1.3.1. Introduction to Domestica confabulatio
Albeit brief, the dialogue between Aegidius and Leonardus serves as an excellent bridge between the Formulae and the later dialogues. It looks backwards to the Formulae because it includes ways of expressing gladness at running into old friends (Imo boni amici nulla est apud me satietas. Imo quo crebrius venies, hoc mihi venies gratior) and wishing someone well in parting (Precor, ut bene vertat omnibus), as well as illustrating Erasmus' penchant for the copia verborum—in other words, helping students build vocabulary and linguistic flexibility by including in these exchanges different ways of expressing a single idea. For example, when Leonardus asks Aegidius if his daughter is not of marriageable age, he states his question in a number of different ways in succession: Atqui, ni fallor, iamdudum nubilis est. Iamdudum est apta viro, matura coniugio. Iampridem est tempestiva viro. Aegidius responds in kind, revealing the age of his daughter in no less than three ways: Quidni, annum egressa iam decimum septimum? Annum iam agens undevigesimum. Annos nata decem et octo. The purpose of this is to give pupils ways of modifying the dialogues each time they read them by choosing different phrases.
Although this technique of repetition situates this dialogue firmly within the early editions of the Colloquia, the themes contained within the dialogue itself simultaneously project us forward because we see the seeds of topics that will continue to come up—and are expanded on—in the later dialogues. In fact, the dialogue that comes most to mind when reading this exchange is the Virgo μισόγαμος (included in the present collection) and Virgo poenitens (not included as of yet). The two men's opposition to Aegedius's daughter joining a convent in this brief exchange, however, is mild in comparison to the severe—yet colorful—accusations of corruption and hypocrisy that the character Eubulus hurls against monks and nuns in the later dialogue in his attempt to convince the young Catharina not to join a convent. While Aegidius merely refers to monks as kidnappers intent on luring his child away (novi...istos plagiarios), Eubulus is far harsher, calling them illos crassos, semper distentos monachos, and warning Catharina that it will be harder to protect her virginity inside the convent than in her own home.
Besides providing the reader an example of a concrete topic that is merely touched upon in the formulae, and then expanded to provide the substance for no fewer than two dialogues in the Colloquia, this exchange between Aegidius and Leonardus also provides us a window into themes that recur throughout Erasmus' corpus. One, of course, is his dislike for the cloistered life. Another theme is his rejection of scholastic theology in which he received instruction while studying in Paris.31 In this dialogue, these opinions are uttered by Aegidius in response to Leonardus' inquiry about his sons. Whereas the eldest son is married, minimum ablegavi Lutetiam...ut Magister nobis redeat stultior, quam exierat.
Although this dialogue is the shortest one included in this collection, and belongs to the original "phrasebook" version of a text intended to instruct people in daily conversation, it nevertheless surprises us when we start to unpack its layers. In doing so we discover that themes that are seemingly glossed over in the quick back-and-forth exchange turn out to be of fundamental importance—as well as often great sources of frustration—to its author, who addresses them in countless works and letters throughout his life.