But lest this view of the Adwert Academy should appear too uniformly roseate, we will turn to the tradition of Reyner Praedinius (1510-59), who was Rector of the town school at Groningen, and whose fame attracted students thither from Italy, Spain, and Poland. He had in his possession several manuscripts of Wessel’s writings, some of them unpublished; and he had been intimate with men who had known both Wessel and Agricola. One of these—very likely Goswin of Halen—as a boy had often served at table, when the two scholars were dining; and had afterwards shown them the way home with a lantern. He used to say that he had frequently pulled off Agricola’s boots, when he came home the worse for his potations; but that no one had ever seen Wessel under the influence of wine. Wessel, indeed, lived to a green old age, but killed himself by working too hard.
Erasmus was born at Rotterdam on the vigil of SS. Simon and Jude, 27 October: probably in 1466, but his utterances on the subject are ambiguous. Around his parentage he wove a web of romance, from which only one fact emerges clearly—that his father was at some time a priest. Current gossip said that he was parish priest of Gouda; a little town near Rotterdam, with a big church, which in the sixteenth century its inhabitants were wealthy enough to adorn with some fine stained glass. There in the town school, under a master who was afterwards one of the guardians of his scanty patrimony, Erasmus’ schooldays began, and he made acquaintance with the Latin grammar of Donatus. After an interval as chorister at Utrecht, he was sent by his parents to the school at Deventer, which, with that of the neighbouring and rival town of Zwolle, enjoyed pre-eminence among the schools of the Netherlands at that date. It was connected with the principal church of the town, St. Lebuin’s; and doubtless among those aisles and chapels, listening perhaps to the merry bells, whose chimes still proclaim the quarters far and wide, he caught the first breath of that new hope to which he was to devote his whole life. The school was controlled by the canons of St. Lebuin, who appointed the head master; but, as at Zwolle, some of the teachers were drawn from that sober and learned order, the Brethren of the Common Life, whose parent house was at Deventer.
Of Erasmus’ life in the school we have little knowledge. He tells us that he was there in 1475, when preachers came from Rome announcing the jubilee which Sixtus IV had so conveniently found possible to hold after only twenty-five years. From one of his letters we can picture him wandering by the river side among the barges, and marking the slow growth of the bridge of boats which it took the town of Deventer several years to throw across the rapid Yssel. He probably entered the lowest class, the eighth, and by 1484, when at the age of eighteen he left in consequence of the outbreak of plague mentioned