Friday, 7 July 2017

The Praise Of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus


The Praise Of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus

Written in Latin in 1509 and first printed in 1511 as Stultitiae Laus or Moriae Encomium. English language translation by John Wilson in 1668.

I registered my copy of this book at Bookcrossing

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the ebook from Kobo
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Bought at Black Cat Books, formerly in St Marychurch, Torquay

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Considered one of the most important works of literature in Western Civilization, Desiderius Erasmus's essay, "Praise of Folly", is a classic satirical work in the style of Lucian, the ancient Greek, in which the Goddess of Folly extols the virtues of frivolousness and indulgence of ones passions and then turns to a satirical examination of Christian piousness. In a humorously satirical way, "Praise of Folly" examines the abuses of power of the Roman Catholic Church at the time and is seen as one of the major catalysts for the Protestant Reformation.

The introductory essay in my copy of Pride And Prejudice declared that that book was one of the few classics continually reprinted because people actually want to read it rather than being obliged to study it. I suspect that The Praise Of Folly is more likely to fall into the second camp. I can imagine that it was considered shockingly satirical to the learned classes in the early 1500s, but I I found it more long-winded than laugh-a-minute. Erasmus imagined a personification of the goddess Folly and she gives us a long speech identifying all the ways in which she is of unique benefit to mankind. For a goddess however, I didn't think her character displayed much femininity!

Where this book gets particularly interesting is in its last third when Folly turns her attention from ancient Greek and Roman examples to attacking the greed and behaviour of Christian clergy in western Europe. Bearing in mind that The Praise Of Folly was first published twenty-two years before Anne Boleyn began to turn Henry VIII's mind to Protestantism, this was brave writing indeed and I did enjoy Erasmus' insights into everyday life of the period. As a historic document, this book is worth a read.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Desiderius Erasmus / Humorous fiction / Books from the Netherlands

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