Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/471

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resolved to lead a common life of prayer and labour, unencumbered by any hierarchical organisation and free from any system of irrevocable vows. A happy accident suggested that some of the young members of the Deventer settlement should contribute towards its support by clubbing together their earnings as copyists of manuscripts of the Scriptures and the Church Fathers, to which work they had as pupils of the Latin school in the town been encouraged by Groote. Hereby he had from the very outset of his endeavours blended the pursuit of learning and the furtherance of education with a life of piety and devotion. While extending and consolidating the system of ihefrater-htdzen, Florentius also carried out a cherished earlier design of his friend by the foundation, at Windesem near Zwolle, of a convent of canons regular. The half-century of the reigns of Philip and Charles witnessed a continuous extension in almost every part of the Netherlands, as well as in many districts of Northern Germany, both of the Houses of the Brethren of the Common Life and of the convents called the Windesem Congregations. The Church had come to recognise the agency of the Brethren as useful and praiseworthy; among those who extolled their labours was the Minorite Johannes Brugmann, the greatest popular preacher of his age in the Netherlands, and they were favoured by Duke Philip's brother, Bishop David of Utrecht.

The value of the Brethren's labours in the transcription of manuscripts has not been overestimated; but these labours belonged to a period that was passing away, and were only slightly supplemented by use of the new invention of the printing-press. On the other hand the work of education had always formed a chief purpose and essential part of the existence of the fraternity. The very large numbers of scholars attending its schools signally contributed throughout the Netherlands to lay the foundations of an enduring literary culture, and the fact that the teaching and training of these scholars was everywhere impregnated with the spirit of religious devotion determined the significance, to the most illustrious as well as to the humblest of them, of the advance of the New Learning. They met it less in the spirit of an enthusiastic humanism than in that of a steady demand for serviceable lore,, such as already gives so much substance to the writings of Cardinal Cusanus, a pupil of Deventer in its earlier days.

But a new educational epoch began with Alexander Hegius, who in 1474 was appointed head of the school at Deventer, and died near the close of the century, leaving behind him nothing but his clothes and his books, and a name which may fairly be called that of one of the great schoolmasters of the world. The list of the scholars trained at Deventer by him, or in his time, and that of his Paris fellow-student Badius Ascensius (Bade of Asche), includes, besides its chief and incomparable glory, the name of Erasmus, those of Conrad Mutianus, the pride of Erfurt in her brightest days, and Hermann von dem Busche, whom