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The Erasmus Reader

The Erasmus Reader

edited by Erika Rummel
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 376
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Erasmus Reader
    Book Description:

    '...The Erasmus Readerextends this impact to the carrels and desks of beginning and advanced students of Renaissance and Reformation history.'

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5718-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    ‘Every day I receive letters from learned men which set me up as the glory of Germany and call me its sun and moon,’ Erasmus wrote in 1515 when he was riding the crest of fame (Ep 237:12–14). His collection of proverbs, theAdages, had been reprinted by the prestigious Aldine Press; hisPraise of Follyhad caught the public eye, delighting humanists and disconcerting theologians; hisEnchiridion, ‘that small book of pure gold,’ as one enthusiastic reader called it, had established his reputation as a Christian humanist. Erasmus was put on a pedestal by his admirers. Letters from...

  4. 1 Erasmus:: His Life and Works

    • Brief Outline of His Life
      (pp. 15-20)

      Born in Rotterdam on the eve of SS Simon and Jude.¹ Reckons he is about fifty-seven years of age.² His mother’s name was Margaret, her father a physician named Pieter. She was from Septimontium, commonly known as Zevenbergen, and he saw two of her brothers at Dordrecht who were nearly ninety years old. His father’s name was Gerard. He lay with Margaret secretly, in the expectation of marrying her. Some say they were already betrothed. This was received with indignation by Gerard’s parents and his brothers. Gerard’s father was called Elias and his mother Catharine; both lived to a very...

    • Catalogue of His Works
      (pp. 21-50)

      Unwilling as you are, dear Abstemius my most learned friend, to think that any of my writings should be absent from your library, you complain that from time to time you have to buy the same book twice, when it has been either refurbished or enlarged or revised. You ask me therefore to make a list for you of all the trifles I have published (for that is a truer word for them than books) and to indicate whiqh of them have received my final version, so that nothing may escape you which you do not possess, and at the...

  5. 2 Erasmus as Educator

    • The Antibarbarians
      (pp. 51-64)

      [Batt begins his speech in defence of the New Learning]:

      ‘If I did not know that I was to speak before most cultivated judges, and was not largely assisted by the very soundness of my cause, I should be afraid that, in the face of such hatred on the part of the stupidest people, literature was not going to have a very good advocate today. But, as it is, I am so far from any apprehension of not being able to refute all the objections that the anti-rhetoricians can ever raise that I do not think it necessary in such...

    • On Education for Children
      (pp. 65-100)

      For a long time there was despair whether your wife would ever bear children, but now I have learned that you have become a father and have been blessed with a son who bears the stamp of his distinguished parentage and who, as far as one may judge from early signs, shows excellent promise of nobility of character. It is your intention, therefore, that your son, as the object of so much hope, should begin a liberal education and be instructed in the most valuable subjects and moulded by the beneficial teachings of philosophy as soon as he has grown...

    • On Good Manners
      (pp. 101-122)


      If on three separate occasions that illustrious man St Paul¹ was not averse to becoming all things to all men so that he might benefit all, how much less ought I be irked at repeatedly resuming the role of youth through a desire to help the young. And so, just as in the past I adapted myself to the early youth of your brother, Maximilian of Burgundy,² while I was shaping the speech of the very young, so now, my dearest Henry,...

  6. 3 Erasmus the Christian Humanist

    • The Ciceronian
      (pp. 123-137)

      Bulephorus I’ll tell you a story – not a bit of hearsay, but something I saw with my own eyes, heard with my own ears. In Rome at the time the two men with the most distinguished reputation as speakers were Pietro Fedra and Camillo.¹ Camillo was younger and in actuality the more powerful speaker, but the older man had occupied the citadel first. Neither of them though, unless I’m mistaken, was actually Roman by birth. Now a certain person had been appointed to speak on the death of Christ, on the holy day known as the Day of Parasceve,²...

    • The Handbook of the Christian Soldier
      (pp. 138-154)

      Let us add a fifth rule, as a kind of reinforcement to the previous one, that you establish firmly in your mind that perfect piety is the attempt to progress always from visible things, which are usually imperfect or indifferent, to invisible, according to the division of man discussed earlier.² This precept is most pertinent to our discussion since it is through neglect or ignorance of it that most Christians are superstitious rather than pious, and except for the name of Christ differ hardly at all from superstitious pagans. Let us imagine, therefore, two worlds, the one merely intelligible, the...

  7. 4 Erasmus as Reformer and Critic of the Church

    • Praise of Folly
      (pp. 155-168)

      Folly speaks: Whatever is generally said of me by mortal men, and I’m quite well aware that Folly is in poor repute even amongst the greatest fools, still, I am the one – and indeed, the only one – whose divine powers can gladden the hearts of gods and men. Proof enough of this is in the fact that as soon as I stepped forward to address this crowded assembly, every face immediately brightened up with a new, unwonted gaiety and all your frowns were smoothed away …

      In short, no association or alliance can be happy or stable without...

    • Letter to Dorp
      (pp. 169-194)

      Your letter never reached me, but a copy of it – secured I know not how – was shown me by a friend in Antwerp. You say you regret the somewhat unfortunate publication of myFolly, you heartily approve my zeal in restoring the text of Jerome, and you discourage me from publishing the New Testament.¹ This letter of yours, my dear Dorp, gave me no offence – far from it. It has made you much more dear to me, though you were dear enough before; your advice is so sincere, your counsel so friendly, your rebuke so affectionate. This...

    • The Luther Affair
      (pp. 195-215)

      Greetings, dearest brother in Christ. Your letter gave me great pleasure: it displayed the brilliance of your mind and breathed the spirit of a Christian. No words of mine could describe the storm raised here by your books. Even now it is impossible to root out from men’s minds the most groundless suspicion that your work is written with assistance from me and that I am, as they call it, a standard-bearer of this new movement. They supposed that this gave them an opening to suppress both humane studies – for which they have a burning hatred, as likely to...

    • Julius Excluded from Heaven
      (pp. 216-238)

      Julius What the devil is this? The doors won’t open? Someone must have changed the lock, or at least tampered with it.

      Genius Are you quite sure you haven’t brought the wrong key? The key to your treasure-chest won’t open this door – and anyway, why didn’t you bring both of them with you? The one in your hand is the key of power, not of knowledge.

      Julius This is the only one I’ve ever had and, as I’ve got it here, I don’t see what use the other would be.

      Genius Neither do I, except that we’re shut out...

    • Shipwreck
      (pp. 239-248)

      Antony Terrible tales you tell! That’s what going to sea is like? God forbid any such notion should ever enter my head!

      Adolph Oh, no, what I’ve related up to this point is mere sport compared with what you’ll hear now.

      Antony I’ve heard more than enough of disasters. When you’re recalling them I shudder as if I myself were sharing the danger.

      Adolph To me, on the contrary, troubles over and done with are enjoyable. – On that same night something happened which in large part robbed the skipper of his hope of safety.

      Antony What, I beseech you?...

  8. 5 Erasmus and Politics

    • The Education of a Christian Prince
      (pp. 249-287)

      The prince must avoid flatterers; but this cannot be brought about unless flatterers are kept at bay by every means, for the well-being of great princes is extremely vulnerable to this particular plague. Youthful innocence in itself is particularly exposed to this evil, partly because of the natural inclination to enjoy compliments more than the truth, and partly because of inexperience: the less suspicious the prince is of trickery, the less he knows about taking precautions.

      And in case anyone thinks that this can be ignored as a trivial misfortune, he should realize that the most flourishing empires of the...

    • A Complaint of Peace
      (pp. 288-314)

      Peace speaks: If it were to their advantage for men to shun, spurn, and reject me, although I have done nothing to deserve it, I would only lament the wrong done me and their injustice; but since in rejecting me they deny themselves the source of all human happiness and bring on themselves a sea of disasters of every kind, I must shed tears rather for the misery they suffer than for any wrong they do me. I should have liked simply to be angry with them, but I am driven to feel pity and sorrow for their plight. To...

    • On the War against the Turks
      (pp. 315-333)

      Let us not turn a deaf ear to the repeated warnings of the Lord;¹ He is now calling out once again through the cruelty of the Turks, to which we have almost become accustomed; but this only makes our deafness the more unpardonable, in that, despite the frequency of these warnings, we have still not awoken to the danger. How many defeats have the Christian peoples suffered at the hands of this race of barbarians, whose very origin is obscure? What atrocities have they not committed against us? For how many cities, how many islands, how many provinces have they...

    • One Ought to Be Born a King or a Fool
      (pp. 334-344)

      Annaeus Seneca was a man, as Tacitus said, of a very pleasant wit; this is clear from that amusing skit which he wrote against Claudius Caesar, and which has recently come to light in Germany.¹ In this short work he mentions an adage, One ought to be born a king or a fool. It is best to give his very words: ‘As for me,’ he says, ‘I know I have gained my freedom from the fact that the end has come for that man who proved the truth of the proverb, One ought to be born a king or a...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 345-366)
  10. Chronology
    (pp. 367-368)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 369-370)
    (pp. 371-372)
  13. Index
    (pp. 373-376)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 377-377)