The Age of Erasmus eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 273 pages of information about The Age of Erasmus.

Jortin points out that the only thing which Erasmus specifically denies is the publication of the Julius.  As we have seen, an author of consequence in those days rarely troubled to correct his own proof-sheets.  Erasmus left his Moria behind in Paris for Richard Croke to see through the press; More committed his Utopia to Erasmus, who had it printed for him at Louvain; Linacre sent his translations of Galen to Paris by the hands of Lupset, who supervised the printing.  It is therefore quite probable that Erasmus did not personally superintend the publication of the Julius; but until students of typography can tell us definitely which is the first printed edition, and where it was printed, we cannot be certain.  But besides this point of practice born of convenience, there was another born of modesty.  With compositions that were purely literary—­poems and other creations of art and fancy, as opposed to more solid productions—­the convention arose of pretending that the publication of them was due to the entreaties of friends, or even in some cases that it had been carried out by ardent admirers without the author’s knowledge.  Printing, with its ease of multiplication, had made publication a far more definite act than it was in the days of manuscripts.  In the prefaces to his early compositions, Erasmus almost always assumes this guise.  More actually wrote to Warham and to another friend that the Utopia had been printed without his knowledge.  Of course this was not true, but nobody misunderstood him.  Dolet’s Orationes ad Tholosam appeared through the hand of a friend, but with the most transparent figments.

There was, therefore, abundant precedent for denying authorship.  But there is a difference between the light veil of modesty and clouds of dust raised in apprehension.  The publication of the Julius certainly placed Erasmus in a dilemma; he extricated himself by equivocation, which barely escapes from direct untruth.  It is possible that a public man of his position at the present day might find himself driven to a similar method of escape from a similar indiscretion.[27] But experience has taught men not to write lampoons which they dare not avow, and a more effective law of copyright protects them against publication by pirate printers.

     [27] An example of this may be seen in the new Life of Edward
          Bulwer, First Lord Lytton
, 1913, ii. 71-6.  Bulwer-Lytton’s
          letter, 15 March 1846, denying the authorship of the New
, might almost have been translated from Erasmus’ to
          Campegio, except that it goes further in falsehood.



An interesting parallel is often drawn between Indian life to-day and the life with which we are familiar in the Bible.  The women grinding at the mill, the men who take up their beds and walk, the groups that gather at the well, the potter and his wheel, the marriage-feasts, the waterpots standing ready to be filled, the maimed, the leper, and the blind—­all these are everyday sights in the streets and households of modern India.

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The Age of Erasmus from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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