The Praise of Folly

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Paperback, 184 pages
Yale University Press, 1979
Second Edition, Tenth Printing

First published in Paris in 1511, The Praise of Folly has enjoyed enormous and highly controversial success from the author's lifetime down to our own day. The Folly has no rival, except perhaps Thomas More's Utopia, as the most intense and lively presentation of the literary, social, and theological aims and methods of Northern Humanism.  Because it was a seminal and widely influential book, critics have often compared its witty and profound ironies with those of Rabelais, Ariosto, Shakespeare, and Cervantes.

Clarence H. Miller has based his English translation on the definitive Latin text which he prepared for a new, complete edition of Erasmus sponsored by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. This Latin text is based on a complete collation of the thirty-six editions printed during Erasmus’s lifetime, and the English edition indicates the major additions and revisions made by Erasmus after the first publication. Miller’s translation echoes Erasmus’s own lively style while at the same time retaining the nuances of its rich allusiveness; his introduction offers an up-to-date reading of the Follyand places it firmly in its multiple context of Erasmus as humanist and theologian. Also included in this edition are: Erasmus’s letter defending the Folly to the theologian Martin Dorp; a commentary that is more complete than that in any translation or published Latin edition; and a bibliography that is the fullest available in any one place. The Praise of Folly is indispensable reading for students of history, English, and Renaissance studies.
Clarence H. Milleris Dorothy Orthwein Professor of English at St. Louis University. 

Translated with an Introduction and Commentary by Clarence H. Miller.

Editorial Reviews

Erasmus searched for reconciliation between Faith and Reason, refusing not only the dogmas of Faith, but the dogmas of Reason as well.” --Carlos Fuentes

Praise of Folly, still a masterpiece of slyly subversive wit, was in a sense the first best-seller, read covertly under desks and sniggered over by countless trainee monks and priests.” --Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

“I am well aware that what I have had to say on the problem of peace is not essentially new. It is my profound conviction that the solution lies in our rejecting war for an ethical reason; namely, that war makes us guilty of the crime of inhumanity. Erasmus of Rotterdam and several others after him have already proclaimed this as the truth around which we should rally.” --Albert Schweitzer in his 1952 Nobel Peace Prize lecture

“From the terrible hate storm of his age Erasmus has salvaged this intellectual gem, his faith in humanity, and on this small burning wick Spinoza, Lessing and Voltaire – and all Europeans past and present – could light their torch.” --Stefan Zweig

About the Author

Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536) devoted his life to the study of theology and the defence of Christian ideals. He rose to a prominent position in the Church, and achieved fame for his writings. He played an important part in history by fostering the intellectual climate for the Reformation, and many of his ideas have a legacy which endures to the present day.