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youth in the most elegant literature." And the high eulogium of Erasmus on the great cardinal is, that "he recalled to his country the three learned languages, without which all learning is lame."
A violent struggle, however, was for some time maintained against these innovations by the generality of those who had been educated in the old system, and by the always numerous and powerful host of the enemies and mistrusters of all innovation, whether from self-interest or other motives. Colet, in a letter to Erasmus, relates that one of the prelates of the church, esteemed among the most eminent for his learning and gravity, had, in a great public assembly, censured him in the severest terms for suffering the Latin poets to be taught in his new seminary, which on that account he styled a house of idolatry. This last expression would almost warrant us in suspecting that the prelate, whose name is not mentioned, was one of those inclined to the new opinions in religion: and at this time the new learning was probably rather distasteful than otherwise to that class of persons, zealously patronised as it was by Fox, Wolsey, and others, the heads of the party attached to the ancient faith. A few years afterwards a change took place in this respect; the reformers in religion became also the chief supporters of the reformation in learning, as was fit and natural both from the sameness in the general character and direction of the two movements, and also for an especial reason, which operated with very powerful effect. This was the surpassing importance speedily acquired in the contest between the two religions by the great principle on which the Reformers took their stand, of the omnipotence of the authority of the
Scriptures in regard to all the points in debate between them and their opponents. Not custom or tradition, not the decrees of popes or councils, not even the Latin Vulgate translation, but the original text of the Greek New Testament alone necessarily became, as soon as this principle was proclaimed, the grand ultimate criterion with them for the trial and decision of all doubts and disputes, and the armoury from which they drew their chief weapons both of defence and of assault. At first, it is true, this view does not appear to have been generally taken either by the one party or the other. The first editions of the Greek Testament that were given to the world were that contained in the Complutensian Polyglot, the magnificent present to literature of Cardinal Ximenes, printed in 1514, but not published till 1522, and that of Erasmus, which appeared in 1516, both of which may be said to have proceeded from the bosom of the ancient church. Even from the first, however, many of the clergy, though principally rather from their extreme ignorance and illiteracy than from any fears they entertained of its unsettling people's faith, raised a considerable outcry against the New Testament of Erasmus; they seem to have seriously believed that the book was an invention of his own, and that he was attempting to establish a new religion. But the opposition to the Greek Scriptures, and to Greek literature generally, assumed a much more decided character when it was seen what use the friends of the new opinions in religion made of both, and how commonly an inclination in favour of the said new opinions went along with the cultivation of the new language. Erasmus for some time attempted to expound the Greek Grammar of Chryso
loras in the public schools at Cambridge; but his lectures were nearly unattended, and a storm of clamour was raised against him on all hands. His New Testament was actually proscribed by the authorities of the University, and a severe fine was denounced against any member who should be detected in having the book in his possession. Both in England and throughout Europe the universities were now generally divided into Greeks and Trojans; the latter class, who were those opposed to the new learning, usually comprehending all the monks and other most bigoted partisans of the old faith.*
Although, however, the revolt of Luther and his followers against the authority of Rome and many of the established doctrines in religion thus incidentally aided for a time the study and diffusion of classical scholarship, neither the subsequent progress of the Reformation in England nor its ultimate establishment operated with a favourable effect in the first instance upon the state of the universities or the general interests of learning. Henry VIII. himself, "from his natural liveliness of temper and love of novelty," as Warton puts it, or, as perhaps it might be more correctly expressed, from mere accident or caprice, was favourably disposed to the new studies, and his authority and influence were of considerable use in supporting them at first against their numerous and powerful opponents. Erasmus relates that, in 1519, when one of the university preachers at Oxford had harangued with great violence against the study of the Scriptures in their original languages,
*The reader will recollect Addison's humorous notices of the modern Greeks and Trojans, in the Spectator.' Nos. 239 and 245.
Henry, who happened to be resident at the time at the neighbouring royal manor of Woodstock, and had received an account of the affair from his secretary, the learned Richard Pace, and Sir Thomas More, issued an order commanding that the said study of the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures should not only be permitted for the future, but made an indispensable branch of the course of academical instruction. Some time after, one of the royal chaplains, preaching at court, having attacked the new Greek learning, was, after his sermon, commanded by the king to maintain his opinions in a solemn disputation with More, by whose wit and learning of course he was very speedily vanquished, and forced to make a humiliating admission of his errors and ignorance: he at last declared that he was now better reconciled to the Greek tongue, inasmuch as he found that it was derived from the Hebrew; but, although he fell upon his knees and begged pardon for any offence he had given, Henry dismissed him with a command that he should never again presume to preach before him. One of the first causes, however, although it was only of temporary operation, that interrupted the progress of classical learning at the universities, has been thought to have been the stir excited throughout Christendom by the question of Henry's divorce from Queen Katherine. "The legality of this violent measure," observes Warton, "being agitated with much deliberation and solemnity, wholly engrossed the attention of many able philologists, whose genius and acquisitions were destined to a much nobler employment, and tended to revive for a time the frivolous subtleties of casuistry and theology." Then, the still more eager and widely extended doctrinal dis
cussions to which the progress of the Reformation itself gave rise, came to operate over a much longer period with a similar effect. In this universal storm of polemics, "the profound investigations of Aquinas," continues Warton, 66 once more triumphed over the graces of the Ciceronian urbanity; and endless volumes were written on the expediency of auricular confession, and the existence of purgatory. Thus the cause of polite literature was for a while abandoned; while the noblest abilities of Europe were wasted in theological speculation, and absorbed in the abyss of controversy." Another great temporary check was now also given, Warton conceives, to the cause of the progress and diffusion of sound learning in England by the dissolution of the monasteries. "These seminaries,” he observes, "though they were in a general view the nurseries of illiterate indolence, and undoubtedly deserved to be suppressed under proper restrictions, contained invitations and opportunities to studious leisure and literary pursuits. On this event, therefore, a visible revolution and decline in the national state of learning succeeded. Most of the youth of the kingdom betook themselves to mechanical or other illiberal employments, the profession of letters being now supposed to be without support or reward. By the abolition of the religious houses, many towns and their adjacent villages were utterly deprived of their only means of instruction. At the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth, Williams, Speaker of the House of Commons, complained to her majesty, that more than an hundred flourishing schools were destroyed in the demolition of the monasteries, and that ignorance had prevailed ever since. Provincial ignorance, at least, became universal, in consequence of