25
The Praise of Folly

And therefore he imagineth, that Folie shoulde be a Goddesse, who before all kyndes of men assembled as to a sermon, shoulde declare how many benefites they receive at hir handes: and how without hir accesse, nothyng in this life is delectable, commodious, or tollerable unto us, no not our owne life.

Sir Thomas Chaloner, 'Preface to the Reader' 'in his first
English translation ( 1549)

For only when humour illuminated that mind did it become truly profound. In the Praise of Folly Erasmus gave something that no one else could have given to the world.

Huizinga, Erasmus, 78

On returning from Italy in 1509 -- as Erasmus wrote, with something of the sprezzatura already conventional among Italian humanists, as Castiglione developed that notion in his Cortegiano, begun in the same year:

as I was returning lately from Italy to England, in order to avoid squandering upon vulgar and uneducated talk the whole time I had to spend on horseback, I sometimes preferred inwardly to savour some memory, either of the studies you {Thomas More} and I shared once, or of the learned and congenial friends whom I had left behind in this country . . . I decided to compose a trifling thing, Moriae encomium. (Epistle 222, CWE 2:161/2 ff., Allen 1, 460/1 ff.)

The conventions can easily be spotlighted: the composition on horseback or after riding, the pretence that the result is a trifling thing, the recollection of past studies and pleasures, and the closing words that allude to the country ('ex rure'). 1

Erasmus' great classic of irony was played out 2 on the stage of European thought and letters: 'poised' (as Clarence Miller puts it quite admirably) 'between the urbanity of the Italian Renaissance and the earnestness of Northern humanism'. 3 All human life contains irony, and the complex metaphoric extensions of the theatrum mundi topos has a life in European literature. The ironic double vision is a

-95-

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Erasmus of Europe: - Vol. 2
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Notes xiv
  • List of Abbreviations xv
  • List of ILlustrations xvii
  • 18 Return from England: the Years in Flanders and Paris, 1501-1502 1
  • 19 the Early Louvain Years, 1502-1504 14
  • Notes 24
  • 20 the Enchiridion: 'Philosophia Christi' 28
  • Notes 40
  • 21 1504, a Threshold Year 41
  • Notes 49
  • 22 Return to England, 1505-1506 51
  • Notes 59
  • 23 Italy, 1506-1509 62
  • Notes 71
  • 24 the Adages 74
  • Notes 82
  • 25 England Again, 1509: the 'Period of Silence' 86
  • Notes 92
  • 25 the Praise of Folly 95
  • Notes 105
  • 27 the Cambridge Years, 1511-1514 109
  • Notes 122
  • 28 the Changing World in 1514 126
  • 29 Vocation and Life-Style 140
  • Notes 147
  • 30 to Basel, Summer 1514 149
  • Notes 161
  • 31 1516, the Annus Mirabilis 165
  • Notes 173
  • 32 the New Testament: A Life Work 175
  • Notes 189
  • Notes 210
  • 34 the Rising Storm of Controversy: Erasmus and His Catholic Critics, 1517-1522 216
  • Notes 231
  • 35 the Colloquies 236
  • Notes 243
  • Erasmus and His Friends: His Audience and His Geography 247
  • Notes 259
  • 37 Reform and Reformation: Ecclesia Semper Reformanda 263
  • Notes 278
  • 38 the Basel Years, 1521-1529: the Reformation Storm Rising 283
  • 39 Erasmus and Luther: on the Freedom of the Will 298
  • Notes 306
  • 40 Language and Style 310
  • Notes 317
  • 41 the Basel Years: Humanism and Religion 320
  • Notes 333
  • 42 the Freiburg Years, 1529-1535 337
  • Notes 346
  • 43 the Final Act at Basel: Summer 1535 to July 1536 350
  • Notes 359
  • 44 the Achievement of Erasmus and His Place in History 362
  • Notes 377
  • Appendix C Erasmus' Dispensations 381
  • Notes 383
  • Appendix D Erasmus' Wills 384
  • Notes 385
  • Appendix E Portraits of Erasmus 387
  • An Erasmian Chronology: LIfe and Writings 390
  • Bibliography 393
  • Index of Names of Persons 408
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