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Præsideo virgineo gregi;
Culta nitescat ?
At the upper end of the school was the image of the child Jesus, for which Erasmus composed this distich:
Discite me primum, prueri, atque effingite puris
Moribus ; inde pias addite literulas.
He also composed the following as a sort of comment on the Disce art dis. cede now painted on the windows, and the tetrastic recommending the example of the child Jesus as the rule and original of wisdom and purity of life.
Unus hie est vitæ regula fonsque piæ.
Absque hoc vita hominis mors (mihi crede) mera este
• Another excellent composition of Erasmus, for the use of the Paul's scholars,
was an oration in praise of the child Jesus, (which was spoken publicly in the
school, by one of the scholars, at the solemn time of visiting the school) in an admirable strain of Christian eloquence, recommending the example of Jesus in his childhood, and exhorting the schoolfellows to follow his steps in all piety and virtue. This has been frequently published under the title of Concio de puero Jesu, pronunciata a puero in schola Coletica nuper instituta Londini. To which (no doubt at the like desire of dean Colet) were added two short prayers for the daily use of every scholar; one for docility, or aptness and application to learning; the other, for a blessing on his parents
Precatio Puerilis pro Docilitate. Audi preces meas, æterna Patris Sapientia, Domine Jesu; qui teneræ ætati docilitatis commodum addidisti: adde, quæso, ad naturæ propensionem auxilium gratiæ tuæ, ut literas ac liberales disciplinas citius perdiscam, sed tuæ gloriæ servituras; quarum adminiculis adjuta mens mea plenius assequatur coginitionem tui, quem nosse felicitatis humanæ summa est: utque ad tuæ sanctissimæ pueritiæ exemplum indies proficiam ætate, sapientia, et gratia apud Deum, et apud homines; qui vivis et regnas in consortio Patris et Spiritus Sancti, in æterna gecula. Amen.
Precatio pro Parentibus. Domine Deus, qui nos secundum te plurimum honoris parentibus nostris ha bere voluisti, nec inter officia pietatis minimum est pro parentum incolumitato tuam bonitatem interpellare; serva, quæsumus, parentes meos cum omni familia; primum in tuæ religionis amore, deinde tutos a corporis et animi perturba tione. Mihi vero præsta, ne quid illis ex me molestiarum accedat; denique ut ego illos, illi te propritium habeant, qui supremus es omnium Pater. Amen..
These prayers are still recited by the pupils of St. Paul's School at the begining and end of each school day.
A few years after the publication and general use of these Rudiments, (which related chiefly to the more easy construing of Latin, and are now, with some improvement, placed in the common accidence after the eight parts of speech, though made before,) dean Colet proceeded to draw up, for the familiar use of his boys that other little tract on the Construction of the Eight Parts of Speech; which, with some alterations, and great additions, now makes up the syntax in Lilye's vulgar. grammar. He sent it to the master of his school, Mr. Lilye, with a very ingenious and affectionate epistle, dated from his own house in the year 1513.
Methinks, my dear Lilye, I bear the same affection to my new school, as a parent does to his only son; to whom he is not only willing to pass over bis whole estate, but is desirous even to impart his own bowels also: and as the father thinks it to little purpose to have begotten a son, unless by diligent edu. cation he raises him up into a good and useful man; so to my own mind it is by no means sufficient that I have raised (i. e. begotten this school, and have conveyed my whole estate to it, (even during my own life and health,) unless I likewise take all possible care to nurture it in good letters and Christian manners, and bring it on to some useful maturity and perfection. For this reason, master, I send you this small treatise of the Construction of the Eight Parts of Speech; small indeed in itself, but such as will afford no small advantage to our scholars, if you diligently teach and explain it. You know Horace was pleased with brevity in the way of teaching; and I very much approve of his opinion in that matter. If in the reading of the classic authors any notable examples to these rules shall offer themselves, it will be your part to mark them as they shall occur. Farewell. From my house, 1513.
Dean Colet had such humble thoughts of his own performance upon this subject, that he charged Mr. Lilye to amend it and improve it, and then return it into his hands : and even when master Lilye had finished his emendations upon it, the dean would still have it brought, if possible, to a greater perfection. So he sends the papers to the best critic in Europe, Erasmus; and importunes him to give the finishing strokes to it. Erasmus could not but comply, as he tells us, with such a friend, who might ask, and even command, any thing from him: and after he had engaged in it, he made so many amendments and alterations in it, that Lilye could not in modesty own it for his work; nor could Erasmus, in justice call it his own. However it was published in 1515, by Erasmus, with an epistle, dated from Basil, 3. cal. Aug. giving an honorable account of the great concern that Mr. dean Colet had for his school, and how careful he was to make the book pass through several hands, that it might be the moro correct and complete.
When dean Colet had obtained from Erasmus so many good essays, both in poetry and prose, toward directing and securing the principles and morals of the boys; his next care was to procure some grammatical and critical performances, to lead and assist the boys in classic authors, and the literature contained in them. So walking one day in his garden with Erasmus, and hearing him mention. his pains in drawing up two books, De Copia Verborum ac Rerum, .to form the style and help the invention of young scholars; Colet asked him to dedicate that new work to his new school of Paul's. No, says Erasmus, your school is too poor and bare, I must have a patron of some ready money; and he telling him the charge he had been at in books and papers, and transcribers for that purpose; the dean answered, that he could not afford a just reward for those labors, but he would willingly give him fifteen angels; upon his repeating the promise, Erasmus did at last accept it. Dean Colet then complied readily with the expectation of Erasmus; who therefore dedicated the said books De Copia, &c. to him, in the following very eloquent epistle, dated from London, 3 cal. May, 1520.
I can not but extremely commend, my dear Colet, your singular and truly Christian piety; who have hitherto directed all the endeavours and labors of your life, not to the seeking of your own private interest, but to the consulting the good of your country, especially of your native city. Nor do I less admire your judgment, in choosing out two of the most proper methods for the full attainment of these glorious ends. For you saw the greatest fruits of love and charity would arise from the pains of instilling into the minds of people the knowledge of Christ by constant sermons, and a diligent teaching of the word of God: and therefore in this exercise you have now spent many years; I need not say with what praise and commendation, (for that you despise,) but I may say, with great profit to the hearers; upon which duty of preaching the gospel your own apostle St. Paul (otherwise modest, and sparing enough of his own praises) did often boast, and in a manner pride himself. Then for a second effectual means of answering the same public ends, you have founded a very beautiful and magnificent school, where, under the choicest and best approved masters, the British youth, in their tender years, might imbibe the Christian religion and good letters; as rightly apprehending, that from that tender age, in bud and blossom, the commonwealth might justly hope and expect, in time, the fruit in proportion; and that it would be an infinite advantage to mankind in every stage of life, to be well instructed from their cradle. And in both these respects, who would not love and admire that generous greatness of mind, (I was going to say that holy pride,) in you, that you paid both these regards to your country in such sincere and disinterested a manner; that by so many elaborate sermons, in so long a course of years, you are not one farthing the richer; and though you sowed in such plenty your spiritual things, you reaped no man's carnal things? And again, though the expenses of your school were such an immense burden, that it might well have affrighted any noble peer, yet you took it all upon yourself; when the common sort of mankind are well pleased to admit of any assistance in such cases, you chose to spend your patrimony, your whole revenue, your very furniture and household goods, rather than to admit any one soul to be a partner in the glory of your ample foundation, What is this but to have a fatherly affection for all your children, that is for all your fellow citizens? You become poor, to make them rich; naked, to clothe and adorn them ; by your great labors, you well nigh destroy yourself, to make them grow in Christ; in a word, you spend yourself, to gain them unto salvation. Surely he must be very envious, who will not heartily favor such good works; and he must be notoriously impious, who shall dare to speak against them. He is an enemy to England, who would not, according to his power, help and promote them. For my own part, I am not ignorant how much I am indebted to this kingdom in general, and how much to you my special friend: and therefore I thought. it my duty to bestow some small literary present toward the beautifying and adorning of your new school; and to dedicate these commentaries about the copiousness of words and things to the use and benefit of your school at Paul's; a work befitting the wants of young learners, and such, I hope, as may be very serviceable to them, Farewell, my best and most excellent Colet, Lond. 1612, 3 kal. Maii.
The last act of Erasmus's kindness to the dean's school, was to find out at Cambridge, (where he then was,) an usher, or second master, according to the founder's desire, to be under Mr. William Lilye. He inquired among the magters of arts there; but he could meet with none, it seems that cared for, or were fit for that place, who would engage in it. They did not affect so laborious an employment, however honorable the terms might be. One of the seniors said, in a flouting way, Who would lead such a slavish life among boys, in u school if he can have any other way of living? "I answered gravely," says Erasmus," that the office of instructing youth in letters and good manners was a very creditable office, that our blessed Saviour himself did not despise the conversing with children ; that no age was so capable of good instruction, and a man could no where bestow his pains with a better prospect of success, than at Paul's school, which was in the heart of the city, and center of the kingdom: besides, said I, if men have a true sense of religion, they must needs think, that there is no better way of pleasing and serving God than by the bringing of children to Christ; i. e. training them up to piety, and virtue, and knowledge. But upon this he turned up his nose, and said in a deriding manner, If any man desires to be an absolute servant of Christ, he may go into a monastery, and take the vows of religion upon him. I told him, Paul placed true religion in the works of charity; and the greatest charity was to do most good unto our neighbors: but he laughed at this, as a silly way of talking. Well, says he, we students seem to have left all; we must be here in a state of perfection. No, said I, a man can not be said to have left all, who, when he can do good to the world in any station, declines it, because he thinks it too mean for him: and so, to prevent any further dispute, I took my leave of him.
He had also in a former letter mentioned his fruitless endeavors to serve him in the affair of an usher. And he did not only in the former of these epistles but whenever he had an opportunity, encourage men of letters to undertake the laborious care of a grammar school, of which he often speaks in the highest commendation, as what exalts the schoolmaster to the highest dignity, whose business is to season youth in learning and religion, and raise up men for the service of their country. “It may be," says he, "the employment is accounted vile and mean in the opinion of fools, but in itself it is really great and honorable."
The aforesaid story about the aversion of men in the university to the drudg. ery of a grammar school, was by way of postscript to a letter, wherein Erasmus acquainted the dean that he had almost finished his book de Copia, (before mentioned,) and yet upon the subject of plenty he found himself in great want,
Having before mentioned Erasmus's pains, in seeking out for a proper person for the usher's place in Paul's school, I am now to add, that being not discour, aged in his quest, be did at length very probably recommend Mr. John Ryt. wise; who being born at Sawl, in Norfolk, and bred at Eaton school, was now member of King's College, at Cambridge, and being retained by dean Colet, as usher to his school, was, for his ability and industry, very agreeable to the bead master, Lilye.
Under these two excellent masters of Paul's school, if there was any fault in the managment of it, it was in the practice of too much severity, owing a little to the roughness of that age, and to the established customs of cruelty: some. what too may be attributed to that austere temper of the founder, Dr. Colet; who verily thought there was a necessity of harsh discipline to humble the spirit of boys, to inure them to hardship, and prepare them for mortifications and other sufferings and afflictions in the world.
This severity appears by several passages in Erasmus's works; particularly in his tract of the Education of Youth, where he falls upon the rigid Frepch schoolmasters of the Scotical clan, than whom nothing more cruel; and yet when reproved for this their cruelty, they replied, that this nation, as was said of Phrygia,) is only to be amended by such a harsh proceeding. "Whether this be true or not, I will not dispute," says Erasmus, “but must own, there is a good deal of difference between one people and another as to this point; but much more in the disposition of children. You may kill some before you can make them one whit better by beating; and yet at the same time with good words, and good usage, you may do what you please with them. Of this temper I own myself to have been when a boy. And my master, of whom I was a great favorite, because he was pleased to have conceived great hopes of me, having a mind to get a thorough knowledge of my disposition, did therefore make a trial how I could bear a sound whipping. Upon this a fault was cooked up, of which, (God knows) I never so much as dreamed; and accordingly I suffered the discipline of the school. Immediately I lost all manner of relish to my studies; and this usage did so damp my spirits that it almost broke my heart. From hence we may see, that these illiterate butchers, (to give them no better term,) ruin many a hopeful lad. These conceited, morose, drunken, cruel creatures, exercise this their severity as a piece of pleasure; and from another's pain take great satisfaction. They are, indeed, fitter for the business of a butcher, or hangman, than to be instructors of youth. And it is an observation not ill-grounded, that the most ignorant schoolmasters are generally the best at this exercise. For what is done in their schools? and in what do they spend their days ? Nothing but noisy stripes and chidings."