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of the monastery which the Brethren had set up on Mount St. Agnes, near Zwolle, he was put to the kind of work he liked best—that of copying manuscripts. He had a high opinion of the value of such work, and in a sermon he says: “If he shall not lose his reward who gives a cup of cold water to his thirsty neighbour, what will not be the reward of those who by putting good books into the hands of those neighbours, open to them the fountains of eternal life ? "1 This copying of books was indeed a most important industry, carried on mainly in the quiet cloisters of monasteries. Printing from moveable type was not invented till more than fifty years after Thomas settled at Mount St. Agnes, where he lived till he was over go.

But Thomas was more than a copyist of the Bible and other good books; he made an original contribution to the religious literature of the world, and it was a contribution of the utmost value and significance. His Imitation of Christ has, it is said, been published in more than 3,000 editions, and it has been translated into a multitude of languages. A work of the highest excellence is as rare a thing, and as difficult of achievement, in devotional literature as it is in any other kind of literature ; and it is surely as worthy of the closest and most exhaustive study as regards its origin and antecedents, its teaching, and its literary structure.

How was it that the Imitation came into being, and what are its main conceptions and its outstanding literary features ? And above all, what is it that gives the book its permanent interest and value, that explains the amazing appeal which it has made and continues

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to make to all sorts and conditions of men ? These are some of the questions to which I would ask your attention.

Among the things that Gerard Groot had encouraged the Brethren of the Common Life to do was to keep commonplace books in which they could put any fine sayings they came across in the course of their reading, or heard in conversation, or any good thoughts that arose in their own minds. From the fact that the main occupation of the Brethren was the copying of books, the practice of making extracts of passages that particularly impressed them would arise very naturally, and almost inevitably. We can imagine one of them, for instance, transcribing a work of Augustine or Bernard, and when he came upon something that especially struck him, saying to himself, “I must make a note of this, and speak about it to the brethren and others likely to be interested in it." So from a shelf in his cell or scriptorium, he takes a note-book, and in it he enters the passage or saying. Possibly he kept a series of notebooks for different subjects. These note-books were called "rapiaria,” a name that suggests spoil or plunder, things seized in passing.

Now it seems to have been from such rapiaria—such collections of things read or heard or thought-that Thomas à Kempis' Imitation of Christ originated. Thomas may have begun with little or no idea of making a book of his own; and probably after the Imitation was completed he would have hesitated about claiming it as his own, so much would he feel that he was indebted to others for thought and inspiration. And indeed he did not put his name to the book as its author. At the end of the autograph manuscript in the Royal Library at Brussels, he does place his name, but only as copyist. Had he been a little less self-effacing, the great controversy that has raged for centuries as to the authorship of the Imitation would never have arisen. It may be said of him what has been said of Shakespeare, that he was like a man who has thrown a bag of gold into a house, and gone away without telling the inmates who it was to whom they owed the gift. He had taken as his motto a saying of St. Bernard, “ Ama nesciri,”-love to be unknown. Besides he was anxious that the truth of a saying or book should be left to make its own impression, apart altogether from the question as to who said it or wrote it. Truth, he held, should be its own authority; it is not made more true by" the shadow of a great name," or less true by an obscure one. So he says, “Let not the authority of the writer move thee, whether he be of small or great learning ; but let the love of pure truth draw thee to read. Ask not who said this or that, but mark what is said.” (i. 5.)

Thus, for those who, contrary to Thomas' advice, wish to know who said this or that in the Imitation, and to discuss the authorship of the book, there is plenty of scope for research and speculation. There are still those who maintain that it was written by Jean Gerson (1363–1429) who had been Chancellor of the University of Paris, and had in other ways played a great part in the life of his time. They who take this view argue that the book is the result of an experience which could not have been gained by one who had led such a quiet, uneventful life as that of Thomas à Kempis. It is more likely, they say, to be the work of one like Gerson in

to make to all sorts and conditions of men ? These are some of the questions to which I would ask your attention.

Among the things that Gerard Groot had encouraged the Brethren of the Common Life to do was to keep commonplace books in which they could put any fine sayings they came across in the course of their reading, or heard in conversation, or any good thoughts that arose in their own minds. From the fact that the main occupation of the Brethren was the copying of books, the practice of making extracts of passages that particularly impressed them would arise very naturally, and almost inevitably. We can imagine one of them, for instance, transcribing a work of Augustine or Bernard, and when he came upon something that especially struck him, saying to himself, “I must make a note of this, and speak about it to the brethren and others likely to be interested in it." So from a shelf in his cell or scriptorium, he takes a note-book, and in it he enters the passage or saying. Possibly he kept a series of notebooks for different subjects. These note-books were called "rapiaria," a name that suggests spoil or plunder, things seized in passing.

Now it seems to have been from such rapiaria—such collections of things read or heard or thought—that Thomas à Kempis' Imitation of Christ originated. Thomas may have begun with little or no idea of making a book of his own; and probably after the Imitation was completed he would have hesitated about claiming it as his own, so much would he feel that he was indebted to others for thought and inspiration. And indeed he did not put his name to the book as its author. At the end of the autograph manuscript in the Royal Library at Brussels, he does place his name, but only as copyist. Had he been a little less self-effacing, the great controversy that has raged for centuries as to the authorship of the Imitation would never have arisen. It may be said of him what has been said of Shakespeare, that he was like a man who has thrown a bag of gold into a house, and gone away without telling the inmates who it was to whom they owed the gift. He had taken as his motto a saying of St. Bernard, “Ama nesciri,"_love to be unknown. Besides he was anxious that the truth of a saying or book should be left to make its own impression, apart altogether from the question as to who said it or wrote it. Truth, he held, should be its own authority ; it is not made more true by" the shadow of a great name," or less true by an obscure one. So he says, “ Let not the authority of the writer move thee, whether he be of small or great learning; but let the love of pure truth draw thee to read. Ask not who said this or that, but mark what is said.” (i. 5.)

Thus, for those who, contrary to Thomas' advice, wish to know who said this or that in the Imitation, and to discuss the authorship of the book, there is plenty of scope for research and speculation. There are still those who maintain that it was written by Jean Gerson (1363–1429) who had been Chancellor of the University of Paris, and had in other ways played a great part in the life of his time. They who take this view argue that the book is the result of an experience which could not have been gained by one who had led such a quiet, uneventful life as that of Thomas à Kempis. It is more likely, they say, to be the work of one like Gerson in

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