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Bucklersbury, London EC4N 4YA, UK
Basel Minster

Holbein-erasmus.jpgDesiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (October 1466 - 12 July 1536) was a Dutch philosopher and Christian scholar who is widely considered to have been one of the greatest scholars of the northern Renaissance.[2][3][4] Charles Reade's novel The Cloister and the Hearth (1861) was based on Erasmus' own fanciful account of his family background.

In the monastery of Steyn Erasmus found a friend, Servatius Roger, to whom he poured out his soul. "My mind is such that I think nothing can rank higher than friendship in this life, nothing should be desired more ardently, nothing should be treasured more jealously." No response. When away from their monastic home Erasmus weeps at his friend's absence, is overjoyed at receiving the scant notice of a letter. "What is wrong with you?" is all the letter says. Roger later told him not to be silly and, with familiar tediousness, to be more guarded in expressing his feelings in future. At last, as late as 1514, when Erasmus was nearly 50 and a European figure, Prior Servatius ordered him to return to the monastery. Erasmus obtained from the papacy a complete dispensation from his irregularities in living in the world, from the obligation to dress as a monk, permission to live outside the cloister and to accept church benefices in spite of his illegitimacy. While Erasmus was in Paris winning fame as a scholar he took two young Englishmen as pupils. One of these was Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset, for whom he fell so strongly that the youth's bearleader, an uncouth Scot, objected and made trouble. This would be the grandson of Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV's queen, by her first husband. The young man succeeded his father as Marquis of Dorset in 1501, and became a not particularly brilliant luminary of Henry VIII's Court. But he had what a sensitive writer would respond to: he was handsome, fairly tall, with an open countenance and golden hair. William Blount, 4th Baron Mountjoy, was more responsive: Erasmus's interest in him was intellectual, rather than physical, so the friendship with this pupil laster for years. Mountjoy, who arranged Erasmus's first visit to England with him, in 1499-1500, from which such consequences flowed: the friendship with More and Colet, the inspiration for a new edition of the New Testament, the work at both Oxford and Cambridge, the host of friends. Mountjoy had a house near the Court at Greenwich, and followed his tutor on his well known Oxford visit. In 1500 Erasmus dedicated his first collection of Adages to him. The young man was inspired to become a patron of learning and helped many scholars. Years later, when Mountjoy was Governor of Tournai, 1514-17, Erasmus visited him there. The tutor outlived the pupil by a couple of years; when Mountjoy died Erasmus dedicated his next collection of Adages, in memory, to his son.

As a Catholic priest, Erasmus was an important figure in classical scholarship who wrote in a pure Latin style. Among humanists he enjoyed the sobriquet "Prince of the Humanists", and has been called "the crowning glory of the Christian humanists".[5] Using humanist techniques for working on texts, he prepared important new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament, which raised questions that would be influential in the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. He also wrote On Free Will,[6] In Praise of Folly, Handbook of a Christian Knight, On Civility in Children, Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style, Julius Exclusus, and many other works. Erasmus lived against the backdrop of the growing European religious Reformation. While he was critical of the abuses within the Catholic Church and called for reform, he nonetheless kept his distance from Luther, Henry VIII, and John Calvin and continued to recognise the authority of the pope, emphasizing a middle way with a deep respect for traditional faith, piety and grace, and rejecting Luther's emphasis on faith alone.[citation needed] Erasmus remained a member of the Catholic Church all his life, remaining committed to reforming the Church and its clerics' abuses from within.[7][8] He also held to the doctrine of synergism, which some Reformers (Calvinists) rejected in favor of the doctrine of monergism. His middle road ("via media") approach disappointed, and even angered, scholars in both camps. Erasmus died suddenly in Basel in 1536 while preparing to return to Brabant and was buried in Basel Minster, the former cathedral of the city.[9] A bronze statue of Erasmus was erected in 1622 in his city of birth, replacing an earlier work in stone.


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