Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus

Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, Vol. 6: 1525–1527

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1615. To Margaret of Valois.

Opus Epistolarum p. 739.

N. p. 705: Lond. xx. 11: LB. 764.

  • Basle.
  • 28 September 1525.

[The year-date is amply confirmed by the contents.

Margaret (11 April 1492–21 Dec. 1549) of Valois, the gifted sister and counsellor of Francis i, was now one of the foremost figures in France. She had been carefully educated by her mother, Louise of Savoy (Ep. 1692. 56n); and besides knowing Latin, Italian and Spanish well, had acquired some Greek and Hebrew. By 1521 she had come under the influence of Wm. Briçonnet and the men he gathered round him at Meaux (cf. l. 22n); and the French Reformers were encouraged to hope that she would join them. She did her utmost to protect Berquin (see Ep. 925. 13n); and was herself attacked by the Sorbonne in 1533 (cf. Ep. 1571 introd.), on the charge of unorthodoxy in her Miroir de l'âme pécheresse, first published in 1531. But the final step of union with the Reformers she never took; seemingly from the sense that it would inevitably part her from her beloved brother the King.

pg 175Beside patronage of men of letters she herself wrote much, in poetry and prose; the most notable of her works being the Miroir, a religious poem, and the Heptameron, a collection of stories resembling Boccaccio. The Miroir was translated into English c. 31 Dec. 1544 by the Princess Elizabeth, then a girl of 11 (Bodl. MS. Cherry 36; reproduced in facsimile by P. W. Ames, 1897): printed by Bale with the title A godly medytacyon of the Christen sowle, ⟨? Marburg, H. Luft⟩, April 1548. Two volumes of Margaretfs letters were edited in 1841–2 by F. Génin, for the Soc. de l'histoire de France.

The present letter, sent to follow her to Spain (ll. 4–5, 50–1), evidently was intended to open a correspondence. It failed of its object; for Margaret seems to have made no reply beyond a formal message of greeting. Two years later Erasmus wrote again (Ep. 1854); but with no more success—cf. also his letter to P. Castellanus, 7 Sept. 1529 (Berne MS.). Herminjard (v, p. 379) suggests that Margaret had little opinion of him (cf. Herminjard 102nn). Such feeling might have arisen from his position as an adherent of Charles v, or from the influence upon her of Farel and other enthusiasts. Cl. Cantiuncula (Ep. 852. 80n), who had some weight at the French court (cf. Epp. 1375, 1403), dedicated to her a French translation of Erasmus' Exomologesis (Ep. 1426) in 1524; but there is no indication that she appreciated the attention.]

erasmvs roterod. margaretae reginae navarrae s. d.

Editor’s Note1Non semel adhortati sunt me litteris suis tuarum virtutum 2admiratores, vt in hac malorum procella, consolandi gratia nonnihil 3scriberem celsitudini tuae. Itaque quum hic qui has perfert, vir 4doctus et nobilis, praeter omnem spem esset oblatus qui recta peteret 5Hispanias, sed mox hinc auolaturus, apud me dubitaui vtrum 6satius esset, silere prorsus aut breuem et inconditam epistolam 7mittere. Vicit hunc pudorem ac trepidationem singularis quidam 8meus in te affectus. Iam pridem enim et admiratus sum et amaui 9tot praeclara Dei dona in te, prudentiam vel philosopho dignam, 10castimoniam, temperantiam, pietatem, infractum animi robur, et 11mirum quendam rerum omnium fluxarum contemptum. Quis 12enim haec non suspiciat in tanti Regis sorore, quae vix reperias in 13sacerdotibus ac monachis? Haec nequaquam commemorarem, 14nisi certum scirem te nihil horum tuis viribus tribuere, sed laudem 15omnem transscribere Domino bonorum omnium largitori. Proinde 16magis gratulandi studio quam consolandi sumpsimus hanc operam. 17Ingentem esse calamitatem fateor; sed nihil est tam atrox in rebus 18humanis quod deiiciat animum vere innitentem saxo illi immobili, 19quod est Christus Iesus.

20Si roges vnde te norim qui nunquam viderim, ex depicta tuae 21celsitudinis imagine compluribus es nota quibus nunquam contigit Editor’s Note22videre te: at mihi tuum animum viri probi et eruditi multo expres- 23sius suis litteris depinxerunt, quam vllus pictor colorum fucis cor- 24poris effigiem possit exprimere. De fide vero mea nihil est quod pg 17625dubites. Vt laudo proboque notam, ita non assentor potenti; 26nihil enim ambio praeter amorem mutuum. Regem Christianissi- 27mum iam pridem redamabam verius quam amabam, quem ille 28vltro tot modis ad amandum prouoeauit. Talem heroinam, talem 29viraginem non possum non amare in Domino. Caesari non modo 30studium verum etiam pietatem debeo, nec id vno nomine; primum 31quod sub illius ditione natus, deinde quod illi iam annis aliquot 32sim iuratus consiliarius. Verum vtinam istam victoriam potius 33e Turcis retulisset! Quanta fuisset orbis felicitas, si duo primarii 34orbis monarchae concordibus animis iunxissent arma sua in per- 35duelliones ditionis Christianae! Ardentissimis votis id optaba- 36mus; sed obstiterunt, opinor, hominum peccata, quo minus Deus 37nos eo fauore dignaretur.

38Hactenus non potui toto pectore Caesari meo gratulari victoriam 39quantumuis magnificam; sed bona spes est breui futurum vt hunc 40fatalem tumultum, vndecunque accidit, non minus vobis vestraeque 41Galliae gratulemur quam Caesari. Talis artifex est ille qui res 42hominum arcanis quibusdam consiliis moderatur, neque raro morta- 43lium mala iam rebus deploratis, subito vertit in laetissimos exitus. 44Hanc mihi spem praebet in primis exorabilis Dei clementia, quem 45iam arbitror nobis factum esse propitium; deinde partim Caesaris 46ingenium, cuius mansuetudo vel aequat vel superat ipsam fortunae 47magnitudinem, partim Christianiss. Regis mira dexteritas. Imo eon- 48fido iam inter eos solidam et adamantinam concordiam initam esse.

Editor’s Note49Confirmarunt hanc spem meam litterae celsitudinis tuae, quas Editor’s Note50ad illustrem Poloniae baronem Ioannem a Lasco miseras, in Editor’s Note51Hispaniam adornans profectionem. Nam is mecum in vnis aedibus 52viuit; quicum mihi iure amicitiae communia omnia. Declarabant 53enim te non solum infracto animo ferre fatorum iniquitatem, 54verum etiam verbis quibusdam bene ominantibus recreabant 55sollicitudinem nostram. Ea spes si nos non fefellerit, tum non 56modo Caesari et vobis sed vniuerso orbi Christiano gratulabimur.

57Hic erat mihi duplici nomine petenda venia, primum quod vltro 58scribere sum ausus tam potenti dominae, deinde quod ex tempore, 59quod vix sibi permittit plebeius amicus erga amicum. Verum hunc 60omnem scrupum excussit animo concepta de tui pectoris inaudita 61humanitate fiducia. Seruet te Dominus Iesus et incolumem et 62omnibus vere bonis florentem in ipso.

63Datum Basileae Pridie Michaêlis. Anno Millesimo quingen- 64tesimo vigesimo quinto.

Notes Settings

Notes

Editor’s Note
tit. reginae navarrae] This title must have been added at the time of printing. Margaret was now the newly widowed Duchess of Alençon; her first husband, Duke Charles, whom she had married in 1509, having died of pleurisy at Lyons 11 April 1525, after the retreat from the disastrous battle at Pavia. Her second marriage with Henry d'Albret, Count of Béarn and dispossessed King of Navarre, was celebrated on 24 Jan. 1527; and her equally famous daughter, Jeanne d'Albret, was born 7 Jan. 1528.
Editor’s Note
1. adhortati sunt] Probably the group of friends mentioned again in Ep. 1711. 1.
Editor’s Note
22. viri probi] Perhaps some of W. Briçonnetfs circle at Meaux; see Ep. 1407. For her correspondence with Briçonnet, which begins in 1521, see Herminjard. Faber Stapulensis was one of her protégés, and died in her castle at Nérac, near Agen in Guienne. Roussel was advanced to Oleron through her influence.
Editor’s Note
49. litterae] Not extant.
Editor’s Note
50–1. in Hispaniam] See Ep. 1599. 17–18n.
Editor’s Note
51. is mecum] See Epp. 1593. 133n, 1622. 4n.
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