Page images

at Orleans, and was attracted to Bourges by the reputation of Andrè Alciato, "the man of all sciences," when about twenty years old, ten years the senior of Beza. Beza in his Church History, says of him just previous to his stay at Bourges: "There were some few at Orleans who knew the truth, as F. Daniel and Nicholas du Chemin; but this was as nothing until Calvin, still a very young man, but already marked out as an excellent instrument for the work of the Lord, came to Orleans to study jurisprudence." He, it is said, by his science and zeal for the kingdom of God, wonderfully promoted the cause in many families. And when at Bourges "he strengthened all the faithful residing in the city, and preached in several castles in the surrounding district." He had when at Orleans spent his nights in the study of the Bible. But new facilities now awaited him. In the house of Wolmar he found not only encouragement, but assistance in his studies. He made rapid advances under his new teacher, in the study of Greek literature, especially as applied to the study of the New Testament. The liberal and enlightened views of this man, exerted such an influence upon Calvin, that he subsequently declared, that he owed much of his elevation in knowledge and piety to him. As a token of his gratitude he dedicated to him in 1546, his Commentary on the second epistle to the Corinthians. At this time there were points of contrast as well as of similarity between the youthful Burgundian and the more mature scholar from Noyon. The one was so highly adorned with external excellencies as to seem to be made for this world alone, and now in the bloom of youth he was devoted to its pleasures. He was, says Audin, "an elegant young man quite perfumed with amber and poesy, who at the same time, made court to women, to the muses, and to his professor Wolmar." The other, simple and unpretending in appearance, had already begun by his nightly vigils over his books and in meditation upon the studies of the previous day, to waste the freshness of his earlier days. The one, had little love for the more rigid habits and sentiments of the other. But they were both humanists, both possessed the spirit of scholars, and the fire that gleamed from the eye of the guest, often penetrated the heart of the impetuous youth, and the sincerity and earnestness which were characteristic of Calvin attracted Beza; and when his better life had begun, he felt a love for him, which lasted even when the clods of the valley were resting upon the earthy remains of the senior friend, and dictated the simple but

Baum, in his Life of Beza, says when he was twenty-three years old. But Henry in the edition of his Leben J. Calvinis, published in 1846, places his residence at Bourges earlier.

* Henry's Life of Calvin, Vol. I. p. 26.


Acquaintance with Calvin.




earnest biographical sketch of the Life of the great Reformer. the death of his father soon called Calvin away from his delightful studies in the house of the German teacher, and his acquaintance with Beza was broken off, to be again renewed after ten or twelve years of varied experience.

But Calvin was not the only one who was destined to experience trouble and change. The uncle of Beza, who had thus far reared him as his own child, had died in 1532, and from that time, he had looked upon Wolmar as his foster-father, and upon his home as home. But the persecutions which desolated so many homesteads in France soon made its appearance at Bourges. Not even the duchess Margaret could shield her chosen professor from suspicion, or from fear of violence. His own quiet and blameless life, too, did not conceal him from the threatening glance of the infuriated Sorbonne. But he would not long remain, where he was the object of baseless suspicion, and where he foresaw that he should be constrained to relinquish his favorite pursuits, or mingle his blood with others of the faithful, which he did not feel called upon yet to do. He accordingly decided to take refuge in Germany, where others of a similar faith and spirit had gone before him. The announcement of his determination fell heavily upon the hearts of his companions and pupils, although it approved itself to their judgments, and even in some instances, had been advised on account of the solicitude felt for his personal safety. No one, as may be readily supposed, felt the bereavement so keenly as the foster-son, and the pupil who during seven years had been the daily recipient of kindness, as well as of wisdom and instruction from him. In anticipation of this separation Wolmar had not been unmindful of the religious welfare of his pupil, but had been solicitous to implant in his mind and heart the principles of the true gospel. By this means a new bond of sympathy had sprung up between them which with personal attachment, led to urgent solicitations to the elder Beza to allow his son to accompany his friends to their new home. But the father as little willing that his son should thus forego the preferment which awaited him in his own country, as that he should be exposed to the influence of heretics, refused his consent. Thus sadly but trustingly they separated, and in the first day of Spring, 1535, Wolmar was on his way to Lyons, in order to go thence to Basle, where Calvin was then engaged in the study of Hebrew and in publishing his Institutes, and ere long to Tübingen where he had been invited by duke Ulrich, as Würtemberg counsellor.

Beza at the University of Orleans.

On the same first of May in which Wolmar had turned his steps toward Germany, the young Beza, in obedience to the command of his father, went from Bourges to Orleans, whose university then boasted the best teachers and the largest number of pupils in the department of law, of any in France. Nor was it less distinguished as a seat of classical learning. For Erasmus and Reuchlin and Alexander had been teachers there and had left their impress. But neither the joyousness of all nature, just emancipated from the icy bands of winter, nor the hopefulness of youth in prospect of the free life of the university, were sufficient to dispel the sadness which brooded over the young scholar. Twenty-five years after he says: "The calends of May, the day in which I was torn from you, and you departed for Lyons, and I, by the command of my father (ex patris imperio), went to Orleans, always have been and always will be, present to my mind. I remember and always shall remember, that no sadder day ever dawned upon me."1 One of his first poems if not his very first, written when in his fifteenth year, is expressive of his strong attachment to his friend and teacher.2

Orleans was not a strange place to Beza, but the course of life on which he now entered was new. Temptations throng around any body of young men, who are in frequent intercourse with each other. But nowhere perhaps are more blandishments thrown about vicious inclinations and practices than where young men are associated together for literary pursuits. The most ruinous habits are not rarely concealed under the garb of honor or refinement. The young Beza is now not only exposed to the allurements of vicious companions, but he must meet them single handed and alone. Hitherto a careful and friendly hand has guided him. The restraints of the family, so gently exerted

1 Epist. ad Wolmarium.

2 In Meliorem Volmarium praceptorem summe observandum doctissime Homerum in Academia Bituricensi interpretantem, anno Domini 1534, quum ageret annum Beza 15.

[merged small][ocr errors]


Classical Study Maria Stella.


as not to be felt, are no longer about him. We look forward into his future with solicitude, yet not without hope.

The study of law, as conducted in the schools of the sixteenth century, had few charms for an imaginative youth of fifteen years. The legal science consisted of little else than dry details, without the philosophical or literary attractions that have since clustered around it. It is not strange then, that the father's authority was not sufficient to induce the son to wholly discard the poets of antiquity for the pragmatic institutes of civil law. We are not surprised to find the young student spending more hours over the pages of Ovid or the lyrics of Catullus and Tibullus than over the clumsy folios of the legal professors. "Since the study of law," he says in a letter to Wolmar, "was pursued in a barbarous, unmethodical and dry manner, I felt an unaccountable repugnance to it, and only engaged in the study of it, on condition that I might devote a great share of my leisure hours to literature, to the reading of the authors of Greece and Rome." Besides the reading of classical authors, his naturally poetical temperament led him to the imitation of his favorite poets in Latin verse. And thus doubtless many an hour was passed, which would else have hung heavily upon him in his present circumstances.

But objects of engrossing interest he was not destined long to want at Orleans. After speaking of his love of classical pursuits his biographer says: "Another and more powerful passion, which even in the most common, and dull natures, is accustomed to awaken poetic sentiment or something akin to it, and which inspirited and nourished the already awakened talent of poetic composition in him, a first love, was enkindled in his youthful breast. Not long after his arrival, when looking out for teachers of law, he saw Maria de Stella, niece of the celebrated Peter de Stella, who soon became literally the star around which the whole world of his feeling, poetry and dreams revolved. No wonder that the uncle, aside from his real superiority, soon became the favorite teacher of the young student. Under the influence of the morning rays of this youthful passion, many of the tenderest and most passionate of his poetical effusions burst forth. But this cup of pleasure was soon dashed from his lips. Maria de Stella died in the bloom of her youth, and as a last token of affection Beza placed over her grave an inscription in Latin and French. Two hundred years afterward the stone was yet in existence, but a fanatical hand had obliterated all the inscription except the name: Mariae Stellae.

The sadness which lingered around the youth of not more than seventeen years, seems to have been gradually dissipated by the assiduity of numerous friends, who already clustered around him in the

university. His pleasant manners and genial and elevated nature made him an acceptable companion to both young and old. The most virtuous and cultivated of the members of the university courted his society and encouraged his devotion to the Muse of poetry. He was also appointed Procurator of the Burgundians, a post of the highest honor and authority in his division of the university. And notwithstanding his devotion to literature and poetry, Beza was able in consequence of his power of acquiring and retaining knowledge, to pass the necessary examination, and August 11, 1539, received the degree of Licentiate of Law. Thus ended his university life.

First years at Paris, Dissatisfaction of his Father, Friendship and Correspondence with Pomponius.

It is not without interest that we see the young student separated from his numerous acquaintance at the university, and severed from his youthful friends such as never afterward greet him in life, and plunged into the great world, to struggle on to posts of honor and usefulness. It is especially perilous to the young aspirant, when thrown into the confusion of such elements of discord as pervaded Paris toward the middle of the 16th century. More than six years before Beza repaired thither from the university at Orleans, John Calvin, then twenty-three years old, had exhorted and instructed those who secretly assembled for that purpose, and the persecutions which ensued are too well known to need recapitulation. Although the bloody Morin, the leaders in parliament and in the Sorbonne were now sustained by Francis I., who publicly declared that if he knew that one of his limbs was infested with heresy, he would not spare his own flesh and blood, yet the word sown was not ineffectual. The contest could not be avoided. Reformation in literature and religion could not long be withstood, although it were compelled to fight every inch of ground which it possessed, and that too, in a city where dissipation and immorality already had a strong hold.

It was not without many backward longings and much discouragement that Beza took up his abode in Paris. His enthusiastic love for the friends that he had left at Orleans, often remanded back his unbidden thoughts. His love for literature, which stood in such opposition to the prosaic path which his father and friends had marked out for him, whom they already in vision saw in his seat in parliament, his aversion to the dry details of law, and the barren themes of the advocate, now

1 For an account of the division of the different members of the university into separate corporations, and attending circumstances, see Baum's Beza, S. 24 seq.

« PreviousContinue »