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Liber de causis miseriarum, cum chronicis Turcicis; Antiquitates Danicae, &c.
PETER DELPHINUS, general of the order of Camaldoli, and author of some letters. He died January 15, 1525.
FRANCIS DE CATANEIS, an Italian author, born at Florence in 1466. He was the disciple of professor Marselius, whom he succeeded. He wrote a treatise on beauty, another on love, both on the doctrine of Plato. He died in 1522.
SANCTES PAGNEUS, an Italian dominican, eminent for his skill in Oriental languages and biblical learning, was born at Lucca in 1466, and became afterwards an ecclesiastic of the order of St. Dominic. He devoted twenty-five years to a translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew Text, which he followed with admirable precision. He afterwards translated the New Testament; and compiled a Hebrew Lexicon and grammar. He died in 1536, aged 70.
KARO ISAAC, a rabbi, who was obliged to leave Spain in consequence of the edict of Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1499, which compelled the Jews to leave that country within four months, or turn Christians. He first went to Portugal, and from thence to Jerusalem, where he led the life of a recluse. He was the author of a commentary on the Pentateuch, printed first at Constantinople, in 1558, and again at Amsterdam, in 1708.
LEVINUS AMMONIUS, a Carthusian monk in Flanders, was greatly esteemed by Erasmus, and other eminent men for his learning and piety. He died at Ghent, in 1556.
DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, a man of great celebrity in the republic of letters, was born at Rotterdam, October 28, 1467. He was the natural son of Gerard, a native of Tergou, by Margaret, the daughter of a physician, whom he intended to marry, but being deceived by a report of her death, he entered into the church, and on this account Erasmus has been called, by way of reproach, the son of a priest, though his father was not in orders at the time of his birth. When Erasmus was about nine years old he was sent to school at Deventer, where he made very considerable progress in learning, and was particularly distinguished by the excellence of his memory. His mother, who followed him to Deventer, to watch over his health, died of the plague, when he was about 13 years of age. He was now left an orphan, and his guardians, forgetful of the sacred trust reposed in them, forced him into the church, with a view of embezzling his property. Erasmus resisted their importunity a considerable time, but at length, when he was nineteen years old, he entered among the regular canons in the monastery of Stein, near Tergou. He was of a delicate constitution, and his health was not sufficiently robust for the life of the monk. His temper and sentiments were likewise averse from the habits of the profession; he accordingly, with the leave of his superior, accepted, in his 23d year, an invitation to reside with the archbishop of Cambray; but rinding the patronage of that prelate not equal to his expectations, he went to Paris, and studied in the college of Montaigue. Here he supported himself by giving private lectures to those who were less advanced in their learning than himself. His necessities required great exertions, and thus he acquired habits of industry, which raised him to the highest pitch of literary excellence. Some of his pupils at Paris were the sons of Englishmen of considerable consequence, by whose liberality and earnest request he visited their country, and contracted many valuable friendships. This was in the year 1497; from England he went to Italy, continued a year or more at Bologna, from thence to Venice, where he published his Adagia; he afterwards went to Padua, and at last he visited the capital, Rome, where his reputation was very high, and where he might have settled to great advantage, had he not determined, at the entreaties of his friends, and by the express invitation of Henry VIII., to return to England. Henry, while prince, had contracted a friendship and high respect for Erasmus, and in a few months after he succeeded to the crown, we find Erasmus at the court of London, high in favour with the monarch, with Wolsey, with the archbishop of Canterbury, and with other persons of distinction.
At first he lived with Sir Thomas More, under whose roof he wrote his "Morrae Encomium," or "Praise of Folly," a witty and satirical composition. He afterwards went to Cambridge, and read lectures to the students in Greek and theology. For this he was remunerated with a living and many valuable presents, though not of so substantial a nature as to satisfy lus expectations. He wished for an independency, and not being able to secure that in England, he went over to Flanders in 1514, and was shortly after created nominal counsellor to prince Charles of Austria, with a stipend. Soon after this he paid a visit to Basil, where he formed an intimacy with some valuable friends, which induced him to spend his latter days in that place. At Basil he published, in the year 1516, his New Testament, in Greek and Latin, which was received, with the utmost eagerness by all those whose minds were turned to theological pursuits. It was dedicated to Leo X. In the course of the same year, his edition of St. Jerome, a favourite author,. made its appearance, which he inscribed to his generous.patron, archbishop Warham. Erasmus was ever inimical to that system of war which in his time, as in ours, was but too much in fashion among the ambitious rulers of mankind ; he published in 1517, a work entitled "Querela Pacis, indique gentium ejectse pro
fligataeque," which is written with much strength of reasoning and true eloquence. By his contemporaries he was charged with maintaining the unlawfulness of war on all and every occasion; this, however, was a calumny invented by his enemies, of whom he had many, for, in the work alluded to, he expressly says, he is speaking only of wars undertaken on trifling and unjustifiable occasions. "I think," says he, "very differently of wars, which are strictly and purely defensive, such as with an honest and affectionate zeal for the country, repel the violence of invaders, and at the hazard of life, preserve the public tranquillity." He was aware of the horrors and atrocities of a state of warfare, and thought almost any sacrifice might be made by wise princes to prevent it. He undertook to vindicate the cause of peace, whom he makes the speaker on this occasion. But the arguments which he puts into her mouth, and the persuasive eloquence with which she addresses the sovereign princes of those dark times, as they are sometimes called, would scarcely be borne by the monarch of Europe in this enlightened age. His descriptions are vivid, and his reflections but too just: *' Exuruntur vici, vastantur aqui, diripiuntur templa, trucidantur immeriti cives, dum princeps interim otiosus ludit aleam, dum saltitat, dum delectat se morionibus, dunnesiater, dum aurat, dum pot at. O Brutorum genus jam olim extinctum! O fulmen Jovis aut obtusum." To whom this is particularly applied it does not appear, but the "Querela Paris" was occasioned by the following remarkable circumstance.
It was a favourite project at this period to assemble a congress of kings at Cambray, consisting of the emperor of Germany, the kings of France, England, and the Low Countries; "of which," says the author, "I am a native." They were to enter into mutual and indissoluble engagements to preserve peace with each other, and throughout Europe. This momentous business was very much promoted by William a Ciervia, and by one, who seemed to have been born to advance the happiness of his country, and of human nature, John Sylvagius, chancellor of Burgundy. But certain persons, who got nothing by peace, and a great deal by war, threw obstacles in the way, which pi-evented this truly kingly purpose from being carried into execution. "After this great disappointment, I sat down and wrote, by desire of Sylvagius, my Querela Paris." This work was dedicated to Philip of Burgundy, bishop of Utrecht, who was likewise a zealous promoter of peace, and who, so far from being offended with the free sentiments of the book, thanked the author, and even pressed him to accept a living, as a remuneration, which he civilly refused. Erasmus sought no preferment, though, says his biographer, he merited the highest; he sought the happiness of his fellow creatures, and felt himself abundantly rewarded by his own conscience, and their approbation. The bishop, however, in token of his high esteem, sent him a most beautiful ring, set with a sapphire, which his own brother, his predecessor, in the bishopric, had constantly worn, and which he desired Erasmus to wear for his sake.
The commencement of the reformation, under Luther, was a circumstance of considerable importance in the life of Erasmus. He had shown himself inimical to the superstitions of the times; he had arraigned the principles and practices of the monks, and had done much to undermine the whole system of popery, and to expose the various frauds which had been attached to its observance by avaricious and licentious priests; yet he was not prepared to join the reformers as such, his zeal was not sufficient to enable him to endure persecution; he did not wish to break openly from the church, nor was he quite satisfied with the doctrines of the reformers, and still less was he disposed to coalesce with the rudeness, vulgarity, and contempt of polite literature which characterized some of that class of people. It has also been said that he was very desirous of being noticed by the great, that he had habituated himself to that degree of indulgence, which would render the prospect of poverty and imprisonment absolutely insupportable to his mind. His income likewise arose almost entirely from pensions which he received from crowned heads, prelates, and men of consequence belonging to the Catholic persuasion, which he would unquestionably have lost had he gone over to the opposite side. These are the reasons which have been assigned why Erasmus did not come boldly forward in defence of the reformation; but with these deductions there is enough in his character, to challenge the admiration and gratitude of the friends to liberty and the human race. He was ever the undaunted advocate of free inquiry, and perpetually waged war against the ignorance and bigotry that characterized the age in which he lived. On these accounts he was, in the first years of his reformation, highly regarded by Luther, and it was owing to some unadvised, and, probably, unwarranted attacks made upon Erasmus, about the year 1520, by the zealous reformers, that he was driven to enlist among the defenders of the church of Rome.
In the year 1522, he published his "Colloquies," which, though apparently intended for young persons, were generally read, and are supposed to have been very efficacious in promoting the principles of the reformation. As soon as their tendency was discovered, the clergy attempted to stop their sale, but it was then too late; more than twenty thousand copies of them were disposed of in Paris, besides a number of editions which were printed and sold in other places.
In 1524, Erasmus published his treatise, " De Libero Arbitrio," which was an avowed attack uponLuther's opinion concerning predestination, but the author, in his zeal, spoke against reformers in general; Luther replied, and had unquestionably the best of the argument; in some passages he seemed to commiserate the case of his antagonist, and to regret the necessity which he was under of exposing him. "We saw," says he, "that the Lord had not conferred upon you the discernment, the courage, and the resolution to join us in opposing those monsters, and therefore we dared not to exact from you that which greatly surpasses your strength and capacity." He then refers to the motive of worldly interest by which-Erasmus had suffered himself to be swayed from the path of rectitude. The controversy increased in violence, and much unjustifiable acrimony proceeded from the pens of the disputants.
Another antagonist with whom our author had to contend was Julius Caesar Scaliger, who had put himself at the head of those who were so fastidious in the use of pure Latin as to reject every word not to be found in the works of Cicero, and who on that account had assumed the title of " Ciceronians." Erasmus, superior to this pedantry, employed new words for new ideas, and in justification of his conduct, published, in 1578, a dialogue entitled "De Recta Latini Ciceronianus," in which he attacked the sect both with argument and ridicule. Scaliger wrote against him with all the malignity that human wit and learning could devise, and he was backed in his scurrility by others of the Ciceronians less able in the warfare, but not less inveterate than their master. The nature of this controversy is fairly exhibited in the notes on the life of Erasmus by Bayle.
Erasmus, wearied, perhaps, by disputation, published, in a short time after his "Ciceronianus" had made its appearance, a treatise of much ability and learning, entitled ' De Recta Latin Greecique sermonis Pronunciatione." In the year 1529, Erasmus left Basil for Friburg, in order to show his attachment to the church which had for some years been losing ground in Basil, and so completely had the reformed religion gained an ascendancy there at this period, that all the images were taken from the town-house and other public places and burnt, which was supposed to have been the means of putting an end to the differences among the common people. Erasmus was now advancing in life, and seemed, more than ever, fearful of being thought friendly to the reformation, and to shew his zeal for the opposite system, he wrote and published an epistle against some "who falsely call themselves Evangelists," and as they from his former works, had produced his authority against persecution, he began to maintain that there were certain cases in which the} might lawfully be punished capitally as blasphemers and seditious persons. Such were the unworthy steps to which he was led by an anxiety to keep on good terms with his patrons and protectors. .