HomeErasmus Online DatabaseNewsletterNederlands

QUOTATIONS

These are 61 quotations from Praise of Folly. Please note that these words are spoken by Lady Folly. Erasmus need not necessarily share her opinion.

(5) Speech is the truest mirror of the mind
(6) One of the most refined pleasures is to value most highly whatever is most foreign
(12) What is this life itself? Can you even call it life if you take away pleasure?
(12) Any part of life is sad, cheerless, dull, insipid, and tiresome unless you season it with pleasure, that is, with the spice of folly
(13) It is by the favor of folly that adolescents know very little and so are very easy to get along with
(13) The further people are removed from folly, the less they are alive
(13) Childhood is distinguished by a weak grasp of reality and a wandering mind
(14) No other nationality is more cheerful than the people of Brabant
(17) Women are foolish and silly creatures, but nevertheless amusing and pleasant
(17) A fault is redoubled if someone tries to gloss it over with unnatural disguises and to work against the inborn bias of the mind
(17) Men talk childishly and frivolously when they have decided to indulge in the pleasure to be found in women
(18) Sad life must be, unless you employ foolish entertainments to dispel the inherent tedium of living
(19) It is foolishness that brings friends together and keeps them together
(19) Cupid, the author and father of all friendship, is completely blind
(20) Few marriages would last if many of a wife’s goings-on did not escape notice through the indifference or stupidity of her husband
(22) Can someone who hates himself love anyone else?
(22) Decorum is the guiding principle in all the actions of life
(22) What is so foolish as to be pleased with yourself?
(22) Everyone first needs to be kind to himself, flatter himself just a bit, be a little pleased with himself, before he can be pleasing to others
(22) The chief point of happiness is to wish to be what you actually are
(23) What is more foolish than undertaking a struggle from which both sides will emerge more harmed than helped?
(26) The people are an enormous and powerful monster swayed by absurdities
(27) What is more foolish than flattering and pleading with the people, buying their favor by scattering money here and there, hunting for the applaus of fools, taking pleasure in the cheers of the crowd?
(29) Folly removes the obstacles of modesty and fear
(29) Few people understand how advantageous it is never to feel modest and to be so bold as to stick at nothing
(29) Deception and disguise are the very things that hold people’s attention
(29) Life is but a sort of play in which each of us wears his own mask
(29) Nothing is more foolish than misplaced wisdom
(30) The distinction between a wiseman and a fool is that a fool is governed by emotion, a wiseman by reason
(30) Our emotions function as guides to those who are hastening to the haven of wisdom
(31) Folly rescues people from terrible sufferings, partly through ignorance, partly through thoughtlessness
(32) To be a man is to be caught in the toils of folly, to err, to be deceived, to be ignorant
(32) Folly is inherent in man’s nature
(32) The branches of learning are one of life’s plagues
(32) The grammar of even one language is more than enough to make life a perpetual agony
(33) People who have nothing whatever to do with any branch of learning and follow nature as their only guide are by far the happiest of all
(34) No creature is more miserable than man because all the others are content to remain within the limits of nature, while man alone tries to go beyond the bounds of his lot
(36) Fools alone speak the plain, unvarnished truth
(42) This is especially true of actors, singers, and writers: the more ignorant one of them is, the more arrogant his self-complacence, conceit, and boastfulness
(42) The less skillful anything is, the more admirers it obtains
(44) Flattery is the honey and spice of all human intercourse
(45) Nothing could be further from the truth than the notion that man’s happiness resides in things as they actually are; it depends on opinions
(45) If any knowledge is attainable, it often detracts from the pleasures of life
(45) The human mind is so constituted that it is far more taken with appearances than reality
(46) Nothing is really enjoyable without someone to share it with
(48) The most foolish and meanest profession of all is that of merchants, since they seek the meanest goal by the meanest methods: money
(50) Raising a laugh by witticisms, and doing it by the book at that, is a fool’s prerogative
(50) A writer knows that the more trivial the trifles he writes, the wider his audience will be, made up as it is of all the fools and ignoramuses
(52) That academics never know anything for certain at all is clear enough from this fact alone: on every single point they disagree violently and irreconcilably among themselves
(55) If rulers had an ounce of good sense, what could be more wretched and repellent to them than the life they lead?
(59) War is inhuman, insane, noxious, unjust, and impious
(59) War is so unjust that it is normally carried on best by robbers
(61) Wisdom makes men weak and apprehensive, and that is why you generally see wisemen living in poverty and hunger, whereas fools are rolling in money
(61) You can buy everything with money
(61) Since the wiseman scorns money, it usually does its best to stay out of his way
(62) To play the fool sometimes is the highest wisdom
(63) Nothing in life is pleasant without folly
(63) Only fools have a license to speak the truth without offense
(66) A man who has gained understanding pities and laments the insanity of those who are confined to illusions, but they in turn laugh at him as quite mad and throw him out
(66) Ordinary people think life impossible without lust, desire for food and sleep, anger, pride, and envy
(67) The madness of lovers is the height of happiness

The numbers refer to the chapter divisions and numbers introduced in the 18th century which many modern editions and translations reproduce for the sake of easy reference. The translations here are based on Miller’s (New Haven 1979) and Radice’s (London 1974).

top