Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/497

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the midst of one of these, trained under influences which more than any other strengthened popular and civic life, came forth Erasmus, a born citizen of the world of letters of which he became the glory.

His early education, as has been seen, he received at Deventer under Alexander Hegius; but after this he had to learn by bitter experience how evil is the corruption of that which is good. For it may be taken as proved that the Collationary Brethren, in whose House he and his brother were placed to be prepared for the assumption of monastic vows, and whom in his celebrated letter he describes as so many decoys for the monastic orders proper, were Brethren of the Common Life under another name. A few years after he had been liberated from the cloister, he began his cosmopolitan career, and the Netherlands could no longer more than transitorily claim him as their own; and when at the height of his fame, he had by the Emperor's desire fixed his residence at Louvain, there was probably no place in the world which swarmed so thickly with his enemies, who hated him at least as bitterly for his actual learning as for his supposed heresy. But cosmopolite as he was, more especially in the years preceding this date, he was such rather in the sense that all countries were after a fashion alike to him, than that, notwithstanding occasional rhetorical flights, he identified himself with any. His position towards peoples as well as princes was a European one, and has not inaptly been compared to that of Voltaire in the eighteenth century; and though the Renaissance was not his movement, nor that of any one other man, yet his influence over its course was incomparable-even in Germany by the side of Reuchlin, and in England as developing the work of Colet. His earlier publications were mainly linguistic and literary; but it would not be difficult to show that in all, or nearly all of them, the educational purpose proper to the Renaissance movement in his native land maintained itself. In his Education of a Christian Prince, designed primarily for the use of the future Emperor Charles V, he advances political doctrines in harmony with the progress of the constitutional life of his own native land, and effaces the futile distinction between political and Christian morality. Thus, too, there is a real continuity between the whole of these writings and his great biblical and patristic labours-from which of course his one late excursion into the field of dogmatic controversy stands apart. It was not by chance that he was led to theological enquiry, as he had of his own choice addressed himself to ethical problems. He believed that a new era was dawning for the Church and the Christian religion, and that to hasten its advent was eminently a concern of his. But he had made up his mind that a calm and reasonable progress, in which scholar and statesman should go hand in hand, was the only way by which victory could be secured and a real and enduring reformation accomplished. Had he thought differently of his task, he would probably in many ways have proved ill-suited for the leadership of a great