Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (1466 – 1536) known as Erasmus of Rotterdam, or simply Erasmus, was a Catholic priest, a Dutch Renaissance humanist, teacher, and theologian. As a classical scholar, he was called ‘the crowning glory of the Christian humanists’ and worked on new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament, using a humanist approach, which would be influential in the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. Despite the huge changes going on around him, Erasmus continued to recognise the authority of the Pope, emphasising a middle way with a deep respect for traditional faith, piety and grace, and remained a member of the Roman Catholic Church all his life. He held to the Catholic doctrine of free will, as opposed to the doctrine of predestination. Some of the quotes attributed to him may surprise you:
'It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is.'
'Prevention is better than cure.'
'When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.'
'Time takes away the grief of men.'
'Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.'
'The nearer people approach old age the closer they return to a semblance of childhood, until the time comes for them to depart this life, again like children, neither tired of living nor aware of death.'
'Your library is your paradise.'
'A nail is driven out by another nail. Habit is overcome by habit.'
'The fox has many tricks. The hedgehog has but one. But that is the best of all.'
'No one respects a talent that is concealed.'
'It is wisdom in prosperity, when all is as thou wouldst have it, to fear and suspect the worst.'
'By a Carpenter mankind was made, and only by that Carpenter can mankind be remade.'
'Great eagerness in the pursuit of wealth, pleasure, or honour, cannot exist without sin.'
'Everybody hates a prodigy, detests an old head on young shoulders.'
'What difference is there, do you think, between those in Plato's cave who can only marvel at the shadows and images of various objects, provided they are content and don't know what they miss, and the philosopher who has emerged from the cave and sees the real things?'
'Heaven grant that the burden you carry may have as easy an exit as it had an entrance.'
'I doubt if a single individual could be found from the whole of mankind free from some form of insanity. The only difference is one of degree. A man who sees a gourd and takes it for his wife is called insane because this happens to very few people.'
'Nothing is as peevish and pedantic as men's judgments of one another.'
'War is delightful to those who have had no experience of it.'
'You'll see certain Pythagorean whose belief in communism of property goes to such lengths that they pick up anything lying about unguarded, and make off with it without a qualm of conscience as if it had come to them by law.'
'Great abundance of riches cannot be gathered and kept by any man without sin.'
'Everyone knows that by far the happiest and universally enjoyable age of man is the first. What is there about babies which makes us hug and kiss and fondle them, so that even an enemy would give them help at that age?'
'This type of man who is devoted to the study of wisdom is always most unlucky in everything, and particularly when it comes to procreating children; I imagine this is because Nature wants to ensure that the evils of wisdom shall not spread further throughout mankind.'