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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1119

Gerard was the son of Elias, a Dutch cloth and leather merchant, and Katherine, his wife. His talent for penmanship and illuminating developed at an early age. At first, Gerard was aided by the monks of the local convent for which he was destined. When the monks could teach the...

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Gerard was the son of Elias, a Dutch cloth and leather merchant, and Katherine, his wife. His talent for penmanship and illuminating developed at an early age. At first, Gerard was aided by the monks of the local convent for which he was destined. When the monks could teach the young artist no more, he became the pupil of Margaret Van Eyck, sister of the famous painter, Jan Van Eyck. She and her servant, Reicht Heynes, encouraged the lad to enter a prize art competition sponsored by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy and Earl of Holland.

On his way to Rotterdam to an exhibit of the entries, Gerard met an old man, Peter Brandt, and his daughter, Margaret, who sat exhausted by the wayside. He went with them into the town. There he took a letter of introduction from Dame Van Eyck to the Princess Marie, daughter of Prince Philip. Impressed by the lad’s talent, the princess promised him a benefice near his village of Tergou as soon as he had taken holy orders. He won a prize in the contest and returned to Tergou, wondering whether he would ever again see Margaret Brandt, with whom he had fallen in love.

Gerard accidentally learned from Ghysbrecht Van Swieten, Tergou’s burgomaster, that the old man and his daughter lived in Sevenbergen, a nearby village. He began to frequent their cottage. Ghysbrecht disclosed to Katherine, Gerard’s mother, that the young man was interested in Margaret Brandt. A quarrel ensued in the family, and Elias threatened to have Gerard imprisoned to prevent his marriage. Margaret Van Eyck gave Gerard money and valuable advice on art and recommended that he and the girl go to Italy, where Gerard’s talents were sure to be appreciated. Gerard and Margaret Brandt became betrothed, but before they could be married, the burgomaster had Gerard seized and put in jail. He was rescued at night from the prison by Margaret, his sweetheart; Giles, his dwarf brother; and Kate, his crippled sister. In the rescue, Giles removed from a chest in the cell some parchments that the villainous Ghysbrecht had hidden there. At Sevenbergen, Gerard buried all the parchments except a deed, which concerned Margaret’s father.

After an exciting pursuit, Gerard and Margaret escaped the vicinity of Tergou. They separated; Margaret was to return to Sevenbergen, and Gerard was to proceed to Rome. On the way, he was befriended by a Burgundian soldier named Denys, and the pair traveled toward the Rhine. They experienced a variety of adventures together.

Meanwhile, in Sevenbergen, Margaret Brandt fell sick and was befriended by Margaret Van Eyck. Martin, an old soldier friend of the young lovers, went to Rotterdam where he procured a pardon for Gerard from Prince Philip. Dame Van Eyck gave a letter to Hans Memling to deliver to Gerard in Italy, but Memling was waylaid by agents of the burgomaster, and the letter was taken from him.

Gerard and Denys came upon a company of Burgundian soldiers on their way to the wars, and Denys was ordered to ride with them to Flanders. Gerard was left to make his solitary way to Rome. Released because of wounds received in the duke’s service, Denys later set out for Holland, where he hoped to find Gerard. Elias and Katherine welcomed him in Tergou when he told them that he had been Gerard’s comrade. Meanwhile, old Brandt and Margaret disappeared from Sevenbergen, and Denys searched all Holland for the girl. They had gone to Rotterdam, but only the burgomaster knew their whereabouts. When Margaret practiced medicine illegally, she was arrested and sentenced to pay a large fine. In order to stay alive, she took in laundry. Denys discovered Margaret in Rotterdam, and the pair returned to Tergou, where Gerard’s family had become reconciled to his attachment to the girl.

Gerard made his dangerous way through France and Germany to Venice. From there, he took a coastal vessel and continued to Rome. When the ship was wrecked in a storm, Gerard displayed bravery in saving the lives of a Roman matron and her child. He went on to Rome and took lodgings, but he found work all but impossible to obtain. He and another young artist, Pietro, decorated playing cards for a living. Finally, through the good graces of the woman whose life he had saved in the shipwreck, Gerard was hired to decorate manuscripts for Fra Colonna, a leading classical scholar.

Hans Memling brought a letter to Rome. Sent by Ghysbrecht, the letter gave Gerard the false news that Margaret had died. Gerard forsook the Church and in despair threw himself into the Tiber, but he was saved and carried to a monastery, where he recovered and eventually took monastic vows. He became Brother Clement of the Dominican Order. After a period of training, he was sent to teach at the University of Basle in Switzerland. Meanwhile, in Holland, Margaret gave birth to Gerard’s son.

Brother Clement received orders to proceed to England. Preaching as he went, he began the journey down the Rhine.

In Rotterdam, Luke Peterson became Margaret’s suitor. She told him he could prove his love for her by seeking out Gerard, but Luke’s and Brother Clement’s paths were fated not to cross. The priest went to Sevenbergen, where he was unable to find the grave of Margaret. He proceeded to Rotterdam, and there Margaret heard him preach without recognizing him as Gerard. He next went to Tergou to see Ghysbrecht. The burgomaster was dying; he confessed to Brother Clement that he had defrauded Margaret of the wealth that was rightfully hers. On his deathbed, Ghysbrecht made full restitution.

When Brother Clement left the burgomaster, he returned to Rotterdam and took refuge in a hermit’s cave outside the city. There he mortified himself out of hatred for mankind.

Having learned his whereabouts through court gossip, Margaret went to him, but he repulsed her in the belief that she was a spirit sent by Satan. Margaret took her son to the cave in an attempt to win back his reason. Brother Clement’s acquaintance with his son, also named Gerard, brought him to his senses. By shrewd argument, Margaret persuaded him to come with her to Gouda, where he would be parson by arrangement with church authorities. They lived in Gouda but remained apart; Gerard tended his flock, and Margaret assisted him in his many charitable works.

After ten years at Gouda, Margaret died of the plague. Gerard, no longer anxious to live after her death, died two weeks later. Their son, Gerard, grew up to be Erasmus, the world-famous sixteenth-century biblical scholar and man of letters.

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