The Ideal of Humanism

R.C. Jebb, Humanism in Education (1899):

“Petrarch’s ideal of humanism, as a discipline which aims at drawing out all the mental and moral faculties of man, pervades the whole course of the Italian Renaissance. Often, indeed, that ideal was obscured by affectations or puerilities ; not seldom it was belied by evil living; but nevertheless it was a real force, which comes out more or less in all the greater and nobler of the humanists. The enthusiasm and the versatile energy which animated the Italian Renaissance for two centuries sprang from a deep and earnest conviction that the ‘recovered literatures were not only models of style, but treasure-houses of wisdom, guides of life, witnesses to a civilisation higher than any which could then be found upon the earth. Even in the early years of the sixteenth century, when the best energies of the movement had in Italy been spent, and when Italian humanism was being narrowed down from the ample scholarship of Politian to the Ciceronian purism of Bembo, this fundamental belief remained unaltered. “

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