Erasmus Praise Of Folly Is A Landmark Example Of Essay

The Praise of Folly is one of the most important books of Renaissance Humanism and one of the most perfect expressions of the sentiments and philosophy of its author, Desiderius Erasmus. Its historical importance cannot be overestimated; the critic A.H.T. Levi explains that its worth derives from the fact that it was "...an extremely intelligent and articulate response to what was perhaps the fundamental value-shift in modern European history."

The Praise of Folly was written in 1509 to amuse Sir Thomas More, Erasmus's close friend and intellectual counterpart. Erasmus wrote in the preface to the work that he was reflecting upon the closeness of the Greek word for folly, Moria, and More's own last name. He claimed it was written in a week but there were clearly revisions made before its 1511 publication and a large section was added to it after the first edition.

Erasmus conceived of this as a minor work and was surprised at the controversy it stirred up. Maarten van Dorp, a humanist theologian at Louvain, took it upon himself to speak for his colleagues and engaged Erasmus in a number of letters regarding The Praise of Folly, among other theological issues. Erasmus's response to it is of such significance that it is usually included in the back of modern editions of the book to elucidate his feelings on the subject of folly even further. A few paragraphs into his letter, Erasmus went as far to write, "First, then, to speak frankly, I'm almost sorry myself that I published the Folly. The book has gained me a certain amount of reputation, or, if you prefer, notoriety; but I don't care for fame when it's accompanied by envy." In the rest of the letter Erasmus defends himself, explaining that he did not slander individuals, that the great writers of antiquity enjoyed jokes, that many people admired his wit and learning, that his text was not biblically unsound or blasphemous, and many more points where Dorp and other detractors were misguided.

Not everyone was offended by the book; it was remarkably popular in the 16th century. Pope Leo X was highly amused, and the text was circulated throughout Europe. By Erasmus's death in 1536, it had been translated into French, Czechoslovakian, German, with over 36 Latin editions printed. A 1515/1516 edition was illustrated by the famous German artist Hans Holbein the Younger.

The tensions brought about by the Protestant Reformation led to the decline of Erasmus's reputation because he would not fully throw his support behind the Catholic Church. Just over two decades after his death, The Praise of Folly was placed on the Roman Index of prohibited books and banned in Franche-Comté, Spain, Rome, and by the Council of Trent. His name remained on the Roman Index until 1930, when it was finally removed.

Erasmus's reputation began recovering during the Enlightenment. Today his works are widely read and considered part of the Western canon.

For a repertory of individual works and their early editions, see Erasmus and Van der Haeghen 2005. The authoritative critical edition is “the Amsterdam” or Opera Omnia Des. Erasmi Roterodami (ASD), listed in this section as Erasmus 1969–. The Erasmus and Leclercq 1703–1706Opera Omnia is still the most comprehensive Latin collection, with Erasmus 1933b (edited by Klippert Ferguson) and Erasmus 1933a (edited by Hajo Holborn and Annemarie Holborn) providing supplementary writings. The Erasmus 1986 annotated facsimile (edited by Anne Reeve) provides insight into early versions of the Annotations. For Erasmus’s correspondence, see Erasmus 1906–1958 (edited by P. S. Allen).

  • Erasmus, Desiderius. Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami. 12 vols. Edited by P. S. Allen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1906–1958.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contains the correspondence, divided chronologically into a dozen volumes. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

    Find this resource:

  • Erasmus, Desiderius. Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus: Ausgewählte Werke. Edited by Hajo Holborn and Annemarie Holborn. Munich: Beck, 1933a.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contains, among other texts, the prefatory material to the New Testament edition.

    Find this resource:

  • Erasmus, Desiderius. Erasmi Opuscula: A Supplement to the Opera Omnia. Edited by Klippert Ferguson. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1933b.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contains, among other texts, the Life of Jerome.

    Find this resource:

  • Erasmus, Desiderius. Opera Omnia Des. Erasmi Roterodami. Edited by Jan Hendrik Waszink, Union Académique Internationale, Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie Van Wetenschappen. Amsterdam: North Holland, 1969–.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Cited as ASD, this is the authoritative critical edition of Erasmus’s works. More than thirty volumes have been published by the early 21st century, and the series is continuing. Available online.

    Find this resource:

  • Erasmus, Desiderius. Erasmus’ Annotations on the New Testament. Vol. 1. Edited by Anne Reeve. London: Duckworth, 1986.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A facsimile edition of the 1535 Annotations indicating variants in earlier editions by means of calligraphic marks. Vols. 2 and 3 published in 1990–1993 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill).

    Find this resource:

  • Erasmus, Desiderius, and Jean Leclercq. Opera Omnia Des. Erasmi Roterodami. 10 vols. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1703–1706.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Cited as LB, this is still the most comprehensive collection of Erasmus’s works in the original Latin. The edition follows the arrangement specified by Erasmus but adds a volume on his editions of the church fathers. Distributes the polemics over two volumes, adding up to a total of ten volumes. Available online.

    Find this resource:

  • Erasmus, Desiderius, and Ferdinand van der Haeghen. Bibliotheka Erasmiana: Répertoire des oeuvres d’Erasme. Würzburg, Germany: Osthoff, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Erasmus’s Opera Omnia was first published in Basel, Switzerland, in 1540. The arrangement of works adopted there has become the model for later editions. According to Erasmus’s own directions, the works were divided into nine sections: literature and education; The Adages; correspondence; edifying works; devotional works; the text of the New Testament; the Paraphrases on the New Testament; and polemics. Originally published in 1897.

    Find this resource:

  • 0 thoughts on “Erasmus Praise Of Folly Is A Landmark Example Of Essay”

      -->

    Leave a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *