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

By Erasmus; J. Huizinga | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
AT LOUVAIN 1517-18

Erasmus at Louvain, 1517 -- He expects the renovation of the Church as the fruit of good learning -- Controversy with Lefèvre d'Étaples -- Second journey to Basle, 1518 -- He revises the edition of the New Testament -- Controversies with Latomus, Briard and Lee -- Erasmus regards the opposition of conservative theology merely as a conspiracy against good learning

WHEN Erasmus established himself at Louvain in the summer of 1517 he had a vague presentiment that great changes were at hand. 'I fear', he writes in September, 'that a great subversion of affairs is being brought about here, if God's favour and the piety and wisdom of princes do not concern themselves about human matters.' But the forms which that great change would assume he did not in the least realize.

He regarded his removal as merely temporary. It was only to last 'till we shall have seen which place of residence is best fit for old age, which is already knocking'. There is something pathetic in the man who desires nothing but quiet and liberty, and who through his own restlessness, and his inability not to concern himself about other people, never found a really fixed abode or true independence. Erasmus is one of those people who always seem to say: tomorrow, tomorrow! I must first deal with this, and then . . . As soon as he shall be ready with the new edition of the New Testament and shall have extricated himself from troublesome and disagreeable theological controversies, in which he finds himself entangled against his wish, he will sleep, hide himself, 'sing for himself and the Muses'. But that time never came.

Where to live when he shall be free? Spain, to which Cardinal Ximenes called him, did not appeal to him. From Germany, he says, the stoves and the insecurity deter him. In England the servitude which was required of him there revolted him. But in the Netherlands themselves, he did not feel

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