'The Colloquies of Erasmus'
By Craig R. Thompson (Translator), Desiderius Erasmus (Author)
Colloquies is one of the many works of the "Prince of Christian Humanists", Desiderius Erasmus. Published in 1518, the pages held up contemporary religious practices for examination in a more serious but still pervasively ironic tone. Christian Humanists viewed Erasmus as their leader in the early 16th century. Erasmus' works had greater meaning to those learned few who had a larger knowledge of Latin and Greek. Colloquies in Latin means a formal written dialogue, thus in his book Erasmus explores man's reaction to others in conversations.
The Colloquies is a collection of dialogues on a wide variety of subjects. They began in the late 1490's as informal Latin exercises for Erasmus' own pupils. In about 1522 he began to perceive the possibilities this form might hold for continuing his campaign for the gradual enlightenment and reform of all Christendom. Between that date and 1533 twelve new editions appeared, each larger and more serious than the last, until eventually some fifty individual colloquies were included ranging over such varied subjects as war, travel, religion, sleep, beggars, funerals, and literature. All of these works were in the same graceful, easy style and gentle humor that made them continually sought as schoolboy exercises and light reading for generations.
This English version of the 'Colloquia familiaria' by Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam is the first part of a projected two-volume study of that famous but no longer so familiar work. The first volume includes, in addition to the colloquies themselves, an introduction to each of these dialogues but it has only such footnotes as needed to clarify certain passages otherwise unintelligible to readers who do not have the Latin text before them or find the Latin itself puzzling.
Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (28 October 1466 – 12 July 1536), known as Erasmus of Rotterdam, or simply Erasmus, was a Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, social critic, teacher, and theologian.
Erasmus was a classical scholar and wrote in a pure Latin style. Among humanists he enjoyed the sobriquet "Prince of the Humanists", and has been called "the crowning glory of the Christian humanists". Using humanist techniques for working on texts, he prepared important new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament, which raised questions that would be influential in the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. He also wrote On Free Will, The Praise of Folly, Handbook of a Christian Knight, On Civility in Children, Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style, Julius Exclusus, and many other works.
Erasmus lived against the backdrop of the growing European religious Reformation, but while he was critical of the abuses within the Catholic Church and called for reform, he kept his distance from Luther and Melanchthon and continued to recognise the authority of the pope, emphasizing a middle way with a deep respect for traditional faith, piety and grace, rejecting Luther's emphasis on faith alone. Erasmus remained a member of the Roman Catholic Church all his life, remaining committed to reforming the Church and its clerics' abuses from within. He also held to the Catholic doctrine of free will, which some Reformers rejected in favor of the doctrine of predestination. His middle road approach disappointed and even angered scholars in both camps.
Erasmus died suddenly in Basel in 1536 while preparing to return to Brabant, and was buried in the Basel Minster, the former cathedral of the city. A bronze statue of him was erected in his city of birth in 1622, replacing an earlier work in stone.