Imatges de pàgina

always in stinted measure, and frequently not at all. He supported himself, in part, by teaching in a private way; and what money he received he expended, first, as he tells us, “in the purchase of Greek books, and afterwards of clothes.” His health, too, was precarious and low. For several years he had an annual attack of fever, from which he was relieved through the intercession of St. Genevieve, though not without the aid of a skilful physician.

Erasmus's second visit to England, in the year 1506, was short. He was introduced to Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom he presented, with a Dedicatory Epistle, his translation of the Hecuba of Euripides. The archbishop received him with great kindness, made him a small present, and continued to be his friend and patron so long as he lived.

The following year Erasmus visited Italy, having under his care and instruction two young men. He had expected to find Italy the pleasant and peaceful sanctuary of arts, letters, and religion; but instead of this, he found the whole country convulsed and desolated with war. Julius II. now occupied the pontifical throne, whose whole ambition was to lead an army, and extend his dominions by conquest and blood. Erasmus first stopped at Turin, where he remained several months, and where he received a doctor's degree. He passed on to Bologna, but had scarcely arrived there, when the city was besieged by the pontiff's soldiers, with Julius himself at their head. He retired to Florence, but returned to Bologna just in time to witness the triumphant entrance of the pope into the captured city. From Bologna he made an excursion to Rome, where he again witnessed a gorgeous ovation of the martial pontiff. The effect of all this on the mind of Erasmus was anything but agreeable. He could not help contrasting it with what he knew to be the peaceful spirit of the gospel; and he poured forth his feelings in a dissertation, which was published in the next edition of his Adagia.

While Erasmus was at Bologna, the plague broke out here, and the physicians and those who nursed the infected

persons were required to wear white cloth over their shoulders, that they might be known and avoided. This white cloth looked very much like the white scapular which Erasmus still wore, as the badge of his monastic order. In repeated instances he was mistaken for an infected person, and, as he came among the people, was mobbed and stoned. To prevent such occurrences in future, he got permission from the pope to change his friar's habit for that of a common priest.

From Bologna, Erasmus removed to Venice, where he superintended the publication of several of his works. We next hear of him at Padua, where he found a natural son of James IV., of Scotland, a youth not yet twenty years old, but already Archbishop of St. Andrews. Erasmus took him under his charge, and instructed him in rhetoric, Greek, law, divinity, and music. He is represented as a youth of singular beauty, and of a sweet disposition. He afterwards fell, at his father's side, in the battle of Flodden Field.

Erasmus now went to Rome a second time, where he was received with open arms by the literati of the city, among whom were the Cardinal St. George, the Cardinal of Viterbo, and the Cardinal de Medici, afterwards Pope Leo X. He describes, in one of his letters, his interview with the Cardinal Grimani, who displayed not only the courtesy of a high-born and accomplished churchman, but a respect, amounting to deference, for the poor, adventurous scholar. “He received me,” says Erasmus, “ with the utmost courtesy, as if I had been a cardinal, conversed with me two hours upon literary subjects, and would not suffer me, all the while, to uncover my head; and ing to rise when his nephew, an archbishop, came in, he ordered me to keep my seat, saying that it was but decent that the scholar should stand in presence of his master. In the course of our conversation, he earnestly entreated me not to think of leaving Rome, and offered to make me partaker of his house and fortunes. At length, he showed me his library, which was full of books, in all languages, and is

upon my offer

esteemed the best in Italy, except the Vatican. If I had known Grimani sooner, I certainly should not have left Rome; but I was under engagements to return to England, which I could not break."

Even Pope Julius II. condescended to notice Erasmus at this time, and offered him the rank, the office, and emoluments of one of his penitentiaries. The Pope, who was just entering upon a war against the Venetians, also put the scholar upon a singular test. He commanded him to declaim one day against the Venetian war, and the next day in its favor. Erasmus complied with the injunction, and although, as he tells us, he argued much more strongly against the war than for it, still the conflict went on.

In April, 1509, Henry VIII. ascended the throne of England. In the previous year, he had written to Erasmus, expressing an earnest desire to see him. Mountjoy, also, wrote him from the court at Greenwich, urging him to return to England, holding out the certain favor of the king, and promising him the patronage of Archbishop Warham, who sent him five pounds towards the expense of his journey. Erasmus commenced his journey without delay, crossing the Rhoetian Alps, and passing down the Rhine into the Low Countries, from whence, after a short respite at Louvain, he went over to England. On his way to London, he was shown all the treasures of the church of Canterbury He mentions not without a covert sneer the amount of relics collected there, “the bones, skulls, chins, teeth, hands, fingers, arms," etc., - all which he was permitted to handle and to kiss. But he was frightened at the profaneness of one of his companions, who, instead of kissing the holy relic, made “a most unseemly noise at it with his lips."

In London, Erasmus took up his lodgings in the Augustinian convent, where his expenses were paid by his friend Mountjoy. His promises of promotion and patronage by the young king were not fulfilled. His promises, too, from Cardinal Woolsey were no better than the wind. They were large in words, but in fulfilment they came to nothing.

He found a more reliable friend in Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Chancellor of the University at Cambridge. Fisher was an open advocate of the new learning, and was resolutely determined to emancipate Cambridge from the scholastic trammels in which it had been so long confined. Through his influence Erasmus was called to the university, and constituted professor of Greek. He had his lodgings in Queen's College, where his rooms were long after shown, and where a walk is still called by his name.

At first, his scholars were but few, and his income small, and his friends were under the necessity of soliciting aid for him from other sources.

But after two or three years, his prospects brightened, and he became more reconciled to his situation. Archbishop Warham's liberality was free and unremitting, and the gratitude of Erasmus was in due proportion. Warham gave him the living of Adlington, near Ashford, in Kent, to which he was collated in March, 1511. He resigned it, however, before the end of the year, and from motives which did him honor: “I cannot pretend to feed a flock of whose language I know nothing."

Erasmus had no love for modern languages, and neglected them almost entirely. He never learned English or Italian. The French, notwithstanding his long residence at Paris, he spoke but imperfectly, and the same may be said of the Dutch, his mother tongue. He thought, spoke, and wrote in Latin, caring to associate only with the literati of different countries, to whom this language was familiar.

During his sojourn in England, of about four years, Erasmus became exceedingly attached to a few select friends, such as More and Warham, Colet and Mountjoy. It was at the house of More that he wrote his " Encomium Moriae,” or “ Praise of Folly,” in which he lashed the fooleries and superstitions of the monks in a manner which they could never forgive or forget. He did great service to Colet's school at St. Paul's, in composing hymns and prayers for the pupils, and preparing for their use a grammatical work, “ De Copia Verborum.”

Still, it is doubtful whether Erasmus was ever thoroughly pleased with England. In several of his letters, he speaks rather severely of the English character and habits. Thus, in writing to his friend Ammonius, he instructs him how to make his fortune in England : “ First of all,” says he, “ be impudent. Thrust yourself into all affairs ; elbow those who stand in your way; neither love nor hate any one in good earnest, but consult your own advantage; give away nothing without a sure prospect of gaining by it; and be of the opinion of every one with whom you have to do.” Erasmus was too frank and honest to descend to such courses as these, and hence he had little prospect of becoming a great man in England.

Erasmus complains also of the filthy habits of the English people, to which he ascribes the frequent prevalence among them of the plague, the sweating sickness, and other mortal disorders. “ The streets," he says, " are filthy, and the floors of their houses, which are commonly of clay, are strewed over with rushes, under which lies, unmolested, any quantity of slopped beer, grease, fragments, bones, spittle, excrements of dogs and cats, and everything else which is odious and intolerable." Let us be thankful for the improvements which have taken place in the new world, upon the modes of living among our English ancestors of the fifteenth century

Induced by what he conceived to be more flattering prospects, Erasmus left England, in the year 1514, and returned to the continent. Charles of Austria (afterwards the Emperor Charles V.) had appointed him an honorary counsellor, with a pension of two hundred florins. The Cardinal de Medici, who had showed him so much kindness at Rome, and who he hoped would now increase his favors, had been elected pontiff, with the title of Leo X. A bishopric in Sicily was also held out to him, which, however, he failed to receive. In addition to all the rest, his old convent of Stein, wishing to share in the fame of the great scholar who had been permitted to leave its walls, urged upon him a request to return. The answer of Erasmus to

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