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HANNIBAL DE COUDRET
|On Prudence in Reading
Rome, August 27, 1553
summary | text
of letter | footnotes
The Jesuit college in Messina, Italy, was established in 1548, and among the
first Jesuits to go there to teach was the scholastic Hannibal de Coudret.1
He was involved in helping to prepare the school's curriculum and in
determining the texts to be used by the students. Having heard that Ignatius
did not want certain authors to be read in Jesuit colleges, he sent a query to
Rome. Polanco answers his question and does it briefly and clearly, and at the
same time informs him how the problem in treated in Rome. Ignatius felt that
the works of some classical Latin authors (for example, Martial and Horace)
could be expurgated and placed in the hands of the students, but others (such
as Terence) could not be so cleansed, and hence should be banned. Ignatius
also banned Erasmus2 and Vives,3 but the reason was not
because their books, which were used in schools, contained anything harmful or
immoral, but he feared that once the students became familiar with these
authors, they might become admirers of their style and go on to read other
books of theirs and, perhaps, be enticed to look upon the Roman Church in the
same manner as these authors had done. Polanco wrote this letter in Italian [Ep.
The peace of Christ.
Beloved in Jesus
Christ, Master Hannibal:
It is true that our
Father does not wish the works of Erasmus, Vives, Terence, and of any other
immoral author to be read. I, however, wish to say two things to free you from
any scruple: one is that outside of Rome this rule, up to now, has not been
rigorously kept, especially when these books have already been in use; the
other is that here in Rome, these authors are adapted in this manner: with
regard to Martial and Horace, and such like, whatever is immoral is
expurgated, leaving the rest with the author's name, etc. The work "On
the eight parts"4 is printed without Erasmus' name, since he
did not write it. There is also a shorter version, in verse, which contains
what Erasmus has said well. The same with the others. When these books are
printed, they will be sent to you in Messina by our book-dealer, who does the
printing. Up to now your way of going about this is not bad and you can
If Master Bernard5
has arrived, please give him our greetings. As soon as I learn where he is, I
will write you.
I earnestly commend
myself to your prayers.
is very well and is still in office.
May Jesus Christ be
our continual help and favor.
From Rome, August
||De Coudret was born in 1524, in Sallanches (Haute-Savoie),
and entered the Society in Bologna in 1546. He went to Messina as a
scholastic and was ordained in Palermo on May 3, 1554. He returned to
Rome in 1556, and while stationed at the Roman College he translated
GonÁalves da Cam‚raís Spanish-Italian text of Ignatiusí Autobiography
into Latin. He returned to France in 1561 and died at Avignon on
September 19, 1599.
||Ignatius was familiar with Erasmus (1466-1536), not
because he had studied him or read many of his works, but it was
because he had been thought a follower of Erasmus that he had been
interrogated and imprisoned in Salamanca in 1527. While Ignatius was
thus detained, a conference of theologians convened by the Inquisitor
General was being held in Valladolid (June 12-August 13, 1527) to
discuss certain propositions taken from Erasmusí writings. It is
true that Erasmus was not a reformer and that he repudiated Lutherís
work, nevertheless, it was he who prepared the way for the
||Juan Luis Vives was a Spanish humanist and philosopher,
born in Valencia in 1491. He left Spain because of the Inquisition and
became professor (1519) of humanities at Louvain and there became a
life-long friend of Erasmus. He then taught at Corpus Christi College,
Oxford. He became court counselor and private secretary to Englandís
Queen Catherine, but because he opposed Henry VIIIIís desire to
divorce Catherine, he left England and retired to Bruges, Belgium. It
was while residing in Bruges that Ignatius, visiting the city on his
first begging tour, met him and had dinner with him during Lent 1529.
Vives died at Bruges in 1540.
||The small book De octo orationis partium
constructione was at the time thought to have been the product of
the Englishman William Lily (1468-1522), and not the work of Erasmus.
There are some who are of the same opinion today.
||Bernard Olivier was a Belgian, born in Antoing in 1523.
He went to Rome in 1546 and worked with a notary, and when he entered
the Society in 1549, he had already been ordained. He was minister
(1550) of the house where Ignatius lived, and then rector (1551) of
the Roman College, and in 1553 went to Sicily for his health. He then
returned to Flanders and in May 1556 Ignatius appointed him the first
provincial of Lower Germany (and Flanders). He died three months later
( August 22, 1566) after visiting a Jesuit who had contracted the
||This was Louis de Coudret, Hannibalís older brother,
who entered the Society in Rome the same year as Hannibal (1546), was
ordained in Rome ca. 1550-1551, and was now rector in Florence.