Front Page Titles (by Subject) Erasmus of Rotterdam, OF THE Method of Study, TO CHRISTIANUS of LUBECK. - The Colloquies vol. 2
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
Erasmus of Rotterdam, OF THE Method of Study, TO CHRISTIANUS of LUBECK. - Desiderius Erasmus, The Colloquies vol. 2 
The Colloquies of Erasmus. Translated by Nathan Bailey. Edited with Notes, by the Rev. E. Johnson, M.A. (London: Reeves and Turner, 1878). Vol. 2.
Part of: The Colloquies 2 vols.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Erasmus of Rotterdam, OF THE Method of Study, TO CHRISTIANUS of LUBECK.
My special Friend Christian,
MAKING no doubt but that you have an ardent Desire of Literature, I thought you stood in no Need of Exhortation; but only a Guide to direct you in the Journey you have already enter’d upon: And that I look’d upon as my Duty to be, to you, the most nearly ally’d to me, and engaging; that is to say, to acquaint you with the Steps that I myself took, even from a Child: Which if you shall accept as heartily as I communicate, I trust I shall neither repent me of giving Directions, nor you of observing them. Let it be your first Care to chuse you a Master, who is a Man of Learning; for it cannot be, that one that is unlearned himself can render another learned. As soon as you have gotten such an one, endeavour all you can to engage him to treat you with the Affection of a Father, and yourself to act towards him with the Affection of a Son. And indeed, Reason ought to induce us to consider, that we owe more to those, from whom we receive the Way of living well, than to those to whom we owe our first Living in the World; and that a mutual Affection is of so great Moment to Learning, that it will be to no Purpose to have a Teacher, if he be not your Friend too. In the next Place, hear him attentively and assiduously. The Genius of Learners is often spoil’d by too much Contention. Assiduity holds out the longer, being moderate, and by daily Augmentations grows to a Heap larger than can be thought. There is nothing more pernicious than to be glutted with any Thing; and so likewise with Learning. And therefore an immoderate pressing on to Learning is sometimes to be relax’d; and Divertisements are to be intermix’d: But then they should be such as are becoming a Gentleman, and Student, and not much different from the Studies themselves. Nay, there ought to be a continual Pleasure in the very midst of Studies, that it may appear to us rather a Pastime than a Labour; for nothing will be of long Duration, that does not affect the Mind of the Doer with some Sort of Pleasure. It is the utmost Madness to learn that which must be unlearned again. Think that you ought to do the same by your Genius, that Physicians are wont to do in preserving the Stomach. Take Care that you don’t oppress your Genius by Food, that is either noxious, or too much of it; both of them are equally offensive. Let alone Ebrardus, Catholicon, Brachylogus, and the rest of these Sort of Authors, all whose Names I neither can mention, nor is it worth while so to do, to others who take a Pleasure to learn Barbarism with an immense Labour. At the first it is no great Matter how much you Learn; but how well you learn it. And now take a Direction how you may not only learn well, but easily too; for the right Method of Art qualifies the Artist to perform his Work not only well and expeditiously, but easily too. Divide the Day into Tasks, as we read Pliny the Second, and Pope Pius the Great did, Men worthy to be remember’d by all Men. In the first Part of it, which is the chief Thing of all, hear the Master interpret, not only attentively, but with a Sort of Greediness, not being content to follow him in his Dissertations with a slow Pace, but striving to out-strip him a little. Fix all his Sayings in your Memory, and commit the most material of them to Writing, the faithful Keeper of Words. And be sure to take Care not to rely upon them, as that ridiculous rich Man that Seneca speaks of did, who had form’d a Notion, that whatsoever of Literature any of his Servants had, was his own. By no Means have your Study furnish’d with learned Books, and be unlearned yourself. Don’t suffer what you hear to slip out of your Memory, but recite it either with yourself, or to other Persons. Nor let this suffice you, but set apart some certain Time for Meditation; which one Thing as St. Aurelius writes does most notably conduce to assist both Wit and Memory. An Engagement and combating of Wits does in an extraordinary Manner both shew the Strength of Genius’s, rouzes them, and augments them. If you are in Doubt of any Thing, don’t be asham’d to ask; or if you have committed an Error, to be corrected. Avoid late and unseasonable Studies, for they murder Wit, and are very prejudicial to Health. The Muses love the Morning, and that is a fit Time for Study. After you have din’d, either divert yourself at some Exercise, or take a Walk, and discourse merrily, and Study between whiles. As for Diet, eat only as much as shall be sufficient to preserve Health, and not as much or more than the Appetite may crave. Before Supper, take a little Walk, and do the same after Supper. A little before you go to sleep read something that is exquisite, and worth remembring; and contemplate upon it till you fall asleep; and when you awake in the Morning, call yourself to an Account for it. Always keep this Sentence of Pliny’s in your Mind, All that Time is lost that you don’t bestow on Study. Think upon this, that there is nothing more fleeting than Youth, which, when once it is past, can never be recall’d. But now I begin to be an Exhorter, when I promis’d to be a Director. My sweet Christian, follow this Method, or a better, if you can; and so farewell.
NOTES. VOL. II.
robert roberts, printer, boston, lincolnshire.
You don’t believe that Dolphins carry Men on their Backs46
As Horace says, etc.67
That every Parish Priest every Year purchase, etc.74
Never was any Man so nettled103
I will make a better Batchelor than you, of a Bean-Stalk103
The Habit of a Beguin107
There’s no catching old Birds with Chaff107
They had both of them their Pipes open113
Bedlam rather than a Banquet127
I have read in Horace that they ought not to exceed five128
The old Proverb, A hearty Welcome is the best Cheer128
When you perceive any dispos’d to be quarrelsome130
A greater Fool than Ben of the Minories134
The Wooden Horse138
Had as good keep his Breath to cool his Porridge144
The Mange . . . . has a great many Names155
Seven liberal Sciences taught in the Schools158
Every Boar to brim his Sow160
Let there be an Act of Parliament, that the same Person shan’t be a Barber and a Surgeon too165
The author of the above distich is said to have been no less a personage than the Prince of Darkness. If so, he may be a “gentleman” (Shakesp.) but hardly a scholar. The story runs that jolly St. Martin, on his way to Rome on foot was taunted by the devil on his poor means of conveyance; whereupon the bishop turned him into a mule, mounted, and urged him on by making the sign of the Cross. The baffled spirit cried out as above, the sense being interpreted as follows: “Cross, cross thyself: unreasonably dost thou lay hands on me and vex me; soon by my exertions shalt thou reach Rome, the object of thy desire.” Another example of sotadics or palindromes is:
I nubbled him so well favouredly with my right, that you could see no Eyes he had for the Swellings175
Don’t reckon your Chickens before they be hatch’d202
That of Hesiod, ’Tis too late to spare when all is spent217
Pliny says, All Life is one continued Watching, etc.217
Sleep call’d by Homer, the Cousin-German of Death217
The Performance, which is to be called so (i.e. holy) in the sense in which Virgil calls Avarice so232
St. Francis and the Sisterhood of little Birds232
The Lesbian Rule244
That saying of Theocritus, etc.256
Pascitur in vivis livor, post fata quiescit256
Virtue is conversant in Difficulties, as old Hesiod taught before the Peripatetics262
The Mess . . . . that Melchisedek offer’d to Abraham272
The Apologist concerning a Crab-fish, etc.303
The Lake Asphaltitis323
The Souls of Men, that Virgil calls Sparks of pure Æther325
It is commonly the Case of Farmers to be at Uncertainty as to the Ends of Lands327
If we will speak the Truth, none are greater Epicureans than those Christians that live a pious Life327
A Sentence in Plautus that has more Wisdom in it, than all the Paradoxes of the Stoics328
A certain sort of Flax, which being put into the fire is not burnt, but shines brighter328
Syrus in the Comedy, after he had slept away his Debauch, spoke sober Things331
The Pox, which by Way of Extenuation they call the Common-Garden Gout334
Do they not epicurize gloriously? Yes, if coming often to the Powdering-Tub be doing so334
In some cases, like Momuses, some murmur against the Workman, etc.340
That adorable Prince of Christian Philosophers342
Tantalus and the Stone343
That Cacus whom Virgil speaks of350
His cave was in Italy. He is elsewhere represented as a three-headed monster.
I believe you’d make the very Post and Pillars burst with your braggadochia talking350