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the spirit of a Cardinal,” evasively replied Ammonius, brought to bay by the direct question. “It is something," observed Erasmus,
” smiling, “to have a Cardinal's spirit !”
The stranger all this time had remained silent, drinking in this conversation between the two friends.
At last he made an observation or two in Italian, mixing in a Latin word now and then, as an illiterate merchant might be expected to do. Seeing that Erasmus took no notice of what he said, he turned round, and in good Latin observed, "I wonder you should care to live in this barbarous nation, unless you choose rather to be all alone here than first at Rome.”
Erasmus, astonished and somewhat nettled to hear a merchant talk in this way, with disdainful dryness replied that he chose to live in that country in which there was the greatest number of men distinguished for their learning. IIe had rather hold the last place among these than have no companions at Rome.
Ammonius, seeing the awkward turn that things were taking, and that Erasmus in his present humour might probably, as he sometimes did, speak his mind rather more plainly than miglit be desirable, interposed, and, to prevent further perplexity, suggested that they should adjourn to the garden.'
Erasmus found out afterwards that the merchant stranger with whom he had had this singular brush was the Pope's ambassador himself-Cardinal Canossa !
6. PARTING INTERCOURSE BETWEEN ERASMUS AND COLET (1514).
Meanwhile, in spite of Papal Nuncios, the preparations for the continuance of the war proceeded as before. There were no signs of peace. The king had had a dangerous illness, but had risen from his couch“ fierce as ever against France."
With heavy hearts Colet and Erasmus held on their way. The war lay like a dark cloud on their horizon. It was throwing back their work. How it had changed the plans of Erasmus has been shown. It had also made Colet's position one of greater difficulty. It is true that hitherto royal favour had protected him from the hatred of his persecutors, but the Bishop of London and his party were more exasperated against him than ever, and who could tell how soon the king's fickle humour might change? His love of war was growing wilder and wilder. He was becoming intoxicated with it. And who could tell what the young king might do if his passions ever should rise into mastery over better feelings? Even the king's present favour, though it had preserved Colet as yet unharmed in person, did not prevent his being cramped and hindered in his work.
(1) Eras., Germano Brixio. Eras., Epist. mccxxxix.
Other troubles, too, about this time added to his cares : questions of property and family dispute-most irksome of all others to a man who was giving life and wealth away in a great work.
Hints of trouble from matters of business he had before given to Erasmus. Whether it was an old quarrel still lingering on unhealed, we know not, but there was now a dispute between Colet and an aged uncle of his, and the bone of contention was a large amount of property.
One day Colet took Erasmus with him by boat to dine with Archbishop Warham at Lambeth Palace. As they rowed down the Thames, Colet sat pensively reading in his book. At dinner, being set opposite his uncle at table, Erasmus noticed that he was ill at ease, caring neither to talk nor eat. And the uncle would doubtless have remained as silent as the nephew had not the Archbishop drawn out the garrulousness of his old age by cheerful conversation. After dinner the three were closeted together. Erasmus knew not what all this meant. But, as they were rowing back to town in the boat, Colet said, “ Erasmus, you're a happy man, and have done me a great service;" and then he went on to tell his friend how angry he had been with his uncle, and how he had even thought of going to law with him, but in this state of mind, having taken a copy of the “Enchiridion” with him, he had read the “rule" there given “ against anger and revenge," and it had done him so much good that he had held his tongue at dinner, and with the Archbishop's kind assistance after dinner, made up matters with his uncle.?
Apart from these cares and troubles, Colet's heart was naturally saddened with the thought of so soon again parting with his dearest friend, and, as he now could feel, his ablest fellow-worker. The two were often together. Colet sometimes would send for Erasmus to be his companion when he dined out, or when he had to make a journey.3 At these times Erasmus testifies that no one could be more cheerful than Colet was. It was his habit always to take a book with him. His conversation often turned upon religious subjects, and though in public he was prudently reserved and cautious in what he said, at these times to his bosom friend he most freely spoke out his real sentiments.
On one occasion Colet and Erasmus paid a visit together to the shrine of St. Thomas-à-Becket. Going on pilgrimage was now the fashionable thing. Admirals and soldiers who had narrowly escaped in the war went to the shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham to fulfil the vows they had made whilst their lives were in peril. Even Queen Catherine had been to invoke the Virgin's aid upon her husband's French campaign, and to return thanks for the victory (1) Brewer, 4336. Eras., Epist. cxv. (2) Knight's Life of Colet, 247.
(3) Eras., Justo Jono. Eras. op. iii. 457, A.
over the Scots. Erasmus had also paid a visit to Walsingham from Cambridge in a satirical and sceptical mood, and had returned convinced of the absurdity of the whole thing, doubting the genuineness of the relics, and ridiculing the credulity of pilgrims. And now it seems that before leaving England he had a desire to pay a similar visit to the rival shrine of St. Thomas-a-Becket.
The same colloquy in which he describes his visit to Walsingham enables us to picture the two friends on this occasion threading the narrow rustic lanes of Kent on horseback, making the best of their way to Canterbury.
“As they approach the city the outline of the cathedral church rises imposingly above all surrounding objects. Its two towers seem to stand, as it were, bidding welcome to approaching pilgrims. The sound of its bells rolls through the country far and wide in melodious peals. At length they reach the city, and, armed with a letter of introduction from Archbishop Warham, enter the spacious nave of the cathedral. This is open to the public, and beyond its own vastness and solemn grandeur presents little of mark, save that they notice the Gospel of Nicodemus among other books affixed to the columns, and here and there sepulchral monuments of the nameless dead. A vaulted passage under the steps ascending to the iron grating of the choir, brings them into the north side of the church. Here they are shown a plain ancient wooden altar of the Virgin, whereupon is exhibited the point of the dagger with which St. Thomas's brain was pierced at the time of his murder, and whose sacred rust pilgrims are expected most devoutly to kiss. In the vault below they are next shown the martyr's skull covered with silver, save that the place where the dagger pierced it is left bare for inspection: also the hair shirt and girdle with which the saint was wont to mortify his flesh. Thence they are taken into the choir to behold its treasures—bones without end; skulls, jaw-bones, teeth, hands, fingers, arms to all which the pilgrim's kiss is duly expected.
“ But Colet having had about enough of this, begins to show evident tokens of dislike to kiss any more. Whereupon the verger piously shuts up the rest of his treasures from the gaze of the careless and profane. The high altar and its load of costly ornaments next claim attention; after which they pass into the vestry, where is preserved the foot of St. Thomas, surrounded by a wonderful display of silk vestments and golden candlesticks. Thence they are conducted up a flight of steps into a chapel behind the high altar, and shown the face of the saint set in gold and jewels. Here, again, Colet breaks in upon the dumb show with awkward bluntness. He asks the guide whether St. Thomas-a-Becket when he lived was not very kind to the poor? The verger assented. "Nor can he have changed his mind on this point, I should think,' continues Colet, “unless it be for the better.' The verger nods a sign of approbation. Whereupon Colet submits the query whether the saint, having been so liberal to the poor when a poor man himself, would not now rather permit them to help themselves to some of his vast riches in relief of their many necessities, than let them so often be tempted into sin by their need? And the guide still listening in silence, Colet in his earnest way proceeds boldly to assert his own firm conviction that this most holy man would be even delighted that now that he is dead these riches of his should go to lighten the poor man's load of poverty, rather than be hoarded up here. At which sacrilegious remark of Colet's the verger, contracting his brow and pouting his lips, looks upon his visitors with a wondering stare out of his gorgon eyes, and doubtless would have made short work with them were it not that he knows they have come with the archbishop's introduction. Erasmus throws in a few pacifying words and pieces of coin, and the two friends pass on to inspect, under the escort now of the prior himself, the rest of the riches and the relics of the place. All again proceeds smoothly till a chest is opened containing the rags on which the saint, when in the flesh, was accustomed to wipe his nose and the sweat from his brow. The prior, knowing the position and dignity of Colet, and wishing to do him becoming honour, graciously offers him as a present of untold value one of these rags ! Colet, breaking through all rules of politeness, takes up the rag between the tips of his fingers with the most fastidious air, and a disdainful chuckle, and then lays it down again in evident disgust. The prior, not choosing to take notice of Colet's profanity, abruptly shuts up the chest and politely invites them to partnke of some refreshment. After which the two friends again remount their horses, and make the best of their way back to London. Their way lies through a narrow lane, worn deep by traffic and weather, and with a high bank on either side. Colet rides to the left of the road. Presently an old mendicant monk comes out of a cottage on Colet's side of the way, and proceeds to sprinkle him with holy water. Though not in the best of tempers, Colet submits to this annoyance without quite losing it. But when the old mendicant next presents to him the upper leather of an old shoe for his kiss, Colet abruptly demands what he wants with him.
The old man replies that the relic is a piece of St. Thomas's shoe! This is more than Colet knows how to put up with. "What!' he says passionately, turning to Erasmus, 'do these fools want us to kiss the shoes of every good man ? They pick out the filthiest things they can find, and ask us to kiss them.' Erasmus, to counteract the effect of such a remark upon the mind of the astonished mendicant, gives him a trifle, and the pilgrims pass on their journey discussing the difficult question how abuses such as they have witnessed to-day are to be remedied. Colet cannot restrain his indignant feelings, but Erasmus urges that a rough or sudden remedy might be worse than the disease. Their superstitions must, he thinks, be tolerated until an opportunity arises of correcting them without creating disorder."
There can be little doubt that the graphic picture of which the above is only a rapid sketch was drawn from actual recollections, and described the real feelings of Erasmus and his bolder friend. Little did the two friends dream, as they rode back to town debating these questions, how soon they would find a final solution. Men's faith was then so strong and implicit in “Our Lady of Walsingham,” that kings and queens were making pilgrimage to her shrine, and the common people, as they gazed at night upon the "milky way,” believed that it was the starry pathway marked out by heaven to direct pilgrims to the place where the milk of the Holy Virgin was preserved, and called it “the Walsingham way." Little did they dream that in another five-and-twenty years the canons would be convicted of forging relics and feigning miracles, and the far-famed image of the Virgin dragged to Chelsea by royal order to be there publicly burned.
Then pilgrims were flocking to Canterbury in crowds to adore the relics and to admire the riches of St. Thomas's shrine--as little did they dream that in five-and twenty year's St. Thomas's bones would have shared the fiery fate of the image of the Virgin, and the gold and jewellery of St. Thomas's shrine carried off in chests upon the shoulders of eight stout men, and cast without remorso into the royal exchequer.
7. MORE IN TROUBLE AGAIN (1512-14). In closing this chapter it may perhaps be remarked that little has been heard of More during these the first years of his return to public life. The fact is that he has been too busy to write many
even to Erasmus. He had been rapidly drawn into the vortex of public business. Soon after the accession of Henry VIII. he was elected under-sheriff of London, and every Thursday he has had this judicial office to fulfil. His private practice at the bar has also rapidly increased, and drawn largely on his time. When Erasmus writes to know what he is doing and why he does not write, the answer is that More is constantly closeted with the Lord Chancellor, engaged in grave business,"i
business,” and would write if he could. And were we to lift the veil from his domestic life we should find the dark shadow of sorrow cast upon his bright home in Bucklersbury. His three little daughters watch and tend a little infant brother now. And four motherless children nestle round their widowed father's knee. Margaret, the eldest daughter,—the child of five years old,-henceforth it will be her lot to fill her lost mother's place in her father's heart, and to be a mother to the little ones. And of her, too, we shall hear more by-and-by.
(1) Ammonius Erasino, Eras., Epist. cxxvii.; also Erasmus Ammonio, Eras., Epist. cxvi.
P.S—The most cursory examination of the notes to this and earlier chapters cannot fail to make apparent how greatly I have been indebted to Mr. Brewer's invaluable Calendar of the “ Letters, &c. of Henry VIII.,” both as regards the contemporary history, and also as a guide to the correct dates of the letters of Erasmus. The printed dates to these letters are, it is well known, not to be relied on, and although Mr. Brewer has rightly, “wherever sufficient evidence did not appear for adopting a new arrangement, retained the printed date howerer unsatisfactory” (see his Preface, p. xvi.), yet the corrections which he has found sufficient evidence to make are exceedingly valuable. It is right that I should state this, as it has been pointed out to me that the notes in which I have ventured, from the internal evidence of the letters, to suggest further corrections, might be construed into an imputation of incorrectness on Mr. Brewer's part, when the fault lies with Erasmus and his printers, or perhaps my own suggestions may be beside the mark. I should be sorry, indeed, to seem to disparage a work on which I have so unsparingly relied, and which, from the wideness of its range, and
, the accuracy of its details, is an invaluable contribution to the history of the early Tudor period.-F. S.