Since this book was written, years ago, the works of Dean Colet have one after another been placed within reach of the public, ably edited by my friend Mr. Lupton, and now I understand that a biography by the same competent hand is also in the press.
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Under these circumstances I have had some hesitation in allowing a Third Edition to be printed. I have yielded, however, to Mr. Lupton’s pleading that this history of the fellow-work of the three friends, imperfect as it always was, and antiquated as it has now become, may live a little longer.
The Hermitage, Hitchin: March 8, 1887.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
Two circumstances have enabled me to make this Second Edition more complete, and I trust more correct, than its predecessor.
First: the remarkable discovery by Mr. W. Aldis Wright, on the blank leaves of a MS. in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, of an apparently contemporary family register recording, inter alia, the date of the marriage of Sir Thomas More’s parents, and of the birth of Sir Thomas More himself (see Appendix C), has given the clue, so long sought for in vain, to the chronology of More’s early life. It has also made it needful to alter slightly the title of this work.
Secondly: the interesting MSS. of Colet’s, on the ‘Hierarchies of Dionysius,’ found by Mr. Lupton in the library of St. Paul’s School, and recently published by him with a translation and valuable introduction,[Pg viii] have supplied a missing link in the chain of Colet’s mental history, which has thrown much fresh light, as well upon his connection with the Neo-Platonists of Florence, as upon the position already taken by him at Oxford, before the arrival of Erasmus.
The greater part of the First Edition was already in the hands of the public, when I became aware of the importance of this newly discovered information; but, in October last, I withdrew the remaining copies from sale, as it seemed to me that it would hardly be fair, under the circumstances, to allow them to pass out of my hands. They have since been destroyed.
In publishing this revised and enlarged edition, I wish especially to tender my thanks to Mr. Lupton for his invaluable assistance in its revision, and for the free use he has throughout allowed me to make of the results of his own researches.
I have also to thank the Librarian of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, for the loan of a beautiful copy of Colet’s MS. on ‘I. Corinthians;’ and Mr. Bradshaw, for kindly obtaining for me a transcript of the MS. on ‘Romans’ in the University Library.
At Mr. Bradshaw’s suggestion I have added, in the Appendix, a catalogue of the early editions of the works of Erasmus in my collection. It will at least serve as evidence of the wide circulation obtained by these works during the lifetime of their author.
Hitchin: May 10, 1869.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
Some portions of this History were published in a somewhat condensed form in the course of last year in the ‘Fortnightly Review,’ and I have to thank the Editor for the permission to withdraw further portions, although already in type, in order that the publication of this volume might not be delayed.
Having regard to the extreme inaccuracy of the dates of the letters of Erasmus, the conflicting nature of the evidence relating to the chronology of More’s early life, and the scantiness of the materials for anything like a continuous biography of Colet, I should have undertaken a difficult task had I attempted in this volume, even so far as it goes, to give anything approaching to an exhaustive biography of Colet, Erasmus, and More. But my object has not been to[Pg x] write the biography of any one of them. I have rather endeavoured to trace their joint-history and to point out the character of their fellow-work. And with regard to the latter the evidence is so full, so various, and so consistent as to leave, I think, little room for misapprehension, either as to whether their work was indeed fellow-work, or as to the general spirit and scope of the work itself.
I gladly take this opportunity of tendering my best thanks to those who have aided me in this undertaking.
My warmest thanks are due to the Rev. J. S. Brewer, M.A., as well for the invaluable aid afforded by his Calendars of the Letters, &c. of Henry VIII., and for the loan of the proof-sheets of the forthcoming volume, as for the revision of the greater part of my translations; also to Mr. Gairdner for his ever ready assistance at the Public Record Office; to Dr. Edward Boehmer, of the University of Halle, for his aid in the collection of many of the early editions of works of Erasmus quoted in this volume; to the Senate and the late Librarian of the Cambridge University Library for the loan of the volume of MSS. marked Gg. 4, 26; and to Mr. Henry Bradshaw, of King’s College, Cambridge, for much valuable assistance, most courteously rendered, in the examination of this and other manuscripts at Cambridge. I have also to thank the Rev. J. H. Lupton, of St. Paul’s School, for the description given in Appendix C. of a manuscript of Colet’s in the Library of St. Paul’s School which I had overlooked,[Pg xi] and which I am happy to find is likely soon to be printed by him.
In conclusion, I cannot refrain from adding a tribute of affectionate regard for the memory of two of my friends—the late Mr. William Tanner of Bristol, and the late Mr. B. B. Wiffen of Woburn—of whose interest in the progress of this work I have received many proofs, and of whose kindly criticism I have gratefully availed myself.
Hitchin: March 30, 1867.