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LONDON QUARTERLY REVIEW. .
Art. 1.-Leben des Erasmus von Rotter- , Despotism. We will leave at present un
dam. Von Adolf Müller. Hamburg, named those wbo would have evoked a 1828.
pure, lofty, spiritual personal religion from 2. Nouvelle Biographie Universelle. Tome the gloom and oppression of what we per. xvi. Art. Erasme. Paris, 1856. sist in calling the Dark Ages. There are
two names, however, of surpassing dignity Almost all remarkable events, wonderful and interest, the more immediate and acdiscoveries, mighty revolutions, have had knowledged harbingers of that awful crisis their heralds, their harbingers, their pro- which broke up the august but effete Abphets. The catastrophe, seemingly the solutism dominant over Western Christenmost sudden, has been long in silent pre- dom, and at once severed, and for ever, paration. The earthquake has been nurs. Northern and Southern, Latin and Teuing its fires, its low and sullen murmurs tonic Christianity. These two were Sahave been heard by the sagacious and ob. vonarola and Erasmus. servant ear, the throes of its awful coming We have but recently directed the athave made themselves felt; significant and tention of our readers to the life and influmenacing movements are remembered as ence of Savonarola. Since that time, we having preceded its outburst. The mark- have been informed, some important docued, if we may so say, the epochal man is ments have been brought to light, and a rarely without his intellectual ancestors : life is announced by an Italian, who has Shakespeare did not create the Eng- devoted many years to researches among lish Drama; how long and noble a line, archives either neglected or unexhausted; Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, foreshowed and hopes are entertained, among some of Newton! The Reformation, above all, his more intelligent countrymen, that, in had been long pre-shadowed in its inevi- this work, even more full and ample justable advent. It was anticipated by the tice will be done to the great Florentine prophetic fears and the prophetic hopes of Preacher. Still, however interesting it men ; the fears of those who would have ar- may be to behold Savonarola in a more rested or mitigated its shock, the hopes of clear and distinct light, our verdict on his those who would have precipitated a pre- character and his influence as a Reformer mature and, it might be, unsuccessful col- is not likely to be materially changed. lision with the established order of things. With all his holiness, with all his zeal, More than one book has been written, and with all his eloquence, with all his power written with ability and much useful re- over the devout affections of men, with all search, on the 'Reformers before the Re- his aspirations after freedom, with all his formation ;' but we will pass over the genial fondness for art, with all his love of more remote, more obscure, or at least less man, and still higher love of God, Savonasuccessful precursors of the great German, rola was a Monk. His ideal of Christianity the English, and the French antagonists of was not that of the Gospel ; he would have the mediæval superstitions and the Papal made Florence, Italy, the world one vast v0L. CVỊ.
cloister. The monastic virtues would still sture work is a neat and terse, but meagre have been the highest Christian graces; a and unsatisfactory, abstract. If we could more holy, more self-sacrificing, but hardly have designated the modern scholar, whose more gentle, more humble, less domineer- congenial mind would best have appreing sacerdotalism would have ruled the ciated, and entered most fully into the mind of man. Even if Savonarola had whole life of Erasmus, it would have been escaped the martyr stake, to which he was Jortin. Jortin had wit, and a kindred devoted by Alexander VI. (Savonarola quiet sarcasm. From no book (except and Alexander VI.!!), it would have been perhaps the · Lettres Provinciales') has left for Luther and the English Reformers Gibbon drawn so much of his subtle scorn, to reinstate the primitive Christian family his covert sneer, as from Jortin's Remarks as the pure type, the unapproachable model on Ecclesiastical History.' In Jortin lived of Christianity, the scene and prolific seed- the inextinguishable hatred of Romanism plot of the true Christian virtues.
which most of the descendants of the Exiles, Erasmus was fatally betrayed in his after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, early youth into the trammels of monk- cherished in their inmost hearts, and carhood, on which he revenged himself by his ried with them to every part of Europe ; keen and exquisite satire. A deep and that hatred which in Bayle, Le Clerc, and for a long time indelible hatred of the many others, had an influence not yet whole system, of which he was never the adequately traced on the literature, and votary, and refused to be the slave, though through the literature, on the politics and in a certain sense the victim, had sunk into religion of Christendom. It was this feelhis soul; and monkhood at that time, with ing which gave its bitterness to so much some splendid exceptions, as of his friend of Jortin's views of every event and disVitrarins, of whom he has drawn so noble pute in Church history. In these he read a character, was at its lowest ebb as to im- the nascent and initiatory bigotry which morality, obstinate ignorance, dull scholas. in later days shed the blood of his ancesticism, grovelling superstition. The Monks tors. He detected in the fourth or fifth and the Begging Friars were alike degene- century the spirit which animated the Drarate ; the Jesuits as yet were not. But gonnades. Jortin was an excellent and an both Monks and Friars were sagacious elegant scholar ; his Latinity, hardly surenough to see the dangerous enemy which passed by any modern writer, must have they had raised ; their implacable hostility caused him to revel in the pages of Erasto Erasmus during life, and to the fame of mus; he was a liberal Divine, of calm but his writings after death, is the best testi- sincere piety, to whose sympathies the mony to the effect of those writings, and of passionless inoderation of Erasmus must their common inextinguishable hostility. have been congenial; nor was there one
Erasmus has not been fortunate in his of his day who would feel more sincere biographers ; much has been written about gratitude to Erasmus for his invaluable him ; nothing, we think, quite worthy of services to classical learning and to biblical Iris fame. His is a character to which it is criticism. We cannot altogether assent to difficult to be calmly just, and the difficulty, the brief review of Jortin's book growled we think, has not been entirely overcome. out by the stern old Dictator of the last cenHe is of all men a man of his time; but tury, 'Sir, it is a dull book. It is not a that time is sharply divided into two dis- dull book ; it contains much lively and tinct periods, on either side of which line pleasant remark, much amusing anecdote, Erasmus is the same but seemingly alto- many observations of excellent sense, congether different ; a memorable instance veyed in a style singularly terse, clever, how the same man may exercise command and sometimes of the finest cutting saring power, and yet be the slave of his age. casm. But never was a book so ill coinThe earlier lives, to one of which Erasmus posed ; it consists of many rambling parts, furnished materials, are of course brief. without arrangement, without order, withand strictly personal. Le Clerc is learned, out proportion ; it is no more than an abingenious, candid, but neither agreeable stract and summary of the letters of Erasnor always careful : Bayle, as usual, amus- mus, interspersed with explanatory or critiing, desultory, malicious, unsatisfactory. cal comments, and copious patches from Knight is most useful as to the visits and other books. It is in fact “Remarks on connexions of Erasmus in England, to the Life of Erasmus ;' no more a biography which he almost entirely confines himself. than the · Remarks on Ecclesiastical HisIt is impossible not to respect, almost as tory' are a history of the Church. Of the impossible to read, the laborious Burigny; later writers there is a laborious but heavy of which the late Charles Butler's minia- I work by Hess, in two volumes, Zürich,
1790 ; a shorter by Adolf Müller, Ham- | to catch by their wiles, the parents often burg, 1828, with a long, wearisome, and being ignorant, not rarely decidedly advery German preface on the development verse. This wickedness, which is more of mankind, and of the individual' man. wicked than any kidnapping (plagio), The life, however, has considerable merit; | these actors dare to perpetrate in the but Müller labours so hard not to be partial name of piety. This was intelligible to Erasmus, as to fall into the opposite ex. when they sought to enlist sons of family treme. Perhaps the best appreciation, on or wealth, who miglit fill their coffers or the whole, of the great Scholar is in an extend their influence; or men of very article in Ersch and Gruber's Cyclopædia. high promise, who might advance or exM. Nisard has a lively and clever sketch, tend their cause. But Gerard, the father which originally appeared in the · Revue of Erasmus, was one of ten sons, born of des Deux Mondes,' and was reprinted in decent but not opulent parents, at Gouda bis • Etudes sur la Renaissance,' but, as is (Tergau) in Holland. One, at least, of M. Nisard's wont, too showy, and wanting that large family (the desire to disembarin grave and earnest appreciation of a cha- rass themselves of the charge and responracter like Erasmus.
sibility of troublesome younger brothers Erasmus was born in the city of Rotter- was ever unhappily conspiring with the dam, October 28, 1467. Even before his proselytizing zeal) must be persuaded or birth be was the victim of that irreligious compelled to enter into boly orders or the and merciless system which showed too cloister. Gerard might seem by temperaplainly the decay and degeneracy of the ment and disposition the least suited to a monastic spirit. It blighted him with the life of mortification and sanctity. He was shame of bastardy, with which he was gay and mirthful; even in later life le taunted by ungenerous adversaries His bore a Dutch name, best rendered the fafather before him was trepanned against cetious.' But there was a graver disquali. his inclinations, against his natural disposi- fication, of which neither his parents nor tion and temperament, into that holy func- the monks were ignorant; he had formed tion, of which it is difficult enough to main a passionate attachment to the daughter of tain the sanctity with the most intense de a physician. The opposition of his parents votion of mind and heart. If we did not to the marriage, fatal to their design of daily witness the extraordinary influence driving him into the cloister, did not break of a strong corporate spirit, we might ima- off
, but rendered the intimacy too close; gine that it was the delight of the monks of he fled from his home. Margarita, who those days, and their revenge upon man- should have been his wife, retired to Rotkind, to make others as miserable as they terdam, where she gave birth to a son des. found themselves. In the words applied | tined to a world-wide fame. Gerard, after by Erasmus himself, they might seem to many wanderings, had found his way to compass heaven and earth to make prose- Rome. There he earned his livelihood by lytes, such proselytes usually fulfilling the transcribing works, chiefly those of classiwords of the Scripture. That strange pas. cal authors, the office of transcriber not sion for what might be called, in a coarse being yet superseded by the young art of phrase, crimping for ecclesiastical recruits, printing. He is said to have acquired a -a phrase, unless kidnapping be better, strony taste for those writers, and a fair often used by Erasmus—without regard knowledge of their. works. A runour was to their fitness for the service, lasted to industriously spread, and skilfully conveylate times, and became extinct, if it be ex-ed to his ears, that his beloved Margarita tinct (which we sadly doubt), with monk was dead. In his first fit of desperation hood itself. Our readers may recollect he severed himself from the world, and how the Jesuits laid their snares for pro- took the irrevocable vows. On his return mising youths, and nearly caught Mar- to his native Gouda he found the mother montel and Diderot ; though perhaps it of his son in perfect health. But he took was easier to make clever Jesuits of clever the noblest revenge on the fraud which boys, than devout or even decent monks of had beguiled him into Holy Orders: be those who had no calling for cloistral aus- was faithful to his rows. terities or ascetic retreat. In the days of sented by the Pope with a prebend, a deErasmus the system was carried on with cent maintenance, in his native country. out any scruple. • What boy was there of No suspicion seems from this time to have hopeful genius, of honourable birth, or of attached to his conduct, though he still wealth, whom they did not tempt with preserved his animal spirits and wit, and their stratagems, for wbom they did not spread their nets, whom they did not try
Epist. ad Grunnium.
He was pre
the lighter appellation of his youth still school was Alevander Hegius, a pupil of clung to him. The mother, too, from that the celebrated Greek scholar Rudolph time lived with unsullied fame. It was Agricola, the first who brought the Italian said of her
learning over the Alps. Of Hegius Eras
mus ever spoke with profound respect. *Huic uni potuit succumbere culpæ.'* But Sinheim the sub-rector, was his chief
instructor; be was too young, perhaps too Gerard, the son of Gerard (the name was fan- poor, to come under the former. Sinheim cifully, it does not appear by whose fancy, was the first to discern the promise of Latinized into Desiderius, and Desiderius Erasmus. On one occasion he addressed again repeated in the Greek Erasmus), was him : 'Go on as thou hast begun; thou sent to the school at Gouda, kept by a cer- wilt before long rise to the bighest pinnacle tain Peter Winkel Winkel held him for a of letters.' Agricola himself, on a visit to dunce; but the dulness may have been in Hegius, was so much struck by an exercise the teacher, not in the pupil
. He is said of the boy that, having put a few questions to have profited as little by the scanty in to him, and looked at the shape of his struction which he received as a chorister head and at his eyes,' he dismissed him at Utrecht. At nine years old he was sent with the words, You will be a great man.' to the school at Deventer, accompanied by Erasmus himself says that at Deventer he his mother, seemingly an accomplished wo- went through the whole course of scholasman, who, in addition to his ordinary stu: tic training, logic, physics, metaphysics, dies, obtained him lessons in design and and morals, with what profit may be a drawing. Deventer was a school kept by question ; but he had learned also Horace a religious brotherhood, not bound by and Terence by heart. What a step for
The brothers of the common life' one to whom Latin was to be almost his verwere the latest, and not the least devout nacular language! Yet even at Deventer and holy effort of monachism to renew its he was exposed to those trials, with vhich youth. The Order was founded by Ge inveterate monkish proselytism had deterrard Groot, no unworthy descendent of the mined to beset bim. There was no youth monks of Clugny, of St. Bernard or St. of candid disposition and of good fortune Francis; they were rivals of the mystic whom they (the monks and friars) did not school of Tauler, Rysbroeck, and de Suso, study to break and subdue to their service. in the south of Germany. Their monas, They spared neither flatteries, insults, petty tery of Zwoll, near Brunswick, had nursed terrors, entreaties, horrible tales, to allure in its peaceful shades Thomas of Kempen them into their own, or to drive them into (near Cologne), in our judgment the un. some other, fold. I myself was educated doubted author of the last, most perfect, . at Deventer. When I was not fifteen, the most popular manual of monastic Christia- President of that Institution used every pity, the De Imitatione Christi.' And endeavour to induce me to enter into it. I now, as ever, in less than a century, among was of a very pious disposition; but though the brothers of Deventer, few hearts beat
so young, I was wise enough to plead my in response to the passionate, quivering eja- age and the anger of my parents if I should culations of that holy book,--they had be. do anything without their knowledge. But come low, ignorant, intriguing, worldly fri- this good man, when he saw that lis eloars. The light of the new learning was, quence did not prevail, tried an exorcism. however, struggling at Deventer against the
What do you mean ?" He brought forth old scholastic system. At the head of the a crucifix, and, while I burst into tears, he
said, with a look of one inspired, “ Do you * Was there another sou three years older than acknowledge that He suffered for you?” Erasmus? The earlier lives, those of which Eras. - I do fervently.” “By Him, then, I bemus himself furnished the materials, are silent
you about him: but if the narrative, in the celebrated
sutler Him not to have
you Epistle to Gruunius, be the early life of Erasmus died in vain for you; obey my counsels, luninself—and this cannot be reasonably doubted, seek the good of your soul, lest in the there was ; and a passage in another letter, indi- world you perish everlastingly.” cated by Jortin, seems conclusive. If so, the elder was a dull, coarse boy, who, having determined
But the boy was obliged to leave Devenwith Erasmus to resist, deserted his more resolute
ter. The plague bereft him of his mother ; brother, and became a monk—a stupid and protli the widowed father pined away with sorgate one, whom Erasmus might be glad to forget
, row, and died at forty years of age. Erasand for whose death he felt no very profound sorBut this makes the case of the deception
mus was cast upon the world an orphan,
worse than friendless, with faithless friends. practised on the father even worse. Dupin, a sound authority, and M. Nisard, admit the existence of the elder brother as certain.
* De Pronunciatione. Opera, vol. i. p. 121-2.
His father appointed three guardians not length released, having shown steadfast of his own family ; he may have still resistance, from this wretched petty tyrancherished a sad remembrance of their ny, and returned to Gouda. At Gouda he unkindly conduct. Of these, one was exposed to other persecutions, to the Peter Winkel
, master of the boy's first tricks and stratagems of the indefatigable school. There was property-whence it Winkel, who seems (one of his colleagues came appears not, but sufficient for his having been carried off by the plague) to decent maintenance, and for an University have become sole guardian ; his zeal no education ; sufficient, unhappily, to tempt doubt for the soul of his pupil being deepthese unscrupulous guardians.
It was ened by the fear of being called to account squandered away, or applied to their own for the property entrusted to his care. To uses : all the money was soon gone, but admonitions, threats, reproaches, persuathere remained certain bonds or securities. sions, even to the offer of an advantageous And now, like the father, the youth must opening in the monastery of Sion, near be driven by fair or foul means into the Delft, the youth offered a calm but detercloister. The ambition of the promising minate resistance. He was still young,
he scholar, in whom the love of letters had said with great good sense—he knew not been rapidly growing, and had been fos- himself, nor the cloister, nor the world. tered by the praise of distinguished men He wished to pursue his studies ; in riper into a passion, was to receive an education years he might determine, but on convicat one of the famous Universities of Europe. tion and experience, upon his course of But the free and invigorating studies of life. A false friend achieved that which the University were costly, and might the interested importunity of his guardians, estrange the aspiring youth from the life of the arts, the terrors, the persuasions of the cloister. He was sent to an institution monks and friars had urged in vain. Later at Herzogenbusch (Bois le Duc) kept by in life Erasmus described the struggles, another brotherhood, whose avowed object the conflict, the discipline, and its melanit was to train and discipline youth for the choly close, under imaginary names, it may monastic state. The two years of his be, perhaps, under circumstances slightly sojourn there were a dreary blank : years different. He mingled up with his own lost to his darling studies. These men trials those of his brother, whose firmness, were ignorant, narrow-minded, bard, even however, soon broke cruel : they could teach the young scholar deserted but enteren. down; he not only nothing—they would not let him teach against Erasmus, then but sixteen, who himself. The slightest breach of discipline had to strive against a brother of nineteen. was threatened with, often followed by, He threw over the whole something of the severe chastisement. He was once flogged license of romance, and carried it on to an for an offence of which he was not guilty; appeal to the Pope; from whom he would it threw him into a fever of four days. even in later life obtain permission not to The effect of this system was permanently wear the dress of the order. No doubt in to injure his bodily health, to render him the main the story is told with truth and sullen, timid, suspicious. It implanted in fidelity in this singularly-interesting letter his heart a horror of corporal punishment. to Lambertus Grunnius, one of the scribes Rousseau himself did not condemn it more in the Papal Court.* He had formed a cordially, more deliberately. It was one familiar attachment to a youth at Deventer. of his few points of difference in after-lite. Cornelius Verden was a few years older with his friend Colet, who still adhered to than himself, astute, selfish, but high-spiritthe monkish usage of severe flagellation. ed and ambitious. He bad found his way One foolish, but well-meaning zealot, Rum- to Italy; on his return he had entered into bold, tried gentler means-entreaties, flat- | the cloister of Emaus or Stein, not from teries, presents, caresses. He told him any profound piety, but for ease and selfawful stories of the wickedness of the indulgence, as the last refuge of the needy world, of the lamentable fate of youths who and the idle. Erasmus suspected no had withstood the admonitions of pious treachery; and the tempter knew his weakmonks, and left the safe seelusion of the ness. Verden described Stein as a quiet cloister. One had sate down on what paradise for a man of letters : his time was seemed to be the root of a tree, but turned his own; books in abundance were at his out to be a huge serpent, which swallowed command ; accomplished friends would bim up. Another had been devoured, so encourage, and assist his studies; all was soon as he left the monastery walls, by a raging lion. He was plied with incessant
* This letter may be read among bis Episiles tales of goblins and devils. He was at and also in the Appendix of Jortiu.