Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/496

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an abuse with which the Netherlands had been familiarised during the previous half century-circulated before the date of Luther's theses; and the book of appeal, the Bible, had spread very notably in its Latin form, even before (some time after a version of the body of the Old Testament) the first Dutch New Testament appeared in 1523. The activity of the Windeshem convents continued till the advent of the Reformation, when the Fraterhuizen themselves, many of whose members adopted the doctrines of the reformers, fell into disuse. For the rest, although Erasmus had reason enough for remembering the monks of his native land, the monasticism denounced by him is not so much of a local as of a general type; so too was the disregard by the secular priesthood of one at least of the laws most conspicuously imposed upon their lives by the Church. Yet in the Netherlands, formerly a seedplot of attempts to purify life and morals which too often took a fanatical form and thus came to be branded as heresies, the Reformation had few immediate precursors. John Wessel, as has been seen, died in a convent. The Austin friars at Dort had been influenced by Hendrik of Zutphen, appointed their prior in 1515 after being a pupil of Staupitz and a fellow-student of Luther. Nor do we meet with many enquirers upon whom the Free Spirit, which had formerly likewise had its Brotherhood and Sisterhood, might be thought to have descended. The only heretic of this sort whom Jacob van Hoogstraten, himself of Brabancon origin, tracked to his death in the Netherlands before the Reformation was Hermann of Ryswyk, burnt in 1512.

The share of the Netherlands in the history of the Renaissance, on the other hand, is, insofar as it has not already come under notice here, comprehended in a single name-Erasmus. The ducal Court, as has been seen, was not indifferent to intellectual abilities of many sorts and kinds; the examples of his father and half-brother were in a sense bettered by Bishop David of Utrecht, and a fresh impulse was given to the patronage of learning and its appliances by the English consort of Charles the Bold. The relations between Maximilian and the Renaissance were neither perfunctory nor casual, and justify the warmth of feeling towards him on the part of scholars, poets, and artists which was one of the truest foundations of his popularity; but no traces remain of his having found leisure to encourage a similar devotion in the Burgundian lands, except that among the statues for his own mausoleum (originally meant to be erected at Vienna) he gave orders for two-one of them very likely his own-to be cast in the Netherlands. What he left undone was not supplied either by his son Philip, careless of most of the graver interests of life, or by his daughter Margaret who, poetess as she was, needed all her strength for the business of her life. Thus amidst depressing influences the care of learning and letters, arts and science, was in the main left to the population itself, and chiefly of course to the towns; and from