Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Erasmus Imbued

Erasmus to Cornelius*

[undated, c. 1487?]

Epistle 28 [Merula: Vita Erasmi, 1607, p. 209; Erasmi Epistolae, Londini, 1642, xxxi, 42]

There are two things, according to Cicero, which more than anything else produce intellectual languor, leisure and solitude; and both these conditions are ours. Solitude is required by this very scheme of our life. And leisure is not likely to be wanting, when we see letters, which formerly bred for their votaries the greatest gain as well as glory, are now a loss and a disgrace to those who pursue them. For it is come to this, that the more imbued with letters a man is, the more ridiculous and wretched a being he becomes. Hence, my Cornelius, I have seen no reason why I should choose to waste my life to no purpose in literary study, and have therefore for some time quite turned my attention away from letters. Besides those two things, I have had in addition imperfect health, which itself is wont not only to lessen, but even to quench the ardour of the mind. Nevertheless, since I have no other purpose in life so settled as that of gratifying and serving you in every possible way, as indeed I am most bound to to in return for the favours you have heaped upon me, I have taken up this work again for your sake, and have finished with all possible pains the Oration for which you have asked; taking great care to mark the oratorical divisions, and what character and colour is proper to each, so that you in the first place may have your wish fulfilled, and that the learned may be pleased with our labour, the illiterate may see and envy, the Sciolist and boaster may blush, and the ordinary reader may carry off some profit. * * * * Finally, my sweetest Cornelius, you will, I hope receive some help, or at any rate some pleasure, from the pains I have taken. In any case I shall have done my duty as a loyal friend. Farewell, and love me as you do.
[Desiderius Erasmus]

*Cornelius [Gerard] of Gouda

- from The Epistles of Erasmus, From the Earliest Letters to His Fifty-First Year, Arranged in Order of Time; translated from the Latin with notes and commentary by Francis Morgan Nichols (London: Longman's Green & Co., 1901) 73-74.

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