the essential rightness of his way of life: 'You still have many important works to publish', he wrote to Erasmus in 1514, 'and you cannot tackle them unless you are strong. Look after yourself, and do not by your sickness deprive us of the splendid promise and sweetest harvest of your learning' ( Epistle 286, CWE 2:277/17-20; Allen I, 550/13- 16).

From what we know about Erasmus, the following line of interpretation concerning his vocation seems eminently reasonable. Having taken the bold step of not returning to his monastery in 1499, Erasmus had to prove to his superior that his decision was the right one. But perhaps even more he had to justify to himself his act of conscience in making his own independent judgment: not openly defying canon law, but circumventing it; not openly defying his prior, but not agreeing with him; and, although remaining an Augustinian Canon, not living with other canons. He was moving towards becoming an independent cleric living in but not of the world, not only supporting himself from his books (and the patronage they brought him) but holding up the scholarly vocation as a bona fide vocation for himself, recognising as well that he was serving as a model for others. 13 Is that not the view we are given by Metsys, Holbein and Dürer in those masterly portraits that show the humanist at his desk? -- not at prayer (though of course he did pray), not teaching (though he had done that), not caring for the sick or aged (which are also acts of mercy) -- but studying and writing. Above all writing: the focus in those portraits (and on this see appendix F further) is iconographic, and it is an image of the humanist-scholar in the act of writing. 14 That is the reality of Erasmus the humanist, now in the period immediately following 1514 and for the rest of his life.

We may then take it as most meaningful that Erasmus did not return to Steyn after his return from England, and that instead his route took him up the Rhine to Basel, where he would set in motion major publication plans.


Notes
1)
See J. Olphe-Galliard in Dict. Spir. Ascet. Myst. 2:404-16, and, more popularly but knowledgeably, Peter Levi, the Frontiers of Paradise -- A Study of Monks and Monasteries ( London, 1988).
2)
See W. B. Ryan in NCE.
3)
R. L. DeMolen, "'Erasmus' Commitment to the Canons Regular of St Augustine'", in The Spirituality of Erasmus, 191-7. To be sure, the term 'amphibian' occurs in a dialogic work (specifically, "'A Pilgrimage for Religion's Sake'" in the Colloquies, ed. C. R. Thompson, 292).

-147-

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Erasmus of Europe: - Vol. 2
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Notes xiv
  • List of Abbreviations xv
  • List of ILlustrations xvii
  • 18 Return from England: the Years in Flanders and Paris, 1501-1502 1
  • 19 the Early Louvain Years, 1502-1504 14
  • Notes 24
  • 20 the Enchiridion: 'Philosophia Christi' 28
  • Notes 40
  • 21 1504, a Threshold Year 41
  • Notes 49
  • 22 Return to England, 1505-1506 51
  • Notes 59
  • 23 Italy, 1506-1509 62
  • Notes 71
  • 24 the Adages 74
  • Notes 82
  • 25 England Again, 1509: the 'Period of Silence' 86
  • Notes 92
  • 25 the Praise of Folly 95
  • Notes 105
  • 27 the Cambridge Years, 1511-1514 109
  • Notes 122
  • 28 the Changing World in 1514 126
  • 29 Vocation and Life-Style 140
  • Notes 147
  • 30 to Basel, Summer 1514 149
  • Notes 161
  • 31 1516, the Annus Mirabilis 165
  • Notes 173
  • 32 the New Testament: A Life Work 175
  • Notes 189
  • Notes 210
  • 34 the Rising Storm of Controversy: Erasmus and His Catholic Critics, 1517-1522 216
  • Notes 231
  • 35 the Colloquies 236
  • Notes 243
  • Erasmus and His Friends: His Audience and His Geography 247
  • Notes 259
  • 37 Reform and Reformation: Ecclesia Semper Reformanda 263
  • Notes 278
  • 38 the Basel Years, 1521-1529: the Reformation Storm Rising 283
  • 39 Erasmus and Luther: on the Freedom of the Will 298
  • Notes 306
  • 40 Language and Style 310
  • Notes 317
  • 41 the Basel Years: Humanism and Religion 320
  • Notes 333
  • 42 the Freiburg Years, 1529-1535 337
  • Notes 346
  • 43 the Final Act at Basel: Summer 1535 to July 1536 350
  • Notes 359
  • 44 the Achievement of Erasmus and His Place in History 362
  • Notes 377
  • Appendix C Erasmus' Dispensations 381
  • Notes 383
  • Appendix D Erasmus' Wills 384
  • Notes 385
  • Appendix E Portraits of Erasmus 387
  • An Erasmian Chronology: LIfe and Writings 390
  • Bibliography 393
  • Index of Names of Persons 408
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