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Erasmus was both a good boy and good It seized and destroyed many of his scholar, and his master's favourite pupil, friends. At last it depopulated the it was impossible to pass scathless house where he lodged, and in his through the ordeal. In after years he grief and terror he fled to his father, did all he could to mitigate a system at Gouda. But soon this refuge also the savage cruelty of which was so failed. The death of Margaret had abhorrent from his gentle nature ;and such an effect on Gerrit, whose heart he quotes with approval the witty in- was half broken already, that he imvention of an English gentleman, who, mediately sickened and soon felt himself in order to make his son at once a dying. He had by this time saved up scholar and a marksman, had a target enough to complete the education of painted with the Greek alphabet, and his sons, and this, along with the care every time that the little archer hit a of the lads themselves, he entrusted to letter, and at the same time could name Peter Winkel and two other neighit, he was rewarded with a cherry.2 bours; and then the priest, in whom This was an effectual plan for teaching little of the facetious Gerrit survived, “the young idea how to shoot ;” and finished his sorrowful career-another to the same kindly method we owe instance that there are false steps which alphabets of gingerbread or sugar, which life can never retrace, and wrongs which even in the nursery awaken the pleasures repentance cannot remedy. of taste, and make little John Bull, if Erasmus was now very anxious to go not a devourer of books, at least very to some university, but the guardians fond of his letters,
showed no great zeal in settling the On the whole, however, it was a affairs of the orphans. A note addressed happy time which he spent at Deventer. to Magister Petrus Winkel, and unHis mother, who had accompanied him dated, must have been written at this at first, watched over him with anxious time, and is probably the earliest specitenderness; and he had attached com- men of its author's epistolary style. panions, such as William Hermann.
“I fear that our property is not likely to be And he could play. From his Collo- soon realized, and I trust that you will do your quies we gather that he was up to utmost to prevent our being injured by delay. bowls, and leap-frog, and running, who fear Yest the firmament should fall. You
Perhaps you will say that I am one of those though not so fond of swimming. Then
might laugh at my apprehensions, if the cash the Issel was famous for its fish, and were already in the coffer ; but, far from being he not only knew how to ensnare the sold, the books have still to go to the auctionfinny tribe, but when bait was scarce he
room, or find a purchaser. The corn has still had a plan for bringing the worms
to be sown from which our bread is to be
baked ; and meanwhile, as Ovid says, 'on aboveboard, by pouring over their lurk- flying foot the time flits past. In an affair ing-places water in which had been like this I cannot see the advantage of delay. steeped walnut-shells. Above all, the
Besides, I hear that Christian has not returned
the books which he had borrowed. Let his noble passion of learning had been
tardiness be overcome by your importunity.” awakened, and every day was bringing some new knowledge under the best We have no doubt that this is the instructors his native land could offer, note to which Erasmus elsewhere refers when a great desolation overtook him. as having been written to his guardian In his thirteenth year, as he himself by a youth of fourteen. If so, it says—although for reasons already men- exhibits a precocious talent for busitioned we incline to think that he was ness, where, perhaps, we would rather somewhat older—the plague, then per- Florentio decimum quartum annum agenti, petually wandering over Europe, came quum illi scripsisset aliquanto politius, responto Deventer. It carried off his mother, dit severiter, ut si posthac mitteret tales epis
tolas, adjungeret commentarium : ipsi semper 1 De Pueris Instituendis, published in 1529. hunc fuisse morem, ut plane scriberet, et See especially Opp. i. 485 et seq.
punctuatim, nam hoc verbo usus est.”—Opp. iii. 2 Opp. i. 511.
have seen the bashfulness of the school- pounded. In a few days Mr. Winkel boy; but to one who carries a bar called; and, after an ample preface, full of sinister on his shield the battle of life affection for them both, and dwelling on is very hard, especially at the beginning; all his services, he went on,
“ And now and to this poor youth the world's ex- I must wish you joy, for I have been so periences were becoming somewhat bleak. fortunate as to obtain an opening for Like other hunted creatures, his utmost both of you amongst the canons regular.” sagacity was needed for self-defence, As agreed, the younger made answer, and he had too much reason to distrust thanking him warmly for his kindness, the tutorial trio. In other respects the but saying that they thought it scarcely letter is an admirable composition, and prudent, whilst still so young, to commit interesting as indicating thus early his themselves to any course of life. turn for proverbial philosophy and love are still unknown to ourselves, nor do of classical quotation. But neither good we know the vocation which you so Latin nor lines from Ovid could make it strongly recommend. We have never palatable to the receiver. He wrote been inside of a convent, nor do we back to his ward that, if he continued to know what it is to be a monk. Would send such figurative effusions, he must it not be better to defer a decision till subjoin explanatory notes. For his own after a few years spent in study ?” At part, he always wrote plainly and “to this Mr. Winkel flew into a passion : the point"-punctuatim.
“You don't know what you are ? You're Instead of the university, Erasmus a fool.
You are throwing away an was sent to a monkish school at Bois le excellent opportunity, which I have Duc (Hertogenbosch); from which, after with much ado obtained for you. So, an irksome and unprofitable durance of sirrah, I resign my trust; and now you nearly three years, the plague allowed are free to look where you like for a him to escape. Returning to Gouda, he living." Erasmus shed tears, but stood found that by the death of one of their
firm. "We accept your resignation, number his guardians were reduced to and free you from any farther charge." Winkel the schoolmaster, and a mercan
Winkel went away in a rage ; but, thinktile brother. They had but a sorry ing better about it, he sought the assistaccount to give of their stewardship; ance of his brother, who, not being a and Erasmus warned his brother that a schoolmaster, was less in the habit of desperate attempt would assuredly be losing his temper. Next day they inmade to force them into a convent, as vited the young men to dinner. It was the shortest way of winding up the beautiful weather; they had their wine trust and closing the account. Both taken out to a summer-house in the agreed that nothing could be more alien garden, and under the management of from their present mood of mind, the the balmy and blandiloquent merchant elder confessing that he had no love for all went smooth and merry. At last a religious life, the younger being intent they came to business, and so engagingly on that scholarship which convents could did the man of money set forth the life not give. “Our means may be small,” of poverty—so bright were the pictures he said ; “ but let us scrape together of abstinence and seraphic contemplation what we can, and find our way to some
which he drew over his bottle of Rhenish college. Friends will turn up; like
-that the elder brother was quite overmany before us, we may maintain our- come. Pretending to yield to irresistible selves by our
own industry, and argument, he entered the convent; but Providence will aid us in our honest he was a thorough rogue, and carried his endeavours.” “Then,” said the other, rascality into the cloister. He cheated "you must be spokesman.' Nor was
even the monks, and with his scandalous t long before the scheme was pro
misconduct, drinking and stealing, proIt will be found in Knight's “Life of
ceeded from bad to worse, and henceErasmus,” Appendix, p. iv.
forth disappears from history. Erasmus,
on the other hand, hungering for know- defy the devil by taking the final step, ledge and intent on mental improvement, these difficulties would trouble him no held out. Although he had never lived more. The awful word “apostate” was in a monastery, he had attended a whispered in his ear, and he was reconventual school, and had seen the minded how, after thus putting his hand comatose effect which the cowl exercises to the plough and turning back, one on the head of the wearer. “ In vain novice had been struck by lightning, is the net spread in the sight of any
another had been bitten by a serpent, bird ;” and although the door was open, and a third had fallen into a frightful and nice barley was strewn on the malady. As he afterwards pathetically threshold, inside the decoy he saw so urges, “If there had been in these fathers many bats and doleful creatures as effec- "a grain of true charity, would they not tually scared him, and with the instinct “have come to the succour of youth and of a true bird of Paradise he escaped "inexperience ? Knowing the true state away to light and freedom.
“of the case, ought they not to have But it was not easy to resist for ever. “said, “My son, it is foolish to carry He was friendless and penniless. Be- “ this effort any farther. You do not sides, his health was broken; for nearly agree
with this mode of life, nor does a year he had been suffering from
Choose some paroxysms of quartan ague, and in the “other. Christ is everywhere--not here wakeful hours of night he began to “only ;-and in any garb you may live wonder if it might not be better to re- “religiously. Resume your freedom : nounce the pursuit of learning, and give so shall you be no burden to us, nor himself entirely to prepare for eternity. “shall we be your undoing.'” But with Whilst in this state of feeling he fell in these anglers it was not the custom when with a youth who had been his school- they had hooked a fish to throw him fellow at Deventer, and who was now an back into the water. They worked on inmate of the convent of Steene, near his generous and sensitive spirit by askGouda. Cornelius Berden drew a glowing ing, How can you as a renegade ever picture of conventual retirement. Heen- lift up your head amongst your fellowlarged on the peace and harmony reigning men 1 And in pride and desperation he within the sacred walls, where worldly did as had been done by his father strifes and passions never entered, and before him : he pressed his hands tight where, careful for nothing, but serving over his eyes and took the fatal leap. God and loving one another, the brethren At the end of the year he made his proled lives like the angels. Above all, he fession as a canon regular in the Augusexpatiated on the magnificent library tinian Convent of Emmaus at Steene. and the unlimited leisure, and so wrought It was not long before his worst foreon his younger companion that he con- bodings were fulfilled. In the cloisters sented to come in as a novice. For the of Emmaus he found no Fra Angelico first months it was all very pleasant;
nor Thomas à Kempis, nor any one such he was not expected to fast, nor to rise as the name of the place might have for prayers at night, and every one was suggested-no one who cared to open particularly kind to the new-comer; the Scriptures,” or who said to the and, although before the year had ex- Great Master, “ Abide with us." From pired he saw many things which he did the genius of the place both religion and not like, and some which awakened his scholarship seemed utterly alien. The suspicion, he was already within the monks were coarse, jovial fellows, who gates, and it was not easy to get away.
read no book but the Breviary, and who If he hinted to any one his fear that
feast of the Muses preferred panneither in mind nor body was he fitted cakes and pots of ale. There was a to become a monk, he was at once library, but it was the last place where assured that these were mere tempta- you would have sought for a missing tions of Satan, and, if he would only Wrother. They sang their matins and
vespers, and spent the intermediate Not that the five years were utterly time in idle lounging and scurrilous lost. True, he was disappointed in jesting. Long afterwards, when invited Cornelius Berden, the quondam chum to return, Erasmus wrote to the prior whose glowing representations had first that his only recollections of the place inveigled him. In the outset he was
“flat and foolish talking, with delighted with his apparent classical out any savour of Christ, low ca- ardour, and rejoiced to burn with him
rousals, and a style of life in which, the midnight oil, reading through a “ if you stripped off a few formal whole play of Terence at a single sitting. “ observances, there remained nothing But it turned out that his motive was “ which a good man would care to pure selfishness. He was ambitious of * retain.” i At his first entrance his preferment, and, with the astuteness disposition was devout; but he wanted which he had learned during a short to worship: it was the living God whom sojourn in Italy, he had entrapped into he sought to serve, and the genuflexions, the convent his accomplished friend, as and crossings, and bell-ringings, and the cheapest way of obtaining a tutor. changes of vestments seemed to him little No wonder that, as soon as his treachery better than an idle mummery. He had was detected, the victim bitterly resented hoped for scholarlike society, but, ex- his baseness. But, as we have already cept young Hermann from Gouda, stated, in William Hermann he still he found none to sympathize in his found a kindred spirit. In poetical tastes, or join in his pursuits. Nor did compositions and elegant Latinity they the rule of his Order agree with him. vied with one another, and any ancient His circulation was languid, his nervous treasure which either discovered they system extremely sensitive. If called
shared in common.
Where the preup to midnight devotions, after counting disposition or susceptibility exists, a his beads and repeating the prescribed book read at the right time often gives pater-nosters, a model monk would turn
an abiding complexion to the character, into bed and be asleep in five seconds ; or a life-long direction to the faculties. but, after being once aroused from his The delight with which Pope when a rest, Erasmus could only lie awake till schoolboy read Ogilby's Homer resulted the morning, listening to his more for- in our English Iliad; and the copy of tunate brethren as they snored along the “Faery Queen,” which Cowley found the corridor. For stock-fish his aversion on the window-seat of his mother's room, was unconquerable. Sir Walter Scott
committed him to poetry for the rest mentions a brother clerk in the Court
of his days. In the same way Alexander of Session who used to be thrown into Murray used to ascribe the first awakenagonies by the scent of cheese, and the ing of his polyglottal propensities to the mere smell of salted cod gave Erasmus a specimens of the Lord's Prayer in many headache. And whilst by a bountiful tongues which he found in Salmon's supper his capacious colleagues were
Geography, and our pleasant friend able to prepare overnight for the next
James Wilson was made a naturalist day's fast, to the delicate frame of our by the gift of “ Three Hundred Wonscholar abstinence was so severe a trial derful Animals." A tendency towards that he repeatedly fainted away. No scholarship our hero inherited from his wonder then that with the love of letters, father, along with his mirth and humour; the love of reality, and the love of liberty and a peculiar flavour was given to his superadded to such constitutional inapti- wit, as well as a tincture to his style, by tudes, the “heaven on earth” at Steene
his early admiration of Terence. And soon became an irksome captivity. in the convent of Steene he found two
1 "Colloquia quam frigida, quam inepta, writers who exerted a material influence quam non sapientia Christum; convivia quam on his subsequent history. One of laica; denique tota vitæ ratio, cui si detraxeris ceremonias, non video quid relinquas expeten
these was Jerome, in whose letters he dum.” Opp. iii. 1527.
found such spoil that he transcribed the whole of them; and of many subsequent his Italian predecessor, not only in his years it became the chosen pastime, as preference of classical Latinity at large well as absorbing employment, to prepare to a narrow and foppish Ciceronianism; for the press the collected works of this not only in the keen-eyed shrewdness and truly learned father. The other was the audacious sense which saw through the famous Italian, Laurentius Valla, whose frailties of popes and the flaws of tradi“Elegancies of the Latin Language" tion; not only in the courage which did so much to restore to modern times set to work to translate the Greek the speech of ancient Rome, and whose Testament anew, undaunted by the detection of the forgery which assigned awful claims of the Vulgate; but in the city of the Cæsars to Sylvester as a the vituperative energy which he threw gift from Constantine may be regarded into his later polemical writings, and as the first decisive blow aimed at the which is not unworthy of the critic who temporal power of the Papacy. His was constantly snapping at the heels of critical acumen, and the skill with which Poggio, and who had nearly torn Beccahe explained the niceties of a noble delli in pieces because his remarks on tongue, filled Erasmus with rapture, and Livy had gained the best bon-bons at the very truculence of the terrible Roman Alphonso's table. had a charm for his ardent disciple.? If Steene had few rewards for its Not that their dispositions were at all students, the restraints were not very akin. Mild in his very mischief, and strict which it placed on its inmates. never so indignant as to be indiscreet, As long as they did not interfere with Erasmus was not born to be either a the rules of the Order, they were allowed cynic or a bully; but in minds capable to follow freely their own tastes and of unreserved admiration there is an likings. We have mentioned that our isomorphous tendency, and, although the Desiderius had a musical voice, and that constituent elements may be distinct, when a little boy he was a chorister in the style into which they crystallize Utrecht Cathedral. For the sister art becomes identical. And, just as Hannah of painting he is also said to have More could not help writing Johnsonese, shown an early inclination, and a painted as many a living writer nibs his pen crucifix has come down with the inand cuts the paper with Carlylian scription, “Despise not this picture : rhodium, so in the inspiration of our it was painted by Erasmus when he author we can sometimes detect the lived in the convent of Steene.” 1 spell of a first love and an unconscious Anecdotes are also current of other imitation of Valla. As a scholar and modes in which he occasionally encritic he was eventually no whit inferior; livened his graver studies. For instance, as a wit and a genius he immeasurably it is told that there was a pear-tree in excelled. Yet through his subsequent the orchard which monks of low degree career may be discerned the influence of were warned to leave untouched ; for
the prior had seen meet to reserve 1 Unless we give precedence to Dante :
it for his own proper use.
Our friend, “ Ahi Costatin, di quanto mal fu matre
however, having taken a private survey Non la tua conversion, ma quella dote Che da te prese il primo ricco patre !"
of the forbidden fruit, was obliged to
Inferno, canto 19. own that in this instance his superior “ Ah Constantine! what evils caused to flow,
was right, and repeated his visits so Not, by conversion, but those fair domains often that the pears began to disappear Thou on the first rich Father didst bestow !” with alarming rapidity. The prior de
termined if possible to find out the Valla was born at Rome in 1407, where also in 1457 he died. His declamation against the
robber. For this purpose he took up Popedom did not see the light till long after 1 What has become of it we cannot tell. In his death, viz. 1492, about the time when the early part of last century it belonged to Erasmus was taking leave of Steene.
Cornelius Musius of Delft. Burigny, Vie 2 See his 1st, 2d, and 103d Epistles.
d'Erasme, tome i. p. 37.