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Erasmus Desiderius

Erasmus, Desiderius (1467-1536), a noted Low Country scholar, born at Rotterdam, his father being one Gerard of Gouda, and his mother the daughter of a physician. The pathetic history of his parents has been well set forth by Charles Reade in his novel The Cloister and the Hearth. Beginning as a choir-boy of Utrecht cathedral, he afterwards went to school at Deventer, where he made marvellous progress. When he was 14, his parents being dead, be entered a monastery, and, against his inclination, entered the order at 17, soon after, however, going to Paris to complete his studies. He there gave lessons to Englishmen, to Lord Mountjoy among others, and this nobleman gave him a pension. He visited England, and then returned to Paris, and went to Italy, becoming a Doctor of Theology at Bologna. Having received from the Pope a dispensation from his monastic vows he went to Venice, Padua, and Rome, and finally yielding to the wishes of his English friends, he came to that country, being high in favour with Henry VIII., and enjoying the friendship of the greatest men of the time, notably Dean Colet and. Sir Thomas More. He lectured on Greek in Oxford for a time, and then travelled in Germany and the Low Countries, and finally went to Basel, where his works were published, and where he died. His tomb still exists in the Calvinist church there. Besides being one of the most learned men of his age, he had great wit, prudence, and knowledge of the world, and his tastes led him to prefer a literary life to the turmoil of controversy or office, and his wisdom made the bigotry of the time hateful to him. His love of truth made him see more than one side of the questions that agitated the time, and exposed him to the charge of indifference. He edited many classics, and an edition of the Greek Testament, besides writings philological and theological. His Praise of Folly is well known, and extracts from his Colloquies have been used as school texts.