Valdes, John

, a Spanish reformer of the sixteenth century, was of a noble family in Spain; and a soldier under Charles the Vth, who knighted him. After some years spent in a military life, he desired leave to retire; and when Charles inquired whether his request proceeded from disgust, his answer was, “It is necessary that a soldier, before his death, should give some time to religious meditation.*' He left his native country, and retired to Naples, where he became the head of a sect of the reformed, and many persons of great distinction attended his lectures. He was particularly connected with Bernard Ochin, Peter Martyr, and other learned men of great character amongst the reformers of that time; and he attacked, with success, many of the corruptions of the church of Rome. Thus far is collected from the old French preface to his” Considerations," and confirmed by Mr. Ferrar’s (the translator) account in a letter of Mr. George Herbert.

By some, Valdesso was thought to lean too much to | the doctrines of the Unitarians, in opposition to the Trinitarian system. And this circumstance, we suppose, may account for a passage in Mr. George Herbert’s letter to Mr. Nicholas Ferrar concerning his translation of this work, which he earnestly desires may be published, notwithstanding some things which he does not approve. Mr. George Herbert was a conscientious Trinitarian; and, besides this, there are undoubtedly some passages in Valdesso, in which he seems to depreciate the authority of the Scriptures; which might give just cause of offence.

The French edition of Valdesso referred to above was published at Paris in 1565, and was taken from an Italian translation of the original Spanish: in which, it is said, were preserved, not only some of the idioms, but also many words of the Spanish original. Mr. Ferrar’s English translation was printed at Oxford in 1638, but without his name; and if it should be asked why Mr. Ferrar, who was perfect master of the Spanish, as well as the Italian language, chose to translate from a translation rather than the original, he himself has given the reason in his own preface: “These truly divine meditations of sir John Valdesso, a nobleman of Spain (who died almost a hundred years ago), having been so acceptable to pious Vergerius, to learned Caelius Secundus Curio, and to many other both French and Italian Protestants, that they have been translated out of the original Spanish copy, and printed three or four times in those languages; it seemeth to me a reasonable, and a charitable desire, to print them now in English, without any alteration at all from the Italian copy, the Spanish being either not extant, or not easy to be found.

In a letter of Herbert’s he gives the following additional particulars of Valdesso: “John Valdesso was a Spaniard of great learning and virtue, much valued by Charles V. whom he had attended in all his wars. When he was grown old, and weary both of war and of the world, he took a proper opportunity to declare to the emperor his resolution to decline the military service, and betake himself to a quiet contemplative life, because, he said, there ought to be some vacancy of time between fighting and dying. It happened at that time the emperor himself had made, though not publicly declared, the same resolution. He therefore desired Valdesso to consider well what he had said, and conceal his purpose till they might have | opportunity for a friendly discourse about it. This opportunity soon offered, and, after a pious and free discourse together, they agreed, that on a certain day they would publicly receive the sacrament. At which time the emperor appointed an eloquent friar to preach on the contempt of the world, and the happiness of a quiet contemplative life. After sermon, the emperor declared openly that the preacher had begotten in him a resolution to lay down his dignities, to forsake the world, and betake himself to a monastic life. And he pretended that he had also persuaded John Valdesso to do the like. Not long after they carried their resolutions into execution.

The translation of the above work of Valdesso was printed at Oxford 1638, 8vo, and entitled “The hundred and ten Considerations of Signior John Valdesso, &c.” Subjoined is an epistle, written by Valdesso to lady Donna Julia de Gonzaga, to whom he dedicates “A Commentary upon the Epistle to the Romans.” It appears, that along with this commentary he sent to her all St. Paul’s epistles, translated from the Greek into the ordinary Castilian language. He says, that he had before translated the Psalms of David from the original Hebrew, for her use; and he promises to furnish her with the history of Christ in the same language, at such time and manner as shall please the “divine Majesty.

In the mean time Valdesso had made many converts to the reformed opinions, until the Spanish Inquisition interfered, and either compelled his disciples to fly or to recant. He died at Naples in 1540. He wrote some commentaries on different parts of the Bible; but his “Considerations” are his principal work. 1


Gen. Dict. Peckard’s Life of Nich. Fcrrar, Herbert’s Life by Waliou.