Erasmus of Rotterdam: With a Selection from the Letters of Erasmus

By Erasmus; J. Huizinga | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
A LIGHT OF THEOLOGY 1514-16

On the way to success and satisfaction -- His Prior calls him back to Steyn -- He refuses to comply -- First journey to Basle: 1514-16 -- Cordial welcome in Germany -- Johannes Froben -- Editions of Jerome and the New Testament -- A Councillor to Prince Charles: Institutio Principis Christiani, 1515 -- Definitive dispensation from Monastic Vows: 1517 -- Fame -- Erasmus as a spiritual centre -- His correspondence -- Letter-writing as an art -- Its dangers -- A glorious age at hand

ERASMUS had, as was usual with him, enveloped his departure from England with mystery. It was given out that he was going to Rome to redeem a pledge. Probably he had already determined to try his fortune in the Netherlands; not in Holland, but in the neighbourhood of the princely court in Brabant. The chief object of his journey, however, was to visit Froben's printing-office at Basle, personally to supervise the publication of the numerous works, old and new, which he brought with him, among them the material for his chosen task, the New Testament and Jerome, by which he hoped to effect the restoration of theology, which he had long felt to be his life-work. It is easy thus to imagine his anxiety when during the crossing he discovered that his hand-bag, containing the manuscripts, was found to have been taken on board another ship. He felt bereft, having lost the labour of so many years; a sorrow so great, he writes, as only parents can feel at the loss of their children.

To his joy, however, he found his manuscripts safe on the other side. At the castle of Hammes near Calais, he stayed for some days, the guest of Mountjoy. There, on 7 July, a letter found him, written on 18 April by his superior, the prior of Steyn, his old friend Servatius Rogerus, recalling him to the monastery after so many years of absence. The letter had

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