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self, advised that the bishop should send for a master out of Italy. And as there is no doubt but the consciousness of want of Greek in Colet incited him . not only to attain to some competent knowledge of it himself, but also to lay the foundation of bis school for the better accommodation of others, and to provide a master the best accomplished in that language, and so in effect to be the founder of the first Greek school in England, so not unlike to Dean Colet was Bishop Fisher in this point. For his want of Greek made him the greater patron and promoter of it in Cambridge, and his being chancellor of the university made it more eminent than Oxford in this respect; knowing therefore the abilities of Erasmus this way, he invited him thither, and supported him in professing that language, which he himself (at last) had made himself master of. And it would bear a general observation, that the worthy founders of colleges and schools have not been always the greatest clerks, though for the most part tho wisest and best of men; there was sense and truth I that prelate, William Wickham, Bishop of Winchester, founder of the college there, and New Collego in Oxford, who, when accused of being no scholar, said, he could make scholars, and that was greater.
As for Oxford, its own history and antiquities sufficiently confess, that nothing was known there but Latin, and that in the most depraved style of the schoolmen. Cornelius Vitellius, an Italian, was the first who taught Greek in that university, and from him the famous Grocyne learned the first elements thereof.
In Cambridge, Erasmus was the first who taught the Greek grammar. And 80 very low was the state of learning in that university, "that (as he tells a friend) about the year 1485, the beginning of Henry the VIIth's reigo, therc was nothing taught in that public seminary besides Alexander's 'Parva Logicalia,' (as they called them,) the old axioms of Aristotle, and the questions of John Scotus, till in process of time good letters were brought in, and some knowledge of the mathematics; as also Aristotle in a new dress, and some skill in the Greek tongue, and, by degrees, a multitude of authors, whose names before had not been heard of."
It is certain that even Erasmus bimself did little understand Greek, when he came first into England, in 1497, (13 Henry VII.,) and that our countryman Linacer taught it him, being just returned from Italy with great skill in that language, which Linacer and William Grocyne were the two only tutors that were able to teach it. His first essay was in translating three declamations of Libanius from Greek into Latin in 1503.
The future Dean of St. Paul returned from his continental travels and studies with all the spirit and accomplishments which fitted him for public and court life, and with natural tastes for mere sensual enjoyment which his inherited wealth was calculated to foster, but breaking away from the seductions of both, he consecrated himself to temperance in all things, and to a career of pious, literary, and self-denying usefulness. He was made priest in 1497, and having already received several preferments in the Church, the enjoyment of which did not require residence as was the custom of that period, he retired to Oxford for the larger portion of each year until 1505, when he was made Dean of St. Paul.
While residing at Oxford, he was engaged in public instruction, by reading lectures on the Epistles of St. Paul without any remuneration, and which were much frequented not only by students, but by the most eminent professors and dignitaries of the Church. He here (1498) became personally acquainted with Erasmus, whose letters throw so much light not only on the life and character of his correspondents, but on the state of cducation and literary society at that period in England, that we shall introduce extracts from Dr. Knight's account of their intimacy.
Erasmus had lived at Paris, and there had been tutor to several of our young nobility and gentry, particularly to the Honorable Thomas of the Dorset family, and the Lord Montjoy, by whose means probably he was induced to see England the first time; who, while he was thinking of a journey to Rome, stepped over from Calais to Dover, about the latter end of the year 1497, but seems to have made little or no stay in London, hastening down to Oxford, as the better mart of learning, being thither recommended by the prior and canons of St. Genovese at Paris, to Father Richard Charnock, prior of the regulars of the order of St. Austin, in the college of St. Mary the Virgin, where he was received, and accommodated with diet and lodging, in the most courteous and hospitable manner. Father Charnock, after a short trial of the parts and good qualities of his new guest, gave a character of him to Master Colet, that he was in his opinion, a very excellent person, and of singular worth and goodness; which did so please him, (having also before heard of his fame abroad,) that he had not the patience to wait for an opportunity of seeing this learned stranger, but would make his first address with his pen, and wrote immediately to him from his own chamber an elegant and agreeable epistle, in such a turn of obliging thoughts and words, as showed the writer to be a scholar, a traveler, and a gentleman. He tells him that his friend Brome had heartily recommended bim by letter, but that he stood before highly commended to him, as well by the fame of his reputation abroad, as by the testimony of his writings; that while he was at Paris, he well remembers the name of Erasmus was in the mouths of the learned, and that he had there particularly read over an epistle of his to Gaguinus, wherein he had celebrated his industry and skill in drawing up the history of France, which seemed to him to be the specimen of a perfect writer, both for learning aud a knowledge of the world. But still the best recommendation of him was, that the venerable prior, with whom he now 80journed, had yesterday told him, that his new guest, in his opinion, was a very excellent person, and endowed with singular virtues.
To this letter Erasmus immediately returned a very apposite answer, that could he find any thing commendable in himself, he should be proud of being commended by such a worthy person, to whose judgment he allowed so great a weight, that his silent esteem alone had been preferable to all the applauses of a theatre at Rome. But, however, the commendations given him by such a person were so far from exalting him in his own conceit, that he was rather mortified by them, for they only put him in mind what he ought to be. That for his part, he best know his own failings, and therefore would presume to give a character of himself.
You have in me a man of little or no fortune, a stranger to ambition, a mighty well-wisher to love and friendship, a sort of novice in learning, but yet a great admirer thereof. One who has a profound veneration for any excellence in others, as conscious of the want of it in himself; who can easily yield to any one in learning, to none in integrity; a man sincere, open, free, a hater of false. hood and dissimulation, of a mind lowly and upright, from whom nothing is to be expected besides an honest heart. If, my dear Colet, you can love such a man, and think him worthy of your friendship, you may account me your own as effectually as any thing you can call your own. Your country of England 'is most pleasant to me upon many accounts, but especially on this that it abounds with those blessings, without wbich nothing would relish with me, men of admirable learning, among whom no mortal will grudge that I reckon you the chief. · These two friends being now happy in each other's acquaintance, were not wanting to improve it to the mutual benefit of one another, particularly at a public dinner in the university, after a Latin sermon, where the table-talk was scholastic and theological, Master Colet sitting as moderator. Among other discourse Colet said, “ that Cain's greatest offense, and the most odious in God's sight, was his distrusting the bounty of our great Creator, and placing too much confidence in his own art and industry, and so tilling the ground, while his brother Abel, content with the natural productions of the earth, was only feeding sheep." Upon this argument the whole company engaged, the divine ar'guing by strict syllogisms, while Erasmus opposed in a more loose and rhetorical manner, “but in truth," saith Erasmus, " this one divine (Master Colet) was more than a match for us all. He seemed to be filled with a divine spirit, and to be somewhat above a man; he spoke not only with his voice, but with his eyes, his countenance, and his whole demeanor.” When the disputation grew too long, and was too grave and severe for such a cheerful entertainment, Erasmus broke it off, by telling an old story of Cain, from a pretended ancient author, though purely of his own invention upon the spot, and so they parted i friends. Erasmus, the same year, gives this account of the result of that meeting, to one who was invited to it, Johannes Sixtinus, a learned Phrysian, who
then studied in the university of Oxford, and was afterwards incorporated · Doctor of Laws, in the year 1510.
Mr. Colet, as he was ambitious of contracting acquaintance with any person . of note or virtue or learning, so be obliged Erasmus in bringing him to the ac
quaintance of his fellow-citizen, Mr. More, (afterwards Sir Thomas,) of whom he - was used to say, that he was the only wit in the island. And as to Mr. More's opinion of Colet, it was so great and lasting, that after he was preferred to the
deanery of St. Paul's and himself at Lincoln's Inn, he constantly attended on his excellent lectures.
Erasmus (who made up one of the happy triumvirate) was so well pleased : with the air and conversation of Oxford, that like many other students, he staid
till he had spent all his money, and was indebted for his commons. Upon this · exigence, he writ to the Lord Mountjoy, to send him that little money he had in his hands, that he might be just to Father Charnock, who had treated him · with all possible civility and bounty.
In this letter, dated from Oxford in 1498, he remembers the humanity of Colet, as well as of the Prior Charnock, and says, that nothing can be more sweet, lovely, and charming, than the temper and conversation of these two men; he could live even in Scythia, or any the remotest part of the world, with two such agreeable friends and companions. Towards the end of the same year, Erasmus, extremely well pleased with his enjoyments at Oxford, being supplied with money, returned to London, to wait upon his pupil, the Lord Mountjoy, and to gain and cultivate a better acquaintance with the men of studies and travels, who at that season of the year resorted to the court and city.
While Erasmus made some stay at Oxford, (in 1499,) the occasions of Master Colet called him to some other part of England, but whatever was the distance
those two friends kept a constant correspondence. In one of his letters Master Colet had kindly reproved Erasmus for some fault and omission in him, which though not mentioned by Erasmus, yet we find how well it worked with him, and that he thought these kind monitions were rather an establishment than a breach of friendship, and without which plain dealing it was impossible it should subsist long. Then he freely expressed his great dislike of that new theology, which was unhapplily brought into the church by the modern schoolmen, and was in effect nothing but the art of trifling and wrangling, telling him that he had set himself against those scholastical divines, and would, if possible, restore the theological studies that were founded upon the Scriptures and the primitive fathers. That it was upon this view he had publicly in Oxford expounded the Epistles of St. Paul, and should be glad of a partner in that labor of searching the Scriptures. And he earnestly pressed Erasmus to join with him, and to undertake a like public exposition of some part of the Old Testament, (while he himself was employed in the New,) either a book of Moses, or the eloquent Isaiah, that he might so warm the minds and affections of the students in those cold winter months that were now coming on.
This excellent letter of Mr. Colet is lost, but the answer of Erasmus shows the contents of it. Wherein, among the excuses made for not complying with the advice of it, the best excuse of Erasmus was, that he must soon return to Paris. In the meantime, while he was detained in England, partly by the win ter season, and partly by an embargo laid on shipping, upon the flight of a cer tain commander, [i. e., an escape out of the Tower, made by the pretender, Perkin Warbeck,) he had retired for a few months to that famous university, to converse with scholars and divines, rather than with courtiers. He would have Colet go on with his laudable endeavors of reforming the studies of divinity, and says:—"As soon as I am conscious to myself of strength and ability sufficient, I will readily come in to your assistance, and be diligent at least, if not useful, in that excellent work. In the meantime, nothing can be a greater pleasure, than either in discourse, or by letter, to inquire into the sense and right meaning of the Holy Scriptures. Farewell, my Colet. The most courteous prelate, [all heads of religious houses were so called,] Richard Charnock, my host, and our common friend, bids me give you his wishes of health and happiness. Oxford-from the convent of canons of the order of St. Augustine, commonly called St. Mary's."
In this epistolary intercourse, Colet and Erasmus, like true Christians and divines, consulted and instructed one another. And their conversation, while together in England, was to promote their mutual studies and endeavors for the public good, which they continued to do many years after this, for when Erasmus was here preparing his immortal work, the New Testament in its original, and a new Latin version, he was very much assisted by Dr. Colet, who lent him two very authentic Latin copies, of great antiquity.
While at Cambridge, Erasmus writes to his friend Colet, that he was forced to fight for him with the Thomists and Scotists of that place, being the more angry with those fellows, for hindering the progress of learning, especially of the Greek language, at that time making its way into the world, which they were so mad at, that they could not forbear Aying out against it even in their pulpits, and endeavored to run it down, under the notion of heresy, as hath been before hinted.
Though the knowledge of the Greek tongue was at this time very low, yet there was a comment on Aristotle ventured upon for the sake of the schoolmen, wherein, (as ill-luck would have it,) by the mistake (or rather ignorance) of the commentator, instead of toxń dotiv čūlos, anima est immaterialis, was read yoxth totiv aúdds, and so it was rendered anima est tibia, instead of immaterialis. This put the good man's brains, while reading upon that author, on the tenters to clear his text; but at last he thought he had done notably, when he brought no less than fifteen reasons (such as they were) to prove that odd assertion, that the soul was a pipe, which Aristotle never so much as dreamt of.
This was the case with all of them, as to their ignorance in the Greek tongue. But yet they hugged themselves under this venerable mantle, and proclaimed every one an heretic, who understood that tongue, especially if be made use of his skill in translating or criticising upon the New Testament. And this aversion to good literature remained all the reign of Henry VII. and the beginning of Henry VIII. About wbich time, even at Oxford, a preacher declaimed openly at St. Mary's against the pernicious innovation of the Greek tongue, and raised such a ferment about it among the students, that the king, then at Woodstock, (having had the matter rightly stated to him by Mr. Thomas More and Richard Pace,) sent his royal letters to the university, to allow and commend that study among the young men.
It was not long after this, that a divine, preaching at court, presumed to rail plentifully at Greek learning, and new interpretations of the Scripture. Dr. Pace cast his eyes upon the king, to observe how his majesty was affected with such stuff. The king smiled upon Pace by way of contempt of the preacher, and after sermon sent for him, and appointed a solemn disputation, wherein he himself would be present, to debate the matter between the preacher opposing, aud Mr. Thomas More defending the use of the Greek tongue. When the time came, Mr. More began an eloquent apology in favor of that ancient language. The divine, instead of answering to the purpose, fell down upon his knees, and only begged pardon for giving any offense in the pulpit. And excusing him. self, that what he did, was by the impulse of the Spirit; “not the spirit of Christ," says the king, “but the spirit of infatuation." His majesty then asked him, whether he had read any thing of Erasmus? He said “ No." “Why then," says the king, "you are a very foolish fellow, to censure what you never read." "I have read,” says he, “something they call Moira." "Yes," says Pace," may it please your highness, such a subject is fit for such a reader." At last the preacher, to bring himself the better off, declared, that he was now better reconciled to the Greek tongue, because it was derived from the Hebrew. The king, amazed at the ignorance of the man, dismissed bim, with a charge that he should never again preach at court.
In 1501 Mr. Colet was permitted “to proceed in divinity to the reading of the Sentences;" in 1502 he became Prebendary of Durnesford; in 1504 he commenced Doctor of Divinity, and in 1505 he was advanced to the deanery of St. Paul's, which was hailed with great satisfaction by his friends at home and abroad. Here he at once entered on a course of labors which restored the decayed discipline of his cathedral church, and brought in a new practice of preaching himself upon Sundays, and all solemn festivals. He