978-0-934710-01-5 / 9780934710015

Praise of Folly


Publisher:Pangloss Pr



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About the book:

The Praise of Folly, sometimes translated as In Praise of More, is an essay written in 1509 by Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam and first printed in 1511.

It starts off with a satirical learned encomium after the manner of the Greek satirist Lucian, whose work Erasmus and Sir Thomas More had recently translated into Latin, a piece of virtuoso foolery; it then takes a darker tone in a series of orations, as Folly praises self-deception and madness and moves to a satirical examination of pious but superstitious abuses of Catholic doctrine and corrupt practices in parts of the Roman Catholic Churchto which Erasmus was ever faithfuland the folly of pedants (including Erasmus himself). Erasmus had recently returned disappointed from Rome, where he had turned down offers of advancement in the curia, and Folly increasingly takes on Erasmus' own chastising voice. The essay ends with a straightforward statement of Christian ideals.

The essay is filled with classical allusions delivered in a style typical of the learned humanists of the Renaissance. Folly parades as one of the gods, offspring of Plutos and Freshness and nursed by Inebriation and Ignorance, whose faithful companions include Philautia (self-love), Kolakia (flattery), Lethe (oblivion), Misoponia (laziness), Hedone (pleasure), Anoia (madness), Tryphe (wantonness), Komos (intemperance) and Eegretos Hypnos (dead sleep).


An oration, of feigned matter,
spoken by Folly in her own person

At what rate soever the world talks of me (for I am not ignorant what an
ill report Folly has got, even among the most foolish), yet that I am
that she, that only she, whose deity recreates both gods and men, even
this is a sufficient argument, that I no sooner stepped up to speak to
this full assembly than all your faces put on a kind of new and unwonted
pleasantness. So suddenly have you cleared your brows, and with so frolic
and hearty a laughter given me your applause, that in truth as many of
you as I behold on every side of me seem to me no less than Homer's gods
drunk with nectar and nepenthe; whereas before, you sat as lumpish and
pensive as if you had come from consulting an oracle. And as it usually
happens when the sun begins to show his beams, or when after a sharp
winter the spring breathes afresh on the earth, all things immediately
get a new face, new color, and recover as it were a certain kind of youth
again: in like manner, by but beholding me you have in an instant gotten
another kind of countenance; and so what the otherwise great rhetoricians
with their tedious and long-studied orations can hardly effect, to wit,
to remove the trouble of the mind, I have done it at once with my
single look.

But if you ask me why I appear before you in this strange dress, be
pleased to lend me your ears, and I'll tell you; not those ears, I mean,
you carry to church, but abroad with you, such as you are wont to prick
up to jugglers, fools, and buffoons, and such as our friend Midas once
gave to Pan. For I am disposed awhile to play the sophist with you; not
of their sort who nowadays boozle young men's heads with certain empty
notions and curious trifles, yet teach them nothing but a more than
womanish obstinacy of scolding: but I'll imitate those ancients who, that
they might the better avoid that infamous appellation of _sophi_ or
_wise_, chose rather to be called sophists. Their business was to
celebrate the praises of the gods and valiant men. And the like encomium
shall you hear from me, but neither of Hercules nor Solon, but my own
dear self, that is to say, Folly. Nor do I esteem a rush that call it a
foolish and insolent thing to praise one's self. Be it as foolish as they
would make it, so they confess it proper: and what can be more than that
Folly be her own trumpet? For who can set me out better than myself,
unless perhaps I could be better known to another than to myself?

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