- Colet, John
- (1467-1519)English humanist and reformminded clergyman. He was an outspoken (but strictly Catholic) critic of the worldliness and neglect of duty typical of many English clergymen. Born the son of a rich London merchant, Colet studied at Cambridge University and spent three years in Italy, where he became familiar with the writings of the philosophers Marsilio Ficino and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. He then entered Oxford University and received a doctorate in theology. His father's influence won for him the important office of dean of St. Paul's cathedral as soon as he had the theological degree. Colet's inherited wealth made it possible for him to refound St. Paul's school in a way that emphasized literary study but in many respects was not typical of humanistic education, since Colet's religious traditionalism made him critical of the practice of exposing young students to the pagan religious beliefs and the questionable moral tone found in much classical literature. Although the new St. Paul's School ultimately became an important center of humanist education in England, this was done, mostly after Colet's death, by headmasters who quietly abandoned Colet's insistence that his school should avoid pagan authors and should concentrate its studies on Christian authors.Colet in 1510 delivered before Convocation (the assembly of the clergy) a powerful and brutally frank sermon attacking the worldliness of many of the clergy and urging reform. Though he meant well and was widely admired as a morally upright and well-educated clergyman, Colet was also resented by many, for he was often rude and unfairly critical of others. But his acknowledged religious orthodoxy, his narrow but genuine learning, and his eloquence as a preacher made him widely admired. He was insistent on the central role of the Bible in religious life, and in a course of lectures at Oxford produced commentaries on biblical books that were much admired. He encouraged his friend Erasmus to become a biblical scholar, but unlike his Dutch friend he had very little awareness of the crucial role of Greek for any serious student of the New Testament.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.