] that a certain Parisian publisher,
upon the rumour, "perhaps started by the publisher himself," that
the Colloquies were about to be condemned, got out an elegant
handy edition of twenty-four thousand, and that it was at once in
everyone's hands.

  [176] iii.², 1168-D.

In England, where Erasmus might have expected to find his best
defenders and his most sympathetic readers, the Colloquies were
condemned in the same year (1526) as at Paris.

A work which brought much later reproach upon its author was the
Institution of Christian Marriage, written in 1526 and dedicated to
Queen Katherine of England. Our interest in it is in the bearing
upon marriage of the changes in public sentiment wrought by the
Reformation; and especially in that whole great problem of the
relation between marriage as the foundation of human society and
the whole monastic and priestly limitation of it. Erasmus reaches
this point after a long and systematic review of the canonical
regulations as to marriage. He examines first the evil effect upon
society of the entrance into the monastic life of persons already
under the obligations of marriage, a thing which he says was never
favoured even in times most kindly disposed towards monasticism
itself unless with full consent of the other party.[177] That Erasmus
had not entire confidence even in the supervision of marriage by the
most responsible ecclesiastical authorities is shown by a striking
passage[178] in which he foreshadows the principle of civil marriage:

  [177] v., 646-D.

  [178] v., 651-F.

   "It would in great measure do away with the controversies that
   spring from words present and future, from marriage celebrated
   and marriage consummated, from signs, nods, and writings, if
   the heads of the Church would deign to decree that no marriage
   should be considered complete (_ratum_) until each party, before
   special magistrates and witnesses, in clear words, soberly and
   freely, shall declare his marriage to the other party, and that
   these words should be preserved in writing."

The great body of the essay is taken up with admirable injunctions
as to the conduct of married life and the education of children.
Erasmus avoids here any consideration of what was becoming one of
the burning questions of the day, the right of "reformed" monks or
priests to enter into lawful marriage, but returns at the very close
to the relation between marriage and the clerical life. The burden
of his thought here is the duty of parents and all concerned to make
sure that the youth proposing either to take orders or to become a
monk shall be quite clear as to his calling and perfectly free to
follow it or not.[179] Throughout this very attractive dissertation
there is a noticeable calmness of style, joined, however, with
entire clearness and decision upon the essential points. It is one
of the best illustrations of Erasmus' lifelong insistance upon the
higher value of the life of nature as compared with any life of mere

  [179] v., 724-A.

That Erasmus' silence on the question of clerical marriage was not
due to lack of thought on the subject is clear from a letter to C.
Hedio, Lutheran preacher at Strassburg in 1524, two years before the
treatise on Christian Marriage.[180]

  [180] iii.¹, 845-E.

   "And yet before all 'Papists'--as these people call them--I
   have always freely declared that marriage should not be denied
   to priests who shall be ordained in future, if they cannot be
   continent, and I would say nothing else to the pope himself;
   not because I do not prefer continence, but because I find
   scarcely a man who preserves his continence. Meanwhile what use
   is there of such a swarm of priests? I never persuaded anyone to
   marriage; but neither did I ever stand in the way of anyone who
   wished to marry."

Erasmus recognises the need of reform in every detail; he professes
agreement with every view of the reformers, but he will not advocate
any specific action, because it will open up some new outlet for
human frailty. To follow him would be to condemn the world, once for
all, to hopeless inactivity, simply because the world's business must
be done by finite human beings.

One naturally compares with this elaborate defence of natural and
wise living, in the Christian Marriage, another treatise also written
two years earlier, dedicated to the sisters of a nunnery near
Cologne and called A Comparison of the Virgin and the Martyr.[181]
The good ladies, it seems, had frequently sent Erasmus presents of
confectionery and had begged him to write something for them,--a very
pious desire, he says, but a poor choice of a man. He only wishes
that he could find in the fragrant stories of Holy Writ something to
refresh their minds as their little gifts have refreshed his body.
So he runs on with a page or two of pretty fancies about virginity
and then, in equally fanciful strain, about martyrdom. On the whole,
virginity has the advantage.

  [181] _Virginis et Martyris Comparatio_, v., 589-600.

Comparing the spouse of Christ with the spouse of a mortal husband,
Erasmus dilates upon the vast superiority of the virgin state. If one
is not willing to believe this from the evidence of learned men, let

   "call as a witness any one of those who are happily enough
   married and ask her to tell the true history of her marriage.
   You will hear things that will make you quite satisfied with
   your own way of life. Then just put before yourself the example
   of those who have married unhappily, of whom there is a vast
   multitude, and think that what has happened to them might have
   happened to you...."

This was written at the very time at which Erasmus was giving to
the world the completed text of his Colloquies! How shall we explain
these apparent contradictions? Precisely as we have explained the
account of the monastic life in the _De Contemptu Mundi_.[182]
Like that earlier essay, this too was a piece of literary display,
written, not to rouse opposition, but out of a largely conventional
impulse. We need not question for a moment the entire sincerity of
Erasmus in this kind of composition, as far as it went. It was only
the natural instinct of the man to counterbalance every opinion he
uttered and every effect he produced by putting forth something on
the other side of the same question--for every question has two
sides. There were doubtless purely conducted monasteries, and Erasmus
was bound to believe that the pleasant ladies who were kind enough
to feed him with candy were examples to their kind. To suppose,
however, that the phrases of ecstatic spiritual joy here offered came
from very deep down in his heart of hearts would place the spirit of
Erasmus in closer kinship with Bernard and à Kempis than we should
quite like to put it.

  [182] See p. 20.

During precisely these years, from 1522 to 1529, we have a great
number of treatises, generally short, which illustrate this
more devotional and spiritual phase of his literary activity. A
characteristic specimen is the _Modus Orandi Deum_, "On the True
Way of Prayer,"[183] addressed to Gerome à Lasco, a Polish baron
and brother of the better-known John à Lasco. This is a systematic
inquiry into the nature, the purpose, and the limitations of
Christian prayer. It examines the questions: to whom we may pray,
what we may properly pray for, and how our prayers should be framed.
In regard to the first question, Erasmus discusses with great
skill some of the most delicate problems of his day. He examines
authorities on both sides as to the propriety of prayers to Christ
and concludes:

  [183] v., 1099-1132.

   "After diligently searching the sacred volumes, and supported
   by the authority of our fathers, I do not hesitate to call the
   Son of God true God and to direct my prayers to him, not with
   the idea that the Son could give what the Father may deny, but
   because I am persuaded that the Son wills the same and can do
   the same as the Father wills and can do;--though the Father is
   author and source of all things."

More difficult was the question of the invocation of saints. Erasmus
works his way up to a conclusion by a series of carefully prepared
stages. True, we ought to affirm dogmatically only such things as
are plainly declared in the Holy Scriptures; but we ought to respect
everything that has been handed down with the approval of pious men.
Now we know that the invocation of saints was practised by very early
orthodox Christians, therefore, while we cannot say that it is a
necessary article of faith, we may well bear with it. We know that
the saints when on earth were called upon to pray for other men; why
suppose them less capable of praying for us now that they dwell with
God in heaven?

As to the proper objects of prayer Erasmus makes a very elaborate
analysis,[184] but brings everything round finally to the standard of
the Lord's Prayer. The method is almost scholastic in its system and
its logical division, but it is eminently sensible and practical in
its content.

  [184] v., 1122-F.

   "We should pray for nothing that cannot be referred to one
   of the seven divisions of the Lord's Prayer. Whatever we may
   ask for which pertains to the glory of God, belongs to the
   first clause: 'Hallowed be thy name.' Whatever refers to the
   spread and realisation of the Gospel, belongs to the second:
   'Thy kingdom come'; whatever to the observance of the divine
   teaching, to the third: 'Thy will be done,'" and so on.

To illustrate the folly of absurd distinctions as to which divinities
might attend to which prayers, he tells a story of a certain man
at Louvain, simple rather than impious, who, after he had made his
devotions, used to run about among the various altars, saluting the
saints for whom he had an especial liking, and saying: "This is
yours, St. Barbara," and "Take this to yourself, St. Rochus," as if
he feared that the saints would fall to fighting over the special
prayers belonging to each.

A very modern, almost "evangelical" touch is found in a chapter on
extempore prayer.

   "It would be very desirable if the whole service of religion,
   hymns, instruction, and prayer, could be conducted in the
   language of the people, as was formerly the case, and that all
   should be so distinctly and clearly spoken that it should be
   understood by all present. But there are many things in life
   rather to be desired than hoped for. It is to be wished that
   public worship should not be too prolonged, for there is nothing
   worse than a surplus of good things, and that it should be
   the same among all peoples of the Christian name. Nowadays,
   what diversities in almost every church! nay, what pains have
   been taken that one should not agree with the other! With what
   tedious chants and prayers are some monks now burdened, and with
   what joy do they escape from their dreary performance!"

We have here an almost complete survey of the outward forms of the
religious life reduced to the simple standard of Christian common
sense. As a type of Erasmus' activity at this time nothing can serve
us better. He was fulfilling his mission as a preacher of simple
righteousness, and no clamours of criticism on the one side or the
other of the great conflict raging about him could drive him for a
moment from his fundamental position. He watched all the stages of
that struggle and drew out of the views of the several parties the
text for his continuous comment upon men and things. He held himself,
as he said, _integer_, "uncompromised," but he shows where his real
feeling was. The ruling order might get what comfort it could out
of the _Modus Orandi_ and similar treatises, but if the suggestions
therein contained could have been carried out, a something very
like the Protestant churches would have resulted. The authority of
Scripture as the standard of religious life; the Lord's Prayer as
the all-sufficient test of the forms of worship; the laity as the
essential element of the Christian community; the common language
as the only proper medium of communication in religious matters; a
worship of secondary powers so enfeebled by the limits of common
sense that it would surely fall away of itself--all this makes a
programme that is nothing less than Protestant in its essence.
Stripped of its academic decorations and its elaborate balancing of
values, this was a reforming tract of the first importance.

Of course Erasmus used all the trimming portions, both of this and of
all similar writings, to demonstrate his loyalty to tradition, but
the modern reader, like the "Lutheran" of that day, must see through
these to the real thought beneath and must share his impatience that
the man who could go so far could not be brought to take a step
farther and carry out these suggestions--or at least help others to
carry them out--into definite constructive action. The reply must
always be that the world has no right to demand of any man what is
not his to give.

So in alternations of calm religious reflection and composition with
violent controversial encounters, of painstaking scholarly editing
with keenest satirical writing, the residence of the aging scholar at
Basel drew to its end.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the year 1529 Erasmus left Basel and went to Freiburg in the
Breisgau. Why he left Basel and why he chose Freiburg as his
residence are questions we can hardly hope to answer satisfactorily,
since they involve that whole very difficult subject of his personal
equation, to which we have not yet discovered any sufficient key.
Perhaps we may say this: that Basel had been an attractive residence
for him because its political and religious condition corresponded
pretty accurately to his own state of mind. The spirit of the place
was eminently one of toleration and good feeling. Even the violent
doctrines of the extreme radical party, the Anabaptists and all their
kin, were heard with patience, but were held in check and not allowed
to influence public action. If we could trust the extravagant eulogy
common just after his death[185] we should have to think of Erasmus
living at Basel as a kind of intellectual monarch, to whom

  [185] i., _ad init._ _Epitaphia in Laudem Erasmi._

   "there came not alone from Spain and France, but from the
   farthest limits of the whole earth, not merely men of noble
   birth but also the greatest monarchs of the world, popes,
   emperors, kings, cardinals, bishops, archbishops, dukes,
   chieftains, barons, and countless princes, rulers, magnates, and
   governors of various degree, etc."

This is obvious nonsense; but we gain enough glimpses at his manner
of life at Basel to make us sure that Erasmus lived there in honour,
with every opportunity for congenial work and for association with
men of his own kind. His ordinary habits were those of a sober
scholar who was compelled by the natural demands of his profession
and by the limitations of feeble health to keep strictly within the
limits of careful and quiet living. He seems to have surrounded
himself with young men, table-boarders, who came to him as the
adviser of their studies. His relation to them is very prettily
sketched in a letter[186] to a young Frisian, one Haio Caminga, who
had applied for a place at his table. He gives the young man fair
warning that he will find a table set with learned conversation
rather than with choice delicacies,--as far from luxury as the table
of Pythagoras or Diogenes. The great productivity of this period
would of itself be sufficient evidence of a regular and quiet life.
Nor need we doubt that a great many visitors were led to Basel by
curiosity or sympathy to make the personal acquaintance of the famous

  [186] iii.², 1128.

One feels at once that this was just the atmosphere for Erasmus.
His only real grievance at Basel seems to have been his dread that
he might be held accountable for the opinions of someone with whom
he did not entirely agree. In the course of time, however, this
condition of unstable equilibrium grew more and more untenable. The
actual "Reformation" of the place could not be averted, and rather
than remain in a distinctly Protestant community Erasmus broke off
all his happy associations and wandered away again. He takes infinite
pains to assure everyone that he was not driven away, that he went
openly and with the good will of all concerned. His account of the
religious revolution shows that it was a very temperate kind of
revolution indeed. His friendly feelings are neatly expressed in a
bit of verse which he says he jotted down as he was entering his boat
to depart.

    "_Jam, Basilea, vale, qua non urbs altera multis
      Annis exhibuit gratius hospitium.
    Hinc precor, omnia læta tibi, simul illud, Erasmo
      Hospes uti ne unquam tristior adveniat._"

    "And now, fair Basel, fare thee well!
      These many years to me a host most dear.
    All joys be thine! and may Erasmus find
      A home as happy as thou gav'st him here."

At Freiburg he was well received by the magistracy and given a
sufficiently splendid lodging in an unfinished palace of the Emperor
Maximilian. He has, of course, doubts about his health, but thinks he
will stay a year, unless he is driven away by wars. In fact he kept
pretty well until the spring of 1530, when he was attacked by a new
and painful development of the disease from which he had so long been

The references to this illness of 1530 occur generally in connection
with some allusion to the great Diet of Augsburg in that year.
Erasmus says that he was asked to go to this Diet by many leading
men, but expressly states that he was not asked by the emperor. His
illness gave him an excuse for not going. He says that he could
have done no good at Augsburg and we certainly need no assurance of
his to make this quite clear to us. By 1530 affairs had moved on
far beyond the point where the only advice he had ever had to give,
namely "be good and wise, and all our troubles will end at once,"
could be of any service. In the years from 1525 to 1529 the whole
North of Germany had become welded into a solid mass of resistance
to the Roman Catholic system. The Lutheran Reformation had passed the
stage of negative criticism and had entered upon that of constructive

Once more we have to ask: Where was there room for poor Erasmus?
It was a pleasant fiction for him, in his comfortable quarters at
Freiburg, to imagine that he was really wanted at Augsburg, but who
in the world could have wanted him? The time for his "ifs" and "buts"
was past and the moment had come when men were ready to set all they
held dear upon the hazard of a doubtful war. The Diet at Augsburg
obeyed the emperor and renewed the formal condemnation of Luther and
his works. The Protestant princes promptly replied by the League of
Schmalkalden. Their attitude was simply one of readiness, not of
aggression. For the time it answered, and delayed the actual outbreak
of hostilities until long after the death of Erasmus.

It is evident that Erasmus had little faith in the Diet. He writes to
John Rinckius[187]:

  [187] iii.², 1299-B-D.

   "Friends have written me what is going on at the Diet. Certain
   main propositions have been made: First, that the Germans shall
   furnish troops against the Turks. Second, that the differences
   of doctrine shall be remedied, if possible, without bloodshed.
   Third, that the complaints of those who feel themselves wronged
   shall be heard. To accomplish all this an ecumenical council of
   three years would hardly suffice. What will be the issue I know
   not. Unless God takes a hand in the game, I see no way out of
   it. If the final decision is not agreed to by all the provinces,
   the end will be revolution."

Then follows a minute description of his recent illness and again
allusions to his personal troubles.

   "I have now for some time been anxious to go hence to some other
   place. This town is fine enough, but not very populous, remote
   from a river, well suited for study, an awfully dear place, the
   people not particularly hospitable, they say, though so far
   no one has given me any great annoyance. But I see nowhere a
   quiet haven. I shall have to hold out here until the outcome
   of the Diet is known. Some are predicting that action will be
   taken first about pecuniary burdens, and that the question of
   heresy will be postponed to a general council, and that the
   priests, bishops, monks, and abbots who have been turned out and
   plundered will be put off with words."

It is evident that Erasmus saw clearly the danger of the imperial
position. His shrewd sense told him that Charles was very far from
grasping the real extent of the German resistance. He writes to

  [188] iii.², 1303-A.

   "If the emperor is merely frightening his opponents by threats,
   I can only applaud his forethought; but if he is really seeking
   a war, I do not want to be a bird of evil omen, but my mind
   shudders as often as I look at the condition of things which I
   think will appear if war breaks out. This trouble is very widely
   spread. I know that the emperor has great power; but not all
   nations recognise his authority. Even the Germans recognise it
   on certain conditions, so that they rather rule than obey; for
   they prefer to command rather than be subservient. Besides it
   is evident that the emperor's lands are greatly exhausted by
   continual military expeditions. The flame of war is just now
   stirred up in Friesland; its prince is said to have professed
   the Gospel of Luther. Many states between the Eastern countries
   and Denmark are in the same condition and the chain of evils
   stretches from there as far as Switzerland.

   "If the sects could be tolerated under certain conditions
   (as the Bohemians pretend), it would, I admit, be a grievous
   misfortune, but one more endurable than war. In this condition
   of things there is nowhere I would rather be than in Italy, but
   the fates will have it otherwise."

No more clever summary of the situation than this can be imagined;
and yet the only practical suggestion in it, that some principle of
toleration for the sects might be discovered is a complete denial of
everything for which Erasmus pretended to stand. It would have been a
recognition of the right of revolution, and that was the one horror
which haunted all his dreams.

Indeed it was the irony of fate that the man who had spent his early
manhood in open attacks upon the Roman system, and his maturer years
in trying to make his peace with Rome, should now in his old age
find his really virulent critics on the side of the ancient faith.
The "sects," as he always contemptuously called them, were quite
content with the actual service he had done them and were only too
eager to claim him for their own. The one orthodox fold, in which he
steadfastly protested he belonged, was continually producing men who
made his life a burden with their reproaches.

As long as the Diet at Augsburg lasted, Erasmus continued to assure
his correspondents that he was under the orders of the emperor not to
leave Freiburg as he had intended to do. Then the winter began and
with it the ravages of the plague, "_nova lues_, formerly peculiar to
Britain, but suddenly spreading over all nations." Why he should have
been detained at Freiburg against his will he gives no intimation,
and, indeed, the whole story, appearing in letter after letter, seems
to show only his annual restlessness and desire to say why he did
not do something different from what he was doing. At one moment
he thinks he must go to France to get some wine. They say it is a
dreadful thing to die of hunger, but he really believes it is worse
to die of thirst. He really must get some drinkable wine.

During the summer of 1531 he went so far as to write to the
magistrates of Besançon, saying that even before leaving Basel he had
thought of moving to their city and now when Freiburg is beginning to
be a dangerous place, his thoughts are turning thither again.

Freiburg was plainly growing less attractive--or, let us say, was
furnishing more and more occasions of complaint. He had spent nearly
two years in the abandoned palace of Maximilian without knowing, if
we may believe his own story, whether he was the guest of the city,
or whether he was hiring the house wholly or in part, or, if he
was hiring it, who his landlord was or what he was to pay. When,
after two years, he was called upon to move at the end of three
months and to pay back rent for a year and a half, he affects to be
overwhelmed with surprise and indignation, and writes a two-column
letter to the Provost of Chur, at the far east end of Switzerland,
to explain.[189] The result was that he took the hasty, and, as it
seems to have appeared to himself, somewhat absurd step of buying a
house. He naturally begins the letter, in which he tells this news to
John Rinckius, with an enumeration of the disagreeables at Freiburg
and ends it by declaring that the house shall not keep him there if
things go as he wishes. His account of the affair may serve us as an
illustration of the unconquerable humour with which he faced life to
the last.[190]

  [189] iii.², 1426-E.

  [190] iii.², 1418-D.

   "But now here is something for you to laugh at. If anyone should
   tell you that Erasmus, now nearly seventy, had taken a wife,
   wouldn't you make the sign of the cross three or four times
   over? I know you would, and small blame to you. Now my dear
   Rinckius, I have done a thing no less difficult and burdensome
   and quite as foreign to my tastes and habits. I have bought a
   house, a fine one enough, but at a very unfair price. Who shall
   now despair of seeing rivers turn about and run up-hill, when
   Erasmus, who all his life has made everything give place to
   learned leisure, has become a bargain-driver, a buyer, a giver
   of mortgages, a builder and, in place of the Muses, is now
   dealing with carpenters and workers in iron, in stone, and in
   glass. These cares, my dear Rinckius, which my soul has always
   abhorred, have just about bored me to death. So far I am a
   stranger in my own house, for, though it is spacious enough,
   there is not a nest in it where I can safely trust my poor body.
   One chamber I have built with an open fireplace and have boarded
   it, floor and sides, but on account of the plastering I have not
   yet dared to trust myself in it."

Five weeks later he writes[191]:

  [191] iii.², 1419-F.

   "This house I have bought makes me no end of trouble; and yet
   there is not a place in the whole of it suited to my body."


The biographer of Erasmus is tempted to draw a somewhat pathetic
picture of his last years; an aged man, broken with pain and
disappointment, rejected by all parties, without influence
in the world, living under continual fear of some unforeseen
disaster,--these form, indeed, the elements for a sufficiently
mournful description. And yet the end of Erasmus' course was such
as he had been deliberately planning for himself all his life long.
Isolation from all the various groupings of men upon great public
questions had been his avowed ideal, and he had reached it. He had
never aimed to form a "school" and he left no followers behind him.
On the other hand, his activities were practically unchecked by
advancing years. His intellectual output during his residence at
Freiburg was hardly inferior either in quantity or quality to that
of any earlier period of equal length. His correspondence falls off
somewhat in volume, but its style is as fresh and the variety
of persons to whom it is addressed continues as great as ever.
New friends take the place of those he has lost, and his personal
philosophy, always a cheerful one, remains to comfort him to the
last. He consoles himself by the friendship of individuals against
the slights of parties and their leaders.

The only falling off in Erasmus' productivity during the years from
1530 to 1535 is in the quality of originality. We are no longer
to expect a Praise of Folly or a new volume of Colloquies; but we
can only marvel at the vitality still evident in everything that
comes from his restless pen. His humour, unconquered by the growing
weaknesses of his flesh, flashes out with almost its old-time
brilliancy. His industry seems undiminished. He is seldom without a
piece of editorial work, and he is constantly being asked to write
dedications for works edited by others.

In 1532 he published his _Apophthegmata_ or Sayings of the
Ancients,[192] a work in some ways similar to the Adages, but showing
far less of the machinery of scholarship. These are pleasant little
stories, generally told in a few lines in anecdote form and designed
to carry some moral lesson. They are arranged in groups under the
name of the principal person mentioned as, for example, _Socratica_,
Diogenes Cynicus, Philip of Macedon, Demosthenes, and so forth.
Doubtless the material for this collection had long been gathering,
but the mere arrangement and revision of it was a work to tax
severely the patience and endurance of a man so enfeebled by physical
troubles as was Erasmus in 1532.

  [192] _Apophthegmata lepideque dicta principum, philosophorum ac
  diversi generis hominum_, etc., iv., 93-380.

A little treatise of 1533 on Preparation for Death[193] is
interesting chiefly for the things it does not say. Its emphasis
throughout is on the necessity of a Christian life as the true
preparation for a Christian death. The very essence of Protestantism,
the direct dealing of the human soul with its God, may be found here.
Protest as Erasmus might his devotion to the forms of the Church,
when he wrote this essay he was giving more aid and comfort to the
enemy than if he had gone over to him with all his arms in his hands.
Of course he explains away as much of the clearness of his statement
as he can, but the words remain and his own practice went far to
confirm them. He emphasises at every turn the duty of respect for
traditions, but no man in the year 1533 could write as he does here
of the nature of sacraments without knowing how his words would be
interpreted. If the sacraments were, even _quodammodo_, "symbols" of
the divine good will to men, then the whole objective, or, to speak
technically, the "_opus operatum_" theory of the sacramental system
was brought in question, and men would not stop until they had pushed
this question to its rational issue. Here as elsewhere, if we would
estimate the service of Erasmus to the Reformation, we must try to
feel out of the windings of his rhetoric the impression he wished
to leave uppermost in the reader's mind, and as to that we can
hardly hesitate. Even a devout Catholic could not read carefully this
appeal to the essentials of religion without feeling a diminished
sense of the value of forms, and a wavering mind could hardly fail
to be carried over pretty far towards the conclusion that forms so
dangerous as these were better reformed out of existence.

  [193] _Liber quomodo se quisque debeat præparare ad mortem_, v.,

The most important work of the Freiburg period was the great
treatise on the Christian minister, to which Erasmus gave the
title of _Ecclesiastes_, or The Gospel Preacher (_concionator
evangelicus_). In its printed form the _Ecclesiastes_ fills over one
hundred and sixty folio pages and would make more than two volumes
as large as this present one. Of all the evils in the existing
church system, none had been more evident since the height of the
Middle Ages than the neglect of preaching. The very first effort
of the organised Lutheran party had been to restore the right
balance between the sacramental and the moral aspects of church
administration by emphasising the preaching and diminishing the
importance of all sacramental observances. And this is precisely
the position of Erasmus. He begins with a careful definition of the
Church (_ecclesia_) as the assembly (_concio_) of Christians. Christ
is the great preacher and every other _ecclesiastes_ is only his
representative and herald. The highest function of the preacher is
that of teaching. At first the bishops were the sole teachers; now
the teaching has passed to priests and monks, though it is a function
far surpassing the dignity of kings.

As a model of the complete bishop Erasmus gives a very beautiful
description of Warham, dwelling especially upon his great efficiency
in a vast variety of duties, an efficiency made possible only by the
strictest frugality of life and the rigid exclusion of all luxury and
idle amusement.

This brief notice of the _Ecclesiastes_ concludes our review of the
writings of Erasmus, and this seems the fitting place to note what
was the final judgment upon them of that Church to which he declared
himself devoted and from whose teachings he insisted he had never
departed by so much as a hair's breadth. It was not until the wave of
the Catholic Reaction had begun to rise into a furious torrent that
a definite policy of disapproval of Erasmus on the part of the Roman
authorities took the place of the former leniency. Lists of books the
reading of which was prohibited to good Christians were published
in many parts of Europe by sovereigns, universities, inquisitors,
or commissions from 1524 on.[194] Such lists were generally called
"Catalogues." The papacy as such took no part in this process until
the time of the Council of Trent. The earliest papal list or "Index"
was published by Paul IV. in 1559. It was arranged in three classes,
the first containing the names of authors who were, as it were,
heretics by intention (_ex professo_), and all of whose writings
were condemned, no matter whether they had any reference to religion
or not. In the second class were names of authors some of whose
writings had been shown to tend towards heresy or the superstitions
of magic, etc. The third class comprised the titles of books,
generally by anonymous writers, which contained specially dangerous

  [194] F. H. Reusch, _Der Index der verbotenen Bücher_, 1883, i.,

In this first papal Index Erasmus takes a place of extraordinary
prominence. Not only was he placed in the first class, but a special
clause was added to his name: "with all his commentaries, notes,
_scholia_, dialogues, letters, censures, translations, books, and
writings, even when they contain nothing against religion or about
religion." The Index of Paul IV. was, however, by no means generally
accepted by the people of Europe. In many countries it was flatly
rejected. The Council of Trent at its final session (1562-1563) took
up the matter and appointed a commission to revise the harshest
clauses. The result of this revision appears in the Index of Pius
IV. in 1564. There Erasmus has been dropped from the first class
and in the second appear only a few of his most doubtful works, the
Colloquies, Praise of Folly, Christian Marriage, and one or two
others. In 1590 Sixtus V. replaced him in the first class, and in
1596 Clement VIII. restored him again to the conditions of the Index
of Trent.

Thus the fate of Erasmus after death was very much what it had been
in his life. As honest Duke Frederick had said: "One never knows how
to take him." The highest authority could not quite determine whether
he was a thorough-going heretic or only heretical "north-north-west."

In the month of August, 1535, after a residence of six busy years
at Freiburg, Erasmus returned to Basel. Once more, and for the last
time, he has to account for a change of residence. At Freiburg he
had been continually complaining of the place, his quarters, and
the people; yet he says he had no fixed intention of leaving there
permanently. He had been giving matter to the press during these
six years without any special difficulty, but suddenly he discovers
that his _Ecclesiastes_ cannot be properly printed at Basel without
his presence. He has suffered so much, he writes to the bishop of
Cracow,[195] that he prefers to try a change of air even at the risk
of death. He was carried in a covered carriage, "made for women,"
to Basel, "a healthful and pleasant city, whose hospitality I have
enjoyed for many years. There, in expectation of my coming, a room
suited to my needs had been prepared by my friends."

  [195] iii.², 1511-C.

It is marvellous how the permanent instincts of his life assert
themselves to the last. In October, 1535, he writes to a magistrate
of Besançon:

   "Almost incredible as it seems, I have left my nest and flown
   hither, meaning to fly to you when I shall have recovered my
   strength. The wintry September has compelled me to cast anchor
   here and so we shall have to wait for the swallows. The pope
   wants to gold-plate me whether I will or no, and has offered me
   the provostship of Deventer now that the harpies are all got rid
   of. But I am determined, though ten provostships were offered
   me, not to take one of them.... Shall I, a dying man, accept
   burdens which I have always refused?"

Just as he arrived at Basel he had written:

   "What has happened in England to Fisher and More, a pair of men,
   than whom England never had a better or a holier, you will learn
   from the fragment of a letter which I send you. In More I seem
   myself to have perished, so completely was there, as Pythagoras
   has it, but one soul to both of us. Such are the tides of human

It is pleasant to believe that the last days of Erasmus were cheered
by the thought that his protestations of fidelity to the Roman
institution were not wholly unrewarded, though, as he says, there
were still men at Rome who were doing their best to blacken his fame.
He had welcomed the election of Paul III. in much the same language
as he had employed in regard to Leo X., Hadrian VI., and Clement
VII. He wrote to him at once, but we have, unfortunately, only the
brief reply of the pope. It is a very amiable and appreciative note,
recognising the value of Erasmus' services and expressing entire
confidence in their continuance. It is quite in harmony with his
whole career that these congratulations of the pope should have
come to him in Basel, now thoroughly converted into a Protestant
community, and in the midst of friends the most tried and true he
had ever had, all of them Protestants, but all willing to forget
differences in their common regard for the dying scholar.

We are not well informed as to the end of Erasmus' life. The last
letter in the collection of Le Clerc, perhaps the last he ever wrote,
is to his old friend Goclenius at Louvain, under date of June 28,
1536. He is among faithful friends, better friends than he had at
Freiburg, "but on account of differences in doctrine I would rather
end my life elsewhere. Would that Brabant were nearer!" Again he
repeats his declaration that he came to Basel only for a change of
air and was intending to go elsewhere as soon as he felt better. The
ruling passion was strong upon him even to his death.

The story of his last days comes to us through the excellent Beatus
Rhenanus, his devoted friend and admirer. The winter brought on
a terrible attack of gout, succeeded in the early summer by a
continuous dysentery which proved incurable. In spite of pain and
weakness he never lost a moment's opportunity of work, the witness
whereof is the treatise _De Puritate Ecclesiæ_ and the edition of
Origen. He was in the house of the son of his old friend Froben, the
intimates of his earlier residence were all about him, and evidently
were glad and proud to have him again in their midst.

We have no suggestion, in the eleven months of his stay at Basel,
of any personal dealings with the Roman clergy, nor of the presence
of any minister of religion at his death-bed. He had lived a
cosmopolitan of the earth; he died, so far as we know, a cosmopolitan
of the world to come--a Christian man trusting for his future to the
simple faith in right doing and straight thinking which had really
been his creed through life. His death occurred on the 12th of July,
1536. Protestant Basel claimed as her own the man who had turned his
back on her when she was working through her own religious problem,
but who had after all been drawn to her again by the subtle ties of a
sympathy he could not or would not openly acknowledge.

   "How great was the public grief," says Beatus, "was shown by the
   throng of people to take their last look at the departed. He was
   borne on the shoulders of students to the cathedral and there
   near the steps which lead up to the choir, on the left side of
   the church, by the chapel of the Blessed Virgin, was honourably
   laid to rest. In the funeral procession walked the chief
   magistrate and many members of the council. Of the professors
   and students of the University not one was absent."

The impression of Beatus' narration is confirmed by a letter[196] of
the Leipzig physician, Heinrich Stromer, written immediately after
the death of Erasmus to George Spalatin. He adds:

  [196] Adalbert Horawitz, _Erasmiana_; in Sitzungsberichte der
  Wiener Akademie der Wissenschaften, xcv., 608.

   "The great scholar was completely absorbed in restoring the
   Greek text of Origen, so that though his illness was extremely
   painful, he would not give up till death itself wrested the pen
   from his hand. His last words on earth, spoken in the midst of
   his heavy groaning, were these: 'Oh, Jesus Christ, Son of God,
   have mercy upon me! I will sing of the mercy of God and of his
   judgment.' And therein you can see the truly Christian spirit of
   the man."

The last will of Erasmus, made in due form on the 12th of February,
1536, shows him to have been possessed of a comfortable property. He
appoints Boniface Amerbach general executor of all his estate. He
gives substantial legacies to several friends and servants, provides
for the sale of his library to John à Lasco, and finally directs his
executor to give the remainder to poor and infirm persons, especially
to provide dowries for poor girls and to help young men of good


Expressions of grief and reverence for the great scholar came from
the men of all parties who could think of him as the prince of
learning and the advocate of right living. Only those who could not
forgive him his refusal to enter the ranks of any party failed to do
honour to his memory.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let us ask once more in conclusion what was, precisely, the
contribution of this man to the work of the Reformation. If by
"Reformation" we mean only the work which Luther believed himself
to be doing, we must limit our answer to the somewhat scanty
acknowledgment he was ready to make of his indebtedness to Erasmus
as a scholar. But we have learned that Luther's own conception of
the Reformation movement was a very narrow and inadequate one. He
believed it to be limited to a purely religious revival on the basis
of a true understanding of Scripture. In reality it was the whole
great revolt of the human mind against arbitrary and conventional
limitations, and it is only when we study it in this light that we
can measure the influence of Erasmus upon it. First and most
important was his insistence, begun in the Enchiridion and continued
even through the _Ecclesiastes_, upon the principle of a sound, sane,
reasonable individual judgment, not in opposition to the prevailing
authority of tradition, but in interpretation of it. To be sure this
was no absolutely new thing in the world. It had been before men's
minds since the days of Petrarch, but it had never before found so
many-sided and so consistent an expression in the North. It had taken
three generations since Petrarch for the slower mind of the northern
peoples to ripen to the point of receiving this idea. They took it
now from Erasmus with enthusiasm. It came to them in his satire in
such form that the humblest reader could understand it. It spoke
to them in his serious treatises in language which appealed to the
scholar at once by its literary finish and by its enormous learning
and seriousness. The private judgment of the individual is really, no
matter how concealed, the tribunal to which the reader is continually

Closely akin to this is the appeal, the other distinguishing mark of
the Renaissance man, to the essential rightness of what is natural.
The mediæval ideal of morals had been that whatever was natural was
essentially wrong. It could be right only in so far as it was given
a formal guarantee by some recognised authority. Erasmus represents
human life throughout as being, of its very nature, in harmony with
the eternal law of morality. Especially family life in all its forms,
the natural and mutual duties of man and wife, the tender love and
care of children, the honourable uses of wealth in the service of the
state and of religion, the obligations of friendship, the natural
piety of the simple child of God, the dignity and responsibility
of rulers as the agents of a divine order among men, the supreme
duty of peace,--these are the constantly recurring subjects of his
well-trained pen. Even in his literary ideals the same general
principle of naturalness prevails. Style is an instrument to be
cultivated; it has a charm of its own worth the careful attention
of the scholar; but, after all, style is only a means of conveying
thought, and the object of it is to carry the highest thought in the
clearest and most direct fashion.

Now one may well ask: How is all this nobility and elevation of
purpose to be reconciled with the obvious personal limitations of
Erasmus' character? How does this profound interest in the welfare
of human society go with a self-centred, nervous dread of criticism
which rises at times to the hysterical point? How account for the
fear that the very ideas he seems most to cherish might be spread
abroad among the very people for whom they seem especially intended?
How explain the elaborate contradictions in his own accounts of the
motives that led to his most open actions? Such a personality, we
are tempted to say, is beneath our honest contempt. It is the very
negation of all the ideals of which the man tried to pose as the

The answer to this difficulty is that we find ourselves here before
the perpetual mystery of genius. Erasmus partially solved the
problem for us when he declared that while he was at work a certain
demon seemed to take possession of him and to carry him on without
his will. His pen seemed to have a volition of its own and to obey
the training of his years of practice by a certain instinct. Just as
his powerful will compelled his frail and suffering body to do the
bidding of his unconquerable spirit, so the literary impulse carried
him on to utterances far beyond the capacity of his personality to
realise in action. If Erasmus could have lived up to himself, he
would have been the greatest of men. Let us in our judgment of him
beware lest we make superhuman demands upon him. It is as idle as it
is unjust to ask that Erasmus should be both Erasmus and Luther at
once. Our narrative has not sought to cover up or to disguise the
repellent aspects of his outward attitude towards the Reformation.
May it on the other hand avoid the error of obscuring his immense
service to the cause with which his nature forbade him outwardly to
identify himself.



    Adages, first edition, 88-91;
      Aldine edition, 136

    Adrian, Hebrew teacher, 266, 267

    Adrian VI., pope, 403

    Agricola, Rudolf, 7

    Albert of Mainz, 291;
      letter to, 309-318

    Aldus Manutius, 125;
      correspondence with Erasmus, 134-137;
      his printing-office, 138

    Aleander, Girolamo, at Venice, 143;
      at Louvain, 349

    Alexander of Scotland, Archbishop of St. Andrews, 144, 146;
      death, 153

    Algerus, treatise on the Eucharist, 410

    Amerbach, Boniface, executor, 460

    Amerbach, the brothers, 236

    Ammonius, Andreas, correspondence with Erasmus, 187-192, 262, 263

    Andrelinus, Faustus, 41;
      letter from Erasmus, 80;
      writes a preface to the Adages, 93

    _Apophthegmata_, 451

    Aquinas, Thomas, Erasmus' and Colet's views of, 72

    d'Asola, Andreas, 138-140

    d'Asola, Francesco, 139, 141

    Atensis, John, 264

    Augsburg Confession, 401

    Augsburg, Diet at, 444-448

    Augustinianism, 278, 283-285, 380-383

    Augustinus, pupil of Erasmus, 93


    Badius, publisher at Paris, 134

    Basel, residence in, 232-240, 347, 441-443, 456 _sqq._

    Battus, James, 48;
      correspondence with Erasmus, 48-58;
      death, 61

    Beatus Rhenanus, 239;
      letter to, 241-246

    Bedda, Natalis, 428

    Berquin, Louis de, 428-432

    Berlin, St., abbot of, 223

    Besançon, letter to magistrate of, 456

    Bois-le-Duc ('s Hertogenbosch), school at, 8

    Bologna, visit to, 130-135

    Botzheim, John, canon of Constance, letter to (_catalogus
      lucubrationum_), 126;
      visit to, 352, 356

    Brethren of the Common Life, 8

    Budæus, William, letter from, 248;
      letter to, 251, 427

    Busleiden, Jerome, founder of the College of the Three Languages, 265


    Cambrai, bishop of and residence in, 6, 33, 41

    Cambridge, life at, 193-195

    Caminga, Haio, 443

    Campeggio, Cardinal, letters to, 302, 405

    Carteromachos, Scipio, 148

    Charles I. of Spain (V. of Germany), makes Erasmus
      a councillor, 253, 262;
      elected emperor, 343-345;
      holds the Diet at Worms, 345, 346

    _Ciceronianus_, treatise on rhetoric, selection from, 149-151

    Cinicampius (Eschenfeld), 243;
      letter from Erasmus, 246, 247

    Clement VII., pope, letter to, 404

    Clyston, attendant of Erasmus' pupils, 125, 127, 136

    Colet, John, 64, 65;
      teacher at Oxford, 68;
      founder of St. Paul's school, 70;
      his character, 71-75;
      invites Erasmus to teach at Oxford, 82-86;
      correspondence of 1511(?)-1512, 195-200;
      present at Canterbury "pilgrimage," 217

    Collége Montaigu, 34-39

    Comparison of the Virgin and the Martyr, 436, 437

    _Compendium Vitæ_, 4

    Complutensian Polyglot, 201

    Constance, visit at, 352

    Cop, William, 250

    _Copia verborum et rerum_, dedication, 197;
      analysis of, 208-214

    Cornelius, companion of Erasmus at Steyn, 14


    Dante, _De Monarchia_, 274

    _De contemptu mundi_, treatise, 20-22, 28

    Deventer, school at, 5-7

    _Diversoria_, colloquy describing inns, 127, 226-231

    Dorpius, Martin, criticises the Praise of Folly, 176, 264

    Dürer, Albert, diary of, 333, 334


    _Ecclesiastes_, 453, 454

    Egmund, Carmelite at Louvain, 322, 428

    _Enchiridion militis Christiani_, origin, 96, 97;
      analysis of, 98-111;
      preface to second edition, 111-115;
      its teaching, 286

    England, life in, 62-86, 179 _sqq._

    _Epistolæ obscurorum virorum_, 279, 363

    Eppendorf, Henry, 352

    Erasmus, nationality, 1-3;
      birth, 3;
      at Gouda, 5;
      at Utrecht, 5;
      at Deventer, 5-8;
      at 's Hertogenbosch, 8, 9;
      at Steyn, 15-23;
      with the bishop of Cambrai, 26;
      ordained priest, 33, n.;
      at Paris, 33-40;
      return to Cambrai, 41;
      troubles at Paris, 42-47;
      correspondence with Battus, 48-58;
      visit to Tournehens, 54;
      at Louvain, 61;
      in England, 62-86;
      at Orleans, 92;
      views on war, 118, 128;
      goes to Italy, 125;
      Doctor's degree, 128;
      in Bologna, 130-135;
      life at Venice, 137-143;
      at Padua, 144;
      at Siena, 146;
      at Rome, 146-156;
      English residence (1509-1514), 179-217;
      correspondence with Ammonius, 187-192;
      "Professor" at Cambridge, 193-195;
      literary work in England, 197-217;
      letter to Servatius, 218-224;
      journeys, 226-231, 241-246;
      at Basel, 232-240;
      called to Ingolstadt and elsewhere, 247;
      offered a bishopric, 248;
      called to Paris, 248-253;
      made councillor of Charles V., 253-255;
      settles at Louvain, 264;
      his view of the Reform, 285-288;
      view of indulgences, 292;
      letter to Wolsey, 298-301;
      to Campeggio, 302;
      to Leo X., 303-307;
      to Albert of Mainz, 309-319;
      to Hoogstraaten, 326-329;
      removal to Basel, 347;
      letter to Laurinus, 347-361;
      visit to Constance, 352;
      contest with Hutten, 362-378;
      the free-will controversy, 383-401;
      the Eucharist controversy, 407-418;
      relations with Berquin, 428-432;
      life at Basel, 441-443;
      goes to Freiburg in Breisgau, 444;
      relation to Augsburg Diet, 444-448;
      buys a house, 449;
      his place in the Index, 454, 455;
      return to Basel, 456;
      death, 457-459;
      last will, 460;
      final estimate of, 460-463

    Ernest of Bavaria, invites Erasmus to Ingolstadt, 247

    Eschenfeld (Cinicampius), 243;
      letter from Erasmus, 246, 247

    Eucharist, history of, 407;
      Luther's view, 407-409;
      Erasmus on, 409-418

    _Expostulatio cum Erasmo_ of Hutten, 366-372


    Familiar Colloquies, 420-423;
      attacked by the Sorbonne and by Luther, 424;
      condemned at Paris and in England, 433

    Ferdinand of Spain, 119

    Fisher, Robert, 63

    Francis I., King of France, calls Erasmus to Paris, 248-253

    _Fratres Collationarii_, 10

    Frederic the Wise, Elector of Saxony, letter to, 325;
      interview with, 326;
      imperial candidate, 344

    Free will, the problem of, 381-384;
      essay on, 384, 387-397;
      Luther on, 398-401

    Freiburg in Breisgau, residence at, 441-456

    Froben, John, first acquaintance with Erasmus, 232;
      character, 233-235

    Froben, John Erasmius, 421


    Gaguinus, 41

    Gerard, father of Erasmus, 4

    Gerhardt of Nymwegen, 428

    Goclenius, Conrad, letters to, 4, 267, 458

    Gouda, life at, 5

    Grey, Thomas, 43

    Grimani, Cardinal, 151;
      receives Erasmus, 154-156;
      letter to, 224

    Grocyn, William, 64, 81

    Groot, Gerard, 8

    Grunnius, Lambertus, letter to, xiv, 4, 11, 19, 21, 130;
      reply of, 132


    Hedio, Caspar, letter to, 379

    Hegius, Alexander, 6

    Hermann, William, 23, 47

    's Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc), school at, 8

    Hoogstraaten, Jacob, letter to, 326-329

    Hutten, Ulrich von, 361-363;
      controversy with Erasmus, 363-378;
      letter from, 364;
      the _Expostulatio_, 366-372;
      Erasmus' _Spongia_, 372-378


    "Index," papal, 454, 455

    Indulgences, Luther's Theses on, 289-291;
      Erasmus on, 292, 293

    Inghirami, Tommaso, 149

    Ingolstadt, call to, 247

    Institution of Christian Marriage, 433-435

    _Institutio Principis Christiani_, 255-262;
      its teaching, 286

    Italy, life in, 125 _sqq._

    Ἰχθυοφαγία, colloquy of Erasmus, 35-40


    Jerome, St., edition of, 68, 205

    Joanna of Spain, 119


    à Kempis, Thomas, 8


    Lascaris, Johannes, 143;
      letter to, 265

    à Lasco, John, letter to, 417, 418

    Laurinus, Marcus, letters to, 254, 347-361

    Lee, Edward, 427

    Leo X., dedication of New Testament to, 271;
      letter to, 302

    Linacre, Thomas, 64, 81, 199

    Louvain, life at, 61, 264

    Ludwig the Bavarian, emperor, 276

    Luther, Martin, called to Wittenberg, 280;
      his early development, 280-283;
      Theses, 289-291;
      letter from, 294;
      letter to, 295-297;
      his views disclaimed, 298 _sqq._;
      Leipzig Disputation, 307, 337;
      burns the papal bull and canon law, 337;
      writings of 1520, 338;
      confronts the radical party, 339-341;
      at Worms, 345, 346;
      letter on free will, 384-386;
      treatise, _de servo arbitrio_, 398-401

    Luther and Erasmus compared, 282, 283


    Macchiavelli, Niccolo, _Il Principe_, 256

    Manius, Peter, letter to, 1

    Marburg Conference, 408

    Margaret, mother of Erasmus, 4

    Margaret of Austria, regent of the Netherlands, 405

    Maximilian of Germany, 119

    Melanchthon, Philip, called to Wittenberg, 280;
      letter to, 325

    More, Thomas, 64;
      first meeting with Erasmus, 77, 78;
      introduces Erasmus to the royal children, 79;
      Utopia, 257

    Mountjoy, Lord, pupil of Erasmus, 43;
      invites him to England, 62;
      second invitation (1509), 179-183

    Münzer, Thomas, 340, 362, 398

    Musurus, Marcus, 143, 144


    Neuenaar, Count of, 244

    New Testament, Greek, editing begun in England, 200-204;
      dedicated to Pope Leo X., 271;
      third edition, 351


    _Opulentia sordida_, colloquy on life at Venice, 138-142

    Orleans, life at, 92


    Pace, Richard, at Ferrara, 145

    Padua, life at, 144

    Paraphrases of the New Testament, 424-426

    Paris, university organisation, 34;
      life in, 33-40, 42-47, 248-253

    Parvus, William (Guillaume Petit), 248, 249

    Paul III., pope, correspondence with, 457

    Paul IV., pope, Index of, 454, 455

    Pelicanus, Conrad, letters to, 416, 417

    Philip of Burgundy, panegyric on, 116-121

    Pirkheimer, Bilibaldus, letters to, 413, 414

    Pius IV., pope, Index of, 455

    Poncher, Stephen, Bishop of Paris, 250, 253

    Popes, humanistic, 273

    _Præparatio ad Mortem_, 452, 453

    Praise of Folly, motive of, 158;
      analysis of, 159-175;
      apology to Dorpius, 176-178


    Raphael, Cardinal of St. George, 226

    Religious Pilgrimage, the, 215, 216

    Reuchlin, John, 236-239, 310, 320

    Rhenanus, _see_ Beatus

    Riario, Raffaelle, cardinal, 151

    Rome, life in, 150-156


    Scaliger, Julius Cæsar, criticises Erasmus, 137, 235

    "_Senex ille_," 42-46

    Schmalkalden, League of, 445

    Servatius, companion of Erasmus at Steyn, 23;
      prior of Steyn, letter from Erasmus, 218-224

    Siena, visit to, 146

    Sintheim, John, 6

    Sorbonne, the, attacks the Colloquies, 424, and the Paraphrases, 432

    "Spirit," the, 388, 389;
      Luther on, 399

    _Spongia adversus aspergines Hutteni_, 372-378

    Standonch, John, 35

    Steyn, monastery at, 14-20;
      life at, 15-23

    Stromer, Heinrich, letter to Spalatin, 459

    Stunica, James Lopez, 355, 404, 427


    The True Way of Prayer, 437-440

    Tournehens, visit to, 54

    Tunstall, Cuthbert, 263, 264


    Utopia of Thomas More, 257, 261

    Utrecht, life at, 5


    Valla, Laurentius, 204

    Veere, Anna, Marchioness of, 48;
      visit of Erasmus to, 54;
      letter to, 59, 60;
      marriage of, 61

    Venice, life at, 137-143

    Volzius, letter to, 111-115


    Warham, William, Archbishop of Canterbury, joins in calling
      Erasmus to England, 183;
      gives him the "living" of Aldington, 184-186;
      character, 226, 454

    Wessel, John, 8

    Winckel, Peter, uncle and guardian of Erasmus, 5, 7, 9

    Wittenberg University founded, 280

    Wittenherus, Nicholas, prior of Steyn, 222

    Wolsey, Thomas, letter to, 298

    Worms, Diet at, 345, 346;
      Edict of, 346

    Transcriber's note

    Obvious printer errors have been silently corrected. Original
    spelling was kept. Variant spellings were made consistent when a
    predominant usage was found.

    Illustrations have been slightly moved so that they do not break
    up paragraphs while remaining close to the text they illustrate.

    Chapter headings and illustration captions have been harmonized
    and made consistent so that the same expressions appear both in
    text and in the lists of Contents and of Illustrations.

    The following emendations were made:

    Page  12: "text" replaced by "pretext" (this gives Erasmus a
                pretext for an assault).
    Page  39: "Icthyophagia" replaced by "Ichthyophagia" (he borrowed
                his illustration directly from the _Ichthyophagia_).
    Page  54: "noir" replaced by "noire" (a reference to his _bête
    Page  91: Footnote label [51]: location conjectured, not found
                in the original.
    Page  94, note 53: "p. 486-99" replaced by "p. 48 & _ff._" (See
                p. 48 & _ff._)
    Page 195, note 91: "p. 50 8 _ff._" replaced by "p. 50 & _ff._"
                (by Mr. Mullinger in his History of the University of
                Cambridge, p. 50 & _ff._)

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