Skip to main content

Full text of "Erasmus A Study Of His Life Ideals And Place In History"

See other formats

92. 6D 






A Study of His Life, 
Ideals, and Place in History 



New York 

Republished 1962 
First published 1923 

Printed in the United Slates of America 
Library of Congress Catalog Card No, 62-17092 






The Renaissance represented by Erasmus. His birth, 1469. 
Schooling at Deventer. Reception as an Austin Canon at Steyn. 
Love for the classics. Painting. The Burgundian Court. The 
University of Paris. Revolt from scholasticism. Student life. 


The classics. The Adages* Greek. Panegyric of Philip. The 
"philosophy of Christ." Jean Vitrier. Enchiridion Militis 


First visit to England, 1499. Second visit, 1505-06. Third 
sojourn, 1509-14. Later visits. Teaching at Cambridge. 
English benefices. Pilgrimages to Canterbury and Walsingham. 
Dispensations from the Pope. Sir Thomas More and his family. 

The Utopia. John Colet. 

IV. ITALY 101 

The journey to Italy 1 506-09. The degree of Doctor of Theology 

at Turin. Bologna, Florence, Venice. Aldo. Padua, Ferrara, 
Sienna, Rome, Naples. 


Sources. Character of the satire. Success. Julius excluded 
from heaven* 

VI. THE RHINE . 129 

Erasmus's fame in Germany, 1514. Hutten. Reuchlin. Letters 

of Obscure Mm. Travel on the Rhine. Portraits by Matsys, 
Durer, and Holbein. Holbein's illustrations of the Folly and the 
Paraphrase of Ltike. University of Louvain. 


State of biblical criticism. Erasmus's edition of the Greek text. 
Criticism, translation, exegesis. Reception and influence of the 
work. Paraphrases. 


Editions of the Fathers. Editions and translations of the classics. 
Political writings. The Institution of a Christian Prince. Repub- 
licanism and Pacifism. Epistles. 

Erasmus's preparation for the Protestant revolt. His influence 

on Luther, His welcome for the Theses on Indulgences. Attacks 
on him by the monks. His plan for a court of arbitration, His 
meeting with Frederic the Wise at Cologne. The Diet of Worms. 
Neutrality of Erasmus resented by both sides. His flight from 
the Netherlands, 




X. LIFE AT BASLE, 1521-29 257 

Erasmus's income, library, and will. Visits to Constance, 
Besancon, and Freiburg in the Breisgau. Health. Relations 
with France and England. 

The Colloquies, their origin, success, and teaching. Textbooks. 
Pronunciation of Greek. Pedagogical method. The Ciceronian. 
Erasmus's style. 


Contact of the Renaissance and Reformation; their common 
origin and final divergence. Relations of Erasmus and Luther 
typical of this. The inevitable break precipitated by personal 
reasons. Quarrel with Hutten. The Free Will. Luther's reply 

and Erasmus's rejoinders. The Diet of Augsburg. Melanchthon. 


Zwingli. Reform at Basle. Farel. (Ecolampadius. Departure 

from Basle. Controversies of Erasmus with the Catholics. 
The offer of the Red Hat. 

Freiburg in the Breisgau. Cousin. Last works. Correspondence 

with H. C. Agrippa, De Pins, and Rabelais. Deaths of Fisher 
and More. Death of Erasmus, 1536. 

His works put on the Index of Prohibited Books, Later Catholic 
opinion. Protestant estimates. Rationalist appreciation. 
Character of Erasmus. As a representative of the contact of 
Renaissance and Reformation. As the exponent of "the 
philosophy of Christ." 








INDEX * .... 469 

Jutograph signature to a letter to Duke 
Georgf of Saxony, December 5, Ip2. 
It reads; ^ "Erasmus Rot Serenitati 
tuae addictissimus manu mea sub m 
scripsi." Original in Dresden, 


PERHAPS the best way to explain the raison d'etre of this 
work is to set forth the phases through which the com- 
position has passed. Lectures given at Amherst College 
in the winter of 1912-13 laid the foundations. At that 
time I was attracted to the subject by the large amount 
of new materials which had appeared very recently. 
The masterly edition of the epistles by Percy Stafford 
Allen and the publication of many unknown or inac- 
cessible letters by J. Forstemann, O. Giinther, L. K. 
Enthoven, and other scholars, have greatly added to 
our knowledge of Erasmus's life. The Bibliotheca Eras- 
miana, now in course of publication, has opened a mine 
of information on many of the humanist's works. On 
various phases of his career and genius much new light 
has been cast by the labors of Kalkoff, Mestwerdt, 
Humbert, Zickendraht, Woodward, and Nichols. 

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 "un- 
dogmatic Christianity" now first coming to its own 
four hundred years after he proclaimed it. One must 
not exaggerate, nor wrench historical facts to precon- 
ceived 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 obscur- 
antism, while cherishing morality* No writer before 



Voltaire has left behind him such a wreck of super- 
stitions; 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 Re- 
formation 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 tjgified and represented, more than did any other 
man, the, ey^ in its cont act t with 

the Reformation; first The 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 move- 
ments, is here presented. Furthermore, Erasmus's 
particular task, that of synthesizing the two diverse 
currents flowing from Christian and from pagan an- 
tiquity, is freshly evaluated. 

In fine, 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* 

My obligations to helpers have been very great, I 
am indebted to Dr. P. S. Allen for occasional informa- 
tion and for keeping me au cow ant of his own work; 
to that generous patron of learning, Mr, George Arthur 
Plimpton, for the use of his splendid library of rare 


books, including some valuable Erasmiana; to Prof. H. 
Carrington Lancaster, for transcribing for me some 
letters from the Bellaria Epistolarum Des* Erasmi 
Roterodami et Ambrosii Palargi, published at Cologne, 
1539, out of the copy of that rare work at the Bodleian. 
For information about a manuscript containing unpub- 
lished Erasmus letters at Nimes I am obliged to Prof. 
John Lawrence Gerig. Still more do I owe to Prof. 
Louise Ropes Loomis. At one time I hoped to secure 
her co-operation in writing this volume, but, though 
the work was in her possession for about a year, she 
found little time to devote to it, and actually wrote only 
some eight or ten pages. As she built on my work, 
and as I have in turn remodeled hers, it is impossible to 
indicate her contribution more exactly than to state 
that most of what is said on the Adages in Chapter II 
is from her pen. She has also recently read the first 
half of the manuscript and has given me the benefit 
of many corrections and suggestions in matters of 
detail. Most of all, perhaps, the book owes to the 
thorough revision of Prof. George Lincoln Burr, Every 
chapter now bears the mark of his profound erudition 
and keen insight. My wife has also assisted me in 
reading the proof, and has also prepared the index. 
The merits of the book are due to the co-operation 
of the kind friends here warmly but inadequately 
thanked; for its faults, as well as for the expression of 
opinion, I alone bear the responsibility. 


July 6 


Allen Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami denuo recognitum et auctum 

'per P. S. Allen. As yet 4 vols. 1906 IF. 
Enthoven Briefe an Desiderius Erasmus von Rotterdam, hg. von L. K. 

Enthoven. 1906. 
Epistola ad Amerbachium Epistola familiares Des. Erasmi Roterodami ad 

Bonif. Amerbachium. 1779. 
Forstemann-Giinther Brief e an Desiderius Erasmus von Rotterdam* hg. von. 

J. Forstemann und 0. Giinther. 1904. 
LB. Desiderii Erasmi Roterodami Opera omnia t ed. J. Clericus. 10 vols. 

Lugduni Batavorum. 1703-06. The epistles are quoted from vol. 3 by 

number of epistle only; other volumes are quoted by number of volume 

and column. 
L.C. Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters^ translated 

and edited by Preserved Smith. Vol. I, 1913. Vol. 2, in collaboration 

with C. M. Jacobs, 1918. 

Lond. Epistolarum Des. Erasmi libri xxxi. London, 1642. 
Nichols. The Epistles of Erasmus. . , . English translations with a cow- 

mentary . . . by F. M. Nichols. 3 vols. 1901-19. Though I add references 

to Nichols in the notes, I have always compared his version with the original, 
Z.W. Huldreich Zwinglis samtliche Werke> hg. von E. Egli, G. Finsler, und 

W. Kohler, 1905 ff. As yet, vols. i, ^ 9 3, 7, 8, and parts of 4 and 9. 




ECE all great and complex movements, the Renais- 
sance is capable of interpretation in various ways 
and from opposite standpoints. When we think of its 
importance in the preparation of our modern habit of 

mind, we are inclined to class it with the great epochs 
of advance, such as the Athenian Age and the Enlight* 
enment. But if we take the testimony of its own writers 
we learn that its ideals were in the past, a restoration 
and not a progress. Its most enlightened champions 
appealed not to reason, but to the Roman poets; not 
to nature, but to classic authority. While the glorious 
freedom of thought attained by many of its represent- 
atives entities it to be regarded as an insurgence oi 
reason, its passionate rebellion against the rationalism of 
Aristotle and Aquinas forces us to consider it an artistic, 
emotional reaction against reason, like the Romantic 
Movement of the early nineteenth century. 

Nor is there any consensus of opinion as to the re- 
lations of the Renaissance and the Reformation. For 
long they were regarded as sisters, similar in origin and 
analogous in result; emancipations both, in different 
fields and with different emphases but with a friendly 
alliance, so that the elder sister prepared for the younger 
and the younger consummated the work of the elder. 
But of late it has been asserted that the Reformation 
was a reaction of backward minds against the Renais- 
sance; the different points of view of the two have been 
stressed, and their rivalry and even hostility pointed 
out. "Where the Reformation triumphed "we may 
paraphrase a famous saying of Erasmus ** the Renals- 


sance perished 55 ; and contrariwise where humanism at- 
tained its perfect work the Lutheran gospel met with a 
cold reception. 

A part of the confusion of thought on this subject 
is due to the lack of a precise understanding of what is 
meant by the term "Renaissance/* Sometimes it is 
made to cover all the intellectual phenomena of the 
fourteenth to the sixteenth century, and even (as by 
Burckhardt) extended to the political development; 
again it is narrowly restricted to the rebirth of en- 
thusiasm for classical antiquity. For the sake of clarity 
it should be pointed out that the vast change which 
came over the human spirit in the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries, marking the transition from mediaeval to 
modern times, can be analyzed into at least three very 
distinct factors. In the first place, there was the Social 
Shift, manifesting itself in politics in the rise of the na- 
tional state and in economics in the change from the 
gild system of production to the capitalistic method. 
Secondly, there was a large number of new Discoveries 
geographical exploration, the invention of printing, 
gunpowder, glass lenses, and the compass, and the 
revival of natural science with Copernicus and his 
fellows. Thirdly, there was the Rebirth of Antiquity, 
manifesting itself, according to the view here set forth, 
in the Renaissance and in the Reformation. All three 
great lines of progress interacted, as for example, na- 
tionalism in the rise of vernacular literature, and the 
discovery of printing in the spread of culture, but each 
is separable in thought* and might conceivably have 
acted independently. 

The Renaissance and the Reformation were, therefore* 
really one. The conscious opposition of the champions 
of each, the intense warfare arising from their propm* 
quity and concern with the same interests, have con- 
cealed the real similarity of their natures, just as the 
warfare between Catholics and Protestants has greatly 
exaggerated the popular estimate of their differences 


and obscured their numerous and fundamental agree- 
ments. Though both Renaissance and Reformation, 
by breaking down the old barriers and by stimulating 
new thought and claiming new freedoms, did much to 
prepare the modern world, both, as the first syllable 
of each name indicates, represented a turning back to 
the past, and to about the same period of the past, the 
first century of the vulgar era. Their opposition was a 
recrudescence of the great alignment of the first cen- 
turies of the Roman Empire; that between Christianity 
and paganism. Many of the Italian humanists repudi- 
ated the gospel in the name of the Greek and Roman 
poets and philosophers; most of the Reformers de- 
nounced or lamented the errors of the heathen and 
of their recent disciples. The versatile virtuosi of Italy 
longed for the return of that golden age when the 
Roman Capitol swayed a world of poetry and of sensual 
pleasure, when all made for the joy of living and the 
still greater joy of learning. The earnest Calvinist 
panted for the virtues and the faith of an apostolic age, 

But, before Luther as after him, there were men, 
particularly among the serious-minded scholars of the 
North, who felt the need of amalgamating both streams 
of influence, the Latin and the Judaean. Splendid was 
the heritage of the classic poets and philosophers; pre- 
cious was the message of the gospels; could not the 
two possessions, so different in spirit and in quality, be 
united in one rich synthesis, cleared from the rust and 
accretions of a thousand years, and turned to the profit 
of a new civilization? The solution of this problem was 
the task consciously and conscientiously set themselves 
by the Transalpine humanists; their success has been 
of high value to their own world and to ours, and their 
achievement, though like all great works the product of 
many minds, was due more to Erasmus than to any 
'other one man. He cared little for the inventions and 
discoveries of his age; he was not even aware of the 
significance of the main economic and political changes; 


but he does represent, better than any other one man, the 
common spirit of the Renaissance and of the ^Reform- 
ation. His own life typifies their similar origin and 
their final divergence. 

As the task of reconciling the streams of ancient 
culture flowing from Judaea and from Athens was uni- 
versal, it was fitting, perhaps necessary, that its jrnaster 
should have been born in the most cosmopolitan of 
European states. In the fifteenth century the Nether- 
lands supplied the exchange and entrepot not only of 
merchandise, but of ideas. Italian goods, material 
and spiritual, floated down the Rhine; those of Eng- 
land were borne across the North Sea; those of Germany 
and France were close at hand. In this focus arose a 
man who wrote, "I wish to be called a citizen of the 
world, the common friend of all states, or, rather, a 
sojourner in all/' 1 "That you are very patriotic/' he 
said to a French friend, "will be praised by some and 
easily forgiven by everyone; but in my opinion it is 
more philosophic to treat men and things as though 
we held this world the common fatherland of all." 2 
Significant it seemed to him that he was born "between 
the banks of the Rhine" that is, in the delta, as though 
he were intended to share the culture of the two great 
bordering states. For at that time the Dutch did not 
think of themselves as a separate nation; half of the 
Burgundian state was German, the other half French, 
and those persons born near the frontier might choose 
to which of the two nations they belonged. Erasmus 
preferred now one and now the other country, 3 but did 
not care to decide the matter finally, for, as he wrote ; 4 

I should like not only France and Germany, but all countries 
and all cities to claim Erasmus; for it would be a useful emulation 
which would stimulate many to noble deeds. Whether I am a 

1 To Zwingli, September 5 ("5 nonas Septembres* 1 ) i$z%, Z, W, vii, ep $35. 

9 To Bude, Allen, ep. 480, 

1 LB. x, 1662; LB, ep. 803; Lond. xii, 43. 

4 To Peter Mamus, October i, 1520, Allen, ep* 1147, 


Batavian I am not sure. I cannot deny that I am a Hollander by 
birth, from that part, if one may trust the maps, which borders 
on France rather than on Germany, but assuredly from the region 

situated on the frontiers of France and Germany. 

But though the name Holland applied not to a nation, 
as in common speech it does now, but merely to a 
province, Erasmus loved it well. If at times he expressed 
discontent with a country which appreciated its own 
son less than did other nations, elsewhere he praised 
highly its rich soil, its hardy fishermen, its numerous, 
wealthy, and cultured cities, and the humane and 
intelligent character of the inhabitants. 1 . Holland was 
then a part of the Burgundian state, welded into a 
powerful land by Philip the Good and Charles the Bold, 
but with little of the national feeling already character- 
istic of the French, the English, and the Germans. 
About his birth and childhood in this country Erasmus 
in after-life wove a web of romance founded on fact, 
which may be here repeated after him. 

During the last years of Duke Philip the Good there 
lived at Gouda, a town about twelve miles from Rotter- 
dam, a man named Elias. 2 The Dutch at that time had 
no family names, but took their surnames either from 
the baptismal name of their fathers, or from the town 
where they were born or with which they were later 
connected. Thus Adrian of Utrecht, who became pope 
in 1522, was called after the city of his birth and, oc- 
casionally, Rogers, a patronymic. Elias and his wife, 
Catharine, had ten sons, of whom the youngest save 
one, and the most gifted, was called Gerard, "the 
Beloved/ 1 With a natural aptitude for learning he 

*"Auris Batava," Ada$ia t LB* i, 1083 f, /, L. Enthoven: "Erasmus 

Weltbtirger oder Patriot?" Neue Jahrbucher fur das Klamsche Alteftwm* 
etc., ao$. 

s Go Erasmus's parents and early life, Allen, i, 46 ff and ep. 447; Nichols, 
!, pp. 5 ff, ard ep, 443. Erasmus hated his uncles, who dealt as hardly with 
him m they had dome with his father* One of them tried to rob him of a shirt, 
Allen, ep, 76, On the Dutch lack of family names, L, Pastor: History of the 
j, tr. by B* F. Kerr, i, 34; N. Paul us: Die Deutscken Dominikaner im 
&tm Lvtker, 1906, p. 68. 


acquired a mastery of Latin and also, we are told, of 
Greek, a language still almost unknown north of the 
Alps, which he probably picked up during a sojourn 
in Italy. His attainments marked him out as the object 
of his brothers' envy, and they conspired against him 
like another Joseph. Being unable to sell him to the 
Midianites, they desired to make him a priest, in order 
thus, as they hoped, to deprive him of his share in the 
family inheritance. Under their pressure, Gerard took 
holy orders. 

Before his ordination, 1 the young man entered into 
a liaison with a widow named Margaret, the daughter of 
a physician in the neighboring village of Zevenberghen. 
The pair had two sons, Peter, born when his parents 
were both about twenty-five years old, and Erasmus, 
three years younger. Not long before the birth of his 
second son Gerard deserted his mistress, perhaps on 
account of further persecution by his family, and went 
to Rome. In this polished but corrupt city, then under 
the rule of Paul II, he led a dissipated life, supporting 
himself by copying manuscripts, and sent his parents 
a letter with a picture of two clasped hands and the 
words, "Farewell, I shall never see you more/' However, 
he later decided to return, perhaps in consequence of 
a letter from his family containing the false news that 
Margaret was dead. After his home-coming he took care 
of his children, but did not, apparently, live with their 
mother any longer. 2 

Soon after he had taken orders, probably, and perhaps 

*In January, 1506, on account of his illegitimate birth, Erasmus got a 
dispensation from the pope to hold benefices, He there is described as bora 
"of a bachelor and widow/ 1 which would dispose of the idea that he was the 
son of a priest, were it not that he was obliged later to get a second dispensa- 
tion (1517) in which his dtfectvs natalium is said to be that he was "born of 
an illicit and, as he fears, of an incestuous and damned union/* This would 
imply that in the interval he had learned something more about hii birth* 
and also that he was himself uncertain of its details. Allen, iii, p. xxix, and 
ep. 518, Erasmus was probably born after his father was ordained, 

2 Charles Readers great novel, The Cloister and the Hearth) it founded on 
the adventures of Gerard. 


during his absence, his second son was born and given 
the then common name of Erasmus, chosen, possibly, 
as a Greek rendering of his father's name. A little 
house in Nieuw-Kerk Street in Rotterdam bears the 
inscription saying that in it was born the great Erasmus, 
and this location may be considered the most likely 
one, though it is not altogether beyond doubt. Mar- 
garet may have gone there to hide her shame or, accord- 
ing to an early tradition, have been sent there by Gerard 
to conceal his sin. 1 

Erasmus always celebrated the feast of St. Simon and 
St. Jude (October 28th) as his birthday, but as to the 
year his accounts vary strangely. Several indirect 
references 2 such as the statement that he met Colet 
when they were both just thirty (1499) and that he was 
fourteen years old when he left Deventer (1484) point 
to the year 1469 as the one he had in mind, and that this 
is the true year is confirmed by early local tradition. 3 

1 This house was shown to visitors as the birthplace of Erasmus as early 
as 1540. Brown: Calendar of State Papers, Venice^ v, 2-22. In 1591 Fynes 
Moryson visited the house, and also noted that the wooden statue of Erasmus 
had been broken down by the Spanish soldiers in the Dutch war of independ- 
ence. See his Itinerary, ed. 1907, pp. 107 ff. Cornelius Loos, a Dutchman 
who lived a little later, relates that the stone statue of Erasmus was erected 
after the Rotterdam fire of 1563, and was destroyed by Spanish soldiers in 
1572, On the place of Erasmus's birth he says: "If we may credit the tradition 
of the fathers in these parts, his father was a parish priest in the neighborhood 
of Cknuia, who in order to conceal his crime sent his pregnant servant to a 
neighboring city," "Cornelius Loos: Illustrium Gerrn&nus Scriptorum Cata- 
tofius, 1582, / 0. "Erasmus 11 (no paging). A copy of this rare book is at 
Cornell, Against this, however, may be placed a long MS. note to a written 
extract from Loos, now found in the town, library of Gouda, The writer of 
this Is unknown, but he declares that Erasmus's friend, Regner Snoy, had 
often heard Erasmus say that he was born at Gouda. This printed in drchief 
voor Kerktlijkc Gcschif dents, xvi, 1845, p, 232, The fact that Erasmus took 
the surname " Rotcrodamus," however, shows that he regarded himself as a 
citizen of Rotterdam. J. Milton speaks of a bronze statue of Erasmus at 
Rotterdam, Defensk II pro Populo An^licano, Works* 1805, v, 299. 

a LB. i, 921 f; via, 561; Allen, ep, 940; and perhaps his speaking of his 
schooling at the age of thirteen, LB, ix, fixoA* Furthermore, he says that he 
wrote his firat epistle (Allen* cp. x, put in 1484) when he was fourteen; see 
Allen, ep 447, and LB. i, 347. 

* Cornelius Loos, lac* cft This date is apparently accepted by the unknown 
annonm> r on Loos, cited above. 


But of twenty-three direct references to his age the 
first (made in 1506) gives the year 1466; the next two 
(made in 1516) give 1467; the next twelve (made during 
the years 1517-24) indicate 1466; and the last eight 
(made during the years 1525-34) point to ^ 1464. In 
other words, the older he became the earlier he put 
the year of his birth. It has been suggested, with 
much plausibility, 1 that, whereas he knew the true year 
of his birth to be 1469, he made himself appear older 
in order to save the reputation of his father and to make 
it easier to get for himself certain ecclesiastical dis- 
pensations. At that time the union of a priest with 
a woman was considered a greater sin than the union 
of two unmarried lay persons, and the illegitimate 
child suffered under a heavier stigma. If Erasmus 
could make himself and his contemporaries believe that 
he had been born before his father took orders, he 
would have a powerful motive to do so. When he 
selected the year 1466 he may have appropriated the 
birth year of his brother, who was just three years 
older than himself. 2 

The boy's education began in his fifth year at the 
school of a certain Peter Winckel of Gouda. The 
studies were chiefly reading and writing Dutch, an 
unattractive sort of learning in which he made slow 
progress. About 1475 he was transferred to the famous 
school at Deventer. Both his parents died, probably 
of the plague, his mother in 1483, his father the following 
year. His mother had accompanied him to Deventer, 
His father left a small property, consisting partly of 
the valuable manuscripts he had copied, which was 
divided between the orphan boys. It was perhaps at 
some time during the school year at Deventer that 
Erasmus was withdrawn for a time and sent to the 

* P, Mestwerdt: Die An}an& dfs Erasmus^ 1917, pp. 178 ff. Several lists 
of references made by Erasmus to his age have been drawn up; the fullett 
will be found in Appendix I to this hook. 

2 In like manner Napoleon gave himself the birthday of his older brother 
in his marriage contract with Josephine, 


Cathedral school at Utrecht, where he was a chorister. 
He does not seem to have kept up his music in later 

Deventer had been a notable school for a century, 
having been founded in 1380 by Gerard Groot, the 
mystic who started the religious societies known as the 
Brethren of the Common Life. True to the traditions 
of its inception, the school emphasized religion, even 
encouraging the reading of the Bible in the vulgar 
tongue as well as in Latin. Among its many famous 
graduates were Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa and Thomas 
a Kempis, the probable author of The Imitation of 
Christ. At the time Erasmus entered it, the connection 
of the school with the Brethren of the Common Life was 
still organic, for the rector of that order, Egmond Ter 
Beek, was headmaster of the Florentius House there 
until his death in 1483. It is barely possible that he 
was the pedagogue spoken of by Erasmus as "both 
by name and nature a driveling ram/' 1 There was 
also a master in the school who, in order to have an 
excuse for whipping the boy, trumped up a false charge 
against him, by which he almost broke his pupil's 
heart, brought on an attack of ague, and nearly dis- 
sipated his love of learning, 

The life of a poor schoolboy was, indeed, not an easy 
one. The memoirs of Butzbach and Platter tell ho w 
they were used as fags by the older boys, forced to beg, 
starved, beaten, scolded, and otherwise brutally abused 
both by their seniors and by the masters. At Deventer 
there was perhaps less whipping than elsewhere. The 
boys paid fines for speaking Dutch and for other breaches 
of the rules. They were encouraged to spy on one 
another and on the younger masters. The day was 
completely filled with a routine of appointed task, 

*Thi$ passage from the Adages quoted by Allen, i, p. 579* The word 

**Beek" is near enough to the Dutch bok (he-|?oat, or ram) to make the 
identification with the Kpiopbfof barely possible. On the other hand, " Beek" 

means river in Dutch, and is so used by Erasmus in his epigram on the death 

of Arnold Beka*s daughter.-^LB* i, 


meal time and exercise* from four in the morning, when 
they rose, until eight or nine at night. 1 

Deventer was one of the largest schools. A little 
later it provided instruction for 2,200 boys. There were 
eight forms, each of which must have had an average 
of 275 pupils. The boys sat on the floor around the 
master, who dictated to them a Latin text, translated 
and commented on it, and heard them construe and 
parse yesterday's lesson. The principal study of the 
nine years at this school was Latin, though, as Erasmus 
assures us, "it was still barbarous. The Pater meus 
and the Tempora were read aloud to the boys, and the 
grammars of Eberard and John Garland were dictated 
to them/' The Pater meus was an exercise book with 
paradigms of the declensions, the Tempora a similar 
manual for the conjugations. John Garland was a 
thirteenth-century Englishman who had taught at 
Toulouse. His books were filled with riddling verses, 
such as 

Latrat et amittit, humilis, vilis, negat, heret: 

Est celeste Canis sidus, in arnne natat. 

The answer is a dog, which barks, and loses ("dog" 
being the name of the lowest throw at dice), is humble, 
vile, denies like an apostate ("a dog returned to its 
vomit"), adheres; is the Dog Star, and swims (the 

dogfish). "Heavens!" exclaims Erasmus, "what a time 
that was when the couplets of John Garland were read 
out to the boys, accompanied by a prolix commentary! 
A great part of the school was employed in dictating, 

repeating, and saying by heart some silly verses/' 2 

Other books used were the Floretus, a sort of abstruse 
catechism, the Cornutus, a treatise on synonyms, the 

grammatical works of Papias and Huguitio, and a 

1 Allen: "A Sixteenth-century School," English Historical Rariew, x, 73$ 

* De putrif instituendis* LB. i, p4F. Allen; The Age of rasmuf, 35 IF; 
Woodward; JSrasmus Concerning the Aim and Method of Education^ p* 102* 
Cataloguf van d$n IncunMcn in dt Atkentvinr&ibliothek to Devcnttr* Door 
M. E, Kronenberg, 1917. 


dictionary called the Catholicon. All these were written 
in Latin, and in a Latin of an almost inconceivably 
obscure and difficult type. The Catholicon> by John 
Balbus, was one of the very first books to be printed, 
in an edition dated 1460, by Gutenberg at Mainz. It 
was an important work in its time, being the first 
dictionary arranged on the alphabetical principle. 
Former works had grouped the words according to 
their roots, or supposed derivations. These were often 
of the most fanciful kind; thus hirundo (swallow) was 
derived from aer, because it lived in the air; and ovis from 
ofero, because sheep were offered in sacrifice; nix from 
nubeSy because snow comes from a cloud. One of these 
derivations has become proverbial, that of Papias, 
"lucus a non lucendo," because "a grove lacks light 
(lux) and is therefore called, antiphrastically, lucus." 

The date of the beginning of Erasmus's schooling 
is fixed by his remark that he was at Deventer when 
Pope Sixtus IV proclaimed a jubilee (1475). He was 
still there in April, 1484, when Rudolph Agricola, a 
famous humanist, visited the school, and Erasmus was 
presented to him as the head pupil, and perhaps read 
a prize poem. It is possible that the verses have been 
preserved; if they are the ones beginning "Pamphilus 
insano Galateae captus amore/* They are a chaudfroid 
of Vergilian phrases, and yet they may contain a kernel 
of genuine personal reminiscence, some calf love not 
otherwise known. The reason for thinking this is that 
Pamphilus is a name almost synonymous with Erasmus, 
and is used as a pseudonym by him elsewhere. In one 
of his Colloquies ', first published in 1523, Erasmus 
recounts a love passage between Pamphilus and Maria, 
in which the girl is cruel, the suitor desperate. 1 

Shortly before Erasmus left Deventer the school was 
given "a breath of better learning" by John Sintheim, 

1 LB. I, 692. ff, Ruelens; "'Notice sur la jeunesse et les premiers travaux 
d'rasme" in Erasmi Roterodami Siha Carminwrt> reproduction photo* 
lilho%raphigut, 1864, On Agricola's visit, Allen, i, p. 2. Pamphilus was also 
the name of one of the story-tellers in Boccaccio's Decameron* 



an excellent master and a humanist, who is said to 
have prophesied Erasmus's future greatness. 1 At the 
death of his father, probably in 1484, the boy was left 
in charge of guardians, one of whom was the pedagogue 
of Gouda, Peter Winckel. Erasmus's first extant letter 
was written at this period, advising his guardian to 
sell the books left by Gerard. The man returned it 
with the sarcastic comment that epistles written in 
such stilted Latin should be accompanied by a com- 
mentary. 2 Both the sons of Gerard tried to persuade 
their guardians to send them to a university, whereas 
these gentlemen advised them, on the contrary, to 
enter a cloister. A temporary compromise was effected 
by which the boys were allowed to pursue their studies 
in another school of the Brothers of the Common Life 
at 'S Hertogenbosch, until October, i486. 3 

Erasmus's later observation that he was a dull pupil 
is to some extent borne out by the fact that he took 
eight years to cover at Deventer the curriculum passed 
by Butzbach in two years. 4 But by the time he got 
to 'S Hertogenbosch he was far in advance of his masters, 
who, recognizing his excellence, asked him to make an 
epitome, for school use, of Lorenzo Valla's excellent 
textbook of style, the Elegancies of Latin? In later 
life he represented the influences of the school as exces- 
sively monastic, a charge which he then greatly ex- 
aggerated, owing to his increased dislike of monasticism. 
As a matter of fact it is known that the Brethren of 
the Common Life did not urge, nor even allow, their 
pupils to become regular canons, and that Egbert Ter 
Beek, rector of the Florentius House at Deventer, 
opposed the plan of Nicholas of Cusa to guide boys 
into a monastic career, 6 

* Allen, i, p, 57. 

2 Allen, cp. I, and ii, p, 345. De conscrilendis epistolis^ LB, i, 347E* 
8 Rather than 1487, as Mr. Allen thinks. 
4 Mestwerdt: Die Anf&nge d<rs Krastnu^ 1917, p, Aost f. 
8 LB, I, 1067; Ruelens, 5; Biblioiktca Mtasmiana, i, 153. 
83> 131* 


On the other hand, it is equally well known that 
the Brethren of the Common Life set great store by 
the humanities and did not forbid their pupils to read 
heathen authors. Not only by Agricola and Sintheim, 
but by most of his other masters, the promising boy 
would have been encouraged, according to the precepts 
of Gerard Groot, to read the ancient moral philoso- 
phers, particularly Seneca. 1 From them he would even 
have learned the first principles of textual criticism, for 
their constitutions prescribed the greatest care in secur- 
ing correct manuscripts for copying, "lest we should 
burden our consciences by writing erroneous books." 2 

Returning to Gouda in the autumn of 1486, Peter 
and Erasmus found that the estate left by their father 
(whatever it may have been) had gone to waste, and 
that one guardian had died. The other again pressed 
his wards to enter the monastery. According to a 
much later account, a violent scene ensued, followed 
by a trial of gentler methods, A swarm of monks was 
introduced, one of whom painted a charming picture 
of the tranquillity of the cloister, another in a tragic 
vein magnified the perils of the world, while a third 
dwelt on the terrors of hell a as though there were no 
road from the cloister to the world below," Finally 
an old comrade, Cornelius, referred to by Erasmus as 
Canthelius (ass) practiced upon the boy's love of letters. 
These combined efforts finally succeeded. The brothers 
both entered the monastic life, though not both the 
same cloister. Peter chose the monastery at Sion near 
Delft, Erasmus wrote him an affectionate letter in 1487, 
and referred to him pleasantly in 1498, but later spoke 
of him in very bitter terms as a man given to dissipation. 
At his death in 1528 he felt no regrets. 3 

The monastery selected by Erasmus for himself was 

* Mestwerdt, p. 97. 

2 Me$twerdt p. 142. 

8 Allen, cp. 3. A **Petr. Roterodamus" matriculated at CoJognc cm 
September 12, 1522, who may have been Erasmus's brother. H. Keussen; 
Die Matrikeldtr Universitat Kotn, ii, 1919, p, 851, 


the priory of Emmaus at Steyn, about a mile from 
Gouda; it had been founded in 1419 by a man who 
became its first prior, James, son of Gyrard, on lands 
given by John the Bastard of Blois. It belonged to 
the same congregation as did the cloister of Sion. The 
order was that of Augustinian Canons, not to be con- 
fused with the Augustinian Eremites, or Austin friars, 
to which Luther belonged. The order had originated 
among the canons of cathedral chapters, who had 
formed a loose association and taken the "rule of St. 
Augustine/' so called, for the guide. 1 Erasmus had 
no real vocation for the monastic life. Nevertheless, 
he found in the cloister congenial friends, for one of 
whom, Servatius, later prior, he soon conceived a 
violent passion. His letters of this period to him and 
to another young monk are full of alternate rapture 
and despair, kisses and tears. 2 

He also found the leisure to pursue his darling studies. 
Indeed, he wrote an essay on Contempt of the World* 
to prove that the monastic career was of all the pleasant- 
est 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 

1 Kirckenkxicon, ii pp. 1829 ff. On Steyn, Allen, i, 585; Ruelens, I ff, 

2 Allen, epp. 17-30. His letter to Servarius excusing himself for having 
"been inclined to those pleasures, though never their slave/' Allen, i, p. 567. 
July 8, 1514- The reading "inclinatus" is preferred by Allen; that of 
"inquinatus" is found in most MSS 

8 IV Contemptu Mundi, LB. v, 12570. Cf. Allen, i, p 18, and ep. 1x94, 
and letter to a monk, October 27, 1527, LB. iii, col. 1024 f; Lend, xx x8 
Petrarch had written a De Contemptu Mundi, not known to Erasmus* 
Innocent III had also written a De Contemptu Mundi* swe d$ miseria cndi* 
tionis hwn6n& t Migne Patrologia Latina, vol. 2x7, pp, 701-46, This had been 
printed several times before 1480, and may have been known to Erasmus, 

4 LB. iii, col, ia$7BC. 


Roman life, and couched in easy Latin. Among the 
more recent humanists he defends Agricola, Hegius, and 
Jneas 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 enthusiasm 
to the highest pitch was Lorenzo Valla, whose influence 
on him was almost incalculable. As a stylist, a critic, 
an anticlerical, and an exponent of a completely undog- 
matic Christianity, the Dutchman 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 scholasti- 
cism 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 Pro-* 
fession^ RMgiosoTum) he called in question the worth 
of asceticism. In a dialogue "On Pleasure/* one inter- 
locutor, representing the Epicurean philosophy, main- 
tains that a prostitute is a more useful member of 
society than is a nun. 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 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 life he was to follow Valla in many a path of 
biblical exegesis and of metaphysical argument. 

Not contenting himself with reading, Erasmus tire- 
lessly practiced his pen. The language he always used 
was Latin, then the tongue of the Church, of diplomacy, 
of learning, and of the greater part of accessible literature. 
Few works of high merit had as yet been produced in 
any European vernacular; practically none in Dutch, 
and this narrowness of his native dialect doubtless led 
the aspiring author to select the language of Rome as 
the vehicle for his thoughts. He knew Dutch, of course, 
which came back to him on his deathbed, notwith- 
standing a life-long use of Latin in conversation as well 
as in writing; and he learned to speak a little French, 
English, and Italian while he was staying among those 
peoples. Nevertheless, his attitude to his mother tongue 
is strikingly conservative compared with that of Luther, 
Rabelais, and Skelton.* 

*Qn Valla in general, P. Monnier: Le Quattrocento, 1908, i, 275 ff; 
Creighton: History of the Papacy* ii, 338 E. Fueter: Gwhichtt des neuren 
Historiographie, 1911, pp. 38 f, naf,, Mestwerdt, 50 ML v, Wolff*; lorenw 
Valla, Sfin Leben und Stint Werke* 1893. 

8 Pastor: History of the Popes, tr. by Antrobus, i, 51. 

8 His use of Dutch at the last, Alien, i, 53 f. French, Alien* epp. 119, 194; 
Nichols, epp. 122, 113* German he says he did not know, Italian he refu$d 
to talk (LB. ep. 533, Lend. xiii 43)* but some words of that language and of 
English occur in his Dt Pronunciation*, and more rarely elsewhere***** fa 
the English word "sin" in the Praise of Folly* 


It is unnecessary to review the various exercises 
written at this period, the elegiac verses, the epistles, 
the declamations, all of which are good, but none of 
which is remarkable. They all tell one tale a passionate 
love of letters and the unceasing effort to become a 
master of style. The most elaborate of the pieces bears 
a title which might be given to them all, the Antibarbari* 
It is an essay on the text of most of Erasmus's later 
works, the loveliness of "good letters," and the wicked- 
ness and grossness of the barbarians who opposed the 
children of light. In this work, and another like unto 
it, The Conflict between Thalia and Barbarity? the 
author's satire is directed against the monks and peda- 
gogues who neglect literature, the keen sarcasms remind- 
ing us of similar passages in the Praise of Folly. 

In these works the author broached a question that 
exercised him much throughout life, namely that of the 
relation of culture to religion, and gave it the same 
answer now that he always gave it later, namely that 
though virtue and learning are not the same thing, 
yet they are not hostile, and may even be helpful to 
each other, as both are good. Christians have learned 
from the pagans almost all they know of the arts of 
peace and of war, as well as of writing, speech, poetry, 
and science. True, religion is the "best of things/' 
but it is not the only good thing, and even it is helped 
by the truth discovered by the Greek philosophers, who, 
as Augustine said, "scintillated sparks of the immortal 

While at Steyn Erasmus dabbled in the art of painting, 
A letter written in 1488 speaks of some flowers that he 
had painted in a book. There is also a record of a 
picture of Christ on the cross, with the inscription, in 

* LB. x 1691, Mbli&theca JKrasmiana, pp. 55-80. Allen, ep IX to, 

* First published in 1693, LB. i, 889 ff. There is a slight doubt as to itt 
genuineness* Cf. MUwtheca JKrasmietna t Colloqma, It has been put in June, 
1489, just after Erasmus's letter to Cornelius Gerard, Allen, ep. ^3, but cf* 
Mestwerdt* o6 n, 6, 

8 On this Mestwerdt, 25* 260 ff. 


Latin, "Desiderius Erasmus painted this long ago ^ at 
Steyn." It belonged, at one time, to Cornelius Musius 
(1500-72), provost of the convent of St. Agatha at 
Delft. A painting of the crucifixion, a triptych, has 
long been known, and is now in America, which bears, 
on the shield of one of the soldiers, the words, " Erasmus 
Ppnxit], 1501." This, however, is certainly not by 
Erasmus of Rotterdam. The inscription is barely 
legible and, if admitted, might apply either to the name 
of the person represented in the picture (St. Erasmus), 
or to some other painter with the same name. The 
painting is a fine one and bears some resemblance to 
a similar picture attributed to Diirer. 1 

The pen, rather than the brush, unlocked the gates 
of the house of fame for Erasmus, and also found him 
early employment. In those days all public men, as 
well as all governments, needed secretaries skilled in 
the learned tongue, to give intelligibility and elegance 
to their state papers. The young canon was offered, 
and accepted, such a position from the Bishop of Cam- 
brai, Henry of Bergen, one of the bastards of John 
Labeo ("Thick-lips") of Bergen, who was reputed to 
have ten legitimate and thirty-six natural children. 
On April 25, 1492, probably not long after he had entered 
the service of the Bishop of Cambrai, Erasmus was 
ordained priest at Utrecht by Henry of Burgundy, 
bishop of the diocese. 2 

Next to nothing is known of the young man*s life at 
the episcopal court. He speaks of having heard of the 
exploits of Albert, Duke of Saxony, the agent employed 
by Maximilian in subduing a rebellion in Holland. In 
1489, after a long siege, Albert, aided by the party 
known as the Cods, took Amsterdam, and by 1492 
pacified the whole province. The courageous but cruel 

1 Allen, ep. 16; Nichols, cp. 15; Maurice W, Brockwell: Erasmus, Humanist 
and Painter, 1918. (Privately printed,) The Dttrer painting which it resem- 
bles is reproduced in JKHamker der JKunM 9 Durer t p. 83, 

3 On Henry of Bergen, A, Walther: Anfangs Karls P 9 19x1, p* 1 8. On eh 
ordination, Allen, i, p. 588; ii p. 304* 


soldier was much hated by the peasants, the pool 
*'bread-and-cheese folk/ 5 as they called themselves, 
but their famous compatriot bore no rancor againsl 
the son of his country's enemy. 1 

As the Bishop of Cambrai stood in close relations 
with the young duke Philip, whose marriage with Joanna 
of Spain he celebrated at Brussels, October 21, 1496, 
Erasmus must have caught some glimpse of the gorgeous 
and polished Burgundian court. Of all this experience, 
however, nothing has come down to us. All that is 
known is that he continued his studies, becoming at 
this time especially attracted to Augustine, a taste 
which perhaps indicates a deeper interest in religion 
than he had hitherto shown. 2 

But the court was not a good place for study and the 
young scholar persisted in his desire to go to a university, 
His attention turned to Paris both because it was the 
oldest and most famous seat of learning north of the 
Alps, and because some of his comrades had studied 
there. In 1495 the opportunity to follow their example 
came to him. 3 

Had we been able to enter Paris with Erasmus we 
should have been struck first with the quaint, mediaeval 
appearance of the town, the narrow, crooked streets^ 
the low houses, the lack of drainage and of lights. But, 
notwithstanding the unfamiliar appearance of the streets 
and of the walls, we should soon have been able tc 
convince ourselves that this was indeed the capital oi 
France. Approaching from the north we should have 
seen a palace called the Louvre standing just outside 
the wall, though it is not the Louvre of to-day, which 
was built later. We should not have known the palace 
on the site of the later Bastille; but on the lie de la 
Cite, Notre Dame and the Sainte-Chapelle would be 

1 Letter to Duke George (Albert's son), July 31, 1520, Allen, ep. 1125 

1 Horawitz: Erasmus und Martin Lipsius, p. 114. 

* An w Erasm. de Rotterdam!, art. i pauper," matriculated at Cologne o 
June 6, 1496, but this was not the great Erasmus. H* Keussen: Dit Matrik* 
der Universit&t Koln, ii 1919, p, 401. 


conspicuous, while in the Latin Quarter, on the left 
bank of the Seine, the churches of St. Germain-des- 
Pres and St. Sulpice and the recently built abbey of 
Cluny would greet us. On the hill now crowned by 
the Pantheon then stood the church of Ste.-Genevieve, 
but hard by was St.-tienne-du-Mont, of which a por- 
tion remains exactly as it was. The Sorbonne and the 
various other colleges of the university were scattered 
around the same district, as they now are; that of Mon- 
taigu, inhabited by Erasmus, just north of Ste.-Genc- 
vieve, on the site of the present library of that name. 1 
The University of Paris was, with the possible excep- 
tions of Bologna and Salerno, the oldest and most 
famous in Europe. The most celebrated faculty at 
the university was that of theology, and it was in this 
that Erasmus matriculated. The course was of extraor- 
dinary length, occupying normally fifteen years, so that 
the rule that the recipient of the doctor's degree must 
be thirty-five years old was almost unnecessary. After 
four years of study devoted chiefly to the Bible, and 
two years on Peter Lombard's Sentences, the candidate 
was admitted to his first theological degree, that of 
baccalaureus ad biblia. After this he was allowed to 
give certain lectures for three years until his promotion 
to SententiariuSy or baccalaureus formatus* After six., 
years more of study and teaching he was at last allowed 
to take his doctorate. 2 The course was, in practice, 
greatly shortened in the case of older men, who were 

X 0n the topography of old Pans, cf. the map in H. Rashdall; History of 
Universities (Oxford, 1895), ' 2 7 r - A number of old pictures at the Oarnavalct 
Museum, Paris, &ive a vivid idea of the appearance of the city at various 
times in its history. See also: Grant Allen; Paris, pp. 52, 7 r. S. Keinach: 

"Ste. Genevieve sur Notre Dame de Paris," Gazrttf des Ktaw^An^ 1922, pp. 
257 fF, describes and reproduces a view of the lie do la Cite from a 15th- 
century MS., showing Stc.-Genevievc as a gigantic figure kneeling on top of 
Notre Dame. 

2 Rashdall: Uniwrsities, i 470 ff. It is interesting to compare the course 
in German universities, Luther, after about three years of special study* 
became baccalaureus ad biblia on March 9, 1509. After thin he lectured three 
semesters on the Sentences and studied and perhaps lectured two years on the 
Bible, when he was admitted to the doctorate, October 12, 


able to enter with what would now be called advanced 
standing. Erasmus, who matriculated in his twenty- 
sixth year, became bachelor of theology (baccalaureus 
ad biblia) apparently in April, 1498, after five semesters. 
In preparation for this degree, he gave some sermons, 
and took a course in scholastic philosophy. This study, 
so deeply repugnant to Luther, aroused the mirth of 
the young Dutchman. Aquinas, in many respects the 
greatest of the schoolmen, was by this time little re- 
garded, for his system, and the Realism which had 
flourished in the heyday of scholasticism, had since 
been superseded by Nominalism and the later philoso- 
phers, Occam, Biel, and Duns Scotus. The alignment 
was really different at the close of the Middle Ages 
from what it had been earlier. In the twelfth century 
the deepest questions of metaphysics had been mooted, 
for the implication of realism is pantheism; the impli- 
cations of nominalism are materialism and individualism. 
In these latter days the dispute was not so much meta- 
physical as logical, a subtle sophistry engaged with the 
precise meanings of crabbed terms, and the defense of 
paradoxes. The disputants were intent rather on 
victory than on truth. The " modern " philosophy, as 
nominalism was then called, had been condemned by 
an edict of the Sorbonne in 1472, but had triumphed 
nine years later, when the edict was repealed. When 
Erasmus entered Paris, the Scotists were in power, 
being represented by the influential teachers John 
Tartaret and Thomas Bricot, and by the Franciscan 
preacher and reforming Vicar General, Oliver Maillard* 
The question most to the front at the time was the 
dogma of the immaculate conception of the Virgin 
Mary, not yet officially adopted by the Church, but 
maintained in 1496 by the professors of the Sorbonne, 
whose opinions had but little less authority with the 
learned public than those of the Roman Curia. 1 Erasmus, 

1 A. Renaudec: Ptcreforme et Humanism? d Paris 3 1916, passim. A. 
Renaudct: "Erasme," in Revue IIittoriqite t cxi 238 ff ign. P. Feret: La 


who often spoke of this dispute as one of the most 
barren, was brought into the atmosphere of debate 
by the writings of his friend Gaguin^ whose De in- 
temeratcs Firginis conceptione was first published at 
Paris in 1489 and afterward reprinted often, once at 
Deventer in I494. 1 

Let us hear what Erasmus has to say about his 
studies in scholastic philosophy. He is writing, in 
August, H97, 2 to his English friend and pupil* Thomas 

I, who have always been a primitive theologian, have begun of 
late to be a Scotist a thing upon which you, too, if you love me, 
should pray the blessing of Heaven. We are so immersed in the 
dreams of your compatriot for Scotus, who, like Homer of old, 
has been adopted by divers countries, is especially claimed by the 
English as their own that we seem hardly able to wake up at 
the voice of Stentor. Then, you will say, are you writing this in 
your sleep? Hush, profane man! you know nothing of theological 
slumber. In our sleep we not only write, but slander and wench 
and get drunk. ... I used to think the sleep of Epimenides the 
merest fable; now I cease to wonder at it, having myself had the 
like experience. 

Erasmus then goes on to tell the story of Epimenides, 
an ancient Rip van Winkle who, one day, in a cave, 
while making many discoveries about instances and 
quiddities and formalities, fell into a sleep which lasted 
forty-seven years. 

For my part, I think Epimenides uncommonly fortunate in coming 
to himself even so late as he did, for most divines never wake up at 
all. . . . Look now, rny Thomas, what do you suppose Epimenides 
dreamed of all these years? What else but those subtlest of sub- 
tleties of which the Scotists now boast? For I am ready to swear 
that Epimenides came to life again in Scotus. What if you satw 

Faculte de Theologie a Paris, Vol. I, 1900. P. Delislc: La Faculte de TKeohgie 
a Paris. Notices ft Extraits des MSS. dc la Bibliotheque National f 9 1899, vol. 
xxxvi, pp. 325 Workman; Christian Thought to the Reformation, 190, p. 
243, Buheus: Historia Univerritatis Parisiensts a Carlo Magno ad nostra 
tempora, 6 vols. 1665-73, H. Rashdall: Universities of JRurope in the Middle 
Ages> vol. i 1895. 

1 Bibliothcca Belgica* s . Gagum. 

8 Allen, ep. 64; Nichols, ep 59. 


Erasmus sit yawning among those cursed Scotists while Gryllard 
is lecturing from his lofty chair? If you observed his contracted 
brow, his staring eyes, his anxious face, you would say he was 
another man. They assert that the mysteries of this science can- 
not be comprehended by one who has any commerce with the 
Muses and Graces. ... I do my best to speak nothing in true 
Latin, nothing elegant or witty, and I seem to make some prog- 
ress. . . . Do not interpret what I have said as directed against 
theology itself, which, as you know, I always have singularly culti- 
vated, 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. 

Erasmus never got over his contempt for Scotist 
subtleties. One of the men whom he knew at his College 
of Montaigu, who was, indeed, one of the heads of it 
in 1499, though he did not take his doctorate in theology 
until 1506, was the Scotchman, John Major. This 
scholar was much given to the sophistry Erasmus 
ridicules. One of his works was characterized by 
Melanchthon as follows: "Good heavens! What wagon 
loads of trifling! What pages he fills with disputes 
whether there can be horsiness without a horse, and 
whether the sea was salt when God made it." These 
specimens were no exaggerations. Major seriously dis- 
cusses such questions as whether God could become 
an ox or an ass, if he chose, and whether John the 
Baptist's head, having been cut off, could be in more 
than one place at a time. Erasmus was thinking of 
works like these when, in The Praise of Folly, he spoke 
of the barren scholastic tastes of the Scotch, and brought 
up, for derision, the question, suggested by Major, as 
to whether God could have redeemed mankind in the 
form of an animal or a gourd. 1 It was such ridicule as 
this that turned the first name of Duns Scotus into a 
synonym for fool. 

1 Hume Brown; Surveys of Scottish History* 1919, p. 127. On Major, 
Godct: College de Montagu, 1912, i f; A. Clervah Registre des 

la Paculte dtt Theokgie dff Paris* 1917, p, 5* 


Erasmus began to lecture, presumably on the Bible, 
shortly after receiving his degree of baccalaureus ad 
biblia. One young man, who heard him about 1498, 
wrote thirty years later how much he had then admired 
his teacher's learning and modesty, his attainments in 
Latin, Greek, philosophy, and theology, his ardor in 
teaching, his candor in writing, and his piety. 1 This 
pupil was Hector Boece, a young Scotchman, later the 
first principal of King's College, Aberdeen. Erasmus 
returned the affection and dedicated to him one of his 
first published writings, a short poem on The Hovel 
where Jesus was Born. 2 

Like Oxford and Cambridge, the University of Paris 
was divided into colleges, originally dormitories for 
poor students, in which instruction was given by tutors. 
The college entered by Erasmus was that of Montaigu, 
which, having been founded by Gilles Aycelin de Mon- 
taigu, Archbishop of Rouen, in 1314, had fallen into a 
senile decrepitude by the year 1483, It owed its re- 
habilitation to John Standonck (c. i45O-Fcbruary 5, 
1504), the son of a poor cobbler of Malines.* As a 
boy Standonck studied with the Brothers of the Common 
Life at Gouda, matriculated at Louvain in 1469, and 
then went to Paris, where, by 1475* be had become 
regent of Montaigu. In 1490 he bought a little house 
in the Rue des Sept Voies (which corresponds to the 
present Rue Vallette) for the lodging and boarding of 
poor students. The numbers soon outgrew the narrow 
quarters, whereupon Standonck rebuilt a wing of the 
old College of Montaigu, on the site of the present; 
Place du Pantheon at the intersection of the Rue Vallette. 
It was an ample, isolated, quasi-monastic cloister, with 

1 May 28, 1528. Enthovcn, cp. 62. 

* Carmen de casa natalia Jnu* first published 1496; LB, v. col, 1317; 
ff. Allen, ep, 47. 

8 On Montagu and Standonck: Renaudet; Prfa''formt, p. 174; Godef: 
La Congregation de Montagu, 1912. Godut, in Archwwn Franciscanum, II, 
1909; Imbart de la Tour; JLts Originfs de la Reform^ ii f 506, 548, Alien, i, p, 
200, 1 66. Renaudet: *'], Standonck," Bulletin de la Socutff dt Hlistorie dn 
JProUjtantifme Fran(ats t I, vii (1908), 5 ff. 


its own oratory, dormitories, library, refectory, and 
garden. The students were formed into a congregation 
limited in numbers to 86, of whom 72 were poor students 
in the arts course, 12 were theological students, and 
2 were chaplains. The rule, 1 imitated from that of 
the Brothers of the Common Life, was strict. The 
fasting was perpetual, though the theologs were allowed 
one third of a pint of cheap wine, mixed with water, 
at each meal. Precautions against vermin are suggestive, 
especially when compared with Rabelais's satirical 
reference to "the short-winged hawks of Montaigu." 
Flogging was a frequent punishment, 2 though we never 
hear that Erasmus was subjected to it, as Loyola was. 
The Congregation existed in its constitution after 
February, 1495, but it did not move into its new quarters 
until May 17, 1496. After Erasmus had left the college, 
Standonck was banished from France and, on June 16, 
1499, he put the institution in charge of John Major, whom 
Erasmus ridiculed, and of Noel Beda, whom he hated. 

Standonck's reforming activities were not confined 
to Paris. He helped Henry of Bergen to found schools 
at Carnbrai and at Malines, and with the assistance 
of Adrian of Utrecht he started a college at Louvain 
in the year 1500. In 1496 he was also busy with the 
reform of the Augustinian Canons. The General Chapter 
held at Windisheim under his inspiration and at the 
demand of the delegates from Chateau-Landon, ap- 
pointed six monks as a committee of reform. One of 
these was John Mauburn, a good man with whom 
Erasmus was acquainted. 3 

All these connections with friends in the Netherlands 
made it natural that when Erasmus went to Paris he 
should first enter the Domus pauperum at Montaigu. 
There he had an unhappy time, and judged the methods 
severely. " Nowhere," he says bitterly, "do they form 

l Thc written rule (Godet, p. 52) dates from January 30, 1503, but it 
represents the earlier customs. 

a Henry Bottcus to Erasmus, March 6, 1528, LB. App, ep. 347. 
8 Allen, ep. s a * 


youths in less elegant science and in worse morals." 
To Standonck he allowed good intentions, but thought 
that his judgment was lacking. Having been reared 
in poverty himself, he insisted on his scholars having 
a so hard a bed, so sparing and cheap a diet, such heavy 
labor and such long vigils, that within one year many 
men of noble mind and bright promise either committed 
suicide or became blind, or mad, or leprous/' 1 Indeed* 
the rotten eggs and the infected bedchambers soon 
made Erasmus ill, and he was obliged to return for a 
visit to the Netherlands. 2 Kindly received by the 
Bishop of Cambrai, he recovered his strength and ^theo 
made a short stay at Steyn. Encouraged by his friends 
here to go back to Paris, he did so in September, 1496. 
That he did not again seek admission to Montaigu was 
partly due to his dislike of the college, partly to the bad 
odor in which he was probably held by the rigorists* 
Major and Beda. More than thirty years later* when 
Loyola was a pupil at Montaigu, his doubts about 
Erasmus's orthodoxy were confirmed by local traditions. 8 
Erasmus naturally welcomed an opportunity of leav- 
ing so disagreeable and dangerous a place and going 
to board with some wealthy young Englishmen he was 
tutoring. The atmosphere of his new lodgings was 
rendered lively by the encounters of the mistress and 
her maid. The candidate in theology did not make 
matters any more peaceful, but, on the contrary, 
advised the maid to retaliate: 

"Do you fancy," said I to her, "that the issue of battles depends 
only on strength? . . . When she attacks you again pull off her 

.cap" (for the little women of Paris deck themselves wonderfully 
with black caps), *' and go for her hair/* This 1 said in jest, supposing 
it had been taken in the same sense. But just before supper time, 
a guest who is pursuivant of Charles VIII, commonly called Gentil 
Garden, ran up breathless. "Come here/* cried he, "my masters, 
and you will see a bloody sight/* We ran to the spot and found the 

iColloquwt "Ichthyophagia" (1526), LB. i, 806 f; ef. 6%2A 

2 Allen, i, p. 50* and cp* 48. 

* Godet, p. 99. On Major and Beda, see above. They were inmates of the 
college at this time, though not yet principals. 


landlady and the maid rolling on the ground in so fierce a struggle 
that it was with difficulty we pulled them apart. . . . On one side 
lay the mistress's cap, on the other the girl's kerchief, the ground 
was covered with tufts of hair. . . . The landlady took heaven and 
earth to witness that she had never met a girl so small and so vicious. 
... I congratulated myself that she had no suspicions of my part 
in the matter. 1 

These self-congratulations may have been premature; 
at any rate, Erasmus was soon asked to leave, which 
he did with much hard feeling on all sides. The warning 
was not so much due to the "inept cunning " of the 
landlady, Antonia, as to "the perfidy of certain persons/* 
Erasmus's letters at this time are filled with denuncia* 
tion of the guardian of the two young Englishmen whom 
he was tutoring, a Scotchman whom he describes as 
"glaring from under his bushy eyebrows with his 
brutal eyes; his head trembling, his lips livid, his teeth 
discolored, his poisonous breath emerging from his foul 
jaws," an "assassin," and "a serpent/' 2 As the denun- 
ciations are as vague as they are violent, it is difficult 
to get at the real cause of the quarrel. It seems, however, 
extremely likely that the tutor became suspicious of 
Erasmus's relations with one of his pupils, a certain 
Gray, to whom the Dutch priest was writing letters 
in the same loverlike tone with which he had formerly 
addressed his companions in the monastery. 

If we ask what was actually the moral life of the 
student at this time, we must remember that the city 
was corrupt. Popular plays, written but a little later, 
commonly turn on the seduction of girls. In one of 
them the wife of a merchant goes to a brothel to gtt 
an assignation, In another comedy the love of an 
abbe and a married woman is given a happy ending by 
their mutual vows of fidelity to each other. 3 The uni* 
versity had a number of students given over to dissipation* 

1 Allen, ep. 55; Nichols, ep. 47, Spring, 1497* 

8 Allen, epp. 60, 61* Nichols, epp, 78, 55. 

8 Iff TUton Frangais w XHt et m Xnie stick, ei E. Foumicr. Fari 


How far Erasmus yielded to the temptations of 
youth and boon companionship cannot certainly be 
told; but his worst could not have been very bad. 
His own testimony, that he was so moderate in food 
and drink that he took them like medicine and that 
he never served Venus, for he found no time for such 
things, must be given some weight. 1 It is true that 
rumors reached his old home that "he did nothing but 
feast, play the fool, and fall in love," and that he was 
at considerable pains to contradict them. 2 On the other 
hand, Robert Gaguin, a man of sobriety and parts, 
praised him for being "religious no less in life and in 
speech than in dress/' 3 He frequently alludes to love- 
making in his Colloquies and elsewhere; but whether 
any of his anecdotes are based on personal experience 
it is difficult to say. On the face of it the most com- 
promising would be the dialogue between a youth and 
a harlot, in which Sophronius converts Lucretia to a 
better life. But this dialogue, realistic as it is, is the 
best proof of how difficult it is to disentangle personal 
reminiscences from dramatic situations, for in all prob- 
ability Erasmus borrowed the plot from the tenth- 
century nun, Hroswitha, whose dramas were popular 
in his day. 4 More damaging is the remark in one of 
the Colloquies that the best way to learn French at 
Paris is from the little women of the place. 6 

During his years at Paris Erasmus was the bosom 
friend of a brilliant but notoriously immoral Italian 
humanist, Faustus Andrelinus, "whose lectures," as 

*To J. Gaver, March i, 1524, LB. ep, 671. 

a Allen, ep. 83; Nichols, ep. 81. Fans, December 14, 1498, If thif epwtle 

could be dated one year later -and the date is uncertainone might suspect 
Standonck of having keen the talebearer, for it was exactly at this time that 
he returned to Cambrai. Godet, 30. 

8 R Gaguin, Epistolai et Orationes t ed. Thuaenc, 1903 f, i, p. 25 
4 Ilrotswithaf Gandeshemensis comotdias sfx t ed. J. Bendi&eo, x86, p. 93, 
No, 5. "Paphnutius,* 1 Paphnutius the hermit visits Thais the courtesan as a 

lover and converts her. On contemporary Familiarity with Hroawhha, Dtirer's 
picture reproduced in Klassiker der Kun$t> p. 190. The dialogue, LB* i, 718. 
LB. i, 634 f. 


the Dutchman says, "on all parts of the poets, even 
on the Priapeia, were in a manner, to say nothing 
worse, truly Faustine." 1 With him Erasmus exchanged 
gay notes during a lecture, 2 and letters on the kisses 
he had given and received. 3 He even got his friend to 
write a testimonial 4 to his character to send home. 
Andrelinus, indeed, cared for nothing but the classics. 
Since 1489 he had taught at Paris, and his lectures, 
rather witty than learned, had attracted large crowds. 
He was accustomed to attack theologians very bitterly. 5 
Other associates of Erasmus were more respectable. 
To one of the leading scholars of the day, Robert Gaguin, 
he had a letter of introduction which he presented soon 
after his arrival. 6 Gaguin, though he considered Erasmus 
too much of a toady, was so pleased with his learning, 
his style, his morals and piety, that he asked him almost 
at once to write an Introduction to his History of France. 
Disregarding his new friend's strictures on his parasitic 
manners the young man discharged the obligation with 
gusto, heaping both the author of the book and his 
nation with fulsome praise. 7 Gaguin, Faustus, and 
Erasmus soon became fast friends. The French historian 
has left an epigram, hitherto unpublished, testifying 
his high regard for the other two. 8 It was written on the 
occasion of a dinner at Gaguin's apartments, and may 
be rendered as follows: 

Welcome, O Faustus, bard loved by Apollo; 
Welcome no less, Erasmus, who dost follow 
As Faustus' comrade. Not with flowing cup 
I greet you; meagerly must poets sup. 

* Allen, ep. mi, 

8 Allen, epp, 96-100; Nichols, epp, 88-92. 
8 Allen, ep. 103; Nichols, ep, 98. 
4 Allen, ep. 84; Nichols, ep. 79. 

8 Erasmus to Vives, 1519. Allen, ep. 1104. On Faustus, see his Eclogues, 
e<L by W. P. Mustang 1918, 

6 Allen, epp, 43-44. 

7 Allen, ep. 46, October 7, 1495. 

8 British Museum MS, Egerton 1651, fol. 5* For text see Appendix III, 


Though Gaguin thinks you worthy better meat 
And even of banquets such as high gods eat, 
You see no feast here, but a friend's true heart, 

And home of friendly fortune. Small the part 

Of furniture and dress to you I offer, 

But all my heart and soul instead I proffer. 

But neither theology nor pleasure was Erasmus's 
deepest interest at Paris. As previously* his study and 
his delight was the literature of ancient Rome. He also 
began to learn Greek, but did not like his teacher and 
did not advance far. 1 Besides reading, he wrote a good 
deal and even published a little. One of the first things 
he had printed was a collection of Odes by his friend, 
William Hermann of Gouda s which he sent to his 
patron, the Bishop of Cambrai, in January, 1497? with 
the following note: 2 

I am giving you the gift of another, having been able to print 
nothing myself on account of my occupation with theological studies, 
for I follow the advice of Jerome to learn before I teach. But you 
may shortly expect some fruit from rny studies. 

While at Paris Erasmus apparently received some 
financial help from the Bishop of Cambrai, 8 but was 
forced to eke out his substance by taking pupils. Among 
them were some young men of high rank a son of 
James III of Scotland who became Archbishop of St, 
Andrews in 1497, and William Blount, Lord Mount joy, 
later tutor of Henry VIII. Throughout his life Mountjoy 
was one of the humanist's best patrons* Erasmus's 
first extant letter to him begins: "Hail, truly named^ 
*mon joie. "* 4 Erasmus had no modesty about pro- 
claiming his own merits a$ a teacher. When one of 
his pupils requested his assistance in the composition 
of a Latin letter to his brother, the humanist* as he 
acknowledges, wrote about himself in these terms;* 

1 Allen, i, p, 7* 

3 Allen, ep. 51, 

1 So, at least, Mr. Allen conjecturesi ep. 48* 

4 Allen, cp. 79* 

* Allen, cp 61; partly translated by Nichols, ep. 5$ 


After dinner Erasmus, Augustine, and myself took a stroll In the 
very place among the vineyards where, as Erasmus told us, he had 
more than once sauntered with you, drunk with sweet words, while he 
recalled you by his eloquent exhortations from sordid cares and rav- 
ished your whole soul with love of letters. Do you recognize the spot? 
There Erasmus fed us with lettered speech, more delicate fare than 
the supper we had eaten. ... It seems to me that now by the 
blessing of the saints, the supreme good has fallen to me, for what 
could I pray for more than a learned and friendly teacher, and now 
I have the most learned and kindest of all; I mean Erasmus whom 
I so long sought in vain. Now I have him and possess him all to 
myself and delight in him day and night. What do you say? I 
hold Helicon itself within my chamber walls. What is It to live 
among the choir of Muses if this Is not to do so? 

When writers, scholars, and artists were dependent 
on a patron for their living, there was danger that they 
would be tempted to flatter this individual; just as, 
now that they are dependent on the reading public, 
it is probable that they are induced to flatter the prej- 
udices of that patron. Neither form of writing for 
a living is more objectionable than the other; if flattery 
is used it is disgraceful not from the object on which 
it is spent, but from the prostitution that it implies 
of noble talents to a base end. As it was the general 
custom four hundred years ago for literary men to 
receive pensions from the great, the fact that Erasmus 
received, and even solicited, such favors, calls for no 
apology. It must be confessed, however, that he oc- 
casionally, though rarely, carried his importunity beyond 
the bounds of decency. 

This is most notable in his relations with Anne of 
Veere, a daughter of one of the greatest nobles in Holland 
and widow of Philip the Bastard of Burgundy. 1 She 
had engaged one of Erasmus's friends to tutor her son 
Adolph and, doubtless at his invitation, Erasmus visited 
her at her castle of Tournehem, between Calais and 
St. Omer* Here he got to know Adolph, and probably 

1 On Anne of Veere, see M. P. Roosenboom; The Scottish Staple in the 
Netherlands* 1910, pp. 32 and xliii. 


put in his Colloquy, "The Shipwreck/' 1 a record of 
some personal experience of the young man. The 
kindness and courtesy of the great lady aroused hopes 
of securing from her money for a projected journey to 
Italy. For the next few years the young Dutchman 
addressed to her and to his friend Batt, the tutor of 
her son, appeals of the most pressing nature. For 
example, December 12, 1500, he wrote to the latter: 2 

Point out to my lady how much more credit I shall do her by my 
learning than the other divines whom she maintains. They preach 
ordinary sermons; I write what will live forever; they, with their 
silly rubbish, are heard in one or two churches; my books will be 
read by all who know Latin and Greek in every country in the world; 
such unlearned divines abound everywhere, men like me are scarcely 
found in many centuries. Repeat all this to her unless you are too 
superstitious to tell a few fibs for a friend. 

Undiscouraged by the cool reception of this promise 
of immortality, Erasmus wrote and dedicated to the 
young Prince Adolph an Exhortation to Embrace Flrtue^ 
where, under the pretext of placing before his eyes 
images of perfection, the author heaped upon the 
little lord, upon his mother, and upon his tutor, the 
most fulsome flattery. Failing to realize from this 
also, in proportion to his hopes, the irrepressible suitor 
made a supreme effort and addressed his hoped-for 
patroness directly in an epistle comparing her with two 
other Annas, the mother of Samuel and the sister of 
Dido, and predicting for her also a like eternity of 
glory. He capped the climax of this ungracious pro- 
ceeding by writing at the same time to Batt that he 
had never penned anything with so much repugnance 
as this parasitic flattery, and by heartily abusing Anne 
of Veere behind her back. 3 

1 LB, i, 

- JUJG>, i t 712, 

* Allen, ep. 139; Nichols, ep, 139. 
8 Allen, ep. 146; Nichols, ep, 140. 




THERE was nothing precocious about the genius 
of Erasmus. When he was thirty he had pro- 
duced hardly anything. Had he died at the age of 
forty he would scarce be remembered now. The pro- 
digious success of his Folly, of his New Testament, 
of his Paraphrases, of his Colloquies, of his Epistles, not 
only raised his fame among his contemporaries and 
posterity, but cast a reflex luster on his earlier works. 
In these, however, his deepest interest, the restoration 
of antiquity both classic and Christian, had already 
found expression. And even these early works met 
with a hearty reception from contemporaries to whom 
these interests were vital. 

For it was just because Erasmus so perfectly ex- 
pressed the spirit of his time that he gradually won 
the international reputation that all but made him 
arbiter of the great questions which arose with the 
Reformation and cried for authoritative judgment. 
Erasmus came at the acme of the Renaissance, when 
humanism had gathered its full force and reached its 
maturity, but before it had begun to wither in the 
fierce heats of confessional controversy and the drought 
of too academic, too remote, too fastidiously exclusive 
an interest. In his last years he was to see and to 
attack the absurdities of a classicism become a mania, 
an obsession for the antique, a haughty assertion of 
superiority to the rest of the world. But in his prime 
he saw and shared the glow of enthusiasm for the full 
revival of Greek and Latin letters. He also had the 



genius to combine into one stream the two contending 
currents of pagan and of Christian antiquity. For him 
the Gospel was the "philosophy of Christ/ 5 and the 
philosophy of the Greeks a natural gospel. When he 
read Cicero he reflected: "A heathen wrote this to 
heathen^ and yet his moral principles have justice^ 
sanctity* sincerity* truth, fidelity to nature; nothing 
false or careless is in them/' 1 "When I read certain 
passages of these great men," he confessed again* "I can 
hardly refrain from saying, tf St. Socrates* pray for me/" 2 
Erasmus's great success in Christianizing the Ren- 
aissance was due partly to the narrowness of his 
interests. There were sides of life cultivated by his 
generation with enthusiasm and consummate ability* 
which hardly came into his purview at all. The most 
glorious artists of the whole world Leonardo and 
Titian* Michelangelo and Raphael* San Gailo and 
Bramante were his contemporaries* and he had oppor- 
tunity to see their works* but not once* I believe* does 
he mention any of them in his pages. With Matsys* 
Diirer* and Holbein he came into personal contact* 
but hardly noticed their art. Again* a new world was 
discovered during his lifetime. In his youth Columbus 
found America and Vasco da Gama broke the path 
around the Cape of Good Hope to India; in his man- 
hood Cortez and Pizarro and Balboa and De Soto 
enacted romances of discovery and conquest that would 
be thought too wonderful for fiction* and Magellan put 
a girdle around the earth. These triumphs fired the 
imagination of contemporaries* of More and Camoens* of 
Ariosto and Rabelais; the tales of Amerigo Vespucci 
were sought aad eagerly read by Beatus Rhenanus 1 
and Eck 4 and Vadian; but Erasmus* though he met 

1 Preface to Cicero's De 0fficiis> September xo, 1519. Alkn ep. 1013. 
8 Conowwtn rdigiosum, LB. i 683, 

8 There is extant a copy of WaldseemiHIer's Cosmography with the name of 
Beatus Rhenanus written in. See the facsimile by Wieier> 1907. 

4 Allen: Ate of Erasmus, p. 93. And ntt Eck's edition of Aristotle in h* 
Cornell library. 


the son of Columbus In 1520, hardly let an allusion to 
the New World pass his pen. 

Then, again, he had no interest in science. While 
Leonardo was experimenting in anatomy and physics 
and accumulating facts about geology and astronomy, 
while Copernicus 1 was working out the most momentous 
discovery that has ever dawned upon the human mind, 
while VIveSj 2 who was well known to Erasmus, was 
stating that men should no longer rely on authority 
but should look at nature for themselves, the attitude 
of Erasmus was intensely conservative. Like Socrates, 
he not only did not care for natural science, he actively 
disliked It as leading men's thoughts away from the 
more important problems of moral philosophy. 8 

Nor did he have attention to spare for beautiful 
scenery, nor for the common life of men as seen In their 
cities and country homes. He visited many parts of 
England, of France, of Italy, of Germany, of Switzer- 
land, and of the Netherlands, but in all his works there 
are but one or two notable descriptions of town or 
country. How much he might have told us of Paris and 
London, of Venice and Rome and Naples, of the Swiss 
passes, and of the Rhine! 

But, after all, to point out these limitations is only 
to say that Erasmus was Erasmus and not somebody 
else. The very concentration of his mental life was 
doubtless one cause of the consummate mastery he 
displayed In his chosen field. As a scholar, as a stylist, 
as a thoughtful and popular writer on religion and 
education, he has had few equals. His work centers 
around a few ideas, the principal ones expressed in 
phrases that recur over and over again in all his writings, 

1 Copernicus was in Italy just before Erasmus was there, and he knew one 
of Erasmus's friends, Celio Calcagnini, who, under his influence, wrote, about 
1520, a treatise Quod cesium sttt, terra moveatur. Copernicus did not publish 
his own great work until 1543, but he had arrived at his conclusions long: 
before, and they were talked of in the learned world. On Calcagnini, Allen, 
m t p. 6. 

1 A. Boniila y San Martin: Luis Fives y lafilosofia del rtnacimiento^ 1903. 

1 Erasmus to Carondilet, January 5, 1522, LB. ep, 613. 


like the leitmotifs of a symphony, "good literature/* 
"the philosophy of Christ," "peace." 

His first ideal was that of culture founded on a 
thorough knowledge of the classics. His mastery of 
Latin literature was imperial Doubtless he heard, 
as a boy and a young man, of the first publication of 
many Latin authors, and the zest of new discovery 
was added to the imperishable charm of the poets and 
orators. Before Erasmus went to school at Deventer 
there had already been printed much of Cicero, Lactan- 
tius, Apuleius, Aulus Geilius, Cxsar, Lucan, Pliny, 
Vergil, Livy, Sallust, Juvenal, Perslus, Quintilian, 
Suetonius, Terence, Tacitus, Ovid, Horace, Martial, 
Plautus, Tibullus, Catullus, Propertius, Statius, Lucre- 
tius, and Seneca. 1 But few of these were complete; 
fresh portions of their works kept coming out later, 
as did Tacitus's Annals 1-5? New minor authors ap- 
peared from time to time. Erasmus was therefore able 
to command the bulk of Latin literature in printed form. 
He shared his contemporaries' enthusiasm for manu- 
scripts and eagerly sought new ones himself. Thus 
he wrote to the College of Canons at Metz, asking for 
a catalogue of their noble collection. 8 In later life he 
edited a number of Latin and Greek classics. 

In the latter half of 1499 Erasmus made a visit to 
England. On his return to Paris his first enterprise 
was the compilation of a work which was to prove one 
of his greatest immediate successes, his book of Adages 
or. Familiar Quotations from the Classics, Soon after 
his arrival he was laid up for a time with an attack of 
fever for which he blamed his new lodgings. He called 
in the services of a friend and " devotee of the Muses/' 
one William Cop, a native of Basle, then physician to 
the German nation in the University of Paris. The 
skill of Cop and the power of St. Gcnevieve had cured 

1 Sir J, Edwin Sandys: History of Classical Scholarship) ii> 19081 p. 103, 

* Which appeared in 1515. 

s Louvain, July 14, 1519; Allen, ep. 997, 


him of a similar attack three years earlier and again 
their combined ministrations slowly restored him to 
health. 1 However, Cop forbade serious writing or 
study during his convalescence, and in search for an 
occupation Erasmus took to browsing around among 
his favorite authors with all the more zest, perhaps, 
that he had had less time than usual for reading in 
England. There was no large library within reach, 
he was still unable to make much headway with Greek, 1 
but he had with him the familiar Latins. His friend 
Gaguin lent him Quintilian, Macrobius, and the Rhetoric 
of George of Trebizond, which he wished to see. 3 In 
March he writes that he is deep in his books, quite 
happy, evidently, except for the annoying scarcity 
of money : 

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. 

1 Allen, ep. 124; I, p. 286. Cop studied Greek at Paris under Lascaris, 
Erasmus, and Aleander, and later published translations from Hippocrates 
and Galon. He was also a physician of great repute. LeFevre d'EtapIes says 
that he cured him of sleeplessness. Erasmus, however, speaks not altogether 
lightly of the part played by Ste. Genevieve 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. Genevieve, whose ready aid 
has delivered us now the second time," Allen, ibid,, and ep. 50; I, pp, 164-165. 

2 In September, 1500, he 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* 

8 Allen, epp, m, 122; I, pp. 283, 284; Nichols, epp. 114, 115. 


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 tranquillity? Now, 
that you may not miss the meaning of my metaphor, pray under- 
stand 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. The 
task seemed to him a light and agreeable one* not^the 
tax upon his strength that one of his more ambitious 
projects would have been. The book, when completed, 
would be an attractive gift to dedicate to one of the 
wealthy patrons whose interest in him it was just now 
so important to keep warm. He hesitated a little 
between young Adolph of Veerc and Lord Mountjoy, 
deciding finally in favor of the latter. 2 The ^ishion 
of quoting from the Greek and Latin classics has dis- 
appeared in our day, whether the disappearance be 
due to an improvement in literary taste or to a decline 
of polite learning. We rarely see any longer the old- 
fashioned English gentleman who used to cap his 
remarks with a line from Vergil or Horace. We can, 
therefore, hardly realize how excessively in Erasmuses 
time a knack at quoting was admired nor what elegance 
and weight were added to any composition by the use 
of examples and citations from ancient literature. 
The Prince of Machiavelli, the Essays of Montaigne, 
both written during this period, are famous illustrations 
of the practice. Their continual references to the classics 
serve for us merely to invest with a quaint and pedantic 

1 Allen, ep. 125; I, pp. 288-289; Nichols, ep. 119. A distinguished con- 
temporary of Erasmus had a similar feeling for his books, See Macluavflli, 
0'pere, ep. 26; English translation in Viilari, Life and Timfs of M&M&oelli, 

p. 159. Erasmus may have been recalling the celebrated passage in Cicero'i 
Pro Archia, 

2 Krasmuc composed a tentative draft of t dedication which he did not uae. 
He omitted all names, but internal evidence seems to indicate that it was 
meant for Adolph of Veerc. At the last moment he wrote his dedication to 
Mountjoy, Allen, epp. u$> 126, in; pp* a88, 389, 445. 


atmosphere the authors 5 keen and radical philosophies 
of life. We tolerate the references for the sake of the 
rest. But to the writers themselves their literary 
authorities were a serious matter^ as essential parts of 
their arguments as their own shrewd observations upon 
mankind. Men of less genius than Machiavelli or 
Montaigne or Erasmus depended largely upon a choice 
array of classical allusions to obtain for themselves 
any sort of hearing. For them, for the whole world 
of scholars and cultivated gentlemen, a convenient 
manual of effective quotations would be a labor-saving 
device of priceless value. An Italian, Polydore Vergil 
of Urbino, had published a book of Proverbs at Venice 
in 14985 but it was a comparatively small and simple 
affair, not yet in wide circulation. Erasmus seems not 
to have known of its existence at this time. Later, 
Vergil and his friends accused the Dutchman of plagiariz- 
ing, and he was obliged to defend himself. His relations 
with the historian were temporarily ruffled, though 
they finally became friendly again and Erasmus assisted 
in the publication of Vergil's lesser works. 1 

In the preface to the first edition of his Adagia 9 never- 
theless, Erasmus felt called upon to justify his under- 
taking. 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. 

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 

1 Nichols, 1 p. 242. Also Erasmus to Vergil, Louvain, December 23, 1520, 
Allen, ep, 1175* Vergil to Erasmus, June 3, js^S* in S. A, Gabbema; ///#/- 
trivm ft Clarorum Firorum EpistoUc> No. 3; Erasmus to Pace, June n, 1531, 

Allen, ep, 1210. 


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 fastidi- 
ously. 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 prov- 
erbs than even the comedies of Menander, and clever ones, such 
as: He leads the bull to the combat; The camel danced; Blunt 
wedges rive hard knots; Diamond cuts 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 re- 
turned 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* With these he 
incorporated a certain number of*more recent proverbial 
phrases, including about a hundred of German origin, 2 

1 Dedicatory epistle to first edition, Allen, ep, 126; pp. 291-295, 

2 Adagwrum Collectanea; on this see Bibliothtca ra/mwna* /, 0. and J. Ewe- 
lem; Dit Sprichworttr and Sinnnden da deutwhen Fotka in dttr und 
Ztit 9 1860, p. xxviii, note. 


though all, of course, were given only in the Latin form. 
The first edition, published by John Philip of Kreuznach, 
at Paris, in June, 1500, contained 818 adages, each with 
a commentary, usually very short. The first two proverbs 
are on friendship, "Friends have all things in common/' 
and "A friend is another self/' 1 the notes giving illustra- 
tive material from Terence, Menander, Cicero, Aulus 
Gellius, Plato, Socrates, and Plutarch. Marvelous speci- 
mens of erudition they were in that age before diction- 
aries and concordances had made reference easy. Richard 
Burton could hardly display more learning over a trifle 
in his Anatomy of Melancholy than did Erasmus in his 
Adages. And yet Gaguin seems to have criticized the 
notes as too formal and lifeless. 2 Erasmus, therefore, set 
about collecting material for a new edition. He doubtless 
followed the practice himself, which ne recommended to 
a friend, of keeping a commonplace book for the notation 
of striking sayings met with in the course of reading. 

Various editions, slightly enlarged, were published 
during the next few years, but a completely new form was 
given to the book by the immense increase in size of the 
edition published by Aldo at Venice in September, 1508, 
with the changed title, Adagiorum Chiliades? It con- 
tained in all 3,260 adages, and the treatment of those 
taken over from the first edition was so altered as to make 
the Venetian work almost altogether new. Some old 
proverbs were suppressed, the order of others changed, and 
the commentary greatly expanded. Erasmus had sought 
Italy largely with a view to doing this work, and he was 
enabled to accomplish it because he was now more fluent 
in Greek and more forward to speak his mind, and because 
of the exceptional facilities he found at Venice in the way 
of access to books. Of all this he has left an account in 
his commentary on the adage "Festina lente"* which 

* LB. I, cols, 13 flf. 

* LB, X, p. 200. 

1 Bibliotheca Er&fmiana. 

4 LB* il 403 ffj Chil ii, centuria t prov, I, 


first appeared in the edition published by Froben in 1526. 
He says : 

Aldo was then making a library whose only limits should be 
those of the world. . . . Venice, famous on many accounts, is 
most famous because of the Aldine press, so that whatever book 
is printed there can easily be sold, whatever its origin. While I, 
a Dutchman, was editing my Adages in Italy, many learned men there 
of their own accord offered me authors not yet published, which 
they thought would be of use to me. Aldo had nothing in his treasury 
which he did not let me see. John Lascaris, Baptists Egnatius, 
Marcus Musuras, Brother Urban, all did the same. Even men I 
did not know personally helped me. ... The whole business was 
finished In about nine months, though meanwhile I was suffering 
seriously from the stone, my first experience of it. See now how 
much the book would have lost If those learned gentlemen had 
not lent me their manuscripts! Among them were the works^of 
Plato in Greek, Plutarch's Lives and Moralia, of which the printing 
was begun just as I finished my enterprise, the Dipnosopkista of 
Athemeus, Aphthonius, Hermogenes with a^ commentary, the whole 
of Aristides with scholia, brief commentaries on Hesiod and ^The- 
ocritus, Eustathius on the whole of Homer, Pausanias, Pindar 
with a set of careful notes, a collection of proverbs ascribed to Plu- 
tarch, another ascribed to Apostolius, Jerome Alcandcr supplied 
me with the last-named volume. There were other smaller books 
which I either do not remember or do not consider important to 
mention here. No one of them at all had at that time been printed. 

As a specimen of the Adages in its new form let us take 
the following: 


This is the meaning of that verse of Mcnander which the apostle 
St. Paul did not disdain to quote in his first letter to the Corinthians, 
$$&pavffti> fjfy xpfaP fyuMu <w/ that is. Wicked companionship 
mars good manners. Tcrtullian translated the Greek line for his 
wife, but freely, after the manner of Latin comedy, "Choose/* 
he says, "associations and relationships worthy of God, remembering 
the verse sanctified by the apostle* Wrong companions corrupt good 
manners." Aristotle has a sentiment like this in the ninth book 
of the Ethics^ and his line is famous among the Gr<wk$,*~~K<w<rf<: fytd&v 
KO.MC it/Way KctK6$~- -that is, If you live with evil-doers you will 
yourself become evil Although it may appear foreign to my 
undertaking to include so much, I still cannot refrain from 
adding the following passage from Seneca, On Ani^ book 3. 
If it does not assist much in the explanation of the proverb* it 


is certainly pertinent to the ordering of life. "Manners," he says s 
"are derived from one's associates. And just as infections pass 
by bodily contact from one person to another, so one heart trans- 
mits its evil to its neighbors. A drunkard inspires his com- 
rades with a craving for wine. The companionship of sensualists 
weakens a man even if he be strong. Avarice spreads contagion 
among those who see it. The same rule, on the other hand, is true 
of the virtues, for they brighten everything about them. Nor do 
a healthful land and a salubrious climate profit the sick more than 
association with the upright the feeble of soul. This truth you will 
appreciate* as far as that is possible, if you observe how wild animals 
grow tame by living with us and how every fierce beast loses its 
violence by long dwelling in the habitation of men." Thus far 
I have repeated the words of Seneca. Moreover, while every form 
of contact and intercourse has a great effect in reforming or depraving 
the disposition of mortals, speech is the most influential of all, for 
it rises from the secret recesses of the soul and carries with it a two- 
fold and mysterious force or (to express it better in Greek) fokpyuav, 
which it discharges within the mind of the hearer into which it 
penetrates, an instantaneous poison if it be baneful, an efficacious 
remedy if it be wholesome. Indeed, I do not remember reading as 
yet any other dictum of the philosophers which seems to me com- 
parable with the favorite saying of my John Colet, a man both 
learned and incorruptible. "Our character is that of our daily 
conversation; we grow like what we are accustomed to hear/* 
Now the same that is said of conversation is true also of studies* 
They who spend all their lives on pagan literature become them- 
selves irreligious. They who read nothing but unclean authors 
must themselves in their owa habits become unclean. For reading 
is a kind of conversation. 1 

A further edition, once more remodeled and augmented, 
was published by Froben in 1515.* Of it Erasmus says: 

For this redaction 1 had more leisure and a more considerable 
library, thanks to the amazing kindness of Archbishop Warhara. 
I was able to review my work from beginning to end, to correct 
numerous misprints, to complete the translation of Greek terms, to 
add a more copious commentary, and to supply the name of the 
author where it had been omitted. 

This edition contained 3,411 adages; among the 151 new 
were three which became famous, and which were often 
reprinted separately, as they were little short of essays in 

1 Adagia; ChiL I, cent, x 74; LB, i, col 388. 
8 Bibliotheca Erasmiana* 


length and form. The first of these was the Duke Bdlum 
Inexpertis, with its commentary 1 (which had, indeed, 
appeared in embryonic form earlier), a tract on the 
evils of war. The second was the Scarabceus quarit 
aquilam? or "The beetle seeks the eagle/' Beginning as 
a treatise on impotent envy, it contained a good deal of 
political and antimonarchical doctrine. The third, the 
Sileni AldUadis? discoursed on the deceptiveness of 

Later editions kept appearing at frequent intervals, 
each one a little augmented. Among the notable addi- 
tions made to the redaction of 1526 was the proverb, 
"Make haste slowly," with a commentary of four folio 
pages of reminiscent discourse, from which we have 
already quoted, much of it curious and interesting reading 
enough, though wandering far from the text. This 
maxim, Erasmus begins by saying, had a peculiar value 
for princes, having been quoted by Achilles, Sardan- 
apalus, Fabius Maximus, and Augustus : 

And that it appealed also to Titus Vespasian may easily be deduced 
from the antique coins struck by him. Aldo Manimo showed me 
a silver coin clearly of ancient Roman workmanship, which he said 
had been sent him as a gift by Peter Bembo, the patrician of Venice r 
a young man, but one of our foremost scholars and an eager student 
of all ancient literature. On one side of the coin was stamped the 
head of Titus Vespasian with the inscription, on the other side an 
anchor with a dolphin wound about the shaft. 

After a considerable digression on the nature and 
history of literary symbols and hieroglyphics Erasmus 

*LB. i, 95* ff. 
*LB. i, 869 ff. 

8 LB. i, 770 ff. There is at Cornell University an old English translation of 
this not known to the editors of the Billiotheca JSrasmiana. The tirle reads, 
"Here folowith a scorneful Image or monstrous shape of a marueloua atrange 

fygure called Sileni aldbiadis* * . Imprinted at London by me John Cough/* 
No date is given, but the tract is bound with another, evidently from 
the same press, a translation of Luther's **Worfce made agaynst the false 
canonisacyon of Benno the bysshoppe. Translated and prynted in Englyasche 
in the year MCCCCCxxxim." Neither Luther's name nor that of the trans* 
lator is mentioned. Other instances are known in which Lather's opinions 
were introduced thus anonymously into England. 


remarks that Suidas reproduces the same device, and 
explains It by saying that the anchor, since it holds the 
ship, means delay, whereas the dolphin signifies speed; 
therefore the combination of the two expresses the mean- 
ing of the proverb, "Make haste slowly." 

The mention of Aldo, and of the symbol which he had 
made his trade-mark, leads the author to add a few 
words of appreciation of the great publisher: 

If some divinity who is a friend to good letters regards favorably 
the noble and almost kingly vows of our Aldo, and if the fates are 
propitious, I promise scholars that within a few years they shall 
have every good author in the four languages, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, 
and Chaldee, in every branch of learning, in full and emended editions, 
through the efforts of this one man, and that no one shall lack any 
part of his literary inheritance. 

Even after 1526 Erasmus kept making additions to his 
work, the last in the year of his death. One reason for 
these continual alterations was doubtless that they gave 
each new edition a value slightly greater than the last, 
and this, in the days before copyright, helped to keep 
control of the profits in the hands of the chosen printer, 
usually Froben, The book in its final form contained 
4,151 proverbs. It had an enormous success, no less than 
sixty editions being called for during the author's lifetime 
and at least seventy-five mote during the seventeenth 
century. 1 Enthusiastic commentators did not hesitate to 
ascribe the progress of learning and the reform of uni- 
versity curricula in the sixteenth century to the influence 
of the Adagia. But its popularity was not all due to its 
convenience as a storehouse of ornament for the aspiring 
Latinist. 2 There was an English translation by Richard 

*0n the Adagia see BiUiotheca Eta$miana> Van der Haeghen, Van den 
BeVghe and Arnold; vol i Adagia> Ghent, 1897. In the seventeenth century 
critics had begun to say that Erasmus's Latin style was not Ciceronian and 
his translations from the Greek were awkward. Nevertheless, twenty-four 
more editions of the Adagia were called for before the year 1700. Since then 
it has not been printed in its original form except in the edition of the Qpfra 
of 1703, 

* Anonymoui preface to edition of 1612. 


Taverner In 1539* an Italian version in 1550^ one in 
German in 1556, and one in Dutch in 1561. 

In fact, the Adages soon became a standard work used 
and quoted by everyone with any pretensions to scholar- 
ship. Luther, 1 quoted it thirteen times within a single 
year in his correspondence, and from this compilation 
derived some of his political axioms. The style and 
thought of Montaigne 2 and of La Boetie were nourished 
on it. Conrad Gesner 3 richly decked his Natural History 
of Animals with proverbs about brute nature culled from 
the humanist. The great Elizabethans, Bacon 4 and 
Shakespeare, 5 knew it and used it. 

To take up again the thread of Erasmus's life at the 
point where he published the first edition of the Adages^ 
he continued to reside at Paris until September of the 
same year (1500), and then went to Orleans for three 
months. It was about this time that he seriously began 
the study of Greek, for reasons explained to one of his 
patrons, Antony of Bergen, Abbot of St. Herein: 6 

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 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 clipped 

deeper into it, we see, what we have often read in the most weighty 
authors, that Latin erudition, however ample, is crippled and imper- 
fect without Greek. We have in Latin at best some small brooks 
and turbid pools, while the Greeks have the purest fountains and 

*0n Luther, infra, p, 213. 

8 Montaigne; Essais, ii, 5; Hi, 5, 6, 8, etc, On La Boede my A$t of the 
Reformation, 599, 
H, Morley: "Conrad Gesner," in Ckment Marat and othtr Studitf, 

1871, ii, 120. 

4 Francis Bacon; Works, ii, 1861, pp. 126 fF, several quotation! from the 
Adages and Cicfronianus in the Dr Angmentu* 1623, 

* Shakespeare: Troilus and Cressida, "Blunt wedges rive hard knots"; 
ffamht, II, ii, 416: "An old man is twice a child/ 1 

6 Allen, ep. 149; Nichols, ep. 143; c/, similar expressions in Allen, epp 
129, 138. 


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 Greet 
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. 

Erasmus then gives an example of the sort of misunder- 
standing he meansj arising from a verse in a Psalm, which 
in Greek reads: Kal n a^aptfia ftov sv&niov [AQV <7<ri 
Siartavtog but in the Latin vulgate 1 peccatum meum 
contra me est semper. A certain theologian, he says, had 
once given a long disquisition on this text, pointing out 
how the spirit was ever fighting with the flesh, whereas, 
he missed the whole meaning of the words, which is not 
"my sin is ever against me," but "my sin is ever 
before me/' 

While on a visit to the Netherlands the next summer 
Erasmus spent much time on Greek studies. By this 
time he had become so enraptured that he would rather 
pawn his coat than fail to get any new publications in 
that language, especially if it were something Christian, 
like the Psalms or the gospels. 2 He speaks of reading 
Euripides and Isocrates; and he ordered Greek books 
from Paris. 3 

The publication of Greek authors was much less 
advanced than that of Latin. Almost all the editiones 
principes were brought out in Italy, and many were 
doubtless hard to get north of the Alps, By the year 
1500 there had been printed, in this order: Jsop, 
Homer, Isocrates, Theocritus, Hesiod, the Anthologia 
Gr&ca, the Medea^ Hippolytus^ Alcestis and Andromache 
of Euripides, Aristotle, Bion, Moschus, Theognis, 
Apollonius Rhodius, Lucian, nine plays of Aristophanes, 
"Phalaris," the Astronomici veteres> and a few gram- 
matical writings and minor authors. The year 1502 saw 

1 Vulgate, Psalm bjj in English Psalm lir/j. 
1 Allen, ep, 160; Nichols, ep, 156. 
1 Allen, ep. 158; Nichols, ep. 154* 


the publication of Thucydides, of Sophocles, and of 
Herodotus. All eighteen plays of Euripides and Xeno- 
phon's Hellenica were printed first in 1503; and 
Demosthenes in the year following. Plutarch's Moralia 
came out in 1509; Pindar and Plato in 1513; more of 
Aristophanes and Xenophon and the whole of Pausanias 
and Strabo in 1516; Plutarch's Lives in 1517; six plays 
of ^Eschylus in 1518; Galen in 1525; Epictetus in 1528; 
Polybius in 1530; eleven plays of Aristophanes in 1532; 
Ptolemy in 1533. l 

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 con- 
sidering the insufficiency of the human mind to master 
many subjects/' 2 he soon gave it up. Moreover, the 
Hebrew Scriptures did not attract him as did the New 
Testament, and he was actively repelled by the other 
Jewish writers. So he wrote to a Hebrew scholar, 
somewhat later: 3 

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 Cabbala, 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, 

1 J, E. Sandys: History of Classical Scholarship* ii 104 f. 

* Allen, ep. 181* c. December* 1504, 

*To Capito, March 13, 1518. Alien* ep. 798; Nichols, ep, 761. 

4 There is at Basle a copy of the PsdUrium IMraicwn sd, by C, Pcllican 
and S. Miinster, with an introduction by Capito, Kronen, 1516, which 
apparently belonged to Erasmus, his name having been inscribed In It by * 
contemporary, J, Fieker: "HcbraJschc Handpsalter Luthers," Sitiunff- 
berichte dtr HMelbergtr Akadtmie def Wimnschaften* Phil Hist. Klaise, 
1919, no. 5, p, 4. 


Having now spent six years, with considerable intervals, 
at Paris, he decided to return for a while to his native 
country. Here he lived for three years. Leaving Paris 
in May, 1501, he went first to see his old friends at Steyn, 
then to Haarlem to visit another old friend, William 
Herman, then to Dordrecht (June Qth). He next so- 
journed for a while at Brussels with the Bishop of 
Carnbrai, and at Antwerp with his friend Voecht, after 
which he proceeded to the island of Walcheren near 
Flushing to stay with his patroness, Anne of Veere. She 
greeted him kindly, but was able to do little for him, 
being herself under surveillance for suspected complicity 
with the insubordinate Provost of Utrecht. 1 After a visit 
to Tournehem, he stayed for a while at the Abbey of 
St.-Bertin, in the town of St.-Omer, as the guest of his 
patron, Antony of Bergen. It is possible that he may 
have discharged secretarial duties for his host; at any 
rate there is extant a letter composed by Erasmus for 
Antony of Bergen to Cardinal John de' Medici, later 
Leo X. 2 Erasmus was housed in the cloister during the 
late summer and autumn of 1501; he passed the winter 
near St.-Omer at Courtebourne, the chateau of Florent, 
a nobleman of the famous family of Calonne; he then 
returned to St.-Bertin for the spring and summer of 1502. 
The guardian of the Franciscan friary at St.-Omer was 
a certain John Vitrier who, though a Scotist, was a 
reformer in the earnestness of his life. Not being able 
to fulfil his desire of preaching the gospel to the heathen, 
he had turned his attention to the faults in the church 
at home, and had preached, in the Cathedral of Tournay, 
such scathing indictments of the unreformed convents, 
immoral clergy, and indulgences, which he said "came 
from hell," that his propositions were fastened upon as 
heretical and he was compelled by the Sorbonne to 
retract on October 2, 1498. Later he came into conflict 
with the Bishop of Boulogne, for he was one of those 

1 Allen, i, p, 3S7J Nichols, i, p. 317. 
* Alien, ep. 162. 


men persecuted by a world not worthy of him. Erasmus* 
learning to know and love him, preferred his character 
even to that of John Colet, for in Vitrier, he said, there 
was no trace of human weakness. It is thus that he 
wrote about him some years afterward: 1 

He was a man of authority, of a presence so distinguished and 
elegant and a mind so lofty that nothing was more humane. He 
had been brought up on Scotist subtleties which he did not entirely 
disapprove, thinking they contained some wisdom in their mean 
words. On the other hand, he did not make much of them, especially 
after he had tasted Ambrose, Cyprian, and Jerome, He greatly 
admired what was sound in Origen without approving his heresy. 
He perfectly knew the Bible, and especially the epistles of Paul, 
which he could recite by heart. He prepared his sermons by reading 
Paul and by prayer. In his sermons he connected the gospel and 
epistle, avoiding citations from the fathers and the Canon Law. 
He had at one time wished to be a missionary and martyr, but was 
called back by a voice from heaven which promised him martyrdom 
at home. ... He thought little of ceremonies, advising me to eat 
some meat in Lent for the sake of my health. He made everyone 
better, being especially successful in preparing them for death. 

In the autumn of 1 502 Erasmus settled at Louvain for 
about two years. Louvain was a large, fortified town, 
conveniently provided with canals for the transport of 
merchandise and adorned with spacious squares and 
splendid churches. 2 The university, founded in 1425, 
had by this time become one of the leading academies of 
Europe. 3 John Standonck, fresh from Montaigu, and 
Adrian of Utrecht, later Pope Adrian VI, had bought, on 
April 15, 1500, a college for poor students, founded in 
1468, which was known, from its vicinity to "The Inn 
of the Pig," as the Collegium Porci. James Le Ma^on 
(Latornus), a theologian of the conservative school, was 

1 Allen, ep, 1211, To Jonas, June 13, 1521. Cf. Allen, i, p, 372, On Vitricr, 
Renaudet: "firasme," in Revue Mittoriquf, tome iu, p, 253; D'Argentre: 
Collfctio judiciorum, 1, part n, pp. 340-341; Gieseler: Church History, English 
translation by Hull, 1858, iii 404, 

a L f v. Pastor: "Die Reise Luigis d'Aragona" (Efgdmungvn und Etlautft- 
ungen tut Janssens Gfschichtf dfs Deutsch^n Polkes, Band v, 4), 1908, p. 56* 

'Rashdall: Universities, u, 261, and 766 On '* Erasmus at 'Louvam," 
Foster Watson, Mibbcrt Journal* April, 1918, 


made head of this institution. 1 Erasmus, who attended 
some lectures on theology given by Adrian of Utrecht, 2 
was offered the position of instructor at the college, but, 
with his habitual independence, declined. 3 

The humanist of Rotterdam had by this time risen to 
sufficient prominence to be selected by the civic authori- 
ties as the proper person to present a congratulatory 
address to their sovereign, Philip the Handsome, Arch- 
duke of Austria and Duke of Burgundy, on his return to 
the Netherlands from Spain. The address, of which 
perhaps only a short portion was declaimed, while the 
rest was presented in book form under the appropriate 
title of The Panegyric, took place at the royal castle in 
Brussels on January 6, 1504. Philip was graciously 
pleased with the work and bestowed upon its author 
fifty livres as a token of favor. 4 The oration 6 was, 
inevitably, stuffed with fulsome laudation of the duke 
and all his relatives, which Erasmus defended in private 
as a necessary sugar-coating for the pill of good advice: 

For there is no more effective method of reforming a prince than 
setting before him, under the guise of praise, the example of a good 
monarch. . , . How, with more impunity, or with more severity, 
could you reprove a wicked prince better than by magnifying clemency 
in his person? How could you better animadvert on his rapacity, 
violence, or lust, than by lauding his benignity, moderation, and 

Nor was this excuse wholly disingenuous. The orator did 
indeed inculcate a number of royal virtues, especially 
that of keeping the peace, 

Erasmus continued to study at Louvain throughout 
the year 1504, during which time he received several 

1 Allen, i, p. 200; ii, p. xix, Godet; La Conjugation dg Montaigu f p. 125. 

8 Erasmus to Adrian VI, August i, 1522; LB, ep, 633, col 723. 

1 Allen, epp. 172, 171. His name does not even appear in the matriculation 
book in these years; see H, de Voecht: "Excerpts from the Registers of 
Louvain University/' Knglish Historical Review, 1922, 89 ff. 

4 Allen, ep 179 and introduction. 

IB. rv, 507 (F. 


small subsidies or "alms" from the' government. 1 He 
also made some money by composing epitaphs for 
wealthy patrons. 2 

While in the Netherlands Erasmus composed and 
published the work which, more than any other, gave 
a complete and rounded exposition of "the philos- 
ophy of Christ/ 5 as he loved to call the form of religion 
taught by him throughout life. For some years past 
piety had been a growing interest, until, from a small 
seed, it waxed a tree that overshadowed all other business 
of life, even that of enjoying and studying the classics. 
Erasmus was one of those happy natures that blossom 
and ripen into perfection ever so gradually. For him 
there was apparently no convulsion, no "con version *' 
such as stands at the head of many a prophet's career. 
No blinding light smote him to the ground, no revelation 
of the Holy Ghost taught him the secret of justification 
by faith, no visions of the Trinity dazzled his eyeballs. 
As a youth he had learned religion; even while, as a 
student at Paris, he found life gay rather than godly, his 
early poems and letters showed a slowly strengthening 
character and an ever deeper interest in the gospel. It is, 
perhaps, remarkable that with Standonck and "Gryllard" 
and the monks to make piety repulsive, and with Valla 
and Andrelinus to make irreligion attractive, he did not 
become a complete rationalist and Epicurean* Instead, 
he learned from both humanists and schoolmen, and never 
forgot the lesson that meticulous religiosity is horrible 
and that reason has her rights in weighing the claims of 

The peculiar quality of the Erasmian ideal of an 
undogmatic religion and an ethical piety, founded alike 
on the Sermon on the Mount and on the teachings of 
Greek philosophy, was rooted in two schools with which 

1 Allen, ep. 181, introduction; and M. dc Foronda y Aguilcra; Estancias y 

Flakes del flmptrador Carlos F 1914, p, 19: **A Fr. Erasrno aguitino como 
limosna para ayudarlc a pagar la cscucla dc Lovania donde estaba e*tudiaftdo" 

Receipt of Finances, Lille, 1504. 
1 Allen, cp. 178, 51 n. 


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 on the one hand, and in God- 
intoxicated Tauler 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 Anti- 
barbari, mainly concerned as they are with classical learn- 
ing. Upon him, as little of a mystic as a religious man 
can be, the lesson was stamped that, as Thomas a Kernpis 
had taught, the true worship of Christ was imitation of 
him, not verbal assent to a creed or exploitation of sac- 
ramental 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 theolo- 
gian, Socrates a saint, Cicero inspired, and Seneca not 
far from Paul. * c Their philosophy," he once said, "lies 
rather in the affections than in syllogisms; it is a 

*Qn this see P. Mestwerdt: Die Anfdnge dss Erasmus und die Devotio 
Moderna, 1917; H. Ernst: "Die Frommigkeit des Erasmus," Theologische 
Studien und Kritiken> 1919, pp. 46 fF ; E. Troeltsch: Die Kultur der Gegenwart: 
Geschichte der Christlichen Religion, 1909, pp. 476 ff; P. Imbart de la Tour: 
Les Origins* de la Reform*) ii, 413. J. Lindeboom: Erasmus: Onderxofk naar 
xijne theologie en zijn godsdienstig Gemoedsbestaan t 1909, 


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 

The influence of the Platonic Academy of Florence and 
of its wonderfully beautiful soul, Pico della Mirandola, 
may have come to him first through Rudolph Agricola. 
Later he learned to know Pico through his disciples 
Thomas More and John Colet; finally he read his works. 2 
Of equal or more value to his spiritual development was 
the friendship of those choice and master spirits of the 
time, More, Colet, and Vitrier, men who, while making 
light of ceremonies and scholastic subtleties, beautified 
religion by holiness. But among all these sources of 
devotion and of moral aspiration the first and greatest 
was he who had been meek and lowly of heart, the su- 
preme inspiration of all the ages, the man whose tragic 
and beautiful life has been the finest and noblest thing 
in human history. Turning to the gospel Erasmus drew 
his own conclusions, that religion was a life, not a creed, 
still less a set of prescribed rules and ceremonies. The 
life was that taught by the example of Jesus and by the 
Sermon on the Mount. Here, not in Plato nor in Pico 
nor even in Paul, did the humanist find his truest 

In working out a consistent system, Erasmus was con- 
fronted by two problems, that of cult and that of dogma. 
His attitude to the former was to let it alone, relying on 
holiness of character to purify and vivify it. "External 
worship is not condemned/' he wrote in his Enchiridion, 
"but God is pleased only by the inward piety of the 
worshipper/' Luther, and still more Calvin, reformed the 
ceremonies and rites of the Church according to their 
conceptions of Biblical precedent and precept; Erasmus 
had no such design, and for many reasons. In the first 
place he was too historical-minded not to cherish tradi- 
tional forms. Secondly, he was under no bibliolatrous 

siS) LB. v, 14,1. C/, also Allen, ep. 1062* 
1 So he says in the Cfafronianits 9 LB, i, 1009* 


prepossession, such as would lead him to regard every- 
thing not sanctioned by a specific text as wrong. Thirdly, 
he was unwilling to give offense, and finally, he regarded 
the whole matter of cult as one of subordinate concern. 
Fasting, sacerdotal celibacy, the communion in one kind, 
and all the rest of the Church law did no harm, if stress 
were not put upon such matters. 

In the face of dogma Erasmus was a child of the 
Renaissance, It is too much to say either that he 
neglected it or regarded it as of minor importance; but 
it is conspicuously true that with him dogma had not the 
supreme place that it had with the Reformers and with 
the inquisitors. While at times he hovered on the verge 
of doubt of some doctrines, or admitted the possibility of 
doubt in others without the brand of heresy, yet he always 
sought and finally yielded to the authority of the Bible, 
and, in the second place, to that of the Church, as the 
voice of either could be reasonably interpreted. 1 As with 
other men, so with Erasmus, we find slight inconsis- 
tencies and variations in his statements. But on the 
whole his attitude is plain, and it is far more modern than 
was that of the Reformers. He welcomed criticism and 
philosophy as aids to religion; they dreaded reason as a 
foe to faith. 1 

All these ideas found perfect expression in a little work 
of devotion, the Enchiridion Militis Christian^ or the 
Handbook (or Dagger, the word has a double meaning) 
of the Christian Knight. Erasmus, who always knew how 
to invest his books with a personal interest, tells how this 
was written at the request of a lady who wished to reform 
her husband, a great noble, jovial, hot-tempered, dissi- 
pated, and completely illiterate. His name was John, and 
the author remained on friendly terms with him for many 
years, but his exact identity has never yet been put 
beyond doubt. Possibly he was a certain John de 
Trazegnies, who was decorated with the order of the 
Golden Fleece in November, 1516, and who owned 

J Lindeboom, passim, and especially pp. 156 ff. 


estates in Artois. At any rate, the book was begun at 
Tournehem in Artois in 1501, and the dedication written 
at St.-Omer, in the autumn of the same year. 1 

The title, Enchiridion, is borrowed from Epictetus, or 
from Augustine, who applied it to small treatises on 
things especially necessary to salvation. Luther later 
took the word as the designation of his shorter catechism. 2 
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 The Latin translation 
of Job vii:i, is, "Militia est vita hominis super terram," 
an interpretation followed by the early German ver- 
sions, which rendered "militia" by "Ritterschaft," 4 St. 
Paul, in the sixth chapter of Ephesians, fully describes 
the armor of faith, and alludes to it elsewhere. The idea 
had been further developed in the Middle Ages, especially 
by the mystic Suso (1295-1366). The official title of the 
Knights Templars was "Pauperes Commilitones Christi 
templique Salamonis," and it is noteworthy that one of 
their founders, Godeffroi de St.-Omer, came from the 
same place from which Erasmus now wrote his introduc- 
tion. The phrase "Knight of Christ" after 1450 had 
become a catchword in German religious life. Certain 
saints had been honored as Milites Christi, in which 
character two had been depicted between 1420 and 1432 
in the famous altarpiece of the Van Eycks at Ghent, 
which was probably seen by Erasmus* Even Valla once 
called himself "a Christian knight." 

The first chapter of the Enchiridion carefully works 
out this idea of the warfare of life, while the second 
describes the arms of the Christian, and the third 

1 Allen, ep. 164, Text of the work, LB. v, I fF. C/. Allen, i, pp. 19, ao; 
Nichols, i, 337, 376, 

2 On the name, Du Cangc: Clossarfwn media 1 et infima? ttitinitatis, /. P. 
*P, Wdbcr: dlbrerkt Dtirers Weltanschauung (1909). H, Bergncr: **Der 

christliche Hitter in <ler Dichnmj? und bildcnclcr Kunst/' Zritschrift /ur 
J$uchffrfrfund(* t N. F. 6, 1915, 37 flf. 

4 "Das leben <ks menschcn ist wne rittewchaft auf der Erie/ 1 in version of 
1466, reprinted by W. Kurrclmcycr: l>*r erst* deutsch* Bibel, 19^0. Luther^ 
version was: "Muss nicht der Mcnsch immcr in Streit sein auf Erden?" 


differentiates true from false wisdom. The fourth, fifth, 
and sixth chapters contain the kernel of the book, the 
distinction between the inner and the outer man: the 
flesh and the spirit, the sensual and the moral, external 
observances and internal righteousness. Fasting, without 
a spirtual intent, may be a more carnal work than eating, 
and the worship of the saints is often ignorant and 
selfish : 

There are those who worship certain heavenly powers with special 
rites. One salutes Christopher daily, though only when he sees his 
image, because he has persuaded himself that on such days he will 
be insured against an evil death. Another worships St. Roch 
but why? Because he thinks to drive away the plague. Another 
mumbles prayers to Barbara or George, lest he fall into the hands 
of an enemy. This man vows to Apollonia to fast in order to escape 
toothache; that one gazes on the image of St. Job to get rid of 
the itch. Some give part of their profits to the poor in order to 
keep their business from mishap; some light candles to Jerome to 
restore a. business already bad. 1 

Such a cult of the saints is declared to be on a par with 
idolatry; the names of Hercules, .ZEscuIapius and Neptune 
are changed, but the spirit of the devotee is the same. 
"The true way to worship the saints is to imitate their 
virtues, and they care more for this than for a hundred 
candles. . , . You venerate the bones of Paul laid 
away in a shrine, but not the mind of Paul, enshrined in 
his writings." The writer then goes on to discuss the 
tripartite nature of man, the divine spirit, the animal 
flesh, the human soul. He closes by drawing a number 
of practical applications of his principles, especially 
denouncing the evils of war. 

The Enchiridion, first published at Antwerp in 1503,* 
did not at once attract much attention. A reprint was 
not called for until 1509, nor a third printing until 1515. 
After this new editions came almost every year for a long 
period; it was translated into Czech in 1519, into Dutch 

1 LB. v, 23, A similar passage in the Praise of Polly y LB. Iv, 450, 
f For the editions see MUiotheca Belgica, s. v Erasmus, Enchiridion. Allen, 
i, pp, 29 373. 


in 1524* Spanish 1527, Italian 1531, Portuguese 15413, 
Polish 1585, and Russian 1783. It found famous trans- 
lators in the three great modern languages. William 
Tyndale was probably the author of the English version 
appearing without date (1518) as Enchiridion militis 
Christiani, which maye be called in English? the hansome 
Weapon of the Christian Knight. George Spalatin made 
a German version in 1521, and the French reformer^ 
Louis de Berquin, put it into his mother tongue in 1529. 
It had a deep influence on the more spiritually minded 
men of the day. Albert Diirer knew it and may have had 
it in mind when he made his famous woodcut, "The 
Knight, Death, and the Devil" 1 Jerome Emser ? a dis- 
tinguished Catholic theologian, spoke highly of it, and 
apparently superintended an edition of I5 J 5' 2 Luther 
knew it through and through. His sermons and letters 
of 1516 and later have many echoes of the passage on the 
worship of saints, translated above. 3 Luther's famous 
work, The Liberty of a Christian Man> has a striking 
resemblance to the Enchiridion, both in its leading 
thought of the distinction between the inner and outer 
man, 4 and in the idea of the universal priesthood of 
believers as worked out from the New Testament by 
Erasmus. 5 

1 Dated 1513; he alludes to the Enchiridion in 1521, See Durers Sckriftlickt 
Nachlass, ed, Heidrich, 1908, p. 100, 

8 Allen, ep. 553; BiUwtheca Bdgica. 

8 Sermons, July 27, 1516 (luthers Wetke, Weimar, i, 62); February 2, 1517, 
ibid., i, 130; cf. also i, 420 and iv, 636. Most of all the sermon of December 
4 1517; *^"f w> &39 and in a sermon preached in 1516, but retouched for 
publication in 1518, ibid., 411-426* Here Luther advance* on Erasmus and 
says: "In our time the cult of the saints has gone so far that it would be 
better if their days were not kept, nor their names known at all." Cf, further 
a passage in a letter of December 31, 1517, Endcrs: Luthtrs Britftvechstl> i, 
136; LC ep. 46, 

4 C/, chapters 4 and 6 f of the Enchiridion^ with Lutkm Wtrk^ vii ? 12 ff 
and 39 ff, 

1 Cf. LB. v* 47, with Luthtrt Wttke, vii, 24. 



ERASMUS made at least six visits to England, the 
first lasting from June to December, 1499, the sec- 
ond from the autumn of 1505 to August, 1506, the 
third from about October, 1509, t6 July, 1514, the fourth 
in May, 1515; the fifth in the summer of 1516; the sixth 
a brief visit in April, 1517. He sometimes wished that 
England were joined to the Continent by a bridge, for 
"he hated the wild waves and the still wilder sailors/* 1 
Indeed, in that age the passage was far worse than it is 
now, when it is still so much disliked. Bad weather and 
storms often caused delays of many days, or even weeks 
before the small boats, sixty feet in length, dared to 
venture forth. The time required was greater than it 
now is, and accommodation and food for the passengers, 
of whom seventy were taken at a time, were poor. 2 

The first trip was made in the company, and probably 
at the invitation, of Lord Mountjoy, whom Erasmus had 
been tutoring in Paris. The young nobleman, though 
still a minor, had been married for more than two years, 
but his child wife remained in the custody of her father, 
Sir William Say. It was to the estate of this gentleman, 
at Bedwell in Hertfordshire, 3 that Mountjoy and his 
tutor first repaired. Erasmus was delighted beyond 
words by his reception here, and pleased with Mountjoy's 
bride and her kind father. 4 Charmed with the blandish- 

1 Allen, ep. 756, January 7, 1518. 

* E. S, Bates: Touring in 1600 (191 x) p. 64, and the account of Casaubon's 
passage in 1610, M. Partisan: Casaulonf 1892, pp. 274 ff. 

"Nichols, i, p* 200; Allen, i, p. 238. Enthoven, ep. 12 (January 28, 1528, 
not as dated in Enthoven). 

4 Allen, ep. 115; Nichols, ep, 104. 



ments of that most pleasant of all resorts, an^ English 

country house, he almost threw aside his studies. 1 He 
himself also made a good impression on his hosts. A 

young man who visited Bedwell twenty-nine years later 
found that "it was still full of memories of Erasmus/' 2 

The enthusiasm of the young Dutchman was reflected in 
one of his gayest letters to his gay friend, Faustus 
Andrelinus. 3 

We, too, have made progress in England. The Erasmus you 
knew has almost become a good hunter, 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." 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 Camense. Besides, there is a fashion which cannot 
be commended enough. Wherever you go you are received on all 
hands with kisses; 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/ and 
the coaxing young man* "most inclined to love/" 6 as he 

11 Allen, ep. 136, line 46, referring to the whole visit in England, 

a Enthoven ep, 12. 

8 Allen, ep, 103; Nichols, ep, 98. Summer, 1499. 

4 This worcl "inertia," though found in Horace, was hardly in decent usage, 
Erasmus quoted it from one of Faustus's own poems, 

fi Some references given in Nichols, t, p. 04; more in Mrs. H, Cust; Gentfe* 
men JBrrant, 1909, pp. 43, 496-498, The same freedom of kissing pretty 
women was noted by Balcus in his Description of Switzerland 
quoted in $, M. Jackson: U* Zwingli, 1900, p. 16. 

* Allen, ep* 107, October, 1499. 


called himself, would be likely to make the most of his 

From Bedwell Erasmus went with Mountjoy to the 
latter's country house at Greenwich. Here he met young 
Thomas More, later destined to prove himself, by his 
noble Utopia and by his courageous resistance to tyranny, 
the chief ornament of his country. Among the friends of 
More, Erasmus met also a certain Arnold, who may per- 
haps be identified with Richard Arnold, a citizen of 
London, who died in 1521, and whose Chronicle, pub- 
lished in the Netherlands in 1502, furnishes information 
about the coinage and tolls of Flanders, but is* chiefly 
remembered for containing the famous ballad "The 
Nut-Brown Maid/' 1 Through the good offices of More, 
Erasmus was taken to Eltham Palace, near Greenwich, 
and presented to the children of Henry VII, all but 
Arthur, who was away being educated. "In the midst 
of the group," says the visitor, "stood Prince Henry, then 
nine years old, and having already something royal in 
his demeanor, in which loftiness of mind was combined 
with singular culture. On his right was Margaret, about 
eleven years old, afterward married to James, King of 
Scots, and on his left played Mary, a child of four. 
Edmund was an infant in arms." 2 More presented a 
complimentary address or poem to Prince Henry; but 
Erasmus was unprepared, and angry at his companion 
for not having warned him, especially as the boy sent 
him a little note challenging something from his pen. 
Immediately on returning home he wrote a poem 
entitled Prosopopoeia Britanniae Majoris* in which 
Britain speaks her own praises and those of her king. 
It was printed, with a flattering introductory letter to 

1 On Arnold, see Dictionary of National Biography, and J, M. Berdan; 
Early Tudor Poetry, 1920, pp. 153 f, 

2 Allen, i, p. 6; Nichols, i p. 201, The scene here described has been made 
the subject of a beautiful painting by Frank Cadogan Cowper, in the Houses 
of Parliament. More is kneeling, presenting Henry with his writingj while 
Erasmus stands behind More to the left, 

LB i, 1213 ff. 


Prince Henry 1 in the first edition of the Adages (1500). 
The letter concludes with an exhortation to literary 
studies, and a complimentary allusion to Skelton, "that 
incomparable light and ornament of British letters/ 5 
As Skelton is also mentioned in the poem itself/ and as 
he was tutor to Prince Henry at this time^ Erasmus 
must have met him. For the poet, whose works he could 
not enjoy, as they were nearly all in English, he wrote 
a laudatory lyric which he never published possibly 
because Skelton did not on his side produce anything 
in praise of the author, though he apparently wrote 
something, or was expected to do so. The verse, which 
has remained unpublished until the present, 3 may be 
translated as follows: 

O Skelton, worthy of eternal fame, 

Why should thy fount of speech pour on my name 

The meed of praise, for I have never sought 

Pierian grottos, nor drunk water brought 

From the Aonian fountain, liquor which 

The lips of poets ever doth enrich. 

But unto thee Apollo gave his lyre, 

Thou playest the strings taught by the Muses* choir; 

Persuasion lies like honey on thy tongue 

Given by Calliope, and thou hast sung 

A song more sweet than dying swan's by far, 

And Orpheus self yields thee his own guitar, 

And when thou strlk'st it savage beasts grow mild, 

Thou leadest oaks and stayest torrents wild, 

And with thy soul-enchanting melodies 

Thou meltest rocks. The debt that ancient Greece 

To Homer owed, to Vergil Mantua, 

That debt to Skelton owes Britannia, 

For he from Latium all the muses led, 

And taught them to speak English words instead 

Of Latin; and with Skelton England tries 

With Roman poets to contend the prize, 

1 Allen, ep. 104; Nichols, cp, 97* 

* lam puer Henrtcus genitoris nomine laettt* Monstrante fonteit vate 
Skeltone sacros. (LB, i 1216.) 

3 Original in British Museum, Egerton MS. 1651, fol 6 f. For text s 
Appendix III. 


By autumn Erasmus was found at Oxford, staying at 
St. Mary's College, a house founded in 1435 to enable 
young Austin canons to study at the university. The 
prior was a certain learned and virtuous Richard Char- 
nock. 1 A banquet, almost a Platonic symposium, in 
which Erasmus participated, is described by him in the 
following letter 2 to his friend, John Sixtin, a fellow 
countryman then also at Oxford: 

How I wish you had been present, as I expected, at that last 
feast of ours, a feast of reason than which nothing was ever sweeter, 
cleaner, or more delicious. Nothing was wanting. A choice time, 
a choice place, no arrangements neglected and fine little men, as 
Varro says. 3 The good cheer would have satisfied Epicurus; the 
table talk would have pleased Pythagoras. The little men were so 
fine that they might have peopled an Academy, and not merely 
made up a dinner party. First, there was Prior Richard Charnock, 
that high priest of the Graces; then the divine who had preached the 
Latin sermon that day, a person of modesty as well as learning; 
then your friend Philip, most cheerful and witty. Colet, assertor 
and champion of the old theology, was at the head of the table. 

In December, Erasmus returned to London and pre- 
pared to depart from England. He summed up his 
impressions of the land to his old friend Robert Fisher, 
then in Italy, The letter, perhaps, was intended for 

general perusal: 4 

But you will ask how I like England. Believe me, my Robert, 
when I say that I never liked anything so much before. I have 
found the climate here most agreeable and salubrious; and I have 
met with so much civility, and so much learning, not hackneyed and 
trivial, but deep, accurate, ancient, Latin and Greek, that but for 
curiosity I do not now much care whether I see Italy or not. When 
1 hear my Colet I seem to be listening to Plato himself. In Grocin 
who does not marvel at such a perfect world of learning? What can 
be more acute, profound, and delicate than the judgment of Linacre? 
What has nature ever created more gentle, sweejt, or happy than the 
genius of Thomas More? 

1 Allen, ep. 106, 

4 Allen, ep. n6; Nicholas, ep, 205, November, 1499, 

8 Varro, Men, 335. 

4 Allen, ep. n8; Nichols, ep. no. 


On January 27, 1500, Erasmus was at Dover, about 
to embark for Boulogne/ 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 was also rigorously searched, but the 
fact that he had nothing left prevented him from losing 
anything more. ViaTournehem and Amiens he journeyed 
to Paris. At the little inn at St.~Just~en~chaussee 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 house- 
hold 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 

The hope of a benefice drew Erasmus to England for 
a second time in the summer or autumn of 1505. A 
living had indeed been promised by Henry VII, 5 and so 
vivid was Erasmus's expectation of it that lie took the 
trouble to get a dispensation from Pope Julius IF to 
meet any difficulties that might arise from his illegitimacy. 
This dispensation, which closely resembled that later 

1 Allen, i p. 274. 

* Allen, i, p. 16; Nichols, i p, 227, 

8 Allen, ep, 123, In contemporary French literature "Anfllais" was a name 
applied to a creditor. It is so found in GuHbume Cretin (c, 1500) and in 
Jodelle (155*)- Cf. K. Fournicr: Le Theatre Frangait au XFh fft XVII* 
sieclft s. d., p. 56, note. 

4 Allen, epp. n<) 120; Nichols, epp* 122, in. Allen, iv p, xxi, 

* Allen, cp. 189; Nichols, ep. 188; April, 1506, 

8 This dispensation, dated January 4, 1506* in Allen, ep, i87a, iii, p, aocix. 


granted by Leo X, 1 was doubtless, like that, procured 
through the assistance of powerful friends at court. The 
Holy Father wrote his beloved son that the latter 's "zeal 
for religion, honesty of life and character, and other laud- 
able merits, probity, and virtue, for which you have been 
commended to us by faithful testimony, have induced 
us to show you special grace and favor," consisting of 
an absolution from all defects inherent in illegitimacy 
and the right to hold certain benefices in England. 
Erasmus's hope, however, of obtaining one of these, was 
disappointed at this time. 

At London he lodged either with Foxe, Bishop of 
Winchester, or with Fisher, Bishop of Rochester. 2 
With the latter he formed an intimacy which lasted 
through life. John Fisher was in 1506 about fifty-five 
years old. He had been made Vice Chancellor of Cam- 
bridge University in 1501, and had worked energetically 
to infuse life into that then somewhat torpid institution. 
In 1503 he had been appointed to the chair of divinity 
by its founder, the king's mother, Lady Margaret Tudor, 
Countess of Richmond, and a year later had become 
Chancellor of the University. On April 12, 1505, he was 
made president of Queen's College, an office which he 
held for three years. On meeting Erasmus in London at 
this time he probably took him up to Cambridge and 
offered him a professorship. The markedly humanistic 
bias of the statutes of Queen's drawn up at this time 
certainly shows the influence of the Dutch scholar. 3 
Erasmus petitioned for and received permission to study 
for a doctorate in theology, but he soon gave up the idea 
in order to go to Italy. The grace granted him by the 
university shows that he was expected to lecture on 
Paul's Epistle to the Romans. 4 

1 Allen, ep, 517; Nichols, ep. 499. January 26, 1517. 
8 Allen, ep, 185, ilote. 

* On Fisher, Dictionary of National Biography, and life by Bridgett, 1880. 
On Erasmus at Cambridge, Allen, i, pp. 590-593, 

* Grace Book T containing the records of the University of Cambridge, 1501-42, 
eel W G. Searle, 1908, p. 46, Grace dated 1505-06. 


But when Erasmus returned again to England some 
years later Cambridge was more successful in getting his 
services. He arrived in England in the autumn of 1509, 
and for a year and a half afterward his life is shrouded 
in mystery. Part of the time was spent at More's house* 
part with Andrew Ammonius, an Italian of Lucca, Latin 
secretary first to Lord Mountjoy and then to Henry 
VIII. 1 Though Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, resigned the 
presidency of Queen's College, Cambridge, in 1508, he 
still continued to be Chancellor of the university. 
Regarding the co-operation of Erasmus as necessary 
to carry through the humanistic program he had at 
heart, in the summer of 151 1 2 he secured the appoint- 
ment of his friend as lecturer in Greek. Not long after 
this (about November) Erasmus accepted the chair 
of divinity founded in 1503 at Cambridge by Lady 
Margaret Tudor, and began to lecture on Jerome, and 
probably on other subjects. One of his pupils, Robert 
Aldridge, later wrote him that the semester spent under 
him, introducing both the serious and the pleasant side 
of literary study, was more profitable than years with 
other teachers. 3 Another of his pupils at this time was 
probably William Tyndale, 4 later the famous reformer 
and translator of the Bible. Something of Erasmus's 
spirit towards his work may be seen in the following 
conversation reported by himself. 5 

You will laugh, I know, at what I tell now. When 1 said something 

about an under teacher, a man of some reputation said with a smile: 
"Who would submit to pass his life in a school among boys who 

could live in any fashion whatever elsewhere?" I answered softly 
that I thought it a highly honorable office to bring up youth in 
virtue and learning; that Christ had not despised that age upon 
which kindness is best bestowed and from which the richest harvest 

1 Allen, I, p. 455. 

* Allen, cpp. 242, 229* On the lectures, ep, 233, On a request from the 
university to Lord Mountjoy to contribute to Krausmus's salary, Allen* x p* 
613; Nichols, ii, pp. 73, 88, 

3 Enrhoven, ep, 40, (15*16?) 

4 A, W. Pollard; Records of the English ftiblf, 1911, p, 4, 
8 Allen, ep. 337; Nichols, ep, 231. 


might be expected, as indeed it is the seed-plot and planting-ground 
of the commonwealth. I added that any really pious person would 
be of opinion that there was no duty by which he could better serve 
God than by drawing children to Christ. He sneered and said: 
"If anyone was so bent on serving Christ he had better go into a 
convent and become 'religious/" 1 replied that Paul places true 
religion in offices of charity, and that charity consists in doing all 
the good we can to our neighbors. 

From his professorship Erasmus received thirteen 
pounds a year in addition to board and lodging, but 
he was not allowed to take fees from the students, 
according to their customary practice an abstention 
of which he later made a virtue. 1 With John Fisher 
he continued on terms of intimacy until death parted 
them. In August, 1516, he visited him at Rochester 
for about ten days in order "to translate him into 
Greek," i. <?., to give him lessons in that tongue. 2 It 
was at this time that he became well acquainted with 
the bishop's library, which he describes as its owner's 
paradise. 3 While he earned some money by teaching 
and writing, he received most from patrons. In Novem- 
ber, 1511, he returned from a visit to London with a 
purse stuffed with seventy-two nobles. 4 He had no 
false delicacy in requesting financial assistance, though 
he was occasionally snubbed for his pains, even by 
his good friend Colet. 5 From another patron, Andrew 
Ammonius of Lucca, a humanist who had sought and 
made his fortune in England as a Latin secretary, 
Erasmus received frequent presents of wine. 6 He 
greatly appreciated these, and soon became intimate 
with Ammonius as a kindred spirit. Not only is their 
correspondence extant, but there is also preserved a 
poem of the Italian humanist in acknowledgment of a 
gift of the sweetmeat then called marchpane. Ammonius 

1 Allen, ep, 296, !, p 569. 

2 Alien, ep* 452; Nichols, ep, 438. 

8 To Fisher, September 4, 1524, Lond. xviii, 47; LB. ep. 698. 

4 Allen, ep. 241, 

6 Allen, epp. 225, 227, 230, 237* 

8 Allen, epp- 226, 228, 234, 236, 238, 240. 


declares that he has never found anything nicer or 
sweeter than that cake, which has long been esteemed 
at the pope's table, save only the witty conversation 
of Erasmus. 1 

In order to further his own advancement Erasmus 
was not above practicing the usual arts of suitors, 
which he wittily describes. 2 He was able in 1511 to 
bid up his price in the English market by showing a 
letter 3 promising him a benefice in Brabant; he used 
this to get an appointment to an English living in the 
gift of William War/ham, Archbishop of Canterbury, 
with whose praises his letters at this time ring. 4 Erasmus 
had met Warham, perhaps through Colet's introduction^ 
in January, 1506, or shortly before. At the first inter- 
view he presented the prelate with a translation from 
Lucian and received in return a present which hardly 
came up to his hopes. 5 However, Warham proved one 
of his most constant patrons in after-life. Of his pressing 
attentions Erasmus says; 6 

It is often our own fault that friendships are broken. ... As 
a youth I offended grievously. For had I then met the advances 
of great men who began to take me up, I should have been some- 
thing in the literary world; but an immoderate love of liberty caused 
me to contend for a long time with perfidious friends and with 
dire poverty. Nor should I ever have ceased doing so had not 

1 The poems of Ammonias are printed in an extremely rare volume, of 
which a copy is at the Bibiiotheque Nationale, Paris. I take this, however, 
from the MS. transcript at the Public Record Office, on which see Calendar 
of State Papers of Henry Fill, 2d ed. by Brodie, i, App. 5, anno 1509, The 
poem reads: 

Ad Erasrnum Theologum me$$o crustulo quod marsium pancm vocant. 
Nil mi lautius csse suaviusque 
Mcnsts pontificum esr diu probation 
Unum $ctl modo dulcxus rcpcrtutn 
Argute eloquium tuura cst, Erasme! 
* Allen, cp. 250; Nichols, ep, 241, 
8 Allen, ep. 214451; Nichols, cp. 406, anno 15x6, 

4 Allen, epp, 243, 252, November, 1911, and February, 15x3, Cf. <sp. 334 
May, 1515. 

6 Allen, i, p. 5, and cp. 188. 
6 Adagia, chil. 4, cent, 5, prov, x (1515.) IB. ii, 1050* 


William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, a man not more 
reverend for his title and office than for his noble virtues worthy 
of a prelate, lured me, fleeing as it were from him, into the net of 
his friendship. 

Warham did indeed appreciate the worth of the 
Dutch scholar and wrote him ? while he was in Italy, 
offering him money if he would consent to spend the 
rest of his life in England. 1 When Erasmus did return 
to London Warham took him up and, hearing that he 
had a cold, sent him twenty gold "angels/' as the Eng- 
lish coins were called from the image of an angel stamped 
on them, hoping that among them would be found 
Raphael the physician of salvation who would heal the 
sick man and restore him to his former health. 2 The 
same loving patron collated him, on March 22, 1512, to 
the rectory of Aldington in Kent, worth thirty-three 
pounds six shillings and eight pence a year; 3 as money 
would then buy at least ten times what it does now, this 
income would be the equivalent of some $i, 600 nowadays. 

As the appointee had no intention of performing the 
duties connected with this office, and was, indeed, on 
account of his ignorance of English, unable to do so, 
he scrupled a little at accepting it. Warham, however, 
urged that he did more good by his books, which taught 
many preachers, than he would perform by personal 
ministrations in a small parish. 4 Later, in deference to 
his wishes, Warham changed the living for a pension, 5 
charged on the revenues of the parish, at the same 
time protesting that it was never his habit to burden 
churches with payments to absentees but that he felt 

1 Allen, ep, 214. There dated May, 1509. In Geldenhauer's Collectanea, 
ed. Prinsen, 1901, pp. 19 f, it is dated 1521. 

2 Allen, ep, 24oa; "* P- xxxi, November n, 1511, On Raphael the Physician, 
Luihers Werke (Weimar), xxxviii, 280 ff. 

3 W, Vischer: JErasmiana (1876), ii, r, p. 8. Erasmus's acceptance of the 
benefice through four men appointed to act as attorneys (procuratores, actores, 
factores negotiorum et nuncii speciales), ibid., ii, 2. On the value of the 
benefice, Allen, i, p* 501, 

4 In the JScclesioftfSt 1535, LB. v, 8n f; Nichols, ii, p. 64. 

8 Vischer, II, 3, p. 13, 


constrained to make an exception of Erasmus^ "a most 
consummate master of Latin and Greek 9 who like a 
star ornaments our times with his learning and elo- 
quence/' and who, moreover, prefers England to Italy, 
France, or Germany. Wherefore he was granted a 
pension of twenty pounds per annum from the revenues 
of Aldington. This stipend, regularly paid throughout 
the rest of Erasmus's life, was perhaps his most depend- 
able source of income. The archbishop also procured for 
Erasmus exemption from the higher tax normally paid 
by foreigners appointed to English benefices. 1 

Though there is no positive evidence to show that 
Erasmus ever visited his parish, he may have done so 
at the time when he made a pilgrimage to the shrine 
of St. Thomas of Canterbury. 2 His own interesting 
account of this trip in the Colloquies, is worth tran- 
scribing. He was accompanied by Colet, 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," 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 

1 The archbishop's mandate reprinted in A. T. Bannister: Registmm 
Car oli Bothi Episcopi Herefordensis* x$ 16-35* 1921, p. 246, 

2 Allen, i, p. 501, 

3 There is no special reason to place this visit at Easter* 1506, as Renaudet 
Rev ue Historiquf, cxi, 1912, p. 260, does, because the court made the pilgrimage 
then. On Erasmus's trip* sec Pertgrin&tio fdigionis ffrga. LB, i, 684 f, and 
783 f* C/. Modus orandi 9 LB. v, mo. J, II. Lupton (Lifeof Cokt, 1887, p. 
206) puts this trip "presumably in 15 14*" but the time cannot be determined 
with accuracy. I borrow freely from his translation of the colloquy, and from 
his excellent notes. He explains the name ^ivcn Colet as follows: Gratianus 
is John, because John means "grace/' Pullus, he says, ia derived from the 
dark color of Colet's clothes, "vesdmentis pullis," But I believe pullus wa 
used in the sense of "young animal 11 and stood for "colt/* The identification 
is certain, as Colet is mentioned as Erasmus's comrade In this pilgrimage in 
the Modus orandt> v, 1119 f. 


armed men, they who impiously murdered the saint. 5 * 
Their names, he goes on to say, were Tuscus, Fuscus, and 
Berrus, thus distorting the names of three of the four re- 
puted assassins, Tracy, Fitz-Urse, and Brito. After more 
details about the appearance of the church he continues: 

On the altar is the point of the sword with which the archbishop's 
skull was cloven. We 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 adoringly kissed, until my companion, 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 were shown the immense store of 
costly vestments and precious metals bestowed on the 
shrine by pious persons. At this point Colet burst out 

"Is it true, good father," said he, "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, "sin^e 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 pacified him 
as best I could, telling him that my companion never meant a word 
he said, but was only joking, and at the same time I put a few shillings 
into the box. 


Next the sacristy was visited, and more relics ex- 
hibited. 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 leav- 
ing, 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." 

Though Erasmus represents himself as deeply morti- 
fied at his friend's manners, he tells the story in a way 
that shows he appreciated the humor of the scene. 
There was never a drier wit than his; no writer has 
ever had such a gift of ridiculing a usage while pre- 
tending to hold up his hands in holy horror at the 
profanity of those who did the like. I have no doubt, 
though it is hard to prove it or to bring it out clearer 
in the translation, that Erasmus saw the absurdity of 
kissing the sword which clove the archbishop's skull, 
just as Luther later made fun of the exhibition of the 
cord with which Judas hanged himself as a relic in 
Rome. 1 In fact it seems not unfair to say that during 
the exhibition of the relics, while Colet fumed Erasmus 
tittered. The two attitudes were becoming general in 
Europe, and were both ominous of the Protestant 

In the summer of 1512 Erasmus made a pilgrimage 
to our Lady of Walsingham, also described in the 
Colloquies.* This shrine, in the northern part of Norfolk, 
about sixty miles from Cambridge, ranked with Lorctto 
and Compostella as one of the most famous in Europe, 
and was served by the Austin canons of Walsingham 
priory. Erasmus, called Ogygius in the Colloquy, was 

* De Wette: Luther s J?rV/r, vi, 323. 

1 LB, i 778 IF, Perfgrinatio feligionis trg&* Allen, ep a6s attd note. Scse 
also Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, x, m 


accompanied by Robert Aldridge, a student who was 
enthusiastic about his teaching. There they beheld 
among other relics St. Peter's knuckle and the milk 
of the Virgin still liquid and saw her statue nod. 1 Erasmus 
hung up a votive hymn in Greek iambics, declaring 
that, having no gold, silver, and precious stones, such 
as other pilgrims heap on her shrine, he offered her the 
best that he had, a song. 2 

While living as a student and teacher at Cambridge 
Erasmus did not entirely neglect the lighter side of life. 
He continued the equestrian exercise spoken of to 
Faustus Andrelinus in the first letter from England. 3 
Ascham, who went to Cambridge in 1530, heard from 
Garret a tradition that "when Erasmus had been sore 
at his boke, for lacke of better exercise he would take 
his horse and ride to Market Hill and come agayne." 4 
Incidentally this story shows that the professor was 
living in comfortable style. 

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 I528 5 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 of Isaiah i.e., 
a little sermon on the text, "In silence and hope will 
be your strength." 

Erasmus was too restless to be content with any 
position long. After lecturing at Cambridge for about 
two years he gave up the work and shortly after left 
England for the Continent. The pension of Warham, 
as well as the enormous gifts of that prelate and others, 

1 These nodding images were common, and a Httle later were ruthlessly 
exposed when Henry VIII visited the monasteries. C/. Lindsay: History 
thf Reformation, ii, 1907, pp. 343 ffl 

*LB. v, 1325. 

3 Allen, ep. 103, 

4 Ascham: Toxophilus, ed. Arber, p. 46, Allen, i, p, 532, 
8 Lond. xxx 3; LB. ep* 497. C/< Allen, i, p. 174* 


made him feel independent. 1 He hoped for higher 
promotion however, and when disappointed passionately 
accused the perfidy of his friends, especially of Lord 
Mountjoy. 2 He had been introduced at court, and had 
dedicated to the king a translation of one of Plutarch's 
works 3 and to Thomas Wolsey, the rising favorite, two 
other translations. 4 He made nothing by them, however. 

In July, 1514, he left England and spent a few 
days at the castle of Hammes near Calais. There, or 
just before his arrival, he received a letter from his 
old comrade Servatius, now prior of the monastery of 
Steyn, warning him that his protracted absence was 
against the rule and perhaps threatening to take meas- 
ures to enforce his return to the monastery. Erasmus 
replied in a long letter 5 excusing himself, on the ground 
of his dislike of the monastic life and the delicacy of 
his health. He defended himself for having doffed 
his monastic dress, and enlarged upon the uprightness 
of his life and the excellent influence of his works, 
among which he mentioned the Enchiridion, the Adages^ 
the Copia, and the soon-to-appear Jerome, New Testa- 
ment, and commentary on Paul's Epistles. The Moria 
is conspicuous by its absence from this list, 

In May, 1515? Erasmus returned to England to see 
his old friends again, but stayed only a very short time. 
In the summer of 1516 he traveled again to London for 
the purpose of obtaining assistance from his powerful 
patrons in a matter of importance and delicacy. Just 
ten years earlier he had secured a dispensation from 
Pope Julius to hold certain benefices notwithstanding 
his illegitimate birth. He had, however, need of a new 
dispensation and also of absolution for the performance 

1 ID the epistle to Scrvatiua, July 8 1514 (Allen, ep. 296; Nichols, ep. 290), 
Erasmus says that besides the pension, Warham had given him 400 nobles 
(about 130) and other bishops xoo nobles, 

38 Allen, ep. a8x; Nichols, ep 274, 

I Allen, ep* 272, 

4 Allen, cpp, 284, 97* 

II Alien, ep. 296; Nichols, ep 090$ July 8> 1514* 


of certain acts which had been, in the circumstances, 
unlawful. Probably he had overstepped some rules 
about clothing; and an effort was again being made 
to compel him to return to Steyn. It seems likely that 
Servatius and his old comrades there had ferreted out 
fresh facts about Erasmus's birth, for a principal dif- 
ference between the new dispensation and the old one 
is that in the former Erasmus is described as born of 
the union of a bachelor and a widow, while in the second 
the union is labeled "damned and incestuous/' meaning 
that his father was a priest at the time. Naturally 
unwilling to have the affair made public, he needed 
the assistance of friends no less discreet than powerful. 1 
Crossing the channel in July, he went to London and 
was again the guest of Sir Thomas More, apparently with- 
out much welcome from his host's wife. 2 The interest of 
Pope Leo X in the humanist having already been aroused, 
it was determined to approach him on the matter 
through Sylvester Gigli, Bishop of Worcester, though 
Erasmus also wrote directly to the pontiff. 3 Together 
with this missive went a long one to a person in Rome, 
probably Gigli, which was later published in the Opus 
Epistolarum of 1529, with an address to "Lambert 
Grunnius, Apostolic Notary." This letter, which has 
been a puzzle to the biographers, is an appeal in be- 
half of "a supremely gifted character/' called Florence, 
who, with his brother Antony, had been forced into 
the monastic life, in fact almost kidnapped, by "those 
Pharisees who compass sea and land to make one 
proselyte/' 4 The story of Florence's life is given and 
is easily recognizable, in spite of decoration, as that 
of Erasmus himself. The name "Florence" was perhaps 
chosen in allusion to Florence Radewyn, one of the 
founders of the Brethren of the Common Life, after 

1 Allen, ep, 451, 
9 Allen, ep. 389. 

- /HUGH, cp. joy. 

8 Allen, ep. 446; Nichols, ep. 434, 

4 Allen, ep, 447; Nichols, epp. 443, 444. 


whom was named a "Heer-Florenshuis" at Deventer. 1 

The identity of the Florence of this letter with Erasmus 
was known to the author's amanuensis. 2 

The name Grunnius is also fictitious, being derived 
from the Latin "grunnio," to grunt. It is found also 
in the Praise of Folly, In this case it seems to stand 
for Sylvester Gigli, to whom, we may conjecture, the 
original letter was sent, not as coming from Erasmus, 
but from his friend Ammonius. 3 When Erasmus later 
published this letter, in which for obvious reasons he 
had greatly exaggerated the amount of pressure that 
had been put on him as a youth and the evils of monastic 
life, he thought fit to match it with a reply, probably- 
founded on an actual letter sent to Ammonius by Gigli, 
recounting how delighted was the Holy Father with his 
style and what joy he took in granting the request. 4 
Ammonius, in fact, approved of the whole "fiction," 
and promised as much zeal in his friend's business as 
if it were his own. 5 

The further progress of the negotiation may be traced 
in the correspondence after Erasmus had returned to 

1 Catalogs van de Incunabelen in de dthenfum-Bibliothek to Deventer, door 
M, E. Krontnberg, 1917* P- xv "- 

2 Allen, iii, p, xxv. 

8 Cf. Nichols, ii, pp. 337-339; Allen, ii, p. 291. P. Kalkoff: " VcrmittlunKs- 
politik des Erasmus," Archiv fur Re formations geschichtc, i, 1903^ p. 3^oti. 
Vischer first published the other documents concerning this episode in his 
Erasmiana (1876) and Doctor Reich comments on it in his Mrasmns mm 
Rotterdam (11896). He proves that the letter was sent to a real person (though 
not bearing the name Grunnius). That Gifcli was the person is proved by the 
fact that the letter was published by Erasmus in the first collection of epistles 
to appear after he had heard of Gigli's death (April 18, 1521), by the slight 
resemblance between the reply of Grunnius and the letter of February 9, 15*7, 
from Gifcli to Ammonius (Allen, ii, p. 321), and by the fact that Lamlwtus 
Grunnius is the metrical equivalent of Sylvester Giglius. This Latin conven- 
tion in the use of factitious names was frequently, though not always, followed 
by Erasmus. C/. Cantheliu* for Cornelius, That Ammonius sponsored the 
letter is shown by the fact that the answer is addressed to him- C/* Leo to 
Ammonius, January 26, 1517, Allen, p. 5x7- Long after 1 bad written this 
note I found the same conclusions in P. Mestwcrdt: DiV Anfiint* des Mrasmw> 
1917, 189 ff. 

4 Allen, ii, p, 312; Nichols, ep. 444, 

* Allen, cp. 453; Nichols, cp. 439* 


the Continent. Ammonius wrote to Leo in September 1 
and received an answer in October, 2 saying that the 
pope was favorably disposed, but could not act until 
he had returned to Rome, and that the Datary must 
receive a sop. This Ammonius promised, but the next 
answer was so tardy in arriving that Erasmus felt 
extreme anxiety, fearing that "all was lost/' 3 In 
December Ammonius wrote that Leo was favorable 
and that Gigli had forwarded a draft dispensation, 
which he sent on to Erasmus for corrections. 4 In 
February, 1517, the humanist again offered more money, 
and on March II thanked his friend at court for his 
services. 6 A day or two later he received the news 
that the dispensation had arrived in London and that 
it would be necessary for him to come to London to 
confess and receive absolution. On March I5th he 
agreed to do this, notwithstanding his hatred of the 
sea. 6 Even before he went to England, however, he 
wrote, on April 4th, notes of thanks to Leo and Gigli. 7 
When he arrived in London, he found the dispensation, 
dated January 26, I5I7, 8 ready. In it Pope Leo granted 
to Ammonius the right of absolving a certain person 
from all penalties incurred by having put off his habit, 
for having said masses, or for having done other things 
unlawful for a bastard to do. He also allowed this per- 
son to hold certain benefices, which, apparently, were 
expected to be English. Under this power Ammonius 
absolved Erasmus on April gth. 

1 Allen, ep, 466. 

a Allen, ep, 479; c/. Brewer: Letters and Papers of Henry Fill, ii, nos. 

3 Allen, ep. 483. 

4 Allen, ep. 498, 

6 Allen, ep, 551. 

"Allen, ep, 552, This letter, Inadvertently printed in the Farrago, was 
carefully omitted from all later editions until Allen restored it, 

7 Allen, epp, 566, 567, 

8 Allen, ep. 517. 

9 As shown by the reference to the constitutions of Otho and Ottoboni, 
unless this wording is merely copied from Erasmus's earlier dispensation 
(Allen, Hi, p. xxix) without any special significance being attached to it, 


With the main document Leo sent two letters, the 
first private, giving his reasons for granting Erasmus's 
request together with certain details as to the benefices 
to be enjoyed, the second of a more general nature, 
testifying to the scholar's merits, and suitable for show- 
ing to friends or for publication. Gigli also wrote a 
note of congratulation. 1 

This was the last time that Erasmus ever saw England. 
With such good friends and generous patrons in that 
country, it is perhaps strange that, after having spent 
five years in it, he did not settle there. The reasons 
are given by himself. He feared first the popular 
hostility to foreigners, which showed so ugly a face 
on "Evil Mayday," 1517. On that date, just after 
his own return from London, the populace rose against 
the foreign merchants, particularly his fellow country- 
men the Flemings, and slaughtered some of them. 
Erasmus also feared that the tyranny of the king would 
impose on him a servitude which he could ill brook. 
The later acts of the despot gave but too much color 
to his fears. 2 

I have left to the last some account of Erasmus's 
relations with his two friends, Thomas More and John 
Coiet, for his acquaintance with them extended over 
many years and was kept alive by frequent corre- 
spondence during long absences* There is a story that 
Erasmus and More first met at the Lord Mayor's 
table in London and conversed for some time without 
knowing each other's names, until the one exclaimed, 
" You are either More or no one/' and the other replied, 
"You are either Erasmus or the devil/' 3 But this 
legend bears the stamp of fiction. In all probability 
the meeting occurred at Bedwell or Greenwich in 1499. 
Thomas More was then twenty-one years old, 4 already 

1 Allen, epp, 518-520, 

* Erasmus to More, c. July io 1517, Allen, ep. 597. 
s Cresacre More: Life of Sir Thomas More, 1631, p. 93. 
4 On More's age, Allen, i, p. 266, and iii, p. xxiii. Apparently he was born 
on February 6, 1478. 


practising law, but not relinquishing the study of the 
humanities. It was a case of love at first sight; the 
earliest letter/ Written by Erasmus on his thirtieth 
birthday, is already full of the greatest affection. Of 
his friend he has left us a sketch, no less perfect in its 
way than are the pictures by his contemporary Holbein. 2 

In stature More is neither tail nor notably short and there is 
such symmetry in all his members that you want nothing. His 
complexion is pale rather than sallow, with just the faintest flush 
under the skin; his hair is dark yellow, or, if you prefer, light brown; 
his beard is sparse, his eyes bluish gray and spotted, which kind is 
said to argue a most happy nature and is considered especially 
amiable in England, though over here [in Brabant] we prefer black. 
They say no kind of eyes are less susceptible to faults. His face, 
agreeing with his nature, and wearing an habitual smile, plainly 
shows his pleasant and friendly jocularity. Frankly, his face better 
expresses merriment, though far removed from thoughtless or 
scurrilous folly, than gravity or dignity. His right shoulder is a 
little higher than his left, especially when he walks, which is a defect 
not of nature, but of custom, like most of our habits. In the rest of 
his body.there is nothing to offend. His hands are somewhat coarse, 
at least compared with the rest of him. From boyhood he was 
always most negligent of his body, so that he did not even care 
for that which Ovid says men should especially care for. Now 
perhaps he may think it time to throw overboard whatever beauty 
he had as a youth; but I knew the man when he was but twenty- 
three, for he is now not much over forty. 

His health, even rather than robust, is sufficient for his civic 
duties and very little subject to illness. We hope that he may 
yet live long, for his father attained a green old age. 

I never saw anyone less exacting in the pleasures of the table. 
Until early manhood he preferred drinking water, as his father did. 
But lest this habit should embarrass his guests he would pretend 
to drink out of a pewter 3 cup, filled mostly, if not altogether, with 
water. It being the custom in England to invite a friend to drink 
out of the same cup of wine, he will touch the rim with his lips so 
as not to seem to omit the ceremony altogether, just as he performs 
other common civilities. He prefers beef, salt fish, and coarse bread, 
especially if sour, to the food usually delighted in. He is not averse 
to other corporal pleasures. He is fond of things made of milk, 
and of the eggs of hens and of other birds. 

1 Allen, ep 114; Nichols, ep. 103. October 28, 1499. 

2 Allen, ep. 999. Erasmus to Hutten, July 23, 1519. 
8 Stanneus, an alloy of silver and lead. 


His voice is neither loud nor very low, but easily heard. Though 
not sonorous or soft, it is well adapted to speaking, for he does not 
seem by nature formed for music, though he delights in it. He 
articulates with marvelous distinctness, neither hurriedly nor slowly. 

He delights in simple dress, nor does he wear silk nor purple nor 
gold chains except on festive occasions when forced to. It is remark- 
able how negligent he is of those polite forms which are commonly 
esteemed. Not expecting them from others, he does not scrupulously 
observe them himself, though not ignorant of them either in assem- 
blies or at meals. He thinks it womanish and unworthy of a man to 
waste time in these follies. 

He has long been averse to courts because he always hated tyranny 
and loved equality. For you will hardly find any court so modest 
as to be without much bustle and ambition and deceit and luxury, 
even if not tyranny. He could only be tempted into the court of 
Henry VIII with much trouble, though he could wish for nothing 
more civil and moderate than this prince. By nature he desires 
freedom and leisure, though only to use that leisure well, for when 
business calls him he is as patient and vigilant as any. 

He seems born and made for friendship, which he cultivates 
sincerely and tenaciously. Nor does he fear the multitude of friends 
so little praised by Hesiod. He is open to the claims of all. By 
no means peevish in his love, he is most obliging in cherishing 
friendship and most constant in keeping it. If by chance he 
becomes acquainted with anyone wh'ose vices he cannot cure he 
rather withdraws from him than breaks with him. When he finds 
sincere friends he so delights in their society and conversation that 
he seems to place the chief felicity of life therein. He simply detests 
balls, dice, cards, and other games by which the common run of 
gentry while away their time. Moreover, though negligent of his 
own interests, no one is truer in caring for the interests of his 
friends. What more can I say? If anyone seeks the example of a 
true friend he will find it nowhere better than in More. The sweet- 
ness of his manners is so engaging and his comity so rare that there 
is no one so sad whom he cannot cheer and no mood so desperate 
that he cannot dispel it. 

From a boy he so delighted in jokes that he seemed born for 
pleasantry, though he is never scurrilous or sarcastic. As a youth 
he both acted and wrote comedies. 

Some anecdotes of Morels practical jokes are pre- 
served, anonymously* in Erasmus's colloquy Exorcism 
or the Spectre, printed in August, 1524. He there tells 
how, while a party was riding to Richmond, one Polus, 
a son-in-law of Faunus, pretended to see an immense, 


fiery dragon in the sky and, though there was really 
nothing there, persuaded the whole party, one after 
another, to say that they actually saw the portent, the 
rumor of which went all over England. At another 
time Polus played a trick on a foolish priest named 
Faunus (not his father-in-law, but another man of the 
same name), with the aid of his (Polus's) son-in-law, 
the husband of his eldest daughter and a man of won- 
drous jocund spirit, who did not abhor such foolishness. 
One of the two dressed up as a cacodemon and appeared 
in answer to a spell recited by Faunus, and wrote to 
him a letter dated "The Empyrean, September 13, 
1498."* The identification of the persons in this story 
has been a riddle to all biographers, most of whom 
would see More in Polus. But this solution seems to 
me impossible, both because More was too young at 
the date given to have a son-in-law, and because Polus 
is said to be fond of hunting and hawking, whereas 
More saw no pleasure in "the seelye and wofull beastes 
slaughter and murder/' 2 The Greek word Polos means 
"colt," and the name here points rather to More's 
father-in-law, John Colt. More would then be the 
son-in-law, the youth of "wondrous jocund spirit/* 
As he married probably in 1505, the date "1498" 
must be corrected. The scene of the pranks is said 
to be a country place near London, which would cor- 
respond well with Colt's estate at Netherhall in Essex. 
The interlocutors in the comedy are called "Thomas" 
and "Anselm/ 5 The first was probably meant to be 
Thomas Grey, a young Englishman of whom Erasmus 
was fond, and one who very well knew both More and 
Colt, for his ancestral property was adjacent to that of 
Colt. 3 The name of the other interlocutor, Anselm, 
would suggest William Warham, who, like the earlier 
Anselm, was Archbishop of Canterbury. 4 

a Utopia, book ii, Bohn edL p. 129. Life of More* by W. H, Hutton, p, 47. 

3 Allen, ep. 829; To More, c. April 23, 1518. Cf, 

* Erasmus knew a Swiss Thomas Anselm, but he is out of the question. 


Erasmus loved to play jokes on his witty friend^ 
of which was a letter in trochaic tetrameter* 
without division of Hues, as prose* sent to see if 

More would detect the trick. As he to do so, a 

good was raised at him. "For/* says Erasmus* 

lie even loved Jokes made at Ms own expense. It was his fond- 
ness for wit and fan, and especially for Liidan s that made me write 
the Praise of Potty 9 though to do so was like mating a camel dance. 
But in all human affairs* light r 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 

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 some- 
thing to catch the eye of anyone who enters* and he renews his 
pleasure as often as he sees anyone else pleased. 

Mote's low 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 tinder the cage 
in which the rabbits were kept, the monkey moved It 
along the ground to the waif, thus showing as much 
intelligence as a man. Continuing Erasmus's biography; 

In his youth he was not aYerse from the love of maidens, but 
innocently, for he 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 
lie applied himself to Greek philosophy to such an extent that his 
father* a good and otherwise sensible man, refused 10 help him 
and almost disinherited him, thinking these studies detrimental 
to the practice of law. This illiberal profession is in Engjbnd the 



surest road to power, wherefore the greater part of the gentry apply 
themselves to it and insist that it cannot be mastered without several 
years of hard application. Although the genius of young More, 
born to better things, shrank from this study, yet after tasting the 
learning of the schools he applied himself so well to jurisprudence 
that Etigants consult no one more readily, nor do those who have 
never done anything else make more at the profession. So great 
is the power and quickness of his mind! Moreover, he spent no 
little labor on the volumes of the fathers. While yet a young man 
he publicly lectured to a large audience on Augustine's City of God, 
nor were old priests ashamed to learn theology from a young layman, 
nor did they regret having done so. 

At this time he applied his whole mind to religion, and with fasts, 
vigils and the like meditated taking orders. This course was more 
wise than is that of those who make so arduous a profession before 
they have previously made trial of themselves. The only thing 
that quenched his preference for this kind of life was his desire to 
marry. He chose, therefore, to be a faithful husband rather than 
an unchaste priest. So he married a young virgin of good family 
and one who had spent all her time in the country with her parents 
and with children, and was, therefore, uneducated, in order that he 
might form her to his own character. He had her instructed in 
literature and made skillful in all kinds of music, but just as he had 
almost m;jde her such a person as he would have liked to pass his 
life with, a premature death took her away, though not until after 
she had borne some children, of whom three girls, Margaret, Aloys, 
and Cecily, and one boy, John, survive. 

The girl whom he thus married was Jane Colt, the 
eldest daughter of John Colt, of Netherhall, near 
Roydon, In Essex. More began by loving her younger 
sister, who was the prettier, but, considering that it 
would be a shame to the elder to see her junior married 
first, he took Jane. They were married probably in 
1505, and set up housekeeping in a small house in one 
of the narrow streets of Bucklersbury, near Cheapside, 
London. Erasmus was in England during the first 
year of their married life, and perhaps himself wit- 
nessed what he tells of it, without mentioning names, 
in his Colloquy Uxor 9 first published in August, 1523:* 

*LB. i, 704; t*ui identification is due to Mr, P. S* Allen, London Times 
Literary Supplement, December 26, 1918. 


I know a man of good birth and education and singularly clever 
and tactful. He had married a young girl of seventeen, whose life 
had been spent without a break in her parents' home in the country, 
where noblemen usually like to reside, for hunting and hawking. 
He wished his bride quite undeveloped, that he might more easily 
mold her to his own tastes. He began to interest her in books and 
music, to accustom her to repeat the substance of sermons she heard, 
and to train her to other useful accomplishments. All this was 
quite new to the girl. She had been brought up at home in complete 
idleness, playing and talking to the servants. Very soon she began 
to be bored, and refused to comply. If her husband urged her, 
she would burst into tears; sometimes even throwing herself to 
the ground and beating her head on the floor, as though she wished 
to die. As this went on, the young man, concealing his vexation, 
suggested that they should pay a visit to her parents in the country, 
with which she joyfully fell in. On arrival he left her with her mother 
and sisters, and went off with her father to hunt. As soon as the two 
were alone, he told his story: how instead of the happy companion 
he had hoped for, he found his wife perpetually in tears and quite 
intractable; and he begged for assistance in curing her. 

"I have given her to you," was the reply, "and she is yours. 
If she doesn't obey you, use your rights and beat her into a better 
frame of mind." 

"I know," said the husband, "what my rights are; but I would 
rather the change were effected with your aid and authority, than 
resort to such extreme measures." 

The father consented, and after a day or two found an opportunity 
to speak with his daughter alone. Setting his face to severity he 

"You are a plain child, with no particular charm; and I used 
often to be afraid I should have difficulty in getting you a husband. 
After a great deal of trouble I found you one whom any woman 
might envy; a man who, if he weren't very kind, would hardly 
consider you worth having as a servant; and then you rebel against 

And with this he grew so angry that he seemed about to beat her: 
all of course, in pretense, for he is a clever actor. The girl was 
frightened, and also moved by the truth of what he had said. Fall- 
ing at his feet, she vowed to do better in future; and he promised 
continuance of his affection, if she would keep her word. Then 
returning to her husband, whom she found alone in his room, she 
fell down before him and said: 

"Until now I have known neither you nor myself. Henceforward 
you shall find me quite different: only forget what is past." 

He sealed her repentance with a kiss; and in this happy state of 
mind she continued till her death, Indeed, so great was the affection 


that grew up between them that there was nothing, however humble, 
that she would not do at his wish. Some years after she used fre- 
quently to congratulate herself on having such a husband: "without 
him," she would say, "I should be the most miserable of women." 

In another place Erasmus tells how More delighted 
his bride with a present of sham jewels, apparently 
letting her think them real. If the picture he gives of 
their married life is not the happiest possible, one must 
remember that deep love and joy came before the end. 
In the epitaph he wrote she was his "darling wife/' 

More was not long able to remain single [Erasmus continues], 
though advised to do so by his friends, but a few months 1 after 
the death of his first wife he married a widow, more to give care to 
his family than for his own pleasure ; for indeed he used to say 
in joke she was neither pretty nor a maiden, but a keen and vigilant 
matron. With her, nevertheless, he always lived as sweetly and 
amicably as if she had been ever so beautiful a girl. Hardly any 
husband obtains as much obedience from his wife by command as he 
does by blandishments and jokes. . . . With like amiability he 
rules his whole family, in which there is no tragic strife. . . . More 
never sends anyone away with enmity on either side. Indeed, 
happiness seems fated to this household, in which no one ever lived 
who was not carried on to better fortune, and none who has lived 
here has suffered any stain on his reputation. 

More's sec6nd wife was a certain Mrs. Alice Middleton, 
a widow with a daughter of her own. She had the 
reputation among his friends of being "a crook-beaked 
harpy." 2 Probably she had more to endure than 
Erasmus realized. Her gifted husband wrote that in 
Utopia husbands chastize their wives, and he also 
composed some epigrams on marriage that make pain- 
ful reading. In one of the harshest he declares that a 
wife is a heavy burden, but may be useful if she dies 
quickly and leaves her husband all her property. 3 

Though somewhat autocratic with his children, More 
loved them deeply, especially his gifted daughter 

1 Just one month, according to other authorities. 

2 Henry VIIFs Latin secretary, Ammonius, calls her this. Allen, ep. 451* 
* T. Mori Opera, 1689, p. 241. 


Margaret, and he was, in turn, adored by them. He 
instructed them all, girls as well as the boy* in Latin, 

making them so wonderfully proficient as to excite the 
admiration of Erasmus, to whom they all wrote letters. 1 
When Sir Thomas's fortune had grown great he built 
himself a house in Chelsea, then not part of the great 
city but a little suburb, which More called c *his country 
place/* Erasmus describes it and the family in a 
letter of I532. 2 

More built himself on the banks of the Thames not far from the 
city of London a country seat which was neither sordid nor invidi- 
ously magnificent, and yet ample; there he lives with his best friends, 
his wife* his son and daughter-in-law, three daughters and as many 
sons-in-law, with eleven grandchildren. . . . He loves his old wife 
as if she were a girl of fifteen. . . . You would say that his house 
was another Academy of Plato but I wrong his home in comparing 
it with Plato*s Academy, where questions of mathematics, and 
occasionally of morals, were discussed. Morels house should rather 
be called the school of the Christian religion. . . . There is no 
quarreling nor scolding; no one is idle. 

In his life of his friend, Erasmus adds : 

More is most averse from filthy lucre. He has applied to his 
children's wants as much as he thinks they need; the remainder 
he freely spends. Although deriving his income from legal business, 
yet he always gives true and friendly counsel to his clients, with an 
eye more to their advantage than to his own. He persuades most 
to settle their disputes out of court as the cheapest way. If they 
refuse to do so he indicates the way of least expense, even though his 
clients delight in litigation. In London, where he was bom, he was 
judge in civil cases for some years. As this office is little burden- 
some (for the court sits only on Thursday mornings) it is considered 
especially honorable. No judge ever decided more cases or more 
uprightly, so that he much endeared himself to his fellow citizens. . . . 

Once and again More has been sent on legations, in which he has 
borne himself so sagely that His Majesty Henry VIII never rested 
until he had drawn the man into his court. Why should I not say 
" drawn **? For no one ever strove harder to be admitted to a court 
than he Aid to keep out of it. For truly, when die excellent king 

1 To Bude, Anderiecht* 1521. Allen, ep. 

* Erasmus to Fabcr> Loud, xxvit, 8, LB. App. ep. 426. Though without 

date, it may S>e placed with much probability toward die end of 1532. 


purposed to surround himself with learned* grave, and wise men, 

among others lie came upon More* and became so intimate with 
that it seemed lie would never let him go. For if lie were serious 
he found no better counselor, or if he were minded to relax his 
with pleasant stories, he found no companion more festive. . . . Yet 
If ore never became in the least proud* but in the midst of such 
momentous business remembered his old friends and returned now 
and then to his beloved Eterature. ... 

But I pause to mention those studies which most recommended 
me to More and More to me. In his youth he chiefly devoted him- 
self to verse, but soon turned his attention to polishing his prose 
and practiced all kinds of composition. Why should I say how well 
he succeeded, especially to you who have his books in your hands? 
He especially delighted in declamations and preferred to take the 
harder side that he might thereby better exercise his talents. It 
was on this account that as a youth he wrote a dialogue to defend 
Plato's community of wives. He answered Luoan's Tyrannicide 
and wished to have me as an opponent in this argument so as to 
make his task ai the bander. He published the Utopm with the 
purpose of pointing out what was amiss in the state, especially in 
his own England. He wrote the second book fiist to while away 
the time, and later added the first book ex timpore* For this reason 
there is some inequality in the style, though you can hardly find 
anyone else who speaks better ex tempore, for a felicity of language 
accompanies his happily constituted mind. His intellect is ready 
and alert, his memory good and, as it were, well ordered, so that 
he can promptly recall whatever the time and subject require. 
In debate no one is more acute, so that he can often make the most 
eminent theologians work while discussing their own subjects with 
them. John Cblet, a man of sharp and exact Judgment, was wont 
to call him the unique genius of England, although there are many 
brilliant Englishmen. More is a man of true piety, though most 
averse from superstition. . . . He chats with his friends of a future 
life in such a way that one may know he speaks sincerely and not 
without good hope. Such is More, and yet some say good Christians 
can only be found in monasteries! 

The famous Utopia, here mentioned, is oae of the 
world's great books. It was largely written at the 
house of Peter Gilles, of Antwerp, while More was on 

one of the embassies spoken of by Erasmus. The 
manuscript must have been nearly complete when the 
Dutch scholar visited his English friend at London in 
the summer of 1516, but it was not sent to him for 


correction until September jd. 1 He carefully polished 
the style and added some notes, 2 while another friend 
of the author got an artist to draw a map of the imagi- 
nary country. 3 The first edition, under the title Utopia 
sive de Optimo reipublicae statu. . . . cum notis Erasmi, 
was printed at Antwerp in December, I5i6, 4 being 
intended as an etrenne (strena) or New- Year gift for 
the author's friends. 5 

Erasmus rarely spoke of the Utopia with praise, 
though, in forwarding the work to Froben, he did say 
that he always approved all of More's writings. 6 Another 
reference, of a rather ambiguous nature, was to the 
effect that in reading it one would find himself trans- 
ported to another world. 7 There may have been in it 
several things to shock him, as the statement that Chris- 
tianity, though known, was not the prevalent religion of 
the ideal state. Perhaps the humanist regarded this as one 
of the paradoxes which, like Plato's community of wives, 
the author inserted as an exercise for his genius. His mild 
censure of More's style, which, in its mixture of irony 
and earnest, was not uninfluenced by the Praise of Folly, 
is, coming from so fine a critic, worthy of consideration. 

But the fact is that the Utopia deals with a subject 
in which Erasmus had very little interest. Neither for 
the romantic framework, borrowed from Vespucci's 
travels, nor for the social problems at the kernel, did 
he have much understanding or sympathy. The New 
World meant little to him; the world of poverty and 

1 Allen, ep. 461. 

2 Allen, ep. 477; Nichols, ep* 464. The reading of the older editions, 
"nusquam adorno," must be corrected to "Nusquamam adorno," Nusquama 
being; the Latin name for Utopia, 

3 Allen, ep. 487. 

4 Bibtiotheca Erasmiana, Listes sornrnaires, in, p, 41. 

6 Erasmus speaks of the custom of Englishmen of giving their own works 
as strense; Allen, i, p, 8; ep, 187. To the references given by him in the notes, 
add Roger Ascham; The Schokmaster (1571), English Works of R. A^ 1761, 
p, 195: "I thought to prepare some little treatise for a New- Year gift/' 

6 Allen, ep. 635. 

7 Allen, ep* 530. 


toll and ignorance, nothing at all The Middle Ages 
had much charity for the disinherited of life, but no 
justice for them. In this Erasmus still belonged to 
the age from which some of his contemporaries were 
emerging. The German cities, exactly at this time, 
were beginning to take measures for state poor relief, 
soon to be discussed in a scientific treatise by the 
humanist's friend, Louis Vives. 1 But, save when they 
gave him alms, the rich and mighty of the earth re- 
garded the laborer as a sort of animal, "the ox without 
horns" to be harnessed to the plow when good, and to 
be hunted like a wild beast on the rare occasions when 
despair prompted him to rebel against his lords. The 
intellectuals made common cause with the masters. 
Diirer planned an arch of triumph to commemorate 
the suppression of the Peasants' Revolt; Luther and 
Melanchthon joined Albert, Archbishop of Mainz, and 
Matthew Lang, Archbishop of Salzburg, to beat down 
in blood and blows the wretched workers who rose in 
blind, almost animal fury, against intolerable wrongs. 
The spirit of the humanists was but too faithfully 
expressed in the Horatian verse, "I hate the vulgar 
crowd and I keep them off!" 

But the great heart of More went out to the people. 
He thought not of charity and state employment and 
all the other ways of dealing with paupers. He dreamed 
of a society where there should be no poor, where gold 
and jewels should be esteemed badges of shame, not 
of honor, and where all men should share and share 
alike. The sources of his inspiration were neither Plato's 
Republic nor the writings of Roman and Christian 
publicists, but his own experiences as lawyer, judge, 
and government officer. He knew too well that what 
we call government is but "a conspiracy of the rich 
seeking their own commodity under the name of the 

l D<f Subventions Pauperum,, by L. Vives, English translation Concerning the 
Relief of the Poor, by M. M. Sherwood, 1917. On the whole subject see my 
Age of the Reformation t 1920, pp. 557 IT, 


weal/ 1 He saw that the 

toward the poor Its incor- 

ruptible; the laws of as 

**irst thieves put to death." He 

denounced the inclosiires of by 

lords to wool for the so "sheep 

now become devoured of men." He 
for begging* monopoly* He 

the policy of war diplomacy* 

as the pathway to national power* denied 

states had one standard of morality individuals 

another. For poverty he suggested no palliatives* 
a socialistic communism as a remedy, being persuaded 
that if all men worked a few hours daily* there would 
be enough to provide for all without superfluity/ 

Not only in politics* but in other matters, the Uto- 
pians furnished an example of the highest enlightenment. 
They studied literature, music, arithmetic* geometry* 
and astronomy/* kit all that deceitful divination by the 
stars they never so much as dreamt of, though raaey f 
even among Christians, to-day believe it/* Miracles 
they regarded not as proofs of a particular religion, but 
merely as strange occurrences* or natural prodigies. 
They held that the chief felicity of man consisted isa 
pleasure, by which they meant the reasonable exercise 
of all man's powers* bodily and mental. 

In depicting their cult More fulfilled the dramatic 
exigencies of his story* and at the same time revealed 
his own broad-mindedness* by making it what would 
later have been called pure deism. Though this word did 
not obtain currency until the seventeenth century, the 
idea of a "natural "as opposed to a * c re veakd" religion 
was a very old one. Accordingly* the Utopians beieved 
in God and in the future Efe f though the author remarks 

1 Tiiere is a ine though not historically well founded, painting of Mote 
showing Henry VIII his Uiopw, with Erasmus standieg by. Tlbe artist if 
E, Gwnrett* and the original is in the home of W. HL Walker* Gwat Bar* 
Kingtoii, M astaclitBettf. It is iqpuDductd in Tke fntenuAiul S&mdt for 
September* 1917. 


that Christians doubted the latter article. The 

priests of Nowhere were few and holy, of both sexes* 
and allowed to marry. Their offerings were prayer and 
incense. Their two religious orders devoted themselves 
to useful and unpleasant work. Their tolerance was 
broad; none was persecuted for his opinions for they 
were persuaded that it was not in a man's power to 
believe what he list but those who denied the existence 
of Godj or the immortality of the soul, were debarred 
from public office. The benign effect of their rational 
polity and habits produced throughout their land a high 
level of virtue, far ahead of that attained in Christian 
countries. When Christianity was preached to them, 
however, they gladly welcomed what was good in it, and 
expelled only one missionary, whose zeal led him to 
declare that all who were not Christians would be 
damned, and to incite his followers to persecution. 
Him they exiled not for his faith but for sedition. 

Was Sir Thomas 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 
immortality? The zeal with which he cultivated the 
Catholic means of self-discipline, as well as his de- 
fense 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 vet 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. 
He seems to have been deeply influenced by Cardinal 
Nicholas of Cusa's tract On the Peace of the Faith. 1 

1 Nicolai Cusani De Pace Fidci. This was printed in a collection of his 
Tractatou certl* which has conjecturally been put by the catalogue of the 
British Museum, in 1505. I know it in the Paris reprint of 1514, at Harvard. 
This explanation of More's apparent inconsistency, which seems so cogent, 
was suggested to me by Prof. George Lincoln Burr. 


In this the great Catholic reformer of the fifteenth 
century tells of a man animated with excessive zeal, 
who persecuted the Turks beyond custom, but was 
finally led by a vision and by meditation to see various 
grounds for tolerating their religion. God had made 
them all, he reflected, and moreover, the vast majority 
of them had neither the opportunity nor the power to 
choose their own religion, but were forced into it by 
their governors and priests. He then heard, in imagi- 
nation, an Arab, a Hindu, a Chaldean, and represent- 
atives of many other religions, defending themselves, 
and pointing out some truth in their respective faiths. 
This view, that there were certain licensed religions, 
was even reflected in the public law of Europe, which 
subjected heretics, but not Jews, to the Inquisition. 

All this More imbibed, and all this made him ready 
not only to tolerate but to see good in a prescriptive 
faith, a venerable and long-established cult with vested 
interests and ancient beliefs. Very different were the 
heretics, who were innovators, rebels, seditious, and, 
into the bargain, often brawling and unreasonable and 
themselves persecuting. Moreover, It is unquestionable 
that More's liberalism was changed by advancing age 
and the experience of one vast, subverting revolu- 
tion. Like Luther and like Burke, More then became a 
reactionary. He came near to recanting his earlier 
opinions when he hoped that neither the Praise of 
Folly nor the Utopia would be translated into English, 
lest great harm should come from them. 1 Yes, the 
man who pointed out that one could not believe 
what he list, punished with stripes and death those 
who would have seceded from the Church. He de- 
clared that the burning of heretics was lawful, neces- 
sary, and well done, 2 and that of all crimes he considered 
heresy the worst. 8 He kept up a war of pens against 

1 Confutation of Tyndale, 1532-33, Workcs 1557, p. 422, 

2 Dialogue, Workes* 1557, pp. no, 274 ff 
* Apology, Workes, p. 866. 


the heresiarchs, writing against Luther in a style that 
Erasmus thought more bitter than Luther's own. 1 
He reviled Tewkesbury, who translated Luther's 
Christian Liberty and died for his faith, as "a stinking 
martyr/' 2 and he published long polemics against 
Tyndale, the translator of the Bible into English. When 
Tyndale defended himself by pointing out that many 
of his translations were suggested by Erasmus, More 
replied : 3 

He asketh me why I have not contended with Erasmus, whom 
he calleth my darling, of all this long while, for translating this 
word ecclesia into this word congregatio. And then he cometh forth 
with his fit proper taunt that I favor him of likelihood for making 
of his book Moria in my house. ... I have not contended with 
Erasmus, my darling, because I find no such malicious intent in 
Erasmus, my darling, as I find in Tyndale. 

After Erasmus had left England for the last time 
he occasionally saw More on the Continent. In the 
year 1520 the famous Englishman was sent upon an 
embassy to the Hanse Towns. From July igth to 
August 1 2th he was at Bruges, actively treating with 
the ambassadors of the Hansa, who noted his bland 
English - manners. 4 Earlier in July he had been with 
Erasmus at the "Congress of Kings" at Calais, and had 
there met Germaine de Brie, a Frenchman with whom 
he had long been waging a war of epigrams on the sub- 
ject of national honor. 5 Erasmus tried hard to reconcile 
the two, but in vain, at least until 1527, when Brie seems 
to have got over his spleen. 6 

Next to Thomas More, Erasmus's best friend in 
England was John Colet, to whom, as to a man of singular 

1 LB, x, 1652. The "tertius quidam'* must be More; see English Historical 
Review^ 1912, p. 673, note 23. 

2 On Tewkesbury, "News for Bibliophiles," The Nation (New York), May 
29, 1913. 

3 Confutation of Tyndale, Workes> pp. 422, 425. 

*IIanserffCffsre, 1477-1530, Band VII, 1905, bearbeitet von D. Schafer, 
no. 332. 

6 Allen, epp. 461, 1087, *93? ^096, 
8 Forstemann-GUnther, 67. 


goodness* he was introduced by Richard Chamock at 
Oxford in October* 1499. Of him, too s Erasmus has 
left a charming sketch, a biography so true 5 so beautiful* 
so vivid, that a good part of it must needs be quoted. 1 

Colet was born at London of honorable and wealthy parents. 
His fattier was twice mayor. His mother., yet livings a woman of 
great goodness, bore her husband eleven sons and as many daughters* 
of whom John was the eldest and would therefore have been the 
sole heir according to British law* even if the others had survived, 
but only one of them was alive when I irst began to know him. In 
addition to such advantages of fortune he had a distinguished and 
elegant person. As a youth at home he diligently learned scholastic 
philosophy and obtained the reputation of a proicient in the seven 
liberal arts. In all of these was he happily versed, for he devoured 
the books of Cicero and diligently searched the works of Plato and 
Plotinus, nor did he leave any part of mathematics untouched. 
After this eager commerce with good letters he went to France 
and Italy. There he gave himself to the study of sacred authors^ 
but after he had wandered through all kinds of literature, he still 
loved best the primitive writers, Dionysiiis Origen, Cyprian, Am- 
brose, and Jerome. Among the ancients he was more hostile to 
none than to Augustine. 8 

He even read Scotus and Aquinas when he had the opportunity. 
He was well versed in the Canon and Civil Laws. In short there was 
no book on the history and institutions of the past which he did not 
study. The English nation has authors who have accomplished 
that for her tongue which Dante and Petrarch have for Italian. 
By studying them he polished his speech so as to be able to preach 
the gospel. Returning from Italy, he soon left his parents* house, 
preferring to live at Oxford. There he publicly and without reward 
lectured on Paul's Epistles. Here I first began to know the man 
for some god or other sent me thither. He was about thirty years 
old, two or three months younger than I. In theology he neither 
took nor sought any degree, yet there was no doctor of theology or 
law nor any abbot nor other dignitary who did not attend his lectures 
and- bring with them their books. They may have done this to 

1 Allen, ep. 1211. 

***Nulii inter veteres iniquior quam Augustino**; it lias been proposed to 
translate this, "To none did he give greater attention than to Augustine/" 
for as a matter of fact Colet quotes Augustine more than anyone else, and 
with approval. J. HL Lupton: Colet on the Moiak Jccowttt of Creation^ intro- 
duction, xlv; Colet s Lectures on Romms* p. xxxix; Life of Cokt, 1887, p. 57* 
But I cannot; find any good lexical authority for so translating "imquior." 
Hie text is surprising, and is either corrupt or Erasmus's pen slipped and put 
in one too many negatives. But set Allen's note, lv f p. 515, Sine 273. 


Cbleifs authority or to encourage Ms zeal* bet at any rate 
old were not to learn a youth and doctors 

one not a doctor. Later the degree of doctor was 

honoris causa, fae took It to comply custom 

because fee desired It. ... 

Let me now make a few remarks about his nature, his paradoxical 
opinions* die trials fey which his natural piety was buffeted. 

Though endowed with a notably lofty which could brook no 

evil, yet he confessed to me that lie was Inclined to lust* luxury, 
and sleep* and not altogether safe from love of money. Against 
these temptations he fought with philosophy, sacred studies, watch- 
ing^ fasting, and prayer with such success that during Ms whole 
life lie remained pure from stains of the world. As far as I could 
gather from his conversation, lie kept the lower of his vugynity til 
Ms deatli. He spent his wealth In pious uses and struggled against 
pride, even allowing himself to be admonished by a boy. He drove 
away concupiscence and drowsiness by perpetual abstinence from 
food* by sobriety, by unwearied labors and holy conversation. 
Whenever diance forced film either to joke with the meoy or to 
converse with women or to participate in a rich banquet you might 
see traces of his natural bent. Therefore lie abstained fiom the society 
of laymen and even from their banquets, to which. If he were forced, 
he would take some one like me* so that he might avoid their con- 
versation by talking Latin. He would then eat a morse! of one 
kind of food only, with one or two drinks of beer, abstaining from 
wine* which, though lie took little, lie loved when good. Thus he 
kept guard on himself and abstained from all things by which he 
might offend. For he was not Ignorant that the eyes of al were 
upon him. I never saw a richer nature. He delighted In men of 
similar mind, though preferring to apply himself to the tilings that 
prepare for a future life. He philosophized in every oiciunstauice, 
even when he relaxed his mind with pleasant stories. The purity 
and simplicity of his nature found delight In boys and girls, for 
Christ summons his disciples to Imitate diem and compares them 
to angels. 

His opinions differed from those commonly held, but in these 
points he yielded with wonderful prudence lest lie should offend 
some one or damage his own reputation, for he was not Ignorant 
how unjust are the judgments of men and how prone to believe 
evil and how mucli easier It Is to contaminate a man's fame with 
slander than to restore It with praise. Yet among learned friends be 
freely professed what he thought. He said he considered the Scotists 
to whom the common herd attributed a peculiar acumen, stupid fools 
and anything but Ingenious. For to argue about the opinions and 
words of others, gnawing irst at this and then at that, and cut- 
ring up everything into little bits, is the work of a sterile and poor 


mind. He was more harsh to Thomas Aquinas even than to Scotus. 
Once when I praised Aquinas; . . . after a silence he looked sharply 
at me to see whether I spoke in earnest or in irony, and when he saw 
that I spoke from my mind, replied, as though filled with a certain 
spirit: "Why do you praise to me a man who, had he not had so 
much arrogance, would never have defined all things in such a rash 
and supercilious way, and who, had he not had a worldly spirit, 
would never have contaminated the doctrine of Christ with his 
profane philosophy?" I admired his earnestness and began to 
expound to him the work of Aquinas. What need of words? He 
entirely disagreed with my whole estimate. 

Though no one had more Christian piety, yet he cared little for 
monastic vows, gave little or nothing to monks and left them nothing 
at his death. Not that he disliked the profession, but that the men 
did not live up to it. He himself vowed to withdraw from the world 
if he could ever find a company sincerely dedicated to an evangelical 
life. He delegated this search to me when I went to Italy, saying 
that when he was in Italy he had found among the Italians some 
monks really prudent and pious. 1 . . . He was wont to say that he 
never found less vice than among married people, . . . and though 
he lived so chastely yet was he less hard on priests who offended 
in this point than on the proud, hateful, evil-speaking, slanderous, 
unlearned, vain, avaricious, and ambitious. ... He said that the 
numerous colleges 2 in England thwarted good studies and were 
nothing but temptations to idleness. 

The influence on Erasmus of this stimulating per- 
sonality was as immediate as it was profound. The 
sketch just quoted, written many years afterward, 
rightly mentions some of the points which particularly 
impressed him; Colet's love of primitive texts, and 
dislike for the later dogmaticians, Scotus, Aquinas, and 
even Augustine; his criticism of the monastic life. In 
a letter written shortly after their meeting Erasmus 
emphasizes some of these same points, heaping ridicule 
on the "new theologians" who have reduced divinity 
to absurdity, by asking and discussing questions such 
as, "Could God have become incarnate in a devil or in 

1 Colet was probably thinking of the "Platonic Academy n of Florence, the 
leading light of which, in his clay, was Pico de la Miranctola, On the saintly 
and beautiful lives of these men <r/, P, Monnier; Le Quattrocento, 1908, vol. 
ii, pp* 75 fF. He may possibly have also met Savonarola* 

2 In the original sense of foundations for poor students. 


an ass?" At the same time he upholds the authentic 
theology of the Bible and the fathers. From this time 
on we see him turning his attention more and more to 
Jerome, regarded as the champion of humanistic the- 
ology, to the Bible, and to the study of Greek. 1 

Erasmus, on his side, made a favorable impression 
on Colet, who soon suggested that his friend should 
place his talents at the disposition of the university by 
lecturing either on divinity or on poetry and rhetoric. 
Erasmus replied that the former he felt above his power 
and the latter below his purpose. 2 

A sample of the friends' conversations is given in 
some letters 3 on a serious theological topic, namely 
Christ's agony in the garden. Erasmus maintained the 
conventional view that it was due to Jesus* apprehension, 
as a man, of the suffering he was about to go through; 
Colet, following a hint of Jerome, that it was due to his 
sorrow at the crime about to be committed by the Jews. 
The admirable spirit of the discussion may be seen in 
the words of Erasmus, "that he would rather be con- 
quered than conquering that is, taught than teaching." 

When Erasmus returned to England in 1505 he re- 
newed his personal intercourse with Colet, to whom 
he wrote, just before his arrival expressing his ardent 
desire to devote his life to theology. 4 He found his 
friend in a new office, of which the account may best 
be given in Erasmus's own words: 5 

From his sacred labors at Oxford Colet was called to London 
by the favor of King Henry VII to be dean of St. Paul's, 6 that he 
might preside over the cathedral chapter of him whose writings 
he so much loved. This is a dignity of the first rank in England, 
even though others have larger emoluments. This excellent man, 
as though summoned to a labor rather than an honor, restored 

1 October, 1499. Allen, i, 246 fF. Cf, A. Humbert: Les origincs de la 
tMologie moderns, 1911, 184 ff. 

2 Allen, ep. 108; Nichols, ep. 108. 
8 Allen, epp. 109-111. 

* Allen, ep. 181; Nichols, ep. 180; December, 1504. 
6 Allen, ep, 1211. 

* Some time between June 20, 150=;, and June 20, 1506, Allen, iv, p. xxii. 


die of the chapter and the 

of every holy day in bis diiircSi^ delivering^ 

&Gitnon3 in the palace and elsewhere. In Ms homilies lie did 
take the text at random from the of the day, bat chose one 

line of aigument to which he for several consecutive dis- 

cwiises for example, the gospel of the the Lord's 

prayer. He drew large audiences, were of the 

chief men of the city and mint. He brought to tie 

table of the dean, wMdi pretext of hospitality had 

to luxury* Colet* according to Ms long-established custom, 
without the evening meal. At his late lunch fee had a few guests; 
the viands, though frugal, were dean and quickly served* and Ac 
conversation was such as to only good and learned men. 

After grace a boy would read aloud a chapter from the Epistles 
of Paul or from the Proverbs of Solomon. From these lie 
choose a passage, the meaning of which he would inquire both from 
the learned and from intelligent laymen. His words ? no matter 
how pious and serious* were never tedious or haughty. At the end 
of the meal, when all had eaten enough to satisfy nature, though 
not appetite, he Introduced another subject, so that his guests 
departed refreshed in mind and in body* better than when they 
came and not overloaded with food. If there was no one at hand 
able to converse (for lie delighted not in everyone) the 
read a passage of Scripture. 

He sometimes took me for a comrade on an outing "which lie 
enjoyed more than anything; else; a book was always our com- 
panion, and our words were only of Christ. He was so impatient 
of all that was low that he could not bear even a barbarism or solecism 
in speech. He strove for neatness in his household faritlttire, his 
table* his clothes, and his books, but not for magnificence. He 
wore only dark clothes* though commonly the priests and theologians 
there wore purple. The outer garment was of simple wool; when 
the cold required it he wore an inner garment of skin. 

The ocoine of his office he gave to his steward for household 
expenses; he himself applied his ample patrimony to pious uses. 
For when at his father's death he inherited a large fortune* fearing 
lest it might breed some Til in him if he kept it, he constructed a 
new school in the churchyard of St. Paul's, and dedicated it to the 
boy Jesus. He built a magnificent school-house in which two masters 
might live and he gave them a large salary that they might teach 
die boys gratuitously, but made the stipulation that only so many 
pupils should be received. He divided them into four classes. Into 
the first, that of catechumens, none were received who could not 
read and write. The second class was taught fay the under master, 
the third by the upper master. Each class was divided from the 
others by a curtain which could be drawn and withdrawn at pleasure. 


Above the chair of the preceptor sat the boy Jesus as though teaching. 

Him the whole class saluted on entering and at leaving. Above 
was the face of the Fattier saying* "Hear ye him," for Colet wrote 

these words at my suggestion. 1 In the rear was die chapeL There 
was no comer or nook in the whole school, nor separate dining and 
sleeping rooms. Each boy had Ms place. Each class had sixteen 
members, and the best scholars in each class were given higher 
seats. All applicants were not admitted, but a choice made according 
to nature and intelligence. That wise man saw that the main hope 
of the state was in good primary education. Much as the enterprise 
cost s he allowed no one to help him. When some one left the school 
one hundred pounds by will, Colet, knowing that the laity would 
thereby arrogate some rights or other, got permission from his 
bishop to apply the bequest to buying sacred garments for cathedral 
use. For trustees of the school he selected neither priests, nor a 
bishop and chapter, but some married citizens of good reputation. 
To some one who asked him why he did this he replied that, though 
nothing was certain in human affairs, less corruption was found in 
such men than in others. 

No one disapproved the school, but some wondered why he built 
a magnificent house in the gardens of the Carthusian monks near 
the palace at Richmond. He said that he prepared this seat for his 
old age when he should be unequal to work or broken down with 
illness and forced to withdraw from the companionship of men. 
There he intended to study philosophy with two or three good friends, 
among whom he was wont to number me, but death prevented his 

When Colet died in Septembers, 1519, Erasmus wrote 
to Fisher? 

The death of Colet has been as bitter to me as the death of any 
man within thirty years. I know that it is well with him, that 
he is free from the calamities of this wicked world and enjoying 
Christ, whom he loved so well while alive. Yet on behalf of the 
public I must needs deplore so rare an example of Christian piety, 
and so singular a preacher of Christ's doctrine, and on my own 
behalf the loss of so constant a friend and so incomparable a patron. 
All that is left to me is to discharge the offices due to the beloved 
dead; if my writings have power I shall not suffer his memory 
to die away among posterity. 

1 For this school Erasmus wrote a Sermon 00 the Boy Jesus, which was 
soon translated into English and has been edited by ]- H. Lupton In 1901, 
as JSwifit Concio de pvtro Jesn. A sermon on the child Jims . . . in an M 
English version of nnknwm Authorship, 

'October 17, 1519. Allen, cp, 1030. 


In pursuance of his intention of writing a biography 
of his friend, Erasmus asked Lupset and others to send 
him materials. 1 When he finally accomplished his 
purpose, two years later, he was not fully satisfied with 
the result. He wrote to Lupset: 2 

I have gathered up Colet' s life in an epistle; if it seems too drab, 
part of the fault is yours for not giving me information colored more 
like the man. No one could have done this better than you. If 
you had only made a proper selection of facts, I should greatly have 
approved the manner in which you set them forth. 

By dying when he did Colet escaped the storm of 
the Reformation. There is good reason to conjecture 
that he approved Luther's first steps, 3 though, had he 
lived, it is impossible to say what his subsequent feeling 
would have been. 

1 October 16, 1519. Allen, ep. 1026. 

2 August 23, 1521. Allen, ep. 1229. 

3 Erasmus sent Colet Luther's Theses on March 5, 1518 (Allen, ep. 786). 
His answer is lost. On May 30, 1519, Erasmus wrote Luther that he had 
powerful supporters in England. As Erasmus could hardly have meant More 
or Wolsey or Warharn, may he not have been thinking of the Dean of St. 
Paul's? Colet's life has been written, and many of his works have been edited, 
by J. H. Lupton. (The Life, 1887). See also; F. Seebohm: The Oxford 
Reformers, Colel, Erasmus, and MOTS, 1864. 



SINCE the timeof ./Eneas many wanderers have sought 
the shores of Italy. Some, like Hannibal and Con- 
stantine, have come to found new empires; some, like 
Pythagoras and Paul, to sow the seeds of new religions. 
But in modern times pilgrims have mostly sought in 
Italy the glories of times gone by. The shimmering 
Ausonian haze still flames with the afterglow of an 
ancient splendor. The noontide sun of Roman dominion 
has been followed by a sunset of unparalleled beauty 
and brilliance. The Eternal City was the political 
center of the antique world and the religious center of 
the mediaeval world. Most of what we call history has 
happened within a radius of nine hundred miles from 
the Capitol: 90 per cent of the story of our race is 
told about i per cent of the surface of the globe. 

Many were the motives which sent the contemporaries 
of Erasmus to Italy. Luther went as a pilgrim to the 
apostolic shrines: Diirer to study painting; Colet and 
Lefevre d'll/taples to learn philosophy; Copernicus to 
gather information on the ancient astronomers; Rabelais 
and Hutten to taste a richer civilization than they found 
at home. Erasmus says that the purpose of his visit 
was partly to see the sacred places, partly to explore the 
libraries and to enjoy the society of the learned. 1 In 
letters of a much earlier date he professes the practical 
motive of taking his doctor's degree at an Italian 
university. 2 

The long-sought opportunity came to him at last in 

1 Allen, ep. 809, April 5, 1518. 

2 Allen, ep, 75; Nichols, ep. 71. 1498. 



1506* when John Baptist Boerlo, the Italian physician 
of Henry VII, offered him the position of tutor to his 
sons, John and Bernard^ whom he was sending to Italy 
to complete their education. 1 The boys are variously 
described as extremely dull, 2 and as modest^ docile, 
and industrious. 3 They had with them another tutor 
named CIifton > an amiable young man. 

From Paris the party set out southward, the road 
lying through Lyons, The favorable impression made 
by the excellent inns of France is recorded in the 

One could not be better treated at his owe house than at these 
inns. ... At table some woman is always present to enliven the 
meal with her charming humor and courtesy. The first one to meet 
you is the landlady, who salutes you, bids you be merry and excuse 
whatever you may find amiss. Then follows the daughter, an 
elegant person, so gay in speech and manners that she might cheer 
up Cato himself. They converse not as with strange gut* .s> but 
as with familiar friends. . . . The provisions, too, are splendid; 
I can't understand how they do it at so small a price. . . They 
wash your soiled linen of their own accord, and finally embrace you 
at parting with as much affection as if you were their own brothers. 

From Lyons the party proceeded through Savoy and 
the Mont Cenis to Turin. As they were crossing the 

pass a violent quarrel arose between the pursuivant of 
the king of England and Clifton, 5 which was later made 
up over a bottle of wine. Seeing this conduct, Erasmus 
conceived a strong dislike for them both, and avoided 
their company, whiling away his time by composing a 
poem on old age. 6 

Turin* the capital of the Dukedom of Savoy, was the 
seat of a small and not very flourishing university/ 

1 Alien, i, p. 59; Nichols, i, p. 28. B. Rhenanus to Charles V. 

* Nolhatc: Correspondents tfAlle Manuce, 1 888, p* 78. 
8 Allen, ep. 195; Nichols, ep, 195. 

* LB. i, p. ?*$. 

* Catalogue of Lucubrations* Allen, i, p. 4; Nichols, i, p. 416* 
8 Carmen e $enect<Mis incommodis* LB. iv, 750 ff. 

7 On Turin, Rashdall: Universities, ii, pp. 56-58. There was a Renaissance 
church at Turk, completed 1498, but Erasmus was not interested. 


There to be an old joke in Germany the 

an at for the passengers to 

degrees* and evidently the of Turin were 

exacting. possibly Clifton 

doctorates while passing-through. Erasmus 

was by no of his mater; he worded 

his letters to give the impression* absolutely 

so* that he at the more 

University of Bologna. His diploma/ dated 

September 4* 1506, states that Baldesar de Bemeci f 

Archbishop of Laodicea* vicegerent and vicar general of 

John Lewis della Rovere* Bishop of Turin, 2 and specially 

deputed vice chancellor of the university, having found 

the candidate sufficient* grants the degrees of 

master and doctor in theology. 

Descending the Po to Pavia* the party had the op- 
portunity of seeing some of the inest specimens of 
Renaissance architecture for example* the cathedral 
and one of the university buildings begun by Liidovico 
il Moro in 1490. Five miles north of the city stands 
the famous Certosa. The nave of the cathedral* begun 
in 1396* was completed in Gothic style in 1465: but 
the rest of the church is of more modem fashion. The 
cloisters and transepts had already been built in 1506, 
and the facade was erected the next year. The work of a 
number of different artists, it is often considered the 
most elaborate and richly adorned example of its style 
in existence. Erasmus saw the wonderful monument, 
but was impressed by the enormous expense* rather than 
by the beauty of the thing, and by the pride, rather than 
the piety* which made the rich desire sepulture in it. 4 

a Printed from Erasmiufc WB ospy in Epistofa famSKares IX J&fwiwt Rat. 

ml Mmifttcinm Jmi&aiMtm, 1779, no. I, and in Viscfeer: Mr&smtm*, 1876, 

P- 7' 
* Doubtless a Hnsraati of tlic then reigning Pope Jufiw II, from wboai 

Efasroos had just procured a dispensation. Pciiwps tins explains EnomnsT* 
couise in stopping at Turin* and Ws reception there. 
*Mneyi!0paim Bntaunca* s. w. 


Proceeding to Bologna, the travelers were soon obliged 
to leave by the threat of a French army demonstrating 
against the town, and to take refuge at Florence. 1 
Italy was now the bone of contention between greater 
powers, the Empire, France, and Spain. While Spain 
was firmly established in the south, Louis XII of France 
was marching up and down, seeking what he could 
devour in the north. Only the great states, the Papacy 
and Venice, withstood his arms. Florence, under the 
guidance of Machiavelli, enjoyed a somewhat precarious 
neutrality, a buffer state between the powers of the 
Golden Lilies, the Keys, and the Lions and Castles. 

At Florence Erasmus was at the very heart of the 
Renaissance. Hardly a great name either in art or in 
literature that was not in some way connected with 
her. Her cathedral and her marvelous churches stood 
in 1507 much as they do now; they and her private 
houses were enriched then, as now, with paintings and 
statues of transcendent loveliness. But Erasmus never 
mentioned the Duomo or the Badia, Santo Spirito or 
Santa Maria Novella, the Campanile or the Baptistry, 
or the various palaces and public squares. He spoke 
of Dante and Petrarch as having done great things for 
the vernacular, and he knew that some men spent their 
lives expounding them. 2 He said that he had read 
Petrarch, Poggio, Filelfo, and Aretino; presumably he 
meant their Latin, not their Italian works. 8 He thought 
Petrarch's style barbarous. 4 He mentioned Savonarola 
several times, though cursorily, as one who had the 
gift of prophecy. 5 The works of the great artists he 
never described specifically, but only in the most general 
way, showing that he was familiar with their favorite 
subjects. The libraries of the humanists at Rome, he 
observed, were full of pagan rather than of Christian 

1 Alien, epp. 200-202; Nichols, epp. 198-200. 

* LB, v, 954, and letter to Jonas, 1521. Allen, ep 1211. 

* Lond. xxvli, 38; LB. ep. 1284. To Damian a Goes, August 18, 1535. 
4 Cicerontanus, LB. i, ioo8E. 

B LB. v, 954, 985. 

ITALY 105 

art; In such places one saw Jupiter slipping through the 
skylight into the lap of Danae rather than Gabriel an- 
nouncing the conception to the Virgin Mary, Ganymede 
stolen by the eagle rather than Christ ascending to 
heaven, Bacchanalia and festivals of Terminus rather 
than the raising of Lazarus or the baptism of Jesus 
by John. 1 

From Florence the party was soon enabled to return 
to Bologna, attractive as the seat of one of the oldest 
and most famous universities in Europe. Though the 
students were numerous, the academy had no fixed 
buildings of its own, the professors lecturing at their 
own houses. Bologna had just been at war with its 
overlord, the pope, and the martial pontiff, Julius II, 
had just conquered It. Erasmus was in time to witness 
his triumphal entry. 2 It occurred on November II, 
1506, the lovely Italian weather still permitting the 
roses to bloom. The pageant was a perfect specimen 
of the festive art of the Renaissance. Thirteen triumphal 
arches had been erected, bearing the Inscription: "To 
Julius II, our liberator and most beneficent father." 
First came the cavalry, the men at arms, and the 
regimental bands. Then followed the papal officers, 
the cardinals walking immediately in front of Julius, 
who was carried in a chair of state, resplendently clad 
in a purple cope shot with gold thread and fastened 
with gems. He was followed by the patriarchs, arch- 
bishops, bishops, generals of the orders, and papal 
guard. The crowd of spectators was Immense. 3 

1 Ciceronianus, transl. by Scott, p. 75. From such allusions it is impossible 
to say what pictures Erasmus had in mind. The famous "Danaes" of Titian 
and Corre&gio came later; the "Annunciation" had been treated by Giotto, 
Moretto, Fra Angelico, Solario (1508), and many others; the "Ganymede" 
of Correggio came later; the "Ascension" had been treated by Mantegna and 
others; Titian's " Bacchanal " was painted in 1514, though there was one by 
Piero di Cosimo painted c. 1485; there were many baptisms of Jesus. 

8 Allen, ep. 203; Nichols, ep. 201, 

8 Pastor: History of the Popes (English transl. by Antrobus, 1898) vi, 281. 
On November 29th the Pope had an interview with Michelangelo in Bologna. 
Ibid., 510. 


of being Impressed by the of the 

spectacle* Erasmus was scandalized by seeing the Vicar 
of Christ celebrating bloody surveyed the 

whole with a silent groan. 1 His deep 

contempt for the man who thus the Church 

found expression* a few years later* in a 
in which Julius is represented as in admis- 

sion to heaven on the that his 

had aggrandized the Roman Church. 2 It is possible 
that Erasmus may also have the pope*s 

triumphal entry into Rome* on Palm Sunday* March 28* 
I57 a spectacle which even the 

procession at Bologna. 3 

Most of the year, however* he spent at Bologna 
in study. Though disappointed in not finding there 
anyone acquainted with Greek* he made several good 
friends among the scholars, the best of whom was the 
accompished Paul Bombasius* at this time a professor* 
later secretary to Cardinal Pucci and then to Clement 
VII. 4 

Erasmus had hitherto worn the dress of an Augustinian 
canon, consisting of a long black gown, a capuce^ or 
black mantle* and a white hood carried over the arm 
like a scarf. 5 It happened that at Bologna at this time 
the dress of the physicians who attended victims of the 
plague was very similar. On one occasion Erasmus was 
actually taken for a physician* and would have been 
mobbed by a crowd of citizens who feared he was 
bringing in contagion, had not a kind lady explained 
to them that he was an ecclesiastic. He therefore 
hastened to get permission from the pope to wear the 

* Jpol0gw wfo. Stmntc&my JLB. vc, 360. 

1 On this dialogue^ see next chapter, pp. 127 

* L. Pastor: History of ike Popes. (English translation by Antrobus), T^, 

281, 287. 

* ASSera, epp* 210, 2x7, 223* 251, 257; Nichols, i, pp. 426-427. 

s These clothes might be of various colors, black white, violet or red. Cf* 
KwfanUywnk 1883, II, p. 1829. On the Incident, Allen, i, pp. 59, 60* 571, 
is PP- 3<H ft Nichols, I p. 29, i% pp. 14 

simple dress of a priest* which he kept during his sub- 
sequent life. 

The year at Bologna was, as usual, filled with literary 
work. Wishing to have some of his lucubrations pub- 
lished^ Erasmus was naturally attracted by the fame 
of the Venetian printer, Aldo Manuzio. To be a pub- 
lisher in the sixteenth century was to be a member of 
a learned profession engaged in the diffusion of science 
and culture. Among the brilliant men who devoted 
themselves to printing in its infancy none has attained 
a juster renown than Aldo. Born just as Gutenberg 
was making his momentous discovery (1450), Manuzio 
gave himself a thorough training in Greek and Latin, 
spending his earlier years in teaching. In 1490 he moved 
to Venice, and before his death, in 1515, he had printed 
twenty-eight editiones principes of Greek and Latin 
classics, besides many reprints and other publications. 
Deficient as some of these editions may seem in the 
light of modern scholarship, only a man of rare abilities 
and learning could have produced them at all. In 
beauty and durability of paper, type, and binding, his 
work has never been surpassed by all the appliances of 
twentieth-century mechanics. There was, therefore, 
no hyperbolical compliment in Erasmus's letter to Aldo, 
requesting that his works might be made sure of im- 
mortality by being published by him. A favorable 
answer brought the humanist to Venice in November, 
1507, where he spent just about a year, 1 during which 
time he was the guest of Aldo for about eight months. 1 
Here he published a new edition of Adages* in handsome 

Aldo had gathered around him a number of learned 
collaborators, among them the Greeks Marcus Musurus 
and John Lascaris, who formed a society, devoted to 
letters and philosophy, known as the Neacademia. 

1 Alan, cpp. 207, 208. Of. Cambridge Modern ffisfory, jy 564; P. 4e Nolhac: 
lesCorresprndmtotf JlfoMimiie 9 i$$$ P.deNolhac: 

LB. 0,1137. 


This society was extremely congenial to Erasmus, who, 
as a matter of course, was admitted to membership. 
In one of his Adages he relates the kindness of these 
friends in lending him manuscripts and assisting him 
with his Greek, and especially commends the noble care 
of Aldo to have his edition as perfect as possible. 1 One 
of the scholars whom he especially mentioned in this 
connection was Jerome Aleander, a young man of 
twenty-seven, whose knowledge of Hebrew and Greek 
had already won him distinction and who was to win a 
still wider renown by the part he subsequently played 
as papal nuncio at the Diet of Worms. At that later 
time Erasmus conceived a deep hatred and suspicion 
of him, but at Venice their relations were so warm that 
they shared the same room for six months, and when 
the Italian departed for Paris, in 1508, he was given 
valuable introductions by his friend. 2 

If Erasmus was satisfied with the conditions under 
which he worked, he was not at all contented with the 
Venetian manner of life. In one of his Colloquies he 
has given us a comically doleful picture of the hardships 
he suffered in Aldo's house. One grievance was that 
roots were burned as fuel, making nothing but smoke; 
another was that the women were kept apart from the 
men. In summer the house was overrun with fleas and 
bugs. The wine was made by adding water to dregs 
of ten years* standing. The bread, made of spoiled 
flour twice a month, became as hard as rocks. There 
was no breakfast; and dinner, which north of the Alps 
was usually served at ten in the morning, was kept 
waiting till one. After every excuse for delay had been 
exhausted a dish of tallowlike mush would be brought 
in. Though there were nine at table, the next course 
would consist of seven leaves of lettuce dressed in vinegar 

1 In the Adage, Festina knte, which first appeared in the edition of 1526, 
LB, ii, 405; Nichols, i, 437 ff, quoted supra, p. 42* 

2 Allen, ep. 256. P. KalkofF; Depeschcn des Nuntius Aleander m Worms, 
*897> p. 74. Letter of Aleander, February 8, 1521. Paquier: L'Humanisme 
ct la, Reforme, 1900, p. 27, 

ITALY 109 

without oil. The desert was a little cheese with three 
pennyworth of grapes. But worse was yet to come! 
In the autumn the fare consisted of small portions of 
shellfish drawn from the sewers. When the guest com- 
plained of these he was given soup made of the rinds 
of cheese, followed by a bit of meat, taken, two weeks 
previously, from the viscera of an ancient cow. The 
batter with which it was covered was just enough to 
deceive the eye, but not the nose. And when the guest 
still complained his host hired a doctor to advise him 
to eat less! And yet this miser, to whom Erasmus 
gave a fictitious, but perfectly transparent name, made 
a thousand ducats a year! 1 

Making due allowance for humor and rhetoric, it is 
evident that the full-blooded Dutchman was very ill 
satisfied with the frugal fare of the Italians. They on 
their side marveled at his capacity for food and drink. 
Many years later an enemy, who perhaps got his 
information from Aleander, represented Erasmus as 
both the servant and parasite of Aldo, and one who 
"though doing only the work of half a man, was thrice 
a Geryon for drinking, under the pretext that he needed 
the stimulant/' 2 Exaggerated as this charge must be, 
it is a fact that Erasmus first felt at Venice the symptoms 
of the then common disease known as the stone, which 
he attributed to the poor food, but which is in reality 
aggravated, if not caused, by the too exclusive use of 
alcoholic beverages. 3 

At Venice, as at Florence, Erasmus was a little blind 
to the wonderful art of his contemporaries, Bellini, 
Carpaccio, Giorgione, Palma Vecchio, and Titian, none 
of whom he seems to have met, and whose works he 
never mentions. 

In October or November, 1508, Erasmus left Venice 

1 The Colloquy "Sordid Wealth," LB. i, 862 ff. 

2 J. C, ScaHger: Oratio pro Cicerone contra Erasmwn> 1531. Quoted S>y 
Noihac: rasme en Italu, p. 37. Cf. Apologia ad XX IP libros Alberti Pn. 
LB. ix, 1136 f; Nichols, i, pp. 446-448. 

3 Erasmus to Asola, March 18, 1523, Noihac, p. 107, no. 5. 


for Padtia ? the university town, or 9 as Reliant calls it, 
**the Latin quarter 5 ' of the great maritime republic. 
Here he became tutor to Alexander Stuart, a natural 
son of James IV of Scotland, who was already appointed 
to the archiepiscopal see of St. Andrews. 1 The relations 
of the two seem to have been pleasant and intimate, 
Erasmus highly praises the personal appearance and 
accomplishments of his pupil 2 and relates how the lad 
amused himself by imitating his teacher's handwriting. 3 
Besides Latin and Greek with the humanist, he was 
reading canon law with another preceptor, and devoting 
his leisure to history. In 1508 Alexander was joined 
by his younger brother, also a natural son of the king 
of Scotland, James Stuart, Earl of Moray, for whom, 
many years after, Erasmus continued to make affec- 
tionate inquiries. 4 

In December, 1508, the party went to Ferrara, famous 
for the poets patronized by the house of Este. The 
northern scholar apparently saw neither the poets nor 
the princes. One of the most famous scions of the ducal 
family was Isabella d'Este, who had married a Gonzaga, 
marquis of Mantua. She kept up relations with Ferrara, 
and also with Florence and Bologna during these years. 
In 1537 Cardinal Bembo noticed a protrait of Erasmus 
in her castle at Mantua, but this had almost certainly 
been sent to her from Germany in I52I. B Erasmus did, 
however, meet there a famous scholar, Celio Calcageini 6 
who weclomed him with an oration. Calcagnini was 

1 On Alexander Stuart, who fell with his father at Fbdden, September 9, 
1513, see J. Herkless and R. K. Hannay: The JrchUshops of Sf. Andrews, 
i t 215 ff, an<! Allen, ep. 604, 2, note. 

*LB. il, 5546, Ada& 9 "Spartarn nactus es, hanc oraa." 

* To Pirckheimer, 1528, LB iii, col loySB. 

*To Hector Boece, LB. i, unnumbered page (anno 1550). 

8 On Isabella d'Este, the life in two volumes by Julia Cartwrigbt, 1903; 
on this portrait, ibid., ii, 378. V, Cian: Giomale Storico della Lett* Ital%a.n& 
1887, ix, S3 1. The painting, together with one of Luther, was probably sent 
Frederic Gonzaga by his agent at Worms, See Preserved Smith; "Some 
Early Pictures of Luther," Scriknrft Magmne, July, 1913, p. 244. 

6 Allen, iii, p. 26. 


a recently 31, 1503) 

his in at Ferrara* 

wrote a notable wort^of whica 
sunrived : That the sky stands still 
the moves. Long their first he 

their relations by means of 

letters. In his work on Free Will Calcagnini praised 
Erasmuses book on the same subject/ and was rewarded 
by compliments to himself in subsequent editions of the 
Jtdagis in the Ciceronianns^ for which he wrote to 
thank the author. 1 At the same time he endeavored to 
protect the humanist from Catholic attacks that threat- 
ened in later life. 1 

After stopping only a few days at Ferrara, the royal 
youths were taken by their preceptors to Siena. At 
Carnival time* February, 1509, they saw a curious bull- 
fight, in which the animal was confronted not by a 
swordsman or by a mounted lancer^ but by wooden 
images of various beasts, moved by men hidden inside 
them. 4 At Siena Erasmus met Richard Pace/ now a 
student at Padua and later a trusted diplomatic agent 
of Henry VIII. Another new acquaintance was James 
Pi$o ambassador of Hungary to Julius^ who found at 
a bookseller's a manuscript codex of Erasmus's epistles, 
which he bought and returned to the author. Not 
thinking at that time of publishing his correspondence, 
the humanist bunted the manuscript. While recuperat- 
ing from an illness he wrote a Declamation on Death, 
later published. 7 

In the spring of 1509 Erasmus went to Rome. 8 The 

* C. C^crngmini Optra &J%m^ 1544, p. 395 f s to Bonawmttira 
Ferran,. January si-Si, 1525. 

9 Crfcagpliil to Erasmii% Septemlier 17, 1533. JU, p. i66L 
i to Augustine Eugtibiniu^ no date; *&, p. 149. 

3 Allen, eg. ziex 

Allen, ep. 16: LB. cp. 507. 

7 AJlen ep. 604. 

1 On tihe ctiFosioIogy of Erasmus's moement% cf~ Allen, % p. 452. He can 
be traced in Rome on April 6A and! April jotta. 


town 5 of about 40,000 inhabitants, could not com- 
pare in size or wealth with Florence (100,000) or Venice 
(167,000), still less with Paris. Save for the papal 
court, it was a city of the dead, living on memories of 
its great past. "Without the curia Rome would resemble 
a desert rather than a city/' said Paul Jovius, and 
Erasmus expressed much the same opinion. 1 "Rome 
is not" he once exclaimed, "she has nothing but ruins 
and rubbish, the scars and vestiges of her former calami- 
ties." 2 These ruins occupied more ground than the 
inhabited region and among them wandered goats 
fit symbol of desolation. Visible remains of the world's 
capital of a bygone age were the baths and theaters, 
the Colosseum and many temples. It is remarkable 
that while Luther's table talk has many references to 
the antiquities he saw in 1510, Erasmus seldom speaks 
of them. In fact, it is a comment on the indifference to 
archaeological research of the greatest scholar of Northern 
Europe that he did not know where the site of the 
Capitol was, though the spot was then, as now, pointed 
out to the traveler. 3 

The humanist did not, however, strike Rome quite 
at the nadir of her glory. Half a century earlier she 
had been still more squalid and neglected, but the popes 
of the Renaissance had begun to make broader streets, 
handsome squares, and beautiful buildings. The im- 
provement received a great impulse from Julius II, 
who brought from Florence and other cities the best 
artists to beautify his city. Resolved to erect a new 
and splendid church fit for the capital of Christendom, 
he employed Bramante to make the plans. This architect, 
with the superb self-confidence of the new age and its 
contempt for the mediaeval 'style, began by destroying 
the ancient St. Peter's and other monuments to such 

1 On Rome in 1509, cf, E. Rodocanachi: Rome au Umps de Jules 11 ft de 
Leon X, 1912. H. Bohmer: Luthers Romfahrt r 1914, pp. 88-158. 

* LB. i, ro*6F. 

* Allen, ep. 710; Nichols, ep. 683, November 13, 1517. C/. Mirdbili* 
Urbts Romae, translated by F, M. Nichols, x88<), pp. 16, 88, 


an extent that his contemporaries dubbed him "Ruin- 
ante." In 1509 the tribune and nave of the old church 
were still standing, while of the new only a beginning 
had been made. In this year Michelangelo was working 
on the Sistine Chapel, and Raphael had commenced 
decorating the Stanza della Segnatura. The Vatican 
palace had been restored on a magnificent scale by 
Nicholas V (1477), but was further enlarged by Julius II. 
Bramante drew plans for two corridors from the old 
Vatican to the Belvedere Place; the space between 
them, 70 yards by 327 yards, was divided into two 
courts, one of which was to make an arena for bull- 
fights and tournaments. 1 Though the work was not 
completed until 1511, it is possibly here that Erasmus 
saw a spectacle which he describes. 2 "I was drawn to 
it," says he: 

by friends, for of myself I never take pleasure in these bloody 
games, the relics of pagan antiquity. In the interval between the 
killing of one bull and the bringing out of another, a marked clown 
leaped into the midst, with his left hand wound in a cloak and with 
the right brandishing a sword; he went through all the gestures 
of real toreadors, coming up, retreating, and pretending to fight. . . . 
This man's jokes pleased me more than the deeds of the others. 3 

This reminiscence serves to remind us that the Curia 
was one of the gayest courts in Europe. The cardinals 
had splendid palaces in the Borgo the one good quarter 
of the city and lived like worldly princes. Erasmus 
knew several of them, Domenico Grimani, who, with 
18,000 ducats a year, received the humanist affably, 
not as a man of humble rank, 4 but as a colleague, and 
Raphael Riario, Cardinal of St. George, 5 one of the most 

1 L. Pastor: History of the Popes, English transl. ed. by Antrobus, vi, 484. 

> LB. x, 1754- 

'The brutal sport was finally prohibited by Pius V in 1567, See Lecky: 
History of Rationalism^ i, 303. 

*To Eugubinus, March 26, 1531. Lond. xxvi, 34; LB. iii, col. 1374 f; 
Nichols, i, p. 461. 

6 Allen, epp, 333, 334; Nichols, epp. 318, 319, Allen, i, p, 568. 


powerful men at Rome, He also met Cardinal de s 
Medici, later Clement VII. 1 

Of the venality of the papal court he saw something. 
He knew a man who made his living by fraudulent 
dealing in benefices and had once cheated an applicant 
for an Irish bishopric, by making him pay for an appoint- 
ment to a see that was not vacant. 2 Erasmus must have 
seen many of the relics, mostly spurious and often 
absurd, with which the Holy City was filled, for his works 
are full of allusions to such things. He witnessed the 
blasphemies, 3 and also the levities, indulged in by 
unworthy priests. On Good Friday, 1509, he heard a 
sermon delivered by the celebrated Latinist, Inghirami, 4 
nominally on the death of Christ, but really stuffed 
with fulsome flattery of Julius II, served up in the 
purest Ciceronian rhetoric. The preacher, who neither 
understood nor cared for his solemn subject, delighted 
only to exhibit his learning by comparing the Saviour 
in turn to Curtius, to Cecrops, to Aristides, and to 

A severe moral judgment is occasionally expressed 
in the Dutchman's allusions to Rome. 5 The town was 
full of demi-mondaines, some of whom lived in splendor, 
like Greek Hetaerae, the friends of great men, and the 
objects of poets* adulation. They often took classical 
names, as Irnperia, Polyxena, or Penthesilea. It was 
perhaps with an eye to one of them, or possibly to the 
scandalous repute of Lucretia Borgia, that Erasmus 
gave the name Lucretia to the harlot of one of his 
Colloquies. In this same dialogue the woman expresses 

1 Letter of Medici to Aleander, autumn, 1521, instructing Aleander to treat 
Erasmus considerately, Balan: Monumenta Reformationis Lutheran, 1884, 
no. 53 j Lamrner: Monumenta Vatican, 1861, pp. I ff". 

* De Lingua, LB, iv, 711. 

a LB. i, 732C. 

4 Ciceronianus, LB. i, 993 f; cf. Rodocanachi, p. 138. A portrait of Inghi- 
rami by Raphael is at Fenway Court, Boston, Massachusetts, 

6 LB. iv, 483. Praise of Polly. Nichols, ii, 6 ff. 

6 LB. f> 718 ff. On these women see E, Rodocanachi: Courtisants et Bouffons, 


the opinion that all men who visit Rome are made 
worse thereby, and the youth who is talking to her 
replies that he ? personally, has been saved by the New 
Testament of Erasmus. 

Although the Italian jealousy of foreigners later gave 
rise to the rumor that Christopher Longueil, who was 
copying manuscripts, was paid by Erasmus and Bude 
to rob Rome of her literary treasures, 1 the northern 
scholar speaks well of his opportunities for study. His 
literary work in the Holy City, however, was confined 
to the composition of two orations, one in favor of 
making war on Venice, and one against that policy, both 
written at the express desire of Cardinal Riario for the 
pope. Though the author put more heart into the plea 
for peace, the other won the day. 2 

Of his general impression of Rome, Erasmus wrote 
three years later to his friend Robert Guibe, a Breton 
resident in the city: 

Had I not torn myself from Rome, I could never have resolved 
to leave. There one enjoys sweet liberty, rich libraries, the charming 
friendship of writers and scholars, and the sight of antique mon- 
uments. I was honored by the society of eminent prelates, so that 
I cannot conceive of a greater pleasure than to return to the city. 3 

Before setting his face northward Erasmus, probably 
in April, 4 made a short visit to Naples, of which the 
only incident preserved is his inspection of the Grotto 
di Posilipo, on the road from Naples to Cumae, In one 
place he calls it a cave of pirates, though named after 
the Sibyls, and describes the walls as covered with 
shells. 5 Elsewhere he speaks of its darkness and of the 

1 Pastor: History of the Popts, English transl. ed. by Kerr, viii, 228 f. 
This was in 1518-19. 

* Catalogue of Lucubrations, Allen, i, p, 37, In 1468 Bishop Roderic Sancius 
of Zamora and Bartholomew Platina held a debate at Rome on a similar 
subject, the former speaking for war, the latter for peace. G. Butler: Studies 
in Statecraft, 1920, p, 14. 

* Allen, ep. 253. 

4 Allen, ep. 604, a note. 
6 Adagia, LB. ii, no. 4120. 


light of the entrance, shining in the distance like a star. 1 
A famous Neapolitan known to him, though perhaps 
not until later, a man to whom he wrote of the libraries 
at Naples, was John Peter Caraffa, founder of the 
Theatine Order, and later pope as Paul IV. 2 

That Erasmus did not settle in Italy was due to the 
high hopes of preferment held out to him by English 
friends on the accession of Henry VIII to the throne 
on May 22, 1509. The event was announced to him 
by Mountjoy in words implying that the golden age 
of learning was about to dawn, and that the new Henry 
would be not only Octavus, but Octavius. The young 
prince, he said, only wished he were more learned, and 
promised to cherish all scholars, on the ground that 
"without them we should hardly exist at all" 3 Eras- 
mus's hopes of profiting by the esteem of a prince 
whom he already knew were increased by a letter from 
Warham seeming to promise something definite. 4 He 
therefore hastened north, calling on Bombasius at 
Bologna sometime before September 28th, 5 and giving 
him an eloquent account of his expectations. He 
crossed the Spliigen to Chur, thence to Constance and 
Strassburg, and so down the Rhine to Antwerp. After 
a short visit at Louvain 6 he proceeded to England. 7 

1 Allen, ep, 756. 

8 Allen, epp. 377, 640; i, p. 550. 
8 Allen, ep, 215. 
1 Allen, ep. 214. 

6 NoIhac: Les Correspovdants d'Alde Manuce, 1888, p. 84; Nichols, i, p. 
465.; Allen, i, p. 452. 

6 Allen, ep. 266; Nichols, ii, p. 84* 

7 Rhenanus to Charles V, Allen, i, p. 62; Nichols, i, p* 32. 



THE most widely read, though not the most im- 
portant, 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: 

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 your- 
self 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! 

1 Allen, epp. 337; 222; Nichols, epp. 317 (ii, p. 5), 212. The Encomium. 
Moria is printed LB. iv, 381 ff; also see Stultiti<z Laus Dfs. Erasmi Rot. 
Rf cognovit et adnotavit I. B. Kan. 1898. Many editions of the English versions; 
see The Praise of Folly, written by Erasmus 1509, translated by J. Wilson, 
1668, ed. by Mrs. P. S. Alien, 1913. 



Erasmus probably had many of the earlier satirists 
in mind, though he mentions as literary sources only 
classical models, beginning with the Batrachomyomachia. 
He speaks particularly of Lucian, the author of dialogues 
on the fly, on the parasite, and on the ass, and of course 
Erasmus's careful study and translation of this author 
contributed to his own mastery of the ironic style. But 
there were certainly works nearer his own time which 
also influenced him. If he would have scorned the bar- 
barous Goliardic songs, which contain a vast amount 
of mockery directed against the Church, he would have 
felt much less repulsion for the works of Poggio and 
Aretino, both of whom wrote Faceticz with many a 
shrewd blow directed at superstition and human foibles. 
He knew them both, as well as Skelton, the English wit. 
At Rome he must have become acquainted with 
one of the famous vehicles of caricature and lampoon, 
the statue of Pasquin, from which the word "pas- 
quinade** 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 post- 
ing 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 Narrenschif 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 Stulti- 
fera. It appeared in the French translation of Pierre 
Riviere 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 I5O9. 2 

But .every reader of the Folly .j&u$jb~studk -by the 
amount in it taken'Tfom the i^ijter^ 
When he speaks of what is rotten in Church or state, 
his reflections are usually suggested .by something he 
himself, h^s 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 s&va 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 
was neither vice nor stupidity, but a quite charming 

1 See Encyclopedia Britannica, s. v. "Pasquinade," and E. Rodocanachi: 
Rome au Umps de Jules II et de Leon X, 1912, pp. 153 ff, 

2 Herford: Literary Relations of England and Germany in ike Sixteenth 
Century* 1 886, p, 324, Mrs. P. S. Allen, op. at f pp. iv Later Erasmus 
knew Brant personally, and wrote an epigram to him, LB. i, 1223. 

8 / supra, p. 23. 


naivete, the natural impulse of the child or of the 
unsophisticated man. Though her birth is derived from 
Pluto, she is no grim demon, but an amiable gossip, 
rather beneficent than malignant. 

Without her, 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. With- 
out 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 the wisest legislators, Numa and Minos, rec- 
ognize 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, "unf righted by bugbear tales of another world/* 
are happiest. How much pleasure comes from hobbies, 
which are mere foolishness! One man delights in hunt- 
ing, 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 En- 
chiridion* The analogy between the worship of the 
saints and the ancient polytheism is pointed out: 


Polyphemus has become Christopher to keep his devo- 
tees safe; St. Erasmus 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 stu- 
dents of literature. 

When anyone had found out who was the mother of Anchises, or 
has lighted on some old, unusual word, such as bubsequus, 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/* 

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 hesi- 
tating, 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 

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 : 

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 

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 hora- 
inem post unam et aiteram correptionem devita." 1 When he 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 

If the passages just quoted represent rather the lighter 
side of the satire, by which it was affiliated with Pasqnin 
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 of the 
outer habit of fun than the solid gold of serious precept 
within that make The Praise of Folly a criticism of life 

1 /. e n "A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition 
reject/' Titus iii, 10. This incident was not invented by Erasmus, but was 
told him as a real occurrence by Colet. See the note in his New Testament 
to the verse cited. 


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 chasten- 
eth." 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 Croke, 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 1 5 n, to see it through the press. A glimpse 
of his sojourn there is given in a letter, 3 written sixteen 

1 On the several editions, Bibliotheca JBetgica, Erasmus, Moria (Distribution 
de 2 deccmbrf, 1908 ff); Allen, i> p. 459; Nichols, iS, I ffj Mrs, P. S. Allen, 
op, ciL 9 introduction. 

38 See J. T. Sheppard; Richard Croke, 1919. Croke (c. 2489-1558) taught 
Greek at Louvain, Cologne, Leipzig, and Cambridge, and filled several 
diplomatic missions. Erasmus probably knew him at King's College, 
Cambridge, where he was admitted as a scholar on April 4, 1506, 

8 Enthoven, ep. 49; Nichols, ii, p. 12. 


years later, by Stephen Gardiner* the statesman and 
prelate, at this time a servant of the humanist, and one 
especially skilled in dressing salads. The first edition, 
with a dedicatory epistle to More, dated June 9th, 1 
was printed, without date, by Gilles de Gourmont at 
Paris in 1511. It was reprinted at Strassburg in August, 

1511, and October, 1512; at Antwerp in January, 1512, 
and by Badius at Paris, revised by the author, in July, 

1512. In all, forty editions were called for during the 
author's lifetime. 

A commentary by Gerard Lystrius was added to the 
Froben edition of 1515, and to most of the subsequent 
reprints. It was long suspected that these notes were 
by Erasmus himself, and it was thought the name was 
but a disguise. Lystrius, however, was a real person, 
and the secret of his operations has only just been dis- 
covered. Erasmus, indeed, began the job himself, but 
later turned it over to Lystrius, a youth eager for glory. 
Even afterward, however, Erasmus probably furnished 
the bulk of the material, including a dedicatory epistle 
purporting to come from Lystrius and highly praising 
the work. As one sees by the example of Sir Walter 
Scott, who in anonymous reviews compared the Waverley 
Novels to Shakespeare's plays, this questionable practice 
of self-laudation in disguise was indulged in by others 
than by the author of the Folly. Lystrius, having 
scored an easy success with his annotations on the Folly, 
wished to collaborate further in a similar edition of the 
Enchiridion, but Erasmus refused. 2 

In 1515 Hans Holbein the younger and other artists 
added as marginal drawings illustrations that have often 
been reproduced, of which more will be said in another 
place. 3 

A French translation was made by George Halwyn 4 

1 Allen, ep. 222, 

* On Lystrius, Mbliotheca Belgica, Erasmus, Encomium Moria, edL of 1676; 
Allen, ii, p, 407, Erasmus to Bucer, March 2, 1532. 

* Infra, p. 152 

1 Allen, ep. 641. C/. ep. 660. 


In 1517? first printed if this is indeed the same version 
and not another at Paris in 1520. New translations 
were made in 1642, 1670, 1713, 1780, 1789, 1826, 
1867, 1870-72, and 1877. The first of several Italian 
versions was published in 1539; the first of many Dutch 
in 1560. Sir Thomas Chaloner, poet and statesman, put 
the book into English in 1549; J. Wilson in 1668; and 
White Kennett, later Bishop of Peterborough, in 1683, 
while still an Oxford undergraduate. All these versions 
were frequently reprinted, and a new one added by 
James Copner in 1878. Folly began to speak German 
in 1520, Swedish in 1738, Danish in 1745^ Russian in 
1840, Spanish in 1842, Modern Greek in 1864, Czech in 
1864, and Polish in 1875. 

The Praise of Folly won an immediate and striking 
success. Its publication marked the real beginning of 
that immense international reputation that put 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 Every- 
one 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 Epistola 
Obscurorum Firorum (1517) warmly claimed Erasmus 
as the inspirer of his work. 5 

Rabelais owed much to him. 6 So did some English 

1 There is extant a MS. Icelandic translation of the Moria made in 1730. 
Cf. An Icelandic Satire (Lo/ Lyginnar) by Porleijur Halldo'sson, ed. H. 
Hermannsson, 1915, introduction. 

Allen, ep. 328. April 17, 1515. 

LB. ix, 360. 

* Allen, ep. 224. 

6 Epirtolas Obscufotum Ftroram, ed. Stokes, 1910, p. 235, and other 
references, for which see index. Allen, ep. 363. 

8 Thuasne: tudes sur Rabelais, 1906, chap, ii. 


jest-books, especially the Tales and Quicke Answeres, 
printed about 1535* and reprinted, enlarged, as Mery 
Tales, Wittie Questions^ and Quicke Answeres^ in I567- 1 

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^ 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, "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, f *the martyr of the 
Renaissance/' is notable: 

Most persons praise the Encomium Moritz, many really admire 
it; yet, if you examine it, the impudence of Erasmus will strike 

J H de Vocht: De Invlotd van Erasmus op de Mngdscht Toonedliteratuur der 
XVle en XFIh Ecwen, 1908. 

2 More to Dorp, Bruges, October 21, 1515, LB. App, ep, 513; Mori Opera, 
1689, pp. 284-300, 

Allen, ep. 337; cf. epp. 304, 347. 

4 Allen, ep. 739; cf. LB. iv, 4$7A. 

6 Allen, ep. 749. C/. the Adage, "offas ostendere/ 1 LB, ii, 461, 


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 

Some of the Protestant Reformers, like (Ecolampadius, 
loved the Moria? 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 I5i6. 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 

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, 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 Pirckheirner, and by Luther, 
as well as by other friends who were in the secret of 
the authorship. He endeavored, by elaborate equivo- 
cation, 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 

1 R. C. Christie: tienne Dolet, 1899, p. 191. 

2 Allen, ep. 224. 

8 Luther s Werke, Weimar, iv, 442, cf. Nachtrage, p. viii. 

4 Luther's Briefwechsel, ed. Enders, ix, 254. 

6 Reprinted in Booking: Ilutteni Opera, 1859-66, iv, 421, and in Jortin's 
Lift of Erasmus, 1758-60, ii, 600-622. Translated in Froude's Life and 
Letters of Erasmus. Pastor, History of the Popes, English, vi, 438 n., wrongly 
attributes it to Faustus Andrelinus. Jortin, loc. cit., Nichols, ii, p. 446, and 
Allen, ep. 502, introduction, prove it to be by Erasmus. 


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 

*L. C ep. 42, to Spalatin, November, 1517. Enders, i, 121, 
2 L. C. ep. 130, February 20, 1519. Enders, i, 433. Cf. Luthers Tischrtden, 
Weimar, iv, no. 4902, May, 1540. On copies sold in Oxford in 1520 by John 
Dome see Publications of the Oxford Historical Society, v, 1885, pp. 94, 113, 117. 



ERASMUS, born in the delta of the Rhine, spent 
many years on the banks of that noble river, at 
the Swiss town of Basle. Well did he know the course 
of the famous stream from Chur, near its source, to 
the North Sea; with the great cities strung like beads 
on its blue filament he was well acquainted, passing 
through them often in his frequent journeyings. For 
at that time the Rhine was a principal artery of European 
commerce and the chief avenue from the northwestern 
coast to the Alpine lands and to Italy. 

His ascent of the Rhine in the summer of 1514 was 
like a triumphal progress. The fame of the Folly, 
re-enforced by that of the Adages and of the Enchiridion, 
already gave him the natural leadership of the large 
society of humanists then pulsing into lusty life in the 
universities and wealthy towns of Germany. The 
Renaissance, like spring, came late to the northern 
latitudes, but when it did come it brought verdant 
life. With the earnestness characteristic of their 
race, young Germans seized on the classic literature, 
and put it to the sack, as though it were an empire to 
be conquered by their famous soldiery. Perhaps they 
felt like the American who remarked that though 
Chicago hadn't had much time for culture yet, when she 
did get around to it she would make it hum. Fraternities 
of "poets/' as they called themselves, were formed in 
every town of any pretensions, as well as at the acad- 
emies of learning. These men worshiped literature, 
hated crabbed scholasticism, and highly resolved to 
bring in a new reign of culture and of light. The man 

J2 9 


who had mastered the classics, who had routed the Philis- 
tines ? and who had shown the path of progress, was their 
idol. They crowned him with verses as with diadems, 
they burned the incense of their homage before him. 
And now the great man, " amiable and bearing the horn 
of plenty/* 1 was to come among them. 

Leaving England in July ? 1514, after a few visits to 
friends in the Netherlands, 2 Erasmus proceeded to 
Mainz/ the seat of a prince-archbishop, who had also 
the powers and titles of Elector, Imperial Arch-marshal^ 
and Primate of Germany. The occupant of the see was 
Albert of Brandenburg, an enterprising and unscrupulous 
Hohenzollern, determined to play a brilliant part in 
politics and as a patron of the liberal arts. Even before 
his day his predecessors Berthold von Henneberg (1484- 
1504) and Uriel von Gemmingen (1508-14) had at- 
tracted to the University of Mainz leading humanists, 
thus making that academy, together with Erfurt, also 
under the jurisdiction of Mainz, the chief center of 
learning in Germany. Famous, as Erasmus knew, 
because of the invention of printing, 4 Mainz had now 
become one of the foci of the popular intellectual revolu- 
tion that preceded the Reformation. Whether the 
humanist met the young archbishop, with whom he 
afterward corresponded, is not known; but he met one 
of his courtiers, Ulrich von Hutten. 5 

Hutten, 6 one of the romantic figures of the time, a 

1 Spalatin to Lang, March 3, 1515, L. C. ep. 9. 

* Allen, epp. 299, 301, ii, p. 5; Nichols, ep. 291. 

8 F. Herrmann: Die fvangdische Bewegung m Mainz, im Refottnations" 
zeitaher, 1907; and various encyclopaedias, under Mainz and Albert of 
Brandenburg, Also Dietrich und Baden Bntrage zur GeschichU dtr 
UniversitaUn Mainz und Gitssen, 

* Allen, ep. 919. 

8 Crotus Rubeanus is mistaken in saying, in a letter to Mutian, Juie n, 
1515 r **$> that Erasmus met Hermann Busch and Reuchlin at this time. 
0, Krause: Der Brief mchsel des Mutianits Ru/us> 1885, no, 533, and K. 
Gillert; Dtf Briefwechsd des Conradus Mtttianuf, 1890, p, 171, Cf. Allen, 
ep, 830, Introduction, ep, 967, 72 note, ep, 300, 12 note, 

8 Life by I). F. Strauss, 4th cd., 1895; also English translation, Cf. L.C, ep. 
189; Allen, ep. 365. P, Kalkoff: Ulrich von Hutten und dit Reformation, 1920 

THE 131 

passionate^ wayward nature, not without nobility of 
purpose, was something between an Ishmael and a 
Knight of Christ, a Thraso turned into a Crusader. 
From his youth he had dedicated himself to the causes 
of liberty and of patriotism, always pointing his sword 
and his mightier pen at the breast of some tyrant; first 
at that of Duke Ulrich of Wiirttemberg, who murdered 
Hutten's cousin John for the sake of John's wife; then 
at the Dominican inquisitors; finally at the pope of 
Rome, as the enemy of the Lutheran gospel. From 
his picture, in his knight's armor and poet's crown of 
laurel, his lean, dissipated face looks out boldly, impu- 
dently, but not without fire. Quick of temper as of wit, 
he was always ready for a quarrel; nor was he backward 
in boasting of his victories. When attacked by five 
French ruffians, he assured his friends, he had slain 
one and put the rest to flight. 1 Now, at the age of 
twenty-six, before he had won the laureate's crown of 
Germany, he was captivated by the scholar-wit and 
longed to play the Alcibiades to the older man's Socrates. 2 
Erasmus, too, was so favorably impressed that he 
inserted into his New Testament of 1516 a note of 
praise for his young friend. 3 

The second meeting of the two occurred at Frankfort 
on the Main, in the spring of 1515? while Erasmus was 
traveling back from Basle to England. He had visited 
the ancient city, not to see its Roman relics and imperial 
insignia, but to attend the famous book fair held here 
in March or April of each year. In 1515 it had lasted 
from March nth to March joth. 4 At Frankfort he 

1 Allen, cp. 6n. July 30, 1517. 

* Allen, ep, 365; Nichols, ep. 351; October 24, 1515. Cf. also the account 
of Erasmus, doubtless from Hutten's pen, in the Bpistola Obscurorum F"irorum t 
cd. Stokes, i, 42. 

', sss. 

4 J. W, Thompson: Tht Frankfort Book Fair, 1911, p. 46. A. Dietz: Zur 
Gfschichtf dfr Frankfurter Buchermesse> 1921. A. Dietz; Frankfurter Han- 
delsgschichu > 1910. The fair was opened on the Sunday Oculi four weeks 
before Easter -and closed on the Friday before Palm Sunday. In 1515 Palm 
Sunday fell on April ist. 


also met John Reuchlin, 1 the foremost Hebrew scholar 
of the day, now the accused in one of the most notorious 
heresy trials in history. His refusal to participate in 
a plan of a converted Jew, named PfefFerkorn, to destroy 
all Hebrew books except the Old Testament, had 
exposed him in 1509 to a charge of heresy at the hands 
of the Dominicans of Cologne. The leader of these 
"hounds of the Lord'* (to quote the famous pun on 
the name Dominican! and Domini canes) was a certain 
Hochstraten, the chief inquisitor for Germany, aided 
by a peculiar humanist, Ortwin Gratius by name, 
Reuchlin's memorial, called the Oculare Speculum^ or 
Eyeglass, protesting to the Emperor Maximilian against 
the destruction of the Hebrew literature was fiercely 
attacked and publicly burned. An appeal to Rome 
dragged out the process for many a long year. The 
cause celebre excited the passionate partisanship of all 
Europe; the humanists, all save Ortwin, sided with 
Reuchlin; the monks almost to a man were against him. 
Erasmus naturally sided with the persecuted scholar, 
with whom he had been already in correspondence in 

When he first met Hutten at Mainz in that year the 
latter was hotly engaged in the cause, and had written 
The Triumph of Reuchlin, which Erasmus advised him 
to suppress as imprudent and premature. 3 At this time 
Erasmus had obtained Reuchlin's Memorial, together 
with its condemnation by Hochstraten, and had thor- 
oughly convinced himself of the Hebrew scholar's or- 
thodoxy, though he mildly censured his invective. He 

1 Retichlin's letters have been edited, and his life written, by Geiger, See 
also Rcakncyklopadufur protfstemtische Th^ologu^ Stokes, op, tit,, introduction, 
Allen, i, p. 555, For Reuchlin's meeting, the only one with Erasmus, see 
Allen, ep. 967, 72 note. LB. x, x66aC i668E, Nichols, ii, 181; Allen, ii, p. 67; 
Briefwechfd de.$ Mutianus Rufus, no, 533; K, Gillert: jBriefwechsel des Cow- 
radus Mutianus, p, 171. The letter here dated June n, 1515, should be 151:6, 
and is mistaken in saying "Main'/*' instead of "Frankfort." 

2 Allen, ep. 290; Nichols, ep. 285; cf. Allen, ep. 300. 

3 It was, however, printed in 15x8; Hutteni Opera, iii, 413 fF; cf. i, 26. 
LB. x, x668DE, 


accordingly had written to Reuchlin from Basle, assur- 
ing him of his own esteem, and telling him of the 
sympathy of Fisher and of Colet. 1 On March 1st of 
the following year he forwarded some questions 2 from 
Fisher to Reuchlin. A little later he took occasion, in 
writing to Cardinals Riario and Grimani, 3 to plead the 
cause of his eminent friend, whose trial was then pending 
at Rome. To the former correspondent he said: 

I do most earnestly beseech and adjure you, for the sake of sound 
learning which Your Eminence is always wont to cherish, that that 
distinguished man, Doctor John Reuchlin, may enjoy your justice 
and good will in the business in which he is now concerned. , . . 
All Germany is indebted to him, for he first aroused in that country 
a love of Greek and Hebrew literature; he is a man skilled in several 
languages and learned in various sciences, long known to the Chris- 
tian world by the books he has published, and especially favored 
of the Emperor Maximilian, one of whose councillors he is, while 
among his fellow citizens he holds the honorable position of triumvir 4 
[of the Swabian League], and a reputation which has never been 
soiled. . . . Therefore to all good men who know him by his writings, 
not only in Germany but also in France and England, it appears 
most unworthy that so distinguished a man should be harassed by 
such hateful litigation, and that for a thing that in my judgment 
is more trifling than an ass's shadow, as the jesting proverb says. 

This letter, together with the one to Grimani, was 
published by Froben in August, 1515. Though they 
apparently had little effect in Rome, for Riario does 
not mention Reuchlin in his answer, they doubtless 
had some influence in Germany. 

Erasmus continued in his letters to defend Reuchlin 
and pay his respects to Pfefferkorn in such words as 
these: 5 

I hear that that pestilent Corn, sowed by some clever Satan, 
has published a book in which he rages against all the learned with 
impunity. He is the tool of those illustrious pillars of religion, 

1 Allen, ep. 300; Nichols, ep. 294. 

2 Allen, ep. 324; Nichols, ep. 315. 

3 Allen, epp, 333, 334; Nichols, epp. 318, 319. ^ 

4 So Erasmus. Reuchlin held the position of triumvir in the South German 
confederacy known as the Swabian League for the years 1502-13. 

B To Banisius, November 3, 1517; Allen, ep, 700; Nichols, ep. 671. 


misused by them to break up the peace of Christendom. I wish 
he were a Jew all over and that his tongue and both hands were 
circumcised as well as his other parts! As things now are this angel 
of Satan, taking the form of an angel of light, fights under our own 
banners against us 9 and will soon betray us, as Zopyrus [by pretend- 
ing to be mutilated] betrayed Babylon to Darius. 

Reuchlin received so many testimonials from eminent 
supporters that he published them under the title of 
Letters of Famous Mm. This suggested to one of his 
most brilliant supporters, Crotus Rubeanus, the^ idea 
of a satire on his foe Ortwin, in the form of a series of 
burlesque Letters of Obscure Men. These epistles pur- 
ported to be written to Ortwin by wretched monks who 
blatantly exposed their atrocious Latin, superstition, 
bigotry, ignorance, and immorality. The first series of 
letters was published in the autumn of 1515 by Wolfgang 
Anxt of Hagenau, and at once sent by him to Erasmus, 
with an excuse for the boldness of the Obscure Men in 
addressing so great a personage as him, with whose 
Folly they feel an affinity. 1 In 1516 Hutten published 
a second edition of the work, with a few letters added; 
and in 1517 he wrote a second series of the Letters, 
distinguished from those of Crotus by their greater 

The Epistoltz Obscurorum Firorum had much popular 
success in raising a laugh against the monks through- 
out Europe. Erasmus, however, notwithstanding his 
liberal sympathies, highly disapproved of the satire- On 
August 16, 1517, he wrote to Csesarius: 2 

The Letters of Obscurt Men greatly displeased me, even from the 
beginning. The joke might amuse if it had not become personal. 
I like satire provided it be without insult to anyone. But it was 
right annoying when in the second edition my name was mixed 
up in it: as if it were not enough to play the fool without exciting 

1 Epistoles Obscurorum Virorum y ed. with translation by F. G* Stokes, 1909. 
On authorship and date see his introduction, and SteiflF: Buchdruck x?u Tubingen* 
pp. 217 f; Bauch and Steiff in CentralUatt jur Bibliothckswesen, xv, 1898, pp. 
490 if; Allen, ep. 363, and ii, pp. xix-xx. 

2 Allen, ep. 622; Nichols, ii, p. 610, 


odium against me and thus in a great measure destroying the fruit 
obtained by so much laborious study. And as if that had been 
deemed Insufficient, a second book, like the first, has made its appear- 
ance, in which there is frequent mention of persons to whom I am 
quite sure mockery of this kind is anything but agreeable. 

To the same correspondent he wrote on April 5th 
of the following year that he wished the book had never 
been published or that, if published, it had appeared 
under a different title. He sarcastically added that the 
satire was so perfect that it was read at Louvain as if 
it were a serious defence of the monks. One of the pro- 
fessors, who hated Reuchlin and loved Hochstraten, 
even bought twenty copies as presents to his friends! 1 
Again, he says that he disapproves of the slanders 
contained in the book, not of the jokes. 2 

With Reuchlin he continued to keep up a friendly 
correspondence and he also wrote, with unwonted bold- 
ness, to both Hochstraten and Ortwin, urging moder- 
ation. He observed that there is no need of exciting 
hatred against the Jews, "for if to hate Jews be Chris- 
tian, we are Christian enough already." He protested 
that he himself was not to be confounded with Reuchlin, 
for he never cared for the Cabbala, but that he did not 
think it necessary to "mix heaven and earth to make 
such a melodrama." 3 Gratius he begged to devote him- 
self rather to study than to quarrels worthy neither of a 
scholar nor of a Christian. 

When the Lutheran affair began to make Erasmus 
more cautious he published, in an edition of the Col- 
loquies, a signed Protest against seditious Calumnies,* 
calling to account the indiscreet persons who had, with- 
out his consent, and, as he believed, without the consent 
of Reuchlin, published their private correspondence. 

1 To Caesarius, April 5, 1518; Allen, ep. 808. 

2 To Neuenaar, August 25, 1517; Allen, ep. 636. 

8 "Tantas excitare tragoedias," a favorite phrase of Erasmus. Letter to 
Hochstraten, August n, 1519, Allen, ep. 1006. Letter to Gratius, Allen, ep. 
1022. The text was much mutilated, but has been restored by Allen, 

4 BiUiotheca Erasmiana, Colloquia^ i, pp. 59, 65. 


"I am not a Reuchlinist," he declared, "nor yet a 
partisan of any human faction. I am a Christian and 
recognize Christians and not Erasmians or Reuchlinists." 
Nevertheless, his admiration for the great scholar in- 
duced him, when the latter died, in June, 1522, to write 
an Apotheosis of Reuchlin, for insertion in the later 
editions of the Colloquies. 1 

From this long digression let us return to accompany 
the great man on his triumphal progress through Ger- 
many in the summer of 1514. From Mainz, probably 
accompanied by Hutten, he ascended the Rhine to 
Strassburg, an important German Imperial Free Town, 
with which Erasmus was immensely pleased. 

There [he wrote] I have seen old men not morose, nobles without 
arrogance, magistrates without pride, citizens ornamented with the 
virtues of famous heroes, a vast populace without tumults. In 
short, I saw a monarchy without tyranny, an aristocracy free from 
faction, a democracy without turbulence, wealth without wantonness, 
prosperity without insolence. 2 

He was made particularly happy by the ovation given 
him by the circle of humanists. Their leader, perhaps, 
was Jacob Wimpfeling, 3 a Catholic Reformer who had 
written on theology, but had also cultivated letters. 
He wrote an essay glorifying Germany, and later took 
part against Luther. Sebastian Brant, whose Ship of 
Fools Erasmus knew, was now the secretary of the 
Strassburg government, and Erasmus met him 4 either 
at this time or at Antwerp in 1520. Another statesman 
and humanist, noted for the school he founded, was 
John Sturm. 

One of the glories of Strassburg, the cathedral, with 
a spire 465 feet high, was already ancient in the sixteenth 

1 Dff incomparabtfi heroe Johanne Reuchlino in divorum numerum rflato. 
LB. I, 689 ff. 

2 Allen, ep. 305; Nichols, ep. 298. To Wimpfeling, September 21, 1514. 
'Allen, epp. 302, 305; Nichols, epp. 295, 298. C. Schmidt; Histoire 

litter air e d* Alsace, 2 vols. 1879. Revue Historique, 112, p. 247. 

4 Supra, p. 119; Allen, ep. 1132, introduction; P. Kalkoff in Repertorium 
fur Kunstwissenschaft, xxviii, 1905, pp. 474-485. 


century. On one occasion, whether now or at a later 
visit is not known, Erasmus was taken over it by some 
of its canons, perhaps Gerbel and Gebweiier. The 
canons were boasting that no one could be admitted to 
their chapter unless he had at least fourteen noble 
ancestors on his father's side, and as many on his 
mother's. They were somewhat abashed when, with 
characteristic wit and demure sweetness, their guest 
remarked: "Then Christ himself could not have been 
received into this chapter unless he got a dispensa- 
tion from this rule." They took the lesson to heart, 
or at least they remembered the saying many years 
afterward. 1 

The next stop, in this progress of the summer of 1514, 
was made at Schlettstadt, a small town of only 4,000 
to 5,000 inhabitants, but boasting a few humanists of 
note. 2 The greatest of them was Beatus Rhenanus 3 
(as Beat Bild of Rheinau preferred to be called) now 
living at Basle, but occasionally to be found at his 
native place or at Strassburg. His historical work was 
the most noteworthy on the critical side of any pro- 
duced by his German generation. In the sifting of 
sources he was as cool, as fine, and as successful as his 
friend Erasmus, from whom he learned much. He was 
a historian first, a patriot, or a partisan, secondarily, 
If at all. Another humanist of Schlettstadt, was the 
schoolmaste'r John Sapidus, 4 who accompanied the 
illustrious visitor to Basle. 

1 It was told to John Christopher, Freiherr von Zimmern, who was con- 
secrated as canon on September 29, 1531. Das Zimmersche Chronik y hg. von 
K. A. Barack, 2d ed., 1881, iii, 129. 

2 J. Geny: Die Reichstadt Schlettstadt und ihr Anteil an den social-politischen 
und religiosen Bewegungen der Jahre 1490-1536. (Erlauterungen und Ergani- 
ungen zu Janssens Geschichte des Deutschen Volkes^ Band I), 1900. 

8 Briefwechsei des Beatus Rhenanus, hg. von A. Horawitz und K. Hartfelder, 
1886, with life by his friend Sturm. Cf. also Historische Jahrbucher, xxviii, 
714-716; Zeitschrift fur die Geschichte des Oberrheins, Bande 29, 31 (1914, 1916). 
On his historical work, E. Fueter: Geschichte der neueren Historiographie t 1911, 
190 ff. G. Knod: Aus der Bibliothek des Beatus Rhenanus, 1889. 

* LB. i, 1223; Nichols, ii, p. 155. 

i 3 8 ERASMUS 

In Basle 1 Erasmus spent many years of his life, most of 
the time from the middle of 1514 to the middle of 1516, 
again from 1521 to 1529, and the year before his death 
(1535-36). Though a small town, it was prosperous* 
cultured* and pretty. After a good deal of negotiation 
it had thrown off its obligations to the Hapsburgs and 
had been received into the Swiss Confederacy (1501-03). 
It was described by Beatus Rhenanus, with a pun on 
the name, as "a royal residence, the queen of cities/ 5 
with pleasant, even magnificent houses, clean streets, 
gay gardens, delightful views, polite citizens, and a mild 
climate. The university, 2 founded in 1460, had a good 
name, even before QEcolampadius and Grynaeus raised 
it to European celebrity. Memories of the Council of 
Basle (1431-48) animated the place with a sense of 
freedom and reform. Famous writers like Brant and 
artists like Diirer and Holbein had spent, or were spend- 
ing, parts of their lives here. Most of all, Basle was 
famous for its printers. 3 John Amerbach had set up 
his press in I475> and in 1513 had entered into a partner- 
ship with the still more famous John Froben. The 
government of the town was republican; the gilds had 
just thrown off the old aristocracy of nobles, and further 
asserted their power in I5i6. 4 A still more democratic 
revolution was to take place with the subsequent 
introduction of the Reformation. 

During much of his life at Basle, Erasmus dwelt in 

1 On Basle: Basel, von Martin Wackernagel, 1912. Rudolph Wackernagel: 
Geschichte der Stadt Basel, Band II, Teil II, 1916. Die Stadt Basel und Ihre 
Umgebung, hg. von Verkehrsverein der Stadt Basel, 1898, R. Thommen: 
Urkundenbueh der Stadt Basel, Bande 9, 10, 1905, 1908. P, S, Allen: Age of 
Erasmus^ 1914, p. 146. E. Doumergue: Fie de Cabin, i, 1899, pp. 471 fF. 
A. Heusler: Gesckichte der Stadt Basel, 3 1918. A series of pictures of Basel in 
1618 by Merian in the Cornell library. 

2 W. Fischer: Geschichte der Universitat Basel, 1460-1529* 1 860. 

3 Stockmeyer und Reber: Beitrdge zur Easier Buchdruckergeschichte* 1870, 

4 On March 8, 1515, while Erasmus was there, the old patricians agreed that 
all offices should be open to members of the gilds; on St. John's Day 
(December 27), 1516, the gilds elected their first burgomaster, James Meier, 
When the bishop tried to interfere the Town Council, on March 12, 1521, 
declared the city free from the bishop's jurisdiction. Heusler, op, <rtt p. 95, 


a small house called Zur Luft names then taking the 
place of numbers in the Little-Tree Alley (Baumlein 
Gasse). Hating stoves and close rooms as he did, 
Erasmus perhaps selected it for the good air promised 
by its name* though in fact it does not look very airy. 
Some of the old utensils used by Erasmus are still 
preserved; among them a knife and fork with handles 
chased with designs of Adam and Eve ? possibly made 
by Holbein. 

As the publishing house of Froben was the magnet 
attracting Erasmus to Basle, it is natural that he 
should soon be introduced to the famous printer in a 
way pleasantly described by himself: 1 

I delivered to Froben a letter from Erasmus, adding that he was 
my intimate friend, and had intrusted me with the business of 
publishing his lucubrations, so that whatever I did would stand 
good as done by Erasmus himself. At last I added that I was so 
like him that whoever saw me saw Erasmus. He then. broke into a 
laugh as he detected the hoax. 

A warm friendship sprung up between the two. 
Erasmus thus spoke of his printer, just after his death 
in I527; 2 

Who would not love such a nature? He was to his friends the 
one best friend, so simple and sincere that even if he had wished to 
pretend or conceal anything he could not have done it, so repugnant 
was it to his nature. He was so ready and eager to help everyone 
that he was glad to be of service even to the unworthy, and thus 
became a fit prey to thieves and swindlers. He was as pleased 
to get back money stolen or lent to a fraudulent debtor as others 
are with an unexpected fortune. His incorruptible honor deserved 
the saying: "He was a man you could trust to play fair in the dark." 
Incapable of fraud himself, he could never see it in others, though 
he was not seldom deceived. He could no more imagine the disease 
of envy than a man born blind can understand colors. He pardoned 
even serious offenses before he asked who had committed them. 
He could never remember an injury nor forget the smallest service. 
And here, in my judgment, his goodness was excessive, for a wise 
father of a family. I used to advise him sometimes that, while con- 

1 Allen, ep. 305; Nichols, ep. 298. On Froben, Allen, ii, 250. 
* Lond. xxiii, 9, End of October, 1527. LB. iii, col. 1053. 


tinuing to be true to his sincere friends, he should expend only kind 
words on imposters who both cheated and laughed at him. He smiled 
gently, but I told my tale to a deaf man. The frankness of his 
nature was too much for all warnings. What snares did he not 
spread for me, what excuses did he not hunt up to force a gift on 
me? I never saw him happier than when, by artifice or importunity, 
he succeeded in getting me to take something. Against his artifices 
I needed my utmost caution, and all my skill in rhetoric, to devise 
some plausible reason refusing what he offered, without hurting 
him, for I could not bear to see him sad. If by chance my servants 
had bought cloth for my clothes, he would ferret out and pay the 
bill before I suspected it, and no entreaty of mine could make him 
take the money again. So, if I wanted to save him from loss, I 
had need of singular arts, and there was between us a contest quite 
different from the common usage of the vulgar, where one tries 
to get as much and the other to give as little as possible. I could 
never entirely avoid his gifts, but that I made a most moderate 
use of his kindness all his family will, I think, bear me witness. 
Whatever he did for me he did for love of learning. Since he 
seemed born to honor, to promote and to embellish learning, and 
spared no labor or care, thinking it reward enough if a good author 
were put into the hands of the public in worthy form, how could 
I take advantage of a man like this ? 

Erasmus's life at Basle was very pleasant. To one 
friend he wrote that he could not express how much he 
liked both the climate and the hearty, friendly people. 1 
At times his work seemed excessive, so that he spoke of 
Basle as a prison in which he had done six years' work 
in eight months. 2 To his dear Bruno Amerbach he 
wrote: "What is our mill doing? How goes it in the 
cave of Tryphon? Have you been lucky enough to 
escape and vindicate your liberty?" 3 

An extremely agreeable picture of his relations with 
the younger men around him is given in a letter from 
Henry Glarean, who said to him : " Besides innumerable 
other benefits you conferred on me the chief is this, 
that you taught me to know Christ, and not only to 
know, but to imitate, to reverence, and to love him." 4 

1 Allen, ep. 412; Nichols, ep. 399, 

2 Allen, ep. 410; Nichols, ep. 397. 

3 Allen, cp. 439. July 13, 1516. 

4 Allen, ep. 463. September 5, 1516. 


This is acceptable evidence of the moral influence 
exercised by Erasmus and of the rectitude of his own 
life. He himself, however, did not maintain the lofty, 
transcendental position that virtue is its own reward, 
but thought that, though virtue was the chief good, a 
man could not be really happy without other goods 
as well. 1 

Erasmus never lived eight consecutive years in any 
one town, and even while he kept his head-quarters at 
Basle he continued to make frequent journeys back 
and forth to the Netherlands. Traveling was not so 
easy or rapid then as it is now. Boats and horses were, 
of course, the only means of conveyance. Sometimes 
the Rhine was so swollen with floods that the trip was 
more like swimming than riding; 2 at other times the 
roads were so muddy that the horses were "almost 
shipwrecked." 3 There were other dangers in travel 
than those supplied by the weather. Of these the most 
often mentioned were the plagues and the robbers. 4 
Thus on April 23, 1518, he wrote Colet: 5 

I am girt up for a journey perilous on account of the disbanded 
scoundrels and marauders who have gathered by thousands to fall 
upon others. This is the cruel clemency of princes, to spare impious 
parricides and sacrilegious criminals, but not their own subjects. 

It was on these frequent journeys that Erasmus 
received the unpleasant impression of German inns, 
humorously recorded in the Colloquies? We know from 
other sources that much of what he says about these 
was not exaggerated. In one large reception room the 

1 Series of letters to and from Cardinal William Croy, c. May, 1519. Allen, 
epp. 957 958, 959- 

2 Allen, ep. 348; Nichols, ep. 336. August, 1515. On this occasion, Erasmus 
wrote an epigram on the flood. Allen, ii, 124. 

8 Allen, ep. 1169, December 13, 1520. 

4 Allen, ep. 794. 

6 Allen, ep. 825. 

6 Diversoria, LB. i, 715-718. See A. Schultz: Das hausliche Lekfn der 
europdischen Kulturv'olker vom Mittelalter bis zur zweiten Halfte dts iSen 
Jahrhundert, 1903, pp. 93, 395 f; E. S. Bates: Touring in 1600, 1911, pp. 
240 ff. 


guests gathered to dry their steaming clothes before a 
stove> filling the place with smells and sometimes with 
vermin. After an unappetizing meal of bread, sausage, 
pudding, and wine or beer, the guest would be led to a 
bedroom already occupied by other travelers of both 
sexes, lucky if he did not have to share his bed with a 
strange man. When, in 1523, Erasmus compared the 
luxury of French inns with the coarse entertainment 
provided by the German hostelries, the contrast may 
have been partly due to the higher standards he had 
now acquired in place of those which he held when, as 
a younger man 5 he had first traveled through the rich 
plains of Southern France. But let us hear what he 
has to say: 

No one welcomes the newcomer, lest they should seem to solicit 
guests, for to do so would appear to them mean and low and beneath 
the high-mightiness of the German character. When you have 
been shouting for a long time some one puts his head, like a tortoise 
looking from its shell, out of the hot-air shafts 1 in which they live 
almost until midsummer. You must ask if you may stay and if he 
doesn't say "no" you conclude that you may have a place. You 
ask where the stables are and he shows you with a motion of his 
hand, for you may take care of your'horse as best you can without 
a servant to help you. In the more famous inns a man shows you 
to the stables and carefully points out the worst stall for your horse, 
for they keep the better places for later arrivals, especially for the 
nobility. If you complain, the first thing you hear is, "If you don't 
like it here, go to another inn," In the cities it is all you can do to 
get a little hay, for which you have to pay as much as for oats. 
When you have cared for your horse you go to the common sweating- 
room, 2 filled with footwear, baggage, and mud, pull off your boots, 
put on your slippers, change your shirt if you like, and dry yourself 
and your clothes, dripping with rain, by the tile stove. If you wash 
your hands, the water is generally so filthy that you have to wash 
away the first ablution. . . . They crowd eighty or ninety persons 
into that sweating-room, footmen and horsemen, merchants, sailors, 
carters, farmers, women and children, sick and well. . . . One is 
combing his hair, another wiping off sweat, another cleaning his 
boots and legwear, another smells of garlic. Amid a confusion of 

1 "JEstuarium," literally "hot-air shaft/' a sarcastic name for the overheated 
room detested by Erasmus, 
a "Hypocaustum," a sarcastic name for the heated reception room. 


men and tongues such as was once seen at Babe! they stare at a 
foreigner like a new kind of animal from Africa. . . . Meantime 
it is a crime to ask for anything, for they will not serve anything 
until late in the evening, when they expect no more arrivals. Finally 
a hoary, bald, wrinkled, dirty old waiter appears . . . spreads the 
table, and gives each guest a wooden bowl, a wooden spoon, a glass 
cup, and some bread, which everyone munches until the soup is 
ready that is, for about an hour. 

If anyone tried to air the room by opening a window, 
all the rest would shout, "Shut it! Shut it!" and if 
he replied that he could not endure the heat s he was 
summarily invited to go to another inn. Finally, the 
amusements of the guests were unpleasant : 

Frequently clowns mix with the company and, though they are 
the most detestable of men, you can hardly believe how much the 
Germans delight in them. 1 With their singing, chattering, clamor, 
jumping and blows, they make the hot room almost collapse and you 
can't hear anyone speak. 

If these were the ordinary experiences of a traveler, 
sometimes they were much worse. The trip from 
Basle to Louvain in September, 1518, is thus vividly 
painted: 2 

DEAR BEATUS: Learn the whole tragicomedy of my journey. 
As you know, 1 was unwell when I left Basle, having not yet returned 
into Heaven's grace since I had so long led a sedentary life under 
stress of endless labor. The boat trip was not unpleasant except 
that the noonday sun became trying. At Breisach we lunched 
worse than you can imagine the smell stifling and the flies worse 
than the smell. We sat at table half an hour before they brought 
us anything to eat, and when they did it was only dirty soup, scraps, 
and salted raw meat, 3 all very nauseous. I did not go into their 
hencoop, 4 for 1 had a slight fever. He who tended me told me a 
fine tale, that the Franciscan theologian with whom I had had a 

1 Albert Diirer speaks of the "rare, precious mummers" he saw at a banquet 
in carnival time, 1521. Schriftlicher Nachlass, p. So, 

8 Erasmus to Beat us Rhenanus, Louvain, c. October 15, 1518; Allen, ep. 
867. Allen iii, 392, gives the exact itinerary. 

1 Raw ham and raw salmon, smoked, are considered delicacies in Germany 

4 Another slighting name for the reception room. 


disputation about "hsecceities" 1 had pawned some communion 
vessels as his own! O Scotist subtilty! Toward night we were 
turned out into a cold village the name of which I was not able to 
find out, nor, had I done so, should I wish to publish it. There I 
almost died. In one oven, not large, at almost ten o'clock more 
than sixty of us dined, such a promiscuous aggregation! As they 
became heated with wine, what a stink and what a noise! But we 
all had to sit still until the clock gave the signal to rise. 

We were wakened early by the clamor of the sailors. I embarked 
hungry without having slept. We got to Strassburg before lunch, 
about nine. There we were better received, especially as Schiirer 
furnished the wine. A part of the literary fellowship was already 
there and soon all came to greet me, none more affectionately than 
Gerbel. . . . 

Thence we struggled on to Spires on horseback, seeing nothing 
of the cloud of war with which rumor had frightened us. My English 
horse almost foundered and hardly got to Spires because a rascally 
blacksmith had so maltreated him by burning the frogs of two of 
his feet with a hot iron. At Spires I furtively withdrew and betook 
myself to my neighbor Matermus. The learned and humane dean 
[Truchses] entertained us kindly for two days. By chance we found 
Hermann Busch there. 

Thence by wagon I went to Worms, thence to Mainz . . . where 
I stayed not at the inn but at the house of a canon. When we left 
he took us to the boat. The voyage was, on account of the fair 
weather, not disagreeable except for its length and the smell of the 
horses. . . . When we came to Boppard and were walking on the 
shore while the boat was being searched, some one pointed me out 
to the toll-collector, saying, " That is A<?." 2 The collector's name, 
if I mistake not, is Christopher Eschenfelder. It is incredible how 
the man jumped with joy. He took us to his house, where among 
his receipts we saw the works of Erasmus. He declared that he 
was happy, called his children, his wife, and all his friends. In 
the meantime he sent two bottles of wine to the sailors, who begged 
for it, and when they clamored for more sent them more bottles 
and promised he would remit the toll to him who had brought so 
great a man. . . . 

1 "Haecceitas" is a word used by Duns Scotus, like "quidditas." It means 
"thisness," or "the form of individuality calculated to yield the absolute 
certainty of real actuality," says M. Heidegger: Die JKategorien und JSedtu- 
tungshhre des Duns Scolus, 1916, p. 67 f; cf. also p. 12, which speaks of it as 
indicating "a greater and finer nearness to real life." By Erasmus of course 
used sarcastically, implying that this Scotist was a little too practical. Erasmus 
spoke of the words "haecceitates, quidditates," as portentous words recently 
invented, in the Moria, LB. iv, 463 A, 465 B. 

2 Greek. 


Having passed through Coblenz and Bonn we arrived at Cologne 
on Sunday morning before six, in bad weather. Having gone to 
the inn 1 I ordered the servants to prepare a wagon and have food 
ready at ten. I heard mass. Lunch was late. The wagon was not 
forthcoming. I tried to get a horse, for mine were useless. Nothing 
succeeded. I saw what they were about; they were trying to force 
us to stay. Immediately I ordered my servants to saddle the horses. 
I had one box put on a horse, and left another box with my host. 
Then with my lame horse I pushed on to the castle of the Count 
of Neuenaar, a journey of about five hours. I spent five days with 
him at Bedburg in such tranquillity and leisure that I got through 
with a good part of the revision of the New Testament. . . . 

From this point the trip commences to be a tragedy. 
Erasmus departs from Bedburg in a terrific storm. The 
wagon is so rough on the stony road that he prefers 
even the lame horse. At Aix he is entertained by a 
canon and makes himself sick by eating disgusting raw 
fish, so that he is obliged to force himself to vomit by 
sticking his finger down his throat. Ulcers appear on 
his thighs and are made worse by riding. When he 
reaches Tongres he faints, but insists upon being carried 
on, though in terrible pain, to Louvain. There he is 
unable to get any physician to attend him, as they all 
believe he has the plague. Angry with them, he com- 
mends himself to Christ, eats nothing but eggs beaten 
in wine; while recovering, he works doggedly on the 
New Testament. His letters at this time are full of 
the most minute and painful descriptions of his symp- 
toms, which indicate that he really had an attack of the 
disease now known as the bubonic plague, then endemic 
and frequently epidemic in Europe. 2 

During these years Erasmus was in correspondence 
with a man of some note in his day, Willibald Pirck- 
heimer, of Nuremberg. This patrician had been born 
at Eichstadt in 1470, and given, by his wealthy father, 

1 According to a letter of Adolph Eichholz to Erasmus, dated Cologne, 
October 6, 1518, the latter, on passing through that city, had stopped at the 
White Horse Inn. Allen, 866. 

See article on the Plague in the Encyclopedia Urttannica, nth edition, 


an exceptional education including a seven years' visit 
to Italy (1490-97), where he studied Greek at the 
universities of Padua and Pavia. Returning to Nurem- 
berg ? he had been soon made Town Councilor, and, 
after attracting the attention of the Emperor Maxi- 
milian, appointed Imperial Councilor. He published 
a good deal, including translations of Plato. In 1504 he 
was left a widower with five daughters, whom he made 
as learned as were those of Sir Thomas More. His 
wealth and position enabled him to patronize men of 
talent, among whom first and foremost was the painter, 
Albert Diirer. A number of letters between the two, writ- 
ten during the year 1506 when the latter was at Venice, 
have survived, 1 and so have two portraits of Pirckheimer 
by the famous artist. Comparing the, drawing of 1503 
with the engraving of 1524, we note a remarkable degener- 
ation in the character of the face, 2 a philosopher turned 
into a swine by drinking Circe's cup of sensuality. 

Quite naturally Pirckheimer became interested in the 
author of the Adages and Folly, and in December, 1514, 
he wrote his friend, Beatus Rhenanus, asking for an 
introduction. 8 Receiving this immediately, he started 
a correspondence with Erasmus which lasted for the 
rest of his life. In 1515 Erasmus commended to his 
care the sister of the gentleman to whom he had dedicated 
the Enchiridion, and at his death he wrote an encomium 
in the form of a letter to Duke George. 4 

The Nuremberg councilor seems to have acted as an 
intermediary in getting for Erasmus a call to the Uni~ 
versity of Leipzig early in I5i6. 5 The humanist was 

l DurTS Schriftlicher Nachlass> 1908, pp. 120-150. Doctor Reicke and 
Doctor Reimann have undertaken to edit Pirckheimer's correspondence. For 
Pirckheimer's life, Realencyklopddu, Allen, ii, p. 40. 

2 The drawing, in Berlin, published in Durers Schriftlicher Nachlass, p. 120. 
The engraving in Klassiker der Kunst, Durer, 1908, p. 1 60. 

8 Allen, ep. 322, Pirckheimer to Rhenanus. December 9, 1514. Cf. Briff- 
wechsel des Beatus Rhenanus, no. 422 (autumn, 1513). 

4 May 15, 1531, Lond, xxvi, 33; LB. ep, 1187. 

6 Allen, ep. 527, A letter without date in the original, inclosing the proposi- 
tion from Emser, rector of the university. Dr. Allen places this letter in 1517, 


then unable to accept, but the plan was brought up 
again in 1520, by which date Erasmus had become 
friendly with Duke George of Albertine Saxony ? whose 
capital Leipzig was. In the spring of 1516 the Uni- 
versity of Ingolstadt made a flattering but vain attempt 
to secure the services of the noted scholar. 1 

Other honors came thick and fast. Not to mention 
expectations of preferment in France and a canonry at 
Totirnay, the gift of which was disputed between the 
French and English governments, Erasmus in 1515 was 
made a member of the Privy Council of Prince Charles, 
soon to become king of Spain and afterward emperor. 2 
Four years later the Burgundian Chancellor, John le 
Sauvage, tried to get Erasmus to supervise the studies 
of Charles's younger brother, Prince Ferdinand, then 
in his sixteenth year. 3 The scholar probably met the 
princes in the summer and autumn of 1516, when the 
court was at Brussels, and for Charles he wrote his 
treatise on the education of a Christian prince, but he 
declined to undertake the duties of preceptor for reasons 
which, he wrote, "it would not be safe to set down." 
These reasons are, however, explained in one of his 
Adages, first published in 15 15,* and show that he had 
already gauged the difficulties of training a king. 

Now we see hardly any men educated more corruptly or laxly 
than those whom it is so very important to have brought up as 
well as possible. This child about to rule the world is committed 
to the charge of silly women, who are so far from instilling into his 
mind anything worthy of a prince, that they even dissuade him 

but I agree with Doctor Reich and Mr. Nichols in placing it in January, 1516. 
In addition to the reasons given by Allen, ii, p. 452-453, may be mentioned 
the following: Pirckheimer expresses the hope that Erasmus will visit Nurem- 
berg on the way to Leipzig. This would be convenient only if Erasmus was 
at Basle, as he was in January, 1516. In 1517 he was in the Netherlands. 

1 Allen, epp. 386, 418; Nichols, epp. 392, 400. 

* Allen, ep. 370, note 18; Nichols, ii, 272; Allen, epp. 470, 565. On the trip 
to the Netherlands to meet Le Sauvage and perhaps Charles, Allen, ep. 412, 
and ii, p. 240; Nichols, ep. 399. 

'Allen, epp. 917.952- 

4 Adagia, "Aut Regem aut fatuum nasci oportere," chil. i, cent. 3, prov. i. 
LB. ii, no. 


from heeding the salutary admonitions of his tutor and the gentle 
impulses of his own nature. Everyone flatters, everyone agrees 
with him. The nobles applaud, the ministers comply, even the 
tutor adulates, not acting so as to make the prince a blessing to his 
country, but so as to accumulate a fortune for himself. The theo- 
logian commonly called his confessor also flatters him. . . . He 
hears himself called "sacred majesty, serenity, divinity, terrestrial 
god,"and such like titles. In short, while yet a boy he learns nothing 
but how to play the tyrant. Soon he is put in the company of girls, 
all of whom invite his addresses, praise him, and serve his wishes. 
His court is a crowd of effeminate youths, whose only words and 
jests are of girls. The best part of his youth is consumed in gaming, 
dancing, music, and running hither and thither. 

In May, 1516, Erasmus returned from Basle to the 
Netherlands, which he made his headquarters for the 
next five and a half years, living first chiefly at Antwerp 
and Brussels and, after July, 1517, chiefly at Louvain. 
At Antwerp he had a good friend in Peter Gilles, 
immortalized as More's host in the Utopia. Gilles, 
besides occupying the position of Chief Secretary of 
the city of Antwerp, devoted much attention to letters, 
for, though he wrote little himself, he edited important 
works for other men, who valued his advice. On the 
occasion of Gilles's marriage with Cornelia Sandria 
(1514) Erasmus wrote an epithalamium in which the 
three Graces and the nine Muses speak words of praise. 1 
When, after bearing a number of children, Cornelia died, 
about August, 1526, Erasmus wrote her epitaph. Pres- 
ently Gilles married again and when he lost this wife 
also his friend contributed an inscription to her memory. 

While Erasmus was staying at the house of the 
Secretary of Antwerp, about May, 1517, he and his 
host had their pictures painted by the celebrated artist, 
Quentin Matsys, 2 both portraits being intended for 
presentation to Thomas More. The great humanist 

1 Later included in the Colloquia, LB. i, p. 746. On Gilles, Allen, i, p. 413; 
"> P- 3SJ > P- 146- 

*The original of Erasmus is at the StroganofF Gallery at Rome; that of 
Gilles at Longford Castle, England. A copy of the Erasmus is at Hampton 
Court. Both pictures are reproduced in Allen, ii, 576. See Allen, 683, notes. 


was represented sitting at a desk, with an open book 
before him, ready to write. When the paint was fresh 
it was possible to see that the book was the Paraphrase 
to the Epistle to the Romans, but the letters are no longer 
visible. On the forefinger of the delicately veined right 
hand a seal ring is conspicuous. The finely chiseled 
features wear a pensive expression, not at all like the 
satirical cast of countenance seen in Holbein's later 
portraits. There were two natures in the same man; 
one the scholar and theologian, represented by the 
Enchiridion and the edition of the Greek Testament, the 
other the sportive mocker, emerging in the Moria. 
Matsys, the painter of serious, religious pictures, saw 
the one side of the man; Holbein, the merry portrait- 
painter and caricaturist, the other. The boyish face of 
Gilles, in the diptych, makes a good contrast to its 
pendant. He is holding a letter of More in his hand, 1 
and has before him a copy of the Antibarbarf- by 
Erasmus fit symbols of his fame depending mostly on 
his friends. 

Both pictures were sent to More in September. 8 His 
letters 4 of acknowledgment to Erasmus and Gilles show 
how immensely pleased he was. To the former he wrote: 

You can more easily Imagine than I can tell how delighted I am. 
For as the likenesses of such men done even in chalk or charcoal 
would captivate all who were not dead to admiration of learning 
and virtue, how can anyone express in words or fail to conceive 
how much I am ravished when the features of such friends are 
recalled to my memory, by pictures drawn with such art that they 
may challenge comparison with the works of any ancient painter? 
Whoever sees them would think them molded or sculptured rather 
than painted, so exactly do they seem to stand out in the exact 
proportions of the human figure. You cannot believe, dearest 
Erasmus, how much your care to please me has added to my love 

1 The writing is not legible, but More speaks of it. Allen, ep. 683. 

* As the first known edition of this book was printed at Cologne in 1518, the 
title must have been added later, or this picture represents a manuscript, or 
previous edition, not now extant. 

* Allen, cp. 654. 

4 Allen, cpp. 683, 684. 


for you, though I was sure before that nothing could add to it, 
nor how I glory In your esteem and in this token by which you 
declare that you prefer my love to that of anyone. 

Having painted the portrait, Matsys proceeded to 
found some bronze medallions with a head of Erasmus, 
newly drawn and quite different from the first work. 
He did this in 1519, if we may assume that they are 
the same as the medallions bearing that date now ex- 
tant in the museum at Basle and at the Luther-house 
in Wittenberg. A friend who saw one in 1528 considered 
it wonderfully lifelike. 1 

A still greater artist was next to try his hand on the 
famous writer. When Albert Diirer came to the Nether- 
lands in 1520-21, he met Erasmus several times and, 
about September i, 1520, made two sketches of him in 
charcoal, apparently with the intention of turning one of 
them into a painting, though he never found time to do 
this. Six years later he made an etching from one study, 
a copy of which he sent to Erasmus, who, though he 
praised the artist's other work highly, did not care for 
this and thought it "nothing like," 2 and was even 
reported to have said, "If I look like that I am a great 
knave."* Indeed, neither of the two Diirer drawings 
was successful. The one, now at the Bonnat Museum* 
Paris, is nearly full-face. The half-closed, downcast 
eyes and the smiling mouth have a sweet expression 
not found so readily in the other portraits. The second 
sketch, worked up in the woodcut, is far more elaborate. 
The scholar is seated at his desk, writing, with a vase 
of flowers before him and surrounded by books. In one 
of the gouty hands is a quill, in the other the long, 

1 Henry Botteus to Erasmus, March 6, 1528, Enthoven, no. 60. Erasmus 
to Botteus, March 29, 1528, LB. ep. 954. Haarhans, op. t, Archw fur 
Reformations -geschickte, 8 Jahrgang, p. 145, See Allen, ep. 1092, and reproduc- 
tion of this medallion opposite. 

*A. Durers Schriftlicher Nachlass, ed. Heidrich, 1908, p. 50, between 
August 28 and September 3, 1520. Cf. Lond. xxx, 29, 43; LB. epp, 631, 827, 

2 Luther's Tischreden, Weimar, vi, 1921, no. 6886. 


narrow inkhorn. The countenance, composed and 
earnests is less fine and less attractive than it appears 
elsewhere. In fact, the artist is not giving us a char- 
acter study, but a bit of the genre he loved; it is not 
so much Erasmus we see here as the typical scholar. 

This ill success did not prevent Diirer from becoming 
an excellent friend of his sitter. He gave him three of 
his own drawings, and made likenesses of many of his 
friends. 1 One of these may possibly have been Sir 
Thomas More, who was at the time at the court of 
Charles V. But the portrait, if painted, has not been 
certainly identified. 2 

Various other likenesses of Erasmus made during these 
years can hardly be regarded as original studies. The 
best is perhaps an anonymous woodcut dated 1522, 
showing a fine profile. It claims to be drawn from life 
and bears the same inscription in Greek, meaning "His 
writings will show his image more truly/* that is found 
on the medallion of 1519 and on the Diirer woodcut. 
In fact, not only this inscription, but the details of the 
posture, both here and in Diirer's woodcut, show that 
Matsys had created a type which other artists felt 
bound to follow. There are also extant a woodcut after 
Matsys ascribed to Cranach, a drawing by Jerome 
Hopfer probably after the medallion, but showing a 
more humorous expression, and a very poor drawing 
ascribed to Lucas van Leyden, dated 1521. 

l Durers NicdeTldndische Reise, ed. J. Veth und S. Mullet, 1918, i, 55, at 
Antwerp, August, 1520. 

2 Preserved Smith: "Diirer's Portrait of Sir Thomas More," Scribner's 
Magazine, May, 1912. The painting that I there identified with Thomas 
More, now in possession of Mrs. John Lowell Gardner, of Boston, has been 
thought by others to be a portrait of Lorenz Sterck, though there is no proof 
save the fact that Diirer is known to have made Sterck's portrait in the year 
1521. A. Durers Niederlandische Reise, von J. Veth und S. Muller. 2 vols. 
1918, vol. i, plate 57. A few years after the appearance of my article there 
turned up in Canada another painting claiming to be by Diirer of Sir Thomas 
More. It is reproduced in Veth and Muller, op. cit., vol. ii. It was sold by 
G. A. Dostal of New York and Mrne. Lucille Krier de Maucourant of Paris 
to G. F. Glason, of Montreal. New York Times, February 4, 1917, It is 
probably spurious. 


But the artist who more than any other has given to 
posterity the pleasure of looking on this speaking, dis- 
tinguished face, and who also entered so fully into the 
spirit of the satirist, was Hans Holbein the younger. 1 
Born at Augsburg in 1497, he was taken by his father* 
a distinguished painter, to Basle in 1511. When he 
was barely eighteen years old (December, 1515) he 
borrowed a copy of Froben's edition of the Praise of 
Folly, 1515* from his friend and the author's, Oswald 
Myconius, master of St. Peter's school 2 Very likely 
at Myconius's suggestion he covered the broad margins 
with those quaint and spirited drawings that have ever 
since been the appropriate illustrations of the book; the 
work being done, as the inscription says, in ten days in 
order to give Erasmus pleasure. There we see Folly, 
a fresh young maiden, beginning and ending her lecture 
to a crowd of boys in cap and bells. There is the the- 
ologian studying Duns Scotus, the pilgrim with his 
staff, the dunce with his doll, the schoolboy getting a 
sound spanking, all drawn from contemporary German 
life. More biting sarcasm is displayed in such pictures 
as that of the two humanists as asses braying forth each 
other's praise. The author is represented sitting at his 
desk writing his Adagia, and so wonderfully youthful 
and handsome does he look that when the picture was 
shown to him he exclaimed: "Oho! Oho! If Erasmus 
still looked like this, forsooth he would take a wife!" 
Was it he who wrote over the picture of a gay fellow guz- 
zling and swilling, spilling his wine over a dish of trout 
and with one arm about a woman, the word "Holbein," 
to suggest that the artist was here caricaturing himself? 

1 A. B. Chamberlain: Hans Holbein the Younger* 2 vols., 1913, esp. i, pp. 
45, 146, 1 66 fF, 288 flf, 338 fF. H. Knackfuss: Holbein der Jiingtre, 1896, pp. 
52 ff, 115. P. Gauthier: //. Holbein, 1907, pp. 20, 80 ff. Sandys: History of 
Classical Scholarship, 1908, ii, 132. 

2 Allen, iii, p. 382 f; ep. 739 n, J. B. Kan: Moplat; 'Ey/e<6//*ov, 1898, introduc- 
tion. W. Hes: Ambrositts Holbein, 1911. K. Woermann: Gcschichte der 
Kunst alia Zeitsn und Folker, iv, 1919, pp. 497 f. One of the marginal 
illustrations has the date "December 29, 1515." 


Though such a jest would have been taken in good 
part, Erasmus was probably not guilty of it. 

After Hans had finished thirty-seven of these marginal 
illustrations including the Erasmus, the Pope, the Cardi- 
nal, the Bishop, and Duns Scotus, his brother Ambrose 
took the work in hand and added fifteen more drawings, 
including the one labeled, "Monks handle not gold, but 
women," the Hercules, the Chimaera, and other myth- 
ological subjects. Still later other artists added thirty 
drawings, much inferior in execution and often coarse 
in idea. 

The illustrations of the Folly are reprinted with almost 
every edition, but those made by Holbein in another 
book of Erasmus are hardly known at all. There is at 
Harvard a copy of In evangelium Lucae paraphrasis 
nunc prima nata et aedita (Basle, 1523) the margins of 
which are decorated with twenty-seven original pen- 
and-ink drawings by Holbein. 1 They represent subjects 
such as Jesus, the Virgin, Dives and Lazarus on earth 
and in heaven. They are indeed exquisite little bits. 
It is most unfortunate that the binder of the book cut 
the margins so close as frequently to cut off some of 
the drawings. 

When the humanist moved to Basle Holbein made 
several portraits of him, no less than three during the 
year 1523. One of these was a diptych with Froben, of 
which there is an early copy at Hampton Court. This 
and a three-quarters face, now at Longford Castle, were 
probably the two portraits that Erasmus said he sent 
to England in June, 1524, one of them as a present to 
Warham. Holbein also made another profile, which 
was sent as a gift to Boniface Amerbach at Avignon. 
It is probably the one now at the Louvre. These fine 
and beautiful studies exhibit at the very best the deli- 

1 Their genuineness, which seems highly probable to me, is testified to by 
an expert, the custodian of the Museum of Basle, D. Jouaust, in a letter dated 
Basle, August 26, 1869. He compared them with the originals of the Folly 
drawings. Preserved Smith: "Some Unpublished Drawings ascribed to 
Holbein/' Art in America, February, 1917. 


cacy and refinement of the original. The loveliness of 
the soul has wrought out upon the flesh a serene dis- 
tinction, a serious purpose not without humor, a character 
upon which no evil passion has set its stamp. One can 
easily read the inscription carved upon the features by 
a lifetime spent in the high company of ancient philos- 
ophers and poets. 

Perhaps at the suggestion of Erasmus^ from whom 
he bore letters of introduction* Holbein set out for 
England about August 29, 1526, and there made a 
prodigious success, painting Warham, Fisher, and Sir 
Thomas More both alone and with his whole family. 1 
He returned to Basle in August, 1528, bearing with 
him as a gift the picture of Morels family. During 
his second visit to England, in 1530, he painted Henry 
VIII, his wives and courtiers* 

Boniface Amerbach speaks of a portrait of the dead 
Erasmus by Holbein, but of this nothing else is known. 
A woodcut from one of Holbein's paintings was made 
by Liitzelburger in 1530. In the next century Van Dyke 
engraved the same, but poorly, giving the face an 
expression not only grim and sarcastic, but positively 

During the years 1517-21 Erasmus occupied a some- 
what indeterminate position at the University of Lou- 
vain. 2 Always suspected by the conservatives, he was 
now continually the object of some criticism or attack. 
One occasion for hostilities came with the founding of 
the new College of Three Languages to be a special 

*LB. epp. Appendix 327 (wrongly dated 1523), appendix ep. 334 (wrongly 
dated 1525), appendix ep. 351. Lond. xxvi, 50; LB. ep. 1075, wrongly dated 
1529 for 1528. On October 28, 1738, the Earl of Oxford saw at Mr. LenthaU's 
house at Burford a picture said to be More's family by Holbein, which he 
thought was not original. Reports of Historical Manuscripts Commission, 
Portland MSS. vi, 180. On August 16, 1669, Sir Harbottie Grimston saw at 
the Earl of Beaufort's seat at Badmington, Holbein's Erasmus. MSS. of Earl 
of Verulam, 1906, p. 248. 

2 He matriculated at Louvain as "Magister Erasmus de Roterodamis sacrae 
theologize professor," on August 30, 1517; see De Vocht in English Historical 
Review, January, 1922, pp. 89 ff. 

THE 155 

home of the new learning. The money for the under- 
taking came from a bequest of Erasmus's wealthy friend, 
Jerome Busleiden, who died on August 27^ 1517, and 
the humanist played an active part in carrying out the 
intention of the founder. 1 The natural antipathy of the 
old scholastics for the new Greek and Hebrew was 
aroused by this* and was further stimulated by an 
Oration on ike Knowledge of Various Languages^ written 
by Mosellanus of the University of Leipzig. This 
promising young man had already been in correspondence 
with Erasmus, who said of him "He loves glory, but 
he knows not what a weight glory is/' 2 He was most 
fiercely attacked not only at home, but by one of the 
Louvain professors, a certain James Latomus. This man* 
who afterward figured actively as an inquisitor at the 
trial of William Tyndale, published a Dialogue on the 
Three Languages and Theological Study ^ beating Erasmus 
over the shoulders of Mosellanus. The Dutch humanist 
replied with an Apology, not mentioning the Saxon 
professor, but trying only to prove that he was not 
touched by Latomus's charges. 

Further trouble came when Alard of Amsterdam 
announced that he would begin lecturing at the College 
of Three Languages on a book of Erasmus. This so 
fluttered the dove-cotes of the theological faculty that 
on March 8, 1519 the very day after the announcement 
was made the rector of the university convoked a 
council which refused permission for the course. A 
bitter quarrel, patched up by a truce in September, 
broke out again in November. Meantime Erasmus's 
Encomium of Marriage had been attacked as heretical 

1 F. Neve: Memoir e sur If college des trois-langues a I'universitf de Louvain> 
1856. F. Neve: La renaissance des lettres et I'essor de I' erudition dans les Pays* 
JBas, 1890. H. de Jongh: L'ancienne Faculte de Theologie de Louvain 1432- 
X54O, 1911. Allen, ep. 205. Bibliotheca Belgica t j. v. "Latomus: De Trium 
Linguarum Collegia Dialogus, 1519." 

2 Erasmus's remark on Mosellanus is preserved in Luthers Tischreden, 
Weimar, iv, no. 4921. On Mosellanus (whose real name was Peter Schade) 
see Allen, ii, p. 517. On this quarrel with Latomus see Pijper: Primitive 
pontificiae, 1905, pp. 1-84. 

i 5 6 ERASMUS 

by J. Robyns, on February 21, 1519, and thereafter 
trouble was chronic. 1 

A letter written just before the humanist left Louvain, 
on July 5, 1521, gives an interesting account of the 
university. Louvain, with three thousand students, 
is pronounced second to Paris, each college supporting 
one president, three professors, and twelve scholars 
entertained gratis, as well as some students who pay 
board. The auditorium is often crowded with classes 
numbering a hundred or more. The colleges are not 
inelegantly built, and the salaries large in proportion 
to the endowment, though small when compared with 
the needs of the teachers. 2 

By reason of his fame Erasmus was drawn to some 
small extent into public affairs. He heard with horror 
of the sack of Alkmaar by the Black Band, and approved 
of its dispersal. 3 He was at one time given a com- 
mission from the Emperor Maximilian to treat on 
some unknown matter with the University of Louvain. 4 
He was occasionally found at the court of Margaret, 
regent of the Netherlands, and at that of Charles V 
after the latter returned to Brabant from his Spanish 
kingdom. 5 Among many famous men, he met Ferdi- 
nand Columbus, son of the Admiral, to whom, on 
October 7, 1520, he gave a copy of his Antibarbari. All 
that is known of the meeting comes from the inscription 
in this book, half in Spanish and half in Latin: "The 
author himself gave me this book, as appears on the 
eighth page. Erasmus Roterodamus gave this as a pres~ 
ent to Don Ferdinand Colon, Louvain, on Sunday, 

1 De Jongh, op. cit. t p. 197 if. 

2 To Daniel Tayspil, Anderlecht, July 5, 1521, Allen, ep, 1221. Luigi 
d'Aragona, who visited Louvain about this time, reports the number of 
students at six thousand, a great exaggeration. L. von Pastor: Die Reise 
Luigis d'Aragona, 1908, p. 56. Even Erasmus's figures may be too large. 

3 Allen, epp. 628, 832, 

4 Allen, epp. 669, 670. 

8 For a visit in company with Pace in May, 1519, see Allen, epp. 970, 071; 
Deutsche Reichstagsattsn unter Karl F, ed. Wrede, ii, 685, note. 


October 7, 1520. Erasmus himself wrote the first two 
lines here with his own hand/* 1 

Erasmus's reputation was now such that, as a younger 
contemporary says, "all men desired his writings and 
regarded them with favor. A letter from him was a 
great glory and a splendid triumph to its recipient. He 
to whom was accorded the advantage of a meeting and 
some conversation seemed to himself one of the favorites 
of fortune/* Occasionally young enthusiasts would make 
a regular pilgrimage to his residence. One of these 
devotees to visit him in October, 1518, was Eoban of 
Hesse, a lecturer at Erfurt and leader of the circle of 
humanists in that academy. In return for letters and 
gifts brought by him he took back a sheaf of epistles 
containing flattering allusions to his own facility in 
Latin prose and verse. These letters he published, with 
an account of his trip, in a booklet with the title Hodcs- 
poricon, 2 not altogether to the satisfaction of Erasmus. 
Seven months later another pilgrim to the shrine of 
letters came in the person of Justus Jonas, later known as 
a prominent Lutheran reformer. 8 At Erfurt, thoroughly 
Erasmian in 1520, Eoban lectured on the Enchiridion, 
another professor, Crafft, on the Praise of Folly, while 
Mutianus Rufus, the philosophic canon of Gotha near 
by, wrote to John Lang of Erfurt that Erasmus took 
the prize as the greatest of critics, and advised another 
friend to begin each lecture with a proverb culled from 
the Adagia. 4 When Lewis Platz was rector, in 1520, an 
official communication from the university asked and 
was answered by advice from Erasmus on the reform 
of the curriculum. 5 

1 J. B. Thacher: Christopher Columbus, iii, 1904, 432 f. Read "la" for 
"laz." Allen, ep. 1147, introduction. 

2 In 1519. Copy at Harvard. The letters are reprinted by Allen, epp. 870 ff. 
Cf. Allen, ep. 982. 

* Allen, ep. 876, 963. 

*C Krause: Eoban Hess, 1879, i, 288 f, 315; J. Burgdorf: Johann Lange, 
190, p. 24- 

6 J, C. H, Weissenborn: Akten der Erfurter Unwersilat, 1884, ii, 314. L. C, 
ep. 281, Allen, ep. 1127. 


From another university town came further proof that 
Erasmus was the best seller of his day. The accounts 
of John Dorae^ an Oxford bookseller, for 1520, show that 
a third of all his sales were of works by Erasmus, the 
favorites being the Enchiridion, the Adages^ and three 
textbooks of Latin style, the Colloquies^ the De Con- 
structionty and the Copia. 1 

1 Oxford Historical Society Collectanea, 1885, I, 71-77. See T. M. Lindsay 
in Cambridge History of English Literature, Hi, 1909* p. 19, 



THE purpose that gave unity and nobility to 
Erasmus's life was his championship of "the 
philosophy of Christ," by which he understood a simple, 
rational* and classical Christianity. A prerequisite to the 
realization of his program was the publication and 
thorough scientific study of the ancient Christian texts. 
Biblical criticism, therefore, both textual and literary, 
occupied much of the best energies of his life. His aim 
was always practical to aid reform, not primarily to 
produce a work of disinterested scholarship, But the 
achievement was great, and in the end accomplished 
much of what he wished in rationalizing religion. For 
his work was the effective beginning of that philological 
criticism of the Bible that, after so hard a battle, has 
at last done so much to free Christendom from the 
bondage of superstition and of the letter. 1 

By the opening of the sixteenth century the Vulgate 
St. Jerome's version of the Bible, or, rather, his revision 
of still earlier Latin versions had been printed many 
times. Though commonly esteemed, as it was .later 
declared by the Council of Trent to be, 2 the authentic 
form of the Scriptures, and though referred to as "the 
accepted text/' 8 there was no standard edition of it, 

1 A. D. White: Warfare of Science and Theology, 1898, chap, xx, especially 
vol. n, pp. 303 ff. 

* In the decree of April 8, 1546. "Statuit et declarat, ut haec ipsa vetus et 
vulgata editio . . . pro authentica habeatur, et ut nemo illam reiicere 
quovis praetextu audeat vel praesumat/' C. Mirbt: Qucllen zur Geschichte 
dfs Papsttums? 1911, p. 211. Realencyklopddie fiir protfstantiscke Theologif? 
" Bibeliibersetzupgen." 

a Roger Bacon. 



manuscripts and printed books differing from each 
other. Erasmus, who possessed an edition printed about 
1465, and who examined many codices, noted this. 1 

The revival of Greek, together with that birth of a 
new spirit in the later Middle Ages, inevitably led to an 
examination of the Bible and to a discovery of the 
faults of the old version and a desire for fresh study. 
Lorenzo Valla's Notes on the New Testament, written 
about 1450, embodied the first attempt at a scientific 
criticism of the Vulgate. With three Latin and three 
Greek manuscripts in his hands, he had no difficulty 
in pointing out and in emending many errors both 
in readings and in translation. 2 Shortly afterward a 
humanist pope, Nicholas V, encouraged a competent 
scholar, Gianozzo Manetti, to make a new Latin version 
of the Bible from the original tongues, and the work 
was actually begun, though never completed. Manetti 
printed in parallel columns the oldest Latin version, 
known as the Itala, the Vulgate, and his own translation, 
and defended the undertaking against the attacks he 
easily foresaw. 3 Half a century later a highly cultivated 
woman, Isabella d'Este, employed a learned Jew to 
translate the Psalms from Hebrew, in order to be sure of 
getting their true meaning. 4 A number of scholars had 
now come to feel the need of a new exegesis, based on 
philological apparatus, not on outworn postulates of 
the schoolmen. Though John Colet was able to do 
little to supply the want, his broad, free lectures on St. 
Paul show that he felt it. 5 An immense stimulus to the 
study of Hebrew was given by John Reuchlin. A 
marked advance in biblical exegesis came with the 
publication, by the French savant, James Lefevre 
d'fitaples, of the Quintuples Psalterium, a Latin and 

* LB. ix, 766. 

8 P. Monnier: Le Quattrocento, 1908, i, 284. 

8 Cambridge Modern History, i, 679; A. Humbert: Origines df la theologu 
moderns, 1911, pp. 117 ff. 
4 J. Cartwright: Isabella d'Este, 1903, i, 78. 
6 Published in several volumes by JT. H. Lupton, 


French edition of the Psalms* with commentary, in 
1509, and of a new translation of the Pauline Epistles 
in 1512. In the early lectures of Luther, which have 
come down to us, we see how eagerly students were 
grasping at what the original tongues could tell them 
of the meaning of the Bible. 1 

Such was the situation when Erasmus took up the 
task. He did it under the widely diverse influences of 
Colet and of Valla, the one aglow with piety, the other 
as cold a rationalist as was ever born. Valla's Notes 
on the New Testament) as yet unprinted, Erasmus found 
in the Praemonstratensian Abbey of Pare near Louvain, 
in the autumn of 1504. Though he knew that to publish 
such an attack on the Vulgate would be attended with 
no little risk, he did so, in December, at Paris, with a 
preface that is mainly an apology for his temerity. 2 
At the same time he urged the need of minute research, 
in words that are a defense of all detailed scholarship: 
"He is occupied with the smallest things, but such as 
the greatest cannot afford to neglect; he deals with 
minute points, but such as have serious consequences/* 
The work had more importance than is generally rec- 
ognized. With this initiation into biblical criticism 
we see the unfolding, or budding, of a new spirit. Sick 
and tired of the old glosses, the interminable subtleties 
that seemed beside the point, the age had at last found 
something fresh, the Bible treated in the spirit of 
Quintilian, not as an oracular riddle, but as a piece of 
literature. It was the skeptic Valla that first disclosed 
the true, sound method of exegesis, and thus uncovered 
the long-hidden meaning. The cock had found the 
pearl; the careless wayfarer had chanced upon the 
nugget of gold; the scoffer who sought to shame truth 
by unveiling her had made her more beautiful. And 

1 K. A. Meissinger: Luther s JLxegese in der Fruhzeit, 1911; O. Scheel: 
Martin Luther, Pom Katholizismus zur Reformation, 1917, ii, 210 IF. Preserved 
Smith: "Luther's Development of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith 
Only," Harvard Theological Review, 1913, 407 ff. 

2 Allen, i, p. 406, ep. 182; Nichols, ep. 182. 


Erasmus was the man to perceive the value of the new 
treasure and to set it in a blaze of brilliants. 1 

It was probably at the instigation of Colet that 
Erasmus began an original Latin version of the New 
Testament. The work, embodying the matter he had 
acquired from Valla, and aiming at purity of Latin style^ 
was completed in manuscript by October* 1506. After 
the return from Italy (1509) the labor of polishing the 
translation was taken up and the manuscript shown 
to Richard Bere, Abbot of Glastonbury. This gentle- 
man, however, disapproved, and probably for that reason 
the idea of publishing it was postponed, not to be realized 
until the second edition of the Greek Testament, in 1519.2 

Inevitably, when so many Greek classics were pouring 
from the press, the thought suggested itself to scholars 
of publishing the original of the sacred texts. Es- 
pecially as the Hebrew Old Testament had long since 
been published by Jewish rabbis, it seemed shameful to 
neglect the specifically Christian writings. Cardinal 
Ximenes planned a sumptuous edition of the Bible in 
all ancient tongues and versions. The earliest volume, 
containing the New Testament, was printed, according 
to the colophon following the Greek text, by Arnold 
William de Brocario, at Alcala, on January 10, 1514. 
After the text had been completed, however, the volume 
was kept back a considerable time, partly in order to 
allow the addition of a Greek vocabulary and other 
explanatory matter, partly in order to get the approval 
of the pope. This last was expressed in a breve printed 
in Vol. I of the Old Testament, dated March 22, I52O. 3 

1 Humbert, op. cit., p. 190 Meissinger, op. cit,, p. 86, for Luther's use of 
the Annotations?. 

2 Allen, ii, pp. 181-183; Lond. xviii, 46; LB. ep. 700, Erasmus to Bere, 
1524. Wordsworth: Old-Latin Biblical Texts, 1883. Realencyklopadie? iii, p. 
57. Some sarcasm, undeserved in the light of the facts here given, has been 
leveled against Erasmus for the supposed speed with which he executed his 

8 Novum testamentum grcece et latine in academia Complutensi novittr impres** 
sum, 1514. Fetus testamentum multiplici lingua nunc primum tmpressum. In 
hac presdarissima Complutensi univnsitate, 1517. 

THE 163 

It was perhaps some rumor of the forthcoming Spanish 
edition that hastened the completion of a plan that 
Erasmus had certainly entertained for many years. In 
March, 1516, he brought out his own Greek text under 
the title Novum instrumentum onine, diligenter ab Erasmo 
Rot. recognitum et emendatum, Basileae Jo. Frobenius, 
mense februario, 1516. The word "Instrument" 1 chosen 
in conformity with the usage of Tertullian, and em- 
ployed also by Jerome, by Rufinus, and by Augustine, 
was changed to "Testament 55 in the reprint of 1518, 
and in all subsequent editions. A Latin version differing 
little from the Vulgate was added to the Greek, and also 
copious notes. A new edition, revised, with the Erasmian 
Latin version of 1506, much more radical than the 
one used in 1516, was printed in 1519. A third edi- 
tion followed in 1522; after which there was a fourth 
revision by the editor, as well as numerous reprints 
no less than sixty-nine by the year 1536. The progress 
of the work, at least after 1512, can be followed with 
some closeness, but, without troubling ourselves with 
such details, let us glance at the results of the textual 
criticism, at the notes, at the Latin translation, and at 
the reception of the work by the public. 

For the first edition Erasmus had before him ten man- 
uscripts, four of which he found in England, and five 
at Basle, where they had been left by Cardinal John of 
Ragusa, when he attended the Council of Basle in 
143 1. 2 The last codex was lent him by John Reuchlin; 
it appeared to Erasmus so old that it might have come 
from the apostolic age, though modern critics assign it 
to the tenth or twelfth century. This codex, the best 

1 A. Harnack: Du Entstehung des Neuen Testaments) 1914, pp. 137 ff. 

* Erasmus's statement in 1520 that "at different times he had used more 
than seven manuscripts" (LB. ix, 275) either errs on the side of modesty, or 
else he does not count all the manuscripts he had seen as having been "used." 
Full accounts of his work in A. Bludau: Die beiden ersten Erasmus- Ausgaben 
des Neuen Testaments, 1902. Cf. also, Cambridge Modern History, i, 599; 
Realencyklo$adie, ii, 754 ff, article "Bibeltext des N. T."; P. S. Allen, ii, pp. 
164 ff, 181 ff* E. Nestle: Introduction to Text Criticism of the New Testament, 
English trans., 1901. 


he had, he utilized only for the Apocalypse, which was 
lacking in the other MSS. Neither did he use, save on 
rare occasions, the best of the Basle MSS. (twelfth 
century), for he believed that it had been altered to 
agree with the Vulgate. 1 The gospels he took almost 
entirely from a cursive codex (no. 2 of the Basle MSS.), 
probably of the fifteenth century, though possibly some- 
what earlier; for the Acts and Epistles he used a slightly 
older codex, which he sent to the press without copying, 
but with a few corrections chalked out in red. The 
Apocalypse suffered most severely at his hands, for 
it was copied, by one of his assistants, with many 
gross errors, some of which have been perpetuated for 
centuries. Thus, the reading (Apoc. xvii:8) ovz !<m 
xairtep Hate is a mistake for ovx <WLV xfa rtdpsGtaf,. 
This slip was repeated not only in subsequent Greek 
editions, but crept into Luther's German, where it was 
first corrected in 1892; and into the Authorized English 
Bible, which reads, "is not and yet is" the Revised 
Version altered the reading to "is not and shall come/' 
As the last six verses were lacking altogether in his 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 He compared 

1 LB. ix, 10490. 

8 One authority used by him in this manner was the Commentary on the 
Gospels by Theophylact of Bulgaria, called Vulgarius. Cambridge Modern 
History 9 i, 603, 


the citations from the Old Testament with the Septuagint, 
and secured the services of OEcolampadius for a similar 
collation with the Hebrew. 

Erasmus did not drop critical work with the publi- 
cation of his first edition, for he introduced four hundred 
more alterations, not all improvements, in the second 
edition of 1519. For this he used a Latin MS. known 
as the Codex Aureus, lent him by Matthew Corvinus, 
King of Hungary, two MSS. from the Austin Priory of 
Corsendonk near Turnhout, and a Greek MS. lent him 
by the Monastery of Mount St. Agnes, near Zwolle. 
These he took with him to Basle for printing the second 
edition. 1 When in Brussels in 1520-21 he consulted 
two old MSS. at the library of St. Donation; 2 another 
he found at the Abbey of St. James at Liege, left there 
in the fourteenth century by Radulphus de Rivo. 3 When 
at last the Complutensian Polyglot was released, he 
also compared that. For a special text he had his 
friend Bombasius look up the Codex Vaticanus. 4 

This text was the famous " comma Johanneum," 
or the verse read in our Authorized Bibles as I John v: 7: 
"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the 
Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three 
are one." The verse is an interpolation, first quoted and 
perhaps Introduced by Priscillian (A.D, 380) as a pious 
fraud to convince doubters of the doctrine of the Trinity. 5 
Not finding it in any Greek manuscript, Erasmus prop- 
erly omitted it; for this honest, practically unavoidable 
conduct, he was ferociously attacked. Finding, from the 
report of Bombasius, that the Vatican Codex did not 
have it, he rashly asserted that if a single Greek MS. 

1 Allen, ii, pp. 164 ff. 


9 A. Roersch: Humanisme Beige, 1910, p. 8. 

4 LB. ix, 353, and Allen, ep. 1213. 

B W. R. Nicoll: The Expositor's Greek Testament, 1910, vol. v, p. 195. 
S. Reinach: Orpheus, English, 1909, p. 239. Houtin: La Question biblique an 
XlXme siecle, p. 220. E. Gibbon: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 
Bury's edition, chapter xxxvii. 


could be found containing it he would insert it. The 
required authority was soon found in the Codex Mont- 
fortianus of Trinity College, Dublin* which was ? in all 
probability, manufactured entire for this express pur- 
pose. 1 Though Erasmus suspected the truth, and frankly 
expressed in a note the belief that the verse had been 
supplied from the Latin, he inserted it in his third 
edition (1522) "that there be no occasion for calumny."* 
Thus the forged verse was put back into the Greek to 
be kept there until the nineteenth century. Though 
omitted in the German version by Luther, it was put 
into the German Bible after his death, and is found in 
every other important translation of the Scriptures before 
the nineteenth century. It is still retained as a proof- 
text in Protestant creeds, 3 while the Roman Catholic 
Congregation of the Index has forbidden any question 
of its authenticity. 4 

Erasmus detected two other important early interpo- 
lations, the last twelve verses of Mark's gospel and the 
passage about the woman taken in adultery (John vii: 
53-viii:n). Though he retained them in his text, he 
honestly noted that the former passage was doubtful 
and that the latter was lacking in the best author- 
ities. His other changes were slighter. The form in 
which he left the text was little improved by the labors 
of Beza and Estienne in the sixteenth century. The 
edition of 1633, differing little from his, became known 
as the "textus receptus," and was not substantially 

* Such is the opinion of Caspar Rene Gcegory; cf. Biblical World (Chicago), 
April, 1911, p. 256. E. Nestle: Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New 
Testament^ English trans., 1901, p. 5, thinks that the forger was the English 
Franciscan, Roy. I do not know his reasons for this opinion, which seems to 
me not very probable. 

LB. ix, 353. 

8 E.g. in the Westminster Catechism^ and the Confession of Faith published 
by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, chaps, ii, Hi, Schaff: 
Creeds of Christendom, 1877, $> 68; R. E. Thompson: History of ike Presly* 
tffian Church, 1895, p. 257. The proposal for revision was rejected in 1893. 

4 Decree of January 13, 1897; C. Mirbt: Quellen zur Geschichte des 
Papsttums? 1911, no. 540, quoting from the Acta Sanctat Sedis* 


castigated until the labors of Tischendorf, and of West- 
cott and Hort, in the nineteenth century, restored the 
original on really scientific principles. 

Though Erasmus claimed that his notes to the text 
should not be considered as a commentary, they fall, 
in their copiousness and variety, little short of being 
such* By pointing out how necessary it is to have details 
correct before going on to sublimer matters, he apologized 
for the attention paid to minutise. As it is in small 
points, he thinks, that theologians err, and as Christ 
has averred that no jot or tittle should pass away, it is 
necessary, even at the cost of much pains, to examine 
each word carefully. 1 Thus it is that every obscure 
word detains him for a moment, though at times he 
has little better to offer than an anecdote or a joke. 2 

The new Latin translation 3 elucidated as much as 
did the annotations. Many of his corrections were 
stylistic, as the substitution of "cum vidissent" for 
"videntes," in Mark ii:i6, on which he observed, "It 
is strange that such a solecism should have been 
used when the Greek gave no occasion for it.** Again, 
where the Vulgate translates Peter's words (Matthew, 
xvi:i8), "Absit a te," Erasmus puts, "Propitius sit 
tibi," and noted that "Propitius sit tibi Deus" would 
be closer to the thought. Language is so nearly related 
to thought that some simple corrections of this sort 
had a wide bearing. Such was the substitution of 
"sermo," in John i:i, for the Vulgate "verbum," the 
word "sermo" having the connotation of rational dis- 
course found in the Greek Xoyog. In Matthew iii:2, and 
elsewhere, the Greek [Aetavoelte was translated in the 
Vulgate "penitentiam agite," a phrase more than 
ambiguous on account of the Latin having but one 
word for the two distinct ideas of "repentance" and 

1 Introductory epistle, Allen, ep. 373. 

1 C/. his note on tievTEpoTrp&ros, Luke vi:i. His New Testament is 
reprinted in LB., vol. vi. 
8 Also published separately in 1519 and often. Preface in Allen, ep, 1010. 


"penance/* The Vulgate version might mean either 
"repent ye," or "do penance/' and had, of course* 
been usually taken by the Catholic doctors in the 
latter sense, 1 and had become a powerful support to 
the sacramental system. Rejecting this old translation, 
Erasmus proposed " Resipiscite," or "Ad mentem redite/' 
"Be mindful/' or "Come to yourselves/' The leaven of 
this new rendering worked so powerfully in Luther's 
mind that it became the starting point of the Reformation 
and thus leavened the whole loaf of Christendom. 2 

Fine literary criticisms in the notes and in other 
writings in many cases anticipate the conclusions of 
later research. There was no hesitation in discriminating 
between the several books of the Bible. In the first 
place, he greatly preferred the New Testament, " where 
all is clear, plain truth, and where nothing savors of 
superstition and cruelty, but all is simplicity and gentle- 
ness/' 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 por- 

1 Cf. the first of Luther's Ninety-five Theses; also T. *More's Confutation of 
Tyndale, Workcs, 1557, p. 4i8H. In the Douai version of the Bible ^sr&vota 
is rendered "penance," 

2 Luther himself so spoke of the verse, quoting Erasmus's translation, 
Resolution?*, 1518, Werke 9 Weimar, i, 530. 

3 Ecclesiastes, 1535, LB. v, 1028 f; cf. 1043 fF. 
* LB. v, 870. 

R LB. v, 29BCD. On Erasmus's interpretation of the Bible cf. C. Beard: 
The Reformation in Its Relation to Modern Thought and Knowledge^ 1883, 

p. 120 f, 150, 


tions 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? of the edition of 1515, he 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. 

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 inter- 
pretation employed. The great lack of the exegete of 
that day was the idea of development, of an evolution 
from a primitive to a higher ideal of religion and duty. 
Nowadays it is obvious even to the Sunday-school 
scholar that the same conception of God and the same 
ethical code cannot be expected in a Bedouin tribe 
wandering in the desert in the time of Homer, and in 
the most enlightened members of a polished empire in 
the age of Augustus. But this key for unlocking the 
mysteries of the Hebrew literature was as yet undis- 
covered. Assuming that the whole of Scripture was 
inspired and dictated by the same divine personality, 
the sixteenth-century philosopher could no more admit 
the imperfections of the Mosaic code than Plato could 
allow for the unedifying theology of Homer. With the 

1 "Sileni Alcibiadis," LB. ii, 773. 


stubborn material and the stark premises at his com- 
mand Erasmus did the best possible. 

Among the New Testament writers he also had his 
favorites. The principal works he thought to be the 
Gospels, Acts, First Peter, First Epistle of John, and 
the Pauline Epistles except Hebrews. 1 He said that 
Matthew was probably originally written in Hebrew* 2 
that Mark was an abridgment of Matthew/ and jthat 
Luke was not an eyewitness. 4 He repeated the opinion 
of Jerome that Clement of Rome was very likely the 
author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. 5 James he thought 
lacking in apostolic majesty,, He could easily believe 
that the heretic Cerinthus was the writer of the Apoca- 
lypse. Ephesians was Pauline in thought but not in 

Rarely did Erasmus's comments lead him far into 
the field of dogmatic theology. Perhaps the most 
notable exception to this general rule was the note, that 
filled two finely printed folio pages, on Romans., v:i2, 
"Wherefore since sin entered the world through one 
man/* By way of examining the opinion of the fathers 
as to the meaning of this text, he canvassed the doctrine 
of original sin, taking, himself, the common-sense and 
humane view that however detrimental Adam's dis- 
obedience had been to his posterity, it certainly did 
not involve them all in his guilt. In this he was obliged 
to argue against Augustine. In other places, however, 
where an opportunity offered to go into speculatiye 
theology, Erasmus usually declined it. The note, for 
example, on "The just shall live by faith" (Romans, i: 17), 
the verse which played so momentous a role in the his- 
tory of the century, was confined to a mere comparison 

1 LB. v, 1049. 

2 LB. ix, 86. 

8 LB. vi, isrE, airC. 

* LB. vl 2i8D. 

6 LB. v, s6C. Cf. Allen, ep. 1172: " By many arguments one may conjecture 
that it (the Epistle to the Hebrews) is not Paul's, for it is written in a rhetorical 
rather than in an apostolic style,'* 


of the readings of the Hebrew and Septuagint In the 
words of Habakkuk quoted by Paul. 

While abstract divinity left Erasmus cold, the practi- 
cal application of a text to the criticism of some abuse in 
the Church always filled him with ardor. For example, the 
words, "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will found 
my church/* had commonly been taken as the charter 
of the papal primacy, but Erasmus pointed out the 
difficulty of applying them directly to the pope instead 
of to the whole body of Christians. Many another abuse 
and misapplication of Scripture was glanced at, but 
what drew down his most trenchant blows were scandals 
arising from monasticism and the celibacy of the clergy. 
How terrible are his words on that favorite text of the 
monks: "Some have made themselves eunuchs for the 
Kingdom of Heaven's sake." 

In this class [says he] we include those who by fraud or intimi- 
dation have been thrust into that life of celibacy where they are 
allowed to fornicate but not to marry, so that if they openly keep 
a concubine they are Christian priests, but if they take a wife they 
are burned. In my opinion parents would be much kinder to castrate 
their children than to expose them whole against their will to this 
temptation to lust. 

Again, commenting on I Timothy, iii:2, which pro- 
vides that a bishop shall be the husband of one wife, 
he ridiculed in no gentle terms those who torture the 
text to explain away its obvious meaning, as for example, 
those who understand "wife" to mean "church/* or 
those who claim that the apostle desires to prohibit a 
man who has ever had more than one wife from being 
a bishop, and went on: 

The priest guilty of unchastky is allowed to become a bishop, 
so is the murderer, the pirate, the sodomite, the blasphemer, the 
parricide, and who not? Only he who has had two wives [in suc- 
cession] is excluded from this honor. It is remarkable how grimly 
we hold on to some things and connive at others. If anyone will 
consider our present condition, how large a part of mankind is 
included in the herds of monks and colleges of priests, and will 
then observe how few of these are chaste, into what various lusts 


countless numbers deviate, how shamelessly and openly and im- 
pudently they flaunt their vices, he will perhaps think it more 
expedient that those who cannot be continent should be allowed to 
marry publicly, as they could do without shame s purely and sacredly, 
rather than that they should be stained with such miserable and 
base lusts. 

In the note on Matthew 20:30, "My yoke Is easy 
and my burden is light/' he went so far in the discussion 
of the many faults of the ecclesiastical system that the 
passage reads like a propagandist pamphlet rather than 
a commentary, and the author himself felt obliged to 
apologize for it. 1 Here he severely scored the innumer- 
able human institutions which had grown up and choked 
the pure "philosophy of Christ/ 5 such as the speculations, 
bordering on impiety^ about the nature of the Trinity, 
the superstitions connected with the sacraments and 
various religious rites, the regulations in the canon 
law, and the claims of the preachers of indulgences! 

So it is plain that Erasmus saw the import of his work, 
and did not draw back from making the practical appli- 
cation. But to all who read the notes as a whole it is 
clear that the writer's immediate and constant, if not 
ultimate and dominating, aim was to construe the text 
accurately. In such a book this is, of course, as it should 
be. Erasmus performed the task with great success; 
his really explanatory and clarifying comments are a 
refreshing contrast to the interminable subtleties woven 
around the letter by the schoolmen. In fact, it is hard 
to say whether they won their greatest success as 
learning or as literature. Of late they have been re- 
printed, as most other notes on texts are printed, at 
the foot of the page, but then they were printed in a 
separate volume, in attractive type and style, and there 
is no doubt that they were widely read by themselves. 
Practically they constituted another pamphlet in favor 

1 The note is found in LB. vi, 63. It is partially translated by Bludau, p. 54, 
and by Humbert, p. 209 fF, and in my Age of the Reformation, pp. 58 f, Denifle 
makes the significant remark that it is first found in the edition of 1519, thus 
perhaps showing the influence of Luther. 


of the Erasmian reform and of the philosophy of Christ. 
They were not forbidding and difficult, like modem 
commentaries which no one except a scholar can under- 
stand, they were chatty and companionable, full of 
anecdote and wit, and under it all an earnest purpose 
and the best liberal instruction to be found in matters 
of faith and piety. It was a novel and a fruitful idea 
at that time as it would be now to turn a work of biblical 
erudition into a best seller! To support his own position 
he introduces his humanist allies, Hutten and Colet, 
along with Augustine and Jerome, and marshals them 
all against those children of darkness, the magistri 
nostri. Both his success and the animosity he aroused 
were explained partly by the perfection of his style and 
still more by the fact that he was the first to look at 
the Bible and at religion in a human, rational way, to 
prefer the spirit to the form. Against Eck he maintained 
that a poor Greek style and even small inaccuracies 
due to faults of memory were perfectly consistent with 
the inspiration of the whole. 1 Against Colet he main- 
tained that Christ's agony in the garden was due to a 
purely human apprehension of the terrible suffering in 
store for him. 2 The purpose of Christianity was to show 
love embodied in the person of Jesus and enshrined in 
the New Testament. His introduction pointed out, 
in beautiful words, that this was the whole value of 
the book: "If anyone shows us a relic of Christ's clothes 
we fall down, adore and kiss it, but it is only the gospels 
and epistles that efficaciously bring back to us the whole 

The Preface to the New Testament was later expanded 
into a work on The Method of Theology, and published 
separately in I5I9. 3 It proves what has just been said 
about the author's rational treatment of the Scrip- 
tures. After recommending a good life and reverence 

1 Allen, ep. 844. 

4 Allen, epp. 109-111. 

LB. v, 73 ff. 


as prerequisite to a fruitful study of divinity* he pleads 
for a better knowledge of the original tongues as the 
foundation on which should be built a superstructure 
of dialectic, rhetoric, arithmetic* music, physics, cosmog- 
raphy, and history. In theology proper the first place 
is to be given to exegesis, in which the ancient fathers 
are to be preferred as authorities to the modern com- 
mentators, while dogmatics. Church history and dis- 
cipline, civil and ecclesiastical law, and ethics are all 
to follow. Certain rules on method proper are added, 
as, for example, the correct formula for interpreting 
figurative language in the Scriptures and the recom- 
mendation to learn some passages by heart. 

The Greek Testament, once out, met with a mixed 
reception. Prolonged applause from the liberals mingled 
with the hoots of the conservatives. Instinctively 
feeling that the work would need protection, Erasmus 
dedicated it to Leo X, at the same time requesting his 
friend, Bombasius, to get a formal breve approving 
publication. 1 As this was forthcoming, the editor was 
able to appeal to the approval of the pope in his sub- 
sequent dealings with his critics. Some of them were 
inclined to blame Leo for having lauded a work which, in 
the words of one of them, "has brought forward opinions 
on confession, on indulgence, on excommunication, on 
divorce, on the power of the pope and on other questions, 
which Luther only had to take over save that Erasmus's 
poison is much more dangerous than Luther's/* 2 Never- 
theless, Leo's successor, Adrian VI, 3 approved in his 
turn and even urged Erasmus to do for the Old Testa- 
ment what he had done for the new. After the Council 
of Trent had authorized the Vulgate and had condemned 
Erasmus, Cardinal William Sirleto made an elaborate 

*Leo to Erasmus, September 10, 1518, Allen, ep. 864; Erasmus and 
Bombasius, Allen, epp. 865, 905. 

2 Aleander to Cardinal de* Medici, Worms, February 28, 1521, Deutsche 
Reichstagsakten nnter Karl V> hg. von A. Kluckhohn und A. Wrede, ii, 513 f> 
P. Kalkoff: Die Depschen des Nuntius Aleander? 1898, p. 108. 

8 LB. ix, 764. Adrian " then a cardinal/' 


defense of the old Latin version against the criticisms 
of Valla and Erasmus. 1 

From most of his English friends Erasmus received 
hearty praise. Far from being shocked by the liberties 
taken with the Vulgate, Bishop Fisher was inclined to 
wish that the translation had been freer, 2 Thomas 
More wrote epigrams in honor of the work, vigorously 
defended it against several assailants, and recommended 
it to Cardinal Wolsey. 3 Colet wrote the editor in the 
following terms: 4 

I understand what you say in your letter about the New Testa- 
ment. The copies of your edition are eagerly bought and everywhere 
read in this country. Many approve and admire your work; some 
also disapprove and carp at it ... but these latter are men whose 
praise is blame and whose blame is praise. For my part, I love your 
work and welcome this edition of yours. ... Do not stop, Erasmus, 
but, now that you have given us a better Latin version of the New 
Testament, illustrate it also with expositions and full commentaries 
on the Gospels. Length with you is brevity. The appetite will 
grow, if the digestive powers be healthy, in reading what you have 
written. If you unlock the meaning as none can do better than 
yourself you will confer a great benefit on the lovers of the Scrip- 
ture, and will immortalize your name. Immortalize, do I say? 
The name of Erasmus will never perish; but, besides bringing 
eternal glory on your name you will now, in toiling for Jesus, win 
for yourself life everlasting. 

The opposition in England, just spoken of, was strong 
enough to cause the book to be prohibited at Cambridge 
soon after its appearance. The conservatism of the 
human mind, and particularly of the theological mind, 
is such that it almost always retches at anything new 
and strange. When the old proof-texts are gone, it 

1 H. Hoepfl: Kardinal Wilkdm Sirlets Annotationes zum Neuen Testament. 
Eint Ferteidigung der Fulgata gcgen Valla wnd Erasmus, nach ungedruckten 
Qiullen, 1908. Biblische Studien, Band xiii, no. 2. The date of Sirleto's work 
was 1549. 

2 Allen, ep. 481. 

8 More to a Theologian, published in Jortin's Life of Erasmus, 1760, ii, 
670-99. The epigrams in praise of the New Testament, one of which was 
written in a copy presented by Erasmus to Wolsey, are found in T. Mori 
Opera, 1689, p. 253. 

4 Allen, ep. 423. 


seems as If theology must crumble, and those who love 
theology promptly take alarm. Every version of the 
Scriptures, every serious and important criticism, from 
the Septuagint to the English Revised Version of 1881, 
has had to run the gauntlet of those who said, "the old 
wine is better/' Erasmus ridiculed these fossils in a 
lively letter, comparing them to the old priest who ? 
owning a breviary with the typographical error "mumpsi- 
mus" instead of "sumpsimus" at a certain point in 
the mass, became so accustomed to the nonsensical 
form that he refused to change it when the error was 
pointed out to him, and kept on mumbling "mumpsi- 
mus" to the end of his days. 1 

Because of the omission of the verse on the Three 
Heavenly Witnesses, and other similar changes that 
seemed to put the mark of doubt on favorite texts, 
Edward Lee, a rising diplomatist and theologian, later 
Archbishop of York, attacked the Greek Testament. 
Lee says that while he was at Louvain Erasmus had 
come to his house and asked for aid in revising the New 
Testament and that, when he had suggested many 
corrections, Erasmus was piqued. 2 Lee then wrote down 
his criticisms, which were copied by Erasmus's friend 
Martin Lipsius, and sent to the humanist. As the 
rumor of Lee's impending attack thickened, Erasmus 
forestalled it by a counter-attack in his Apologia against 
James Latomus, and also by threatening Lee with a book 
which he said the Germans, a ferocious people, were 
preparing against him. Notwithstanding these precau- 
tions, and the intervention of More, of Bishop Richard 
Foxe of Winchester, of Martin Lipsius, and of Richard 
Pace, Lee published his polemic in January, I52O. 3 
The Dutch scholar, always sensitive, was wounded 
to the quick, and even inclined to believe that the 
mediation of his friends had been insincere. To Lipsius 

1 Allen, ep. 456. 

2 F. A. Gasquet: The Eve of the Reformation, New ed. 1900, pp. 154 f. 
E. Leus: Annotations in Novum Testamentum Erasmi, 1520. 

8 Allen, ep. 446, July 15, 1519. CJ. Allen, ep. 750, to Lipsius, January, 1518. 


he wrote: "Lee acts with you as a lion with a Iamb. . . . 
Would that you had not given him those other letters. 
... I trust him less than a cacodemon." Again, for- 
getting the tremendously high praise he had always given 
to England, he wrote the same friend that Lee's criti- 
cisms had made him hate Britain more than ever, though 
she had always been pestilent to him. 1 His suspicions of 
Pace were perhaps justified, for the latter, notwith- 
standing his unfortunate attempt at mediation in 1520, 
had already published a work blaming Erasmus and 
More for misspelling certain words and ridiculing the 
former for his poverty ? When Lee's notes came out* 
Erasmus promptly answered them, 3 though he also 
wrote that nothing sillier had ever appeared. 4 As a 
further means of humiliating his adversary he inspired 
his friends at Erfurt to publish a volume of Epigrams 5 
in which Lee was called a son of Cerberus and of a Fury, 
from whom he had inherited his envious, infernal bark, 
a second Heroscratus, a disease like gout, and whatever 
else the luxuriant imagination of the poets could think 
of. Erasmus also collected letters of his own admirers 
which expressed disparaging opinions of Lee, and pub- 
lished them in a separate volume. 6 

Another critic, Henry Standish, Bishop of St. Asaph, 
attacked Erasmus in an oration at St. Paul's Church 
Yard, London, for changing "verburn" into "sermo," 
in John i: i. Against him, also, as "Bishop of St. Ass/' 

1 Allen, ep. 899. November, 1518. Erasmus to Foxe, asking him to intervene. 
Allen, ep. 973. More's letters to Lee, Jortin, ii, 646-662. 

2 De Fructu qui ex doctrina percipitur, 1517. Abstract of this work in Jortin, 
ii, 351 ff. Cf. further, Allen, ep. 3505 1097, 1098, 1099, noo, and LB., 
App. ep. 275. 

8 Ad notations Ed. Lei. LB. ix, 123 ff. 

4 Allen, ep. 1126. 

6 In Edwardum Leeum Quorundam s Sodalitate Erphurdienst Erasmlci 
nominis studiosorum Epigrammata, May, 1520. C. Crause: Hess, 1879* i> 36- 

8 Epistolae aliquot eruditorum virorum ex quibus perspicuum quanta sit Ed, 
Lei virulentia, Basle, 1520. Cf. Jortin, ii, 371, 496 F. G. Kawerau: Brief- 
wechsel des J. Jonas, 1883, epp. 37, 41. Enthoven, ep. 3 (perhaps forwarding 
some of the letters). Lupset to Lee, Oxford, March 30 (1520), printed in 
Knight's Lif* ~ / Erasmus, 1726, Appendix, no. 26, p. 82. 


Erasmus published an apology. 1 The foolishness of his 
opponents was often the butt of his wit. For example^ 
he recounts how a certain divine had attacked the study 
of Greek, but on being closely questioned by More in 
the presence of Henry VIII, admitted that all he knew 
of it was that it was derived from Hebrew, Of similar 
caliber was the Dominican who tried to persuade Queen 
Catharine that it was very wrong of Erasmus to correct 
the books of the wise and holy Jerome, as though he 
knew more than the saint. 

In France the New Testament found less favor than 
in England. This was in part due to an unfortunate 
controversy between its editor and the man at the head 
of French liberal theology. As Lefevre d'fitaples was at 
Paris in the years 1504-05, Erasmus must have met him 
then, but their correspondence, glowing with mutual 
admiration and friendship, did not begin until I5I4. 2 
The occasion for the breach was the proposal of Lefevre, 
in his Commentary on St. Paul's Epistles (1512), to 
change the reading of Hebrews ii: 7, from, "Thou hast 
made him [Christ] a little lower than the angels," to, 
"Thou hast made him a little lower than God." When 
Erasmus rejected this emendation in his notes to the 
New Testament, Lefevre replied in the second edition 
of his own work (1517) that "this assertion that Christ 
is not a little lower than God, and yet is below the 
lowest man, we refute energetically as impious and 
most unworthy of Christ and of God." Stirred by this 
charge of impiety, Erasmus published an Apology? 
though he felt terribly sorry to be forced to take issue 
with his old friend, and would have preferred to write 
a volume in his praise rather than a short pamphlet 
in refutation of him. 4 

9 Allen, ep. 315. 

8 Apologia adv, Fabrum Stapulensem, 1518, LB. v, 17 if. Bibliotheca Bdgica^ 
s. v. Allen, ep. 597. Cf. Nichols, ii, pp. 586, 601 f. 

4 Allen, ep. 652. c. September 7, 1517. For his change Lefevre had the 
authority of the Hebrew text of Psalm viu:4. See English Revised Version, 


So distasteful was the quarrel that he did his best 
to avert its further course by turning to common friends, 
Glarean 1 and William Bude, to mediate. Bude's some- 
what curt refusal caused a strain in their relations, 
which was perhaps increased by mutual jealousy, for 
Bude, though not so great a writer, was a profounder 
student than was Erasmus. The Hollander revenged 
himself in a characteristic way, by publishing their 
correspondence 2 followed by a letter from the distin- 
guished Christopher Longueil to a certain James Luke 
expressing surprise that King Francis I should prefer 
Erasmus to Bude, "a German to a Frenchman, a 
foreigner to a citizen, a stranger to an acquaintance/' 
The climax of this witty but disingenuous attack on the 
French scholar was a letter from Erasmus to Longueil 
stuffed with transparently sarcastic praise of Bude. 

In the meantime the quarrel with Lefevre remained 
unappeased, notwithstanding a very friendly letter from 
Erasmus to his rival begging that a mere difference of 
opinion should not make them enemies. 3 Indeed, he 
greatly regretted the altercation, "Everyone/' he 
wrote, "German, Italian, and English, congratulates 
me on conquering that Frenchman, but they cannot 
make me hate my victory less/' 4 That Erasmus had 
the better of the controversy was in fact the opinion of 
impartial contemporaries. Luther, for example, though 
in general he preferred Lefevre, 5 and though he regretted 
the strife between these two princes of learning, judged 
that in this case the Dutchman conquered and spoke 
the better. 6 

1 Allen, ep. 766. 

1 In the Farrago of October, 1519. The letters are reproduced in their 
original order in Lond. iii, 51-63. The artful arrangement of the letters is of 
course destroyed by chronological redistribution. The letters, in this order, 
are in Allen, epp. 778, 810, 906, 723, 915, 930, 924, 9^9, 9S4> 9H> 935- Of- 
also Allen, ep. ion, 1015. 

'Allen, ep. 814, April 17, 1518. 

4 Allen ep. 794, C/. also, epp. 675, 659. 

8 Enders, i, 88. March I, 1517. L. C. ep. 30. 

6 Enders, i, 143. January 18, 1518. L. C. ep. 47. 


The altercation with Lefevre was a mere pin-prick 
compared with the severe chastisement administered 
to Erasmus by his old enemies of the Sorbonne. Noel 
Beda was aroused by the invitation to all men, even 
the laity, to read the Scriptures. 1 A debate on the 
new translations of Erasmus and Lefevre was proposed 
in the faculty of theology. When one Dominican had 
the temerity to assert that the Vulgate was very faulty 
he was so harshly reprimanded that he promptly declared 
he had only advanced the obnoxious opinion in order 
to provoke a discussion. After a formal examination, 
the learned faculty condemned all new Latin versions 
of the Bible, mentioning those of Erasmus and Lefevre 
by name. 2 The grounds for this decision were set forth 
by Peter Sutor in a pamphlet. 3 

A savage attack came from Spain. James Lopez de 
Stunica, one of the editors of the Complutensian Polyglot, 
perhaps stimulated by jealousy, prepared with extraor- 
dinary speed 165 notes on Erasmus's New Testament, 
and showed them to Cardinal Ximenes, for approval. 4 
As this was not granted, the publication of the attack 
was delayed until Ximenes's death. Erasmus frankly 
admitted that he had learned much from Stunica; he 
nevertheless published an apology against the calumnies 
of this too virulent critic. 5 

As Louvain was the center of old-fashioned scholasti- 
cism, it was natural that the Erasmian Testament 
should there excite considerable opposition, most of 
which, however, developed after the beginning of the 
Lutheran revolt. Even before its publication one of 
the Louvain Professors, Martin Dorp, had begged the 

a LB. ix, 456. 

* Humbert: Qrigines de la thtologie modern^ 1911, pp. 207 f. L, Delisle: 
Notice sur un Registre des Proces~Ferbaux de la Faculte de thedogle a Paris, 
S899, p. $6. 

1 De Tralationt Mblite ft Novarum Reprobations interpretationum, *5 2 5- 

4 Bludau, op. cit n 125 ff. J. L, Stunica: Annotation's contra Erasm-tttn in 
defensionem tralationis Novi Testament^ 1519. Allen, iv, 623 IF, 

6 In /, Lopim Stunicam non admodum circumspectum calumniator em apologia. 
LB, ix, 283. 


editor to consider carefully the expediency of trying to 
improve the version sanctified by long use; and had 
quoted in this connection Augustine's words, "I would 
not believe the gospel but for the authority of the 
Church/* The answers given by More and Erasmus, 
however, finally converted this opponent into a friend 
and supporter. 1 

But it was in Germany that the work had its greatest 
immediate influence. There, as elsewhere, some offence 
was taken by the conservatives; John Eck, for instance, 
professor at Ingolstadt and a pillar of the Church, was 
scandalized by the opinion of Erasmus that the Greek 
of the apostles was not so good as that of Demosthenes, 
and that the Evangelists occasionally made mistakes. 2 
Another backward-looking scholar, Augustine Alfeld, 
attacked Erasmus for translating xe%aprttt[ievyi "gra- 
tiosa," instead of "gratia plena/' as in the Vulgate, 
Luke i: 28. 3 

But among the liberals the work was applauded and 
studied. Ulrich Zasius* the jurist of Freiburg in the 
Breisgau, celebrated the " clearer sense and better Latin" 
of Erasmus's version. 4 On the men later to be Reformers 
the influence of the work was incalculable. Wolfgang 
Capito studied it carefully. (Ecolampadius had assisted 
in the preparation of the text and now expressed high 
approval of it. Melanchthon praised it as divinely guided 
and happy in its issue in fulfilling the author's purpose 
to improve studies and dispel darkness and the vanity of 
many errors by the rising sun of truth. 5 Ulrich Zwingli 
bought, transcribed, and annotated a copy with his own 
hands. 6 Andrew Bodenstein, called Carlstadt, thought 
the editor "the prince of theologians," 7 and studied the 

1 Allen, epp. 304, 337, 347, 338. 
1 Allen, epp. 769, 844, 
8 L, Lemmens: A. Alfdd, 1899, P* 79> n - 3 

4 Udalrici Zasii Epistolae, ed, J. A. Riegger, 1774, i, 288. Hexastich to 
Erasmus's New Testament, 1516. 

8 Dfdamatio de Erasmo, Corpus Reformatorum, xi, 264 (1557). 
Z. W., i, 61; iii, 208. 
7 0. Seitz: Der authentische Text der Leipziger Disputation, 1908, p. 41, 


text with a zeal that sometimes outran knowledge. 1 
Doubtless many of the minor Reformers, of all stripes 
and shades, perused the labors of Erasmus and profited 
by them. 2 

On Luther, the richest nature and the most indepen- 
dent character among the Reformers, it is perhaps 
worth while to trace the influence more in detail, for 
it will explain much in the history of Protestantism. 
We can see what an immense stimulus the work gave 
to the Saxon monk's development, and yet how even 
from the first there is traceable an undertone of suspicion 
and hostility which became more pronounced with 
years. At the time of the New Testament's appearance 
Luther was lecturing on Romans, using as his chief 
guide the edition of Lefevre d* Etaples. He apparently 
secured the new edition at the earliest possible moment, 
and from that time forth, beginning, namely, with the 
ninth chapter of the epistle, he took Erasmus as his 
chief authority in exegesis. 8 

The Erasmian influence on Luther's exegesis, perhaps 
under the stimulus of Melanchthon's praise, rose to 
its height in the Commentary on Galatians, first given as 
university lectures in 1516-17, and then published in 
1519. Not only was the Dutch scholar often quoted 
directly, but the whole angle of presentation was the 
humanistic and literal instead of the scholastic and allego- 
rical. A little later, however, the more deeply religious 
interest came to its own and inevitably the clear human 

1 In the text rovr6 kanv rb a&jjLd fiov (this is my body, Matthew, 
Carlstadt argued that Christ could not mean that the bread was his body 
because rovro was neuter whereas &pro$ was masculine. See Preserved Smith: 
A Short History of Christian Theophagy, 1922, p. 127. 

3 At Cornell there is a copy of the first edition of the Greek Testament with 
the statement that it was bought for J. Salandronius at the fair at Chur on 
St. Paul's Day, 1517. Salandronius, or Salzmann, was a minor Swiss Reformer, 
a friend of Zwingli. 

3 Ficker: Luthers Vorlemng uber den R6merMef y Leipzig, 1908. Preserved 
Smith: Life and Letters of Martin Luther, 23 ff. Preserved Smith: "Luther's 
Development of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith Only," Harvard 
Theological Review, 1913. 


method of Erasmus was less followed. In the edition of 
the Commentary on Galatians published in 1523 all 
references to Erasmus were suppressed, and in the 
lectures on the same Epistle given in 1531 the older 
scholar was mentioned only to be refuted. 1 Indeed s 
by this time Luther had purchased the fourth edition 
of the Greek Testament (Basle, 1527) and no less than 
470 marginal notes in his own hand embody an extremely 
unfriendly criticism of the editor. 2 

Though many of Luther's specific judgments on 
books of the New Testament, as those on the Epistle 
of James and on the Apocalypse, are but echoes of 
Erasmus, or developments of his thought in stronger 
form, he found in time the rational method of the 
humanist so distasteful to him that he wished that this 
scholar would abstain from treating the Scriptures, for 
his only service was to introduce a knowledge of the 
tongues, while to sound the deeper meaning of the 
truth was beyond his power. 3 Finally, 4 he came to 
see in the whole critical method with its "thus Augustine 
reads/' "thus Jerome understands," only a stamping of 
doubt on the most precious passages of the Word of 
God and a fostering of skepticism. 

But the most important service of the Greek Testa- 
ment has yet to be mentioned. It was the fountain 
and source from which flowed the new translations into 
the vernaculars which like rivers irrigated the dry lands 
of the mediaeval Church and made them blossom into 
a more enlightened and lovely form of religion. There 
had, indeed, been previous translations into several of 

1 Luthers Forlesung -fiber den Gdaterbnef 1516-17, hg. Hans von Schubert, 
1918. Commentary on Galatians, Luthers Werke, Weimar, the lectures of 
1519, ii, 436 ff, with special references to Erasmus on pp. 452, 476, 508, 598, 
601, The lectures of 1531, ibid., vol. xl On this see G. Ellingen Philipp 
Mflanchthon, 1902; A. Humbert: Origints de la theologie moderns, 1911, pp. 
347 f. 

a Lutherstudien zur 4. Jahrhundertfeier der Reformation, 1917, p. 244. The 
book is at the Library of the University of Groningen, Holland. 

8 L.C ep. 591. 

4 Conversations with Luther, pp. Ill 


the modern languages, but they had all been made from 
the Vulgate, and to the errors of that version the poor 
scholarship of the translators had added a number of 
others. It was not until the Greek text was published 
that a really scholarly rendering was possible. Erasmus 
himself foresaw the use to which his work would be 
put and cordially approved of it. In the first edition 
of 15 i6 l he says: 

I vehemently dissent from those who would not have private 
persons read the Holy Scriptures nor have them translated into the 
vulgar tongues, as though either Christ taught such difficult doctrines 
that they can only be understood by a few theologians, or the safety of 
the Christian religion lay in Ignorance of it. I should like all women 
to read the Gospel and the Epistles of Paul. Would that they were 
translated into all languages so that not only Scotch and Irish, 
but Turks and Saracens might be able to read and know them. 

In the preface to the third edition, dated Basle, 
January 14, IS22, 2 Erasmus expanded this passage, In 
beautiful words expressing his wish that all might come 
to Christ and drink of the Gospels. 

Some think it an offence to have the sacred books turned Into 
English or French, but the evangelists turned into Greek what 
Christ spoke in Syriac, nor did the Latins fear to turn the words 
of Christ into the Roman tongue that is, to offer them to the 
promiscuous multitude. 

He goes on to wish that they could be translated into 

all languages, French, English, German, and Hindustani, 
far it is both indecorous and ridiculous that laymen and 
women should, like parrots, repeat their Psalms and pater- 
nosters in Latin which they do not comprehend. . . * 

Like St. Jerome I think it a great triumph and glory to the cross 
if it is celebrated by the tongues of all men; if the farmer at the 
plow sings some of the mystic Psalms, and the weaver sitting at 

*In the Paraclesis, or introduction without pagination. I quote from the 
copy at Harvard. The same passage in the edition of 1519 in the British 
Museum copy, p. 8. St. Chrysostom may have suggested to Erasmus this 
passage on Bible-reading. Cf. his Homily 35 on Genesis xii. Migne, Patrologia 
Graecd t liii, 323, 

* Lond. xxix, 82, Luther's New Testament was not out yet. 


the shuttle often refreshes himself with something from the Gospel. 
Let the pilot at the rudder hum over a sacred tune, and the matron 
sitting with gossip or friend at the colander recite something from it. 

In closing, Erasmus anticipates Luther's catechetical 
labors by suggesting that children be given regular 
instruction in the Gospel and in the obligation of their 
baptismal vows, and that books for the purpose should 
be written representing Jesus as gentle as he really was. 

While Erasmus wrote these words the German New 
Testament was being completed. It was translated at 
the Wartburg from the Greek edition of 1519. It is 
quite possible that the Dutch scholar's preface to that 
edition first suggested the enterprise to the Reformer. 1 
By a lucky accident it was the best of all the Erasmian 
editions and the translator's labors show constant, almost 
incalculable, use of the lucubrations of his predecessor. 2 

The next year saw a new French version, made by 
Lefevre d' fitaples, who, though he used the Latin Vul- 
gate, knew the Greek from other sources, and did not 
agree with all of Erasmus's readings, was unable to 
ignore the work of his rival. 

William Tyndale, who had probably heard Erasmus 
lecture at Cambridge, printed in 1525 at Cologne the 
first English New Testament 3 based on the Greek text, 
and strongly showing the influence of both Erasmus 
and Luther. This version was violently attacked by 
More, in a Dialogue, on the ground of three thousand 
supposed errors, among them the use of the words 
"congregation" instead of "church/* and "elder" in- 
stead of "priest." When Tyndale defended himself by 
showing that in both cases he had but followed a hint 

1 In Luther's letter to Lang, December 18, 1521, where he first speaks of his 
translation, he seems to have Erasmus's words in mind. Enders, iii, 256; 
L. C. ep. 518. 

2 Momfret: History of the English Bible (ed. 1906) gives in parallel columns 
selections from the Erasmian and Lutheran versions. 

5 It is strange that whereas there are extant several earlier printed editions 
of the whole or parts of the Bible in German and French there should be none 
in English. An old translation there was, which circulated only in MS., 
attributed to Wyciif. Cf. A. W. Pollard, Records of the English Bible, 1911, p. I. 


of Erasmus in Latin, "More's darling/' Sir Thomas 
replied with more temper than force that, though the 
translations were the same in appearance, yet Tynd ale's 
was informed with a malicious spirit not found in 
Erasmus's. 1 At the same time More professed to believe 
that a properly executed version in the vulgar tongue 
would be useful, and even argued liberally, though* to 
judge from the later decree of the Council of Trent, 
erroneously, that the Church herself attributed infalli- 
bility to the original texts, and not to the Vulgate. 2 

The Spanish translation of the New Testament, made 
by Francis de Enzinas, and published at Antwerp in 
1543, was also based on the work of Erasmus. 3 

Colet's request that Erasmus should follow up his 
editorial work with an extended commentary was 
answered by the production of a number of Paraphrases 
of the books of the New Testament. 4 In this full, free, 
and popular form the author felt that he could best 
exhibit the thought of the inspired writers. All the 
materials at his command were skillfully worked into a 
scheme following the order of the original Scripture, 
while immensely expanding and beautifully interpret- 
ing it. The first Paraphrase to be completed was 
dedicated to Cardinal Domenico Grimani, on Novem- 
ber 13, 1517. The four Gospels were inscribed to four 
friendly monarchs; Matthew to the Emperor Charles 
V, 5 Mark with an introductory letter on the wickedness 
of war, to Francis I; Luke to Henry VIII; and John 
to Ferdinand of Austria, king of Hungary and Bohemia, 
and later emperor. 

1 Moris Workfs* 1557, pp. 422, 425, "Confutation of Tynd ale's Answer." 

* Mori Opera> 1689, p f 296, "Responsio ad Luthcrum." 

8 A. Bonilla y San Martin, in Revue Hispanique, xvii, 1907, p. 428, Enzinas's 
own memoirs do not speak of the original. Collection des Memoires snr 
I'Histoire de Belgique, 2 vols., 1862-3. The dependence of Enzinas on Erasmus 
was noticed by the seventeenth-century scholar, Richard Simon, quoted by 
E. Boehmer: Spanish Reformer*) i, 140, note B. 

4 All reproduced in LB. vii, C/, Allen, epp, 710, 916, 956. 

8 Charles's letter thanking Erasmus, dated Brussels, April i, i$22 9 printed 
In Geldenhauers Collectanea, ed. Prinsen, 1900, pp. 62 f. 


The Swiss Reformer, Leo Jud, translated the Para- 
phrases on the Epistles into German in 1523; a German 
version of those on the Gospels appeared in 1530. A 
Bohemian version of the Paraphrase on Matthew appeared 
in 1542; and a French version of the Epistles in 1543. 
A number of English scholars undertook, in 1543* with 
the support of Queen Catharine Parr ? to bring out 
vernacular translations; the Gospel of John being 
intrusted to the Princess Mary. 'The Injunctions of 
Edward VI, of July 31, 1547, ordered that the clergy 
should put in every church a copy of the Paraphrase on 
the Gospels perhaps the only part of the whole work 
as yet ready in English and that every parson below 
the rank of B. D. should provide himself with a copy. 1 
Under Elizabeth these Injunctions 5 with slight modifi- 
cationsj were renewed. 

From this it will be seen what popularity the Para- 
phrases long enjoyed. The purpose of the author* "to 
close up gaps, to soften abrupt transitions, to reduce 
the confused to order, to smooth out involved sentences, 
to explain knotty points, to illuminate dark places, to 
grant Hebraisms the Roman franchise, in short to 
modernize the language of St. Paul, heavenly orator as 
he is/' 2 all this and more was accomplished. Here was 
no longer a crabbed, pedantic, artificial interpretation 
of the text, but something to tell men, for the first 
time in that new age, what the Bible really said and 

1 Allen, ep. 710, introduction; Gee and Hardy: Documents Illustrative of 
English Church History, pp. 421, 425; Miscellaneous Writings of T. Cranmer, 
ed. Parker Society, 1846, "Acts of Visitation of 1548," ii, 155 ff, 499, 501. 
The copy of the book at the Congregational Library, 14 Beacon St., Boston, 
Massachusetts, has the title: The first tome or volume of the Paraphrases of 
Erasmus upon the newe testamente. Enprinted at London ... by Edwarde 
Whitchurche, January 3 1, 1548. Translated by order of Queen Catherine Parr. 
Vol. ii, dated August 16, 1549. The dedication is to Edward VI. No name of 
translator is given. A letter of Queen Catherine Parr to Princess Mary, 
September 20, 1544, speaks of Mary's translation as just completed with the 
help of Francis Mallet, Letters of Royal and Illustrious Persons^ ed. M. H. E. 
Wood, 1846, iii, 1 80 Nicholas Udal's Preface also speaks of Princess Mary's 

1 Allen, ep. 710. 


meant. Most of them rejoiced in the dawning light. 
A few found even the Erasmian eloquence tame after 
the sublimity of the sacred text. "It is dangerous to 
try to be more elegant than the Holy Spirit/' wrote 
Lefevre, with a glance at the Paraphrases, in the Intro- 
duction to his French New Testament. 1 "How ridiculous," 
thought Luther, "are those who, for the sake of style, 
put the Bible into paraphrase!" 2 "And," chimed in 
Roger Ascham, 3 "Erasmus's Paraphrases, being never 
so good, shall never banish the New Testament." 

^erminjard: Correspondance des Reformateurs des Pays de la langue 
franfaist, L 

* Luthers Wcrke, Weimar, xlii, 2 (1544). 

* Roger Ascham: The Schoolmaster (1563), English Works, 1761, p. 289. 



IN an age of great editors Erasmus was one of the most 
prolific as well as one of the ablest. When modern 
scholars, who, devoting their lives to the study of one 
author, or a few, find themselves in a position to improve 
the texts first published, they should remember how 
vast and how virgin a field invited the labors of their 
forbears. At that time it seemed more important to 
get out as much material as possible, than to apply 
intensive study to a smaller field. Moreover, the diffi- 
culties confronting the first editors were greater than 
those met with to-day. For the most part they had as 
sources few and late manuscripts, often the work of poor 
copyists unable to deal with the harder passages. Greek 
and Hebrew quotations in Latin manuscripts were 
either entirely omitted or unintelligently imitated; even 
knotty points and obscure words in Latin were plausibly 
but incorrectly misread. The textual emendations of 
Erasmus were noteworthy; he corrected four thousand 
corruptions in the text of Seneca alone, and in one case 
at least, where he restored auxesin faciens for aures in- 
ficiens in Augustine he showed himself equal to Bentley. 
In general, his editions of the fathers were superior in 
quality to his work on the New Testament. His sense 
of style was keen, however much his knowledge was 
occasionally at fault. He was not sure whether Irenaeus 
wrote in Latin or in Greek, and he repudiated Chrys- 
ostom's Homily on the Acts, now known to be a genuine 
though a poor work. On the other hand, he rightly 
declared the Opus imperfectum in Matth&um, widely cir- 
culated under the name of Chrysostom, to be an Arian 



forgery. The most serious charge brought against him 
as an editor is that, in order to give authoritative expres- 
sion to his own views, he published, as a work of Cyprian* 
a treatise entitled De Duplici Martyrio^ composed by 
himself. 1 This charge, however, though supported by 
eminent authority, must be regarded as disproved. 
If the pseudonymous tract were really from the pen 
of the great scholar, it would be a shock to find him 
speaking of the wars of Diocletian against the Turks! 
Its purpose, to show that one could be a martyr i.e. a 
witness to Christ, not only by blood but by good deeds 
is indeed worked out in thoroughly Erasmian style, 
with many parallel passages to his notes^ on the New 
Testament. Nevertheless, it is quite certain that it was 
the production of another rational pietist, who wished 
to advance the evangelic cause by fathering his own 
ideas on one of the doctors of the Church. 

Undoubtedly the Christian writer preferred by Erasmus 
was Jerome. Like many of his contemporaries 2 he was 
attracted by this least theological of theologians* ^this 
man of the world among saints, this pure Latinist 
among barbarians. As early as 1500 he thought of 
bringing out an edition of this doctor, for reasons thus 
stated: 3 

My mind has long burned with incredible ardor to illustrate with 
a commentary the Epistles of Jerome. In daring to conceive so 

*F. Lezius: Neue JahrMcher jut deutsche Theohgie, 1895, Iv, 95-110* 
184-243. A. Harnack: Ckronologie der dtchristlichen Littiratur, 1904, ii, 369. 
J. A. Faulkner: Erasmus^ The Scholar, 1907, pp. 236 The work is not in 
the Erasmian edition of Opera Cypriani, Basle, 1521 (at Harvard). It is said 
to have appeared first in the edition of 1530. 1 have read it in an edition 
published at Antwerp, 1568, pp. 581 The editor, James Pamelius shows 
that it cannot be by Cyprian, and says that Henry Gravius attributed it to 
Erasmus, on internal evidence, when he re-edited Cyprian in 1544* Se 
further Allen> ep. 1000. 

2 Jerome's popularity is shown by the numerous early editions of his works, 
than which none are more often met with in second-hand catalogues. 1 here 
was ari Italian translation of his letters: Epistolf de sando Huronymo volgare, 
Ferrara, 1497, and a French one: Les Epistres de monseigneur sainct Hieros 
fnfranfois t Paris, 1520. 

8 Allen, ep. 141; Nichols, ep. 134. Cf. Allen, ep. 138, *nd ii, pp. 210 


great a design, which no one has hitherto attempted, I feel that some 
god inlames and directs my heart. I am moved by the piety of 
that heavenly man s of all Christians beyond question the most 
learned and most eloquent; whose writings, though they deserve 
to be read and learned everywhere and by ail, are read by few, admired 
by fewer still and understood by scarcely any. ... I am not 
unaware of the audacity of my presumption. What a task it will 
be, in the first place, to clear away the errors, which during so many 
ages have become established in the text. What a mass there is 
in his works of antiquities, of Greek literature, of history and 
then what a style, what a mastery of language, in which he has 
left not only all Christian authors far behind him, but seems to 
vie with Cicero himself! 

As time went on Erasmus felt more deeply drawn to 
Jerome for reasons he has not mentioned here. In the 
hermit of Bethlehem who translated the Scriptures, 
who cultivated the tongues, who loved the classics, 
who cared so little for systematic theology and so much 
for life, he saw the prototype of his own mind and the 
champion of the "philosophy of Christ/* In such 
respect Jerome was a perfect contrast to Augustine, the 
great thinker, the explainer of God's ways, the asserter 
of determinism and of total depravity. There have 
always been the two types of mind in the Church. The 
two New Testament writers, St. Paul and St. John, who 
first worked over the simple materials of the Synoptic 
Gospels, represent the same tendencies, the one to a 
hard and fast system, the other to the expression and 
glorification of a life. Again, fifteen hundred years later, 
Erasmus and Luther typified the same diversity, and 
Luther, with his customary insight, detected the dif- 
ference at once. 1 

I do not doubt [he wrote] that I differ from Erasmus in interpreting 
Scripture because I prefer Augustine to Jerome as much as he in 
all things prefers Jerome to Augustine. . . . The reason for my 
preference is that I realize that Jerome seems even intentionally 
to descend to a purely historic interpretation, so that, strange to 
say, his best exegesis of Scripture is in the obiter dicta in his epistles 
and elsewhere rather than in his commentaries. 

1 Luther to Spalatin, October 19, 1516. Enders, i, 63, L. C cp. ai. 

i 9 2 ERASMUS 

The dogmatic Augustine attracted the dogmatic 
Reformer; the humane Jerome the humanist. "I have 
always avoided the character of a dogmatist/' wrote 
Erasmus, "except in incidental admonitions about 
improving studies and about human judgment." He 
had always labored, he added, to bring scholastic theology 
back to its sources. 1 For this reason he often expressed 
his preference for all the ancient fathers as against 
Aquinas and Scotus. He thought the rivulets of truth 
purer as they approached the divine spring. 

Hearing that the Amerbachs were preparing Jerome 
for publication by Froben, Erasmus immediately com- 
municated with them. He had already made some prep- 
arations for such a work, and about 1514 he was 
appointed editor-in-chief. The dedication was first 
intended for Warham, then for Leo X, who graciously 
accepted it, it later was changed back to Warham, when 
the New Testament was, for important reasons, inscribed 
to the pope. 2 The first volume came out in 1516, and 
was promptly followed by the others nine parts in all, 
variously bound in four or five tomes. The whole was 
sold at the reasonable price of nine gulden. 3 

Jerome was but the first of a long series of doctors of 
the Church to receive editorial attention from the scholar 
of Rotterdam. 4 At various times he published either 
the whole or large parts of the works of Algerus, Ambrose, 
Arnobius, Augustine, Cyprian, Eucherius, Hilarius, 
Lactantius, and Prudentius, among the Latins. He 
edited various works of Athanasius, the first, in an 
old Latin translation, in 1518. Further studies came 
out in 1527; the dedication of these caused the editor 

1 Erasmus to Maldonato, March 30, 1527. Zcitschrift fur Mstorische Theologie^ 
xxix, 1859, p. 608. Cf, A. Humbert: Qrigines de la theolop t ie modtrne, pp. 228 flT. 

* Allen, epp. 308, 396, 333~33S 33^ 3395 Nichols, ep, 384, April I, 1516. 
A preface to the reader, Alien, ep, 326. 

8 Scheurls Briefbuch, ed. Soden und Knaake, 1872, li, 13, Scheurl to Spalatin, 
April i, 1517. A gulden, fifty-six cents, had a much greater purchasing power 
than the same amount of gold would have to-day, 

4 BibHotheca Erasmiana, 1893, serie ii. 


some thought, before he chose John, Bishop of Lincoln, 
as the patron. 1 Editions or Latin translations of other 
Greek fathers, Basil, Irenseus, Chrysostom, Nazianzen, 
and Origen, appeared in course of time. Erasmus as 
a critic was at his happiest in the introductions to these 
authors. While he differentiated and characterized 
them with unsurpassed nicety, he rendered a genuine 
literary service to the Church, doing more perhaps to 
popularize her classical texts than any other man has 
ever done. 

As editor and interpreter of the classics Erasmus was 
even more active than as a laborer in ecclesiastical 
fields. No sooner had he mastered Greek than he began 
to turn his knowledge to account by producing Latin 
versions of the Attic and Hellenistic masterpieces. A 
few of these were from Euripides, but most were from 
that scoffer and atheist of the ancient world, the Syrian 
Lucian. For ascertainable reasons Lucian was the 
most popular author of the Renaissance. 2 The Italians 
Filelfo, Guarino, and Poggio had been among his first 
admirers and translators. From the time that Rudolph 
Agricola brought a taste for him north of the Alps, he 
had more imitators and interpreters than any other 
Greek writer. Thomas More, Pirckheimer, Mosellanus, 
Ottomar Luscinius, and Melanchthon all tried their 
hands at versions of his dialogues. 3 His strong influence 
was reflected in the numerous satires of the age, in the 
Praise of Folly, and in the works of Rabelais. Indeed, 
what appealed to the keen wits of the Renaissance was 
Lucian's satire even more than his skepticism. The 
Syrian misanthrope took the same delight in mocking 
the superstitions of paganism that Voltaire found in 

1 L. C. ep. 752, Erasmus to Lewis Ber, January 26, 1527. 

2 J. A. Froude, "Lucian," in Short Studies in Great Subjects, iv, 216 ff. R. 
Forster: "Lucian in der Renaissance," drchivfur Liter aturgeschichte, xiv, 1886, 
pp. 337 ff. 

8 In the Leyden Edition of Erasmus's works, LB. ep. 475, is a preface to 
Lucian J s dialogues Cynicus, Ntcyomantia, and Philopseudes, put in as by 
Erasmus, though really penned by T. More. See Jortin, Erasmus, ii, 746. 


ridiculing the Christian mysteries. One of his dialogues 
represents the poor, impotent, ridiculous deities of 
Greece attending a debate on the question of their own 
existence, at Athens, where Damis maintains a skeptical 
attitude with great success, while his orthodox opponent, 
Timocles, is totally unable to reply to his arguments save 
by calling him blasphemer, infidel, and villain. Nor 
did Christianity escape the notice of Lucian, who 
directed his jibes against "the man who ascended into 
heaven/ 5 and against Christian dogmas which came 
to his notice. Indeed, there is extant one dialogue, prob- 
ably 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 super- 
stition, 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. 

The catholic taste of Erasmus found much to enjoy, 
and his industry much opportunity, in bringing forth 
the works of the ancients. Books were the world he lived 
in. The greatest of all inventions, in his judgment, was 

1 According to a saying of Luther in 1542, Melanchthon had this dialogue, 
probably in manuscript, as we know nothing else of it. E. Kroker: Luthm 
Tischreden in der Mathesischen Sammlung. No. 569. 

2 So Luther, often, <?.#,, Wrampelmeyen Tagebuch dts Conrad Cordatux, nos, 
394, 1294, 1521. 


printing, the instrument of learning and true happiness. 
This discovery he attributed to John Fust, the grandfather 
of his friend the printer, Peter Schoeffer, 1 though he 
knew that others disputed it. "This almost divine 
art/' as he called it, was chiefly valuable in his eyes for 
giving the world the benefit of reading the classics, or, 
at least, such poor fragments of them as were left. 
"Let us/ 5 he passionately exclaimed, "keep on publishing 
them, despite those who, under pretext of saving religion, 
pollute and extinguish all elegant learning, though their 
frantic efforts in fact only make their victims the more 
illustrious/ 5 

True to his own principles, Erasmus edited many 
of the classics, among the Latins Ausonius, several works 
of Cicero, Quintus Curtius, the Historia Augusta, 
Horace, Livy, Ovid, Persius, Plautus, Pliny's Natural 
History^ Seneca's tragedies, Suetonius, the Mimes of 
Publius Syrus, and Terence; among the Greeks, either 
in the original or in Latin versions, jEsop, Aristotle, 
Demosthenes, Euripides, Galen, Isocrates, Josephus, 
Libanius, Lucian, Plutarch's minor works, Ptolemy, and 
Xenophon. 2 

The passion for the Athenian and Roman poets and 
philosophers displayed in all Erasmus's writings, and 
the imperial command of them exemplified in the Adages, 
tell the same tale of ardent and unremitting study as 
is told in his efforts to kindle in others his own en- 
thusiasm. By letters, by assistance of all sorts, and 
occasionally by gifts, he initiated others into his own 
tastes. There is in the library of my friend, Mr. George 
Arthur Plimpton, of New York, a precious volume of 
Herodotus, published by Aldo in 1502. It has an in- 
scription, in the first owner's hand, "Erasmi sum," 

1 Allen, ep. 919, preface to edition of Livy gotten out by Hutten, dated 
February 23, 1519. There is a copy of this work, T, Livius Patavinus 
Historicus, . . . ed. Ulrico de Hutten, Moguntiae, Schoeffer, 1518-19, at 
Wellesley College, with manuscript notes wrongly attributed to Melanchthon. 

2 Bibliotheca Erastniana, 1893, serie ii. See also, on the translation of 

p: Bibliothec a Belgica; (^Esopus): Fabulae Petri Aegidii, 1513. 


to which some admirer has added, "Amicus orbi pe- 
renne," "Ever the friend of the world." A further note 
informs us that Erasmus gave the book to his friend the 
jurisconsult, Antony Clava, who, at his death on May 31, 
1529, left it to Livinus Ammonius. The letter accom- 
panying the gift, dated April 29, 1518, is extant. 1 There 
is also in existence, in the possession of Mr. P. M. 
Barnard, of Tunbridge Wells, a copy of Gregory Nazi- 
anzen's Carmina, published by Aldo at Venice, 1504, 
with the autograph inscription meaning: "I am Eras- 
mus's, nor do I change my master." When, however, 
Martin Lipsius received the book as a gift he wrote in 
it, "I was Erasmus's and I have changed my master," 
which the original owner capped with a gracious quo- 
tation from his own proverb, "Nay, I did not change 
masters, since a friend is another self." 2 

As the political writings of Erasmus are of consider- 
able importance and originality, it is remarkable that 
they have hitherto been so little noticed. 8 The most 
formal, though not the greatest, of them was The Insti- 
tution of a Christian Prince,* written for and dedicated 
to Charles V, then king of Spain and soon to be emperor. 
This essay is a really valuable contribution to several 
branches of political science. To be appreciated, the 
standpoint of the author must be compared with that of 
his contemporary Machiavelli, whose Principe, printed 
in 1532, was perhaps already written. The Italian 
statesman regarded politics as totally dissociated from 

1 Allen, ep. 841. Mr. Plimpton bought the book, which I have seen, from 
J. E. Hodgkin, or from his estate. See Historical MSS. Commission, I5th 
report, 1897, Appendix, part ii, p. 4. 

2 Letter by Prof. J. W. Thompson, in the New York Nation, May 17, 1919, 
p. 792; Bodleian Quarterly Record, 1917-19, p. 6r. Various allusions to the 
book occur in Erasmus's correspondence with Lipsius. 

8 W. A. Dunning: A History of Political Theories, 3 vols. 1902 ff, has no 
word on Erasmus. 

4 Text, LB. iv, 561 IF; preface Allen, ep. 393; Nichols, ep. 389. See 
L. Enthoven: "Ueber die Institutio Principis Christiani des Erasmus," Nftte 
Jahrbucher fur das Ktassische Altertwn, etc,, xxiv, 312 ff. Extracts from the 
Institutio have just been published by the Grotius Society, as no. x of a series 
of texts for students of international relations. 


morals, as much so as mathematics; it was a game like 
chess or war in which any strategy or ruse was allowable. 
Erasmus followed Aristotle, Plato and Aquinas in 
making politics a branch of ethics, both being concerned 
with the actions of men, the one in a public, the other 
in a private capacity. 

What were Erasmus's sources besides the Greeks just 
mentioned, and the obvious one of the Utopia, I am 
unable to say. There were a large number of political 
writings in the Middle Ages, many of theiri, like the 
works of Occam, being concerned chiefly with the 
proper relation of Church and state, and others, like 
Dante's Monarchic with proving that one particular 
form of government is the best. Erasmus does not con- 
cern himself with either of these questions and there is no 
proof that he ever studied politics thoroughly. His 
essay was above all practical, and it is perhaps super- 
fluous to look for sources beyond the commonplaces of 
tire schools and his own observation of the needs of his 

After recommendations as to the qualifications de- 
sirable in elective rulers he points out the necessity of 
education for any ruler, and especially for a hereditary 
prince. The object of this education should be to teach 
him that his main duty is not to fight the Turks or 
found monasteries, but to care for his people. The 
second chapter is a warning against flatterers, though 
Erasmus himself is, as usual, quite liberal with his praise. 
The third chapter is on the arts of peace. The first of 
these is to love his people; but to do so in an enlight- 
ened manner, not buying popularity with largesses, but 
caring for the public interests by the skillful appointment 
of counsellors and by attending to larger concerns in 
person, for nothing is more regrettable than the absence 
of the prince. Among the arts of peace Erasmus natu- 
rally gives a high place to the foundation and support 
of schools and universities. 

Chapter four is an excellent treatment of the subject 


of taxation. Imposts should be as light as possible, and 
should be levied solely on luxuries, leaving free neces- 
sities like grain, bread, beer, wine, and clothing, but 
bearing heavily on linens, silks, purple, unguents, and 
gems. The author follows up this economic discussion 
by a brief consideration of the proper beneficences of a 
prince, his duty as legislator, as appointer of officers, as a 
framer of treaties and alliances, and as a fostering 
patron of peaceful industry. The last chapter is a 
sermon on the favorite subject of the wickedness of war, 
which should never be undertaken against a Christian 
power nor rashly even against the Turks. He proposes 
that if dissentions arise the contending parties resort to 
arbitration instead of arms. " There are many bishops, 
abbots, learned men, and grave magistrates by whose 
judgment these things might be far more decently com- 
posed than by murder, pillage, and calamity throughout 
the world. " For this suggestion of international ar- 
bitration, first realized in the nineteenth century, 
Erasmus had a predecessor in Pierre Dubois (1300) one 
of the lawyers of Philip le Bel. 1 But as he had probably 
never read this lawyer's book the similarity of their 
suggestion should not betray us into imagining a con- 
nection between the two distinct expressions of the same 

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, * c 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 

1 CJ. E. H. Meyer: Die Staats und Folkerrtchtlichen Heen von P; Dubois, 

2 To Peutinger, L. C. i, 391; Allen, ep, 056, Very early he expressed the 
same opinion, Allen, ep, 29. 


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 Cam- 
brai in March, 1517, a tract entitled The Complaint of 
Peace* 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 contribution to the cause of peace. 4 

Next to pacifism, republicanism is the most original 
and valuable element of Erasmus's political thought. 
One must not be misled by the adulation he now and 
then heaped on royal patrons into thinking that he fell 
in with the general tendency of the Renaissance and 
Reformation to exalt monarchy as instituted jure divino. 
A close study of his writings will show that he differed 
from Machiavelii not only in his ideal of a prince, but in 
his ideal of government. Nothing is more untenable 
than the opinion, recently advanced, 5 that fundamentally 
both the Florentine and the Rotterdamer maintained the 
same thesis, the one as a statesman, the other as a man 
of letters, and that "both forgot only one thing, the 
governed/* Erasmus saw the miseries of the people and 
the folly of their hereditary rulers more plainly than 
any man of his time. He often was reminded, he wrote 

1 To Christopher von Schydlowitz, August 27, 1528. Horawitz: Erasmiana 
t, (Sitzungsberichte. . . . Wien, vol. 90), p. 438. 

2 De Bello Twcico, LB. v, 365. 

8 Querela Pads, prefatory letter to Philip of Burgundy, Allen, ep. 603. 
English translation, The Complaint of Peace, published by Open Court, 1917. 
4 J. Bryce: International Relations, 1922, p. 18. 
B Imbart de la Tour: Ongines de la Reforme, i, 556 ff. 


Bude in prudent Greek, of the Horatian verse, "When 
the kings go mad the people are smitten/' 1 In his 
Adages, especially in the edition of 1515, a bitter hatred 
of monarchy is expressed, such as is hardly found else- 
where save in the French monarchomachs of St. Bar- 
tholomew and of the Revolution. Listen to this: 2 

The eagle is the image of a king, for he is neither beautiful, nor 
musical, nor fit for food, but he is carnivorous, rapacious, a brigand, 
a destroyer, solitary, hated by all, a pest to all, who, though he can 
do more harm than anyone, wishes to do more harm than he can. 

Or this: 3 

In all history, ancient and modern, scarcely in several centuries 
are found one or two princes whose signal folly did not inflict ruin 
on mankind. ... I know not whether much of the blame of this 
should not be imputed to ourselves. We trust the rudder of a vessel, 
where a few sailors and some goods alone are in jeopardy, to none 
but skillful pilots; but the state, wherein the safety of so many 
thousands is bound up, is put into any chance hands. A charioteer 
must learn, study, and practice his art; a prince needs only to be 
born. Yet government, as it is the most honorable, so it is the most 
difficult, of sciences. Shall we choose the master of a ship and not 
choose him who is to have the care of so many cities and so many 
lives? But our custom is too long established to be subverted. Do 
we not see that noble cities are erected by the people and destroyed 
by princes? that a state grows rich by the industry of its citizens 
and is plundered by the rapacity of its rulers? that good laws are 
enacted by representatives of the people and violated by kings? 
that the commons love peace and the monarchs foment war? 

The guardians of a prince aim never to let him become a man. 
The nobility, battening on public corruption, endeavor to make him 
as effeminate as possible by pleasure lest he should know what a 
prince ought to know. Villages are burnt, fields are devastated, 
temples pillaged, innocent citizens slaughtered, all things spiritual 
and temporal are confounded, while the king plays dice or dances, 
or amuses himself with fools, or with hunting or drinking. 

Such passages might be multiplied. 4 The author of 
these sentiments might have led a republican revolt, 

1 Allen, ep, 954. "Quidquid delirant reges plectuntur Achivi." 

2 Adagia, "Scarabaeus aquilam quaerit/ 1 LB. ii, 875. 

8 Adagia, **Aut regem aut fatuum nasci oportet," LB. ii, 106. 
1 Cf. " Frons occipitio prior," Adagia, LB. ii, 77. 


had the times been ripe and his own character as decided 
in action as it was bold in speculation. However, while 
he saw plainly what was rotten in monarchy, he could 
hardly frame in his own mind a practical alternative, 
The Peasants' War was a great shock to him, as it was 
to Luther and to other liberals. In the Adage "Scara- 
baeus" 1 after one of the fiercest invectives against the 
monarch who "makes the whole people tremble, the 
senate subservient, the nobility obedient, the judges 
obsequious, the theologians silent," as he beats down 
laws and customs, humanity and justice, Erasmus adds: 

But princes must be endured, lest tyranny give way to anarchy, 
a still greater evil. This has been demonstrated by the experience 
of many states; and lately the insurrection of the German peasants 
has taught us that the cruelty of kings is better than the universal 
confusion of anarchy. 

Indeed, Erasmus had no very high opinion of the 
masses, "that fickle, many-headed monster," as he once 
called the people. 2 Early in life he wrote: "If a thing 
displease the vulgar, that is a presumption in its favor/ 5 
and, "truth is a sharp and bitter thing to the vulgar." 3 
Nevertheless, his incisive criticism of hereditary 
magistrates bore fruit, in the various fields in which the 
seed fell, in some thirtyfold, in some fiftyfold, in some a 
hundredfold. While Grotius blamed his pacifism, 4 Sir 
Thomas Elyot, in his book, The Cover nour, wrote, "There 
was never boke written in latine that in so lytle a portion 
contained of sentence, eloquence, & vertuous exhortation 
a more compendious abundance," than the Institution 
of a Christian Prince* Catharine de" Medici had a 
French paraphrase of it made for the instruction of her 
sons; and the author cannot be blamed if these boys 

1 LB, ii, 871 fF. The passage about the Peasants' Revolt was, of course, 
added after 1525. 

2 LB. ep. 655. To Albert of Mainz, June i, 1523. 

3 Allen, ep. 63. 

4 H. Grotius: Wane and Peace, English translation, London, 1655, Preface, 
unnumbered page. 

* T. Elyot: The Governour, 1880 (after first edition of 1531), i, 95. 


grew up into weaklings and degenerates. 1 The two 
antimonarchical adages, "Scarabseus" and "The king 
and the fool are born such/' were separately printed and 
widely circulated. Luther's friend, Spalatinj, translated 
the latter into German, adding a dedicatory epistle to 
Prince Joachim of Anhalt, 2 and Luther's own famous 
remark/ 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/ 5 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 Boetie, bears the stamp of the 
writers' careful study, during the impressionable period 
of youth, of the two adages just quoted. 4 

Familiar letters were then, as they have been at many 
periods and as they are now, one of the recognized, most 
carefully cultivated, and most popular forms of literature. 
The epistle is at once a necessity, a comfort, and a luxury. 
It is a key to unlock the heart and to open a treasury of 
gentle wisdom, of homely sentiment, of keen obser- 
vation, and of criticism of life. As a literary form it 
furnishes infinite variety, patient of all manners save 
the stilted or formal As a historical source it com- 
bines the advantages of the document written at the same 
time as the events described, and of the memoir revealing 
the writer's psychology as he serves up the facts known 
to him. Even the simplest missives of business, friend- 
ship, and love, written by common men and women, such 
as those recently turned up by the hundred in the Egyp- 

1 Chantilly: Cabinet des Livres, 1900, i, 255. The MS. Is entitled 
"Epitome ou Sommaire du traite d'firasme de Roterdam, de Tlnstitution 
d'ung Prince Chrestien jusques en Peage d'adolescence." Jt was made in the 
years 1553-4. 

2 Bibliotheca Erasmiana, "Adagia. 

8 Luther? Werke, Weimar, xi, 267 f, 1523. 

4 Preserved Smith; The Age of the Reformation, 1920, pp. 588 0F. 



tian papyri, are fascinating. The polished epistles of 
Cicero and of the younger Pliny, the sacred epistles of 
St. Paul and of St. Jerome, furnished models for the 
humanists who, especially in Italy, cultivated no style of 
composition more assiduously than the epistolary. The 
teaching of Latin prose always included the writing of 
letters, as well as of orations. So popular was this 
literary form that it furnished a mold for the satire of 
the Obscure Men and for the history of Peter Martyr 

As the Opus Epistolarum, the bulkiest of all Erasmus's 
extant works, shows, he was second to none in practicing 
the art of letter-writing and in keeping his correspond- 
ence for publication. Indeed, one of his earliest studies, 
written for an English pupil about 1498, first pirated, 
then published by the author himself in 1521, was a 
treatise on letter-writing. 1 " I judge that epistle to be the 
best/* he says, "which is furthest from the vulgar, un- 
learned sort; which conveys choice sentiments in elegant, 
apt words, and which is well suited in style to the argu- 
ment, the place, the time, and the person addressed/* 
The author adds several engaging examples of the best 
style of letter writing, partly from Pliny and Cicero, 
partly of his own composition, these latter including 
an amatory epistle to a girl, and several letters selected 
from his authentic correspondence. 

His friends valued his epistles highly enough to keep 
them, and some of them even found their way, in manu- 
script copies, into the bookshops. A whole code of his 
letters was bought by his friend Piso at a bookstall in 
Siena, and other such collections came back to the 
writer at different times. 2 Although he burned these, he 
himself preserved what he thought worth keeping, even 
some from his earliest years, and, after careful editorial 
revision, in order, as he expressed it, to remove the aloes 
of bitterness, he adopted the plan, not uncommon among 

1 Df conscribendis epistolis, LB. i, 343 ff, Allen, ep. 715 Biblioihtca Erasmiana* 
8 Allen, ep. 1206, 


Italian humanists, of publishing his own correspondence 
during his lifetime. The volumes enjoyed considerable 
popularity among his contemporaries, both for their per- 
sonal and for their literary interest, and they are to us of 
to-day perhaps the best part of the humanist's work, 1 
A certain number of his important letters were brought 
out separately? as articles now are printed in periodicals. 
The first group to be published were the four of May, 
1515, to Leo, to the Cardinals Grimani and Riario, and 
to Dorp in defense of the Moria. These came out in 
Damiani Elegia, Froben, August, 1515.^ In the following 
year, while staying at Antwerp with his intimate friend, 
Gilles, Erasmus had twenty-one letters printed, three of 
the previous four and eighteen others to and from 
famous men Leo X, Warham, Ammonius, Henry VIII, 
More, Colet, Bude, and others. This collection was 
edited with a preface written by Gilles, who, according 
to the convention of the day, assumed the responsi- 
bility of bringing out the letters of his modest friend. ^ 

A third selection, also fathered by Gilles, appeared in 
March, 1517, under the title of Epistoltz elegantes. It 
included thirty-five letters, some of the previous ones 
and others from Leo, the Bishop of Worcester, Bude, and 
other scholars. 

Sixty-three new letters were edited by Beatus Rhen- 
anus under the title of Auctarium, in August, 1518. 
Erasmus pretended to be ignorant of this publication 
but he really had been preparing for it. To Mountjoy, 
for example, he wrote 2 requesting him to send some 
letters for insertion in it and promising to change any- 
thing in them that ought to be changed and to publish 
nothing indiscreet. Several of the letters are apologies. 
The Farrago (October, 1519) contained a much larger 
number of letters (333)? including almost all prior to the 
year 1514 that were published during Erasmus* life- 

1 For the different editions published, cf. Allen, i, 593 ff; Nichols, i, pp, 
xxvi ff. Bibliotheca Erasmiana (1893), Pt. I, pp. 87 ff. 
8 Allen, ep. 783, c. March 5, 1518. 


time. The correspondence is quite one-sided, only a few 
letters from such famous men as More and Colet being 
included. The responsibility for this may rest partly 
upon the Basle editors, who were modest enough not 
to include a single letter from their own circle. 

The next edition, Epistolcz ad diversos, was brought out 
in the latter part of 1521 (the preface is dated May 2yth, 
but letters as late as November 22d are included) to 
correct some indiscretions committed in the preceding 
volumes, for Erasmus was now getting deeper than he 
wished into the Lutheran affair. As far as possible he 
suppressed the earlier letters in which he had expressed 
sympathy with the Reformer. Most of these are 
probably now entirely lost, but some of them have since 
been found and edited. To counteract their effect he 
now put in a large quantity of hedging utterances, pro- 
fessing his total aloofness from Wittenberg. His preface 
is so characteristic of his attitude, especially toward his 
own correspondence, that a part of it may well be 
translated r 1 

I see, my good Beatus, that what you write Is more true than I 
should wish. But then I wonder why my German friends insist so 
strongly upon that which brings down upon me such a burden of ill 
will. For you know how unhappy was the issue of those epistles of 
which you first undertook the editing, and still more unfortunate that 
Farrago. . . . Even in that careful selection enough was found to 
excite tragic anger in many hearts. I have therefore made up my 
mind to desist entirely from that kind of writing, especially now 
that affairs are everywhere rocked by such a marvelous agitation, 
and the minds of many so embittered by hatred that you cannot 
write anything so mildly, so simply, or so circumspectly that they 
will not seize it for purposes of calumny. 

Though as a young man, and also at a riper age, I have written 
a great number of letters, I scarcely wrote any with a view to 
publication. I practiced my style, I beguiled my leisure, I made 
merry with my acquaintance, I indulged my humor, in fine did 
scarcely anything in this way but amuse myself, expecting nothing 
less than that my friend would copy and preserve such trifling com- 
positions. . . . But if epistles lack true feeling and do not represent 
the life of the writer, they do not deserve the name of epistles. 

1 Nichols, i, p. Ixxvii ff. Allen, ep. 1 206. 


Apparently the Epistola ad diversos did not have the 
expected effect, for Erasmus allowed seven years to pass 
before he again ventured to print some more of his cor- 
respondence; and when at last he did so the tiny volume 
of Selects Epistolce (1528) consisted of apologies. The 
next year, however, Froben persuaded his learned friend 
to undertake a new edition of correspondence, and this 
resulted in the large Opus Epistolarum (1529) containing 
more than a thousand letters, of which more than four 
hundred were new. After this, supplements appeared 
frequently, the Epistol<z Florida in 1531, the Epistolce 
palteontzoi in 1532. Sixteen new letters appeared as an 
appendix to his De pr&paratione ad mortem (1534), and 
nineteen new letters in the volume containing his De 
puritate tabernaculi (c. February, 1536). 

Nowadays, distinguished people leave the publication 
of their private correspondence to their literary executors 
and biographers. The artifices taken to avoid the ap- 
pearance of egotism have become too trite and too trans- 
parent for further use. Indeed, in the sixteenth century, 
Montaigne animadverted severely on Cicero and Pliny 
for publishing their familiar epistles, adding, "What 
could a silly schoolmaster, who gets his living by such 
trash, do worse?" 1 A close parallel to the humanist's 
practice is furnished by Alexander Pope, who, though 
with greater secrecy and more elaborate pretense that 
it was all done by friends, edited his own letters, altering 
a great deal, especially the names of correspondents and 
dates. 2 

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. 8 Comparison with the manuscripts, where 

1 Montaigne: Essais, i, 39. 

2 G. Pas ton: Mr. Pope, 1910. 2 voli. 
* Allen, ep. 982. 


they have survived, shows extensive and important 
alterations. 1 Dates, added from memory, were fre- 
quently wrong, or were sometimes falsified intention- 
ally to give a desired impression. 2 Names were sup- 
pressed; 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. Moreover, he could 
never really misrepresent himself. If a letter written by 
him was published ten years afterward, we may not be 
sure of the exact date at which he held the opinions ex- 
pressed in it but we are certain that he held them, or at 
least wrote them. That he altered here and there to 
protect his friends and himself was inevitable and morally 
unobjectionable. Since his death some letters have been 
found dealing with the shame of his birth and the errors 

1 Examples of changes, Nichols, vol. iii, pp. 116 f, 288, 216, 295. (?/. Nichols, 
i, p. xx, p. xxix; pp. 406, 4.08, ep. 464. Nichols reads "nusquam adorno" and 
translates, " I do not embellish anywhere," applying this to the editing of the 
epistles. But the true reading is "Nusquamam adorno," "I am preparing the 
Utopia" Allen, ep- 477, 

* An example of this in the first letters he ever printed, in Damiani Elegia y 
Allen, epp. 333-335. Allen says that more than half the dates added by 
Erasmus from memory were wrong, i, 596. 

*G. Kawerau: Brufwechsel des Justus Jonas, 1884 f, i, p. 42. The epistle 
in question was published in the Farrago nova, and is now found in Allen, 
ep. 985- 

4 Allen, ep. 783. 

6 Forstemann-Gunther, nos. 61, 73. 


of his youth. How could he be expected to expose these 
to the public gaze? The greater part of his changes are 
purely stylistic, not material. Only in one respect has he 
seriously beclouded the clear sky of historical truth, and 
in this respect he has himself alone suffered. The repu- 
tation he has borne for extreme caution, carried to the 
verge of cowardice, is based on the impression given by 
the letters published by himself and carefully toned 
down, as was absolutely necessary in the circum- 
stances, when they were published. He really played a 
momentous and a not cowardly part in the great religious 
conflict of his age, but he has given the world the idea, 
through the carefully guarded manner in which he ex- 
plained his private acts to the public, that he played a 
small, almost a pusillanimous, role. 1 Making due allow- 
ance for this, as should be done, though it hardly ever 
has been done, we shall find him a greater and truer 
man in his nakedness than he appeared in his own too 
carefully selected dress. 

For the lover of history and of good literature Eras- 
mus's epistles are a feast. He serves up all his own sweet 
and reasonable ideas, many a lively anecdote, and not a 
few exquisite portraits, with the sauce of gentle humor 
and the warmth of a facile, charming, if not classical,. 
Latin. And what a society one meets at his hospitable 
board! Popes and monarchs, nobles and bankers, 
reformers, scholars, artists, writers, Luther, Melanchthon 
Margaret of Navarre, Colet, More, Bude, Zwingli, 
OEcolampadius, Aleander, Rabelais! But to name them 
all would be to call the roll of half the great men of the 
early sixteenth century. 

1 /. P. KalkoiF: Gfgtnrfformation in den Niederlanden, 1903, i, 4. 



ERASMUS laid the eggs and Luther hatched the 
chickens/' "Erasmus is the father of Luther/ 5 
"Luther, Zwingli, GEcolampadius, and Erasmus are the 
soldiers of Pilate, who crucify Christ/' These gems of 
the epigrammatic style are among those that once 
studded the sermons of a Catholic priest who wished by 
them to express vividly his conviction that Erasmus 
started the Reformation. It is true that Erasmus denied 
that the priest had either learning or eloquence, or fair- 
ness, or genius, or piety, 1 and as to the first saying he 
protested, "1 laid a hen's egg; Luther hatched a bird 
of quite a different breed/' 2 Nevertheless, the pithy 
phrase flew all over Europe, attained almost the currency 
of a proverb, and but expressed, with true wit, what 
many people thought. Aleander asserted that Luther 
and Erasmus taught the same things, save that the 
poison of the latter was more deadly. 3 

On the Protestant side the same assertion was often 
made. "We all know," wrote Conrad Mutian in the 
early days of his enthusiasm for the Reform to his friend 
John Lang, "that we must congratulate theology on 
being restored by Erasmus, from whom, as from a foun- 
tain, are derived (Ecolarnpadii, Melanchthons, Luthers, 
and, oh! how many princes of literature!" 4 

Luther saw clearly the connection of Renaissance and 

1 Erasmus to Sinapius, July 31, 1534. Stahelin: Brief e aus der Refor* 
mationszeit, 1887, no. 24. 

2 LB. iii, 840. 

3 Deutsche Reichstags akten unter Karl F, ii, 523 f. 

4 Mutian to Lang, May 24, 1520. Krause: Epistola aliquot selects Ostfr- 
programm des Zerbster Gymnasiums, 1883, 15. 



Reformation, saying: "There has never been a great 
revelation of the Word of God unless he has first prepared 
the way by the rise and prosperity of languages and 
letters, as though they were John the Baptists." 1 Eras- 
mus, he stated, had called the world from godless studies 
to a knowledge of the sacred tongues, though, like Moses, 
he could not himself enter into the promised land. 2 
Zwingli, Melanchthon, and the minor Reformers were 
also forward to acknowledge their debts to the humanist. 
In fact, if the matter were to be decided by the suffrage of 
leading contemporaries, the man would certainly be con- 
sidered, as he has recently been dubbed, "a hero of the 
Reformation/' But he himself would have declined the 
title; in fact, he spent the last fifteen years of his life 
energetically protesting that he had nothing to do with 
the Protestant revolt. If he really labored in the vine- 
yard, he was like the son in the parable who did so, but 
who said, "I go not." 

The truth of the matter is somewhat complicated. On 
one side, the purely intellectual, the Reformation inher- 
ited the wealth of the Christian Renaissance in general, 
and of the Dutch humanist in particular. The program 
demanding a wider cultivation of letters, a return to the 
Bible and early sources, the suppression of abuses and of 
mediaeval accretions on the primitive Church, the reform 
of the Church, and the substitution of an inner, individ- 
ual piety for a mechanical, external scheme of salvation, 
was first advanced by the humanists and was after- 
ward largely realized by the Reformers. But the Refor- 
mation was -the child-jof .morfe than jaog. ancestor^tjtO9,k 
over and accomplijhgd-J&e^^ 
mpyementSy j^Eogh lay outside the. M Reii^ 
in--part Jiostile j:o ,it. M Qn j3ne_MeJbu the 

groxLtJx^of .5?^9 na -!i!P anxLjhiL foundation of state 
already foreshadowed by tEe EngEsTi^stafutes 

of Mortmain, Provisors, and Praemunire, and by the 

1 Luther to Eoban Hess, March 29, 1523. L. C. ep. 580. 

2 Luther to (Ecolampadius, June 20, 1523. L. C. ep. 591. 


Galilean liberties. With this aspiration cosmopolitan 
culture had no part nor lot. Again, Luther and Calvin 
appealed chiefly to the newly powerful bourgeois classes, 
whereas the humanists cared naught for any social ques- 
tion. A vein of mysticism came down from Tauler and 
The German Theology to Luther; but Erasmus, though 
he was directly exposed to the influence of Thomas a 
Kempis and of the Dutch mystics, and though he owed 
something to them, was too much of a rationalist to 
know the ardors of the mystic life. Finally, the Refor- 
mation was the direct heir of the mediaeval heretics, espe- 
cially of Wyclif and Huss. But Erasmus neither knew 
them nor would have approved their schism. Though 
he was aware that Colet was a student of Wyclif, he 
himself never read the English Reformer, and to the 
Lollards his only reference is the jocose remark that he 
pitied those who were burned in 1511 less because the 
demand for fagots sent up the price of firewood. 1 In 
truth, heresy always seemed to him a bit freakish, some- 
thing 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, that it has not found 
followers : 

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 

rose teaching that it is religious for naked men to dance with naked 

romen in the market place they would get disciples for their sect. 

1 Allen, epp. 239, 240. These jocose letters may have been the source of 
be assertion made by Pierre Bayle (1697) that burning heretics under 
>ueen Mary raised the price of firewood in England, See Addison's 
'pfctator, no. 139, December 4, 1711. 

2 Allen, epp. 1021, 1039. October 10 and November 1, 1519. Also published 
i Bohuslaw's correspondence: Dva Listdre Humanisticke . . . ed. J. Truhlar, 
'rag, 1897, ep. a8. 


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. Dis- 
liking dogma, he 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-mind edness, if not with 
cordial approval. Even from the first he had misgiv- 
ings, 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 Aleander 1 warned the pope in 1516 
that Germany was on the point of secession. "In 
this part of the world," wrote Erasmus, on Septem- 
ber 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. After 
1521, the humanist was indeed read carefully, but gen- 
erally with dissent and reprobation. But in the earlier 
period, so perfectly did the Austin friar imbibe the 
doctrine of the Austin canon that on April 27, 1518, at 
the Heidelberg disputation, Bucer reported that the 
young Reformer agreed in all things with Erasmus, save 

*P. Balan: Monumenta Reformationis, 1884,110.31; Th. Brieger: Aleander 
und Luther, 1884, no. n. 

1 Allen, ep. 658; Nichols, ep. 628. It is not certain, but it is quite possible 
that Erasmus had in mind an impending religious revolution. He may have 
referred to the disorders in Holland, such as the atrocities of the Black Band; 
but it is as likely that he had an uneasy presentiment of religious change. 


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, 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 I5IO-H; 3 quotations from it become very numerous 
after May, 15 18. 4 The Enchiridion suggested the cam- 
paign 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 col- 
lections of the humanist's letters published from time to 
time. He perused the Auctarium selectarum epistolarum* 
(August, 1518) containing sixty-three letters mostly of 
the years 1517-18; the Farrago nova 6 (1519) with 333 
epistles well distributed over many years; the Epistolcz 
ad diversos 7 (September i, 1521) containing many recent 
but cautiously selected letters. These volumes were 
chiefly interesting to him as revealing the writer's atti- 
tude 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 


* Luther s Briefwechsel, bearbeitet von E. L. Enders, i, 157. February, 1518. 

8 Luther's notes on Lombard's Sentences, Luthers Werke* Weimar, ix, 65, 
quotes the proverb "sus Minervam," which may have been taken from 
jEsop, but more probably from Erasmus. 

4 Enders, i, 192 (twice), 193 (twice), 207 (twice), 214, 351, 404, 408 (twice), 
489; ii, 48, 122 (twice), 131, 193. There are probably others I have not 

6 De Wette: Lutkers Briefe (1825-56), i, 362. Cf. Enders, ii, 216. 

6 Enders, ii, 369. L. C. i, 3 10. 

7 Enders, iii, 360, 361. 

8 Tischreden, ed. Forstemann und Bindseil, iii, 423, 



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, other works of whom he thought of translat- 
ing; 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 Witten- 
berg professor 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 dis- 
pleased 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 1:17, 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 wrote to his influential friend Spalatin, 
pointing out the fault and begging him to communicate 
it to Erasmus. 3 "In interpreting the apostle on justifi- 

1 Allen, ep. 266, i, 551. Allen puts Spalatin's translation in 1514. This 
would postulate an extremely brisk circulation of the letter. Spalatin's letter 
to Luther, Enders, i, 74, L. C. ep. 23, on the advisability of translating certain 
little works, points to 1516 as the more probable date. The evidence that 
Luther knew the translation is in a letter to Spalatin, Enders, i, 333 (1519)* 
where he says, "Erasmus is for peace as you know better than I do." 

3 Allen, ii, 417. A list of the books bought for this library in the year 
1512 includes Erasmi opera (meaning the Lucubratiunculce, cf. Bibliotheca 
Erasmiana, i, 119), Valla's Elegantia, the Annotation's in Novum Tfsta- 
mentum> and the Encomium Moria* Archiv fur Gcschichte des deutschen Buck- 
handels, xviii, 1896. 

3 Enders, i, 63-64. October 19, 1516, L. C. ep. 21. For another criticism, of 
February, 1519, ibid., i, 43 9. It is a little hard to find the exact point of Luther's 
criticism, which seems somewhat fine spun to modern minds. Turning to 
Erasmus's note on Romans i:i7 (the division into verses is later, but I refer 
to the passage, "The just shall live by his faith")* found in the Annotations* 
(1519), pp. 251 ff, we see that Erasmus, instead of following Jerome, expressly 
repudiates him. Jerome would have read, both here and in Habakkuk (11:4), 


cation by works, or by the law, or justification proper 
(as the apostle calls it) ? he understands only the cere- 
monial 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 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 desire, Spalatin communicated this criticism 
to Erasmus, quoting it word for word, but mentioning 
the critic only as "an Augustinian priest no less famous 
for the sanctity of his life than for his theological lore/' 
The humanist 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 I, 15 1/. 2 

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 Lefevre d*taples, 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 Ninety- 
five Theses on indulgences, posted on the doors of the 
Castle Church at Wittenberg on October 3 1, 1517. 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. 8 To the latter 
he wrote: 

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. 

'"The just shall live by my faith'*; Erasmus defends the traditional reading, 
**by his faith." Luther had arrived at his interpretation about June, 1515. 

1 Spalatin to Erasmus* Allen, ep. 501. He wrote again, complaining that 
he had received no answer, November 13, 1517. Ep. 71 1. Cf. Allen, ii, p. 415. 

1 L. C. ep. 30. A similar opinion, January 18, 1518. 

9 Allen, epp. 785, 786, March 5, 1518. 


Unfortunately, Coiet's answer has not been preserved, 
but there Is some reason to think that he approved of 
the Theses. 1 

Two months later, when Erasmus passed through 
Strassburg on his way from Louvain to Basle, he saw 
Fabritius Capito, who had already been in correspond- 
ence with him and with Luther, 2 and to this common 
friend the humanist expressed a candid admiration for 
the Theses, which Capito hastened to communicate to 
Wittenberg. 3 

No one could remain long unconscious of the turmoil 
excited by the first act of the Reformation. Erasmus's 
opinion of the Theses, and his endeavor to pour oil on 
the troubled waters, is reflected in the preface to the 
new edition of his Enchiridion, in the form of a letter to 
Paul Volz, dated August 14, 1518.* 

If anyone assails the absurd opinions of the common people who 
call those virtues prime which are the very least, and who detest 
among vices those which are most trivial even at their worst, and 
conversely, he is at once called into court as though he favored those 
vices which he called less evil than others, and as if he condemned 
virtues which he said were less holy than some others. So, if anyone 
admonishes us that deeds of charity are better than papal indulgences, 
he does not altogether condemn indulgences, but he prefers to them 
what is more surely taught by Christ. Likewise, if anyone warns us 
that it is better for a man to care for wife and children at home than 
to make pilgrimages to Rome, Jerusalem, or Compostelia, and better 
to give the money wasted on these long and perilous journeys to 
good and true poor men, he does not condemn the pious intention, 
but prefers to it that which is more truly pious. 

1 In his letter to Luther, May 30, 1519, L. C. ep. 155, Erasmus says that he 
has favorers in England, and those among the greatest. As he could hardly 
have referred to More, or Wolsey, or Tunstall, or Fisher, who was left, among 
Erasmus's friends, save Colet? 

2 Enders, ep. 63 February 19, 1518; Allen, ep. 459, September 2, 1516. 

3 The letter in which Capito told Luther of Erasmus's judgment is lost, but 
a summary of it is given in a letter of September 4, 1518. Enders, ep. 92. 
L. C. ep. 78. Capito was at this time resident at Basle, connected with the 
university and cathedral, but he was making a visit to Strassburg to push his 
suit for the provostship of St. Thomas's Church, which suit he won, 

4 Allen, ep. 858. Erasmus later denied that he had the Theses in mind, but 
it is difficult to believe this when one compares the passage here translated 
with Theses 43-46. Luther s Werke, Weimar, i, 235. 


Erasmus was further Informed of the course of events 
by a letter from Luther's good friend, John Lang, of 
Erfurt, a letter brought by Eoban Hess when he visited 
Louvain in October, 1518. To Lang the humanist re- 
plied on October 17, I5I8: 1 

I hear that Eleutherius is approved by all good men, but it Is said 
that his writings are unequal. I think his Theses will please all, except 
a few about Purgatory, which they who make their living from it 
don't want taken from them. I have seen Prierias's bungling answer.* 
I see that the monarchy of the Roman high priest (as that see now is) 
is the plague of Christendom, though it is praised through thick and 
thin by shameless preachers. Yet I hardly know whether it is expedi- 
ent to touch this open sore, for that is the duty of princes. But I fear 
they conspire with the pontiff for part of the spoils. I wonder what 
has come over Eck to begin a battle with Eleutherius. 3 

Two days after penning the above Erasmus wrote to 
Capito : " Some one has informed me that Martin Luther 
is in danger/ 54 This undoubtedly refers to the heretic's 
summons before Cardinal Cajetan at Augsburg. Here 
he bravely refused to recant the errors attributed to him, 
and appealed from the pope badly informed to the pope 
to be better informed, and soon afterward from pope to 
General Council. In this stand at Augsburg, if we may 
trust the report of Spalatin, "Erasmus of Rotterdam 
gave Doctor Martin great applause, as did almost all 
the University of Louvain, and many eminent persons 
in divers lands." 5 

The interest of the humanists in Luther just at this 
time led some of them to prepare for Froben an edition 
of the Reformer's collected pamphlets. Responsibility 

1 Allen, ep. 872; L. C. ep. 87. 

2 The Dialogue of Sylvester Prierias, master of the Sacred Palace, was 
printed in the summer of 1518, and sent by Luther to Lang on September 16. 
Enders, i, 236. 

8 John Eck had attacked the Theses in a tract called Obelisks. 

* Allen, ep. 877. 

5 Spalatin's account of the trial at Augsburg, Luthers Sammtlicke Sckrifien, 
hg. von J. G. Walch. Neue revidirte Stereotypausgabe, Band xxi, 1904, col. 
3244. "Herr Erasmus Roterodamus gibt dem Doctor! Martino einen grossen 
Zufall." "Zufaii" then was the equivalent of "BeifaU" or "Zustimmung." 
See Sanders: Deutsches Worterbuch, s. v. "Fall/* in fin. 


for it has commonly been placed, apparently follow- 
ing a hint of Erasmus^ at the door of Capito 5 and the 
anonymous preface is attributed to him. 1 But the express 
testimony of Conrad Pellican 2 that Beatus Rhenanus pre- 
pared the volume and sent it to press, is supported by 
other indications. This volume contained The Resolu- 
tions, with a dedication to Leo X, the Dialogue ofPrierias, 
and Luther's Answer, Carlstadt's Apology Against Eck, 
Luther's Sermon on Penance, Sermon on Indulgences, Ser- 
mon on the San, Sermons on the Ten Commandments , and 
a few other small things. The preface, "To Candid 
Theologians/ 9 is undated; the colophon gives the date 
"Mense Octobri, 1518." The volume had no name of 
place or printer, but met at once with a wide sale. 3 A 
reprint was called for in 1518, and another early in 1519. 
On February I4h of that year Froben wrote Luther that 
he had already exported some hundreds of copies to 
France, Spain, Italy, Brabant, and England. 4 

The Cornell University Library possesses a particu- 
larly interesting copy of the first edition of this book, 
for it once belonged to the Amerbachs, as is proved by 
the inscription in Boniface's autograph, "Amerbachi- 
orum," on the title-page, 5 They had it bound with a 
few other tracts, Luther's De prczparatione ad Eucha- 
ristiam of November, 1518, and pamphlets by Bartho- 
linus Perusinus and by (Ecolampadius, these all with 
Froben's emblem and imprint. It was perhaps this very 

1 L. C. ep 94. 

2 Pellican, who knew intimately Froben's circle, says: "Ad festum penta- 
costes (1519) perveni Basileam; quo tempore multi Lutherani libri impressi 
sunt Basileae, opera et submissione Beati Rhenani, primuni quidem a Johanne 
Frobenio, nempe," and then he goes on to describe the contents of this volume. 
See Pellican's Chronicon, p. 75. Froben himself wrote Luther (L.C. ep. 125) 
that he got the originals from Blasius Salmonius, an unknown Leipzig printer. 

8 First record of this in a letter of Beatus Rhenanus to Zwingli, December 
26, 1518; Z, W., ep. 53. 

4 L. C. ep. 125. 

8 It was bought by Prof. George L. Burr from the duplicates of the Basle 
Library in 1904. There is a copy of the 1519 edition at Andover Theological 
Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I owe the reference to Pellican and 
others on this subject to Professor Burr. 


copy that was seen by Erasmus, who at any rate very 
soon read the book, took fright at the inflammatory 
nature of some of the material In It, and wrote a long 
letter to Beatus Rhenanus on the subject, 1 and also ad- 
vised Froben not to publish anything more of Luther's; 
advice which he repeatedly drove home by letters from 
Loiivain, where he spent the summer of isi9. 2 

Not knowing this, Luther had much reason to believe 
that Erasmus was one of his strong supporters, having 
been informed to this effect by Capito and by a rumor 
from the court of Albert of Mainz. 3 On March 1 8, 1519, 
he accordingly wrote a letter 4 to the last degree affection- 
ate and respectful, couched in the following terms : 

Greeting. Often as I converse with you and you with me, Erasmus, 
our glory and our hope, we do not yet know one another. Is that not 
extraordinary? No, it Is not extraordinary, but a thing of every day. 
For who is there whose innermost parts Erasmus has not penetrated, 
whom Erasmus does not teach, in whom Erasmus does not reign? 
I mean of those who rightly love learning; for I rejoice that among 
Christ's other gifts to you, this also is numbered, that you displease 
many; for by this criterion I am wont to know the gifts of a merciful 
from the gifts of an angry God. I therefore congratulate you that 
while you please good men to the last degree, you no less displease 
those who alone wish to be highest and to please most. * . * 

Now that I have learned from Fabritius Capito that my name is 
known to you on account of my little treatise on indulgences, and 
as I also see from the preface to the new edition of your Handbook 
of the Christian Knight that my ideas are not only known to you but 
approved by you, I am compelled to acknowledge your noble spirit, 
which has enriched me and all men, even though I write a barbarous 
style. Truly I know that you will esteem my gratitude and affection, 
as shown in his epistle, a very small matter, and that you would be 
content to have my mind burn secretly before God with love and 
gratitude to you; even as we are satisfied to know you without your 
being aware of it, having your spirit and services in books, without 

1 This letter has, unfortunately, not survived, but is mentioned in a letter 
of Beatus Rhenanus to Zwingli, of March 19, 1519, Z. W., ep. 86: "Erasmus 
. . . scripsit ad me literas quse libellum aequare possent, de Lutherio et aliis 

2 Allen, ep. 1033, 1167; and to Alberto Pio, October 10,1525, LB. ep. 333; 
also LB. ix, 1094. 

* L. C. epp. 78, loo, 127. 
4 Allen, ep. 933. 


missives or conversation face to face. But shame and conscience do 
riot suffer me not to thank you in words, especially now that my 
name has begun to emerge from obscurity, lest perchance some one 
might think my silence malignant and of ill appearance. Wherefore, 
dear Erasmus, learn, if it please you, to know this little brother in 
Christ also; he is assuredly your very zealous friend, though he 
otherwise deserves, on account of his ignorance, only to be buried in 
a corner, unknown even to your sun and climate. . . . 

Philip Melanchthon prospers, except that we are all hardly able 
to prevent him from injuring his health by his too great rage for 
study. With the ardor of youth he burns both to be and to do all 
things unto all men. You would do us a favor if by a letter you 
would admonish him to keep himself for us and for learning, for 
while he is safe I know not what greater things we may not con- 
fidently hope. Andrew Carlstadt, who venerates you in Christ, 
sends greeting. May the Lord Jesus himself keep you forever, 
excellent Erasmus. Amen. I have been prolix. But you will know 
that you ought not always to read only learned letters; sometimes 
you must be weak with the weak. 


Melanchthon, just mentioned, had long been a devoted 
admirer of the great humanist, to whom he had written 
Greek verses while yet a boy, 1 and to whom he occasion- 
ally ventured to send greetings. The fame of his pre- 
cocity had reached Erasmus, who recommended him for 
a position in England and always spoke of his talents 
with high regard. 2 Early in i$i8 z Melanchthon wrote 
to the elder scholar to contradict a rumor that he (Me- 
lanchthon) intended to revise his (Erasmus's) commen- 
taries, and at the same time to assure him of his own 
and Luther's zealous affection. On April 22d 4 Erasmus 
replied, assuring him of constant friendship, and adding: 
"No one among us disapproves Luther's life; of his doc- 

1 Allen, ep. 454. Cf. ep. 457. 

2 CEcolampadius to Erasmus, March 26, 1517; Allen, ep. 563. In his reply, 
c. July, 1517, Allen, ep. 605, Erasmus wrote: "Of Melanchthon I think highly 
and hope splendidly, provided Christ will that that youth shall long survive 
us. He will simply eclipse Erasmus." Cf. also Briefwechsel des Conradus 
Mutianus, rig. K. Gillert, 1890, i, 250. 

3 Allen, ep. 910, dated January 5, 1519, prohably rightly. In Mdanch- 
thonis Epistola> 1642, iii, 64, the letter is dated January 9th, and this is ac- 
cepted by Enders, i, 345. 

4 Allen, ep. 947. 


trlnes there are various opinions. I have not yet read his 
books. I have written of him to the Elector Frederic in 
my dedication to that prince of my edition of Suetonius/ 3 

This letter to Frederic was probably written in answer 
to an effort of that nobleman to get his support for Luther 
in the coming debate at Leipzig. 1 In his reply 2 Erasmus 
ventures to give advice as to how to treat the accused 
heretic, persecuted as he is by bad men who never want 
an excuse to charge others with errors. "As Luther is 
entirely unknown to me/* he continues, "no one will sus- 
pect me of favoring him. I have not read his works. 
But his life is approved by all and those who attack him 
do it with ferocity, raging against him, but neither warn- 
ing nor teaching him, as though they thirsted for blood 
rather than for the salvation of souls. All error is not 
heresy, for there are few writers ancient or modern in 
whom some error cannot be found." The upshot of the 
letter was an encouragement not to give Luther up to 
his enemies. 

Fredericks reply, dated May 14, 1519,* expressed joy 
that his subject's works are not condemned by good 
men. Erasmus acknowledged this, 4 at the same time 
writing to Spalatin; 5 and Frederic again answered in two 
letters, both of which have been lost. Their tenor, 
however, has been preserved in an epistle of the recipient 
to Bishop Fisher of Rochester, dated October 17, 

The Elector Frederic of Saxony has sent me two letters in answer 
to mine. By his protection alone Luther lives. He said that he 
protected him rather for the sake of the cause than for his own 
person, and protested that he could not allow innocence to be oppressed 
in his dominions by those who sought their own profit and not the 
things of Jesus Christ. 

1 P. KalkoiF: Erasmus, Luther, und Friednch der Weise, 1919, p. 22; cf. 
Archiv fur Reformationsgeschichte, xvi, 134. 

2 Allen, ep. 939; L. C. ep. 141. 

8 Allen, ep. 963; L. C. ep. 145. The letter was carried by Jonas. 

4 Allen, ep. 979. 

8 Allen, ep. 978. 

8 L. C. ep. 1 88, Allen, ep. 1030. 


With his letters to Spalatin and to the Elector Frederic, 
Erasmus sent one by Jonas to Luther^ dated May 30, 
1 5 19.* In part he said: 

Dearest brother in Christ, your epistle showing the keenness of 
your mind and breathing a Christian spirit, was most pleasant to 
me. I cannot tell you what a commotion 2 your books are raising 
here [at Louvain]. These men cannot be by any means disabused 
of the suspicion that your works are written by my aid and that I 
am, as they call it, the standard-bearer of your party. ... I have 
testified to them that you are entirely unknown to me, that I have 
not read your books and neither approve nor disapprove anything. 
... I try to keep neutral, so as to help the revival of learning as 
much as I can. And it seems to me that more is accomplished by 
civil modesty than by impetuosity. 

Several other letters written at this time give a strong 
idea of Erasmus's opinions, though it is noticeable that 
his tone differs considerably to different correspondents. 
To Mosellanus he wrote of a theologian at Louvain at- 
tacking Luther in public with such epithets as "heretic 55 
and "Antichrist/' though in fact, added the writer, 
Luther was equipped not with the new learning, but 
with the old scholasticism. 3 To Cardinal Campeggio he 
wrote that people wrongly suspected him of writing 
Hutten's Nemo and some tracts of Luther, though he 
has not even read them. 4 To Cardinal Wolsey he sent 
a much more elaborate apology/ saying, in part: 

They accuse me of writing every hateful book that comes out. 
You might say that it was the very essence of calumny to confound, 
as they do, the cause of sound learning with that of Reuchlin and 
Luther, when really they have nothing to do with each other. . . . 
Luther is absolutely unknown to me, nor have I had time to read 
more than a page or two of his' books, not because I have not wanted 

1 Allen, ep. 980; L. C. ep. 155. 

2 "The phrase 'tragoedias excitare' meant, of course, no more than *to make 
astir'; but- for some reason it has become the fashion to render thus literally 
[i.e. 'to make a tragedy'] the words of Erasmus." J. H. Lupton: Colet on 
Romans, p. xiii. If the sarcasm is intentional, it is worthy of Gibbon. 

3 April 22, 1519. Allen, ep. 948. 
* May i, Allen, ep. 961. 

8 May 1 8, Allen, ep. 967; L. C. ep. 149; Nichols, ep. 5636, iii, p. 378, with 
wrong date, 1518. 


to, but because my other occupations have not given me leisure. 
If he has written well, I deserve no credit; if otherwise* no blame, 
since of his writings not a jot is mine. Whoever wishes to investigate 
this matter will find what I say absolutely true. The man's life is 
approved by the unanimous consent of all, and the fact that his 
character is so upright that even his enemies find nothing in it to 
slander, must prejudice us considerably in his favor. So that even 
if I had abundant leisure to read the writings of such a man, I should 
not have the presumption to judge them, although even boys nowa- 
days rashly pronounce this heretical and that erroneous. Indeed, I 
have sometimes been rather opposed to Luther, for fear that a 
prejudice might arise against sound learning, which I would not have 
burdened more than it is; nor has it escaped me that it would be an 
invidious task to tear up that from which the priests and monks 
reap their harvest. 

After mentioning by name some of the early tracts of 
Luther, Erasmus goes on to depict the lively war waged 
in Germany between the lovers of literature and the 
obscurantists. Among the former, Eoban ? Hutten, and 
Beatus Rhenanus are known to him personally, and he 
thoroughly approves their motives, though at times he 
has counseled them to moderate their mockery. 
To the Wittenberg Reformer Lang, he wrote: 1 

All good men love the freedom of Luther, who, I doubt not, will 
have sufficient prudence to take care not to allow the affair to arouse 
faction and discord. I think we should rather strive to instil Christ 
into the minds of men than to fight with Christians; neither glory 
nor victory can be expected from them unless we curb the tyranny 
of the Roman see and its satellites, Dominicans, Carmelites, and 
Franciscans I mean only the bad ones. 

Even at this time it is plain that Erasmus was trying 
to steer a straight course between the Lutheran Scylla 
and the Roman Charybdis. Already, at this early date, 
there were fears that he would come out against the 
Reform, a thing which Capito begged him not to do. 2 
At the same time his colleagues at Louvain believed that 
he was on the verge of becoming a Lutheran, and they 
declared war on him as such. It was reported that when 

1 Allen, ep. 983; L. C. ep. 156. 

2 Capito to Erasmus, Allen, ep. 938; L C, ep. i39A f i 8 p. 570, 


Erasmus heard of the Leipzig 1 debate between Luther 
and Eck, in which the former had maintained that popes 
and councils could err and that many of Huss's articles 
condemned at Constance were evangelical and Christian, 
he had exclaimed: "I fear that Martin will perish for his 
uprightness, but Eck ought to be called Geek" the 
Dutch word for fool. 2 

Erasmus was more deeply involved than ever when 
his letter to Luther, quoted above, was published at 
Leipzig in June, 1519, and then at Augsburg in July. 3 
His saying, in this epistle, that the Bishop of Liege was 
favorable to Luther, though probably true at the time 
it was written, 4 soon ceased accurately to describe the 
attitude of that fickle prelate, The f bishop's anger, 5 
especially hot after the matter had been taken up at 
Rome, 6 caused Erasmus promptly to republish the letter 
with "episcopus Leodiensis" changed to "eximius qui- 
dam/* 7 and to complain bitterly, in a letter to Jonas 8 
of the publication of the missive as a breach of confi- 
dence. But his troubles did not end here. The in- 
quisitor, James Hochstraten, found the letter and 
thought it sufficient to convict Erasmus of favoring 
Luther. 9 The universities of Louvain and Cologne had 
now declared war on Wittenberg, 10 while Erard de la 

1 Erasmus followed the course of the debate; he heard of Eck's attack as 
early as October 17, 1518 (cf. Allen, ep. 872); Mosellanus informed him of the 
preparations for the debate, January 6, 1519, Allen, ep. 91 i; and Melanchthon 
sent him Eck's Excusatio and his own Defensio contra Eckium, August, 1519, 
Corpus Rsformatorum, i, 1 19. 

2 Luther heard this story, which Is somewhat doubtful, from a corre^ 
spondent in France, and wrote it to Staupltz on October 3, 1519, L. C. ep. 178. 

8 Enders ii, 64-66; L. C. ep. 155. 
* Allen, iii, p. 168. 

5 Spoken of by Aleander, P. Kalkoff: Die Dfpeschen des Nuntius Aleander> 
1897, p. 220. 
8 Pastor: History of the Popts, English transl. ed. by Antrobus, v. 398. 

7 In the Farrago of 1519; he even claimed that he wrote this in the first 
place; Bibliotheca Erasmiana, Colloquia, i, 65. 

8 May 10, 1521. G. Kawerau: Briefwecksd des Justus Jonas > 1884 f, i, 54; 
Allen, ep. 1202. 

9 L. C. ep. 187. 

10 H. de Jongh: UAncienne Faculte df Theologie de Louvain, 1911, pp. 208 flF. 


Marck, Bishop of Liege, and Adrian of Utrecht, now 
Bishop of Tortosa, applauded. 1 

The humanist now began to see that things were verg- 
ing to a crisis. His main interest was to dissociate the 
cause he had most at heart, that of "sound learning/' 
from the religious conflict. But over and beyond that 
he was determined, if possible, not to let an innocent 
man be crushed by the Pharisees he had himself been 
fighting all his life. His plan at this time was simply to 
impose silence on both sides, as had, indeed, already been 
proposed by the papal envoy to Saxony, Charles von 
Miititz. 2 It is possible that Erasmus was already formu- 
lating his plan for a committee of arbitration under con- 
ditions which should insure temperate judgment and 
appropriate action. Spalatin had once proposed leaving 
the matter to the judgment of Matthew Lang, Arch- 
bishop of Salzburg, with whom Erasmus was now in 
communication, though by whom he was not, at this 
moment, particularly well received. 3 

Erasmus hoped to find powerful support for his medi- 
ating policy in Albert of Hohenzollern, Cardinal Arch- 
bishop of Mainz. Notwithstanding the unsavory past 
of this young prelate, and his patronage of the indul- 
gence trade, it was thought that his interest in learning 
would make him a fit protector of the Christian Renais- 
sance. Failing to see Albert on visits to Mainz in 
May and October, 1518, Erasmus dedicated to him his 
Method of Theology,* which, as Hutten 5 wrote, was greatly 
appreciated by the prelate. To set forth his program 
more perfectly, and to clear himself, Erasmus addressed 
to Albert, on October 19, 1519, a long letter, 6 protesting 
that he never had dealings with either Reuchlin or 

1 L. C. ep, 202. 

8 August 13, 1519, to Pope Leo, Allen, ep. 1007. 

s Preface to Paraphrase to Ephesians y to Cardinal Campeggio, Alien, ep. 
1062. On Spalatin's plan: Kostlin-Kawerau: Martin Luthfr, 1903, i, 223. 
On Matthew Lang and Erasmus, Enthoven, ep. 26. 

4 LB. v, 73 ff; i, p. 248; Lond. xxix, 29. 

5 Allen, ep. 923. 

6 L. C. ep, 192, Allen, cp. 1023. 


Luther, that the latter was entirely unknown tc him, that 
he had never even read his books, and that he had 
advised against their publication. 

Luther wrote me a right Christian letter [he continued], at least to 
my way of thinking, and I answered, incidentally warning the man 
not to write anything seditious or insolent to the Roman pontiff, nor 
anything arrogant or fierce, but to preach the evangelical doctrine 
with sincere mind and with ail gentleness. This I did civilly in order 
to make my advice more effective. I argued that he could thus best 
conciliate the opinion of his favorers, from which some have gathered 
that I favored him, although no one except myself had ever admon- 
ished him. 

How much better it would be, the writer goes on to 
set forth, to have a Christian in error corrected than 
driven to destruction; but Luther's enemies had acted 
most un-Christianly toward him. If the Saxon had 
spoken immoderately of indulgences and of the power of 
the pope, his opponents, Alvarez, 1 Prierias, and Cajetan, 
had surpassed his licence. In fact, Luther was rather 
imprudent than impious, charged as he was with lack 
of reverence for Aquinas and for the Mendicant Orders, 
and with diminishing the profits of the trade in papal 
pardons, and with putting the gospel above the school- 
men. Intolerable heresies those! "They cry heresy at 
whatever displeases them or is beyond their comprehen- 
sion, and make it heresy to know Greek and to write 
good Latin." Through all Erasmus's hedging in this 
letter, his preference for Luther, and his desire, if not to 
help him, at least to keep him safe from unjust persecu- 
tion, is apparent. 

This letter was intrusted to Ulrich von Hutten, and 
by him shown to several friends. Luther saw a manu- 
script copy of it in January, 1520, and was much pleased 
with it. "In it," he said, 2 "Erasmus shows his solicitude 

1 This was not the mediaeval theologian mentioned by Allen in his note 
loc. cit., but John Alvarez (1488-1557), a son of the Duke of Alva, a Dominican 
who taught at Salamanca and was later made Bishop of Cordova and cardinal. 
See note L. C. i, 242. He had written to Erasmus earlier, Allen, ep. 506. 

* Enders, ii, 304-306. L. C. ep. 220. 

THE 227 

for me, and defends me nobly, though he seems to do 
nothing less than to take my part, so dextrous is he 
according to his wont. Perhaps the letter will be 
printed." It was indeed soon printed by Melchior 
Lotter at Wittenberg. 1 Erasmus naturally took this in- 
discretion of Hutten's very ill; if chance gave the letter 
to the press, he exclaimed* it was most unlucky; if per- 
fidy, it was more than Punic. 2 In sending the letter to 
the press before he had even shown it to its addressee, 
it is probable that Hutten thought he was only carrying 
out the wishes of the writer; certainly the epistle was 
well adapted for public reading. 3 

Provoked as he was by the Reformers, Erasmus was 
still more enraged by the Catholics, and especially by 
his fellow theologians at Louvain. These " champions 
of bad letters/' as he called them, issued, on August 31, 
1519, a condemnation of a number of passages from 
Luther's works, which was solemnly ratified by the 
whole university on November 7th. 4 

Luther answered Louvain and Cologne in March, 1520: 
"They have condemned not only me," he breaks forth, 5 
"but Occam, Mirandola, Valla, and Reuchlin, to say 
nothing of Wesel, Lefevre d'fitaples, and Erasmus, that 
ram caught by the horns in the bushes!'* Erasmus read 
the answer and wrote Melanchthon that it pleased him 
wonderfully, for it had begun to make his colleagues 
ashamed of their premature pronouncement, but that he 
wished his name had been left out, as it only brought 
odium on him and did not help Luther. 6 His opinion of 
the Wittenberg professor was certainly more favorable 

1 It was also printed at Leipzig in 1519. Bibliothcca Erasmiana, i, 93. 

8 1520. Allen, ep. 1152. 

8 Huttcni Opera) ed. Docking, ii, 311; P. Kalkoff: Ulrich con Hutten, 1920, 
p. 521. 

4 Kostlin-Kawerau, 5, 266. H. de Jongh: L'Ancirnne Faculte de Theohgie 
de Louvain, 1911, pp. 208 ff. 

6 Werkf, Weimar, vi, 183. 

6 Corpus Reformatory,, i, 206. On a lost letter from Luther to Erasmus, of 
May, 1520, perhaps in answer to the one from Erasmus to Melanchthon, cf. 
Enders, ii, 397. L. C. ep. 214. 


than he thought it prudent to avow in -his letters, at 
least in those designed for publication. A disciple, 
Hermann Hump, who lived with him during the last half 
of 1519 and the first months of 1520, wrote Luther on 
March 14, 1520, that Erasmus almost adored him, though 
he kept his opinion for his table companions. 1 Indeed, 
the humanist himself wrote Jonas, 2 April 9, 1520: "I 
would not have the Dominicans know what a friend I 
am to Luther. This university has contracted incurable 
madness. Atensis, indeed, has perished, but Egmond 
and Latomus act more odiously than he/' The alter- 
cation with Egmond waxed very hot indeed about this 
time, the special cause of it being Erasmus's old letter 
to Luther "badly understood and worse interpreted." 3 
The quarrel finally reached such a point that the rector 
of the university summoned both parties to a public 
conference to settle their differences. One of the wit- 
tiest bits of Erasmus's writings is the account of this 
conference for his friend More. 4 Asked to make a specific 
complaint, Erasmus said that Egmond had accused him 
of favoring Luther, which was a lie. Egmond then lost 
his temper, burst into foul language, called Erasmus an 
old turncoat, Luther's harbinger, a falsifier of the Bible, 
a forger of papal letters, and a slanderer who had accused 
him, Egmond, of being drunk. Erasmus demurely ad- 
mitted the last charge, though he said he only spoke of 
it as a matter of common knowledge, but added that, 
though Egmond might shout against Luther till he split 
for all he cared, he must not, in future, mix his, Erasmus's, 
name in the affair. To Egmond's demand that he write 
something against the heretic, or at least publish an 
opinion that he had been successfully refuted by Lou- 
vain, the humanist replied that, judging in the same 

1 Enders, ii, 350-352. L. C. ep. 236. 

* Kawerau: Brief weeks fl des Justus Jonas, i, 43. L. C. cp. 245. Alien, 
cp. 1088. 
8 Allen, ep. 1033. 
*L. C. ep. 313. Louvam, November, 1520. Allen, ep. 1162. 


way, his opponent must be a Lutheran himself, for he 
had not written anything against Luther. 

On June 15, 1520, the bull, Exsurge Domine y threaten- 
ing to excommunicate Luther if he did not recant within 
sixty days after its promulgation in Germany, was signed 
by Leo at Rome, and intrusted to Eck, who posted it 
during the last days of September in the dioceses of 
Brandenburg and Merseburg. About the same time 
Aleander was dispatched from Rome to the Netherlands 
to meet Charles, who was coming from Spain to be 
crowned emperor, in order to secure his support for the 
Church in suppressing the heretic. 

Erasmus now resolved to do all in his power to prevent 
extreme measures being taken. Judging that it would 
be both inexpedient for the attainment of his end and 
dangerous to himself to come out openly for Luther, he 
went to work in a quiet but persistent way to influence 
persons in power to act with leniency, and especially to 
moderate the passions of the leaders of each side. Luther 
and his friends sinned in the violence of their invective, 
but he hoped to bring them to reason. 1 Their opponents, 
the monks, or "Pharisees," as he called them, were 
beyond the appeals of reason; so he merely worked to 
thwart them of the bloody triumph they desired. 

When he later became Luther's enemy he skillfully 
covered up as much as possible the traces of his activity 
in the summer of 1520, and, as he had acted with caution, 
it was not hard to do so. It is sometimes difficult to 
determine exactly how far his efforts went. To (Eco- 
lampadius he wrote, for example, on May 15, 1520, 
that Luther's books would have been burned in England 
but for the intervention of "a humble and vigilant 
friend. Not that I undertake to judge Luther's books," 
he qualifies, "but this tyranny by no means pleases me." 2 

One of the first potentates whom he endeavored to 

1 He wrote Spalatin, July, 1520, that lie hoped Luther would moderate his 
language. Allen, ep. 1119. 
* So in a letter to Melanchthon, L. C. epp. 257, 258; Allen, epp. 1102, 1113. 


influence to act as mediator was his old friend Henry VIII 
of England, who spent part of the summer at Calais 
negotiating with Francis I and Charles V. Erasmus 
joined him in July, and, in his own words, "talked some 
of writing against Luther, but more of means of making 
peace in the Church/' 1 

Erasmus's efforts apparently met with a somewhat 
chilly reception, for on September 9th he wrote Gelden- 
hauer 2 that he feared the worst for poor Luther, so much 
were the princes and Leo incensed- against him. Would 
that Luther had followed his advice, for the formidable 
bull has already been published against him, though Leo 
had forbidden this to be done (!). The source of the 
whole affair, according to the humanist, was hatred of 
learning and the stupidity of the priests. He assured his 
correspondent, probably not without reason, that he 
(Erasmus) might get a bishopric if only he would write 
against Luther. 

The bull had indeed been published in Germany 
during the summer, both by supporters of the pope and, 
with a railing commentary, by Hutten, who thought 
thus to help Luther in the eyes of his countrymen. 3 The 

1 Lond. xxiii, 6, col. 1229. L.B. ep. 650. On this visit ef. Meyer, p. 45; 
Kalkoff: FeTmittlungspolitik, p. 19 ff. It took place between July 6th and 
30th. About this time he saw his friend More at Bruges, Allen, 1184, En- 
thoven, p. 10. Various rumors of this interview with Henry got out, the most 
interesting of which is found in a letter from Myconius to Clivanus, November 
20, 1520, published by Hess: Erasmus von Rotterdam, 1790, ii, 607: "I will 
tell you something of Erasmus. He is a scoundrel. Hear what he did. He 
was summoned by the king of England to take counsel while he was here. 
The king slapped him on the back and said; 'Why don't you defend that good 
man, Luther?' Erasmus answered, * Because I am not enough of a theologian; 
since Louvain has given me the robe of a grammarian I meddle with no such 
business.' After many words the King said, 'You are a good fellow, Erasmus/ 
and sent him away with fifty ducats. Then Erasmus went to Frankfort. . . . 
He intended to go on to Basle, but was called back by the king of Spain." 
L. C. ep. 338. Erasmus was present at the splendid entry of Charles V into 
Bruges on July 25, 1520. P. KalkofT: Ulrich von Hutten, 1920, p. 498. 

2 Allen, ep. 1141. C/. his letter to Chieregato, September 13, 1520, Allen, 

ep- 1 144; 

* Bibliography of the first editions of the bull, Exsurge Domine, in 
schrift fur Buchcrfreundc, k, 1918, pp. 187 ff; x, 1919, p. 19. 


officials, however, were not far behind. Aleander and 
Caracciolo, the papal nuncios who had been dispatched 
from Rome on July 27th, 1 arrived in Cologne in Sep- 
tember ? and published the bull here on the 22d. Four 
days later Aleander was in Antwerp for the same pur- 
pose, and on September 28th he had here his first inter- 
view with Charles of Spain, from whom he promptly 
secured a decree against the Lutherans in the Nether- 
lands. This was doubtless a bitter blow to Erasmus, 
who wrote the Reformer that the court was filled with 
"beggar-tyrants" (his favorite epithet for the mendi- 
cants) and that there was no hope in the emperor. 2 
Indeed, it is remarkable that he who so freely eulogized 
many of the potentates of the day should seldom have 
had a good word to say for his own sovereign. A story 
was current that he said of Charles and Ferdinand, 
"These two cubs will make Germany smart some day/' 3 
After this triumph the indefatigable legate proceeded 
to Louvain, where he posted the bull on October 8th, 
solemnly burned the heretic's books, and made a violent 
speech attacking Erasmus. This was followed the next 
day by a renewed attack from Egmond and by the ex- 
clusion of Erasmus and Dorp, his only supporter among 
the professors, from the theological faculty. 4 For these 
acts Aleander and Egmond were bitterly scored in an 
anonymous pamphlet, the Acta Academics Lovaniensis^ 
which has been attributed to several writers, but was 
probably from the pen of Erasmus. 5 The style, the 

1 For these dates and facts, Kalkoff : Luthers romischer Proxess. Rom. 1906. 

5 Luther to Spalatin, October 1 1, 1520. Enders, ii, 491, cf. iii, 90. In Luther's 
phrase "mendicotyranni" we recognize Erasmus's favorite, KruxorvpavvoL 
L. C. ep. 304, cf. ep. 406. 

3 Luthers Tischreden in der Mathtsischen Sammlung, ed. Kroker, No. 498. 
Letter of Besold to V. Dietrich, April II, 1542, Archw fur Reformations- 
geschichtf, xix, 1922, 95, An exception to the general rule that Erasmus 
never praised Charles is to be found in the Institutio Christiani Principis, 
which was, however, written in 1515, when Charles was a mere boy. 

4 P. KalkofF: Anf tinge der Ge genre formation, ii, 35 ff. Also the article by the 
same scholar to be found in Zwingli's Werke, vii, 409. 

5 The proof of the authorship given in P. KalkoiF: 7ermittlungspolitik t 23 ff. 
The similarity of the style of the Acta to that of Erasmus was early noticed. 


occurrence of expressions used in his letters at that time, 
the trend of the satire, the minute acquaintance with 
circumstances known better to Erasmus than to anyone 
else, and the publication of the pamphlet shortly after 
the events recorded and at Cologne, while he was in that 
city, all tend to prove that he was the author. The pur- 
pose of the tract was not only revenge on Aleander, but 
also to weaken the position of that envoy by casting 
doubts on the legitimacy of his nunciature and on the 
authenticity of the bull, and by assuring the public that 
the Romanists were able only to burn Luther's books, 
not to refute them. 

Shortly after the scene at Louvain Erasmus followed 
the emperor to Cologne in order to meet two men 
reckoned as the chief supporters of the new movement, 
Francis von Sickingen and the Elector Frederic of 
Saxony. 1 In the current, but unjustified, idealization of 
Sickingen, he is represented as the perfect knight of Christ 
and of Germany, standing boldly amid the forces of dark- 
ness for the truth, for the Gospel, and for the fatherland. 
As a matter of fact he was a self-seeking, brusque soldier, 
capable, when he was put in command of an army against 
France, of intriguing with the enemy for his own per- 
sonal profit. 2 By his friend Ulrich von Hutten he had 
been sufficiently interested in the Lutheran cause to see 
in it a powerful support to his anti-imperial and anti- 
Spanish policy, and he therefore tried to protect Luther, 
though he was, in fact, soon duped, or seduced, by abler 
politicians than himself, Aleander and Glapion, But, 

Fadianische Brief sammlung (Mitteilungen zur vatfrlandischen Geschickte, 25. 
St, Gallen. 1890 ff) ii, 346. The pamphlet is reprinted in Luther's Werkc* 
Erlangen edition, Opera latina varii argumenti, iv, 308-314. Cf. De Jongh: 
JJAncienne Facultt de Theologie de Louvain, p. 241. 

x On Erasmus at Cologne, Briefwechsel des Beatus Rhenanus, hg. von 
Horawitz und Hartfelder, 1886, Nos. 181, 200; L. C. ep. 332, 438; Enthoven, 
ep. 26. LB. ep. 709. 

2 The older literature, the biographies of Hutten by Strauss, and of Sick- 
ingen by Ulraann, carried this idealization to an extreme. See W. Friedens- 
burg: "Franz von Sickingen." Im Morgenrot der Reformation^ 1912, pp. 
557-666; P. Kalkoff: Ulrich von Hutten und die Reformation, 1920. 


though they did little real service to the Evangelical 
cause, the two knights, Hutten and Sickingen, were now 
outwardly zealous for it. Erasmus's more cautious 
method of protecting Luther from unjust condemnation 
seemed to them little better than cowardly because of 
its calculated moderation. Hutten accordingly ad- 
dressed to his old and formerly revered friend a rather 
insulting invitation to keep safe, 1 on August 15, 1520: 

When Reuchlin's affair got hot you seemed In more weak terror of 
those fellows [the Roman Inquisitors] than you ought to have been. 
And now in Luther's case you try hard to persuade his enemies that 
you are as far as possible from defending the common good of 
Christianity, while they know that you believe just the opposite 
from what you say. 

And again on November I3th: 2 

Fly, fly! Keep yourself safe for us! I am in sufficient, even infinite 
peril, but my mind is inured to danger and to the vicissitudes of 
fortune, while with you it is different. Those fellows all cry out that 
you are the author of this business and that from you as from a 
fountain-head has flowed whatever now displeases Leo; they say 
that you went before us, that you taught us, that you first incited 
the minds of men with the love of liberty and that we are your 

In vain did a common friend, Capito, beg Hutten to 
follow a more peaceful course and especially to spare 
true friends like the old humanist. While still breathing 
out fire and slaughter, Hutten replied that for him to 
leave the fatherland in slavery would be dishonorable. 3 
At first he wondered that Erasmus did not reply to his 
first letter 4 but, from the Ebernburg, near Worms, he 
wrote Nesen: "The people at Cologne have recently 
sent me letters, but Erasmus has sent nothing, fearing, 
like a coward, that what he writes may be betrayed/' 
In this case, a most reasonable fear! 5 

1 Hutteni Opera, ed. Docking, 1859, i, p. 367. L. C. ep. 285; Allen, ep. 1135. 

2 Docking, i, 423; L. C. ep. 336, Allen, ep. 1161. 

'Hutten to Capito, August 28, 1520, Zeitsckrift des Fiddaet Gesckichtx- 
vereins, viii, 1909, pp. 52$*; KalkofF: Hutttn, 1920, pp. 241 f. 

4 "Miror, Erasmus an scripserit," ibid. 

5 Hutten to Nesen, KalkofF: Hutten, 1920, p. 573. 


Far different in character was Frederic, well named 
the Wise, with whom Erasmus came into direct com- 
munication during his three weeks 5 stay at Cologne in 
Novembers 1520. Ever since the letters exchanged be- 
tween the two, eighteen months before, the elector had 
been trying to get the support of the humanist in order 
to make as good a front as possible against the assaults 
of the partisans of the pope. The several imperial em- 
bassies at Wittenberg in 1520 may have brought news of 
the humanist, and on the other side Frederic selected as 
Bis envoy a particularly trustworthy young poet, now in 
-the service of Maximilian of Zevenbergben, one John 
Alexander Brassicanus by name. By him he sent an 
invitation to the great scholar to come to Wittenberg, 
and he also sent, as a token of his esteem, a medallion 
of himself as Lieutenant of the Empire. 1 

While he declined the invitation to Wittenberg, 
Erasmus counted on seeing Frederic at the imperial 
coronation, which took place at Aix-la-Chapelle on 
October 23d. As the elector, however, was detained 
while on his way thither by an attack of gout, he waited 
at Cologne, and there, on October jist, had an audience 
with his imperial master, who arrived on October 28th. 2 
At this meeting, in the sacristy of the cathedral, the 
emperor promised that he would allow the way of the 
law to which he had already been committed by his 
"capitulation/' or agreement signed at his election. 
When an emperor was chosen it was customary for the 
electors not only to demand gratifications of money, but 
also political concessions of all sorts, and Frederic, who 
had refused the donative, insisted, having Luther's case in 
mind, that no subject of the Empire should be outlawed 
or condemned without due hearing. Charles, therefore, 
merely confirmed in this promise his previous undertaking. 

* On all this P. KalkofF: Erasmus, Luther, und Friedrich der Weise, 1919, pp. 
22, 87 f; The medallion is reproduced in P. Schreckenbach und F. Neubert, 
Martin Luther? 1918, p. 54. 

2 He hastened from Aix on account of the outbreak of the plague. 
J. Paquler; Lettres de Jerome Al'eandre* 1910, p, 61. 


On Sunday, November 4th ? the papal legates visited 
Frederic at his lodgings on the Square of the Three 
Kings s and demanded that the heretic's books be burned 
and that he himself be either punished by the elector^ or 
be delivered to them bound. The politic old prince gave 
them one of those evasive answers in which he was an 
adept ? disclaiming any intention of protecting heresy^ 
but announcing that he would not deliver up an uncon- 
dennned man. The next day Frederic sent for Erasmus, 
and their conversation has been carefully noted by Spa- 
latin/ who was present. There was a large open fire 
before which the humanist took his stand, warming his 
hands at the blaze behind his back while facing the 
benign and incorruptible old statesman for whom he had 
already conceived a high admiration. The elector 
asked the scholar to use his native tongue, the Dutch 
(which he called Belgian), but Erasmus preferred to 
speak Latin. This the prince understood, though he did 
not venture to speak it, but put his questions through 
Spalatin. The first and most important of these was 
whether Luther had erred. The man so bluntly inter- 
rogated at first closed his lips with a smack and kept 
them compressed for some minutes, but then, as the 
elector, according to his custom when discussing serious 
matters, regarded him with grave, wide-open eyes, he 
suddenly burst into these words: "Luther has erred in 
two points in attacking the crown of the pope and the 
bellies of the monks/ 3 The winged word flew throughout 
Germany and helped the accused not a little. 

Satisfied with having planted the perfect epigram, 
Erasmus took his leave and walked with Spalatin to the 
house of Count Hermann of Neuenahr, Provost of 

1 Spalatin's fullest account exists in German MS. at Gotha, but has nerer 
been published in the original Ludwig von Seckendorf translated it into 
Latin and published it with the wrong date, December $th, in his Historia 
Luther anismi, of which I consult the second edition, 1694, i, 125 f, section 34, 
81. A much briefer account is found in Spalatins Nachlass, ed. Neudecker 
und Preller, 1851, i, p. 131, and something may be found in Luther's Tisck- 
reden, Weimar, i, p. 131. 


Cologne and a disciple of the Reformer, and there he 
drew up a series of short propositions called Axioms' 1 to 
serve as a basis for the settlement of the whole affair. 
In this document he showed most strongly his sympathy 
with much of the Reformer's program, and his wish to 
be of service to it. He stated : That the origin of the 
persecution was hatred of learning and love of tyranny; 
that the method of procedure corresponded with the 
origin, consisting, namely, of clamor, conspiracy, bitter 
hatred, and virulent writing; that the agents put in 
charge of the prosecution were suspect; that all good 
men and lovers of the Gospel were very little offended 
with Luther; that certain men had abused the easy-going 
kindness of the pope. The author advised that precipi- 
tate counsels be avoided, as the fierceness of the bull had 
scandalized all and was unworthy of the gentleness of 
Christ's vicar, and that the cause be examined by impar- 
tial and experienced persons. Only two universities had 
condemned Luther, and they, though condemning, had 
not refuted him. The accused demanded only justice in 
submitting himself to impartial judges, and his motives 
were pure, whereas those of his adversaries were corrupt 
and violent. The honor of the pope and the cause of 
evangelical truth required that Luther be tried by 
grave, unsuspected men of mature judgment. Erasmus 
added orally that Luther had been too violent; and 
Spalatin promised to remonstrate with him. 2 

Frederic was both surprised and pleased at the bold- 
ness of the Axioms. He sent his adviser a chamois 
gown, but, if we may trust a bit of gossip, said to his 
chaplain, Spalatin: "What sort of a man is Erasmus, 
anyway? One never knows where he is/' With the 
elector was his cousin, Duke George of Albertine Saxony, 
who, as a sincere Catholic, was much disappointed in 
Erasmus's attitude, and, on hearing the Axioms, burst 
out: "The plague take him. You can never tell what 

1 Printed in Luthcri op fro. latino, varii argument^ v 238 ff. 
3 LB.x, 1659. 


he means. I really prefer the Wittenbergers, for at least 
they say yes or no/' 1 When the legates called on Frederic 
on November 6th, they received a complete refusal of 
their demands. 2 

Though intensely annoyed at the part played by the 
humanist, Aleander judged it prudent to win him over 
If possible, and accordingly invited him several times to 
dinner. Erasmus always declined these invitations, fear- 
ing, as he said later, that he would be poisoned. 3 

He continued to try to influence the emperor and his 
counsellors, not directly by personal conversations, but 
through a Dominican named John Faber, with whom he 
had been in touch at Louvain. The friar, with his aid 
and at his instigation, drew up a memorial 4 entitled: 
The Advice of One Desirous of the Peace of the Church. 
He points out that, after all, the peace of Christianity 
is the main consideration and that pious men should act 
with an eye to this only, without considering exactly 
what Luther deserved. As in the Axioms, so here, Faber 
traced the origin of the persecution to the hatred of good 

1 Luthers Tischreden, Weimar, iv, no. 4899. This account, in Luther's table 
talk twenty years after the event is intrinsically probable, though colored by 
Luther's dislike of Erasmus. The chamois gown is also mentioned in one of 
Erasmus's epistles, Lond. xviii, 37, LB. ep. 709, as a damask gown. 

* Narratio per Henricum Priorem Gundensem [i.<f., of Ghent] scripta. Luthfri 
opera lot. varii arg. v, 249. 

* Allen, ep. 1188. 

4 On Faber, N. Paulus: Die deutschen Dominikaner im Kampfe gegen 
Luther (Erauterungen und Erganzungen zu Janssens Geschichu des Deutschen 
7olkes) > 1906, pp. 301 ff. In my judgment Paulus proves that Faber was the 
author of the Consilium cujusdam, though Maurenbrecher and Kalkoff 
(Fermittlungspolitik des Erasmus^ I ff) attribute it to Erasmus, and its style 
was early seen to resemble his: cf. Fadianische Brief sammlung, ii, 346. 
Erasmus never admitted it, though he praised it in letters <r.g., Lond. xxvii 
2, LB. ep. 1195; and almost avows it as his own, Allen, ep. 1199. He denied 
it, however, Lond. xvii, 19; LB. ep. 603. The work was also attributed to 
Zwingli, and is now most conveniently found in the old edition of his works by 
Schuler und Schulthess, 1832, iii, I ff, and translated into English in The Latin 
Works and Correspondence of H. Zwingli, ed. S. M. Jackson, 1912, pp. 57 ff. 
Schlottmann, in an able work anticipating many of KalkofFs positions, 
Erasmus Rcdivivus, 2 vols., 1883, 1889, i, p. 230, attributes the Concilium to 
Erasmus, but Allen, iv, 357, accepts the joint authorship of Erasmus and 

23 8 

letters, and observed that only two universities had con- 
demned, and that without refuting, Luther. The bull is 
disliked by all who love Leo, and while the papal agents 
are burning Luther's books they are spreading his 
opinions. Moreover, the accused heretic is a man of 
good life. Let his cause, therefore, be committed ^ to a 
tribunal of impartial and learned judges to be appointed 
by Charles and by the kings of England and Hungary. 
Erasmus pressed the acceptance of this plan on most of 
the emperor's agents, on Gattinara, Adrian of Utrecht 
the future pope, Villinger, Albert of Mainz, the bishop 
of Liege, and Conrad Peutinger. 1 His efforts were not 
as successful as he could have desired. Faber, however, 
brought up a similar plan again at the Diet of Worms, 
though without result. 2 

Another important ally in the work of mediation was 
Wolfgang Capito, now in the service of Albert of Mainz. 
It is probably due to his influence that now and 
later Albert stood for a policy of reconciliation. 3 

Erasmus still tried to remain neutral To Reuchlin he 
wrote, November 8th ; 4 

You see what a fatal tragedy is now acting, the catastrophe of 
which it is impossible to foresee. ... I prefer to be a spectator 
rather than an actor, not because I refuse to incur the risks of battle 
for the cause of Christ, but because I see the work is above my 
mediocrity. ... I always try to separate your case and that of 
learning from that of Luther. 

To Justus Jonas at Erfurt he wrote, on November 1 1 th : 5 

Aleander, a man sufficiently skillful in the three tongues, but 
apparently made for this tragedy, is here. . . . He burned Luther's 
books . . . and attacked me more violently than that man, because 

1 Lond. xxvii, ^ xiii, 30. LB. ep. 1195; Paulus, op. cit. t 302; Allen, ep, 1156. 

8 Judicium Fratris Johannis Fabri in causa Lutkeri. Wrede: Reichstags- 
akten unUr Carl V,, ii, 484, note 2. 

8 Capito to Luther, December, 1521. Enders, iii, 259. Cf. P. Kalkoff: 
W. Capito im Dienste Albrfchts von Mainz. 1907. Also c/. Hedio's letter to 
Zwingli, Zwinglis Werke> vii, 355. 

4 Allen, ep. 1155. 

5 Kawerau: Briffwechsel des Justus Jonas, no. 41. Allen, ep. 1157. Cf. 
Erasmus to Barland s November 30, i|2O, Allen, ep. 1163. 


he and his party believe that I am the only obstacle to the immediate 
destruction of Luther, although for many causes I never mix in 
this affair. I cherish sound learning; I cherish the gospel truth; 
I will do it silently if I may not do it openly. 

It was perhaps after hearing of some such expression 
as this that the Saxon Reformer wrote a friend that, 
though there was no misunderstanding between himself 
and Erasmus, yet he often discussed with Melanchthon 
the question of how far the humanist was from the 
Gospel truth. 1 

After three weeks at Cologne Erasmus returned to 
Louvain, part of the journey being in the company of 
that merry princess, Germaine de Foix, widow of 
Ferdinand of Aragon, and now wife of the Margrave 
John of Brandenburg. 2 The trip was made difficult by 
the floods, the horses being, as their master wittily 
phrased it, "almost shipwrecked." 3 

Safe at home again, Erasmus wrote two letters on the 
same day, December 7th, which are a striking instance 
of how much he varied his tone to suit different corre- 
spondents. To the Reformer Capito, he wrote, refer- 
ring to the vigorous Lutheran agitation in the Nether- 
lands: "Our Dutchmen have rejected the bull of the 
pontiff, or rather of Louvain. The theologians think 
that Luther can only be conquered by my help and 
tacitly implore it. Far be this madness from me!" 4 

Feeling obliged to cover his retreat at Rome, however, 
he put the case differently, on the very same day, to 
Campeggio. 5 After pointing out the odious way in which 

I To Spengler, November 17, 1520. De Wette: Lutkers Briefe, i, p. 525. 
L. C. ep. 337. 

2 Lond. xviii, 37, LB. ep. 709. "The Queen of Aragon," Erasmus calls her. 
Diirer saw her and her husband about this time. Durers SchriftlicheT Nachlass 
(1908), pp. 46, 116. 

8 Allen, ep. 1169. 

4 Allen, ep. r 165 ; L. C. ep. 352. Erasmus calls Exsurge Dominf, "the bull of 
Louvain/* because most of the errors of Luther condemned in the bull had 
been lifted bodily from the pronunciamento of the Belgian university. 

8 Allen, ep. 1167; L. C. ep. 351. 


Luther had been treated unwarned, untaught, unre- 
futed, only attacked and persecuted he goes on: 

I am not so impious as to oppose the Roman Church, nor so 
ungrateful as to embarrass Leo . . . but yet I am not so imprudent 
as to resist one [Luther] whom it is hardly safe for kings to oppose. 
. . . If the corrupt morals of the Roman Church need a great and 
present remedy, certainly it is not for men like me to take so much 
upon themselves. I prefer the present state of affairs to exciting new 
tumults which turn out differently from what one supposes. . . . 
Let others affect the martyr's crown, I do not think myself worthy of 
this dignity. . . . Many grave and prudent men think the religious 
affair would have a happier issue if it were treated with less fury and 
left to a body of grave, learned, and sedate men. 

Such Intervention did little good at Rome. The sixty 
days given Luther to recant expired on November 28th. 
Instead of doing so, however, the bold rebel burned the 
bull and the whole canon law on December loth. The 
bull of excommunication was signed at Rome on January 
6, 1521, though not promulgated at Worms until May 

The failure of Erasmus's plan of arbitration, made 
evident by the course of events during the winter of 
1520-21, marks a turning-point in the humanist's atti- 
tude toward the Reformation. Though he could never 
have been called a follower of Luther, he had hitherto 
labored to protect him from unjust persecution and to 
give him a fair hearing. He believed that if the Saxon 
would only be moderate he might accomplish much good, 
and, for the sake of peace, he wrote him no less than five 
personal letters, and appealed also to his friends, to urge 
him to apply himself to the cause of reform with a mind 
uncorrupted by hatred or violence. 1 

But Luther's Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity of the 
Churchy an attack on the Catholic sacramental system, 
and his burning of the canon law at Wittenberg on 
December loth, not only shocked the humanist, but con- 
vinced him that Luther's cause was hopeless. He had 

1 All but one of these letters (that quoted above) have perished, but numer- 
ous traces of the correspondence are left. Cf. Allen, ep. 1041, and iv, 339. 


tried his best, he protested, to devise a plan by which 
the friar might win the glory of obedience, and the pope 
that of clemency, but what could one do for a man who 
acted as if he did not want to be saved? 1 His position, 
as he would have it understood, was perhaps most fully 
explained in two letters to Nicholas Everard, President 
of the Estates of Holland, of which the first, published 
four hundred years after he wrote it, may here be trans- 
lated in part: 2 

With what odium Luther burdens the cause of learning and that 
of Christianity! As far as he can he involves all men in his business. 
Everyone confessed that the Church suffered under the tyranny of 
certain men, and many were taking counsel to remedy this state of 
affairs. Now this man has arisen to treat the matter in such a way 
that he fastens the yoke on us more firmly, and that no one dares to 
defend even what he has said well. Six months ago I warned him to 
beware of hatred. The Babylonian Captivity has alienated many 
from him, and he daily puts forth more atrocious things. 

Before we judge Erasmus for using too strong lan- 
guage let us examine what the Wittenberg innovator was 
actually saying at this time. That his language was 
sometimes unbridled, likely to arouse fierce passions in 
the multitude, cannot be denied. The most " atrocious " 
thing he said, and one that has been quoted against him 
by his enemies for four hundred years, was the following 
sentence in a tract published in July, I52O: 3 "If we punish 
thieves with the gallows, robbers with the sword, and 
heretics with fire, why should we not rather attack with 
all arms these masters of perdition, these cardinals, these 
popes, and all the offscourings of the Roman Sodom, who 
eternally corrupt the Church of God, and why should we 
not wash our hands in their blood ?" Imagine the effect 

1 Allen, ep. 1203. 

2 Allen, epp. 1186, 1188. February 25, and March, 1521. 

3 This was in a note, or appendix, to an edition of Prierias*s Epitoma 
Rfsponsionis ad M. Lutkerum, published by Luther himself. The passage is 
found in Luthers Werke, Weimar ed., vi, 347; Lutheri Opera latina varii 
argument^ Erlangen ed., ii, 107. The latest Catholic treatment of it by H. 
Grisar in Historisches Jarhbuch, Band 41, pp. 247 ff, 1921. 


of this fierce harangue on the sensitive scholar, and then 
let us hear his own sorrowful confession of his disappoint- 
ment that the man from whom he had hoped a real 
counter-agent against the forces of evil had not only 
doomed himself to perish, but had acted so as to make 
the Pharisees in the opposite camp all the stronger. In 
the letter quoted last he continues: 

Nor do I see on what Luther is relying, unless perhaps on the 
Bohemians. I fear that if we turn from the Lutheran Scylla we shall 
fall into Charybdis. Some men, led by desire for revenge, now 
accept the yoke and bridle of the papal bulls, which perchance they 
will later wish had not been executed, and the same has come to 
pass in regard to the Apologies. And Luther acts like the proverbial 
goat who jumps into a ditch without looking to see how he can get 
out again. 

So In other letters the humanist drives home the point 
that he can no longer support a man who, not content 
with courting wilful martyrdom, would bring down the 
cause of learning in his own ruin. 1 With the Bohemian 
Brethren, in whom he saw the chief support of the 
Reformer, and who actively applied to him at this time 
for approval, he also expostulated. 2 

But the gentle scholar's dislike of the rough road of 
revolution was not due entirely to considerations of the 
public good. He felt more and more painfully the deli- 
cacy of his own situation, for, as he pointed out to a 
powerful gentleman in Holland perhaps the imperial 
councilor Maximilian von Zevenberghen if he supported 
Luther he would be prosecuted, if he opposed him he 
would draw on himself the hatred of Germany. 8 In a 
mood of unusual frankness as well as of discourage- 
ment, he wrote to his friend, Richard Pace, a letter never 
published until the eighteenth century. As it contains 

1 Allen, ep. 1185. 

2 On a visit of two Bohemian Brethren to Erasmus in the summer of 1520 
see Allen, iv, 291 f. His letter to the Hussite Captain of Moravia, Artlebus 
de Boskowitz, January 28, 1521, Allen, ep. 1183; L. C. ep. 385. 

3 Allen, ep. 1166; L. C., ep. 346. Kalkoff suggests that the addressee may 
have been originally Maximilian of Zevenberghen, sometimes called Tran- 
sylvanus, Anfange der Gfgenrf formation in den Niederlanden, i, p. 105, note 23. 


the most damaging admissions he ever made about his 
attitude toward the Reformation* some part of it must 
here be transcribed: 1 

Would that some deus ex machina might make a happy ending for 
this drama so inauspiciously begun by Luther! He himself gives his 
enemies the dart by which they transfix him, and acts as if he did 
not wish to be saved, though frequently warned by me and by his 
friends to tone down the sharpness of his style. ... I cannot 
sufficiently wonder at the spirit in which he has written. Certainly 
he has loaded the cultivators of literature with heavy odium. Many 
of his teachings and admonitions were splendid, but would that he 
had not vitiated these good things by mixing intolerable evils! If he 
had written all things piously, yet I should not have courage to risk 
my life for the truth. All men have not strength for martyrdom. I 
fear lest, if any tumult should arise, I should imitate Peter [in denying 
the Lord]. I follow the just decrees of popes and emperors because 
it is right; I endure their evil laws because it is safe. I think this is 
allowable to good men, if they have no hope of successful resistance. 
. . . Christ, whose cause my little writings have ever served, will 
look after me. After Luther has been burned to ashes, and when some 
not too sincere inquisitors and theologians shall take glory to them- 
selves for having burned him, good princes should take care not to 
allow these gentlemen to rage against the innocent and meritorious, 
and let us not be so carried away with hatred for Luther's bad writings 
that we lose the fruit of his good ones. 

But, though this is the frankest confession of his own 
weakness ever made by Erasmus, it is not really so dam- 
aging to his character as are the endless apologies of his 
later life. A man who spent such a world of effort, un- 
relaxed for eighteen years, to explain and justify his 
action, can hardly have been very easy about it in his 
mind. Must we then cast into the vestibule of hell, with 
the angels who neither rebelled with Lucifer nor fought 
for God, but remained neutral and "for themselves," 2 the 
man whose character, judged on other grounds, seems 
so fine, and whose services to the world were so distin- 

1 Allen, ep. 1218; July 5, 1521. 

2 quel cattivo coro 

Degli angeli che non furon rebelli, 
Ne fur fedeli a Dio, ma per se foro. 

Dante, Inferno, iii, 37 fF. The very words remind one of the descrip* 
tion in the Epistola Obscurorum Firorum, " Erasmus est homo pro se. 1 ' 


guished? Some opinion we must have, and this opinion 
will doubtless depend primarily on our conception of the 
Tightness or wrongness of the humanist's treatment of 
the Reformation. A purely colorless narrative is vir- 
tually impossible, for the sources cannot be left "to speak 
for themselves"; the witness of each document must be 
cross-examined in the light of the whole history of the 
epoch, nay, of the whole of the historian's philosophy. 

In the opinion of the present writer, Erasmus's atti- 
tude toward the Reformation was wrong, because the 
present writer thinks that the Reformation was justified 
in its purpose and on the whole good in its results. With 
all his faults and all his sins, Luther acted a nobler, more 
heroic, and also a historically more justifiable part than 
did Erasmus. Not only was he braver, but he was ulti- 
mately more right in his judgment of the requirements 
of the time and of the remedies suitable for restoring 
health and vitality to suffering Christendom. ^ 

But, having given the value-judgment that is unavoid- 
able if history is to mean more than an idle tale, it is 
only just to add that, relatively, there is much to be said 
for Erasmus's view of the Reformation. At his age,^ in 
his position, with his interests, it is rather surprising 
that he should have been so open-minded as he showed 
himself, than that he should finally have turned aside 
from revolution. He saw, as we should be inexcusable 
not to see still more clearly, that in human parties all 
the good is never on one side; nor all the evil on the 
other. He had the rare, and, for its possessor's peace 
of mind, unlucky gift of seeing the weakness of his own 
side and the strength of his enemy. There was war in 
his own heart not between God and the dbvil, but be- 
tween hosts of ideas, interests, and affections, of which 
some good and some evil ones seemed to fight on either 
side. What weighed with him most was his belief that 
he was finally consistent in championing the two causes 
of undogmatic piety and of sound culture. The 
two least creditable springs for his action cowardice 


and fear of losing his own leadership were the two 
which had the least weight with him. Men's mo- 
tives are often mixed, and with so complex a mind 
as that with which we are now dealing, this mixture is 
unusually intricate. To dissect that delicate tissue of 
nerves and brain, lancet and lens are needed. After 
splendid successes, to be matched with an issue too large 
for any save the greatest to master, to be cast at the age 
of fifty into a mighty revolution, to run into a terrific 
storm after a smooth voyage in short, to be confronted 
with an opportunity and a peril almost unequalled in 
history was the misfortune of the man. Even the best 
qualities of his mind, his tolerance, his pacifism, his 
ability to see both sides of every question, stood him in 
ill stead now. If he was wrong in his judgment of the 
supreme issue, he was right in his criticism of many 
details. Luther gave only too many handles to his 
enemies; all that was violent and coarse and crude in 
the man and still more in some of his followers, repelled 
the fastidious scholar, and kept him from the Protestant 
camp more effectually than did any fear for his own skin 
or his own laurels. 

In January,! 52 1, Charles opened his first Diet, atWorms. 
Before that august body came many important questions, 
political, constitutional, financial, and foreign. But the 
supreme interest of contemporaries, as of posterity, has 
been concentrated on the Diet's dealing with Luther. Ale- 
ander proposed that he be condemned unheard, but the 
estates, after a stormy session, decided to summon him. 
He appeared before them on April lyth, and again on 
April 1 8th, refusing to retract aught of his doctrine. 

Erasmus, invited to be present, declined, partly, as he 
explained, because he did not want to meddle with the 
religious question, partly because the plague had broken 
out in the crowded town. 1 Hoping, however, to exercise 
his influence in favor of moderation, he wrote to powerful 

x To Laurinus, February i, 1523; Lond. xxiii, 6, col. 1213; LB. ep. 650, 
col. 749. 


men, among whom he mentions the Burgundian Chan- 
cellor Mercurino Gattinara, Cardinal Matthew Schinner, 
Aloysius Marlian, Bishop of Tuy, and an adviser of 
Chievres, the Stadholder of the Netherlands. Marlian 
composed an oration against Luther, the temperate tone 
of which may have been due to Erasmus's advice. But 
as both he and Chievres died of the plague at Worms 
nothing came of this effort. 1 Gattinara answered 
Erasmus's advances in a letter, reassuring him as to his 
own personal safety, but promising nothing for Luther. 2 
True to his expressed preference for "being a spectator 
rather than an actor of a drama/' 3 Erasmus spent the 
winter of 1520-21, while the earth trembled with the 
storm at Worms, in safety at Louvain and at Antwerp. 
One day, at the house of Peter Grilles, he dined with 
Albert Diirer, the celebrated Nuremberg painter, now on 
a trip to the Low Countries. 4 It was perhaps on this 
occasion that Diirer heard him say that he gave himself 
two more years in which to dare to do something. 5 The 
artist was in warm sympathy with the Reformation, as 
were other friends of the humanist. The local head of 
the movement, which almost reached the proportions of 
a revolt, was the Augustinian Prior James Probst, whom 
Erasmus called "a pure Christian who almost alone 
preaches Christ/' 6 and whom Aleander dubbed one of 
the men most dangerous to the Roman Church. 7 An- 
other leader in the revolt from Rome was the humanist's 
warm friend, Cornelius Grapheus. 8 

1 On Marlian, who died on the night of May 1011, 1521, L. C., i, 421, note; 
on William de Croy, Seigneur de Chievres, ibid., ep. 341. 

2 Dated Worms, April 5, 1521. Allen, ep. 1197. 
* LB. iii, 871 D. 

4 E. Heidrich: Albrecht Durers Schriftlicher Nachlass, 1908, p. 82. 

5 Ibid., p. 100. 

6 Allen, ep. 980; L. C. ep. 155. May 30, 1519. 

7 Aleander to Cardinal de' Medici, October 13, 1520. Brieger: Aleander 
und Luther, 1 886, p. 271. P. Kalkoff: Anfange der Gegenreformation in den 
Niederlanden, 1903, i, 51 f. Diirer, pp. 77, 107. On Probst further, Allen, 
ep. 980, line 54, note; Marcel Godet: La Congregation de Montaigu, 1912, p. 
189; 0. Clemen: Eeitrage zur Rejormationsgeschichte, i, 37 ff; Enders, vii, 92. 

8 Diirer, p. in. 


Erasmus probably took little part in this agitation. 
He was daily becoming more irritated against a man who 
"acted as if he wished to perish." On May loth he 
wrote a long letter to Jonas, 1 explaining that Luther, 
who at first had his favor, had gradually alienated good 
men by his passion, by his railing against the pope, 
against the friars, against the universities, and against 
Aristotle's philosophy. Luther, he says, would have 
done better to have thrown himself on the mercy of 
pope and emperor. Though there is some slight resem- 
blance between the words used by the Wittenberg pro- 
fessor and those used by Erasmus, the latter explains 
that there is a world of difference in their meaning and 
tone. His own ideal of a reform and of reformers was 
further set forth, for the benefit of the same correspon- 
dent, in a long epistle containing the lives of Vitrier and 
Colet. 2 

On April 26th Luther left Worms. While returning 
home, on the afternoon of May 4th, he was seized with 
friendly violence by retainers of the Elector Frederic, 
and borne away to the Wartburg, a fine castle near 
Eisenach, to hide from the ban until the storm should 
blow over. Wild rumors of his assassination, as well as of 
his flight to Bohemia or to Sickingen, flew through Ger- 
many. On May iyth the news reached Antwerp, where 
Diirer heard it and recorded in his diary a long lamen- 
tation for the untimely end of the "inspired man of 
God." "O Erasmus of Rotterdam," he continues, 
"where wilt thou abide? thou Knight of Christ, seize 
the martyr's crown." 3 But this was an honor for which 
the gentle scholar had no ambition, at least in this cause. 
"I should wish to be a martyr for Christ," he said, "had 
I the strength; but not for Luther." 4 To Richard Pace 

1 Allen, ep. 1202; L. C. ep, 477; G. Kawerau: Briefwechsel des Justus 
fonas, no. 50. 

8 Allen, ep. 1211. 

8 Durers Schriftlicher Nachlass, pp. 95 ff. Erasmus speaks of the rumor of 
Luther's assassination on July 5th. Allen, ep. 

4 LB. x, 663. "Spongia," 1523. 


he wrote on July 5th, 1 saying that the Germans wish to 
drag him into the affair, but that their foolish plan is 
more likely to alienate him. What help could he give 
the bold innovator if he tried to share his danger, save 
that two would perish instead of one? 

Erasmus had indeed some cause to be anxious. On 
May 6th Aleander published the bull Decet Pontificem 
Romanum, placing Luther under the ban of the Church. 
On May 26th the emperor signed the Edict of Worms, 
putting him under the ban of the Empire, commanding 
his books to be burned and his person to be delivered 
up to the authorities. Shortly afterward Charles and 
Aleander returned to the Netherlands, where they pro- 
ceeded at once to carry out their program of stamping 
out heresy. In the autumn Probst and Grapheus were 
arrested at Antwerp, 2 and it was perhaps the fear of the 
inquisitor that sent Diirer back to Nuremberg. 3 

Finding Antwerp too hot to hold him, Erasmus retired 
to Anderlecht, a small town near Brussels, where he spent 
most of the summer and early autumn. On his occa- 
sional visits to the capital he was well received by dis- 
tinguished men. Among others he saw the king of Den- 
mark, Christian II, now on a visit to his brother-in-law, 
the emperor, in order to collect his wife's dowry. The 
king was decidedly favorable to Luther, and answered 
the humanist's objections to the violent course things 
were taking by asserting that efficacious medicines al- 
ways put the whole body into convulsions before they 
could cure. 4 For his own part, Erasmus feared that, 

1 Allen, ep. 1281. 

2 Kalkoff: Anfange, pp. 61-70. 

8 Kalkoff, ibid., and on Diirer on Repcrtorium fur Kunstwissenschaft, xx, 
1897. Durer himself only says that he had declined the offer of a house and 
pension from the city of Antwerp. Schriftlichtr Nachlass, p. 178. Before he 
left he intrusted his possessions to Luther's warm friend, Wencelaus Link, 
Hid, p. 114. 

4 LB. ep. 509, 650; Lond. ep. xxiii, 6, col. 1214. Both 1523. Durer men- 
tions a banquet given by the king to the emperor on July 3d, and one given 
by Charles to Christian on July 4th. Schriftlicher Nachlass, pp. 114 f. It 
was perhaps here that Erasmus met him. 


though a powerful drug might be necessary to restore the 
collapsed morals of the Church, yet that this medicine, 
applied without sufficient skill, would rather exacerbate 
than expel the disease. The Apple of Discord had been 
thrown into the world, no part of which was now at peace. 

The parting of the ways had now come; one must be 
either with the Reform or against it. Erasmus's con- 
tinued efforts to keep on good terms with both sides only 
brought him the ill will of both. As Zasius, the juris- 
consult of Freiburg and a friend of the humanist, wrote 
to Boniface Amerbach, Erasmus's letters on Luther 
caused him to be ill spoken of even by the most devoted 
Erasmians. 1 For his own part, Zasius protests, he 
esteemed the prudent and holy writings of Erasmus all 
the more by contrast with the insane ravings of Luther. 2 

In order to disabuse the public of the idea that he had 
any part or lot with Luther, while at the same time put- 
ting in a word wherever possible in favor of moderation, 
Erasmus continued throughout the summer to write to 
powerful friends. To Peter Barbier he confessed that 
"he so hated discord that even truth, if seditious, would 
displease him, and that he had not written against Luther 
only because he had not had time to study the question 
thoroughly, and that to write against a man should be 
something more than to call him names. 3 To Warham, 
Archbishop of Canterbury, he protested that he would 
write something for the peace of the Church when he 
had time. 4 

To his enemies at Louvain he designed to send the 
most elaborate apology of all. 5 At the same time, urged 
on by many men in power, he began a dialogue On Ending 
the Lutheran Affair, which, however, was soon interrupted 
by ill health, as he says, or, more probably, by prudence. 6 

1 July 15* 1521. Udalrici Zasii epistola, ed. J. A. Riegger, 1774, i, 47. 

2 To Amerbach, August 20, 1521, ibid, p. 49. 

3 Louvain, August 13, 1521. Allen, ep. 1225. 

4 Bruges, August 23, 1521. Allen, ep. 1228. 
6 AnderIecht, 1521; Allen, ep. 1217. 

6 To Glapion, Basle, 1522, Lond. xix, 10; LB. ep. 645. 


The scheme of the book, related elsewhere, was to con- 
sist of three conversations between Thrasymachus^ repre- 
senting Luther, Eubulus the Catholic, and Philalethes the 
arbiter i.e. 9 Erasmus himself. The first conversation was 
to consider Luther's manner, which was designated as ob- 
jectionable even if all he said were true; the second was 
planned to discuss some of his doctrines, and the third de- 
signed to show the path toward peace. 1 He even wrote 
to Bombasius 2 at Rome, asking him to get permission from 
the pope to read Luther's works; this Aleander had refused. 
All the while Erasmus was keenly sensible of his dan- 
ger. Among the men he feared most was John Glapion, 
a Franciscan of Bruges recently appointed confessor to 
the emperor. Whether, as Hutten charged, 3 Glapion's at- 
tempt to mediate at the Diet of Worms was due to the 
influence of Erasmus, cannot certainly be told, but soon 
after that he entered into communication with the 
humanist with the purpose of making him arbiter of the 
whole cause. "I know that he acted with friendly mind," 
wrote Erasmus much later, "but others tried to force the 
plan upon me because they suspected me, though un- 
justly. They wished either to make me the hangman of 
those whom they thought I favored, or else to make me 
betray myself into their nets." 4 The plan, however, such 
as it was, fell through. Glapion tried hard to get an 
interview during the summer, but failed. Erasmus says 
that he was so willing to meet him that he actually 
started to return to the Netherlands after he had gone 

1 Catalogue of Lucubrations, 1523. Allen, i. p. 34 

* September 23, 1521, Allen, ep. 1236. 

*LB. x, 1647; "Spongia," 1523. At Worms Glapion had met Hutten, 
Bucer, and Spalatin, and had tried to prevent Luther's coming to the city 
by proposing that all should be smoothed over if Luther would only retract a 
few articles. On this see L. C. epp. 407, 440, 444, 445; P, Kalkoff: Aleander 
gegen Luther , p. 156; P. Smith: Life and Letters of Martin Luther, pp. II f; 
Kostlm-Kawerau: Lathers Lefan, 1903. i, 388, 408; Forstemann: Newts 
Urkundenbuch, pp. 36-54. 

4 To Olaus, April 19, 1533. Forstemann und Gun then Brief e an Erasmus, 
1904, p. 348. The same, dated February 19, 1533, in Olah Miklos Levelezese; 
kozli Ipolyi Arnold. Monumenta Hungarite diplomatic^ xxv, 1875, P 35 1 - 


to Baste, in order to see the confessor at Calais, but that 
ill health forced him to return after he had reached 
Schlettstadt. 1 He continued to write 2 to him until 
Clapton's death, in September, 1522, cut short 
further intercourse. Before this happened^ however, 
Erasmus had already begun to feel terribly uneasy at 
the course things were taking. "Before Csesar left for 
Spain," he wrote much later, "I felt that there was a 
movement on foot to put me at the head of the growing 
Lutheran party; and I confess that I left that province 
[Brabant] because I dared not trust Glapion, although 
he wrote often and courteously/' 3 At the same time he 
told Zwingli that he was obliged to leave so as not to 
get involved with the Pharisees. 4 

To Glapion himself he wrote that he would have pre- 
ferred to have remained at Anderlecht had the emperor 
been able to protect him against those who, under pre- 
text of religion, went about to avenge their own slights. 5 
Among these by far the most dangerous was Aleander, 
now raging around the Netherlands, privately denounc- 
ing Erasmus, in dispatches to Rome, as a worse heretic 
than Luther, 6 and as the agitator arousing all Germany 
to rebellion and spreading the idea that the bull Exsurge 
was forged. 7 Aleander knew and disliked the Advice of 
One Seeking the Peace of the Church f and he insinuated, 
on the ground of a slight stylistic resemblance, that the 
humanist was the author of the Babylonian Captivity? 

1 To P. Barbier (1522), Lond. xx, 40; LB. ep. 644 

2 To Glapion, Basle, 1522, Lond. xix, 1 10; LB. ep. 645. 

3 Erasmus to Maldonato, March 30, 1527. Zeitschrift fur historische 
Theologie, xxix, 1859, p. 610. 

4 August 31, 1523, Zwinglii Opera, ed. Egli etc., viii, 115. 
6 To Glapion, Lond. xix, no; LB. ep. 645. 

6 P. Kalkoff: Aleander gegen Luther, pp. 59, 74; letters of December 18, 
1520, and of February 6, 1521. 

7 J. Paquier: Lettres familieres de Jerome Aleandre, 1910, p. 6ij Aleander to 
Cardinal Pucci, October 24, 1520. 

8 Kalkoff: Aleander, p. 80. 

9 Erasmus to Bombasius, September 23, 1521; Allen, ep. 1236. The 
Babylonian Captivity began with the words "Velim nolim," and Erasmus's 
Panegyric of Philip with the words " Velis nolis." 


This charge almost drove Erasmus wild, as did the re- 
ports he heard of Aieander's savage defamation of him 
to the emperor and others in power, 1 especially the 
Bishop of Liege. The tricky Italian, however, judged it 
expedient to keep all this enmity as secret as possible, 
and even complained, with crocodile tears, to friends of 
the humanist, 2 that, in spite of the wrongs he had suf- 
fered at his hands, he could not forget his ancient love 
for the scholar. 

With far more reason Erasmus also felt compelled to 
dissemble his fear and hatred of the legate. Though he 
knew him to be proud, fierce, irritable, insatiate of glory, 
and bent upon his ruin, 3 he spoke to Capito of this man 
in a friendly way, in order that Capito might use his 
good offices with the legate. 4 In order to forestall him 
Erasmus wrote to powerful friends at Rome and received 
a gracious reply from Leo, dated January 15, 1521, 
expressing pleasure in the humanist's assurances of loy- 
alty, which the pope had begun to doubt, not so much 
by reason of the reports of others, as because of certain 
of his own writings. 5 At the same time strict instruc- 
tions were sent by Cardinal de' Medici to Aleander to 
treat the humanist with the utmost consideration. 6 

Distrusting these professions, however, and even hear- 
ing a report, probably false, that a reward had been 
offered to anyone who would capture him and send him 
bound to Rome, 7 he prepared to leave the Netherlands. 
While spending some days at Louvain in order to pack, 

1 Erasmus to Aleander, Septembers, 1524; LB. ep. 693. 

2 Vives to Erasmus, Louvain, January 19, 1522. LB. ep. 615. Fwis Opera, 
1782, vii, 159. 

3 So Erasmus wrote Pirckheimer, March 30, 1522, LB. ep. 618. 

4 Capito to Aleander, March 29, 1521; P. KalkofF: Capito im Dienste 
Albrechts von Mainz, 1908, p. 135. 

5 Lammer: Monuments Faticana^ 1861, p. 3; Jortin: Life of Erasmus t ii, 
398. Allen, ep. 1180. 

6 Balan: Monumenta Reformationis Luther ana* no. 53, pp. 129 f; Pastor- 
Kerr, viii, 257. 

7 Boniface Amerbach to Alciat, 1521; Burckhardt-Biedermann: Bon. 
Amerbach und die Reformation, pp. 20, 150. 


he met Aleander, on Sunday, October 26, 1521, at the 
Inn of the Wild Man and had a long conversation in 
which mortal hatred on both sides was masked under a 
show of courtesy and even of old friendship. 1 Indeed, 
while more than one evening was thus spent in appar- 
ently amicable chat, many subjects of discourse were 
brought up, the pleasantest of which was the news, com- 
municated by the legate, that Pirckheimer, recently 
smitten by the ban of excommunication, had submitted 
and had been absolved by special breve of the pope. 2 
After this smooth introduction the talk soon fell upon 
rapids and whirlpools, when the subject of Erasmus's 
own position was broached. Aleander not only pointed 
out objectionable passages in the humanist's acknowl- 
edged writings, and demanded recantation, but accused 
him of writing several anonymous pamphlets as, of 
course, he had done and thus threw him into "mortal 
confusion." 3 Contemporary gossip reported 4 that when 
the nuncio offered the humanist a fat bishopric if he 
would write against the heretic, he had replied: 
"Luther is too great for me to write against. ... I 
learn more from reading one page of his books than from 
the whole of Aquinas." The cautious Dutchman would 
certainly never have expressed himself thus bluntly be- 
fore a wily opponent, but the report that he admired 
Luther's exegesis was very persistent, 5 and the offer of 

1 To Laurinus, Lond. xxiii, 5, col. 1214; LB. ep. 650; Paquier: Humanism* 
ft Reformf, pp. 280 ff. Allen, iv, 591. 

2 November 29, 1521, Erasmus to Pirckheimer. Allen, ep. 1244. To 
Pirckheimer, January 26, 1521, Allen, ep. 1282. 

8 Aleander to Sanga, Brussels, December 30, 1531, in Lammer: Monumenta 
Fat-icana, 1 86 1, p. 93; cj. Pastor-Antrobus, v, 423. 

4 "Narratio per Henricum Priorem Gundensem," Lutheri Opera latina varii 
crgumenti (Erlangen), v, 249. This was attributed to (Ecolampadius, see 
(Ecolampadii judicium de M. Luthero, sine loco et anno (British Museum); 
Hiibmaier sent this to Beams Rhenanus, in an undated letter published in 
Briffwechsel des Beatus Rhenanus, no. 192. It has been conjectured that the 
name Henricus Prior Gundensis concealed a double authorship, referring to 
Henry of Ziitphen and Melchior Miritzsch, Prior of the Augustinian convent 
at Ghent, Theologische Studien und Kritiken, 1920-21, p. 289 f. 

6 Melanchthon, in Corpus Reformatorum, v. 74. 


the bishopric is intrinsically probable and is testified by 
certain expressions of his own. But Aleander did not 
disdain threats, observing that the pope, who often de- 
stroyed counts and dukes, could easily destroy some 
lousy men of letters, and could even treat the emperor 
as a cobbler. 1 

Notwithstanding the apparent friendliness of the legate 
Erasmus continued to believe, and to write to his friends, 
that the latter was going about to traduce and to destroy 
him. 2 He was also much alarmed at the arrest of a 
heretic at Antwerp, who* on being examined at Brussels, 
implicated him in aiding and abetting the illicit sale of 
Lutheran books. 3 He therefore decided to leave at once, 
and put himself under the protection of Francis von 
Sickingen, now captain of the army on the Meuse, with 
whom he spent his birthday, October 28th, at Brussels. 4 
Under his powerful shield, he made his way up the 
Rhine, arriving at Basle on November I5th. 5 Meeting 
Capito at Mainz, he learned that this old ally had 
been negotiating with Luther in hopes of patching up a 
truce between him and the Church, and especially be- 
tween him and the Archbishop of Mainz, a wily 
Hohenzollern who did his best to run with the hare and 
to hunt with the hounds at the same time. As Capito's 
efforts were not kindly received by the Reformer, on 
October I4th he wrote Erasmus for instructions. 6 The 
Lutherans, he said, were both curious and insolent, 
and boasted that they had Erasmus's support. The 

1 A. Lauchert: Die Italienischen liUrariscken Gegner Lutkers* 1912, p. 299 f. 

2 Lond. xx, 40; LB. ep. 644; Erasmus to Choler, 1531, Horawitz: Eras' 
miana, i, no. 18, and a letter to Wolsey published by A. Meyer: Les Relations 
d'rasme ft dt Luther, 1909, p. 163. 

3 Vives to Erasmus, April i, 1522; LB. ep. 619; Pivis Opera, vii, 164. 

4 Lond. xxiii, 6, and xx, 40; LB. epp. 644, 650. H. Ulraann: Franz von 
Sickingen, 1872, p. 226. 

5 Allen, iv., 598 ffj Fadianische Brief sammlung, ii, no. 292. 

6 Capito to Erasmus, October 14, 1521. Allen, ep. 1241. The letter is un- 
fortunately badly mutilated. As it was first published by Merula in 1607 
from a MS. now lost, there is little hope of restoring its contents, which would 
certainly be most interesting. Cf. L.C. ii, p. 56 n. 


humanisms answer was probably given In the interview 
at Mainz, early in November, but what it was can only 
be Inferred from the sequel and from his growing cold- 
ness to the evangelical cause. 

It was probably this very effort of Capito and Erasmus 
to induce Luther to write more gently that finally alien- 
ated him altogether. When he left Worms for the Wart- 
burg he still had the highest hopes of the great humanist. 
In a letter to Spalatin of May i4th he referred with ap- 
proval to the Consilium cujusdam, which he attributed 
to Erasmus. 1 Again in the preface to his work against 
Latomus (June, 1521), the Louvain professor who had 
previously attacked Erasmus, Luther refers to Latomus 
as Ishbi-benob, the giant Philistine who thought to slay 
Davidj and to Erasmus as Abishai, who defended the 
man of God, "and," he adds, "this Ishbi-benob yields 
to the might of our Abishai." 2 

The next reference, 3 in September, shows an entire 
change of attitude, and hints at the cause of it: 

The judgment of neither Capito nor Erasmus moves me In the 
least. They accomplish nothing, but they make me fear that I shall 
sometime have trouble with one or the other of them, since I see that 
Erasmus is far from the knowledge of grace, as one who looks not at 
the cross, but at peace in all his writings. For this reason he thinks 
that all can be accomplished with civility and benevolence, but 
Behemoth 4 does not care for such treatment, nor does he amend 
himself in the least on account of it. 

1 So at least I interpret the reference to "Erasmi bule" (povty) which 
puzzled Enders, though Luther's reading of the Consilium, "that Erasmus said 
the people would no longer bear the yoke of the pope," is somewhat strained. 
Enders, iii, 153, L. C. ep. 483. 

2 Rationis Latomiana Confutatio. Werke (Weimar), viii, 36, and De Wette, 
ii, 1 8. 

8 Enders, iii, 229. L. C. ep. 506. C/. Richter, 30-32. There is an undated 
letter from Capito to Luther (Enders, iii, 238) exhorting him to mildness, put 
by Enders in October. I should be inclined to put it in September. Capito 
was at Wittenberg on September 3oth, to consult with Melanchthon and 
Jonas on the way to prevent Luther attacking Albert of Mayence. Archiv 
fur Reformations gesch., vi, 172, 178 (1910). Cf. letter of Ulscenius to CapitOj 
October 2ist, ibid., 206, 

4 Job, xhi5. Luther's favorite expression for Satan, following Jerome. 


The breach was made complete by the publication of 
the Epistoltz ad diver -sos, in November, 1521. This was 
intended to correct the indiscretions of the last collec- 
tion of letters (the Farrago of 1519), and to give the 
impression that the Dutch scholar stood entirely aloof 
from the combat. None of the letters here published 
are favorable to the Reformers, and many protest that 
the writer had nothing to do with Wittenberg, but is 
still a true son of Rome. He himself feared 1 that it 
would excite the hatred of the Reformers, and he was 
right. Luther saw the volume a few months after it 
was published and wrote Spalatin: "In this book of 
letters Erasmus now at length shows that he is the 
hearty enemy of Luther and his doctrine though with 
wily words he pretends to be a friend." 2 

1 Lend, xxi, 16. LB. ep. 624, 
* Enders, iii, 360. 


LIFE AT BASLE 1521-29 

AFTER his return to Basle, on November 15, 1521, 
jLjL Erasmus lived for ten months with Froben, paying 
150 gulden for his board. 1 He was sensitive lest it be 
thought that he lived on Froben's bounty, a rumor which 
he took pains to deny, though acknowledging the con- 
stant kindness of his friend the publisher. 2 In Septem- 
ber, 1522, he took up his residence in a separate house. 
His life was so little private that he said of it that the 
veil of the temple was rent in twain and the most sacred 
secrets of the confessional published abroad. 3 At this 
time he speaks of his annual Income as a little more than 
four hundred gulden, 4 which, by the way, was equal to 
the salary of a professor at the leading German and 
English universities. 

As there was no general copyright, he received com- 
paratively little for his manuscripts, which to-day would 
have made him a rich man. Nevertheless, an author's 
good will was worth something to the publisher, and the 
humanist showed himself a good business man in exploit- 
ing this. Doubtless one chief reason for the noticeable 
fact that every new edition of each work differed some- 
what from the last was to give the publisher and author 
the benefit to be derived from the desire of readers for 

1 December 16, 1524. Loncl. xx, 24. LB. ep. 719. A gulden was intrinsi- 
cally worth fifty-six cents. Erasmus therefore paid eighty-four dollars, worth 
at that time ten times as much in purchasing power as now. 

* Catalogue of Lucubrations, Allen, i, pp. 40-45. 

8 Lond. xx, 24. LB. ep. 719. 

4 Allen, i, 42 ff. 


the latest thing. For, even without copyright, the first 
publisher had a considerable advantage in being able to 
sell before a rival would have time to reprint. The com- 
petition was extraordinarily keen. During the author's 
lifetime the Folly was printed in nine different cities,, 
and in each of two of them, Venice and Cologne, by 
three separate publishers. The New Testament was 
printed by seven publishers at Basle alone. 1 What 
Erasmus got for each of these printings is not known; 
doubtless he got nothing for most of them. For first 
editions, however, or for emended and enlarged editions, 
he received something; thus, Josse Bade, the great 
printer of Paris, offered him, in 1512, fifteen florins for 
the new edition of the Adages and a like sum for the 
intended edition of Jerome, and apologized for the small- 
ness of the honoraria. If the florin meant was the gold 
coin of that name, as is probable, the offer would amount 
to about thirty-four dollars, or seven pounds, for each 
manuscript, at a time when money had ten times the 
purchasing power that it has now. 2 

Such rewards, even eked out with special fees for odd 
jobs like writing epitaphs 3 and panegyrics to order, 
would have furnished a sorry support to the man of 
letters, had they not been supplemented by extremely 
handsome gifts and pensions from powerful and wealthy 
patrons. The annuity granted by the emperor caused 
its recipient enormous trouble, remaining in arrears or 
in abeyance for years together, partly on account of the 
chronic disorder of the imperial finances, partly because 
of the rascality of the agent employed, in this case one 
Peter Barbier. 4 In 1533, Duke John of Cleves-Julich 

X L. Enthoven: "Ueber Druck und Vertrieb Erasmischer Werke," Neue 
Jahrbucher fur das klassiscke Altertwn &c., xxviii, 1911, pp. 33-59. 

2 Allen, epp. 263, 264, 283. 

3 On writing an epitaph for Lady Margaret, on December 28, 1512, see C. H. 
Cowper: Memoir of Margaret, Countess of Richmond and Derby, ed. J. E. B. 
Mayer, 1874, pp. 124, 200. 

4 Peter Barbier to Erasmus, November I, 1529, Enthoven, no. 77; Barbier 
to Erasmus, July 9, 1533, Forstemann-Giinther, no. 189. Erasmus to Decius 

AT BASLE 1521-29 259 

made a grant of thirty gold gulden per annum, which 
was apparently regularly paid. 1 So, throughout life, was 
the English annuity^ though Erasmus feared that the 
death of Warham, on August 22 9 1532, would interrupt 
it. 2 Such, however,, was not the case, for Archbishop 
Cranmer continued to pay it, and other English patrons 
lavished handsome presents upon the distinguished 
scholar, among them Thomas Cromwell and the Bishop 
of Lincoln. 3 Other valuable gifts mentioned were one 
hundred and fifty Rhenish gulden (two hundred dollars) 
from Ferdinand and fifty from the Cardinal of Trent; 4 
two horses, a pacer and a trotter, from Christopher von 
Stadion, Bishop of Augsburg, 5 three hundred florins ? with 
an invitation to visit Brabant from the emperor^ Maria 
the Regent, and the chancellor, 6 and an unspecified sum 
from Dantiscus, a Polish bishop. 7 Doubtless there were 
many other such perquisites of which we know nothing. 8 
Erasmus frequently complained that his income was 
too small for his position, and to one with so many noble 

August 22, 1534, Tvflaskowski: Erasmiana, no. 36; To A. Fugger, July 7, 
1529, Lond. xxiii, 14, LB. no. 1064. Erasmus complained that Barbier had 
robbed him once of one hundred florins and that the pension remained seven 
whole years unpaid. 

*Duke William's note of thanks for Erasmus's "foetura," November 10, 
1529, ed. F. Wachter: Zeitschrift des Bergiscken Geschichtsvereins, xxx, 1894, 
p. 201; Pension from Duke John, April 20, 1533, Vischer: Erasmiana, no. 6, 
with note in Erasmus's hand that it was paid at the Feast of John the Baptist 
(June 24), 1533, Forstemann-Gunther, no. 183. 

2 Erasmus speaks of this and of his fears in letters to Tomicki, March 10, 
1533, Miaskowski: Jahrbuch fur Philosophic 1900, p. 323, and in a letter to 
Amerbach, published in Epistola ad Bon. AmerlacMum, no. 64, April 21, 
1532 (not 1531). ^ 

* Gerard Phrysius forwarded thirty pounds from Cranmer, June 8, 1533, 
Forstemann-Gunther, no. 187; cf. Erasmus to Decius, August 22, 1534, 
Miaskowski, p. 333. In 1535 T. Bedill, Warham's old secretary, forwarded 
twenty angels from Cromwell, eighteen from Cranmer, and fifteen from the 
Bishop of Lincoln, Enthoven, no. 138. Lond. xxvii, 51; LB. ep. 1296. A 
letter of March 12, 1536, speaks of delay in paying the English pension, 
Letters and Papers of Henry Fill r , x, no. 478. 

* From J. Loble, May n, 1533, Forstemann-Gunther, no. 184. 
B From Stadion, August 8, 1533, ibid., no. 191. 

6 To More, October 12, 1533, Lond. xxvii, 45; LB. ep. 1256. 

7 Miaskowski: Erasmiana, no. 36. 

8 A list of some other known gifts, however, in Forstemann-Gunther, p. 345. 


and royal friends it must have seemed narrow. Never- 
theless, he was able to live in comfort, with good wine, 
horses, and servants, and above all with a good library. 
In 1525 he raised money by selling this, reserving the 
right to use it during his lifetime. The purchaser was 
John Laski, nephew of the famous Bishop of Gnesen of 
the same name, a baron of Siegratz in Poland. The 
family had stood in friendly relations with the scholar 
ever since two of the brothers, Hieroslaus and Stanislaus, 
paid him a visit in 1523^ The contract of sale, which is 
not uninteresting, reads as follows: 2 

BASLE, June so y 1525. 

I, Erasmus of Rotterdam, have sold my library to the illustrious 
Polish Baron, John Laski, for three hundred crowns [two hundred 
dollars] on condition that as long as I live the use of the books may 
amicably be allowed to me as well as to him, but that they shall 
permanently belong to him and to his heirs. As a pledge he has an 
inventory of the books. All additions to the library shall belong to 
him, except future purchases of high-priced manuscripts, for which 
a special agreement must be made. In witness whereof I, Erasmus, 
have written this with my own hand and affixed the seal of my ring 
representing Terminus. 

Half the price was paid on the spot; the other half 
after the owner's death to his heirs. On March 21, 1533, 
Erasmus wrote Laski that the library was now worth 
one hundred florins more than it was when he sold it, 
and offering to give back the price and get another pur- 
chaser. 3 This, however, was not done, for on March 5, 
1534, he wrote again that he left the library at Laski's 
disposal. 4 After the second half of the money had been 
paid, on November 12, 1536, to Boniface Amerbach, the 
books were sent in three boxes on January n, I538, 5 

1 Casimir von Miaskowski: Der Brief weeks el des Erasmus mit Polfn, 1901, 
P. 44- 

2 Burigny: Fie d'firasmt, 1757, ii, 442; Miaskowski: " Erasmiana," Jahr- 
biicher fiir Philosophic, vol. xv, p. 105, no. 2 (1901). 

8 Miaskowski: Erasmiana, no. 31. 
4 Ibid., no. 34. 
8 Ibid., no. 44. 

LIFE AT BASLE 1521-29 261 

and reached the Polish baron on April 5th. 1 They later 
came into the hands of John Egolph of Kroningen and 
in 1573 passed to the University of Ingolstadt, now the 
University of Munich. 2 

On January 22, 1527, Erasmus drew up his will. 3 He 
made Boniface Amerbach his trustee; the executors were 
to be Basil Amerbach, Beatus Rhenanus, and Jerome 
Froben. Boniface was to receive his rings, his spoon of 
pure gold, and the golden double cup given by Duke 
George. Henry Glarean, Louis Ber, Basil Amerbach, 
Jerome and John Froben, Sigismund Gelen, Froben's 
proof-reader, Botzheim, and Conrad Goclen, were all 
remembered with tokens. The fact of the library being 
sold to John Laski was noted. Arrangements were made 
for Froben to print a complete edition of the works, 
according to the plan laid down in the Catalogue of 
Lucubrations, a provision afterward carried out. The 
editions of Jerome, Hilary, and other fathers were not 
to be included in the works if inconvenient. The editors 
were to be Glarean, Goclen, Rhenanus, the two Amer- 
bachs, and Sigismund Gelen. If any refused to act, the 
trustee might appoint others. A copy of the works was 
to be sent to Warham, to Tunstall, to More, to Longland, 
Bishop of Lincoln; to Queen's College, Cambridge; to 
Fisher, to the Royal Library in Spain, to Wm. Croy, 
Bishop of Toledo; to Ferdinand, to Bernard von Cles, 
Bishop of Trent; to Baptista Egnatius, to the Collegium 
Trilingue at Louvain, to the College of the Lily at 
Louvain, to the college to be founded by Coutrell at 
Tournay, to Francis Craneveld, Senator of the Town 
Council of Mechlin; to the Abbot of St. Bavon at Ghent, 
to Marcus Laurinus for the library of the College of St. 
Donatian at Bruges, of which he was dean; to Nicolas 

l lbid., no. 43, dated April 5, 1537, presumably meaning 1537-38. Inter- 
esting details of the transportation of the library in a letter of A. Fritsch to 
Boniface Amerbach in Pamietnik Literacki, Lemberg, 1905, p. 512. 

2 Forstemann-Giinther, p. 345. 

8 Published by J. B. Kan: Erasmiar.a, 1891, p. 6 fF. Also by S. Sieber: 
Das Testament von Erasmus, 1889, with other documents. 


Everard, President of the Estates of Holland, or to his 
successor; to Hermann Lethmaat, and to the library of 
the monastery at Egmond. A servant, Quirinus, was 
remembered with a legacy of two hundred gulden. 
Directions for a funeral neither sordid nor pretentious 
completed the document. 

Although Erasmus joked about his testament, saying 
that he was in the same condition as the poor priest of 
Louvain who made a will in these terms, "I have nothing; 
I owe much; the rest I give to the poor/' 1 yet the 
inventory attached to his will, dated April 10, I534? 2 
shows that he possessed a large number of gold and silver 
vessels and ornaments given him by distinguished 
persons, as well as a good outfit of furniture, clothes, ^and 
household utensils. Among the patrons who had given 
him gold clocks, cups, spoons, or other handsome articles, 
were mentioned Christopher von Scheidlowitz, the Arch- 
bishop of Mainz, William Mountjoy, Anthony Fugger, 
Julius Pflug, Damian a Goes, Pirckheimer, the Laskis, 
and several other prelates and noblemen. He also 
enumerates his cloths, napkins, silk mantles, gowns, hose, 
collars, twenty-four shirts, towels, feather beds, cushions, 
parlor rugs, tapestries, kitchen utensils, forks, a hammer, 
an egg-beater (cochleare spumarium), candle snuffers, 
boxes for spices, axes, iron trunks, a mirror, a shaving 
set, a purse, rings, five beds, couches, and curtains, as 
well as tongs, an ear probe, and other instruments. 

Erasmus took extraordinary pains to get legal sanction 
for his will. On July 8, 1525, he had received permission 
from Pope Clement VII to leave his property as he 
wished; he thrice got similar permission from the 
tribunals at Basle, 3 and once a diploma to the same effect 

*To Ber, January 26, 1527; L. C ep, 75^5 original first published ibid, ii, 

2 L. Sieber: Das Mobiliardes Erasmus, 1891, and Kan: Erasmiana, 1891. 

* Clement's breve, and two of the Basle permissions, dated January 24, 
1527, and June 13, 1527, in Sieber: Das Testament des Erasmus, the third 
permission mentioned in a letter to Amerbach, January 15 th, no date, E-pistolcz 
ad Amerbachium, no. 17 

LIFE AT BASLE 1521-29 263 

from Ferdinand to the Town Council of Freiburg. 1 He 
also speaks of a similar diploma from the emperor. 2 
Twice he altered his will In details* while leaving the 
main provisions as to the trusteeship Intact, once on 
June 5, 1535, and once on January 22, I536. 3 The will 
was probated on January n ? 1538,* when his property 
was estimated at the sum of seven thousand gulden 
($3*920)5 besides a fine lot of cups. 

For seven and a half years Erasmus made Basle his 
headquarters. From here, however, his restless spirit 
ever urged him to make visits to neighboring cities. In 
September, 1522, with two companions, Henry von 
Eppendorf and Beatus Rhenanus, he visited another 
devoted friend, John Botzheim, a Canon of Constance, 
whose house was a center of hospitality for men of arts 
and letters. His excuse was an Invitation to visit Rome, 
but If he ever seriously entertained the idea of continuing 
the journey south, an attack of illness prevented him. 
In a fascinating letter 5 he described his reception and 
experiences at Constance. 

Botzheim's house might seem the home of the Moses; there is no 
spot in it without some beauty or some elegance; it is never silent, 
but always alluring to the eyes of men because of its speaking pictures. 
In the summer court, where, as he said, he had just prepared a table 
for me, stood Paul, teaching the people. On another wall Christ sat 
on the mountain, teaching his disciples, while the apostles set out 
across the hills to publish the gospel. Along the smoke closet? sat the 
priests, scribes, and Pharisees, with the elders, conspiring against the 
already waxing gospel. Elsewhere the nine sisters of Apollo sang; 
and the naked Graces, true symbol of simple benevolence and friend- 

1 Horawitz: Erasmiana, iii, p. 775. (Sitzungsberichte der K. K. Akademie 
der Wissenschaften zu Wien, vol. 108, 1885). 

2 Epistolte ad Amerbachium^ no. 17. 

3 Mentioned by Siedler: Das Testament des Erasmus. 

4 Miaskowski: Erasmiana, no. 44. 

6 To M. Laurinus, February i, 1523; Lond. xxiii, 6; LB. ep. 650. On the 
date, Zwinglis Werke, vii, 584. Cf. further, K. Hartfelder: "Der human- 
istische Freundenkreis des Erasmus in Konstanz," Zeitschrift fur die Ge- 
schichte des Oberrheins, viii, 1893, pp. 24 ff. K. Walchner: /. von Botzheim, 
1836, pp. 29 ff. 

6 I.e.* for ripening wine, or smoking meat. 


ship, were seen. But why should I, in this letter, continue to depict 
the whole house, the splendors and delights of which you could hardly 
examine in ten days? But in all that house, everywhere so lovely, 
nothing is lovelier than the host himself. He has the Muses and 
Graces more in his breast than in his pictures, more in his manners 
than on his walls. . . . 

I became so ill that I made neither my friends nor myself happy; 
otherwise, nothing was lacking to the greatest pleasure. Good 
heavens! what a hospice, what a host, what handsome attendants, 
what magnificence, what plays, what readings, what songs! O 
banquets and feasts of the godsl I should not have envied the gods 
of the poets their nectar and ambrosia had my health been a little 
better. The situation of the place itself is pleasing. Hard by is the 
wonderfully beautiful lake of Constance, stretching many miles in 
either direction and always lovely. The wooded mountains showing 
themselves everywhere, some afar, some near by, add charm to the 
scene. For there the Rhine, as though wearied with his journey 
through the rough and rugged Alps, refreshes himself as it were in a 
pleasant inn, and, slipping softly through the middle of the lake, 
recovers at Constance his channel and his name together, for the 
lake prefers to owe its name to the city. ... It is said to be well 
stocked with fish, and of an incredible depth, so that the deepest part 
measures a hundred cubits. For they say that huge mountains are 
covered by this lake. The Dominican prior, a good and learned man, 
especially eloquent in preaching, gave us from the lake an enormous 
fish, which the vulgar call a trout, 1 a gift worthy of a king in our 

The Rhine, leaving the lake to the right, slowly flows past the city 
of Constance, and as though in wanton play makes an island occupied 
by a fine convent of nuns; soon gathering itself together it makes a 
smaller lake which, for some unknown reason, is called Venetus. 2 
From this it rolls on in an even bed, somewhat eddying but neverthe- 
less navigable, to the town, formerly an imperial residence, called 
Schiffhausen, 3 probably on account of the ferry there situated before 
there was a bridge. Not far away are some cataracts through which 
the Rhine rushes with a great noise; and as it is broken elsewhere 
frequently by cataracts and rocks it Is unfit for navigation until it 
gets to Basle. 

But now my story must get back to Constance, which is famous 

1<< Quam Trottom appellat vulgus"; the ordinary German name is 
"Forelle." They are delicious, 

2 Now called the Unter-See. 

8 Now Schaffhausen. Erasmus derived the name from the German words 
for "ship" and "houses." In the local dialect It is still called Schafusa, with 
the first vowel obscure and a strong accent on the second. 

LIFE AT BASLE 1521-29 265 

for nothing more than for its ancient and by no means ugly cathedral. 
It is also famous for the Council held there of old under the presidency 
of the emperor, and most of all for the burning of Huss. . . . We 
spent there almost three weeks. 

Within a few months after his return home Eras- 
mus was off again to visit Besan?on, at that time 1 an 
Imperial Free City. Invited by Feric Carondelet, 
brother of the Archbishop of Palermo, he enjoyed 
the Burgundian wine, which he believed very whole- 
some to the stomach. "O Burgundy/' he cried, "worthy 
to be called mother of men, since you have such milk 
in your breasts!' 52 His visit, however, was marred by 
another illness, and by sinister rumors circulated by the 
Lutherans, angry at his recent polemic against Hutten. 3 

Another little trip that Erasmus made about this time 
was to Freiburg in the Breisgau, at the invitation of his 
friend Ulrich Zasius, one of the most famous jurisconsults 
of the day and professor of law in the university of that 
town. Their acquaintance had begun in 1514, with a 
respectful letter from Zasius to the "great Rotterdamer." 4 
In the next year the jurist invited Amerbach and 
Erasmus to his daughter's wedding, 5 and the friendship 
thus pleasantly begun lasted until the death of Zasius, 
for whom the humanist wrote an epitaph. 6 Zasius was 
one of those who wrote against Lee. 7 Of his friend he 
wrote to Boniface Amerbach, on June 5, 1521, "How 
shall I not exult about Erasmus, who to me is the image 
I will not say of great Apollo, but of a great Divinity?" 8 

1 Until 1668. 

*LB. ep. 650, col. 756. 

3 To Pirckheimer, June 3, 1521, Lend, xxx, 37; LB. App. ep. 327; To Noel 
Beda, 1525 (1524?), Lend, xix, 97; LB. ep. 784. To Pirckheimer, July 21, 
1524, LoncL xxx, 36; LB. ep. 684. 

* Allen, ep. 303. 

6 Uddrici Zasii Epistolte> ed. J. A. Riegger, 1774, i, 251. 

6 Ibid., 209. Zasius died on November 24, 1535. 

7 To Eramus, July 13, 1520, ibid., 297. "Proceed, great hero, as you have 
begun; I care not for that ridiculous, senseless man.* 1 

8 Ibid, ii, 45. " Super Erasmo quomodo non gestiam, qui mihi est instar 
magni non dico Apollinis, sed Numinis." A classical phrase almost proverbial, 
though not in the Adagia. 


Not long after the humanist's return from the Nether- 
lands to Basle he paid a visit to Freiburg/ of which he 
gives the following account in the Colloquies, using for 
his own name the transparent disguise of Eros: 

You know Eros, an old man, now a sexagenarian, with health more 
fragile than glass, afflicted with daily maladies of the worst sort and 
burdened with heavy labors and study that might break down 
even Milo. In addition to this, by a certain natural tendency, even 
from boyhood he hated fish and was impatient of fasting. . . . 
Recently at the invitation of friends he visited^ Freiburg, a city not 
altogether worthy of its name. It was at the time of Lent. 

And yet, continues the interlocutor, in order to offend 
no one Eros ate fish. He felt illness coming on when 
Glaucoplutus, 2 a learned man and one of authority there, 
invited him to breakfast. Eros accepted on condition 
that he should eat nothing but two eggs, but when he 
got there he found a whole chicken prepared. Indignant, 
he ate nothing but the eggs, and then got on his horse. 
The smell of that chicken, however, reached the syco- 
phants, who made as much fuss about it as if ten men 
had died of poison. 

Fuller information as to the sequel to this unecclesi- 
astical repast reaches us through a letter of Erasmus to 
Zasius, which he thought prudent not to publish himself. 3 
He heard that Zasius had been called into court for offer- 
ing a chicken in Lent. Notwithstanding the disclaimer 
in the just quoted Colloquy, it is evident that Erasmus 
had partaken of it, for he excused himself for not having 
observed "the superstition of foods" by alleging that 
he was suffering terrible torture from the stone and 
might have endangered his life had he fasted. At Basle, 
he says, meat is sold on fast days, and it is better that six 
hundred men who did not need it should eat than that 
one who really needed it should perish for the lack of it. 

1 "Ichthyophagia," LB. i, 805. This colloquy appeared in 1526; on the other 
hand, Erasmus's epistle to Zasius about it is dated February 20, 1523, which 
should probably be altered to 1525. 

2 Ulrich Zasius. See infra, p. 294, n. i. 

8 Zasti fpirtola, 300 ff. February 20, 1533 (1525?). 

LIFE AT BASLE 1521-29 267 

Erasmus added that he did not blame the emperor for 
laying stress on such things, for he was misled by 
Dominicans and Franciscans, and will learn better with 
age and experience. He will then learn that there are 
worse faults to punish, such as highway robbery s and 
worse evils to correct, such as the calamities of harmless 
peasants, spoliation of the people, tumults, wars, and 
massacres. But now the magistrates who punish men 
for not fasting let them go scot-free for adultery. He 
himself hastened to get a dispensation from fasting from 
the papal legate Campeggio. 1 

Erasmus naturally cared little for the outward cere- 
monies of the Church. "My mind is Christian," he is 
once reported tohavesaid, "but my stomach isLutheran." 2 
Though he ate meat when he needed it, his habits were 
temperate. His ordinary breakfast was one egg and a 
cup of water boiled with sugar. For lunch he had milk 
of almonds and pressed grapes. 3 Though he liked wine, 
he was always temperate in its use. 4 

A certain abstemiousness was recommended for reasons 
of his health, which for years had been far from robust. 
Frequent colds, occasional attacks of worse diseases, like 
the plague, gout, rheumatism, and a malady of the 
pancreas, 5 are often spoken of in his letters. When he 
migrated from Basle to Freiburg in 1529 he had been 
unable to ride horseback for two years, and had to be 
carried in a litter. 6 Twenty years before, at Venice, he 
had first felt the symptoms of the disease of the bladder 
known as the stone, and as time went on he suffered from 
gout and rheumatism, other signs of a superfluity of uric 

1 Dated February 2, 1525, W. Vischer: Erasmiana, no. 5. 

* Melanchihoniana $adogogica> ecL K. Hartfelder, 1892, p. 175. 

8 LB. I, 805. Colloquies, "Ichthyophagia." 

4 In one letter he speaks of having drunk two kegs (vasa) In ten months, 
Lond. xxvii, 40; LB. ep. 1260. 

6 The " pancreatica valitudo" is spoken of in a letter of his amanuensis 
Gilbert Cousin to Amerbach, September II, 1534; manuscript in the Basle 
archives, kindly communicated to me in photograph by Prof. Edna Virginia 
Moffett, of Wellesley College. 

8 Lond. xxiii, 14; LB. ep. 1064. 


acid in the system. This diathesis is fostered partly by 
a heavy meat diet, such as was then in vogue among the 
well-to-do, but chiefly by the use of alcohol Strange to 
say, this was so far from being understood that wine 
was actually prescribed as a remedy, 1 the only effort 
being to get a vintage sufficiently good. Other medicines 
also frequently did more harm than good, though 
whether this was the case with turpentine, which our 
patient speaks of using, I cannot say. Baths were also 
prescribed, but being unused to them the sick man was 
afraid to follow his physicians 5 advice in this respect. 
Though more enlightened than many of his contempora- 
ries, the old scholar did not disdain to use a charm, 
namely a cup marked with an "astrological lion" which 
was supposed to impart virtue to his drink. 2 

At one time he consulted a man who had a great 
reputation at that time, a strange mixture of scientist 
and charlatan, of empiricist and empiric, and whose 
megalomaniac character is well indicated by his pre- 
tentious name: Philippus Theophrastus Aureolus Bom- 
bastes Paracelsus, While he actually did something to 
free medicine from the bondage of Galen and Hippoc- 
rates, and while he made a few contributions to science, 
philosophy, and theology, he mixed the whole in such a 
mass of cloudy incomprehensibility that it is difficult to 
assign him a high place among the discoverers. In 1526 
he came to Basle, was appointed city physician and 
professor of medicine at the university, and made a few 
notable cures, among them that of Erasmus's friend 
Froben. But his insolence and self-conceit soon won the 
dislike of the local apothecaries and physicians and he was 
obliged to leave the town. Erasmus, impressed by the 
cure of his friend, consulted Paracelsus by letter, and 
received a reply that the sufferer was taking the wrong 
treatment, but that if he would follow the advice of his 
new doctor he would have a long, quiet, and healthy 

1 Lend, xxiii, 14; LB. ep. 1064. 

2 Catalogue of Lucubrations, Allen, i, 46. 

LIFE AT BASLE 1521-29 269 

life. 1 Erasmus marveled that so accurate a diagnosis 
could have been made by a man who had seen him but 
once. "I have time/* he added, "neither to be cured, 
nor to be ill, nor to die, so borne down am I by labor and 
study." How far the treatment was continued we do 
not know, nor with what results, but the lack of evidence 
makes us suspect either that the humanist discontinued 
employing a physician who undoubtedly had a good deal 
of the quack in his make-up, or that Paracelsus was not 
sufficiently encouraged by his patient's frank statement 
that he could pay better in gratitude than in money. 

The academic seclusion of the scholar did not wholly 
shut out the noise of stirring events. The year 1525 
saw the most terrible rising of the lower classes that 
Germany ever witnessed. The revolt of the peasants, 
starting in the autumn of 1524 in the highlands between 
the upper Rhine and the sourcesof the Danube, swept in all 
directions until nearly the whole Empire was involved. 
The first serious check to it was given at Leipheim, on 
April 4, 1525, and after that it was suppressed with great 
severity and enormous slaughter. The old scholar at 
Basle was not called upon to take an active part in the 
movement on either side. His letters betray some 
nervousness as the fighting came near home. To Lupset 
he wrote that the revolt was like a hydra, of which, when 
one head was cut off, nine sprang up in its place. 2 To 
Polydore Vergil, he wrote September 5, 1525? 

Here we have a cruel and bloody story; the peasants rush to their 
destruction. Daily there are fierce conflicts between nobles and 
rustics, so near that we can almost hear the noise of the artillery 
and the groans of the dying. You may guess how safe we are. 

On September 24, 1525, he wrote to Everard, president 
of the Supreme Court of Holland, that much more than 

1 Anna Stoddart: Paracelsus, 1911, p. 297; Erasmus's reply, p. 298. Cf. 
also p. 83. Miss Stoddart does not say where she got the letters she reprints 
but the source is given by Enthoven, no. 163. On ''Paracelsus in Basel" see 
F. Fischer in Beitrage zur Faterlandischen Geschichtf, v, 1854. 

2 Lond. xviii, n. LB. ep. 790. 

3 Lond. xx, 59, LB. ep. 760. 


one hundred thousand peasants had been slain in 
Germany/ that daily, priests, the inciters to the re- 
bellion^ were captured, tortured, hung, beheaded, and 
burned. The remedy, he added, though harsh, was 

For the moment the whole of Europe seemed in 
turmoil. The apprehension and disgust with which 
Erasmus surveyed the situation is reflected in a colloquy 
that was first published in February, 1526. Among the 
evil signs of the times there enumerated are the following: 
the captivity of Francis I, the exile of Christian II of 
Denmark, the foreign wars of Charles, and the domestic 
troubles of Ferdinand; that all courts are in want of 
money; that the peasants revolt undeterred by their 
own slaughter; that the people meditate anarchy; that 
the Church is collapsing under the attacks of perilous 
sects; and that even the doctrine of the eucharist is 
called in question. 2 

Erasmus continued to have close relations with France, 
to which Francis I, eager to assemble all possible talent 
at Paris to ornament his reign, often invited him. "Alas, 
Bude," said the king one day, talking to that scholar, 
"we have no Lefevre in our land." Bude replied that 
Lefevre was not absent. "Ah ! I meant to say Erasmus, 5 * 
answered the king. 3 Accordingly he dictated and in part 
wrote the following kind letter, dated Saint-Germain- 
en-Laye, July 7, 

*LB. Ep. 781. iii, 900. Erasmus's estimate is perhaps not far from the 
correct number. 
2 "Puerpera,"LB. 1,766. 

3 To Marcus Laurirms, February i, 1523; LB., ep. 650, iii, col. 757, On 
Erasmus's calls to France see Felibien: Historie de la Fille de Paris, 1725, iii 

"985; W. Heubi: Francois I et le Mouvement Intellectuel en France, 1913, p. 
15. A. Lefranc: Histoirt du College de France* 1893, PP- 45 ff- 

4 Vischer: Erasmiana, no. iv. Vischer places this letter, which is without 
year date, in 1522, on the ground that Robertet, who countersigned the letter, 
died in 1522, and by N. Weiss: "Guillaurne Farel," Bulletin de la Societe de 
Yhistoire du Protestantisms franfais, 1920, p. 124, in 1524. The true date is 
found by consulting the Actes de Francois I, 1887, which shows that 1523 was 
the only year (1520-1525, inclusive), when Francis was at Saint-Germam-en- 
Laye on July 7th. There were many Robertets in Francis's service. 

LIFE AT BASLE 1521-29 271 

DEAR AND GOOD FRIEND: We have given commission to our dear 
and weE-beioved Claude Cantiuncula, the bearer of this, to tell and 
declare unto you certain things on our part, In which we very affec- 
tionately beg you to believe and have entire faith, as you would if 
you heard them from us personally. Dear and good Friend, may the 
Lord keep you in his protection. [Follows in Francis's own hand] I 
assure you that if you wish to come you will be welcome. 



When Claude Cantiuncula had delivered this to his 
friend, Erasmus hurried to complete the Paraphrase to 
the Gospel of Mark, which he sent to Francis by his 
servant, Hilaire Bertulph, with a letter dated December 
17, 1 523.* By the same messenger he sent a work called 
Confession, dedicated to Francis du Moulin, Sieur du 
Rochefort, together with a French translation of the 
same by Cantiuncula, dedicated to the king's sister, 
Margaret d'Angouleme. 

The protection of the French king was the more 
necessary in view of the constant hostility of the 
Sorbonne. The theological professors, headed by Noel 
Beda, 2 in whom alone, as Erasmus once remarked, lived 
many monks, were on the point of taking action against 
the Dutch humanist, when the king intervened by asking, 
through his confessor, William Petit, for an account of 
their proposed censure. The faculty then decided to 
draw up no articles, but to depute Beda to satisfy his 
majesty in a personal audience, if he wished. 3 

Further complications arose from the. zeal of Lewis de 
Berquin, a gallant and high-minded French Reformer 
who, though he did little but translate the works of 

1 Horawitz: Erasmiana, ii, no. 4 (Sitzungsberichtf, Wien, 1879), with the 
wrong date, May lyth. On the true date see Weiss, loc. ciL On Hilaire 
Bertulph's trip to France see A. Roersch: UHumanisme Edge, 1910, p. 75 ff. 

2 On Beda see Godet: Le College de Montaigu, pp. 66 ff, and A. Hyrvoix: 
"Noel Bedier," Revue des Questions Historiques* vol. 72, 1902, pp. 578-591. 
Beda was principal of Montaigu 1503-13; later attacked the "Mirror of a 
Sinful Soul" by Margaret of Angouleme, was exiled, and died on February 8, 

3 A. Clerval: Registres des Proces-Ftrbaux de la Facidte de Theologie de 
Pans, 1917, p. 402. 


others into his native tongue, did that with enough 
genius to make his name remembered in literature and 
in the history of Protestantism, 1 An admirer of 
Erasmus at least as early as 1519^ he pot several of his 
works, and later several tracts of Luther, into French. 
For these, and for his Apology against Luther 9 s Calum- 
niatorsy he was summoned before the Sorbonne, on 
June 15, 1523, and reprimanded, while two days later 
his defense of Luther was publicly burnt. 3 In Januarys 
1524, the Sorbonne subjected Erasmus's Paraphrase to 
Luke and the Exposition of the Lord's Prayer to a 
scrutiny. They let the matter lie dormant for more than 
a year, however. In May and June, 1525, they examined 
and condemned to be burnt French translations by 
Berquin, of the Encomium of Marriage, the short 
Admonition to Prayer, The Apostles* Creed Explained^ 
and the Complaint of Peace. It was doubtless this act 
which excited the apprehension of the humanist and 
drew his attention to Berquin. He therefore wrote him 
on August 25, IS2J 4 saying that he believed he had made 
the translations with good intentions, but requesting 
him to abstain in future, as he wished only for peace. 
On April 17, I526, 5 Berquin replied, sending him a list 
of charges which he begged him to answer in full, and 
encouraging him by reporting a saying of the king to 
the effect that the Sorbonne is only brave against the 
weak, but fears to attack Erasmus. The Dutch scholar 
was impressed by the tf impudence, sycophancy, and 
crass ignorance 9) of these articles 6 and wrote to Francis 
I, June 16, 15267 partly to defend himself from the 
attacks of Beda and Sutor, partly to defend Berquin. 

*0n Berquin (i490~April 17, 1529,) see Realencyklopadie fur.prottstantisck* 
Theologie und Kirche> ii, 643, and N. Weiss, in Bulletin de la Societe dt I'his- 
toire du Protestantismf fran$ais, 1918, pp. 162 ff. 

*N. Berault to Erasmus, March 16, 1519; Allen, ep. 925. 

3 Notice dfs Manuscrits de la Bibliotheque National*, xxxvi, 326. 

4 Postridie JSartholomei. Lond, xix, 87, LB. ep. 753. 

5 LB, App. ep. 335. 

8 To Pirckheimer, June 6, 1526. Lond. xxx, 44, LB. ep. 823. 
7 Lond. xxi, 40. LB. ep. 826. 

LIFE AT BASLE 1521-29 273 

The opposing party had been suspected of using poison, 
he asserted, and had otherwise discredited themselves by 
their attacks on Lefevre and himself. On June i4th he 
wrote a similar apology to the Parisian Parlement, 1 
having previously defended himself by a letter to the 
Faculty of Paris. 2 His main line of defense is to show 
what a difference there is between Luther and himself, 
to prove which he sends the book directed by that 
"poisonous beast " against himself. Probably in con- 
sequence of Erasmus's letter Francis gave the order, 
July, 1526, to free Berquin from prison, 3 but the Parle- 
ment of Paris objected to this. In October Berquin was 
again arrested, and, after long proceedings, of which the 
humanist was kept informed, 4 he was sent to the stake 
on April 17, 1529. 

Apprised of the death of his admirer, Erasmus wrote 
a detailed account of it in the form of a letter to a friend, 
and published it almost immediately in his Opus Episto- 
lary, in August, 1529.* Berquin, he said, unmoved by 
the exhortations of Bude, who was one of the judges, 
and undaunted by the fear of death, had shown great 
bravery until the last, when his speech to the assembled 
crowd was drowned by the rattle of drums. The story 
told by the Franciscan appointed as his confessor, that 
he recanted at the last moment, Erasmus thought 
incredible, for he had heard similar fictions about the 
Lutheran martyrs at Brussels. Without venturing to 
say whether Berquin deserved death or not, he expressed 
frank admiration for the courage and sincerity of a man 
who was certainly not, in his opinion, a Lutheran, %nd 
who sinned chiefly through lack of prudence. Even had 
Berquin erred, he protested emphatically, it would be 
unprecedented to burn everyone for any degree of error, 

1 Lond. xx, 44. LB. ep. 824. 

2 Jortin: Erasmus, i, 492. June 23, 1526. 

8 M. Felibien: Histoirf de la Ville de Paris, 1725, ii, 984. 
* By a letter of Gervais Wain, dated Paris, August 16, 1528. Forstemann- 
Giinther, no. 89. 
6 To C. Utenhoven, July i, 1529. Lond. xxiv, 4; LB. ep. 1060. 


no matter how slight. This would only result in con- 
demning, hanging, quartering, burning, and beheading 
vast numbers of men, good and bad alike. 

Though the Sorbonne could not burn Erasmus, they 
made things as hot for him as they were able* Together 
with their detestation of his tolerant spirit, they ^ cher- 
ished a grudge against a man who frequently ridiculed 
them. Irritated by a slighting allusion in the Colloquies? 
first published in March, 1522,* Beda attacked the author 
and Lefevre d' Staples in a pamphlet in 1526,2 and at the 
same time procured the condemnation of the Colloquies, 
taking pains to send their memorial on the subject to 
Louvain. 3 Among the thirty-two propositions selected 
for censure the most interesting is an expression in favor 
of tolerance. 

Erasmus at once expostulated by letters to the king, 4 
to Beda, 5 and to the University of Paris. 6 To the latter 
he wrote that he had hoped that if he were driven out 
by the Lutherans he might find refuge at the Sorbonne, 
but now it assailed him more fiercely than did the 

While the king again interfered to prevent further 
action by the Sorbonne, 7 Erasmus revenged himself on 
his three chief enemies, Beda, Quercus, and Sutor, by 
composing a biting satire in one of his Colloquies, called 
"The Synod of Grammarians/' first published in 1528.* 
Some one asks the meaning of "Anticomarita" ("old 
wife"; cf. I Timothy, iv, 7), and is told that "It means 

1 LB. i, 63 1. Here it is stated as incredible aews from Paris that Beda is 
wise and Quercus a preacher. 

* Bib. Eras. $d series, 6. Erasmus's letter to Beda, Lend, xix, 91, LB. ep.* 
746, is dated June 15, 1525, a mistake for 1526. 

1 Notices dss MSS. de la Bibliothsque National*, xxxvi, 334; LB. ix, 904 if, 

* LB. vi, 943 

5 LB. ep. 746, dated 1525 by mistake for 1526. 

6 Corpus Reformatorum, xcv, 1915, pp. 740 ff. This letter was sent by Caspar 
Mosager to Zwingli on October 16, 1526. LB. epp. 907, 98, 909. Enthoven, 
epp. 54, 67. 

7 Catalogue des Actes de Francois I, 1887 ff, i, no. 1702. 
*LB. 1,824. 

LIFE AT BASLE 1521-29 275 

a kind of beet (Beta) which was formerly called 'swim- 
ming 5 (natatilis, a play on Beda's first narne^ Noel s or 
Natalis), because it dwells in damp ? foul places, and 
flourishes especially in privies. It has a twisted, knotty 
stalk, and a nasty smell/' Later, allusions are brought in 
to **the gall of the oak" (pun on galla, French, and 
Quercus, or Du Chene), and to "the shoemaker's black- 
ing" (sutorium atramentum, pun on Sutor). 

Naturally this did not conciliate the Sorbonnists, who ? 
in 1529, published another attack on Erasmus, 1 in the 
following year forbade the sale of his editions of Ambrose 
and Augustine, and in April, 1532, censured another 
work by his hand. When Erasmus heard of this he knew 
at last that the idea he had cherished of going to France 
under the king's protection 2 was vain. To his friend, 
John Choler, 3 he wrote of the new tumult at Paris, of the 
search made for his books under the seal of the absent 
monarch, and of the hostility of Beda, who did more 
through others than in his own person, and finally of 
the examination to which his works had been subjected 
by the Franciscans, who found a thousand errors in 
them. "I see," he concluded, "that it will simply come 
to pass that, if the Lutheran cause declines, such a 
tyranny of monks will arise as will make us wish for 
Luther again." 

The aristocratic friendships formed by Erasmus broad- 
ened as time went on. Among his list of correspondents 
was Queen Margaret of Navarre 4 and King Sigismund of 
Poland. 5 His long letter to the latter, May 15, 1527, on 

1 Determinatio Facultatis Theologies in Schola Parisiense super quam plurimis 
Assfrtionibus Erasmi, 1529, Bibliographie des impressions des atuvres de Josse 
Bade Ascensius, par P. Renouard, 1908, ii, 403. 

2 He had toyed with the idea of going to France as late as March 30, 1527; 
see Revue Hispanique, xvii, 1907, p. 533; Notices ft Extraits des MSS. de la 
Bibliotheque National?, xxxvi, 334 ff. 

5 Erasmus to Choler, September 9, 1533; Pantos epistolarum [ed. G. Veesen- 
meyer], Ulm, 1798, p. 3. 

4 September 28, 1525. Lond. xx, 2, LB. ep. 764. Cf. F. Genin: Lettres in- 
idites de la Reine de Navarre, Marguerite d*Angouleme> 1841, p. 460. 

* Lond. xxii, 16. LB. ep. 860. 


the glories of peace, was quickly printed, to the regret 
of the writer, 1 who thought that it excited enmity against 
him in the court of Ferdinand, though not from the king 
himself. This monarch promised four hundred gulden a 
year if Erasmus would come to Vienna. 2 One of the 
most interesting letters written to the humanist is that 
from a famulus who went by the name of Felix Rex 
Polyphemus, telling how royally he was entertained at 
Spires, whither he went bearing letters from his master, 
as soon as it was known whom he served. 3 King Ferdi- 
nand himself gave him an audience, said that he would 
do anything for his master, and gave Polyphemus a good 
place, at one hundred and thirty gulden a year, in his 
guard of archers. 

Erasmus's relations with the royal family of England 
were quite special. He had met the boy Henry in 
I499, 4 had corresponded with him during the Italian 
years, and had hailed his accession to the throne (1509) 
as a triumph for humanism and progress. During the 
long sojourn in England (1509-14) Henry had received 
him graciously and Queen Catharine had asked him to 
become her tutor. 5 Nevertheless he instinctively felt 
the coming storm and that he would have more freedom 
on the Continent. 

He almost became implicated in the quarrel between 
Luther and Henry VIII, each side suspecting him, as 
usual, of aiding and abetting the other. The English 
monarch, proud of his learning, had written, with the 
help of his ablest divines and scholars, a Defense of the 
Seven Sacraments against Luther's attack on them in the 
Babylonian Captivity* The work appeared in London in 

1 Erasmus to Christopher Scheidlowitz, August 27, 1528. Horawitz: 
Erasmiana, i, no. 12, and Miaskowski: Erasmiana, iii, Sigismund wrote 
to Erasmus February 19, 1528, ibid., and August 17, 1531, ibid, no. 12. 

2 John Faber forwarded this offer from Prague, June 17, 1528, Forstemann- 
Giinther, no. 87. 

3 March 23, 1529. Ibid, no. 102. 

4 Allen, i, p. 6; Nichols i, p. 201. 

1 Allen, i, 569, ep. 296; Nichols, ep. 290, 

LIFE AT BASLE 1521-29 277 

July, 1521, and the king almost immediately sent a copy 
inscribed in his own hand, "Pro D. Erasmo." Another 
copy Erasmus saw while he was Wolsey's guest at Calais 
in August, 1521; Carracciolo handing it to him. He 
merely glanced at the title, and remarked: "I congrat- 
ulate Luther on having such an adversary," but for 
some reason the book was not left in his possession. 1 
He received one five months later, however, 2 and not 
long afterward an edition was published at Strassburg 
with two of his letters on the subject. 3 Some persons, 
indeed, suspected Erasmus of having a hand in the 
composition of the work, an ungrounded suspicion, but 
one which he took some pains to deny. His letter 4 on 
the authorship has been quoted from that day to our own 
as proof that Henry wrote his own book. It enumer- 
ates the king's accomplishments as musician, horseman, 
mathematician, and deep student of Aquinas, Biel, and 
Scotus. If the style resembles that of Erasmus, the latter 
explains it by saying that Henry was Mount joy's pupil 
and Mountjoy Erasmus's pupil. As evidence of the king's 
ability to write Latin the humanist quotes a letter written 
to himself, of which he says he has seen the first draft. 
This assurance, which has so often been taken as conclu- 
sive, has recently been shown to be most suspicious. 5 He 
repeated his conviction that the king composed the book 
unaided, in a missive to Duke George of Saxony, saying 
again that if the style is like his it is because his pupil, 

1 Lond. xxiii, 6, p. 1229. LB. ep. 650. On the whole affair: Preserved 
Smith: "Luther and Henry VIII," English Historical Review, October, 1910. 

* He says in February he received a copy sent in August, ibid. He is probably 
wrong about the date at which it was sent, which would allow too much time 
for the transmission. We know a copy was sent him by Dr. W. Tate (one of 
the collaborators), December 4, 1521. Allen, ep. 1246. 

* Edition of 1522. The letters (which had just appeared in tlitEpistola ad 
diversos, November, 1521) are those to Warham and Pace, August 23, 1521. 
Allen, epp. 1227, 1228. Erasmus certainly had no hand in the edition of the 
Asstrtio. Cf. E. Voss, "Murner's translation of two letters of Erasmus," 
Journal of English and Germanic Philology, v, 1904, 287 ff. 

4 To Cochlaeus, April i (1522), wrongly dated 1529, Lond. xxiii, 15, and 
also LB. ep. 1038 and Nichols, i, 424. Cf. Allen, i, 433. 

* Allen, ibid. 


M ountjoy, was Henry's instructor, 1 At the same time he 
highly extolled the monarch, who relied more on the pen 
than on the sword. 2 

Luther answered the king in July, 1522, in^as angry a 
tone as that of his royal opponent, 3 by his violence 
alienating still more the good opinion of the humanist. 4 
Strange to say, Erasmus was suspected of writing this 
book, too, and was so much moved by the accusation that 
he sent his own servant to England to reassure Henry 
and Wolsey, 5 in which he was apparently successful 
Though the king did not himself reply to Luther, he 
urged his ablest subjects, Fisher and More, to do so. 
They both complied, the latter under the pseudonym 
William Ross; Erasmus knew this work, but did not know 
that it was by his friend; in his opinion it outstripped 
even Luther's virulence. 6 Henry also urged Erasmus to 
take up the cudgels, and so vehemently that the humanist 
feared the king would take it ill did he not comply. 7 In 
fact, his final decision to write against the Wittenberg 
professor may have been due in large part to Britain's 

A few years later Erasmus seemed likely to become 
involved in the great divorce on which all Europe took 
sides. 8 It is not necessary to enter into a full history of 

1 Basle, September 3, 1522; Gess: AkUn und Briefe zur Kirchenpolitik 
Herzogs Georg von Sachsen, 1905, i, no. 371; LB. ep. 635. L. C. ep. 555. 

* August 2-3, 1521. Allen, ep. 1228. 

8 Contra Hcnricum AngUcs Regem, Lutkers JPerke, (Weimar), x, part ii, 
pp. 175 ff. 

4 To Laurinus, February i, 1523; Lond. xxiii, 6, LB. ep. 650. To Adrian 
VI (1523), Lond. xviii, 20; LB. ep. 649. 

* To Pirckheimer, August 29 (1523), Lond. xxx., 33. Clava writes from 
Ghent, July 5, 1523, that Erasmus's servant, Levine, is just back from 
England (Enthoven, ep. 21). C. Tunstall, Bishop of London, wrote, July 7, 
1523, that he was glad to hear that Erasmus had nothing to do with Luther's 
works. Lond. xxii, 22. LB. ep. 656. 

6 LB. x, 1652. English Historical Review, October, 1912, p. 673, note 23, 

7 To Pirckheiraer, January 9, 1523; Lond. xxx. 30. LB. ep. 646. 

8 Preserved Smith: The Age of the Reformation, 1920, pp. 286 f, 290 f, 
704, 708. On Erasmus's share in it, Preserved Smith: "German Opinion 
of the Divorce of Henry VIII," English Historical Review, October, 1912, 
pp. 671 ff. 

LIFE AT BASLE 1521-29 279 

the transactions nor to probe Henry's strangely mingled 
motives of policy, conscience, and lust. The failure of 
Catharine of Aragon to have living issue, threatening a 
disputed succession, gave rise to rumors of divorce as 
early as 1514.* The birth of the Princess Mary in 1516, 
however* by giving the king hope of other children* post- 
poned the execution of the plan for many years* 

In view of later developments it does not seem unreason- 
able to suppose that the queen's request to the humanist, 
made through her chamberlain^ Lord Mountjoy ? in 1524 
or 1525, to write her a book on marriage, may have been 
in part due to her anxiety about her position. 2 When 
Erasmus complied, by publishing The Institution of 
Christian Matrimony 5 in 1526, he followed the previous 
work of his friend, Lewis Vives, on the same subject. 
The dedicatory letter, dated July iSth, extols the queen 
as the example of the most perfect wife of this genera- 
tion, as her mother, Isabella of Castile, had been before 
her, and as her 'daughter Mary would doubtless be after 

Marriage is defined as a perpetual and legitimate union 
of man and woman. The evils of divorce are so thor- 
oughly canvassed that one is inclined to believe Erasmus 
must have known of the suspicions cast on Catharine's 
marriage. After remarking how inauspicious divorce has 
always been considered even by those nations which 
allow it, and how solemn and binding is wedlock in both 
law and religion, the writer begins to hedge by consid- 
ering the Impediments to marriage, some of which suffice 
to render any marriage null, some of which can break a 
marriage contract, but not consummated wedlock. 
Union with a brother's widow is expressly stated to be 

1 Calendar of State Papers* Venetian* 1509-19, p. 479. 

2 To Piso, September 9, 1526, Erasmus writes that the queen asked for the 
book a year ago. Lond. xxi, 65, LB. ep. 838. The dedicatory epistle to the 
queen, however, says that he had promised Mount joy to write the book two 
years ago. Lond. xxix, 40 . LB. v, col. 613 f. Cf. also to Beda, June 10, 1525, 
Lond. xix, 91, LB. ep. 746. 

8 Matrinonii Christiani Institutio, LB. v, 613 ff. 


an insufficient cause for nullifying a marriage, the 
reason being that in some cases marriage with a brother's 
widow was expressly commanded in the Old Testament. 
The value of a papal dispensation is then considered; it 
is stated to be sufficient in some cases, but not in all. 
In general it may be said that the author takes a well- 
balanced view, inclining slightly to the side of the queen. 
The rest of the work considers the choosing of mates, 
which is best left to the parents, and the bringing up of 
girls, the main object being to keep them unspotted from 
the world, not letting them read romances nor hear loose 
talk nor see lascivious pictures, with which, Erasmus 
remarks, Bibles are often illustrated. 

Catharine was apparently too busy to acknowledge 
the work at once, but after Erasmus had written on 
March I, I528, 1 gently reminding her of the dedication, 
praising her virtuous life, and exhorting her to patience 
in her present affliction, she directed Mountjoy to 
express her pleasure, and she sent a gift. 2 In the same 
letter Mountjoy voiced his hopes that Erasmus would 
come to England and referred to the invitation of the king. 
But the humanist declined, 3 for, as there was no definite 
offer of money, but only a general promise of freedom, 
the bid was not attractive. He felt too old, moreover, 
easily to take up a new abode, wishing only, as he wrote 
More, a convenient place in which to die. 

By this time the plan for a divorce was well known. 
Erasmus received direct information of a rumored sep- 
aration of "Jupiter and Juno" from John Crucius 
Berganus, who visited England in 1527, but did not 
think it safe to write until he had reached Louvain in 

1 Lond. xix, 69, LB. ep. 437. 

2 Forstemann-Gunther, no. 66, dated 1527. On the true date cf. Vocht: 
"Erasmus's Correspondence," Englische Studien, 1909, p. 386. Cf. on the 
gift, Lond. xx, 87, LB. ep. 975. Cf. also to Christopher Mesias; March 30, 
1530, Lond. xxv, 26; LB. ep. 1102. 

8 Henry to Erasmus, September 18 (1527?), Lond. xxvii, 31. Erasmus to 
Henry, June i, 1528, Lond. xx, 73; LB. ep. 961. 
4 February 29, 1528, Lond. xix, 79; LB. ep. 936. 

LIFE AT BASLE 1521-29 281 

the following January. 1 On September ad, Erasmus 
wrote his friend Vives, 2 who was deeply concerned in 
the matter, "Far be it from me to mix in the affair of 
Jupiter and Juno, especially as I know little about it. 
But I should prefer that he should take two Junos rather 
than put away one. 55 "Would that Jupiter and Juno/* 
replied Vives, "might devote themselves not to that 
ancient goddess Venus, but to Christ, the turner of 
hearts." 3 

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 reform- 
ers, 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 for an opinion, 
as were other learned doctors, is uncertain, but the sub- 
ject continued to occupy his thoughts. Early in 1530 he 
wrote his intimate friend, Boniface Amerbach, that, as 
Henry had not married Catharine 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 blood- 
shed 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 

1 Enthoven, no. 12, wrongly placed in 1522. On the true date January 28, 
1528, Vocht, loc. cit. 

2 Lond. xx, 87, LB. ep. 975. On Vives' part in the divorce, cf. Letters and 
Papers of Henry FIIL, iv, part ii, no. 4990 (November, 1528), and Foster 
Watson: "A Friend of Sir T. More," The Nineteenth Century and After, 
March, 1918. Opera, vii, 134. Vives to Henry VIII, January 31, 1531. 

3 October 1, 1528. LB. ep. 990. Fivis Opera, 1798, vii, 192. 

* Preserved Smith: The Age of the Reformation, 1920, pp. 507; " German 
Opinion of the Divorce of Henry VIII," English Historical Review, 1912, pp. 
673 ff. W. W. Rockwell: Die Doppelehe des Landgraf Philipp von Hessen, 

5 Erasmi f pistoles ad Bon. Amerbachium, 1779, no. 11. 


replied/ on February 28th, that the moot question was 
Due for jurists, and that the pope had the power of grant- 
ing 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/ 1 

That Erasmus did not embrace the queen's cause more 
warmly is perhaps due to his sense of injury because she 
lid not take more notice of his compliments. In a work 
railed The Christian Widow 9 dedicated to Queen Mary 
jf Hungary, he referred to Catharine as "a woman of 
>uch learning, piety, prudence, and constancy, that there 
Aras nothing in her feminine, nothing not masculine, 
except her sex and beauty," 2 and he took pains to call 
:his passage to her attention. The small gift that he 
eceived very late did not satisfy him, especially when 
le contrasted her indifference with the autograph letter 
lent him by Queen Mary. 3 The poor woman had other 
:hings to think of than Latin adulators, no matter how 
jxquisitely they burned their incense before her. 

Just at this time the humanist was in close communi- 
ration with Simon Grynseus, a learned Greek scholar 
vho, having been professor at Heidelberg 1524-29, was 
railed in the latter year by (Ecolampadius to Basle to 
eplace Erasmus. 4 A mission to England, in search of 
Jreek manuscripts, led to his employment by Henry as 
>ne of the agents to collect the opinions of foreign imiver- 
ities and doctors on the divorce. Having already been 
i correspondence 5 with Erasmus on learned subjects, he 

1 Burckhardt-Biedemann: Bon. Amerbach und die Reformation, 1894, pp. 
38 L 

8 LB. v, col. 726. Other compliments in cols. 730, 766. 
8 To Mountjoy, September 8, 1529, Lond. xxvi, 20. LB, ep. 1077. To 
[ountjoy, March 18, 1531. Lond. xxvi, 39; LB. ep. 1174. 
4 Rfalfncykhpadif fur prottstantische Theologie und Kirche* vii, 218. 
6 Simonis Grynai Epistola, ed. W. T. Streuber, 1847, epp. 1-4, three from 
rasmus to Grynaeus and one reply, all without date. 

AT 1521-29 283 

now took letters of introduction from him to English 
friends, but while there won the ill will of More and of 
Tunstali and generally disgraced himself in their eyes by 
defending ZwinglL 1 

Whether he solicited Erasmus's opinion, as he did that 
of many other divines, is unknown* but that the old 
scholar was approached by the other side is expressly 
told, two nobles from the imperial court acting as inter- 
mediaries. Apparently he tried to avoid giving them a 
direct answer, telling them what he hoped would happen, 
not what divine and human law required. Protesting 
his loyalty to the emperor, he denied that the rumor 
that he approved of the divorce had any foundation. 
The matter he thought too hard for him to decide. 2 This 
was his reply to a letter from his Portuguese friend, 
Damian a Goes, who had written to express his surprise 
.that Erasmus had favored the divorce, inasmuch as he 
has heard the direct opposite from his correspondent's 
own mouth. 3 A quite different impression, however, is 
given by a letter to another friend, then at Padua, in 
which the writer opined that the king was justified in 
getting a divorce at last, as his course had been approved 
by so many doctors and had been going on for eight 
years. 4 At the same time, when he heard the false rumor 
that Henry had taken back Catharine, though he 
regarded it as incredible, he hoped it was true/ and 
when Cochlaeus, in 1534, wrote against the divorce, the 
humanist applauded him. 6 

Probably Burnet is wrong in saying that Erasmus 
secretly favored the divorce, but was afraid to appear in 
the matter lest he should offend the emperor. 7 About 

1 Erasmus to Viglius van Zuichem, November 8, 1533; LB. App. cp. 374. 

2 To Damian a Goes, July 25, 1533; Lend, xvii, 19; LB. ep. 1253. 
8 June 20, 1533, Forstemann-Giinther, ep. 188. 

4 To Viglius Zuichem, May 14, 1533 ; LB. App. ep, 372. 
s To Olaus, November 7, 1533; Monumenta diplomataria Hvngaria xxv, 

6 M. Spahn: /. Cochlaus, 1898, p. 250. 

7 Burnet: History ofthf Reformation, ed. Pocock, 1865, i, 160. 

2 8 4 ERASMUS 

this time one of the humanist's numerous secretaries 
wrote a friend that Henry's divorce was indefensible 
because of the injury done to his daughter and because 
an heir might have been adopted with the consent of 
the people. 1 The fact is that Erasmus was pulled in two 
ways : he loved peace, and yet he was bound by ties to 
both the king and the queen of England. He could 
not help pitying the latter, while he saw with apprehen- 
sion the possibilities of bloodshed latent in a disputed 
succession. He approached the matter as far as possible 
from the practical standpoint, hoping for the solution 
that would entail least hardship on all parties. He there- 
fore remained non-committal, even when he wrote, in 
1532, a special treatise on divorce, 2 intended as an answer 
to some enemy whom he designates as "Muzzle-mouth." 
There was an early English translation of this, though 
the exact date cannot be determined. 3 

However he may have felt toward Queen Catharine, 
Erasmus had no scruple in making friends with the 
Boleyns. Though it is hardly likely that he knew Anne's 
father, Thomas Boleyn, Viscount Rochford, personally, 
he received a letter from him dated November 4, 1529, 
in which the nobleman asked him to explain to him 
the Psalm, "The Lord is my Shepherd," and added to 
the Latin of his secretary in his own hand the English 
words: "I pray yow gyff credyt to thys and pardon me 
that I wryte not at thys tyme to yow myself. Your own 
asseurydly, T. Rochford." 4 Erasmus complied, dedicat- 

1 Gilbert Cousin to Ulrich Zasius, son of the Freiburg professor of that 
name. The letter is dated only "ex zedibus Erasmicis," and was presumably 
penned, therefore, in the years 1530-35. It was first published in Cousin's 
(Cognatus) De Us qui Roma jus dicelant olim, Lyons, 1559. I owe this 
reference to Prof. Edna Virginia Moffett of Wellesley College. 

2 Responsio ad disputationem cujusdam Phimostomi de divortio, Freiburg, 
August 19, 1532. LB. ix, 955 ff. 

* The censure and judgment of . . . Erasmus: Whyther dyvorscmentt Ittwene 
man and wyfe stondeth with the lawe of God. . . . transl. by N. Lesse, London, 
wyd. Jhon Herforde for R. Stoughton, 

Bittiotheca Erasmiana, i, 174. The Dictionary of National Biography, j. v. 
Nicholas Lesse, puts this dialogue in 1550. 

4 Forstemann-Gunther, no. 114. 

LIFE AT BASLE 1521-29 285 

ing his Ennaratio triplex in Psalmum XXII 1 to Rochford, 
and later also his Symboli explanatio swe Catechismus. 2 
For these he got a warm note of thanks and a present of 
fifty crowns, accompanied by the further request for a 
work on Preparation for Death. 3 Erasmus complied in 
this case also. 4 Less than two years later he heard from 
Chapuls of the expected execution of Rochford, who 
therefore had a very practical use for the work he had 
asked for. In the same letter he recounts the pitiful tale 
of the demise of Queen Catharine, much comforted, if 
we may trust the writer, by the same book, 5 

1 LB. v; the dedicatory epistle, Lond. xxix, 34, is wrongly dated 1527. 
2 LB. v, H33ff. English translation : A playne and godly txposytion. . . . of 
the commune Crede. . . . put forth by Erasmus. London, Redman, no date 

(1533 f). 

* Rochford to Erasmus, June 19, 1533. Enthoven, no. 109. Cf. letter of 
Rochford's secretary, Gerard Phrysius, June 8, 1533, Forstemann-Gunther, 
no. 187. 

*LB. v. 1294 ff. 

5 Chapuis to Erasmus, February i, 1536. Enthoven, no. 145. Catharine 
died January 6, 1536. 



OF all the works of Erasmus the one in which his 
own nature and style appeared to the best advan- 
tage, that which surpassed all others in originality, in wit, 
in gentle irony, in exquisitely tempered phrase, and in 
maturity of thought on religious and social problems, was 
written as a text-book of Latin style. The Familiar 
Colloquies were intended to make easy and pleasant the 
once thorny path of learning for aspiring youth. They 
are stories in the form of conversations, always convey- 
ing, along with the necessary exercise in Latin, enough 
instruction and reflection on all sorts of matters to make 
them profitable reading for thoughtful minds. The 
author's most important "sources" were, indeed, his 
own experiences. If he borrowed something from 
Lucian, a plot from Hroswitha and a tiny bit from Poggio, 
far more he wove in of his own ripe thought on events 
in which he had participated. 1 

Like so many of its author's productions, this was a 
work of many years, each issue being a revision and 
expansion of the previous one. The first Colloquies were 
written at Paris in 1497 for the use of some pupils, 
among them Augustine Vincent Caminade. 2 The author 
did not intend them for publication, but, as he wrote later, 3 

I dictated some trifles or other if anyone wished to chat after 
dinner and, as Horace says, 4 to sport informally by the fireside. 

1 See A. Horawitz: "Ueber die Colloquia des Erasmus von Rotterdam," 
Historisches Taschenbuch, 6te Folge, 6tes Jahrgang, 1887, pp. 53-122. 
*On whom see Appendix. 

3 To the Reader, Louvain, January i, 1519. Preface to the revised edition 
of the Familiarium Colloquiorum Formula^ 1519. Allen, ep. 909. 

4 Satires, ii, 1. 73. 



There were some formulas of everyday intercourse anc! again some 
convivial conversations. . , . These trifles Augustine Carainade 
sucked up like an insatiable Laverna, and from them all patched up 
a book like /Esop's crow; or rather he concocted them just as a cook 
mixes up many scraps to make a broth. He added titles and names 
of persons from his own invention, so that the ass in the lion's skin 
might sometimes betray himself. For it is not as easy to write Latin 
trifles as some think. 

Twenty years later Beatus Rhenanus got hold of these 
exercises and published them, without the author's 
knowledge, at Basle in November, ijiS. 1 The work had 
a rapid sale, and several new editions were called for. 
Erasmus, at first indignant that his rough notes should 
be printed in such poor form, found it better to revise 
and acknowledge the work than to disown it altogether. 
A new edition was published by Froben on January i, 
1519, now bearing the title, Formulas of Familiar Con- 
versations, "by Erasmus of Rotterdam, useful not only for 
polishing a boy's Speech but for building his Character; 
this was revised and much enlarged in an edition of 1522 
dedicated to young Erasmius Froben. The title was 
changed to Familiar Conversations in 1524, and at this, 
and at many other times, until March, 1533, further ad- 
ditions were made. 2 

The earliest colloquies are the easiest and most formal, 
dealing with such subjects as eating and drinking, games 
of ball, and matters of everyday life. All manner of 
proper salutations are catalogued, from the most distant 
to such affectionate titles as "my life, my delight, my 
little heart." Such instructions in manners are given as 
that it is polite to salute people when they sneeze or 
cough, and to wish them good luck, but not when their 
bowels rumble or when they are engaged in discharging 
the duties of nature. The interlocutors are Caminade, 

1 Preface to N. and C. Stallberger, dated November 22, 1518, in Brief wechstl 
des Beatus Rhtnanus, p. 1 22. 

2 Bibliotheca Belgica> Erasmus: Colloquia, 1903-07. Allen, i, p. 304. Dedi- 
cations to Erasmius Froben, August I, 1523, Lond. xxix, 18; August I, 1524. 
LB. i, 627. The text of the Colloquies* ibid> 629 ff. 


James Voecht, a school-teacher of Schlettstadt named 
Sapidus, Erasmus, Erasmius Froben, Caspar, Bernard, 
and others. The first two names date back to the Paris 
days; the others were added later. The conversations 
show that Erasmus joined his pupils in games of tennis, 
conversed with them on serious topics, and joked them 
on everything; one pupil, for example, was good- 
naturedly ridiculed for having a nose big enough to be 
used as a bellows, a harpoon, or a candle extinguisher. 

In the edition of March, 1522, Erasmus added much, 
mainly on religion. The tendency of it is all liberal, to 
emphasize the life of the spirit rather than dependence 
on ceremonies. In a long Religious Symposium, an inter- 
locutor called Eusebius says: "I have put Jesus instead 
of the foul Priapus as protector of my garden." 1 This 
free manner of speaking, and the juxtaposition of the 
two names, shocked the conservative. In a later edition, 
also of 1522, Erasmus added An Apotheosis of John 
Reuchlin, who died on June 20, 1522. In this the good 
man is represented as taken to heaven, whereas an ob- 
scurantist, called "the Camel" probably the Carmelite 
Egmond is satirized. 

In the next edition, of August, 1523, Erasmus added 
much, chiefly on love and marriage. One dialogue rep- 
resents a girl rejecting an infatuated suitor; another 
shows the young man warning the girl of the dangers of 
the cloister; and a third exhibits her repentance at 
having taken the veil. A fourth dialogue sets forth the 
inconveniences of marriage. Various anecdotes of the 
writer's friends are inserted, including one of Thomas 
More's early married life. 2 One of the interlocutors, 
Xanthippe, perhaps stands for the shrewish second wife 
of the same man. Nor did Erasmus scruple to add, in 
this textbook for boys, a realistic dialogue between a 
youth and a harlot, in which the former tries to convert 
the girl to a better life, and tells her that he himself has 

* LB. i, 6/ 3 E. 

* Quoted above, p, 83 IF. 


kept pure, even at Rome, by reading the Greek Testa- 
ment of Erasmus. The author probably took the plot 
for this story from the tenth-century dramatist and nun, 
Hroswitha. 1 At any rate it illustrates the freedom with 
which such matters were then spoken of. Virtue was then 
supposed to lie not in ignorance, but in knowledge. 

Another conversation added at this time contrasts the 
French and German inns, very much in favor of the 
former. Still another dialogue, between Antony and 
Adolph, doubtless Dutch friends of the writer, describes 
a shipwreck in the following manner: 2 

ADOLPH: The night was dark and in the topmast stood a helmeted 
sailor as a lookout for land. To him a fiery sphere began to stick, 3 
which, coming alone is considered an evil portent, though if two come 
together it is thought to be lucky. Antiquity believed them to be 
Castor and Pollux. 

ANTONY: What have they to do with sailors when one was a 
horseman, the other a boxer? 

ADOLPH: Thus it seemed good to the poets. The skipper, who sat 
at the rudder, said: " Comrade" (for thus sailors address one another), 
"do you see the fellow sticking to your side?" "I see," said he, "I 
pray that it may be lucky." Soon the fiery globe fell down through 
the ropes and rolled to the skipper. 

ANTONY: Was he not paralyzed with fear? 

ADOLPH: Sailors are accustomed to monsters. Then after a short 
pause the globe rolled around the edges of the boat and disappeared 
through the hatchways. At midday a tempest began to gather. Have 
you ever seen the Alps? 


ADOLPH: They are warts compared with these waves. When we 
were borne up we could touch the moon with our fingers; when down 
it seemed as if the earth yawned and we were going straight through 
to Tartarus. 

ANTONY: Madmen to trust the sea! 

*LB. i, 718 ff. Hrotsvithas Gandesheimensis Comosdias sex ed. J. Bendixen 
1862, no. 5, "Phaphnutius." That Hroswitha was really known and studied 
at this time is proved by a picture of Albrecht Diirer, dated 1501, showing 
the nun presenting her book to the Emperor Otto. The woodcut is repro- 
duced in Klassiker der Kunst, Diirer, p. 190. Charles Reade has used the 
Erasmian colloquy very effectively in his novel, The Cloister and the Hearth. 

2 LB. i, 712 ff. See above, p. 32. 

3 Called "St. Elmo's fire," or "the fire of St. Erasmus." See Encyclopedia 
Britannica. But did the name not originate with this colloquy? 


ADOLPH: As the sailors strove with the tempest in vain the 
skipper, all pallid, came up to us. 

ANTONY: His pallor presages a great disaster. 

ADOLPH: "Friends/* said he, "I am no longer master of my ship; 
the winds have conquered; it remains to put our trust in God and 
prepare for the end." 

ANTONY: A truly Scythian speech! 

ADOLPH: "But first/' said he, "the ship must be lightened. 
Necessity knows no law. We must save our lives at the expense of 
our goods rather than perish with them." The truth prevailed and 
some boxes of valuable goods were thrown into the sea. 

ANTONY: This was indeed to hazard a throw! 

ADOLPH: There was a certain Italian present who had been on an 
embassy to the king of Scotland; he had a box full of silver and gold, 
cloth and silk. 

ANTONY: He would not settle with the sea? 

ADOLPH: No. He wished either to perish with his goods or to be 
saved with them. So he disputed the order. 

ANTONY: What did the skipper say? 

ADOLPH: "We would allow you to perish alone with your goods," 
said he, "but it is not right that we should all be jeoparded for the 
sake of your box." 

ANTONY: A nautical oration. 

ADOLPH: So the Italian also threw over his things, cursing by 
heaven and hell because he had trusted so barbarous an element. 

ADOLPH: Soon the winds, by no means appeased by our gifts, 
tore away the ropes and sails. 

ANTONY: Oh, calamity! 

ADOLPH: Then again the captain approached us. 

ANTONY: To make a speech? 

ADOLPH: He saluted us. "Friends," said he, "the time has come 
for each one to commend himself to God and to prepare for death." 
Asked by some who were not ignorant of navigation how long he 
thought he could save the ship, he said he could promise nothing, but 
not above three hours. 

ANTONY: This speech was harder than the former. 

ADOLPH: Then he commanded all the ropes and the mast, as far 
down as the base in which it was standing, to be cut away and thrown, 
spars and all, into the sea. 


ADOLPH: Because the sail, being torn, was no use, but only a 
burden; the only hope was in the rudder. 

ANTONY: What in the meantime did the passengers do? 

ADOLPH: There you would have seen a wretched spectacle; the 
sailors singing Salve Regina, praying to the Virgin Mother, calling 
her the Star of the Sea, the Queen of Heaven, the Mistress of the 

THE 291 

World, the Port of Safety, flattering her with titles of which the 
Bible knows nothing. 

ANTONY: What had she to do with the sea on which I think she 
never sailed ? 

ADOLPH: Formerly Venus took care of sailors, for she was believed 
to have been born from the sea; when she ceased doing so the Virgin 
Mother succeeded the mother not a virgin. 

ANTONY: You jest. 

ADOLPH: Some, falling down on the deck, adored the sea, pouring 
oil upon the waves, flattering it not otherwise than we might an 
angry prince. 

ANTONY: What did they say? 

ADOLPH: "O most clement sea, O most generous sea, O most rich 
sea, O most beautiful sea, be gentle and save us!" Thus many sang 
to the deaf sea. 

ANTONY: Ridiculous superstition. What then? 

ADOLPH: Some only vomited; most made vows. There was an 
Englishman present who promised mountains of gold to the Virgin of 
Walsingham if he came alive to shore. Others promised much to the 
wood of the cross in a certain place; others to the same wood in 
another place. The same was done for the Virgin Mary who rules in 
many places; they think the vow void unless they mention the 

ANTONY: Ridiculous! As though the saints did not inhabit heaven. 

ADOLPH: Some promised to be Carthusians. One vowed to go to 
St. James of Compostella with bare feet and head and with his body 
covered with an iron corselet, begging his bread. 

ANTONY: Did no one mention Christopher? 

ADOLPH: One man did, whom I heard not without a laugh. With 
a loud voice, lest he be not heard, he vowed to St. Christopher in the 
high church at Paris, a wax statue, or rather mountain, as big as 
himself. While he was shouting this as loud as he could, over and 
over, a friend of his nudged him with his elbow and said: "Take care 
what you promise; even if you sell all that you have you could not 
pay that vow." Then he, in a low voice lest Christopher should hear: 
"Hold your tongue, you fool. Do you think I mean what I say? 
If ever I reach land I won't give him a tallow candle." 

ANTONY: Stupid fellow! I suspect he was a Hollander. 

ADOLPH: No, a Zeelander. 

ANTONY: I am surprised that none thought of the Apostle Paul, 
who himself was once a sailor and shipwrecked. He, not ignorant of 
evil, would know how to succor the miserable. 

ADOLPH: No one mentioned Paul. 

ANTONY: Did the passengers pray meanwhile? 

ADOLPH: Earnestly. One sang the Salve Regina and another the 
creed. Some had special prayers, like charms, against perils. 


ANTONY: How religious affliction makes men! In prosperity neither 
God nor saint comes in to our mind. What did you do? Did you make 
vows to anyone? 



ADOLPH: Because I do not bargain with the saints. What else is 
ic than a regular contract: I give if you give; I will give wax if I 
swim out, or I will go to Rome if you save me. 

ANTONY: But did not you implore the protection of any saint? 

ADOLPH: Not even that. 

ANTONY: But why? 

ADOLPH: Because the sky is spacious. If I commended my safety 
to some saint, say Peter who stands at the gate and would therefore 
hear it first, before he had obtained an audience with God and 
explained my cause I should have perished. 

ANTONY: What, then, did you do? 

ADOLPH: I went straight to the Father himself with the Lord's 
prayer. None of the saints would hear me quicker or more willingly 
give what I asked. 

ANTONY: But did not your conscience prevent you? Did you dare 
to approach the Father whom you had offended with so many sins? 

ADOLPH: Frankly, conscience did deter me somewhat. But I soon 
took courage thinking: No Father is so angry with his son that if 
he saw him in peril of drowning would not pull him out by his hair. 
Among all the passengers none was more tranquil than a woman 
nursing a baby in her lap. 

ANTONY: What did she do? 

ADOLPH: Alone she neither cried out nor wept nor vowed, but only 
embraced her son and silently prayed. Meantime the ship was 
suddenly smitten with a wave. The captain, fearing she would burst 
in pieces, bound her together with ropes from prow to poop. 

ANTONY: Miserable defense! 

ADOLPH: Then a certain old priest whose name was Adam threw 
away his clothes, even his hose and boots, all except his shirt, and 
commanded that everyone should prepare to swim. Standing in the 
midst of the ship he gave us an exhortation from Gerson; that homily 
on the use of confession, and he bade all to prepare for either life or 
death. A certain Dominican was also present to whom those who 
wished confessed. 

ANTONY: What did you do? 

ADOLPH: Seeing all the tumult, I confessed silently to God, 
condemning my own righteousness and imploring his mercy. 

ANTONY: Where would you have gone had you perished? 

ADOLPH: This I committed to God's judgment, for I would not 
be my own judge, but I had good hope. Meanwhile a weeping sailor 
came to us. Let each one, said he, prepare himself, for the ship will 


not last a quarter of an hour; it is leaking fast. Shortly after that he 
announced to us that he saw the spire of a church, and bade us pray 
to the saint to whom it was dedicated. All fell down to adore the 
unknown saint. 

ANTONY: Had you addressed him by name perhaps he would have 
heard you. 

ADOLPH: His name was unknown. In the meantime the captain 
guided the ship, as best he could, to the shore. . . and as we 
approached, the inhabitants saw us, rushed to the shore and, fastening 
shirts and hats to lances, waved them to us, inviting us to shore and 
signifying that they deplored our misfortune. . . . The sailors let 
down a skiff into the sea, into which all tried to throw themselves; 
but the sailors with great tumult shouted that it would not hold all, 
and that the passengers should get what they could to swim with. 
One seized an oar, another a pole, another a tub, another a bucket, 
another a plank, and thus committed themselves to the waves. * . . 
I almost perished, . . . but with the help of a companion pulled 
out the lower part of the mast and floated on it. ... But only 
seven were saved of fifty-eight. ... On land we experienced the 
incredible humanity of the people, who with great alacrity supplied 
us with lodging, fire, food, clothes, and means of transport* 

ANTONY: What people was it? 

ADOLPH: The Dutch. 

ANTONY: No people are more humane, though they are surrounded 
with savage nations. I hope you will not tempt Neptune again. 

ADOLPH: Not if God give me a sound mind. 

ANTONY: I prefer to hear such tales rather than experience them. 

This colloquy excellently illustrates the manner in 
which liberal ideas were instilled into the minds of the 
readers. One by one the author took up most of the 
popular abuses in order to hold them up to ridicule. 
The conversation entitled, "The Inquisition of Faith/* 
minimizes the Church's power of excommunication, show- 
ing that only God's fulminations strike the soul and 
that nothing is necessary to salvation but the Apostles* 
Creed. 1 A very mild satire on the "poor rich men/* 
i.e., the begging friars, holds up the ideal of men rich only 
in spiritual gifts. The worship of the saints comes in 
for constant derision. One of the boldest passages 
is the following, purporting to be a letter from the 

i LB. i, 728. March, 1524. 


Virgin Mary to Glaucoplutus, a pseudonym for Ulrich 
Zwingli: 1 

Mary, the mother of Jesus, to Glaucoplutus, greeting. By following 
Luther in persuading men that it is unnecessary to invoke the saints,, 
you have done me a great favor, for hitherto I have been almost 
killed by the evil petitions of mortals. All things were begged from 
me alone, as though my son were always an infant, because he is so 
painted in my bosom, as if he still waited on my nod and feared to 
deny me anything lest I should refuse him the breast. Sometimes 
my worshipers sought from the Virgin what no decent youth would 
ask from a bawd, things which I am ashamed to put in writing. - One 
day a merchant about to sail to Spain committed to my care the 
chastity of his mistress. A nun, having cast aside the veil and pre- 
pared for flight, recommended to me the reputation she was about to 
prostitute. A wicked soldier going to slaughter cried out: Blessed 
Virgin, give me the Spolia opima; the spoils of war! A dicer cries: 
Help me, saint, and part of the gain shall be yours. If the dice fall 
badly he insults and curses me for not favoring his vice. She who 
lives on the wages of prostitution cries out: Give me a rich haul! If 
I deny anything, they say then I am not the mother jf mercy. 
The prayers of some others are rather foolish than impious. The 
maiden prays, Mary, give me a rich and handsome husband; the 
matron, Give me pretty little cubs; the pregnant woman, Grant 
me an easy birth; the old woman, Let me live without coughing and 
dryness; the old man, Let me be young again; the philosopher. 
Help me solve the insoluble; the priest, Give me a rich benefice; 
the bishop, Save my church; the sailor, Give me a prosperous 
journey; the perfect cries: Show me our son before I die; the 
courtier, Give me a chance to confess on my deathbed. . . * 
And yet with all this enormous business to attend to I get no honor. 
Formerly I was hailed Queen of Heaven and Lady of the World, now 
I hear only a few Ave Marias! ... I wanted you to know this so 
as to get your advice, for I have taken the matter much to heart. 
From my stone temple, Basle,* August i, 1524. I the Virgin sign 
this with my stone hand. 

Other dialogues ridicule the superstitions of spiritism, 3 

1 Erasmus uses Glaucoplutus as the Greek equivalent of Ulrich both here 
and elsewhere of Ulrich Zasius, as if the name was derived from words 
meaning "owl" and "rich." Zwingli had recently published a sermon 
against Mariolatry, "Eine Predigt von der ewigen reinen Magd Maria," 
September 17, 1522. Z. W. i, 385 ff. 

1 Apud Rauracos, a Latin name for Basle. 

8 Exorcismus sive sptctrum, LB. i, 749, cf, above p. 80 f. 


or of alchemy, 1 of fasting, 2 or of pilgrimages. 3 It Is not 
surprising that some of them should have given offense to 
old-fashioned piety. Luther, for instance^ though quoted, 
sided with the conservatives, and, in one of his late, 
harsh judgments, selects the colloquy on Mariolatry as 
one that mocks all religion. 4 This censure is, of course, 
wrong. What Erasmus mocks is not religion, but the 
false application of it. In proof of this, one more selection 
must be given, which, with the lightest and most 
delicious wit, reveals a real grasp of the spirit of the 
Sermon on the Mount. The speakers are Cannius and 
Polyphemus, the latter being the name given by 
Erasmus to a youth who served him partly as a domestic, 
partly as an amanuensis. 

CANNIUS: What Is Polyphemus hunting for here? 

POLYPHEMUS: You ask me what I am hunting without dogs or 

CANNIUS : Perhaps some hamadryad ? 

POLYPHEMUS: You are a good guesser. See, here is my hunting net. 

CANNIUS: What do I see? Bacchus masquerading in the spoils of 
a lion, Polyphemus with a book! To see the hinges, clasps and brass 
bands, one might call it a book of war. 


CANNIUS: It is pretty, but you haven't decorated it enough yet. 

POLYPHEMUS : What is the matter with it. 

CANNIUS : You ought to have put your coat of arms in it. 

POLYPHEMUS: What do you mean. 

CANNIUS: The head of Silenus looking out of a barrel. But what 
does the book treat of, the art of drinking? 

POLYPHEMUS: Be careful not to blaspheme without knowing it. 

CANNIUS: What then, is it something holy? 

POLYPHEMUS : The holiest thing in the world, the Gospel. 

CANNIUS: Great Hercules! What is there in common between 
Polyphemus and the Gospel. 

POLYPHEMUS: What is there in common between a Christian and 

CANNIUS: I can't answer. But it seems to me that a halbard would 

1 LB. i, 742. 

2 LB. i, 787, cf. above, p. 266. 

8 LB. i, 774, ef. spura, p. 70 ff. 

* Tirchrtden, ed. Forstemann & Bindseil, Jii, 410-412, 422. 


suit you better than this book, for when I see a man like you I take 
him for a pirate, or, if he is in the woods, for an assassin. 

POLYPHEMUS: But the Gospel recommends us not to judge by 
appearances. Sometimes a gray cowl hides an inhuman heart, and 
sometimes a cropped head, bristling mustaches, menacing eyebrows, 
ferocious eyes, and a military costume, hide an evangelic soul. . . . 

CANNIUS: Don't play the sophist with me. A man doesn't carry 
the Gospel in his heart unless he loves it, and he can't love it deeply 
without showing it in his acts. 

POLYPHEMUS: You are too subtle for me. 

CANNIUS: I'll explain to you more simply. If you carried on your 
shoulder a bottle of French wine, would it be anything else than a 
"weight ? 

POLYPHEMUS: Certainly not. 

CANNIUS: Suppose you took some in your mouth and spit it out 

POLYPHEMUS: That would do no good, but I assure you that is 

not my custom. 

CANNIUS: But if, on the contrary, according to your custom, you 
drank some of it? 

POLYPHEMUS: I should like nothing better. 

CANNIUS: It would warm your body, flush your face, and give 
you a happy expression. 

POLYPHEMUS: Yes, indeed. 

CANNIUS: The same with the Gospel. If it circulates in the veins 
of the mind it changes the entire nature of a man. 

POLYPHEMUS: Don't you think I live as the Gospel commands? 

CANNIUS: No one can tell better than yourself. 

POLYPHEMUS: If I could only obey the Gospel the way I want to 
with a battle ax! 

CANNIUS: If some one called you a liar and a good-for-nothing, 
what would you do? 

POLYPHEMUS: What would I do? Hit him in the eye. 

CANNIUS : And if somebody hit you ? 

POLYPHEMUS: I'd break his neck for him. 

CANNIUS: And yet your book there bids you answer insults with 
blessings, and if one smite you on the right cheek to turn to him 
the left. 

POLYPHEMUS: I did read that but I forgot it. ... 

CANNIUS: Well then, how can you show me that you love the 

POLYPHEMUS: I'll tell you. A certain Franciscan keeps reviling 
the New Testament of Erasmus in his sermons. Well, one day I 
called on him in private, seized him by the hair with my left hand, 
and punished him with my right. I gave him so sound a drubbing 
that I reduced his whole face to a mere jelly. What do you say to 


that? Isn't that supporting the Gospel? And then, by way of 
absolution for his sins, I took this book I have here and gave him 
three resounding whacks on the head in the name of the Father and 
of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. 

CANNIUS: That is certainly evangelic, defending the Gospel by 
the Gospel. 

POLYPHEMUS: I can tell you something else. There was another 
man of the same order who broke loose against Erasmus without the 
least restraint. Well, inflamed with evangelic zeal, I forced the 
man to beg pardon on his knees, and to confess that all he had said 
was at the instigation of the devil. All the while I had my halbard 
brandished over my head. I must have looked like angry Mars. 
Several people can tell you that this is true. 

CANNIUS: I am astonished that he survived. But really it is time 
you were turning from a brute beast into a man. 

POLYPHEMUS : You are right, for all ,the prophets of this time say 
that the end of the world is at hand. 

CANNIUS: Another reason for making haste. . . . But why do 
your prophets think that the end is coming? 

POLYPHEMUS: Because they say men are living now as they did 
just before the deluge; they eat, drink, marry and are given in 
marriage, have mistresses, buy, sell, borrow and lend at interest, 
and build. Kings make wars, priests devote themselves to getting 
money, theologians invent syllogisms, monks gad about, the common 
people rebel, Erasmus writes colloquies in short, all possible curses 
exist at once: hunger, thirst, brigandage, war, pestilence, sedition, 
lack of good. Doesn't that all portend the last judgment? 

But superstition was not the only foible satirized. One 
colloquy denounced war; another hit off the absurdities 
of the grammarians; a third was a plea for eugenics, at 
least to the extent of forbidding the diseased to marry. 1 
Others treated of feminism, of horse-cheats, of miserli- 
ness, of false nobility, of the love of glory. In fact, every 
human, or at least every humanistic interest, is taken up, 
exposed to the free play of mind, and moralized. 

Naturally, the free tone of the Colloquies, and their 
anti-ecclesiastical tendency, aroused bitter criticism. In 
the first acknowledged edition, that of March, 1522, 
Nicholas of Egmond, the conservative of Louvain, 
detected four passages savoring of heresy, one on vows, 

yaiiog sive conjngium impar, LB. i, 826. 


one on indulgences, one of confession and pilgrimages* 
one on fasting. The author had described a man who 
confessed having made, while drunk, vows ^ to go on 
pilgrimages to Rome and Compostella and who had 
carried them out, although he was persuaded that they 
were foolish and that his wife and children suffered by 
his absence. Another passage attacked was this: "I 
hate a snake less than a fish. And I have often wondered 
why, when the Gospel freed us from the Mosaic law, we 
believe that God has put this more than Jewish load 
[of fasting] upon Christian shoulders/* 1 In the next 
edition, of the same year, Erasmus modified these 
censures, and also deprecated the action about to be 
taken against him by the university of Paris. This was 
long delayed, for, though the university drew up a 
Determination on the Familiar Colloquies of Erasmus in 
May, 1526, it was not published until 1531, the author 
answering in the following year. 2 

Meantime Erasmus was busy defending his work 
against other critics. In the edition of June, 1526* he 
added a Letter to the Reader "on the utility of the 
Colloquies/' 3 moved thereto by the slander that waxedi 
hot against every man and every book. In his book, he 
protests, he has for the first time aimed to make the 
road to learning a pleasant one, for he is convinced that 
play is the best teacher. Throughout, however, he has 
pointed morals, for example he has called attention to 
the evils of pilgrimages, which no one familiar with the 
disastrous fate of relatives left at home can deny- He 
has condemned, not indulgences, but the abuse of them. 
It is nonsense to say that he has ridiculed religion. As 
for the charge of lasciviousness in the dialogue between 
the youth and the harlot, he answers that the critics who 
strain at his gnat swallow the camels of Plautus and 

1 On this Bibliotheca Erasmiana t s. Colloquia t ed. of March, 1522. 
8 D'Argentre: Collect judiciorum, //, 53-74. P. Inibart de la Tour: Le$ 
Origines de la Rtformf, in, 1914, p. 268, 
Lond. xxix, 19, May 19, 1526. 


Pogglo. The obscene word put into the mouth of the 
shameless girl is said to have been a common one even 
in the speech of honest matrons. 1 If anyone prefers he 
may write another word. 2 But save for this the author 
claims that he has made even the stews chaste. 3 

In like tone Erasmus assured his private friends that 
his work had in it nothing indecent, impious, or seditious, 
but that it had, on the contrary, profited many. 4 

To the author the most trying ordeal came not from 
the camp of his enemies, numerous though these were, 
but from a probably well-meant attempt to expurgate 
the offensive matter, in an unauthorized edition by 
Lambert Campester, a Saxon theologian of Louvain. 
This gentleman, described as "of squinting eye, but of 
yet more squinting mind, . . . corrected, that is to say, 
depraved, some passages about monks, vows, pilgrimages, 
and indulgences," and changed the names Paris and 
France to London and England, regardless of the sense; 
and he also forged an introduction in barbarous Latin, 
purporting to come from the author* He then published 
the hateful work at Paris. 6 

But the narrowly religious men in both camps con- 
tinued to protest against the Colloquies. Ambrosius 
Pelargus, a shining light of Freiburg, said that all the 
youth had been corrupted by that work. 6 Cuthbert 
Tunstall, Bishop of London, was offended by them. 7 In 
1549 one J. Morisotus, did his best to have the Colloquies 

1 Those acquainted with the literature of the time will see that this is not 
much of an exaggeration, Erasmus tells in one place (LB. v. 717) of a matron 
who slipped on the steps of St. Gudule at Brussels and was pained into uttering 
the same word he has here put into the mouth of Lucretia. 

2 "Mea voluptas" instead of "mea mentula." 

8 1 cannot wholly agree with this; there are a few passages in the Collo* 
quits e.g., in the " Puerpera," unfit for boys* eyes. 

4 To Wolsey, April 25, 1526, Lond. xxi, 33, LB. ep. 810. To John the Bishop 
(Fisher), September x, 1528, Lond. xxii, 30; LB. ep. 974. 

6 Catalogue of Lucubrations, Alien, i, p. 9 f. Bibliothtca Erasmiana: Collo- 
quia, i, 364. 

8 N. Paul us: Dif Deutschen Domtnikantr im Kampfe gegfn Luthff, 1903, 
p. 206* 

7 Forstemann-Gtlnther, ep. 108* 


superseded by a new work of the same name, written by 
himself. 1 Dionysius de Zannettinis, Bishop of Milopo- 
tarnos and delegate to the Council of Trent, described 
them as very dangerous and as likely to make boys 
mock all religion. 2 They were censured by a papal 
commision of cardinals in 1537 and finally put on the 
Index, with the rest of their writer's works. 3 They were 
forbidden by the inquisition in Franche-Comte in 1535.* 
The Reformers, too, though they sanctioned the use of 
the Colloquies perhaps exscinding some of the freer 
passages in their schools 5 in 1528, finally turned against 
them. "On my deathbed," said Luther, I shall forbid 
my sons to read Erasmus's Colloquies. . . . He is much 
worse than Lucian, mocking all things under the guise 
of holiness/' 6 The great Protestant scholar, Joseph 
Scaliger, thought there were many faults in the Latin 
of the Colloquies. 7 

All these attacks, however, did not greatly injure the 
popularity of the work, but rather advertised it. When 
Vesuvius wrote from France, on February 8, 1527, say- 
ing that the censure of the Sorbonne did not alienate 
the esteem of good men, his opinion was fully borne out 
by the fact that the mere rumor of the coming condemna- 
tion induced a Parisian bookseller to hurry through the 
press an edition of twenty-four thousand copies. 9 In 
fact, the sales were enormous, and would be considered 
so even in modern times. 10 During the eighteen years 

1 A. Bohmer: " Aus dem Karnpfe gegen die Colloquia Familiaria des 
Erasmus," Archiv fur Kulturgeschichte, ix, 1911. 

2 G, Buschbell: Reformation und Inquisition in Italien um die Mitte des 
XVI Jahrkunderts, 1910, pp. 48 ff. 

8 Preserved Smith: The Age of the Reformation, 1920, p. 420 ff. Mansi: 
Conciliomm & Decretorum Collectio Amplissima, Supplement V, 545. 

4 L. Febvre: Notes & Documents sur la Reforme et V Inquisition en Franche* 
Comte, 1912, p. 178. 

6 "Instruction to Visitors of Schools," Luther s Werke, Weimar, xxvi, 174 f. 
8 Preserved Smith: Life and Letters of Luther f 1914, p. 212. 

7 Scdigerana, 1695, p. 140. 

8 Enthoven, no. 47. 

9 Cambridge Modern History, i, 571. 

10 Bibliotheca Erasmiana, for list of editions and translations. 


from their first publication to the author's death about 
a hundred impressions were called for, and the popularity 
of the work rather increased than diminished during the 
next two centuries. This astounding success, which 
easily broke all previous records and was only surpassed, 
among contemporary works, by the vernacular Bibles, 
may be partly accounted for by the international repu- 
tation of the author, all civilized countries contributing 
to swell the sales. Another consideration was that the 
Colloquies were used as a text-book, and a successful 
text-book has always been one of the most vendible forms 
of writing. There were also many translations, one of 
the earliest being into Spanish. 1 Separate dialogues were 
also put into the vernacular: Clement Marot, for ex- 
ample, translating into French verse the dialogues 
entitled "The Abbot and the Learned Lady" and "The 
Girl Who Did Not Want to Marry." 2 

The influence of the Erasmian Colloquies on the 
thought of the sixteenth century was proportional to 
their popularity. Other works, indeed, such as The 
Utopia, The Prince, The Revolutions of the Heavenly 
Spheres, and The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, 
may have ultimately done more to revolutionize the 
world's thought, but none of them made such a wide 
and immediate impression upon the minds of youths at 
the most impressionable age. The spread of the Refor- 
mation in particular, and of ideas still more liberal for 
that day and generation, was due more to this text-book 
of style than to any other one volume. Among the 
Anabaptists and among the Arminians, in Franck and in 
Acontius, the Erasmian liberalism obtained a full evalu- 
ation; in Rabelais and Montaigne it reached a still higher 
plane of expression. 

Among the many educational treatises of all sorts 
penned by the scholar of Rotterdam, two of the earliest 

1 Boniila y San Martin, in Revue lUspanique, xvii, 1907, pp. 435 ff. Origines 
de la Novela por D. M. Menendez y Pelayo, Tomo iv, 1915. 

2 (Euvres de Clement Marot, ed. 1731, Tome iii, pp. 116 fF. 


were the Method of Study 1 and The Double Supply of 
Words and Matter? In them the author expressed his 
preference for the study of language to "that elusive 
maiden Dialectic/' the love of the schoolmen, emphasized 
the importance of vocabulary, gave examples of how to 
say the same thing in different ways, and recommended 
the study of Latin and Greek together for their mutual 

Other commentaries, text-books, and treatises on peda- 
gogy poured from his pen. Such was his edition of The 
Distichs of Cato, some moral couplets which had a great 
vogue in the Middle Ages, when they were supposed to 
have been written by Cato the Censor, though believed 
now to have originated in the third or fourth century. 3 
Such was the Greek grammar of Gaza translated by Eras- 
mus in I5i6. 4 Such was the Latin grammar, composed 
jointly by Lyly and Erasmus for Colet's school, which was 
for centuries the standard Latin grammar, being the one 
used by Shakespeare, recommended by Doctor Johnson, 5 
and the basis of the Eton Latin grammar now in use. 6 

This book made an immediate success; Sapidus, a 
well-known German schoolmaster, wrote Erasmus how 
delighted the boys were with his text-book. 7 In his reply 8 

1 Translated by Woodward: Erasmus on the Aim and Method of Education, 
162-78. LB. I, 517. First edition, 1511. 

2 LB. i, 3 ff Cf. Catalogue of Lucubrations, Allen, i, p. 9. First edition, 1511; 
first authentic edition, 1512. Bibliotheca Erasmiana, i, p. 65. Dedication to 
Colet, April 29, 1512, Allen, ep. 260, Simon Sinapius lectured on the De 
Copia at Wittenberg in 1540. G. Buchwald: Zur Wittenberger Stadt- und 
Universitdtsgeschichte, 1893, p. 150. 

8 Preface, to Neve, August i, 1514. Allen, ep. 289. Luther often quoted 
from Cato. 

4 LB. i, 116 fF. Allen, ep. 428.. To Caesarius, 1516. 
8 Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. B. Hill, i, 99. 

6 LB, i, 167 ff. Preface, Basle, July 30, 1515. Allen, ep. 341. Colet wrote 
an English preface to this, in which he says "Wherefore I pray you, al lytel 
babys, al lytel children, lerne gladly this lytel treatyse and commend it 
dylygently unto your memoryes. Trustynge of this begynnynge that ye shal 
procede and growe to parfyt lyterature and come at last to be gret clarkes." A 
Feuillerat: John Lyly t 1910, p. 6, note 4. 

7 Allen, ep. 353. 

8 Allen, ep. 364; Nichols, ep. 366. 


Erasmus expressed a very high regard for the calling of 

I admit that your vocation is laborious, but I utterly deny that it 
Is tragic or deplorable, as you call It. To be a schoolmaster is next 
to being a king. Do you count it a mean employment to imbue the 
minds of your fellow citizens in their earliest years with the best 
literature and with the love of Christ and to return them to their 
country honest and virtuous men? In the opinion of fools it is a 
humble task, but in fact it is the noblest of occupations. Even among 
the heathen it was always a noble thing to deserve well of the state* 
and no one serves it better than the moulder of raw boys. 

Erasmus had a good deal of experience in teaching, 
though he never remained for long a regular professor. 
He gave lectures at Cambridge, and he had taken private 
pupils at Paris and elsewhere. In this line he was highly 
successful, not only making his pupils devoted to him- 
self, but producing really cultured men. At Louvain 
he took a lively interest in the university, especially in 
the foundation, by means of a bequest from his friend 
Busleiden, of the Collegium Trilingue, to be devoted, as 
its name indicates, to the cultivation of the three ancient 
tongues. 1 Very likely the plan owed much to his advice, 
as its execution was due to his co-operation. As Hebrew 
professor he secured the baptized Jew, Matthew Adrian. 
The plan of the instruction was set forth in a letter to 
John Lascar, asking for a recommendation of a Greek 
teacher: 2 

In this college shall be taught publicly and gratis Hebrew, Latin, 
and Greek. A sufficiently splendid salary of seventy ducats, 8 which 
may be increased according to the value of the person, is assigned to 
each professor. The chairs of Latin and Hebrew are already provided 
for; many are competing for the chair of Greek. It has always 
seemed to me that a native Greek should be secured so that the pupils 
may get a correct pronunciation at once. 

1 Allen, I, p. 434. 

2 April z6, 1518. Allen, ep. 836. 

8 A ducat was worth $2.25, or nine shillings, intrinsically; the salary would 
therefore be $157.50, or 31-10-0, per annum, at a time when money had ten 
times the purchasing power that it has now. Salaries in German and English 
universities at this time averaged somewhat higher. See Preserved Smith: 
The Age of ike Reformation, 1920, p. 471. 

3 o 4 ERASMUS 

As Erasmus has spoken of getting a Greek to secure 
the proper pronunciation of the language, it is interesting 
to note that he wrote what was long regarded as the 
standard treatise on the right pronunciation of Latin and 
Greek. Incidentally, the work is interesting as showing 
the author's acquaintance with various vernaculars, for 
he continually quotes words in English, French, Dutch, 
and German. Erasmus was well aware that the Romans 
sounded their consonants differently, in some cases, from 
modern usage. For example, he shows that in Latin c 
should always be sounded k. It is probable that Erasmus 
did not follow his own precept in this regard. A parallel 
case is that of De Quincey, who remarks in one of his 
essays that c is sounded like k, but would certainly never 
have been guilty of saying Kikero. Milton also touches 
this subject in his Tractate on Education, but contents 
himself with observing that the vowels should be sounded 
as near the Italian as possible. The main purpose of 
Erasmus's work was to protest against the "iotacism" 
in Greek that is, the pronunciation of several different 
vowels and diphthongs like the Italian i. This is now, 
and was in the sixteenth century, the pronunciation of 
the modern Greeks, but the Dutch scholar rightly main- 
tained that the ancients must have differentiated. His 
method became known as the Erasmian, opposed to the 
Reuchlinian, which was followed by Melanchthon. The 
former finally prevailed, 1 for it was adopted on the Con- 
tinent by H. Estienne, Beza, and Ramus, was introduced 
at Cambridge by Thomas Smith and John Cheke in 15369 

1 R. C. Jebb, in Cam. Mod. Hist, i, 581. Ingram Bywater: The Erasmian 
Pronunciation of Greek and Its Predecessors, L. Aleander, A. Manutius, An-* 
tonio of Lebrixa. London, 1908. This little monograph shows that, though the 
story told by Rescius of Erasmus's writing the Pronunciation to get credit for 
himself which belonged to others, is false; yet he had predecessors, first 
Antonio of Lebrixa (1444.-! 522) who wrote the Descriptions Latins, then 
Manutius, who wrote De literis Gratis, 1508, following Antonio, and Aleander, 
who wrote on Pronunciation, in 1512, following Manutius. Cf. also T. Papa- 
Demetrakopoulos: La Tradition ancienne et les partisans d'rasme (1903) and 
other works cited in the Bibliotheca Erasmiana, iii, p. 45. Sandys: History of 
Classical Scholarship, ii, 232. 


and, after the Reuchllnian pronunciation had been 
brought back in 1542 by Gardiner, was permanently 
restored in 1558. 

Not only to the practical work of writing text-books 
and grammars, but to the exposition of pedagogical 
theory, Erasmus contributed much. 1 It is true that he 
was not very original in method, borrowing largely from 
Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Quintilian, Mapheus Vegius, 
and the German humanists. With the classical enthu- 
siasm of the age he was thoroughly in sympathy, as he 
was with the highly aristocratic tendency of the Renais- 
sance. 2 The training of an elite was his constant pre- 
occupation and he saw that there was no education like 
converse with men of character and cultivation. "Live 
with learned men/' he advised, "hear them submissively 
and with honor, study them, and never think yourself 
learned." 3 Logically, therefore, the tutorial system was 
postulated, at least as the ideal. This system, of course, 
is only open to the wealthy, and it is of the education of 
these that Erasmus always seems to be thinking. He 
had no democratic instincts; the immense services ren- 
dered to the common-school education of the people by 
Luther would not have appealed to him. His thoughts 
were absorbed in excogitating the rational training for 
a leader, a prince, a prelate, or at least an aristocrat like 
More or Pirckheimer. The chief, indeed almost the only, 
subjects to be taught were the classics. This idea, which 
seems so inadequate to us, was in reality an advance 
over the mediaeval curriculum; the only subjects then 
taught, except a little barbarous Latin, had been dialectic 
and Aristotelian philosophy. Compared to this dry 

1 J. M. Hofer; Die Stellung des D. Erasmus und des J. L. Fives zur Padagogik 
des Quintilian, Erlangen Dissertation, 1910. D. Rekhling: Ausgewahlu 
pedagogische Schriften des D. Erasmus. Uebersetzung und Erlduterungen, 1896. 
W. H. Woodward: Erasmus concerning the Aim and Method of Education, 1094, 

2 Well brought out by Imbart de la Tour: Orients de la Reforme, i, 556. 

8 Letter to Vadian, September 27, 1520. Fadianische Brief sammlung, hg. 
von E. Arbenz und H. Wartraarm, 1890 ff. Seven parts and seven supplements, 
u, no. 219. 


course the classics offered real wealth of material. Never- 
theless, it is fortunate that Erasmus's plan did not 
obtain exclusive dominance. 

Erasmus saw that the earliest education must come 
from the mother, and laid down the sound principle that 
care of the body is the foundation of all. Work should 
begin by way of play, a tutor (whose qualifications are 
set almost impossibly high) should be secured when the 
pupil is five or six. If the boys are sent to school which, 
however, is deprecated lay schools are to be given the 
preference to religious ones. 

The text-books edited by Erasmus allow us to see 
exactly the method he preferred. A glance at his De 
Construction? (Lyly's grammar of 1515) shows a consid- 
erable lack of logical arrangement. This may be partly 
intended; at any rate, reading was more relied on than 
formal rules. The first books to be read should be the 
Proverbs and Gospels in Latin, after them a Latin 
version of Plutarch's Apothegms and Moralia. JEsop is 
to be the first author read in Greek. It is plain that 
the moral element is preponderant in this choice, the 
predilection for sententious precepts being especially 
marked. It is noticeable that Luther shared this taste 
to the full; ^Esop and Dionysius Cato, both edited by 
Erasmus, being among his favorite books. Following 
Quintilian, Erasmus then picks out to be read among the 
Greeks Lucian, Demosthenes, Aristophanes, Homer, and 
Euripides; among the Latins, Terence, Plautus, Vergil, 
Horace, Cicero, Caesar, and Sallust. He excludes 
mediaeval Latin, especially the romances of Arthur and 

The author is to be read first for the grammar, then 
for the style, and finally for the moral instruction. The 
method followed was that recommended by Milton a 
century later, the teacher to construe the text to the 
boys one day and have them repeat it to him on the 
morrow. Writing was, of course, studied, especially 
prose, first the oratorical style, then the epistolary, and 


then the historical. Poetry and Greek composition were 
also recommended. 

It is astonishing to us that so little time is given to 
anything but language. All other subjects were sup- 
posed to be taken in incidentally to philology. History 
was a by-product of Livy, for example, and natural 
science of Pliny. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if 
knowledge of any facts at all was mainly valued for the 
sake of literary allusion. Unlike Luther, Erasmus put a 
very slight value on music. He apparently had little 
taste for it, sometimes mentioning the congregational 
singing in the reformed churches as one of their repellent 
features. Some emphasis was laid on deportment; in 
1526 Erasmus wrote a primer of Civility for Boys, telling 
them how to carry themselves, how to dress, how to 
behave at church, at table, in company, at play, and in 
the dormitory. 1 

In advocating the education of women Erasmus was 
ahead of most of his contemporaries. He labored to 
refute the common but erroneous opinion that literature 
is neither useful to women nor consistent with their 
reputation and innocence, 2 One of the Colloquies* on the 
subject shows an abbot, who at first maintained that 
books took from the weaker sex what little brains they 
had, finally convinced by a blue-stocking that the 
learned women of Italy, Spain, England, and Germany 
had profited mightily by their studies. Both here and 
elsewhere Erasmus alleged the examples of Sir Thomas 
More's daughters, and those of Pirckheimer and Blaurer. 
With More's eldest daughter, Margaret Roper, he was 
indeed in occasional epistolary correspondence. In her 
nineteenth year she translated into English one of his 
tracts under the title A Devout Treatise upon the Pater 
Noster* and he repaid the compliment by dedicating 

1 LB. i, 1033. 

2 To Bude, Anderlecht, 1:521. Allen, ep. 1233, 

3 Abbatis et eruditae, LB. i, 744. 

4 F. Wiener: Naogeorgus in England, 1913, p. 7. The Devout Treatise on 
tkf Pater Nosier was published by W. de Worde in 


to her his Commentary on Prudentius* Hymn to the 
Nativity. 1 

The influence of Erasmus was doubtless great, but it 
was not revolutionary, because of the perfect accord 
between him and the liberal wing of contemporary 
thought. To distil the lessons of the classics and of the 
early Christian writings, and then to instil them into 
the minds of youth, seemed to that and to many sub- 
sequent generations the highest wisdom. The principal 
pedagogical writers of the next generation followed the 
humanist's recommendations exactly. What do we read 
in Ascham, and in Ramus, and in Eliot, and in Melanch- 
thon, and in Vives, and in Starkey, 2 but variations 
upon the tune composed by the scholar of Rotterdam? 
What new matter did Milton, in the next century, have 
to recommend? Indeed, the humanistic reform of the 
sixteenth century formed the basis of all education until 
the latter part of the nineteenth, when living languages 
and new sciences began to take the place of the classics. 
Nowadays the old authors so familiar to our fathers 
have become little more than ghosts of their former 
selves; and, like the shades seen by Odysseus in the 
underworld, they revive to life and warmth only when 
they drink blood that of the unappreciative youths 
and maidens still sacrificed to them in our schools. 

Venerate the classics though he did, there was a depth 
of servility in their adulation to which Erasmus would 
not descend. He never tired of ridiculing those pedants 
who would speak nothing but the purest Ciceronian 
style. In the Folly he told of a preacher whose art 
completely swamped his matter. Elsewhere 3 he satirized 
those who spoke of Christ the Redeemer of the world as 

*LB. v, 1337; Lond. xxix, 65. December 25, 1524. 

2 T. Starkey: A Dialogue between Cardinal Pole and Thomas Lupstt, ed. 
J. M. Couper, 1878, p. 210 ff. An imaginary dialogue written in the time of 
Henry VIII. 

3 Letter to Francis Vergera, professor of Greek at Alcala, October 13, 1527; 
Lond. xx, 15; LB. ep. 899. Similar expressions in a letter to Maldonato, 
March 30, 1527. Revut Hispanique, xvii, 1907, p. 530. 


"Jupiter optimus maximus," and of the Apostles as 
"conscript fathers/' as well as those who preferred Ponta- 
nus to Augustine and Jerome, and who placed the elo- 
quence of Cicero above that of Jesus. That Erasmus's 
satire did not overshoot the mark is proved by the 
letters written by the papal secretary Bembo, in which, 
in order to avoid neologisms, he refers to Christ as 
"Minerva sprung from the head of Jove," and to the 
Holy Ghost as "the breath of the celestial zephyr/' 1 

Erasmus not only declared that he would prefer Christ 
to ten Ciceros, but he asserted that even were he able to 
attain Tully's style he should prefer one more solid, more 
concise, more nervous, less finished, and more masculine. 2 
In thus deprecating the idolatry of the humanists' demi- 
god, he had the example of Valla, who, with his usual 
independence, preferred Quintilian. 3 With the purpose 
of urging his ideas still further Erasmus published, in 
February, 1528, a dialogue called the Ciceronianusf at 
first incorporated with the Colloquies, but later printed 
in separate form. This lively work, written, as Gibbon 
says, with the same humor as Pascal's Lettres Provinciates, 
satirizes the pedants who, "by a wave of the Ciceronian 
wand, call up a land of make-believe, full of senates and 
consuls, colonies and allies, Quirites and Caesars/' and 
defends, as the subtitle indicates, a better method of 
writing Latin. The interlocutors are Nosoponus the 
"Morbid Toiler" for style, Bulephorus the "Counsellor," 
and Hypologus the "Arbiter." Nosoponus is the perfect 
Ciceronian, who boasts that "for seven years he has 
touched nothing except Ciceronian books, refraining 
from others as religiously as the Carthusians refrain from 

1 Kurtz: History of the Church, English translation, i, 503. 

f ln the letter to Vergera, Lond. xx, 15; LB. ep. 899. 

3 On Petrarch's idolatry of Cicero see Robinson and Rolfe: Petrarch, 1914, 

4 LB. V97I. Dedicated to J. Vlatten, February 2, 1528. Translated by 
Izora Scott, with an introduction by Paul Monroe, 1908. A critical text has 
been edited by J. C. Schonberger Augsburg, 1919; a commentary is expected 
from the same. 


flesh, lest somewhere in his writings some foreign phrase 
should creep in and dull, as it were, the splendor of 
Ciceronian speech." Drawn out by the ironical sympathy 
of his companions, he then tells how^with enormous 
labor, he has compiled three lexicons, in one of which 
he has set down all the words used by Cicero, in another 
all his phrases, and in a third all the metrical ^feet used 
by him in beginning or ending a period. So rigorous is 
his standard that he will employ only those forms^ of 
inflection found in Tully; thus, if amo is used by him, 
but not amamus y the former is taken and the latter left. 
Bulephorus, then abandoning his pretense of agree- 
ment, and adopting the Socratic method, forces from 
Nosoponus the admission that in particular points and 
manners other writers are superior to Cicero. His 
advice, therefore, for the cultivation of style, is to follow 
the example of the painter Zeuxis, who, when he made a 
picture of Helen, did not use as a model the most beautiful 
woman, but chose what was most comely from several 
women. Thus, if we imitate Cicero in part, we can also 
learn much from the other great writers of Latin prose. 
Furthermore, it is impossible for us to speak in Cicero's 
vocabulary of things of which he knew nothing, and the 
attempt to do so lands us in absurdity. Why should we 
call God "Jove," Christ "Apollo," the Virgin " Diana," the 
college of cardinals "conscript fathers/' an oecumenical 
council "the Senate and People of the Christian Republic," 
and adopt other awkward circumlocutions for such words 
as baptism, eucharist, excommunication, and apostles ? In 
fine, continues Bulephorus, as present conditions differ 
widely in religion, government, laws, customs, occupa- 
tions, and in the habits of men's minds, it is absurd to 
try to compress them all into the compass of an outworn 
speech. Bulephorus then passes in review all the great 
humanists, from the time of Petrarch, to whom he 
credits the reflowering of eloquence, and shows that none 
of them are truly Ciceronian; not Biondo nor Boccaccio 
nor Filelfo nor Pico della Mirandola in Italy, not Bude 


nor Lefevre d'fitaples nor Jean de Pins in France, not 
Erasmus nor Melanchthon in Germany, nor any of the 
English scholars. There is, indeed, one, Christopher de 
Longueil, who might claim the title of Ciceronian, for 
even in writing against Luther he avoided the word 
"fides" in the sense of Christian faith, and used 
*'persuasio" instead. 

That the sensible advice on style tendered in this 
Dialogue was much needed is proved by the storm it 
raised. Men who had in sober earnest advised aspiring 
stylists to read nothing but Cicero for two years on end 
could not but wince; 1 and, though Erasmus had paid 
many compliments to his contemporaries while passing 
their writings in review, certain Frenchmen were deeply 
incensed by his ridicule of Longueil, 2 and by his mention- 
ing, in the same breath and as if on the same level, the 
great scholar Bude and the printer Badius. Some Ital- 
ians, too, who saw Bembo in Nosoponus, dubbed Erasmus 
"Porrophagus" on account of his frequent use of the 
word "porro," and otherwise ridiculed his style. 3 

The attack was formally opened by an Italian physi- 
cian at Agen on the Garonne, known to letters as Julius 
Gaesar Scaliger. He had been born, in 1484, at Riva on 
the Lago di Garda, and was convinced that he sprang 
from the family of Delia Scala, lords of Verona. "What 
is more ancient/' he boasts, "more famous, greater, more 
glorious, than the race of Scaliger, which in antiquity 
surpasses all the Theban offspring of the dragon's teeth, 
all the Arcadians, though called 'older than the moon/ 
the Athenian autochthones, the Latin aborigines in fact, 
all fable and all memory?" 4 He says he had been a 

1 Vives describes such persons to Erasmus, October i, 1523; Fivis Opera 
1792, vii, p. no; LB, ep. 990, 

a E. Rodocanachi: Rome au Temps de Jules II et de Uon X, 1912, p. 134, on 
Longueil, quoting his letters. Longueil had died in 1522. 

3 R. C. Christie: fiticnne Dolet, 1899, p. 197. 

4 / C Scaligeri Epistolec y Toulouse, 1620, ep, 13, to Ferron. On Scaliger 
further see J, E. Sandys; History of Classical Scholarship^ ii, 1908, p, 177; 
Mark Pattison, Essays, i, 1889, pp. 132 ff. 


soldier, present at five pitched battles, and distinguish- 
ing himself with a valor and generalship unsurpassed 
though the details he gives of these battles are sometimes 
contradicted by authentic histories. When he came to 
Agen in 1526 he was still unaccountably obscure; but, 
burning to distinguish himself in letters, he saw the 
chance to do so when he read the Dialogue of Erasmus. 
Borrowing it from his friend, L. Claudius, in I529, 1 he 
answered it in three days, and at once sent off several 
manuscript copies to the various colleges of the Uni- 
versity of Paris. Though it was dedicated, in flattering 
terms, to those "Excellent Youths/' as to the defenders 
of letters and of the Gallic name, both of which, the writer 
avers, had been trampled upon by Erasmus, it was not 
received by them with the least favor. Some of the stu- 
dents at the College of Navarre 2 stole the copies, and 
others, the author asserts, plotted to murder him. A copy, 
he says, was sent to Erasmus, who forthwith wrote to his 
friends at Paris begging them by all that was sacred not 
to let the work be published. In reality, Scaliger thinks, 
Erasmus should have been grateful to him for calling 
the old man back to reason. 3 After much delay, the work 
was published with the help of Beda, 4 and appeared with a 
preface dated March 15, 1531, falsely asserting, in order to 
excuse the lateness of the answer, that the author had re- 
ceived the Ciceronian Dialogue only six months previously. 5 
The orator takes the position that Erasmus had 
assailed not only Cicero's style, but his character and 
ability/ as well as the French and Italian nations. To the 

1 Scaligeri epistolcs, ep. n, to Sevinus, December 13, 1529. 

2 Scaligri epistoles, no. I ff. 

8 Scaligeri pistol&, No. 12, to A. Ferron, February 5 (1532?). 

4 Scaligeri Epistola, No. 9, to Beda. 

5 J. C. Scaligeri Pro M. Tullio Cicerone, contra Desid. Erasmum JK.oUro- 
damum, Oratio 1 . 1531. I use the edition of Toulouse, 1620. 

6 The same charge was brought by Dr. Samuel Johnson, who, on July 20, 
1784, wrote of the Ciceronianus: "My affection and understanding went 
along with Erasmus, except that once or twice he somewhat unskilfully 
entangles Cicero's civil or moral, with his rhetorical character." Boswdl's 
Lije of Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill, 1887, iv, 353. 


former attack he replies by a comprehensive vindication 
of the Roman statesman; to the latter, though he antic- 
ipates Burke in remarking that "one cannot draw an 
indictment against whole nations/' 1 by animadverting 
upon the drunkenness of the Germans. The bulk of 
the oration, however, consists in abuse of his opponent, 
whom he calls a parricide and a parasite, a drunkard and 
a literary hack. After having left the cloister because 
tired of the religious life, Erasmus is said to have wan- 
dered from town to town, getting his living by mean 
occupations and by begging, and to have settled at the 
Aldine Academy in Venice, whence he had issued that 
collection of Adages which had first given him a name, 
though it was stolen from the works of other men. 

It was probably this innuendo about his life at Venice 
that convinced Erasmus that the name Scaliger was 
fictitious and that his assailant was really Aleander, 
whose style he thought he recognized, as well as he 
knew his face. 2 When he wrote to reproach him for the 
attack, 3 Aleander replied in no less than four letters, deny- 
ing the charge, expressing the highest regard for his old 
friend, and begging for a reconciliation. 4 But Erasmus, 
who had previously smarted under the treachery of the 
Italian nuncio, refused to be convinced either by his 
protestations 5 or by the following letter from Francis 
Rabelais, 6 then an unknown proof-reader at Lyons: 

I recently learned from Hilaire Bertulph, with whom I am here 
very intimate, that you are planning something or other against the 

1 "Nihil in nationes integras invehendum," p. 9. 

* " Ego illic phrasim Aleandri non minus agnosco quam novi Faciem," to 
Choler, Horawitz, Erasmiana > i, 18, November i, 1531. Cf. also his letters to 
Tomicki, February 4, 1532, Miaskowski; Erasmiana, No. 22; to Amerbach, 
November 29, 153 1, Erasmi Epistolts ad Bon. Amerbachium, No. 70. 

3 Lammer: Monumenta Vatic 'ana, 1861, p. 99. 

4 Two of April i, 1532, one of July 4th, and one of July 5th, all published by 
J. Paquier: "foasme et Aleandre," Melanges d* Archeologie ft d'histoire 
publics par I'ecole fr an$ aise a Rome, 1895, pp. 351 ff. Cf. Aleander to Sanga. 
January 28, 1532, H. Lammer: Monumenta Vaticana^ 1861, p. 99. 

5 To Viglius van Zuichem, LB. App. ep. 370. 

6 Forstemann und Gimther, ep. 182. November 30, 1532. 

3 i 4 ERASMUS 

calumnies of Jerome Aleander, whom you suspect of having written 
against you under the fictitious name of Scaliger. I will not allow 
you to doubt longer and to be deceived by this suspicion. For Scaliger 
himself is an Italian exile from Verona, of the exiled family of Delia 
Scala, and now he is a physician at Agen, and a man well known to 
me. By Zeus, he has no good reputation. Pie is, therefore, that slanderer, 1 
as shall appear shortly. He is not unskillful in the healing art, but for 
the rest he is altogether such an atheist as no one else ever was. I have 
not yet happened to see his book, nor has any copy of it been brought 
hither for many months, so that I think it has been suppressed by 
your well-wishers at Paris. 

Erasmus wisely decided to treat the attack with silent 
contempt, nor was he stirred to reply by the further 
book against the Ciceronianus written by Etienne Dolet, 
a gifted printer and humanist of Lyons, later put to 
death as an atheist. This Dialogue concerning the Imita- 
tion of Cicero in defense of Christopher de Longueil against 
Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam appeared early in I53S- 2 
In form it is an imaginary conversation between Sir 
Thomas More and Simon de Villeneuve, and it contains a 
good deal of rancorous abuse of the "old buffoon and tooth- 
less drybones," Erasmus. The man attacked was inclined 
to suspect that this, too, was written either by Aleander 
or by some one whom he had suborned to do it. 3 How- 
ever, as he wrote his friends, Merbelius and Laurentius: 4 

I think it best to ignore the absurdities of these youths, whose 
violence tends to destroy learning as that of the heretics subverts 
religion; for their praises make the humanities inhumanities, and the 
Muses Furies. The book which you sent me I received some years 
ago. In it I see nothing pertaining to me. If they make me the 
enemy of Cicero they err as widely as possible. Now they say that 
at Lyons fitienne Dolet has published a sour book against me. . . . 
Julius Caesar Scaliger has published at Paris an oration against me 
stuffed with the most impudent lies and the most furious reviling, 
although I am sure from many certain arguments that he is not the 
author of it. ... I have no desire to strive with such enemies, 
nor do 1 think it expedient, and I hope you will also not answer them. 
They seek antagonists. 

The italicized passage in Greek. 
2 Christie, op. cit. 9 pp. 204 if. 
8 LB. ep. 1299. 
4 LB. ep. 1278, March 18, 1535. 


Scaliger, who had been trying to get a friend to recon- 
cile him to Erasmus/ stung by this letter, which was sent 
him by its recipients, immediately composed a second 
oration, which appeared in the winter of 1536-37, after 
the death of his enemy. 2 His abuse and vainglorious 
boasting are more outrageous than ever. While he him- 
self is "the flower of the Italian nobility/* his antagonist 
is a drunkard, and was a pedagogue at the court of Philip 
of Burgundy, and one who had ransacked the Italian 
libraries, as a perfidious plagiarist, to steal their treas- 
ures for his own books. This Scaliger avers that he has 
learned on the authority of John Jucundus 3 and Jerome 
Dominius, who had been his tutors in youth. 

The opinion of the learned world was alienated by 
these savage attacks on an old and distinguished man. 
Scaliger himself later confessed that some people, for 
their love of his enemy, would have none of his books in 
their libraries. 4 Far from making common cause with 
Dolet, he was furious at the man who had dared to write 
on the same subject that he had chosen for his own, and 
falsely accused Dolet of having stolen all his arguments 
from the oration. John Maurisotus, a physician of Dole 
in Burgundy, wrote a belated Defense of Cicero against 
His Calumniators , 5 but German opinion was favorable to 
the great humanist. Melanchthon wrote to Camerarius: 6 

I have seen Dolet's book and am thinking of instructing some one 
to reply to it. Erasmus, indeed, is not altogether undeserving of this 
Nemesis which has come upon him, but the impudence of this young 
man displeases me. 

1 To James OmphaKus, Agen, May 4, 1536, Scaligeri epistol& t No. 17. 

2 /, C. Scaligeri Oratio //, 1536. I use the edition of Toulouse, 1620. 

3 On Giovanni Giocondo, see Sandys, ii, index. 

4 Epistolts Scaligeri, p. 78* *' Fragmenta Pnefationis J, C. Scaligeri in 
Aristotelis Historiam de Animalibus." Joseph Scaliger, the scholar, son of 
Julius Caesar, said that his father was later sorry for having written against 
Erasmus. He, Joseph, tried to suppress his father's letters against Erasmus. 
Scaligerana, 1695, p. 140. 

6 J. Maurisoti: Libettus de ParechremaU contra Ciceronis calumniatores, 
1550; on which cf. A, Bomer; " Aus dem Kampf gegen die Coiioquia Familiaria 
des Erasmus," Archiv fur Kulturgeschichte, ix. 

6 Quoted by Christie, p. 211. 


Carnerarius had already expressed his own opinion in 
a letter to his friend, Sigismund Gelenius, 1 as follows : 

I learn that Erasmus has returned to you. I wish him a quiet 
resting-place at last, as his age and laborious life deserve. They say 
he has been most unworthily attacked by some Frenchman, by whom 
all his writings are not only rejected, but trampled underfoot on 
account of his Ciceronianus. They say that the Frenchman exults in 
the ardor of youth, but our Erasmus is languid with age. Wherefore 
I often think of Homer's verse: 'Old man, how sorely do the young 
warriors harass you!' 

The opinion of those who would see the good in both 
sides like the tertium quid in Browning's The Ring and 
the Book was expressed by Roger Ascham in these 
words: 2 

Erasmus, being occupied more In spying other men's faults than 
in declaring his own advice, is mistaken of many, , . . He and 
Longolius only differed in this, that the one seemed to give overmuch, 
the other overlittle to him [Cicero] whom they both loved best. 

"Those who can, do/' says Bernard Shaw, "those who 
can't, teach." This cutting epigram was not true of 
Erasmus. If he spent his life largely in teaching the art 
of writing, he was himself one of the greatest masters of 
that art. As he never sought, so he naturally never 
attained, the distinctive beauty of the classics: that 
perfect adaptation of language to thought, that su- 
preme artistry which, sometimes by apparently simple 
means, sometimes by perceptible elaboration, unfailingly 
achieved the desired and definite effect. Those who at- 
tempted imitation and nothing more fell into an arid, 
stilted pedantry, alike fatal to all freshness of thought 
and to all true beauty of form. 

But Erasmus, having imbibed, as had few others even 
in that age of idolatry of the classics, the spirit of the 
ancients, finally attained a mastery of style at once 
original and attractive. That Latin was hardly a dead 

1 Joachimi Camerarii Epistola* 1583, dated " 1531." 

2 R. Ascham: The Schoolmaster, 1563, Ascham's English Works^ 1761, p. 305. 


language, but one very much alive both in the mouths and 
on the quills of scholars, is proved by the perfectly living 
treatment of the medium by this great master. The very 
fact that the tongue he wrote was not exactly that of 
ancient Rome, that it was enriched when necessary with 
new words, and that it did not even precisely follow the 
classical usage in the more intricate sequences of moods 
and tenses, proves not that the writer was careless or 
ignorant, but that he had a different feeling for the value 
of words, due to an evolution in human thought itself 
and, within the narrow limits set by his own taste, per- 
fectly legitimate. Thomas More was occasionally slov- 
enly and obscure, Colet now and then ungrammatical; 
Luther, a great wielder of his own tongue, was anything 
but Hellenic or Roman in his thought and manner. 
But Erasmus, mastering his medium and not mastered 
by it, fitted modern thoughts into an ancient speech with 
the ease of a born artist. 

Great care, infinite pains, went to the final result. 
When Erasmus blames "the vice of his nature" for 
undue haste in precipitating his thoughts, 1 he does him- 
self an injustice. If he wrote rapidly at last, it is because 
he had toiled painfully at first. His own text-books on 
composition show the infinite pains he took to acquire 
a style. Like other masters of language Pater and 
Landor, for example he emphasizes particularly the 
selection of vocabulary. The words chosen should be 
apt, elegant, idiomatic, and pure, and like dress should 
be appropriate to the subject adorned. An unfit style 
is as awkward as a woman's dress on a man. Mean, 
unusual, poetic, new, obsolete, foreign, and obscene 
words should be avoided. 2 

1 "Qmnia nostra fere praecipitamus; hoc est naturae meae vitium. 1 ' To 
Maldonato, March 30, 1527. Revue Hispamque, xvii, 1907, p. 545. P. S. Allen 
notes the speed with which he wrote his letters, compared with the laborious 
composition evinced in the epistles of his correspondents. See Allen's lecture 
on Erasmus, delivered for the Genootschap Nederland-Engeland, 1922, 
p. 16. 

* De rations studil, LB., i, 517 ff. 


But Erasmus inculcated and practised other excellen- 
cies than this. Variety of construction is emphasized and 
rules given for the proper uses of the copious, and of the 
concise, manner. But the secret of his own charm is 
something more elusive and personal than any style 
acquired by mere study and rote could be. Like all 
great masters of speech, he invested everything he said 
with a peculiar and appropriate pungency. By whetting 
his words to a keen edge, he attained delicate polish and 
glow of supple beauty. One of the more external and 
striking elements of his style was the habitual moder- 
ation of his statement; the careful guarding against all 
glares of affirmation or denial. Is a reading in the New 
Testament ambiguous? No; it is only "slightly am- 
biguous 5 ' (nonnihil ambigo). Does Erasmus reject an 
argument? Far be such brutal positiveness from him; 
he "begins to have a glimmering of doubt" (subdubitare 
coepi). Erasmus thought that Luther wrote excellently 
well, but all he chooses to assert is that the professor's 
books are "rather more like Latin than the average" 
(sermo paulo latinior). Double negatives tone down an 
otherwise too conspicuous assertion. Except when he 
is writing to patrons for expected gifts, Erasmus speaks 
of his friends as "persons not altogether unknown to 
me." Diminutives play their part is qualifying the 
brutal shock of things; the writer's person is usually his 
"poor little body" (corpusculum). 

But even as we grasp and press the style, its secret 
eludes us;, the beauty of Erasmus's writings is something 
more subtle, more difficult, than can be readily indicated 
by rough analysis. Now and then there is a rapier thrust 
of perfect epigram; a stab, planted like a wasp's sting, 
infallibly on the nerve ganglion of the chosen victim. 
Still more perfect in its way is the repressed irony of the 
author, never more effective than when most latent, the 
dry wit that held up to scorn or ridicule an institution or 
a person, apparently by a simple, matter-of-fact narra- 
tive without an abusive, or vulnerable, word in it. It 


was this that made the persons attacked so furious; they 
felt that they were being stripped naked and pilloried, 
while they could not find any weapon of defense. A 
candid, almost naive description of a pilgrimage or of 
an inquisitor makes the reader wonder how anything so 
silly or so malignant was ever allowed to exist, but what 
was there in it all tangible enough to strike? A critic, 
after reading Anatole France's lie des Pengouins^ a satire 
much in the Erasmian manner, said that there was 
nothing left to do but to commit suicide. When the 
monks read the Folly and the Colloquies they felt there 
was no appropriate comment but to murder the author. 



THE importance of Erasmus's biography lies not 
only in his contributions to the beauty and wisdom 
of the world, but also in his representative function. In 
his own person he went through exactly the same evolu- 
tion as did the Renaissance in the whole of western 
Europe, that of being at first the preparer, then the 
moderate supporter, and finally the enemy, of the 
Reformation. What was the cause of this process? The 
problem is one of the deepest in history, one of the most 
studied, and one in which there is least agreement. The 
answer here proposed is as follows : 

Hitherto undue emphasis has been placed upon the 
Renaissance and Reformation in the history of the 
period of transition from mediaeval to modern times. 
These movements have, together with politics and ex- 
ploration, occupied almost the whole field of the his- 
tory of the time. But contemporary with them there 
was taking place an equally important economic revolu- 
tion, the change from gild production to capitalism. 
And outside of both there was a change in life perhaps 
most important of all made by the new discoveries: 
printing, glass lenses, gunpowder, the compass, and in 
the field of pure knowledge the Copernican hypothesis, 
and the lesser, but still important, achievements in 
mathematics and in natural science of Leonardo, Cardan, 
Servetus, Stevins, and Gesner. These are sometimes 
included in the Renaissance, but it would conduce to 
clarity of thought could that name be restricted, as it often 
is, to the literary and artistic revival of the classic spirit. 

So much must be said, in order to put the Renaissance 



and Reformation In their proper perspective. When it 
is once grasped that they are, not absolutely but rela- 
tively, smaller than they commonly appear to be, it will 
be easier to see that they are fundamentally two different 
branches of the same movement. Many writers, espe- 
cially since Nietzsche, have regarded the Reformation 
as totally different from the Renaissance, a reaction 
against it and not a development of it. 1 But, according 
to the view here presented, this is an error, and the 
older opinion, common in the eighteenth and early nine- 
teenth centuries, that the two movements were nearly 
allied, is more correct. 

No one can deny the striking similarity between the 
two. Both were animated by a desire for a return to 
antiquity, a nostalgia for the golden age of both pagan 
Rome and of Christianity. Both were revolts against 
the mediaeval scholasticism. Neither was primarily 
intellectual or rational; both were literary and emo- 
tional reactions against the pure but barren rationalism 
of Aquinas and Scotus. Both were children of a new 
individualism, whether expressed in the art of Titian or 
in the doctrine of justification by faith only. The con- 
trast sometimes drawn between their attitudes toward 
the things of this world and of the next is really unwar- 
ranted; both were reactions against the asceticism and 
other-worldliness of the Middle Ages. The Renaissance 
saw the cultural, the Reformation the ethical, value of 
wealth, industry, prosperity, and of woman; and both, 
in comparison with Catholicism, stressed the claims of 
this world rather than those of the next. Finally, both 
were children of the newly grown cities and of the 
bourgeois class, first brought to power in the state by 
the capitalistic revolution. 

Why then, being so closely akin, did the two move- 
ments finally come to so bitter an antagonism that both 
could hardly survive on the same soil ? It may be pointed 
out that the struggle itself is a proof of propinquity; one 

1 See my Age of the Reformation, pp. 730 ff 


cannot have a battle between a whale and elephant, nor 
can a firm dealing In shoes compete closely with one 
producing automobiles. The two fought because they 
were so near together; because both cultivated and both 
sought to dominate one sphere of human interest, the 
spiritual-mental for which we have no single word, but 
which the Germans call geistig. But perhaps the com- 
pound English word just used has its advantages, for 
it points out the difference in the ideals of the two move- 
ments, the one appealed primarily to the mental life ^of 
art and thought, the other primarily to the spiritual life 
of religion and morals. 

And this is the only difference, save one presently to 
be discussed, which can be pointed out. It is impossible 
to call one movement liberal and the other conservative. 
Luther's rejection 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 by its liberalism. If, in his general attitude, 
the Dutch scholar was more open-minded, in particular 
points the Saxon heresiarch was more advanced. Even 
those men of the Renaissance who rejected the Christian 
mysteries did so not primarily on rational grounds, but 
rather on the authority of the ancients. If Livy exalted 
the Roman religion because it was patriotic, Machiavelli 
drew the conclusion that it was preferable to Christianity; 
if Tacitus spoke of Christianity as a vile superstition, his 
editor, Poggio, implicitly followed his ipse dixit. Nor can 
we see a general rejection of superstition by the leaders 
of either Renaissance or Reformation. Sir Thomas More 
was convinced the miracles did happen at shrines and 
that devils existed, and Benvenuto Cellini saw devils, 
just as did Luther. Nor was Erasmus himself altogether 
free from these obsessions of his age. Like his con- 
temporaries, he hung votive offerings in churches, 1 and 
like them occasionally consulted astrologers. 2 He re- 

* LB, v., 1335. 
2 Allen, ep. 948. 


peated, without any clear indication that he disbelieved 
them, stories of witchcraft and of the direct intervention 
of devils in human affairs. However, notwithstanding 
these signs that Erasmus was a man of his age, there is 
much to show that he was more skeptical and enlight- 
ened than most of his contemporaries. In the Moria, 
in his letters, frequently in his Colloquies and in the 
epistle defending them, he ridicules such superstitions as 
alchemy, demonology, witchcraft, and spiritism. In his 
colloquy, "The Alchemist/ 3 he exposes the fraudulent 
practices of the magicians and the gullibility of the 
public. In the colloquy called "Exorcism of the Spec- 
ter," after describing several bogus apparitions, he adds: 
"Hitherto I have not given much credence to the cur- 
rent ghost-stories; hereafter I shall believe them still less/ 5 
Even in the letter to Anthony of Bergen, describing the 
doings of a wizard, he calls attention to the fact that 
witchcraft is a new crime, unknown to the civil and 
canon laws. 1 In summing up his position one may say 
that it is probable that Erasmus was skeptical of most 
current superstitions, without denying in principle the 
possibility of witchcraft or magic. It was much the 
position of Joseph Addison, who said: "I believe in 
general that there is and has been such a thing as 
witchcraft, but at the same time can give no credit to 
any particular instance of it." 2 Amiel and Froude go 
too far when they attribute to the humanist a complete 
and scoffing rationalism. Enough glory to him that in 
a superstitious age he effectively derided the cruel and 
the credulous. 

Returning from this digression to a consideration of 
the relations of Renaissance and Reformation, we can- 
not maintain that the former was as tolerant, nor 
the latter as intolerant as they are sometimes repre- 
sented. In the great and free fifteenth century, Jews 

1 Allen, ep 143. But there are some allusions to witchcraft in both laws. 
One section of the Decretum (c. 6, X) is headed "De frigidis et maleficiatis." 

2 Spectator, no. 117, July 14, 1711. 


and Moriscos, Hussites and Lollards, were sacrificed 
in holocausts; and there were some Reformers who 
stopped short of approving the execution of Servetus. 
Luther, in his first period, before he met with that 
hardest of all tests, complete success, was tolerant, 1 
and the limits of Erasmus's endurance of false opinion 
are clearly marked. His very plea against some persecu- 
tion "Who ever heard orthodox bishops incite kings 
to slaughter heretics who were nothing but heretics? 572 - 
indicates these limits, and still more clearly does a letter 
of uncertain, but late, date: "The Anabaptists are by 
no means to be tolerated. For the Apostles command 9 us 
to obey the magistrates, and these men object to obeying 
Christian princes." 3 

In addition to this difference of emphasis on the things 
of the spirit and the things of the mind, the only impor- 
tant contrast between Renaissance and Reformation is 
that the first was an aristocratic, the second a popular 
movement. The humanist sought to educate the classes; 
the Reformer to convert the masses. A corollary of this 
was that the former was international, the latter national. 
Erasmus's pacifism was based on a cosmopolitan culture 
that found any fatherland but the world too small; the 
intensification of nationalism following the Reformation 
was but the logical effect of the appeal to the patriotic 
peoples. The humanists spoke Latin, the Reformers 
the vernacular. 

If there is any truth in what has just been said, the 
deeper reasons for Erasmus's changing attitude toward 
the Reformation become apparent. Sharing its interests, 
approving most of its program, he at first educated the 
Reformers and then did his best, for the four years 
following the promulgation of the Theses, to get them a 
fair hearing. But, after his return to Basle in November, 
1521, he diverged more and more from them, and 

1 On Luther, The Age of the Reformation, pp. 643 ff. 
* LB. ix, 904 ff. Propositio III. 
8 Lond. xxx, 77. 


primarily for the two reasons just indicated; that his 
interests emphasized the cause of learning and theirs the 
cause of dogmatic religion, and because he both distrusted 
and feared a popular rebellion, evidently verging more 
and more toward violence. And once the breach was 
made and felt ever so slightly, it was widened by personal 
associations. Pulled by powerful friends toward Rome 
and pushed by the indiscreet and impertinent zeal of 
the innovators away from Wittenberg, it is almost sur- 
prising that for so long he tried to take, if not an openly 
approving, at least a neutral, position toward the 

The choice was hard for personal, as for public, con- 
siderations. Some of his best old friends Hutten, Jonas, 
Pirckheimer at first, Capito, CEcolampadius, and others 
hastened to enlist under the standard of the "gospel." 
Hatred, fear, and disgust at the actions of the "Phari- 
sees" of Louvain and throughout the cloisters of Europe 
almost outweighed his dread of religious revolution. 
"Should Luther go under," he well knew, "neither God 
nor man could longer endure the monks; nor can Luther 
perish without jeopardizing a great part of the pure 
gospel truth." 1 The reports sent to Wittenberg, there- 
fore, immediately after Erasmus's arrival in Basle, that 
he was working prudently to help the cause of truth, and 
that Luther and Melanchthon were much loved in that 
town, were not wholly without foundation. 2 

The enemies of the "Gospel" still regarded Erasmus 
as one of its chief supports. When he tried to get an 
imperial edict imposing silence on his detractors at 
Louvain, he was answered by one of the courtiers in a 
letter expressing doubts of the humanist's fidelity to the 
Church. 3 The emperor refused to do anything until he 
had some proof, such as a published work, showing that 

1 Erasmus to Spalatin, March 12, 1523; L. C. ep. 581. 
8 C. Pellican to Melanchthon, November 30, 1521. Melanchthoniana 
Padagogica, ed. K. Hartfelder, 1892, p, 19. 
8 Guido Morillon to Erasmus (before March 20), 1522, Enthoven, ep. 15, 


Erasmus was really hostile to Luther. 1 One of his friends 
attended a dinner given by King Louis of Hungary and 
his wife, the emperor's sister Mary, at which it was 
plainly said that the heretic had taken everything from 
the humanist. 2 In long letters to powerful friends 3 
Erasmus did his best to clear himself of suspicion, pro- 
testing that rumors of his infidelity emanated from 
Aleander and the Dominicans of Louvain, that he had 
always said, even to Luther's patrons, the Elector 
Frederic, the King of Denmark, and the Captain of the 
Bohemians, 4 that the Wittenberger was wrong in many 
things. Moreover, he wrote, the Lutherans threatened 
him with spiteful pamphlets. He might have made ^ a 
great deal had he taken sides for Luther, seeing that in 
Switzerland there were more than a hundred thousand 
men who hated the papacy and approved the rebel against 
it. 5 One bit of special evidence, indeed, tending to show 
that Erasmus was inwardly true to the Church at this 
time, is to be found in a thoroughly orthodox liturgy 
prepared for the press by him in 1523, though withheld 
from publication until two years later 6 

When, in January, 1522, Erasmus's old friend Adrian 
of Utrecht was raised to the tiara to succeed the recently 
defunct Leo, the humanist regarded the event as by no 
means auspiciou,* for the future peace of the Church. 
For, while Adrian was a sincere and moral man, eager 
to put down corruption at Rome, he had already taken 
sides with much energy against Luther, and he was 
known as a mere schoolman, untouched by polite learn- 

1 Haloin to Erasmus, March 31, 1522. Forstemann-Giinther, ep. 6. 

z PIso to Erasmus (after May 7, 1522), Forstemann-Giinther, ep. 7. 

8 To Fisher, Jortin: Life of Erasmus, Hi, 184. To Wolsey, March 7, 1522, 
partly published by A. Meyer: rasmt et Luther, p. 163 f. Abstract in Letters 
and Papers of Henry Fill, iii, no. 2090. L. C. no. 53 1. 

4 Artlebus von Boskowitz of Znaim, Supreme Captain of Moravia, who had 
urged Erasmus to join Luther. 

8 Erasmus to Jodocus, president of the Town Council of Malines, July 14, 
1522. LB. ep. 629. 

6 J, Zellen "Die Laurentanische Liturgie," Theologiscke Quartalschrift, xc, 


ing. 1 The humanist, however, judging it expedient to 
be on good terms with the powers, dedicated an edition 
of Arnobius to the new pontiff, 2 and wrote him a letter 
excusing his migration to Basle. 3 The pope replied, on 
December i, 1522, and again on January 23, IS23, 4 
requesting his correspondent to come to Rome and to 
write against Luther. The first of these breves was 
drafted by Aleander; the original concept is extant and 
is most interesting for the fact that in it there is more 
praise for Erasmus and more denunciation of the 
Lutherans than in the final form. 5 In his reply the 
scholar of Rotterdam promised to do what he could for 
the Church, but excused himself from going to Rome on 
account of his health. Together with complaints of the 
odium excited against himself by the Lutherans he 
inserted a plea for gentle means on the part of the 
ecclesiastical authorities, remarking that the Wyclifites 
in England were rather pressed gradually out of exist- 
ence than driven by force and slaughter. 6 This advice 
the author himself felt would do little good against the 
opposite advice of Eck and the extremists. 7 

Adrian VI, however, did not give up hopes of employ- 
ing so powerful a pen in the service of the Church. He 
deputed his nuncio in Switzerland, Ennio Filonardo, 
whom Erasmus had met at Constance in September, 
1522, to ask the humanist to draw up a memorial on the 
quickest way to extirpate the new sect. 8 The request, 
however, called forth only an elaborate excuse for not 

1 So Erasmus wrote Fisher, 1522. Jortin, iii, 184. Letters and Papers of 
Henry Fill, iii, no. 2731. 

2 Lond. xxviii, 9; LB. ep. 633. August I, 1522. 

8 December 22, 1522. LB. ep. 641. 

4 Lond. xxiii, 3, 4; LB. epp. 639, 648. On December I3th Hannibal wrote 
Wolsey: "His Holiness has sent for Erasmus under a fair color by his brief, 
and if he come not I think the pope will not be content." Letters and Papers 
of Henry VII '1 \ iii, no. 2614. 

6 J. Paquier: Jerome Aleandre, 1900, pp. 290 fF. 

6 Undated letter, Lond. xviii, 20; LB. ep. 649. 

7 So he wrote Pirckheimer, July 19, 1523 (not 1522), LB, ep. 631. 

8 Hartfelder, in Zeitsc hrift fur die GeschichU des Qberrheins, N, F. viii, 1893, 
p. 27. Zwinglii opera^ viii, 62, note 2. 


complying with it. 1 The Lutherans, it is stated, already 
hated "the poor scholar so fiercely that he would be 
compelled to leave Germany, though he knew not whither 
to flee, for in France there was war and England was 
disagreeable to him. To write against Luther would only 
excite new tumults; on the other hand, to write for him 
would be to make the heretics triumph and to exalt the 
author to. .a pinnacle as the god of Germany, for they 
regarded him as the only obstacle to victory. This 
letter Filonardo promised 2 to communicate to the pon- 
tiff, who, however, had died two days before it was 
written. On learning this Filonardo undertook to deliver 
the message to the next pope. 3 The same impression as 
that conveyed by the letter to Adrian was imparted by 
the writer to the Roman prelate Sylvester Prierias. To 
him the humanist declared that simply by doing nothing 
for the innovators he broke their strength more than did 
Aleander with all his frantic measures. "The Lutheran 
faction is not yet extinct/' he added. "Would that it 
were, for it ruins all our studies." 4 At the same time he 
wrote to the powerful Cardinal Campeggio, protesting 
that he was not a Lutheran, even though, as he proved 
by inclosing an autograph letter from the Saxon here- 
siarch, the latter claimed him as a follower. 5 

But even while he declined to compromise himself by 
writing the memorial asked for by Adrian and issuing it 
under his own name, he probably had much to do with 
a tract called Scrutinium divintz scripture pro concil- 
iations dissentium dogmatum, edited at just this time 
by Conrad Pellican. Not only has the introductory 
epistle, signed by Pellican, been attributed to Erasmus, 

1 Erasmus to a Roman Prelate, September 16, 1523. Nolhac: frame en 
Italic 1888, no. 9, p. 112. The addressee is plainly Filonardo, who wrote the 
letters published in Forstemann-Gtmther, nos. 17, 18, 23, 24. 

2 September 23, 1523. Forstemann-Giinther, ep. 17. 
8 October 22, 1.523. Ibid, ep. 18. 

LB. ep. 664. 

B P. Balan: Monumenta Reformationis Lutheran^ 1884, p. 305. Either 
Luther's first letter, or one not now extant, must be meant. 


but the main part of the work, published under the 
name of the Franciscan Satzger, shows strong traces 
cf the humanist's collaboration. This irenic recom- 
mended moderation and conferences, and endeavored 
to show that all differences might be reduced to 
mere misunderstandings. The pamphlet did not have 
much success, for Luther judged it a foolish attempt 
to reconcile God and Belial, the Bible and the 
"sophists." 1 

From other quarters the humanist was constantly 
urged to take up arms in the cause of the Church. Duke 
George of Albertine Saxony, after hearing the Leipzig 
Debate, had turned his face decisively against the inno- 
vators of Wittenberg. The humanist had already been 
in communication with him through his dedication of 
Suetonius, and there had even been some talk of his 
taking a position at the University of Leipzig. Six 
months after his arrival at Basle Erasmus had written 
explaining the causes of his migration, 2 and bewailing 
his illnesses and the woes of the time. The duke's 
answer, accompanied by two books of Luther sent for 
the purpose of refutation, has been lost. Erasmus 
thanked him for the books, but remarked that he could 
not read anything in German. 3 He excused himself for 
not writing against a man who had begun to preach 
with the applause of all, and expressed fear that if he 
were crushed abuses might again become rife. He was 
of the opinion that silence was the best remedy and 
moreover that it was foolish to provoke those who 
could not be conquered. The duke received this re- 
sponse and other similar ones with great coolness. 4 

1 K. Zickendraht: "Eine anonyme Kundgebung des Erasmus, 1522, im 
Lichte seiner Stellung zur Reformation," Zritsch. f. Kirchengeschichte, xxix, 
22 ff, 1908. Enders, no. 638. 

2 May 25, 1522. Horawitz: Erasmiana t i, no. 39. 

3 Gess: Akten und Brief e zur Kirchenpolitik Herzog Georges von Sachsen, i, 
1904, ep. 371; LB. ep. 635. L. C. ep. 555. 

4 Erasmus wrote him again December 5th, fearing his letter of September 3d 
was lost (Horawitz, I, 40; Gcss, 408); the duke replied it was not lost, but he 


We do not know what were the books sent by George. 
Erasmus mentions reading with disapproval the Latin 
De Abroganda Missa, (published 1522) and of hearing of 
other works of a Hussite nature. 1 One work which he 
read and thoroughly liked was the Tesseradecas* (pub- 
lished 1520) a book of spiritual comfort. Indeed, even 
in 1523 he seems to have been not unfavorable to the 
Wittenberg reformer. To Peter Barbier, at that time 
chaplain of Adrian VI, he wrote on April 17, 1523 : 8 
would that Luther's charges against the tyranny, base- 
ness, and avarice of the Curia were not true; and to 
Christopher, Bishop of Basle, he expressed the hope 
that the Reformer might yet be recalled to the ways of 
peace. 2 

Even while he was writing this Erasmus was much 
Irritated by letters of Luther disparaging him. 4 Hoping 
still to restrain him he wrote Spalatin, on March 12, 
1523 : 5 

I have never ventured to judge Luther's spirit, but I have often 
feared that the appearance of so much arrogance and vituperation 
would injure the cause of the Gospel, now happily reviving. . . . 
Would to God that he were gentler! 

Erasmus could not fail to be influenced by the course 
events were taking. While Luther was absent at the 
Wartburg the reforms he had started were carried on at 
Wittenberg with increased rapidity by Zwilling, Carl- 
stadt, and some men of Zwickau who called themselves 
the ** Heavenly Prophets/' Their innovations included 

now thought it no longer of any use to write him (Horawitz, 1, 41; Gess, No. 
441, L. C. ep. 571)* He wrote again, acknowledging the receipt of a lost letter, 
on May 21, 1524. (Gess, No. 662, L. C. ep. 626). 

1 To Laurinus, February i, 1523. Lond. xxiii, 6. L. B, ep. 650. 

z 1523. Lond. xxi, 8. LB. ep. 661. 

3 Lond, xxi, i. LB. ep. 653. 

4 J. Fevynus to F. Cranveld, Bruges, March 17, 1523. Prinsen: Gddsnhauers 
Collectanea, p. 74. Erasmus's "Dialogue" is here mentioned and also his 
resentment at a letter of Luther to a "canon of Erfurt." This is probably a 
mistake. One of the letters published under the title, " Judicium D. M. 
Lutheri de Erasmo," is meant, L. C. ep. 549, 

L. C ep. 581. 


not only religious reforms snch as the breaking of images 
in churches, the abolition of fasting, the marriage of the 
clergy, but a number of socialistic measures as well, and 
their method of carrying them through, by mob violence, 
was more objectionable than the reforms themselves. 
The movement spread from Wittenberg to other parts 
of Germany, and of it Erasmus expressed his disapproval 
in a long letter to Christopher, Bishop of Basle, dated 
Easter Monday (April 21), 1522, and published in the 
following November. 1 It was to oppose these fanatics 
that Luther returned to Wittenberg early in March, 
1522, and his success in restoring order won him a number 
of adherents throughout Germany and perhaps made 
Erasmus, too, think better of him. 

The peaceful scholar must also have been affected by 
the acts of the inquisitors in the Netherlands. Hoch- 
straten, the Dominican prosecutor of Cologne, con- 
demned his books during the summer of 1522 and 
Erasmus was advised of the fact in a letter by Capito, 
of August I7th, in which his friend solemnly warned him 
of the danger of trying to .keep the favor of both parties. 2 
A sterner warning came in the arrest of two acquaint- 
ances, Probst and Grapheus, who redeemed their lives 
only by a solemn recantation. 3 But the inquisitors, soon 
finding men of less pliable stuff, burned two of them at 
Brussels on July I, 1523. Erasmus read the published 
account of their fate, without being able to decide whether 
he ought to deplore it or not. Even if in substance they 
were right such was his idea they put themselves in 
the wrong by stirring up tumults. It is the manner that 
makes all the difference in the world. Indeed, he added 
confidentially, after comment on the auto~da~fe 9 "I 

1 Lond. xxxi, 43. Bibliotheca Erasmiana, i, p. 89. 

2 Forstemann and Gunther, No. 9. 

8 They were arrested in December, 1521, and recanted on February 9, 1522. 
Kostlin-Kawerau, i, p. 604. P. KalkofF: Die Anfange der Gegenreformation in 
den Niederlanden, ii, 1903, pp. 61-69. The recantation of Grapheus was 
described to Erasmus in a letter by A. Brugnarius, November 4, 1522, Forste- 
mann-Giinther, ep. 10. 


seem to myself to teach almost the same things as 
Luther, only without sedition and violence. 7 ' 1 

More than to any other one person Erasmus's final 
decision to break with the Reformation was due to 
Ulrich von Hutten, the brilliant but unstable Alcibiades 
hitherto sitting at the feet of the Dutch Socrates 2 in an 
attitude of worshipful respect. The character and fate 
of this wandering knight might make the subject of a 
Shakespearean tragedy, for the hero, not without a 
genuine spark of nobility in his turbulent nature, pre- 
cipitated himself through his own fault into an abyss of 
utter ruin. The ardor with which he apparently embraced 
Luther's cause spent itself in such futile ragings against 
the Romanists that they began to laugh at him as one 
whose bark was worse than his bite. 3 With savage fury 
he plotted with Sickingen to revenge himself by starting 
a holy war against priests and prelates throughout 
Germany. 4 The plan which, as Erasmus's friend Basil 
Amerbach remarked, was worthy of a Catiline, 5 matured 
early in 1522, when Sickingen attacked Treves, only to 
be defeated and mortally wounded in battle on May /th. 
When Hutten, with his friend Busch, wandered to Basle, 6 
on the way committing some highway robberies to relieve 
his desperate need of money, Erasmus refused to see 
him on the pretext that Hutten's health did not permit 

*The source Erasmus read was Historia de duobus Auguttiniensibus ob 
Evangelii doctrinam exustis, published at Brussels on July 10, 1523. See 
0. Clemen: Beitrdge zur Reformations gesckichu, 1900, i, 42. Erasmus's letter 
on the subject to Charles Utenhoven, July 1, 1529, Lond. xxiv, 4, LB. ep, 1060. 
To Zwingli, August 31, 1523, Zwinglii opera, ed, Egli, Finsler, und Kohler, 
viii, 114, 

2 Ante, p. 130 ff. 

8 Busch to Hutten, May 5, 1521. Hutteni Opera, ed. Booking, ii 62; L. C. 
ep. 472. 

4 On all this P. Kalkoff: Ulrich von Hutten und die Reformation, 1920. 

6 C. Burckhardt-Biedermann: Bonifacius Amerbach und die Reformation, 
1894, pp. 149, 158 

6 He was at Basle on November 28, 1522, cf. Zwinglis Werke, ed. Egli, 
Finsler und Kohler, vii, 622, and Burckhardt-Biedermann, loc. cit. Erasmus 
had allowed his praise of Hutten to stand in the edition of the New Testament 
of 1522, in a note to i Thes. i: 2, p. 516. Cf. "Catalogue of Lucubrations, 11 
Allen, i, p. 27. 


him to go anywhere without a stove, whereas his own 
maladies would not suffer him to be in the same room 
with one. 1 Notwithstanding the polite form in which 
he couched his refusal, the insulted gentlemen resolved 
to revenge themselves. Busch announced his intention 
of writing against the humanist, 2 and Hutten actually 
did so, after trying to blackmail the man attacked into 
buying his manuscript. 3 Though his friends wished to 
do this, Erasmus refused and Hutten's pamphlet, under 
the title of An Expostulation, was accordingly sent to the 
press. In the meantime the aggrieved scholar had 
applied to the Town Council of Basle protesting against 
his enemy's continued presence in the town and the 
swashbuckler was accordingly expelled in the middle of 
January, 1523.* Fleeing first to Miilhausen and then to 
Zurich, he found an asylum with Zwingli. His ran- 
cor had found ample expression in his Expostulation? 
which rates Erasmus for duplicity and cowardice, under- 
taking to show that while he secretly approved all the 
principles of the Reformation he was afraid to say so. 
Gradually, it was said, his attacks on Aleander, Hoch- 
straten, and the rest had changed first into apology and 
then into flattery. Anything would be better than 
eternal vacillation; rather an open enemy than a false 

The savage attack cut Erasmus to the quick. Never, 
he wrote to a friend, would he have believed that there 
could be so much inhumanity, impudence, vanity, and 
virulence in one book as there was in the Expostulation, 
and that written by one whom he had so often praised! 6 
Just as peace seemed about to come, he elsewhere com- 

1 Spongia, LB. x, 1631 ff. Erasmus to Hutten, March 25, 1523 (not 1524) 
Lond. xxvii, 3; LB. ep. 672. 

2 Luther to Spalatin, March I, 1523, Enders, Iv. p. 91; Erasmus to Pirck- 
heimer, August 29 (1523), Lond. xxx, 33. 

* Bocking, ii, 179. Kalkoff, p. 506. 

<Kalkoff, p ; 59i, 

5 Bocking, ii, 180 ff. 

8 To Pirckheimer, July 19, 1523 (not 1522), Lond, xxx, 29; LB. ep, 631. 


plained, this awful storm of abuse burst and clouded the 
whole sky. 1 He replied with uncommon haste in a work 
entitled, A Sponge to Wipe off Hutttn's Aspersions, 
dedicated to Zwingli because, as the author set forth, the 
antidote should go to the same quarter where the poison 
was brewed, 2 This suspicion that Zwingli was con- 
federate with Hutten was not quite groundless, and was 
given color by the fact that the latter found a shelter 
near Zurich. To the Town Council of that city the 
humanist wrote a letter pointing out the harm done to 
the Gospel by the refugee, and the abusive lies he had 
uttered against many persons, not even sparing the 
pope and emperor, and he asked them not to shelter such 
a rascal. 3 The missive was at once shown to Hutten, 
who wrote a prompt answer to it. 4 

The Sponge? distinctly a work of personal apology, 
takes up one by one the charges brought, and proves the 
writer's consistency. He has attacked only the vices of 
the Church, wishing, in a thoroughly loyal spirit, to 
mend, not to end her. It would be more honest of 
Hutten rather to help the pope to reform than to make 
his path harder. With some heat the author defends his 
cautious position by alleging examples in which Christ 
had apparently dissembled the truth or suppressed it as 
inconvenient to be spoken at all seasons. How different 
is the manner of the innovators ! They, headed by the 
Wittenbergers, stop at no abusive language and at no 
scurrilous manners, though more could be accomplished 
by gentleness than in any other way. Defending his 
refusal to take sides, "I am a lover of liberty/' he cries, 
"I cannot and will not serve a party/* 

1 Allen, I, pp. 27 fF. 

2 To Zwingli, ZwingUs Werke, viii, 119, Lond. xxx, 52. Cf. Zwinglit Werke* 
viii, 93. Letter of Hutten to Zwingli. 

3 E. Egli: AkUnsammlung zur Zurcher Reformation, 1879, no. 565 (wrongly 
put by ^Egli in 1524), August 10, 1523. The same in Booking: Hutteni 
Opera, ii, 256 f; and Hess: Erasmus y if, 572. 

4 Hess, ii, 574. 

6 Spongia adversus Aspergines Hutteni, LB,, x, 1631 fF. 


When the work came from Froben's press in the sum- 
mer of 1523 Hutten was a broken man. Having abetted 
Sickengen's rash rebellion, the defeat and death of the 
captain left him alone and discredited. Seeking a place 
to die in, as his enemy recognized, 1 he had turned to 
Switzerland and, crushed by disappointment and disease* 
repenting having written and published the Expostula- 
tion, he breathed his last in an obscure corner of the 
world on August 29th. 2 This tragic event, though it did 
not prevent three thousand copies of the Sponge from 
being printed, 3 deprived that work, as its author regret- 
fully admitted, of much of its welcome. He assured 
the public that he prayed for Hutten's soul, and offered 
an apology 4 for publishing his book at all, though one 
which perhaps did not much mend matters. He called 
attention to the fact that he had never reproached his 
enemy with "his military life, not to use a worse term," 
nor with his debts, nor with his vices, "which even his 
shameful disease could never make him stop." In the 
same tone of apology he wrote Melanchthon : "When 
that Thraso, pox and all, sought my house as a place in 
which to die, I refused, and then he begged the same 
from Zwingli, as the latter wrote me." Again, the man's 
perfidy in publishing letters unauthorized is alleged as a 
reason for having broken with him. 5 The battle was taken 
up by Otto Brunsfels, who wrote a reply to the Sponge.* 

1 Erasmus to Melanchthon, September 6, 1523 (not 1524), Lond, xix, 113; 
LB. ep. 703. 

2 To C. Goclen, September 25, 1523, Lond. xxx, 10. Beatus Rhenanus to a 
Friend, October 27, 1523. ZnfcrcA. /. d. Geschichu des Qberrheins, xxi, 1906, 
p. 48. 

8 To J. Faber, November 21, 1523; Horawitz: Erasmiana, ii, ep. 5; L'B. 
ep. 658. 

4 Catalogue of Lucubrations, Allen, i, pp. 27 ff. 

6 September 6, 1524. Lond. xix, 113; LB. ep, 703. L. C. ep. 633. 

6 Othonis Brunsfelsii pro U. Hutteno defuncto. . , ,Responsio t Becking, ii, 
325 ff. K. Hartfelder: "Otto Brunsfels als Verteidiger Huttens," Zeit- 
schriftf. d. Geschichu des Oberrheins, viii, 1893, pp. 565 ff. There is at Cornell a 
copy of the first edition of the Sponge with the autograph, "Mathias Heros, 
philosophise professor, 1523." Matthew Held, late vice-chancellor under 
Charles V, is meant. 


The skirmish with Hutten preluded a greater battle 
with Luther. Inevitably, as two great nations with in- 
terests in the same spheres drift into opposition and then 
into war, the two greatest religious leaders of the early 
sixteenth century felt more and more keenly their rivalry 
and the necessity of defining their differences in public 
argument. For, while Erasmus advocated, although 
without violence, many of the practical reforms pushed 
by Luther, his spirit was different. The Saxon was a 
friar and a schoolman; with all his denunciation of the 
"sophists" of scholasticism, he was their kinsman in 
that he asked the same questions as did they, even 
though he gave those questions new answers. But a 
man's interests reveal themselves more in the questions 
which he asks than in the answers he gives; as long as 
the dogmatic predilection was fundamental it mattered 
little that the Reformer strongly objected to some of 
the particular dogmas of his predecessors. Salvation, 
urgent and doubtful, depended, he thought, on knowing 
the absolute truth. 

But to seek the absolute truth, and still more to find it, 
brands the seeker as a child or a dogmatist. It would 
never have occurred to Erasmus to put it in exactly that 
way, but he did see quite clearly the difficulties in arriv- 
ing at the truth in any matter, most of all in the deepest 
problems of philosophy. To his temperament the all- 
important matter in religion was the life; beliefs were 
interesting, even rather important, but they were subor- 
dinate to the moral issue. It is really surprising how 
clearly the Reformers themselves saw this difference. 
In 1521 a student at Wittenberg wrote a friend that 
Erasmus was not much thought of there because his 
Enchiridion had made Plato rather than Christ his model, 
had mistranslated parts of Paul's epistles, and showed 
less courage than Luther. 1 

And yet the very fact that the two were able to join 

1 Briefwechsel des Beatus Rhenanus> hg. von Horawitz und Hartfelder, 1886, 
>. 281. Albert Burer to Beatus Rhenanus, Wittenberg, June 30, 


issues proves that they were nearly allied in interest. 
Men with totally different spheres of action let one 
another alone. There was no battle between science and 
capitalism, between Copernicus and Fugger. As far as 
there was antagonism between art and religion it was 
silent, half-unconscious; only as an afterthought did 
Michelangelo come under the displeasure of the Church. 
Given, then, a community of interest and a divergence 
of type between humanist and Reformer, it was natural 
that the battle should be joined on precisely the issue 
taken, that of the free will, for both to the dogmatic and 
to the ethical mind this question is fundamental. To 
talk of morality without freedom of choice is absurd, 
said Erasmus; to speak of our own powers to attain grace 
and merit apart from God's eternal decree is impious, 
pontificated Luther. "All argument shows that our wills 
are bound," remarked Doctor Johnson, "but we know 
that we are free and that settles the matter/' So it 
does for the man who accepts his own feelings as decisive; 
for the more deeply logical mind the arguments count. 

The question had been a live one in the Church ever 
since the controversy of Augustine and Pelagius. The 
saint and philosopher of Hippo had for the time carried 
all before him, establishing as orthodox the position that 
God predestined everything and that, as far as merit 
went, the human will was absolutely impotent to do 
aught but sin. However, the common sense of mankind 
rebelled against the assertion of the bondage of the will, 
and throughout the Middle Ages the Church really held a 
semi-Pelagian position, by which it was hoped that God's 
foreknowledge and foreordination might be reconciled 
with man's freedom. Aquinas may be presumed to de- 
fine adequately the orthodox view in the following words r 1 

As predestination includes the will to confer grace and glory, so 
reprobation includes the will to permit some one to fail into sin and 
to bring the penalty of damnation for sin. . . . Reprobation is not 
the cause of the present fault, but it is the cause of abandonment by 

1 Summa Theologia, pars I, qu. 22, arts. 3-5. 


God. Yet it is the cause of future eternal punishment. But the sin 
comes from the free will of him who is reprobated and abandoned 
by grace. ... 

The effect of divine foreknowledge is not only that a certain thing 
should happen in a particular way, but that it should happen either 
contingently or necessarily. That, therefore, happens infallibly and 
necessarily which divine foreknowledge disposes to happen infalli- 
bly and necessarily, and that happens contingently which the rea- 
son of divine foreknowledge so conceives that it should happen 
contingently. . . . 

No one has been so insane as to say that merits were the cause of 
divine predestination viewed from the standpoint of God's pre- 
destinating act. 

St. Thomas felt the need of exonerating God from the 
charge of punishing men for inevitable evils; he labored 
not a little to show that though God might be the cause 
of the evil arising from the corruption of things, he was 
not the cause of evil arising from defect of action. 1 
Finally, after having asserted strongly God's power of 
predestination he came out plainly with the statement, 
so difficult to reconcile with this position: "Man has 
free will; otherwise counsel, exhortation, precept, pro- 
hibition, reward and punishment would all be in vain/' 2 
It was this last statement that was most emphasized for 
the common man. 3 

The question again attained prominence in the fifteenth 
and early sixteenth centuries. Lorenzo Valla, so much 
studied by the Dutch humanist, had written a work in 
favor of free will, 4 preferring to doubt God's omnipotence 
rather than his goodness. At the same time he tried to 
reconcile free will for men with a doctrine of predestina- 
tion and foreknowledge of God. When published by the 
Reformer Vadian in 1518, this treatise came to the 
notice of the Wittenberg professors, and the author's 
"stoical opinion" was rejected by Melanchthon. Luther's 

1 Qu. 49, art. 2. 

2 Qu. 83, art. r. 

3 Dante: Purgatorio, canto 16, Paradiso, 5. See also the fourteenth century 
poem, The Pearl, ed. by C. S. Osgood, p. xxxix, and C. F. Brown in Publications 
of the Modern Language Association, xix, 115 fF. 

4 E. Maier: Die JVillensfreiheit lei L. Valla. Bonn Dissertation, 1911. 


praise of a work taking the opposite side of the question 
must be understood as merely relative, an indirect way 
of scoring Erasmus. 1 The Italian skeptic, Pomponazzi, 
had also written on the subject in 1520, though his work 
was not published until 1557. 2 

When Erasmus took the offensive the choice of this 
subject was motived partly by his wish not to interfere 
with any of the practical reforms undertaken by Luther, 
with many of which he was in sympathy, and partly by 
the fact that this dogma lay at the very heart of the 
Protestant system, being, in fact, no more than the 
reverse side of the famous doctrine of justification by 
faith only. Where everything is performed by the grace 
of God there is nothing left for the human will. In fact, 
the Wittenberg professor was so far from strict deter- 
minism that he allowed man free choice in a lower sphere, 
so to speak, than that of religion. We can, he said, go 
in and out as we like, milk the cow or not do it; our wills 
can even, as the Augsburg Confession put it, "work a 
certain civil righteousness." The point was that this 
had not the slightest effect on salvation. It was on this 
issue that he had first detected heresy in the humanist; 
in previously cited epistles of 1516 and 1517 he had 
criticized the editor of the Greek Testament for mis- 
understanding the Pauline conception of the nature of 
sin and for undervaluing grace. His own opinion was 
early expressed in his lectures, in his Resolutions) and at 
the Heidelberg Debate in April, 1518. He had there 
maintained the thesis that "free will, after the fall, was 
only a name, and that when a man acted according to 
his own being he sinned mortally." This was reported 
by Martin Bucer, a hearer, to Beatus Rhenanus; the 
report was probably forwarded by the recipient to his 
great friend. 3 

1 Tischreden, Weimar, i no, 259. 

8 Df FatO) Libffro Arbitri, Predestinatione. Cf. Christie: Pomponatiur, 
p. 149. 

3 Briefwschsd des Beatus Rhenanus, ed. Horawitz und Hartfelder, 1886, 
P 1*3- 


When the bull Exsurge Domine (1520) condemned the 
opinion on free will quoted above, Luther defended it 
at length, citing Augustine and many biblical texts to 
prove his point. 1 This Refutation of the Bull was in turn 
refuted by Bishop Fisher of Rochester in a tract 2 from 
which the Dutchman borrowed a good deal. Denial of 
free will was mentioned by Aleander, in his speech before 
the Diet of Worms, as a cardinal heresy of the Saxon. 3 
Melanchthon, however, adopted his friend's position 
and expressed it still more clearly, if possible, in his 
Loci Communes, a text-book of theology printed in 1521.* 
Carlstadt also adopted his friend's position and defended 
it at great length at the Leipzig Debate with Eck. 5 
This also came to the notice of Erasmus. 

His opinion, at an early date, is doubtless reflected in 
the words of Capito, in some sort his emissary, who on 
a visit to Wittenberg on September 30, 1521, told 
Melanchthon that Luther overemphasized grace and the 
bondage of the will. 6 "The Lutherans call me a 
Pelagian/* 7 Erasmus reported as early as 1522; but, on 
consulting theologians about his interpretation of Romans 
ix in his New Testament and in his Paraphrase, he learned 
that they approved his position except only that they 
thought he attributed rather too much to the freedom of 
the will. 8 In a letter to Zwingli he enumerated as 
Luther's three chief errors, (i) his designation of all good 
works as mortal sin, (2) his denial of free will, (3) justi- 
fication by faith only; but he added that he had refused 

1 Refutatio omnium articuhrum, December, 1520; Luther s Werke^ Weimar 
vii, 94. 

* Assertion Luthefi Confutatio, analyzed by Zickendraht: Der Streit 
ztffisc hen Eras mus und Luther fiber die Wilhnsfreiheit, 1909, pp. 183 fF. 

8 J. Paquier: Aleandrc, p. 200. 

4 Corpus Reformatorum, xxi, 86 ff. 

B 0. Seitz: Der autkentische Text der Leipziger Disputation, 1903, pp. 14-54; 

8 Corpus Rtformatorum, i, 462. 

7 To Glapion, 1522, LB. ep. 645. 

8 To Pirckheimer, 1522, Lond. xxx, 28, LB. ep. 618. Cf. also Erasmus's 
defense of his position in his letter to Marcus Laurinus, Lond. xxiii, 6, LB, ep. 
650. February i, 1523. 


all invitations from the emperor, the pope, and various 
kings, to write against the Wittenberg professor. 1 Doubt- 
less his ideas were confirmed by the fact that denial of 
free will was mentioned as Luther's fundamental error 
in a letter of Henry VIII to Duke George of January 20, 
1523, and in the latter's answer of May 8. 2 

In July, 1522, was published a pamphlet containing 
Melanchthon's "Statement Concerning Erasmus and 
Luther/' -and two letters of the latter about the former, 
one to Capito, January 17, 1522, and one to Borner or 
Cubito, of May 28, 1522;* this last containing a very 
disparaging estimate of the humanist's theological 
abilities : 

On predestination he knows less than the sophists of the schools. 
... He is not formidable in such matters, for truth is more powerful 
than eloquence. ... I will not provoke Erasmus, nor, if provoked 
once and again, will I hit back. Yet it does not seem to me that he 
would do wisely to direct the force of his rhetoric against me, for I 
fear that he would not find Luther another Lefevre d'fitaples con- 
cerning whom he boasts that all congratulate him on his victory. 

In vain did mutual friends try to keep such letters from 
coming to the knowledge of the humanist; in vain did 
they warn the writer of them to be more careful 4 When 
the Wittenberger continued to pen even harsher judg- 
ments, they were at once published. Such was a letter 
to Pellican at Basle, dated October I, 1523, expressing 
regret that Hutten should have "expostulated" and that 
Erasmus should have "wiped off his aspersions with a 

for if this is erasing with a sponge, what is cursing and reviling? . . . 
I see how far the man is from the knowledge of Christian things, and 

^Zwinglii opera, viii, 114 ff. August 31, 1523. 

'Zickendraht, pp. 15 f. 

* Published under the title, Indicium D. Martini Lutheri de Erasmo, sine 
loco et anno; <r/. Enders, iii, p. 276. L, C, ep. 549. Zickendraht, p. 10. 

4 Luther's letter, just quoted, was forwarded by Ambrose Blaurer to his 
brother Thomas, begging him to see that it was shown to Erasmus. Thomas, 
however, returned the letter, warning Luther to be more careful. Briefwechsel 
der Blaurer^ ed. T. Schiess, 1908 ff, i, 52. 


therefore would easily suffer him to call me any name he likes, as 
long as he does not touch the cause, for I propose to defend that 
alone, and not my life or character. 1 

Erasmus knew these expressions and of course resented 
them. He complained bitterly of the "private letters 
published in hatred of me by those who fear to rage 
against the pope and emperor/' 2 

On June 20, 1523, Luther wrote to QEcolampadius at 
Basle: 3 

I feel the pricks that Erasmus gives me; yet, as he dissimulates his 
hostility and does not call himself my foe, I also pretend that I do 
not notice his guile, although I understand it more deeply than he 
is aware. He has done what he was called to do; he has introduced 
the study of the tongues and called us from those other godless 
studies. Perhaps, like Moses, he will die in the land of Moab, for to 
come to the promised land of better pursuits is not his lot. 

This letter was not published, but was shown by its 
recipient to its subject, who spoke of it to Zwingli on 
August 3 ist 4 and in an epistle to John Faber 5 saying 
that the Wittenberg Reformer had vehemently execrated 
the Sponge and had recently written to (Ecolampadius 
that Erasmus was a Moses to be buried in the wilderness. 
"This/' he concludes, "is the prelude to war/' 

With a heavy heart he at once began the composition 
of the Diatribe on the Free Will, though he feared that he 
could not publish it unless he should leave Germany. 6 
As an encouragement, the new pope, Clement VII, 
whom he had known personally, sent him a present of 
two hundred florins; this he only consented to take on 
the express understanding that it was a reward for the 

1 Published in a work entitled Indicium Erasmi Alberi de Spongia Erasmi 
Roterodami, Enders, iv, p. 233 ; L. C. ep. 600. Erasmus Alber was the author's 
real name, though he of Rotterdam suspected that it was a pseudonym to 
conceal Busch. Lond. xxx, 36; LB. ep. 684. 

2 In his Catalogue of Lucubrations (1524), Allen, i, pp. 28, 32. 
8 Enders, iv, 163. L.C. ep. 591. 

*Zwinglis Werke> viii, ep. 315. 

6 Horawitz: Erasmiana, ii, no. 5 (p. 601) November 21, 1523. 

6 To Henry VIII, September 4, 1523, Lond. xx, 35; LB. ep. 657. 


Paraphrases. 1 Nevertheless, early in 1524, some months 
before it was published, he sent manuscript drafts of the 
work to Clement 2 and to his old patron, Henry VIII. 3 

News of the attack, received at Rome with joy, created 
not a little dismay throughout Germany. Popular opin- 
ion was expressed in a short tract entitled, "Dialogue 
between a Peasant, Belial, Erasmus of Rotterdam, and 
Dr. John Faber, briefly showing the true reason that 
induced Erasmus and Faber to deny God's Word/' 4 In 
this Belial is represented as rejoicing that he has "seduced 
not only some small, simple, worthless, apostate, desper- 
ate men to deny the truth, but has also so tempted and 
moved the master of beautiful Latin, that he neither 
sees nor understands what he has formerly said, written, 
and published abroad/' Erasmus is then made to chime 
in, all complacency because he "has won and obtained 
more favor from the pope, cardinals, bishops, and other 
princes, than Luther and his fellows have done, who 
have got nothing but hatred, odium, and persecution 
from the same quarters." 

Deep concern took possession of the Reformers when 
they heard of the captain marching against them. 
Capito had long ago foreseen and deprecated such a 
catastrophe, 5 while Luther keenly appreciated the harm 

1 On January 5, 1524, John Haner wrote Clement from Nuremberg, sug- 
gesting that a douceur for Erasmus would be advisable; Clement sent it with 
a letter of April 3, 1524, P. Baian: Monumenta Reformations Lutherans, 
PP- 3 I 9> 3H- Erasmus wrote Pirckheimer of it on July 21, 1524; Lond. xxx, 
36; LB. ep. 684. His personal acquaintance with Clement is spoken of in a 
letter of 1523 to C. Stadion, Bishop of Basle, LB. ep. 661. C/. also letter of 
August 26, 1527, Zeitschrift fur historische Theologie, xxix, 1859, p. 595. 

2 Ennio Filonardo to Erasmus, Rome, April 14, 15, 1524. Forstemann- 
Gunther, epp, 23, 24. 

3 Lond. xx, 49; LB, ep. 660, dated 1523; according to the old style, fre- 
quently employed by Erasmus, of beginning the year at Easter or on Lady 
Day (March 25th), this might mean any time before April, 1524. 

4 Gesprachbuchlein von einem Bauern, Belial, Erasmo, und Doctor Johann 
FabrL Plugschriften aus den ersten Jahren der Reformation, hg. von 0. Clemen, 
Band i, Heft 8, 1906. The date of this pamphlet is given as soon after the 
Recess of Nuremberg of April 18, 1524. 

6 Baum: Capito und Hutzer, 1860, p. 84, quoting a letter of Capito to 
Erasmus dated June 5, 1522. 


that the attack would do his cause. In order to intim- 
idate an opponent rated as a coward, he at once indited 
the following insulting missive: 1 

Since we see that the Lord has not given you courage and sense 
to assail those monsters openly and confidently with us, we are not 
the men to exact what is beyond your power and measure. . . . 
We only fear that you may be induced by our enemies to fall upon 
our doctrine with some publication, in which case we should be 
obliged to resist you to your face. . . . Hitherto I have controlled 
my pen as often as you prick me, and have written in letters to 
friends, which you have seen, that I would control it until you publish 
something openly. For although you will not side with us, and 
although you injure and make skeptical many pious men by your 
impiety and hypocrisy, yet I cannot and do not accuse you of willful 
obstinacy. . . . We have fought long enough; we must take 
care not to eat each other up. This would be a terrible catastrophe, 
as neither of us wishes to harm religion, and without judging each 
other both may do good. 

Erasmus's answer, dated May 8th, 2 asserted that he 
was not less zealous for the cause of religion than were 
those who arrogated to themselves the name "evangel- 
ical/' and that he had as yet written nothing against 
Luther, though had he done so he would have won the 
applause of the great ones of the world. He showed 
Luther's letter to (Ecolampadius in order to secure his 
good offices as a peace-maker. 3 Melanchthon and Jonas 
were also eager to intercede, though the former dreaded 
the odium that a personal interview would excite. 4 To 
Pirckheimer Erasmus confided: "Martin Luther wrote 
me kindly, sending the letter by Camerarius. I did not 
dare to reply with equal kindness on account of the 
sycophants/' 5 and again: "Luther wrote me in his own 
manner, promising to overlook my weakness if I would 
not write expressly against his dogmas. I answered 
briefly but, as is my habit, courteously. There is now 

1 Enders, iv, 319; L. C. ep. 620. Dateless, to be put about April 15, 1524. 

2 Enders, iv, 335; L. C. ep. 624. 

8 (Ecolampadius to Luther, May 8, 1524; Enders, iv, 339. 
* Stromer to Erasmus, May r, 1524; Enthoven, ep. 25. Erasmus to Pirck- 
heimer, June 3 (1524), LB. App. ep. 327. Zickendraht, p. 20. 
5 July 21, 1524. Lond. xxx, 36. LB. ep. 684. 


present a Baron Hieroslaus, ambassador of the king of 
Poland, a sincere friend of mine and very hostile to 
Luther, as is his king/' 1 

Apropos of the visit of this nobleman, Hieroslaus 
Laski 2 who forever remained his faithful friend and dis- 
ciple, Erasmus tells a long story in his Catalogue of 
Lucubrations (September, I524). 3 

I took Laski to my library; he asked if Luther were learned; 
I replied in the affirmative. He then asked what I thought of the 
Reformer's dogmas, and received the reply that they were beyond 
my power to judge, but that he of Wittenberg had certainly taught 
much well and attacked abuses strongly. He then asked what books 
of Luther I most approved. I replied the Commentaries on the Psalms 
and the Tesseradecas,* adding that these were approved even by those 
that condemned the rest, "although even in these," I said, "he has 
mixed some of his own doctrine." He repeated "his own" and smiled. 
This was our first talk on Luther, in which neither he clearly saw 
my mind nor I his. When he visited me again, by chance there was 
a recent letter of Luther's lying on the table among my papers. 
From this he snatched a few words at a glance which showed him 
that Luther seemed to think meanly of me. While we were talking 
he tried to steal the letter. Pretending not to notice what he had 
done, I took it from his hands and replaced it on the table. . . . 
Later he confessed he had tried to steal it. I asked him why. He 
said that many would persuade his king that Erasmus was in league 
with Luther. "I will inform you," said I; "I will give you his 
autograph, lest he should pretend that it is a copy, and I will add 
two others, 6 of which one has recently been printed at Strassburg, 
the other I know not where, in which he speaks hatefully of me." 
"By these," I said, "you can show the emperor (for he was ambassa- 
dor to the emperor) that my relationship with Luther is not so close 
as some declare." Then he asked me if I were going to write against 
Luther, but I said I had no time. Then he told me that the king 
of Poland was so hostile to Luther that he confiscated all the property 
of any man in whose house was found a book of Luther. I disapproved 
this cruelty and also this searching of people's houses. Departing, 
Laski gave me a silver vase, which I would have refused, but he 
pressed it on me. 

1 June 3 (1524), LB. App. ep. 327. 

2 Miaskowski: Die Korrespondenz des Erasmus mit Polen, 1901. 

3 Allen, i, 31 ff. 

4 Erasmus Latinizes the name "opus de quattuordecim spectris." 

5 /. e. those to Borner, May 28, 1522, and to Pellican, October i, 1523. 


Shortly after this he published his Diatribe on the Free 
Will. The composition of it had been completed on 
May ijth, 1 as was announced to Luther two days later 
by (Ecoiampadius. At first the author thought of keep- 
ing it in manuscript, but by July 2 1st, 2 he decided to 
publish it, as the rumor of his having written it was out 
and people might think it worse than it was. "For I 
treat the matter with such moderation that I know even 
Luther will not be angry." His moderation he intended 
to show even in the title, for at that time and in Greek 
"diatribe" meant "conversation" or "discussion/' and 
not, as it now does in English, "bitter criticism/* or 
"invective." Just as the work saw the light he wrote 
elsewhere: 3 

I have never renounced the friendship of anyone either because 
he was inclined to Luther or because he was against him. For I am 
of such a nature that I could love even a Jew, were he only a pleasant 
companion and friend and did not blaspheme Christ in my presence. 
Moreover 1 think courtesy more effective in discussion. 

Thus conceived, the Discussion of Free Will 41 came from 
the press of Froben in September, 1524.* The original 
intention to dedicate it to Wolsey was given up by the 
author as likely to make it seem the work of a toady. 

Of all the many books of metaphysical divinity com- 
posed during the last four centuries, The Diatribe on the 
Free Will is one of the very few still readable on account 
of its brevity, its moderation, and its wit. The author's 
irony, as well as the force of his destructive criticism, is 
nowhere better revealed than in the introductory section 
of his pamphlet, not on the main question itself, but on 
the principles of judging. Admitting the Bible as the 

1 Enders, iv, 343. 

2 To Pirckheimer, Lend, xxx, 36; LB. ep. 684. 
8 Catalogue of Lucubrations, Allen, i, 17. 

4 Text LB. ix, 1215 ff. Best edition: De Lilero Afbitrio Atarptffi swe 
Cottatio per D. Erasmum Roterodamumj hg. von J. von Walter, 1910. On the 
date of publication, Bibliotheca Erasmiana, i 20; Walter, Einleitung, xii ff. 

6 To Clement VII, February 13, 1524; Lend, xix, I; LB. ep. 670. To 
Giberti, September 2, LoncL xxi, 5; LB, ep, 694. 


standard authority, he shows that many things in the 
Bible are hard to understand, and none harder than 
the very question at issue. The strong penchant of the 
theologian to read his own ideas into the Scripture is 
seldom expressed with finer psychological insight than 
in the observation: "Whatever men read in the Bible 
they distort into an assertion of their own opinion, just 
as lovers incessantly imagine that they see the object 
of their love wherever they turn." The solution of the 
enigma of free choice may be left by Providence to the 
Last Judgment, but in any case man's duty is plain, 
"If we be in the way of piety, let us hasten on to better 
things; if involved in sin, let us find the remedy of 
repentance/ * Even if we have arrived at the true view, 
it may be inexpedient to proclaim it; who, for example, 
would longer strive to do good if he knew that he had 
really no option in the matter? Moreover, salvation is 
not prejudiced by ignorance in these obscure matters; 
how much rather has piety been damaged by the strife 
over useless questions, such as that of the immaculate 
conception! These battles must remain largely unde- 
cided, for there is no umpire. While both sides appeal 
to Scripture and to "solid reasons/' no one can tell 
surely what Scripture means. If the sense is as clear 
as some people say, why have so many people differed 
in interpreting it? If they appeal to the guidance of the 
Spirit, what proof do they offer that they are under 
infallible inspiration? If you appeal to miracles, they 
talk as if there had been no Christianity for thirteen 
hundred years. If you ask for a good life, they claim 
to be justified by faith, not by works. 

Having thus set forth the difficulties in the way of 
arriving at the demonstration of absolute truth, the 
author grapples with the main problem. Various shades 
of determinist opinion are set forth: it is hard to say as 
does Carlstadt that the will has power only to sin; it 
is much harder with Luther, Wyclif, and a few Man- 
ichaeans to deny the existence of free will altogether. 


Nevertheless, people may differ without heresy on this 
point or on that, and as Luther, particularly, differs 
from almost everyone, he cannot object if Erasmus dif- 
fers now and then from him. Possibly his^ words in 
this matter are hyperbolic; he may overstate his opinion, 
as he apparently does when, in order to guard against 
the abuse of hagiolatry, he denies that the good deeds 
of the saints have any merit whatever. Such paradoxes 
may be pardonable as a means of arousing attention, but 
they cannot be taken seriously as articles of faith. 

Free will, defined as the power to apply oneself to the 
things that make for salvation, is proved by two argu- 
ments: first, that without it repentance would be sense- 
less and punishment for sin unjust, and, secondly, by 
adducing the biblical texts that declare, or imply, man's 
freedom to choose, and his responsibility to a God 
desirous rather of his conversion than of his death. 
Other passages of Scripture, the author frankly admits, 
seem to militate the other way, as do the texts referring 
to the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, the story of Jacob 
and Esau, Romans ix, and John xv: 5. These sayings 
can, however, be explained away better than the others, 
and perhaps only indicate that God's grace has much 
to do with man's choice, even though it is not the only 
factor involved. In short, sums up the writer, "the 
opinion of those who attribute much to grace but some- 
thing to free will pleases me best." God helps the man 
as a father supports the first steps of a young child; 
only, God does not do it alL 

Erasmus lost no time in sending his book to powerful 
patrons. With the copy for Duke George of Saxony he 
sent a letter saying that he had not written against 
Luther before because he had hitherto regarded him as 
a necessary evil, a drastic antidote to the corruptions of 
the time. 1 The duke replied at once, 2 praising the 

1 F. Gess: Akten und Brief e zur Kirchenpolitik Herzog Georgs yon Sachs ffn, 
1905, i, ep. 723, with correct date September 6, 1524; in LB. ep. 695 with date 
September 4. L. C. ep. 634. 

2 Gess, ep. 742, written from Leipzig between October 3 and October 8, 1524. 


Diatribe and sending Luther's Monastic Fows, with a 
request for a refutation of that. Erasmus read the book, 
which he thought very garrulous, but did not reply to 
it. Probably at Duke George's suggestion his protege 
Cochlaeus translated the Erasmian pamphlet into Ger- 
man. This the author disapproved, alleging the short- 
comings of the version, but probably also because he 
did not care to argue his case before the unlearned public. 
In several letters to Cochlaeus he blames the passionate, 
personal tone of his polemic and his carelessness in state- 
ments of facts. 1 

To his English patrons, Henry VIII, Wolsey, and 
Cuthbert Tunstall, he also sent copies. 2 Vives wrote 
him shortly afterward that he had found the king reading 
it with much evident delight. 3 

Pope Clement also received a printed copy, with a 
letter protesting against Aleander's hostile actions. 4 He 
gave the messenger ten ducats, 6 but, having already 
rewarded the author, apparently sent nothing more at 
this time. 

Like most controversial tracts on burning issues, the 
Diatribe was hailed by the partisans of the side it 
defended as a masterpiece, whereas its enemies found 
it an utter failure. Ulrich Zasius reported a highly 
favorable opinion of it, 6 and his own oration against 
Luther at the University of Freiburg was probably much 
influenced by it. 7 Influenced by him, the University of 
Freiburg condemned Luther in a memorial dated Octo- 

1 M. Spahn: /. Cochlceus, 1898, pp. 124, 140. 

f Lond. xviii, 48, 51, 52. LB. epp. 606, 697, 702. September 4 and 6. 

8 LB. ep. 780, November 13, 1524 (not 1525). Also found in Auetarium 
Epistolaruin Vivis, an appendix to Lond., ep. 13, and in 7ms Opera, vii, 180. 

4 To John Matthew Giberti, Datary, September 2, 1524. Lond. xxi, 5; LB. 
cp, 694. Another letter to Giberti, dated October 13, in P. Balan: Monu- 
wenta Reformationis Lutheran, 1884, p. 380. 

8 L. Pastor: History of the Popes, English translation, ed. by Kerr, x, 337. 
The entry in the papal account-book is dated October 24, 1524. 

8 U. Zasii epistola:, ed. Riegger, p, 71. To Boniface Amerbach, September 

Ibid, p. 78 


her 12, I524- 1 Calcagnini wrote from Ferrara On the 
Free Motion of the Soul, praising the work of Erasmus 
and blaming the author for his long delay in writing it. 2 

The Reformers, however, with the exception of Me 
lanchthon, disliked the Erasmian pamphlet, Melanch- 
thon wrote that it had been received at Wittenberg with 
equanimity, for it would be tyranny to forbid difference 
of opinion on such subjects, and that even Luther did 
not object to the caustic wit, because he believed the 
discussion would be profitable to many. 3 

If we inquire of Doctor Martin himself what was his 
opinion of the Diatribe* we shall find it hardly as favor- 
able as reported by his friend. He once said that of all 
the books written against him by the papists this was 
the only one he had read through, and that even this he 
often felt, while he read it, like throwing under the bench. 4 
On November I, 1524, he wrote that he was so disgusted 
with it that he could hardly get beyond the first thirty 
pages, and that he was ashamed to answer so unlearned 
a book of so learned a man. 5 His resolve 6 to answer, 
however, lest his followers be led astray, was strength- 
ened by the appeals of Capito and the other Strassburg 
preachers, who compared Erasmus to the Scyrian she- 
goat of his own proverb; 7 this animal had kicked the man 
whom she had fed with her milk and thus wiped out 
by this nasty sequel the memory of her previous 

He was unable to reply at once, however, on account 
of his preoccupations with the Peasants' Revolt, with a 

1 The theological matter in this was largely taken, however, from the bull 
Exsurgt Domine and from the censure of the University of Paris. See 
E. Krek in Zeitschrift dcr Gesellschaft fur Beforderer der Gesckichtskunde von 
Freiburg, xxxvi, 58-67, 1921. 

2 C. Calcagnini Opera Aliquot, 1544, pp. 395 f. Dedication to Bonaventura 
Pistophilus, January 3, 1525. 

3 September 30, 1524, Lond. xix, 2. LB. ep. 704, L. C. ep. 637. 

4 Tischreden, Weimar s vi, no. 6850, apparently of late date, 
fi Enders, v, 46. 

6 Enders v, 52. L. C. ep. 645. 

7 Enders, v, 66 f. 


controversy over the sacrament with Carlstadt ? and with 
other things, until late in I525. 1 He was finally brought 
to it, if he does not jest in saying so, by the requests of 
his newly married wife and of Camerarius. 2 In Septem- 
ber he began seriously to work on his reply, 3 which was 
finished by the end of the year. 4 

Erasmus was surprised at the long delay in receiving 
his answer, and attributed it to Luther's marriage, over 
which he made merry. "Troubles in comedies," said 
he 5 "are wont to end in a wedding, with peace to all/' 
The marriage he thought timely, for he heard that 
Luther's wife had borne him a son ten days after it. 
Therefore said he, Luther begins to be milder now, for 
the fiercest beasts are tamed by their females. He later 
confessed the rumor about the child false 6 and added 
that he was skeptical of the old legend that the antichrist 
would be bom of a monk and a nun, or else there would 
have been many antichrists already. 

The Bondage of the Will? is, much more than was 
The Free Willy a polemic with a distinct purpose. There 
is another difference in the apparently greater earnest- 
ness of the reformer; what to the Wittenberg professor 
is a matter of life and death had been to the humanist 
the subject of an interesting conversation. It is in this 
sense that he attributes eloquence and skill in words 
to Erasmus, but real knowledge of the point at issue to 

If Erasmus's moderation, which he attributed to doubt, 
rather increased than assuaged his anger, the assertion 

1 Enders, v, 100, 105, 125. 

* Kroker: Luthers Tischredcn in den Matkfsischen Sammlung. 1903, np. 212. 

3 Enders v, 245, 257, 249. L. C. ep. 704. 

4 Enders v, 294. L, C. ep. 722. 

* To N. Everard, Chief Justice of Holland. December 24, IS 2 S- LB. ep. 
781. Luther's marriage took place June I3th. Erasmus speaks of the news 
again in a letter to Lupset (Lond, xviii, n; L. B. ep. 790) saying that Luther 
has married a wonderfully charming poor girl of a family of Borna. Katie 
von Bora was not at all pretty, 

6 To Silvius, March 13, 1526. Lond. xviii, 22. LB, ep. 801. 

7 Luthers Wtrke, Weimar, xviii, 551 if, De servo arbitrio. 


that many texts in the Bible are contradictory made him 
perfectly furious. To him the Scripture, as the inspired 
and sufficient rule of faith and practice, was a single unit; 
each text must be taken literally and yet all must be 
made to agree, for infallible wisdom could not contra- 
dict itself, To the expressed doubt about the necessity 
and importance of deciding such dogmatic questions he 
answered with a counter-assertion of their supreme sig- 
nificance; to the charge that uproar followed the proc- 
lamation of untimely truths he replied that this is one 
of the very signs of the preaching of the Word. 

After this lengthy introduction Luther expounded his 
argument for determinism, based not, as that of a modern 
thinker might be, on any conviction of the reign of unal- 
terable law, but solely on the ground of the all-sufficiency 
(monergism) of God's grace and the impotence of the 
natural man to choose the good. Following Augustine 
in the assertion that God inclines men's hearts either to 
good or to evil according to their foreseen merits, 1 and 
that God even wills them to sin in order to punish them, 2 
Luther proclaimed in the strongest terms the total impo 
tency of the natural man: 

The human will is like a beast of burden. 3 If God mounts it, it 
wishes and goes as God wills; if Satan mounts it, it wishes and goes 
as Satan wills. Nor can it choose its rider, nor betake itself to him 
it would prefer, but it is the riders who contend for its possession. 4 
. . . This is the acme of faith, to believe that God, who saves so 
few and condemns so many, is merciful; that he is just who has 
made us necessarily doomed to damnation, so that, as Erasmus 
says, he seems to delight in the tortures of the wretched, and to be 

1 Augustine: Dt gratia et libero arbitrio t cap. 20 

2 Augustine: Contra Julianum, lib, 5, cap. 3, 10-13. 

8 This simile of God as the rider of the will comes from Augustine or pseudo- 
Augustine, Libri III ffypomnesticum contra Pelagium. It was cited as Augus- 
tine's by Ect in the Leipzig Debate, O. Seitz; Der authentische Text dsr Leip* 
ziger Disputation, p. 28. Whether the work was really by Augustine has been 
doubted. Cf. A. V. Miiller: Lutkers theologische Quellen, 1912, p. 207, The 
simile is also found in Raymund de Sabunde, tit. 246-248. Cf, Zeitschrift fur 
Kirchengeschichte, xxxv, 135 f. 

4 This idea of the contest of the good and evil spirits reminds one of Erasmus's 
saying that the Manichaeans had rejected the free will. 


more deserving of hatred than of love. If by any effort of reason 
I could conceive how God, who shows so much anger and iniquity, 
could be merciful and just, there would be no need of faith. . . . 
God foreknows nothing subject to contingencies, 1 but he foresees, 
foreordains, and accomplishes all things by an unchanging, eternal, 
and efficacious will. By this thunderbolt free will sinks shattered in 
the dust. 

The argument, of course, is based chiefly on biblical 
texts, especially such as that about God hardening 
Pharaoh's heart, the saying that God loved Jacob and 
hated Esau, and the case of Judas, whose sin, being fore- 
seen, was bound to take place. In order to reconcile the 
idea of an inexorable Almighty God, predisposing all 
things, even sin, with the idea of a God of love as re- 
vealed in Jesus, Luther distinguished two divine wills, 
one hidden and one revealed. This was his theodicy. 

Luther's tract, though not the only answer to Erasmus, 
threw all others into the shade. Francis Lambert, the 
French Reformer, had already written a book on The 
Captive Willy directed against the humanist, though 
not naming him. 2 Bugenhagen prepared a reply, but 
suppressed it because "he wished Erasmus well, saving 
God's truth," and because his greater friend had already 
taken up the cudgels. 3 Capito, too, designed an answer 
to the man whom he now thought of as doing all he 
could to destroy faith, but he also retired from the field 
because of discouragement from Luther. 4 

The Bondage of the Will, first printed in December, 
1525, had a wide sale, seven Latin and two German 
editions being called for within a year. 6 The author 

1 This against Valla, who said that, though a man's will was free, his volun- 
tary act was foreknown. E. Maier: Die Willensfreiheit lei L Fdla^ 1911. 
Luther's words would also apply to Aquinas, but he apparently knew little of 
this author. 

2 Herminjard: Correspondence des ReformaUurs des Pays de la langue 
Fran$aise, 9 vols., 1866-97, i, 348. 

8 0. Vogt: Bugenhagtns Eriefwecksel, 1888, p. 21. 

* Capito to Bugenhagen, October 8, 1525, ibid, p. 35. 

*Luthers Wsrke, Weimar, xviii, 551 IF; introduction to the De Servo Ar- 
bitrio. Only four Latin editions and two German are given in the BibUothcca 
Erasmiana, iii, 37. Erasmus once spoke often editions before the end of 1526. 


himself was much pleased with it, remarking at one time 
that he would be content to have all his books perish 
save the Catechisms and the Bondage of the Will. His 
friend, Justus Jonas, a quondam Erasmian, now con- 
vinced that, though his former master was still "a 
valuable, high-minded man, yet his book on the 
Free Will was offensive and contrary to the Gospel," 1 
hastened to translate Luther's work into German. 
Like all other controversial pamphlets, it was judged 
mainly from the partisan standpoint, though here and 
there it carried conviction even into hostile minds. The 
humanist of Munster, James Montanus, a friend of the 
Rotterdamer, opined that Erasmus in the Diatribe had 
misunderstood Luther and that he could not possibly 
refute his answer. 2 Considering that The Bondage of the 
Will was the chief fountain and source of Calvin's 
tremendous doctrine of predestination and election, it 
is not too much to reckon it as one of the most important 
of sixteenth-century works. 

Luther sent his treatise to his opponent with a letter, 8 
now lost, expressing arrogant confidence in his own 
opinion. Erasmus, stung to the quick, replied as follows : 4 

Your letter was delivered to me late and had it come on time it 
would not have moved me. . . . The whole world knows your 
nature, according to which you have guided your pen against no one 
more bitterly and, what is more detestable, more maliciously than 
against me. . . . The same admirable ferocity which you formerly 
used against Cochlaeus and against Fisher, who provoked you to it 
by reviling, you now use against my book in spite of its courtesy. 
How do your scurrilous charges that I am an atheist, an Epicurean, 
and a skeptic help the argument? ... It terribly pains rne, 
must all good men, that your arrogant, insolent, rebellious nature 
has set the world in arms. . . . You treat the Evangelic cause 

1 On this op. city and Jonas's letter to Albert Count of Mansfeld in Kawerau: 
Briefwechsel des Justus Jonas y i, ep. 93, 

2 Montanus to Pirckheimer, January 9, 1525, and April 23, 1526. Zeitschrift 
JUT vaUrldndische [Westfalens] Geschichte und Altertumskunde, Munster, 1914, 
Band Ixxii, pp. 27, 35 f. 

8 On it cf. Erasmus to Wolsey, April 25, 1526. LB. ep 810. Lond. xxi, 33. 
4 Enders v. 334; Lond. xxi, 28; LB. ep. 806. L. C, ep. 729. 


so as to confound together all things sacred and profane as if it were 
your chief aim to prevent the tempest from ever becoming calm, 
while it is my greatest desire that it should die down. ... I should 
wish you a better disposition were you not so marvelously satisfied 
with the one you have. Wish me any curse you will except your 
temper, unless the Lord change it for you. 

Bitter complaints about Luther's acerbity, and about 
the unfairness of having a German version which would 
excite the vulgar artisans and to which he could not 
reply, overflow the humanist's correspondence at this 
time. 1 On March 2d he even wrote the Elector John of 
Saxony, demanding the protection of the laws against 
Luther's accusations of atheism. 2 The elector at once 
forwarded 3 the missive to Luther for advice, which he 
received to the effect that "his Grace should not let 
himself mix in the affair, as the viper asks, but should 
reply, according as he himself well knows, that his 
Grace neither can nor should be a judge in spiritual 
affairs." 4 

Erasmus believed that the book had been composed 
by the combined efforts of "the church of Wittenberg" 
he had Melanchthon especially in mind and that it 
had been sent him late by the author on purpose so that 
he could not answer it before the great Frankfort book 
fair. 6 However, having been early supplied with a copy 
by a friend in Leipzig 6 probably Duke George he set 
about with tremendous energy to frustrate this plan, 
completing his answer in twelve days, and engaging 
Froben to work six presses at once, turning out twenty- 

1 To Gattinara, April 29, 1526. Zeitschrift fur historiscke Theologic, xxix, 
1859^ p. 693. 

2 Unpublished letter in the Weimar archives, of which extracts are given in 
Enders, v, 342. The German copy of the letter is dated March I3th. 

8 Enders, v, 340. 

4 De Wette: Luthers Brief e, 1825 ff, iii, 105; Enders, v. 344. 

*To Michael, Bishop of Langres, March 13, 1526. Lond. xviii, 24; LB. 
cp. 800. 

* Cf, letter of George to Erasmus, February 13, 1526. Gess: Akten und 
Brief e, ep. 39, and Erasmus to Emser, Lond. xviii, 28 (with wrong date 1527 for 


four pages a day. Consequently, the first part of the 
Hyperaspistes 1 appeared about March, 1526. It is a full 
defense of the Diatribe, being three times larger than 
that work. In it, however, the question of the will 
recedes in importance behind the larger subject of the 
excellence of the Evangelical doctrine. Erasmus cannot 
persuade himself of the beneficial effect of the Reforma- 
tion, Luther's person being the chief cause. He blames 
his opponent with having caused the peasant's revolt 
and with his cruel book against the peasants. He 
reproaches the reform also with the lack of unity among 
the leaders, especially with the quarrel between Luther 
and Carlstadt. He promises to answer The Bondage of 
the Will more fully later, and warmly defends himself 
from the charges of skepticism. 

This work also enjoyed much popularity, being 
reprinted at least four times in 1526 and translated into 
German by Jerome Emser, the protege of Duke George. 2 
This nobleman was much pleased with the work as he 
wrote its author on April i6th. 3 His councilor, Pistorius, 4 
also wrote on April igth urging him to continue with his 
good work and, in order to help him, had some of the 
Reformer's German books translated into Latin, so that 
Erasmus might refute all the errors contained in them. 

The emperor also wrote on November 9, 1526, from 
Granada, congratulating Erasmus on becoming at last 
ex professo an enemy of Luther and exhorting him to 
continue. 5 A second letter of a year later, again expressed 
the monarch's pleasure that Erasmus had dissociated 
himself from Luther's madness, and exonerated Erasmus 
from all error save a few human slips. 6 

^B., x, 1249. Preface dated February 20, 1526. 

2 Emser had published Erasmus's Rythmi in laudem Anna Avies Jesu in 
1515. See J. Tr uhlan Catalogus manuscriptorum in Bibliotheca Universitatis 
Pragensis, 1906, no. 2771. Cf. BiUiotkeca Erasmiana, 109-110, and Eraser's 
tracts published in Corpus Catholicorum, i, 4, p. 54 (1921). 

3 Horawitz, Erasmiana, I, ep. 10. Gess, ii, 527. 
4 LB. App. ep. 336. 

5 Brewer: Letters and Papers of Henry VIll y iv, No. 604. 

6 December 13, 1527. LB. ep. 1915. 


Yet it was with a heavy heart that he continued his 
work. On June 6, 1526, he wrote Pirckheimer that, 
although Luther left no place for friendship, he seemed 
to restrain his wrath, and that in writing against him he 
knew that he aided some who would rather see Erasmus 
dead than the Reformer himself. 1 

That, indeed, he decided to publish the second half of 
the Hyperaspistes was perhaps due to the importunity of 
his English friends 2 and to a renewal of the quarrel 
between Luther and Henry VIII. The Reformer had 
had the poor judgment to write a humble letter to his 
royal enemy, offering to make public apology for his 
former polemic. 3 After a long delay the king answered 
with a fiercer missive than before, 4 accusing him of all his 
old errors and of a variety of crimes, including the 
incitement to the peasants' war and living in wantonness 
with a nun. This letter was edited and translated by 
Emser, who sent a copy of it to Erasmus December 25, 
1526, begging him to publish the rest of his Hyperaspistes 
and saying that by not doing so he made himself 
suspected. 5 

Under these combined stimuli Erasmus finally decided 
to bring out a comprehensive work against the Reforma- 
tion, studying a number of the Wittenberg professor's 
books with care. The Hyperaspistes II is six times as 
large as the Diatribe, being not only a careful refutation 
of The Bondage of the Will but an attack all along the 
line. A lengthy excursus is devoted to the quarrel with 
Henry VIII, Luther's reply to the letter last mentioned 
having given special offense. Erasmus definitely breaks 
with the reform at last and predicts that no name will 
be more hated by posterity than will Luther's. He finds 

1 Lond. xxx 44. LB. ep. 823. 

2 More wrote him from Greenwich, December 18, 1526, urging him to do so. 
LB. App. ep. 334. 

8 September i, 1525. Enders, v. 229. L. C. ep. 700. 

4 Epistola Martini LutherL . . . Rssponsio dicti regis. Dresden. 1527. 
L. C. ep. 737. 
6 Forstemann und Giinther, ep. 56. 


fault especially with the absolutism of the professor* 
"who never recoils from extremes/ 5 For himself he is a 
humanist, who believes that reason reveals truth as well 
as Scripture, and who "like nature, abhors portents." 
Indeed, it has been said, 1 with no more exaggeration 
than is pardonable in any brief generalization, that the 
controversy was fundamentally not so much on the 
subject of the will as on the claims of revealed versus 
natural religion. Luther feared that the absolute claim 
of Christianity would be compromised. In short this 
work reveals better than any other the fundamental 
difference in the ^Oog of the two men. 

When the Hyperaspistes Part II appeared about Sep- 
tember i, 1527, Erasmus sent a copy at once to the em- 
peror, 2 with a request for protection against the now 
enraged Lutherans, and to Duke George with a letter 
protesting that nothing had ever been so tediou* to him 
as reading Luther's works. 3 The nobleman, while pleased 
at Erasmus's efforts to overturn Luther, could not 
wholly rid himself of the idea that, after all, the two 
champions were much of a sort, and that Erasmus was 
still in doubt about Luther's spirit. 4 To Maldonato 
Erasmus sent what was perhaps the most perfect state- 
ment of his position: 5 

While I was fighting against these monsters [the enemies of learning] 
a fairly equal battle, lo! suddenly Luther arose and threw the apple 
of discord into the world. ... I brought it about that humanism, 
which among the Italians and especially among the Romans savored 
of nothing but pure paganism, began nobly to celebrate Christ, in 
whom, if we are true Christians, we ought to boast as the one author 
of both wisdom and happiness. ... I always avoided the 

1 R. Will; La Liberte Chretienne chez Luther, 1922, p. 32 ff. 

* Lond. xx, 5; LB. ep. 895. 

8 Lond. xix, 47; LB. ep. 889. Cf. his letter to Vergara complaining that 
he had almost died of reading the taunts, grimaces, insults, boasts, jeers, and 
cries of triumph in Luther's books. Lond. xx, 14; LB. ep. 893. 

4 J. Caesarius to J. Lang, Leipzig, October n, 1527. K. und W. Krafft: 
Brief e und Dokumente aus der Zeit der Reformation) 1875, p. 154. See George 
to Erasmus, January I, 1527. F. Gess: AkUn und JBriefe, ii, no. 681. 

8 March 30, 1527. Revue Hispanique, xvii, 1907, pp. 629 f. 


character of a dogmatist, except in certain obiter dicta which seemed 
to me likely to correct studies and the preposterous judgments of 
men. The world was put into a deeper slumber by ceremonies than 
it could have been by mandrake; monks, or rather, pseudo-monks, 
reigned in the consciences of men, for they had bound them on 
purpose in inextricable knots. 

Luther never deigned to answer the Hyperaspistes 
though in his private letters he punned on the name as 
if it meant "super-viperine" 1 for he thought that a 
reply would do too much honor to one "who should be 
condemned rather than refuted, as he mocked all 
religion like his dear Lucian." 2 The other reformers, 
even Meianchthon, 3 resented the attack. Jonas now 
called his once loved master "an old fox/' 4 and another 
member of the group, Mark Forster, published a Judg- 
ment of the recently published Books on the Will vainly 
called Free and truly called Bound, giving the palm of 
victory to the Wittenberger. 5 

Erasmus's private letters, those never published by 
himself, prove that he kept au courant with Luther's 
doings and writings. At one time he asked to see the 
tract On the Turkish Warf at another time to have pro- 
cured the pamphlet On the Keys of the Church, if in Latin. 7 
His friend and the Reformer's bitterest enemy, Duke 
George of Albertine Saxony, continued to supply him 
with literature and to do his best to spur him to new 
efforts in defense of the faith. The Wittenberg professor 
wrote to the duke on December 21, I525, 8 hoping to 
make him a convert, but received a tart reply bidding 

1 Enders, vi, 103, 105, no. L. C. epp. 728, 777. 

2 To Montanus, May 28, 1529; Enders vii, 105; L. C. ep. 834. 

3 To Luther, October 2, 1527. Enders vi, 97; L. C, ep. 730. 

4 Jonas to Lang, October 17, 1527, Kawerau: Briefwschsel des Justus Jonas ^ 
ep. 107. ^ 

5 De Libellis vane Liberi et vere Servi Arbitrii nuper azditis Judicium Marci 
Furstkeri, Dated Wittenberg, March 17, 1526. Reprinted in Theologische 
Studien und Kritiken y 1911, pp. 136 ff. 

6 Epistoltz ad Amerbachium, no. 29, no date. The Turkish War was written 
in 1529. 

7 Ibid* no. 2. The Keys was written in 1530. 

8 Enders v, 281; Gess 11,459; L. C. ep. 720. 


him keep his gospel to himself. 1 When this correspond- 
ence was forwarded to Erasmus, he read the duke's 
letter with pleasure, but even then replied to him, much 
to his disgust, that it was difficult to regard Luther's 
spirit as either a wholly good or a wholly evil one. 2 The 
course of events, however, turned him ever more strongly 
against the Protestants, and when Luther wrote a violent 
pamphlet entitled Of Secret and Stolen Letters, accusing 
Duke George of robbing the mails, Erasmus confessed 
that the impudence and scurrility of the invective had 
alienated him more from the author than a hundred 
books by his enemies would have done, 3 and he even 
sent a protest to Melanchthon. 4 At another time he 
entered a vain protest to the Elector John against his 
subject's treatment of priests and monks; 5 and he also 
narrowly escaped becoming involved in the war of pens 
which arose over the spurious treaty forged by Dr. Otto 
von Pack. 6 

It is fairly astonishing, after all that Erasmus had 
done to clear his skirts of the Reformation, that he 
should still have been appealed to from time to time as 
an umpire or a peacemaker. While the extremists of 
both parties reviled him, moderate Catholic and Prot- 
estant alike turned to him for final judgment; he was 
treated alternately as an outlaw and as the arbiter of 
Christendom. So, when the great Diet of Augsburg was 
opened by the emperor in 1530, with the express pur- 
pose though the hope proved fallacious of reconciling 
the contending parties, Erasmus was plied with letters 
from both sides, urging him to use his influence in favor 

1 Enders v, 285; Gess ii, 472 (with many corrections); L. C, ep. 721. 

2 Lond. xviii, 6; LB. ep, 991. With wrong date September 2, 1527, for 1526. 
Cf. Horawitz: Erasmiana (Sitmnberichte der Wiener Akademie, xc), p. 412. 

* Erasmus to Duke George, June 30, 1530. Lond. xxv, 29; LB. ep. 1113. 
On the controversy between Luther and Duke George, see P. Smith: Life and 
Letters of Martin Luther, p. 225. 

4 Corpus Reformatorum, ii, 288. 

5 Erasmus to Maldonato, March 30, 1527. Revue Hispanique, xvii, 1907, 
P- 538. 

6 Forstemann-Giinther, ep. 83. On this affair, Smith, Life of Luther, 224 


of compromise. 1 Himself hoping that the Diet would 
extirpate heresy while avoiding war, 2 he wrote to influ- 
ential friends urging a peaceful course and approving 
certain reforms, such as the eucharist administered in 
both kinds, the marriage of priests, and the regulation 
or abolition of private masses. It was even reported 
that he had written to the emperor that the matter was 
too great to be hastily dispatched, and that reforms 
should begin at home. 3 

The rumor that he was actually invited by the em- 
peror to make peace 4 was, however, unfounded, but the 
protagonists of both parties appealed to him. Luther, 
as an outlaw, did not appear at Augsburg, and the 
leadership of the Protestants therefore fell upon Melanch- 
thon, who had always cultivated friendly relations with 
Erasmus. He wrote to him more than once, complain- 
ing of the ferocity of Eck, the Catholic leader, speaking 
of the moderation of the princes and praying him to use 
his influence for peace. 5 Erasmus replied that no one 
but God could compose this tragedy, even if ten coun- 
cils met, that he had never written to the emperor, nor 
been summoned by him, but that he had written to 
Campeggio, to the Bishop of Augsburg, and to other 
friends in the sense Melanchthon wished* He added, in 
two letters, that Melanchthon would most profit the 
cause by prevailing with Luther to forgo his obstinate 
reviling and provocation of the princes. 6 

1 Choler to Erasmus, February 3, 1530, Enthoven, no. 80; Susquetus to 
Erasmus, August 31, 1530, ibid, no. 87. John von Vlatten, secretary of the 
Duke of Cleves, to Erasmus, Forstemann-Gtinther, no. 130. Pistorius to 
Erasmus, June 27, 1530, ibid, no. 128. 

2 Lond. xxv, 29; LB. ep. 1113. June 30, 1530. 

8 Justus Jonas to Luther, Augsburg, July 28, 1530. Enders, xvii, 265. 

4 Enthoven no. 87. Also Melanchthon to Luther, Enders viii, 63. The 
falsity of the rumor is proved by Erasmus's letters to Melanchthon, Con Ref. 
ii, 288 and 244; Melanchthon to Erasmus, ii, 232. 

6 Melanchthon to Erasmus, August I, 1530. Mdanchthonis Epistolce 
Lond., 1642, i, 114. LB. 1125. 

6 LB. epp. 117 and 1126. Corpus Ref. ii, 288. Erasmus to Melanchthon, 
July 7, August 2, and August 18, 1530. Luther was kept informed of the less 
offensive parts of Erasmus's letters. Enders viii, 202. 


Eck also, notwithstanding an order from the Bishop 
of Vienna to keep quiet, 1 was after Erasmus, plying him 
not to use his influence for peace, but to hunt out the 
foxes from the vineyard of the Lord. For his part, he 
said, he tried rather to displease than to please the 
heretics; he had found 3,000 errors in Luther's books, 
of which he had selected 400 to publish at the Diet. 2 
Eck's uncompromising spirit was still further revealed 
by a letter from John Henckel, confessor to Queen 
Maria of Hungary, the emperor's sister, speaking of a 
conference with Eck in which that theologian had vio- 
lently blamed him for having seen Melanchthon, not- 
withstanding which he had since interviewed Bucer and 
Capito. 3 Erasmus hardly thought it worth while to 
remonstrate with so belligerent a person, but did write 
an earnest plea for peace to Cardinal Campeggio. 4 
Besides the miseries which follow war, and with which 
the world has so long been plagued, he urged that its 
issue would be extremely doubtful; that not only would 
the emperor be in danger, but that the Church herself 
would suffer, as the people would be persuaded that the 
pope was responsible. Much as he detests the sec- 
taries, he thinks the peace of the world should be pre- 
ferred even to giving them their desserts. Nor should 
the Church be despaired of, for her condition was no 
worse than it had been under Arcadius and Theodosius. 

The attempts to arrive at a solid agreement were 
fruitless. The Protestants were allowed to read their 
Confession on June 25th, but a refutation of this was 
forthcoming, and the Catholic majority voted that they 
must recant before the ijth of the following April, or 
they would be proceeded against as schismatics. 5 

The part played by Erasmus in the popular imagina- 

1 John Faber to Erasmus, June 21, 1531. Enthoven, no. 92. 

2 Eck to Erasmus, September 18, 1530. Lond. xxx, 80. LB. 1141. 
8 October i, 1530. Forstemann-Giinther, no. 137. 

4 August 18, 1530. LB. ep. 1129. 

6 Erasmus speaks of this in a letter to Antony Dalbonius, Abbot at Lyons. 
November 27, 1530. Lond. xxv, 41. LB. 1147, 


tion was well depicted by a comedy enacted at Augsburg 
representing the progress of the Reformation. 1 A person- 
age dressed as a doctor (Reuchlin) came in with a 
bundle of fagots, which he threw on the ground. 
Erasmus then entered, tried to pick them up, but, not 
succeeding, arranged them in the form of a pyre and 
then fled. Enter Luther, who set fire to the wood. Then 
a personage in the imperial insignia tried to put the fire 
out by beating it with his sword, but. only made it burn 
the brighter. Then the pope arrived with two buckets, 
one of oil and one of water, and poured the first on the 
flame, which naturally made it assume enormous pro- 
portions. After three representations of this farce the 
authorities thought it time to intervene, but the actors 
had time to flee before they were discovered. 

Even after the close of the Diet of Augsburg several 
appeals were made to Erasmus to act as arbitrator. One 
of these came from Julius Pflug, one of the most admi- 
rable of the Catholic divines, who wrote from Leipzig, 
May 12, 153 I, 2 saying that if Erasmus would intercede 
with Melanchthon, or with some other good man, he 
thought that on the Catholic side some concessions might 
be made, for the sake of expediency, even of things 
undesirable in themselves. Erasmus replied that he was 
sick and tired of mediating, feeling like the man who in 
trying to separate two gladiators met his death. 3 He 
had formerly interceded with the emperor, with Gat- 
tinara, and with Adrian, but all in vain. As for 
Melanchthon, he was liked even by his opponents and 
did his best for conciliation at Augsburg. 

A year later an urgent appeal came from George 
Wicel, an enthusiastic young Catholic with reforming 
tendencies. 4 He addressed Erasmus in terms of the 
highest praise, 5 as the man who understood religion the 

1 Meyer, 144, note 3. 

2 Lond. xxvii, I LB. 1186, 

3 August 20, 1531. Lond. xxvii, 2. LB. 1195. 

4 On him see G. Kawerau in Jlealencyklopadu. 

8 His letter, Frankfort, September 8, 1532. Forstemann-Gtinther, no. 178. 


best and who watched over it most carefully, who spent 
most for it and who was able to help it the most. A 
picture of the evils of the sects was followed by an 
exhortation to work for the Church: "Stimulate the 
princes to consider the matter. . . . Counsel, propose 
methods, pray, conjure, and sweat that the Church be 
given back to Christ/ 5 

Wicel followed up this letter by another, dated March 
30, 1533, expressing his desire for a general council, his 
trust that Charles V would moderate the Curia, and his 
belief that Luther's ferocity was moderating: "We hope 
that you, Erasmus, will be our Solon, by whose arbitra- 
ment each party would give up something for the sake 
of avoiding strife/' 1 

In pursuance of these appeals, particularly as he 
judged that by this time the sects were growing milder, 2 
Erasmus wrote, in 1533? his Book on Mending the Peace 
of the Church and on Quieting Dissent,* dedicating it to 
Julius Pflug; he recommended tolerance in trifles, the 
prohibition of books likely to disturb public order, and 
the summons of a general council backed by the civil 
power. The best way to still schism, he urged, was for 
everyone to lead a good life. Harking back to his con- 
tention with Luther, he pleaded that such thorny ques- 
tions as that of free will should be left to academic 
discussion. In reference to recent and violent icono- 
clastic outbreaks, while deprecating idolatry he set forth 
the view that images should be allowed as "silent 

This harmless essay evoked an immediate storm of 
wrath from the Reformers and the eventual condemna- 
tion of the Catholics. 4 Luther's attack took the form 

1 Best printed in the Zeitschrift des Bsrgischen Geschichtsvereins, xxx (1894), 
p. 207. Also in LB. col. 1755. 

2 Erasmus to Tomicki, September 2, 1532. Miaskowski, Erasmiana, no, 
27, p. 3 20. 

3 LB. v, 470 ff. Preface also Lond, xxix, 37, July 31, 1533. 

4 E. Gossart: Un lime d*rasme reprouve par I s University de Louvain. 
(Liber de sarcienda ecclesia concordia, 1558). 1902. 


of an open letter to Amsdorf 1 and a preface to a lengthy 
refutation by Corvinus. 2 In the former he reviewed 
Erasmus's Catechism, his Method of Theology, his Para- 
phrases, and other works, and asserted that all of them 
suggest doubts to the reader, as "Why is Christ not 
called God but Lord in the Bible?" and, "Why is the 
Spirit not called God but Holy (or saint, sanctus) "> thus 
proving that the writer of such words is an Arian and a 
skeptic. The preface to Corvinus's pamphlet remarked 
on the too great gentleness of this author, and showed 
that, while agreement of faith is one thing and charity 
another, Erasmus wanted the former, though Luther 
could consent only to the latter. Debate and mutual 
concession were vain when two sides were so fundamen- 
tally opposed as light and darkness, Christ and Belial. 
More attention was paid by the public to the Letter to 
Amsdorf than to the work of Corvinus; Luther knew 
that this letter had displeased Philip Melanchthon, 3 but 
that it was applauded by others. 4 One of the humanist's 
friends answered it, 5 and another was convinced by it 
that Luther had softening of the brain. 6 In partial 
mitigation of judgment on the writer's virulence it must 
be remembered that he was urged on by flatterers, from 
whom he received false reports of his enemy. One of the 
guests at his table spoke as follows of the great scholar: 7 

I knew him [at Basle 1521-22] and of all pestilent men none was 
worse than he. A certain priest told me that he believed neither in 
God nor immortality, and that once he had burst forth in this blas- 
phemy, that if God did not exist he would like to rule the world with 
his own wisdom. 

1 Enders, x, 8 IF, circa March II, 1534. Cf. Enders ix, 382, showing that 
Amsdorf had suggested the subject to him. 

2 Preface to Corvinus, Quatsnus txpediat aeditam recens Erasmi rationes sequi 
1534. Luther s Werke^ Weiraar, xxxviii, 273. 

* Tischnden, Weimar, iv, no. 4899. 

4 Corvinus to Luther, Enders, x, 85. 

6 Egranus's answer is known only by an allusion of Luther, Enders, x, 36. 

6 Boniface Amerbach, who sent this letter to his brother and to Erasmus. 
Burckhardt-Biedermann: Bon, Amerbach und die Reformation, p. 297. 

7 Tischreden, Weimar, iv, no. 4899. The speaker was one Wolfgang Schiefer, 
afterwards tutor to Prince Maximilian II. 


Shocked by the letter, which he described as "simply 
furious, and so wickedly mendacious that it might dis- 
please even the stanchest Lutherans, especially as it 
threatens even worse things to come/' 1 Erasmus at first 
reflected that it was impossible to answer a madman, as 
Luther now plainly showed himself to be. 2 To Agricola 
he wrote 3 that if the Reformer, angered by the Catechism 
he had recently written for the king of England's new 
father-in-law, did throw his books out of the schools 
and deliver his person to Satan, the man thus slighted 
thought none the worse of himself for all that. Loaded 
with favors by emperors and kings, he could well dispense 
with the good graces of the Wittenberg professor. On 
second thoughts, however, he published a pamphlet 4 
defending himself against accusations of paganism and 
blaming the violent language which he said was equally 
distasteful to him by whichever side it was used. This 
apology was in turn rebutted by Amsdorf, but the 
humanist's life did not last long enough to continue the 
controversy further. 

A good many people were repelled by Luther's savage 
treatment of the old scholar. Leo Jud, the Swiss 
Reformer, in a letter to Bucer, blamed the Wittenberger 
for this; 5 and a general reference in an epistle of Julius 
Pflug to "those who deny that eloquence can be united 
with knowledge" seems to point to the Reformer. 6 

With regrettable inconsistency, however, the Reformer 
himself continued to spice his works with transparent 
sneers at "Italo-German vipers, asps, and viper-asps" 

l To De Pins, November 13, 1534; Nimes Manuscript published in ap- 
pendix to this book. 

2 To Decius, Miaskowski, ep. 36; cf. letter to Melanchthon, October 6, 
1534, LB. ep. 1273. 

3 Edited by Buchwald in Zeitschrift fur kirchliche Wissetischaft und kirch* 
liches Leben, v. 1884, p. 56. 

4 Adversus calumniosissimam epistolam Martini Lutheri* LB., X, 1537 ff, 

6 Letter dated April 27, 1534, published by Grisar in Ilistorisches Jahrbuck, 
xxxix, 1919, p. 512. 

6 Letter of J. Pflug, probably to Erasmus, May 5, 1533, published in Archiv 
fur Reformations gfschichte, xvii, 1920, p. 231. 


i.e. Hyperaspistes. 1 His table talk Is full of the most 
rancorous expressions; a few specimens will suffice to 
show their character: 2 

Erasmus wishes to leave behind him the faith he dares not confess 
during his lifetime. Such men, who will not say what they think, 
are paltry fellows; they measure everything by their own wisdom 
and think that if God existed he would make another and a better 

All who pray, curse. Thus when I say, "Hallowed be thy name/' 
I curse Erasmus and all who think contrary to the Word. 

He arrogates to himself the divinity he would like to take from 
Christ, whom, in his Colloquies he compares to Priapus, 8 and whom 
he mocks in his Colloquies and especially in his detestable Miscellany.* 

He thinks the Christian religion either a comedy or a tragedy, and 
that the things described in the New Testament never happened, 
but were invented as an apologue. 

Erasmus is worthy of great hatred. I warn you all to regard him 
as God's enemy. He inflames the baser passions of young boys and 
regaVds Christ as I regard Klaus Narr [the court fool]. 

When Erasmus died Luther expressed the opinion 
that he did so "without light and without the cross/' 5 

Even while the battle was raging most fiercely with 
Luther, Erasmus kept on the best of terms with Melanch- 
thon, whose "fatal charm*' he acknowledged and whom 
he hoped to retain in the bosom of the Church. Because 
this Hamlet of the Reformation designated it as his 
misfortune to have been thrown, as Luther's lieutenant, 
into the religious controversy, the Catholics cherished 
constant hope of winning him back to their side by hold- 
ing out to him offers of a quiet and honorable position 

1 Preface to Bugenhagen's ed.of Athanasius contra 
Werke, Weimar, xxx, part iii, p. 531. 

2 Conversations with Luther, translated and edited by P. Smith and H. P. 
Gallinger, 1915, pp. 105-114. 

8 In the Colloguia f Convivium Rdigiosum> some one says that he has put 
Christ as guardian of his garden instead of Priapus. LB. i, 673 E 

4 /,<?. the Farrago nova epistolarum, 1519. 

5 "Sine lux et sine crux"; Luther's Tischreden, Weimar, v, no. 5670, anno 
1544. The phrase, "Sine lux, sine crux, sine Deus," was first applied to 
Erasmus by the Dominicans of Louvain. Allen, ep. 950, 


in which to pursue his dear studies. 1 The first serious 
attempt to detach the gentle scholar from stormy Witten- 
berg came in 1525 when the legate Campeggio sent a 
prominent Catholic scholar, Nausea, to confer with 
Erasmus at Basle on this plan. When he had published 
his Diatribe the year before, the author had felt con- 
strained to write to Melanchthon what amounted to an 
apology for breaking the peace. 2 Long, he protested, 
had he refrained from attacking the leader of the Evan- 
gelical cause because he favored renovating the Church, 
and because he had hoped that Luther would modify 
his acerbity. Only under the intolerable provocation 
given him by Hutten, in the fear of tumults, and in 
resentment at the hauteur of other reformers, particu- 
larly Zwingli, did he consent to oppose the Saxon 

To this advance he received a courteous reply, entirely 
agreeing with his strictures on those who, forgetting 
humanity and religion, had arrogated to themselves the 
name evangelical 3 The writer was sure, as he commu- 
nicated to other friends, that when Luther answered the 
Diatribe it would be with moderation. 4 

Erasmus's rather tart reply to this, reminding one of 
his words to Pirckheimer that he dared not be civil to 
the Lutherans because of the "sycophants," advanced 
the position that no one hurt Luther as much as did his 
followers, just as no one hurt the pope as much as did 
his partisans, and that the extravagances of a man cor- 
rupted by applause proved that the cure for the Church 
was worse than the disease, for it is useless, even were 
it true, to instil into the ears of the people the idea that 
the pope is antichrist and that there is no free will. 5 

When The Bondage of the Will came out, it was no 

1 On this G. Kawerau: Die Vcrmche Melanchthon zur katholischen Kirche 
zuruckzufuhren, 1902, 

2 September 6, 1524, Lond. xix, 113; LB. ep. 703; L. C, ep. 633, 

3 September 30, 1524, Lond. xix, 2; LB. ep. 704; L. C. ep. 637. 

4 Botzheim to Erasmus, November 26, 1524. Enthoven, ep. 29. 
B December 10, 1524; Lond. xix, 3; LB. ep. 714. 


secret that Melanchthon regretted the tone of his friend. 1 
He saw in the humanist's expressed suspicion that the 
work was composed by the joint efforts of "the church 
of Wittenberg" a reflection on himself, and hastened to 
meet it by sending word through a common friend that 
he not only had no hand in the book, but that he took 
no pleasure in Luther's bitterly controversial manners. 2 
On the other hand he found the Hyperaspistes prolix, 
confused, bitter, and unfair, though he was half con- 
vinced by it that determinism would be bad for the 
common man. 3 

The pair, so much alike in many ways, continued on 
the friendliest terms, the veneration of the younger man 
and the policy of the elder to use him as a brake on the 
Reformation coach, supplying the motives of occasional 
intercourse. To the continued wishes expressed by the 
humanist that the Reformers would try to promote 
morals as vigorously as they endeavored to establish 
their own opinions, and to frequent lamentations about 
the tumults of the times and the perils into which the 
cause of learning had fallen, 4 Melanchthon responded 
so heartily that his adviser hardly knew what his position 
in regard to the Reform really was. 5 

In 1532 Melanchthon dedicated his Commentary on 

1 Capito to Zwingli, September 26, 1526: Ztvinglis Werke, viii, 725. "Philip- 
pus fertur non dissimulate quod Lutheri acrimoniam in Erasmum utpote 
virurn optime meritum de bonis literis, parum probat." 

2 Melanchthon to Sigismund Gelenius, middle of July, 1526. The text in the 
Corpus Reformatorum, no. 393, has been altered by the editors to conceal the 
reflection on Luther. The true text, given by Druffel: "Melanchthon Hand- 
schiften in der Chigi Bibliothek," Akademie der Wissenschaften^ Munchen, 
Sitzungsberichte, Phil. Hist. Classe, 1876, p. 501, reads: "Erasmum, quzeso, 
ut mihi places, nam quod suspicatur Lutherum mea uti opera, valde errat; 
ego enim sua acerba conflictatione minime delector." A letter of W. Rychard 
to J. Magenbuch, dated Ulm, September 3, "anno a manifestato Helix 
spiritu quarto" (1524?) speaks of Erasmus's suspicion that Melanchthon was 
attacking him. J. G. Schelhorn: AmoenitaUs literarics, 1725, ii, 306. 

3 To Luther, October 2, 1527; Enders vi, 97; L. C. ep. 775. To Camerarius, 
April II, 1526, Corpus Reformatorum, i, 794. L. C. ep. 730. 

4 Erasmus to Melanchthon, February 5, 1528; Zeitschrift fur Kirchengc- 
schichte* xxxi, 88, 1910. 

6 Erasmus to Camerarius, August 9, 1529; Lond, xxiv, LB. ep. 1071. 


Romans to Archbishop Albert of Mainz, begging that 
corrupt and Machiavellian, if somewhat vacillating, pillar 
of the Catholic Church to provide a mild remedy for the 
abuses of the times. On October 25th he sent a copy of 
the lucubration to Erasmus, expressing by an accom 
panying letter his regret for the violence of both sides, 
neither of whom, he remarks, "will listen to our counsel/* 1 
No wonder that the old scholar gathered that the writer 
was by this time "disgusted with his own party "; 2 
though when he came to examine the Commentary closely 
he found that he disapproved more than he liked in it, 3 
and a little later he observed that, though Melanchthon 
might write more mildly than Luther, he did not, in 
fact, differ a straw from his dogma, but was "almost 
more Lutheran than Luther himself." 4 

Another lover's quarrel broke out when the sensitive 
old man saw in an invective against insinuating skepti- 
cism, inserted into a new edition of Melanchthon's Com- 
monplaces of 1535, an innuendo against himself. To his 
inquiries the author replied with a flattering but truthful 
expression of his profound respect, and a disclaimer that 
he should ever attack one from whom he had learned so 
much. 5 In some lost letter of these later years he did, 
however, venture to suggest that the humanist, might 
make acts square with his words, doing more for a cause 
for which he had said so much. To this he received an 
epigrammatic response in a line of Greek poetry: 6 Ipj/a 
year, fiovhai, 5e [teattv, ^%a!i re ye^vftiv (Young men 
for action, middle-aged for counsel, old men for prayer.) 

Doubtless chafing under the yoke of "the almost dis- 

1 Corpus Reformatorum, ii, 617 fF, with wrong date. On all this, G. Kawerau: 
Die Versuche Melanchthon zur katholischen Kirche zuruckzwfuhrfn, 1902, pp. 

2 "Se suorum pigere." 

3 Erasmus to Amerbach, Corpus Christi (June u), 1533. Epistolat ad 
Amerbachium, no. 79. 

4 March 5, 1534. Wierzbowski: Materialy do dziejow Pifmennictwa Pok~ 
kitgo, i, 1900, p. 74. 

6 May 12, 1536. Corpus Reformatorum, iii, 68 fF, 

6 Melanchthoniana Padogogica, ed. K. Hartfelder, 1892, p, 176. 


graceful servitude" which he said Luther imposed on 
his disciples, and feeling the attraction of the gentle 
scholar of Rotterdam, Melanchthon was planning to 
visit him, when he was prevented by the old man's 
death. In the anguish of the lost opportunity he 
expressed himself so pointedly that murmurs arose 
among the orthodox of Wittenberg against those who 
would rather read the dead Erasmus than hear the 
living Luther. 1 

1 Cordatus's complaint of September 8, 1536. Corpus Rfform&torum, iii, 
159. On Melanchthon's planned visit see C. Gerlach to J. Westphal, July 
*9> X536, K. und W. Krafft: Brief e und DokumtnU* 1875,.?. 77. 



CONTEMPORARY with the great Lutheran 
movement, largely dependent on it but in part 
owing inspiration to different sources, there evolved in 
Switzerland a revolt from Rome through various im- 
perfect stages to a consummation in Calvinism. But 
though the genius of Geneva finally stamped on the 
Reformed Church its indelible character, equipped and 
organized it for the conquest of much of Europe and 
North America, this movement took, in its earliest 
stages, and from its first captain, a free-born son of 
William Tell, a spirit of liberalism and rationalism later 
transformed into Republicanism and logical philosophy. 
If Ulrich Zwingli lacked the mighty genius of Luther, 
the piercing vision and marvelous gift of language apt 
to arouse a people to enthusiasm, he was superior to his 
rival in a certain political aptitude and in a somewhat 
greater freedom of intellect. Like a more Christian 
Ulrich von Hutten, or as the Arnold von Winkelried of 
sacred learning, he led a free people to a freer religion. 

That this child of the mountains and the forests, born 
in liberty and educated in the humanism of Basle and 
Vienna, should have found his first, and, until Luther 
appeared, his strongest, inspiration in the writings of 
Erasmus, omened well for the intellectual and moral 
quality of his reform. Imbibing with relish the "phi- 
losophy of Christ," tinctured with the ethical, perhaps 
Stoical Christianity of Its expounder, he learned, at the 
age of thirty, from Erasmus's Expostulation of Jesus with 
Man that Christ was the only mediator, and that the 
hierarchy of angels and the rites of the Church could be 



subordinated, or disregarded. 1 "I do not remember/' 
he confessed, on reading the Plan or Compendium of 
True Theology, "to have found elsewhere so much fruit 
in so small a space." With enthusiasm he bought, 
studied, and in part copied the Greek New Testament 
at its first appearance. In its editor he found the great 
emancipator, the Christian opponent of the schoolmen 
and the equal of the worldly humanists. Later he came 
even more completely under the spell of Luther, and 
perhaps his originality consisted more in a genius cap- 
able of combining two such almost incompatible elements 
as were the minds of these two men than in anything 
else. The older scholar himself recognized his own 
thoughts in the commentaries of the younger disciple: 
"0 good Zwingli/' he exclaimed on one occasion, "what 
do you write that I have not written before?" 2 

As parish priest at Glarus Zwingli made a trip to 
Basle early in 1516 especially to see his idol, soon after- 
wards writing him a fervent letter of thanks and appre- 
ciation for all that the great scholar had done for him. 8 
Presently he received the following kind answer: 4 

Your affection for me, as well as the festive and learned eloquence 
of your letter greatly delighted me. If I answer very briefly, impute 
the fault not to me, but to my endless labors, which often make me 
less kind to those to whom I should least wish to be unkind, but make 
me especially unkind to myself, drawing off the force of my intellect 
more than the fifth essence could restore. I am very glad that my 
works are approved by a man so generally approved as you; and for 
this reason, they displease me less. I congratulate Switzerland, of 
which I am very fond, that you and men like you polish and ennoble 
her with learning and character, especially Glarean, a man singularly 
respected by me on account of his various learning and uprightness, 

1 Zwinglis Werke, hg. von Egli, Finsler, & Kohler, 19905 ff,ii, 217. The Ex- 
postulatio Jesu cum homine, first published in 1514, is in LB. v, 1319. On the 
relations of Zwingli and Erasmus see S. M. Jackson: Ulrich Zwingli> 1900, 
p. 86; J. M. Usteri: Zwingli und Erasmus, 1885; W. Kohler: "Zwingli als 
Theologe," in Ulrich Zwingli: Zum Gedachtnis der Zurchcr Reformation 1519- 
1919, cols. 23 ff. 

2 Zwingli to Vadian, May 28, 1525. Z. W, viii, pp* 333 f. 

* Allen, ep. 401; cf. corrections iii, p. xxv; Z. W. vii, ep. 13. 
4 May 8, 1516. Allen, ep. 404. Z. W. ep. 14. 


and one wholly devoted to you. . . . Exercise your pen, Ulrich, 
that best teacher of style: I see that natural talent is there if only 
practice is added. I have written this at the request of Glarean, 
a man to whom I can deny nothing, even should he ask me to dance 
naked. Farewell. 

Henry Loriti of Claras, thence commonly called 
Glarean, a warm friend of both parties. In his efforts to 
bring them together again, wrote Zwingli a little later to 
ask if he had received this epistle, which apparently lay 
unanswered. 1 

After accepting a call to Zurich in 1519, Zwingli, by 
his vigorous reformation of that city, made it the capital 
of the Swiss revolt from Rome. Hoping to win the older 
man to his side, and in strait alliance with Hutten, he 
made another visit to Basle in March, 1522,* probably 
inviting Erasmus to Zurich, but receiving only a polite 
refusal coupled with the advice to be careful, which he 
apparently did not resent. 3 After this, correspondence 
was renewed vigorously for a time, and has luckily been 
preserved by Zwingli, for Erasmus never published it, 
fearing to compromise his neutrality. 

In these early years Erasmus was popularly regarded, 
in Switzerland as elsewhere, as an ally of Luther. One 
pamphlet, published at Zurich in 1521, claiming to be 
by two Swiss peasants, and possibly written by Utz 
Eckstein, is entitled, "A Description of God's Mill, and 
of the divine Meal sent by God's grace and ground by 
the most famous of all millers, Erasmus of Rotterdam, 
and baked by the true baker Martin Luther and pro- 
tected by the strong Peasant/' 4 Another citizen of 
Zurich, Hans Fiissli the bell-founder, rejoiced, in a poem 

1 Z. W., vii, ep. 17. 

* His intention of making the visit is spoken of as early as June 19, 1520, 
Z. W. vii, p. 329; also in Jan., 1522, Fadianischt JBriefsammlung, ii, 415. On 
the visit cf. Z. W. vii, 440; 499. 

1 August I, 1530. Lond. xxxi, 59. 

* Dyss hand izven schwytzer purtn gmackt. Furwar sy hand ts wol bftfacht f 
Beschribung der gotlichen muly, &c. Copy of the first edition at Cornell; re- 
printed by O. Schade; Satircn und Pasquille, 1859, i, 119. 


published in May, 1521, that the gospel would now be 
preached "by the splendid, famous, learned man, 
Erasmus of Rotterdam, who opened up the right way 
on which we may safely go to the true Holy Scripture, 
which surpasses all things/' 1 In like tone a peasant of 
Thurgau asked, " Where have you seen that anyone 
brings forward Paul as fairly as Erasmus has done?" 2 

But the great scholar, as soon as he came to Basle to 
live, assumed that role of neutrality which seemed con- 
cerned mainly to prevent violence on either side. He 
disliked the association of Zwingli and Hutten, from 
which he inferred no gentle methods of reform. After 
seeing an anonymous pamphlet, generally known to be 
by Zwingli, in which the author animadverts severely 
on the proposition made by Pope Adrian at Nuremberg 
to quell the schism, Erasmus wrote, 8 December 9, 1522: 

It is kind of you to take my affection for you so well. But I warn 
many in vain. I could easily bear the rashness of others did it not 
compromise good learning and good men and the Evangelical cause, 
which they promote so stupidly that if anyone wished Christianity 
extinct he could not devise a better method of bringing this about 
than theirs. Another worthless trifle has been published on the pope. 
If the writer had added his name he would have been insane; as it 
is he has produced an anonymous, but dangerous and bungling, 
article. If all Lutherans are such they will bid me good-by. I never 
saw anything more inept than their folly. If winter did not keep 
me here I should go elsewhere to avoid hearing it, 

Zwingli apparently did not take this warning kindly. 
Erasmus told Melanchthon 4 that Zwingli had informed 
him that there could be no agreement between them, 
and had answered his admonition as proudly as if he 
were St. Paul in the third heaven. The Zurich priest 

1 Schade, i, 22. 

8 Schade, i, 161 ff. 

*Z. W., vii, 631 f, The work was: Suggestio deliberandi super^ proposi- 
tions Hadriani Nerobergae facia, Werke, i, 429 ff. Other warning, vii, 582, on 
the Apologeticus of Zwingli. September. 

* September 6, 1524. Lond, xix, 113. LB, ep. 703, 


himself looked back on the breach with some bitterness, 
remarking that though it was caused by his defense of 
Luther, he had only lost the Dutchman without winning 
the Saxon. 1 

As the Reformation drew nearer home Erasmus natu- 
rally felt its impact more strongly. The innovators at 
Basle announced their break with the ancient episcopal 
government on Palm Sunday, April 13, 1522, at a ban- 
quet served with a sucking pig and embellished with 
oratory, much like the old-fashioned barbecues for polit- 
ical purposes in the United States, 2 Though Erasmus 
and his friends took and discreetly expressed offense at 
this method of purifying the Church, they were forced 
to see a great addition to the strength of the Reformers 
when, toward the end of the same year, (Ecolampadius 
accepted a call to Basle and began, early in 1523, to 
teach at the university. He had already spent three 
years (1515-18) in the town helping with the publication 
of the Greek Testament, and his ancient friendship with 
the editor presaged a peaceful and moderate course. At 
one time, indeed, (Ecolampadius had turned away from 
the new gospel, and had sought rest for his soul in a 
Bridgettine cloister; he came out of it, after two years, 
aged more with study and inward struggle than with his 
forty years. 3 

While the humanist and this Reformer lived in mutual 
respect and kindness, a very different aspect of the move- 
ment presented itself with the arrival, in 1524, of William 
Farel, a man on fire with zeal from the crown of his red 

1 Zwingli to Blaurer, May 4, 1528. Brief weeks el der Blaurer, i, 148; Z. W. 
ix, ep. 720. 

2 B. Fleischlin: Schweizerische Reformationsgeschichte, ii, 1908, p. 337. N. 
Weiss: "G. Farel &c.," Bulletin de la Societe de I'Histoire du Protestantism* 
fran$ais y Ixix, 1920, 1 15 ff. 

8 On him see Realencyklopadie> Attgemeine Deutsche Biographie, Ulrich 
Zwingli zum Gedachtnis, p. 291; E. Stahelin: (Ecolampadius' Beziehungen zur 
Reformation* 1917; Id.: (Ecolampad-BiUiographie, 1918. A. Bigelmair, in 
Beitrage zur Geschichte det Renaissance und Reformation /. Schlecht dargc 
brackt, 1917, pp. 15 ff. CEcolampadius entered the cloister at Altomilnster 
on April 23, 1520, and left it January 23, 1522. 


head to the sole of his gospeller's feet upon the moun- 
tains. After a public oration in Latin, on February 28th, 
which was translated on the spot into German by 
(Ecolanipadius for the benefit of the audience, 1 Farel 
took it upon himself to visit Erasmus, whom he had 
just called "a chameleon and a pernicious enemy of 
the gospel/' and to give a little instruction in divinity. 
The discussion over the invocation of the Holy Spirit, 
with special reference to the comma Johanneum or spuri- 
ous verse, I John v: 7, waxed so hot that the French 
youth told his elder that Froben's wife knew more 
theology than did he, and that he would rather go to 
the stake than not attack the humanist's fame. He con- 
trasted the simple faith of (Ecolampadius with the gaudy 
pretension to esoteric learning displayed by his antag- 
onist, and, in short, acted in such a way that the other 
believed even Luther would have disapproved of him. 
How easily, remarked Erasmus, he himself might have 
won golden opinions of his erudition by calling the pope 
antichrist! He revenged himself by fixing the name 
Phallicus on his assailant, and by having him, in July, 
expelled or requested to leave. 2 

Such incidents could not fail to turn Erasmus more 
than ever against the Reformation. The continued 
tumults, as he wrote Eoban Hess, 3 seemed likely to dis- 
credit not only the Pseudo-Lutherans, but the Reformer 
himself and all good learning. At the same time he 
uttered the following terribly severe arraignment of the 
fruits of the Reformation : 

How strong a man is Luther, I know not; but certainly this new 
gospel has produced a new race of men: stern, impudent, wily, 

1 B. Fleischlin, pp. 364 ff. Weiss, op. cit. t p. 129. 

2 Erasmus to Anthony Brugnarius, October 27, 1524. Lond. xviii, 40; LB. 
ep. 707. Calvin to Farel, February 3, 1551, and Farel to Calvin, February 
14, 1551, in Calmni Opera ed. Baum, Cunitz & Reuss, xiv, 42. Hilaire Ber- 
toiph to Farel, Basle, end of April, 1524, Herminjard: Correspondance <tes 
Rfformateurs des pays de la langue fran$aise t * 1878, i, 21 x. Peter Toussaln to 
Farel, September 2, 1524, ibid, p, 284 flf. 

8 September 6, 1524. Horawitz: Erasmiana, ii, ep. 7. 


cursing, liars and sycophants; discordant among themselves, obliging 
to none, disobliging to all, seditious, furious, brawlers, who displease 
me so much that if I knew a city free from this sort I would migrate 
thither. 1 

Elsewhere he expressed the now famous opinion that 
where Lutheranism reigned learning perished, even 
though the Protestant sect had been particularly nour- 
ished by learning. 2 In this phrase we see struggling to 
expression the truth that the Reformation, though in 
large part prepared and made possible by the Renais- 
sance, afterward turned against it, dissociating itself 
with cruel violence from the freer thought. The incom- 
patibility of the two spirits is well set forth in another 
letter; 3 

I see how hard it is for the devotees of polite literature to agree 
with theologians, and again how the theologians are scarcely just to 
liberal studies. The long-standing quarrels of princes are sometimes 
at length composed by a marriage; would that some nymph might 
arise to unite you in mutual benevolence, by which the studies of 
both would flourish more. 

The main point which divided the Reformers among 
themselves was the doctrine of the eucharist. The 
theory of the Catholic Church, transubstantiation, is 
that the bread and wine are actually changed into the 
body and blood of the Lord, though the accidents of 
taste, form, etc., remain the same. Luther's theory, 
sometimes called consubstantiation, was nearly allied, 
namely, that the body and blood were actually present 
with the bread and wine, though without any direct 
transmutation, just as, to use a favorite simile, fire is 
actually present in red-hot iron. While Luther was 
absent at the Wartburg, in 1521, a new and more 
advanced opinion arose almost simultaneously in several 
quarters, that the Lord's Supper was a commemorative 

1 To Henry Stromer, 1524. LB. ep. 715. 

2 To Pirckheiraer, dated 1528, probably written circa February 21, 
Lend, xix, 50; LB. ep. 1006. On date, L. C., no. 821, note. 

3 To Sylvius (circa August, 1525), Lond. xix, 88. 


rite merely, and that the elements were but the tokens 
of the body and blood, and in no sense identical with 
them. This opinion was defended by a Dutch theolo- 
gian, Honius, by Andrew Bodenstein von Carlstadt, one 
of Luther's colleagues, and by the so-called Zwickau 
prophets. 1 When Luther returned to Wittenberg, March, 
1522, he so discredited the prophets and eventually Carl- 
stadt that they were obliged to withdraw, first from 
Wittenberg and then from Saxony. Carlstadt produced 
a number of pamphlets attacking Luther on several 
grounds, among them the doctrine of the eucharist. 2 
His work favorably impressed the leaders of the Swiss 
reform movement, men far abler than he was, Ulrich 
Zwingli and QEcolampadius. Erasmus wrote, on October 
2, 1525, to Michael Buda, Bishop of Langres: 3 

A new dogma has arisen, that the eucharist is nothing but bread 
and wine. Not only is it naturally difficult to refute, but (Ecolampa- 
dius has supported it with such copious arguments and reasons that 
it seems that even the elect may be seduced ! 

The truth is that Erasmus had been asked by the 
Town Council of Basle to give his opinion on (Ecolam- 
padius's tract entitled "Of the true Understanding of 
the Words of the Lord, 'This is my Body/ "and had given 
it to the effect that the work was learned, eloquent, and 
thorough, and might even have been called pious could 
anything be pious which differed from the consensus of 
the Church's opinion, from which to dissent was always 
dangerous. 4 His position, however, was so ambiguous 5 
that each side saw in him a supporter of the other. On 
the one hand Melanchthon discovered in him the original 

1 This opinion also held by the Bohemian Brethren, as one of them had 
written Erasmus on October 10, 1519. Allen, ep. 1021, 

2 Preserved Smith: A Short History of Christian Theophagy, 1922, pp. 122 ff. 
8 Lond. xx, 60. LB. 766. 

4 Bassler Chronick , . . durch Christian Wurstisen (1580), ed. of 1883, book 
iv, chap. 14, p, 385. Fleischlin: Schweiurische Reformationsgeschichte* 1908, 
ii, 410. 

8 Cf, his letter to Lupset, Lond. xviii, n; LB. ep. 790. Internal evidence 
dates it December 1525. 


source from which the Swiss had drawn their doctrine; 1 
on the other, many begged him to defend the doctrine 
of the real presence. 2 Privately he expressed his doubts 
very freely. Thus to Pirckheimer he wrote: 3 

CEcolampadius's opinion of the eucharist would not displease me 
were it not opposed to the consensus of the Church. For I do not 
see what is the function of a body which cannot be apprehended by 
the senses, nor what use it would be to have it apprehended by the 
senses, provided that the spiritual grace were present in the symbols. 
But the authority of the Church binds me. 

And again, 4 

I should have some doubts, as one little learned, on the eucharist, 
did not the authority of the Church, by which I mean the consent of 
Christians throughout the world, move me. 

No wonder that the sacramentarians, as they were 
now called, believed that the great scholar was either in 
agreement with them or on the point of becoming con- 
verted. In fact, several of them openly claimed him as 
their own, the most forward to do so being Leo Jud, a 
friend of Zwingli, who under a pseudonym published a 
German pamphlet entitled The Opinion of the Learned 
Erasmus of Rotterdam and of Dr. Martin Luther on the 
Lord's Supper* The ingenious author tries to prove by 
quotations from Erasmus's works that the humanist 
regarded the bread and wine only as symbols; and then 

1 Melanchthon to Aquila, October 12, 1529. Corpus Reformatorum, iv, 
970. S. M. Jackson: Zwingli, p. 85, note. 

2 Toussain to Farel, September 18, 1525. Herminjard, i, 385. M. Hummel- 
berg wrote Beatus Rhenanus on November 2, 1525, that he was glad to hear 
that Erasmus was going to write on the eucharist. Briefwechsd des Beatus 
Rhenanus, p. 341. Erasmus's warnings to Zwingli and Zwingli's comment 
inZ. W. ix, 431. 

8 June 6, 1526; Lond. xxx, 44; LB. ep. 823. See my Christian Thcophagy> 
148 ff. 

4 To Pirckheimer, July 30, 1526; Lond. xxx, 43; LB. ep. 827. 

5 Des Hochgelerten Erasmi von Roterdam und Doctor Martin Luthers maynung 
vom Nachtmal. . . . 1526. [Colophon:] April 18, 1526. Lodomcus Lffopoldi 
Pfarrer zu Leberaw. I use the copy in the Bodleian Library, Tract. Luth. 
46, no. 1 8, On the authorship cf. Bibliotheca Erasntiana, iii, 32, and Fadian* 
ische Briefwechsel, vi, 1906, p. 265, 


deduces the same opinion logically from Luther's belief 
that there is no difference between priests, who conse- 
crate the bread and wine, and laymen. In both cases 
probably the Zwinglian view of the sacrament would 
have been the logical corollary of certain admitted 
premises, but in fact one cannot deduce any man's 
opinions thus syllogistically. Consequences perfectly 
evident to one man are often denied by another, and so, 
while Luther was unshaken by the clever work of Jud, 
Erasmus was moved only to indignation. Defending 
himself, he wrote to the synod then assembled at Baden 
that this tract showed both ignorance and malice, and 
that the publication of such pamphlets, once regarded 
as a capital crime, had of late become the regular sport 
of men claiming to preach the gospel. 1 In like tenor he 
published an open letter to all lovers of the truth, show- 
ing that the deep difference between himself and the 
Reformers was best testified by their attacks on him. 2 

But they were not all so easily convinced. Since 1519 
there had been at Basle an Alsatian Reformer, an excel- 
lent Hebrew scholar and a personal friend of Erasmus, 
Conrad Pellican 3 by name. Though he inherited from 
peasant ancestors a homely face and a particularly 
firm-set mouth, his friend knew him to be "a very 
childlike, kindly, sweet-spirited man." Acting on the 
maxim, unfortunately not universally true in this hard 
world of strife, that peacemakers are blessed, he tried 
to persuade the great scholar that their opinions on the 
Lord's Supper were fundamentally in agreement. The 
latter assured him, 4 however, that he was mistaken and 
that the writer, having been persuaded by the Church 

1 Lend, xix, 45. LB. 818. 

9 Lond. xxx, 58. Cf. Praestigiarum libelli cujusdam, June, 1526, LB. x, 1557. 

1 See his picture in Ulrich Zwingli: Zwn Geddchtnis, 1919, pp. 113 f. On the 
man see Das Chronikon von K. Pellikan> hg. von Riggenbach, 1877, and L. C., 
ii, p, 3 17. The correspondence of Pellican and Erasmus on this subject is re- 
called by John Laski in a letter to Pellican, dated Emden, August 31, 1544. 
Scrinium antiquarium sive Miscellanea Groningana [ed. Daniel Gerdes], 1750, 
tomus, ii, pars I, pp. 530 f. 

4 Lond, xix, 95, 96; LB. epp. 845-847, all dated 1526. 


to accept the gospel, would always learn from the same 
mistress the true Interpretation of the words of the 
Gospel. To the statement that Zwingli might write 
against him the humanist boldly replied that In a matter 
he really cared about he feared not ten Zwinglis. On 
the other hand, rather than drench the world with blood 
for the sake of a few ambiguous articles he would 
dissemble his belief or disbelief In ten such points. 

The expected intervention of Zwingli was not in vain. 
About this time he published a pseudonymous satire, 
The Epistle of a Certain Frank to a Certain Citizen of 
Basle, containing a bitter criticism of Erasmus's position, 
both for his reply to Pellican and for saying that Christ 
was really present in the eucharist "in an Ineffable 
manner/* This pamphlet was forbidden at Basle. 1 
Erasmus's natural anger at this attack aroused the 
further resentment of the sacramentarians, who now 
regarded him as "the brother of the Wittenbergers" in 
his eucharistic doctrine, and as having lost all savor of 
piety. 2 

Though occasionally requested by the orthodox to 
write something on the moot dogma, 3 Erasmus had the 
prudence not to do so. At one time, indeed, he thought 
of answering (Ecolampadius, but abandoned the plan 4 
because he feared that It would only excite tumult 
without producing edification, and because Bishop 
Fisher and the Sorbonne had taken the task upon them- 
selves. In fact, the desperate earnestness of the 
Reformers of Wittenberg and of Zurich, each of whom 
would rather have died than yield a single point, was 

1 Fleischlin, ii, 410. The date here given, October 23, 1525, seems too early. 
By "Francus" does Zwingli mean "Frenchman," "Franconian/' or simple 
" Freeman " ? If the former he may have wished to suggest the suspicion that 
the letter was by Farel, for he was not above such disingenuous strategy, 

2 Capito to ZwingH, September 26, 1526. Z. W. viii, p. 725, 

'Botzheim to Erasmus, February 2, 1527. Forstemann-Giinther, p. 64. 
G. Thomas to Erasmus, August 31, 1527. Ibid., p. 85. 

4 October 19, 1527, to Pirckheimer. LB. ep. 905. Pirckheimeri Opera ed, 
Goldast, p, 286. 


highly disgusting to the man of charity, and in his eyes 
did nothing but discredit the cause they represented. 1 

With another type of Reformer Erasmus came in 
contact in the year 1522, when Balthasar Hiibmaier 
came to Basle to confer with him on purgatory and on 
the dark places in John's Apocalypse, but went away 
disappointed with the man "who spoke freely but wrote 
cautiously/* 2 Hiibmaier is commonly classed as an 
Anabaptist, the leader of the left wing of Protestantism, 
the dissidence of dissent. Though he himself was a 
university man, most of the Anabaptists were uneducated 
and sprang from the lower classes of society, particularly 
after the poor had been so cruelly rebuffed in the 
Peasants 5 War by the leader of the Lutheran established 
church. Erasmus noted the progress of the sectarians 
and truly observed that though they won large numbers 
of adherents they never founded a church 3 of their own. 
With equal discernment and fairness he remarked on the 
purity of their lives, on their constancy under perpetual 
martyrdom, 4 and on their aim to establish a new 
democracy verging on anarchy. When seditious he 
thought they should not be tolerated. 5 

Personal influences combined with others of a more 
general nature to make Erasmus tired of his surround- 
ings. Of the quarrels thrust upon him one of the most 
disagreeable was that with a young Saxon knight whom 
he learned to know pleasantly at Louvain in 1520. 
Henry von Eppendorf, as the youth was called, then 
went to the University of Freiburg, whence he kept up 
a witty correspondence with the humanist. From 
Boniface Amerbach he requested and received the 
Epistol<% ad diversoSj which he richly annotated. 6 His 
marginal comments reveal his warm admiration for 

1 To Bucer, November n, 1527. Lond. xix, 72. LB, ep. 906. 

2 H. Vedder: B. Hubmaitr, 1905, p. 54. 

8 To Fonseca, March 25, 1529, Lond. xxix, 33. LB. ep. 1033. 
4 To Tunstail, 1525. Lond. xxii, 23. LB, ep. 793. 
6 Lond. xxx, 77, uncertain date. 
8 Allen, iv, appendix xiv, pp. 615 ff. 


Luther and Hutten and his gradually changing feeling 
toward the scholar whom he came to regard as a rene- 
gade. For him the Saxon Reformer was "thrice great/* 
the Dominicans and Hochstraten, Eck, Faber, Prierias, 
Cajetan "and six hundred others" were scoundrels, and 
Erasmus was eloquent, but cowardly and devoted to the 
princes of this world. 

When he heard, whether truly or not, that the humanist 
had been making disparaging remarks about him, he 
came to Basle in 1528, and let it be known that he was 
going to bring Erasmus to justice. 1 The scholar cared 
little for his threats, but was persuaded by his friends to 
allow Eppendorf an interview. Eppendorf appeared, and 
in the presence of Beatus Rhenanus and Louis Ber, pre- 
sented a letter purporting to be from Erasmus to Duke 
George of Saxony, in which the writer advised the prince 
to recall Eppendorf from idleness, and at the same time 
made certain disparaging remarks about that young 
gentleman's family, and certain accusations of heresy. 
Erasmus refused to recognize the letter, which was in 
an unknown hand, unsigned and unsealed, as his. After 
a dispute, Eppendorf declared that he would consider the 
matter and communicate his decision to Beatus Rhenanus. 

The demand, thus transmitted the next day, was that 
Erasmus should write to Duke George and justify 
Eppendorf, and that before sending the letter he should 
read it to the latter "lest by ambiguous and oblique 
terms I be more hurt than served/' Furthermore, 
Erasmus was to give one hundred ducats to the poor of 
Freiburg, one hundred to the poor of Basle, and two 
hundred to Eppendorf to dispense among the poor of 
Strassburg. If Erasmus refused, Eppendorf would risk 
his life rather than his reputation. Moreover, as Erasmus 
had ruined Henry's reputation with other princes, he was 

1 Eppendorf to Zwingli, February 3, 1528. Z. W. viii, p. 355. "I am now 
here to force the great Erasmus to retract." The history of this quarrel is given 
in the main in the Admonitio adversus mendacium (1530) LB. x., 1683 ff, and 
in a letter to Pirckheimer, May i, 1528, LB. No. 958. An excellent summary, 
which I follow, is given in Bib. Eras. Admonitio . . . I fF. 


required to mend it again by the publication of a pam- 
phlet dedicated to him. 

Erasmus gave a qualified assent to the articles about 
the pamphlet and the letter, and said that he preferred 
to give Eppendorf two hundred ducats rather than have 
a law suit. Eppendorf made some difficulties about this, 
and the matter was left to the arbitration of Amerbach 
and Rhenanus, who rendered the award on February 3, 
1528. Erasmus was to do as he had promised in the 
first two articles; Eppendorf was to suppress anything 
he had written against Erasmus; Erasmus was to give 
about twenty florins to the poor. 

Eppendorf continued to make trouble. He demanded 
the letter and the dedication of the book at once. 
Erasmus drew up a draft of the dedication, but refused 
to publish it immediately, as it seemed to him ridicu- 
lous to print a dedication without a book. The letter 
to Duke George was also put off on the ground that 
no time was specified and that the conditions left 
Erasmus free to write either to the duke directly or to 
one of the court. We find him actually in February 
writing to both the duke and his officer, S. Pistorius, 
though not exactly in the sense which Eppendorf would 
have wished, 1 for he mentioned that the young gentle- 
man was exciting the Lutherans against him. 

Erasmus revenged himself characteristically by ridicul- 
ing his adversary's pretensions to noble birth, both in 
private letters 2 and in published works. A Colloquy, first 
printed in 1528, holds up to scorn a certain class of 
braggarts under the title "The Horseless Knight or 
Counterfeit Nobility/' 3 So does the following passage 4 
in the Adages, first inserted in September, 1528: 

l To Pistorius, Februray 5, 1528; Horawitz: Erasmiana ii, no. 8. To 
Duke George (about February 18), 1528, ibid> i, no. n. 

2 Erasmus to Egranus, no date (1528), Handschriften aus der Reformations- 
zffit, hg. von 0. Clemen, 1901, no. 18. 

8 "iTnrevc awTTTrof swe Emcntita NoUUtas, LB. i, 834, C/. D. F. Strauss: 
Ulrich von Hutten (Gesammelte Schrifttn, 1877, Band vii), pp. 459, 512. 

4 No. 844, LB. ii, 350, 


Among the nobles of Germany there are some irnposters who bribe 
people to call them Junkers (lonckheri), who boast their paternal 
castles, add a plume to their helmets, paint a coat of arms in which 
a hand holding a dagger stabs an elephant, and subscribe their letters 
"knight." If one named, for example, Ornithoplutus is born in the 
village of Isocomus, he doesn't call himself Isocomian, for that would 
be vulgar, but he dubbs himself Ornithoplutus von Isocomus. 

The name selected is the Greek equivalent though 
apparently the disguise thus far escaped detection for 
Heinrich von Eppendorf. 1 

The peace was not, therefore, definitely established. 
In 1529 Erasmus wrote Eppendorf, who, he believed, had 
been accusing him publicly of perfidy, that he did not 
want his friendship, but would like him to keep his 
distance, for one could be hurt by worms and beetles. 
He wondered what he wanted. Eppendorf, then at 
Strassburg, replied very angrily indeed. 2 

On the whole, Erasmus had the best of the battle. On 
March 15, 1529, Duke George wrote him regretting the 
late unpleasantness and stating that he did not intend 
to recall Eppendorf. 3 In the following year Erasmus 
published his Admonition against Falsehood and Slander, 4 
in which he recounted the whole affair, much to the 
disadvantage of his enemy. The latter replied with his 
version, February, 153 1. 5 

But though unpleasant personal experiences doubtless 
had their weight with the old scholar, as they do with 
other men, yet his attitude was fundamentally far more 
changed by the increasing pace of religious revolution 
at Basle. Apparently in 1525, his opinion of certain re- 
forms was solicited by the Town Council and given in a 
memorial not published in his works, but preserved in 

1 Ornithos equals Hein or Hahn, plutus means reich; Isos is Eben, and 
Comos is Dorf. 

2 These letters, the first without date, the second dated only 1529, LB. epp, 

8 LB. App. ep. 349. 

4 LB. x, 1683 ff. 

6 Bib. Er. Admonitio, p. II. 


the archives of Basle. 1 In the guarded tone habitual to 
him, he begins by saying that he prefers to express no 
opinion of the Lutheran movement as a whole, but begs 
to refer them for a more learned evaluation of the same 
to his friend Lewis Ber, provost of St. Peter's Church 
and professor at the university. But on a few points of 
urgent local import, the humanist consented to give 
advice, though he knew that by not fully indorsing either 
side he would anger both, and though he was conscious 
of his difficulties as a stranger ignorant of German. In 
the first place, then, he thinks libellous and seditious 
books should be suppressed, as well as works on con- 
troversial points, at least if they are new. Much must 
be winked at in old books, or else even Jerome would 
not be printed, or any works save the canonical ones. 
The lucubrations of innovators, like Luther, might well 
be tolerated in so far as they argue temperately without 
vituperation. Ordinances of the Church, such as the 
use of images, the canon of the mass, chants, ceremonies, 
tonsure, and vestments, are said to be at best wholesome 
and at worst harmless. On account of the danger of 
changing old customs they should therefore be tolerated. 
Mass should be restored in its old form, though probably 
permission to communicate in both kinds might be 
obtained from the pope. Dispensations might also easily 
be obtained for not fasting, at least by those who needed 
to eat meat. Fugitive monks and nuns are said to be 
unworthy of favor, for it is incredible that a bad monk 
should make a good citizen. Cloisters, on the whole, are 
pronounced the best places of refuge for such people. 
Viewed in relation to the history of the time this docu- 
ment is notable, one of the most important in the history 
of liberty. Its quiet, diffident tone should not blind us 
to the fact that it actually proposed, for the first time, 

1 " Erasrai Rot. Consilium Senatui Basiliensi in negotio Lutherano," C. F. 
Standlein: Beitrdge zur Geschichte der Religion und Sittenlehre, i, 17971 pp. 
294-304. Bossier Chronick durch C. Wurstisen> ed. of 1883, book vir, chap, xiv, 
p. 385 C/. B. Fleischlin; Schweizerischc Reformattonsgeschichte, 1908, ii, 

384 ff. 


a plan to allow for differences of religious practices, and 
freedom for arguing opposite opinions, within the same 
territory. Hitherto it had seemed axiomatic, and had 
been clearly stated by Luther, for example, that, if for 
no higher reasons, yet for the sake of peace and quietness 
one form of worship and belief only should be tolerated 
in one territory. 

But the advice shattered at Basle on the rock of par- 
tisan fury, for the Protestant leaders continued to take 
counsel as to how to suppress Catholic worship, (Ecolam- 
padius early in 1527 publishing a pamphlet alleging the 
examples of old Jewish kings, and branding the mass as 
worse than theft, harlotry, treason, adultery, and mur- 
der. This was answered by Augustine Marius, or Mayr. 
The humanist's disgust with the whole proceeding is well 
expressed in a recently published letter to his friend Ber: 1 

Your letter, no less learned than pious, relieved my mind of a large 
part of the disgust caused me less by my poor health and the wicked- 
ness of certain men than by the public misfortune of the world; for 
I see that the cause of Christianity is approaching a condition I 
should prefer not to have it reach. But the Lord, the Creator of 
men, wonderful in disposing and swiftly changing human affairs, 
causes me to retain some hope of a happier issue, provided only that 
we recognize that this calamity summons us to the philosophy of 
wisdom. Assuredly I have reaped some personal good from these 
great evils. There are certain men here who are trying to put this 
city into the same condition that Zurich is in; nor do they suffer 
your man 2 to be preacher, though he seems to me apt to teach and 
not at all seditious. His great crime is that he attracts large audiences. 

Though the impression continued to gain ground that 
Erasmus was more Catholic than Protestant and could 
have stayed the progress of reform had he but thrown 
his weight fully on the side of the conservatives, 3 yet at 
Basle the religious revolution went its way. On October 
zzd of the same year four hundred Zwinglians met to 

1 January 26, 1527. Original first published, L. C., ii, p. 532 f; translation 
and notes, ibid, ep. 752. 

* Probably Augustine Mayr. 

* Letter of James Monasteriensis (of Minister, or of Montier-Grandval), to a 
friend at Mainz, dated Solothurn, January 29, 1528. Quellenbuch zur Schweiur* 
gtschichte, hg. von W. Oechsli, 1910, p. 317. 


urge the Town Council to abolish Catholic services, but 
five days later the Council announced to all the gilds that 
everyone should be free to exercise which cult he pleased. 
The discontent of the Protestants found vent in an icono- 
clastic demonstration on Good Friday, April 15, 1528, 
during which the pictures were removed first from 
QEcolampadius's church and later elsewhere. 1 This was 
done, however, without the knowledge of the Reformer, 
and even with his anxious disapproval. According to 
his account five zealots began on the day of Preparation 
(Wednesday before Holy Thursday) to remove the 
images from St. Martin's Church, and their example 
encouraged thirty-five others to purge in like manner 
the church of the Austin Friars on Easter Monday. The 
day following, the Town Council convened and threw the 
rioters into chains, but two hundred citizens forthwith 
assembled and assumed so threatening an aspect that 
the Town Council withdrew to the Wheelwrights* Gild- 
hall, and even there was forced to decree the freeing of 
the prisoners. 2 This failed to satisfy the conspirators 
and further riots threatened, in the opinion of CEcolam- 
padius, now an anxious, worn man, 3 to demolish alto- 
gether the house so divided against itself. 4 

The pacific advice of the Town Council that "no man 
should call another papist or Lutheran, heretic or ad- 
herent of the new faith or of the old, but that each 
should be left unembarrassed and unscorned in the 
exercise of his own belief" only enraged the Protestant 
majority further. On December 23, 1528, they accord- 
ingly handed in a petition, probably drafted by QEcolam- 
padius, demanding the suppression of the mass. Though 
the Council was divided equally between the adherents 
of both Churches, in deference to this and under pressure 

1 0n this and the following see B, Fleischlin: Schweizerische Reformations- 
gescUchte> 1908, ii, 433 ff, 455 ff and N. Paulus: Protestantismus und Toltranz, 
1911, p. 198 ff. 

2 (Ecolampadius to Zwingli, April 16-17, 1528; Z. W. ix, 430 f. 

8 See his picture in Utrich Zwingli zum Gcdachtnis, p. 34. 

4 (Ecolampadius to Zwingli, April 20, 1528; Z. W, ix, 436. 


from the ambassadors of Zurich and Berne, they passed 
an ordinance forbidding the clergy to preach aught but 
the pure Word of God. Anyone in doubt as to what 
this was should be enlightened by a biblical discussion, 
and, if obstinate in his own opinion, should be relieved 
of pastoral duties. 

It was now the turn of the Catholics to take the offen- 
sive. As Erasmus wrote to Sir Thomas More: 1 " There 
was good hope that moderate counsels would prevail, 
when two monks, one the preacher in the cathedral, the 
other preacher to the Dominicans, incited another 
tumult for us. They, indeed, made their escape, but 
others were smitten with evil/ 5 The two men referred 
to were Augustine Marius, or Mayr, and Ambrose 
Storch, commonly called Pelargus. When Erasmus's 
letter was published in the Epistola Pal&on<zoi in Sep~ 
tember, 1532, Pelargus took offense at these words and 
expostulated with their author. 2 

But the party that started the trouble this time was 
unable to control it. On the excuse that the Catholics 
had broken the law, the Protestant mob, composed 
chiefly of the poor 3 and doubtless aiming partly at social 
as well as at religious revolution, gathered in the public 
square on February 8th to the number of nearly a thou- 
sand, planted cannon in front of the Town Hall, and 
compelled the Council to expel the twelve Catholic mem* 
bers. During the following week the remaining images 
were destroyed, Catholic worship suppressed, and the 
existing ecclesiastical polity completely subverted. "For- 
sooth, the spectacle was so sad to the superstitious," wrote 
(Ecolampadius, "that they had to weep blood. While we 
raged against the idols the mass died of sorrow/' 4 

1 September 5, 1529, Lond. xxvi, 21. LB. ep. 1074. 
3 Bellaria Epistolarum Erasmi Roterodami et Ambrosii Pelargi vicissim 
missarum> 1539, ep. 21. 

3 This point is emphasized by the chronicle of the Dominican John Stolz, 
published in W. CEchsli: Qudlenbuch zur Schweiurgeschichtc, 1910, pp. 318 f. 

4 To Capito, February 13, 1529. B. J. Kidd: Documents of the Continental 
Reformation, 191 1> p. 466. 


This Reformer, now a dictator, had recently shown his 
thorough conversion to Protestanism by taking a wife, 
the young and pretty widow Wilibrandis Keller, born 
Rosenblatt. The mature age and delicate health of the 
bridegroom made him the butt of some sarcasm on 
account of this step. Boniface Amerbach mocked thus: 
"The wedding would wring a laugh even from old Sober- 
sides. A man of advanced age, with shaking head and 
body so exhausted that one might call him a living 
corpse, has taken a pretty and delicious wife about 
twenty years of age. Gospel ! marriage ! 5>1 Erasmus, 
too, commented mirthfully on the bridegroom's desire to 
mortify his flesh manifested by his choice of a particu- 
larly charming girl; for his part he disagreed with those 
who spoke of the Lutheran tragedy; it was really a 
comedy, as the happy ending showed. 2 The new gos- 
pellers, he remarked, "sought only two things; good pay 
and a wife, for the gospel gave them the rest that is, 
the liberty to live as they pleased." 3 

His thought took a much more serious turn after the 
"battle of the idols" in 1529. He knew that now he 
must leave Basle lest people should think there was a 
pact between him and the sectaries who hated him so 
much. 4 He looked with dread of war on the confederacy 
between the German and Swiss cities, and with disgust 
on the iconoclasts who pulled down images "even to a 
fly," abolished mass, and allowed women and boys to 
sing hymns in German. 5 "The mass has been abolished," 
he wrote elsewhere, 6 

but what more holy has been put in its place? ... I have never 
entered your churches, but now and then I have seen the hearers of 

1 T. Burckhardt-Biedermann: Bon. Amerbach und die Reformation) 1894, p. 

207, March 15, 1528. CEcolampadius's announcement of his marriage to 

Zwingli, of same date, Z. W. ix, 390. 

a To Adrian Rivulus, March 21, 1528. Lond. xix, 41; LB. ep. 961* 
To Pirckheimer, 1528 (1529), Lond. xix, 50; LB. Hi, 1138 f. 
4 To Francis Vergara, March 17, 1528. Lond. xix, 28; LB. ep. 1029* 
8 To John Vergara, March 24, 1529. Lond. xix, 3 1. LB. ep. 1032. 
* LB. x, col 1578 f. 


your sermons come out like men possessed, with anger and rage 
painted on their faces. . . . They came out like warriors, animated 
by the oration of the general to some mighty attack. When did your 
sermons ever produce penitence or remorse? Are they not more 
concerned with suppression of the clergy and the sacerdotal life? 
Do they not make more for sedition than for piety? Are not riots 
common among this evangelical people? Do they not for small 
causes betake themselves to force? 

Naturally, feeling so ill at ease in a town " sub verted 
by the CEcolampadian whirlwind/' 1 he and some of his 
friends decided to leave. When the citizens learned 
of his decision they did their best to persuade him to 
stay, (Ecolampadius especially protesting his regret for 
a departure caused, as he saw it, by no act of tyranny 
or of unkindness. 2 A personal interview between the 
two former friends failing to effect a reconciliation, 3 the 
magistrates called upon Erasmus to explain first why 
he had covered his face with his cloak, which they took 
to be an insulting gesture, but which was really, he 
averred, due to toothache; and secondly what he 
meant by his joke in a recently published Colloquy about 
a man with a long nose, a sheep's head, and a fox's 
heart, which they applied to (Ecolampadius, but which 
the author protested he had meant to characterize his 
own secretary. 4 Having finally satisfied them, he med- 
itated a secret flight, but later thought better of it and 
took his departure openly, on April 13, 1529, escorted 
to his boat on the Rhine by a concourse of friends and 
at the last moment composing a farewell quatrain to the 
city, thanking her for hospitality and wishing her good 
fortune and never a guest more burdensome to her than 
he had been. 5 

1 Glarean to Laski, S. A. Gabbema: Illvstrium Pirorum Epistola, 1669, 
ep. 8. 

a (Ecolampadius to Vadian, April 29, 1529, Fadianischf Brufsammlung, iv, 
ep. 573. 

1 Ixempltim codicillorum Erasmi ad J. (Ecolampadium, Lond. xxx, 47. 

4 To Pirckheimer, July 15, 1529. Lond. xxiv, 10. LB. ep. 1066. 

5 Bassler Chronick durch Christian Wurstisen, 1883, p. 406. Fleischlin: 
Schwei%erischc Reformationsgeschichtc* 1908, p, 465. 


But he was not yet done with the Swiss and South 
German Reformers. A book he wrote in 1528 called 
An Answer to some Articles of the Spanish Monks 1 became 
the occasion of a new quarrel. One passage in it had 
remarked that formerly heretics were much more leni 
ently treated than they had been of late, and proved this 
by citing a constitution on the Manichaeans from the 
Justinian Code. This passage gave the opportunity 
for using the name of Erasmus in favor of toleration 
of the Protestants when their case came up before the 
Diet of Spires of 1529* There was a certain Reformer, 
Gerard Geldenhauer, of Nymegen, thence called Novio- 
magus, who had been educated at Deventer and Louvain, 
and later had been chaplain to Charles V and secretary 
to Philip of Burgundy, Bishop of Utrecht. Sent by him 
on an embassy to Wittenberg in September, 1525, he 
had gone over to the Reformers and began to occupy 
himself with teaching, finally winning a professorship 
in history at Marburg. In 1529 he was at Strassburg, 
and there he published an extract from the work last 
mentioned, together with letters of his own driving home 
the point, under the title Erasmus's Annotations on 
Ecclesiastical and Imperial Laws Concerning Heretics, 
the last two words being the display line of the title-page. 2 

Though there is no reason to think that Geldenhauer 
had any intention of exploiting the humanist's name 
unfairly, nevertheless, the attempt to drag him into the 
controversy once more, and on the side of the Lutherans, 
was bitterly resented by him. His wrath took form in 
An Epistle against those who falsely boast that they are 
Evangelical.* This comprehensive attack on the doc- 

1 Apologia adversus Articulos guosdam per Monackos Hispanof exhibitos, 
1528. Biblioiheca Erasmiana f /. t>. 

2 Collectanea van Gerardus Geldenhauer Noviomagus . . . uitgegeven . . . 
door J, Prinsen, 1901, pp. vii f, xli ff. The work appeared in Latin under 
the title De s, Erasmi Roterodami Annotationes in Leges Pontificias et Casariar 
de Hereticis, and in German as Ejn Antwort des hochgelerten D* Erasmi die 
er sue hung und verfolgung der Ketzer betreffend, 1529, See Bibliotheca Eras- 
miana, j. 0. 

8 LB. x, 1573 ff, dated November 4, 1529. 


trines and morals of the Reformers was answered In 
April, 1530, by An Apology published anonymously, 
but really written by Bucer. 1 In addition to defending 
the rightness of the Protestants, the author asserts that 
their cause is a growing one, and undertakes to prove 
once more that Erasmus either is secretly, or logically 
ought to be, favorable to it. This in turn djrew a 
Response' 2 ' in fifty pages repeating In more detail his 
argument from the alleged bad moral effect of the 
Reformation. This he proves from the fact that Luther 
had recently created a system of church visitation to 
regulate the disordered morals of the people, and by 
quoting the Reformer's own words that he would prefer 
the rule of the pope and of the monks to that of the 
new gospellers who used their freedom only to live a 
Sogdian life. From this and similar testimony wrung 
from the words of Melanchthon and of GEcolampadius, 
the author infers that the chances are, even from a 
human calculation of probability, overwhelmingly in 
favor of the Catholic Church, rather than in favor of 
Zwingli and Bucer, and therefore that if one cannot be 
sure it is safer to cast one's lot with the former. Among 
other faults of the Protestants he reckons their alleged 
hostility to learning, and especially slurs their newly 
founded academy at Nuremberg. His old admirer, 
Eoban Hess, being a professor in this institution, 
revenged himself by a flow of invective in Latin verse 3 
against the "lurid old man" who from a god had turned 
Into a stone idol A few years later, however, he 
relented and composed a dirge for the " incomparable 
scholar." 4 

1 Baum: Capita und Bucer, 1860, p. 464. 

2 Erasmi Responsio ad epistolam apologeticam, LB. ix, 1589. Published as 
Epistola ad Fratres Germanics Inferioris, in Lond. xxxf, 59, dated August i f 


3 C Krause: Eoban Hess, 1879, ii, 82 ff. There is a pun on Roter Damm 
(i.e., red dam) concealed in the lines, " Deus ille invictus Erythri. . . . Saxeus 
iste Deus, luridus iste senex." 

4 Ibid., p. 209. 


When, on October II, 1531, Zwingli perished on the 
field of Cappel, and when, a few weeks later, (Ecolam- 
padius succumbed to a fever, Erasmus regarded the con- 
sequent prostration of the Swiss Protestant cause as a 
subject for rejoicing. "Here," he wrote to one of his 
Hungarian correspondents, 1 "we are freed from great 
fear by the death of the two preachers Zwingli and 
(Bcolampadius, whose fate has wrought an incredible 
change in the mind of many. This is the wonderful 
hand of God on high; may he complete what he has 
begun to the glory of his holy name!" And to another 
friend: "It is well that the two leaders have perished, 
Zwingli in battle and CEcolampadius shortly after of an 
ulcer, for if Bellona had favored them, it would have 
been up with us." 2 

But, even while dissociating himself with violence from 
the paths of revolution, Erasmus was constantly express- 
ing his own ideal of reform. He had another opportunity 
to do this when the Duke of Cleves sought his advice on 
the proper method of dealing with ecclesiastical prob- 
lems. 3 Little is known of the negotiations, save that 
Conrad Heresbach was sent to Freiburg to confer with 
the humanist, who praised the ordinance which was 
promulgated in 1532.* Much of it, including some 
provisions usually thought to be Erasmian, can be found 
in earlier ordinances promulgated by the Dukes of Cleves 
as far back as 1491 ; on the other hand his direct influence 
can be seen in the increased biblicism and rationalism of 
the new laws, in the treatment of ritual, of baptism, the 
eucharist, the catechism, the worship of saints, and some 
ceremonies which, without being abolished, are given a 
very subordinate place. Perhaps the thing most signifi- 
cant of Erasmus's liberalism is that he should have 

*To Nicholas Glaus, December II, 1531. Monumenta Bungaria, xxv, 175. 
Similar expressions in a letter to Queen Mary of Hungary, p. 176. 

2 LB. ep. 1205. 

*J. Hashagen: "Erasmus und die clevischen Kirchenordmmgen von 
1532-33." Festgabe F. von Bezold, 1921, pp. 181 fF. 

4 LB., App. ep. 512, 


consented to participate In an ecclesiastical reform pro- 
mulgated by a temporal authority. Like most compro- 
mises, this ordinance was severely dealt with by both 
sides. At one moment, indeed, it attracted the attention 
of the Anglicans who were also trying to find a via media, 
and it might have attained international importance had 
the marriage of Henry VIII with Anne of Cleves been 
happier. But the German Protestants severely criticized 
it, and in 1543 the emperor, acting for the Catholics, 
forced the duke to kneel and confess that he had never 
meant by it to depart from the Church. 1 

For Erasmus, too, the only result of his attempts at 
reform was to excite afresh the fury of the monks. The 
plague of hatred endemic at Louvain caused him to 
apply both to Ferdinand and to Pope Clement for pro- 
tection. The latter sent a special message by his emis- 
sary, Theodore Hezius, to Egniond and Vincent Dierx, 
requesting them to abstain from cursing Erasmus. 
Though these two theologians were still of opinion that 
the humanist favored the Reform, they perforce con- 
sented to forgo further animosities felt as scandalous to 
the Church. 2 To Ferdinand Erasmus complained that 
it was hard for him to suffer from both sides, and begged 
him to request his sister, Margaret, Regent of the 
Netherlands, to stop the mouths of those who railed on 
him at Louvain, especially of that brawler, Egmond. 3 
Though Ferdinand complied, Erasmus was forced to 
apply again in a few years for another intervention on 
the part of the Chancellor Gattinara. 4 Maximilian of 
Zevenbergen, writing this news to his friend, Alfonso 
Valdes, 6 says that the monks are generally more hostile 

1 Die Religion in Geschichte and Gegenwart> i, 2108. 

1 Letter of Theodore Hezius to the papal secretary, Blosius, Liege, October 
26, 1525 (?), P. Fredericq: Corpus Inquisitionis neerlandicee, v, 1900, no. 782. 
H. de Jongh: UAnci&nne Faculte de Theologie de Louvain, 1911, p. 257* 

8 Lond. xx, 23, LB. ep. 710. November 20, 1524. 

4 April 29, 1527, Lond. xx, 6; LB. ep. 859. 

6 Flanders, October 25, 1527, Calendar of State Papers, Spanish) 1527-29, 


to Erasmus than to Luther or to any heretic worse than 
Luther, and that the head of this party is the dean, who 
teaches nothing, and charges a great price. He begs his 
friend to procure from the emperor a rescript providing 
that only the pope or the Grand Inquisitor of Spain 
could judge the humanist's books. He also hopes that 
the emperor may invite Erasmus back to Brabant, as the 
French king called back Lefevre to Paris, for he thinks 
that Erasmus does not like his present home. The 
storm, though subsiding, did not die out 1 and on July I, 
1528, Erasmus was obliged to write a protest 2 against 
the stupid and rancorous book of Vincent. After this it 
was said that the monks were silenced: "Peace sleeps, 
or rather is buried/' 3 But hatred soon became active 
again. On the rumor of his death in 1530 the monks of 
the Netherlands burst out into wild cries of triumph. 4 
Some called him Errasmus from "erro," and Erasmus 
"the asinine," 5 and one doctor bought his picture in 
order to give himself the delicate pleasure of spitting on 
it from time to time. 6 "This tyranny," he complained, 
"is the result of Luther's violent effort to give us free- 
dom"; 7 and again he asked; "What is the use of sup* 
pressing Lutheran books if these Pharisees intercept the 
victory?" 8 Cut by the tongues and stoned by the books 

1 Alfonso de Fonseca, Archbishop of Toledo, wrote Erasmus from Madrid, 
June 29, 1528, that his adversaries have at last learned to act with reason 
rather than oppression. LB. ep. 962. Calender of Spanish Papers, No. 479. 
Wrongly dated July 3d. He begs him to write against heresy and sends two 
hundred ducats; for he must be the "Romanus Praeses" mentioned in the 
letter from Alfonso Valdes to Erasmus, dated Madrid, June 29, 1528. Letters 
and Papers of Henry VIII. iv, no. 465. C/. Valdes to Erasmus, Madrid, 
February 26, 1529. Ibid, v., no. 641. (Dated wrongly March 5th.) 

* Lond. xix, 82. 

9 Letters and Papers, v, no. 641. 

4 From C. Susquet, Bourges, August 31, 1531, Enthoven, no. 87. 

8 To Alciat, March 31, 1531. Lond. xxvi, 6; LB. ep. 1177. 

To Mailarius, March 28, 1531. LB. ep. 1176. 

^Erasmus to John von Riedt, October 1, 1528. F. and W. Krafft: Brief e und 
Dokumente, p. 144. 

8 Erasmus to Nausea, Day after Pentecost (June 10), 1527. Epistola ad 
JFr. Nauseam, 1550, p. 50. 


of both sides, as he expressed it, 1 at times he waxed 
pessimistic, seeing no hope for Germany save in the 
intervention of heaven. The hatred of peasants for 
lords, of the people for princes and ecclesiastics, the 
religious differences, the menace of the Turk, the exces- 
sive luxury of the wealthy, all combined to make the 
outlook exceedingly dark. Presently, he feared, the 
signal for war would be given and neither he nor Freiburg, 
his present abode, would be safe. 

It is remarkable that both Protestants and Catholics 
should have attacked him in the same manner, by making 
it appear that he agreed substantially with the Re- 
formers. "The deadly parallel" was used with much 
effect by Albert Pio, Prince of Carpi, a nephew of Pico 
della Mirandola and now French ambassador at Rome, 
who prepared a work consisting largely of a comparison 
of passages from Erasmus and from Luther, with the 
conclusion: a Who reading these words will deny that 
Erasmus Lutherizes, or rather that Luther Erasmized 
when he began to go mad ? " Hearing of the forthcoming 
attack, the humanist tried to ward it off by writing the 
distinguished author that he had nothing in common 
with Luther. Pio received the letter on November 13, 
1525, and sent his Hortatory Reply to Erasmus's Expostu- 
lation to Basle on May 15, 1526, having it, about the 
same time, printed at Rome. 2 He is particularly severe 
on the Folly, and objects also the humanist's previous 
intercession for Reuchlin. Carpi sent the work to Paris 
where it was published in 1529, and where it was trans- 

1 Natali DIvi Johannis (June 24), 1530. Epistola ad Amerbachium t no. 61. 

2 H. von der Hardt: Historia liter aria Reformationis. On all this F. Lauch- 
ert: Die Italienischen Gegner Luthers, 1912, pp. 279 ff. It is there said that the 
first edition of the Alberti Pii> Carporum Comitis, ad Erasmi expostulationem 
responsio parcsnetica, was printed at Paris, 1529, and this is the first edition in 
the Bibliotheca Erasmiana. But an edition published at Rome, 1526, has been 
advertised for sale by J. Gamber, 7 rue Danton, Paris, catalogue Ixiv, no. 1934. 
Extracts from the work are published in J. D. Mansi's Supplement to Raynaldo's 
Annales Ecclesia, 1755, xii, 150 ff, where the work is put in 1516! I tried to 
buy the work advertised by Gamber, but he wrote me, January 5, 1920, 
that it had been sold. 


lated at the author's request by William de Montmorency, 
though the translation was not published. 1 Erasmus, who 
suspected that much of Pio's information came from 
Aleander, 2 wrote again to beg him not to publish, and also 
sent a missive to Pope Clement with assurances of his 
orthodoxy. 3 When at last he saw the attack he published 
a polite but sarcastic answer to it. This drew forth a very 
elaborate work in thirty-one books, pointing out passages 
in his works which Erasmus ought to alter or retract, 
which in turn caused the humanist to put forth a bitter 
Apology against the ravings of Alberto Pio. As this gentle- 
man was now dead, his friend Juan Jines de Sepulveda 
advanced to defend his memory, performing the task 
with the more gusto as he was one of those treated 
with a certain condescension in the Ciceronianus.* 
About the same time another Italian Friar, Ambrosius 
Catharinus, attacked the humanist, saying: "Either 
Luther Erasmizes, or, as some have expressed it more 
harshly, Erasmus planted, Luther watered, but the 
devil gave the increase." Again, in 1540, Catharinus 
scented Pelagianisni in the Free Will, and fiercely fell 
upon it. 6 

In other cases Erasmus's attempts to defend the 
Church excited the antipathy of her sons, who cried, 
"Non isto defensore!" His book on Mending the Peace 
of the Church^ which aroused such dislike among the 
Lutherans, also proved a red rag to the Catholics. On 
November 5, 1533, the papal nuncio Vergerio sent it to 
Rome, with the information that one Augustine Eugu- 
binus "had spoken worse of Germany than was ever 
written of any province and had even named Erasmus 

I 1\it version, which must have been done in 1530-31, exists in MS. See 
Chantilly, Cabinet des Lwres, ^ v,, 1900, i, p. 167. 

2 To Olaus, February 28 (1532), Monumenta Hungarus xxv, 201; cf. En- 
thoven, no. 164, November 23, 1531. 

8 April 3, 1528, Lond. xx, 82; LB. ep. 961, 

4 Morel-Fatio: Historiographu de Charles 7, 1913, p. 44. 

B For all this see F. Lauchert: Die Italienischen Gegner Luthers, 1912, pp. 


as a fellow of Luther/' 1 A few years later the same book 
was condemned by the University of Louvain. 2 

Trouble was also brewing in Spain. 3 The first serious 
manifestation of it came after Alphonso Fernandez of 
Madrid had translated the Enchiridion into Spanish. 4 
The author was at once accused of heresy, especially of 
disapproving the punishment of heretics, of preferring 
marriage to virginity, and thinking ill of the Inquisition. 5 
The fanatical fury of the monks, fanned to white heat by 
the presence of the English ambassador, Erasmus's old 
enemy Edward Lee, found vent in the publication of a 
list of errors attributed to the humanist. So much of a 
bogy did he become that a riot of monks was awed into 
order by the imprecation of the presiding officer: "May 
the wicked Erasmus catch you if you are not quiet!" 
The government, however, took the part of the scholar 
to the extent of imposing silence on his enemies, though 
they still questioned suspected persons, like Loyola, 6 
about their supposed Erasmian views, and though in 
1535 Charles V made it a capital offense to use the 
Colloquies in the schools. 

All this time Erasmus was doing his best to assert his 
loyalty to the Catholic cause. One letter gives such 
prudent advice about keeping square with the Church 

1 W. Friedensburg: Nuntiaturberichte aus Deutschland, i, 1892, p. 139, On 
Augustine Steuchus, called Eugubinus from his birthplace Gubbio in the 
Apennines, see Bossert in Archiv fur Reformations geschichte, xvii, 1920, pp. 
231 ff. A letter of Pflug, dated May 5, 1533, shows that Erasmus was then in 
correspondence with Eugubinus. 

2 Gossart: "Un livre d'firasme reprouve par PUniverske de Louvain," 
Bulletin de I'Academie Royale de Belgique, Glasse des Letters*, 1902, p. 438, 

8 On Erasmus in Spain see A. Bonilla y San Martin: Luis Fives y lafilosofia 
del renacimiento, 1903, pp. 123 ff; H. C. Lea: History of the Spanish Inquisi- 
tion 9 1907, iii, 414 ff; H. C. Lea: Chapters from the Religious History of Spain, 
890, pp. 35 ff. 

4 Letter of Alphonso Fernandez to Dr. Lewis Coronel, September 10, 1526, 
published by E. Bohmer: "Erasmus in Spanien," Jahrbuchfiir romanische und 
englische Liter atur, iv, 1862, 158 ff. 

6 Bonilla y San Martin, "rasme en Espagne," Revue Hispanique* xvii, 1907, 


6 The Autobiography of St. Ignatius Loyola, ed. by J. F. X. O'Connor, 1900, 
p. 101. 


that, notwithstanding its jocular form, one must believe 
it to contain an element of sincerity. Writing to his 
friend, Viglius van Zuichem, 1 he begs him to avoid getting 
mixed up with the sectaries, and illustrates the man- 
ner in which this may best be done by the story of the 
lawyer who fooled the devil. When the arch-fiend asked 
the man what he believed, the pious lawyer replied, 
"What the Church believes.** Seeking to entangle him 
by asking what it was that the Church believed, Satan 
was foiled by the legal luminary's reply, "What I do." 
With the prelates and governors of the Church 
Erasmus got on better than with the theologians. With 
his old friend Sadoletus 2 he kept up a friendly corre- 
spondence, and when Alessandro Farnese was raised to 
the tiara in 1534 under the name of Paul III, Erasmus 
wrote him his customary letter of congratulation 3 prais- 
ing him as a true follower of St. Paul, and expressing 
his wishes for the peace of the church. He advises 
political neutrality on the part of the papacy, and the 
summoning of a general council in which the Protestants 
should be allowed to hope that they may obtain their 
just demands. He expects that this would restore unity, 
as he still thinks that the majority of Christians are 
untouched by heresy. The papal secretary replied that 
the pope was pressed for need of money, and, notwith- 
standing his desire to do something for Erasmus, was 
unable to send him a present, but promised another 
favor instead, 4 which came soon in the appointment of 
Erasmus to a provostship of Deventer. 5 Paul III him- 

1 LB. App. ep. 374. November 8, 1533. Luther had previously (1531) told 
a similar story about a charcoal-burner of Prague tempted by the devil. 
Luthers Werke, Erlangen, xxvi, 377 f, 

2 Two of these epistles reprinted in Epistolcs P. Brunelli ft aliorum, ed. F. A, 
C. GraufF, 1837, pp. 381 f. See further Lauchert: Die Italienischen Gegner 
Luthers ', 1912, p. 390. 

January 23, 1535. Published by Cardauns, Qmllen und Forschungtn aus 
Italienischen Archiven. xi, 202. (Rome, 1908.) 

4 April 14, 1535. Enthoven, no. 127. 

6 W. Vischer, Erasmiana, no. vii. Instrument giving it to Erasmus, August 
1,1535, A letter from Paul III to Queen Mary of Hungary urging that Erasmus 


self answered that he desired nothing better than the 
peace of the Church and that he counted on Erasmus's 
help in securing it. 1 About the same time the pope 
offered him the cardinalate, but, though he felt pleased 
and flattered at the offer, poverty, age, and infirmity 
prevented him from accepting it. 2 

But the friendship of the curia did not exempt Erasmus 
from the hostility of many Romans. A pasquinade prob- 
ably written before his death represented him as "balanc- 
ing the papal heaven against the Christian heaven/* and 
compared him to a man attached to two columns by a 
rope around his middle, with a heavy sack tied to his 
feet and a sail between two horns on his head, the whole 
apparatus placing him in such an unstable position that 
every gust of wind turned him upside down and kept 
him whirling about. 3 

Much more unpleasant was a quarrel fastened on him 
by one Peter Curtius, who took offense at the slur on 
Italian courage contained in Erasmus' speaking of sar- 
castic proverbs, such as, "Learned as a Scythian, honest 
as a Carthaginian, warlike as an Italian/* Curtius, or 
one of his friends, thereupon forged a letter purporting 
to come from Erasmus to Curtius, imitating the 
humanist's hand and even his style not unsuccessfully, 
but full of scurrility and indecency not without wit. 
Erasmus is represented as drinking freely with his friends 
Beatus Rhenanus and Henry Glareanus, and making 
merry with them over a carving of tipsy Bacchus. 
Erasmus is then made to explain that he had never 
written "an unwarlike Italian" (Italum imbellem) but 
"unwarlike Attalus" (Attalum imbellem), for Attalus 

be allowed to occupy this position, printed in Epp. ad Amerlach. p. 119. iv. 
August 5, 1535. A certain Antony von Gumppenberg wrote Erasmus, Au- 
gust 21, 1535, from Rome that he has procured him the provostship, which is 
said to be worth 1,500 ducats per annum, though he fears it is not half that, 
and has a good house included, Forstemann-Giinther, no. 225, 
1 Rome, May 31, 1535. Lond, xxvii, 26. LB, ep. 1280. 

8 To P. Tomitz, Bishop of Cracow, Basle, August 31, 1535. Lond, xxvii, 
25. LB., ep. 1287. 

9 E, P. Rodocanachi: La Reforms en Italic, 1920, i, p. 148. 


was a man called by Hecataeus unwarlike and timid. 
Such misprints are attributed to the malice of the 
printers, and the letter continues to give an extreme 
example of this, as shown in a misprint said to have 
been introduced into Erasmus's dedication of the 
Christian Widow to Queen Mary of Hungary. Where 
he had written "Atque mente ilia usam earn semper 
fuisse, quae talem feminam deceret/' the printer had 
substituted for "mente ilia" "mentula," thus turning 
a compliment into an obscene insult, which was said to 
have been printed in a thousand copies. Though when 
he heard of this forgery Erasmus at once protested 
against it, the imitation of his style was so good that the 
spurious letter was printed as his by Merula in 1607, 
and has found its way into the complete editions of his 
correspondence published since then. 1 

l The letter, dated Freiburg, January n, 1535, in Lond. xx, 68; LB. 1276; 
Erasmi Responsio ad Petri Cursii Defcnsionem, LB. ix 1747. C/. Jortin: Life 
of Erasmus, i, 557 f; Nichols, i, p, xxxviii, 474. A letter to Erasmus from 
Martin Dabrowski, dated Rome, 1536, gives him information of the political 
situation there. Published with one from Joseph Tectander, by Miaskowski, 
in Pamiftnik liUracki, xiii, 1914-15, pp. 71-76. 




residence selected by Erasmus after leaving 
JL Basle was the Hapsburg city about forty miles 
north of that town, Freiburg in the Breisgau. Beauti- 
fully situated on the Dreisam at the foot of the Schloss- 
berg in the Black Forest, this archiepiscopal see was 
adorned with one of the finest Gothic minsters in 
Germany and was the seat of the university founded 
by Albert VI, Archduke of Austria, in 1457. The 
attractions of the spot for the weary scholar consisted 
largely in the promise of freedom from the sects and 
in the presence of several warm friends, headed by 
Ulrich Zasius, the local professor of jurisprudence. 

By the care of John Faber, Bishop of Vienna, he 
found awaiting him the handsomest house in Freiburg, 
then known as The White Lily, built by the Imperial 
Treasurer, James Villinger, in 1516 for the Emperor 
Maximilian. 1 The only drawbacks to his enjoyment 
of this royal residence were that he had to share it with 
Dr. Othmar Nachtigall, known in Latin as Luscinius, 
and that he was expected to pay rent. 2 But these proved 
so serious that after two years and a half he moved to 
another house, known as The Child Jesus, which he at 

1 H. Mayer: "Erasmus in Semen Beziehungen zur Universitat Freiburg," 
Alemannia, N. F. viii, 1907, pp, 287 ff. (?/ Forstemann-Gttnther, p. 345. Jn 
that day houses were named instead of numbered. This palace was later 
dubbed "The Whale/' and is now Franciskanerstrasse 3, occupied by a whole- 
sale wine merchant, but preserved in the old style. 

2 To More, September 5, 1529, Londt xxvi, 21; LB. 1074; and Lond. xxx, 
20, LB. ep. 1210, 1531. 



first rented and then bought for a thousand gulden, 
again selling it when he returned to Basle in I535. 1 - 

Crowned with his own fame and armed with a special 
diploma from Ferdinand, Erasmus was received with high 
honors by the university. With him to Freiburg he 
brought the whole chapter of canons of the Basle 
cathedral, some of whom were given teaching positions. 2 
Erasmus, who found the university well attended, but 
not well served in any faculty save that of jurisprudence, 
was on intimate terms with the professors, and was by 
them occasionally consulted as to appointments, and was 
allowed to keep a few students with him as famuli. On 
August 5, 1533, he enrolled as "Desiderius Erasmus 
Rotetodamus theologize professor/' 3 his chief object in 
doing so apparently being the desire to secure the pro- 
fessorial privilege of freedom from taxes. Just two 
months later he was taken into the university senate, on 
the stipulation that no heavy work be put upon him. 

Never content long in one place, Erasmus in the au- 
tumn of 1531 paid another visit to Besan^on, in order 
"to quench his thirst with good Burgundian wine." A 
letter of recommendation from the ertnperor secured him 
a splendid reception from the magistrates of the town, 
and perhaps an invitation to settle there. 4 He thought 
of going further to see Lyons, which he remembered from 
his visit of a quarter of a century before, but the war 
between Savoy and Berne and a letter from Charles V 
prevented him. 5 

1 Now SchifFstrasse 7, occupied by a brewery, rebuilt but with an inscription 
reminding the visitor of Erasmus's sojourn* On the rent and other details, 
letters of J. Loble to Erasmus, Forstemann-GUnther epp. 153, 155, 184. 

2 Glarean to Laski, Freiburg, October 6, 1529, S. A, Gabbema; Illustrium 
et Ctarorwn Firorum JSpistote, 1669, ep. 8, 

9 H* Mayer; Die Matrikeln der Unwersitat Freiburg~im~Brtisgau> 1460-16^6. 
1907. Under date. 

4 Erasmus to Secretary Lambelin, dated October 26, 1532 (for 1531) and 
letter of Charles V, October i, 1531, published by A, Castan "Granveile et le 
petit empereur de Besanctm, 1 * Revue Historique, i, 1876, p. 125, 

8 To Dalbonus, Abbot of Lyons, November 27, 1530 (for 153 i) lond, xxv, 
41 j LB. ep. 047- 


From Burgundy Erasmus brought back with him as 
amanuensis a young native of that region, Gilbert 
Cousin of Nozeroy, 1 or in Latin Gilbertus Cognatus 
Nozerenus, known later as a writer on law and history 
and as a Reformer. He took his office so seriously that 
his first published work, On the Duties of Secretaries* 
asserts that x.he choice of a literary assistant is no less 
important than the choice of a wife. His assiduity and 
good character won his master's love, even though this 
master would have preferred a Catholic. When Erasmus 
left Freiburg in 1535 Cousin attended to the business of 
winding up his affairs in that city, and then took a 
canonry at Nozeroy. The affectionate correspondence 
continued through the short interval until his master's 
death filled him with sorrow. In the Boston Public 
Library there is an edition of Erasmus's Adages of 1533 
with numerous notes in the hand of Cousin and with 
two epigrams, one in Greek and one in Latin, under 
Erasmus's picture. 2 The former may be translated : 

Who has not seen Erasmus living will 

From this true picture know him. Could the skill 

Of the artist but bring back his voice, such art 

Would show to thee the image of his heart. 

But what the artist could not, he has done; 

For in his books his mind shines like the sun. 

That is his truer image and more clear 

Than is the one the artist painted here. 

Know, therefore, that Erasmus thou dost find 

When in his works thou dost admire his mind. 8 

1 L. Febvre: "Un Secretaire d'firasme: Gilbert Cousin et la Reforme en 
Franche-Comte," Bulletin de la Societt de Vhistoire du protestantisme fran^ais, 
Ivi, 1907, 97 ff. Professor Edna V. Moffett of Wellesley College has kindly let 
me see her unpublished work Gilbert Cousin (Cornell Doctor's Thesis, 1907) 
with photographs of unpublished letters of Cousin. Other letters in G. Cognati 
Opera, 1562, i, 296 fF. 

2 Adagiorum Opus Des, Erasmi Roterodami per eundem exquisitiore quam 
anuhac unquam cura recognitum. Froben. Basle. 1533. The notes in this 
volume were doubtless for the edition of Proverbs prepared by Cousin as a 
supplement to Erasmus. G. Cognati, Opera, 1562, i, 86 ff. 

* Later published in LB. i (24). 


And the Greek one thus : 

How Erasmus looked when old thou canst not tell 
From this design; 'tis not he, but his shell. 1 

These last words remind us that by this time Erasmus 
was getting to be a rather frail old man. "At Louvain," 
he wrote to Eoban Hess, recalling the visit of twelve 
years ago, "you saw the shadow of a man; now you 
would see the shadow of a shadow/' 2 

Erasmus continued laboriously writing to the end* 
Besides new works, and editions of works by others 
superintended by him, 3 he kept producing revised edi- 
tions of his own lucubrations. A new impression of the 
Adages, for example, he dedicated to Charles Blount, the 
son of his old friend, Mountjoy, in the following beauti- 
ful epistle: 4 

It must be your especial care, dear Charles, to be a true son of your 
accomplished father, the true heir of his excellence, not to degenerate 
from his culture and to prepare yourself to inherit his virtue even 
more than his advantages. For although he Is of illustrious descent, 
and does not lack wealth suitable to his birth, yet if you consider 
him as a whole he is both more illustrious and richer in virtue and 
learning than in race and possessions. Although neither law nor 
custom allows children to take possession of their father's goods 
before their death, yet ought they, from their earliest infancy, to take 
their heritage of those things which are really goods. Your father's 
kindness desires this, and the most splendid foundations are laid for 
it in your training in the classics, as much as your age allows. You 
have no dull spurs to urge you on: first your father himself; then the 
example of that noble maid, of almost the same age as yourself, the 
Princess Mary, daughter of a learned king and a learned and pious 
queen, who now writes letters in good Latin and of content showing 
a nature worthy of her extraction; and finally you have the example 
of the daughters of the More family, that chorus of Muses, so that I 
do not see that anything is wanting to stimulate your ambition. 

3 To Hess, 1531, C. Krause: Heliw Eobanus IIwus t 1879, i, 287, not*. 

8 As *., the translation of Chrysostom undertaken by Germaine Bricc at 
Erasmus's request, Forstemann-Gttnther, no, 140. 

4 Enthoven, p, 202. 1528, Blount's answer, Junt, 26, 1529, ibid,, no. 74* 
Erasmus later dedicated his Liry to Blount. Preface March I, 1531* 
Loud. Kviii, xj LB. ep* 060, 


I am writing to say that you will now share with your father the 
possession of the Adages, which was long ago dedicated to him, by 
which you will detract nothing from his glory, but will add much to 
the book, for, if I mistake not, you will reap much fruit therefrom. 
It is nothing new to dedicate the same work to several people, and 
were it new I would answer for it that the father and the son who 
so much resembles him should be considered rather one person than 
two. For what is a son but a father renewing his youth in another 
self? And perchance your father, absorbed in the business of the 
court, has no more leisure for such things and willingly hands the 
lamp to you. Read it, therefore, Charles, and while reading think 
that it is Erasmus talking to you. The Lord Jesus keep and prosper 
your whole life, accomplished boy. 

Young Blount answered this dedication with an 
epistle which drew forth from the humanist the rather 
fulsome exclamation, that if he could write such Latin 
unaided it was time for Erasmus to give up the pen. 1 

To John More, the son of another old friend, he dedi- 
cated his Aristotle, 2 and an edition of Ovid's Nut* 

A work of the kind in which Erasmus especially de- 
lighted was the Apophthegmata (first edition, Froben, 
March, 1531), a collection of "egregie dicta" attributed 
to famous men of antiquity. The foundation of his work 
was that of Plutarch. 4 As usual, he kept working at the 
piece after its publication, and in 1532 issued an edition 
in which the original six books were expanded to eight. 
Though not one of his more famous books, the Apo- 
thegms, attained considerable popularity, being trans- 
lated into English by Taverner in 1540 and by Nicholas 
Udall in 1542.* 

An extant copy of the Apothegms with notes in Luther's 
hand, 6 furnishes interesting testimony that, however 

1 To Lord Mountjoy, March 18, 153 1. Lend, xxvi, 39. LB. 1 174. 

2 February 27, 1531. Lend, xxviii, 13. LB. ep. 1159. 
8 In 1524. Lond. xxix, 26. 

4 Erasmus defended himself from the charge of having plagiarized from the 
recent translations of Plutarch by Filelfo and Rhegius. On the whole sub- 
ject see BiUiotheca Erasmiana, Apophthegmata. 1901. 

6 Ibid., 180. 

8 G. Kawerau: "Luthers Randglossen zu einer Schrift des Erasmus," 
Ztitschrift fur kirchliche Wissenschaft und kirchliches Lebtn, 1889, p. 599. The 


much the Reformer disagreed with the man of letters, 
he continued to buy his books. The severely critical 
animus of the annotator dissents from many of the say- 
ings of the author. When, for example, Erasmus says, 
"Wise men judge an unexpected and sudden death the 
best," Luther adds, "These are the words of impiety/' 1 

Other late works were the Catechism or Explanation oj 
the Apostles' Creed, a brief summary of the necessary 
articles of faith, 2 and the Method of Preaching, covering 
a large part of the field of practical theology as well as 
that of homiletics. Originally written as a gift to 
Bishop Fisher it was, on his sad death, dedicated to 
Christopher von Stadion, Bishop of Basle. 3 

Friends and admirers without number either carne, 
during these last years, to pay their homage to the prince 
of the humanists, or poured on him an immense quantity 
of letters. The correspondence published by himself and 
his executors fell off during the last four years of his life; 
for the years 1532-36 only seventy-two letters were thus 
published, and of them the majority not by but to him. 
Since that time from his letter-books at least three times 
that number has come to light; of these also the majority 
were by his friends. Kings, princes, prelates, and men 
of genius in affairs and in learning contributed to the 
treasury of his praise. With the King of Poland and with 
his bishop John Dantiscus he was in communication. 4 
Queen Mary of Hungary, to whom he had dedicated his 
Christian Widow, replied with gracious invitations, 

book is the edition of Leyden, 1541, was given away by Luther in 1543, and 
later came into possession of his son Paul. 

1 Of course sudden death was regarded as a divine punishment, and Luther's 
position is that of the Church, 

2 LB. v, 1133. Luther's poor opinion of this work also expressed in LauUr* 
backs Tagebuch auf das Jahr 1538, hg. von J. K, Scidemann> p. 48, 

3 LB. v, 767. 

4 Erasmus to King Sigismund, August 28, 1528, LB. iii col. 1098; Mias- 
kowski (Jahrbmh fur Philosophu^ xiv, 1900, p. 351) states that this letter 
should be in 1535* but he is wrong* Other correspondence of Erasmus with the 
Poles published by him, and also found in Acta Tomiciana: Epistola, Lega~ 
tiones, Responsa* Action^ Rt$#st Sigismwndi L Vols, 1-13, 1852-19x5, 


thanks, and compliments. 1 With those kings of com- 
merce, the Fuggers, Erasmus was also in correspondence. 2 

Among the many promising youths who sought the 
acquaintance of Erasmus not in vain, one to make his 
mark later as a humanist and statesman, and as a sup- 
porter of the policy of Charles V and Philip II in the 
Netherlands, was Viglius van Aytta van Zuichem. In 
addition to the correspondence published in Erasmus's 
works, fourteen interesting letters, relating to the young 
man's studies in France, Italy, and Switzerland, have 
since come to light. 3 

Another correspondent was Ambrose^ Storch, ^or 
Pelargus, of Cologne, a well-known Catholic theologian 
in his day. Thirty-five of their letters and one of 
Erasmus to the Archbishop of Trier, not found elsewhere, 
were published by Storch in 1539.* Half the volume 
is taken up with Storch's Judgment of Erasmus's 
Declamations in answer to the Censure published by the 
Theologians at Paris: the author admits that the scholar 
has much reason to be angry with Beda, but blames 
him, nevertheless, for subscribing to Luther's impious 
dogma. When, in 1532, Erasmus revised his Declama- 

J This published in Oldk Miklos Levdezese; kozli Ipolyi Arnold. Monu- 
mania Hungaria historica: diplomataria, xxv, 1875. Olaus to Erasmus, Augs- 
burg, July i, 1530, p. 69; Erasmus to Olaus, July 7, p, 70; Erasmus to Queen 
Mary, December 12, 1531, p. 175; Mary to Erasmus, June 13, 1533, p. 378; 
Erasmus to Olaus, February 28, 1532, p. 201; Olaus to Erasmus, July 26, 1532, 
p. 226, and other letters. 

* Letter of Antony Fugger to Erasmus, April 7, 1530, thanking him for a 
dedication of Xenophon. Zeitsch. d, hist. Fereinsf. Schwabtn und Neubcrg, xxi, 
1894, p. 56. 

*C. P. Hoynck van Papendrecht: Analecta Belgica, 6 parts, 1743. ^Letters 
vol. ii, part i, pp. 9 ff., dated 1529-35. Life of Van Zuichem (1507-77), in vol i. 
In the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, there is a portrait called " Zwingli/ 1 now known 
to be of Van Zuichem by the artist Nicholas of NeuchateL Zwingliana, 1918, 

P' 347- 

4 Ambroni Pelargi et Erasmi Roterdami Bdlaria Epistolarum, 1539. A 
copy of this excessively rare book (not in the British Museum) is at the Bod- 
leian, Oxford. I have not seen it myself, but my friend, Prof. Carrington 
Lancaster, kindly made an abstract of it for me, copying one letter entire and 
selections from others. On Pelargus see further: N. Paulus: Die Dtutscken 
Dominikamr tm Kampfe gegen Luther , pp, 204-208. The letters are dated 


lions for a new edition he wrote the fact to Pelargus 

and added: 

Wherefore I ask you to send me your notes that I may see if they 
have anything useful to me. For it is not my intention to mix 
anything Lutheran in my writings. If you please to send them, do 
not bother to copy them, for I have secretaries who can read anything. 
However, if you should wish to copy them, I should be grateful. 
But do not undertake the labor until I have had a sample of your 
work and we have talked it over together. 

The correspondence shows the good humor with 
which the greater man allowed the lesser to criticize his 
Folly and Colloquies*, the break came when the lesser 
writer took umbrage at a published reference to himself 
and Mayr as having part in the tumults at Basle. 

A philosopher and scientist famous in his own day 
and esteemed even now was Henry Cornelius Agrippa of 
Nettesheira, a man who stood outside of the two hostile 
camps of the Christian religion. The crowning labor of 
this versatile man was a defense of philosophic doubt, 
or rather an attack on the pretensions of learned men, 
and at the same time a plea for a simple biblical 
Christianity, entitled: An Oration on the Uncertainty 
and Fanity of Science and of Art and on the Excellence 
of God's Word. This he sent for an opinion to Erasmus, 
who professed to like it. 1 

With a brilliant circle of humanists in Southern 
France Erasmus was brought into contact by his publi- 
cation of Josephus. Having heard of an important 
manuscript of this author in possession of George 
d'Armagnac, Bishop of Rodez and an officer of the 
King of Navarre, the great scholar wrote him asking to 
borrow it, in a letter dated November 19, 1531** It 
happened, however, that this codex had passed into the 

1 On Agrippa see lives by H. Morley, 1856, and Prost, 1881, Some letters to 
Erasmus and Agrippa, not found elsewhere, are in H, C A$rippat Optra* 
Lugduni, /.*. Lib. vi, epp, 31, 36; lib* vii, epp. 6, 9, 17, 18, 19, 38, 40, 

* Lend, xxv, 3; LB ep* 1:203 with the mistaken superscription "Episcopo 
Rivcnsi" (Bi*hop of Rieux) instead of "Episcopo Ruthenensi" (Bishop of 


possession of Jean de Pins, Bishop of Rieux, to whom 
(TArmagnac forwarded Erasmus's request, and wrote 
the latter of the fact. On January 28, 1532, De Pins 
replied to (TArrnagnac that he would send the manu- 
script to the humanist had he not already promised 
to give it for printing to the publisher of Lyons, Sebastian 
Gryphius. 1 

But Erasmus was not thus to be foiled. He had 
already known De Pins at Bologna, some twenty-five 
years before, and accordingly on March 20, 1532, wrote 
him the letter 2 of which part is here translated: 

To me, certainly, that was no unlucky mistake which has given 
occasion to revive the memory of our pleasant intercourse and 
literary studies at Bologna. I thought that there was a Greek 
Josephus in possession of the Very Reverend Bishop of Rodez, but 
he has written that it is now in your possession, having returned 
to you by right of ownership. Your kindness, which I formerly 
learned to know and to try at close quarters, makes me hope that 
you will lend that volume for some months to Jerome Froben, who 
has decided to publish, with the aid of several learned men, that 
historian, who, in spite of his fame, has been wretchedly corrupted 
by the ignorance of copyists and of translators. ... I should 
like to know what the oracle says about our friend Bombasius, for I 
have been able to hear nothing of him for many years. 

This innocent epistle aroused the suspicions of the 
vigilant inquisitors of Southern France. Dolet has told 
how De Pins was called before the town council of 
Toulouse and forced to hear the letter read and trans- 
lated to them. 3 He himself describes the same 
experience in a letter written in reply to the last. 4 

SWEETEST ERASMUS: When your delightful and pleasant letter 
was brought to me, you would hardly believe the tumult that it 
created by falling into the hands of certain men who appear to look 
at you askance and to say evil about you. They tried secretly to 

1 This letter first published by L. Thuasne in Revue des Bibliotheg[ues> xv, 
1905, pp. 203-208. It is dated "Toulouse." On Gryphius see article by R. C. 
Christie, Historical Essays by Members of Owens College, Manchester) 1902, 
pp. 307-23. 

2 Nimes MS., no. 215, fol. 168 verso. See text in Appendix II, p. 448. 

8 Quoted by Thuasne, he. /., and see R. C. Christie: Doletf 1899, 66 ff* 
4 Nimes MS., 215, fol. 165 verso. See text in Appendix II, pp. 448 f. 


smell out some way in which I could be either threatened or drawn 
out. But I think their only reason was that they have been too 
vehemently affected by the reproach of certain persons 1 whom you 
attack in your books, and wound and harass too much, as they have 
complained both to me and to others. When these men hoped to 
find something important in your letter, as though Erasmus and 
De Pins were conspirators against the realm, they first made a great 
fuss and then while I, by chance, was absent from the city on a short 
vacation, they threw into prison the poor secretaries who had brought 
the letter from Paris, on the ground that these men sought to evade 
them and did not seem willing to deliver the letter at once into their 
hands. When they, smitten with madness though they were, had 
returned to good sense and moderation, they insisted on unsealing 
the letter in my presence and with my consent. When I readily 
consented and when they found that there was nothing in the letter 
except something about a certain Joseph, then you may believe that 
their faces fell and that they acted like men taken unawares. . . . 

De Pins then goes on to tell how he had once procured 
the manuscript of Josephus from the heritage of Filelfo 
and Leonardo Giustiniani; how he had lent it to Peter 
Gylli, a scholar in the service of George d'Armagnac, 
how he had now promised to send it to Sebastian 
Gryphius at Lyons to be printed. He added that he 
heard that Bombasius had perished in the sack of Rome. 

But in the meantime the manuscript had been returned 
by Gylii to George d'Arrnagnac, and by him forwarded 
to an obscure proof-reader of Sebastian Gryphius, one 
Francois Rabelais by name, with instructions to send it 
on to Erasmus when he got a reliable messenger. The 
opportunity came when Hilaire Bertulph, one of the 
humanisms secretaries and a man 'already known to the 
French court, visited Lyons. 2 Rabelais, who had been 
studying Erasmus with admiration, seized this occasion 
to write to him, partly to express his obligations, partly 
to disabuse the humanist of the idea that the book 
written by J. C. Scaliger was composed by Aleander, 
A part of his letter is here translated: 3 

* /,<f the humanists attacked in the Ciceronianws* 

* A. Roersch; U Humanism* ttgt t 1910, pp. 75 ff. 

9 Pdr0temann*G0nther ep. 182, dated November 30, 1533, 


George d'Araiagnac, the famous Bishop of Rodez, recently sent 
me Flavins Josephus's Jewish History of the Sack 1 and asked me, for 
the sake of our old friendship, that, when I found a reliable man 
setting out I should send it to you at the first opportunity. I gladly 
seized that handle and occasion, kind father, of showing by a pleasing 
service with what devotion and piety I love you. I call you father; 
for, as we daily see that pregnant women nourish offspring which they 
have never seen and protect them from the harsh outer air, the same 
has happened to you who have educated me who am unknown to you 
and of simple estate. Thus have you hitherto nourished me with the 
most chaste breasts of your divine learning, so that, did I not ascribe 
to you alone my whole worth and being, I should be the most 
ungrateful of all men who are now alive or ever will be. Hail again 
and again, most beloved father, father and glory of your country, 
champion and defender of letters and unconquered fighter for the truth. 

This more than enthusiastic letter would lead one to 
expect that Rabelais was a careful student of Erasmus's 
works, and a thorough investigation has proved that 
the Gargantua and Pantagrud do in fact borrow im- 
mensely from the Folly and the Colloquies, as well as 
from other works. 2 To Erasmus, however, the young 
physician of Lyons was quite unknown, and though he 
certainly received the letter it is probable he did not 
answer it. 

With Rabelais's letter Erasmus therefore received the 
Josephus, which he acknowledged in a note of January 
30, 1533,* and which he forthwith prepared for the 
press. 4 When De Pins requested the return of the 
manuscript, 6 Erasmus penned the following interesting 
epistle, dated November 13, 1534. 

EXCELLENT BISHOP: For your constant benevolence toward me I 
am, as I ought to be, most grateful. I am forced to endure various 
inconveniences. Luther has written against me a simply furious 
letter, so wickedly mendacious that it may displease even the most 

1 I.e., of Jerusalem. The words in italics are in Greek in the original. 
2 Thuasne: tudes sur Rabelais. 1904. Chap. ii. "Rabelais et firasme/* 
8 Nimes MS., 215, fol. 170. See Appendix II, p. 450. 
4 Antiquitatum Judaicarum libri xx. Basle, 1534. 
6 Nimes MS., 215, foi. 167. See Appendix II, p. 451. 
* Nimes MS,, 215, fol. 169. See Appendix II, p, 451. 


ardent Lutherans. Nicholas Herborn, the Franciscan Commissary 
General this side of the Alps, has published some Lenten sermons 
in which he spatters me with bitter invective. There are some men 
who read libels against me privately among their fellows, among 
whom was Busch, recently deceased. Nor does the least part of my 
troubles come from my servants. I recently nursed a viper in my 
bosom, thinking I had a faithful servant, but he would have killed 
me could he have done so with impunity. In addition to this, old 
age weighs on me more and more, and gout tortures me. 

Another short letter of May 19, 1535, gave news of 
Bombasius's death. 1 A greeting from De Pins, 2 on June 
24, 1536, closed the record of friendship of the two old 
men, both of whom were near death. 

While the adoration of so many brilliant men must 
have given him much happiness, the last years of 
Erasmus were darkened by the hideous tragedy that fell 
upon his English friends under the tyranny of Henry 
VIIL The dramatic disgrace of Wolsey cast, in October, 
1529, from the height of power to the depth of disfavor, 
made an immense sensation throughout Europe. "Oh 
fickle tide of human fortune I" exclaimed the humanist 
when he first heard of it, 3 

When the great seal was given to Sir Thomas More 
he at once wrote his old friend: "Long having meditated 
leisure, lo I am unexpectedly thrown into the stream ot 
affairs. . . , My friends here exult vehemently and 
congratulate me . . . you perhaps will pity my fortune/' 4 
Far from reassured by the news, Erasmus foreboded 
further trouble and a great slaughter, unless some 
genuine hero should arise to prevent it. B 

1 Nirnes MS,, 215, fol 169, Appendix II, p. 451 f, 

2 Hero aid to Erasmus, Enthovcn, no* 141. 

8 "0 rerum humanarum Euripuzn"; tf Adagio^ chil i cent, ix prov, Ixii, 

LB ii, 357, To Francis, Treasurer of Besanc.on, December io 1529? Lond. 
xxvi, 23 j LB. ep, 1080, Cf. Luther's comments on the same matter, Enders, 
vii, 228, 
4 October a8, 1529, "ex rusculo nostro" (Chelsea), Forstemann-Gttnther, 

ep, 113. 

6 Erasmus to Amerbach> January 14 (1530), Epistola ad Amttbackium^ no. 
H The year-date ia given by the reference to Campeggio'a leaving England, 

which happened in October, 1529, 


All too soon came confirmation of the gloomy presenti- 
ment. Unable to approve Henry's marriage with Anne 
Boleyn, or to allow his title as Supreme Head of the 
Church, More resigned the great seal on May 15, 1532, 
writing to Erasmus that this step had not been forced 
upon him by the king, 1 and at the same time expressing 
his hatred of the sectaries, particularly of Tyndale and 
of Melanchthon. The letter was so long delayed in 
Saxony that everyone knew of the event before the news 
reached Erasmus. Thinking to help his friend, perhaps, 
the humanist wrote, in the form of an open letter 2 to 
Faber, Bishop of Vienna, a charming description and 
eulogy of More's household, adding his assurance of the 
ex-Chancellor's safety: "For I know the nature of that 
most humane prince, and the constancy with which he 
cherishes the friends he has once embraced, and how he 
hardly ever removes any of them from his favor, even 
though he surprises them in some human error. ... I 
doubt not that for good reasons More begged the king 
to dismiss him," 

Vain sop of flattery tossed to a savage beast! Now 
began in earnest the slaughter of the noblest in the 
kingdom. On May 4, 1535, three Carthusian priors, the 
Vicar of Isleworth, and Dr. Richard Reynolds of the 
Bridgettine monastery of Sion were sent to the block 
on the charge of treason. A still greater shock to the 
civilized world came when the two ornaments of England, 
John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Sir Thomas More, 
were thrown into the Tower and then executed, the one 
on June 22d, the other on July 6th. Of all this Erasmus 
wrote on August I2th: 3 

1 More to Erasmus, June 14, 1532, Lond. xxvii, 9; LB. ep, 1223. Another 
letter without date, Lond. xxvii, 10. Dr. F. M. Rogers: "A Calendar of the 
Correspondence of Sir T. More," English Historical Review, xxxvii, 1922, 
546 ff, dates this second letter June, 1533. 

2 No date, but written toward the end of 1532 and first published in the 
De preparation* ad Mortem, sent to England, circa January, 1534, Lond. 
xxvii, 8; LB. ep. 426. 

* To Bartholomew Latomus, Basle, August 12, 1535, LB. ep. 1286, 


Hither many noble Frenchmen have fled, fearing the winter 
storm, but they are now called back. "The lion will roar," says the 
prophet, "and who will not be afraid?" A similar terror, from a 
different cause, has settled on the souls of the English. Capital 
punishment was exacted of certain monks, among whom was a 
Bridgettine, first dragged along the ground, then hung, and afterward 
quartered. A persistent and probable rumor says that when the 
king knew that the Bishop of Rochester had been elected into the 
college of cardinals, he had him quickly led forth and beheaded. 
For some time Thomas More has been in prison, having given up his 
offices. This is too true. It is also said that he has been executed, 
but of this I have as yet had no certain tidings. Would that he had 
never mixed in this perilous business, but had left theology to 

Within two weeks Erasmus knew the worst 1 and then 
wrote: "In More I seem to have died, so much did we 
have one soul, as Pythagoras said. But such are the 
surges of human fate." 2 Shortly after this there was 
published an open letter on the death of Fisher and of 
More, purporting to be from William Courinus Nucerinus 
to Philip Montanus; it was commonly attributed to 
Erasmus, but was doubtless written, under his direction 
and inspiration, by his famulus, Gilbert Cousin. 3 After 
an account of the trial and execution taken from a news- 
letter from Paris 4 with the report of an eyewitness, the 
heroism and nobility of the suffering pair are graphically 
described. The writer would have liked to persuade the 
king to be less severe toward these lights of Britain, at 
the same time that he would have advised the men not 
openly to defy the storm, for time heals many things 

1 He was informed by Chapuys, the imperial ambassador in England; see 
his letter to L Ber, September 12, 1535, published in Zentt alblatt fur Biblio~ 
thekswffSffn> 38 (1921), p, 100 f* 

a Erasmus to Tomitx, August 31, 1535, Lond. xxvii, 25; LB. ep. 1287. 

8 It is dated July 33, 153^1 and is reprinted LB, App, ep, 378. It was printed 
at Basle, on which and on the attribution of the authorship to Erasmus see 
Oporin to Biaurer, October 13, IS3S> Briefmchsel der Blaunr hg, von T. 
Schiess, i 749, 7^3, Letters and Papers of Henry FIII t x, p, 188, note. Philip 
Montanus was a real man known to Erasmus; cf. LB, epp 1081 and 1264. 
The author is given as Gulielmus Courinus Nucerinus, a transparent pseu* 
donym for Gilbertus Cousinws Nozerenus, 

4 Lt&trt and Papw o/Htnry F/// viii, no, 996. 


which force cannot mend. Those who serve kings ought 
to dissemble in some matters, so as to get at least part 
of their objects. More is described as a man of un- 
paralleled urbanity and kindness, who befriended all the 
learned, not only those of his own nation, but Irishmen, 
Frenchmen, Germans, and Hindus. The writer of the 
letter, though he says he has never seen More, has shed 
many tears for him. What then will be the feelings of 
Erasmus, who loved More as his own soul? 

Shortly after Erasmus's death there appeared a poem 
on the death of Fisher and More, attributed to him, 
though it never found its way into his collected works. 1 
If really by him, and we have no special reason to doubt 
its authenticity, 2 it gives the strongest representation 
we have of Erasmus's real feelings. Henry is arraigned 
severely for lust and tyranny and for usurping the papal 

Eijceret Moecham, Thalamique in iura vocaret 
Legitimam uxorem solitoque ornaret honore. 
Ispe sibi ius pontificis nomenque sacratum 

Quae late sua regna patent usurpat. . . . 

In many of his letters, too, Erasmus speaks with pathos 
of his loss. He had intended to dedicate his Method of 
Preaching to Fisher, but a storm has bereft him of that 
godly prelate, together with More and Warham, than 
whom England never had nor ever would have anything 
greater. 3 Some, however, were naturally surprised that 

1 Incomparatilis . . . D. Erasmi ... in sanctissimorum martirum Rofansis 
Epifcopiac Th. Mori, . . , Heroicum Carmen, Mense Septeinbre. MDXXXVI. 
[Colophon] Hagenau. Bound with other matter, namely: Antiqua Epistola 
Nicolai Papa L (Dedication dated Meissen, February 27, 1536, by editor.) 
And Defensio Clarissitnorum Firorum J. Fyscheri Episcopi Rofensis fft Tkomae 
MoriBaronis. . . adv* Jl. Sampsonem. Per J. Cochlaeum. (Strong pam- 
phlet against the king.) Cochkeus corroborates the authenticity of Erasmus's 
poem in his Commentaria de actis ft scriptis M. Iwheri, first published 1549. 
I quote from the edition of 1568 (Harvard), p, 303. 

8 Jortin: Erasmus, ii, 289, doubts it because he thinks Erasmus would not 
have had spirit enough to write it. 

To Christopher von Stadion, August 6, 1535; Lond. xxk, 42. 


he published nothing openly on their deaths. 1 When* 
shortly before his death, he heard of the reaction in 
England and of the execution of Anne Boleyn, who had 
been claimed by the Protestant party, Erasmus wrote 
to his informant: "You tell prodigies of England. 
Would that these things had been found out before those 
good men had been put to death!" 2 

Sick at heart and " almost killed with cares/ 5 Erasmus 
now prepared to leave Freiburg. A trying personal 
experience, the theft of many of his valuables, united 
with the clamor of the monks and theologians to drive 
him from that town, 3 to which he never wanted to return 
again. 4 The house which he had bought for 624 gold 
florins, 6 and on which he had spent much for repairs, for 
floors, and for glass windows, he sold, on October 30, 
1535, to one Peter Ryd. 

When he returned to Basle in the summer of 1535 he 
was warmly greeted by the university with a gift of 
hippocras, malvoisie, and other spiced wines, and saluted 
by a delegation of professors. The only untoward 
incident was due to the heartiness of the handshake he 
received from Oporinus, which was so cordial that it 
made him cry out with pain. 6 After just a year in his 
old home, while superintending some printing, he met 
his death from an attack of dysentery. On June 6, IS36, 7 
he knew himself to be dying, though the end did not 
come until the night of July Ilth-I2th. His last words 

1 Damian a Goes to Erasmus, Padua, January 26, 1536; LB, App, ep. 331. 

8 Erasmus to Schetz, Basle, June i, 1536; extract published by A, Roersch: 
**Quarante-six lettres inedites d'firasme, 1 ' in MManges o/erts a M, E. Picot, 
tome 1, 1913, p. 10, 

To John Choler, Pintas epistolaruin> [pub. by Vesenmeyer), 1798, p. 4, 
dated September 9, 1533, 

4 Erasmus to L Ber, Basle, September n, 1535, pub. in Zf ntr dblatt fur 
XtiUiothekswesen, Band 38, 1921, pp, 100 f, 

* Say #1,400, or 280, 

* T. Burekhardt-Biedermann: "Die Erneuerung der Universitat zu Basel 
XS'**> 39/' 3*itr&ie mr mtsrlandlsche Gesckickte, N. P., iv, 1896, p. 428. 

7 Letter to Tiedemann Giese, in Bibliotheca Warmiensis oder 
Bistkumx JSrmland* |87 p, 103, note 38* 


were: "O Mother of God, remember me!" 1 "Jesus 
Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me! I will sing 
the mercy and judgment of the Lord!" These were 
repeated over and over again until with his last breath 
the dying man said in the Low German of his childhood, 
"Lieber Gott" ("Dear God"), and expired. 2 A splendid 
funeral was accorded him by the magistrates and men 
of note at Basle. He was laid to rest in the cathedral, 3 
and a stone statue was placed in a public square to 
commemorate him. 4 

1 This according to the testimony of his Belgian secretary, Lambert Coomans. 
See Bulletin de I* Academic Royale de Belgique, tome 9, 1842; F. Neve: La 
Renaissance des Lettres et FEssor de I' Erudition en Belgique, 1890, p. 28. 

2 On Erasmus's removal to Basle, to Tomitz, August 31, 1525; Lond. xxvii, 
25; LB. ep. 1287. On his death: Stromer to Spalatin (July 15?), 1536, 
Horawitz: Erasmiana, ii, no. n, p. 608. Amerbach to Spalatin, July 1 1, 
1536, K. & W. Krafft: Brief e und Dokumente aus der Zeit der Reformation, p. 75. 
Boniface Amerbach to Alciat, April 4, 153?; Burckhardt-Biedermann: Bon. 
Amerbach und die Reformation, p. 310; Herwagen tp Rhenanus, July 17, 1536, 
Briefwechsel des Beatus Rhenanus, hg. von Horawitz und Hartfelder, no. 296; 
Rhenanus to Hermann of Wied, August 15, 1536, Allen, i, pp. 53 Stromer 
to Oswald Lasan, 1536, in Zeitschrift fur kirchliche Wissenschaft und kirch- 
liches Leben, v, 103 (1885), and the same in Zeitschrift fur Kirchengeschichte, 
xxvi, 138 (1905). 

*Fynes Moryson: Itinerary, 1907, i, 59 f. 

4 Bartholomew Sastrow saw the tomb here in 1549. Social Gfrmany in 
Luther's Time, translated by Vandam, 1902, p. 264. 



AS the living man is known by the company he keeps, 
jfX so the mind of the great dead can be surely placed 
by observing the character of those among posterity who 
praise and follow and of those who depreciate and detest 
him. It is fitting and natural that, whereas the hunt of 
obloquy and misunderstanding which pursued Erasmus 
during his last years continued for generations after his 
death among the partisans of either side, on the other 
hand his work and character have received the most 
cordial recognition from liberal-minded and rational 
Protestants, and from not a few of the less militant free- 
thinkers. His truest disciples have been found neither 
among those who sacrificed reason at the altar of faith, 
nor among those who cast off piety together with super- 
stition and dogma, but among the seekers for reason in 
religion, and for a culture emancipated from the bondage 
of the past but not ungrateful to the precious heritage 
of the ages. 

After his works had been burned and banned by vari- 
ous Catholic countries, 1 after he had been branded at the 
Council of Trent as a Pelagian and an impious heretic, 2 
his writings were officially prohibited by the Church, now 

1 Colloquies were prohibited in Franche-Comte on July 15, 1535; the Moria f 
the Paraphrases and the Dt Conscribendis B<pistolis on March 8, 1537? see 
L. Febvre: NoUs et Documents sur I* Inquisition en Franche^Comt^ 19x2, pp. 
178, 183* His works would have been prohibited in Belgium in 1540 but for 
Cardinal Granvella, Enders xiii, 222; they were burned at Milan January 
29, 1543, Brufwtchsd des Beatus Rhenanus, p. 488. 

8 P. Sarpi: ffistoirt du Concile de Trent, traduite en Frangais par Amelot 
de la Houmie, 1699, pp. 159, 224, 



in part, now altogether. The Spanish Inquisition first 
forbade the reading of the Folly, of the Epistles, of the 
Paraphrases of the Gospels, and of the Refutations of 
Luther, and then proceeded, in the words of Milton, "to 
rake through his entrails with a violation worse than the 
tomb/' publishing, in the Expurgatorial Index of 1584, 
a list of passages to be deleted from his works on ac- 
count of error, a list so long that it filled fifty-five 
quarto pages. But even this was found insufficient; the 
enumeration of his errors in the Expurgatorial Index of 
1640 swelled to fifty-nine double-columned folio pages. 1 
Rome soon followed the lead of Spain. In 1559 Paul IV 
not only put Erasmus in the first class of forbidden 
authors, made up of those all of whose works were con- 
demned, but added after his name: "All his commen- 
taries, notes, criticisms, colloquies, epistles, translations, 
books, and writings, even if they contain absolutely 
nothing against religion or about religion/' A Commis- 
sion of the Council of Trent relaxed this censure slightly 
by prohibiting the Colloquies, the Folly, the Tongue, the 
Institution of Christian Marriage, the Italian translation 
of the Paraphrase to Matthew, and all other works on 
religion until expurgated by the Sorbomie, As this in- 
cluded the Adages, there was little left, and in fact he 
was treated practically as an author of the first class. 2 
His friends, Rhenanus, Wicel, and Zasius, were also put 
on the Index, apparently more because of their connec- 
tion with him than for any other reason. 

While some Catholic doctors, like Raynaldus, labored 
to justify the censure of the Church by proving Erasmus 
an atheist, others felt his charm and tried to save what 
fragments they could from the wreck of his anathema- 
tized remains. The Jesuits particularly learned the value 
of his educational treatises; one of the greatest of them, 
Peter Canisius, avowing that the man had deserved well 

1 H. C. Lea: Chapters from the Religious History of Spain, 1890, p, 4*. 
* F. H. Reurfch: Dcr Index det Verbotenen Mucker, 1883, i pp. 347-367; 
H. C Lea, op. cit. pp. 34 ft 


of letters and only by meddling with theology, to which 
he had no call, had ruined his own reputation. 1 

Thus began to crystallize the now common Catholic 
judgment that Erasmus was a man of brilliant parts but 
of weak character. When Alexander Pope had told of 
the arts lost during the Middle Ages, he added; 2 

At length Erasmus, that great injured name, 
(The glory of the priesthood and the shame!) 
Stemmed the wild torrent of a barb'rous age, 
And drove those holy Vandals off the stage. 

A century later the great French Catholic orator and 
ecclesiastic, Lacordaire, who spoke with respect of 
" Luther's rich and puissant nature," and who admired 
Erasmus as the " first academician of the world" and 
the modeller of exquisitely elastic prose, sneered at him 
because, when the thunder growled and he might have 
given one party or the other the support of his blood, 
"this good fellow had the courage to remain academi- 
cian, and thus expired at Rotterdam (!) just as he had 
finished writing a phrase still elegant but now despised." 8 

Useless to quote all the verdicts of eminent Catholics. 
They are well summed up in the words of that distin- 
guished scholar, Ludwig von Pastor: 4 

A great scholar but a weak character, a man of brilliant attainments, 
by the many-sided versatility of his mind, Erasmus exercised by his 
numerous writings prodigious influence on his time. In spite of all 
the services he rendered to classical study, it must be admitted that, 
though he never separated himself openly from the Church, Erasmus 
did much by his attacks, not only on degenerate scholasticism, but 
on scholasticism itself, as well as by his venomous irony, to lessen 
respect for the authority of the Church and for faith itself among 
a large number of highly cultivated men of the day. Thus did he 
prepare the way for the impetuous and impassioned Luther. 

1 J, Jansscn: Geschichte dts dtutschen Polkes, 20te Auflage besorgt durch L. 
von Pastor, 1915, a, p. 19, note a. 

8 JEssay on Criticism, lines 693-696. 

8 A, Sainte-Beuve: Causeriw du Lundi, 1857, i> 239 f. "Le P&re Lacordaire, 

4 Pastor; ffistwy of the Popffs, English translation ed. by Kcrr, vii t 315. 


Quite different is the opinion of another great Catholic 
scholar, in some respects a liberal, Lord Acton, who 
called Erasmus the greatest figure of the Renaissance, 
not only as eminently international, but also as the most 
capable of all men of living by historical imagination in 
other times. Though the narrow range of his sympathies 
is noted, debarring him from art and metaphysics, his 
diagnosis of contemporary demoralization as due to 
ignorance and misgovemment, is indorsed. 1 

From the Reformers and their heirs, the conservative 
Protestants, Erasmus suffered the singularly cruel fate 
of being pillaged by one hand and stabbed by the other. 
While they approved much of his program and learned 
at his feet how to turn the criticism both of morals and 
of dogmas against the Catholics, they were furious at 
his refusal to join their ranks, and frightened by the 
implications of a spirit more emancipated than their own. 
With much violence, it has been well said, 2 early Prot- 
estanism separated from the historical and philological 
theology of the Christian Renaissance. The deep sense 
of opposition was not confined to the Reformers, for the 
humanist could no more accept their solifidian and pre- 
destinarian doctrines, based on a fundamentally anti- 
rationalistic mysticism and inimical, as it seemed, to 
practical morality, than they could indorse the spirit of 
free inquiry and of philosophic doubt that pervaded the 
writings of the critic. Melanchthon, it is true, assimi- 
lated his teaching and tried to pass it on, but his fate 
was to be called a traitor to the Lutheran cause and to 
be so assailed that he longed for death to free him from 
"the rage of the theologians." Far more typical of the 
attitude of the Reformers was the conduct of Luther, 
who first studied, marked, and inwardly digested the 
works of the older scholar and then fulminated anath- 
emas at the skeptic he found lurking under the mask 
of erudition. Though they controlled their tongues 

1 Lectures on Modern History, 1906, pp. 86 ff. 

*E. Troeltsch: Protestantism and Progress* 1912, pp. 48 ff 


better, there is no doubt that Zwingli and (Ecolampadius, 
after sitting at Erasmus's feet, came to feel about him 
much as did Luther, and were regarded by him in much 
the same light. Their successors also thought, as did 
the Catholics, of prohibiting his writings, or at least those 
repugnant to their theology. 1 

Calvin seldom if ever praised Erasmus, though he 
borrowed from him some of his ideas and though he cited 
him no less than one hundred and fifty times as a critical 
or exegetical authority. He drew heavily on the human- 
ist's Platonism, his contempt for the world, his concept 
of faith, and his eschatology. 2 

Beza called Erasmus an Arian and Farel continued to 
denounce him as an impure scoundrel and as the worst 
and wickedest of mortals. 3 On the other hand, the Swiss 
Protestant chronicler, John Kessler, who died in 1574, 
bore this witness: "Whatever is artistic, finished, 
learned, and wise is called Erasmian, which word now 
means impeccable and perfect." 4 

Nor were the English Reformers less ready either to 
learn from or to denounce the great man. William 
Tyndale borrowed much from him when he translated 
the New Testament into English, but, nevertheless, 
spoke slightingly of him as of one "whose tongue maketh 
of little gnats great elephants and lifteth up above the 
stars whosoever giveth him a little exhibition/' 5 

In the next century John Milton found in Erasmus a 

*Q, Myconius writes Bullinger, June 24, 1535, that Erasmus's EcclesiasUs 
ought not to be printed in any Christian city on account of the allusion to the 
mass as a sacrifice* Cakini Opera, x b, p. 47. (Corpus Reformatorum 38 b.) 

a Sec Index to Calmni Opera, vol. lix, p. 76. (Corpus Reformatorum^ Ixxxvii, 
76.) See also 3VL Schulze: Cabins Jtnsetis-Christentum im Ferhaltnis zu 
den rdiftiosm Schriften des Erasmus. 1902, 

8 Letter of protest from Boniface Amerbach, Jerome Froben> and N. Epis- 
copius to Farel and Beaa, dated Basle, September 20, 1557. Calmni Opera, 
xvi, ep* 2728. (Corpus Reformatorum^ xliv*) 

4 Johanna Kesslers Sabbata hg. von E. Egli und R. Schoch. 1902, p. 87. 

* A* W. Pollard: Records of the English Bibk> 1911, p. 96. He borrowed the 
phrase, "ex musca plusquam elephantem facit/' from Erasmus himself; see 
Allen, ep. 1148, et seutpe. 


support for his doctrine of divorce, and also used his 
example to excuse his own unreserved treatment of vice. 1 
The Protestant view of Erasmus has been unduly 
emphasized because most of his biographers have been 
from this side. Such was the English life by Samuel 
Knight (1726)5 and the still more elaborate and thorough 
one by John Jortin (1758-60). The impression made by 
the latter on a man of the world is well recorded in one 
of Horace Walpole's letters: 2 

For Doctor Jortin's Erasmus, which I have very nearly finished, it 
has given me a good opinion of the author, and he has given me a 
very bad one of his subject. By the doctor's labors and impartiality, 
Erasmus appears as a begging parasite, who had parts enough to 
discover truth, and not courage enough to profess it: whose vanity 
made him always writing, yet his writings ought to have cured his 
vanity, as they were the most abject things in the world. Good 
Erasmus's honest mean was alternate time-serving. I never had 
thought much about him, and now I heartily despise him. 

This judgment is the more impressive in that Jortin 
writes not, as one might think, to attack his subject, 
but rather to defend him. But whereas the worldling 
sees in Erasmus a coward, the dogmatically religious 
man sees in him only a worldling. 

What a fineness of judgment [says Professor Harnack] 5 , what a 
power to look all around, what an earnest morality, does Erasmus 
develop in his Diatribe on the Free Will! One is justified in regarding 
it as the crown of his literary work; but it is an entirely secular, at 
bottom an irreligious treatise. 

Hear also the opinion of BShmer: 4 

As a genuine optimist, Worldly Wiseman, and completely unphilo- 
sophical scholar, Erasmus really possessed no organ at all for the 
perception of religion! 

1 Milton: Defensio Secunda pro Populo Anglican^ Works ^ 1806, pp* 22-9, 
285, 299. 

* To Henry Zouch, October 21, 1758, Letters of Horace Walpole, 16 vok 1:903, 
vol. iii, p. 205. 

8 Adolph Harnack: Lehrbnch der Dogmengeschichte? iii, p 841. 

* H. Bohmer: Luther im Lichte der neueren Forschung? 1910, p. 147. 


While admitting Erasmus's services to criticism, to 
history, and to comparative religion/ Walter Kohler 
assigns to the humanist the somewhat difficult role of 
"a John the Baptist and Judas Iscariot in one!" 2 

Nor are these harsh censures confined to German 
scholars. Nothing more crushing has ever been written 
than the following words of Principal T. M. Lindsay: 3 

"A great scholar but a petty-minded man" is a verdict for which 
there is abundant evidence. . . . Every biographer has admitted 
that it is hopeless to look for truth in his voluminous correspondence. 
... He was always writing for effect and often for effect of a 
rather sordid kind. . . . He had the ingenuity of a cuttlefish to 
conceal himself and his real opinions; and it was commonly used to 
protect his own skin. 

Even the more conservative Protestants, however, are 
in some places coming to see in Erasmus a support for 
their double ideal of conformity and clericalism on the 
one side, and of reasonable liberty of opinion on the 
other. "The ideals of Erasmus in the spirit of Luther'* 
is the motto proposed by one of them, for, in his opinion, 
on the five chief points at issue between the two leaders, 
the verdict is now in favor of the humanist. These moot 
points are said to concern: (i) the papacy, which Luther 
thought the work of antichrist, but which Erasmus 
regarded as salvabie; (2) the method of reforming the 
Church; (3) toleration of opinion; (4) attitude toward 
dogma; (5) freedom of the will. 4 Other divines of the 
same school are ready to hail Erasmus as the man who 
"stepped quietly from the mediaeval to the modern 
world/* and even while praising him for his free spirit 
of inquiry, blame him for some of his most logical 
deductions, as shown, for example, in his too loose treat- 
ment of divorce. Alike his glory and his danger are 
found in his detached mind, which, "like a detached 

1 W. KMler: Idee %nd PersMichfait in der Kirchen%eschichtt, 1910, p. 18. 
* Die Klasriker der Religion; Erasmus. Hg* von W. Kohler, 191 7, p. 17. 

3 History of the Reformation, 1906, i, pp. 172 ff. 

4 H. G, Smith, "The Triumph of Erasmus in Modem Protestantism," 
Hibbert Journal^ iii, i, 1905, pp. 64-8^. 


lady, is an extremely awkward traveling companion and 
for a monk seemed to verge on the improper/' 1 

Not among the conservatives, but among the liberal 
Christians, did Erasmus fully come to his own. Even 
in Catholicism there was a little band of his disciples 
who struggled vainly against desperate odds to find 
some compromise, some spirit of healing and reform, 
in his precepts. Such were the devoted German 
theologians, John Cropper, Julius Pflug, and George 
Wicel; such were the Italian Catholic Reformers, 
Victoria Colonna, Renee of Ferrara, Isabella d'Este; 2 
and Cardinal Contarini. Their counterparts in the 
established Protestant Churches were found in Melanch- 
thon and in his disciple Camerarius. 3 With great effect 
the quondam neighbor of Calvin, Sebastian Castellio, 
spread forth the words of Erasmus as one principal 
support for his noble plea for toleration. 4 Still further, 
in the eighteenth century, went John Solomon Semler, 
sometimes called "the father of German rationalism/' 
when he declared, "as an unquestionable truth, that 
everything which the newer theology had painfully won 
for itself was already to be found in the great and 
admirable Erasmus." 5 

This liberalizing influence in Christianity has been 
constant. Especially when, some fifty or sixty years 
ago, a fierce battle was fought over the inspiration and 

1 J. P. Whitney: "Erasmus," English Historical Review, 1920, i flf. 

8 In 1537 Cardinal Bembo saw pictures of Luther and Erasmus at Isabella's 
castle at Mantua; J. Cartwright: Isabella d'Este, ii, 378. 

* Joachimi Camerarii Bapenbergensis Epistolarum familiarium, libri vi, 1583. 
Camerarius to Jerome Baumgartner, July 30, 1538 (lS3^) : "Know that 
Erasmus of Rotterdam has recently died, having won eternal fame by his life: 
this news was brought to me by men who have seen his grave, as many have 
done, so that hereafter the rumors cannot be denied. Though not unexpected, 
this event brought me some little chagrin, both for other causes and for one 
special reason so small that I am ashamed to mention it." This last obscure 
allusion perhaps refers to Melanchthon's plan of visiting Erasmus, thwarted 
by his death, a visit which Camerarius was anxious to promote. 

4 S. Castellion: Traite des Herhiques, ed. A. Olivet, 1913. R, H. Murray: 
Erasmus and Luther, 1920, p. 205. 

8 E. Troeltsch; Protestantism and Progress, 1912, p, 201. 


Inerrancy of the Bible, the name of Erasmus was invoked 
in the rational side; for, according to J. S. Brewer: 1 

he claimed to apply to the authorized translation of the Scripture 
the same rules of criticism as the scholars of his day were applying 
to Cicero and to Vergil. In this respect his influence on the Reforma- 
tion was greater than Luther's; as the application of the principles of 
criticism introduced by Erasmus must/under favorable circumstances 
and in more vigorous hands, lead to consequences more important. 

Andrew D. White, the distinguished American scholar 
and diplomat, and first president of Cornell University, 
felt so strongly that the services of Erasmus's biblical 
criticism to the cause of enlightenment had been inade- 
quately appreciated, that at one time he intended to 
utilize the large collection of Erasmiana made by him 
and now left to Cornell, in writing a biography of the 
humanist. 2 Another eminent American scholar, Pro- 
fessor George Burton Adams, has expressed a similar 
opinion in the following words : 3 

By no means the least of the great services of Erasmus to civiliza- 
tion had been to hold up before all the world so conspicuous an 
example of the scholar following, as his inalienable right, the truth 
as he found it, wherever it appeared to lead him, and honest in his 
public utterances to the result of his studies. 

The same testimony to the enlightening effect of his 
work is offered by Mark Pattison, 4 who thinks that his 
Greek Testament ** 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 pam- 
phlets/ 1 Erasmus "was a true rationalist in principle/' 
for he was the earliest and most complete exemplar of 
the rale "that reason is the only one guide of life, the 
supreme arbiter of all questions, politics and religion 
included/' If he did not "dogmatically denounce the 
rights of reason/' yet "he practically exerted them/' 

1 J, S. Brewer: ** Passages from the Life of Erasmus" (1863), English 
Studies, x88x, p. 346. 

* See his Autobiography f 1895, index* 

8 Civilization during the Middle A%es> 1900, pp. 423 f. 

* 4I Erasmus/* Encyclopedia Britannica, in the ninth edition and, revised by 
P. S, Allen, in the eleventh, 


A similarly high estimate of the humanist's services 
to Christian enlightenment is set forth by Marcus Dods, 
who finds the portrait of Erasmus attractive, in that the 
intelligent eyes, the melancholy and skeptical mouth, 
and the ironical smile exhibit, in one^ of the world's 
great faces, scholarly tastes combined with pungent wit. 
His main fault consisted in too great optimism in fancy- 
ing that abuses would ever be removed by those whose 
interest it was to maintain them. 1 

A large school now sees in the Reformation a reaction. 
Another school, believing that the Reformation was a 
step forward, sees in the counter-movement in the 
Catholic Church a great restoration of medievalism. 
From these premises a rather erratic scholar has sought 
to give a novel interpretation of the work of Erasmus as 
"a Counter-Reformer before the Counter-Reformation/' 
His piety, in the opinion of Hermelink, arose from the 
same source as did that of the Brethern of the Common 
Life, and finally flowed into the streams of Tridentine 
and Jesuitical reform. "The immediate effect of the 
mediseval reform movement was, therefore, the strength- 
ening of the Counter-Reformation/' 2 

Fully as much as in the orthodox, or established, 
Churches, did the Erasmian thought work itself out 
to expression among the sectaries and independents. 
Little as there seems to be, at first blush, in common 
between his aristocratic, highly cultured, almost artifi- 
cially polished and decorously conforming mind, and that 
of the plebeian, poor, dissenting, popular Anabaptists, 
nevertheless they found common ground in their 
emphasis of the Sermon on the Mount, in their neglect 
of ritual, and in the tolerance and passive non-resistance 
characteristic of many, though not of all, of them* 1 

1 M. Dods: Erasmus and other Essays. 1891. 

* Hermelink: "Die Anfange des Humanismus in Tubingen/' WurtUm- 
Itrgische FiertdjahrshefUfuf Landesgeschichti, N* F. xv, 1906, pp. 319 ff. 

P. Althaus: Zur Charakuristik far Evan&Uschtn GefotsUteratnr im Rr* 
formations jahrhundert) 1914, pp. 26 


The "spiritual Reformer/* Sebastian Franck, a com- 
bination of mystic and rationalist, was strongly influ- 
enced, in some particulars, by the Dutchman. When, 
in 1531, he published his "Chronicle, Time-book, and 
History-Bible/ 5 he stated that heretic was a name of 
honor, borne by the leaders of thought in every genera- 
tion, and that Erasmus deserved that title. The 
humanist, however, did not appreciate the intended 
compliment, but bitterly resented it. 1 

The peculiar character of the Reformation in the 
Netherlands, neither Lutheran nor Zwinglian, but 
humanistic, moral, and averse from revolution, may be 
traced to Erasmus. On his own circle of friends, 
Cornelius Grapheus, 2 Nicholas Buscoducensis, 3 Haio 
Caminga, 4 William Gnapheus, 5 and many another, 
Erasmus naturally impressed his ideas and character. 
On the next generation his influence was even stronger, 
particularly on the moderate party known as the 
Compromisers, and on "those humanists after the down- 
fall of humanism" the Libertines, whose name then 
imported devotion to liberty, not, as it now does, to 
immoral licence,, 6 Indeed, this "meaning of the word, 
derived "a libertate carnis," was first fastened on it by 
Calvin, who wrote against "the fantastic and furious 
sect" in 1545* Originally they were a quietist and 

1 Oncken on S, Franck, in Historischt Zeitschrift, Band 82, pp. 385 ff, 

2 The author of a Vita 5. Nicolai, who later fell foul of the Inquisition: see 
Allen, Hi, 34 note. 

8 Probably the author of a pseudonymous work, Manipulus ftoruw cottectus 
ex libtis JR. P. F. Jacobi de HochstraUn^ by Nicholas Quadus, Saxo, no date, a 
satire on Hochstraten, Pfefferkorn, Lee and Gratius, On this see Bibliotheca 
Belgic6> s. v. "Manxpulus/ 1 Z. W., vlii, 401-420, and Allen, in, p. 34, note* 

4 A famulus to whom Erasmus gave Seneca's Works, 1529; with the in- 
scription, "Haioni Camigae Phrysio anuco Des. Erasmus Rot. dono dedit, 3 
id. Jan, 1529" -*.* 1 ,, January I3th, See M, L* Polain in Melanges offerts a 
M, . Picot, 1913, ii, 135, 

8 Author of Troost tnde Spit gel der siecken> 1531, ed, by F Pijper in Bib* 
liothffca Rffformatoria nffwlandica 9 i, 151-249. 

8 F, Kjper: Erasmus an de Nederlandischt Reformat* 1907. H* A. Enno 
van Gelden "Huraanisten en Libertijnen, Erasmus en C. P. Hooft/* Neder* 
landsch ArchitfwQf Ktrkgeschiedenis 9 N. S, xvi, 19^0, pp* 35*84. 


spiritual body, and as they were founded in the Nether- 
lands in 1530 by one Coppln, they may have owed some- 
thing to the direct and personal influence of Erasmus. 1 
He was also the spiritual ancestor of James Acontius, the 
most radical Christian of the sixteenth century, who 
regarded positive dogmas as "Stratagems of Satan" to 
entangle the simply pious soul. 2 In the Netherlands 
C. P. Hooft, George Cassander, Francis Balduinus, 
Johannes Venator, and Dirck Volckertszoon Coornheert, 
exerted themselves, during the frightful ravages of the 
Dutch War of Independence, to impress upon their 
countrymen a spirit of tolerance, an indifference to cere- 
monies, and an anti-dogmatism directed especially 
against Calvin's doctrine of predestination. Though 
William of Orange found in this party a useful ally, and 
gave it his support, their efforts remained partly 
thwarted until Arminius and Episcopius gave their ideas 
a more powerful, but also a more narrowly pointed, 
expression. 3 A truer, because a freer, disciple than 
Arminius was Hugo Grotius, who thought that "Erasmus 
had so well shown the road to a reasonable Reformation." 
Adopting his description of Christianity in terms of the 
Sermon on the Mount, his pacifism, his suggestion of a 
world court of arbitration, Grotius wished to reconcile 
Catholics and Protestants and, though nominally one of 
the latter, was in many respects more in sympathy with 
the ideals of the old Church. 4 

The Christian radicals have always found in Erasmus 
an inspiration and a support. The Unitarian Charles 
Beard wrote in 1883, "The Reformation of the past was 

1 Karl Mullen "Calvin und die Libertiner," Zeitschrift fur Kitchenge~ 
schichte* xl, 1922, pp. 83-129. 

2 W. KShler: "Geistesahnen des J, Acontius, 11 fur K. Mullet* 
1922, 198 ff, 

8 Rachfahh Wilhelm von Oranien, i, 1906, pp. 448 f 464; Preserved Smith: 
The Age of the Reformation, 1920, 239 IF, 249 W. Kohler: "Coornheert" in 
Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 1913; W. Dilthey: Das naturlickff 
System der Geisteswissenschaften im // Jahrhundert, 1892, pp. 480 flf, 

4 J. L. Motley: The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1855, i, 72. J. SchlUter: 
Die Theologie des H. Grotius , 1919. 


Luther's; perhaps the Reformation of the future will 
return to Erasmus/' 1 Schlottmann, a "Bible-Christian" 
who hoped both to reform and to unite all Churches, 
appealed to Erasmus as a liberal force against the 
Roman Curia after the triumph of ultra-montanism and 
medievalism at the Vatican Council of 1871. He called 
his book Erasmus Redivivus swe de Curia Romana 
hucusque insanabili,* and he wrote it in Latin because he 
wished to describe "not the life, but the image of 
Erasmus defaced by the opinions and passions of divers 
parties/' and he thought that could only be done in the 
tongue used by the humanist himself. He found that 
"Erasmus favored Luther because of the gospel and 
attacked him because of the fatal schism which was to 
endure for centuries," and that the purpose of the two 
was the same, but their methods different. 

The most thorough -going partisan of the humanist is 
a man who has little of his spirit of moderation, a man 
who derives his principles from the skeptics and his facts 
about the Reformation from the Catholics, 3 a free-thinker 
who laments the lost unity of Christendom. To present 
the ideas of so enigmatical a thinker one must quote 
directly from his work: 4 

The Catholic Church needed reform urgently enough, but the 
reform which it needed was that of Erasmus, not of Luther. Had the 
labors of Erasmus not been blighted by the passionate appeals of 
Wittenberg, at first to the ignorance of the masses and then to the 
greed of the princes, we believe that the Catholic Church might 
have developed with the intellectual development of mankind, might 
possibly have become the universal instrument of moral progress 
and mental culture, and dogmas gradually slipping into forgetful- 
ness we should now be enjoying the blessings of a universal Church, 
embracing all that is best in the intellect of our own time. 

1 The Reformation in its Relations to Modern Thought and Knowledge, 1883 . 
Principal J, Estlm Carpenter of Manchester College, Oxford, a personal friend 
of Beard's, informed me that that scholar found Erasmus much more con- 
genial to him than was Luther, 

* Two volumes, 1883-89. 

3 Karl Pearson; The Ethic of Fmthovght, 1887. 2<3 ed, 1901* He writes 
much on the Reformation, all of it indebted deeply to the Catholic Janssen. 

4 Op. cti*, ad ed., pp. 199, 205. 


We have to inquire whether our modern thought has not been the 
outcome of a gradual return to the principles of Erasmus, a con- 
tinuous rejection one by one of every doctrine and every conception 
of Luther. 

A far more mature and brilliant interpretation of the 
forces at work in the Reformation has been given by 
Ernst Troeltsch, who sees in Erasmus the exponent of 
reason in religion, and of the idea of reducing Christianity 
to a general cult of humanity. 1 Wernle 2 and Karl Miiller 
also see in Erasmus the standard-bearer of a funda- 
mentally new and reforming concept of Christianity, a 
truly modern religion. Indeed, Miiller so far reads into 
Erasmus the ideas now agitating German theology, that 
he credits him with finding that harmony between Jesus 
and Paul so acutely wanted by some advanced thinkers. 3 
A. Schroder has written a small book 4 on the modern 
traits in Erasmus. These he finds in his seductive doubts, 
his relativist point-of-view, and his idea of religious 
progress and religious breadth. Furthermore, 

Erasmus was modern ... in that he knew how to respect acts 
and facts, but was no man of action himself. . . . He was modern 
in seeking and not quite finding, ... as a skeptic and rationalist, 
... as a man of intellect rather than of religion. 

To the left of the Christian progressives stand the 
" dissenters from all creeds." Some of them have seen 
in Erasmus but another theologian. While Rabelais 
acknowledged his debt to the humanist in the warmest 
terms, and while Montaigne 5 spoke favorably of him, 
Bonaventure des Periers mocked him along with Luther, 
Calvin, and all the obscurantists. 6 

1 E. Troeltsch : Kultur der Gsgenwart, Geschichte der Christlichen Religion^ 
1909, pp. 478 ff. 
3 Renaissance des Christentums im 16. Jahrhundert> p. 25. 

3 Christentum und Kir c he Westeuropas im Mittelalter (Kultur der Gtgenwart) 9 
I, Teil iv, p* 215. 

4 Der moderns Mensch in Erasmus, 1919. 

5 Essais, iii, 2; and his whole spirit was like Erasmus's. 

6 Cymbalum Mundi 9 1538; and on this Zwingliana^ 1922, no. x. 


But other rationalists have now and then found much 
to their taste in Erasmus, whose own skepticism they 
have been inclined to overrate. It is impossible to agree 
with Amiel 1 that Erasmus was all but a free-thinker, an 
earlier Voltaire or Littre, or with Froude that "in his 
love of pleasure, in his habits of thought, in his sarcastic 
skepticism, you see the healthy, well-disposed, clever, 
tolerant, epicurean, intellectual man of the world," and 
that, if his spirit had prevailed, the higher classes would 
have become mere skeptics and the multitude have 
remained sunk in superstition. 2 

But we do find that the ground irrigated by his spirit 
bloomed with a freedom of thought not found elsewhere. 
Paul Jovius spoke of him as surpassing almost all the 
writers of his age in the fertility of his genius, though 
he added, with somewhat forced assumption of virtue, 
that so pleasant and stinging a satire as the Folly was 
hardly becoming to the pen of a theologian. 3 The wide 
swing of Elizabethan skepticism has been noted, and its 
leaders were trained in the Colloquies. Their mark, 
indeed, may be found on many of the contemporaries of 
Shakespeare. 4 Of all the Elizabethans learned Ben 
Jonson owed the most to him. The characters and 
situations in two of his famous comedies, Folpone and 
The Alchemist^ took not a little from the Colloquies? 

So often has Erasmus been compared to Voltaire that 
it may seem odd that the French philosophers of the 
Enlightenment saw so little in him. The father of them 

1 E. Amiel: Un Libre-pens eur du XVle siecle, rasme, 1889, p, xi. 

a JL A, Froude; "Times of Erasmus and Luther" (1867), Short Studies on 
Gnat Subjects* 1908, i pp. 69, 131. Also Life of Erasmus, 1894. 

8 Faulus Jovius: Elogia virorum literis ilhwtriwmy Opera, 1575, i 175. 

*0n Elizabethan skepticism, P, Smith; A$t of the Reformation, 1920, p. 
633 ff On Erasmus's influence on Lily and on some other literature of Shake- 
speare's age, see H, de Vocht: De Invlotd van Erasmus op de Engelsche Tooneel- 
liUratuur der XFe en XFIIe Eeuwen. 1908, Also "Erasmus," in Ency- 
clopedia Britannica, ix 73 2c. 

* See J, D, Rea's preface to his edition of Folpone* 1919. I think Rea over- 
estimates Erasmus's influence on The Alchemist, bufc that he proves Fotpone 
to he largely dependent on Erasmus as well as on Lucian. 


all, Peter Bayle, while furnishing a brief sketch of his 
life and character, says not a word of his rationalism or 
influence. 1 Voltaire, in his great Essay on the Character 
and Genius of Nations? says only: "Erasmus, although 
long time a monk, or perhaps rather because long time 
a monk, doused the monks with ridicule from which they 
never recovered." An anonymous writer, probably 
Diderot, in the Encyclopedic, however, calls him "the 
finest wit and most universal scholar of his age/' and 
says also: "He was one of the first to treat theo- 
logical matters in a noble manner, free from vain 
subtleties/' 3 

On the Enlightenment in Scandinavia, also, he had 
some influence. 4 

Continuing in the same tradition, Sainte-Beuve calls 
Erasmus a moderate Voltaire, a Fontenelle with a saner 
literary taste, a Rabelais without drunkenness, a born 
neutral with good sense and finely tempered spirit. 5 

Kuno Francke emphasizes the eighteenth-century-like 
rationalism and optimism of Erasmus, and adds: "Almost 
all the liberating ideas on which the international culture 
of the present rests are present in germ in his thought- 
world." 6 

A penetrating analysis of the Dutch scholar's genius is 
offered by Imbart de la Tour. After doing justice to the 
historical-minded philosopher who saw in classic anti- 
quity, in Judaism, and in Christianity forms of thought 
necessary in their own place to complete one another, 
he goes on : 

1 Pierre Bayle: Dictionnaire Historique et Critique, 1696, s. i>. "Erasme," 

2 Voltaire: Essai sur les mcsurs et V esprit des nations, 1754* chap. 127. 

3 Encyclopedie ou Dictionnaire universel raisonne, tome xvi, 1772, s. v* 

4 V. Andersen: Tider og Typer, 2 v., 1907-9. Holberg paid a debt to 
humanism in his "Erasmus Montanus," and there was a Praise of Lying 
written in imitation of the Praise of Folly. See An Icelandic Satire (Lof 
Lyginnar) by Porleifur Halldorsson, ed, H, Hermannsson, 1915. 

6 Cauteries du Lundi, 1857, i, p. 240. 

'"Erasmus als Deiiker und Kunstler," Internationale Monatsschrift^ vi 
1911-12, pp. 269-291. 


One will look in vain in his work for that which was the power of 
Luther and of Calvin : those simple ideas, radiating sonorous phrases, 
thrown out like a fanfare to the winds of heaven . . . Erasmus 
proposed more than he demonstrated. . . . Every system repelled 
him like a jail. . . . Moreover, this genius lacked a soul. He 
never vibrates or throws himself or anyone else into a passion; he 
suffers only in his vanity. . . . Compare his Christianity, more 
intellectual than mystical, with the richness of soul and of accent 
found in Luther! . . . But in the end he might have thought he 
conquered. His spirit continued, especially in France . . . the 
country in which Erasmianism was best understood and in which 
it bore its finest fruits. 1 

This influence is said to have been shown in the 
Erasmian thought dominating the early pre-Lutheran 
reform, and in the Politiques y who learned tolerance from 
the Colloquies. Cartesianism in the seventeenth century 
might be counted his child; and modern times owe much 
to his exegesis and to his ideals of progress. 

This symposium on Erasmus's influence and character 
may well include one of the best of all the estimates, 
by one of the greatest of American historians, Henry 
Charles Lea, who writes: 2 

Erasmus, the sickly scholar of Rotterdam, the flatterer of popes 
and princes, the vainglorious boaster and querulous grumbler when 
his assaults were retaliated in kind, is, when rightly considered, one 
of the most heroic figures of an age of heroes. Nowhere else can we 
find an instance so marked of the power of pure intellect. His gift 
of ridicule was the most dreaded weapon in Europe and he used it 
mercilessly upon the most profitable abuses of the Church. 

As most of Erasmus's writings were devoted to religion 
it is natural that most of the estimates should judge him 
by his relation to religion. But piety was not his only 
interest, and he appeals to many readers as a scholar 
and writer rather than as a philosopher or theologian. 
Ever after the Ciceronian storm had subsided there were 
eminent thinkers who criticized his scholarship. The 

1 P. Imhart de la Tour: Qrigines de la Reform, Hi, 1914, pp. 107 ff. The 
same appeared in the Revue d*s Dtwc Mondes, May 15, 1913, 
1 Chapters from the Religww History of S^ain* 1890, p. 30. 


younger Scaliger saw many faults of Latin in his works, 
and Giordano Bruno went much further in denouncing 1 
"a certain prince of humanist who wrote on a supply of 
words 2 such unnecessary things that he certainly seems 
to have written folly naturally/' 3 and in blaming 4 him 
for "that present flood of arrogant and presumptuous 
grammarians, who by the multiplication of books and 
commentaries had led knowledge into extreme confusion 
and crushed it like the invincible Caeneus under the 
rocks and trees heaped on him by the half-animal 

But against this disparaging estimate countless trib- 
utes could be marshaled did space permit. The greatest 
of living classical scholars 5 confesses that he is captivated 
by Erasmus's books whenever he opens one of them. 
A tremendously high appreciation of his literary genius 
closes Charles Reade's great novel, The Cloister and the 
Hearth? of which so many scenes are taken from the 
writings of the humanist. He was not only, says Reade, 

the first scholar and divine of his epoch; he was also the heaven-born 
dramatist of his generation. . . . Words of a genius so high as his 
are not born to die: their immediate effect upon mankind fulfilled, 
they may seem to lie torpid; but at each fresh shower of intelligence 
Time pours upon their students, they prove their immortal race; 
they revive, they spring from the dust of great libraries; they bud, 
they flower, they fruit, they seed, from generation to generation and 
from age to age. 

No evaluation of Erasmus's genius would be complete 
without taking account of the opinion of the master of 
them who know him, the scholar whose edition of the 
humanist's epistles is one of the glories of twentieth- 
century learning. When Dr. P, S, Allen asks himself 

1 J. Bruni Opera latine conscripta, ii, part iii, p. 376. 
2 Lf, the Df Copia Perborum. 
8 "Pro more," a pun on the Moria, or Folly. 

4 Dt triplici minima ft mensura, quoted by V. Spampanato: Vita M 
Giordano Bruno, i, 1921, p. 74. 

6 U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff: Geschickte der Philolo^ 1921, p. 19. 
8 Published 1861. 


what was the secret of Erasmus's remarkable ascendancy, 
he replies: 1 

It may be found In a combination of brilliant intellectual gifts with 
absolute sincerity and enduring purpose. As a thinker he was not 
perhaps profound. . . . His strength lay rather in the power to 
grasp important truths and to present them with cogency in 
spontaneous, irresistible eloquence; never succumbing to the tempta- 
tions which beset many brilliant minds, to pursue novelty and 
paradox at the cost of making the better appear the worse, and, for 
fear of cant, to bespatter in their mirth the high things they really 

Dr. Allen's words are welcome not only for their 
insight but for their evidence of the wish to judge the 
man by his best achievement. But, though we should 
not be partisans poor Erasrnians if we were! we must, 
in closing, speak once more of his moral ideals and of 
the part he played in the great battle of his age. 

The man to whom all Europe turned at the crisis of 
religious conflict as to an umpire and whom zealots 
then reviled because he would not prostitute his judicial 
office to their petty ends, can be neither accepted by us 
as having spoken the final word on the Reformation, nor 
reproached for not anticipating the verdict that we 
ourselves may give. In the light of four centuries we 
have little excuse for not rendering a fairer judgment 
and for not taking a wider view than even he, in the 
thick of the conflict, was able to do. Convinced as I am 
that the Reformation was fundamentally a progressive 
movement, the culmination of the Renaissance, and 
above all the logical outcome of the teachings of Erasmus 
himself, I cannot but regard his later rejection of it as a 
mistake in itself and as a misfortune to the cause of 
liberalism. But, for his decision to keep <c au-dessus de 
la melee," 1 cannot petulantly find fault with him. The 
world is too big a stage, human motives and aspirations 
are too complex, to allow the historian to choose one 

1 P. S. Allen: Erasmus* A lectwre delivered for the Genootechap Nfderland- 
1922, p, 15* 


man or one cause as eternally right and so condemn all 
others as wrong. The drama would be poorer were there 
less variety of character; among its dramatis persona it 
needs diverse types: Luther and Loyola, Erasmus, and 
Valla, and Rabelais. 

And it is futile to judge him by one issue forced upon 
him late in life and against his will. How, with his per- 
sonality, could he have acted otherwise than as he did ? 
Physically a small man, thin, slight, and pale; 1 everything 
about his form and chiseled features indicated delicacy, 
refinement, exquisite temper. If Luther was a Richard 
Cceur de Lion whose sword could cleave a bar of iron, 
Erasmus was a Saladin, whose blade could sever a pillow 
without knocking it down. His tastes were fastidious 
and shrinking, as if one may repeat the epigram once 
more he had been descended from a long line of maiden 
aunts. His eyelids, veiling his eyes demurely, do not keep 
him from keen vision, but only from fierce glances; his 
mouth is curved in kindly irony, which is perhaps the 
ripest of all moods in which poor humanity can look at 

Purely intellectual as he was, he could not be a par- 
tisan, not because of timidity, but because he saw the 
good and the bad of all sides. He would not follow 
Luther, because he had mixed some evil with his good; 
he could not wish him utterly crushed, because of the 
Pharisees in the Catholic Church. He was always mak- 
ing exceptions, discovering distinctions, and toning down 
an otherwise too glaring statement. He could hardly 
write anything without some hedging, some slight doubt 
as to the unqualified validity of what he said. He, 
almost alone in his age, knew that truth had many facets, 
that no rule can be without exceptions, and that no 
position is unassailable. 

If his life did not furnish another example of supreme 
self-sacrifice and heroism, still less did it have in it any- 
thing vulgar, or angry, or ugly. As I compare his por- 

1 Allen, iv, 169. Letter of Lee. See also his portraits. 


trait with that of Sir Thomas More, I find that More's 
face is the one on which I love to look for occasional 
inspiration, but Erasmus's is the face of the man I should 
prefer to live with. More would die for his faith, and 
would have you punished for yours; Erasmus would 
be companionable and chatty and courteous and tolerant 
even to an infidel. What anecdotes the man could tell, 
what pictures he could call up, what wit he could 
scintillate! And, above all, how much one might have 
learned from him, both in matters of mere erudition and 
in the conduct of life! 

As the broadest scholar and as the most polished wit 
of his generation Erasmus is sure of a lasting place in the 
history of literature and of learning. As that actor in the 
great contemporary revolution who typified the contact 
of Renaissance and Reformation, who felt most deeply 
their common spirit and most delicately their various 
contrasts, his biography is worthy of close study* Most 
of all does he deserve to be remembered for the rare 
spirit which combined the ethical and the rational; for 
the common sense really so uncommon, and for the 
humanity so called, one might think, like "lucus a non 
lucendo," from its conspicuous absence in many human 
breasts. That he saw through the accretions of super- 
stition, dogma, and ritual to the "philosophy of Christ"; 
that he let his mind play freely on the sacred arcana of 
the traditional faith; that he recognized reason as the 
final arbiter in these matters as well as in social and 
political affairs all this is the noble genius of Erasmus. 




THE data for calculating the birth year of Erasmus 
can be found partly in the sayings of his friends, 
inscriptions, and allusions, but most reliably in his own 
writings. It is remarkable that his statements differ 
widely. A number of indirect statements point to the 
year 1469 or even later. Thus he says several times that 
he was fourteen years old when he left Deventer (LB. i, 
921 f; viii, 561; Allen, ep. 940), which happened in 
1484. Again, he says he was twelve years old when he 
saw Agricola, probably in 1484. He tells us that when 
he met Colet, in the autumn of 1499, they were both 
just thirty years old (Allen, ep. 1211). He says he wrote 
a letter to his guardian at the age of fourteen; if this is 
the letter printed by Allen, ep. I, as in 1484, he must 
have been born in 1469, which is the year that all the 
other data just given indicate, save the saying about 
Agricola, which would point to a later year. 

Most of his direct statements of his age, however, 
point to an earlier year. The list drawn up by Doctor 
Richter, revised by Mr. Nichols (i. 474 ff) is here given 
again revised and expanded by myself. First I give the 
source and afterward, in parentheses, the year to which 
the statement points; 

I. Carmen d$ senectutis incommodis^ August, i$o6* LB, iv, 7563. 


2* Methodus verae thtQlo%iaC) March, 1516, (1466 or 1467*) 

3, Epistle to Rhcgiu$, February 24, 1516. Allen, ep, 392. (1467.) 

4, Kpiatle to Bade, February 15, 1517, Allen, ii, p. 469, (1466.) 

5, Epistle to Capito, February 26, is 1 ?- Allen, ep. 541. (1466.) 

6, Apologia ad Fabrum, August 5, 1517. LB. x, 20. (1466.) 



7. Epistle to Stromer, August 24, 1517. Alien, ep. 631. 

(1467 or before.) 

8. Epistle to Eck, May 15, 1518. Allen, ep. 844. (1466 or 1467.) 

9. Preface to Methodus, 2d ed., 1518. LB. v, 79. (1466.) 

10. Epistle to Rhenanus, October, 1518. Allen, ep. 867. 

(1467 or before.) 

11. Epistle to Ambrose Leo, October 15, 1518. Alien, ep. 868. 

(1465 or 1466.) 

12. Epistle to Theodorici, April 17, 1519. Allen, ep. 940. (1466.) 

13. Epistle to Gaverus, March I, 1524- Lond - > 55 LB. iii, 7870. 

(1465 or 1466.) 

14. Compendium Vita, March 2, 1524. Allen, i, 47. (1466.) 

15. Epistle to Stromer, December 10, 1524- Lond. xix, 4; LB. iii, 

833F. (1465 or 1466.) _ 

16. Epistle to Bude, August 25, 1525. Lond. xix, 89; LB. m, 88sC. 

(1464 or earlier.) 

17. Epistle to Nicholas Hispanus, April 29, 1526. Lond. xxi, 24; 

LB. iii, 93 2C. (1465 or earlier.) 

18. Epistle to Baptista Egnatius, May 6, 1526. Lond. xxi, 39; 

LB. iii, 93 sE. (1465 or earlier.) 

19. Epistle to Gratianus Hispanus, March 15, 1526. Lond. xix, 54; 

LB. iii, 10676. (1464.) 

20. Epistle to Binck, September 4, 1531, Lond. xxv, 2, col 133*- 

(1461 or later.) 

21. To Peter and Christopher Mesia, December 24, 1533. Lond. 

xxviS, 22. col. i$3oDE. (1464 or soon after.) 

22. Epistle to Amerbach, June, 1534. Epistola jamiliares D. Erasmi 

ad Bon. Jmerbachium, 1779, ep. 90. (1464-) 

23. Epistle to Decius, August 22, 1534. Miaskowski, Philosopfrisches 

Jakrbuch, xv, p. 333- 

Combining these data, we see that five indirect refer- 
ences to events early in Erasmus's life point to 1469 as 
the year of birth, and one to 1472, or possibly an 
earlier year. Of the direct references, the first fifteen, 
falling between the year 1506 and 1524, point mostly 
to 1466, but some to 1465 or to 1467. All can be made 
to agree with 1466 except one which gives 1467* But, 
of the last eight references, falling between the years 
1525 and 1534, all point to the year 1464 or can be made 
to agree with it. It therefore seems that Erasmus tended 
to put the year of his birth farther back the older he 
became. For a solution of the enigma see anU, pp. 7 f. 



THE letters here published are taken from the manu- 
script letter-book of Jean de Pins, at the Bibliotheque 
Municipale at Nimes, no. 215 (old number 13,864). 
At least ten years ago my friend, Prof. John Lawrence 
Gerig, of Columbia University, called my attention to 
them and now, thanks to the kindness of the Librarian 
at Nimes, M. Joseph de Loye, I am enabled to publish 

Jean de Pins (1470?-! 537) of Toulouse, studied at 
Paris and in Italy. During a five-year stay at Bologna 
he met Erasmus and Bombasius, The correspondence 
between himself and Erasmus did not start, however, 
until many years later, when the Dutch humanist 
wanted to get a manuscript of Josephus. He first wrote 
to George d'Armagnac, Bishop of Rodez, who, he had 
heard, possessed a valuable codex of this author. This 
letter, dated 19 November, 1531, is extant and published 
Lend, xxv, 3; LB. 1203, with the mistaken super- 
scription "Episcopo Rivensi" instead of *' Ruthenensi." 
D'Armagnac wrote Erasmus that De Pins had the 
codex of Josephus, and the following letters are con- 
cerned chiefly about that, though also about othei 
things, particularly the fate of Bombasius and the diffi- 
culties that Erasmus's first letter prepared for De Pfns 
at the hands of the enraged heresy-hunters. Though 
appointed in 1523 Bishop of Rieux, De Pins continued 
to reside at Toulouse* On him see Allen, iii, p. 510 f; 
R* C Christie, Doto, 1880, pp. 57-67; Revue des 
BibUotheques> xv, 1905, pp. 203-208. 



/. Erasmus to De Pins. 
Nimes MS. no. 215, fol. 168 verso. FREIBURG, March 20, 1532. 

Erasmus Roterodamus clarissimo viro D. D. Joanni Pino episcopo 
Rivensi in Gallia s.p. 

Mihi quidem non infeiix error qui dulcissimae societatis quae 
Bononiae quondam in optimis studiis fuit memoriam refricuit. Per- 
suasum erat nobis Josephum graecum esse apud reverendissimum 
dominum episcopum Ruihenensem. Is scripsit eum esse in tuis bonis 
atque ad te postliminio rediisse. Optimam itaque spem mihi facit 
tua humanitas olim commas perspecta explorataque fore ut ejus 
voluminis copiam ad menses aliquot facias Hieronymo Frobenio qui 
adhibitis aliquot eruditis viris Historicum ctimprimis clarum sed 
interpretum ac scribarum inscitia misere depravatum contamina- 
tumque ex fide graeci codicis restituere decrevit. Ea res ut non 
parum conducet publicis studiis ita nonnihil laudis apponet tuo 
quoque nomini. Hieronymus vir est exploratae fidei, attamen si 
quid addubitas me sponsorem accipe, nihil enim hie metuo. 

Illud oraculi napaforfj cupio scire quid agat noster Bornbasius; 
multis enim annis nihil de illo licuit inaudire. Proximis literis 
significavit se petere Bononiam cum suo cardinal! 1 qui nuper decessit 
numeraturum tria ducatorum miliia pro Praetorio quod fuerat 
mercatus. Preaterea si quid est omnino in quo amplitudini tuae hie 
humilis olim amiculus, nunc servulus, graturn facere potest, experieris 
ad omnia imperata promptissimum. Bene vale. Datum Friburgi 
Brisgoae, 20 die Martii, anno 1532. Erasmus Roterodamus mea 
manu extempore. 

//. De Pins to Erasmus. 
Nimes MS. no. 215. fol. 165 verso. TOULOUSE, 1532. 

Johannes Pinus Erasmo Roterodamo salutem. 

Redditae sunt mihi jucundissimae et optatissimae literae tuae, 
Erasme rni suavissime, quae difficile credas quantam prime suo 
adventu tragediam excitarint, quod in quorundam hominum manus 
inciderant, qui tibi non satis aeque videantur, et apud quos tu quoque 
male admodum audias. Libuit clanculum odorari, si quid alicunde 
causae aut comminisci aut elicere possem. Sed ego nihil aliud 
in causa esse existimo quam quod illi viri alioquin boni quorundam 
hominum nota sunt addicti vehernentiusque quos tu passim in tuis 
libris offenderis, at vel laceraris potius et vexaris irnmanius ut ipsi 
et apud me, et apud alios, saepe sunt qucsti. Hi quod sc magni 

i Cardinal Lorenzo Pucci, who died c, September 16, 1531. Bombasius, 

however, had perished at the sack of Rome, on May 6, 1527, 


aliquid in his inventuros sperarant quasi vero inter Erasmum et 
Pinum per literas nihil nisi de regno aut regni conjuratione agi 
deberet, prirno tumultum ingentem moverant et me inscio atque 
etiam absente, nam turn forte ab urbe paulisper rusticatum abieram, 
librarioios quosdam qui eas literas Parisiis attulerant, in carcerem 
conjecerint, quoniam hi et tergiversari nonnihil, et neque satis 
propere eas literas eorum manibus reddere viderentur. Verum illico 
illi, qui primum quodam veluti furore perciti videbantur ad sanitatem 
atque ad modestiam redierunt, literasque non nisi me praesente aut 
assentiente resignare voluemnt. Quod cum his facile annuissem 
hique in literis nihil nisi de Josepho quodam scriptum reperiissent, 
turn vero illis et labra concidisse crederes et plane cornicum oculos 
confixos esse. Ipse vero interim mecum coepi ridere fabulam quam 
neque tibi ipsi ignotam esse volui, ut si tu quo pacto potes aut si id 
forsan quidquid est tanti totum existimas, id genus hominum tibi 
resarcias gratiam, nisi earn forte adeo concisam putas ut difficile 
posthac coituram ac cicatricem inde abducturam existimes. Scis 
quo innuam eoque apertius nihil loquor. 

Jamque ad tuas literas quibus quod apud me Forbonii [sic] tui 
causarn agis de Josepho cogor et ipse altius repetere quo tibi res tota 
innotescat: Proximis annis Petro Gyllio 1 viro eruditissimo episcopi 
Ruthenensis hommi nobis multis de causis amicissimo familiari ac 
domestico Josephum meum utendum dederam, qui postea quam bona 
fide ad dominum postliminio rediisset. Coepi ego multorum literis ac 
precibus fatigari ut eundem Lugdunum formis excudendum mitterem 
quod etsi et grave admodum mihi ac permolestum esset, quoniam eo 
libro aegre admodum carerem quern et redemeram magni olim 
Venetiis et duorum doctissimorum sae culi nostri hominum Philelphi 2 
ac deinceps Leonardi Justiniani Veneti 8 fuisse rescieram, proinque 
eum mihi castigatissimum esse persuaseram; vicerat tamen amicorum 
assidua quaedam et indefessa sedulitas, meque vel invitum in ea re 
herbarn porrigere coegerat, jamque a me librum abstulerant. Quum 
ecce Rutenensis episcopi literae ad me quibus tuae quoque ad ipsum 
inclusae erant, quibus a me petebat sed tam obnixe ut nihil fieri 
vehementius potest ut tibi ad aliquot menses libri ejus copiam ac 
potestatem facerem. Ego vero ubi primum Erasmi mei amicorum 
vetustissimi, ac jam quoque Hterarum facile principis mentionem 
audivi, exilui sane gaudio sed quod paulo post subito merore muta- 
tum est nam quid facerem aliud cum me nee tibi nee Ruthenensi 

* P, GylH (1490-1555) was prior of Durenque. On him see Thuasne in 
Remit <ks Mbliothequgy, xv, 190$, pp. 203 ff. 

8 Francesco Filelfo (1398-1481), one of the great humanists of the Italian 

s Leonardo Gitmmiani (1388-1446), a Venetian senator, translator, and 
author* His version of Plutarch* Lives of Cinna and Lucullus shows that he 
knew Greek. 


nostro gratificari posse conspicerem. Jam liber dominium nostrum 
exierat nee revocandi spes ulla reliqua facta videbatur. Juvit nos 
tamen Deus optimus maximus ac negotium ipsum repente in melius 
vertit, nam denuo mihi praeter spem libri potestas facta est. Noli 
quaerere quanam id ratione sit factum, nam si dicere coepero, et 
audienti tibi et mihi ipsi quoque dicenti fastidium pariam. Misi 
itaque librum confestim ad Rutenensem nostrum nam et is forte sub 
id tempus in urbem advenerat Armoniacam Aquitaniae Provinciam 
petiturus in qua summum pro rege Navarrae magistratum gerit qui 
se fideliter curaturum est pollicitus ut ad te liber sanus et integer 
perveniat. Proin tu si ita videbitur hominem literis tuis appella, 
quanquam id minime omnium necessarium existimem. Scio emm 
eum pro ingenita sua bonitate fidem praestaturum quam dederit. 

Venio jam ad extremam epistolae tuae particulam qua petis a me 
ut si de Bombasio, communi nostro amico, certi quicquam habeam 
velim te certiorem facere. Ego vero iam plusculos annos de eo nihii 
audivi, nisi quod fatali ilia Romanae urbis direptione periisse homi- 
nem rumor quidarn (utinam falsus) vulgeraverat. Quo etiam excidio 
Petrum Alcyonium 1 venetum interfectum narrabant, neque hue 
posthac de his certius quicquam allatum est. Quare cepi non parvam 
ex epistola tua consolationem quod scribis a Bombasio literas 
accepisse, quibus se Bononiam petere nuntiabat. Subdue, arnabo, 
rationem temporis ut scire possim id ante an post excidium fuerit* 
Quod si post acceperis et vanum fuisse rumorem intelligam et 
hominem nobis amicissimum vivere adhuc et salvum esse sperare 
nobis licebit. Qua una re nihil in vita nobis jucundius aut gratius 
contingere posset. 

Vale, Erasme carissime, et me, ut facis, ama. 

///. Erasmus to De Pins. 
Nimes MS. 215, fol. 170. FREIBURG, Jan. jo, 1555. 

Reverendissimo domino Joanni Pino episcopo Rivensi, Erasmus 

Risi tragicos tumultus istorum sed exitu comico etc. 2 Josephus 
iam est in manibus Hieronymi Frobenii quo nomine plurimam habeo 
gratiam tuae mihi iam olim cognitae humanitati. Curabo ut codex 
in corrupt us ad te redeat nam Frobenius nondum decrevit exemplar 
graecum excudere sed ad hujus collationem latinam emendate trans- 
lationem. Is vero sperabat totum Josephum at tuus codex tantum 
tenet [?] historian! belli Judaici etc. 2 Bene vale. Friburgi, 3 cal. 
februarii, anno 1533. 

1 Alcyonius, a Venetian pupil of Musurus, professor of Greek at Florence* 
who died in 1527, either at or shortly after the sack of Rome. Allen, ii, p 315, 

2 So in MS, 


IF. De Pins to Erasmus. 
Nimes MS. 215, fol. 167. (7555 or 1554.) 

Legit mihi nuper, suavisslme, literas etc. 1 Josephum meum quern 
proximis annis tuo rogatu Frobenio misi, velim ad me remittendum 
cures, si ille satis commode usus fuerit. Sin minus expectabo ipse in 
tuam gratiam tantisper, vel quantocunque meo incommodo, dum 
ille suum commodum faciat. Vale. Tui honoris semper et nominis 
cupidissimus et amantissimus Pinus, Rivensis episcopus. 

Y. Erasmus to De Pins. 
Nimes MS. 215, fol. 169. FREIBURG, Nov. jj, 1534. 

Erasrno Roterodamo. 

Joanni Pino, episcopo Rivensi D, Erasmus S. P. 

Quo pristinam erga me benevolentiam constanter obtines, orna- 
tissime praesul, mihi quidem est, ut esse par est, gratissimum. Variis 
incommodis ad tolerantiam exerceor. Luterus in me scripsit epistolam 
simpliciter furiosam, ac tarn improbe mendacem ut displiceat etiam 
Luteranissimis; minatur etiam atrociora. Nicolaus Herborn, 2 Fran- 
ciscanus, com[missarius] generalis cismontanus, edidit sermones quad- 
ragesimales non in aliud nisi ut acerrimis conviciis me aspergeret. 
Sunt qui libellos famosos in me scriptos recitant, sed apud symmistas 
duntaxat, quorum de nostro erat Buschius qui nuper decessit. Nee 
minima pars molestiarum venit a famulis. Nuper sceleratissimam 
viperam fovi in sinu meo credens me habere fidelem ministrum; 
occideret me si posset impune. Accedit his senectus in dies magis ac 
magis ingravescens quae me nimium frequenter chyragra et podagra 
discruciat. Sic visum tamen* 0* oW ol 6eol fMdx VTai - Josephum 
tuum nunquam vidi. Scrips! Hieronymo, ut nuncio, qui tuas red- 
didit, tradat codicem, quod non dubito eum facturum. Ejus nomine 
tibi quoque gratias ago. Vale. Friburgi, 13 die novembris 1534. 
Erasmus Roterodamus, mea manu. 

FL Erasmus to De Pins. 

Nimes MS. 215, fol 169. FREIBXJRG, May ip, 7535. 

Johanni Pino, episcopo Rivensi, d. Erasmus R, 
Reverendissime praesul, dederam cuidam theologo 4 negotium ut 

* So in MS. 

* Nicholas of Herborn in Nassau (1535) called Stagefyr in satire, after work- 
ing in vain against the Reformation in Hesse, came to preach at Cologne in 
1527. In his Lenten Sermons of 1530 he attacked Erasmus as more dangerous 
than Luther or Zwingli. See L. Schmitt: Der Kolner Theologe Nik. Stagefyr und 
der Pranziscaner Nik. Herborn* 1896, 

* Blank in MS. The whole Greek sentence is perhaps 'Avdy^ cf oM 
0sol p&xovr&tf from Simonides of Ceos, as handed down in Stobaeus, Eclog. 
I, 420* This reference I owe to Professor H de Forest Smith. 

4 Damian a Goes, see Erasmus's letter to him August 25, 1534. LB. ep* 1 


Bononiae inquireret de Paulo Bombasio. Is scribit se a Bombasii 
fratre accepisse quod Romae interfectus sit a militibus Borbonicis. 1 
Doleo tibi rem esse cum chiragra cum quo malo mihi Jam biennium 
dira conflictatio est. Dominus te servet incolumen. 

Friburgi, 19 die Mail, 1535. Erasmus Roterodamus, mea manu. 

a /.*., the Imperial army under Charles, Constable of Bourbon. 



The British Museum contains an illuminated MS., Egerton 1651, 
with some poems and one letter of Erasmus, apparently all in con- 
temporary copy, and most likely of the years 1499-1500, Some of 
these have been published, but there are still four unpublished. The 
contents of the MS. in detail is as follows. 

Allen, ep. 104. 

Allen conjectures (rv. p. xxi) that this letter, and the poems were 
actually presented to Prince Henry, and he collates the letter, ibid., 
with the form late printed. 

2. IN LAUDEM ANGELORUM, printed LB. v, 1321* 

3. DE MICHAELE, ibid. 

4. GABRIELIS LAUS, ibid. 1323. 


6. DE ANGELIS IN GEN ERE, ibid. 1324. 



LB. i, 1217. 


This ode to Skelton was never published, perhaps because Skelton 
did not reciprocate with the eulogy of Erasmus evidently expected 
from him. See ante, p. 62. 

Quid tibi facundum nostra in preconia fontem 

Solvere collibuit, 
Aeterna vates Skelton dignissime lauro 

Castaldumque decus* 

Nos neque Pieridum celebravimus antra sororum 
Fonte nee Aonio; 



Ebibimus vatum ditantes ora liquores 

At tibi Apollo Chelim 
Auratam debit, et vocalia plectra sorores. 

Inque tuis labiis 
Dulcior hybleo residet suadela liquore; 

Se tibi Calliope 
Infudit totam; tu carmine vincis olorem. 

Cedit et ipse tibi 
Ultro porrecta cithara Rhodopeius Orpheus. 

Tu modulante lyra 
Et mulcere feras et duras ducere quercus 

Tu potes et rapidos 
Flexanimis fidibus fluviorum sistere cursus; 

Flectere saxa potes. 
Grecia Meonio quantum debebat Homero 

Mantua Virgilio 
Tantum Skeltoni iam se debere fatctur 

Terra Britanna suo. 
Primus in hanc Latio deduxit ab orbe Camoenas, 

Primus hie edocuit 
Exculte pureque loqui. Te principe Skelton 

Anglia nil metuat 
Velcum Romanis versu certare poetis, 

Vive valeque diu. 



This unpublished poem compares the excellent editorial and proof- 
reading wcrk done by Augustine Vincent Cammade with the poor 
work, corrupting the text, done by a certain "Little Hammer. 1 * 
Vincent was a pupil of Erasmus in 1500; in that year preparing the 
Adagio, for the press of John Philippi at Paris. Allen, i, p, 305, and 
epp. 131, 136, 156. It is difficult to conjecture who was the 
"Malleolus." No proper name among those known in Erasmus's 
writings can be exactly so translated. Possibly the man intended 
was Batt, a friend with whom Erasmus was in correspondence in 
1 500, and whose name might be translated as Malleolus. 


Plus sibi quam Varo 1 volui Tucrique 2 licere 

In musam sumit turba prophana meam. 
Hie lacerat mutilatque; hie pannos assuit ostro; 

Sordidior [et] mendis pagina nulla vacat. 
Vel nuper quanta horrebam rubigine! Scabro 

Malleolo vexor dum miser atque premor. 
Hie sordes mihi dum male sedulus excutit auxit, 

Dumque agitat veteres addidit ipse novas. 
Reddidit ereptum Vincenti lima nitorem, 

Ornavit variis insuper indicibus. 
Vivat ut usque meus vindex vincentius opto; 

Flagret malleolus Malleus ille maiis! 

n, AD GAGUINEM. LB. i, 1218. 


This is a first draft of the poem later published in LB., v, 1319. 
As the printed form was much changed, however, the original may 
be reproduced here. 

Quin mihi sunt uni, si quae bona terra polusque 

Habet, quid hoc dementiae e