Supplemental  Research  4









Encyclopaedia Britannica  (1910–1911)








Erasmus & Luther  (Murray)








Political Thinkers…Nineteenth Century  (Murray)








Erasmus of Europe  (Schoeck)








Encyclopedia of Unbelief  (Stein)








Convention 1500–1750  (Manley)








Fundamentals of Critical Thinking  (Porter)








Critical Thinking  (Wright)








Scientists in the Nineteenth Century  (Murray)








The Praise of Folly  (Williams)








Life and Letters of Erasmus  (Froude)








Short History of Freethought  (Robertson)








The Past as Revelation  (Grafton)








Against the Faith  (Herrick)








Encyclopedia of Unbelief  (Stein)








Erasmi Opuscula  (Ferguson)








Erasmus of the Low Countries  (Tracy)










Correspondence of Erasmus  (Letters)






Collected Works of Erasmus  (Letters)






Collected Works of Erasmus  ("Ciceronianus")






Correspondence of Erasmus  (Letters)






Erasmus  (Smith)






Treasury of Basel Cathedral  (Husband)







from:  The Encyclopaedia Britannica, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, Volume IX, 1910–1911.



            "ERASMUS [see 43-47], DESIDERIUS (1466–1536), Dutch scholar and theologian, was born on the night of the 27/28th of October, probably in 1466; but his statements about his age are conflicting, and in view of his own uncertainty (Ep. x. 29: 466) and the weakness of his memory for dates, the year of his birth cannot be definitely fixed."  [727].



'Passages have been collected, and it is an easy task, from the writings of Erasmus to prove that he shared the doctrines of the Reformers.  Passages equally strong might be called to show that he repudiated them.  The truth is that theological questions in themselves had no attraction for him.  And when a theological position was emphasized by party passion it became odious to him.  In the words of Drummond:  "Erasmus was in his own age the apostle of common sense and of rational religion.  He did not care for dogma, and accordingly the dogmas of Rome, which had the consent of the Christian world, were in his eyes preferable to the dogmas of Protestantism....From the beginning to the end of his career he remained true to the purpose of his life, which was to fight the battle of sound learning and plain common sense against the powers of ignorance and superstition, and amid all the convulsions of that period he never once lost his mental balance."


            Erasmus is accused of indifference.  But he was far from indifferent to the progress of the revolution.  He was keenly alive to its pernicious influence on the cherished interest of his life, the cause of learning. 


"I abhor the evangelics, because it is through them that literature is everywhere declining, and upon the point of perishing." 


He [Erasmus] had been born with the hopes of the Renaissance, with its anticipation of a new Augustan age, and had seen this fair promise blighted by the irruption of a new horde of theological polemics, worse than the old scholastics, inasmuch as they were revolutionary instead of conservative.  Erasmus never flouted at religion nor even at theology as such, but only at blind and intemperate theologians.


            In the mind of Erasmus there was no metaphysical inclination; he was a man of letters, with a general tendency to rational views on every subject which






came under his pen.  His was not the mind to originate, like Calvin, a new scheme of Christian thought.  He is at his weakest in defending free will against Luther, and indeed he can hardly be said to enter on the metaphysical question.  He treats the dispute entirely from the outside.  It is impossible in reading Erasmus not to be reminded of the rationalist of the 18th century.  Erasmus has been called the "Voltaire of the Renaissance."  But there is a vast difference in the relations in which they respectively stood to the church and to Christianity.  Voltaire, though he did not originate, yet adopted a moral and religious scheme which he sought to substitute for the church tradition.  He [Voltaire] waged war, not only against the clergy, but against the church and its sovereigns.  Erasmus drew the line at the first of these [I (LS) disagree (compare:  Julius Exclusus, etc.)].  He was not an anticipation of the 18th century; he was the man of his age, as Voltaire of his; though Erasmus did not intend it, he undoubtedly shook the ecclesiastical edifice in all its parts; and, as Melchior Adam says of him, "pontifici Romano plus nocuit jocando quam Lutherus stomachando."


            But if Erasmus was unlike the 18th century rationalist in that he did not declare war against the church, but remained a Catholic and mourned the disruption, he was yet a true rationalist in principle.  The principle that reason is the one only guide of life, the supreme arbiter of all questions, politics and religion included, has its earliest and most complete exemplar in Erasmus.  He does not dogmatically denounce the rights of reason, but he practically exercises them.  Along with the charm of style, the great attraction of the writings of Erasmus is this unconscious freedom by which they are pervaded.


            It must excite our surprise that one who used his pen so freely should have escaped the pains and penalties which invariably overtook minor offenders in the same kind.  For it was not only against the clergy and the monks that he kept up a ceaseless stream of satiric raillery; he treated nobles, princes and kings with equal freedom.  No 18th century republican has used stronger language than has this pensioner of Charles V.  "The people build cities, princes pull them down; the industry of the citizens creates wealth for rapacious lords to plunder; plebian magistrates pass good laws for kings to violate; the people love peace, and their rulers stir up war."  Such outbursts are frequent in the Adagia.  These freedoms are part cause of Erasmus's popularity.  He was here in sympathy with the secret sore of his age, and gave utterance to what all felt but none dared to whisper but he.  It marks the difference between 1513 and 1669 that, in a reprint of the Julius Exclusus published in 1669 at Oxford, it was thought necessary to leave out a sentence in which the writer of  that dialogue, supposed by the editor to be Erasmus, asserts the right of states to deprive and punish bad kings.  It is difficult to say to what we are to ascribe his immunity from painful consequences.  We have to remember that he was removed from the scene early in the reaction, before force was fully






organized for the suppression of the revolution.  And his popular works, the Adagia, and the Colloquia (1524), had established themselves as standard books in the more easy going age, when power, secure in its unchallenged strength, could afford to laugh with the laughers at itself.  At the date of his death the Catholic revival, with its fell antipathy to art and letters, was only in its infancy; and when times became dangerous, Erasmus cautiously declined to venture out of the protection of the Empire, refusing repeated invitations to Italy and to France.  "I had thought of going to Besançon," he said, "ne non essem in ditione Caesaris" (Ep. xxx. 74; 1299).  In Italy a Bembo and a Sadoleto wrote a purer Latin than Erasmus, but contented themselves with pretty phrases, and were careful to touch no living chord of feeling.  In France it was necessary for a Rabelais to hide his free-thinking under a disguise of revolting and unintelligible jargon.  It was only in the Empire that such liberty of speech as Erasmus used was practicable, and in the Empire Erasmus passed for a moderate man.  Upon the strength of an established character for moderation he enjoyed an exceptional licence for the utterance of unwelcome truths; and in spite of his flings at the rich and powerful, he remained through life a privileged person with them. 


            But though the men of the keys and the sword let him go his way unmolested, it was otherwise with his brethren of the pen.  A man who is always launching opinions must expect to be retorted on.  And when these judgments were winged by epigram, and weighted by the name of Erasmus, who stood at the head of letters, a widespread exasperation was the consequence.  Disraeli has not noticed Erasmus in his Quarrels of Authors, perhaps because Erasmus's quarrels would require a volume to themselves.  "So thin-skinned that a fly would draw blood," as the prince of Carpi expressed it, he could not himself restrain his pen from sarcasm.  He forgot that though it is safe to lash the dunces, he could not with equal impunity sneer at those who, though they might not have the ear of he public as he had, could yet contradict and call names.  And when literary jealousy was complicated with theological differences, as in the case of the free-thinkers, or with French vanity, as in that of Budaeus, the cause of the enemy was espoused by a party and a nation.  The quarrel with Budaeus was strictly a national one.  Cosmopolitan as Erasmus was, to the French literati he was still the Teuton.  Étienne Dolet calls him "enemy of Cicero, and jealous detractor of the French name."  The only contemporary name which could approach to a rivalry with his was that of Budaeus (Budé), who was exactly contemporary, having been born in the same year as Erasmus.  Rivals in fame, they were unlike in accomplishment, each having the quality which the other wanted.  Budaeus, though a Frenchman, knew Greek well; Erasmus, though a Dutchman, very imperfectly.  But the Frenchman Budaeus wrote an execrable Latin style, unreadable then as now, while the Teuton Erasmus charmed the






reading world with a style which, though far from good Latin, is the most delightful which the Renaissance has left us. 


            The style of Erasmus is, considered as Latin, incorrect, sometimes even barbarous, and far removed from any classical model.  But it has qualities far above purity.  The best Italian Latin is but an echo and an imitation; like the painted glass which we put in our churches, it is an anachronism.  Bembo, Sadoleto and the rest write purely in a dead language.  Erasmus's Latin was a living and spoken tongue.  Though Erasmus had passed nearly all his life in England, France and Germany, his conversation was Latin; and the language in which he talked about common things he wrote.  Hence the spontaneity and naturalness of his page, its flavour of life and not of books.  He writes from himself, and not out of Cicero.  Hence, too, he spoiled nothing by anxious revision in terror lest some phrase not of the golden age should escape from his pen.  He confesses apologetically to Christopher Longolius (Ep. iii. 63; 402) that it was his habit to extemporize all he wrote, and that this habit was incorrigible; "effundo verius quam scribo omnia."   He complains that much reading of the works of St. Jerome had spoiled his Latin; but, as Scaliger says (Scaliga 2a), "Erasmus's language is better than St Jerome's."  The same critic, however, thought Erasmus would have done better "if he had kept more closely to the classical models."

In the annals of classical learning Erasmus may be regarded as constituting an intermediate stage between the humanists of the Latin Renaissance and the learned men of the age of Greek scholarship, between Angelo Poliziano and Joseph Scaliger.  Erasmus, though justly styled by Muretus (Varr. Lectt. 7, 15) "eruditus sane vir, ac multae lectionis," was not a "learned" man in the special sense of the word—not an "erudite."  He was more than this; he was the "man of letters"—the first who had appeared in Europe since the fall of the Roman empire.  His acquirements were vast, and they were all brought to bear upon the life of his day.  He did not make a study apart of antiquity for its own sake, but used it as an instrument of culture.  He did not worship, imitate and reproduce the classics, like the Latin humanists who preceded him; he did not master them and reduce them to a special science, as did the French Hellenists who succeeded him.  He edited many authors, it is true, but he had neither the means of forming a text, nor did he attempt to do so.  In editing a father, or a classic, he had in view the practical utility of the general reader, not the accuracy required by the gild of scholars.  "His Jerome," says J. Scaliger, "is full of sad blunders" (Scaliga 2a).  Even Julien Garnier could discover that Erasmus "falls in his haste into grievous error in his Latin version of St Basil, though his Latinity is superior to that of the other translators" (Pref. in Opp. St. Bas., 1721).  It must be remembered that the commercial interests of





Froben's press led to the introduction of Erasmus's name on many a title page when he had little to do with the book, e.g. the Latin Josephus of 1524 to which Erasmus only contributed one translation of 14 pages; or the Aristotle of 1531, of which Simon Grynaeus was the real editor.  Where Erasmus excelled was in prefaces—not philological introductions to each author, but spirited appeals to the interest of the general reader, showing how an ancient book might be made to minister to modern spiritual demands.


            Of Erasmus's works the Greek Testament is the most memorable.  It has no title to be considered as a work of learning or scholarship, yet its influence upon opinion was profound and durable.  It contributed more to the liberation of the human mind from the thraldom of the clergy than all the uproar and rage of Luther's many pamphlets.  As an edition of the Greek Testament it has no critical value.  But it was the first, and it revealed the fact that the Vulgate, the Bible of the church, was not only a second-hand document, but in places an erroneous document.  A shock was thus given to the credit of the clergy in the province of literature, equal to that which was given in the province of science by the astronomical discoveries of the 17th century.  Even if Erasmus had had at his disposal the MSS. [Manuscripts] subsidia [from Latin:  plural of subsĭdĭum:  "support, assistance, aid, help, protection, etc." (A Latin Dict.)] for forming a text, he had not the critical skill required to use them....'  [731-732].



            "Besides translating and editing the New Testament, Erasmus paraphrased the whole, except the Apocalypse, between 1517 and 1524.  The paraphrases were received with great applause, even by those who had little appreciation for Erasmus.  In England a translation of them made in 1548 was ordered to be placed in all parish churches beside the Bible.  His correspondence is perhaps the part of his works which has the most permanent value; it comprises about 3000 letters, which form an important source for the history of that period.  For the same purpose his Colloquia may be consulted.  They are a series of dialogues, written first for pupils in the early Paris days as formulae of polite address, but afterwards expanded into lively conversations, in which many of the topics of the day are discussed.  Later in the century they were read in schools, and some of Shakespeare's lines are direct reminiscences of Erasmus....


(M.P. [Mark Pattison]; P.S.A. [Percy Stafford Allen])"  [732].


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from:  Erasmus & Luther:  Their Attitude to Toleration, by the Rev. Robert H. Murray [1874 – 1947], Litt.D., with portraits, Burt Franklin, reprint 1972 (1920).



            'It is always difficult for the priest to understand—and control—the prophet.  Innocent III had just succeeded in controlling Dominic and Francis of Assisi.  Alexander VI naturally failed with Savonarola.  Leo X corresponded with Erasmus because both were humanists, not because Erasmus was a reformer.  The Pope did not want Erasmus:  he received Luther.  Erasmus and his scholars vanished:  the Lutherans take their place.  A cardinal at thirteen, a pope at thirty-seven, how could he grasp the standpoint of the Augustinian monk?  Did Leo say, "Let us enjoy the papacy, since God has given it to us"?5  Did Voltaire, not Louis XIV, say, "L'état, c'est moi ["I am the state"]"?  Whether the Pope or the King uttered these obiter dicta ["something said in passing"] is immaterial:  what is material is that each accurately describes the attitude of the Pope and the King respectively.  Indeed the Voltairian remark is applicable to Leo, who regarded himself primarily as a politician.  Did he not tell the Imperial Ambassador in 1521 that he rejoiced more over the conquest of Milan than he had rejoiced over his election to the papal chair?1  It is in keeping with the character of his countrymen.  "Let us be Venetians first," held Father Paolo Sarpi, "and Christians after."  How warmly Gino Capponi approved the saying, "Praised be those who love their own country rather than the safety of their souls!"  That Leo was an utter worldling is obvious.  That he was a double-dealing wordling is not so obvious, nevertheless it was the fatal flaw in his character.  Always changing, he remained the same faithful son of the Renaissance.  Did he not in a moment of confidence inform Castiglione that he might safely believe his bare word, for he could equally deceive by Briefs and Bulls?2'  [19-20].


            [footnote] "5 Masi, Studi, I, 132, 158.  Marino Giorgi, a Venetian ambassador, who was in Rome two years after Leo's election, records these words.  The author of the Vita Anonyma in Cod. Vatic., 3920, gives them.  Cf. Prato, Storia di Milano, 405; Ranke, Deutsche Geschichte, 6, 132; Janus, Der Papst und das Konzil, 381."  [19].


            [footnotes] "1 Bergenroth, Calendar of Letters, etc., 1509–25, 264 n.


            2 Postscript to a Report of Castiglione's, dated from Rome, April 18, 1516, in the Gonzaga Archives, Mantua."  [20].






            'Luther was narrower than Erasmus, and this was a pregnant misfortune for after-generations.  The mind, however, which embraces everything overturns nothing.  The sovereignty [desire to be dominated?  Impulses for a father figure?  Etc.?] of God was as fundamental to Luther as it was to Calvin.  The belief in his Providence stamped upon the Swiss that characteristic which enabled them to maintain their free constitution against the Hapsburgs.  It reunited the Seven Provinces of the Low Countries into a body which, at once political and religious, defended itself against the intolerance of Spain.  The English, who fled to the Continent on the accession of Mary, returned on the accession of Elizabeth, bringing with them an accentuated belief in the truth of the doctrines for which they had sacrificed so much.  In the conflict of the different schools of thought lay the future of toleration.  What the French Huguenots failed to obtain the English Independents won.  Luther was the father of Roger Williams, of all the men who lived and died in the belief that liberty of opinion was the one matter that gave dignity and worth to life.


            Erasmus and Luther had a special task to accomplish in preparing the way for toleration.  The one contributed the mind that understands the many-sidedness of truth.  The other contributed the energy which shook an intolerant institution to the foundations, founding another just as intolerant.  Still, there were two Churches, demanding a conflict of ideals, which was one day to make toleration possible.  To Luther was assigned the duty of overthrowing the walls of the old Babylon.  To Erasmus was assigned the no less important duty of holding up the framework of the mind to the admiration of the men who were to build the new Jerusalem.


            Luther's work led to the development of Anglicanism, which in its turn led to its Puritanism.  Puritanism led to emigration to the American colonies in order to escape from the intolerance of Laud, which led to the foundation of the United States.  The first formal step in this long evolution was the protest Luther nailed on the Wittenberg Church against the sale of indulgences required by a prince of the House of Hohenzollern, Albert, who at twenty-six was Archbishop of Magdeburg, Archbishop of Mayence, and Primate of Germany.  Like Canning, Luther ultimately called a new world into existence to redress the balance of the old.  For, by a striking nemesis, the citizens of the United States are now coming to the continent of their forefathers in order to chastise [apparently, reference to World War I] another scion of the House of Hohenzollern, [Kaiser] Wilhelm II [1859 – 1941].


            "I now perceive," Voltaire [1694 – 1778] wrote the year before his death, "that we must still wait three or four hundred years.  One day it cannot but be that good men win their cause; but before that glorious day arrives how many vexations have we to undergo, how many dark persecutions, without reckoning






the La Barres, of whom from time to time they will make autos de fé."1  There is a divine event towards which the whole world is moving, but it is still far off, still slow coming.  For Erasmus the drums never sounded, the banners never fluttered, the cheers of victory never rent the air.  A larger measure of success was vouchsafed to Luther.  Still, their work was incomplete.  In literature the crown of success falls to many.  Gibbon is not the only historian to conclude his life's work in such calm detachment that he may meditate upon the last sentence among the acacias in a starlit garden at Lausanne.  In life it is otherwise.  The thoughts of Luther and of Erasmus must have been bitter when they saw their labours were not destined to completion.  What were the last thoughts of Raphael that Good Friday, nearly four hundred years ago, as he gazed at his Transfiguration?  It is the fate of the worker for the cause of toleration in the sixteenth century that he sees it unfinished.  A Luther shatters an old building standing in the way.  An Erasmus adds foundation-stones [?].  The centuries have succeeded in raising a stately edifice.  Nelson, like Erasmus, never knew that he had shattered the sea-power of France so effectually that it has not been retrieved to this day.  Wolfe, on the other hand, like Luther, knew what he had achieved and was glad [above, "bitter"; here, "glad"] with his last sigh.


            The language of Luther against his opponents is harsh, and his intolerant attitude towards them is at times most pronounced.  His words of intolerance are fierce:  his deeds of intolerance are few.  It is true that he refused the hand of fellowship to Zwingli, and that he believed his defeat at the Battle of Kappel afforded clear proof that God condemned the Swiss reformer's theology.  It is true that he implored the Elector John to refuse to tolerate the presence of Hans Mohr, who was teaching Zwinglianism in the Coburg.  There is, however, no execution like that of Servetus to be laid to his charge.  He [Luther] allowed the butchery of the peasants, but that was as much because they were a political as a religious danger [this paragraph?  The last sentence—alarming!].'  [392-393].



            'The Stoic maintained that the world continually returns on itself without hope of improvement [see, 1622, 1625 (Seneca; Bury)]. 


Was not therefore pessimism inevitable?  The world was an enigma which was insoluble.  Was there any hope of winning real knowledge?  The negative answer is plain even in the early days of Greek philosophy—in Xenophanes (c. 540–c. 500 B.C.):  "The certain truth there is no man who knows, nor ever shall be, about the gods and all the things whereof I speak.  Yes, even if a man should chance to say something utterly right, still he himself knows it not:  there is nothing anywhere but guessing."1 [see footnote, 347] 






 "When they have but looked upon the little portion of their own life," Empedocles (c. 490–430 B.C.) confesses, "they fly away in a moment, like smoke, persuaded each one of that particular thing only with which he has come into contact as they are driven hither and thither, and yet each one flatters himself that he has found the whole [see, 2325]; so far are these things beyond the reach of men, not to be seen of the eye or heard of the ear, or comprehended of the mind."2 [see footnote, 347]  You could only, according to Sextus Empiricus [3rd century C.E.], a Greek physician of the third century A.A., infer something you did not see from something you did see, when you had actually observed those things, or precisely similar things, in connexion.  Sextus refused to believe there were pores in the body simply because pores were not perceived by the senses.  The precise measurement or the accurate observation was impossible because the most ordinary instruments of the laboratory of to-day were unknown.  It is easy for us to draw a sharp line between a hypothesis in physical science and ethics:  the effects of the one can be observed or weighed, those of the other cannot.  That is, the skepticism of Sextus was justifiable, his disbelief in hypothesis warranted.


            Epictetus (c. A.D. 60–130) and Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 121–180) lived in a world of their own, but it is one out of touch with ours.  Optimists as they are, they incline to a pessimistic view of the age in which their lot is cast.  There is confusion and evil without:  let them have the shelter of truth within.  Just as Plato and Aristotle brought all nature and all life within the scope of philosophy, they tend to withdraw both from it.  According to Mr. Bradley, "the world is the best of all possible worlds, and everything in it is a necessary evil."  As Stoics, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius literally believed this epigram.  Each was optimistic when he surveyed the universe and the law of reason, and each from this standpoint believed in the reality of evil.  At the same time each was pessimistic when he regarded particular things or events in the world.  Marcus Aurelius is constantly declaring his belief in the perfectibility of a universe in which he sees everything going wrong.  He believed in the community of spirits, yet he is perpetually exhorting himself to expect nothing but misunderstanding and malevolence from mortals.  He has no hope of anything like general progress; he seems to think that there will be nothing new in human life in the remotest future.3 [see footnote, 347]  In spite of the fact that all the forces of the day are undermining his ideal, still it is eternally true.  It is a wellnigh hopeless prospect though a nobly hopeless one.  The subjectivity of the religion of the Emperor [Marcus Aurelius] is as manifest in the Meditations as that of the African bishop [Augustine] in the Confessions.  There is a world between the despair of the one [Marcus Aurelius] and the joy[?] of the other [Augustine]....'  [412-413].






            [footnotes (from 345, 346)]


"1 Frag. 34, Diels.


2 Ibid., 2.


            3 Meditations, IV, 32; VII, 47; IX, 29."  [413].



'With the pax Romana around him Seneca [c. 4 B.C.E. – 65 C.E.] could indulge in speculations on progress.  With Huxley he holds that though there are many clever men, honest folk are as scarce as ever; and this thought Rousseau (1712–1778) borrowed.7  Still Seneca maintains the sciences progress and their applications become more extensive.  The sagacity of men contrives inventions.8  We can live without science, for nature has allowed animals to exist; but as we create needs we devise arts to satisfy them.  We receive these discoveries from our forefathers, and when we transmit them to our descendants we transmit an enlarged inheritance.  "There remains yet and there will remain much to do; and the man who will be born a thousand years hence will not refuse the opportunity of adding something more."9'  [421].




"7 Ad Lucilium, Ep. 95; Rouss., Discours sur les sciences et les arts, I, p. 20.  Cf. Montaigne, Essais, book i, chap. xxiv.


            8 Seneca, Ep., 90.  Cf. Cicero, De Legibus, I, ch. ix.


            9 Seneca, Ep., 64."  [421].


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from:  Studies in English Social and Political Thinkers of the Nineteenth Century, by the Rev. Robert H. Murray [1874 – 1947], Litt.D., Volume II [of two volumes], Herbert Spencer to Ramsay MacDonald, Cambridge, W. Heffer & Sons Ltd., 1929.



            'At the Renaissance Montaigne reads Plutarch "since he speaks French" (i.e. in Amyot's translation), and sees in Seneca a kindred soul, "ondoyant et divers" like himself; and he speaks of the works of these writers as "the prime and cream of Philosophy."  At the Reformation, as Lord Acton reminds us, Erasmus esteemed Seneca more highly than any Christian divine, saying of him, "If you read him as a heathen, he wrote like a Christian; if you read him like a Christian, he wrote like a Christian; if you read him like a Christian, he wrote like a heathen."  Seneca was the favourite reading of Zwingli and Calvin, and indeed the first work of the latter is an edition of the De Clementia.  We all know that Leibniz accuses Spinoza of having revived Stoicism in his ethics.  From Stoicism Rousseau and "The Saints of the Encyclopaedia" learnt their own glorification of nature; and from it the leaders of the French Revolution derive their stern severity in applying its principles to political life.  In the Prelude Wordsworth speaks like a Stoic of "The calm existence that is mine When I am worthy of myself!" thus exhibiting the continuity of its influence.


            In its modern from Stoicism has become, to use Amiel's expression, "the last resource of doubt," the evangel ["doctrine as a guide"] of those who have lost their faith in the supernatural.  There is nothing of the libido moriendi of the Stoicism.  There is no fear of final extinction, yet some would say with Eléonore de Condé, "It is not for us to desert the garrison."  On these grounds Carlyle declined to commit suicide.  J. Addington Symonds, speaking of the need of a deep firm faith to escape from the misery of skepticism, writes: 


[Symonds] "In these difficulties I fall back on a kind of stoical mysticism—on the prayer of Cleanthes, the poem of Goethe's 'Gott und die Welt,' the phrase of Faust, 'Entbehren sollst du, sollst entbehren,' the almost brutal optimism of Walt Whitman's 'I cry to the Cosmos, Though thou slay me, yet will I trust in thee.'  Can a religion be constructed out of these elements?  Not a tangible one, perhaps; nothing communicable to another heart.  But a religious mood of mind may be engendered for the purpose of living not ignobly." 


Symonds who died with a little volume of prayers, originally given him by his mother, by his side, had placed on his tombstone the epitaph, consisting of his own translation of the following lines from the hymn of Cleanthes [331 – 232 B.C.E.]:






                        Lord Thou me, God, Law, Reason, Motion, Life!

                                    All names for Thee alike are vain and hollow.

                        Lead me, for I will follow without strife,

                                    Or if I strive, still must I blindly follow!



A French writer living in the time of the Terror ["phase, in the French Revolution", 9/5/1793 – 7/28/1794 (] tells us that before that event he was repelled by the gloomy tone of Seneca's writings, but that he began to read him with much relish, as affording comfort during the worst days of revolutionary tyranny.  In the same way F.W.H. Myers, in his essay on the disenchantment of France, written in 1888, quotes a passage from Bourget in which the latter refers to the class of savants whose stoical candour and personal virtue are beyond doubt, yet who express the utter hopelessness of science in its inability to answer the questionings of the mind, or to satisfy the cravings of the heart.  He also points to Renan [Ernest Renan 1923 – 1892] as a remarkable example of disenchanted optimism which can scarcely be distinguished from the pessimism of the ideologists, who, in the presence of the irresistible and irresponsible forces of nature, uncontrolled by a higher power, despair of finding a solution of the mystery of the universe. 


A few hours before his death Renan said to his wife:  "Be calm and resigned; we undergo the laws of nature of which we are a manifestation.  We perish, we disappear, but heaven and earth remain, and the march of time goes on for ever." 


Sainte-Beuve, Arnold's ideal critic, says of himself that on attaining what he had hoped in life, and as it approached its termination, "I sought to arrange my existence with quietness and dignity."  His aim is to cultivate "a good healthy solidity," and with steady dutifulness to perform the necessary functions of existence, to face the facts of life fairly and fully.


            Men seek for composure and ethical fortitude amid the restlessness of our existence.  So seeks Arnold [Matthew Arnold 1822 – 1888], and he expresses his quest in the following lines written in Kensington Gardens:


                        Calm soul of all things! make it mine

                                    To feel, amid the city's jar,

                        That there abides a peace of thine

                                    Man did not make, and cannot mar.






                        The will to neither strive nor cry,

                                    The power to feel with others, give

                        Calm, calm me more! nor let me die

                                    Before I have begun to live.



The paramount idea dominating him is the high sense of duty, an idea which the Stoics introduced into European ethics.  Duty, the "stern daughter of the voice of God," is that which the modern poet of nature appeals to in order to calm "the weary strife of frail humanity."  This duty is not imposed by authority from without, but is the following-up of the rational impulse of the mind in harmony with the cosmic order.  It means the unreserved acknowledgment of the sovereignty of conscience.  For self-subjection is a means to an end, and that end the attainment of moral freedom.  Happiness consists in virtuous activity.  Here modern Stoicism differs from ancient.  Marcus Aurelius [Roman Emperor 161 – 180 (121 – 180)] tendered the advice:  "Spend your brief moment then according to nature's law, and serenely greet the journey's end, as the olive falls when it is ripe, blessing the branch that bear it, and giving thanks to the tree which gave it life."  The Stoicism of our day demands a deeper sense of human solidarity and altruistic duty as distinguished from public beneficence.  It asks for a higher conception of the dignity of labour, due to the change in the moral and social atmosphere wrought by Christianity[?].  Stoic benevolence and Christian philanthropy join forces by an adaptation of Seneca's principle to modern needs, "Homo sacra res homini."  Stoicism and Christianity endeavour to realize the ideal of Zeno who dreamt of a commonwealth where all shall be as one fold under one shepherd, "where men should not be separated by cities, states, and laws, but all should be considered as fellow-citizens, partakers of one life, and the whole world, like a united flock, should be governed by one common law."


            The modern Stoic lays deep stress on self-development, but it is self-development for social ends [?]....'  [157-159].


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from:  Erasmus [1466? – 1536] of Europe, The Prince of Humanists, 1501–1536, R.J. Schoeck, Edinburgh University Press, 1993.



            "The history of the renaissance fondness for dialogue is a manifold story.  The word itself is Greek:  dialogos defines a discussion among a number of speakers, typically investigating a philosophical problem or a complex idea.  Despite the medieval belief that the form was limited to two persons, the Greek practice had more, often a goodly number, as in Plato.  Among the writings of Xenophon [427 – 355 B.C.E.], Plato [427 – 347 B.C.E.] and Aristotle [384 – 322 B.C.E.] there are many dialogues; characteristically, 'at this first stage of the genre's development, a topic is discussed in a historical setting, usually the Athens of Socrates' day, and a single speaker of superior logical and rhetorical talents, often Socrates [469 – 399 B.C.E.], dominates the discussion'.7  Erasmus was of course familiar with the full range of classical dialogue, Roman as well as Greek, and especially with the dialogues of Cicero [106 – 43 B.C.E.] that were constructed on the model of the Aristotelian dialogue that explored established doctrines.  He was deeply familiar with Augustine's [354 – 430] four Cassiciacum [near Milan, Italy] dialogues, Boethius' [c. 480 – 524] Consolation of Philosophy, and Petrarch's [1304 – 1374] return to the Augustinian dialogue in his Secretum.  It seems likely that he would also have been familiar with such medieval dialogues as those of Alcuin that were for teaching purposes, and doubtless with some of the late medieval exemplars.  Despite Erasmus' attack upon the Barbarians (chapter 8), scholasticism continued to dominate the universities, and bad poets of the twelfth century were still being read:  of these a number were quasi-dialogue.8


            But in the dozen years just preceding his development of the genre of the colloquy ["conversational exchange; dialogue"; "written dialogue"; etc. (] Erasmus was much taken by the ironic dialogues of Lucian [c. 117 – c. 180], that Greek of the second century AD who so brilliantly attacked the superstition and philosophical error of his age with a rich sense of the irony of life, slashing wit, and boldness of irreverence.  We also know that Erasmus was familiar with the dialogues of Valla [Laurentius Valla c. 1406 – 1457] and other Italian humanists of the fifteenth century.9"  [239-240].


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from:  The Encyclopedia of Unbelief, Gordon Stein, Ph.D., Editor, Volume Two, L-Z, Prometheus, 1985.





'After all of the scientific achievements of the last four centuries, skeptical achievements of the last four centuries, skeptical thinkers are questioning whether we have actually found out any more about reality than our predecessors thought they knew.  The various ideologies, secular and religious, have come under critical questioning and attack.  Each month new skeptical problems are raised in the philosophical journals.  We may have come full circle in the intellectual journey from the Renaissance to the present and be back in the sea of doubts of Montaigne.  If so, this journey has involved the questioning and undermining of most of our traditional beliefs in all areas of human concern.


            Other articles of interest:  Deism.  Enlightenment, Unbelief During the.  Logical Positivism and Unbelief.





Cicero, Marcus Tullius.  De Academica and De Natura Deorum.  Trans. H. Rackham.  Cambridge, Mass.:  Loeb Classical Library:  1956.

Naess, Arne.  Scepticism.  London:  1969.

Popkin, Richard H.  "Bible Criticism and Social Science in the 17th Century."  Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science 14.

_____.  The High Road to Pyrrhonism.  San Diego, 1980.

_____.  The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza.  Berkeley and Los Angeles:  1979.

_____.  "Scepticism, Theology and the Scientific Revolution in the 17th Century."  Problems in the Philosophy of Science.  Ed. I. Lakatos and A. Musgrave.  Amsterdam:  1968.

_____.  "Skepticism."  Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  New York:  Macmillan, 1967

Sextus Empiricus.  Outlines of Pyrrhonism and Against the Dogmatists.  Vols. 1–4. Cambridge, Mass.:  Loeb Classical Library, 1933–60.

Stough, Charlotte.  Greek Skepticism.  Berkeley:  1969.




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from:  Convention 1500–1750, Lawrence Manley, Harvard University Press, 1980.



'....It is therefore significant that the skeptical mind more often than not finds itself embracing the conventional life of man, the manifold life of precedent, practice, and tradition.  In one of Lucian's dialogues, for example, a skeptic consoles an ardent Stoic, whose rational certainty he has just demolished, by urging him to "make up your mind to join in the common life.  Share in the everyday life of the city."24'  [43-44].



            '"Here," said William Blake, "is a great deal to Prove that All Truth is Prejudice."  Though the sources, motives, ideals, and instruments of Romantic thought have a vast and complex history of their own, one point contributing to its self-definition was its opposition to the prevailing notion that nature was mediated or circumscribed by social norms.  As Blake complained, "the Enquiry in England is not whether a Man has Talents & Genius, but whether he is Passive & Polite & a Virtuous Ass & obedient to Noblemen's Opinions in Art & Science."47  Blackwell's use of the concept of convention to establish historical context had created in his mind a primitivistic longing for a state of nature free of the baneful influence of convention.  Similarly, Shaftesbury and Hutcheson had turned to the innate and individual powers of imagination as an alternative to the tyranny of custom and association over the mind of man.  In his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth combined these primitivistic and psychological alternatives in order to arrive at a concept of nature unmediated by convention and based not upon the consensus gentium, but upon the individual ingenium.  While this new ideal of nature derived its own positive and characteristic impetus from a number of influences, both classical and modern, as well as from the unique desires and insights of the Romantic poets themselves, it was in part defined by its opposition to the concept of convention, by its power, as Coleridge put it, of


"awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy of custom."48'  [345].


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from:  The Voice of Reason, Fundamentals of Critical Thinking, Burton F. Porter, Western New England College, Oxford University Press, 2002.






Whether we are dealing with premises or conclusions, the sentences that comprise them must be cast in a certain mold in order to be handled logically.  That is, in formal reasoning the statements that contain our premises and conclusions have to be rendered in a strict form so that we know exactly what is being claimed.


            These logical forms have been developed from the time of Ancient Greece through the medieval period to the present age, and during this development they crystallized to four in number, carrying the designations A, E, I, and O, as follows:


            All S is P (A).

            No S is P (E).

            Some S is P (I).

            Some S is not P (O).


Aside from these four logical types, there is no other way of stating the relationship between the subject and the predicate of statements.


            These bare forms can then be clothed with content; in fact, every written statement can be translated into one of these four forms.  We can, for example, state as an A proposition that "All whales are mammals"; as an E that "No whales are mammals"; as an I that "Some whales are mammals"; and as an O that "Some whales are not mammals."


            The process of casting sentences that we find in a text into one of these four forms is technically called paraphrasing [see Bale, 163], and the ability to paraphrase must be acquired in order to deal with statements logically.  In mastering this skill, we need to know whether we are dealing with all the members of the class or only some, and whether the statement is positive or negative, an affirmation or a denial.  Once this relation of the parts is comprehended, we can sort the sentences into the appropriate logical types.'  [137-138].


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from:  Critical Thinking, An Introduction to Analytical Reading and Reasoning, Larry Wright, University of California, Riverside, Oxford University Press, 2001.



"Glossary of Important Terms"  [383]



"Bare-bones paraphrase:  A bare-bones paraphrase is the shortest summary of a passage that adequately captures its substance.  (Compare Headline)"  [383].



"Padding:  Padding is the metaphor for everything in a passage omitted from a bare-bones paraphrase of it—everything but main and secondary points.  This will include introductory stage setting, other useful background, helpful explanations and definitions of terms, restatements of the main and secondary points, as well as digressions and pure irrelevancies.


Paraphrase [see Bale, 163]:  (verb) To paraphrase a passage is to say the same thing in different words.

(noun) A paraphrase (of a passage) is another passage that says the same thing in different words.  Different paraphrases of a passage will differ in length and emphasis depending on the purpose of the paraphrase.  (See also Barebones paraphrase)"  [386].



"Secondary point:  A secondary point (SP) is information in a passage that needs to be mentioned in its bare-bones paraphrase, but is subordinate to (less important than) another point in the passage we call the main point (MP).  In a complicated passage, an SP may be directly subordinate to a more important SP instead of the MP."  [387].


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from:  Science and Scientists in the Nineteenth Century, by the Rev. Robert H. Murray, Litt.D., Author of "Erasmus and Luther:  Their Attitude to Toleration," Etc., with an Introduction by Sir Oliver Lodge, F.R.S., D.Sc., London, The Sheldon Press, Northumberland Avenue, W.C., New York and Toronto:  The MacMillan Co., Printed in Great Britain, 1925.





Five-and-twenty centuries have passed since the greatest of all Greek historians, Thucydides [c. 460 – c. 400 B.C.E.], wrote: 


"People do not distinguish; without a test they take things from one another:  even on things of their own day, not dulled by time, Hellenes are apt to be all wrong.  So little pains will most men take in search for truth:  so much more readily they turn to what comes first."*  [[footnote] "* Thucydides, i. 20:  ....[14 Greek words]."  [vii].]


The Greek applied these mournful words to history.  It is the purpose of this book to apply them to science.  The scientist should be a man willing to listen to every suggestion, to every hypothesis, but should also be determined to be the slave of neither suggestion nor hypothesis.  With an open mind, uninfluenced by preconceived ideas, he sets out on his quest for truth inspired by the desire of ascertaining what Virgil [70 – 19 B.C.E.] deemed the fortunate lot of him who found out the causes of events in the world of matter, just as the historian seeks the causes of events in the world of affairs.  In "Gott und Welt" Goethe [1749 – 1832] launched a magnificent ideal:


                        Wide of world and broad in living,

                        Long years' single-hearted striving,

                        Ever seeking, fathoming ever,

                        Oldest truth in fealty keeping,

                        Newest truth in gladness greeting,

                        Mind serene, and pure ambition:

                        Make good faring on life's mission....



Such a scientist is one of the greatest benefactors of the human race, and to him I pay my tribute of sincerest respect for his patient observation and his persistent inquiry.  If, in addition to these gifts, he possesses insight and imagination raised to the highest degree, we are fortunate to meet with a Newton in the past or a Poincaré in the present.  The biography of a Faraday or a Pasteur is enough to show what years of labour a man will give when the love of






knowledge and the joy of discovery take possession of him.  The life devoted to the exploration of nature is one that commands my admiration increasingly, and no one is more conscious than myself of how many scientific men have aims and ideals as noble as any which stimulate human endeavour.


            Science, in the old sense, meant knowledge, and this knowledge might wear many forms as well as that of the laboratory.  Any investigator is such simply because he puts truth high above everything.  Some scientists—they are not the greatest—seem to think that love of truth actuates a man in their ranks more than anyone else.  If one reads such a tenth-rate [goofy comment!  (English-American rivalry?  Literary man (Murray) versus men of science?  Etc.?)] book as J.W. Draper's History of the Conflict between Religion and Science or even such a book as A.D. White's History of the Warfare of Science with theology in Christendom, one is conscious that both authors assume unquestioningly that the theologian is moved by prepossessions, whereas the man of science is moved by nothing else than the desire to ascertain the facts as they actually are  [see:  Dictionary of American Biography, c1959 (c1930), Volume III, John William Draper 1811 – 1882, pages 438–441; Volume X, Andrew Dickson White [see 263, 500] 1832 – 1918, pages 88–93].  Would that it were so with all men of science!  It might have occurred to these authors that the history of science bears no testimony to the accuracy of their assumption, and indeed one main purpose in writing this book has been to prove that there are just as many preconceived notions in science as there are in theology.  These pages have been written in the hope that scientists will read them in order to detect the presence of hypotheses that are inflicting grave injury on the progress of their several departments.  In a sense my book forms an assault upon science, or, to put it more correctly, upon the preconceptions that lie at its base far more than most F.R.S.s[?] are aware.  Take the story told of Herbert Spencer.  He replied to an argument with the words, "That can't be true, for otherwise my First Principles would have to be re-written—and the edition is stereotyped."  Is it true that much that passes under the name of science is also stereotyped?'  [vii-ix].



            'In our day Einstein brings to whatever he deals with a breadth of outlook, a wide generality of conception, that remind us of Cayley and Poincaré.  The piano to Einstein forms, to use his own words, "a necessity of life."  He is a good violinist, an accomplished musician.  His face, we learn, is illumined when he listens to music.  His favourites are Bach, Haydn, and Mozart.  He likes much less Beethoven and Wagner, while to such romantics of music as Chopin and Schumann he is as frankly indifferent as he is to painting.  Architecture and literature both attract him.  While not attracted by Ibsen, he is warmly attracted by Cervantes, Keller, and Strindberg.  Goethe he reads, but Shakespeare he






adores.  Above all, he admires Dostoevsky, notably his masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov.  Einstein confesses that "Dostoevsky gives me more than any scientist, more than Gauss."  All literary analysis or aesthetic subtlety, it seems to Einstein, fails to penetrate to the heart of a work like The Brothers Karamazov:  it can only be grasped by the feelings.  His face lights up when he speaks of it, and he can find no word for it but "ethical satisfaction."  Men say that the keynote of this thinker's emotional existence is the cry of Sophocles's Antigone:  "I am not here to hate with you, but to love with you."'  [404].



'Of Max Planck [1858 – 1947 (I (LS) knew his grandson, at U.C. Davis, via a Starling study.  We checked "his" nest boxes], the deviser of the quantum theory, Einstein [Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955] entertains a warm admiration, saying of him that "the emotional condition which fits him for his task is akin to that of a devotee or a lover."  The quarrels of lovers in the past have not invariably led to the renewing of love.  But what if the scientists recognize that they are artists swayed by the artistic temperament?  Such a recognition may lead them to make more allowances for those who differ from them. 






At a celebration given in honour of Planck in 1918 Einstein gave a glowing picture of the ideal physicist. 



"I agree with Schopenhauer," he [einstein] said,


"that one of the most powerful motives that attract people to science and art is the longing to escape from everyday life with its coarseness and desolating barrenness, and to break the fetters of their ever-changing desires.  It impels those of keener sensibility out of their personal existence into the world of objective perception and understanding.  It is a motive force of like kind to that which drives the dweller in noisy, confused cities to restful Alpine heights whence he seems to have an outlook on eternity.  Associated with this negative motive is the positive motive which impels men to seek a simplified synoptic view of the world conformable to their own nature, overcoming the world by replacing it with this picture.  The painter, the poet, the philosopher, the scientist, all do this, each in his own way."'  [406-407].


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from:  Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Praise of Folly, A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Kathleen Williams, Prentice-Hall, c1969.





by Kathleen Williams


            The Praise of Folly was written in 1509 [printed 1511] in Latin, the language in which the humanist Erasmus [1466? – 1536], like his close friend Sir Thomas More [1478 – 1535 (beheaded)], habitually wrote, aiming as he did at an international audience of educated men to whom Latin was a second living language.  Erasmus was a prolific author, but this brilliant and complex work has proved over the centuries to be his most popular production.  Forty-three editions were published during Erasmus' lifetime, and from the sixteenth century to the present it has repeatedly been reprinted and translated into English.  Its fascination is the fascination of Erasmus's mind:  subtle, penetrating, imaginative.  Like the Utopia of his friend More, it is still relevant to our own age and can still sharpen our minds, for it is concerned not with the topical only but with lasting tendencies of the human mind and condition.  Of all the works of the early Renaissance of northern Europe, The Praise of Folly and Utopia have perhaps most to say to us.  We can read them as we would the writings of a contemporary, without feeling that their writers are alien to us and have to be interpreted.  None the less, though The Praise of Folly seems now as relevant to man's affairs as it did in the sixteenth century, some account of Erasmus's life and interests, and of his relation to the mental and spiritual concerns of his time, may make it easier to understand the details of the work and the particular tendencies of the age which Erasmus presents to us sub specie aeternitatis [(Latin) "under the aspect of eternity" (Internet)]."  [1] .



            'Both Erasmus and More were great admirers of that accomplished ironist and satirist, Lucian [c. 117 – c. 180], and had translated some of his works; but for most of their contemporaries Lucian was a destructive satirist, a sneerer who attacked everything.  Erasmus is careful to suggest in the dedicatory epistle that, whatever people may think of Lucian, he himself is not writing a merely destructive general attack.  He hints that the Praise treats of apparently frivolous topics in a manner profoundly suggestive:  "I think that I have praised folly in a way not altogether foolish."  Thus, as in his relating of Folly's Greek name, Moria, to the name of his witty and wise friend (whose Utopia, written a few years later, is likewise a foolish fancy with wisdom at the heart of it), Erasmus points again and again to the serious meaning of his joking eulogy.  The mock encomium—again like mock epic—readily lends itself to irony, and another way






of defining The Praise of Folly is to classify it, as some of the writers in this volume have done, as part of the vast Renaissance literature of paradox; again, the second but first-written book of Utopia, taken alone, could be seen as a paradox, a Praise of Nowhere.  This literature took many forms, and indeed many very different writers learned from the influential Praise of Folly, but essentially the literature of paradox is shaped to express ambiguity, to stress the coexistence of apparently irreconcilable truths.  Such a way of seeing and expressing things went back to that quintessential ironist Socrates, as the men of the Renaissance were well aware.  Erasmus carefully reminds us of Socrates in Folly's reference to a passage very familiar to the learned of his day, from Plato's Symposium.  In it Alcibiades compares Socrates to the figures of Silenus; "the Sileni of Alcibiades," Erasmus calls them, statuettes of the satyr-like friend of Dionysus which when opened were found to contain images of the gods.  The point of the comparison was to praise Socrates' ability to see through the outside of things, however unpromising they may appear, to their inner meaning.  The reference to the Symposium draws our attention to the doubleness of things; the passage in Folly's speech runs:


For first of all, the fact is that all human affairs, like the Sileni of Alcibiades, have two aspects, each quite different from the other; even to the point that what at first blush (as the phrase goes) seems to be death may prove, if you look further into it, to be life.  What at first sight is beautiful may really be ugly; the apparently wealthy may be poorest of all; the disgraceful, glorious; the learned, ignorant;...In brief, you find all things suddenly reversed, when you open up the Silenus.5  [see footnote, below]


            Even this passage tends to simplify the actual practice of The Praise of Folly.  Erasmus' idea of putting the mock praise of folly into the mouth of Folly herself adds another dimension to the ironies implicit in the paradoxical mock encomium, and one soon finds that it is not enough simply to invert Folly's statements to get at the truth, for the fact that Folly is speaking sets up a position analogous, as Walter Kaiser has pointed out, to that which prevails in one of the ancient stock paradoxes, that of the Cretan who says all Cretans are liars.6  This is an impenetrable paradox which cannot be resolved into simple positive or negative statements, and neither can the utterances of Folly.  In Erasmus' extended paradox we are presented not with a choice between true or false statements but with a view of the complexities of truth, truth which may be also false, if looked at from another point of view, and falsity which may also be true.  The final truth of The Praise of Folly lies not in particular passages but in the work as a whole, as a statement about the complexities of life.'  [8-9].


            [footnote] "5 The Praise of Folly, tr. Hoyt H. Hudson (Princeton, 1941), p. 36."  [9].






            "....Thus paradox after paradox unfolds within the governing paradox of Folly's praise of folly.  There is much particular satire on war, on warlike and worldly popes, on friars, on monks, on scholastic philosophy; and it is this to which exception was taken in Erasmus' lifetime.  But still more important is the vision of which the particular satire is only a part:  the vision of man caught by his very nature in folly, but a folly capable of reaching the heights of self-sacrifice and sanctity as well as playing benevolently about the small daily concerns of life.  Erasmus' work is one of the greatest and profoundest examinations of the paradox of the wise fool, which was one of the familiar ideas of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance and which we know best from the fools of Shakespeare [baptized 1564 – 1616].  Folly herself reminds us of the Greek proverb "Even a foolish man will often speak a word in season."8  Erasmus [1466? – 1536] is, as Walter Kaiser and other scholars have pointed out, "one of the seminal minds of the modern world."9  Rabelais [1494? – 1553], Montaigne [1533 – 1592], Shakespeare, Jonson [1572 – 1637], Ariosto [1474 – 1533], Cervantes [1547 – 1616], Swift [1667 – 1745], all owe much to that penetrating and wide-ranging mind with its capacity to hold many ideas in solution and to see, in one inclusive vision, the capacity for warmth and frigidity, for joy and sorrow, for good and evil, for self-sacrifice and self-indulgence, in the life of the wise fool, man."  [10].



"The Praise of Folly and Its Background


by Leonard F. Dean"  [40]


            'In The Praise of Folly the ideal, which is indirectly affirmed throughout the book, is openly carried to its logical conclusion in the description of the Christian fool.  The section is begun with characteristic lightness and indirection as a parody on the irresponsible citation of authorities by lawyers and theologians.  After playing fast and loose with a series of biblical passages containing the word fool, Folly gradually becomes more and more serious as she first gives an example of legitimate scriptural interpretation, and then sharpens and sublimates the meaning of folly to the wisdom that passes human prudence and understanding.  "Let him that seems to be wise among you become a fool, that he may be wise."44  She goes on to state that "The Christian religion on the whole seems to have some kinship with folly, while it has none at all with wisdom."  The first proof is the ironic observation that children, old people, women, and fools "are ever nearest the altars, led no doubt solely by instinct."  But this is fooling, or definition by indirection, for these are no more true Christian fools than are those "founders of religion" who "have been the bitterest foes of learning."  The real Christian fools are those who have been so possessed with piety that they have died to the world in order to gain life [in part,






describes my two older brothers (Lorne and Leonard)?].  Their lot is like that of the man who left Plato's cave and saw reality, and their folly is like the madness of Plato's lover who lost himself in the object of his adoration.  This sublimation of folly is the ideal expressed in its severest form; and when all the sentimental evasions are finally dispensed with, the effect is not cynicism but rather that paradoxical exhilaration produced by tragedy.'  [57-58].



            [footnote, regarding the following letter] 'From "An Open Letter to Erasmus" by Antonio Iglesias [1903 – 1953], Saturday Review, May 17, 1952, p. 24.  Copyright 1952, The Saturday Review Associates, Inc.  Reprinted by permission of the publisher.'  [113]


            'Antonio Iglesias


            This letter, my dear teacher of humanism [Erasmus], is not written to the moralist who wrote the "Colloquies," nor to the sparkling and prolific letter writer, nor to the learned theologian and celebrated editor of the Greek New Testament and of some of the early Fathers of the Church, nor to the great controversialist of the Reformation.  It is addressed to the humane and wise humanist and witty man of letters who wrote "The Praise of Folly." Your biographers tell me that you wrote this literary jewel in the autumn of 1509 while staying as an honored guest at St. Thomas More's cheerful mansion in Bucklersbury, and that you wrote it in seven days to detach your mind from the pains of lumbago and to play a learned joke on your beloved host by making its Greek title, "Moriae Encomium," mean both "The Praise of More" and "The Praise of Folly."


            How shrewdly wise Folly acted in choosing you as her mouthpiece!  Who else could have defended her more thoroughly, with finer eloquence, and with greater Christian charity?  And, admirable Desiderius [Erasmus], in this short book charged and supercharged with irony, could you yourself say where the wisdom of Folly ends and the folly of your own wisdom begins?  I, for one, cannot.  What is clear to me is the all-infolding charity with which you and Folly judge all fools.  For in this kindliest of satires there is neither bitterness nor hatred; none of Swift's savage indignation or of Voltaire's supreme contempt.  What I find everywhere in it is an uncanny understanding and a profound commiseration for the countless follies of your fellowmen.  Like a loving and indulgent father teasing his naughty children, you gently and wittily tease all the sundry:  the babbling rhetoricians, playing both sides against the middle; the lawyers "weaving together six hundred laws in the same breath"; the proud of birth, the money-grabbers, and the adulators of the rich; the scientists claiming to know for certain what no man can find out; the theologians who are so happy in their self-love rather than in their loving knowledge of God; your lazy and silly






fellow monks blissfully happy in their ignorance and self-satisfaction; the kings and the ruling princes completely oblivious of their social obligations while they faithfully worship Folly together with their courtiers; and bishops, cardinals, and even popes slavishly aping these worthies instead of gloriously imitating Jesus Christ's life on earth.  You spare no one, you expect nobody, because no human being ever lives outside the boundaries of Folly's universal empire.


            And yet you [Erasmus] yourself managed with incredible mental agility to be her faithful mouthpiece and at the same time to escape from her sway to pass sound judgment upon what she is and what she does.  For what really amazes me is the mysterious manner in which the rich complexity of your being is clearly manifested through the multicolored brightness of Folly's motley ["heterogeneous assemblage", etc. (].  How did you manage, Erasmus of Rotterdam, to reflect your inner being rightside up in this magic mirror that reflects so much that is human upside down?  In this unmatched little squib of yours I discern, with astonishment and admiration, the universality of your humanistic and theological culture, the piercing penetration of your subtle intelligence, your lively and charming wit, your delicious sense of humor, your undeceived clear-sightedness, your razor-sharp critical acumen, your vast and profound knowledge and sympathetic understanding of human nature, your artistic refinement, the delicacy of your touch, the fastidiousness of your scholarship, your literary polish, the comprehensive irony that informs your jibes with their implied pleadings for tolerance and for a charitable understanding of man's shortcomings, and the spiritual loftiness of your Christian vision of the world.


            It is precisely because you [Erasmus] harmonized so successfully and so effectively in your life and in your work these remarkable talents, high accomplishments, excellent virtues, noble ideals, and lofty aspirations of yours—and also because our present need is so pressing and so great—that I have been emboldened to ask you to do us a very special favor:  Will you come back to the earth once more for two or three weeks to write a "bigger and better" Praise of Folly for our edification and possible salvation?'  [end of letter] [113-114].






"Notes on the Editor and Contributors



KATHLEEN WILLIAMS is now Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside.  She has written books on Swift and on Spenser.


ROBERT P. ADAMS.  Professor of English at the University of Washington, was a fellow of the Folger Shakespeare Library in 1953 and 1956.


ROSALIE L. COLIE, Professor of English at the University of Iowa and Visiting Professor of English at Yale, was a Guggenheim Fellow during the year 1966–67.


LEONARD F. DEAN, formerly of the University of Connecticut, is Professor of English at New York University.


ARTHUR E. DuBOIS is professor of English at Kent State University in Ohio.


NORTHROP FRYE is Professor of English at Victoria College, Toronto.  This widely respected critic was a Guggenheim Fellow during the academic year 1950–51.


HOYT H. HUDSON (1893–1944) taught English, public speaking, rhetoric, and oratory at several American universities.  He was Chairman of the English Department at Stanford University from 1933 to 1942.


JOHANN HUIZINGA (1872–1945), a famous Dutch historian, is best known for his Waning of the Middle Ages (1919).  His biography of Erasmus was written for the "Great Hollanders" series edited by Edward W. Bok.


ANTONIO IGLESIAS (1903–53) is the author of Culture's Emergent Pathway (1948).  His series of "Open Letters" for the Saturday Review dealt with Emerson, Milton, and Montaigne as well as Erasmus.


WALTER KAISER teaches English and Comparative Literature at Harvard.


SISTER MARY GERALDINE, C.S.J., is Associate Professor of English at St.  Michael's College, University of Toronto.


RAY C. PETRY is Professor of Church History at the Divinity School of Duke University.






MARGARET MANN PHILLIPS of Cambridge is the author of Erasmus and the Northern Renaissance, a general study of Erasmus' contributions to European culture.


EUGENE F. RICE, JR., formerly of Cornell, is Professor of History at Columbia.  He was a Guggenheim Fellow and the recipient of a Fulbright grant during academic year 1959–60.


PRESERVED SMITH (1880–1941), for many years Professor of History at Cornell, edited and translated Luther's correspondence and wrote The Age of the Reformation.


ENID WELSFORD, known for research in Teutonic and Old Prussian religion, has retired from the post of Lecturer in English at Cambridge."  [119-120].


l l l l l






from:  Life and Letters of Erasmus [c. 1466 – 1536], Lectures Delivered at Oxford 1893–4, by James Anthony Froude [1818 – 1894], Late Regius Professor of Modern History in the University of Oxford, New Impression, Longmans, Green and Co., 39 Paternoster Row, London, E.C. 4., New York, Toronto, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, 1923 (1894). 





The following Lectures are published as they were delivered.  The references are to the edition of the Works of Erasmus which was brought out at Leyden in 1702[.]


            The letters from which I quote are so numerous and so elaborate that it is impossible for me in a mere sketch to give complete translations to them.  I have been obliged, as the reader will see, to abridge, compress, and epitomize.  My object has been rather to lead historical readers to a study of Erasmus's own writings than to provide an abbreviated substitute for them.


            Erasmus advises students to read only the best books on the subjects with which they are occupied.  He cautions them against loading their memories with the errors of inferior writers which they will afterwards have to throw off and forget.  The best description of the state of Europe in the age immediately preceding the Reformation will be found in the correspondence of Erasmus himself.  I can promise my own readers that if they will accept Erasmus for a guide in that entangled period, they will not wander far out of the way.

J.A. Froude.  July 1894"  ["v"-vi].



[from a letter of Erasmus] "....Add, besides, that I am losing my eyesight from overwork, as Jerome did:  that you have this from me and know it to be true.  Tell her that a sapphire [I (LS) have collected sapphires, and other gems, since 1981.  My eyes?  Glasses, since age 42 (now, 12/1/2006, 71)] or some other gem is good for bad eyes, and persuade her to send me one.  I would myself have suggested that to her, but I have no Pliny [also wrote on gemstones] at hand to refer to.  Your own doctor, however, will confirm the fact.  All will go well if you only do your part.  Seize opportunity by the locks, and do not be afraid that if you can bring the Lady to do all this for me you will have exhausted your own claim, and can afterwards ask nothing for yourself.  I know that you are dependent on her generosity, but consider that the two things cannot be had together.  The Lady's purse will not be emptied by my small demands upon it.  You






can ask any day.  I may never have another opportunity.  Perhaps you think I ought to be satisfied if I am kept out of reach of starvation.  I think, on the contrary, that I shall have to abandon literature altogether if I cannot obtain means from one quarter or another to go on with it properly.


            No man can write as he should without freedom from sordid cares, and I at this moment am little better than a beggar, with scarce a livre left.  How many ignorant asses roll in money!  Is it a great thing to keep Erasmus from dying of hunger?  ....


            [Froude] "Many a fine writer besides Erasmus has had to petition humbly for great men's superfluities.  In these days of liberty we rejoice that all that is over, and that the gifted author deals directly with the reading public.  I suppose we shall see fine results in time.  I do not know that, so far as literature is concerned, they have been brilliant as yet.  Erasmus might at any time have sold himself and his talents to the Church, and become as rich as Wolsey.  He preferred literature and a patroness, and the result was that he became one of the Immortals."  [82, 83].



            [Froude] "It is noticeable that during this sad time Erasmus studied and translated the greater part of Lucian's Dialogues.  I wish more of us read Lucian now.  He was the greatest man by far outside the Christian Church in the second century.  He had human blood in him.  The celestial ichor ["rarified fluid said to flow in the veins of the gods" (] which ran in the veins of Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus belongs to ghosts rather than to living sons of Adam, and you will learn full as much from Lucian's Dialogues of what men and women were like in the Roman Empire when the Christian faith was taking root as you will learn from Justin Martyr or Irenaeus or Tertullian.  One of these dialogues seems particularly to have struck Erasmus,...[5 Greek words].  Young men of talent in Lucian's time were tempted by the promise of an easy life to hire themselves out as companions to wealthy Roman nobles to write their letters, correct their verses, amuse their guests, and write poems in their honour.  Lucian traces one of these unfortunates through his splendid degradation, till he is supplanted by a new favourite and flung aside like a worn-out dress.  Too late to return to any honest employment, he sinks from shame to shame, till he falls to the level of the groom of the chamber and the housekeeper, and finally is left in charge of my Lady's pug-dog.


            To such a fate, doubtless, many a promising youth was drifting in the fifteenth century as well as in the second.  A high education creates tastes for refinement, and does not provide the [sufficient] means of satisfying them."  [87-88].






[Froude, quoting Erasmus]


"[']I amused myself in the passage of the Alps with composing a poem on old age.'


            From which it appears that Erasmus had no taste for what we call the sublime and beautiful.  Like Socrates [469 – 399 B.C.E.], he had no interest in scenery, and cared only for men and human things [?]."  [90].



            [Froude] 'Thus he [Erasmus] left Rome [Erasmus was in Italy 1506 – 1509] as he had come, carrying only with him the respect and regard of the Cardinal of St. George and the more famous Cardinal [Giovanni de' Medici] who was to succeed Julius as Leo X.  He went back to Paris poor as ever, or nearly so, for the Lady's supplies were spent; but he set himself stubbornly to work again.  On his return he heard the pleasant news that his friend Colet had been made Dean of St. Paul's.  He wrote to congratulate him; promotion coming, as it ought to do, on the deserving who had not sought for it.  He hopes that Colet has not forgotten his little friend, and would spare an hour to let him know of his welfare.  He [Erasmus] then describes his own condition and occupation.1


            [abridged letter of Erasmus] I am rushing at full speed into sacred literature, and look at nothing which keeps me back from it.  Fortune wears her old face and is still a difficulty.  I hope now that I have returned to France to put my affairs on a slightly better footing.  This done, I shall sit down to Holy Scripture with my whole heart, and devote the rest of my life to it.  Three years ago I wrote something on the Epistle to the Romans.  I finished four sheets at a burst, and I should have gone on had I been able.  Want of knowledge of Greek kept me back, but for all these three years I have been working entirely at Greek, and have not been playing with it.  I have begun Hebrew too, but make small progress owing to the difficulty of the construction.  I am not so young as I was, besides.


            I have also read a great part of Origen [c. 185 – c. 254], who opens out new fountains of thought and furnishes a complete key to theology.  I send you a small composition of my own on a subject over which we argued when I was in England.  It is so changed you would not know it again.  I did not write to show off my knowledge.  It is directed against the notion that religion consists of ceremonies and a worse than Jewish ritual.  I wrote to you about the hundred copies of the 'Adagia' which I sent over to England three years back.  Grocyn undertook to sell them for me, and






has probably done so.  In this case they must have brought in money, which must be in somebody's hands.  I was never in worse straits than I am now.  One way or another I must get enough to secure leisure for myself and my work.  A little will do.  Help me as far as you can.  Mountjoy too may contribute something, though I do not like to ask him.  Mountjoy was always interested in me, and to him I owe my first conception of the 'Adagia.' '  [92-93].



            [part of a letter of Erasmus, describing John Colet 1467 – 1519] 'His opinions were peculiar, and he was reserved in expressing them for fear of exciting suspicion.  He knew how unfairly men judge each other, how credulous they are of evil, how much easier it is for a lying tongue to stain a reputation than for a friend to clear it.  But among his friends he spoke his mind freely.  He thought the Scotists, who are considered so clever, were stupid blockheads.  He regarded their word-splitting, their catching at objections, their minute sub-dividings, as signs of a starved intellect.  He [COLET] hated Thomas Aquinas [1225 – 1274] even more than Scotus.  I once praised the 'Catena Aurea' to him.  He was silent.  I repeated my words.  He glanced at me to see if I was serious, and when he saw that I meant it he became really angry.  Aquinas (he said) would not have laid down the law so boldly on all things in heaven and earth if he had not been an arrogant fool, and he would not have contaminated Christianity with his preposterous philosophy if he had not been a wordling at heart.


            He had a bad opinion of the monasteries falsely so called.  He gave them little and left them nothing.  He said that morality was always purer among married laymen, and yet, though himself absolutely chaste, he was not very hard on priests and monks who only sinned with women.  He did not make light of impurity, but he thought it less criminal than spite and malice, and envy and vanity and ignorance.  The loose sort were at least made human and modest by their very faults, and he regarded avarice and arrogance as blacker sins in a priest than a hundred concubines.


            He had a particular dislike of bishops.  He said they were more like wolves than shepherds.  They sold the sacraments, sold their ceremonies and absolutions.  They were slaves of vanity and avarice.  He did not much blame those who doubted whether a wicked priest could convey sacramental grace, and was indignant that there were so many of them as to force the question to be raised.






He disapproved of the great educational institutions in England.  He thought they encouraged idleness.  As little did he like the public schools.  Education was spoilt, he said, when the lessons learnt were turned to worldly account and made the means of getting on.  He was himself learned, but he had no respect for a mass of information gathered out of a multitude of books.  Such laborious wisdom he said was fatal to sound knowledge and right feeling.  He approved of a fine ritual at church, but he saw no reason why priests should be always muttering prayers at home or on their walks.  He admitted privately that many things were generally taught which he did not believe, but he would not create scandal by blurting out his objections.  No book could be so heretical but he would read it, and read it carefully.  He learnt more from such books than he learnt from dogmatism and interested orthodoxy.


            [Froude] Such was the famous Colet, seen in undress among his friends.  A dean who hated bishops was not likely to be on good terms with his own....'  [106-107].



            [abridged letter of Erasmus, when in England]


'Not (he [Erasmus] writes to the Abbot of St. Bertin1) that I dislike England, or complain of my English patrons.  I have many friends here among the bishops and leading men.  The Archbishop of Canterbury is a father to me.  He gave me a benefice.  I resigned it, and he gave me a pension in exchange, with further additions from himself.  Other great people have been good to me too, and I might have more if I chose to ask for it.  But this war has turned the nation's head.  All articles have gone up in price, and the bad wine gives me the stone.  At best, too, an island is a place of banishment, and the war isolates us still worse.  Letters can hardly pass in or out.  I often wonder how human beings, especially Christian human beings, can be so mad as to go fighting with one another.  Beasts do not fight, or only the most savage kinds of them, and they only fight for food with the weapons which Nature has given them.  Men fight for ambition, for anger, for lust, or other folly, and the justest war can hardly approve itself to any reasonable person.  Who make up armies?  Cutthroats, adulterers, gamblers, ravishers, mercenaries.  And we are to receive this scum of mankind into our towns!  We are to make ourselves their slaves while they commit horrid crimes, and those suffer most who have had least concern in the quarrel.  The people build cities, the princes destroy them, and even victory brings more ill than good.  We must not lightly blame our princes; but is the world to be convulsed because the rulers fall out?  I would give all that I possess in






England to see Christendom at peace.  You have influence with the Archduke and the Emperor Maximilian [Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, 1459 – 1519] and the politicians.  I wish you would exert it.


            [Froude] The war was to cease in due time.  Pope Julius had brought it on:  with Julius's death in 1513 it ended.  Leo X. succeeded, and brought peace with him.  Henry married his sister Mary to King Louis, and all quarrels were made up.  Meanwhile Erasmus lingered on, in financial difficulties as usual, and Colet, who did not quite approve of the carelessness which caused them, offered to relieve him, on condition that he would beg for help in a humble manner....'  [124-125].



            [Froude] 'With this, too, may end the squalid period of Erasmus's life, for squalid it had been, notwithstanding the fame which he had won, and the occasional gleams of sunshine which had floated over it.  Hitherto the world had known him chiefly through the 'Adagia,' a few poems, and light, graceful treatises like 'The Knight's Manual,' and had recognised in him a brilliant vagrant and probably dangerous man of letters.  The vagrant's gown had a silver lining.  Through all these struggling years he had been patiently labouring at his New Testament, and he was now to blaze before Europe as a new star.  I must say a few words on what the appearance of that book meant.


            The Christian religion as taught and practiced in Western Europe consisted of the Mass and the Confessional, of elaborate ceremonials, rituals, processions, pilgrimages, prayers to the Virgin and the saints, with dispensations and indulgences for laws broken or duties left undone.  Of the Gospels and Epistles so much only was known to the laity as was read in the Church services, and that intoned as if to be purposely unintelligible to the understanding.  Of the rest of the Bible nothing was supposed to be necessary, and lectures like Colet's at Oxford were considered superfluous and dangerous.  Copies of the Scripture were rare, shut up in convent libraries, and studied only by professional theologians; while conventional interpretations were attached to the text which corrupted or distorted its meaning.  Erasmus had undertaken to give the book [New Testament] to the whole world to read for itself—the original Greek of the Epistles and Gospels, with a new Latin translation—to wake up the intelligence, to show that the words had a real sense, and were not mere sounds like the dronings of a barrel-organ.


            It was finished at last, text and translation printed, and the living facts of Christianity, the persons of Christ and the Apostles, their history, their lives, their teaching were revealed to an astonished world.  For the first time the laity were able to see, side by side, the Christianity which converted the world,






and the Christianity of the Church with a Borgia pope, cardinal princes, ecclesiastical courts, and a mythology of lies.  The effect was to be a spiritual earthquake.


             Erasmus had not been left to work without encouragement.  He had found friends, even at Rome itself, among the members of the Sacred College, who were weary of imposture and had half held out their hands to him.  The Cardinal de Medici, who had succeeded Julius as Leo X., and aspired to shine as the patron of enlightenment, had approved Erasmus's undertaking, and was ready to give it his public sanction.  Nor had Erasmus either flattered popes or flattered anyone to gain their good word.  He might flatter when he wanted money out of a bishop or a fine lady:  he [Erasmus] was never false to intellectual truth.  To his edition of the New Testament he had attached remarks appropriate to the time, and sent them floating with it through the world, which must have made the hair of orthodox divines stand on end,


'Like quills upon the fretful porcupine.'


Each gospel, each epistle had its preface; while notes were attached to special passages to point their force upon the established usages.  These notes increased in point and number as edition followed edition, and were accompanied with paraphrases to bring out the meanings with livelier intensity.  A single candle shone far in the universal darkness.  That a pope [Leo X] should have been found to allow the lighting of it is the most startling feature in Reformation history.


            I shall read you some of these notes, and ask you to attend to them.  Erasmus opens with a complaint of the neglect of Scripture, of a priesthood who thought more of offertory plates than of parchments, and more of gold than of books; of the degradation of spiritual life, and of the vain observances and scandalous practices of the orders specially called religious.  From his criticisms on particular passages I will take specimens here and there, to show you how he directed the language of evangelists and apostles on the abuses of his own age.


            Matthew xix. 12—'Eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake.'  This text was a special favourite with the religious orders.  Erasmus observes:—


                        [Erasmus] Men are threatened or tempted into vows of celibacy.  They can have license to go with harlots, but they must not marry wives.  They may keep concubines and remain priests.  If they take wives they are thrown to the flames.  Parents who design their children for a celibate priesthood should emasculate them in their infancy, instead






of forcing them, reluctant or ignorant, into a furnace of licentiousness [castrati for Jesus?].


[Froude] Matthew xxiii., on the Scribes and Pharisees:—


[Erasmus] You may find a bishop here and there who teaches the Gospel, though life and teaching have small agreement.  But what shall we say of those who destroy the Gospel itself, make laws at their will, tyrannise over the laity, and measure right and wrong with rules constructed by themselves?  Of those who entangle their flocks in the meshes of crafty canons, who sit not in the seat of the Gospel, but in the seat of Caiaphas and Simon Magus—prelates of evil, who bring disgrace and discredit on their worthier brethren?'  [126-129].



            [Froude] "....Such are extracts from the reflections upon the doctrine and discipline of the Catholic Church which were launched upon the world in the notes to the New Testament by Erasmus, some on the first publication, some added as edition followed edition.  They were not thrown out as satires, or in controversial tracts or pamphlets.  They were deliberate accusations attached to the sacred text, where the religion which was taught by Christ and the Apostles and the degenerate superstition which had taken its place could be contrasted side by side.  Nothing was spared; ritual and ceremony, dogmatic theology, philosophy, and personal character were tried by what all were compelled verbally to acknowledge to be the standard whose awful countenance was now practically revealed for the first time for many centuries.  Bishops, seculars, monks were dragged out to judgment, and hung as on a public gibbet, in the light of the pages of the most sacred of all books, published with the leave and approbation of the Holy Father himself.


Never was volume more passionately devoured.  A hundred thousand copies were soon sold in France alone.  The fire spread, as it spread behind Samson's foxes in the Philistines' corn.  The clergy's skins were tender from long impunity.  They shrieked from pulpit and platform, and made Europe ring with their clamour.  The louder they cried the more clearly Europe perceived the justice of their chastisement.  The words of the Bible have been so long familiar to us that we can hardly realize what the effect must have been when the Gospel was brought out fresh and visible before the astonished eyes of mankind.


            The book was not actually published till Erasmus had left England, but the fame of it had anticipated its appearance.  The ruling powers of the Netherlands had determined at last to reclaim their most brilliant citizen,






and to make a formal provision for him.  England this time had seen the last of Erasmus.  He was never to return to it again, or at least not for a protracted stay.  His chief distress was at parting from his friends.  Before he sailed he spent a fortnight with Bishop Fisher at Rochester.  Sir Thomas More came down there to see the last of him, and the meeting and parting of these three is doubly affecting when one thinks of what Erasmus was to become and to do, and of the fate [beheading] which was awaiting More and Fisher in a storm which Erasmus was to do so much to raise.


            Little could either they or their guest have dreamt of what was to be.  Doubtless they believed that, with a liberal Pope Leo [Leo X], there was an era before them of moderate reform.  One would give much for a record of their talk.  The spiritual world was not then draped in solemn inanities.  Bishops wore no wigs, not even aprons or gaiters, and warm blood ran in the veins of the future martyrs and the scholar [Erasmus] of Rotterdam.  They could jest at the ridiculous.  The condition of the Church was a comedy as well as a tragedy, a thing for laughter and a thing for tears...."  [134-135].



[Froude] "The death of Julius postponed the inevitable convulsion.  Leo X. succeeded to the papal throne.  Interdicts and excommunications were taken off, and there was general peace.  But the hurricane left the sea still agitated.  The waves still heaved of the passions which had been stirred, and the name of the intriguing , fighting, insolent Julius was abhorred by the French nations.  In 1513, after the peace had been concluded, there appeared in Paris a dramatic dialogue, so popular that it was brought upon the stage.  Julius, attended by a familiar spirit, appears at the gate of Paradise demanding to be admitted.  St. Peter questions, challenges, cross-questions, and the Pope replies in character, audacious as a Titan attempting to scale the home of the gods.


            The Dialogue was anonymous.  Who could have written it?  Some gave it to Faustus Anderlin [Anderlini, Anderlinus]; but Anderlin [Anderlini] was indolent and easy-going, not at all likely to have kindled himself into such a flame of scorn.  Anderlin [Anderlini], too, would have claimed the authorship.  He had nothing to fear, and would only have added to his popularity.  Opinion rapidly settled on Erasmus.  Erasmus hated wars, hated popes, especially who used the sword of the flesh as well as of the spirit for worldly ambition.  Erasmus had looked on with disgust and scorn at the triumphal procession on the annexation of Bologna, and his friends in the Sacred College were no friends to Julius.  The writer, whoever he was, knew France well, knew Rome well, and was acquainted with the inmost workings of the ecclesiastical mystery.  The Dialogue became the talk of Europe.  Erasmus must be the man.  No other writer could use a pen so finely pointed or so dipped in gall.  'Aut Erasmus, aut diabolus.'






            He [Erasmus] denied the authorship himself; he says distinctly that he never published anything to which he did not set his name.  And, again, he must have known that such a production must be fatal to any hopes of promotion or support at Rome.  Leo X. might have been privately amused, but he could not decently have patronized a man who had turned the Papacy itself into contempt.  As long as the authorship was unproved, however, Erasmus could not be made responsible for it, and other great writers besides Erasmus have held themselves entitled to hide behind a blank title-page.  Even in his denials there was latent mockery.  He says, if it had been his, it would have been in better Latin; but the Latin is as good as his own.  Cardinal Campegio, who believed him guilty, wrote to remonstrate.  Erasmus calmly told him that he had heard persons attribute the authorship to Campegio himself.  Sir Thomas More accepted the denial as sufficient to his own mind, but admitted that it was not conclusive.  'If Erasmus did write it, well what then?'1 was More's final word about it.  [Froude] I have made a translation of 'Julius,' and I mean to read it to you.  Some of you will doubtless be taking this part of European history into the schools.  You may have questions to answer about this remarkable successor of St. Peter, and nowhere else will you find so lively an account of him and his doings.  It will be better worth your listening to than any lecture of mine."  [143-144].



                        [part of a letter of Thomas More, "against some vain young English divine…."  [151]]


"....As to the 'Dialogue of Julius,' who wrote it, and whether it be good or bad, I have never cared to inquire.  Opinions differ; I know that it was brought on the stage in Paris.  The MS. passed through the hands of Faustus Anderlin [Anderlini, Anderlinus], who was a friend of Erasmus, and Erasmus may have seen it before it was printed; but when you appeal to the style, there were plenty of clever men in Paris who could have imitated Erasmus's manner.  But suppose he did write 'Julius'—suppose that in his indignation at the broils and wars which that Pope had caused he went further than he could have afterwards wished, you will have small thanks from those who smarted under the satire by identifying it now with Erasmus.  Proof you have none.  But if books are bad, why read them?  Time was when monks called the world Sodom, and read nothing, not even a letter from a friend...."  [153].










Brought on the Stage at Paris, 1514.






Julius.  What the devil is this?  The gates not opened!  Something is wrong with the lock.


            Spirit.  You have brought the wrong key perhaps.  The key of your money-box will not open the door here.  You should have brought both keys.  This is the key of power, not of knowledge.


            Julius.  I never had any but this, and I don't see the use of another.  Hey there, porter!  I say, are you asleep or drunk?


            Peter.  Well that the gates are adamant, or this fellow would have broken in.  He must be some giant, or conqueror.  Heaven, what a stench!  Who are you?  What do you want here?


            Julius.  Open the gates, I say.  Why is there no one to receive me?


            Peter.  Here is fine talk.  Who are you, I say?


            Julius.  You know this key, I suppose, and the triple crown, and the pallium?


            Peter.  I see a key, but not the key which Christ gave to me a long time since.  The crown?  I don't recognize the crown.  No heathen king ever wore such a thing, certainly none who expected to be let in here.  The pallium is strange too.  And see, there are marks on all three of that rogue and impostor Simon Magus, that I turned out of office.


            Julius.  Enough of this.  I am Julius the Ligurian, P.M., as you can see by the letters if you can read.


            Peter.  P.M.!  What is that?  Pestis Maxima?


            Julius.  Pontifex Maximus, you rascal.






            Peter.  If you are three times Maximus, if you are Mercury Trismegistus, you can't come in unless you are Optimus too.


            Julius.  Impertinence!  You, who have been no more than Sanctus all these ages—and I Sanctissimus, Sanctissimus Dominus, Sanctitas, Holiness itself, with Bulls to show it.


            Peter.  Is there no difference between being Holy and being called Holy?  Ask your flatterers who called you these fine names to give you admittance.  Let me look at you a little closer.  Hum!  Signs of impiety in plenty, and none of the other thing.  Who are these fellows behind you?  Faugh!  They smell of stews, drink-shops, and gunpowder.  Have you brought goblins out of Tartarus to make war with heaven?  Yourself, too, are not precisely like an apostle.  Priest's cassock and bloody armour below it, eyes savage, mouth insolent, forehead brazen, body scarred with sins all over, breath loaded with wine, health broken with debauchery.  Ay, threaten as you will, I will tell you what you are for all your bold looks.  You are Julius the Emperor come back from hell.


            Julius.  Ma desi!


            Peter.  What does he say?


            Spirit.  They are words which he uses to make the cardinals fly after he has dined.


            Peter.  You seem to understand him; who are you?


            Spirit.  I am the genius of this man.


            Peter.  No good one, I fear.


            Julius.  Will you make an end of your talking and open the gates?  We will break them down else.  You see these followers of mine.


            Peter.  I see a lot of precious rogues, but they won't break in here...."  [156-157].



            "....Peter.  And how about the Duke of Ferrara?


            Julius.  The Duke was an ungrateful wretch.  He accused me of simony, called me a paederast, and also claimed certain moneys of me.  Moreover, I wanted the Duchy ["domain controlled by a Duke or Duchess" (]






of Ferrara for a son of my own, who could be depended on to be true to the Church, and who had just poniarded the Cardinal of Pavia.


            Peter.  What!  What!  Popes with wives and children?


            Julius.  Wives!  No, not wives; but why not children?


            Peter.  You spoke of a schismatical council.  Explain.


            Julius.  It is a long story, but the fact was this.  Certain persons had been complaining that the Court of Rome was a nest of abominations.  They charged me myself with simony.  They said I was a sot, a whoremaster, a son of this world, a scandal to the Christian faith.  Things had become so bad that a council must be held to mend them; and, in fact, they alleged that I had sworn at my instalment to call a council in two years, and that I had been elected on that condition.


            Peter.  Was it so?


            Julius.  Why, yes it was; but I absolved myself, and now mark what followed.  Nine of my cardinals revolt.  They require me to keep my word.  I refuse.  They appeal to the Emperor, and backed by the Emperor and the French king they call a council themselves, thus rending the seamless vesture of Christ.


            Peter.  But were you guilty of the crimes of which they accused you?


            Julius.  That is nothing to the purpose.  I was Pontifex Maximus, and if I was fouler than Lerna itself, so long as I hold the keys I am Christ's Vicar, and must be treated as such...."  [161].



"....Peter.  He who represents Christ ought to try to be like Christ.  But, tell me, is there no way of removing a wicked pope?


Julius.  Absurd!  Who can remove the highest authority of all?


Peter.  That the Pope is the highest is a reason why he should be removed if he causes scandal.  Bad princes can be removed.  The Church is in a bad way if it must put up with a head who is ruining it.


Julius.  A Pope can only be corrected by a general council, but no general council can be held without the Pope's consent; otherwise it is a synod, and not a






council.  Let the council sit, it can determine nothing unless the Pope agrees; and, again, a single pope having absolute power is superior to the council.  Thus he cannot be deposed for any crime whatsoever.


Peter.  What, not for murder?


Julius.  No, not if it be parricide.


Peter.  Not for fornication?


Julius.  Not for incest.


Peter.  Not for simony?


Julius.  Not for six hundred acts of simony.


Peter.  Not for poisoning?


Julius.  No, not for sacrilege.


Peter.  Not for blasphemy?


Julius.  No, I say.


Peter.  Not for all these crimes collected in a single person?


Julius.  Add six hundred more to them, there is no power which can depose the Pope of Rome.


Peter.  A novel privilege for my successors—to be the wickedest of men, yet be safe from punishment.  So much the unhappier the Church which cannot shake such a monster off its shoulders.


Julius.  Some say there is one cause for which a Pope can be deposed.


Peter.  When he has done a good action, I suppose, since he is not to be punished for his bad actions.


Julius.  If he can be convicted publicly of heresy.  But this is impossible too.  For he can cancel any canon which he does not like, and should such a charge be preferred in a council he can always recant.  There are a thousand loopholes.






Peter.  In the name of the papal majesty, who made these fine laws?


Julius.  Who?  Why, the source of all law, the Pope himself, and the power that makes a law can repeal it.


            Peter.  Fortunate Pope, who can cheat Christ with his laws.  Quite true, the remedy in such a case is not in a council.  The people ought to rise with paving stones and dash such a wretch's brains out.  But, tell me, why do popes hate general councils?


            Julius.  Why do kings hate senates and parliaments?  Councils are apt to throw the majesty of popes into the shade.  There will be able men upon them, men with a conscience who will speak their minds, men who envy us and would like our power to be cut down.  Scarce a council ever met which did not leave the Pope weaker than it found him.  You experienced it yourself when James pulled you up, and there are some who think to this day that the primacy was in James and not in you.


            Peter.  Then you think the first object to be considered is not the welfare of the Church, but he supremacy of the Pope?


Julius.  Everyone for himself.  The Pope's interest is my interest.


Peter.  If Christ had thought of His interest there would have been no Church for you to be supreme over.  Why should Christ's Vicar be so unlike Him?  But tell me how you broke up the schismatic council that you spoke of.


Julius.  You shall hear.  I first worked on Maximilian, and persuaded him to withdraw his support from France.  I then forced the cardinals to deny their own oaths before witnesses.


Peter.  Was that right?


Julius.  Why not right, if the Pope wills it?  An oath is not an oath if the Pope chooses.  He can absolve when he pleases.  It was a little impudent, but it was the most convenient way.  Then, as I did not want to seem to be evading the council, I contrived that I should be myself invited to preside over it.  I appealed to a council myself.  I merely said that the time and place which had been chosen were unsuitable, and I invited the bishops to meet at Rome.  I meant none to attend but my own friends who would support me.  I instructed them what to do, and I created a batch of new cardinals who I knew were devoted to me.


Spirit.  That is, the greatest rascals...."  [162-163].






"....Peter.  The Church is a community of Christians with Christ's Spirit in them.  You have been a subverter of the Church.


Julius.  The Church consists of cathedrals, and priests, and the Court of Rome, and myself at the head of it.


Peter.  Christ is our Head, and we are His ministers.  Are there two Heads?  How have you increased the Church?


Julius.  I found it poor:  I have made it splendid.


Peter.  Splendid with what?  With faith?


Julius.  Nonsense.


Peter.  With doctrine?


Julius.  A fig for doctrine.


Peter.  With contempt of the world?


Julius.  These are words.  I have made it splendid with fact.


Peter.  How?


Julius.  I have filled Rome with palaces, trains of mules and horses, troops of servants, armies and officers.


Spirit.  With scarlet women and the like.


Julius.  With purple and gold, with revenues so vast that kings are poor beside the Roman Pontiff.  Glory, luxury, hoards of treasure, these are splendours, and these all I have created.


 Peter.  Pray, inform me.  The Church had nothing of all this when it was founded by Christ.  Whence came all this splendour, as you call it?


Julius.  No matter whence.  We have it and we enjoy it.  They say Constantine made a present to Pope Sylvester of the empire of the world.  I don't believe it.  None but a fool would have given away an empire.  But it stops the mouths of people who ask questions.






Peter.  At any rate, this is the worldly side.  How about the other?  ...."  [170].


"....Peter.  Enough, enough, most valorous boaster.  Those heathens were human compared to you—you, who triumphed because so many thousand Christians had been salin for your ambition; you, a Holy Father in Christ, who never did good to any single soul in word or deed—precious Father, worthy vicar of Him who spent Himself that He might save all; you, who have spread desolation through the world for the sake of your own single pestilent self!


Julius.  Mere envy!  You perceive what a poor wretch of a bishop you were compared to me.


Peter.  Insolent wretch!  Dare you compare your glory with mine?—and mine was Christ's, and not my own.  Christ gave to me the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, trusted His sheep to my feeding and sealed my faith with His approval.  Fraud, usury, and cunning made you Pope, if Pope you are to be called.  I gained thousands of souls to Christ:  you have destroyed as many thousands.  I brought heathen Rome to acknowledge Christ:  you have made it heathen again.  I healed the sick, cast out devils, restored the dead to life, and brought a blessing with me where I went.  What blessings have you and your triumphs brought?  I used my power for he good of all:  you have used yours to crush and vex mankind.


Julius.  You have not told the whole.  You have left out of your list poverty, vigils, toils, prisons, chains, blows, and the cross to end with.


Peter.  You do well to remind me.  I glory in those sufferings more than in miracles.  It was in them that Christ bade us rejoice, and called us blessed.  Paul did not talk of the cities which he had stormed, the legions which he had slaughtered, the princes whom he had entangled in war:  he talked of shipwrecks, bonds, disgraces, stripes.  These were his apostolic triumphs, these were the glories of a Christian general...."  [171].



[part of a letter of Erasmus, to Father Servatius] "....I say nothing of my writings.  You, perhaps, despise them; though there are persons who believe them to be not without merit.  But I have not sought money, and have little sought fame.  Pleasures have tempted me, but I have not been their slave, and grossness I have always abhorred.  What should I gain by rejoining you?  I should be an object of malice, envy, and contemptuous tittle-tattle.  Your festivals have no flavour of Christ, and your way of life does not edify me.  My health is still weak.  I should be






useless to you, and to myself it would be death.  I can drink nothing but wine.  I have to be nice in what I eat.  Too well I know your climate and the character of your food, to say nothing of your manners.  I should die of it, I know.  You may say I cannot die better than among my brethren.  I am not so sure of that.  Your religion is in your dress.  You think it sin to change from a white frock to a black, or from a hood to a cap.  Your religious orders, as you call them, have done the Church small service.  They divided among themselves; indulgences followed, and dispensations, and nothing is worse than relaxed religion.  There is no religion left in it save forms, which please the monk's vanity, and make them fancy themselves superior to the rest of mankind.  You ask me if I do not wish for a quiet home, where I can rest in my old age.  Solon and Pythagoras traveled.  Plato traveled, and the Apostles, specially St. Paul.  I do not compare myself to them.  But when I have moved about it has been for my health or for my work.  I have been invited to Spain, Italy, Germany, France, England, and Scotland by the most distinguished people there.  I am well liked at Rome.  The cardinals and the present Pope treated me like a brother.  I am not rich, and I do not wish to be rich; but I have learning, which they value in Italy, though you Netherlanders care little for it...."  [177].



[part of a letter of Erasmus] "....There are monasteries where there is no discipline, and which are worse than brothelsut prae his lupanaria sint et magis sobria et magis pudica.  There are others where religion is nothing but ritual; and these are worse than the first, for the Spirit of God is not in them, and they are inflated with self-righteousness.  There are those, again, where the brethren are so sick of the imposture that they keep it up only to deceive the vulgar.  The houses are rare indeed where the rule is seriously observed, and even if these few, if you look to the bottom, you will find small sincerity.  But there is craft, and plenty of it—craft enough to impose on mature men, not to say innocent boys; and this is called profession.  Suppose a house where all is as it ought to be, you have no security that it will continue so.  A good superior may be followed by a fool or a tyrant, or an infected brother may introduce a moral plague.  True, in extreme cases a monk may change his house, or even may change his order, but leave is rarely given.  There is always a suspicion of something wrong, and on the least complaint such a person is sent back.  And besides, how can he know that the house to which he goes is better than the house which he is leaving?  The change is but a throw of the dice.  He may find himself worse off than he was.






            Young men are fooled and cheated into joining these orders.  Once in the toils, they are broken in and trained into Pharisees.  They may repent, but the superiors will not let them go, lest they should betray the orgies which they have witnessed.  They crush them down with scourge and penance, the secular arm, chanceries and dungeons.  Nor is this the worst.  Cardinal Matteo1 said at a public dinner before a large audience, naming place and persons, that the Dominicans had buried a young man alive whose father demanded his son's release.  A Polish noble who had fallen asleep in a church saw two Franciscans buried alive; yet these wretches call themselves the representatives of Benedict and Basil and Jerome.  A monk may be drunk every day.  He may go with loose women secretly or openly.  He may waste the Church's money on vicious pleasures.  He may be a quack or a charlatan, and all the while be an excellent brother and fit to be made an abbot; while one who for the best of reasons lays aside his frock is howled at as an apostate.2  Surely the true apostate is he who goes into sensuality, pomp, vanity, the lusts of he flesh, the sins which he renounced at his baptism.  All of us would think him a worse man than the other if the commonness of such characters did not hide their deformity.  Monks of abandoned lives notoriously swarm over Christendom.  These are the true apostates, and on them the hated name ought to fall though they may still wear the cowl.


            It is not wicked, then, my friend, to entangle young men by false representations in such an abominable net?  Monks whose lives are openly infamous draw boys after them into destruction.  The convent at best is but a miserable bondage, and if there be outward decency (as among so many there must be some undepraved), a knot which cannot be loosed may be still fatal to soul and body."  [180-181].



            [Froude] "Reform was in the air—reform, or some more dangerous change.  What Erasmus wished, what Leo and the Cardinal [Cardinal Wolsey?] wished, what Warham and More and Colet and Fisher wished in England, is tolerably clear.  They saw popular Christianity degraded [described] into a superstition; the clergy loose and ignorant; practical religion a blind idolatry; the laity the victims of the mendicant friars, who enslaved them through the confessional; theology, a body of dogmatic propositions developed into an unintelligible scholasticism, without practical bearing upon life.  Wise men desired to see superstition corrected, the Scriptures made the rule of faith and practice, the friars brought to their bearings and perhaps suppressed, the clergy generally disciplined and educated.  They had no wish to touch the Church or diminish its






splendour.  The Church was, or might be, a magnificent instrument of human cultivation, and might grow with the expansion of knowledge.


            Something of this kind was, or seemed then to be, possible.  But the devil is not expelled by rose-water.  A few months after this letter [to Fabricius Capito (not presented)] was written the sky was black with thunderclouds, and a storm had opened which raged for two long centuries.  Mankind are not relieved so easily of the consequences of their own follies."  [193] [end of Lecture IX].





            Fortune appeared to have changed her face to Erasmus after the publication of the New Testament and the 'Encomium Moriae [Praise of Folly]."  Relieved of his monastic vow, favoured by his own Government, and applauded by the general voice of Europe, with sufficient money besides and with the full command of his own time, he had conquered a position for himself in which he might now pursue calmly the great objects of his life, and achieve the intellectual regeneration of the Church under the aegis of Pope Leo himself.  The great powers of Europe contended for the possession of him.  Henry VIII. and Wolsey made fresh efforts to recover him to England.  The Pactolus which he had looked for six years before and had not found was now ready to flow:  a fine house in London with a handsome income was placed at his disposition if he chose to accept it.  Francis I., among his first acts on succeeding to the crown, invited Erasmus back to Paris.  Leo was eager to receive him again at Rome.  Minor magnates in Church and State would have secured if they could so splendid an ornament to their courts, while at Brussels he was welcomed so warmly by the young Archduke Charles and his brother Ferdinand that, if he desire preferment, it seemed that he had but to ask and to have."  [194-195].



            '....The storm proved more angry and more dangerous than either More or Erasmus expected. 


            [Erasmus] You will hardly believe (Erasmus writes a little later to Ammonius) how near I escaped being burnt, the divines at Louvain were in such a rage at me.  They petitioned the King and the Pope to throw me over.  I went to Louvain myself and scattered the smoke.  The great people and the literati broke up the conspiracy at home, but I still wait for the decree of the Roman oracle.  If I do not get a final decision in my favour there is an end of Erasmus, and nothing will remain but to write his epitaph.  I had sooner have made two journeys to Rome than be tortured by this delay.






            [Froude] There was nothing to be afraid of from Rome.  Leo decided all the points, whatever they were that were put before him, in Erasmus's favour, and the Louvain theologians were left to their own pens and their own voices, which, it must be allowed, they knew how to use.  Erasmus found them abundant material.  The edition of the New Testament was followed by paraphrases on the various books, giving life and meaning to a narrative which had been trampled into barrenness by mechanical repetition or conventional interpretation.'  [197].



"The 'Epistolae obscurorum Virorum' [1515 – 1517] was but one of many anonymous publications poured out by Von Hutten and the young passionate champions of light in defence of Reuchlin, and heaping ridicule on his prosecutors.  Erasmus being the special object of the monks' hatred, they were all attributed to his own pen or his own instigation.  He had to publish a defence of himself, which he detested doing.  He tried, but tried in vain, to convince those hot-spirited youths that they were hurting their own cause by offending the civil power and the bishops, who would be their best protectors if they would keep their invectives within the limits of legitimate satire.  He was stumbling over the roots of the trees which he had himself planted, and he did not like it at all...."  [200].



"[Luther] made his profession as a monk in an Augustinian convent.  He was not content with the usual exercises of the rule.  He prayed perpetually.  He slept on the stones, fasted, watched, welcomed all the hardships which Erasmus most abhorred.  In the library he found a copy of the New Testament lying dusty on the shelves.  He studied it, digested it, discovered the extraordinary contrast between the Christianity which was taught in the Gospels and Epistles and the Christianity of the monasteries.  He was perplexed, filled with doubts and misery, and knew not what to do or where to turn.  He increased his austerities, supposing that he might be tempted by the devil.  In the convent he became marked for the intensity of his earnestness, and was supposed to be maturing for a saint.  The house to which he belonged had business at the Court of Rome.  Luther was selected as one of the brethren who were sent thither to represent the fraternity.  Erasmus went to Italy as a companion to rich young Englishmen, with horses and luxuries.  Luther went too, but Luther walked there barefoot and penniless, passed on through the houses of his order from one to another.  But both witnessed the same scenes and experienced the same sensations at the sight of Julius II. calling himself the successor of St. Peter.  Luther, too, saw the cardinals, the hinges of Christendom, with their palaces and retinues and mistresses.  He saw Papal Rome in all its magnificence of art, and wealth, and power.  He and Erasmus were alike conscious of the monstrous absurdity.  






But Erasmus, while he wondered, could also admire and enjoy.  He [Erasmus] found human life cultivated into intellectual grace.  He found the extraordinary cardinals,


[the future] Leo X. being then one of them, open-minded, liberal, learned, skeptical, and scornful as himself [erasmus] of the follies of the established creed,


and refined even in their personal vices.  He did not admire the vices, but he admired the men.  Humanity, as represented in the circle which surrounded the Papacy, appeared to him [Erasmus] infinitely superior to the barbarism and superstition of Western Christendom.  He wanted Western Christendom to be educated and renovated, and he thought enlightened popes and prelates to be competent instruments for the work.


            The impression formed upon Luther by the culture and magnificence was totally different.  To him it seemed an impious parody.  He had kissed [see 770-771] the ground when he came in sight of Rome, expecting to find it the nursery of godliness.  Of godliness he saw not a trace, or a trace of wish for such a thing.  Erasmus despised superstition.  If it be superstitious to believe that man is placed in this world to learn God's will and do it, that life has no other meaning, and that splendour and luxury rather hinder than help in the pursuit of duty, then Luther was as superstitious as the most ignorant hermit that ever macerated his body in a desert...."  [206-207].                     



"Pamphlet followed pamphlet, and it was soon open war, with the laity of Europe for an audience, cheering on the audacious rebel [Martin Luther].  The vibration of the shock reached Erasmus, and was received by him with very mixed feelings.  At first he admitted that he felt a secret pleasure.  If Luther could succeed in putting down the system of indulgences there would be one imposture the less, and he was not sorry that the Church should be made to face the danger of postponing longer the inevitable reforms.  But he was in the midst of his own battle.  He did not wish to be burdened with further responsibilities.  Least of all could he wish that his quarrel with the monks should be complicated with an attack upon the Pope, who was his own chief support.  Nor had he any particular sympathy with Luther's way of looking at things.  He [Erasmus] hated tyranny.  He had an intellectual contempt for lies and ignorance, backed up by bigotry and superstition.  He was ready and willing to fight angry monks and scholastics.  But he had none of the passionate horror of falsehood in sacred things which inspired the new movement.  He [Erasmus] had no passionate emotions of any kind, and rather dreaded than welcomed the effervescence of religious enthusiasm.  The faults of the Church, as he saw them, were






oblivion and absolute neglect of ordinary morality, the tendency to substitute for obedience to the Ten Commandments an extravagant superstition chiefly built upon fiction, and a doctrinal system, hardening and stiffening with each generation, which was made the essence of religion, defined by ecclesiastical law, guarded by ecclesiastical courts, and enforced by steel and fire.  His dream was a return to early Christianity as it was before councils had laid the minds of men in chains; a Christianity of practice, not of opinion, where the Church itself might consent to leave the intellect free to think as it pleased on the inscrutable mysteries; and where, as the Church would no longer insist on particular forms of belief, mankind would cease to hate and slaughter each other because they differed on points of metaphysics.  In Luther he saw the same disposition to dogmatic assertion at the opposite pole of thought; an intolerance of denial as dangerous as the churchman's intolerance of affirmation.  What could Luther, what could any man know of the real essence of the Divine Will and Nature?  Canons of orthodoxy were but reflections of human passion and perversity.  If Luther's spirit spread, dogma would be met with dogma, each calling itself the truth; reason could never end disputes which did not originate in reason, but originated in bigotry or a too eager imagination.  From argument there would be a quick resort to the sword, and the whole world would be full of fury and madness.  How well Erasmus judged two centuries of religious wars were to tell.  The wheel has come round at last.  The battle for liberty of opinion has been fought out to the bitter end.  Common-sense has been taught at last [again] that persecution for opinions must cease...."  [212-213].



            'Nero fiddled while Rome was burning [another Fiction (see, 1629)].  Leo X. trying to occupy the mind of Europe with fighting or converting Turks while Luther was setting Germany on fire was a feat not very dissimilar.

            At greater length Erasmus poured out his disappointment and indignation to his friend Abbot Volzius, who became afterwards a Calvinist.1


            [letter of Erasmus] We are not, I presume, to kill all the Turks.  The survivors are to be made Christians, and we are to send them our Occams and our Scoti as missionaries.  I wonder what the Turks will think when they hear about instances and causes formative, about quiddities and relativities, and see our own theologians cursing and spitting at each other, the preaching friars crying up their St. Thomas, the Minorities their Doctor Seraphicus, the Nominalists and Realists wrangling about the nature of the Second Person of the Trinity as if Christ was a malignant demon ready to destroy you if you made a mistake about His nature.  While our lives and manners remain as depraved as they now are  






the Turks will see in us but so many rapacious and licentious vermin.  How are we to make the Turks believe in Christ till we show that we believe in Him ourselves?  Reduce the Articles of Faith to the fewest and simplest—'Quae pertinent ad fidem quam paucissimis articulis absolvantur.'  Show them that Christ's yoke is easy, that we are shepherds and not robbers, and do not mean to oppress them.  Send them messengers such as these instead of making war [compare:  George W. Bush (Christian), President of the United States, his administration, and:  Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.], and then we may effect some good.  But, oh!  what an age we live in.  When were morals more corrupt?—ritual and ceremony walking hand in hand with vice, and wretched mortals caring only to fill their purses.  Christ cannot be taught even among Christians.  The cry is only for pardons, dispensations, and indulgences, and the trade goes on in the name of popes and princes, and even of Christ Himself.  Ask a question of the scholastic divines and the casuists, and you are told of qualifications, of equivocations, and such like.  Not one of them will say to you, Do this and leave that.  They ought to show their faith in their works, and convert Turks by the beauty of their lives.'  [220-221].



            "Erasmus, moving between Louvain and Bâle, was noting anxiously the spread of the conflagration [related to Luther, et al.], more and more uncertain what part to take, and breaking out, as men will do when they see things going as they do not like, into lamentations on the wickedness of the world.


            Princes, he well knew, disliked and feared popular movements.  Rebellion against the Pope might turn easily into rebellion against themselves.  Possibly enough they might combine to put the whole thing down; and then, as he sadly recognised, the forcible suppression of Luther would give the victory to his own enemies, and he and all that he had done or tried to do would be crushed along with this new insurgent.  Or it might be that the princes might try and fail, and there would be revolution and civil war.  In that case ought he not, must he not declare himself on Luther's side?  He had told Wolsey that his place would be always with the Pope [Leo X], but the Pope had not then gone to extremities.


            As it was, the blame of what had happened was thrown upon him, and not altogether without justice.  At that very moment he was doing Luther's work.  His New Testament and his 'Moria' [Praise of Folly] were circulating in hundreds of thousands of copies, bringing the monks and theologians into scorn.  Naturally enough his opponents saw their own predictions confirmed.  Here is what comes of your Greek and Hebrew...."  [223].






            [Froude] 'Erasmus was ill this summer at Bâle (1518) with cough and dysentery.  The worse he was the more he pined for England.  He had decided to go there if his health would let him, whether invited or not.


                        [letter of Erasmus] I would like well to know whether I have anything to look for with you (he wrote to Cuthbert Tunstall1 ["1Then Master of the Rolls, afterwards Bishop of London and of Durham."  [226]]).  I grow old.  I am not as strong as I was.  If I could have the additional hundred marks which the King offered me some time back I would ask no more.  Here I have nothing to look for.  The Chancellor, on whom I chiefly depended, is dead in Spain.  His chaplain writes that if he had lived three months longer he would have provided for me.  Cold comfort.  Nowhere in the world is learning worse neglected than here.


            Trouble enough and anxiety enough!  Yet in the midst of bad health and furious monks—it is the noblest feature in him—his industry never slackened, and he drew out of his difficulties the materials which made his name immortal.  He was for ever on the wing, searching libraries, visiting learned men, consulting with politicians or princes.  His correspondence was enormous.  His letters on literary subjects are often treatises in themselves, and go where he would his eyes were open to all things and persons.  His writings were passing through edition on edition.  He was always adding and correcting; while new tracts, new editions of the Fathers show an acuteness of attention and an extent of reading which to a modern student seems beyond the reach of any single intellect. Yet he was no stationary scholar confined to desk or closet.  He was out in the world, traveling from city to city, gathering materials among all places and all persons, from palace to village alehouse, and missing nothing which had meaning or amusement in it.  In all literary history there is no more extraordinary figure.  Harassed by orthodox theologians, uncertain of his duties in the revolutionary tempest, doubtful in what country to find rest or shelter, anxious for his future, [Erasmus] anxious for his life (for he knew how Orthodoxy hated him, and he had no wish to be a martyr in an ambiguous cause), he was putting together another work which, like 'Moria [The Praise of Folly],' was to make his name immortal.  Of his learned productions, brilliant as they were, Erasmus thought but little.  He considered them hastily and inaccurately done; he even wondered how anyone could read them.  But his letters, his 'Moria,' and now the 'Colloquies,' which he was composing in his intervals of leisure, are pictures of his own mind, pictures of men and things which show the hand of an artist in the highest sense, never spiteful, never malicious, always delightful and amusing....'  [226-227].






            [Froude] 'Occasionally in his [Erasmus] letters we find adventures of his own which might have served for an additional chapter in the 'Colloquies.'  I mentioned his illness at Bâle in the summer of 1518.  On his recovery in the autumn he had to return to Louvain.  He went back with a heavy heart, expecting to find his tormentors there.  He reached Louvain so ill that he was confined to his room for six weeks, and the surgeons thought his disorder had been the plague.  The description of his [Erasmus] journey which he gave to Beatus Rhenanus is a companion picture to the journey to Brindisi.1  ....


            [Erasmus] ....At the hotel at Cologne I ordered breakfast at ten o'clock, with a carriage and pair to be ready immediately after.  I went to church, came back to find no breakfast, and a carriage not to be had.  My horse being disabled, I tried to hire another.  I was told this could not be done either.  I saw what it meant.  I was to be kept at Cologne, and I did not choose to be kept; so I ordered my poor nag to be saddled, lame as he was, with another for my servant, and I started on a five hours' journey for the Count of New Eagle.  I had five pleasant days with the Count, whom I found a young man of sense.  I had meant, if the autumn was fine, to go on to England and close with the King's repeated offers to me.  From this dream I was precipitated into a gulf of perdition.  A carriage had been ordered for me for the next morning.  The Count would not take leave of me overnight, meaning to see me before I started.  The night was wild.  I rose before dawn to finish off some work.  At seven, the Count not appearing, I sent to call him.  He came, and protested that I must not leave his house in such weather.  I must have lost half my mind when I went to Cologne.  My evil genius now carried off the other half.  Go I would, in an open carriage, with wind enough to tear up oak-trees.  It came from the south and charged with pestilence.  Towards evening wind changed to rain.  I reached Aix shaken to pieces by the bad roads.  I should have done better on my lame horse.  At Aix a canon to whom the Count had recommended me carried me off to the house of the Precentor to sup.  Other Cathedral dignitaries were also of the party.  My light breakfast had sharpened my appetite, and there was nothing to eat but cold carp.  I filled myself as I could, and went early to bed under plea that I had not slept the night before.  Next day I was taken to the Vice-Provost, whose table usually was well provided, but on this occasion, owing to the weather, he had nothing to offer but eels.  These I could not touch, and I had to fall back on salt cod, called 'bacalao,' from the sticks they beat it with.  It was almost raw.  Breakfast over, I returned to the inn and ordered a fire.  The canon stayed an hour and a half talking.  My stomach then went into a crisis.  A finger in my mouth brought on vomiting.  Up came the raw cod, and I lay down exhausted.  The pain passed off. 






I settled with the driver about my luggage, and was then called to the table d' hôte supper.  I tried to excuse myself.  I knew by experience that I ought to touch nothing but warm sops.  However, they had made their preparations for me, so attend I must.  After the soup I retreated to the Precentor's to sleep.  Another wild night.  Breakfast in the morning, a mouthful of bread and a cup of warm beer, and then to my lame beast.  I ought to have been in bed, but I disliked Aix and its ways, and longed to be off.  I had been suffering from piles, and the riding increased the inflammation.  After a few miles we came to the bridge over the Meuse, where I had some broth, and thence on to Tongres.  The pain then grew horrible.  I would have walked, but I was afraid of perspiring or being out after nightfall.  I reached Tongres very ill all over.  I slept, however, a little; had some warm beer again in the morning, and ordered a close carriage.  The road turned out to be paved with flint.  I could not bear the jolting, and mounted one of the horses.  A sudden chill, and I fainted, and was put back into the carriage.  After a while I recovered a little, and again tried to ride.  In the evening I was sick, and told the driver I would pay him double if he would bring me early to my next stage.  A miserable night—suffering dreadful.  In the morning I found there was a carriage with four horses going straight through to Louvain.  I engaged it and arrived the next night in an agony of pain.  Fearing that my own rooms would be cold, I drove to the house of my kind friend Theodoric, the printer.  An ulcer broke in the night, and I was easier.  I send for a surgeon.  He finds another on my back; glands swollen and boils forming all over me.  He tells Theodoric's servant that I have the plague, and that he will not come near me again.  Theodoric brings the message.  I don't believe it.  I send for a Jew doctor, who wishes his body was as sound as mine.  The surgeon persists that it is the plague, and so does his father.  I call in the best physician in the town, who says that he would have no objection to sleep with me.  The Hebrew holds to his opinion.  Another fellow makes a long face at the ulcers.  I give him a gold crown, and tell him to come again the next day, which he refuses to do.  I send doctors to the devil, commend myself to Christ, and am well in three days.  Who could believe that this frail body of mine could have borne such a shaking?  When I was young I was greatly afraid of dying.  I fear it less as I grow older.  Happiness does not depend on age.  I am now fifty, a term of life which many do not reach, and I cannot complain that I have not lived long enough.'  [229, 231-233].



            [Froude] 'Unfortunate Erasmus!  No sooner was he quit of his bodily tortures than his old enemies opened fire again upon him. 






He [Erasmus] sent Colet a short account of his calamities on his journey, with a glimpse of the condition of his mind:—


                        [Erasmus] You often call Erasmus unlucky.  What would you call him if you saw him now?  Who would credit me with strength to survive such a tossing, to say nothing of sycophant divines who bite at my back when to my face they dare not?  The [new edition of the] New Testament will be out soon.  The Comments on the Apostolic Epistles are in the press.  The Paraphrases will follow.  The Archbishop of Mentz, still a young man, has disgraced himself by accepting a cardinal's hat and becoming a Pope's monk.  Oh, my dear Colet, what a fate for a human soul!  We make tyrants out of priests and gods out of men.  Princes, popes, Turks combine to make the world miserable.  Christ grows obsolete, and is going the way of Moses.


            [Froude] Faster and faster copies of the New Testament spread over Europe, and with it the wrath of the orthodox....'  [233-234].



[Froude] "Luther had always professed himself willing to argue the question of the indulgences, and to submit if they were shown to be legitimate.  He had been so far a quiet peaceful man, with an unblemished reputation, which was more than could be said of many of his accusers.  The Pope's Bull had offended every reasonable man, and, in fact, he advised the Elector to refuse till the cause had been publicly heard.  The advice was the more creditable to Erasmus, because he knew that if it came to a struggle he would be himself in danger.  He was not inclined to be a martyr, and in extremity meant to imitate St. Peter.  So at least he said, but perhaps he would have been better than his word.  He wrote to the President of Holland, strongly deprecating the Pope's action.  'I am surprised,' he said, 'that the Pope should have sent Commissioners on the business so violent and ignorant.  Cardinal Cajetan is arrogant and overbearing; Miltitz is little better; and Aleander is a maniac'—worse indeed than a maniac, in Erasmus's secret opinion.1  Aleander had been bred in the Court of Alexander VI.  The Court of Rome had determined one way or another to rid themselves of the troublesome Saxon monk.  If he could not be disposed of in the regular fashion, there were other methods.  'They will now probably take Luther off by poison,' Erasmus wrote, 'as certain of his defenders have been removed in Paris.  This possibly is among the instructions:  that when the enemies of the Holy See cannot be got rid of otherwise, they may be taken off by poison with his Holiness's blessing.  Everyone is an enemy of the Faith with these harpies if he will not submit to them in everything.  Aleander is an old hand at such business.  He asked me to dine with him at Cologne.  He was so urgent that I thought it prudent to decline.'2  'The apostolic rod no longer sufficing,' he says elsewhere,






'they will first try prisons, chains, stake, and gallows, cannon and armies, and if these won't do they will fall back on the cup[poison].'"  [240-241].


[Froude] 'Erasmus could not attach himself to Luther, yet he was uncertain of the part which he ought to take, and the violence of the orthodox was increasingly intolerable to him.  The year 1519 was waning out.  The Diet which was to decide Luther's fate was still delayed by the Emperor's absence in Spain.  In November Erasmus writes to a friend:—


                        I thought I knew something of mankind, having had so much experience of them; but I have discovered such brutes (belluas) among Christians as I could not have believed to exist.  Your account of the disorder in Germany is most vivid.  It is due partly to the natural fierceness of the race, partly to the division into so many separate States, and partly to the tendency of the people to serve as mercenaries.  As to the quarrels of religion, the misfortune would be less if those who object to the existing order of things were in agreement.  But we are all at issue one with another.  Strange as it may seem, there are even men among us who think, like Epicurus [(my guess) and Erasmus!], that the soul dies with the body.  Mankind are great fools, and will believe anything.'  [260].





            Among the higher clergy there were many who had welcomed and encouraged the revival of learning, but were perplexed and alarmed—alarmed partly for themselves—at the storm which had since broken out.  They were the more anxious that Erasmus should not commit himself.  The publication of Erasmus's letters, many of them so bitter against the monks and the scholastics, had added to their fears, and one of these moderate persons, Louis Marlianus, a bishop,1 had written to him in distress.


            Erasmus answers at length, and you can trace how his mind was working:—


March 25, 1520.


            [Erasmus] You caution me against entangling myself with Luther.  I have taken your advice, and have done my utmost to keep things quiet.  Luther's party have urged me to join him, and Luther's enemies have done their best to drive me to it by their furious attacks on me in their sermons.  Neither have succeeded.  Christ I know:  Luther I know not.  The Roman Church I know, and death will not part me from it till the






Church departs from Christ.  I abhor sedition.  Would that Luther and the Germans abhorred it equally.  It is strange to see how the two factions goad each other on, as if they were in collusion.  Luther has hurt himself more than he has hurt his opponents by his last effusions, while the attacks on him are so absurd that many think the Pope wrong in spite of themselves.  I approve of those who stand by the Pope, but I could wish them to be wiser than they are.  They would devour Luther off hand.  They may eat him [LUTHER] boiled or roast for all that I care [my guess:  this hyperbole is a defense of Luther], but they mistake in linking him and me together, and they can finish him more easily without me than with me.  I am surprised at Aleander; we were once friends.  He was instructed to conciliate, when he was sent over, the Pope not wishing to push matters to extremity.  He would have done better to act with me.  He would have found me with him, and not against him, on the Pope's prerogative.


                        They pretend that Luther had borrowed from me.  No lie can be more impudent.  He may have borrowed from me as heretics borrow from Evangelists and Apostles, but not a syllable else.  I beseech you, protect me from such calumnies.  Let my letters be examined.  I may have written unguardedly, but that is all.  Inquire into my conversation.  You will find that I have said nothing except that Luther ought to be answered and not crushed....


The actual facts of things are not to be blurted out at all times and places, and in all companies.  But every wise man knows that doctrines and usages have been introduced into the Church which have no real sanction, partly by custom, partly through obsequious canonists, partly by scholastic definitions, partly by the tricks and arts of secular sovereigns.  Such excrescences must be removed, though the medicine must be administered cautiously, lest it make the disorder worse and the patient die. 


Plato says that men in general cannot appreciate reasoning, and may be deceived for their good [compare Eusebius controversy, via Roger Pearse, and, Richard Carrier]. 


I know not whether this be right or wrong.  For myself I prefer to be silent and introduce no novelties into religion....


            [Froude] This letter is entirely honest.  It shows you precisely how Erasmus was placed, how he thought, and how he acted.  I presume you know







generally what was going on; but I must say a few words to keep the position plain before you.


            The world was changing and the Church party would not understand it.  In the first great fight between the clergy and the laity, in the twelfth century, the clergy had won.  They asserted, and they made the world believe them, that they were a supernatural order trusted with the keys of heaven and hell.  The future fate of every soul depended on their absolution.  They only could bind and loose.  They only could bring down Christ from heaven into the sacrament.  They were a peculiar priesthood, amenable to no laws but their own, while the laity were amenable to theirs, and as long as this belief subsisted they were shielded by an enchanted atmosphere.  By them kings reigned; all power was derived from God, and they were God's earthly representatives, and in the confidence of this assumed authority they had raised a superstructure of intolerable and irresponsible tyranny.  They were men, and they might commit crimes, but they could not be punished by any secular law.  They were tempted like others to vicious pleasures, but vice did not impair either their rights or their powers.  Impunity had produced its natural effect, and in the centuries succeeding they had fallen into the condition which the letters of Erasmus describe.


            The patience of the world was worn out.  Luther's first blow was at indulgences.  He followed it afterwards by striking at the heart of the imposition in treating the priesthood merely as a point of order in the Church, the supernatural power a dream and an illusion, and the Papacy an anti-Christian usurpation. 


Luther's words expressed the secret convictions of the laity of Northern Europe. 


Pardons, excommunications, dispensations, absolutions, the hated confessional, the worse hated ecclesiastical courts, the entire system of spiritual domination rocked under the blow. 


From Norway to the Rhine, from Vienna to the Irish Channel, German, Frank, Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon, the vigorous and manly part of them cried with a common voice, 'The clergy are but as other men.  It is an imposture, we will bear it no longer.'  No wonder the monks raged.  It was no time for Erasmus and his arguments.  The fire must be put out, or they were gone.  They were still, as Erasmus said, terribly powerful.  They had on their side the reverence for things long established, the dread of touching the Sacred Ark, the consciences of the timid, and the passion of the fanatical, the alarm of princes and politicians at the shaking of beliefs which had been the cement of human society.  To all this






they were prepared to appeal to crush out the flame at its rising, to fight with it for life or death—for life or death it was to them; to burn, to kill, to set nation against nation, family against family, brother against brother, subjects against sovereigns, and sovereigns against subjects, anything to keep inviolate the ark of their own supremacy.  With what fatal success a century of bloodshed was to tell....'  [261-265].



            'Blacker and blacker the sky grew.  Leo [Leo X] had first ridiculed Luther, then grew frightened, wrote to the Elector of Saxony to silence him, seize him [Luther], send him prisoner to Rome.  He had sent cardinal legates to threaten, to persuade, to bribe; but all ineffectually.  In weak haste he issued the Bull defending the indulgences, condemning Luther's writings, and ordering every priest in Germany to preach against them....


Erasmus sate [now, sat] at Louvain observing the gathering of the storm.  His chief hope was in the Elector of Saxony, who had sent him a gold medal in acknowledgment of his services.


            Writing his thanks to George Spalatin, July 6, 1520, he [Erasmus] says:—


                        [Erasmus] May Christ direct Luther's actions to God's glory, and confound those who are seeking their own interests.  In Luther's enemies I perceive more of the spirit of this world than of the Spirit of God.  I wish Luther himself would be quiet for a while.  He injures learning, and does himself no good, while mortals and manners grow worse and worse.  What he says may be true, but there are times and seasons.  Truth need not always be proclaimed on the house-top.


[Froude] Erasmus, like all men of real genius, had a light elastic nature....'  [266, 267].



[Erasmus] "....The Sunday after he [Nicolas Egmond] preached the same sermon at Antwerp, and added that such fellows as I should be sent to the stake unless they repented.  He was like a drunken orator spouting from a wagon.  An ally of Luther?  I have never been an ally of Luther.  There are good and learned men who maintain that Luther has written nothing for which there is not sound authority; and I neither approve nor ever will approve of crushing a man before he has been confuted by reason and Scripture, and allowed an opportunity for recanting.  If this be to favour him, many a wise man is on his side.  Even the Pope's Bull,






smacking though it does of those tyrannical mendicants, gives him time to repent.  The clergy are told to preach against him, but they need not call him Antichrist or a monster of wickedness.  I advised that he should be read and answered, and that there should be no appealing to the mob.  You know how things have gone.  There are thousands of Rabbins who are gods in their own eyes.  Not one of them has attempted a real reply.  Men of noble natures may be led, but cannot be forced.  Tyrants drive, asses are driven.  By burning Luther's books you may rid him of your bookshelves, but you will not rid him out of the minds of mankind."  [274].





"To Conrad Peutinger, Councillor of the Empire.1       November 9, 1520.


            We have been consulting how this tornado can be quieted.  If not wisely handled it may wreck the Christian religion itself.  Fearful consequences have come of lighter causes, and for myself I think, like Cicero [106 – 43 b.c.e.], that a bad peace is better than the justest war.  The quarrel has gone deeper than I like.  It is not yet past cure, but the wound must be so healed that it shall not break out again.  Strong measures are wanted.  The Pope's authority as Christ's Vicar must be upheld, but in upholding it Gospel truth must not be sacrificed.  Leo, I believe, thinks on this as we do.  The question is not what Luther deserves, but what is best for the peace of the world...."  [275].



[Erasmus]                             'To Campegio.1                          December 6, 1520.


                        Jerome, who was himself a monk, was the most effective painter of monastic vices, and sketches with satiric salt the lives of the brothers and sisters.  The scene is shifted, the actors are changed, but the play is the same.  When the Reuchlin storm was over came these writings of Luther, and they snatched at them to finish Reuchlin, Erasmus and learning all together.  They cried that learning was producing heresies, schisms and Antichrist, and they published my private letters to the Archbishop of Mentz and to Luther.  As to Luther himself, I perceived that the better a man was the less he was Luther's enemy.  The world was sick of teaching which gave it nothing but glosses and formulas, and was thirsting after the water of life from the Gospels and Epistles.  I approved of what seemed good in his work.  I told him in a letter that if he would moderate his language, he might be a shining light, and that the






Pope, I did not doubt, would be his friend.  What was there in this to cry out against?  I gave him the truest and kindest advice.  I had never seen him—I have not seen him at all.  I had read little that he had written, nor had matters taken their present form.  A few persons only were clamouring at him in alarm for their own pockets.  They called on me to pronounce against him.  The same persons had said before that I was nothing by a grammarian.  How was a grammarian to decide a point of heresy?  I said I could not do it till I had examined his authorities.  He had taken his opinions from the early Fathers, and if he had quoted them by name he could hardly have been censured.  I said I had no leisure for it, nor could I indeed properly meddle when great persons were busy in replying to him.  They accused me of encouraging him by telling him that he had friends in England.  I told him so to induce him to listen to advice.  Not a creature hitherto has given him any friendly counsel at all.  No one has yet answered him or pointed out his faults.  They have merely howled out heresy and Antichrist....


            [Froude] This letter has been often quoted, among others, to prove that Erasmus was a mean creature, and had not the courage of his convictions.  I do not know that a readiness to be a martyr is a very sublime quality, or that those who needlessly rush on their own destruction show any particular wisdom.  Such supreme sacrifice may at times become a duty, but only when a man has not better use for his life.  It is not a duty of which he need go in search.  I am tempted to make a general observation. 


Princes, statesmen, thinkers who have played a great part in the direction of human affairs, have been men of superior character, men in whose presence ordinary persons are conscious of inferiority.  Their biographers—the writers of history generally—are of commoner metal. 


They resent, perhaps unconsciously, the sense that they stand on a lower level, and revenge their humiliation when they come to describe great men by attributing to them the motives which influence themselves.  Unable to conceive, or unwilling to admit, that men of lofty character may have had other objects than are familiar to their personal experience, they delight to show that the great were not great after all, but were very poor creatures, inferior, when the truth is known about them, to the relator of their actions; and they [biographers] have thus reduced history to the dungheap of humiliating nonsense which a large part of it has unfortunately become.


            I do not wish to say more.  You will take my observation for what it is worth.'  [277-278, 279-280] [end of Lexture XIII].








            [Froude] Erasmus, I consider, may be pardoned for not wishing to be burnt at the stake in a cause with which he had imperfect sympathy.  Burning at the stake is not pleasant in itself, and there is no occasion to go in search of it.  The Papacy was the only visible centre of spiritual authority.  Revolution meant anarchy and consequences which none could foresee.  As long as there was a hope that the Pope might take a reasonable course, a sensible person might still wish to make the best of him; and if Campegio and his master had been able to follow Erasmus's advice, I do not know that mankind would have been worse for it.  Erasmus was in sufficient danger as he stood.  The monks hated him full as much as they hated Luther, and would make short work with him if they could have their way.  The Diet was close approaching.  They were marshalling their forces and strengthening their positions.  The Louvain doctors insisted that if Erasmus did not agree with Luther he should write against him...."  [281].



            [Froude] "'The Lutheran drama is over,' Erasmus writes to another correspondent a week later (May 24); 'would that it had never been brought on the stage.'  And again, in June, to Archbishop Warham:—


            [Erasmus] Luther has made a prodigious stir.  Would that he had held his tongue, or had written in a better tone.  I fear that in shunning Scylla we shall now fall into Charybdis.  There is some slight hope from Pope Leo; but if the enemies of light are to have their way, we may write on the tomb of a ruined world, 'Christ did not rise again.'


            Again, July 5,1 with confidential frankness to Dr. Pace:—


                        [Erasmus] Luther has given himself away; and the theologians, I fear, will make an ill use of their victory.  The Louvainers hate me, and will find a ready instrument in Aleander, who is violent enough in himself, and needs no prompting.  He lays the whole blame on me.  I am responsible even for the 'Babylonish Captivity.'  The Germans were always trying to drag me in; but what help could I have given Luther?  There would have been two lives for one.  That would have been all.  I was not called on to venture mine.  We have not all strength for martyrdom, and I fear if trouble comes I shall do like Peter.  The Pope and the Emperor must decide.  If they decide wisely, I shall go with them of my own will.  If unwisely, I shall take the safe side.  There will be no dishonesty in this when one can do no good.  Now that Luther has gone to ashes, the preaching friars and the divines congratulate each other, not, however,






with much sincerity.  We must look to the princes to see that the innocent and deserving are not made responsible for Luther's sins.


            [Froude] By  the middle of the summer confused rumours were spreading that Luther had not gone to ashes, that he had been carried off, and some said murdered.  The real truth was not guessed at.


                        [Erasmus] 'An idle tale' has reached us (he [Erasmus] /,1 July 5) that Luther has been waylaid and killed.  All means were used at Worms to recover him.  Threats, promises, entreaties, but nothing could be done with him.  He was reconducted to Wittenberg by the Imperial herald, with twenty days allowed of respite.  Then all was to end.  The Emperor is incensed against him, partly by others, partly through personal resentment.  Luther's books were burnt at Worms, and a fierce edict has been issued at Louvain, insisting that the Emperor shall be obeyed.


            [Froude] Erasmus was not, as he said, called on to be a martyr, but he was a little over-eager to wash his hands of Luther.  There was no denying that his writings generally, especially his New Testament, had given the first impulse.  It was he [Erasmus] who had made the Scripture, to which Luther appealed, first accessible to the laity, garnished with notes and commentaries as stinging as Luther's own.  The Louvain Carmelites owed him a long debt, and they thought their time was come to pay it.  He [Erasmus] had gone to Bruges to escape them.


[Erasmus]                 To Peter Barbirius.2               Bruges, August 13, 1521.


                        The Louvain friars will not be reconciled to me, and they catch at anything, true or false, to bring me into odium...."  [292-293].



[Froude] 'Once more to Archbishop Warham, August 24:1


                        [Erasmus] The condition of things is extremely dangerous.  I have to steer my own course, so as not to desert the truth of Christ through fear of man, and to avoid unnecessary risks.  Luther has been sent into the world by the Genius of discord.  Every corner of it has been disturbed by him.  All admit that the corruptions of the Church required a drastic medicine.  But drugs wrongly given make the sick man worse.  I said this to the King of Denmark lately.  He laughed, and answered that small doses would be of no use.  The whole system needed purging.  For myself I am a man of peace, and hate quarrels.  Luther's movement was not connected with learning, but it has brought learning into ill-repute, and the






lean and barren dogmatists, who used to be my enemies, have now fastened on Luther, like the Greeks on Hector.  I suppose I must write something about him.  I will read his books, and see what can be done.


            [Froude] There was joy at Rome and among the Roman satellites over the sentence at Worms.  For some months the Church was triumphant.  Wise men and fools alike believed that all was over with Luther.  The Emperor, the

Archduke of Austria, half the German princes, France, Spain, even England, appeared to have agreed that the spiritual insurrection must be put down with fire. 


It was not blind bigotry.  It was a conviction shared, as you will do well to observe, by such a man as Sir Thomas More, who was as little inclined as Erasmus himself to allow the old creed to be supplanted by a new....'  [295].



            [Froude] "We must continue to look through the eyes of Erasmus at events as they rose, with the future course of things concealed from him.  This is the way to understand history.  We know what happened, and we judge the actors on the stage by the light of it.  They did not know.  They had to play their parts in the present, and so we misjudge them always.  The experience of every one of us whose lives reach a normal period might have taught us better.  Let any man of seventy look back over what he has witnessed in his own time.  Let him remember what was hoped for from political changes or wars, or from each step in his personal life, and compare what has really resulted from those things with what he once expected; how, when good has come, it has not been the good which he looked for; how difficulties have shown themselves which no one foresaw; how his calculations have been mocked by incidents which the wisest never dreamt of; and he will plead to be judged, if his conduct comes under historical review, by his intentions and not by the event.


            This is a lesson which historians ought never to forget, and they seem to me rarely to remember it.  To understand the past we must look at it always when we can, through the eyes of contemporaries."  [297].



'Another friend had been summoned into the Imperial circle.  He [Erasmus] writes:1


                        You tell me that you are going into court life, and that you do not like it.  I trust it may be for your good.  Up to the time when I was fifty I saw something of princes' courts, so you may profit by my experience.  Trust no one who pretends to be your friend, let him smile, promise,






embrace, swear as many oaths as he will.  Do not believe that anyone is really attached to you, and do not be hasty in giving your own confidence.  Be civil to all.  Politeness costs nothing.  Salute, give the road, and do not forget to give men their titles.  Praise warmly, promise freely.  Choose the part which you mean to play, and never betray your real feelings.  Fit your features to your words, and your words to your features.  This is the philosophy of court life, for which none are qualified till they have put away shame and trained themselves to lie[669-776].  Watch how parties are divided and join neither.  If man or woman falls out of favour, keep you to the sunny side of the ship.  Observe the prince's likes and dislikes.  Smile when he speaks, and if you can say nothing, look admiringly.  Praise him to others.  Your words will get round.  A small offering to him now and then will do no harm, only it must not be too valuable, as if you were fishing for a return.  If there be game in sight, trust neither to God nor man, but look out for yourself.  Court winds are changeable.  Watch your chances, and let no good thing slip out of your hands.  Keep with the winning party, but give no mortal offence to the other till you are sure of your ground.  When you ask a favour, do as loose women do with their lovers, ask for what the prince can give without loss to himself—benefices, provostships, and such like.  This will do to begin with.  As I see you benefit by my advice, I will initiate you in the deeper mysteries.'  [305-306].



            [Froude] 'In the pause we find Erasmus studying his old friend Lucian [c. 117 – c. 180] over again.  Lucian had more to say to him which fitted to the time than even the Christian Fathers.  The enormous fabric of false legends and forged miracles with which the monks had cajoled or frightened their flocks had brought back to him the curious dialogue called...[Greek word] in which Lucian had moralized over the fondness of mankind for lies—lies related, as Lucian says, so circumstantially and by such grave authorities, with evidence of eye-witnesses, place, and time all accurately given, that the strongest mind could hardly resist conviction unless fortified with the certainty that such things could not be.  Erasmus turns to the familiar page, and finds the same phenomena repeated after twelve hundred years.


            [Erasmus] This dialogue (he [Erasmus] says1) teaches us the folly of superstition, which creeps in under the name of religion.  When lies are told us Lucian bids us not disturb ourselves, however complete the authority which may be produced for them.  Even Augustine, an honest man and a lover of truth, can repeat a tale as authentic which Lucian had ridiculed under other names so many years before Augustine was born.  What wonder, therefore, that fools can be found to listen to the






legends of the saints or to stories about hell, such as frighten cowards or old women?  There is not a martyr, there is not a virgin, whose biographies have not been disfigured by some monstrous absurdities.  Augustine says that lies when exposed always injure truth.  One might fancy they were invented by knaves or unbelievers to destroy the credibility of Christianity itself.'  [307-308].



[Froude] "No imagination could invent, no malice could exaggerate, what the Papal Court had really become under Alexander, and Julius, and Leo X.  A second Hercules would be required to drive sewers under the mass of corruption and personal profligacy which surrounded the throne of St. Peter.  The general government, the courts of law, the household administration, the public treasury were all equally infected; legal justice and spiritual privileges, promotions, dispensations, pardons, indulgences, licenses, all sold without attempt at disguise; the very revenue of the Holy See depending upon simony; while all officials, from the highest cardinal to the lowest clerk on the rota [roster], who throve [also, thrived] upon the system were combined to thwart inquiry and prevent alteration."  [314].



            [Froude] "The mud volcanoes of the day burst into furious eruption.  Erasmus refused to be provoked.  It was then that he spoke of the innocent hen's egg which he had laid, and the cock which Luther had hatched."  [335].



[Froude] 'He [Erasmus] had not broken with the reformers, nor even with Luther himself, except so far as Luther insisted.  His letters on public affairs become more interesting than ever:—


[Erasmus]     To Philip Melanchthon.1            Bâle, December 10, 1524.


                        The Pope's advocates have been the Pope's worst friends, and the extravagant Lutherans have most hurt Luther.  I would have held aloof had it been possible.  I am no judge of other men's consciences or master of other men's beliefs.  There are actors enough on the stage, and none can say how all will end.  I do not object generally to the evangelical doctrines but there is much in Luther's teaching which I dislike.  He runs everything which he touched into extravagance.  True, Christendom is corrupt and needs the rod, but it would be better, in my opinion, if we could have the Pope and the princes on our side.  Campegio was gentle enough, but could do nothing.  Clement was not opposed to reform, but






when I urged that we should meet him half-way nobody listened.  The violent party carries all before it.  They tear the hoods off monks who might as well have been left in their cells.  Priests are married, and images are torn down.  I would have had religion purified without destroying authority.  License need not be given to sin.  Practices grown corrupt by long usage might be gradually corrected without throwing everything into confusion.  Luther sees certain things to be wrong, and in flying blindly at them causes more harm than he cures.  Order human things as you will, there will still be faults enough, and there are remedies worse than the disease.  It is so great a thing to have removed images and changed the canon of the mass.  What good is done by telling foolish lads that the Pope is Antichrist, that confession carries the plague, that they cannot do right if they try, that good works and merits are a vain imagination, that free will is an illusion, that all things hold together by necessity, and that man can do nothing of himself?  Such things are said.  You will tell me that Luther does not say them—that only idiots say them.  Yes, but Luther encourages men who say them, and if I had a contract to make I would rather deal with a Papist than with some evangelicals that I have known.  It is not always safe to remove the Camarinas of this world, and Plato says you cannot guide the multitude without deceiving them.  Christians must not lie, but they need not tell the whole truth.  Would that Luther had tried as hard to improve popes and princes as to expose their faults.  He speaks bitterly of me.  He may say what he pleases.  Carlstadt has been here.  He has published a book in German maintaining that the Eucharist is only a sign.  All Berne has been in an uproar, and the printer imprisoned.


            You are anxious that Luther shall answer me with moderation.  Unless he writes in his own style, the world will say we are in connivance.  Do not fear that I shall oppose evangelical truth.  I left many faults in him unnoticed lest I should injure the Gospel.  I hope mankind will be the better for the acrid medicines with which he has dosed them.  Perhaps we needed a surgeon who would use knife and cautery [compare the words of Melanchthon at Luther's funeral (see, 1005)].  Carlstadt and he are going so fast that Luther himself may come to regret popes and bishops.  His genius is vehement.  We recognize in him the Pelidae stomachum cedere nescii.  The devil is a clever fellow.  Success like Luther's might spoil the most modest of men.'  [336-337].






[Erasmus]                             "To Faber.2


            You see how fiercely Luther strikes at me, moderate though I was.  What would he have said had I provoked him in earnest?  He means his book to live with my crimes embalmed in it.  Ten editions of his reply have been published already.  The great men in the Church are afraid to touch him, and you want poor me to do it again, me who am too weak to make myself feared, and too little of a saint in my life not to dread what may be said of me.  Luther pretends to wish to be friendly, yet he calls me another Lucian, says that I do not believe in God, or believe, like Epicurus, that God has no care for man.  He accuses me of laughing at the Bible and of being an enemy of Christianity, and yet expects me to thank him for his gentle handling...."  [342-343].



[Froude] 'One more curious letter, without date or address, belongs to the present period [c. 1525], and was probably meant for the Emperor's eye.


[Erasmus]                             To——1


                        The two parties are dragging at the opposite ends of a rope.  When it breaks they will both fall on their backs.  The reformers turn the images out of the churches, which originally were useful and ornamental.  They might have been content to forbid the worship of images and to have removed only the superfluous.  They will have no more priests.  It would be better to have priests of learning and piety, and to provide that orders are not hastily entered into.  There would be fewer of them, but better three good than three hundred bad.  They do not like so much ritual.  True, but it would be enough to abolish the absurd.  Debauched priests who do nothing but mumble masses are generally hated.  Do away with these hirelings, and allow but one celebration a day in the churches.  Indulgences, with which the monks so long fooled the world with the connivance of the theologians, are now exploded.  Well, then, let those who have no faith in saints' merits pray to Father, Son and Holy Ghost, imitate Christ in their lives, and leave those alone who do believe in saints.  If the saints do not hear them, Christ may hear them.  Confession is an ancient custom.  Let those who deny that it is a sacrament observe it till the Church decides otherwise.  No great harm can come of confession so long as men confess only their own mortal sins.  Let men think as they please of purgatory, without quarrelling with others who do not think as they do.  Theologians may argue about free will in the Sorbonne.  Laymen need not puzzle themselves with conundrums.  Whether works justify or faith justifies maters little, since all allow that faith






will not save without works.  In Baptism let the old rule be kept.  Parents may perhaps be left to decide whether it shall be administered in infancy or delayed to maturity.  Anabaptists must not be tolerated.  The Apostles bade their people obey the magistrates, though the magistrates were heathens.  Anabaptists will not obey even Christian princes.  Community of goods is a chimera.  Charity is a duty, but property must be upheld.  As to the Eucharist, let the old opinion stand till a council has provided a new revelation.  The Eucharist is only adored so far as Christ is supposed to be present there as God.  The human nature is not adored, but the Divine Nature, which is Omnipresent.  The thing to be corrected is the abuse of the administration.  In primitive times the Eucharist was not carried about by priests on horseback, or exhibited to be made a jest of.  In England at this present time there is neither house nor tavern, I had almost said brothel, where the sacrifice is not offered and money paid for it.1  For the rest, let there be moderation in all things, and then we may hope for peace.  The experiment has been tried with good success in the Duchy of Cleves.  It will succeed everywhere if the clergy will only consent.


            [Froude] This advice was probably meant, as I said, for Charles V., who had often pressed for Erasmus's opinion.  It corresponded entirely with Charles's own private views.  Unfortunately, his hands were tied by the necessity of pleasing Spaniards, Italians, bigots of all kinds throughout his dominions.  Least of all could he afford to offend his own subjects when the French had invaded Lombardy and were threatening Naples, with the Pope in secret alliance with them.'  [344-345].



            [Froude] 'Charles's army, a motley of Catholic Spaniards and Lutheran landknechts, stormed Rome, caged the Pope in St. Angelo, sacked convents, outraged nuns, and carried cardinals in mock procession round the sacred city, naked on the backs of asses [see, 2582].  Castilian and German had plundered churches side by side, carried off the consecrated plate equally careless of sacrilege, while the unfortunate head of Christendom looked on helpless from the battlements of his prison.  It seemed as if Charles had but to stretch out his hand, place the papal crown in commission, if he did not take it himself, and reform with sovereign power the abuses which he had acknowledged and deplored.  So, and only so, he could have restored peace to Germany and saved the unity of Christendom, in which the rents were each day growing wider, for behind Luther had come Carlstadt and Zwingle [Ulrich Zwingli 1484 - 1531], going where Luther could not follow, denying the sacraments, denying the Real Presence in the Eucharist, breaking into Anabaptism and social anarchy; while behind Zwingle [Zwingli], again, was






rising the keen, clear, powerful Calvin, carrying the Swiss and French reformers along with him.


            Erasmus was still at Bâle observing the gathering whirlwinds, his own worst fears far exceeded by the reality, determined for his own part to throw no fresh fuel on the flames, and to hold himself clear from connection with all extreme factions—Lutheran, Zwinglian, or Catholic.  Charles, it seems, continued to consult him indirectly, through secretaries or other correspondents, as to what the nature of Church authority really was, evidently as if he was considering in what way it could best be dealt with.  To one of such inquiries Erasmus answers:1


                        [Erasmus] I have always observed my allegiance to the Church, but I distinguish between the Church's decrees; some are canons of councils, some are papal rescripts, some decisions of particular bishops, some like plebiscites, some temporary and liable to recall.  When the present storm began I thought it would be enough to change a few constitutions.  But corruption under the name of religion has gone so far as almost to extinguish the Christian faith.  Neither party will yield.  Many cry for coercion; such a method might succeed for a time, but if it succeeded permanently there would still be numerous and uneasy consciences.  I do not say I am neutral; I mean that I am not bound to either side.  The question is not of opinions, but of morals and character, and these are worst among the loudest of the Church's champions.  Church authority, however, may be preserved with a few alterations.  I would give the cup to the laity.  I would not have priests marry or monks abandon their vows without their bishop's consent.  Boys and girls, however, who have been tempted into religious houses ought to be set free, as having been taken in by fraud.  It would be well if priests and monks could be chaste; but the age is corrupt, and of two evils we must choose the least.  The license of which you complain has found no encouragement from me; I have checked it always when I could.  You are afraid of Paganism; my fear is of Judaism, which I see everywhere.  Anyway, you may assure the Emperor that from me he has nothing to fear.'  [348-350].



            [Froude] 'The Emperor was now himself in Spain.  The Spanish authorities appealed to him to support them.  He had so long corresponded with Erasmus on the great questions of the day, had seemed so entirely to agree with him, had so peremptorily silenced the attacks upon him in the Low Countries, that Erasmus looked confidently for a continuance of his countenance; but it was not without reason that Erasmus had been alarmed at the possible






consequences of the capture of Rome in a change of attitude on Charles's part.  The Emperor did, indeed, order the Spanish monks to hold their tongues; but there were symptoms which Erasmus's friends did not like, and the monks were dangerous.


                        [friend of Erasmus] Your [Erasmus] enemies (wrote another of these friends) are now mute, and dare not crow even on their own dunghills.  But they mutter still in private, and I fear the beast with 700 heads may win in the end.  You, though long may you live, must die at last; but a religious order never dies.  It has good men in it as well as bad, but good and bad alike stand by their profession, and the worse part drags the better after it.


[Froude] A religious order never dies.  Charles V. [1500 – 1558] could not just then afford to quarrel with the leaders of the Church in Spain.  It was necessary for him to pacify the suspicions which had risen out of the imprisonment of the Pope, and though he refused to allow Erasmus's writings to be suppressed, he could not resist a demand that those writings should be examined by the Inquisition.  Erasmus had appealed to him.  He [Charles V.] replied in a curious letter, half an apology, though in terms of the utmost personal esteem.


Charles V. to Erasmus.1    Burgos, December 13, 1527.


            Dear and Honoured Sir,—Two things make your letter welcome to me.  The receipt of any communication from a person whom I regard with so much affection is itself a pleasure, and your news that the Lutheran fever is abating gratifies me exceedingly.  The whole Church of Christ is your debtor as much as I am.  You have done for it what emperors, popes, princes, and academies have tried in vain to do.  I congratulate you from my heart.  You must now complete the work which you have begun so successfully, and you may rely on all possible support from me.  I am sorry to find you complain of the treatment which your writings meet with here.  You appear to distrust our goodwill, and to fear that the Erasmus whose Christian character is so well known to the world may be unfairly dealt with.  It is true that we have allowed your works to be examined, but in this you have no reason for alarm.  Human errors may be discovered in them, but the worst that can befall you will be an affectionate admonition.  You will then be able to correct or explain, and Christ's little ones will not be offended.  You will establish your immortal reputation, and shut the mouths of your detractors; or it may be that no faults at all will be detected, and your honour will be yet more effectually






vindicated.  Take courage, therefore.  Be assured that I shall never cease to respect and esteem you. 


I do my best for the commonwealth.  My work must speak for me now and hereafter.  Remember me in your prayers.


            [Froude] This letter, gracious though it was, did not satisfy Erasmus.  He knew that in all which he had written about the corruption of the Church the Emperor agreed with him.  But his mind had misgiven him from the moment when he heard of the capture of Rome.  Two alternatives, in fact, then lay before Charles:  either to sequester the Pope and put himself at the head of Reform—the course which some, at least, of the secular statesmen of Spain and Italy urgently recommended, or to make up his quarrel with Clement, with a show of generosity, and support his failing authority.1  [354-356].



[Erasmus] "....Often, very often, I have urged the Emperor to peace.  He says in his last letter to me:  'I have done the best I can; now and hereafter my work must speak for me.'  This does not sound like peace.  A great war means infinite horror and wretchedness, and the wild opinions now spreading, which steal our peace of mind, are worse than war.  The factions in Germany are more fatal than even the quarrels of kings, and I know not how it is, none hurt a good cause worse than those who think they are defending it.  The rival parties drag at the two ends of a rope; when the rope breaks both go to the ground.  What is the use of all these questionings and definings and dogmatisings?  Let schoolmen argue if they so please.  It is enough for common people if they are taught how to rule their own conduct.  The mass has been made a trade for illiterate and sordid priests, and a contrivance to quiet the consciences of reprobates.  So the cry is raised, 'Abolish the mass, put it away, make an end of it.'  Is there no middle course?  Cannot the mass be purified?  Saint-worship has been carried so far that Christ has been forgotten.  Therefore, respect for saints is idolatry, and orders founded in their names must be dissolved.  Why so violent a remedy?  Too much has been made of rituals and vestments, but we might save, if we would, the useful part of such things.  Confession has been abused, but it could be regulated more strictly.  We might have fewer priests and fewer monks, and those we keep might be better of their kind.  If the bishops will only be moderate, things may end well after all.  But we must not hurt the corn in the clearing out the tares.  We must forget ourselves, and think first of Christ's glory, cease our recriminations, and regard all these calamities as a call to each of us to amend his own life.'  [358].






[Froude] 'One more, to the Bishop of Augsburg:1


[Erasmus]                                                                             August 26, 1528.


                        The state of the Church distracts me.  My own conscience is easy; I was alone in saying from the first that the disorder must be encountered in its germs; I was too true a prophet; the play, which opened with universal hand-clapping, is ending as I foresaw that it must.  The kings are fighting among themselves for objects of their own.  The monks, instead of looking for a reign of Christ, want only to reign themselves.  The theologians curse Luther, and in cursing him curse the truth delivered by Christ and the Apostles, and, idiots that they are, alienate with their foul speeches many who would have returned to the Church, or but for them would have never left it.


            No fact is plainer than that this tempest has been sent from heaven by God's anger, as the frogs and locusts and the rest were sent on the Egyptians; but no one remembers his own faults, and each blames the other.  It is easy to see who sowed the seed and who ripened the crop.  The Dominicans ["The Hounds of Hell"] accuse me.  They will find no heresy in work of mine.  I am not so thought of by greater men than they.


                        The Emperor wants me in Spain, Ferdinand wants me at Vienna, the Regent Margaret invites me to Brabant, the King of England to London.  Each offers me an ample salary, and this they can give.  Alas!  they cannot give me back my youth and strength.  Would they could!


            [Froude] Yet more important is a letter written at the same time to an unnamed English bishop,1 who had complained of passages in the 'Colloquies' reflecting on the monks and the confessional.  Erasmus goes at length into the whole question.


                        [Erasmus] What I have said (he [Erasmus] writes) is not to discourage confession, but to check the abuse of it.  Confessions are notoriously betrayed.  The aim of the monks is not to benefit men's souls, but to gather harvests out of their purses, learn their secrets, rule in their houses; and everyone who knows the facts will understand why these confessors need to be controlled.  I have not condemned ceremonies.  I have only insisted on the proper use of them.  Christ did the same, so why find fault with me?  I have complained of the extravagant importance attached to fasting.  I have just heard that two poor creatures are to be murdered in France because they have eaten meat in Lent.  I have said there are too many holidays; others have said so besides me. 






More sins are committed on holidays than on any other day in the week.  I have spoken of miracles.  The Christian religion nowadays does not require miracles, and there are none; but you know what lying stories are set about by crafty knaves.


            [Froude] After giving various instances of monastic knavery, he [Erasmus] goes on:—


            To rascals like these the Pope and the princes are now entrusting power to suppress heresy, and they abuse it to revenge their own wrongs.  The monastic profession may be honourable in itself.  Genuine monks we can respect; but where are they?  What monastic character have those we see except the dress and the tonsure?  It would be wrong to say that there are no exceptions.  But I beseech you—you who are a pure good man—go round the religious houses in your own diocese; how much will you find of Christian piety?  The mendicant orders are the worst; and are they to be allowed to tyrannise over us?  I do not say this to injure any individual.  I say it of those who disgrace their calling.  They are hated, and they know why; but they will not mend their lives, and think to bear down opposition with insolence and force.  Augustine [354 – 430] says that there were nowhere better men than in monasteries, and nowhere worse.  What would he say now—if he was to see so many of these houses both of men and women public brothels.  [Quid nunc Augustinus diceret si videret multa monasteria quae nihil differunt a publicis lupanaribus?  Quid de monacharum multis collegiis in quibus nihil minus reperias quam castitatem?]


            I speak of these places as they exist now among ourselves.  Immortal Gods! how small is the number [OF MONASTERIES] where you will find Christianity of any kind!  The malice and ignorance of these creatures will breed a revolution worse than Luther's unless the princes and bishops see to them.  The Dominicans and Franciscans have been lighting their fagots in France.  These are but the first droppings of the storm, the preludes of what we are to expect from monastic despotism, and if their hands are not held, the rage of the people will burst out in a tornado.  The mendicants are at the bottom of the mischief, and there will be no peace till they are made to know their places.  It will be for their own security.  The most respectable, if not the largest part of these communities desire it themselves.  To abolish them is a rude remedy.  It has been done in some places, but they ought to be brought back to their original purpose as schools of piety, and it will be a good day for the monks when they are reformed.  They must not be allowed to live longer in idleness. 






Their exemptions must be cancelled, and they must be placed under the bishops; and as to their images, the people must be taught that they are no more than signs.  It would be better if there were none at all, and if prayer was only addressed to Christ.  But in all things let there be moderation.  The storm has come upon us by the will of God, who is plaguing us as He plagued the Egyptians.  Let us confess our sins and pray for mercy.'  [359-361].



            [Froude] 'Anabaptism was a new and ugly phenomenon.  Like the modern Socialists, the Anabaptists threatened to destroy society and remake it on a new pattern, and Luther and even Erasmus excluded these poor wretches from toleration.  Yet Erasmus would have had a pitying word for the devil himself.


                                    [Erasmus] This sect (he [Erasmus] says) is peculiarly obnoxious because they teach community of goods, and will not obey magistrates.  They have no churches.  They do not aim at power, and do not resist when arrested.  They are said to be moral in their conduct, if anything can be moral with so corrupt a faith.


            [Froude] Erasmus was against burning even Anabaptists, and each poor victim that he heard of gave him a pang.'  [366].





Age and ill-health had tamed Erasmus's wandering propensities.  He  had now for several years been stationary at Bâle, by the side of his friend Froben's printing establishment, where his work was carried on.  Bâle was a self-governed city with popular institutions, and had so far remained Catholic.  The reformers, however, had been annually increasing.  They found themselves at length with a clear majority, and he was to witness an ecclesiastical revolution immediately under his own eyes.  The scene as Erasmus described it to Pirkheimer [Pirckheimer] is curious in itself, and was a specimen of what had been going on in most of the free cities of Germany.  He expected disorder; there was none.  The Catholic members of the Senate were expelled to prevent opposition, and the people went to work methodically to abolish the mass and establish Lutheranism.






[Erasmus]                             To Pirkheimer [Pirckheimer].1


                        Smiths and carpenters were sent to remove the images from the churches.  The roods [crucifixes] and the unfortunate saints were cruelly handled.  Strange that none of them worked a miracle to avenge their dignity, when before they had worked so many at the slightest invitation.  Not a statue was left in church, niche, or monastery.  The paintings on the walls were whitewashed.  Everything combustible was burnt.  What would not burn was broken to pieces.  Nothing was spared, however precious or beautiful; and mass was prohibited even in private houses.  [reminiscent of destruction by Christians, of previous Pagan religious structures; for example:  fourth century C.E.]


            And in another letter:1


                        [Erasmus] The affair was less violent than we feared it might be.  No houses were broken into, and no one was hurt.  They would have hanged my neighbour, the Consul, if they had caught him, but he slipped off in the night; not like St. Paul in a basket, but down the river in a boat.  His crime had been that he had so long obstructed the Gospel.  As it was, no blood was shed; but there was a cruel assault on altars, images, and pictures.  We are told that St. Francis used to resent light remarks about his five wounds, and several other saints are said to have shown displeasure on similar occasions.  It was strange that at Bâle not a saint stirred a finger.  I am not so much surprised at the patience of Christ and the Virgin Mary.


[Froude] Erasmus had seen the storm coming and had prepared for it.  He had perceived that a reformed Bâle [Basel, Switzerland] could no longer be a home for him—go he must, if the Catholic world was not to reproach him with being an accomplice.'  [368-369].



            [Froude] 'Another letter:—


[Erasmus]                 To Aemilius ab Aemilio.1

May 29, 1529.


                        All grows wilder and wilder.  Men talk of heresy and orthodoxy, of Antichrists and Catholics, but none speak of Christ.  The world is in labour.  Good may come if Christ directs the birth.  There is no help else.  [Older] Paganism comes to life again; Pharisees fight against the Gospel; in such a monstrous tempest we need skilful pilots. 






Christ has been sleeping so far.  I trust the prayers of the faithful will wake Him. The monks have howled.  The theologians have made articles of belief.  We have had prisons, informations, bulls, and burnings; and what has come of them?  Outcries enough; but no crying to Christ.  Christ will not wake till we call to Him in sincerity of heart.  Then He will arise and bid the sea be still, and there will be a great calm.'  [371].



[Erasmus]                 To Botzemus.1            Freyburg, August 13, 1529.


                        In such times as ours it is better to call on the Lord than to trust in princes and armies.  We must pray to Him to shorten these days.  Alas!  Christianity has sunk so low that scarce a man knows now what calling on the Lord means.  One looks to cardinals and bishops, another to kings, another to the black battalions of monks and divines.  What do they want?  What do they expect from protectors, who care nothing for Catholic piety, and care only to recover their old power and enjoyments?  We were drunk or asleep, and God has sent these stern schoolmasters to wake us up.  The rope has been overstrained.  It might have stood if they had slackened it a little, but they would rather have it break than save it by concession.  The Pope is head of the Church, and as such deserves to be honoured.  He stretched his authority too far, and so the first strand of the rope parted.  Pardons and indulgences were tolerable within limits.  Monks and commissaries filled the world with them to line their own pockets.  In every church were the red boxes and the crosses and the papal arms, and the people were forced to buy.  So the second strand went.  Then there was the invocation of saints.  The images in churches at first served for ornaments and examples.  By-and-by the walls were covered with scandalous pictures.  The cult ran to idolatry; so parted a third.  The singing of hymns was an ancient and pious custom, but when music was introduced fitter for weddings and banquets than for God's service, and the sacred words were lost in affected intonations, so that no word in the Liturgy was spoken plainly, away went another.  What is more solemn than the mass?  But when stupid vagabond priests learn up two or three masses and repeat  them over and over as a cobbler makes shoes; when notorious profligates officiate at the Lord's table, and the sacredest of mysteries is sold for money—well, this strand is almost gone too.  Secret confession may be useful; but when it is employed to extort money out of the terrors of fools, when an institution designed as medicine for the soul is made an instrument of priestly villany, this part of the cord will not last much longer either.






Priests who are loose in their lives and yet demand to be honoured as superior beings have brought their order into contempt.  Careless of purity, careless what they do or how they live, the monks have trusted to their wealth and numbers to crush those whom they can no longer deceive.  They pretended that their clothes would work miracles, that they could bring good luck into houses and keep the devil out.  How is it at present?  They used to be thought gods.  They are now scarcely thought honest men."  [373-374].



[Erasmus]                                                                 September 8, 1529.


            I fear (Erasmus writes to Mountjoy1) that the Gospel will lead to a desperate struggle.  Germany is preparing for it, and the theologians are inflaming the wound.  I could wish them a better mind.  I myself seem doomed like Hercules to be fighting monsters all my life, and weary I am of it.  Never since the world began was such an age; everywhere smoke and steam.  I trust Cardinal Campegio has dispersed that small cloud you wot [know] of.2


            [Froude] Campegio, as you know, did not disperse that small cloud, and the news from England became so interesting as to make Erasmus forget for a moment the sins of the theologians.'  [379].



[Erasmus]                 "To Cuthbert Tunstall.1                       January 31, 1530.


            So far the battle has been fought with books and pamphlets.  We are coming now to guns and halberts.  If I cared less for my soul than my body I would rather be with the Lutherans; but I will not forsake the one Church with death now close on me in the shape of a stone in my bladder.  Were Augustine to preach here now as he preached in Africa, he would be as ill-spoken of as Erasmus.  I could find 600 passages in Augustine, and quite as many in St. Paul, which would now be called heretical.  I am but a sheep; but a sheep may bleat when the Gospel is being destroyed.  Theologians, schoolmen, and monks fancy that in what they are doing they strengthen the Church.  They are mistaken.  Fire is not quenched by fire.  The tyranny of the Court of Rome and a set of scandalous friars set the pile alight, and they are pouring on oil to put it out.  As to [Thomas] More, I am pleased to hear of his promotion.  I do not congratulate him personally, but I congratulate Britain, and, indirectly, myself.  It is hoped that the Emperor's authority will end the German schism.  I trust, at any rate, that there will be no






bloodshed, that the victory will be to Christ's honour, and that we shall not have papal officials and monks in power again.  The clergy are thinking only of revenge, and not the least of amending their lives."  [384].



[Erasmus]                             "To Sadolet.1                                March 7, 1530.


                        Do you think (he [Erasmus] said) that I could ever have connected myself with a miserable mob?  I have been a better friend to the Church than those who are for stamping the fire out by force.  I name no one.  Some of them are friends of my own, but they have done no good that I can see.  The result so far is to add to the number of their enemies and to drive the Germans into a league.  God grant I prove a false prophet; but if you see the Catholic Church brought to wreck in Germany, remember that Erasmus foretold it.  The first mistake was to neglect Luther's protest against indulgences; the next, when things grew serious, to appeal to popular clamour and leave the defence to monks—men orbi fere invisos, hated of all the world.  Luther's books were burnt when they ought to have been read and studied by earnest and serious persons.  There was too much haste to persecute; we tolerate Jews and

Bohemians, we might have borne with Luther.  Time cures disorders which nothing else will cure.  I said all this, but no one attended to me.  I was called the friend of schismatics.  Then came Aleander with the Pope's Bull.  He thought wonders of himself—burnt more books, filled the air with smoke, and went about with the Emperor threatening right and left.  He would have laid hold on me if the Emperor had not protected me.  Another eminent person declared war on me at Rome—said I had no learning and no judgment.  When I complained, it appeared he had read nothing that I had written.  I have still hopes.  These trials may be for our good in the end and turn to the glory of the Church.  Other countries are in the same condition as Germany, only the disorder has not yet broken out.  The fever is fed by the ferocity of an interested faction."  [385].



[Erasmus]   "To the Bishop of Hildesheim.1   Freyburg, March 15, 1530.


                        Innumerable questions are asked—how the elements are transubstantiated; how accidents can subsist without a subject; how the colour, smell, taste, quality, which are in the bread and wine before it is consecrated can remain when the substance is changed; at what moment the miracle takes place, and what has happened when the bread and wine corrupts; how the same body can be in many places at






once, &c ?  Such problems may be discussed among the learned.  For the vulgar it is enough to believe that the real body and blood of our Lord are actually present.  It is a mystery to be approached reverentially.  Men should not be allowed to march up and down the aisles or chatter at the doors during the ceremony.  You stay out a play till the Valete et plaudite; can you not wait for the completion of a miracle?  In earlier times there was but one celebration in a day.  Now, party from superstition, partly from avarice, the saying of masses has become a trade, like shoemaking or bricklaying—a mere means of making a livelihood.  And again, some attention should be paid to the priest's character; dress and office are not enough, the life must answer to the function.  Nowadays, when the celebration is over, the man who has offered the sacrifice adjourns to drinking parties and loose talk, or to cards or dice, or goes hunting, or lounges in idleness.  While he is at the altar angels wait upon him; when he leaves it he seeks the refuse of mankind.  It is not decent.  Priests should not by their loose living teach heretics to despise the ineffable mystery."  [386].



"Melanchthon [1497 – 1560] [see 313, 314] to Erasmus [c. 1466 – 1536].1

August 1, 1530.


                        You would not believe there was such fury in man as is shown by the papal advocates.  They see the Emperor and his brother are for moderation, and they want to force them into violence.  You, I understand, warn him against listening to them, and I hope your words will weigh with him.  Continue your good work, and deserve the thanks of posterity; you cannot use your influence to better purpose.  We have given in our own views without condemning others.  We are told our concessions are too late; but we wish to show that we desire peace if we can have it on fair conditions.  Great changes are plainly imminent.  God grant our rulers may be so guided that the Church is not wrecked in the process.  Again I beseech you, for Christ's sake, do not let the Emperor declare war against quiet citizens who are willing to accept fair conditions."  [393].



[Erasmus]                                                                 'September 1, 1530.


                        Unless I am far mistaken, there will be blood shed in Germany.  The Lutherans have given in their Articles.  The Emperor will do as the






Pope wishes, and forbid all change in what has been once decreed.  He does indeed promise reform, but the property taken from the bishops and priests is to be restored.  It is possible, if the Pope is moderate, that things may not turn out as I fear.  But just now the Pope is busy making new cardinals for his body-guard, and I doubt if that will much advantage him.  There were cardinals enough already, swallowing bishoprics and abbeys.  Alas! however, when the Emperor shows a wish to be moderate, the Evangelicals cry the louder for war.  They spatter him and the Catholic princes with libels.  They threaten retaliation if the professors of the Gospel are persecuted.  A scandalous caricature of the Emperor has been published with seven heads.


            [Froude] Again:1                                                   September 6, 1530.


            [Erasmus] You would think they were celebrating the mysteries of Bona Dea at the Diet.  No one knows what is doing there.  If the Emperor gives way the others will cry that they have beaten him, and there will be no bearing them, while the monks will be equally intolerable if they have the Emperor on their side.


[Froude] And once more to Campegio:2       September 7, 1530.


                        [Erasmus] Peace was rather a wish than a hope.  Now there is nothing left but to pray Christ to wake [pause] and still the waves.  God may yet prevent the Emperor from making war on Christians.  The Turks are in the field, and will be too many for us if we fight among ourselves.  Once let a civil war begin and none can guess what will come of it.  I would have been present at the Diet could I have been of use there, though I have good friends who would stab me in the back were I engaged with an enemy.  If trouble comes I shall be the first victim; but I will bear anything before I forsake the Church.  I never made a party or gathered disciples about me, and I have deserved better treatment than I have met with.  I can acknowledge this to you, in whom I have always found a kind friend and patron.  The past cannot be recalled, but you may do something in future to save me from scandalous accusations.


            [Froude] And the same day, to the Bishop of Trent:1


                        I [Erasmus] am at the last act of the play, and have now only to say, Valete et plaudite.  I can leave the stage with a quiet mind if the Emperor and the princes and bishops can still this storm without spilling blood.  The worst side often wins in the field, and to kill one's






fellow-creatures needs no great genius; but to calm a tempest by prudence and judgment is a worthy achievement indeed.


[Froude] It is not without reason that Erasmus was heavy at heart.  He was worried by the attacks of the Lutherans.  The Catholics meant to be revenged on him when their time came.  He had prophesied that he would be the first victim, and the prophecy seemed likely to be fulfilled.'  [395-396].



[Erasmus] '....Winter is coming on.  The plague is raging, and it is uncertain how long the Diet will last.  The Zwinglians were refused a hearing.  The Lutherans presented their Articles, which were briefly replied to.  The Diet being unable to decide, representatives of both sides were chosen to arrange a concordat.  The numbers being too large, a small committee was selected of the most distinguished men to try what they could do.  They might have succeeded, but the Lutheran princes refused to restore the Church lands or to force their clergy to abandon their wives.  The Emperor then said that the cities which had adopted the new opinions must conform within six months, and he used two expressions which offended the princes of the religion.  He called the Lutherans a sect, and he added that their arguments had been refuted out of Scripture.  This they fiercely denied.  They said, in the Emperor's presence, that they not only believed, but knew their doctrine to be both Scriptural and Apostolic.


            [Froude] The Emperor was angry; the princes withdrew.  The edict came out immediately after.


                        [Erasmus] The Emperor's award (Erasmus writes) will lead to war.  He is powerful—we know that.  But the people everywhere are for the new doctrines, and will rise at the first signal.  There might still be hope if the Pope trusted in Christ.  Alas! he trusts more in his cardinals and the Emperor's armies, and in those wicked monks whose depravity has caused the whole disturbance."  [397].



            [Froude] "Erasmus was not so destitute of religious conviction as Luther thought him.  But to Erasmus religion meant purity and justice and mercy, with the keeping of the moral commandments, and to him these Graces were not the privilege of any peculiar creed.  So long as men believed in duty and responsibility to their Maker, he supposed that they might be left to think for themselves on theological mysteries without ceasing to be human,






and it shocked him to see half the world preparing to destroy one another on points which no one could understand, and on which both sides were probably wrong."  [401].



            [Froude] 'In times of excitement news vary from hour to hour.  The day after he had written this desponding letter he heard reports which gave him hope again, and his fine natural spirits revived.


[Erasmus]                             To Duke George.1                    March 15, 1531.


                        The Gospellers libel me as usual, but I should care little if I could see the Church as I would have it.  Italy seems quiet.  France, they say, is now really friendly with the Emperor.  There is no danger from Spain.  And I hear the English divorce case is to be rationally and peacefully settled.  I know how well disposed the King is.  Also a truce is to be made with the Turk, which is like to be of infinite benefit.  If this German fever would but abate we might expect a golden age.


            [Froude] It was a broken gleam of sunshine.  The English divorce was not settled; a truce was not made with the Turk; and a fortnight later all was again black as midnight.'



[Erasmus]                 To Abbot Dalbon.2                                 April 1, 1531.


                        I do not like the look of things.  God knows what is coming.  They say the Turk is putting three armies in the field—one for Austria, one for Poland, the other to land in Naples with a blessing from the Pope.  This is bad enough, and a civil war in Germany will be worse.  You may tell me a desperate disease requires desperate remedies.  I love not remedies worse than the disease itself.  When fighting begins the worst sufferers are the innocent.  Spain is full of concealed Jews and Germany is full of robbers.  These will supply the ranks of the regiments.  Religion will be the plea, and the lava stream will first deluge Germany and then the rest of Europe.  No emperor was ever stronger than our present ruler.  He, it appears, will do what the Pope orders.  This will be well enough if Christ's vicar will be like his Master, but I fear the Pope in his eagerness for revenge will fare as the horse fared who took the man on his back to drive off the stag.  We must be a wicked race when with such princes we are still so miserable.  Why do we not repent and mend?  They make laws against drink and extravagance, laws for priests to keep their tonsures open, wear longer clothes, and






sleep without companions, but only God can cleanse the fountain of such things.  May God teach the heads of the Church to prefer His glory to their own pleasures, teach princes to seek wisdom from on high, and monks and priests to despise the world and study Holy Scripture.


            [Froude] It is interesting to observe that in the midst of his anxieties Erasmus was not neglecting his proper work.  Harassed by theological mosquitoes, alarmed, and justly so, by the thunder-cloud which was hanging over Germany, we find by the dates of his letters that he was corresponding at length and elaborately with the learned men of his time on technical points of scholarship, Bible criticism or the teaching of the early Fathers.  This, too, when he was past sixty, and with health shattered by gout and stone.  He might complain, and complain he did loudly enough, but he had a tough elastic spirit underneath it all, and complaint did not mean weakness.  It is well to mention these things if I am to make you respect him, as I hope you will.  But I must leave them on one side.  We have to do here with the relations of Erasmus to the great events of his time.


            The reformed States had been allowed six months to comply with the Augsburg edict.  They had not complied, and did not mean to comply, and Charles seemed to be getting ready to force them.  Erasmus writes:—


[Erasmus]                                         To Leonardi.1                       April 6, 1531


All these preparations are made in the interest of the priests, yet the priests may find themselves worse off than they are now.  The Emperor and his brother mean well, yet they are about to let loose a scum of ruffians over Germany—most of them half Lutherans at heart or men of no religion at all.  It is said the princes will keep them in order.  Will they?  Look at Rome, look at Vienna, which suffered worse from its garrison than from the Turks.  Our two sovereigns are good and pious, but they are young, and the greater their piety the worse they may be led astray.  The Emperor will do as Clement tells him.  If Clement tells him what Christ will approve, well and good; but——I will not add the rest; and what is to become of sick old creatures like me?  From a movable I am become a fixture.  I am one of those animals they call adhesive.  I cannot fly.  I must sit still and wait for my fate.  Fugger invites me to Augsburg, but I should only change one dangerous place for another.






[Erasmus]                 To Cardinal Augustine.2                    April 12, 1531.


            I have done my best to stop these German troubles.  I have sacrificed my popularity and broken my health, and small thanks I have met with from those whose part I have taken.  The Lutherans had some right to be angry with me, but I did not look to be so venomously libelled by the Catholics.  I had ill friends at Rome who tried to set the Pope against me.  Happily, they did not succeed.  If the Pope knew all he would see that Erasmus has been his truest adviser.  Tell the Pope from me that I have encountered trials for Christ's sake which I would not have faced to be created Pope myself.  I have made enemies of all the men of learning who were once warmly attached to me, and old friends are the most dangerous of foes, because they know our secrets.


            [Froude] Again:—    [Erasmus] To Andomar.1                     April 10, 1531.


                        I am sick of Germany.  If I do not know where I should go, I know where I should not go.  I have thought of Flanders.  Queen Mary, who is to succeed Margaret as Regent, is a good friend to me; but if I go there the Catholics will fall upon me, and as they would have the Pope and the Emperor with them, she could not protect me.  I trust things are better where you are.  The factions here will leave no one alone.  Where the Evangelicals are in power they do as they please, and the rest must submit; we are already Lutherans, Zwinglians, and Anabaptists; the next thing will be we shall turn Turks.


            [Froude] The Evangelicals were not all so savage with Erasmus or so obstinate as Luther; some of them still looked to him as the wisest guide to follow and as the best able to help them.  Julius Pflug, a young influential Protestant, writes to him [Erasmus] from Leipzig:2


[Julius Pflug]                                                                        May 12, 1531.


                        To you alone all friends of peace are looking.  You, by God's grace, have influence; you, and only you, can convince the princes that if the controversies are to be ended, human laws and institutions must change with the times, and the Church must relax such rules as are not of divine obligation.  Do you move the Emperor and his brother, and Melanchthon's party will then submit to much which they do not like.  A little yielding on both sides, and peace may be preserved.






            [Froude] Erasmus answers at length:3                          August 20, 1531.


                        Never was so wild an age as ours; one would think six hundred Furies had broken loose from hell.  Laity and clergy are all mad together.  I have not the power you think.  I can work no miracles.      I do not know what the Pope intends.  As burning heretics at the stake has failed, the priests now wish to try the sword.  It is not for me to say if they are right.  The Turks perhaps will not leave them leisure for the experiment.  The better way would be to restore the Gospel as a rule of life, and then choose a hundred and fifty learned men from all parts of Christendom to settle the points in dispute.  Opinions on special subjects need not be made Articles of Faith.  Some laws of the Church may require to be changed, and clergy should be appointed fitter for their duties.  At present the revenues of the Church go to support a parcel of satraps, and the people are left to the new teachers, who would abolish the whole Church organization.  Had Adrian lived and reigned ten years, Rome might perhaps have been purified.  He sought my advice.  I gave it, but received no answer.  I suppose it did not please him.  Melanchthon is a man of gentle nature.  Even his enemies speak well of him.  He tried your plan at Augsburg, and had my health allowed I would have been there to support him.  You know what came of it.  Excellent eminent men were denounced as heretics merely for having spoken to him.  Suppose that he and I were to compose a scheme of agreement, neither side would accept it—leaders or followers.  Remember Monk John in the theatre.  John, being country-bred, had never seen a theatre.  Two prize-fighters were showing off on the boards.  John rushed in to part them, and was of course killed.


            [Froude] The Pope, after all, had to wait for his revenge.  The Turks were guardian angels to the infant Gospel.  If they were not to take Vienna, Charles and Ferdinand required the help of Germany; and not a man nor a florin would the Diet vote unless religion was let alone.  The English cloud grew blacker.  Catherine was still obstinate.  The Pope censured the King.  The King replied with Acts of Parliament and fitted out his fleet.  The Catholic nobles and the monks and abbots prepared to rebel, entreated the Pope to excommunicate the King, and entreated Charles to send across an army from Ostend.  The Pope declined to thunder unless Charles would promise to execute the sentence; and Charles knew perfectly well that if he stirred a finger, France and England would both be in the field against him, and civil war would break out in Germany.


            The Edicts of Augsburg slept.  It was impossible to enforce them, and men began to talk of a General Council as the only remedy.  Erasmus could breathe more freely again.  Charles and Ferdinand, who had been cold while the war






fever was on them, were again polite and complimentary.  The Pope grew civil.  Cardinals remembered their old friendship and became once more gracious and affectionate.  Conciliation was to be the order of the day, and the help of Erasmus might be needed after all.'  [403-408] [end of Lecture XIX].





            This will be my last lecture, for the life of Erasmus was drawing to an end.  He did not feel it [? (strange remark (I "feel it"))].  His health was shattered.  He was sixty-five years old, but his indomitable spirit was rising with the apparent improvement of the prospect.  The Emperor was gracious again; Clement was propitious.  Ferdinand offered him some high post in the Church, and directed the Cardinal of Trent to make a formal proposal to him.  He was, of course, pleased, though obliged to refuse.


[Erasmus]                                                                             May 19, 1532.


                        I am much gratified (he [Erasmus] writes in acknowledgment to the Cardinal1), and I regret that I am not able to thank the Prince in person.  You bid me ask some favour of him, which you undertake that he will grant.  Would that King Christ had sent me such a message.  Of Him I should have much to ask—especially a mind more worthy of His service.  From the King of the Romans I can desire nothing beyond what his goodness already supplies.  I am fit for nothing but study.  High office would be a fresh burden on the back of a broken-down old horse.  Wealth at the end of life is but fresh luggage when the journey is over.  Neither Pope nor Emperor can delay the advance of years or make bad health into good.  Both call themselves my friends, but they cannot stop the barking curs.  Would they could!


            [Froude] Cardinal Cajetan also wrote that the Pope wished to show Erasmus some mark of esteem.  This was well enough now when his help was again needed.  He was pleased, but did not choose to appear too effusively grateful.  He thought Clement might have done more to stop the 'barking curs,' considering the service which Erasmus had done the Church by refusing to join Luther.


[Erasmus]                                                                             July 23, 1532.


                        Had I a grain of heresy in me (he [Erasmus] said1), I should have been driven wild long ago by those snarling wretches, and have gone into the heretic camp.  As it is, I never made a sect; anyone who came to me I






handed back to the Church; I have no  need of honours and benefices—ephemeral little mortal that I am!—but I will gladly do what I can to please the Pope, and will welcome any token of approbation from him.


            [Froude] Conciliation was now to be the order of the day, but Erasmus had no intention of forwarding an arrangement which was to give back their power to the monks.  There could be no peace till those dogs were muzzled.  The monks had been at the bottom of the whole mischief.


                        [Erasmus] The champions of the Franciscans (he [Erasmus] writes to Charles Utenhove2) must be more hateful to St. Francis than to any other mortal.  St. Francis came lately to me in a dream and thanked me for chastising them [more—amusement!].  He was not dressed as they now paint him.  His frock was brown, the wool undyed as it came from the sheep; the hood was not peaked, but hung behind to cover the head in bad weather.  The cord was a piece of rope from a farmyard; the frock itself did not reach his ankles.  He had no fine shoes.  His feet were bare.  Of the five wounds I saw not a trace.  He gave me his hand on departing, called me his brave soldier, and said I should soon be with him.  I would complain less of the dress of these people if they copied their founder's virtues, the seraph's six wings as they call them—obedience, poverty, chastity, humility, simplicity, charity.  If they possessed these, honest men as well as silly women would then welcome them as angels of peace.  They ought to be preaching the Gospel; you find them instead haunting princes' courts and rich men's houses.  Their morals—but of this I say nothing; silence is more emphatic than speech.  Would that silence was not necessary!  They go about begging with forged testimonials, which serve for a passport, and now they have made the notable discovery that a rich man, alarmed for his sins, may buy a share in the merits of the order if he is buried in the Franciscan habit.  They demand admission at private houses, to come and go as they please, invited or uninvited, and the owner dares not refuse.  What slavery is this!  A man with young sons and daughters and a wife not past her prime must take a stranger into his family whether he likes it or not—Spainard, Italian, French, English, Irish, Scotch, German, or Indian—and the secrets of his household are exposed to all the world.  Wise men know that in such a multitude not all are pure.  Monks are often sent on their travels because they have misconducted themselves; and, even supposing them sober and chaste, they are made of the same flesh as other men.  I have heard many stories of what has happened in such circumstances.  They pretend that they have no other means of living.  Why should they live at all?  What is the use of these mendicant vagabonds? 






Not many of them teach the Gospel, and, if they must needs travel, they have houses of their own order to go to.


            [Froude] There would be no more mendicant monks if Erasmus could have his way, and when priests took the law into their own hands and married wives he did not find particular fault with them.  A humorous letter to one of these is interesting for an anecdote which it contains of Sir Thomas More.1


[Erasmus]                                                                             October 31, 1532.


                        Do not repent of having married a widow.  If you buy a horse, you buy one already broken in.  Sir T. More often said to me that if he was to marry a hundred wives he would never take a maid.  He has an old one now who has lived a little too long.


            [Froude] Sir Thomas More was just then much in Erasmus's mind.  As the prospect seemed to be clearing in Germany, the English cloud was growing darker.'  [409-412].



[Froude] 'it is not true that no heretics were sent to the stake during More's term of office, and those who suffered under him were not the rogues whom Erasmus describes.  More himself repudiates the suspicion of leniency as an insult.


                        [Sir [knighted 1521] Thomas More] My epitaph shall record (he [More] says) that I have been an enemy to heretics.  I say it deliberately.  I do so detest that class of men that unless they repent I am the worst enemy they have.  Every day I see increasing reason to fear what mischief they may produce in the world.


            [Froude] Before two years were over Erasmus had himself to regret that More had not left theology alone.  More, too, had to pay for excess of zeal [Sir Thomas More was beheaded, 1535 (born 1478)].'  [414].



[Froude] '....Letters on the subject from all sorts and conditions of men poured in upon Erasmus.  Here is one from an earnest moderate Catholic, expressing, perhaps, the thoughts of millions:—


George Wicelius to Erasmus.1                      March 30, 1533.


            I can think of nothing but the council.  Our miseries will never end till the cause of them is removed.  War will settle nothing, and will leave an






incurable ulcer.  Germany is rent in two; Christianity itself is in peril.  Oh, ears of Rome! oh, heart of Rome! deaf and dead to the one thing needful, and buried in the pleasures of the world!  Have not Catholics waited long enough?  Will you do nothing for the poor flock of Christ?  Will not our cries move you at last?  Our hope is that the Emperor will lay demands before the Court of Rome which it will be ashamed to refuse, and persuade or weary it into compliance.  What Luther's party will do I know not.  Some thing they will never agree to any equitable settlement.  I think they will agree if they are approached in a friendly spirit, and if the council, when it meets, is wise and moderate.  Some are tired of the struggle already.  Some I have heard say in plain words they wish their scheme of doctrine had never been formulated, so many are the inconveniences which have risen from it.  Luther himself will be less violent when he hears how other learned men think of him.  His haughty crest will droop and his horns drop off when he is no longer on his own dunghill, and has to defend his theories of yesterday against the sages of Christendom.  But you,  , you of all men must be there.  You plead age and illness.  Were I emperor I would take no excuses from you.  I would have Old Appius carried thither in men's arms.  It is not Hannibal who is now at the gate; it is the devil, who is trying to destroy the Christian faith.  You can prove—you can answer—you can explain as no other living man can do.  You can silence the rival fanatics.  We will not listen to Luther; we will not listen to the sophists of the schools.  We will listen to Erasmus, and to those who think like Erasmus—to those who love Christianity better than they love a faction.


            [Froude] As a council seemed approaching, and a council which Erasmus might guide, the louder clamoured the Ultra-Catholics.  Clement himself wavered, dreading the thought of it—now flattering the Emperor, now defying him under the supposed shelter of France:  weak, wavering, passionate, determined at any rate that there should be no Erasmian reforms in the Church of Rome; while monks and priests fired off their vicious letters at Erasmus himself.


[Erasmus]                                                                 December 24, 1533.


                        I have so many letters daily (he [Erasmus] writes to Mexia1) that I can scarcely read, much less answer them.  Silence is the highest wisdom.  Hercules himself could not do battle with so many ants, wasps, frogs, magpies, cranes, gulls, and geese.  If they had neither stings nor beaks nor claws, the very noise they make would drive him mad.  How often have I assured them! yet they still sing the old song.  Erasmus laughs at the saints, despises the sacraments, denies the faith, is against






clerical celibacy, monks' vows, and human institutions.  Erasmus paved the way for Luther.  So they gabble; and it is all lies.  These dead-to-the-world creatures are such a set of spitfires that it would be safer to be fighting cardinals and kings.


            [Froude] It soon became evident that there would be no council as long as Clement lived.'  [420-421].



[Froude] 'The news from England was a terrible interruption of his [Erasmus] meditations.  Fisher [John Fisher 1469 – 1535 (beheaded)] had been among the warmest of his English friends.  Sir Thomas More [1478 – 1535 (beheaded "alongside Bishop Fisher" (Internet))] had been more than a friend—the most affectionate of his companions, the most constant of his defenders, the partner of his inmost thoughts.  The fatal story first reached him as a rumour.  'The King of England' (he writes to Damian à Goes1) 'has been savagely punishing some of the monks.  He has imprisoned the Bishop of Rochester [John Fisher] and Sir Thomas More.  News from Brabant report that they have been put to death.  I trust it is but an idle tale [true tale!].'"


            If true, it was of ill omen for the council.  Erasmus speaks of the rumour again in a letter to Latomus, as still unconfirmed, but, highly as he thought of Henry, as not necessarily incredible.


[Erasmus]                                                                 Bâle, August 14, 1535.


                        My life has been long (he [Erasmus] said2) if measured by years.  Take from it the time lost in struggling against gout and stone, it has not been very much after all.  You talk of the great name which I shall leave behind me, and which posterity is never to let die.  Very kind and friendly on your part; but I care nothing for fame and nothing for posterity.  I desire only to go home and to find favour with Christ.  The French who fled hither from last winter's persecution have been allowed to return to Paris.  The prophet says the lion roars and the people tremble.  The other side are trembling now in England.  Certain monks have been put to death as traitors.  There is a constant report here, and probably enough a true one, that the King, when he heard that the Bishop of Rochester [Fisher] had been made a cardinal by Paul III., had him out of prison and cut his head off—a fine red hat for a bishop.  More is said to have been executed too.  This is not certain; but I wish he had not implicated himself in a dangerous business, and had left theology to the divines.






The Pope seems in earnest about a council, but I do not see how a council is to meet as the world now stands.  Lower Germany swarms with Anabaptists; Münster, as you know, is taken; but there has been a dangerous riot in Amsterdam.  At Lewis Bere's suggestion, I wrote to the Pope.  His Holiness spoke of me in high terms, and mentioned me for a cardinalate.  Health and fortune were the difficulties.  It seems no one can be a cardinal who has not a private income of 3,000 ducats, but, alas!  I can scarce put my head out of my room or draw a breath of air which has not been warmed artificially—and am I to be thinking of red hats?  However, I am glad that the Pope wishes me well.


            [Froude] Erasmus's health was now manifestly failing; the literary pirates chose the opportunity to prey upon him when he could not defend himself.  His writings commanded an immense sale, and they were publishing his private letters, fragments of his early writings, and anything they could get hold of.


[Erasmus]     To the Bishop of Cracow.1               Bâle, August 31, 1535.


                        Whatever I may write, however carelessly, finds its way into type, and I cannot prevent it.  Thus I am kept continually at work revising and correcting.  They have even got hold of old exercises of mine at school, and publish them for what they can make by it.  I was dangerously ill in the spring.  I was ordered change of air, and was carried back to Bâle in a chair in which for several years I had driven about in Freyburg.  The Bâle people had prepared a set of rooms which they thought would please me.  The city which I left seven years back in revolution is now quiet and orderly.  I have still ill-wishers here, but at my age, and with my experience, I am in no more danger at Bâle than elsewhere.  I do not mean to stay long.  I shall return to Freyburg when a house which I have bought there is ready for me.  By-and-by, perhaps, I may go into Burgundy, the wine of that country being necessary for my health.  The carriers spoil what they bring here by opening the casks and diluting what they leave with water.  But, indeed, I cannot hope to be ever well again, either here or anywhere.  I was delicate as a child.  I had too thin a skin, and suffered from wind and weather.  In my stronger days I did not mind my infirmities, but now that I am but skin and bone I feel them all again.  I am worse or better according to the weather.  My comfort is that the end cannot be far off.  You are taken care of, and are not allowed to overwork yourself.  I am kept for ever in the mill, do what I may to escape from it.  Bonfires are blazing for the Emperor's victories in Africa.  He is said to have stormed the Goletta.  Münster is taken and the insurgents punished. 






The Anabaptists are crowding in hither from Holland.  I am glad that the Emperor is doing well, wherever he may be; but I wish he had stayed in Germany and saved us from these creatures.  These Anabaptists are no joke.  They go to work sword in hand, seize towns, drive their creed down people's throats, set up new kings and queens, and make their own laws.  Last winter there were troubles in Paris.  Bills were posted threatening the King for persecuting what they called the Word of God.  Four-and-twenty of the authors of these writings were executed.  Many of the nobles fled.  The King has recalled them, and promised them liberty of conscience if they will leave politics alone.  Some say he was advised to be moderate by the King of England, some by the Pope.  You will learn from a letter which I enclose the fate of Sir Thomas More and the Bishop of Rochester [Fisher].  They were the wisest and most saintly men that England had.  In the death of More I feel as if I had died myself, but such are the tides of human things.  We had but one soul between us.  The Pope has created a few cardinals for the Synod, and proposed to make me one of them.  Objections were made to my small fortune, my age and infirmities.  Now they offer me other dignities, which I shall not accept.  A poor, half-dead wretch such as I am cannot be tempted into grand idle company merely that I may end my life as a rich man.  I am pleased by the Pope's letter to me, but the ox is not fit for the saddle.1


            [Froude] This was written on August 31, 1535, and it is the last which I shall have to read to you.  Others followed, but of no particular moment, and in the autumn and winter his health gradually sank.  Nothing happened to cheer his spirits.  The red hat he might have had if he wished, but he did not wish.  The Pope had no more thoughts of the council.  His whole mind was bent on punishing the insolence of Henry of England.  Kings and popes had ceased to interest Erasmus.  He lived long enough to hear of the fate of Anne Boleyn.  He may have smiled if he knew that she was no sooner gone than the Emperor and Francis were both competing to secure Henry's vacant hand for one of their kinswomen.  But popes and kings and Anne Boleyn were not important to a man like Erasmus, with the great change ever in sight of him.  In early life death had seemed an ugly object to him.  When his time came he received it with tranquility.  He [Erasmus] died quietly at Bâle on July 12, 1536, and was buried in state in the cathedral [Protestant cathedral since 1529].






I have left myself no time for concluding reflections, and I do not know that any reflections are necessary. 


I have endeavoured to put before you the character and thoughts of an extraordinary man at the most exciting period of modern history.  It is a period of which the story is still disfigured by passion and prejudice.  I believe that you will best see what it really was if you will look at it through the eyes of Erasmus.'  [427-431] [end of Lecture XX] [end of text].


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from:  A Short History of Freethought, Ancient and Modern, J.M. Robertson, Russell & Russell, c1957 (1906).


            "Calvin's guilt in the matter begins with his devices to have Servetus seized by the Catholic authorities at Lyons2—to set [goad, urge, etc.] misbelievers, as he regarded them, to slay the misbeliever—and his use of Servetus' confidential letters against him.3  The later trial at Geneva is a classic document in the records of the cruelties committed in honour of chimeras:  and Calvin's part is the sufficient proof that the Protestant could hold his own with the Catholic Inquisitor in the spirit of hate.4  All the Protestant leaders, broadly speaking, grew more intolerant as they grew in years—a fair test as between the spirit of dogma and the spirit of freethought.  Calvin had begun by pleading for tolerance and clemency; Luther came to be capable of hounding on the German nobility against the unhappy peasants; Melanchthon, tolerant in his earlier days, applauded the burning of Servetus;5 Beza laboriously defended the act. 


Erasmus stood for tolerance;


and Luther accordingly called him godless, an enemy of true religion, a slanderer of Christ, a Lucian, an Epicurean, and the vilest miscreant that ever disgraced the earth [was this stated to protect Erasmus?].6"  [256].


            [footnote] "6Table Talk, c. 43.  Cp. Michelet's Life of Luther, Eng. tr 1846 pp. 195–6; and Hallam, Lit. Hist. of Europe, i, 360-5."  [256].


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from:  Bring Out Your Dead, The Past as Revelation, Anthony Grafton, Harvard University Press, 2001.


'Erasmus the scholar knew a great deal about Greek and Roman homosexuality.  But Erasmus the teacher, as Jacques Chomarat has recently reminded us, gave instructions on how to teach the first line of Virgil's second Eclogue ("Corydon the shepherd was hot for pretty Alexis") in such a way as to distract the student from realizing what the poem was about.  And Erasmus the translator, as Erika Rummel has shown, carefully fudged references to pederasty and homosexuality when rendering decently obscure Greek into worrisomely accessible Latin.'  [242]. 


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from:  Against the Faith, Essays on Deists, Skeptics and Atheists, Jim Herrick, Prometheus, 1985.





"He [Edward Gibbon 1737 – 1794] was in good humour and enjoying conversation; but his health declined with unexpected rapidity and he died in January 1794.  There is no evidence, despite later stories to this effect, that he changed the view expressed in his Autobiography: 


[Gibbon] 'The present is a fleeting moment, the past is no more; and our prospect of futurity is dark and doubtful.'


            In the months of his final illness churches had been closed in Paris, and the Terror was approaching its peak. 


Gibbon admired Burke's stern disapproval of the French Revolution: 


[Gibbon] 'I admire his eloquence, I approve his politics, I adore his chivalry, and I can almost excuse his reverence for church establishments. 



I [ EDWARD GIBBON] have sometimes thought of writing a dialogue of the dead, in which Lucian [a great favorite of Erasmus], Erasmus, and Voltaire should mutually acknowledge the danger of exposing an old superstition to the contempt of the blind and fanatic multitude.' 



Members of the multitude, like Thomas Paine [1739 – 1809], saw hope not danger in exposing the 'old superstition'."  [114].


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from:  The Encyclopedia of Unbelief, Gordon Stein [1941 – 1996], Ph.D.,  Editor, Volume One, Prometheus, 1985.



"DEISM"  [134]


            "Precursors.  The roots of deism existed among the Christian humanists of the Renaissance, including Rabelais [c. 1494 – 1553], Erasmus [c. 1466 – 1536], and Thomas More [1478 – 1535].  The latter has been treated as a deist because of his praise in the Utopia of natural religion without benefit of revelation as the logical outcome of human reason and because of his provision that in the ideal society a man might be of whatever religion he pleased."  [135].





            'Theology, Philosophy and Anthropology.  The entire question of the existence of the Devil has been a source of considerable controversy, difficulty, and embarrassment even to theologians.  Under the impact of the consequences of biblical criticism by authorities such as Erasmus and BENEDICT SPINOZA [1632 – 1677 (possibly silicosis, from lens grinding), and especially in the wake of the Enlightenment and its predominantly materialist rejection of belief in the supernatural, open-minded Christian scholars began to interpret the scriptural references to Satan as "picture taking," that is, as metaphoric language not to be taken literally.  They became willing to concede that this as a mythological attempt at expressing the woeful reality in the world.  This intellectual development would seem to corroborate the opinion of the eminent anthropologist E. Adamson Hoebel, according to whom:  "Urban culture contributed to the birth of the Age of Enlightenment and the Age of Reason following the Renaissance in the West, greatly reducing the relative importance of super-naturalism in civilized thinking as compared to that of primitive peoples.["]'  [148].





            "The 16th Century.  Erasmus (1467–1536) was born at Rotterdam but lived for a long time in France and England.  Very learned, especially well-nourished on the thought of the ancients, he wrote in Latin and found a way to support the strongest theses critical of church texts and customs without [and with] supporting Martin Luther and without breaking with Catholicism.






            Erasmus was not a man who could be called an atheist, but it was in his time—the 16th century—that one encounters the term for the first time in France.  The word atheist is from a Greek root, meaning he who does not have a god; but believers have used the term for those who worship God in a way different from theirs."  [229].


_____     _____     _____



from:  The Encyclopedia of Unbelief, Gordon Stein, Ph.D., Editor, Volume Two, Prometheus, 1985.





            "Sources of Unbelief.  To some extent, sources of unbelief could be found within Holland's borders.  Heretics, individually avowing their doubts, had always lived there.   In some respects Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1469–1536) was a pagan rather than a Christian, for he frequently cited Greek and Roman authors and philosophers, as well as moralists.  He depended upon the human conscience and believed that, in spite of all religious conflicts, an objective, hence universally human, notion of good and evil existed for all nations and all times.  He rarely relied on ecclesiastical dogmas, preferring on [delete "on"] the moral duty of making peace among all people.  He appealed to the monarchs of his day to be enlightened despots."  [475].



            'Besides Erasmus' ethics and Spinoza's [1632 – 1677] philosophy there was a third, typically Dutch source of unbelief, rooted in the exegesis of the Bible.  Erasmus had edited the Greek text of the Bible and included critical notes.  He was suspected not to have believed wholeheartedly in what had been written about Jesus in the Gospels.  To quote the much devouter Martin Luther [1483 – 1546]: 


"Erasmus of Rotterdam regards the Christian religion and its doctrine as a comedy or as a tragedy, in which the events described never truly happened but had been invented in order to teach the people virtuous conduct and discipline."






            Spinoza had not stated his opinion about the New Testament, but his criticism of the Old Testament was the first scholarly disavowal of its "truth." 


He wrote:  "The so-called Word of God is false, maimed, falsified and in contradiction with itself."  And he showed numerous errors, myths, legends, and misinterpreted statements.'  [476].





            "Between the dates of La Celestina and Don Quijote the Protestant Reformation arrived, and the Inquisitors had their hands full.  In Spain, the controversy became centered in a cluster of problems known as erasmismo.  The erasmistas were followers of Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466–1536).  To be a follower of this towering humanist meant that one must certainly be a heretic, a Lutheran, or some sort of crypto-Protestant."  [646].


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from:  Erasmi Opuscula, A Supplement to the Opera Omnia, edited with Introductions and Notes by Wallace K. Ferguson, Assistant Professor of History in New York University, The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1933.







            In 1506, after years of expectation and disappointment, Erasmus finally put into effect his plan to visit Italy.  His sojourn in the ancient centre of culture and religion was of great significance for his development both as humanist and reformer, and is therefore an important event in the history of Christian humanism in Northern Europe1).  There he perfected his command of Greek, read through ancient manuscripts unobtainable in the North, and mingled freely with the most distinguished scholars of the Italian Renaissance.  There, too, he had his first opportunity to view the papacy at close range.  Rome in the first years of the sixteenth century might prove very enlightening to a spiritually-minded Christian, gifted, as was Erasmus, with the piercing vision of the born satirist.  For three years he regarded the turbulent Italian scene from one point of vantage after another, but always with an interested eye on the papal comedy.  The first fruit of these years of thoughtful observation was the Moriae Encomium [Praise of Folly], the second, less famous but scarcely less significant, the dialogue Iulius exclusus e coelis."  ["38"].



            "The Iulius exclusus was probably written in 1513 or 1514, shortly after the death of the Pope, and during the author's stay at Cambridge6).  He was slow to publish it, but passed it around freely among his intimate friends.  It was evidently known to the Erasmian circle at Basle as early as August 1516, for at that time Boniface Amerbach completed a manuscript copy of the entire work.  The first mention of a printed edition occurs at the beginning of 15177).  A number of editions followed in rapid succession, almost all without indication of place or date8).  William Nesen mentions one published in Cologne in the summer of 15181), and in October of that year Conrad Grebel sent a Paris edition to a friend2); but there is no way of absolutely identifying these editions.  The first dated edition appeared from the press of Thierry Martens, who was closely associated with Erasmus at that time, at Louvain, September 1518.


            Erasmus refused to acknowledge his responsibility for the dialogue, resorting when necessary to every form of equivocation short of [(my impression) including] literal mendacity.  Yet despite the care with which he






endeavored to preserve his anonymity, there can be no doubt that he was the author of the Iulius.  It was immediately attributed to him by Christoph Scheurl3), Luther4, Pirkheimer5), Conrad Grebel  6), Guy Morillon7) and many others, especially at Cologne8).  Among modern scholars, Jortin, Geiger, Durand de Laur and Nichols have investigated the matter sufficiently to be convinced of the Erasmian authorship9); but it remained for Allen to settle the question with a finality that leaves no further room for doubt10).  His proofs have been expanded with some corroborative material by J.-B. Pineau11).  The latest works on Erasmus have accepted his authorship of the dialogue without question1).


            There is direct evidence of the existence of a manuscript copy of the Iulius in Erasmus' own handwriting...."  [41-43].



            "The external evidence for the Erasmian authorship of the Iulius is in itself conclusive proof.  It is further corroborated by the content of the dialogue.  The experiences of Erasmus in Italy, his dislike of Julius II, his attitude toward the papacy in general, and his whole Christian philosophy are reflected in it.  The style, too, is altogether Erasmian; close parallels to his other works are frequent thorughout3).  The striking resemblances in thought and wording to his epigram on Julius are especially worthy of note4).  As he pointed out to Campegio5), his books were well known and his style might have been imitated; but who could have imitated it so perfectly, catching all his philosophy, his wit and his peculiar turns of thought?  There was but one man in Europe who could have written the Iulius, and that was the author of the Praise of Folly and the Colloquies 6). 


            Most of the older scholars who have disputed this conclusion, or have been unaware of it, have attributed the dialogue to Erasmus' old friend, the frivolous Italian poet laureate to the King of France, Faustus Andrelinus of Forli....Böcking, Förster and Pastor have accepted [to protect Erasmus?] the Italian poet as responsible for the Iulius2)...."  [46, 47].



            "The purpose of the Iulius exclusus was twofold; it was ostensibly a personal attack on the late Pope, but it was also—and this is by far the more important factor—a thoroughgoing condemnation of the contemporary papacy, its rights, pretentions, ideals and actions, as represented by the typical Renaissance pope, Julius II.  In the dialogue Erasmus expressed, with a freedom unequalled in his other works, his real opinion of the Roman Curia.  His dialectic and method of attack are simple and characteristically Erasmian.  He ignores the dogmatic arguments of the theologians, and refuses to recognize the






validity of legal rights sprung from medieval tradition and canon law.  As always in dealing with problems of religion or education, he sweeps away the whole accumulation of scholastic thought with a disdainful gesture, and turns his attention to the ancient authority.  He confronts the Pope, who claims to be the Vicar of Christ and successor of the Apostles, with the authentic picture of apostolic life and ideals as shown in the New Testament.  His method of argument is simply the comparison of one ideal with another diametrically opposed.  He [Erasmus] brings Peter and Julius face to face, and the inference is obvious; for to the devout mind there can be no doubt which ideal is the truly Christian.


            In no place does Erasmus suggest the abolition of the papacy.  He always recognized the necessity for the existence of one united and organized Christian Church, without which reforms could not become effective, and such a Church must have a leader.  But the leader of Erasmus' ideal must be very different from any of those who had occupied the chair of St. Peter in recent years1).  He who would lead the Church of Christ must be like Christ; he who would be Christ's vicar must imitate him.  Otherwise his claims are blasphemy and his powers usurpation.  The role that Erasmus chose for himself was not that of the heretic or schismatic, but that of the moral reformer of the Church.  Hence he places the emphasis on duties rather than rights.  While Julius talks of the rights and privileges of the papacy, Peter, speaking for the author, replies with a simple appeal to reason and conscience.


            Yet, undogmatic as is the tenor of the dialogue, much of the argument is implicitly a keen attack on the orthodox doctrines with regard to the papacy [Christianity in general]2).  The author apparently regarded the office of the Pope, not as an absolute monarchy with legal rights of divine origin, but as a function, divinely instituted perhaps in the appointment of Peter, but of purely pragmatic value.  Hence, since the Pope, like any other ruler, holds his office because it is of service to the people, he may be deposed if he does not fulfil that function...."  [48-49].


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from:  Erasmus of the Low Countries, James D. Tracy, University of California Press, c1996.







'there is no denying that a text once published to the world has a historical reality of its own, quite apart from how the author might have wished it to be read,3 and the truth of this wider, more diffuse reality must be all the more important for a writer like Erasmus, whose habit of "dissimulation" was not always transparent even to those who knew him best.  Hence I propose to reverse the usual procedure by measuring the authorized reading  Erasmus proposed for his own works against the ways in which he was understood by his contemporaries and near contemporaries.  I will present an overview of sixteenth-century interpretations and then take a closer look at a typical but (for English-language readers) little known case of Erasmus's influence among local elites, the kingdom of Poland-Lithuania.4'  [183-184].





            Meanwhile, a very different Catholic view was taking hold in Italy.  Girolamo Aleandro's charges that Erasmus was secretly abetting Luther were echoed in no less than ten tracts published by Italian scholars between 1524 and 1534.7  Many of the authors were members or associates of the Roman Academy whose criticisms of his un-Ciceronian Latin Erasmus had scornfully rejected in a long letter of 1524 (published in 1529)8 as well as in the Ciceronianus of 1528.  Like Aleandro in his dispatches from Germany and the Low Countries (1520 – 1521), Italian critics saw Erasmus as providing "kindling" for Luther….

Already in 1529 the Florentine humanist Francesco Vettori wrote a friend that he had stopped reading Erasmus, lest he be thought a Lutheran….'  [184, 185].



'….Despite the influence of Zuñiga, Alcala, a new university where the new biblical philology was treated with respect, weighed in for Erasmus, while Salamanca, the traditional intellectual center of Old Castile and a bastion of scholastic theology, marshaled its legions against him.  At a gathering of theologians convened in Valladolid to pronounce judgment on Erasmus's works (1527), the Dominicans and Franciscans (with the men of Salamanca) attacked him [Erasmus], while the Benedictines and other orders (which






Alcala's theologians) were more favorable.  The inconclusive result of the assembly was good news for Erasmus's supporters, led by a trio of court humanists whom historian Marcel Bataillon describes as the "headquarters staff":  Juan Vergara, secretary to Juan de Fonseca, archbishop of Toledo and primate of Spain; Alonso Valdes, Charles V's Latin secretary; and the Benedictine Alonso Ruiz de Virues, who at some time prior to 1531 was named court preacher for the emperor.  These men published their own ideas on reform even as Erasmus's works were translated into Spanish at a rate that in Bataillon's views finds no parallel in other European languages.16….


Meanwhile, the Toledo chamber of the Inquisition brought formal charges against Vergara after a friar had identified him as a "Lutheran" because he said that St. Augustine had misunderstood the Bible because of his ignorance of Greek.  Vergara stipulated that none of his judges should be monks or friars, and his mistrust of the regular clergy was borne out when Alonso Virues, Benedictine and erstwhile Erasmian (though initially mistrusted by Erasmus), came forward as a witness for the prosecution.  Vergara was forced to make a public abjuration of his errors in December 1535.'  [186-187].



'In Italy an individual could be cited before the Inquisition for expressing doubt about the church's fast and abstinence laws, and on the matter of "ceremonies" there was in fact little difference between Erasmus and Luther, as Melanchthon had written in a letter that Erasmus later published.20  Melanchthon, who alone among the reformers remained close to Erasmus through his correspondence, later delivered the Oratio de Erasmo Roterodamo (1557) praising God for the work of this great scholar and describing him [Erasmus] at the end of his life as wishing to be a member of the Protestant church of Basel [see 508].21


            Yet the predominant opinion among Lutherans was quite different.  Following the publication of Hyperaspistes II (1527), Luther himself was relieved of all doubt that Erasmus was irreligious through and through:  "All religions serve him as an occasion for ridicule, he writes not a single word in earnest"; or "He is as certain that there is no eternal life as I am that I have two eyes."  Even a seemingly pious work like Erasmus's Explanation of the Creed was rejected out of hand by Luther, who thought it would have been better for even his educational writings "to be blown out of our schools"; Luther simply refused to believe reports from Capito and Bucer that Erasmus had died calling on the name of God….'  [187-188].






            'In his defense of Catholicism Zebrzydowski was more typical of the young Poles who had corresponded with Erasmus, but the Protestant Laski knew him better than any Pole and thought he had an understanding of Erasmus's mind that went beyond the written word.  Thus despite the strongly Catholic flavor of Erasmus's letters to Poles, the reading of his works in Poland corresponded to a more general pattern in which those who admired the Rotterdam humanist made claims on him for one side or another of Europe's great religious divide.92  Perhaps especially in works like Moriae Encomium or the Colloquia, where he had used ridicule as a weapon against superstitious dimensions of specific Catholic practices like pilgrimages or abstinence from meat on Fridays, Erasmus's comments "lent themselves to a Protestant reading."93  Try as he might, the Catholic Erasmus of the Basel and Freiburg years could not add enough glosses or clarifications to control the interpretation of words and works already in the public domain.'  [end of Chapter 14] [202-203].





'Since Erasmus could neither condemn the papacy as the Antichrist nor embrace the mendicants as paladins of the Gospel, he [Erasmus] was labeled a "slippery [see 458]" man (see above, p. 188 [not presented]).  Conversely, he has gained new appreciation in a century when it has sometimes seemed, as to William Butler Yeats, that "the best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity."  If Erasmus continues to attract attention of those who would understand the sixteenth century, it is perhaps because he himself spoke, in his varying assertions, for the divided consciousness of an as yet undivided Latin Christian Europe.' 


[208] [end of text].


 l l l l l






from:  The Correspondence of Erasmus [c. 1466 – 1536], Letters [numbered] 842 to 992, years 1518 to 1519, translated by R.A.B. Mynors and D.F.S. Thomson, annotated by Peter G. Bietenholz, Volume 6, University of Toronto Press, Toronto / Buffalo / London, 1982.  [See 490 (caveat)].



'911 / From Petrus Mosellanus                                       Leipzig, 6 January 1519


            Peter Schade (cf Ep 560), called Mosellanus as a native of the Moselle valley (cf line 23), had taught Greek at the University of Leipzig since 1517.  He had close contacts with Melanchthon, his colleague at Wittenberg, and this letter was written during Melanchthon's visit to Leipzig (see Ep 910 introduction).  It was answered by Ep 948 and published in the Farrago.




As I hope for Christ's blessing on my studies, Erasmus, dearest to me by far of mortal men, I have often smiled before now at the effrontery of men who interrupt with their foolish letters those labours of yours which are a blessing to the whole world; and here am I doing just that, under pressure from other people.  There is here an immense crowd of sophisters and what you call with no less justice than elegance windy word-spinners, with whom I and a few other defenders of he public respect for literature wage continual war.  In this contest those who have attracted the majority of the young men to their own party are the winners.  Great efforts are deployed by both camps, in brave deeds on our side, in ambushes and trickery on theirs.  'Cunning or valour?  In the foe, who cares?'  Yet Mars, who in battles of this kind is in no hurry to change sides, inclines to favour us.  Nor do I doubt that if you, like some patron Minerva, stand at our right hand propitious, we shall soon be singing our song of triumph.


            The worthless fellows on the other side, who are sworn foes to all liberal studies and especially to Greek (which I teach here publicly by the liberality of George, the prince of our Mysia, not as it deserves, but as best I can and with all my heart), are always telling the crowd of inexperienced young men that, however much one ought to learn Greek (a concession I have won with difficulty after all these conflicts),yet it cannot be learnt from a German or (such is their notion of Trier) a semi-Frenchman like myself; for, say they, if you were any better at this language than the common herd, you would surely long ago have made friends somehow, at least by a mutual interchange of letters, with Erasmus, the father of this time-wasting subject (as they think it) in Germany.  And then, if a man has time and money to waste in any case, he ought to seek






his knowledge of Greek from Italians and Greeks.  In this strain these clever fellows go on croaking and try to dissuade the young from attending lectures on Greek.  As though a man like you honoured with his friendship only men like Budé, Lascaris, Musurus, Bembo [number 32 in margin]


[[footnote] "32 Bembo] Pietro Bembo of Venice (1470 – 1547), papal secretary and from 1538 [1539] cardinal, was an outstanding figure among Italian humanists and writers.  Erasmus knew him by reputation from his own stay in Venice and corresponded with him from 1529 to his death [1536]; cf Allen Ep 2106 introduction."  [222]],


Leoniceno, Aleandro, Reuchlin, Birchemer, and did not also, approachable and kindly as you are, do what you can to meet the selfish requests of many ordinary people (how could you do otherwise?), besides revealing clearly enough to a sensible reader in various places in your works, though it is not your immediate subject, what your opinion is of Italian teachers.


            Not that this sophistry would draw very many away from me, if we were not all by nature averse from hard work, and if this conviction about Italian scholarship, from which Germany is not the only sufferer, was not supported also by the votes of those whom I find to be enemies when they should be allies, and who, I rather think, do much more harm than the barbarian blockheads themselves.  I mean the people who, having picked up three or four Latin figures of speech, advertise themselves, some as poets and some as orators, finding (happy men!) an audience worthy of them, in front of whom they declaim with great temerity against Greek studies as having (if you please) little or nothing to contribute to Latin.  One impious wretch of this kidney has been carried by some accursed northern gale into the heart of our university all the way from Dalmatia.  In a word, you will give me great pleasure and will also delight the students of our liberal subjects here if you will write me even one letter to show your feelings towards us.  Do this in return for the affection I bear you, having followed you scrupulously as my guide in literary matters since my boyhood; do this in pity for those poor imbeciles who do not wish well to all men of good will.  Must I be the only person towards whom you are not your true self?  Surely not; for elsewhere, like your favourite Paul, you are all things to all men, in order that (so far as in you lies) you may bring them all to a sound mind.


            Johann Eck [1486 – 1543], our champion sky-walker and master head-in-air – like Socrates in Aristophanes, he looks down on the gods out of a basket – is about to descend into the cockpit of disputation to fight for his life (his fees, that is) against Andreas Karlstadt, the archdeacon of Wittenberg.  The arena will be thinking-shop of our theologians, and the judges too will be the local word-spinners.  Our great chief [apparently, Luther] himself is invited by






Eck to attend—the donkey [apparently, Luther] listening to the lyre [apparently, Eck], with a vengeance.  The day has not yet been fixed, but great preparations for the contest are going forward on both sides.  One of them will bring a claque of Augustinians; the other will produce a proper party of Preachers, for they never fail to turn up when their daily porridge is called in question.  People will flock from all quarters to watch the great fight, for 'tis a right noble pair of Scotists that we shall see matched.  Shall I foretell what will happen?  Uproar, followed by violence; and more blood shed in the fight, I fear, than you so entertainingly sketched for us in your chapter about Esernius and Pacidianus.  Such will be the dénouement of the whole piece, for I know well what tempers are like on both sides.  Democritus ten times over will find plenty to keep him laughing.  The outcome, if worth hearing, shall be reported to you in full.  I meanwhile shall play martial music to our paladins, to the tune of 'Be wise, bethink you of fierce valour now,' and as I watch them, I shall turn epic poet:  'Then leathern shields and glaives did clash, I wis.'


            But whither do I wander?  I have forgotten myself, rattling on to a doctor of divinity like you as though you were some familiar crony.  Farewell, Erasmus dearer to me than life itself, and mind you live a long and happy life for the benefit of all men of good will.


            Leipzig, feast of the Three Kings 1519


            One thing I ask you specially, in the name of Christ himself:  do not let yourself be persuaded by those who speak ill to you of Philippus Melanchthon.  Do not suspect anything to his discredit.  He is an excellent young man, born for distinguished scholarship and piety no less.'


[end of letter] [221-223 (224 is a woodcut of Andreas Rudolf Bodenstein), 225].


_____     _____     _____






from:  The Correspondence of Erasmus [c. 1466 – 1536], Letters [numbered] 1122 to 1251, years 1520 to 1521, translated by R.A.B. Mynors, annotated by Peter G. Bietenholz, Volume 8, University of Toronto Press, Toronto / Buffalo / London, 1988.



"1167 / To Lorenzo Campeggi                        Louvain, 6 December 1520" [108]




I had decided to spend the winter in Rome,1 for other reasons as well, but principally in order to use the riches of the papal library on several passages, for among us there is a great shortage of religious texts in Greek, the Aldine press not having given us much as yet besides pagan authors.2  But these frequent conferences between monarchs,3 which it was important for me not to miss entirely, have delayed me here; and so what has not been possible now I shall attempt with God's help next year.  I shall be happy to spend all the life that heaven may be willing to remain for me in Rome, where liberal studies not only find tranquility but are held in honour.  This country, though it grows more civilized every day, cannot yet quite slough off all its native rudeness,4 and the ranks of ancient barbarism have most obstinate champions at their head.... 


            In his [Martin Luther's] writings it was not long before I stumbled on something rude and harsh, which did not properly reflect the gentle spirit of the Gospel; and I warned him [Martin Luther] to take example by Christ and the Apostles and teach with all gentleness the elements of true piety.  To increase his chances of doing this to good purpose, I warned him not to attack the Roman pontiff, for it is in the general interest that his authority should be sacrosanct, and not to attack the majesty of princes,25 for when they are the targets of abuse or ill-timed warnings, not only do they not become better but sometimes they are embittered and give rise to dangerous storms.  Then the man who issued the warning loses all his influence, and sometimes his life, and its recipient loses the benefit he should have had.  Indeed, while it can never be lawful to go against the truth, it may sometimes be expedient to conceal it26 in the circumstances.  And it is always of the first importance how timely, how opportune, and how well judged your production of it is. 


Theologians are agreed on some things among themselves which it is not expedient to publish to the common herd. 






And a correction that is well timed, gentle, and courteous often puts people right who would be driven into perdition by a severe and ill-timed rebuke.  I will not mention (what Plato seems to have perceived so clearly27) that a mixed and uneducated multitude cannot be retained in its allegiance unless it is sometimes misled by artificial colouring and well-intentioned falsehood [see 450].  But this requires a man not only of the highest character, but of exceptional wisdom.


            I warned him not to condemn the universities or the monastic orders out of hand, but to point out courteously what changes he would wish to see made; and that in things which are accepted more from tradition than from sound judgment, he should use close-packed and solid arguments rather than mere asseveration.28  Knowing as I [Erasmus] did the German temperament [of Martin Luther],29 and being aware that he was irritated by the excessively hostile tone of certain persons' attacks upon him, I urged him not to answer one insult with another,30 but either to ignore the whole thing or to reply with argument...."  [109, 113].




"1195 / to Luigi Marliano               Louvain, 25 March [1521 [Froude (261), has 1520]]" [169]




Letters from several friends,1 no ordinary men and persons of some authority, though their affection makes them perhaps unduly anxious, inform me that in your part of the world I have secret enemies, I know not who, who continually spread fresh rumours and suspicions that I am a supporter of Luther.2  I understand also that sundry scandalous pamphlets are attributed to me,3 of which I hear you have a constant supply, some from one source and some from another.  I know that in these days calumny reigns supreme, and that there never was a time when unbridled scurrility was allowed more licence; but among scholarly and intelligent persons of good judgment, among whom I place your Lordship in the very first rank, there should be no scope for this sort of underground attack.  Long ago you warned me4 with your usual wisdom (though you were, as they say, preaching to the converted5) not to involve myself in Luther's business....






            Such Reverend Father, is the whole picture of my mind.  If anything is bandied about in your part of the world which is contrary to the Christian religion or disturbs the public peace or attacks the honour of the see of Rome, you may be absolutely certain that it does not come from me, under whatever name it circulates.  That this is true, Time, who brings all things into the open,27 will one day make clear; and I am ready now to demonstrate by any proof they wish that I have no mind to differ by one hair's breadth28 from those who agree with the Catholic church.  I know that one should endure anything rather than upset the general state of the world and make it worse; I know that sometimes it is a good man's duty to conceal the truth,29 and not to publish it regardless of times and places, before every audience and by every method, and everywhere complete.  Every educated man is well aware that some things are generally accepted, through the gradual growth of custom, through complaisance towards modern legal authority, through hasty pronouncements by academic philosophers, or even through the arts and craft of princes, things which would be better done away with.  But the wisdom of the Christian required that if a remedy is to be applied, it should not be applied so clumsily that it makes the disease more acute instead of ending it, and even replaces the disease by an early death.  For I would not dare to determine whether there is any way in which Christians can approve Plato's opinion,30 when he allows those wise guardians of his to deceive the people with lies for the public benefit; for sound philosophical reasoning has no power to restrain the mingled throng of men from lapsing into something worse.


            One thing I have always been on my guard against:  I would not be a cause of disorder or an asserter of doctrinal novelties.  I was invited by many eminent persons to ally myself with Luther, and wrote back that I would be Luther's man if he were of the Catholic party.  They invited me to lay down a rule of faith,31 and I wrote back that I [Erasmus] know no faith but that of the Catholic church.32...."  [170, 173].


"NOTES TO EP [apparently, epistle] 1167, PAGES 112–116" [388]


"27 [see 449] Plato...clearly] Cf Republic 3.389B, 459C–D; cf Ep 1195:131–6."  [388].



"NOTES TO EP 1195, PAGES 171–175" [407]


"30 [see above] Plato's opinion] Cf Ep 1167 n27."  [407].










Translated by Alexander Dalzell and Erika Rummel


annotated by Thomas B. Deutscher"  ["335"]



"The five letters translated here were exchanged by Juan de Vergara of Toledo (1492–1557; cf Ep 1277) and Diego López Zúñiga (d 1531; cf Ep 1128) between 1521 and 1523.  They have been included here because of the information they provide about the controversy then raging between Erasmus and Zúñiga, who in 1520 had published a critique of Erasmus' first edition of the New Testament (1516):  Annotationes contra Erasmum Roterodamum in defensionem tralationis Novi Testamenti (Alcalá:  A.G. de Brocar).  Zúñiga, an accomplished scholar in Greek and Hebrew, was a member of the team assembled by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros to produce the Complutensian Polyglot Bible; as such he was perhaps the most competent critic of Erasmus' New Testament scholarship.  His Annotationes, coming on the heels of the attacks of the Englishman Edward Lee, and occurring at a time when Erasmus was under mounting pressure to take a stand against Luther, caused the Dutch humanist considerable stress and anxiety, as is evident in the first letter.  Erasmus' fears were well founded, for his first Apologia contra Stunicam did not silence the Spaniard but helped provoke him to extend the struggle to more dangerous ground, the question whether Erasmus was the source of the new ideas of Luther and his followers.  Between the two protagonists stood Vergara, who represented the new generation of Spanish humanism, respectful towards Zúñiga but favoring Erasmus and trying in vain to play the peacemaker.


            The most thorough accounts of the controversy between Erasmus and Zúñiga are Marcel Bataillon's Erasmo y España 2nd ed (Mexico City-Buenos Aires 1966) 91–102 and 115–32 and H.J. de Jonge's introduction to his edition of Erasmus' first Apologia contra Stunicam, ASD 1X-2 3–57.  The works published by Erasmus and Zúñiga during the course of their controversy are listed in Allen IV 622 and by de Jonge in ASD IX-2 41–2.  The text of all five letters can be found in Allen IV 620–32.


            The first four letters form part of what Allen has named the 'Heine Collection.'  The collection consisted of twenty-four letters gathered by Doctor Gotthold Heine of Berlin at Madrid in 1846–7.  Seven were copied in his own hand, and seventeen in the hand of an unknown copyist, probably a






seventeenth- or eighteenth-century Spaniard.  In the latter group are the first four letters translated into English here, as well as Epp 1277, 1312, 1554, 1684, 1864, 2003, 2562 between Erasmus and Vergara and other Spanish correspondents.  The originals of only two of these seventeen letters could be located by Allen.  The fifth letter comes from a manuscript in the Biblioteca Nacional at Madrid.  It was first printed by Adolfo Bonilla y San Martin in Clarorum Hispaniensium epistolae ineditae (Paris 1901) 19ff and Revue Hispanique 8 (1901) 193–6.  TBD [Thomas B. Deutscher]"  [336].




"2 / Diego López Zúñiga to Juan de Vergara              Rome, 9 January 1522


Most revered sir.  Here in Rome on 16 December I received your dispatch sent from Brussels on 10 October.  Enclosed in the said dispatch was a letter1 of yours, written in Latin, and the Apologia2 of the renowned Erasmus, which I had long had a great desire to see; Paolo Bombace,3 secretary to my lord of Santi Quattro,4 who is Erasmus' advocate and patron here, showed me a letter5 addressed to himself by the aforementioned Erasmus, in which he said, inter alia, 'The Spaniard who made such an insolent attack on my Annotationes is Zúñiga; I have answered him quite civilly in a brief Apologia.'  So I have been most anxious to see a copy, and you have been good enough to satisfy my wishes by your thoughtfulness in sending the aforementioned Apologia.  For this I am particularly indebted to you.  I only wish that Lee's Annotationes and Erasmus' reply6 had reached me at the same time—you tell me, sir, that you sent them to me in Spain, but I never set eyes on them until I arrived in Genoa7 a year ago.  It was about that time that a learned gentleman there8 pointed them out to me along with the second edition9 of Erasmus' New Testament.  This was all quite new to me, for before that I had never seen any of this material, nor imagined that anyone would have anticipated me in goading this wild bull [Erasmus]; I would very much have liked to have had that glory for myself.


            Some time later I saw Lee's Annotationes and Erasmus' reply being bound here for the Portuguese ambassador;10 but I have never seen any other copies at Rome, nor are there any available.  For this reason, sir, please send them11 by the first messenger who leaves for Rome, so that I may keep them with the other pieces you sent and see exactly what this Lee is saying; for I read his work very hastily in Genoa.  As for Erasmus' Apologia, he did answer me, if I am not mistaken 'quite civilly,' though not in the sense he intended, but according to the meaning of the word in good plain Castilian.12  I did not think that he was quite so ignorant as he has now shown himself to be in this Apologia of his; for although he admits to having made some errors, I see that he blatantly defends others which are graver still, excusing his ignorance as far as he can and






defending himself with empty words.  Although at the time I was greatly saddened, as was to be expected, by the death of our good pontiff and lord, Pope Leo,13 I could not contain my laughter when I read his Apologia.


            Moreover I have come to realize from reading this work that Erasmus has no high opinion of me, and he is quite right, since until now no one has known whether I existed or not.  But I have resolved to make my reply of such a nature that he will be compelled to take me seriously; for besides the material which I have in my own possession I have the great advantage here of the Greek libraries,14 which offer much that is useful in my efforts to crush this barbarian [Erasmus].  Here is how I propose to answer him.  First, I shall try to show how ill informed was the reply which he made in the Apologia, in which, to mention just one thing, he deliberately suppressed points which I had made and which are available in print; next I shall reveal the errors into which he fell in his second edition—the third edition15 has not been seen here to date and is not available; then I shall purge his notes on the Letters of St Jerome:16 all this will make a fine book—enough to make Erasmus' ears ring.  But since this is less than a man of such impious and blasphemous views deserves, I have planned a second book,17 which is more or less in order, though it has not yet been published; in it I point out to the pope (in whose interest it is to take this matter in hand) how important it is to punish this Dutchman [Erasmus] and compel him to recant, since I can show that among his impious teachings there are ten passages18 in which he openly attacks the primacy of the Roman church.  The Lutheran heretics have seized upon this as the plainest support for their own heretical beliefs.  Master Erasmus will find this a more disagreeable tune than my having written a reply to his Annotationes.  You will do well therefore to warn him to be on his guard in the future; for I am not the only one to raise a fuss about these matters—there are many others, and among them is a member of the ecclesiastical court, a learned Italian,19 who has read all the works of Erasmus with this one purpose in mind—to seek out any blasphemous ideas which they contain and to dislodge the snakes, so to speak, from their pit.  I have discovered that he has noted more than a hundred passages, and has copied them out and presented them to Pope Leo; the pope in turn gave them to a certain scholar at court,20 whom I have not been able to identify, with instructions to prepare a response.  I assure you all this is going on and will continue until Erasmus is obliged to come to Rome and do penance and recant


                        Or he will burn in a coat of pitch,

            Like those who, fastened by the throat

            Stand amid flame and smoke.21  [Christian sentiments!  Christian love!]






            But enough on this subject.  Erasmus, it appears, has published three editions of the New Testament, though it would have been better for him if he had not published any or taken it upon himself to make such disturbing innovations, as he will find out soon, perhaps in the very near future.  I have only seen the edition at Alcalá to which I wrote my reply, and another printed in March 1519.  Of the latter I have seen only two copies, one at Genoa and the other here at Rome in the house of my lord of Santi Quattro22—they say that this is the second edition.  In the Apologia Erasmus often mentions a third edition, and you tell me that, when you arrived from Spain, he was preparing a third edition for publication.  I beg you, sir, please write to me and identify the first, second, and third editions,23 that is, let me know the day, month, and year when each of these was printed and why he published a third edition when there were still so many copies available of the second.  I should also like to know if he saw my Annotationes before the publication of the third edition and why they do not send the second and third editions to Rome or, I am given to believe, anywhere else—I suppose their aim is to sell off the first editions.  If there were any way of sending me here the third edition, I would be most pleased to have it.


            Although the Roman booksellers have sent my Annotationes against Erasmus24 and Lefèvre25 to every city in Italy and have also dispatched copies to Lyon for distribution throughout France and Germany, there are still some left, since I brought a large number with me; some of these I should like to have delivered to Louvain so that Erasmus' friends there might see them and make up their minds about them.  So please write to me and let me know if copies have arrived there and how many, and in what form you think fifty copies could be sent there.


            Two months before Pope Leo's death, a German theologian called Eck,26 who was the first person to launch an attack on Luther, arrived here and is still here.  He brought fifteen pamphlets,27 in German, composed recently by fifteen Lutheran heretics who have formed a conspiracy against the Roman church, though they do not have the courage to identify themselves.  In three of them Erasmus is depicted with his doctoral cap, and each of the three spreads its impious doctrines beneath a quotation from the Moria [Praise of Folly] of Erasmus.  They evidently consider him one of their own tribe.  The same opinion is held in Rome, and it was the opinion of Pope Leo also, who, if he were still alive, would give him his due deserts, for he had received information from Germany that Erasmus was secretly in league with Luther and was editing and polishing his works,28 and, although Erasmus wrote to him29 to justify himself, the pontiff was not satisfied.  This is why he was so pleased when he saw my Annotationes against Erasmus and why he read and praised them.  So you can see how much truth there was in the report which, according to Erasmus, Bombace had communicated to him.30 






It is all very well for him to comfort himself with empty words, but in the end he will see how much good they will do him.


            The news from here is that Pope Leo died on 1 December at midnight.  His funeral took place on the ninth of that month.  The cardinals entered the conclave on the twenty-seventh.  There were about forty in number altogether.  On the fourteenth day of the conclave the most reverend the cardinal of Tortosa was elected in absentia and publicly proclaimed pope.31  There was great joy in Rome over his election because of his great reputation for virtue and sanctity; within an hour his arms and the papal insignia, that is, the mitre and the keys, were displayed throughout the city.  This is the Lord's doing, and this the day which the Lord has made.32  Blessed be his name for providing so fine a shepherd for his church at a time of such great need.  I have nothing more to write except to express the wish that the Lord will preserve you, most reverend Father.


            Rome, 9 January 1522, the day of the election of the new pope


            I am, sir, at your command, Diego López de Zúñiga


            To the most reverend Doctor Vergara, canon of Alcalá, at the court in Flanders.  Postage, two reales; I repeat, two reales




3 / From Diego López de Zúñiga to Juan de Vergara     Rome, 26 March 1522


The books1 which you sent me along with your letter2 could not have come at a better time.  I had just finished my reply to Erasmus3 a few days before—it does not differ much in substance or scope from my previous work—and the only thing which was holding up its publication was the fact that I could not lay hands on Erasmus' Apologia to Lee, to which he refers me in several places.4  So the arrival of the book was a great help to me in my labours.  I had come to the conclusion that, however much I might wish to do so, it would be wrong for me to rush into print; for I was afraid that instead of bringing into the world the sort of work which people perhaps expected of me, I might appear to have suffered a miscarriage; or I might fall victim to the fate which so frequently and deservedly besets my opponent because of his impatience to get his work in print.  I was amused to discover what those friends of Erasmus5 thought about his reply6 to my Annotationes—that the force of my argument had not just been blunted, but completely demolished.  I am afraid these people do not appreciate our Spanish mettle or realize that we are a nation which would sooner be robbed of life than of honour.  That Erasmus is a learned man, I do not






contest; in fact, if I had not thought him so, I am not so faint-hearted as to have taken him for my antagonist when there were so many men of letters to choose from.  So let him regard it as a special compliment or as striking evidence of his own standing as a scholar that I thought him worth taking on in scholarly debate.  As for his Apologia, now that I have read it, far from discouraging me from my purpose, it has made me all the more eager for the attack for the feebleness of his defence has provided me with a much easier target to aim at.  My reply, I think, has not turned out too badly, but whatever its merits, it will leave Erasmus in no doubt that I am not so poor a scholar as his Apologia suggests.  This is not my only purpose in attacking him; there are other matters of greater moment,7 which will enable the reader to see that this fellow Erasmus, who has been making such a noise throughout the world for many years, does not reign in the citadel of letters, as some people in this innocent and foolish world appear to have thought [Diego López de Zúñiga, huffing and puffing!]…."  [340-344].


_____     _____     _____



from:  Collected Works of Erasmus [c. 1466 – 1536], Letters [numbered]1535 to 1657, January–December 1525, translated by Alexander Dalzell, annotated by Charles G. Nauert jr, Volume 11, University of Toronto Press, Toronto / Buffalo / London, 1994.



'1587 / From Celio Calcagnini                                         Ferrara, 6 July 1525


This is a reply to Ep 1576 and like it was printed in Erasmus' Opus epistolarum.  On the writer and on Erasmus' role in the publication of his De libero animi motu against Luther see Ep 1576 introduction.  The letter gives eloquent testimony to Calcagnini's mastery of both Greek and Latin classical literature, most remarkably in Allen lines 139-42, where he elegantly patches together and adapts two passages from Lucretius.




When I wrote to Pistofilio1 about the freedom of the will, nothing was further from my thoughts than that my jottings would ever see the full light of day, much less that they would fall into your hands.  My only purpose was to show my gratitude to someone who had been very kind to me and who had sent me your De libero arbitrio diatribe as soon as it reached him from Germany through the good offices of that distinguished man, Floriano Montini.2  He knew I was






interested in all your scholarly writings and that I particularly enjoyed those which were intended to check or blunt Luther's arrogance.  Many had attempted this before, but in a half-hearted manner, as though their thoughts were elsewhere:  all they accomplished by their efforts was to make a naturally rebellious man even more insolent.  As a consequence he came to believe that he alone held the truth; he systematically rejected all the established authors of the past; he became the sole arbiter of everything that was written on sacred themes; he restored opinions which were long ago condemned and repudiated by the decrees of the Fathers of the ancient church and he defended them and hammered them into people's heads.  We have now reached the point where it seems better not to touch this stinking shrub rather than provoke it by contact [that is why (again!), uprooting at first contact—is essential].3


            When Hercules did battle with the hydra, he must have realized there could be no respite until he had dispatched the creature with fire and sword.  I too have always thought it best either to ignore Luther altogether or to vanquish him completely, for I saw no middle course.  At the beginning he had gained a reputation for himself by the fearless and unblushing way in which he attacked the manners of our age and by the vicious insults which he heaped upon the scarlet-robed fathers of the cardinalate and the noble office of the supreme pontiff, uncovering (so to speak) his father's shame,4 like some wicked and ungrateful child.  This behaviour caught the attention and the interest of many people:  it appeared as though a virtuous man was being carried away by a love of goodness and truth and a strong desire to help mankind; and this seemed all the more plausible because up until then he covered his character with a cloak of modesty.  In fact, far from offering a stubborn defence of the ideas which he was then bringing forth (though much more horrible and shocking things were yet to come), he submitted his thoughts to the judgment of his betters and of pious people within the holy church.


            I shall tell you the truth, my dear friend:  I was almost taken in by that lying hypocrite (as we later discovered him to be); I had convinced myself that Luther was a good man, someone less likely to deceive than be deceived, but too violent and emotional in his moral strictures—though, I admit, the morals of the age were almost more than anyone could bear.  I attributed this attitude to something in his nature, which manifested an extravagant zeal for the cause of Christ and for our faith; he seemed to be consumed with such a passion for religion and such fervour for the worship of the Lord that he forgot the precepts of the evangelists5 and apostles6 and gave in to anger more readily than he should.  But when he rang up the curtain on that new and terrible scene and began spewing forth that old sad stuff of John Hus7 and all that perverse nonsense of the Bohemians and tried to bring back those worn out fantasies of the past, believe me, he cut a very different figure from that which we had known before. 






Suddenly where there had been modesty there was obstinacy, and where there had been piety and innocence there was ambition and fanaticism.  His attack upon religion began, so to speak, with the shrine of Vesta:8 he first made an assault on the gospel and tried to discredit all the commentators, so that there would be no place for anyone but himself.  He weakened the authority of the sacraments to the point where there were hardly more than one or two which he respected.  He wished all the priestly orders to be equal, so that there would be no one to whom appeal could be made against Martin's sovereign will.  He taught that it was useless and silly to remember the dead, that the will of man is bound by necessity, and countless other doctrines of the same sort which the mind shudders to recall.


            I know that Luther can always support his teaching with false and specious arguments drawn from Sacred Scripture; these he regards as irrefutable, like the Achilles argument of Zeno.9  No one should be surprised by this, for the heretics of old never lacked a bandage with which to cover up their sores.  And what do you make of this story which I have from reliable and trustworthy witnesses?  They told me that, to make a name for himself, Luther resorted on more than one occasion to the following trick:  he would make a secret agreement or contract with certain people to present themselves as adversaries (or should I say 'conspirators'?); then, when the battle was joined, they would haul down the flag, and professing themselves routed by the force of his arguments, willingly accede to Luther's point of view.  This, I suppose, was the sort of boast which Alexander,10 the false prophet, made:  he used to pride himself on the fact that, however bitter his adversaries may have been, after a single tête a tête, he always sent them away pacified and in a better frame of mind.


            I know that some say it is easy to make a verbal assault on Luther and insult him with wild abuse, to call him a rebel, a barbarian, and a monster and use other foul names to discredit him, but that it is not easy to vanquish him with rational argument.  I believe that this is far from being the case.  For 'the tale of truth is simple, but deceit has many forms [see 671 (Montaigne)].'11  Suppose that it is Proteus12 I have to deal with and that he turns himself miraculously into every shape; it is enough for me to hold on firmly to this fact, that he [LUTHER] is Proteus and so slippery that he cannot easily be tied down with a knot [see 515 (Luther)].  Or suppose that Chrysippus is teasing my mind with one syllogism after another,13 to which I can find no satisfactory solution; imagine even some sophist fastening three heads on me or at lest a set of horns:14  must I for that reason imagine that I am Geryon15 or Cipus?16  When someone devised an argument to prove that Diogenes was not a man and the philosopher could find no way of resolving the contradiction, he said 'Begin with me.'17






            So, if Luther, the great logician, has been throwing dust in my eyes and playing tricks on me, that is no reason why I should regard him as a greater or better person.  When one of Callipides' admirers was telling Agesilaus18 how highly he regarded his skill, the king said, 'O I know him all right:  he is Callipides the deilelistes' (for this is the Spartan word for a 'mime-actor').19  Certainly there would be no reason why I should think any better of 'Luther the sophist' or 'Luther the trickster.'  And surely these are the right names for someone who is trying to trick us into bringing back old discredited beliefs and who is tearing down those which have been approved and supported for generations by great defenders of the faith and passed down, one might say, from hand to hand?  Is it not abundantly clear that Luther is an impostor, for he rejects Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, Damascene, Basil, Chrysostom, Jerome, Gregory, Augustine and sets himself up as the sole interpreter of the gospel and wishes us to put our trust in him alone as if his lamp puts their light into the shade?  Yet inasmuch as those men were closer to the church in the days of its glory, they could drink more deeply from the fountain of the Holy Spirit, without which no one can aspire to the truth.  Suppose that all these great princes of the holy faith are on one side, and suppose they say 'Yes' when Luther says 'No,' would anyone be such an utter blockhead as to think we should believe Luther and refuse to trust them?


            But someone may say:  'Luther holds the same views as they do:  they are not saying something different, just expressing it differently.'  But what troubles me about him and makes me uncertain and suspicious is precisely that he does not seem to be expressing himself differently, but to be saying something quite different.  He creates a fog to confuse me and disguises his ideas by wrapping them in a veil of words, so that one might apply to him the words of Euripides [c. 480 – 406 B.C.E.], 'What I understood was impious and what I did not understand, I fear, was impious too.'20  There is also that witty remark of one of the old writers:  'Don't be so clever, so I'll understand you!'21  We should have been warned against trusting men of that sort by the words of the Apostle ["Paul"]:  'If an angel from heaven,' he said, 'preaches any other gospel unto you than that which you have heard, let him be accursed ["Paul", like Old Testament "prophets"—and "God"; that is—writers, specialize in threats (bullies!—at a distance)].'22  Does he think that I have forgotten how the Arians cleverly deceived the Council of Rimini23 with a similar verbal trick when these vile men were considering the issue whether Christ was consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father?  The good but innocent fathers were asked this question, 'Do you think we should put our trust in Christ or in homoousios?'  The strange expression puzzled them and they expressed their hatred of homoousios and professed their faith in Christ as God.  Because of this, the proceedings of the Council of Rimini were repealed at a larger and more vigilant meeting of the fathers.  Tradition records that one of the Arians could not be defeated in






argument by any of those who challenged him with human reason or the science of logic, but readily submitted when he encountered someone with little learning and a deep faith, who had no trust in himself, but trusted greatly in the Lord.24


            In this way, I believe, Luther's sophistries and paradoxes can easily be undermined.  He will be forced to admit defeat, and all the confusion which he has been provoking right up to the present day will vanish in an instant.  But if the shameless effrontery of the man continues along its present course and flares up at critical moments, I have no doubt that eventually he [Luther] will repudiate the Gospels as something written by uneducated men and accepted by simpletons and will assert with Muhammad that Christ himself was not a real man, but a ghost or vision,25 deceiving our eyes and cheating our senses.  For Cicero [106 – 43 B.C.E.] put it well when he wrote:  'Once a man has over-stepped the bounds of modesty, he may as well be utterly and completely shameless.'26  And yet (would you believe it?) this man [Luther] who teaches such a diabolical doctrine has his followers, indeed his disciples, especially throughout Germany, who are ready to acclaim Luther in the language which Lucretius used of his master Epicurus:


            He was a god, a god, dear Memmius,

            Who freed our souls from all

            The horror and terror of the gods.

            Religion in turn is trampled underfoot:

            His victory makes us equal to the heavens.27


Since that remarkable province [Germany] has always produced brilliant and talented men and true religion has reaped its greatest harvest there, it is hard to understand how it turned so quickly from the long-established and proven teaching of the Fathers to the absurdities of a madman [Luther], who, so far as I can see, is neither learned nor particularly bright.  I suspect the cause lies not so much in their love and enthusiasm for Luther as in something which I know you have often spoken of, the hatred which they bear towards certain monks and theologians, who under the guise of religion established a tyrannical empire for themselves, and whose aim it was to prey upon men's souls and property alike.  So, in seeking refuge from the avarice of the monks in the heresies of Luther, they went from the frying pan into the fire,28 choosing the more perilous course, since the one endangers the blessings of fortune, but the other the blessings of the mind and even of the soul.


            In my opinion what attracted certain people to Luther's platform was his invitation to abandon all dues and obligations to the pope and other princes; in some sense he was setting mankind free.  Who would not be glad to shake off  the yoke and embrace his freedom, especially when freedom was linked with






self-indulgence?  For if Luther had his way, no one need be greatly troubled by his actions, since faith and the blood of Christ are all that is necessary for salvation and eternal life.  So off with all restraint, gorge yourself, be as merry as a Greek,29 give yourself up, if you feel the urge, to lust and violence and larceny—heaven and everlasting happiness are assured if your faith is still unshaken and you maintain an unwavering hope in the blood of Christ.  What a schemer ["plan" ("underhand plot"?), etc.] the angel of wickedness has found for himself. How clever and persuasive!  This was the argument which Muhammad used to turn a large part of the world upside down.30  We are told that Epicurus,31 who attracted a larger following than any other philosopher, never lost any of his students with the exception of one called Metrodorus.32  As the great exponent of pleasure, he offered inducements for men to come and join him, and when they came, he [Epicurus] retained their loyalty by offering a constant stream of new pleasures, giving each man whatever delights best suited the cravings of his own nature.  Men are naturally eager for something new,33 but they also tire easily, and unless I am much mistaken, these men too will soon tire, for anything which is evil cannot please for long.  Once when that famous orator34 who roused the people of Athens was warning a patriotic citizen that he would be severely punished if ever the people lost their wits, he replied, 'But you will be punished if they ever find them.'  I think one could apply this very appropriately to Luther; the German nation has already paid too heavy a price for the new doctrines he has introduced.


            Germany sent us this monster [MARTIN LUTHER] to destroy religion and morals;


but fortunately at the same time she has given us Erasmus to restore religion and morals, and he


[erasmus] is a man whose intellectual and literary gifts are so outstanding that they will cast their light on ages beyond our own. 






He [Erasmus] is capable of providing not just a counterweight to Luther, but an answer.  So it is all the more scandalous, in my opinion, that there are people who unblushingly condemn this good and learned man as a sympathizer with Luther and a sort of standard-bearer and partner in the same sect.  I have often protested bitterly against these people and have earned their hostility, which was perhaps deserved.  I did the same in some incidental remarks in my De libero animi motu; I felt happier about doing so because, after the publication of your De libero arbitrio, I saw that there was no longer any excuse for the suspicions which these wretches harboured.  They could no longer pretend that you were enjoying the spectacle which Luther provided since you were engaged in an attack upon it, nor that you were secretly supplying the enemy with arms since you [Erasmus] were making a frontal assault upon his position.  For by saying in your letters and other writings that you disapprove of all this nonsense of Luther's while at the same time making clear your desire to help both sides, you [Erasmus] had given the impression you were offering bread with one hand35 and concealing a stone in the other; you seemed to be whitewashing two walls from the same bucket in the hope of winning applause from both sides.36  ….'  [186-194].


_____     _____     _____






from:  Collected Works of Erasmus [c. 1466 – 1536], Literary and Educational Writings 6, Ciceronianus / Notes / Indexes, edited by A.H.T. Levi, University of Toronto Press, Toronto / Buffalo / London, 1986.



            [A.H.T. Levi] "At the end of this review of writers in Latin comes a lengthy assessment of the most distinguished of contemporary or recent Italian classicizers—Bembo, Sadoleto, Pontano, Sannazaro—and here the tone is more generous.  Erasmus gives praise where praise is due, especially to Bembo and Sadoleto, whom he respected.  But the main discussion is devoted to Longueil, whose writings are now submitted to a detailed investigation.  It is quite possible that Erasmus meant the portrait of Nosoponus in the early part of the dialogue to present a caricature of Longueil, as Longueil's admirers certainly took it to be.  There are one or two marked similarities with details given in Pole's life of Longueil—for example, Longueil's confining his reading to Cicero for five years.  But the assessment given at the end of the dialogue seems fair enough.  Longueil, as a whole-hearted Ciceronian, must necessarily be criticized by Erasmus as an exponent of all that he considered foolish and misguided, all that he had been arguing against in the earlier part of the dialogue, but the tone of the criticism is here eminently reasonable.  Erasmus certainly speaks his mind; he expostulates, he is ironic, but he is not mocking or cruel.  During his visit in 1519, Longueil had asked Erasmus to mention his Ciceronian triumph in Rome somewhere in his writings.  It is perhaps a little malicious of Erasmus to 'mention' it six years later like this...."  [329].



"THE CICERONIAN ("Ciceronianus")" [by Erasmus]


"Nosoponus   To follow Pontano we have Sannazaro [1458 – 1530].822  He wrote a splendid poem about the virgin birth of Christ, which was wildly applauded by Roman audiences.


Bulephorus   That's abundantly attested in the briefs (as they call them nowadays) of Leo and Clement823—and in the preface added by Cardinal Egidio,824 not to mention others.  The approval he met with was fully justified.  At any rate, I myself have read both his works with great pleasure—he's also the author of the Piscatory Eclogues.  Who would not idolize such ability in a young nobleman?  He is to be preferred to Pontano on the grounds that he didn't scorn to treat a religious topic, and didn't treat it perfunctorily or unattractively.  But, in my opinion at any rate, he would have won more acclaim if he had treated his religious subject in a rather more religious manner.  Baptista Mantuanus825 didn't go so far wrong826 on this point, though he shows more resourcefulness in






general when treating this kind of subject.  But in Sannazaro's case, what was the point of all those invocations of the Muses and Phoebus?  And what do we make of it when he depicts his Virgin meditating especially on the sibylline oracles,827 when he inappropriately brings in Proteus828 prophesying about Christ, and fills everything with nymphs, hamadryads, and nereids?829  How strange to Christian ears sounds this verse, addressed, if I'm not mistaken, to the Virgin Mother.830  Tuque adeo spes fida hominum, spes fida deorum 'Thou alone true hope of men, true hope of gods.'  I am sure he wrote deorum 'gods' instead of divorum831 'saints,' because deorum fitted the metre.  Amidst all his virtues, I find it rather a pity that his frequent employment of elision makes his phrasing jerky.  In short, if you produce this poem as a sample of a young man practicing the art of writing poetry, I shall greet it with acclaim, but if as a poem written by a man of mature years as the expression of religious feeling, I [ERASMUS 1466 – 1536] shall find infinitely preferable the one hymn of Prudentius [AURELIUS CLEMENS PRUDENTIUS 348 – c. 413 c.e.] on the birth of Jesus832 to Sannazaro's [1458 – 1530] three whole books.  I certainly don't see this poem as capable of laying low with its sling-stone the Goliath833 that threatens the church, or soothing with its harp the madness of Saul, which is what the prefaces say in its praise.834  Yet I don't know which is more reprehensible—for a Christian to treat non-Christian subjects in a non-Christian way, concealing the fact that he is a Christian, or to treat Christian subjects in a pagan way.  The mysteries of Christ should be handled not only with learning but with religious feeling.  It is not enough to regale the mind of the reader with some trivial, temporary delight; one must arouse emotions worthy of God, and that can only happen if you have an intimate grasp of the subject you are treating.  You will set no one on fire if you are cold yourself, nor will you inflame your reader with love of things heavenly if you care for them little or not at all.  If those ornaments of style, those seductive figures of speech with which we first entice the supercilious reader and then hold him are ready to hand, either offering themselves freely without great searchings on our part or not costing us much effort, I see no reason for rejecting835 them, provided first things come first.  What a strange thing if we were to find a devotional topic odious simply because it was treated in a devotional manner.  But how can it be treated devotionally if you never take your eyes off your Virgils and Horaces and Ovids?  Unless of course you approve of the efforts of those people who have collected snippets of verses from here, there, and everywhere in the Homeric or Virgilian corpus, and strung them together into a patchwork poem836 on the life of Christ.  A very toilsome way of writing, but did such productions ever force the tiniest tear from anybody's eye? stir anyone to love God? or reclaim anyone from a life of sin?  But it's not all that much different when people trick out a Christian subject with words, phrases, figures of speech, and rhythms put together out of Cicero.  What credit does that chanter of other men's poems deserve?  Only that he has conscientiously busied himself with his Homer [8th century B.C.E.] or his






Virgil [70 – 19 B.C.E.].  What reward does this sort of Ciceronian get?  He is applauded for busying himself industriously with the writings of Marcus Tullius [Marcus Tullius Cicero 104 – 43 B.C.E. (to some lovers of Cicero:  "Tully" (and, "my Tully"))], but only by those who have busied themselves in the same way and can recognize the source of each picking.  The thing does, I admit, offer a certain pleasure, but one very few people appreciate, and even they have soon had enough of it; and it is a pleasure with nothing to offer apart from itself.  Writing of this sort is totally devoid of that feature without which, according to Quintilian,837 eloquence cannot impress, and that lies in the power to stir the emotions.  And yet we see ourselves all the while as Virgils and Ciceros." 



[some footnotes (see 463)]


"822    Sannazaro] Jacopo Sannazaro (Actius Syncerus) 1456–1530.  A close friend of Pontano and a member of the Neapolitan Academy, Sannazaro was known as 'the Christian Virgil' for his Latin poetry after classical models, the best known being De partu virginis libri iii (1526), and Eclogae piscatoriae (c 1520), 'pastoral' poems set among fisherfolk.  He was author also of the famous Arcadia, in Italian (1504).


823     briefs...of Leo and Clement] Briefs were private letters sent out in the name of the pope, which the papal secretaries were responsible for drafting.  Both practice and the name went back to about 1490.  Leo's (6 August 1521) was written by Bembo, Clement's (5 August 1527) by Sadoleto.


824     Cardinal Egidio] Egidio Antonini da Viterbo (1469–1532), appointed General of the Augustinian order in 1507, created cardinal by Leo X in 1517.  He was famous as an orator, his opening speech at the fifth Lateran Council (1512) being much admired.  Many years before the publication of the poems, he [Cardinal Egidio] had recommended Sannazaro to Bembo as a talented Christian poet:  see the letter of Bembo to Sannazaro of 1 April 1505 (in Bembo Epistolae familiares vol 4).


825     Baptista Mantuanus] Battista Spagnoli of Mantua (1448–1516), Shakespeare's 'good old Mantuan,' a Carmelite friar and a prolific writer of verse published in three volumes by Bade in 1513"  [600].


l l l l l






from:  The Correspondence of Erasmus [c. 1466 – 1536], Letters [numbered]1658 to 1801, January 1526–March 1527, translated by Alexander Dalzell, annotated by Charles G. Nauert jr, Volume 12, University of Toronto Press, Toronto / Buffalo / London, 2003.



            [part of a letter of Erasmus] "I wish I had to deal only with men like Hutten4 and Luther.5  But I have more trouble with those whose cause I have offered to champion as best I can.  Some people would like to see the death of languages and letters, even if it meant that Luther was left unharmed.  Such an outrageous attitude is disguised as zeal for defending the Christian faith.  Italy has now given us a third sect.  There are people in that land who contend in a most belligerent way that all who do not adopt the style of Cicero should be struck off the register of scholars.  I admit that Cicero's style is unsurpassed; but I cannot approve of those who have become its slave.6  ....


            6 [footnote (see above)]


            Erasmus' criticism of those who slavishly imitate Cicero's Latin style (and by implication are critical of modern authors like himself, who write Latin in a more free and eclectic manner) is aimed at a largely Italian group of humanists centred mainly at Bologna, Padua, and the papal curia in Rome; his criticism also aims at the recently-deceased disciple of the Italian 'Ciceronians,' the Franco-Belgian scholar Christophe de Longueil.  Cf Thomas Lupset's letter of 23 August 1525 from Padua (Ep 1595:138–44 and nn22, 23) and Ep 1675 nn7, 12.  Behind Erasmus' criticism of Ciceronian linguistic purism lay both his resentment of Italian humanists' tendency to belittle the works of 'barbarians' like himself and a conviction that most of those humanists, especially the curial group, were pagan and anti-Christian.  The eventual product of this criticism was his satirical dialogue Ciceronianus (Basel:  Froben, March 1528).  In it he associates the Ciceronian purism typical of a closely-knit group of curial humanists (some of whom he regarded as dangerous enemies, such as Girolamo Aleandro and Alberto Pio, but a few of whom he respected as able scholars and sincere Christians, such as Pietro Bembo and Jacopo Sadoleto) not only with a ridiculous refusal to use the post-Ciceronian terminology needed to deal with Christian religion (CWE 28 388–92) but also with a lack of genuine Christian faith, thinly veiled behind their stylistic purism (CWE 28, 394, 396, 447).  On this attribution of a 'pagan' outlook to Italian and especially cultural humanists, see Epp 1581:121–6, 1717 n2, Allen Ep 1805:64–92.  On Ciceronianus and its background see the introduction by Betty I. Knott to her English






translation (CWE 28 324–36); the introduction to the modern edition of he Latin text by Pierre Mesnard in ASD 1–2 583 –96; and Rummel II 139–46."  [181-182].



[part of a letter (1717) of Erasmus, to Willibald Pirckheimer, "6 June 1526"] "There are certain pagans at Rome2 who abhor all Germans.  But two in particular are especially hostile towards me;3 they are once again plotting desperate things—though they have never ceased to do that."  [220-221].


            "2 [footnote (see above)]


            A charge he made rather frequently against Italian humanists (cp Epp 1660 n9, 1701 n6, 1706 n11, 1719:36–7, 1753:24–5, Allen Ep 2465:40–6), especially the members of the Roman Academy, a loose association of humanists active at the Roman curia, many of them employed as papal secretaries.  Although this informal group was in some sense descended from the Roman Academy founded in the late 1450s by Julius Pomponius Laetus to encourage devotion to ancient Roman culture among curial scholars, that association had been dissolved by Pope Paul II in 1468 when he arrested several of its leaders on charges of political conspiracy and efforts to restore pagan religious ceremonies.  It was revived under later popes, two of whom, Julius II and Leo X, had been members before being elected pope.  After the sack of Rome in 1527, Clement VII permanently suppressed the Academy.  In Erasmus' time the leaders of this group of curial 'Ciceronians' were Angelo Colocci (see Ep 1479 nn12–13 and lines 22–185, and cf Epp 1341A  n115, 1482:34–63) and Battista Casali, author of an unpublished work attacking his orthodoxy (see Epp 1270A, 1597 n4, 1660 n9).  Erasmus charged that their excessive adoration of pagan literature was a cover for neopagan religious beliefs and also a major cause of the alleged spiritual decline of the Holy See, and he associated their 'neopaganism' with attacks, both overt and covert, on himself; cf Ep 1660 n9.  The reputation of these curial insiders for excessive devotion to Roman paganism, even covert repudiation of Christian faith, goes back at least as far as the suppression of the earlier Academy by Paul II in 1468; and while Erasmus respected certain individuals at the curia, such as Pietro Bembo and Jacopo Sadoleto, he fully shared the widespread belief among non-Italians in the existence of a malevolent and irreligious group of insiders within the curial establishment.  He often expressed this opinion, even in letters to unsympathetic (but non-Italian) figures like Nöel Béda (Ep 1581:124–6) and to some of his Spanish admirers (Allen Epp






1805:64–92, 1885:121–61).  Far more dangerous to Erasmus than narrow classical purists like Colocci and Casali were Girolamo Aleandro and Alberto Pio, prince of Carpi (on them see nn3, 17, and 18 below), for they (especially Aleandro) had significant influence on papal policy and possessed great personal ability and outstanding humanistic learning.  The hostility expressed in the present letter is also related to his troubles with the Flemish-born Ciceronian humanist Christophe de Longueil (see Ep 1675 n7 and the references given there).  The attacks in his letters on Italian 'neo-pagans' and his objections to the linguistic purism known as Ciceronianism (see, for example, Ep 1701:26–9 and n6, Allen Epp 1805:64–92, 1885:121–61) were the prelude to his composition and publication of an attack on the whole Ciceronian movement, Ciceronianus (1528; see the English translation and introduction by Betty I. Knott in CWE 28), in which both Longueil and Casali come under criticism, though the latter is mentioned only in passing.  The older literature on the 'pagan' current in curial humanism is dominated by Pastor VIII chapters 5 and 6, especially 184–255, and Ferdinand Gregorovius Geschichte der Stadt Rom im Mittelalter rev ed by Waldemar Kampf, 14 vols in 3 (Basel 1957) III 485–527.  A translation by Annie Hamilton of an earlier edition is available:  History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ages VIII-1 (London 1912) 289–388.  Though written from very different perspectives, Pastor and Gregorovius offer similar (and similarly censorious) portraits of a frivolous and dechristianized curial society.  On the curial culture of this time, cf E[mmanuel] Rodocanachi Histoire de Rome:  le pontificat de Léon X, 15131526 (Paris 1931) chapters 12 and 13, especially 205–10, 'Le paganisme.'  He describes the bizarre mixture of pagan and Christian terms and ideas fashionable among curial humanists, poets, and artists, but is not quite so shocked by it as Pastor and Gregorovius were.  The best recent discussion of curial culture in this age (which, however, focuses on problems other than alleged literary paganism) is John F. D'Amico Renaissance Humanism in Papal Rome (Baltimore 1983).  The picture of curial culture under Leo X presented by Domenico Gnoli La Roma di Leon X (Milan 1938) Appendix 1, 'Secolo di Leon X?' 341–84, especially 373–8, emphasizes not so much the 'paganism' of curial society as its flippant, insouciant concentration on its own amusements, and depicts a society in which the more talented and serious figures, such as Bembo, Sadoleto, and Filippo Beroaldo the younger, received far less attention and favour than the comic poets and buffoons whom the inner circle and the Medici pope himself found amusing.  For a thoughtful popular assessment of the character of the popes in this period and of the classicizing or 'pagan' tone of curial society, written without the religiously-coloured hand-wringing of older authorities like Pastor and Gregorovius,






see also Bonner Mitchell Rome in the High Renaissance:  The Age of Leo X (Norman, OK 1973) 11–20 (on the popes) and 87–103 (on curial literary culture).


            3  [footnote (see 467)]


            Erasmus was convinced, apparently correctly, that Girolamo Aleandro, formerly his friend, was conducting a covert but persistent campaign against him within the curial establishment, accusing him of being the source of Luther's heresies and (despite his open break with Luther in 1524) a secret sympathizer with the German reformer.  See n2 above, n18 below and Epp 1548 n5, 1553 n9, 1621 n6, 1660 n9.  Since 1524 Erasmus had also heard troubling reports from informants in Italy that Albert Pio, prince of Capri, was slandering him at Rome.  In this case, the attack eventually produced a book denouncing Erasmus and led to open conflict.  See Epp 1634 introduction, 1660 n9, 1744 n22.  Both critics were highly influential at the curia.  In the case of Pio, the attack was all the more dangerous because of his high social rank and his personal connections as a nephew of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and a former pupil of the great humanist-printer of Venice, Aldo Manuzio."  [220-221].


_____     _____     _____






from:  Erasmus, A Study of His Life, Ideals, and Place in History, Preserved Smith [1880 – 1941], Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1962 (1923).



"PREFACE"  [xi]


            'Under the pressure of other labors the biography was laid aside for several years.  When I took it up again, and studied it more deeply, I discovered in Erasmus the champion, in his own day, of that "undogmatic Christianity" now first coming to its own four hundred years after he proclaimed it.  One must not exaggerate, nor wrench historical facts to preconceived ideas; it would be impossible to claim that the humanist felt toward dogma and ritual exactly as the most rational Christian at present feels.  Nevertheless, it is true that, relatively, he neglected doctrine and ceremony and placed the emphasis on the ethical and the reasonable.  His peculiar note, much more striking then than it would be now, was to reconcile the claims of piety with those of reason, to discountenance obscurantism, while cherishing morality.  No writer before Voltaire [except Erasmus] has left behind him such a wreck of superstitions; few writers since the last Evangelists have bequeathed to posterity so much of ethical value.  It is this combination of reason and morality in religion that makes Erasmus the forerunner and exponent of that type of Christianity at present prevalent among large circles of our cultivated classes.


            When I gave the manuscript its third and final revision, I had recently written a larger history of the Reformation and had given much thought to the various philosophical problems connected with it, among which none is deeper or more difficult than that of the relation of the Reformation to the Renaissance.  Were the two opposed or allied movements?  Why did the humanists after preparing the way for the Reformers, turn against them?  I soon learned that the life of Erasmus would cast more light upon this problem than that of any other man, for he typified and represented, more than did any other man, the evolution of humanism in its contact with the Reformation; first he prepared the way for it, then he welcomed it, and finally repudiated it.  A solution of the problem why he did this, and to some extent of the larger problem of the contact of the two movements, is here presented.  Furthermore, Erasmus's particular task, that of synthesizing the two diverse currents flowing from Christian and from pagan antiquity, is freshly evaluated.






            In fine [conclusion], three tasks have been here attempted—


first, to sum up many new facts and details on the life of Erasmus;


secondly, to exhibit the genius of his rational piety;


and thirdly, to explain, by the example of his career, the intricate relations of Renaissance and Reformation.'  [xi-xii].



            'He [Erasmus] also found the leisure to pursue his darling studies.  Indeed, he wrote an essay on Contempt of the World3 [see footnote, 472] to prove that the monastic career was of all the pleasantest and "most Epicurean."  His warm enthusiasm for the pagan Latin writers shines through the copious references to them in his early correspondence.  Many of them he mentions by name and characterizes.  With a touch reminding us of his later pacifism he praises Ovid because "his pen is nowhere dipped in blood."4  Seldom if ever quoting from the Bible, mentioning Augustine only once or twice, he yet evinces a high admiration for Jerome's letters, full, as they are, of Roman life, and couched in easy Latin.  Among the more recent humanists he defends Agricola, Hegius, and Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pius II), whose letters, novels, and diaries disclose so much knowledge of the world and so much interesting information about it.


            But of all the moderns the one to excite his [Erasmus] enthusiasm to the highest pitch was Lorenzo Valla [c. 1406 – 1457], whose influence on him was almost incalculable.  As a stylist, a critic, an anticlerical, and an exponent of a completely undogmatic Christianity, the Dutchman [Erasmus] was the Italian's truest disciple.  For Valla was an incarnation of the intellectual Renaissance, a critic and iconoclast of the caliber almost of Voltaire, unparalleled as yet in modern Europe for the daring, acumen, force, irreverence, and brilliancy of his attacks on religion.  True, Valla called himself a Christian, and probably without hypocrisy, but his ideal was of a purely moral, humanitarian religion, unhampered either by creed or by ritual.  Interested in theology, of which he was a master, he insisted on the genuine old theology of the Gospel and the Fathers over against the spurious new scholasticism and asceticism.  The old doctors of the church he compared to bees making honey, the newer to wasps stealing grain from others.  In exposing the Donation of Constantine as a forgery he put into the hands of the Protestants who came after him one of their most trenchant weapons.  Again, in his Notes on the New Testament, he pointed out the numerous errors in the Vulgate, then usually considered, as it was later officially declared to be, the authentic form of the Scriptures.  In a work on the monastic life (De Professione Religiosorum) he called in question the worth of asceticism.  In a dialogue "On






Pleasure," one interlocutor, representing the Epicurean philosophy, maintains that a prostitute is a more useful member of society than is a nun [Probably!  (depends on the person, circumstances, etc.)].  Valla's own opinions, represented neither by the Epicurean nor by his Christian opponent, but by the arbitrating Niccoli, cannot be characterized as atheistic and hedonistic, but the very fact that he canvassed such ideas was significant of his free spirit.  Moreover, he was intensely antipapal and anticlerical.  In all things he was the spirit who eternally contradicts.  Attracted not only by the brilliancy of his language, but by the cogency of his argument and the keenness of his criticism, Erasmus remained throughout life the disciple and in many respects the spiritual descendant of the Roman critic.1  He [Erasmus] had, while yet in school, paraphrased one of Valla's grammatical works which, on account of its attacks on Priscian and the mediaeval grammarians, was treated as heretical by some monks.2  Later in his life he was to follow Valla in many a path of biblical exegesis and of metaphysical argument.'  [14-16].


            [footnote (from 471)] "3De Contemptu Mundi, LB. v, 1257C.  Cf.  Allen, i, p. 18, and ep. 1194, and a letter to a monk, October 27, 1527, LB. iii, col. 1024 f; Lond. xx, 18.  Petrarch had written a De Contemptu Mundi, not known to Erasmus.  Innocent III had also written a De Contemptu Mundi, sive de miseria conditionis humanae [see 550], Migne Patrologia Latina, vol. 217, pp. 701-46.  This had been printed several times before 1480, and may have been known to Erasmus."  [14].



[part of a letter written by Erasmus] "....Do not interpret what I have said as directed against theology itself, which, as you know, I always have singularly cultivated, but as jokes against the theologasters of our age, unsurpassed by any in the murkiness of their brains, in the barbarity of their speech, the stupidity of their natures, the thorniness of their doctrine, the harshness of their manners, the hypocrisy of their lives, the violence of their language, and the blackness of their hearts."  [23].



'In March he [Erasmus] writes that he is deep in his books, quite happy, evidently, except for the annoying scarcity of money:


                        [Erasmus] Do you want to know what I am doing?  I devote myself to my friends, with whom I enjoy the most delightful intercourse....With them I shut myself in a corner, where I escape the windy crowd and either speak to them in sweet whispers or listen to their gentle voices, conversing with them as with myself.  Can anything be more comfortable than this?  They never hide their own secrets, yet they






keep sacred whatever is intrusted to them.  They never divulge abroad what we confide freely to their intimacy.  When summoned they are at your side; when not summoned they do not intrude.  When bidden they speak; when not bidden they are silent.  They talk of what you wish, as much as you wish, as long as you wish.  They utter no flattery, feign nothing, keep back nothing.  They frankly show you your faults, but slander no one.  All that they say is either cheering or salutary.  In prosperity they keep you modest, in affliction they console, they never change with fortune.  They follow in all dangers, abiding with you even to the grave....With these sweet friends I am buried in seclusion.  What wealth or what scepters would I barter for this tranquility?  Now, that you may not miss the meaning of my metaphor, pray understand all that I have said about these friends to be meant of books, companionship with which has made of me a truly happy man.1


            In this situation the idea occurred to Erasmus of culling from the pages of these authors a selection of brief sayings or epigrams, useful for quotation....


            In the preface to the first edition of his Adagia, nevertheless, Erasmus felt called upon to justify his undertaking.  The book soon needed no defense for its appearance and no explanation of its utility, but in the beginning he was anxious to prove its worth.


                        [Erasmus] What is such an aid either in gracing a speech with a delicate air of festivity or in enlivening it with learned jests or in seasoning it with the salt of urbanity or in adorning it with gems of translation or in illuminating it with the brilliancy of epigrams or in diversifying it with the flowers of allegory and allusion or in investing it with the charm of antiquity as a rich and full supply of these adages, like a storeroom built at home and well supplied?  For everyone knows that the chief wealth and refinements of speech consist of epigrams, metaphors, parables, examples, illustrations, similes, images, and figures of this sort....Everyone also enjoys hearing what he recognizes, especially if it has the sanction of antiquity; so adages, like wine, increase in value with age....


                        You might think that I was saying all this from love of my own work were not the truth conspicuous in every class of author, that whoever has especially excelled his fellows has especially delighted in these adages.  In the first place, what has the world richer than the language of Plato or more heavenly than his philosophy?  But in his dialogues on every subject, good Lord! the proverbs are scattered thick as little stars, so that no comedy gives me such pleasure as the dialectic of this philosopher. 






Then Plautus, the peculiar darling of the theater, bubbles over with proverbs and says hardly anything that he did not take from the mouths of the common people or that did not pass at once from the stage into their common talk, so that for this talent above all he deserves to be ranked in eloquence with the Muses.  Terence has more art than Plautus and therefore uses proverbs less frequently but more fastidiously.  Did not Varro, the greatest of scholars, find such satisfaction in proverbs that he sought no other arguments or headings for his satires?  From his work the following are still quoted:  The ass at the lyre; Know thyself; Old men are in their second childhood....


            But if, as Christians, we prefer Christian examples, I can easily adduce Jerome as one of many....His books contain more proverbs than even the comedies of Menander, and the clever ones, such as:  He leads the bull to the combat; The camel danced; Blunt wedges rive [split] hard knots; Diamond cut diamond; The tired ox plants his feet more firmly; The lid is worthy of the dish....There are adages even in the writings of the apostles.  (You are not, I suppose, so engrossed with Scotus as never to glance at them.)  Adages occur often even in the Gospels, namely, these:  The dog returned to his vomit; The sow wallowing in her mire; Beating the air:  Tinkling cymbal; We have piped unto you and ye have not danced; The mote and the beam; A stone for bread....Wherefore for many reasons we have thought it no futile or sterile task to instruct studious youth to the best of our ability in this mode of speech or at least to instigate them to it, seeing that it has been adopted with good cause by so many learned and divine writers.1


            The kernel of Erasmus's book was a compilation of pithy sayings culled from the ancients....'  [37-38, 39-40].



            [footnotes (not referenced above)] '1 Allen, ep. 124; I, p. 286.  Cop studied Greek at Paris under Lascaris, Erasmus, and Aleander, and later published translations from Hippocrates and Galen.  He was also a physician of great repute.  LeFèvre d' Étaples says that he cured him of sleeplessness.  Erasmus, however, speaks not altogether lightly of the part played by Ste. Généviève in his recovery.  "If I should have a second attack of this fever, it would be all up with your Erasmus, my Batt.  Nevertheless we keep up hope, relying on Ste. Généviève whose ready aid has delivered us now the second time [a friend (raised Catholic) in Hong Kong, with visa worries, 2006, emails me, and asks me to "invoke the pantheon".  So far, 100% success]."  Allen, ibid., and ep. 50; I, pp. 164-165.






2 In September, 1500, he [Erasmus] writes that he cannot read a copy of Homer, temporarily in his possession, but that he finds comfort in the mere look of it.  Allen, ep. 131; I, p. 305.'  [37].



                        [letter of Erasmus] 'By lucky chance I got some Greek works, which I am stealthily transcribing night and day.  It may be asked why I am so pleased with the example of Cato the Censor [(or, Cato the Elder) Marcus Porcius Cato 234 – 149 B.C.E.] as to be learning Greek at my age....I am determined that it is better to learn late than to be without knowledge which it is of the utmost importance to possess.  I had a taste of this learning a long time ago, but it was only with the tip of the tongue, as they say; and having lately dipped deeper into it, we see, what we have often read in the most weighty authors, that Latin erudition, however ample, is crippled and imperfect without Greek.  We have in Latin at best some small brooks and turbid pools, while the Greeks have the purest fountains and rivers flowing with gold.  I see that it is mere madness to touch with a finger that principal part of theology, which treats of divine mysteries, without being furnished with the apparatus of Greek, when those who translated the sacred books have, with all their scrupulosity, so rendered the Greek figures of speech that not even the primary sense, which our theologians call "the literal," can be perceived by those who do not know Greek.'  [46-47].



'While prosecuting his Greek studies with diligence and success Erasmus began Hebrew but, as he expresses it, "frightened by the strangeness of the idiom, and considering the insufficiency of the human mind to master many subjects,"2 he soon gave it up.  Moreover, the Hebrew Scriptures did not attract him [Erasmus] as did the New Testament, and he was actively repelled by the other Jewish writers.  So he [Erasmus] wrote to a Hebrew scholar, somewhat later.3


                        [Erasmus] I could wish you were more given to Greek than to Hebrew studies, although I do not condemn the latter.  I see the Jewish race is fed full of lifeless tales and produces nothing but a little vapor, to wit the Cabbals, the Talmud, the Tetragrammaton, the Gates of Light, and such vain titles.  Italy has many Jews; Spain hardly any Christians.  I prefer Christ, even contaminated by Scotus, to this Jewish nonsense....Would that the Christian Church did not rely so much on the Old Testament, which, although it was only






given for a certain time and is full of shadows, is almost preferred to the Christian writings.  And thus we turn from Christ, who alone suffices us.4


            Erasmus was by nature a nomad.  Never did he live as long as eight years consecutively in the same place.'  [48].



            'The peculiar quality of the Erasmian ideal of an undogmatic religion and an ethical piety, founded alike on the Sermon on the Mount [sop to piety?] and on the teachings of Greek philosophy, was rooted in two schools with which he early came in contact, that called the "devotio moderna" of the Brethren of the Common Life, and that of the Florentine Platonic Academy.1  Widely different, indeed mutually hostile, as appeared the sources of the inspiration of the German mystics and of the Italian humanists, both agreed in asserting, against the stiffening of religion through dogma and organization, the claims of an inner, personal piety.  The mystic, by emphasizing the role of the spirit, the other by cherishing the rights of reason, arrived at the point where theology and ritual alike were regarded as hindrances to the inner life, and where the ethical interest emerged uppermost.  In the almost godless Valla [Lorenzo Valla c. 1406 – 1457] on the one hand, and in God-intoxicated Tauler [apparently, Johannes Tauler c. 1300 – 1361] on the other, one finds a kindred ideal of Christianity as a life rather than a creed or a ceremony.  Priest and sacrament shrank in importance before the assertion of the new individualism.


            The deep piety of the German mystics permeated the schools of the Brethren of the Common Life, and left its traces in Erasmus's earliest writings, such as the Antibarbari, mainly concerned as they are with classical learning.  Upon him, as little of a mystic as a religious man can be, the lesson was tamped that, as Thomas à Kempis had taught, the true worship of Christ was imitation of him, not verbal assent to a creed or exploitation of sacramental grace.  Here, also, he learned that the pure philosophy of Christ was inwardly related to all the truths of antiquity, to the Stoic mastery of self and faith in predestination, to the Platonic idealism and other-worldliness.  Plato, he soon discovered, was a theologian, Socrates a saint, Cicero inspired, and Seneca not far from Paul ["Paul"!  "Paul" (writers) would not make a pimple on the ass of Seneca!  (Erasmus had to defer to the culture)].  "Their philosophy," he [Erasmus] once said, "lies rather in the affections than in syllogisms; it is a life more than a debate, an inspiration rather than a discipline; a transformation rather than a reasoning.  What else, pray, is the philosophy of Christ?"1'  [52-54].






"The idea of the Christian Knight had been a common one in the Middle Ages, being derived from the comparison of the Christian life to warfare.3  ...."  [56].



'The enthusiasm of the young Dutchman [Erasmus] was reflected in one of his gayest letters to his gay friend, Faustus Andrelinus.3  ["Summer, 1499."]


            [Erasmus] We, too, have made progress in England.  The Erasmus you knew has almost become a good hunter [compare:  the pacifism of Erasmus], no bad rider, a courtier of some skill, bows with politeness, smiles with grace, and all this in spite of his nature.  What of it?  We are getting on.  If you are wise, you, too, will fly over here.  Why should a man with a nose like yours grow old among those French "merdes [shits]."4  But you will say your gout detains you.  The devil take your gout if he will only leave you!  Nevertheless, did you but know the blessings of Britain, you would run hither with winged feet and if the gout stopped you you would wish yourself another Daedalus.


            To take one attraction out of many; there are nymphs here with divine features, so gentle and kind that you would easily prefer them to your Camenae.  Besides, there is a fashion which cannot be commended enough.  Wherever you go you are received on all hands with kisses [see 770-771]; when you leave you are dismissed with kisses; if you go back your salutes are returned to you.  When a visit is paid, these sweets are served; and when guests depart kisses are shared again; whenever a meeting takes place there is kissing in abundance; in fact, whatever way you turn you are never without it.  Oh Faustus, if you had once tasted how soft and fragrant those kisses are, you would wish to be a traveler, not for ten years, like Solon, but for your whole life, in England.


            The habit which pleased Erasmus so much was indeed noticed by many travelers in Britain at this time,5 and the coaxing young man, "most inclined to love,"6 as he called himself, would be likely to make the most of his opportunities.'  [60-61].



            'On January 27, 1500, Erasmus was at Dover, about to embark for Boulogne,1 but at the port he had an unpleasant experience.  All his money was confiscated in accordance with the English law that no coin might be exported from the realm.2  This injury he never either forgot or forgave, occasionally using the word "English" as a synonym for "rapacious."3






            At Boulogne he [Erasmus] was also rigorously searched, but the fact that he had nothing left prevented him from losing anything more.  Via Tournehem and Amiens he journeyed to Paris.  At the little inn at St.-Just-en-chaussée he and his English companion tried in vain to procure a room to themselves.  They were sure that the gentleman who shared their room was a robber and they waited like victims for the sacrifice, watching and sleeping by turns.  At length Erasmus arising at five o'clock on the cold morning of February 2d, and finding that his sword had been removed from his bedside, aroused the household and insisted on starting away at once.  A long dispute over the bill and the coins offered by the guests was followed by another tedious argument over the horses.  So much for the pleasures of touring in the sixteenth century!4'  [64].



            'Though there is no positive evidence to show that Erasmus ever visited his parish [related to a pension, at one period], he may have done so at the time when he made a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury [56 miles southeast of London].2  His own interesting account of this trip in the Colloquies, is worth transcribing.  He [Erasmus] was accompanied by Colet [John Colet 1467 – 1519], whose name is rendered as "Gratian Pullus, an Englishman of note and authority, who, though probably not a follower of Wyclif, had read his books."3


            "The church dedicated to St. Thomas [St. Thomas Becket c. 1118 – 1170 (assassinated in Canterbury Cathedral)]," he says, "rises so majestically into the air, as to strike even the distant beholder with religious awe.  Two vast towers seem to greet the pilgrim as he approaches, while the pealing of their bells echoes far and wide over the country.  In the south porch are three statues of armed men, they who impiously murdered the saint."  Their names, he goes on to say, were Tuscus, Fuscus, and Berrus, thus distorting the names of three of the four reputed assassins, Tracy, Fitz-Urse, and Brito.  After more details about the appearance of the church he [Erasmus] continues:


            [Erasmus] On the altar is the point of the sword with which the archbishop's skull was cloven.  We [John Colet and Erasmus] religiously kissed its sacred rust, on account of our love for the martyr.  Entering the crypt, the skull itself was displayed to us, incased in silver, though with a part at the top left bare to be kissed....There also are hung up in the dark the hair shirts, girdles, and bands with which that prelate used to subdue the flesh.  The very appearance of them made us shudder, such a reproach were they to our luxurious softness.  Thence we returned into the choir, on the north side of which are repositories for relics.  When these were unlocked, from them were produced an amazing quantity of bones:  skulls, jawbones, teeth, hands, fingers, and arms, all of which we






[Erasmus and Colet] adoringly kissed, until my companion [Colet], a man less well disposed to this department of religion than I could have wished, not over politely refused to kiss an arm which had bleeding flesh still attached to it....


            Next the pilgrims [Erasmus and Colet] were shown the immense store of costly vestments and precious metals bestowed on the shrine by pious persons.  At this point Colet burst out again.


                        [Erasmus] "Is it true, good father," said he [Colet], "that St. Thomas was very good to the poor?"  "Most true," replied the other, and began to relate many instances of his bounty....  "Then," continued Colet, "since the saint was so liberal to the destitute when he was himself poor and in need of money, do you not think that now, being so rich and having no use for money, that he would take it patiently if some poor woman, for instance, with starving children or a sick husband, and destitute of all support, were to ask pardon and then take some small part of the great riches we see for the relief of her family?  ...I, for my part, am quite convinced that the saint would even rejoice at being the means, in death as in life, of assisting by his riches the destitution of the poor."  At this the attendant began to knit his brows and glare at us, and I have no doubt would have turned us contumeliously out, had he not learned that we had an introduction from the archbishop.  I [Erasmus] pacified him as best I could, telling him that my companion [Colet] never meant a word he said, but was only joking, and at the same time I [Erasmus] put a few shillings into the box.


            Next the sacristy was visited, and more relics exhibited.  The guide had the poor judgment to offer Colet as a souvenir a handkerchief once used by the saint to wipe the sweat from his brow and to blow his nose, and showing plainly signs of the use to which it had been put.  Colet regarded it with a derisive whistle and turned contemptuously away.  As they were leaving, an old man offered them St. Thomas's shoe to be kissed, whereupon Colet flared up with:  "What do the dolts mean?  Next they will bring us his excrements to kiss [something similar occurred with the excrements of Kings, in Burma (Tavernier, Travels in India?  Bourke, Scatologic Rites of all Nations?)]."'  [70-72].  [see (LS) my relic visit, Padova (Padua), Italy, 1995,, 167].



            'While at Cambridge Erasmus perhaps learned to know the neighboring nuns of the convent of St. Clara at Denny.  At any rate we find him later in correspondence with them.  In a letter first printed in 15285 he thanks them for their love and gifts and says he is glad that his former letter pleased them.  






He sends them a little flower culled from the ever-green garden [this strikes me (LS), as inspired by Epicurus (see, 1615)] of Isaiahi.e., a little sermon on the text, "In silence and hope will be your strength."'  [73].



            'Erasmus loved to play jokes on his witty friend [Thomas More], one of which was a letter in trochaic tetrameter, written without division of lines, as prose, and sent to see if More would detect the trick.  As he failed to do so, a good laugh was raised at him.  "For," says Erasmus,


he [More] even loved jokes made at his own expense.  It was his fondness for wit and fun, and especially for Lucian, that made me write the Praise of Folly, though to do so was like making a camel dance.  But in all human affairs, light or serious, he takes pleasure.  If he has to do with learned men he delights in their genius; if with fools, in their folly; for he can accommodate himself, with great tact, to all dispositions.  With women in general, and even with his own wife, he does nothing but sport and joke.  You might call him another Democritus, or rather that Pythagorean philosopher who wandered idly through the market place only to see the tumult of buyers and sellers.  For though no one is less carried away by the judgment of the common herd, no one is less a stranger to public opinion.


His special pleasure is to study the forms, minds, and habits of animals.  There is no species of bird which he does not keep at his house, as well as a quantity of rare animals—monkeys, foxes, ferrets, weasels and the like.  He eagerly buys whatever is exotic or rare and has his house so arranged that there is always something to catch the eye of anyone who enters, and he renews his pleasure as often as he sees anyone else pleased.


            More's love of animals is amusingly illustrated by a story told in the Colloquies.1  While at his house Erasmus saw a monkey protect some rabbits from a weasel.  Just as the weasel had dug under the cage in which the rabbits were kept, the monkey moved it along the ground to the wall, thus showing as much intelligence as a man.  Continuing Erasmus's biography:


            [Erasmus] In his youth he [More] was not averse from the love of maidens, but innocently, for he [More] preferred rather to captivate than to enjoy them, so that their souls and not their bodies were joined.


            From his first years he eagerly devoured the classics.  As a youth he applied himself to Greek philosophy to such an extent that his father, a






good and otherwise sensible man, refused to help him and almost disinherited him, thinking these studies detrimental to the practice of law....'  [82].



            "Was Sir Thomas [More] then a pure rationalist, tolerant of all vagaries of religious faith, and holding strongly to none except to the prime articles of belief in God and immorality?  The zeal with which he cultivated the Catholic means of self-discipline, as well as his defense of miracles daily taking place at shrines, and his strong persecution of heretics in later life, show clearly that he was neither a skeptic nor very tolerant.  His inconsistencies have been stressed sufficiently, and even more than enough, but of them the true explanation has never yet been suggested.  It is to be found largely in the distinction which More, in common with other men of his time, drew between established, recognized religions on the one hand, and heresy on the other...."  [91].





The Praise of Folly


            The most widely read, though not the most important, work of Erasmus, the one which gave him an immediate international reputation, was The Praise of Folly, written just after his return from Italy, while he was waiting in More's house for the arrival of his books and was suffering from an attack of lumbago.1


            Something of the spirit and intention of the Folly is revealed in the dedicatory epistle to More:


            [Erasmus] On returning from Italy...I chose to amuse myself with the Praise of Folly (Moria).  What Pallas, you will say, put that into your head?  Well, the first thing that struck me was your surname More, which is just as near the name of Moria or Folly as you are far from the thing itself, from which, by general vote you are remote indeed.  In the next place I surmised that this playful production of our genius would find special favor with you, disposed as you are to take pleasure in a jest of this kind, that is neither, unless I mistake, unlearned nor altogether inept....For, as nothing is more trifling than to treat serious questions frivolously, so nothing is more amusing than to treat trifles in such a way as to show yourself anything but a trifler.






This last sentence gives the key to the Folly.  It is a witty sermon, an earnest satire, a joke with an ethical purpose.  Satire of this peculiar flavor, mockery with a moral, was characteristic of the age.  How much of it there is in Luther, how much in Hutten, how much in Rabelais, how much in the Epistles of Obscure Men [Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum, 1515 – 1517]!  ....'  [117].


Comment (LS):  my impression:  the genius Erasmus, in those years and milieus, was stimulated to use much circumlocution, obfuscation, double entendre, etc.  My guess:  Erasmus, was more worldly (emphasis on mental states), and less religious, than anyone—but Erasmus (and his subconscious)—knew.  [see 753-765]



"The Praise of Folly"


            'At Rome he [Erasmus] must have become acquainted with one of the famous vehicles of caricature and lampoon, the statue of Pasquin, from which the word "Pasquinade" is derived.  In 1501 there had been dug up there a statue lacking nose, arms, and part of the legs, which was then believed to be a Hercules, but is now known to represent Menelaus carrying the body of Patroclus.  This statue was set up by its discoverer, Cardinal Oliver Caraffa, in the Piazza Navona, near a shrine to which a procession was annually made on the day of St. Mark the Evangelist (April 25th).  The gaiety of the Roman populace, seeing something absurd in the mutilated statue, began on these holidays to dress it up in a travesty of some antique deity or hero.  Thus, in 1509, when Erasmus may well have been present, the fragment was decked out to represent Janus, in allusion to the war that had broken out with Venice.  The immense publicity given to the statue gradually led to its being used as a convenient billboard for posting lampoons—for the people, deprived of power, sought revenge on their masters by heaping them with ridicule, thus tempering despotism with epigram.  Finally the statue was named Pasquin after a citizen particularly noted for his biting tongue.  By the year 1509 three thousand of these epigrams were known, and a collection of them had been published.1


            But if Erasmus borrowed something from Pasquin, he found a more direct suggestion for his literary form in the Narrenschiff of Sebastian Brant, first published in 1494, and translated into Latin as Stultifera Navis by Locher Philomusus in 1497, and again by Erasmus's friend, Josse Bade the printer, in 1505, as Navis Stultifera.  It appeared in the French translation of Pierre Rivière in 1497 as La Nef des Folz du Monde. 






Two English versions, one by Henry Watson, and a more famous one by Alexander Barclay, were printed under the title Ship of Fools, both in 1509.2


            But every reader of the Folly must be struck by the amount in it taken from the writer's own observation.  When he speaks of what is rotten in Church or state, his reflections are usually suggested by something he himself has seen.  When he satirizes the pope, it is Julius II he has in mind; when he points out the asininity of the theologians, his examples are drawn from the lucubrations of his fellow student, John Major.3  And if he drew few facts from predecessors, preferring to paint from the life, he had even less in common with their spirit.  With Pasquin satire was a dagger, with Brant a scourge; with Erasmus it was a mirror.  It is true that all satire starts with the axiom that the world is full of fools; but whereas some men, like Brant and Swift, take this to heart and with saeva indignatio gird at folly as wickedness, and at wickedness as folly, others, like Erasmus and Rabelais, find the idea infinitely amusing.  So the Folly personified by the Dutch wit [Erasmus] was neither vice nor stupidity, but a quite charming naīveté, the natural impulse of the child or of the unsophisticated man.  Though her birth is derived from Pluto [Roman deity:  "God of the Underworld and Judge of the Dead."  (], she is no grim demon, but an amiable gossip, rather beneficent than malignant.


            Without her [Folly], society would tumble about our ears, and the race die out—for what calculating wise man or woman would take the risk of marrying and bringing up children!  Indeed, would women or children have any attraction without her?—like Sir Thomas Brown, Erasmus evidently thinks that the act of procreation is one that no wise man would willingly perform.  Without Folly, says our author, there would be more care than pleasure; without her there would be no family, for marriages would be few and divorces many.  Nay, there would be neither society nor government at all.  Did not he wisest legislators, Numa and Minos, recognize the necessity of fooling the people?  Socrates showed his good sense in declaring that a philosopher would keep away from politics; Plato was mistaken in thinking that philosophers should be kings and kings philosophers, for history has shown no states more miserable than those ruled by such.


            Even the most esteemed arts owe much to Folly, for medicine is mainly quackery and most lawyers are but pettifoggers.  In fact, men would be far better off if they lived in a state of nature; just as, among animals, bees, that live according to their instincts, fare best, and horses, forced to unnatural labor, fare worst.  So the wisest men are the most wretched, and fools and idiots, "unfrightened by bugbear tales of another world," are happiest.  How much pleasure comes from hobbies, which are mere foolishness! 






One man delights in hunting, another in building, a third in gaming, but a sage despises all such frivolity.


            Next, the follies of superstition are satirized, at first in words that remind the reader strongly of the Enchiridion.  The analogy between the worship of the saints and the ancient polytheism is pointed out:  Polyphemus has become Christopher to keep his devotees safe; St. Erasmus [(Elmo) died c. 303] gives them wealth; St. George is but the Christian Hercules.  "But what shall I say of those who flatter themselves with the cheat of pardons and indulgences?"  These fools think they can buy not only all the blessings and pleasures of this life, but heaven hereafter, and the priests encourage them in their error for the sake of filthy lucre.


            Each nation, too, has its own pet foibles.  England boasts the handsomest women; the Scots all claim gentle blood; the French pique themselves on good breeding and skill in polemic divinity; the Italians point to their own learning and eloquence. 


            Neither do the wise escape having their own peculiar follies.  No race of men is more miserable than students of literature.


                        [Folly] When anyone had found out who was the mother of Anchises, or has lighted on some old, unusual word, such as bubesquus, bovinator, manticulator, or other like obsolete, cramped terms, or can, after a great deal of poring, spell out the inscription on some battered monument, Lord!  what joy, what triumph, what congratulations upon his success, as if he had conquered Africa or taken Babylon the Great!


            As for the scientists or "natural philosophers,"


                        [Folly] How sweetly they rave when they build themselves innumerable worlds, when they measure the sun, moon, stars, and spheres as though with a tape to an inch, when they explain the cause of thunder, the winds, eclipses, and other inexplicable phenomena, never hesitating, as though they were the private secretaries of creative Nature or had descended from the council of the gods to us, while in the meantime Nature magnificently laughs at them and at their conjectures.


            In this disparaging estimate of natural science, though the speaker is Folly, we doubtless have the real opinion of Erasmus, who, in this, but followed Socrates and the ancient world in general.  The theology of the divines is still more ridiculous:






            [Folly] They will explain the precise manner in which original sin is derived from our first parents; they will satisfy you in what manner, by what degrees and in how long a time our Saviour was conceived in the Virgin's womb, and demonstrate how in the consecrated wafer the accidents can exist without the substance.  Nay, these are accounted trivial, easy questions; they have greater difficulties behind, which, nevertheless, they solve with as much expedition as the former—namely, whether supernatural generation requires any instant of time?  whether Christ, as a son, bears a double, specially distinct relation to God the Father and his Virgin Mother?  whether it would be possible for the first person of the Trinity to hate the second?  whether God, who took our nature upon him in the form of a man, could as well have become a woman, a devil, an ass, a gourd, or a stone?


            So Folly enumerates the stupidities and injustices done by the monks, who insist that ignorance is the first essential, by kings and courtiers, by pope and cardinals whose lives contrast so painfully with their professions.


                        [Folly] I was lately [she continues] at a theological discussion, for I often go to such meetings, when some one asked what authority there was in the Bible for burning heretics instead of convincing them by argument?  A certain hard old man, a theologian by the very look of him, not without a great deal of disdain, answered that it was the express injunction of St. Paul, when he said:  Haereticum hominem post unam et alteram correptionem devita."1  When he ["hard old man"] yelled these words over and over again and some were wondering what had struck the man, he finally explained that Paul meant that the heretic must be put out of life—de vita.  Some burst out laughing, but others seemed to think this interpretation perfectly theological.


            If the passages just quoted represent rather the lighter side of the satire, by which it was affiliated with Pasquin and the Obscure Men, there are not wanting admonitions keyed in a higher mood.  If the author was a wit, he was also a scholar; if he was a man of the world, he was also a moralist; and it is less the gauds [ornaments] of the outer habit of fun than the solid gold of serious precept within that make The Praise of Folly a criticism of life with permanent literary value.  If he decks his orator like Columbine to attract the crowd, he endows her with eloquence worthy of a missionary to convert them.  When her cymbals have drawn an audience she forgets her part, and Folly speaks like wisdom; indeed, the most natural words to describe her animadversions are the words of Scripture:  "Whom she loveth she chasteneth."  Hearken to her and hear the same message as that set forth by the Christian Knight, and by St. Peter himself:  "To live well is the way to die well; you will best get rid of your sins by






adding to your alms hatred of vice, tears of repentance, watching, prayer, and fasting, and a better life."  Away with your outward ceremonies and futile works by which, as by a kind of religious mathematics, you would cheat God and the devil; learn to do right and thus to cultivate a pure and undefiled Christianity!  The world then was hungry for the words of reform and of the gospel; and it was just because the satirist weighted his shafts of ridicule that they carried far, even as one can throw a heavy stone further than the lightest feather.


            Though Erasmus completed the work in the summer of 1509, and showed it in manuscript to several approving friends, he did not print it until two years later.1  His statement that Richard Coke,2 one of his English pupils, was responsible for the publication, is either a polite fiction or else a proof that he gave it to some one else to have printed, in order to disavow it afterward, if necessary.  At any rate, Erasmus went to Paris, in the spring of 1511, to see  it [The Praise of Folly] through the press....'  [118-123].



            "The Praise of Folly won an immediate and striking success.  Its publication marked the real beginning of that immense international reputation that puts its author on a pinnacle in the world of letters hardly surpassed or even approached by anyone later save Voltaire.  The editions were not small; within one month after the publication of a new reprint in March, 1515, seventeen hundred were sold,2 and by 1522 more than twenty thousand copies had been issued in all.3  Everyone knew, most praised, and some imitated the precious satire.  James Wimpheling, a good type of the serious German humanist, later distinguished as an opponent of Luther, expressed enthusiastic admiration for it.4  Ulrich von Hutten, in the second series of the Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum (1517) warmly claimed Erasmus as the inspirer of his work.5"  [125].



            'But against the general chorus of laughter and of praise, the voice of the theologians, or of some of them, made itself heard in more or less angry protest.  The intensely conservative coterie at Louvain, in especial, murmured against him who had mocked their foibles.  One Martin Dorp, having found that Folly's cap fitted him when he tried it on, complained directly to the author, and was answered by him and by Thomas More.  The latter made the point that only enemies of good literature hated the Moria,2 while Erasmus protested that his one object was to improve mankind, which he thought could be done without wounding them.  He added that many of the sentiments expressed by Folly were the direct opposite of his own; and that he did not see why theologians should be so sensitive as a class, whereas kings, navigators, and physicians were equally held up to ridicule.3






            Renewed and incessant attacks kept Erasmus busy defending himself throughout life.  He protested that he had twitted no one by name but himself,4—apparently agreeing with Mrs. Gamp [identity?], "which, no names being mentioned, no offence can be took"—and he added that Leo X, having read the book through, only laughed, and said, "I am glad our Erasmus is in the Moria."5


            Among the few adverse judgments expressed by humanists, that of Stephen Dolet, "the martyr of the Renaissance," is notable:


            Most persons praise the Encomium Moriae, many really admire it; yet, if you examine it, the impudence of Erasmus will strike you rather than the real force of his language.  He laughs, jokes, makes fun, irritates, inveighs, and raises a smile even at Christ himself.1  [excellent, incisive—comment!]


            Some of the Protestant Reformers, like Cecolampadius, loved the Moria,2 whereas others, like Luther, were repelled by it.  Luther quotes from it, though not by name and without expressing any opinion of it, in his lectures on the Psalms, late in the year 1516.3  One might think that he would have relished the attack on the old Church, as a help to his own cause, but he was soon heard to cry out against such an ally.  In his own copy (Basle, 1532) he wrote:4


            [Luther] When Erasmus wrote his Folly, he begot a daughter like himself.  He turns, twists, and bites like an awl, but he, as a fool, has written true folly.


            Another satire, of far less importance, which, though published anonymously, brought some trouble on its author [Erasmus], was a tiny dialogue entitled Julius excluded from Heaven,5 which represented the pope as vainly seeking admission to paradise.  Apparently written not long after the death of Julius II (February 21, 1513), it was first published in 1517, and was at once attributed to Erasmus by Scheurl, by Pirckheimer, and by Luther, as well as by other friends who were in the secret of the authorship.  He endeavored, by elaborate equivocation, amounting almost but not quite to denial, to mislead prelates and others inclined to take offence at the bold mockery of the head of the Church.  Luther judged it "so jocund, so learned, and so ingenious—that is, so entirely Erasmian—that it makes the reader laugh at the vices of the Church, over which every true Christian ought rather to groan."1  Later, however, his opinion of it rose so high that he would have liked to translate it into German, but feared that he could not do justice to the style.2'  [126-128] [excepting footnotes, end of chapter V].






'....As the last six verses were lacking altogether in his [apocalypse] MS.  Erasmus supplied them by translating the Vulgate into very lame Greek.  His critical note, that he has "added some words from the Latin," hardly gives an adequate idea of the extent of his enterprise.  But the work as a whole must not be judged by such dubious procedure, the butt of endless sarcasm by modern scholars.  Erasmus actually did collate MSS. and on critical principles, though not the soundest.  He was able, here and there, by means of grammatical and historical knowledge superior to that of his contemporaries, to improve the text by conjectural emendation.  His wide reading in the early fathers stood him in good stead not only in elucidating, but in restoring the text.2'  [164].



            '[Erasmus] greatly preferred the New Testament, "where all is clear, plain truth, and where nothing savors of superstition and cruelty, but all is simplicity and gentleness,"3 to the mysteries of the Old Testament, where truth is sometimes covered up in apparently indecent and silly fables.4  How, he asks, could all the animals get into the ark?  What are we to think of the story of Creation, of Samson, of the threats in Deuteronomy xxvii, of the minute regulations about leprosy and food—conducive rather to superstition than to true piety?  These, he thinks, can only be explained as allegories.  In the Enchiridion he had written, "Choose, in especial, those interpreters who depart as far as possible from the letter."5  But in later life he came to regard the letter as more important and to save the allegories for moralizing otherwise incomprehensible or offensive portions of the Holy text.  Even in the Enchiridion he had said that, if one kept only to the literal sense, he might as well read Livy as the Book of Judges.  In one of the Adages,1 of the edition of 1515, he [Erasmus] expressed himself as follows:


            If in the Old Testament you see nothing but history, and read that Adam was made from mud, that his little wife was unobtrusively drawn from his side while he slept, that the serpent tempted the little woman with forbidden fruit, that God walked in the cool of the evening, and that a guard was placed at the gates of Paradise to prevent the fugitives returning, would you not fancy the whole thing a fable from Homer's workshop?  If you read of the incest of Lot, the whole story of Samson, the adultery of David, and how the senile king was cherished by a maiden, would that not be to chaste ears repulsively obscene?  But under these wrappings, good Heavens! what splendid wisdom lies concealed [my guess:  the main objective with this sentence, is to partly counterbalance the foregoing devastations (to avoid being burnt)].


            The fact is that Erasmus's treatment of the Bible was the most rational possible in the light of the then available knowledge. 






If a passage yielded a clear historical or plain moral meaning as it stood, he took it literally.  Only if it were repugnant either to reason or to ethics in its literal sense was a figurative interpretation employed....'  [168-169].



...."Nor did Christianity escape the notice of Lucian [c. 117 – c. 180], who directed his jibes against "the man who ascended into heaven," and against Christian dogmas which came to his notice.  Indeed, there is extant one dialogue, probably spurious, but perhaps thought by Erasmus to be genuine, directed entirely against the disciples of Jesus, and a translation of this very work under the title Lucian on Christ, was circulated over the name of Erasmus.1  This was probably spurious, but renderings of other works of this skeptical author even such as were less obnoxious to Christian feeling, brought down on the humanist the suspicions of his contemporaries, who murmured that he covered his own opinions under the name of his original and, in the guise of holiness,2 mocked all things.  In this judgment it is impossible for us to concur.  Erasmus certainly appreciated and appropriated as his own all the satire of his original in as far as it was directed against human folly and superstition, but it is equally certain[?] that he stopped short of sanctioning actual infidelity.  The age was one of restless movement, inquiry, and satire.  All old values were being doubted, and the Reformation, which was to transmute many of them, was at hand."  [194].



            'Pacifism was one of the most valuable, as it was one of the most modern, features of Erasmus's thought.  In season and out of season he was always urging the folly and the wickedness of international, wholesale homicide.  "In my opinion," he wrote, "Cicero was right in saying that an unjust peace was better than the justest war."2  And again, "I do not condemn every war, for some are necessary, nor do I taunt any prince, yet it cannot be denied that when war breaks out there is a crime on one side or the other, if not on both."1  Even war on the Turks, he urged in a special treatise, did not please him and could only be justified on the plea of necessity.2  To give his ideas general expression he published, at the request of the Burgundian Secretary of State, John Le Sauvage, for the conference about to take place at Cambrai in March, 1517, a tract entitled The Complaint of Peace.3  Chiefly on religious grounds, but also for reasons of ordinary morality and of expediency, he urged the case against war.  Again he brought forward his plan for arbitration, arguing that even an unjust award, now and then, would be less injurious to the aggrieved party than the havoc of armed conflict.  But these suggestions were too far ahead of the time to bear immediate fruit.  Only in our time have statesmen come to appreciate the old humanist's [Erasmus] contribution to the cause of peace.4' 







'The two antimonarchical adages [of Erasmus], "Scarabaeus" and "The king and the fool are born such," were separately printed and widely circulated.  Luther's friend, Spalatin, translated the latter into German, adding a dedicatory epistle to Prince Joachim of Anhalt,2 and Luther's own famous remark,3 that "since the foundation of the world a wise prince has been a rare bird and a just one much rarer, for they have usually been the biggest fools and worst knaves on earth," is but an echo of Erasmus.  The truest heirs of the liberal humanist, however, were the French monarchomachs, who in the Wars of Religion almost anticipated the Revolution by two centuries.  Many a page of Mornay and of Beza and of Hotman and, above all, of La Boétie, bears the stamp of the writers' careful study, during the impressionable period of youth, of the two adages just quoted.4'  [202].



            "Regarding his epistles as literature, Erasmus felt free to rewrite them, as much as wished, for publication.  When Eoban Hess printed some of Erasmus's letters, the humanist wrote his young friend that he regretted the act, for he was about to edit the letters himself in a fuller form.3  Comparison with the manuscripts, where they have survived, shows extensive and important alterations.1  Dates, added from memory, were frequently wrong, or were sometimes falsified intentionally to give a desired impression.2  Names were suppressed; whole passages were omitted, and others added, Justus Jonas remarked with astonishment that one of the humanist's letters to himself had been greatly expanded on publication, and corrupted by the introduction of an incorrect statement.3  Erasmus frequently assured his friends that he would print nothing unfit for the public eye.4  He preferred the artistic grouping of letters by subject and writer, and shrank from the more exposing chronological order which friends sometimes urged on him, and which he once promised to adopt.5


            These facts make one cautious in using the letters as historical sources, but they do not destroy, or even seriously impair, their value [?].  Some facts would be too notorious for Erasmus to suppress; most others he would have no motive for concealing [?]...."  [206-207].



'In truth, heresy always seemed to him [Erasmus] a bit freakish, something repugnant to the sane and sound common sense of mankind.  When the Bohemian Brother, John Slechta, of Kosteletz, wrote him of the three churches in Bohemia,2 Erasmus replied that he wished they






were all one, and that eccentricity was no presumption of truth.  No doctrine has been so silly, said he [Erasmus], that it has not found followers:


            [Erasmus] There were men who taught that it was pious for sons to kill an aged parent, and a nation has been found where this is solemnly done....There were some who recognized a debt to Judas the traitor for the redemption of the world, nor were disciples lacking who worshiped him as a great saint....I believe that if leaders arose teaching that it is religious for naked men to dance with naked women in the market place they would get disciples for their sect [ah (smiling)!  Erasmus, plus (or minus?) wine, would join them].


            But, however much Erasmus despised the vagaries of religious enthusiasm, he was desirous of reform.  When Luther began attacking flagrant abuses, Erasmus knew that he had a case, and a good one.  For nearly four years he labored hard and at no little risk to get him a fair hearing.  Later he was repelled, not so much by the danger to himself—though that was not slight—as by the dogmatic violence of the Evangelical leaders.  Disliking dogma, he [Erasmus] could not find it any more palatable hot from Wittenberg than cold in Rome.  Fearing the "tumult" above all things, bitterly hating the mob-violence and partisan conflict in which reason can but abdicate, he became more and more alien to the cause he had once regarded with open-mindedness, if not with cordial approval.  Even from the first he had misgivings, lest the stir and bustle of it all should end in a tragedy.  Indeed, it is possible that he foresaw the revolt before it took place.  The signs of the time were so plain that Aleander1 warned the pope in 1516 that Germany was on the point of secession.  "In this part of the world," wrote Erasmus, on September 9, 1517, "I fear that a great revolution is about to take place."2


            Though Erasmus could not have been one of the formative influences of Luther's early life, his writings were, from 1515 or 1516 until about 1521, the chief guide and authority of the Wittenberg professor [Luther].  After 1521, the humanist was indeed read carefully, but generally with dissent and reprobation.  But in the earlier period, so perfectly did the Austin friar [Luther] imbibe the doctrine of the Austin canon that on April 27, 1518, at the Heidelberg disputation, Bucer reported that the young Reformer [Luther] agreed in all things with Erasmus, save that he expressed them more openly.1  The Adagia was one of the first works of its author to be thoroughly read by the Wittenberger [Luther], and was one which he took care always to have in the latest and best edition.2  There may be a quotation from it in Luther's works as early as 1510–11;3 quotations from it become very numerous after May, 1518.4  The Enchiridion suggested the campaign at Wittenberg against the worship of the saints, and the difference between inner and outer religion, worked up in the






treatise On Christian Liberty.  The Folly was also read, as was the satire known as the Julius Excluded from Heaven.


            Luther purchased and eagerly devoured the large collections of the humanist's [Erasmus] letters published from time to time.  He perused the Auctarium selectarum epistolarum5 (August, 1518) containing sixty-three letters mostly of the years 1517–18; the Farrago nova6 (1519) with 333 epistles well distributed over many years; the Epistolae ad diversos7 (September 1, 1521) containing many recent but cautiously selected letters.  These volumes were chiefly interesting to him as revealing the writer's attitude toward the Evangelic cause and its leader, and he praised or blamed them accordingly.  In subsequent years he expressed the harsh judgment that nothing was to be found in the epistles but laudation of friends and reviling of enemies.8


            One of these letters, that to Antony of Bergen, dated March 14, 1514, on the subject of peace, was translated by Spalatin, Luther's best friend, apparently from a manuscript copy.1  Spalatin, indeed, the chaplain of the Elector Frederic, was a tremendous admirer of the humanist [Erasmus], other works of whom he thought of translating; and all of those publications, as fast as they came out, he induced his master to buy and put in the library at Wittenberg, where Luther and the other professors had easy access to them.2


            Most of all was Luther influenced by the publication of the Greek New Testament, which from the moment he got it, in April, 1516, became his chief guide and authority in exegesis for some years.  But the Wittenberg professor [Luther] was not the man to follow any authority blindly.  The sharp critic of the Bible did not let its modern editor go unscathed.  He was especially displeased by the treatment of the Epistle to the Romans, for, having recently worked out his own famous doctrine of justification by faith, resting on Romans i:17, he was disappointed to see that Erasmus had so little to say about it.  So much disturbed was he by this omission, that within a few months after he had obtained the New Testament, he [Luther] wrote to his influential friend Spalatin, pointing out the fault and begging him to communicate it to Erasmus.3  "In interpreting the apostle on justification by works, or by the law, or justification proper (as the apostle calls it), he understands only the ceremonial and figurative observance of the law.  Moreover he will not hear the apostle on original sin, though he allows that there is such a thing."  The writer [Luther] concludes that no good works justify, even if they be the heroic deeds of a Fabricius or of a Regulus.  In accordance with his friend's [Luther] desire, Spalatin communicated this criticism to Erasmus, quoting it word for word, but mentioning the critic only as "an Augustinian priest [Luther] no less famous for the sanctity of his life than for his theological lore."  The humanist [Erasmus] received this letter, but did not answer it.1






            Another severe criticism, probably directed against the notes on the New Testament, is the following in a letter of March 1, 1517.2


            [apparently (another):  Luther to Spalatin to Erasmus] I read our Erasmus and my respect for him daily decreases.  He pleases me because, constantly and learnedly, he convicts and condemns monks and priests of inveterate sloth and ignorance; yet I fear he does not sufficiently

reveal Christ and the grace of God, in which he is much more ignorant than Lefèvre d' Étaples, for human considerations prevail with him much more than divine.


            While Erasmus paid no attention to Spalatin's letter on biblical theology, he could not long ignore the [Luther's] Ninety-five Theses on indulgences, posted on the doors of the Castle Church at Wittenberg on October 31, 1517 [validity of story?].  Even before they were nailed up they had been printed, and they flew through Germany "as if carried by angels."  Four months after their promulgation they were sent by Erasmus to his friends More and Colet.3  To the latter he [Erasmus] wrote:


            [Erasmus] In all royal courts counterfeit theologians rule.  The Roman Curia has simply cast aside all shame.  What is more impudent than these incessant indulgences?  Now a war with the Turks is the pretext for them, though the real object is to drive the Spaniards from Naples.'  [211-215].



            'In expressing a preference for bigamy to divorce, Erasmus but concurred in an opinion which, strange as it seems to us, was very commonly held at the time.  Not only the Anabaptists, but many more sober reformers, and not a few Catholics and rationalists, held the view that polygamy, commonly practiced in the Old Testament and not clearly forbidden in the New, was a natural and in given circumstances a permissible state.4  Whether Erasmus was solicited by Henry [Henry VIII of England, 1491 – 1547; King of England and Lord of Ireland (later, King of Ireland), 1509 – 1547] for an opinion, as were other learned doctors, is uncertain, but the subject continued to occupy his thoughts.  Early in 1530 he wrote his intimate friend, Boniface Amerbach, that, as Henry had not married Catharine [Catherine of Aragon, 1485 – 1536] from love, his case is a hard one, but that, nevertheless, he advises him to marry his daughter to a noble and to make her son his heir.  However, he asks whether, considering the bloodshed that would result from a disputed succession, a dispensation annulling the marriage might not be given, though it would be hard on the queen.5  Amerbach replied,1 on February 28th, that the moot question was one for jurists, and that the pope had the power of granting divorce only in






extreme cases.  Though it is not certain that another marriage would produce a son, Amerbach added:  "Were I a Lutheran I should say that a new wife might be taken without putting away the old, for polygamy was practiced by the patriarchs and Luther teaches that it is not forbidden by the New Testament."'  [281-282].



'It is impossible to call one movement liberal and the other conservative.  Luther's reaction of the sacramental system of the Church shocked Erasmus by its radicalism as much as the humanist's play of mind over dogma repelled the Reformer [Luther] by its liberalism.  If, in his general attitude