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For a similar reason even Luther did not hate him more cordially than several Franciscan fathers connected with the University of Paris. After Erasmus had visited the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Padua, and Bologna, he instituted some comparisons between the faculties of those institutions and that of the University of Paris, which were by no means flattering to the latter. Precisely because they deserved the ridicule to which he exposed them, they could never forgive him. Like certain paternal rectors of the present day who are still more incompetent, the Paris professors pretended that to mock them was to mock the church, be a heretic, and altogether an unprincipled fellow!
It is worthy of remark that none of the catholic sovereigns, male or female, withdrew from him on account of his satires on monks, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and popes, the pensions they had bestowed upon him; whereas one of the first orders of Henry VIII., after he had declared himself pope of England, was to strike the name of Erasmus from the pension list.*
But the indignation of Henry was somewhat like that of the Franciscans. Erasmus had not sufficiently appreciated either the learning or the piety of the royal Defensor Fidei, whereas Luther had lauded both to the skies; styling his majesty, “most serene king! most illustrious prince !" and for having formerly offended him, " under the influence of bad advice,” begging pardon like a whipped child, as follows: "I blush now, and scarcely dare to raise my eyes to you, etc.
If your majesty thinks proper that in another work I should recall my words, and glorify your name, vouchsafe," etc. +
Erasmus had too refined a mind to descend to adulation like this for any consideration; yet his traducers represent
“avaricious and crafty,”# for no better reason than that, instead of attacking his friends he was always grateful for their kindness. We call particular attention to these
* Vide Patin, Relation Historique, p. 120; also Seckendorf, 1. iii., p. 80.
See Dr. Cox's Life of Melancthon, p. 35.
facts, because we know from our own experience and observation, how liable the student of English literature is to form a very erroneous and unjust estimate of the character of Erasinus. Not that English authors are more disposed than others to do injustice to the illustrious dead; but in sectarian discussions their zeal often gets the better of their judgment, and to a certain extent neutralizes their characteristic generosity and love of fair play. Hallam will bear us testimony that we do no injustice to his countrymen in regard to their conduct with respect to Erasmus. “It has becom?,” says that honest and generally faithful historian,
very much the practice with our English writers to censure Erasmus for his conduct at this time. Milner rarely does justice to any one who did not servilely follow Luther,” etc.*
The estimate of Ilallam may be regarded as representing that of all the higher class of protestant historians of the present day without regard to nationality; nor does the enlightened catholic estimate differ from it very much. Nowhere do we find the latter more faithfully represented than in an able and learned American work, which we have commended former occasions for similar fidelity. After Dr. Spalding las quoted some
passages from Erasmus in his History, illustrative of the deterioration of morals caused by the Reformation, he makes the following comments : “The testimony of Erasmus is above suspicion. Though he continued in the catholic church, yet he was the early friend of Luther, Melancthon, and several others among the principal reformers ; and he had himself contributed not a little, perhaps, however, only indirectly and unintentionally, to the success of the pretended reformation. He was a mild, peaceable man, who liked his ease more than anything else in the world, and who sought to please both sides, but succeeded in pleasing neither. He had joined in the outcry against the catholic priesthood and monks, and had thereby no doubt greatly aided in: heightening the excitement against the catholic church." +
* Lit. of Europe, vol. i., note, p. 191. Harper's ed. † llist, of the Protestant Reformation in Germmy and Switzerland," etc., in 2 vols. By M. J. Spalding, D. D., archbishop of Baltimore. Vol. I, p. 269.
Next to Luther the one who assailed Erasmus with the greatest bitterness, and in the most scurrilous and indecent language, was Julius Cæsar Scaliger. Indeed it may be said that the latter surpassed the great reformer if possible in this particular. His abuse is justly styled by Bayle, “les injures les plus choquantes.” Different reasons are assigned for this strange conduct on the part of Scaliger, who, it must be admitted, was also a very profound scholar. Many think for this reason that he was actuated by jealousy on account of the world-wide fame of Erasmus. Scaliger belonged to the party among the learned that were opposed to every style in Latin which was not modelled after that of Cicero; a party which had the honor of numbering among its most zealous members Cardinal Bembo and even Leo X. himself. But whatever Erasmus deemed absurd or wrong, he did not hesitate to ridicule, no matter how illustrious and formidable were the opponents against whom he had to contend. Accordingly he wrote and published, in 1528, his famous Ciceronianus, in which he gives full vent to that irresistible, trenchant humor and scathing, refined irony that were always his most powerful weapons, although not a discourteous or ungentlemanly expression appears from one end of the work to the other. Though written in the purest Latin the Ciceronianus derives its chief power from the sound common sense with which its lively and pungent wit is combined. When the reader bears in mind that the party criticised held that no expression or even term which was not found in Cicero could be regarded as classical, he will be the better able to appreciate such remarks as the following:
“ We no longer possess all the writings of Cicero; we do not know, therefore, that we are acquainted with all the expressions which that great writer has employed. Besides, Cicero has not treated on all human knowledge; he has not, then, exhausted in his vocabularly all the terms of his language. Finally, it is absurd to designate in Latin things with which Cicero could not bave been acquainted ; and since he permitted himself to forge new words in order to express new ideas, I cannot see why those who have come after him slovld not have the same privilege. Besides, true imitation does not consist in identity of terms and phrases, but in the harmonious disposition of details and in the profundity of thought."
No competent judge will deny the force and truth of this; but it was all the more provoking to the Ciceronians on this account. It did not, however, cause Erasmus to forfeit the friendship either of the great Leo or of Cardinal Bembo. But while Scaliger attacked him in Germany, Pierre Curtius attacked him in Italy, the latter pretending that he had insulted, on more than one occasion, not only the learned men of Italy, but also the nation at large; accordingly he gave his pamphlet the comprehensive title : Defensio pro Italia ad Erasmum Reterodamum. Erasmus deigned to reply to this, although he took no public notice of the article of Scaliger. He proceeds to demonstrate in his usual bland, but sarcastic style, that he had had no intention of calling into question the bravery and military genius of the Italians. In reply to the charge of ingratitude to the country of the fine arts, he says:
“I am constantly reminded that it was in Italy I learned Latin. I regret that such is not the fact. I was nearly forty years when I went to Italy. I did not, therefore, go thither to learn—I was too old for that; but went to see the country. I brought into Italy more knowledge of Greek and Latin than I brought out of it. ... Besides, if the Italians are going to write better works in future than mine, as Curtius threatens me, I shall, for my part, be very glad, for all will gain by it."*
In this quiet way Erasmus entirely silenced the Italian, and both Leo X. and Bembo had the candor to admit that, after all, Cicero alone should not be regarded as the soul, life, and body of the Latin tongue. But this great triumph, on the part of Erasmus, seemed to increase the rage of Scaliger all the more. It is true that several biographers and historians allege that the only reason why Scaliger made his second scurrilous attack on Erasmus was that the latter called him a soldier by way of contempt, intimating that on that account he was beneath his notice, and that, in short, he was incapable, for the same reason, of writing the attack attributed to him. Whether this be the fact or not, the statement is of some importance as showing that the business of human slaughter was not quite so respectable at this time as it subsequently became. It should be remembered
Responsio ad Petri Cursii defensionem nullo adversario villacem.
that one of the principal reasons assigned by Erasmus for his opposition to the reformation was that it would lead to war ; that from words the contestants would come to blows, à verbis ad verbera ; and that the invariable tendency of war was to demoralize all who had a hand in it. He has written one of his best essays to prove the fact, that entitled Bellum. Those who have the curiosity to read this will understand that, in the opinion of Erasmus, it does not require much genius or intellectual ability to attain even the highest distinction as a soldier. But whatever was the cause of the second attack, full of venom and vituperation as it was, it did not satisfy the author, who, becoming more and more enraged at the contemptuous silence of the philosopher, proceeded to write a third; but Erasmus had died before it was published.t
Thus it was that protestants and catholics, and those who were equally opposed to both, attacked Erasmus in turn. One party hated him for being a catholic; another party hated him because, if he was not really a protestant, he was, at least, a heretic, while the third party hated him because he labored to restore the unity of the christian religion. But, as already remarked, for one who disliked him, five hundred esteemed and admired him for the incalculable benfit he had rendered to civilization by his profound learning and his incessant and prodigious literary labors performed for the instruction and enlightenment of mankind. Notwithstanding his unsparing ridicule of the ministers and servants of the church, of all grades, including, even, the pontiffs, he enjoyed the friendship and esteem of four successive popes, namely, Julius II., Leo X., Adrian IV. and Paul III., besides those of numerous archbishops and cardinals Adrian had been his intimate friend long before he had any idea of succeeding to the papal throne. While professor of theology at Louvain, he invited Erasmus to take up his abode in that famous institution, and he was on his way to do so when he became so violently ill that he had to return to the care of bis
* Alios occultum odium, alios ambitio, alios animi feritas in bellum impellit. Eras., Adag., Chil. iv.
† Scaliger aiant sçu cela écrivait une troisieme haranque dont la mort de Erasmo interroinpit l'edition.—Bayle's Dict. Hist. et Crit.