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and his methods "devait servir de charte p6dagogique non seulement pour St. But it is a defensible claim. Logically yes. 53. No. 1964 ). . "The Christian humanist Erasmus was one of the few men of his time who sensed the depths of resentment accumulating in women whose efforts to think about doctrine were not taken seriously by the clergy.K. Society and Culture in Early Modern France (Stanford: Stanford University Press. 124 ff. p.." There is.-C. says. as the title indicates. further. See ibid. 1 While we may shy away from so bold an assertion as this. Cordier. This point will be further documented in the course of this paper. 2For example.. 1975). 228-233. in fact no. 3Natalie Zemon Davis. with somewhat greater confidence. For plausibility is seldom a trustworthy guide to historical happenings. especially his views on marriage and divorce and the education of women. Sturm.. Erasmus' major educational works are all addressed to boys and to teachers of boys. it can be claimed. his principles of school and subject organization. 1971). that made women inferior "by nature" to men. 1978). writing of how women were discouraged from applying their minds to theology or divinity. pp. Paul's School ou meme pour la presque totalitb des Grammar schools de la Renaissance. I/2 85. R." See also Roland H. and his own good relations with a number of learned women. Bolgar's The ClasERASMUS sical Heritage and its Beneficiaries. pp. speaking of Erasmus' De ratione studii specifically. that Erasmus is the greatest man we come across in the history of education in the sixteenth century-no inconsiderable claim in itself for a century that produced Melanchthon. 76-77. The education of girls and women is not even mentioned in the De recta latini graecique sermonis pronuntiatione dialogus or the De con'(New York: Harper. The work that Gerald Strauss recently called his "pedagogical best-seller''4 is De pueris statim ac liberaliter instituendis declamatio and in it. for a treatment of Erasmus' feminism. 336. and the Jesuit Ratio studiorum. 4In Luther's House of Learning: Indoctrination of the Young in the German Reformation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. no reference to be found in Erasmus' writings to the physiological nonsense.3 Given these two claims we might logically expect that Erasmus would have been a powerful advocate for the education of women. Bainton. in her essay "Women on Top. 1969).2It may also be claimed that Erasmus was one of the most important champions of women's rights in his century." De ratione studii (Introduction). Sowards Wichita State University IS "THE GREATEST MAN we come across in the history of education!" This arresting statement is from R. 4 (1982) Erasmus and the Education of Women J. Margolin notes that his educational philosophy. Opera Omnia Erasmi Roterodami (Amsterdam: North Holland Publishing Co. mais aussi pour toutes les 6coles d'enseignement secondaire d'inspiration humaniste du xvie et du XVIIe siecles.Sixteenth Century Journal XIII. p. Erasmus of Christendom (New York: Scribners. J. it is boys and not girls who are to be liberally educated from an early age. hereafter cited as ASD. so prevalent at the time.
. almost as cultivated as her famous husband Federigo. 1981). (New York: New York University Press. "Learned Women of Early Modern Italy: Humanists and University Scholars.6 it was never considered by the humanist educa5There is a growing body of specialists' literature on such learned women. the student of Vittorino who was studying Greek at seven. in all his works where Erasmus addressed in any substantial way the matter of the education of women. N. And. Laura Cereta. The Renaissance Notion of Woman: A Study in the Fortunes of Scholasticism and Medical Science in European Intellectual Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cecilia Gonzaga. for example. Bainton. again as the title shows. See the bibliographies in the essays by Margaret L. and Albert Rabil. Labalme. 54-55 or Roland H. Even the important and influential little tract on good manners. 1980). stemming from the ancients. 301-304. Learning. They are the focus of this paper. and developed. Quattrocento Humanist (Binghamton. to whom Bruni addressed a tract on the study of literature.Y. and Power: Eleanora of Aragon and the Court of Ferrara" in Beyond Their Sex. is specifically addressed to young boys. pp. 0. Patricia H. King. Battista Malatesta. the other in a letter to the French scholar Guillaume Bud6 in 1521. The De ratione studii and the De copia were pre- pared. while some of them actually ruled their principalities in the absence of their husbands-sometimes quite competently as in the case of the duchess of Urbino or Eleanora of Aragon. The longer of the two passages occurs in the Chr7istiani matr7imonii institutio of 1526. Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies. "Women. p. whom Guarino praised." and P. they were well known. 52. 1980). ed. Women of the Reformation in Germany and Italy (Minneapolis: Augsburg. It derives rather from his summation of the complex tradition of humanist education. Paul's in London. King's bibliography in her essay.. largely in the fifteenth century. Battista Sforza the duchess of Urbino. and feminine civility is never mentioned. "Thwarted Ambitions: Six Learned Women of the Italian Renaissance. by the Italian humanists. dedicated to Queen Catherineof Aragon. 1971). There are only two places. while the examples of such ladies had certainly not been numerous.Vittoria Colonna. See also Margaret L. Gundersheimer. Kristeller." in Beyond Their Sex: Learned Women of the European Past.5These women were nearly all court figures. 11. the friend of Michelangelo and member of Cardinal Bembo's literary circle. respectively as a teacher's manual and a textbook. The learned lady had long been a feature of Italian humanist culture. 81-83. "Book-Lined Cells: Women and Humanism in the Early Italian Renaissance. the learned young letter-writer of Brescia. . And this is as true of the concept of women's education as of any other facet of the educational process." Soundings. duchess of Ferrara-. 106-116. Ian Maclean. Werner L. so far as I know. Laura Cereta. pp. for Colet's all-male school of St. the daughters and wives of Italian rulers. Jr. 6See. Yet. De civilitate morum puerilium. Ippolita Sforza. the great patroness of Neapolitan humanism.78 The Sixteenth CenturyJournal scribendis epistolis. 59 (1976). Erasmus' importanceas an educationalwriter does not derive from theoretical novelty or daring methodological innovation. even celebrated-Isotta Nogarola.
Erasmus and the Education of Women 79 tional writers that they should be given a political education. flatly states that "rhetoricin all its forms-public discussion."10 7De studiis et literis as translated in William H." the study of the ancient historians and orators-not as models of action but as models of style and sources of moral maxim-and the poets. like their husbands and brothers. Cecilia Gonzaga is encouraged by GregorioCorrer." Baldesar Castiglione. 1963 ). As William H. Bureau of Publications." Then he urges her to "create a man within the woman." What is for a woman "a subject peculiarly her own" and what should be the primary concern of her education. to "dismiss your beloved Virgil" and to "take up instead the Psalter. for example." except. Leonardo Bruni." This tradition sometimes touched the rather more reticent tradition of the education of women. Clearly."9 Without exception. the scandalous comic and satiric poets. in counseling Battista Malatesta. the Gospel" and to read the church fathers in preference to the humanist classics. Learning was simply to add erudition to those roles. 126. . they never went beyond the traditional roles of wife and mother. Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators (New York: Columbia University Teachers College. But there was an interwoven parallel tradition of respect for the worth and dignity of women which had medieval antecedents and. 128. well-born or common. . outside the church. 133. to enhance her practice of charity and religion. of course.. in Italian Renaissance literature.. King. p. III. 292. "a subject with which every educated lady must show herself thoroughly familiar. 8Margaret L. Woodward. The aim of it all is to achieve "breadth of learning and grace of style. that women can understand all the things men can understand and that the intellect of women can penetrate wherever a man's can. Bk. that you demonstrate none of the estimable qualities that I thought you possessed."7 Most other Italian humanists echoed these sentiments. the Italian humanists had "not attempted any revolution in the position of women. Charles S. pp. Then he would add. 285.. for example. 247. It culminated in Castiglione's Cortegiano. with the ancient classical moralists appended. tr. especially Bk. logical fence.8 Isotta Nogarola is scolded by her beloved old teacher Guarinofor the emotionalism of a letter she had written him in which "you seem . when Italian humanist theorists of education wrote at all about the purposes of education for women. he continues. "Thwarted Ambitions. society provided no other respectable roles for women. This is certainly true as regards the position of women as the subjects of education. and to make her a more clever and interesting companion to her husband. . forensic argument. so truly a woman. is the study of religion. 127. and the like-lies absolutely outside the province of woman. '0Woodward. where Giuliano de' Medici is made to say ". p.her humanist friend and former fellow-student under Vittorino. Woodward says. in Cortegiano. "for the profitable enjoyment of life. Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators. the literature of the church and the church fathers. to equip a noblewoman to rear her children more capably. marks its beginning with Boccaccio's De claris mulieribus. The Book of the Courtier." p. instead of Cicero. III dealing with "la donna di palazzo. 9Ibid.
and took up sacred studies. Ep." "See n. See the translation in the Collected Works of Erasmus. As for the learned women themselves. in reference to other learned ladies. 31 (1956). appropriate for women. The Correspondence of Erasmus. In Spain and Italy there are not a few women of the highest rank who can rival any man. 214. Mynors and D. pp. 30 below.14 And this was the real point of such gifts and letters. I/2/252. Ep. certainly none that she ever rewardedthem. hereafter cited as CWE. 145. annot. And in this he was at one with most of his Italian humanist predecessors. '5"The Abbot and the Learned Lady" in The Colloquies of Erasmus. as Margaret L. Opus Epistolarum Des. the net result will be that we'll preside in the theological schools. The same assumption is implicit in Bruni and fully accepted by Erasmus. R. Ferguson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Thompson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. It is true that he too praised noble women for their learning.15 Singleton (New York: Anchor. [by their own self-doubts] capitulated. Fahy. See also C. 139. my symbol for the condition of learned women of this age. vol. he makes his saucy "learned lady" say to the abbot. 1906-1965). where men excelled. and formed cloisters of their minds. 223. "tum pia tum erudita'"1 and respectfully noted her capability as the supervisor of her daughter's early education. .13 There is no evidence that this good lady either understood his learned allusions or prized his learned gifts. '3Allen I. 369 and n. even of Queen Catherine. ". In a passage from the colloquy Abbatis et eruditae. See also Epp. lined with books-to book-lined cells. A. . 80. B. for example. Craig R. Ep. in Germany the Pirckheimer and Blauer girls. the sister of Dido.80 The Sixteenth CenturyJournal With regard to the position of women. from the life of their cities. . p. from public view. 12P. If you're not careful." Italian Studies. 1975). they. and wear your miters. 151. Thompson. 1965)." p. Wallace K. Erasmus was clearly more interested in the patronage of women like the Lady of Veere. They withdrew from friendships. 74. as we have said. the mother of Samuel. preach in the churches. In England there are the More girls. 135. Erasmi Roterodami (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 27. See for example De conscribendis epistolis in Opera Omnia Desiderii Erasmi Roterodami ASD. 1959). Anne. S. to small corners of the world where they worked in solitude: to self-constructed prisons. ed. Hannah. F. They withdrew to convents and to good works and to silence. F. and St. and tr. 91. Allen. n. conquered from within. Anne. 138. 11. They withdrew from secular studies. 2. S. King observes in "Book-Lined Cells. '4See CWE 2. Erasmus was somewhat more revolutionary than his Italian humanist predecessors. than their learning. He characterized Queen Catherine. 1727. p.12 Many years before he had courted the wealthy Dutch noblewoman Anna van Borssele of Veere. which was published in the Froben edition of March 1524. 31-55. the mother of the Virgin-and sending her a gift of some prayers to the Virgin and a learned poem in praise of St. VI. comparing her favorably with three other Annas "on whom ancient literature conferredenduring fame"-Anna. p. tr. "Three Early Renaissance Treatises on Women. Yet Erasmus was genuinely impressed with genuinely learned women. and withdrew from battle.
of course. We have a queen of England who is a famous learned woman and whose daughter Mary writes very good Latin letters." He sends final greetings not only to Margaret but to her sisters. 20Allen III. Erasmus apparently knew them only by 16Allen V.19By the learned Spanish women he probably means the court circle of which Catherineof Aragon was a product. 694. 2004. Thomas More's house is a veritable home of the muses. 1404. The other learned Spanish lady. '8Allen VIII. he goes on. the emperor's sister. 4-5. Ep. 1529. Mary. all of them celebrated for their learning. writing to his friend Juan Vergara. I have received a welcome greeting from your sister Elizabeth which I return in the same kind. was. Ep. Wilibald Pirckheimer. See ASD I1/2/76 and n. What learned women of Italy he refers to remain unknown. '7Allen VII."'16 A few years later. . a liberal Spanish humanist who had commended his learned sister to Erasmus as one familiar with his books. Even the references to the families of Pirckheimerand Blaurer remain somewhat obscure. where Erasmus cites Poliziano's admiration for the precocious learning of Cassandra Fidele: there is no indication that Erasmus knew her work himself." And. March 24. Vittoria Colonna. nor are any other individual Italian women. Elizabeth Vergara. of how he looked forward to the appearanceof more learned women like Margaret and her sisters though "they are certainly rare enough now. in either his correspondence or works. She urgently requested this of me on the recommendation of a favorite preacher of hers. takes delight in books: I recently dedicated my Vidua christiana to her. All seven of his sisters were nuns as well as three of his daughters. a friend of long standing-Erasmus addresses him in one letter as "clarissime doctorum et clarorum doctissime. Laura Cereta. It is a joy to get fresh examples of the learning of her sex.Erasmus and the Education of Women 81 In the previous year Erasmus had written. 2133."20 Pirckheimer had seven sisters and five daughters. but they are not identified. Margaret Roper.the Nuremburg patrician and humanist. '9The only exception I can find is in De pueris statim ac liberaliter instituendis declamatio. became known to him only in 1528. Ep. "there are also in Germany some esteemed families that can be counted hardly inferior in those arts in which you clearly excell. The scheme of human affairs is turned topsy-turvy: monks hate books and women love them!18 The referencesin these three passages are not all easily identifiable.17he says. "that whole choir" of "More's school. in a Christmas letter to Thomas More's daughter. Ep. and Cassandra Fidele were contemporaries of Erasmus and celebrated for their learning.
1522. 407.82 The Sixteenth Century Journal reputation and might have meant any or all of them in his referencein the colloquy cited. they are more learned than most learned men. 1247. and Ambrose. in a letter to Erasmus in the spring of 1516. 409. Gertrude. dated February 12. 23Allen I. See Allen V. Ep. Ep. We know that two of Pirckheimer's sisters. who was known as a good Latinist.26 Mary "the emperor's sister. 22Allen V. Thomas. the wife of ConradPeutinger of Augsburg. were avid readers of Erasmus' books and had a copy of his New Testament shortly after the first edition appeared. . Charitas and Clara. Ep. was well known to Erasmus from his service at the Burgundian court. the mother of his godson Erasmius."23 whether the referBut ence to learned Blaurer women is to their sister. 1233. 26Allen III. Pirckheimer asserts. Erasmus had known the two Blaurer brothers. n. had appended a scholarly note of her own to one of her husband's letters to Erasmus. 2392. in The Colloquies of Erasmus. widowed by her husband's death at Mohacs in 1526. p. 156 refers to the family of Ambrose Blaurer. in which Mary's literary interests are described in some detail. only two years before. who apparently wrote him. Ep. though. Clara in Nuremburg.25And he could have included Froben's second wife. ASD I/3.Pirckheimersays. It seems somewhat more likely to have been the family of Thomas since Ambrose was in orders until 1522 and did not marry until 1533. Ep. referredto several times in these passages and very often elsewhere. or to the daughters of one or the other brother is unknown. who." the queen of Hungary. 2011. a lawyer. 218. He was especially fond of Margaret Roper. He later correspondedwith her as an intellectual equal. 1259. More's eldest-his beloved and spirited Meg-whom Erasmus had known all her life. and she translated 2"Allen II. Ep. See also Allen IX. concerning a point in the Greek New Testament. 46. in which Mary is reported to have read with approval his apologetic letter to Cardinal Campeggio (1530). 1396. 24Thompson.27 But best known to him of all were the women of Thomas More's family. including her reading of Erasmus' Paraphrases in Latin. Ep. 27Allen VII. mentions the sister as does Allen IV. 25Allen IV. and respected by him. But he could also have been referring to Margareta Peutinger. for he acknowledges a letter from her. Ep. that they are reluctant to write him themselves.24 Erasmus' further reference to "some esteemed families" in Germany that could boast learned women clearly could have included the Blaurers and Pirckheimers. fearful that he might find their Latin inadequate. 634. n.21 Some years later Erasmus asked to be rememberedto these sisters. first an ecclesiastic and later a town councillorof Constance:he referred to them as "virtuti pietatique natis fratribus.22 The reference to the "Blauer girls" is even more obscure. 103. of the convent of Sta.
The passage is quoted in full for the argument of this paper. very likely. since the pleasure and durability of a marriage depend more on the pleasure of minds than the love of bodies. the Meg model for "the learnedlady" in the colloquy Abbatis et eruditae. . in my judgment. "Margaret Roper's English Version of Erasmus' Precatio Domenica and the Apprenticeship Behind Early Tudor Translations. 18. and the love of letters prevents both. 999. Others are unable to recall either what he said or how he said it. Simplicity and ignorance may lead many to the loss of innocence before they are aware how many things threaten their treasure. Gee. to less effect]. 218-219. It was not always believed that letters are of value to the virtue and general reputation of women. This becomes obvious the moment it is said. 13 (1937). unless they are such as would require of their wives what should not be requiredof properwomen. Nothing else better protects a spotless reputation and unsullied morals:for they are more securely chaste who are chaste from conscious choice. The referenceoccurs as part of a description of More and his family in a letter of Erasmus to Bude.Yet there is nothing that more occupies the attention of a young girl than study. idleness and lascivious games.28 and her sisters were all educated by their father and by tutors in whose work More remained deeply involved. Now and then we find some young women returning from a sermon able to relate wonderfully well what the preacher said-complete with facial expressions.Erasmus and the Education of Women 83 his treatise on the Lord's Prayer into English. I do not necessarily reject the advice of those who would provide for their daughter's virtue through handiwork. especially p. She was. they are bound by much stronger chains who are linked in the devotion of their minds. And she will have no less piety for having less superstition. nothing is more intractable than ignorance. the famous description of More and his household that Erasmus wrote to Ulrich von Hutten. Two things are of the greatest peril to the virtue of young women. no. the mind trained and attracted to virtue. Indeed. To this end. Nor do I see why husbands should fear that their wives would be less obedient if they are learned. I myself once held this opinion: but More completely converted me. Truly I prefer a single talent of pure gold to three contaminated by lead and dross. from which the best precepts are derived. See also J. Erasmus says that it was More who convinced him of the need to educate women. Hence this is the occupation that best protects the mind from dangerous idleness. A. 174. In short. pp." Review of English Studies. Surely the mind must be trained in the cultivation of studies so that it may understand right reason and see what is proper and what is advantageous. 257-271 and The Colloquies of Erasmus. Ep. A wife will respect a husband more whom she recognizes also as her teacher [Recall that More tutored his first wife Jane Colt and later tried to teach Dame Alice. More's daughters are able to repeat 28See Allen IV.
578-579. Erasmus' letter . quod a me flagitarat Regina Angliae. 30Theprefatory letter. See St. dated July 15. Allen VI. or despise it. where he says. to form and fashion the habits of children which of all things is most satisfying to a husband. Ep. who had long admired him and whose laudatory letter about Utopia was often published with that work in later editions." At this the story attributed to Phocian. 1727. It is first mentioned in Ep. "If something happens that cannot be avoided. in order and with discrimination: if the preacherbabbled anything stupid. Erasmus is attempting to remedy this situation in sketching More more fully to Bud6. for which business fools are more suitable. his wife cried out. Indeed. is in Allen. In our last conversation I threw this out to More. and he had to remind her of her lapse in a graceful and discreet letter two years later. would he not be more tormented by the thought of losing those daughters on whom he had spent so much labor in their instruction? He answered immediately. would be beginning to be involved in the "great matter" of her divorce. woman? Would you prefer me to die guilty?"29 The sentiments expressed in this letter of 1521 lead directly into those we find five years later in the Christiani matrimonji institutio concerning the education of girls and women. VI." To which he responded. I believe. you are dying an innocent man. I should prefer that they die learned rather than unlearned. in response to the repeated urging of his old friend and patron Lord Mountjoy. 102. who was then the chamberlainof Queen Catherine of Aragon's household. 1233. noted in a letter to Michael Boudet. 1961). It is doubtful she ever read the work: and it is just as well. foemina tum pia tum erudita" and notes that it has interrupted his writing against Luther. Rogers. "Aggresus eram Praecepta connubialia.84 The Sixteenth Century Journal nearly the entire sermon. ignore it. though they had no opportunity to know each other well. my husband.30 29Allen IV. dated in the autumn of 1525. This is how sermons ought to be attended. they know whether to laugh at it. within a year of receiving it. ed. 1526. Ep. Ep. I very much disagree with those who consider wives as having no use but the satisfaction of desire. He wrote it rather hurriedly. pp. He is at work on it in March 1526. 1624 to Lupset. In the letter of 1521 from which this passage is taken. for it contains precious little comfort against the painful trials in which she would shortly be emThe passage that interests us is buried in a longer passage broiled. or otherwise out of the way-something we see happening not infrequently these days-. impious. "What are you saying. 1678. More and Bud6 had met briefly at the conference of their respective monarchs on the field of the cloth of gold. in 1520. 145 and Ep. Elizabeth F. she was so involved that she neglected to send Erasmus an appropriate gift-payment for the dedication. and it is pleasant to be around people of this sort. (New Haven: Yale University Press. p. Thomas More: Selected Letters. A woman's spirit is necessary to hold a family together. Ep. The work is dedicated-with unintended irony-to Queen Catherinewho. "Oh. 97. The Christiani matrimonji institutio is the largest and most systematic of Erasmus' works on Christian marriage. came to mind: when he was about the drink the hemlock.
Ep. De institutione foeminae Christianae (1524). 1624. including an example of the type Epistola suasoria in De conscribendis epistolis (1522). and probably justly. anything you do that is in the least unchaste risks the chastity of your young daughter. as a response to the attacks on the earlier work by the Paris theologians." More mentioned to Erasmus. How will children avoid evil association if they learn wickedness from their parents? of reminder to the queen is Ep. published by Martens in 1518. and the involvement of the queen in her daughter's education.Erasmus and the Education of Women 85 near the end of the work. by Queen Catherine's own reputation for learning. Hence. He noted receipt of the gift in a letter to Mountjoy. 1528. It is less of a digression than an afterthought. written for Princess Mary's instruction. He was charged. he continues. by his conservative Catholic opponents with advocating Christian marriage as a veiled attack on clerical celibacy and monasticism. . He asks rhetorically of young women why should they "live among fools and untutored women servants and drink in more corruption than if they lived among men?" Moreover. and from which he digresses to discuss the matter of the education of women. September 8. that the queen appreciated the work. Somehow we are all precocious in learning wickedness. with the matters of nurture and habit formation. as he tends to do in all his educational writings. Ep. "quod Regina serenissima merito facit maximi. in 1526. si quid illi queam facere gratum. or by the well advertised solicitude of the queen for the education of her daughter Mary. no matter how young she might be. appeared in several versions.31 Erasmus begins. ut mihi beneficium accipere videar. in which Erasmus takes the occasion of rehearsing his already familiar general views on education. 3"Inhis letter of dedication. It is the more puzzling because of the work's association with Erasmus' attacks on monasticism. Erasmus was also aware of the work of his friend Juan Luis Vives. 1770. Sic enim amo insignem illius feminae pietatum et eruditionem. See Allen VI. "Regine munus mihi fuit longe gratissimum. In this I counsel first the vigilance of the mother and father lest they say or do anything untoward in the presence of their daughter. 1727. nobis ignaviam ac mores corruptos exprobrantem. Ep. It is likely that the Institutio christiani matrimonii was hurried into print. his expectation that the work will be of some profit to her daughter. Erasmus mentions both the gifts and reputation for learning of Queen Catherine. which appeared in May of 1526. 2215. the Institutio christiani matrimonii appearing in July of the same year. 1960. becoming indeed a succes de scandale. suggested perhaps by the theme of the larger work. early home training and example. in part at least. March 1. probably pirated.1529. quanquam illius animus mihi sine ullo munere abunde sufficiebat. there was an Antwerp edition of the same year. Declamatio in genere suasorio de laude matrimonii. a folio and an octavo. there was a German translation of 1542 and an undated English translation-in all. Allen VIII. and no later editions until the Erasmus Opera Omnia of 1540. in various editions and under slightly different titles. The work was printed by Froben in two simultaneous editions. The work was condemned at Louvain and at Paris and enjoyed an immense popular vogue. Ep. The greatest care should be taken with a boy-but even more with a tender young girl. mother or father." Allen VI. And without even knowing it whatever is seen or heard may cling to the spirit like a bad seed and eventually grow into a noxious weed. An earlier work. somewhat earlier. a rather slender publication history given the usual popularity of Erasmus' writings.
ed. The sons and daughters even of princes are brought up in this way. characterizingit as a rite "fit for executioners. for nothing is more conducive to a good mind or more useful to the preservation of virtue." ASD. The second reason is that they may keep themselves clear of every stain of dishonor. in this whole passage he is preoccupied with the question of the chastity of girls and the preservation of their virtue.or galley slaves" but not for students. "For. Erasmus was concerned. whether by flogging schoolmasters. not yet five years old. pimps. This. as I have said. why they should learn to know first what is honorable. not infrequently immodest. indeed is greatly praised as polite conduct. generally despicable and of low morals.32In the Christiani matrimonii institutio he extends his concern to include girls as well as boys. and to the organized bullying that went on in many schools. At dinner there is the same behavior as at lunch. then to church to see and be seen. the precious treasury of virginity is irrecoverable once violated. So the afternoon is passed until dinner time. sanctioned by school authorities in the name of custom "as though an evil custom were not simply a deeply embedded error. Sons and daughters of the nobility spend all their days among bored and sated servants. Margolin. each related with increasingly savage detail.86 The Sixteenth Century Journal There follows then a lively ironic passage in which he scorns the "fashionable education of girls. C. "I have seen this child nearly suffocate trying to choke back her sobs and check her 32Threeanecdotes about flogging schoolmasters. the most dangerous plague of good morals. In that same work he extends these views to include his opposition to school hazing. then breakfast. 61-62. He tells of a widowed young mother drilling her little daughter. then to love. This is how they pass the time! They would do better set to weaving cloth. Instead. and men will throw themselves on their laps-which offends no one. . Here and there girls will sit down. After this lunch. J. One who never knows vices will never love them. The third reason is that they may avoid idleness." he observes. He does observe that "common sense dictates that girls be instructed in letters. or brutal parents. is the first reason why the mind of a girl should be imbued with the most chaste teachings. torturers. he uses to illustrate the device of rhetoricalamplificationin the De pueris instituendis. then gossip. in the artificial forms of courtly address and response and repeatedly striking her down senseless. overbearing upper classmen at school." But he does not explain in what letters precisely they ought to be instructed.indeed almost obsessed with the problem of the abuse of children. Then trifling little stories. I/2. Nor are they much more decently educated away from home. the more energetically it ought to be stamped out. Then there are foolish games." In the morning make-up and hair-do. thieving Carians.which the more widely it prevails.
was by Richard Hyrde. 716 C 717 A. "Vives was not prepared to recognize any other role for women than their domestic functions." "The violence that shone out of this little girl's eyes is like those who have been terrified by a ghost. 207-209. 35This was true even for Vives. another tutor to More's family who had written the introduction to Margaret Roper's translation of Erasmus' treatise on the Lord's Prayer. But no such counter-tradition for the humanist education of women really existed. He probably expressed it most succinctly in the De pronuntiatione: speaking of the education of young boys he calls them "the seed-beds from which will appear senators. See J. See W.. abbots."34 These were social roles that simply were not open to women-with the rare exception of a reigning female monarchor noblewoman. and emperors. Vives and the Renaissance Education of Women (New York and London: Longmans. As it pertained to the education of men this tradition had been modified somewhat by that of humanist education-to which Erasmus himself was a major contributor. who is usually thought of as the greatest sixteenth century champion of education for women. Hexter.Erasmus and the Education of Women 87 tears in the face of her mother's threat. H.. "The Education of the Aristocracy in the Renaissance. to which Erasmus returned again and again in his educational writings. popes. some of them expressed here. ed. 72. doctors." He concludes. 1400-1600 (New York: Russell and Russell. . for example. as in so many others. V." Journal of Modern History. 1956). 1970). See Ruth Kelso. Doctrine for the Lady of the Renaissance (Urbana: University of Illinois Press. was the service of society." Carlos G. 712 B .713 A. 195. pp. bishops. "I judge the mother more deserving of blows than the daughter. Woodward. their tears congealed and a look of madness on their faces. 1704). Foster Watson. 34ASD I/4. It is haphazard and anecdotal rather than structured and systematic. entitled Instruction of a Christian Woman (STC 24856). Norefia. But the most important purpose of education. Nevertheless. 1-20. There is an interesting tie between Vives and the queen's household and the learned daughter of Thomas More: the first English translation of Vives' work. 1912). H. 22 (1950). 62.'33 Notwithstanding its clearly expressed compassion and appeal to decency and its general sensibleness. all the foregoing about the education of girls and women seems somewhat unsatisfactory and truncated. Especially in his vigorous condemnation of the "fashionable education of girls" Erasmus is responding to a tradition of the education of the northern aristocracy that is pre-humanistic. magistrates. See. Even the elaborate program he laid out for the Princess Mary in his De institutions foeminae Christianae was a curriculum and not a structure.. Studies in Education during the Age of the Renaissance. pp.35In this respect. Juan Luis Vives (The Hague: Nijhoff. hereafter cited as LB. (Louvain: Clericus.There was thus no practical reason for Erasmus-or for any other pedagogical theorist of his age-to construct a system of education for women when no purpose for it existed. 1965 ). Why? I believe the best answer lies in the purposes Erasmus attached to education. 27. 33All the above passages from the Christiani matrimonii institutio are in Desiderii Erasmi Roterdami Opera Omnia . in which he rehearsed More's arguments for the education of women and praised Margaret Roper as their exemplar. devoted to the cultivation of manners in order to conform to what he (and most other northern humanists) regarded as the "vain and empty" standards of court life. p. such as the cultivation of the mind for its own delight or as a hedge against the corrupting effect of idleness.
See Strauss. Erasmus was in the mainstream of humanist educational writing. despite some of the social and intellectual freedom which the last century or so had brought. like his Italian predecessors and such contemporaries as More and Vives.' the saying went. For women. he was the most innovative champion of women's rights in his age. On the other hand. It was rather in the traditional humanist Latin education that Erasmus was interested. And both they and he regarded it alone as worthy to be called education. XII. Erasmus is being practical here. In this regard. especially the sex-roles of women. quite simply." The Sixteenth Century Journal." But like them also. Erasmus wanted a young girl to be sufficiently well instructed "that whatever she does she will do with judgment and intelligence. was still traditionalist as regards sex-roles." History of Education Quarterly. 3-13. especially pp. 195-202 and Lowell Green. the additional moral requirement of chastity was a normal condition. It is not enough to read this simply as the harping of a prudish old monk-though some of that may certainly be present. this very traditional view of premarital chastity must not be seen as affecting Erasmus' view of marriage itself. Both Erasmus and his Italian predecessors had ignored-or perhaps simply were unaware of-the great increase in the number of women. who received a vernacular education and used it in a substantial way in the pursuit of family and business affairs. again. 72. . "The Education of Women in the Reformation. In a recent article Merry Wiesner Wood. 19 (1979). Society and Culture in Early Modern France. "Paltry Peddlers or Essential Merchants? Women in the Distributive Trades in Early Modern Nuremberg. especially touching the matter of arranged 36Natalie Davis. he never sets out any occupation for the judgment and intelligence of women in society beyond that of wife and mother. In this. was convinced of the ultimate moral purpose of education. on the contrary. Luther's House of Learning. The inference is that they possessed at least a rudimentary vernacular education to be able to write letters and receipts and to keep accounts. 127-129. Like them. This tendency was greatly increased in Germany by the Reformation. especially since the mid-fifteenth century. 3 (1981).88 The Sixteenth Century Journal Erasmus is in the mainstream of educational philosophy that flowed down to his time from the Italian humanists of the preceding century. Natalie Davis points out that "Latin education among non-noble women was rare enough that it was remarked'learned beyond their sex. Erasmus. He is writing for an audience which. Wood details the importance of women in the domestic economic life of Nuremberg and probably other German cities. p. like the earlier Italian humanists."36 I believe also that Erasmus' lack of any perceived secular role for women beyond marriage and the home accounts for another obvious feature in his educational prescriptions for girls and women-his preoccupation with chastity. the indispensable precondition for an honorable marriage. Virginity was. as he usually is.
See LB VI. LB VII 1043 A-B." 464B. Nevertheless. whose natures are "apter to bear fern than grain. or "Ignis. The group of colloquies sometimes called "the marriagecolloquies" were all written at about the same time as the Christiani matrimonii institutio37 and were extremely controversial because of their liberal tone. See also his paraphrase of the same passage which moderates significantly the anti-feminist harshness of the scriptural text. And he would not have been at odds with the sentiments expressed by his friend Thomas More. though learning will accompany virtue as a shadow does a body. writing to William Gonnell. but because the reward of wisdom is too solid to be lost with riches or to perish with beauty. mare. that one is saved by grace and not according to sex. See the colloquies themselves and the headnotes in Thompson. to eminent virtue of mind should add even moderate skill in learning. 933 C-D. Proci et puellae (1523) and "AyaQtoq yaioq sive Coniugium impar (1529).Erasmus and the Education of Women 89 marriages. or such items in the Adagia as "Mulierem ornat silentium. 20. . 38Erasmus. Erasmus himself could occasionally lapse into the traditional generalizations about the special qualities of the female nature. I say. 55. might not so readily have agreed with More's next point regarding "nature's defect" in women. he clearly favored it in fact and regarded a woman's education not only as a clear advantage to her but an asset to her husband and her family. He clearly made no distinction between the intellectual capabilities of girls and boys and extended to all childrenhis concern for their welfare and good upbringing. Thomas More: Selected Letters. I think she will gain more real good than if she obtain the riches of Croesus and the beauty of Helen. where he prefers the Greek text. both. I believe his truer judgment on the nature of woman vis-A-vis man is better revealed in his gloss to 1 Timothy 2:15. Nor do I think that the harvest is much affected whether it is a man or a woman who does the sowing. 103-107." hence his next argument "that a woman's wit is the more diligently to be cultivated. Ep.. The Colloquies of Erasmus. p. he advocated a greater freedom in choosing their marriage partners and a greater control of their own lives not only for noble women but for all women." LB II 991 B. the tutor of his children.. De pueris instituendis. like plowed land. tria mala. Virgo poenitens (1523). for example. "If a women. pp. however. so that nature's defect may be redressed by industry. are equally suited for the knowledge of learning by which reason is cultivated. mulier. whom Erasmus had recommended to him. In conclusion then.. ASD I/2. germinates a crop when the seeds of good precepts have been sown. They both have the name of human being whose nature reason differentiates from that of beasts. See also n. See.38 37These include Virgo 1o6yaxtoq (1523). Not because that learning will be a glory to her. while Erasmus failed to provide a specific setting or detailed program for women's education. Among other things." See St. 29 above. and." he writes.
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