Erasmus and the Age of Reformation

By Johan Huizinga | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVII
ERASMUS AT BASLE 1521-9

Basle his dwelling-place for nearly eight years: 1521-9 -- Political thought of Erasmus -- Concord and peace -- Anti-war writings -- Opinions concerning princes and government--New editions of several Fathers--The Colloquia -- Controversies with Stunica, Beda, etc. -- Quarrel with Hutten -- Eppendorff

IT is only towards the evening of life that the picture of Erasmus acquires the features with which it was to go down to posterity. Only at Basle--delivered from the troublesome pressure of parties wanting to enlist him, transplanted from an environment of haters and opponents at Louvain to a circle of friends, kindred spirits, helpers and admirers, emancipated from the courts of princes, independent of the patronage of the great, unremittingly devoting his tremendous energy to the work that was dear to him--did he become Holbein's Erasmus. In those late years he approaches most closely to the ideal of his personal life.

He did not think that there were still fifteen years in store for him. Long before, in fact, since he became forty years old in 1506, Erasmus had been in an old-age mood. 'The last act of the play has begun,' he keeps saying after 1517.

He now felt practically independent as to money matters. Many years had passed before he could say that. But peace of mind did not come with competence. It never came. He never became truly placid and serene, as Holbein's picture seems to represent him. He was always too much concerned about what people said or thought of him. Even at Basle he did not feel thoroughly at home. He still speaks repeatedly of a removal in the near future to Rome, to France, to England, or back to the Netherlands. Physical rest, at any rate, which was not in him, was granted him by circumstances: for nearly eight years he now remained at Basle, and then he lived at Freiburg for six.

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