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- pretext for the Cloister and the Hearth
- humanist and theologian
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The Cloister and the Hearth

At some stage, perhaps even in junior school, we must have had a reading book with Approved Extracts that included Gerard's escape from the smugglers at the mill. Not surprisingly, this lively piece of story-telling left a deep impression; so deep that when I happened on a second-hand copy (the old Everyman hardback) of Charles Reade's book I bought it almost without thinking. Reading the whole book was an eye-opener: a cracking good yarn, full of events and characters and with the added bonus of authorial asides.

It could make an excellent television series, though you couldn't do it justice compressed into the conventional hour and a half of a film. I recommend it highly, whether or not you're remotely interested in Erasmus.

Humanist and theologian

The first time I lived in Brussels, I went out to the Erasmushuis/Maison d'Erasme museum in Anderlecht just to while away another empty Sunday afternoon. It became clear to me that his works were of abiding importance, and if they had been criticised from so many different standpoints they must at least have some substance; so I thought I'd try and find out a bit more about them. The more I learn, the more I sympathise with him and the more I want to learn.

Most of the commentaries I've read so far struggle to present his work with any clarity, but here's a paragraph from one that (every now and then) breaks through the complexity of the subject and presents an idea 'with the force of revelation': in preparing his Latin text of the New Testament, Erasmus replaced the Vulgate's familiar In principio erat Verbum – In the beginning was the Word – with In principio erat Sermo.

It altered the conception of Word from a static entity to an active presence, and it reveals a fundamental principle of Erasmus' outlook, that the divine logos incarnate in Christ continues through all of time to instruct God's people and to sustain and inform all of creation. In this conception, Christ as sermo incarnate was nothing less than the very eloquence of God, more vivid, more vital and present than any concept. [...] In his great treatise on preaching, Erasmus refers to Christ as sermo Dei – the discourse of God – and goes on: 'Through this [the sermo Dei] the Father established the universe, through this he governs everything he established, through this he restored the fallen human family, through this he binds the Church to himself.'

Bull terrier

As soon as one of us retires, we are going to have a dog. He will be a bull terrier called Erasmus, though how we came to this exact decision is already quite unknown to us. What we do know is that he has been joined in our imaginary menagery by the following amiable beasts:
- a second bull terrier, name of Tyndale
- two goldfish, Whiplash and Thong
- a pig, Dirigible (plus occasional visits from Jpig and Mpig)
- a penguin, Meep
- three parrots, Forcep, Bicep and Instep

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