James Edward Geoffrey De Montmorency.

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THOMAS A KEMPIS

HIS AGE AND BOOK



BV THE SAME AUTHOR

State Intervention in English
Education

National Education and National
Life

The Progress of Education in
England







1r>.



MUSICA ECCLESIASTICA

"cause the musicians play me that sad note

I NAm'd MV knell, whilst I SIT MEDITATINC;
ON THAT CELESTIAL HARMONY I GO TO "

(/r/wo- //enry VIII, Act iv, Sc. ii)

ILLUMINATED FRONTISPIECE OF THE TREATISE CALLED " MUSICA ECCLESIASTICA" FROM THE

ROYAL MANUSCRIPT 7 II VIII IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM. THIS MS. CONSISTS OF THE FIRST THREE

BOOKS OK THE TREATISE " DE IMITATIONE CHRISTI," AND BELONGS TO THE THIRD^QUARTER

(-)F THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY.



THOMAS A KEMPIS

HIS AGE AND BOOK



BY



J. E. G. DE MONTMORENCY, B.A., LL.B.

OF ST Peter's college. Cambridge, and of the middle tejiple

BARRISTER-AT-I.AW



WITH TWENTY-TWO ILLUSTRATIONS



NEW YORK: G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

LONDON : METHUEN & CO.

1906



n-l^.



3?



^STOR, LENOX AND

'^^EU F0UNDAT;0^f6.

._ 1906 L



Firsi Published in igo6



TO

THE MEMORY OF

MY FATHER

JAMES LODGE DE MONTMORENCY



TABLE OF CONTENTS



APPENDIX I



PAGE



Introduction ..... ix

List of Manuscripts of the Treatise " De

Imitatione Christi " IN English Libraries xix
List of other Manuscripts cited . . xxi

List of Printed Editions of the Treatise " De

Imitations Christi " cited . . . xxii

I. The Age of Thomas a Kempis . . . i

II. Some Fifteenth Century Manuscripts and

Editions of the Imitation . . .106

III. Master Walter Hilton and the Authorship

of the Imitation . . . .139

IV. The Structure of the Imitation . .170
V. The Content of the Imitation , . .221



" De Meditatione Cordis," by Jean le Charlier de

Gerson, Chancellor of Paris . . . 297

APPENDIX II

Extract from the " Garden of Roses," by Thomas

a Kempis ...... 305

Index ....... 309



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



(These illustrations are all reproductions from fifteenth century
manuscripts or printed books.)



Description Facing

^ Page

The Four Latin Fathers producing

the Music of the Church of

Christ .... Frontis.

Lib. i. Cap. i. of the treatise de

Imitatione Christ i . . . 22

(See p. 162 within.)

The same ..... 48

(See p. 114 within.)

Richard Rolle of Hampole . . 70
(See p. 68 ef seq. within.)



Lib. IL partof Cap. xi. and Lib. IH.
part of Cap. xxi. of the treatise
de Imitatione Christi . . 96
(See p. 94 et seq. within.)
Lib. L Cap. i. of the treatise de

Imitatione Christi . . .107
(See p. 106 et seq. within.)

The same 1 1 1

(See p. 1 10 et seq. within.)

The same 1 17

(See p. 1 16 within.)

The same 119

(See p. \\2> et seq. within.)



Source

British Museum. Royal
MSS. 7 B. viii. {circa
1460).

Lambeth Palace Library.
Codex 536 {circa 1440).

British Museum. Harleian
MSS. 3216. (21 De-
cember 1454).

British Museum. Cotton
MS. Faustina, B. IL
Part IL fol. 114 b.
(circa 1400).

Royal Library, Brussels.
(144 1. Autograph of
Thomas k Kempis.)

British Museum. Royal

MSS. 8 C. vii. {circa

1420).
British Museum. Burney

MSS. 314 {circa 1419).
British Museum. Harleian

MSS. 3223 (1478).
First page of Editio Prin-

ceps printed at Augsburg

about 1 47 1.



Vlll



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



Description

The Device of Les Fr^res Marnef

(See p. 130 within.)
Lib. I. Cap. i. of the treatise de
Imitatione Christi .

(See p. 160 et seq. within.)
The same .....

(See pp. 162-3 within.)



Facing
Page

130



141



Source
Paris edition of 149 1.

Lambeth Palace Library.
Codex 475 {circa 1450.)



161



The same (in English)
(See p. 163 within.)



Emmanuel College
Library, Cambridge.
Codex 83 {circa 1450).
163 Cambridge University
Library. G.g. i, 16
{circa 1450).
F7-om a photograph by Messrs Mason ^ Basevi
The same ..... 166 Magdalen College Library,
(See p. 164 d'/.j-if^. within.) Oxford. Codex xciii.

(November 29th, 1438).
From a photograph by Mr Horace Hart



Woodcut — a Pi^ta with Jerusalem

in the distance . . . 195

(See p. 137 within.)
Woodcut of the Adoration of the

Magi 201

(See pp. 132-3 within.)
Woodcut of the Crucifixion

(See pp. 132-3 within.)
Lib. L Cap. i. and ii. and part
of Cap. iii. of the treatise de
Imitatione Christi . . .225
(See p. 114 within.)
Woodcut of the Descent from the

Cross (a Pi^ta) . . 230

(See p. 127 within.)
Woodcut of Christ and the Sup-
pliant ..... 240
(See pp. 129-130 within.)
Lib. III. Cap. i. of the treatise de

Imitatione Christi (in English) 247
(See p. 163 within.)
Woodcut of the Crucifixion . . 288
(See p. 133 within.)



London edition of 1503.



Paris edition of 1496.



217 Paris edition of \i



British Museum. Addi-
tional MSS. 1 1437 {circa
1465).

Venice edition of 14S8 of
the treatise de I»iitatione
Christi.

Argentine edition of 1489.



Trinity College Library
Dublin {circa 1450).

Paris edition of 1498.



INTKODUCTION

T^ESPITE the vast literature that has gathered
— round the treatise de hnitatione Christi, no
apology should be needed for the appearance at the
present time of a volume dealing with that work, and
with the age in which it was written. The perpetual
fascination of the former theme is undeniable, while
the wave of mysticism that is now moving across
Europe, England, and America, makes the study of
the not dissimilar phenomenon that troubled the
minds and consciences of men in the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries both monitory and profitable. We
hear much to-day concerning the weakening of faith
in God, Freedom, and Immortality, and there can be
no doubt that the outlook of the western world upon
the fundamental dogmas of religion has greatly
changed in the last thirty years. The outlook
tends to become an inlook, and the movement from
one position of spiritual equilibrium to another
necessarily involves the dislocation that accompanies
any radical change. It is with a sense of despair
and a certainty of loss, that many who have grown
up in the older school see this tendency in religious
thought. To some it seems almost irreligious to
b '^



X INTRODUCTION

seek, with the mystic, the Kingdom of Heaven in
the soul rather than in the firmament and to find
the voice of God not in the earthquake or the fiery
universe, but in the whispers of conscience. Yet
there is nothing surprising in such a tendency.
The mediseval mystics dehberately adopted it in
answer to the spiritual discontents and social
miseries, to the faithlessness and unhappiness, of
their day. The Imitation of Christ was, and is,
the apology for this position of introspection — an
apology that has appealed to men with a force
otherwise unknown in profane literature.

An attempt has been made in the following pages
first of all to place before the reader the group of
European movements and events that was respon-
sible for the school of spiritual thought of which
Thomas a Kempis is the most notable represen-
tative ; secondly, to trace in outline the various
forces — religious, philosophical, and literary — that
came to a focus in a Kempis, and so brought to
life the treatise de Imitatione Christi; lastly, to
analyse that treatise in considerable detail so as to
exhibit the body of doctrine that its author drew
from the material that he had gathered together —
a body of doctrine that repels completely the charges
brought against the mysticism of Haemmerlein by
Dean Milman and Thackeray. These writers ap-
pear entirely to have missed the author's point



INTRODUCTION xi

of view, and to have confounded the Outer with
the Inner life, despite the very clear and sensible
distinction that a Kempis makes between these two
broad aspects of man's complex personality.

It has been a laborious task to describe even
briefly the historical environment, the structure and
the content of the Imitation. Many volumes would
be required for anything like an exhaustive dis-
cussion of the Age and Book of Thomas a Kempis.
It seems, however, not possible to explain the ex-
traordinary literary history of the Imitation., or to
estimate its influence in the future, without some
such discussion, though it is impracticable in any
limited space to clear up the innumerable questions
that arise as soon as a student attempts to deal with
the complex age in which a Kempis lived, with
the literary texture of his deathless work, and the
mystical doctrines with which that work abounds.

It has been assumed, in writing these words, that
Thomas Haemmerlein of Kempen is the author of
the treatise de Imitatione Christi. That is my
definite opinion after a very careful consideration of
this literary problem, and in the following pages
there are set out some of the reasons that have
enabled me to make up my mind on that ancient
question. The doubt as to the authorship of the
iTnitation has probably aroused more acute contro-
versy than any other problem in pure literature.



xii INTRODUCTION

The bitterness of the controversiaHsts has been in
inverse proportion to the sweetness of the book.
Nor has this intensity of feeling altogether passed
away. This is more particularly the case with
respect to what is known as the Gersen claim. I
have never seen any evidence that, on examination,
presented even 2. prima facie case for the authorship
of a person named John Gersen, Abbot of Vercelli,
who is supposed to have flourished in the first half
of the thirteenth century. If a thirteenth century
manuscript of the Imitation can be produced, the
cases for John le Charlier de Gerson and Thomas a
Kempis would disappear. But this fact would not
enthrone the mysterious Abbot. The quotation
from St Bonaventura in the fiftieth chapter of the
third book would tell as heavily against Gersen as
against St Bernard. This fact has to be met, and
never has been met, by the Benedictine Order in
their curious support of the Abbot discovered for
them by Constantine Cajetan in the seventeenth
century. But there is no thirteenth century manu-
script of the Imitation. Manuscripts of this treatise
abound throughout Europe, but not a single one
that has been examined by competent authorities
has been placed earlier than the early fifteenth
century, and it must be remembered that the margin
of error in dating a mediaeval manuscript does not
exceed forty years. The "Codex Aronensis"



INTRODUCTION xiii

printed by the Benedictine Constantine Cajetan
at Rome, in the year 1616, attributes the work to
the Abbot John Gersen. Cajetan fruitlessly en-
deavoured to identify this name as an Abbot of
Vercelli. There is no evidence that there was
ever an Abbot of Vercelli bearing that name. The
Aronensis manuscript is undoubtedly a fifteenth
century document. The difficulties of establishing
the Gersen authorship are indeed overwhelming.
We have first to establish the fact that there was
an Abbot of Vercelli bearing that name ; then we
have to show that the existing fifteenth century
manuscripts are transcripts from a lost thirteenth
century original ; then we have to expunge from the
manuscripts all later references, such as the quota-
tion from Bonaventura ; finally, having proved the
existence of the Abbot of Vercelli and the thirteenth
century origin of the work, we have the hopeless
task of connecting the abbot and the work. This
series of improbabilities destroys the Gersen theory.
Gersen, or Gersem, or Gerseem can be nothing but
variants of Gerson. The British Museum manu-
scripts are very strong evidence of this.

The claims of Gerson and Walter Hilton to the
authorship are discussed at length in the follow-
ing pages. The work was certainly attributed to
each of them in the first half of the fifteenth cen-
tury, and in the absence of Thomas a Kempis, the



xiv INTRODUCTION

claims of either of them would be strong enough
to secure the prize. Certainly the claim in Hilton's
case is remarkable enough, for there is nothing in
his prose style to exclude him from consideration.
This cannot be said with respect to Gerson. I have
certainly not cleared up finally the problem that I
set out to solve — the explanation of the fact that the
treatise, Musica Ecclesiastica (consisting of the first
three books of the hnitation) was for centuries
attributed to Walter Hilton, a canon of the same
Order as that to which a Kempis belonged. The
flaw in Hilton's case and, for the matter of that, in
Gerson's case also, is that the student is compelled
to lay undue stress on the value of the fact that
Gerson's or Hilton's name is in quite early times
attached to the work. There was neither copy-
right nor conscience in these matters during the
Middle Ages, and the giving of an author's name
is no guarantee at all of authorship. The exact
problem that troubles us in the case of the Imitation
occurs in the case of innumerable treatises of the four-
teenth and fifteenth centuries. These are dead, and
it does not much matter who wrote them, but we
are necessarily concerned with the authorship of
the one work that has survived.

Mr Samuel Kettlewell's writings on the Author-
ship of the hnitation and the Brothers of Common
Life have, of course, been of great assistance to me,



INTRODUCTION xv

and it has been with much diffidence that I have
ventured here and there to question his statements
or extend his material. His confiding style, real
learninof, and admirable earnestness disarm all
criticism, and I shall be gratified if this volume
may be considered in some small measure to
supplement his patient labours.

Especial attention may be drawn to one feature
of this book. I have reprinted in the first appendix
Gerson's little treatise de Meditatione Cordis. This
work was as popular in the Middle Ages as the
Imitation itself. It has never been printed as a
single work, but probably appeared in print before
the Imitation, as it was issued under Gerson's name
with other tracts of his from Cologne by Ulrich Zel
between 1467 and 1472. Manuscripts of the treatise
are very rare. I doubt if there is one in England.
It was apparently one of a series of tracts of the
same type, such as Gerson's de Simplificatione
Cordis, de Perfectione Cordis, and others. Internal
evidence indicates that it was a late work, written
probably after the Council of Constance, and
proves beyond doubt that it was from Gerson's
pen. The editio princeps differs very considerably
from the series of editions between 1485 and 1526,
and the series between 1570 and 1575, when it
appeared as a supplement to successive editions of
the Imitation. The text here presented is to some
extent composite, the intention being to secure a



xvi INTRODUCTION

text as free as possible from the errors and obscuri-
ties of early copyists and printers. The Cologne
edition of 1467-72 has been in one or two places
used to clear up difficulties, but the text is chiefly
founded upon that of Milan (1488); another of
1492 without printed place of origin (possibly
Ulm) ; that of Nuremberg (1494); and another
of about 1496, issued either at Leipsic or Magde-
burg (British Museum, I. A. 10,955). The work
is, of course, of real interest as showing the funda-
mental difference between the style of Gerson and
that of the author of the Imitation, but it also
possesses much intrinsic value. It is from the
pen of the last, and certainly not the least of the
great Schoolmen ; it was written when the classical
Renaissance was actually in sight ; it may be called
the last literary work of the Old Age, and it has
all the learning and all the humour that distinguished
the work of Walter Map two centuries before. The
work proves conclusively that Gerson was not, as
some critics have thought, the dry remainder biscuit
of a dead age, but was in fact the living link
between the learning of the Middle Ages and the
learning of the Renaissance. The greatest figure
of his age, he was, of necessity, associated with
its greatest book, and perhaps no finer tribute has
been offered to the genius of the humble monk who
penned the work than this inevitable association.
It has been a matter of anxious care to secure



INTRODUCTION xvii

contemporary illustrations for the book. The early
printed editions have supplied the curious woodcuts
here reproduced. The frontispiece is a peculiarly
interesting- illumination, for it is not only an
admirable example of a lost art, but it shows the
meaning that the term Musica Ecclesiastica con-
veyed to the mediaeval mind. The pages reproduced
from manuscripts in London, Oxford, Cambridge,
Dublin, and Brussels will, I think, be of particular
interest to Colonial, American, and Continental
students who are unable to visit the libraries from
which these pages are drawn. A definite purpose
is served by these reproductions. If we had but
an exact reproduction of one page of the unique
manuscript of Asser's Life of King Alfred, burnt
in the great Cottonian fire of October 23rd, 1731,
a literary problem of the first magnitude would not
have arisen. I have reproduced here eleven pages
from various English and Irish manuscripts of the
Imitation, and the fact that these are brouofht
together from scattered sources will enable scholars
to test for themselves with some degree of accuracy
the views that I have ventured to express on the
authorship question.

A book of this type necessarily owes a great
deal to others beside the author, I have to thank
various members of the ever-courteous and learned
staff at the British Museum Library, and especially
of Mr J. A. Herbert of the Department of Manu-



xviii INTRODUCTION

scripts, for assistance and advice in the ceaseless
difficulties that arise in any discussion of problems
dealing with manuscripts and early printed books.
My acknowledgments are due to His Grace the
Archbishop of Canterbury for kindly allowing the
reproduction of pages from the Lambeth manu-
scripts, and I have especially to thank Mr Kershaw,
the librarian, for enabling me to identify beyond
much doubt the handwriting of Archbishop Sancroft
in the attribution, written on MS. 475, of the
Imitation to Walter Hilton. I have to thank
Mr Falconer Madan for valuable information as to
the Bodleian manuscripts, and, in particular, for
drawing my attention to the interesting Dutch MS.
(Marshall, 124). My acknowledgments are also
due to the authorities of the various libraries men-
tioned in the text for their readiness in permitting
the reproduction of pages of manuscripts in their
possession. The late Dr Shuckburgh and Mr F. W.
Head, of Emmanuel College, Cambridge ; and Mr
de Burgh, of Trinity College, Dublin, were good
enough to give me the most useful information as
to the manuscripts in their charge. I have also
particularly to thank my publishers for their ready
help in the difficult task of securing contemporary
illustrations.

J. E. G. DE M.

II New Square, Lincoln's Inn
August 2gth, I god.



LIST OF MANUSCRIPTS OF THE
IMITATION IN ENGLISH LIBRARIES



(The MSS. marked with an asterisk are entitled Musica
Ecclesiastica and have only the first three books.)



Place
I. British Museum.



Reference and reputed
Author



Date



Royal MSS. C. vii. Circa 1420

{none; part of First (or earlier).

Book only).

Burney MSS. 314 Circa 1419

{Gerson). (or earlier).

Harley MSS. 3216. 21st Dec.

1454.

Additional MSS. 11,437 Circa 1465.
{Gerson J first two
books only).

Royal MSS. 7, B. viii. Circa 1470.

{7iotie).

Harley MSS. 3223 1478.
{Gerson).

*j. Lambeth Palace Codex 475 (/r///'£>?/). Circa 1450

Library. (or later).

*8. Lambeth Palace Codex 536 («^«^). Circa 1440

Library. (or earlier).

9. Bodleian Library. K. D. yj{^){none ; First Circa 1450.

Book only).

10. Bodleian Library. Laud Misc. 167(1) Sixteenth

{Gerson or John d Century.
Kempis).



1. British Museum.

3. British Museum.

4. British Museum.

*5. British Museum.
6. British Museum.



XX LIST OF ENGLISH MANUSCRIPTS



Place
II. Bodleian Library.

'12. Bodleian Library.



Reference and reputed
Author



Date
Circa 1450.



^13-

^14.



Bodleian Library.
Bodleian Library.



Marshall 124(6) {none;

lib. ii. cap. 12 in

Dutch).
Laud Misc. 215(1) Circa 1450.

{none; Tractatus im-

perfectus).
Bodley 632 {none). Circa 1450.

Arch. Seld. Bodley 93 1469.

{none).
Codex xciii. {none). Nov. 29th,

1438.
Codex ']'] {none ; Thi7-d Circa 1450.

Book only).
Codex 83 {none). Circa 1450.



*I5. Magdalen College,

Oxford.
*(.'') 1 6. Emmanuel College,

Cambridge.
*i7. Emmanuel College,

Cambridge.
*i8. Cambridge University G.g. i, 16 {none ; in Circa 1450.

Library. English).

*I9. Library of Trinity {None ; in English.) Circa 1450.

College, Dublin.
*20. Coventry Grammar {None.) Circa 1460.

School MSS.
21. Formerly in Sir {In Greek. Noted by Mr Seventeenth

Thomas Phillipp's Kettlewcll as amoiig Century.

Collection. the Guildford MSS.)

[^Note. — Four manuscripts entitled Mtisica Ecclesiastica were in the
Syon Library in the Fifteenth Century, and in the Sixteenth Century
William Bonham and Reiner Wolfius each possessed a manuscript
(noted by John Bale) with the same title. These may or may not be
identical with some of the MSS. mentioned above. The above list
contains five manuscripts not noted by Mr Kettlewell, namely, 8, 9,
II, 16, and 19. Four of the manuscripts are dated, namely, 1438(15),
1454(3), 1469(14), and 1478(6).]



LIST OF SOME OF THE OTHER
MANUSCRIPTS CITED

Title and Page where Cited Place Date

1. Gerson's Sermon, Vivat Paris. 1406.

Rex (pp. 24-6).

2. Gerson's De Laude New College, Oxford. Fifteenth

Scriptorum (p. 49). Century.

3. De Imitatione Christi Royal Library, Brussels. 1425.

(P- 93)-

4. De Imitatione Christi Royal Library, Brussels. I44i-

(pp. 94-5).

5. Treatises of Thomas k Royal Library, Brussels. 1456.

Kempis (p. 95).

6. Sermones ad Novitios University Library, Louvain. Circa

(p. 95). 1450.

7. Musica Ecclesiastica (p. Royal Library, Brussels. Circa

97). 1450-

8. De Contetnplacione (p. British Museum, Royal Circa

107). MSS. C. vii. 1420.

9. The Passion of our Lord Bodleian Library, Bodley, 1405.

(p. 108). 75.

10. Terence {^. in). 1419-

11. De Conjugio (p. 151). Bernard's List, 9259, 73, 2.

12. Stimulus Ainoris (p. Cambridge University Lib- Fifteenth

151). rary, H. h. 1-12. Century.

13. Scala Perfectionis (p. Cambridge University Lib- Fifteenth

151). rary, Ee. iv. 30. Century.

14. Speculwn de Utilitate British Museum, Harl. 3852. Fifteenth

Religionis Regularis Century.
(p. 151).



xxii LIST OF OTHER MANUSCRIPTS



Title and Page where Cited

15. Scala Perfectionis (p.

152).

16. De Sacramento A Harts

(p. 156).

17. Dc Sacramento Altaris

(P- 157)-

18. Liber Commonitorius dc

Mundi Contemptu (p.
157).

19. De Utilitatc Tribula-

tionis (pp. 1 60-1).

20. Augustini SoUloquia

(p. 162).

21. De Utilitate ct prac-

rogativis Religionis et
praecipue ordinis Car-
thusiensis (p. 165).

22. The same treatise (pp.

165-6).



Place Date

British Museum, Harl. 330. 1495.

Once in Syon Library. Fifteenth

Century.

British Museum, Arundel Fifteenth

214. Century.

Once in the Library of Duke Circa 1440.
Humphrey. Now possibly
the MS. at Lincoln Col-
lege, Oxford, xviii. 21.

Lambeth Palace Library, Fifteenth

Codex 475. Century.

Emmanuel College, Cam- Fifteenth

bridge, Codex 83. Century.

Magdalen College, Oxford, Circa

Codex 93. 1438.



Merton College, Oxford, Fifteenth
Codex 514. Century.



LIST OF PRINTED EDITIONS OF
THE IMITATION CITED



Reputed Author

1. Thomas a Kempis {Editio

Princeps) ....

2. None (First Book only) .

3. Gerson (entitled de Co7itemptu

Mundi) ....

4. Gerson

5. Gerson or St Bernard



Place



Date



Augsburg.


1471?


Metz.


1481.


Venice.


1483.


Venice.


1485.


Brescia.


1485.



LIST OF PRINTED EDITIONS xxiii



Reputed Author

6. Gerson

7. None (First Book only)

8. Gerson

9. Thomas a Kempis

10. None

11. None

12. None (in German)

13. Gerson

14. Gerson

15. Gerson

16. Gerson

17. Thomas a Kempis

18. Thomas k Kempis

19. Gerson

20. None

21. Thomas a Kempis

22. Thomas h Kempis (his

lected works)

23. Thomas k Kempis

24. Gerson

25. Gerson

26. Gerson

27. Gerson

28. Thomas a Kempis

29. Gerson (in Enghsh)



col



Place


Date


Louvain.


1485?


Cologne.


i486?


Venice.


i486.


Argentine.


1487.


Ulm.


1487.


Ulm.


1487.


Ulm.


1487.


Venice.


1488.


Milan.


1488.


Augsburg.


1488.


Paris.


1489.


Louvain.


1489.


Argentine.


1489.


Paris.


1491.


Ulm (?).


1492.


Luneborch.


1493-


Nuremberg.


1494-


Leipsic or Magde-


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22