Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/678

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the fourteenth century. We must look to other sources of information- among them Innocent VIIFs bull Summis desiderantes qffectibus against witchcraft (1484) and the Malleus Maleficarum of Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Krämer (Institoris) (before 1487) hold a conspicuous place-if we would understand that with much outward ceremony and not a little genuine devotion, the phenomena of diseased fancies, ancient heathenism and growing luxury, were mingled in unequal proportions. But there is no reason for alleging that the Hierarchy or the religious Orders in general directly opposed themselves to the progress of learning. They considered that the Christian faith had much to gain and nothing to lose by the arts, inventions, and discoveries which the new inspiration called the Renaissance had carried to so marvellous a height. The enemy was not erudition but unbelief.

It would be as unreasonable to suppose that the rank and file of the monks were classical scholars, as that the personal influence of the prelates was for the most part edifying. But bishops who lived in open defiance of decency enacted excellent laws in synod; and there were few monasteries in which a serious effort to attain learning would be absolutely in vain. The scholastic philosophy was now overladen with futile expositions and had sunk to unprofitable wrangling. But Erasmus, the glory of Deventer, is a witness beyond exception to the spirit which prevailed among churchmen of high degree, from Oxford to Basel, and from Cambray to Rome. In his Colloquies, his Encomium Moriae, and throughout his correspondence, he mocks or argues against many superstitions, irregularities, and fantastic opinions, which he had observed in the course of his travels. But nowhere does he hint, under no provocation is he tempted to imagine, that authority frowns upon "good letters," while he addresses the Archbishop of Mainz and the Pope himself in favour of reform. On these subjects the evidence of his residence in England is particularly instructive.

Erasmus (1466-1536) owed a little to Hegius; he had been remarked by Rudolf Agricola; his patron was the Bishop of Cambray. After making trial in Paris of the student's joys and sufferings, since he despaired of reaching Italy, he came in 1499 to Oxford, and tarried there two or three months. He won the friendship of Colet and More; he became acquainted with Grocyn and Linacre. These were the lights of English learning, the chief guides in English religion, before the King's "great matter" brought in a new world. "Colefs erudition, More's sweetness," to which an Erasmian letter alludes, have become proverbial. But the movement had not begun with them. Out of the new impulse, during or after the mid-course of the century, colleges at Oxford had sprung into existence or received a fresh life. They were rivalling or surpassing the monastic hospitia. In the classic revival Oxford rather than Paris took the lead. Grocyn, More's teacher, was not the first Englishman who studied Greek. He received lessons, indeed,