Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

he had been actuated by the sole desire to glorify Christ, and in this particular work had obtained the highest approval, even that of the Pope himself. Some people, indeed, have conspired to destroy his good name. They are so pleased with their "old wine," that "Erasmus's new" does not satisfy them. Edward Lee had been instigated to become their champion, and Erasmus only wished that Lee were not an Englishman, since he owed more to England than to any other nation, and did not like to think ill even of an individual.1

When men are thoroughly alarmed, they do not stop to reason or count the cost; and so those, who saw in the work of Erasmus nothing but danger to the Church, at once jumped to the conclusion that the root of the danger

'Ep. 531. Lee's account of his quarrel with Erasmus is given in his Apologia, which he addressed to the University of Louvain. He states that Erasmus had come to his house at that place, and had asked him to aid in the corrected version of his New Testament which he was then projecting. At first Lee refused, but finally, on being pressed by Erasmus, he consented, and began the work of revision, but Erasmus quickly became angry at so many suggested changes. Reports about the annotations and corrections proposed by Lee began to be spread abroad, and Erasmus hearing of them, suspected some secret design, and came from Basle to try and get a copy of the proposed criticism. Lee wished that it should be considered rather a matter of theology than of letters. Bishop Fisher wrote, on hearing rumours of the quarrel, urging Lee to try and make his peace with Erasmus, and in deference to this, Lee informed Erasmus that he would leave the matter entirely in the hands of the bishop, and had forwarded to him the book of his proposed criticisms. Erasmus, however, did not wait, but published the Dialogus Domini Jacobi Latomi, which all regarded as an attack upon Lee. The latter would have published a reply had he not received letters from England from Fisher, Colet, Pace, and More, begging him to keep his temper. Lee agreed to stop, and only asked Fisher to decide the matter quickly. On returning to Louvain, Lee found that Erasmus had published his Dialogus bilinguium et trilinguium, in which Lee was plainly indicated as a man hostile to the study of letters in general. This Lee denied altogether, and in brief, he does not, he says, condemn Erasmus's notes on the New Testament so much as the copy he had taken as the basis for his corrections of the later text. "Politian," says Lee, at the end of his Apologia, "Politian declares that really lay in the classical revival itself, of which he was regarded as the chief exponent and apostle. The evil must be attacked in its cause, and the spread of the canker, which threatened to eat into the body of the Christian Church, stayed before it was too late. From the theologians of Louvain, with which university Erasmus was then connected, he experienced the earliest and most uncompromising opposition. He was "daily," to use his own words, "pounded with stones," and proclaimed a traitor to the Church.1 His opponents did not stop to inquire into the truth of their charges too strictly, and Erasmus bitterly complains of the damaging reports that are being spread all over Europe concerning his good name and his loyalty to religion. To him all opposition came from " the

there are two great pests of literature—ignorance and envy. To these I will add a third—' adulation'—for I have no belief in any one who, having made a mistake, is not willing to acknowledge it."

Lee's criticism of Erasmus's translation appeared at Louvain in January, 1520. It produced an immediate reply from Erasmus, published at Antwerp in May, 1520—a reply, "all nose, teeth, nails, and stomach." In this Erasmus says that 1200 copies of the New Testament had been printed by Froben. In the collation he had been much assisted by Bishop Tunstall, who had, in fact, supplied the exemplar on which he had worked. Erasmus then gives what he thinks is the correct version of the differences between Lee and himself. Lee, he says, was only just beginning Greek, and Erasmus, who had been working at the correction of his version of the Testament, showed him what he was doing. The margins of the book were then full of notes, and here and there whole pages of paper were added. Lee said that he had a few notes that might be useful, and Erasmus expressed his pleasure at receiving help and asked for them. Lee thereupon gave him some miscellaneous jottings, and of these, according to Erasmus's version of the facts, he made use of hardly anything. Soon, however, reports were spread about that out of some three hundred places in which Lee had corrected the first edition of the translation, Erasmus had adopted two hundred. Bishop Fisher tried to make peace, and to prevent two men who both meant well to the cause of religion from quarrelling in public. His intervention was, however, too late, as already the letter of Erasmus to Thomas Lupset had appeared and thus rendered reconciliation impossible.

1 Ep. 231.

monks," who were, in his eyes, typical of antiquated ecclesiastical narrowness and bigotry. In a letter written in 1519, at the height of " the battle of the languages," as it was called, he gives several instances of this attitude towards himself at Louvain when he suggested some alteration in a text of Holy Scripture. A preacher told the people that he had declared the Gospel "to be merely a collection of stupid fables," and at Antwerp, a Carmelite attacked him in a sermon, at which he happened to be present, and denounced the appearance of his New Testament, as a sign of the coming of Antichrist. On being asked afterwards for his reasons, he confessed that he had never even read the book himself. "This," says Erasmus sadly, "I generally find to be the case: that none are more bitter in their outcry than they who do not read what I write." In this same letter, Erasmus describes the ferment raised in England against the study of languages. At Cambridge, Greek was making progress in peace, "because the university was presided over by John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, a theologian of learning and uprightness of life." At Oxford, however, fierce public attacks were made in sermons on Greek studies; "but the king," continues Erasmus, "as one not unlearned himself, and most favourable to the cause of letters, happened to be in the neighbourhood, and hearing of the matter from More and Pace, ordered that all wishing to study Greek literature should be encouraged, and so put a stop to the business."

The contest was not confined to the schools. "A theologian preaching in the royal palace before the king took this opportunity to inveigh boldly and uncompromisingly against Greek studies and the new methods of interpretation. Pace, who was present, glanced at the king to see how he took it, and Henry smiled at Pace. After the sermon the theologian was bidden to the king, and to More was assigned the task of defending Greek learning against him, the king himself desiring to be present at the discussion. After More had spoken for some time most happily, he paused to hear the theologian's reply; but he, on bended knees, asked pardon for what he had said, asserting that whilst talking he was moved by some spirit to speak about Greek as he had done. Thereupon the king said, 'And that spirit was not that of Christ, but of folly!' Then Henry asked him whether he had read Erasmus's works—he admitted that he had not. Then said the king, 'By this you prove your folly, in condemning what you have not read.' Finally the king dismissed him, and ordered that he should never be allowed to preach in the royal presence again." Those who desired to carry on the campaign to extremities, endeavoured, and even with temporary success, to influence Queen Katherine against Erasmus and the party for the revival of letters which he represented. Her confessor, a Dominican bishop, persuaded her that in correcting St. Jerome, Erasmus had perpetrated a crime which admitted of no excuse.1 It was but another step to connect the renaissance of letters generally with the revolt now associated with the name of Luther. In England, however, it was not so easy to persuade people of this, since, among the chief supporters of the movement were to be numbered the best and wisest of churchmen and laymen whose entire orthodoxy was not open to suspicion. Abroad, however, the cry once started, was quickly taken up. A theologian at Louvain, writes Erasmus, who up to this time had been noted for his sober ludgment, before a large audience, after having spoken of Lutheranism, attacked "the teaching of languages and polite letters, joining the two together, and asserting that heresy came from these springs, as if experience had

1 Ep. 380. This bishop must have been the Spaniard, George de Athegua, who was appointed to the see of Llandaff in 1517, and held it for twenty years.

shown eloquence to be a mark rather of the heretics than of the orthodox, or that the Latin authors of heresy were not mere children so far as languages went, or that Luther had been schooled by those masters and not rather by the scholastics, according to scholastic methods."1

Erasmus puts the position even more clearly in a letter to Pope Leo X. on the publication of the revised version of his New Testament in August, 1519. The book is now n people's hands, he says, and as it has appeared under the direct auspices of the Holy Father himself, it may be regarded as his work. Some foolish people, he understands, have been trying to get the Pope to believe that a knowledge of languages is detrimental to the true study of theology, whereas, in reality, the very contrary is obviously the case. Such people will not reason, they cry out and will not listen. They suggest damning words, such words for example as "heretics," "antichrists," &c, as appropriate to their opponents. They call out that even the Christian religion is imperilled, and beg the Pope to come forward and save it. On his part Erasmus hopes that the Pope will believe that all his work is for Christ alone, and His Church. "This only reward do I desire, that I may ever seek the glory of Christ rather than my own. From boyhood I have ever endeavoured to write nothing that savoured of impiety or disloyalty. No one has ever yet been made blacker by my writings; no one less pious, no one stirred up to tumult."1 Again, writing to Cardinal Campeggio, when sending him a copy of the New Testament "which Pope Leo had approved by his Brief," Erasmus tells him that, to his great regret, many at Louvain were doing their best not to allow good letters to flourish. As for himself, his only real desire was to serve Christ and increase the glory of His Church: though, he adds, " I am a man, and as such liable to err." No one

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« EdellinenJatka »