10-26-1466

Desiderius Erasmus

DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, Dutch humanist and theologian, born (d: 1536); Desiderius Erasmus was a classical scholar who wrote in a “pure” Latin style. Although he remained a Roman Catholic throughout his lifetime, he was critical of what he considered the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church. Imagine that.

Using humanist techniques Erasmus prepared important new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament that raised questions that would be influential in the Reformation. He also wrote Handbook of a Christian Knight, On Civility in Children, Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style, and many other works. Known as “the Voltaire of the Renaissance” simply stated, it has been argued that Erasmus “laid the egg and Luther hatched it”…the “egg” being the Reformation. As to what else or who else Erasmus may have laid is anyone’s read-between-the-lines guess. But while at the Augustinian monastery Stein near Gouda around 1487, Erasmus wrote passionate letters of friendship to a fellow monk, Servatius Rogerus, whom he called “half my soul”, writing, “I have wooed you both unhappily and relentlessly”; this correspondence contrasts sharply with the generally detached and much more restrained attitude he showed in his later life.

And, in the great archetype of same-sex people as “jester,” “joker” and “contrary,” as well as speakers of truth to power, Erasmus’s best-known work was The Praise of Folly (published under the double title Moriae encomium (Greek, latinized) and Laus stultitiae (Latin)), a satirical attack on the traditions of the Catholic Church and popular superstitions, written in 1509, published in 1511 and dedicated to his friend, Sir Thomas More.