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Letter XLVII. To Desiderius.

Jerome invites two of his old friends at Rome, Desiderius and his sister (or wife) Serenilla, to join him at Bethlehem. It is possible but not probable that this Desiderius is the same with Desiderius of Aquitaine, who afterwards induced Jerome to write against Vigilantius.

An interval of seven years separates this letter (of which the date is 393 a.d.) from the preceding, and all the letters written during this period have wholly perished.

1. Surprised as I have been, my excellent friend, to read the language which your kindness has prompted you to hold concerning me, I have rejoiced that I possess the testimony of one both eloquent and sincere; but when I turn from you to myself I feel vexed that, owing to my unworthiness, your words of praise and eulogy rather weigh me down than lift me up. You know, of course, that I make it a principle to raise the standard of humility, and to prepare for scaling the heights by walking for the present in the lowest places. For what am I or what is my significance that I should have the voice of learning raised to bear witness of me, or that the palm of eloquence should be laid at my feet by one whose style is so charming that it has almost deterred me from writing a letter at all? I must, however, make the attempt in order that charity which seeks not p. 66 her own 1027 but always her neighbor’s good, may at least return a compliment, since it cannot convey a lesson.

2. I offer my congratulations to you and to your holy and revered sister, 1028 Serenilla, who, true to her name, 1029 has trodden down the troubled waves of the world, and has passed to Christ’s calm haven: a happiness which—if we may trust the augury of your name—is in store for you also. For we read that the holy Daniel was called “a man of desires,” 1030 and the friend of God, because he desired to know His mysteries. Therefore, I do with pleasure what the revered Paula has asked of me. I urge and implore you both by the charity of the Lord that you will give your presence to us, and that a visit to the holy places may induce you to enrich us with this great gift. Even supposing that you do not care for our society, it is still your duty as believers to worship on the spot where the Lord’s feet once stood and to see for yourselves the still fresh traces of His birth, His cross, and His passion.

3. Several of my little pieces have flown away out of their nest, and have rashly sought for themselves the honor of publication. I have not sent you any lest I should send works which you already have. But if you care to borrow copies of them, you can do so either from our holy sister, Marcella, who has her abode upon the Aventine, or from that holy man, Domnio, who is the Lot of our times. 1031 Meantime, I look for your arrival, and will give you all I have when you once come; or, if any hindrances prevent you from joining us, I will gladly send you such treatises as you shall desire. Following the example of Tranquillus 1032 and of Apollonius the Greek, 1033 I have written a book concerning illustrious men 1034 from the apostles’ time to our own; and after enumerating a great number I have put myself down on the last page as one born out of due time, and the least of all Christians. 1035 Here I have found it necessary to give a short account of my writings down to the fourteenth year 1036 of the Emperor Theodosius. If you find, on procuring this treatise from the persons mentioned above, that there are any pieces mentioned which you have not already got, I will have them copied for you by degrees, if you wish it.



1 Cor. xiii. 5.


I.e. his wife. Cf. 1 Cor. ix. 5.


Serenilla, “calm.”


Dan. ix. 23, A.V. marg. Desiderius means “one who is an object of desire.”


Cf. 2 Pet. 2:7, 8.


I.e. the historian Suetonius.


Probably Apollonius of Tyre, who appears to have written an account of the principal philosophers who followed Zeno.


See this work in Vol. III. of this series.


Cf. 1 Cor. 15:8, 9.


a.d. 392–3.

Next: Letter XLVIII