Erasmus is a really intriguing figure of the 16th century. In many ways, he paved the way for the Protestant Reformation, while firmly insisting on taking no alliance with it. His book, In Praise of Folly, is a wonderful instance of his rhetorical powers of wit. The “hook” of this work is the Lady Folly writing to Erasmus’ friend Thomas More. The irony of it all is that we learn great wisdom from the mouth of folly. A really enjoyable read, from a colossal intellect.
Do but observe our grim philosophers that are perpetually beating their brains on knotty subjects, and for the most part you’ll find them grown old before they are scarcely young.
What man is that would submit his neck to the noose of wedlock, if, as wise men should, he did but first truly weigh the inconvenience of the thing? Or what woman is there would ever go to it did she seriously consider either the peril of child-bearing or the trouble of bringing them up?
What greater thing do [women] wish in their whole lives than that they may please the men? For to what other purpose are all those dresses, washes, baths, curlings, slops, perfumes, and those several little tricks of setting their faces, painting their eyebrows, and smoothing their skins?
If there can be any great entertainment without a woman at it, let others look to it.
Wisdom is a great obstacle to the true management of business
Few there are that rightly understand of what great advantage it is to blush at nothing and attempt everything.
For truth carries with it a certain peculiar power of pleasing, if no accident fall in to give occasion of offense; which faculty the gods have given only to fools.
I scarce know anyone in all mankind that is wise at all hours.
Nay, further, whereas the Church of Christ was founded in blood, confirmed by blood, and augmented by blood, now, as if Christ, who after his wonted manner defends his people, were lost, they govern all by the sword.
Fortune loves those that have least wit and most confidence.
Wisdom makes men bashful, which is the reason that those wise men have so little to do, unless it be with poverty, hunger, and chimney corners; that they live such neglected, unknown, and hated lives: whereas fools abound in money, have the chief commands in the commonwealth, and in a word, flourish every way.