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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Desiderius Erasmus

  • [A celebrated scholar and philosopher; born at Rotterdam, Oct. 28, 1465 or 1467; became a monk, 1486; secretary to the Bishop of Cambrai for five years, after which he studied in Paris and Italy; visited England, 1498; published an edition of the Greek Testament, 1516; satirized the Roman Church, but shrank from the radicalism of Luther; removed to Basle, where he published his “Colloquies,” 1522; died July 12, 1536.]
  • A disadvantageous peace is better than the most just war.

  • So Luther declared that “a wicked tyrant is better than a wicked war.” Cromwell changed the opinion he once expressed, that, “were Nero in power, it would be a duty to submit.” Charles James Fox preferred “the hardest terms of peace to the most just war.” Franklin wrote to Josiah Quincy, Sept. 11, 1773, “There never was a good war or a bad peace.”
  • Erasmus pithily said of theological strife, “It is not the same to be a wise man and a theologian” (Non idem est theologum esse et sapere).
  • While he was studying in Paris, and was very poor, he wrote to a friend, “As soon as I get money I will buy, first, Greek books, and then clothes.”
  • My heart is Catholic, but my stomach Lutheran.

  • Of his dislike of fish.
  • He said of Luther, “He was guilty of two great crimes,—he has struck the Pope in his crown, and the monks in their belly.”
  • He found on his visit to England that Cardinal Wolsey invited learned men to the entertainments at his palace of Hampton Court. A scholar himself, he esteemed the prelate the most honored by what was undoubtedly considered a condescension. “O happy cardinal,” exclaimed Erasmus, “who can surround his table with such torches!”
  • Like charity, it covers a multitude of sins.—1 Pet. iv. 8.

  • Of the hood (capuchon) from which the Capuchins, the mendicant friars of the Franciscan order, took their name.
  • Voltaire said of their costume, “It can only excite the contempt of the wise, edify good women, and frighten children.”
  • During a persecution of Protestants under Adrian VI., in 1523–24, Erasmus said, “Wherever the legate heaps fagots, it is as if he sowed heretics.” Leo X. declared, “Erasmus injured us more by his wit than Luther by his anger” (Erasmus nobis plus nocuit jocando, quam Lutherus stomachando).