Imatges de pÓgina

swallowed him up. Another had no sooner left the walls of the monastery than he was devoured by a raging lion.

At Stein a false friend achieved that for Erasmus, which the importunity of his guardians and the terrors and persuasions of monks and friars had urged in vain. Cornelius Verder, whom he had known and loved at Daventer, was at Stein before him. He described the convent school as a quiet paradise for a man of letters. His time was his own, books in abundance were at his command, accomplished teachers would encourage and assist his studies, all was pure, sober enjoyment, - a pious, intellectual luxury. Erasmus listened, and, after some hesitation, entered on his probation. All passed along pleasantly for the time. He had much opportunity for study; the discipline was made easy to him; he enjoyed the society of his friends; they were even indulged in occasional pastimes, in which the good elder brothers of the convent condescended to mingle. But as the fatal day of profession approached, the courage of Erasmus began to fail him. He sent for his guardians and begged to be released. His health, he said, was feeble, and required a generous diet. He had no taste for monastic exercises. His whole heart was upon letters, according to the new light which was now dawning upon the world. But his entreaties and arguments availed nothing. All around him were hard, inexorable, and cunning. He was coaxed, flattered, threatened, compelled. St. Augustine (for they were Augustinian friars) would avenge himself on the renegade from his order. God himself would punish him who had put his hand to the plough, and turned back. Verder, too, was there with his bland and seemingly friendly influence, unwilling to lose his companion and his victim.

Erasmus could no longer resist. He took the desperate, fatal plunge. He made the vow. But his eyes were soon opened. He began to realize the consequences of the step he had taken. The quiet, the indulgence, the unbroken leisure were gone. He must submit to a harsh, capricious discipline; to rigid but not religious rules; to companion


ship no longer genial or edifying. He was in the midst of a set of coarse, vulgar, profligate, unscrupulous men; zealots, and at the same time debauchees; idle, and tainted with all the vices which usually follow in the train of idle

Erasmus confesses that his morals did not altogether escape the general corruption; though his feeble health, his lack of animal spirits, or his better principles, kept him back from the more shameless practices. His greatest consolation was in his books. He pursued his studies with less freedom indeed than formerly, but yet with industry and success. He here wrote a little work on “Contempt of the World,” in which he denounces not only the wickedness of the world, but much more severely the ignorance, the indolence, and profligacy of the cloister. This work was pub. lished at a later period. He read with much admiration the writings of Laurentius Valla, an Italian critic, who had exposed most successfully the forgeries and impositions of Rome.

In the convent at Stein Erasmus remained about five years, dissatisfied with the greater part of his associates, and they as much dissatisfied with him.

He was one among them, but not of them.

He did not enjoy their society, nor they his.

At length the happy moment arrived when he was to be released. Henry à Bergis, bishop of Cambray, was projecting a visit to Rome in the hope of obtaining a cardinal's hat, and he wished some one to accompany him who could speak and write Latin easily and well. He had heard of the learning of Erasmus, and he applied both to the bishop of Utrecht and to the prior of the convent, to let him go. They gave their consent, and Erasmus went with the bishop to Cambray. But the bishop's prospects in Italy vanished, and the plan of going there was abandoned; so Erasmus remained with the bishop at Cambray, where he entered into holy orders.

During a residence here of about five years, Erasmus pursued his studies with diligence and profit. Still he was not satisfied with his situation. He longed for admittance


to some one of the great universities of Europe; and, at length, that at Paris seemed to open its gates to him. The bishop not only consented to his going, but promised him a pension for his support, - a promise which he was too poor, or too parsimonious, to fulfil. The eager student obtained what may be called a bursary in Montague College, but this proved altogether inadequate to his support. He had no money to pay fees for lectures, or to purchase books,

nothing but food and lodging, and these of the most miserable kind. “Our sleeping rooms," he says, “were on the ground floor, with mouldy plastered walls, full of vermin, and in close proximity to filthy and pestilential latri

In the depth of winter, we had only dry bread, to be washed down by fetid and unwholesome water. I saw there many youths of high hopes and promise, some of whom actually died, and others were doomed for life to madness or leprosy."

But though in deep poverty, forsaken of friends, and suffering from harsh and unworthy treatment, the light of Erasmus could not be hid. He was gradually forcing his way to celebrity and usefulness. Even in Paris, the young scholar began to be knowil, and he was able to replenish his scanty resources by the instruction of private pupils. Some of these were from England, the sons of noble and wealthy parents. Among them was William Blunt, Lord Mountjoy, who removed his teacher from the pestilential precincts of the college to a purer air and better accommodations, and afterwards bestowed on him an annual pension of a hundred crowns. He continued to be his friend and patron as long as he lived.

While at Paris, Erasmus had the offer of a more noble pupil, the son of James Stanley, Earl of Derby, and sonin-law to the king's mother. The young man to be made a bishop; and Erasmus was applied to, to instruct him and prepare him for his bishopric. For this service he was to receive a hundred crowns, with the promise of a benefice, and the loan of three hundred crowns until the living was bestowed. But from a love of inde

was soon

pendence, or thinking, perhaps, that he might employ his time better than in teaching an unpromising pupil, Erasmus declined the flattering offer. He would not, he says, for all the wealth in the world, be so hindered in prosecuting his studies.

In the year 1497, Erasmus left Paris, on account of the plague, and visited the Low Countries. He here made the acquaintance of a noble lady, the Marchioness of Veré, who settled a pension upon him, and more than once assisted him in his necessities. In return, he instructed her son, Adolphus de Vere, and wrote for him the little treatise, 6 De Arte Scribendi Epistolas."

In the following year, at the request of Mountjoy, Erasmus made his first visit to England.

He was at once an object of general respect and esteem, and was welcomed by some of the highest and most gifted in the land. He commenced, almost immediately, his life-long acquaintance with Sir Thomas More, with Colet, afterwards Dean of St. Paul's, and with Grocyn and Linacer, professors of Greek at Oxford. His first impressions of England were flattering in a high degree. “You ask me,” he writes to Piscator, alias Fisher, “how I am pleased with England. If you will believe me, dear Robert, nothing ever delighted me so much. I have found the climate most agreeable and healthful; and then there is so much civility and learning, and that not trite and trivial, but profound and accurate, so much familiarity with the ancient writers, Latin and Greek, that, but for the sake of seeing it, I should hardly care to visit Italy. When listening to Colet, I seem to hear Plato. And then who would not admire Grocyn's vast range of knowledge? What can be more subtle, more deep, more fine, than the judgment of Linacer? Did nature ever form a disposition more gentle, more sweet, more happy, than that of Thomas More ?"

Of his host, Mountjoy, Erasmus speaks in the highest terms, and Mountjoy was equally attached to him. He was never easy, it is said, unless he was in his company. Even after his marriage, this noble lord would leave his

family, and go to Oxford, that he might pursue his studies under the direction of Erasmus.

And yet during his first visit to England Erasmus was rather a pupil than a teacher. He was already a perfect master of Latin, but not of Greek. In Oxford he found that instruction in the Greek Language which, if Paris could have furnished, he had been too poor to buy. Under Grocyn he made rapid progress, and soon became sufficiently acquainted with the language to commence his translations from ancient authors. It was by his continued translations that he perfected himself in the knowledge of Greck.

During his stay in England, Erasmus went, with Sir Thomas More, to Eltham, on a visit to the royal family. He saw here all the children of King Henry VII., with the exception of Prince Arthur, the eldest. He had much pleasant intercourse with them, more especially with Henry, afterwards Henry VIII., and left with them, at parting, a Latin ode.

Before the end of the year 1498, Erasmus returned from England to France. The next seven or eight years he spent chiefly in France and in the Low Countries, pursuing his studies with great diligence, and publishing several important works. One of those was his Adagia, a collection of miscellanies, of proverbs, of wise and witty sayings, of remarkable incidents, displaying an amount of research and learning at which the literary world was astonished. Another of his publications at this period was his “Enchiridion Militis Christiani,” which he wrote, he tells us," not for the sake of showing his eloquence, but to correct the error of those who make religion to consist in rites and ceremonies, to the neglect of piety and true virtue.” Such a work, in those days, was “ New Divinity,” which exposed its author to the censure of the monks.

During this interval Erasmus was oppressed with deep poverty, as, indeed, he was through the greater part of his life. He was continually making literary presents to his wealthy friends, and soliciting aid from them, which came

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