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ERASMVS. 







E^RASMUS 



IN 



PEAISE OF FOLLY 



WITH PORTRAIT, LIFE OF ERASMUS, AND HIS 
EPISTLE TO SIR THOMAS MORE. 



Illustrated with many curious Engravings, Designed, 
Drawn, and Etched by HANS HOLBEIN. 



NEW YORK: 

PETER ECKLER PUBLISHING CO. 
1922 



Printed in U. S. A. 



PUBLISHER'S PREFACE. 

HTHE works of Erasmus, which have so greatly enriched 
1 the literature of the world, have survived the lapse of 
centuries that have passed; and, because they contain that 
"one touch of nature which makes the whole world kin," 
they will survive the lapse of untold centuries yet to come. 

His description of the bigotry and superstition the 
ignorance and credulity of the masses of his day, is as 
true now as it was when first given to the world ; and his 
account of the pleadings and preachings the pretensions 
and presumptions of the dominant priesthood is as ap- 
plicable to the twentieth, as to the fifteenth century in 
which it was written. 

Under the pleasing mask of Folly our author has 
uttered truths which are indeed sublime, and in the 
witty language of the Jester he has exposed the fallacies 
of that Faith which has, not inaptly, been defined by an 
inspired writer in the New Testament, as ' ' the evidence of 
things not seen, and the substance of things hoped for." 

Like the late ROBERT G. INGERSOLL, ERASMUS was 
above all things a critic, and he has most severely 
criticised the priesthood of his day ; while our talented 
American orator, from his tolerant spirit, and from the 
innate kindness of his nature, was inclined to mercy, and 
looked with eyes of pity and commiseration upon the 
entire priestly fraternity, they being, unfortunately, the 
inheritors of ancient ignorance and error, which, indeed, 
they did not originate, and from which they have not the 
intelligence and resolution to free their minds. co 



2007487 



vi PUBLISHER'S PREFACE. 

From the secure Citadel of Truth, armed with the 
weapons of reason and satire, Krasmus has in this work 
severely bombarded the strongholds of Faith, that faith 
which is founded on ignorance and superstition and his 
reward has been the continued popularity of his writings 
to the present day, and the world-wide recognition of 
his unquestioned talents. 

Perhaps no writer that ever lived could excel or even 
equal Erasmus in painting a word-picture as vivid and 
realistic as an object is reflected in a mirror placed before 
it. His well-known description of old age, may serve 
as an example : 

" Some decrepit old fellows, that look as hollow as the grave 
into which they are falling, that rattle in the throat at every word 
they speak, that can eat no meat but what is tender enough to 
suck, that have more hair on their beard than they have on their 
head, and go stooping toward the dust they must shortly return 
to whose skin seems already dressed into parchment, and their 
bones already dried to a skeleton these shadows of men shall be 
wonderfully ambitious of living longer, and therefore fence off the 
attacks of age with all imaginable sleights and impostures." p. 108. 

On page 116 we are told that, "in the infancy of the 
world, ignorance was as much the parent of happiness as 
it has since been of devotion," that in his day u the law- 
yers got the estates to themselves which they were em- 
ployed to recover for their clients, while in the mean 
time the poor divine shall have the lice crawl upon his 
thread-bare gown, before he can get money enough to 
purchase a new one." 

The affinity of Christianity with Folly, and, incident- 
ally, its divergence from Wisdom, is clearly shown. 

" It is observable that the Christian Religion seems to have 
some relation to Folly, and no alliance at all with wisdom. Of 
the truth whereof, if you desire farther proof than my bare word, 
you may please first to consider that children, women, old men, 
and fools, led as it were by a secret impulse of nature, are always 
most constant in repairing to church, and most zealous, devout, 
and attentive in the performance of the several parts of divine 



PUBLISHER'S PREFACE. vii 

service ; nay, the first promulgators of the gospel, and the first 
converts to Christianity, were men of plainness and simplicity, 
wholly unacquainted with secular policy or learning. 

" Farther, there are none more silly, or nearer their wits' end, 
than those who are too superstitiously religious. They are pro- 
fusely lavish in their charity ; they invite fresh affronts by an easy 
forgiveness of past injuries ; they suffer themselves to be imposed 
upon by laying claim to the innocence of the dove ; they make it 
the interest of no person to oblige them, because they will love 
and do good to their enemies, as much as to their most endearing 
friends ; they banish all pleasure, feeding upon the penance of 
watching, weeping, fasting, sorrow and ,reproach ; they value 
not their lives, but with St. Paul, wish to be dissolved, and covet 
the fiery trial of martyrdom : in a word, they seem altogether so 
destitute of common sense, that their soul seems already separa- 
ted from the dead and inactive body. And what else can we im- 
agine all this to be than downright madness ? " p. 313. 

It would be difficult to surpass the following severe 
but truthful criticism of the monkish fraternity. 

"The next to these [Divines] are another sort of brainless 
fools, who style themselves Monks, or members of religious 
orders, though they assume, both titles very unjustly: for as to 
the last, they have very little religion in them ; and as to the 
former, the etymology of the word Monk implies a solitariness, 
or being alone ; whereas they are so thick abroad that we cannot 
pass any street or alley without meeting them : and I cannot im- 
agine which degree of men could be more hopelessly wretched 
if I [Folly] did not stand their friend, and buoy them up in that 
lake of misery, which by the engagements of a religious vow they 
have voluntarily immerged themselves into. 

"But whenifersfc sort of men are so unwelcome to others, as that 
the very sight of them is thought ominous, I yet make them highly 
in love with themselves, and fond admirers of their own happi- 
ness. The first step whereunto they esteem a profound ignorance, 
thinking carnal knowledge a great enemy to spiritual welfare, and 
they seem confident of becoming greater proficients in divine 
mysteries, the less they are influenced with any human learning. 

" Among these, some make a good and profitable trade by 
beggary, going about from house to house, not like the apostles, 
to break, but to beg their bread, nay, they thrust themselves into 
all public houses, come aboard the passage-boats, get into the 
traveling wagons, and omit no opportunity of time or place for 
craving people's charity, and doing a great deal of injury to com- 
mon highway beggars by interfering with their traffic of alms. 

" It is amusing to observe how they regulate their actions, as 
it were by weight and measure, to so exact a proportion, as if 
the whole loss of their religion depended upon the omission of 
the least punctilio. 



viii PUBLISHER'S PREFACE. 

" Thus they must be very critical in the precise number of 
knots requisite for tying on their sandals ; what distinct colors 
their respective habits should be, and of what material made ; 
how broad and long their girdles ; how big and in what fashion 
their hoods ; whether their bald crowns be to a hair's-breadth of 
the right cut ; how many hours they must sleep, at what minute 
rise to prayers, etc." p. 226. 

On page 269 we are told that the Monks : 

" Never consider that their shaven crown is a token that 
they should pare off and cut away all the superfluous lusts of 
this world, and give themselves wholly to divine meditation ; but 
instead of this, our bald-pated priests think they have done 
enough if they do but mumble over such a fardel of prayers, 
which it is a wonder if God should hear or understand, when 
they whisper them so softly, and in so unknown a language, 
which they can scarce hear or understand themselves. This they 
have in common with other mechanics, that they are most subtle 
in the craft of getting money, and wonderfully skilled in their 
respective dues of tithes, offerings, perquisites, etc. 

" Thus they are all content to reap the profit, but as to the 
burden, that they toss as a ball from one hand to another, and 
assign it over to any they can get or hire. For as secular princes 
have their judges and subordinate ministers to act in their name, 
and supply their stead ; so ecclesiastical governors have their 
deputies, vicars, and curates, nay, and many times turn over 
the whole care of religion to the laity. The laity, supposing they 
have nothing to do with the church (as if their baptismal vow 
did not initiate them members of it), make it over to the priests ; 
of the priests again, those that are secular, thinking their title 
implies them to be a little too profane, assign this task over to 
the regulars, the regulars to the monks, the monks bandy it from 
one order to another, till it light upon the mendicants ; they lay 
it upon the Carthusians, which order alone keeps honesty and 
piety among them, but really keep them so close that nobody 
could ever yet see them. 

" Thus the Popes, thrusting out their sickle into the harvest of 
profit, leave all the other toil of spiritual husbandry to the bishops, 
the bishops bestow it upon the pastors, the pastors on their cu- 
rates, and the curates commit it to the mendicants, who return it 
again to such as well know how to make good advantage of the 
flock by securing the benefit of their fleece." 

Many subjects beside the priesthood and Christianity 
are critically and intelligently discussed by Erasmus 
throughout this work, which the intelligent reader will 
doubtless appreciate and enjoy. 

PETER ECKLER. 



THE LIFE OF ERASMUS. 

C RASMUS, so deservedly famous for his admirable 
1 ' writings, the vast extent of his learning, his great 
candor and moderation, and for being one of the chief 
restorers of the Latin tongue on this side the Alps, was 
born at Rotterdam, on the 28th of October, in the year 
1467. The anonymous author of his life (commonly 
printed with his Colloquies of the London edition) is 
pleased to tell us that de anno quo natus est apud batavos, 
non constat. And if he himself wrote the life which we 
find before the Elzevir edition, said to be Erasmo autore^ 
he does not particularly mention the year in which he 
was born, but places it circa annum 67 supra millesimum 
quadringentesimum. Another Latin life, which is pre- 
fixed to the above-mentioned London edition, fixes it in 
the year 1465 ; as does his epitaph at Basil. But as the 
inscription on his statue at Rotterdam, the place of his 
nativity, may reasonably be supposed to be the most 
authentic, we have followed that. 

His mother was the daughter of a physician at Seven- 
bergen in Holland, with whom his father contracted 
an acquaintance, and had correspondence with her on 
promise of marriage, and was actually contracted to her. 
His father's name was Gerard ; he was the youngest of 
ten brothers, without one sister coming between, for 

(ix) 



X THE LIFE OF ERASMUS. 

which reason his parents (according to the superstition 
of the times) designed to consecrate him to the church. 
His brothers liked the notion, because, as the church 
then governed all, they hoped, if he rose in his pro- 
fession, to have a sure friend to advance their interest ; 
but no importunities could prevail on Gerard to turn 
ecclesiastic. Finding himself continually pressed upon so 
disagreeable a subject, and not being able longer to bear 
it, he was forced to fly from his native country, leaving a 
letter for his friends, in which he acquainted them with 
the reason of his departure, and that he should never 
trouble them again. Thus he left her who was to have 
been his wife, big with child, and made the best of his 
way to Rome. Being an admirable master of the pen, 
he made a very genteel livelihood by transcribing most 
authors of note (for printing was not then in use). He for 
some time lived at large, but afterwards applied close to 
study, made great progress in the Greek and Latin lan- 
guages, and in the civil law ; for Rome at that time was 
full of learned men. When his friends knew he was at 
Rome, they sent him word that the young gentlewoman 
whom he had courted for a wife was dead ; upon which, 
in a melancholy fit, he took orders, and turned his 
thoughts wholly to the study of divinity. He returned 
to his own country, and found to his grief that he had 
been imposed upon ; but it was too late to think of 
marriage, so he dropped all farther pretensions to his 
mistress ; nor would she after this unlucky adventure be 
induced to marry. 

The son took the name of Gerard after his father, 
which in German signifies amiable, and (after the fashion 



THE LIFE OF ERASMUS. XI 

of the learned men of that age, who affected to give their 
names a Greek or L,atin turn) his was turned into 
Erasmus, which in Greek has the same signification. 
He was chorister of the cathedral church of Utrecht till 
he was nine years old ; after which he was sent to 
Deventer to be instructed by the famous Alexander 
Hegius, a Westphalian. Under so able a master he 
proved an extraordinary proficient ; and it is remarkable 
that he had such a strength of memory as to be able to 
say all Terence and Horace by heart. He was now 
arrived to the thirteenth year of his age, and had been 
continually under the watchful eye of his mother, who 
died of the plague then raging at Deventer. The con- 
tagion daily increasing, and having swept away the 
family where he boarded, he was obliged to return home. 
His father Gerard was so concerned at his wife's death 
that he grew melancholy, and died soon after : neither 
of his parents being much above forty when they died. 

Erasmus had three guardians assigned him, the chief 
of whom was Peter Winkel, schoolmaster of Goude ; and 
the fortune left him was amply sufficient for his support, 
if his executors had faithfully discharged their trust. 
Although he was fit for the University, his guardians 
were averse to sending him there, as they designed him 
for a monastic life, and therefore removed him to Bois- 
le-duc, where, he says, he lost near three years, living 
in a Franciscan convent. The professor of humanity 
in this Convent, admiring his rising genius, daily im- 
portuned him to take the habit, and be of their order. 
Erasmus had no great inclination for the cloister ; not 
that he had the least dislike to the severities of a pious 



xii THE LIFE OF ERASMUS. 

life, but he could not reconcile himself to the monastic 
profession ; he therefore urged his rawness of age, and 
desired farther to consider better of the matter. The 
plague spreading in those parts, and he having struggled 
a long time with a quartan ague, obliged him to return 
home. 

His guardians employed those about him to use all 
manner of arguments to prevail on him to enter the 
order of monk ; sometimes threatening, and at other 
times making use of flattery and fair speeches. When 
Winkel, his guardian, found him not to be moved from 
his resolution, he told him that he threw up his guardi- 
anship from that moment. Young Erasmus replied, 
that he took him at his word, since he was old enough 
now to look out for himself. When Winkel found that 
threats did not avail, he employed his brother, who was 
the other guardian, to see what he could effect by fair 
means. Thus he was surrounded by them and their 
agents on all sides. 

By mere accident, Erasmus went to visit a religious 
house belonging to the same order, in Emaus or Steyn, 
near Goude, where he met with one Cornelius, who had 
been his companion at Deventer ; and though he had not 
himself taken the habit, he was perpetually preaching 
up the advantages of a religious life, as the convenience 
of noble libraries, the helps of learned conversation, 
retirement from the noise and folly of the world, and 
the like. Thus at last he was induced to pitch upon 
this Convent. Upon his admission they fed him with 
great promises, to engage him to take the holy cloth ; 
and though he found almost everything fall short of his 



THE LIFE OF ERASMUS. Xlll 

expectation, yet his necessities, and the usage he was 
threatened with if he abandoned their order, prevailed 
with him, after his year of probation, to profess himself 
a member of their fraternity. Not long after this, he 
had the honor to be known to Henry a Bergis, bishop 
of Cambray, who having some hopes of obtaining a 
cardinal's hat, wanted one perfectly master of Latin to 
solicit this affair for him ; for this purpose Erasmus was 
taken into the bishop's family, where he wore the habit 
of his order. 

The bishop not succeeding in his expectation at 
Rome, proved fickle and wavering in his affection; 
therefore Erasmus prevailed with him to send him to 
Paris, to prosecute his studies in that famous university, 
with the promise of an annual allowance, which was 
never paid him. He was admitted into Montague Col- 
lege, but indisposition obliged him to return to the 
bishop, by whom he was honorably entertained. 

Finding his health restored, he made a journey to 
Holland, intending to settle there, but was persuaded to 
go a second time to Paris ; where, having no patron to 
support him, he says, he rather made a shift to live, 
than he could be said to study. 

He next visited England, where he was received with 
great respect ; and as appears by several of his letters, 
he honored it next to the place of his nativity. In a 
letter to Andrelinus, inviting him to England, he speaks 
highly of the beauty of the English ladies, and thus de- 
scribes their innocent freedom : " When you come into 
a gentleman's house you are allowed the favor to salute 
them, and the same when you take leave." He was 



XIV THE LIFE OF ERASMUS. 

particularly acquainted with Sir Thomas More, Colet, 
dean of Saint Paul's, Grocinus, Linacer, L,atimer, and 
many of the most eminent men of that time ; and 
passed some years at Cambridge. On his way to France 
he had the misfortune to be stripped of everything ; but 
he did not revenge this injury by any unjust reflection 
on the country. Not meeting with the preferment he 
expected, he made a voyage to Italy, at that time little 
inferior to the Augustan age for learning. He took his 
doctor of divinity degree in the university of Turin ; 
stayed about a year in Bologna ; afterward went to 
Venice, and there published his book of Adages from 
the press of the famous Aldus. He removed to Padua, 
and last to Rome, where his fame had arrived long 
before him. Here he gained the friendship of all the 
considerable persons of the city, nor could he have failed 
to have made his fortune, had he not been prevailed 
upon by the great promises of his friends in England to 
return thither on Henry VIII coming to the crown. 
He was taken into favor by Warham, archbishop of 
Canterbury, who gave him the living of Aldington, in 
Kent ; but whether Erasmus was wanting in making his 
court to Wolsey, or whether the cardinal viewed him 
with a jealous eye, because he was a favorite of Warham, 
between whom and Wolsey there was perpetual clashing, 
we know not ; however, being disappointed, Erasmus 
went to Flanders, and by the interest of Chancellor 
Sylvagius, was made counsellor to Charles of Austria, 
afterward Charles V, emperor of Germany. He resided 
several years at Basil ; but on the mass being abolished 
in that city by the Reformation, he retired to Friberg 



THE LIFE OF ERASMUS. XV 

in Alsace, where he lived seven years. Having been for 
a long time afflicted with the gout, he left Friberg, and 
returned to Basil. Here the gout soon left him, but he 
was seized by a dysentery, and after laboring a whole 
month under that disorder, died on the 22nd of July, 
1536, in the house of Jerome Frobenius, son of John, the 
famous printer. 

He was honorably interred, and the city of Basil still 
pays the highest respecl to the memory of so great 
a man. 

Erasmus was the most facetious man, and the greatest 
critic of his age. He carried on a reformation in learning 
at the same time he advanced that of religion ; and pro- 
moted a purity of style as well as simplicity of worship. 
This drew on him the hatred of the ecclesiastics, who 
were no less bigoted to their barbarisms in language 
and philosophy, than they were to their superstitious 
and gaudy ceremonies in religion ; they murdered him 
in their dull treatises, libeled him in their wretched 
sermons, and in their last and most effectual efforts of 
malice, they joined some of their own execrable stuff to 
his compositions ; of which he himself complains in a 
letter addressed to the divines of Louvain. He exposed 
with great freedom the vices and corruptions of his own 
church, yet never would be persuaded to leave her com- 
munion. The papal policy would never have suffered 
Erasmus to have taken so unbridled a range in the 
reproof and censure of her extravagancies, but under 
such circumstances, when the public attack of I/uther 
imposed on her a prudential necessity of not disobliging 
her friends, that she might with more united strength 



Xvi THE LIFE OF ERASMUS. 

oppose the common enemy ; and patiently bore what at 
any other time she would have resented. 

Perhaps no man has obliged the public with a greater 
number of useful volumes than our author ; though 
several have been attributed to him which he never 
wrote. His book of Colloquies has passed through more 
editions than any of his others. Moreri tells us a 
boseller in Paris sold twenty thousand copies of one 
edition. 



EPISTLE TO SIR THOMAS MORE. 

IN my late travels from Italy into England, that I 
might not trifle away my time in the rehearsal of old 
wives' fables, I thought it more pertinent to employ my 
thoughts in reflecting upon some past studies, or calling 
to remembrance several of those highly learned, as well 
as smartly ingenious, friends I had here left behind, 
among whom you (dear Sir) were represented as the 
chief ; whose memory, while absent at this distance, I 
respect with no less a complacency than I was wont 
while present to enjoy your more intimate conversation, 
which last afforded me the greatest satisfaction I could 
possibly hope for. Having therefore resolved to be a 
doing, and deeming that time improper for any serious 
concerns, I thought good to divert myself with drawing 
up a panegyric upon' Folly. How ! what maggot (say 
you) put this in your head ? Why, the first hint, Sir, 
was your own surname of More, which comes as near 
the literal sound of the word,* as you yourself are dis- 
tant from the signification of it, and that in all men's 
judgments is vastly wide. In the next place, I supposed 
that this kind of sporting wit would be by you more es- 
pecially accepted of, by you, Sir, that are wont with 
this sort of jocose raillery (such as, if I mistake not, is 
neither dull nor impertinent) to be mightily pleased, and 
in your ordinary converse to approve yourself a Democ- 

*Mvpia. (xix) 



XX EPISTLE TO SIR THOMAS MORE. 

ritus junior : for truly, as you do from a singular vein 
of wit very much dissent from the common herd of man- 
kind ; so, by an incredible affability and pliableness of 
temper, you have the art of suiting your humor with all 
sorts of companies. I hope therefore you will not only 
readily accept of this rude essay as a token from your 
friend, but take it under your more immediate protec- 
tion, as being dedicated to you, and by that title adopted 
for yours, rather than to be fathered as my own. And 
it is a chance if there be wanting some quarrelsome 
persons that will show their teeth, and pretend these 
fooleries are either too buffoon-like for a grave divine, 
or too satirical for a meek Christian, and so will exclaim 
against me as if I were vamping up some old farce, or 
acted anew the Laician again with a peevish snarling at 
all things. But those who are offended at the lightness 
and pedantry of this subject, I would have them consider 
that I do not set myself for the first example of this 
kind, but that the same has been oft done by many con- 
siderable authors. For thus several ages since, Homer 
wrote of no more weighty a subject than of a war between 
the frogs and mice, Virgil of a gnat and a pudding-cake, 
and Ovid of a nut. Polycrates commended the cruelty 
of Busiris ; and Isocrates, that corrects him for this, did 
as much for the injustice of Glaucus. Favorinus ex- 
tolled Thersites, and wrote in praise of a quartan ague. 
Synesius pleaded in behalf of baldness ; and Lucian 
defended a sipping fly. Seneca drollingly related the 
deifying of Claudius ; Plutarch the dialogue betwixt 
Gryllus and Ulysses ; L,ucian and Apuleius the story of 
an ass ; and somebody else records the last will of a hog, 



EPISTLE TO SIR THOMAS MORE. XXI 

of which St. Hierom makes mention. So that if they 
please, let themselves think the worst of me, and fancy 
to themselves that I was all this while a playing at push- 
pin, or riding astride on a hobby-horse. For how unjust 
is it, if when we allow different recreations to each par- 
ticular course of life, we afford no diversion to studies ; 
especially when trifles may be a whet to more serious 
thoughts, and comical matters may be so treated of, as 
that a reader of ordinary sense may possibly thence reap 
more advantage than from some more big and stately 
argument : as while one in a long-winded oration des- 
cants in commendation of rhetoric or philosophy, another 
in a fulsome harangue sets forth the praise of his nation, 
a third makes a zealous invitation to a holy war with the 
Turks, another confidently sets up for a fortune-teller, 
and a fifth states questions upon mere impertinences. 
But as nothing is more childish than to handle a serious 
subject in a loose, wanton style, so is there nothing more 
pleasant than to so treat of trifles, as to make them seem 
nothing less than what their name imports. As to what 
relates to myself, I must be forced to submit to the 
judgment of others ; yet, except I am too partial to be a 
judge in my own case, I am apt to believe I have praised 
Folly in such a manner as not to have deserved the name 
of fool for my pains. 

To reply now to the objection of satiricalness, wits 
have been always allowed this privilege, that they might 
be smart upon any transactions of life, if so be their lib- 
erty did not extend to railing ; which makes me wonder 
at the tender-eared humor of this age, which will admit 
no address without the prefatory repetition of all formal 



XX11 EPISTLE TO SIR THOMAS MORE. 

titles ; nay, you may find some so preposterously devout, 
that they will sooner wink at the greatest affront against 
our Saviour, than be content that a prince, or a pope, 
should be nettled with the least joke or gird, especially 
in what relates to their ordinary customs. But he who 
so blames men's irregularities as to lash at no one par- 
ticular person by name, does he (I say) seem to carp so 
properly as to teach and instruct? And if so, how am I 
concerned to make any farther excuse ? Beside, he who 
in his strictures points indifferently at all, he seems not 
angry at one man, but at all vices. 

Therefore, if any singly complain they are particularly 
reflected upon, they do but betray their own guilt, at 
least their cowardice. Saint Hierom dealt in the same 
argument at a much freer and sharper rate ; nay, and he 
did not sometimes refrain from naming the persons : 
whereas I have not only stifled the mentioning any one 
person, but have so tempered my style, as the ingenious 
reader will easily perceive I aimed at diversion rather 
than satire. Neither did I so far imitate Juvinal, as to 
rake into the sink of vices to procure a laughter, rather 
than create a hearty abhorrence. If there be any one 
that after all remains yet unsatisfied, let him at least 
consider that there may be good use made of being rep- 
rehended by Folly, which since we have feigned as 
speaking, we must keep up that character which is suit- 
able to the person introduced. 

But why do I trouble you, Sir, with this needless 
apology, you that are so peculiar a patron ; as, though 
the cause itself be none of the best, you can at least 
give it the best protection. Farewell. 



ARGUMENT AND DESIGN OF THE 
FOLLOWING ORATION. 

WHATE'ER the modern satyrs o' th' stage, 
To jerk the failures of a sliding age, 
Have lavishly expos'd to public view, 
For a discharge to all from envy due, 
Here in as lively colors naked lie, 
With equal wit and more of modesty, 
Those poets, with their free disclosing arts, 
Strip vice so near to its uncomely parts, 
Their libels prove but lessons, and they teach, 
Those very crimes which they intend t' impeach : 
While here so wholesome all, tho' sharp t' th' taste, 
So briskly free, yet so resolv'dly chaste ; 
The virgin naked as her god of bows, 
May read or hear when blood at highest flows ; 
Nor more expense of blushes thence arise, 
Than while the ledl'ring matron does advise 
To guard her virtue, and her honor prize. 

Satire and panegyric, distant be, 
Yet jointly here they both in one agree. 
The whole's a sacrifice of salt and fire ; 
So does the humor of the age require, 
To chafe the touch, and so foment desire. 
As doctrine-dangling preachers lull asleep 
Their unattentive pent-up fold of sheep ; 

The opiated milk glues up the brain, 

(xxiii) 



XXIV DESIGN OF THE FOLLOWING ORATION. 

And th' babes of grace are in their cradles lain ; 

While mounted Andrews, bawdy, bold, and loud, 

Like cocks, alarm and fright the drowsy crowd, 

Whose ample ears are prick'd as bolt upright, 

As sailing hairs are hoisted in a fright. 

So does it fare with croaking spawns o' th' press, 

The mould o' th' subject alters the success ; 

What's serious, like sleep, grants writs of ease, 

Satire and ridicule can only please ; 

As if no other animals could gape, 

But the biting-badger, or the snick'ring ape. 

Folly by irony's commended here, 
Sooth'd, that her weakness may the more appear. 
Thus fools, who trick'd, in red and yellow shine, 
Are made believe that they are wondrous fine, 
When all's a plot t' expose them by design. 

The largesses of Folly here are strown 
Like pebbles, not to pick, but trample on. 
Thus Spartans laid their drunken slaves before 
The boys, to jostle, kick, and tumble o'er : 
Not that the dry-lipp'd youngsters might combine 
To taste and know the mystery of wine, 
But wonder thus at men transformed to swine ; 
And th' power of such enchantment to escape, 
Timely renounce the devil of the grape. 

So here, 

Though Folly speaker be, and argument, 
Wit guides the tongue, wisdom's the Lecture meant. 



ERASMUS IN PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

An oration of feigned matter, spoken by FOLLY in 
her own person. 

HOW slightly soever I am esteemed in the common 
vogue of the world, (for I well know how disin- 
genuously Folly is decried, even by those who are them- 
selves the greatest fools,) yet it is from my influence 
alone that the whole universe receives her ferment of 
mirth and jollity : of which this may be urged as a con- 
vincing argument, in that as soon as I appeared to speak 
before this numerous assembly, all their countenances 
were gilded over with a lively sparkling pleasantness : 
you soon welcomed me with so encouraging a look, you 
spurred me on with so cheerful a hum, that truly in all 
appearance, you seem now flushed with a good dose of 
reviving nectar, when as just before you sate drowsy and 
melancholy, as if you were lately come out of some her- 
mit's cell. 

But as it is usual, that as soon as the smT peeps 
from her eastern bed, and draws back the curtains 
of the darksome night ; or as when, after a hard winter, 
the restorative spring breathes a more enlivening air, 
nature forthwith changes her apparel, and all things 
seem to renew their age ; so at the first sight of me you 

all unmask, and appear in more lively colors. That 
(25) 



26 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

therefore which expert orators can scarce effect by all 
their little artifice of eloquence, to wit, securing the 
attention of their auditors to a composedness of thought, 
this a bare look from me has commanded. The reason 
why I appear in this odd kind of garb, you shall soon be 
informed of, if for so short a while you will have but the 
patience to lend me an ear ; yet not such a one as you 
are wont to hearken with to your reverend preachers, 
but as you listen withal to mountebanks, buffoons and 
merry-andrews ; in short, such as formerly were fastened 
to Midas, as a punishment for his affront to the god 
Pan. 

For I am now in a humor to act awhile the sophist, 
yet not of that sort who undertake the drudgery of 
tyrannizing over school boys, and teach a more than 
womanish knack of brawling ; but in imitation of those 
ancient ones, who to avoid the scandalous epithet of 
wise, preferred this title of sophists ; the task of these 
was to celebrate the worth of gods and heroes. Prepare 
therefore to be entertained with a panegyric, yet not 
upon Hercules, Solon, or any other grandee, but on my- 
self, that is, upon Folly. 

And here I value not their censure that pretend it is 
foppish and affected for any person to praise himself : 
yet let it be as silly as they please, if they will but allow 
it needful : and indeed what is more befiting than that 
Folly should be the trumpet of her own praise, and 
dance after her own pipe ? for who can set me forth 
better than myself? or who can pretend to be so well 
acquainted with my condition ? 

And yet farther, I may safely urge, that all this is no 




Folly readily receives Attention. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 29 

more than the same with what is done by several seem- 
ingly great and wise men, who with a new-fashioned 
modesty employ some paltry orator or scribbling poet, 
whom they bribe to flatter them with some high-flown 
character, that shall consist of mere lies and shams ; and 
yet the persons thus extolled shall bristle up, and, 
peacock -like, bespread their plumes, while the impudent 
parasite magnifies the poor wretch to the skies, and 
proposes him as a complete pattern of all virtues, from 
each of which he is yet as far distant as heaven itself 
from hell : what is all this in the mean while, but the 
tricking up a daw in stolen feathers ; a laboring to 
change the black-a-moor's hue, and the drawing on a 
pigmy's frock over the shoulders of a giant. 

L,astly, I verify the old observation, that allows him 
a right of praising himself, who has nobody else to do it 
for him : for really, I cannot but admire at that ingrati- 
tude, shall I term it, or blockishness of mankind, who 
when they all willingly pay to me their utmost devoir, 
and freely acknowledge their respective obligations ; 
that notwithstanding this, there should have been none 
so grateful or complaisant as to have bestowed on me a 
commendatory oration, especially when there have not 
been wanting such as at a great expense of sweat, and 
loss of sleep, have in elaborate speeches, given high 
encomiums to tyrants, agues, flies, baldness and such 
like trumperies. 

I shall entertain you with'a hasty and unpremeditated, 
but so much the more natural discourse. My venting it 
ex tempore^ I would not have you think proceeds from 
any principles of vain glory by which ordinary orators 



30 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

square their attempts, who (as it is easy to observe) 
when they are delivered of a speech that has been thirty 
years a conceiving, nay, perhaps at last none of their 
own, yet they will swear they wrote it in a great hurry, and 
upon very short warning : whereas the reason of my not 
being provided beforehand is only because it was always 
my humor constantly to speak that which lies upper- 
most. Next, let no one be so fond as to imagine, that I 
should so far stint my invention to the method of other 
pleaders, as first to define, and then divide my subject, 
i.e. y myself. For it is equally hazardous to attempt the 
crowding her within the narrow limits of a definition, 
whose nature is of so diffusive an extent, or to mangle 
and disjoin that, to the adoration whereof all nations 
unitedly concur. Beside, to what purpose is it to lay 
down a definition for a faint resemblance, and mere 
shadow of me, while appearing here personally, you 
may view me in a more certain light? and if your eye- 
sight fail not, you may at first blush discern me to be 
her whom the Greeks term Moapla, the Latins stultitia. 

But why need I have been so impertinent as to have 
told you this, as if my very looks did not sufficiently 
betray what I am ; or supposing any be so credulous as 
to take me for some sage matron or goddess of wisdom, 
as if a single glance from me would not immediately 
correct their mistake, while my visage, the exact reflex 
of my soul, would supply and supersede the trouble of 
any other confessions ; for I appear always in my natural 
colors, and an unartificial dress, and never let my face 
pretend one thing, and my heart conceal another ; nay, 
and in all things I am so true to my principles, that I 




The Physician. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 33 

cannot be so much as counterfeited, even by those who 
challenge the name of wits, yet indeed are no better 
than jackanapes tricked up in gawdy clothes, and asses 
strutting in lions' skins ; and how cunningly soever 
they carry it, their long ears appear, and betray what 
they are. These in troth are very rude and disingenuous, 
for while they apparently belong to my party, yet among 
the vulgar they are so ashamed of my relation, as to cast 
it in others' dish for a shame and reproach : wherefore 
since they are so eager to be accounted wise, when in 
truth they are extremely silly, what, if to give them 
their due, I dub them with the title of wise fools : and 
herein they copy after the example of some modern 
orators, who swell to that proportion of conceitedness, 
as to vaunt themselves for so many giants of eloquence, 
if with a double-tongued fluency they can plead indiffer- 
ently for either side, and deem it a very doughty exploit 
if they can but interlard a I/atin sentence with some 
Greek word, which for seeming garnish they crowd in 
at a venture ; and rather than be at a stand for some 
cramp words, they will furnish up a long scroll of old 
obsolete terms out of some musty author, and foist them 
in to amuse the reader with, that those who understand 
them may be tickled with the happiness of being ac- 
quainted with them : and those who understand them 
not, the less they know the more they may admire ; 
whereas it has been always a custom to those of our side 
to contemn and undervalue whatever is strange and un- 
usual, while those that are better conceited of themselves 
will nod and smile, and prick up their ears, that they 
may be thought easily to apprehend that, of which per- 



34 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

haps they do not understand one word. And so much 
for this ; pardon the digression, now I return. 

Of my name I have informed you, Sirs ; what addi- 
tional epithet to give you I know not, except you will 
be content with that of most foolish ; for under what 
more proper appellation can the goddess Folly greet her 
devotees ? But since there are few acquainted with my 
family and origin, I will now give you some account of 
my extraction. 

First then, my father was neither the chaos, nor hell, 
nor Saturn, nor Jupiter, nor any of those old, worn out, 
grandsire gods, but Plutus, the very same that, maugre 
Homer, Hesiod, nay, in spite of Jove himself, was the 
primary father of the universe ; at whose beck alone, for 
all ages, religion and civil policy have been successively 
undermined and re-established by whose powerful in- 
fluence war, peace, empire, debates, justice, magistracy, 
marriage, leagues, compacts, laws, arts, (I have almost 
run myself out of breath,) but in a word, all affairs of 
church and state, and business of private concern, are 
severally ordered and administered ; without whose 
assistance all the Poets' gang of deities, nay, I may be 
so bold as to say the very major-domos of heaven, would 
either dwindle into nothing, or at least be confined to 
their respective homes without any ceremonies of devo- 
tional address. Whoever he combats with as an enemy, 
nothing can be armor-proof against his assaults ; and 
whosoever he sides with as a friend, may grapple at even 
hand with Jove, and all his bolts. Of such a father I 
may well brag ; and he begot me, not of his brain, as 
Jupiter did the hag Pallas, but of a pretty young nymph, 




The Harp and the Ass. 




The Wise Father and Foolish Son. 




Jove and his Nurse. 



THE PRAISE OP FOLLY. 43 

famed for wit no less than beauty: and this feat was not 
done amidst the embraces of dull nauseous wedlock, but 
what gave a greater gust to the pleasure, it was done at a 
stolen bout, as we may modestly phrase it. But to pre- 
vent your mistaking me, I would have you understand 
that my father was not that Plutus in Aristophanes, old, 
dry, withered, sapless and blind ; but the same in his 
younger and brisker days, and when his veins were more 
impregnated, and the heat of his youth somewhat higher 
inflamed by a chirping cup of nectar, which for a whet 
to his lust he had just before drank very freely of at a 
merry-meeting of the gods. And now presuming you 
may be inquisitive after my birth-place (the quality of 
the place we are born in, being now looked upon as a 
main ingredient of gentility). I was born neither in the 
floating Delo's, nor on the frothy sea, nor in any of these 
privacies, where too forward mothers are wont to retire 
for an undiscovered delivery ; but in the fortune islands, 
where all things grow without the toil of husbandry, 
wherein there is no drudgery, no distempers, no old age, 
where in the fields grow no daffodills, mallows, onions, 
pease, beans, or such kind of trash, but there give equal 
divertisement to our sight and smelling, rue, all-heal, 
bugloss, marjoram, herb of life, roses, violets, hyacinths, 
and such like fragrances as perfume the gardens of 
Adonis. And being born amongst these delights, I did 
not, like other infants, come crying into the world, but 
perked up, and laughed immediately in my mother's 
face. And there is no reason I should envy Jove for 
having a she-goat for his nurse, since I was more credit- 
ably suckled by two jolly nymphs ; the name of the first 



44 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

drunkenness, one of Bacchus' s offspring, the other igno- 
rance, the daughter of Pan ; both which you may here 
behold among several others of my train and attendants, 
whose particular names, if you would feign know, I will 
give you in short. This, who goes with a mincing gait, 
and holds up her head so high, is Self-L/ove. She that 
looks so spruce, and makes such a noise and bustle, is 
Flattery. That other, which sits hum-drum, as if she 
were half asleep, is called Forgetfulness. She that leans 
on her elbow, and sometimes yawningly stretches out 
her arms, is Laziness. This, that wears a plaited gar- 
land of flowers, and smells so perfumed, is Pleasure. 
The other, which appears in so smooth a skin, and 
pampered-up flesh, is Sensuality. She that stares so 
wildly, and rolls about her eyes, is Madness. As to 
those two gods whom you see playing among the lasses, 
the name of the one is Intemperance, the other Sound 
Sleep. By the help and service of this retinue I bring 
all things under the verge of my power, lording it over 
the greatest kings and potentates. 

You have now heard of my descent, my education, 
and my attendance; that I may not be taxed as pre- 
sumptuous in borrowing the title of a goddess, I come 
now in the next place to acquaint you what obliging 
favors I everywhere bestow, and how largely my juris- 
diction extends : for if, as one has ingenuously noted, to 
be a god is no other than to be a benefactor to mankind ; 
and they have been thought deservedly deified who have 
invented the use of wine, corn, or any other convenience 
for the well-being of mortals, why may not I justly bear 
the van among the whole troop of gods, who in all, and 




The Birth of Folly. 




King Solomon. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 51 

toward all, exert an unparalleled bounty and benefi- 
cence ? 

For instance, in the first place, what can be more dear 
and precious than life itself? and yet for this are none 
beholden, save to me alone. 

For it is neither the spear of thoroughly-begotten 
Pallas, nor the buckler of cloud-gathering Jove, that 
rrmltiplies and propagates mankind, but that prime 
father of the universe, who at a displeasing nod makes 
heaven itself to tremble, he (I say) must lay aside 
his frightful ensigns of majesty, and put away that 
grim aspect wherewith he makes the other gods to 
quake, and, stage player-like, must lay aside his usual 
character, if he would do that, the doing whereof 
he cannot refrain from, i.e., getting of children. The 
next place to the gods is challenged by the Stoics ; but 
give me one as stoical as ill-nature can make him, and 
if I do not prevail on him to part with his beard, that 
bush of wisdom, (though no other ornament than what 
nature in more ample manner has given to goats,) yet 
at least he shall lay by his gravity, smooth up his brow, 
relinquish his rigid tenets, and in despite of prejudice 
become sensible of some passion in wanton sport and 
dallying. 

In a word, this dictator of wisdom shall be glad 
to take Folly for his diversion, if ever he would 
arrive to the honor of a father. 

Add to this, what man would be so silly as to run 
his head into the collar of a matrimonial noose, if 
(as wise men are wont to do) he had before-hand 
duly considered the inconveniences of a wedded life? 



52 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

Or indeed what woman would open her arms to 
receive the embraces of a husband, if she did but fore- 
cast the pangs of child-birth, and the plague of being a 
nurse ? 

Since, then, you owe your birth to the bride-bed, 
and (what was preparatory to that) the solemnizing 
of marriage to my waiting woman Madness, you can- 
not but acknowledge how much you are indebted 
to me. 

Beside, those who had once dearly bought the experi- 
ence of their folly, would never re-engage themselves in 
the same entanglement by a second match, if it were 
not occasioned by the forgetfulness of past dangers. 
And Venus herself (whatever Lucretius pretends to the 
contrary), cannot deny, but that without my assistance, 
her procreative power would prove weak and in- 
effectual. 

It was from my sportive and tickling recreation that 
proceeded the old crabbed philosophers, and those who 
now supply their stead, the mortified monks and friars ; 
as also kings, priests, and popes, nay, the whole tribe 
of poetic gods, who are at last grown so numerous, 
as in the camp of heaven (though ne'er so spacious), 
to jostle for elbow room. 

But it is not sufficient to make it appear that I am the 
source and origin of all life, except that I likewise show 
that all the benefits of life are equally at my disposal. 
And what are they ? 

Why, can any one be said properly to live to whom 
pleasure is denied ? 

You will give me your assent ; for there is none I 




The Matrimonial Noose. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 55 

know among you so wise shall I say, or so silly, as to 
be of a contrary opinion. 

The Stoics indeed contemn, and pretend to banish pleas- 
ure ; but this is only a dissembling trick, and a putting 
the vulgar out of conceit with it, that they may more 
quietly engross it to themselves : but I dare them now 
to confess what one stage of life is not melancholy, dull, 
tiresome, tedious, and uneasy, unless we spice it with 
pleasure, that haut-gout of Folly. Of the truth whereof 
the never enough to be commended Sophocles is suffi- 
cient authority, who gives me the highest character in 
that sentence of his, 

To know nothing is the sweetest life. 

Yet abating from this, let us examine the case more 
narrowly. Who knows not that the first scene of infancy 
is far the most pleasant and delightsome ? What then is 
it in children that makes us so kiss, hug, and play with 
them, and that the bloodiest enemy can scarce have the 
heart to hurt them ; but their innocence and Folly, of 
which nature out of providence did purposely compound 
and blend their tender infancy, that by a frank return 
of pleasure they might make some sort of amends for 
their parents' trouble, and give in caution as it were for 
the discharge of a future education ; the next advance 
from childhood is youth, and how favorably is this dealt 
with ; how kind, courteous, and respectful are all to it ? 
and how ready to become serviceable upon all occasions ? 
And whence reaps it this happiness ? Whence indeed, 
but from me only, by whose procurement it is furnished 
with little of wisdom, and so with the less of disquiet ? 
And when once lads begin to grow up, and attempt to 



56 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

write man, their prettiness does then soon decay, their 
briskness flags, their humors stagnate, their jollity 
ceases, and their blood grows cold ; and the farther they 
proceed in years, the more they grow backward in the 
enjoyment of themselves, till waspish old age comes on, 
a burden to itself as well as others, and that so heavy 
and oppressive, as none would bear the weight of, unless 
out of pity to their sufferings. I again intervene, and 
lend a helping-hand, assisting them at a dead lift, in the 
same method the poets feign their gods to succor dying 
men, by transforming them into new creatures, which I 
do by bringing them back, after they have one foot in 
the grave, to their infancy again ; so as there is a great 
deal of truth couched in that old proverb, Once an old 
man and twice a child. 

Now if any one be curious to understand what course 
I take to effect this alteration, my method is this : I 
bring them to my well of forgetfulness, (the fountain 
whereof is in the Fortunate Islands, and the river Teethe 
in hell but a small stream of it), and when they have 
there filled their bellies full, and washed down care, by 
the virtue and operation whereof they become young 
again. Ay, but (say you) they merely dote, and play 
the fool : why yes, this is what I mean by growing 
young again : for what else is it to be a child than to be 
a fool and an idiot ? It is the being such that makes 
that age so acceptable : for who does not esteem it some- 
what ominous to see a boy endowed with the discretion 
of a man, and therefore for the curbing of too forward 
parts we have a disparaging proverb, Soon ripe, soon 
rotten ? And farther, who would keep company or have 




The Schoolmaster, 



THE PRAISE OK FOLLY. 59 

any thing to do with such an old blade, as, after the 
wear and harrowing of so many years should yet con- 
tinue of as clear a head and sound a judgment as he had 
at any time been in his middle-age ; and therefore it is 
great kindness of me that old men grow fools, since it is 
hereby only that they are freed from such vexations as 
would torment them if they were more wise : they can 
drink briskly, bear up stoutly, and lightly pass over 
such infirmities, as a far stronger constitution could 
scarce master. Sometimes, with the old fellow in Plautus, 
they are brought back to their horn-book again, to learn 
to spell their fortune in love. Most wretched would 
they needs be if they had but wit enough to be sensible 
of their hard condition ; but by my assistance, they car- 
ry off all well, and to their respective friends approve 
themselves good, sociable, jolly companions. Thus 
Homer makes aged Nestor famed for a smooth oily- 
tongued orator, while the deliver}' of Achilles was but 
rough, harsh, and hesitant; and the same poet elsewhere 
tells us of old men that sate on the walls, and spake 
with a great deal of flourish and elegance. And in this 
point indeed they surpass and outgo children, who are 
pretty forward in a softly, innocent prattle, but other- 
wise are too much tongue-tied, and want the other's most 
acceptable embellishment of a perpetual talkativeness. 
Add to this, that old men love to be playing with 
children, and children delight as much in them, to verify 
the proverb, that Birds of a feather flock together. And 
indeed what difference can be discerned between them, 
but that the one is more furrowed with wrinkles, and has 
seen a little more of the world than the other? For 



60 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

otherwise their whitish hair, their want of teeth, their 
smallness of stature, their milk diet, their bald crowns, 
their prattling, their playing, their short memory, their 
heedlessness, and all their other endowments, exactly 
agree ; and the more they advance in years, the nearer 
they come back to their cradle, till like children indeed, 
at last they depart the world, without any remorse at the 
loss of life, or sense of the pangs of death. 

And now let any one compare the excellency of my 
metamorphosing power to that which Ovid attributes to 
the gods ; their strange feats in some drunken passions 
we will omit for their credit sake, and instance only in 
such persons as they pretend great kindness for ; these 
they transformed into trees, birds, insects, and some- 
times serpents ; but alas, their very change into some- 
what else argues the destruction of what they were 
before ; whereas I can restore the same numerical man 
to his pristine state of youth, health and strength ; yea, 
what is more, if men would but so far consult their own 
interest, as to discard all thoughts of wisdom, and en- 
tirely resign themselves to my guidance and conduct, 
old age should be a paradox, and each man's years a per- 
petual spring. For look how your hard plodding 
students, by a close sedentary confinement to their 
books, grow mopish, pale, and meagre, as if by a con- 
tinual wrack of brains, and torture of invention, their 
veins were pumped dry, and their whole body squeezed 
sapless ; whereas my followers are smooth, plump, and 
bucksome, and altogether as lusty as so many bacon- 
hogs, or sucking calves ; never in their career of pleasure 
to be arrested with old age, if they could but keep them' 




Suspicion. 




Momos Thrust out of Heaven. 




Scribes and Pharisees. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 65 

selves untainted from the contagiousness of wisdom, 
with the leprosy whereof, if at any time they are in- 
fected, it is only for prevention, lest they should otherwise 
have been too happy. 

For a more ample confirmation of the truth of what 
foregoes, it is on all sides confessed, that Folly is the 
best preservative of youth, and the most effectual anti- 
dote against age, and it is a never-failing observation 
made of the people of Brabant, that, contrary to the 
proverb of Older and wiser, the more ancient they 
grow, the more foolish they are ; and there is not any 
one country, whose inhabitants enjoy themselves better, 
and rub through the world with more ease and quiet. 
To these are nearly related, as well by affinity of customs 
as of neighborhood, my friends, the Hollanders. Mine, I 
may well call them, for they stick so close and lovingly 
to me, that they are styled fools to a pro verb, and yet scorn 
to be ashamed of their name. Well, let fond mortals go 
now in a needless quest of some enchanted fountain, for 
a restorative of age, whereas the accurate performance of 
this feat lies only within the ability of my art and skill. 

It is I only who have the receipt of making that liquor 
wherewith Memnon's daughter lengthened out her 
grandfather's declining days. It is I that am that Venus, 
who so far restored the languishing Phaon, as to make 
Sappho fall deeply in love with his beauty. Mine are 
those herbs, mine those charms, that not only lure back 
swift time, when past and gone, but what is more to be 
admired, clip its wings, and prevent all further flight. 
So then, if you will all agree to my verdict, that nothing 
is more desirable than the being young, nor anything 



66 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

more dreaded than unavoidable old age, you must needs 
acknowledge it as an indisputable obligation from me, 
for fencing off the one, and perpetuating the other. 

But why should I confine my discourse to the nar- 
row subject of mankind only ? View the whole mytho- 
logical heaven itself, and then tell me which one of that 
divine tribe would not be mean and dispicable, if my 
name did not lend him some respect and authority. 
Why is Bacchus always painted as a young man, but 
only because he is freakish, drunk, and mad ; and spend- 
ing his time in toping, dancing, masking, and reveling, 
seems to have nothing in the least to do with wisdom? 
Nay, so far is he from the affectation of being accounted 
wise, that he is content that all the rights of devotion 
which are paid unto him should consist of apishness and 
drollery. Farther, what scoffs and jeers did the old co- 
medians throw upon him? O swinish god, say they, 
that smells of the sty he was reared in, and so on. But 
prithee, who in this case, always merry, youthful, soaked 
in wine and drowned in pleasure, who, I say, in such a 
case, would change conditions, either with the lofty 
menace-looking Jove, the grave, yet timorous Pan, the 
stately Pallas, or indeed any other one of heaven's land- 
lords ? Why is Cupid feigned as a boy, but only because 
he is an under-witted whipster, that neither acts nor 
thinks any thing with discretion ? Why is Venus adored 
for the mirror of beauty, but only because she and I 
claim kindred, she being of the same complexion with 
my father Plutus, and therefore called by Homer the 
Golden Goddess? Beside, she imitates me in being 
always a laughing, if either we believe the poets, or their 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 69 

near kinsman the painters, the first mentioning, the 
other drawing her constantly in that posture. Add 
farther to what deity did the Romans pay a more cere- 
monial respect than to Flora, that bawd of obscenity ? 
And if any one search the poets for an historical account 
of the gods, he shall find them all famous for lewd 
pranks and debaucheries. It is needless to insist upon 
the miscarriages of others, when the lecherous intrigues 
of Jove himself are so notorious, and when the pretend- 
edly chaste Diana so oft uncloaked her modesty to run 
a hunting after her beloved Endimion. But I will say 
no more, for I had rather they should be told of their 
faults by Momus, who was want formerly to sting them 
with some close reflections, till nettled by his abusive 
raillery, they kicked him out of heaven for his sauciness 
of daring to reprove such as were beyond correction ; and 
now in his banishment from heaven he finds but cold 
entertainment here on earth, nay, is denied all admit- 
tance into the court of princes, where notwithstanding 
my handmaid Flattery finds a most encouraging wel- 
come : but this petulent monitor being thrust out of 
doors, the gods can now more freely rant and revel, and 
take their whole swing of pleasure. Now the beastly 
Priappus may recreate himself without contradiction in 
lust and filthiness ; now the sly Mercury may, without 
discovery, go on in his thieveries, and nimble-fingered 
juggles ; the sooty Vulcan may now renew his wonted 
custom of making the other gods laugh by his hopping 
so limpingly, and coming off with so many dry jokes 
and biting repartees. Silenus, the old doting lover, to 
show his activity, may now dance a frisking jig, and the 



70 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

nymphs be at the same sport quite naked. The goatish 
satyrs may make up a merry ball, and Pan, the blind 
harper, may put up his bagpipes and sing bawdy catches, 
to which the gods, especially when they are almost 
drunk, shall give a most profound attention. But why 
should I any farther rip open and expose the weakness 
of the gods, a weakness so childish and absurd, that no 
man can at the same time keep his countenance and 
make a relation of it? Now therefore, like Homer's 
wandering muse, I will take my leave of heaven, and 
come down again here below, where we shall find noth- 
ing happy, nay, nothing tolerable, without my presence 
and assistance. And in the first place consider how 
providently nature has taken care that in all her works 
there should be some piquant smack and relish of Foil}- : 
for since the Stoics define wisdom to be conducted by 
reason, and folly nothing else but the being hurried by 
passion, lest our life should otherwise have been too dull 
and inactive, that creator, who out of clay first tempered 
and made us up, put into the composition of our human- 
ity more than a pound of passions to an ounce of reason; 
and reason he confined within the narrow cells of 
the brain, whereas he left passions the whole body to 
range in. 

Farther, he set up two sturdy champions to stand 
perpetually on guard, that reason might make no assault, 
surprise, nor inroad ; anger, which keeps its station in 
the fortress of the heart ; and lust, which like the signs 
Virgo and Scorpio, rules the appetites and passions. 

Against the forces of these two warriors how unable is 
reason to bear up and withstand, every day's experience 



THE PRAISE OP FOLLY. 73 

doth abundantly witness ; while let reason be never so 
importunate in urging and reinforcing her admonitions 
to virtue, yet the passions bear all before them, and by 
the least offer of curb or restraint grow but more impe- 
ri6us, till reason itself, for quietness sake, is forced to 
desist from all further remonstrance. 

But because it seemed expedient that man, who was 
born for the transaction of business, should have so much 
wisdom as should fit and capacitate him for the discharge 
of his duty herein, and yet lest such a measure as is 
requisite for this purpose might prove too dangerous and 
fatal, I was advised with for an antidote, who prescribed 
this infallible receipt of taking a wife, a creature so harm- 
less and silly, and yet so useful and convenient, as might 
mollify and make pliable the stiffness and morose humor 
of man. Now that which made Plato doubt under what 
genus to rank woman, whether among brutes or rational 
creatures, was only meant to denote the extreme stupid- 
ness and Folly of that sex, a sex so unalterably simple, 
that for any of them to thrust forward, and reach at the 
name of wise, is but to make themselves the more re- 
markable fools, such an endeavor, being but a swimming 
against the stream, nay, the turning the course of nature, 
the bare attempting whereof is as extravagant as the 
effecting of it is impossible : for as it is a trite proverb, 
That an ape will be an ape, though clad in purple : so a 
woman will be a woman, i. e. , a fool, whatever disguise 
she takes up. And yet there is no reason woman should 
take it amiss to be thus charged ; for if they do but 
rightly consider, they will find it is to Folly they are 
beholden for those endowments wherein they so far sur- 



74 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

pass and excel man; as first, for their unparalleled beauty, 
by the charm whereof they tyrannize over the greatest 
tyrants ; for what is it but too great a portion of wisdom 
that makes men so tawny and thick-skinned, so rough 
and prickly-bearded, like an emblem of winter or old 
age, while women have such dainty smooth cheeks, such 
a low, gentle voice, and so pure a complexion, as if 
nature had drawn them for a standing pattern of all sym- 
metry and comeliness? Beside, what greater or juster 
aim and ambition have they than to please their hus- 
bands? In order whereunto they garnish themselves 
with paint, washes, curls, perfumes, and all other mys- 
teries of ornament ; yet after all they become acceptable 
to them only for their Folly. Wives are always allowed 
their humor, yet it is only in exchange for titillation and 
pleasure, which indeed are but other names for Folly, 
as none can deny, who consider how a man must hug, 
and dandle, and caress, and play a hundred little tricks 
to please, interest and amuse his mistress. 

But now some blood-chilled old men, that are more 
for wine than wenching, will pretend, that in their 
opinion the greatest happiness consists in feasting and 
drinking. Grant it be so ; yet certainly in the most 
luxurious entertainments it is Folly must give the sauce 
and relish to the daintiest cates and delicacies ; so that 
if there be not one of the guests naturally fool enough to 
be played upon by the rest, they must procure some 
comical buffoon, that by his jokes, and flouts, and blun- 
ders, shall make the whole company split themselves with 
laughing : for to what purpose were it to be stuffed and 
crammed with so many dainty bits, savory dishes, and 




Youth and Old Age the Matrimonial Chain. 




The Logician. 



THE PRAISE OP FOLLY. 79 

toothsome rarities, if after all this epicurism of the belly, 
the eyes, the ears and the whole mind of man, were not 
as well fostered and relieved with laughing, jesting, and 
such like divertisements, which like second courses 
serve for the promoting of digestion? And as to all 
those shooing horns of drunkenness, the keeping every 
one his man, the throwing hey -jinks, the filling of bum- 
pers, the drinking two in a hand, the beginning of 
mistress' healths ; and then the roaring out of drunken 
catches, the calling in a fiddler, the leading out every 
one his lady to dance, and such like riotous pastimes, 
these were not taught or dictated by any of the wise men 
of Greece, but of Gotham rather, being my invention, 
and by me prescribed as the best preservative of health : 
each of which, the more ridiculous it is, the more wel- 
come it finds. And indeed, to jog sleepingly through 
the world, in a dumpish melancholy posture, cannot 
properly be said to live, but to be wound up as it were 
in a winding-sheet before we are dead, and so to be 
shuffled quick into a grave, and buried alive. 

But there are yet others perhaps that have no gust in 
this sort of pleasure, but place their greatest content in 
the enjoyment of friends, telling us that true friendship 
is to be preferred before all other acquirements; that it is 
a thing so useful and necessary, as the very elements, 
which could not long subsist without a natural combina- 
tion ; so pleasant that it affords as warm an influence as 
the sun itself ; so honest (if honesty in this case deserve 
any consideration), that the very philosophers have not 
hesitated to place this as one among the rest of their 
different sentiments of the chiefest good. But what if I 



80 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

make it appear that I also am the main spring and orig- 
inal of this endearment ? Yes, I can easily demonstrate 
it, and that not by crabbed syllogisms, or a crooked and 
unintelligible way of arguing, but can make it (as the 
proverb %QZ.S) As plain as the nose on your face. Well 
then, to scratch and curry one another, to wink at a 
friend's faults ; nay, to cry up some failings as virtuous 
and commendable, is not this the next door to the being 
a fool? When one looking steadfastly in his mistress's 
face, admires a mole as much as a beauty spot ; when 
another swears his lady's stinking breath is a most redo- 
lent perfume ; and at another time the fond parent hugs 
the squint-eyed child, and pretends it is rather a becom- 
ing glance and winning aspect than any blemish of the 
eye-sight, what is all this but the very height of Folly? 
Folly, I say, that both makes friends and keeps them so. 

I speak of mortal men only, among whom there are 
none but have some small faults ; he is most happy that 
has fewest. If we pass to the gods, we shall find that 
they have so much of wisdom, that they have very little 
of friendship ; nay, nothing of that which is true and 
hearty. 

The reason why men make a greater improvement in 
this virtue, is only because they are more credulous and 
easy natured ; for friends must be of the same humor 
and inclinations too, or else the league of amity, though 
made with never so many protestations, will soon be 
broken. Thus grave and morose men seldom prove fast 
friends ; they are too captious and consorious, and will 
not bear with one another's infirmities ; they are as 
eagle-sighted as may be in the espial of others' faults, 




The Plague of being a Nurse. 



THE PRAISE OF .FOLLY. 83 

while they wink upon themselves, and never mind the 
beam in their own eyes. In short, man being by nature 
so prone to frailties, so humorsome and cross-grained, 
and guilty of so many slips and miscarriages, there could 
be no firm friendship contracted, except there be such 
an allowance made for each other's defaults which the 
Greeks term 'Evrfleia, and which we may construe good na- 
ture, which is but another word for Folly. And what ? Is 
not Cupid, that first father of all relation, is not he stark 
blind, and that as he cannot himself distinguish between 
colors, so he would make us as mope-eyed in judging 
falsely of all love concerns, and wheedle us into thinking 
that we are always in the right ? Thus every Jack sticks 
to his own Jill ; every tinker esteems his own trull ; and 
the hob-nailed suitor prefers Joan, the milk-maid, before 
any of my lady's daughters. These things are true, and 
are ordinarily laughed at, and yet, however ridiculous 
they seem, it is hence only that all societies receive their 
cement and consolidation. 

The same which has been said of friendship is much 
more applicable to a state of marriage, which is but the 
highest advance and improvement of friendship in the 
closest bond of union. Good God ! What frequent 
divorces or worse mischief would oft sadly happen, 
were it not that man and wife were so discreet as to pass 
over light occasions of quarrel with laughing, jesting, 
dissembling, and such like playing the fool ? Nay, how 
few matches would go forward, if the hasty lover did but 
first know how many little tricks of lust and wantonness 
(and perhaps more gross failings) his coy and seemingly 
bashful mistress had oft been guilty of? And how few 



84 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

marriages, when consummated, would continue happy, 
if the husband were not either sottishly insensible of, or 
did not purposely wink at and pass over the lightness 
and forwardness of his good-natured wife ? This peace 
and quietness is owing to my management, for there 
would otherwise be continual jars, and broils, and mad 
doings, if want of wit only did not at the same time 
make a contented cuckold and a still house. If the 
cuckoo sings at the back door, the unthinking cornute 
takes no notice of the unlucky omen, of others' eggs 
being laid in his own nest, but laughs it over, kisses his 
dear spouse, and all is well. 

And indeed, it is much better patiently to be such a hen- 
pecked frigot, than always to be wracked and tortiired 
with the grating surmises of suspicion and jealousy. In 
fine, there is not one society, nor one relation men stand 
in, that would be comfortable, or indeed tolerable, with- 
out my assistance. There could be no right understand- 
ing betwixt prince and people, master and servant, tutor 
and pupil, friend and friend, man and wife, buyer and 
seller, or any persons however otherwise related, if they 
did not cowardly put up with small abuses, sneakingly 
cringe and submit, or after all fawningly caress and flat- 
ter each other. 

This you will say is much, but you shall yet hear 
what is more : tell me then, can any one love another 
that first hates himself? Is it likely any one should 
agree with a friend that has first fallen out with his own 
judgment? Or is it probable he should be any way 
pleasing to another, who is a perpetual plague and 
trouble to himself? This is such a paradox that none 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 85 

can be so mad as to maintain. Well, but if I am ex- 
cluded and barred out, every man would be so far from 
being able to bear with others, that he would be bur- 
thensome to himself, and consequently incapable of any 
ease or satisfaction. Nature, that toward some of her 
products plays the step-mother rather than the indulgent 
parent, has endowed some men with that unhappy pee- 
vishness of disposition, as to nauseate and dislike what- 
ever is their own, and much admire what belongs to 
other persons, so as they cannot in any wise enjoy what 
their birth or fortunes have bestowed upon them : for 
what grace is there in the greatest beauty, if it be always 
clouded with frowns and sullenness ? or what vigor in 
youth, if it be harassed with a pettish, dogged, waspish, 
ill humor ? None, whatever. Nor, indeed, can there be 
any creditable acquirement of ourselves in any one 
station of life, but we should sink without rescue into 
misery and despair, if we were not buoyed up and sup- 
ported by self-love, which is but the elder sister (as it 
were) of Folly, and her own constant friend and assistant. 
For what is or can be more silly than to be lovers and 
admirers of ourselves ? And yet, if it were not so, there 
would be no relish to any of our words or actions. Take 
away this one attribute of a fool, and the orator shall 
become as dumb aud silent as the rostrum he stands on ; 
the musician shall hang up his untouched instruments 
on the wall ; the greatest actors shall be hissed off the 
stage; the poet shall be burlesqued with his own doggerel 
rhymes ; the painter shall himself vanish into an imag- 
inary landscape ; and the physician shall want food more 
than his patients do physic. In short, without self-love, 



86 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

instead of beautiful, you shall think yourself an old bel- 
dam of fourscore ; instead of youthful, you shall seem 
just dropping into the grave ; instead of eloquent, a mere 
stammerer ; and in lieu of being gentle and complaisant, 
you shall appear like a downright country clown ; it 
being so necessary that every one should think well of 
themselves before they can expect the good opinion of 
others. 

Finally, when it is the main and essential part of hap- 
piness to desire to be no other than what we already are, 
this expedient is again wholly owing to self-love, which 
so flushes men with a good conceit of their own, that no 
one repents of his shape, of his wit, of his education, or 
of his country ; thus the dirty, half drowned Hollander 
would not remove into the pleasant plains of Italy, the 
rude Thracian would not change his boggy soil for the 
best location in Athens, nor the brutish Scythian quit 
his thorny deserts to become an inhabitant of the Fortu- 
nate Islands. And, oh! the wonderful contrivances of 
nature, which has ordered all things in so even a method 
that wherever she has been less bountiful in her gifts, 
there she makes it up with a larger dose of self-love, 
which supplies the former defects, and makes all equal. 

To enlarge farther, I may well presume to aver, that 
there are no considerable exploits performed, no useful 
arts invented, but what I am the respective author and 
manager of: as first, what is more lofty and heroical 
than war ? and yet, what is more foolish than for some 
petty, trivial affront, to take such a revenge as both sides 
shall be sure to be losers, and where the quarrel must be 
decided at the price of so many limbs and lives ? And 




The Fool in the Family. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 89 

when they come to an engagement, what service can be 
done by such pale-faced students, as by drudging at the 
oars of wisdom, have spent all their strength and ac- 
tivity ? No, the only use is of blunt sturdy fellows that 
have little of wit, and so the more of resolution ; except 
you would make a soldier of such another Demosthenes 
as threw down his arms when he came within sight of 
the enemy, and lost that credit in the camp which he 
gained in the pulpit. But counsel, deliberation, and 
advice, say you, are very necessary for the management 
of war : very tme, but not such counsel as shall be pre- 
scribed by the strict rules of wisdom and justice ; for a 
battle shall be more successfully fought by serving-men, 
porters, bailiffs, padders, rogues, gaol-birds, and such 
like tag-rags of mankind, than by the most accomplished 
philosophers ; which last, how unhappy they are in the 
management of such concerns, Socrates, (by the oracle 
adjudged to be the wisest of mortals), is a notable exam- 
ple ; who when he appeared in the attempt of some pub- 
lic performance before the people, he faltered in the first 
onset, and could never recover himself, but was hooted 
and hissed home again ; yet this philosopher was the less 
a fool, for refusing the appellation of wise, and not ac- 
cepting the oracle's compliment ; as also for advising that 
no philosophers should have any hand in the govern- 
ment of the commonwealth ; he should have likewise, at 
the same time, added, they should be banished all human 
society. And what made this great man poison himself 
to prevent the malice of his accusers ? What made him 
the instrument of his own death, but only his excessive- 
ness of wisdom ? whereby, while he was searching into 



90 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

the nature of clouds, while he was plodding and con- 
templating upon ideas, while he was exercising his 
geometry upon the measure of a flea, and diving into the 
recesses of nature, for an account how little insects, when 
they were so small could make so great a buzz and hum : 
while he was intent upon these fooleries he minded 
nothing of the world, or its ordinary concerns. 

Next to Socrates comes his scholar Plato, a famous 
orator indeed, that could be so abashed out of counte- 
nance by an illiterate rabble, as to demur, and hawk, 
and hesitate, before he could get to the end of one short 
sentence. Theophrastus was such another coward, who 
beginning to make an oration, was presently struck down 
with fear, as if he had seen some ghost or hobgoblin. 
Isocrates was so bashful and timorous, that though he 
taught rhetoric, yet he could never have the confidence 
to speak in public. Cicero, the master of Roman elo- 
quence, was wont to begin his speeches with a low, 
quivering voice, just like a school-boy, afraid of not say- 
ing his lesson perfect enough to escape whipping : and 
yet Fabius commends this property of Tully as an argu- 
ment of a considerate orator, sensible of the difficulty 
of acquitting himself with credit : but what hereby does 
he do more than plainly confess that wisdom is but ~ j 
rub and impediment to the well management of any 
affair? How would these heroes crouch, and shrink 
into nothing, at the sight of drawn swords, that are thus 
quashed and stunned at the delivery of bare words ? 

Now, then, let Plato's fine sentence be cried up, that 
"Jiappy are those commonwealths where either philoso- 
phers are elected kings, or kings turn philosophers." 




Personifying a Prince. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 93 

Alas, this is so far from being true, that if we consult 
all historians for an account of past ages, we shall find 
no princes more weak, nor any people more slavish and 
wretched, than where the administration of affairs fell on 
the shoulders of some learned bookish governor. Of the 
truth whereof, the two Catos are exemplary instances : 
the first of which embroiled the city, and tired out the 
senate by his tedious harangues of defending himself 
and accusing others ; the younger was the unhappy oc- 
casion of the loss of the peoples' liberty, while by im- 
proper methods he pretended to maintain it. To these 
may be added Brutus, Cassius, the two Gracchi, and 
Cicero himself, who was no less fatal to Rome, than his 
parallel Demosthenes was to Athens : as likewise Marcus 
Antoninus, whom we may allow to have been a good 
emperor, yet the less such for his having been a philoso- 
pher ; and certainly he did not do half the kindness to 
his empire by his own prudent management of affairs, as 
he did mischief by leaving such a degenerate successor 
as his son Commodus proved to be ; but it is a com- 
mon observation, that A wise father has many times a 
foolish son, nature so contriving it, lest the taint of wis- 
dom, like hereditary distempers, should otherwise de- 
scend by propagation. Thus Tully's son Marcus, though 
bred at Athens, proved but a dull, insipid soul ; and 
Socrates, his children had (as one ingeniously expresses 
it) "more of the mother than the father," a phrase for 
their being fools. 

However, it were the more excusable, though wise 
men are so awkward and unhandy in the ordering of 
public affairs, if they were not so bad, or worse in the 



94 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

management of their ordinary and domestic concerns ; 
but alas, here they have much to seek : for place a for- 
mal wise man at a feast, and he shall, either by his mo- 
rose silence put the whole table out of humor, or by his 
frivolous questions disoblige and tire out all that sit near 
him. Call him out to dance, and he shall move no more 
nimbly than a camel ; invite him to any public perform- 
ance, and by his very looks he shall damp the mirth of 
all the spectators, and at last be forced, like Cato, to 
leave the theatre, because he could not unstarch his 
gravity, and put on a more pleasant countenance. If he 
engage in any discourse, he either breaks off abruptly, 
or tires out the patience of the whole company if he 
goes on. If he have any contract, sale, or purchase to 
make, or any other worldly business to transact, he be- 
haves himself more like a senseless stock than a rational 
man ; so as he can be of no use nor advantage to himself, 
to his friends, or to his country; because he knows noth- 
ing how the world goes, and is wholly unacquainted 
with the humor of the vulgar, who cannot but hate a 
person so disagreeing in temper from themselves. 

And indeed the whole proceedings of the world are 
nothing but one continued scene of Folly, all the actors 
being equally fools and madmen ; and therefore if any be 
so pragmatically wise as to be singular, he must even 
turn a second Timon, or man-hater, and by retiring into 
some unfrequented desert, become a recluse from all 
mankind. 

But to return to what I first proposed, what was it in 
the infancy of the world that made men, naturally sav- 
age, unite into civil societies, but only flattery, one of 



THE PRAISE OF FOU.Y. 95 

my cliiefest virtues ? For there is nothing else meant 
by the fables of Amphion and Orpheus with their harps ; 
the first making the stones jump into a well-built wall, 
the other inducing the trees to pull their legs out of the 
ground, and dance the morrice after him. 

What was it that quieted and appeased the Romar. 
people, when they broke out into a riot for the redress 
of grievances? Was it any formal starched oration? 
No, alas, it was only a silly, ridiculous story, told by 
Menenius Agrippa, how the other members of the body 
quarreled with the belly, resolving no longer to remain 
her drudging caterers, till by the penance they thought 
thus in revenge to impose, they soon found their own 
strength so far diminished that, realizing at the cost of 
experience their mistake, they willingly returned to 
their respective duties. 

Thus when the rabble of Athens murmured at the ex- 
action of the magistrates, Themistocles satisfied them 
with such another tale of the fox and the hedge-hog ; 
the first whereof being stuck fast in a miry bog, the flies 
came swarming about him, and almost sucked out all his 
blood, the latter officiously offered his services to drive 
them away; u no," says the fox, "if these which are 
almost glutted be frighted off, there will come another 
hungry set that will be ten times more greedy and de- 
vouring : ' ' the moral of this he thought applicable to 
the people, who if they had such magistrates removed 
as they complained of for extortion, yet their successors 
would probably be worse. 

With what higher advances of policy could Sertorius 
have kept the barbarians so well in awe, as by a white 



96 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

hart, which he pretended was presented to him by Diana, 
and brought him intelligence of all his enemies' designs ? 
What was Lycurgus's grand argument for demonstrating 
the force of education, but only by bringing out two 
whelps of the same bitch, differently brought up, and 
placing before them a dish of food and a live hare ; the 
one that had been bred to hunting, ran after the game, 
while the other, whose kennel had been a kitchen, pres- 
ently fell a licking the platter. 

Thus the before-mentioned Sertorius made his soldiers 
sensible that wit and contrivance would do more than 
bare strength, by setting a couple of men to the plucking 
off the hair from two horses' tails ; the first, pulling at 
all in one handful, tugged in vain ; while the other, 
though much the weaker, by snatching off the hairs one 
by one, soon performed his appointed task. 

Instances of like nature are Minos and king Numa, 
both of whom fooled the people into obedience by a mere 
cheat and juggle ; the first by pretending that he was 
advised by Jupiter, the latter by making the vulgar be- 
lieve that he had the goddess ^geria to assist him in 
all debates and transactions. And indeed it is by such 
wheedles that the common people are best gulled and 
imposed upon. 

For farther, what city would ever submit to the rigor- 
ous laws of Plate, to the severe injunctions of Aristotle, 
or the more impracticable tenets of Socrates ? No, these 
would have been too galling, there not being allowance 
enough made for the infirmities of the people. 

To pass to another head, what was it made the Decii 
so forward to offer themselves up as a sacrifice for an 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 97 

atonement to the angry gods, to rescue and stipulate for 
their indebted country ? What made Curtius, on a like 
occasion, so desperately to throw away his life, but only 
vainglory, that is condemned, and unanimously voted 
for a main branch of folly by all wise met} ? What is 
more unreasonable and foppish (say they) than for any 
man, out of ambition to some office, to bow, to scrape 
and cringe to the gaping rabble, to purchase their favor 
by bribes and donatives, to have their names cried up 
in the streets, to be carried about as it were for a fine 
sight upon the shoulders of the crowd, to have their 
effigies carved in brass, and put up in the market place 
for a monument of their popularity ? 

Add to this, the affectation of new titles and distinct- 
ive badges of honor ; nay, the very deifying of such as 
were the most bloody tyrants. These are so extremely 
ridiculous, that there is need of more than one Democri- 
tus to laugh at them. And yet hence only have been 
occasioned those memorable achievements of heroes, that 
have so much employed the pens of many laborious 
writers. 

It is Folly that in a varied dress, governs cities, ap- 
points magistrates, and supports judicatures ; and, in 
short, makes the whole course of man's life a mere 
children's play and worse than push-pin diversion. 

The invention of all arts and sciences are likewise 
owing to the same cause : for what sedentary, thoughtful 
men would have beat their brains in the search of new 
and unheard of mysteries, if not urged on by the bub- 
bling hopes of credit and reputation? They think a 
little glittering flash of vainglory is a sufficient reward 



98 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

for all their sweat and toil, and tedious drudgery, while 
they that are supposedly more foolish, reap advantage 
of the others' labors. 

And now since I have made good my title to valor 
and industry, what if I challenge an equal share of 
wisdom ? 

How ! you will say, this is absurd and contradictory ; 
the east and west may as soon shake hands as Folly and 
Wisdom be reconciled. Well, but have a little patience 
and I will warrant you I will make out my claim. First 
then, if wisdom (as must be confessed) is no more than a 
readiness of doing good, and an expeditious method of 
becoming serviceable to the world, to whom does this 
virtue more properly belong? To the wise man, who 
partly out of modesty, partly out of cowardice, can pro- 
ceed resolutely in no attempt ; or to the fool, that goes 
hand over head, leaps before he looks, and so ventures 
through the most hazardous undertaking without any 
sense or prospect of danger? In the undertaking of any 
enterprise the wise man shall run to consult with his 
books, and daze himself with poring over musty authors, 
whilst the dispatchful fool shall rush blindly on, and 
have done the business, while the other is thinking of it. 
For the two greatest lets and impediments to the issue 
of any performance are modesty, which casts a mist be- 
fore men's eyes, and fear, which makes them shrink 
back, and recede from any proposal : both these are 
banished by Folly, and in their stead such a habit of 
fool-hardiness introduced, as mightily contributes to the 
success of all enterprises. Farther, if you will have 
wisdom taken in the other sense, of being a right judg- 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 99 

ment of things, you shall see how short wise men fall of 
it in this acceptation. 

First, then, it is certain that all things, like so many 
Jan us' s, carry a double face, or rather bear a false aspect, 
most things being really in themselves far different from 
what they are in appearance to others : so that which at 
first blush proves alive, is in truth dead ; and that again, 
which appears as dead, at a nearer view proves to be alive ; 
beautiful seems ugly, wealthy poor, scandalous is thought 
creditable, prosperous passes for unlucky, friendly for 
what is most opposite, and innocent for what is hurtful 
and pernicious. In short, if we change the tables, all 
things are found placed in a quite different posture from 
what just before they appeared to stand in. 

If this seem too darkly and unintelligibly expressed, 
I will explain it by the familiar instance of some great 
king or prince, whom every one shall suppose to swim 
in a luxury of wealth, and to be a powerful lord and 
master ; when, alas, on the one hand he has poverty of 
spirit enough to make him a mere beggar, and on the 
other side he is worse than a galley-slave to his own 
lusts and passions. 

If I had a mind further to expatiate, I could enlarge 
upon several instances of like nature, but this one may 
at present suffice. 

Well, but what is the meaning (will some say) of all 
this ? Why, observe the application. If any one in a 
play-house be so impertinent and rude as to rifle the 
actors of their borrowed clothes, make them lay down 
the character assumed, and force them to return to their 
naked selves, would not such a one wholly discompose 



IOO THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

and spoil the entertainment ? And would he not deserve 
to be hissed and thrown stones at till the pragmatical 
fool could learn better manners ? For by such a disturb- 
ance the whole scene will be altered : such as acted the 
men will perhaps appear to be women : he that was 
dressed up for a young brisk lover, will be found a rough 
old fellow ; and he that represented a king, will remain 
but a mean ordinary serving-man. The laying things 
thus open is marring all the sport, which consists only 
in counterfeit and disguise. 

Now the world is nothing else but such another com- 
edy, where every one in the tire-room is first habited 
suitably to the part he is to act ; and as it is successively 
their turn, out they come on the stage, where he that 
now personates a prince, shall in another part of the 
same play alter his dress, and become a beggar, all things 
being in a mask and particular disguise, or otherwise the 
play could never be presented. 

Now, if there should arise any starched, formal don, 
that would point at the several actors, and tell how this, 
that seems a petty god, is indeed worse than a brute, 
being made captive to the tyranny of passion ; that the 
other, who bears the character of a king, is indeed the 
most slavish of serving-men, in being subject to the mas- 
tership of lust and sensuality ; that a third, who vaunts 
so much of his pedigree, is no better than a bastard for 
degenerating from virtue, which ought to be of greatest 
consideration in heraldry, and so shall go on in exposing 
all the rest ; would not any one think such a person quite 
frantic, and ripe for Bedlam ? 

For as nothing is more silly than preposterous wisdom, 




Fools have the Privilege of Speaking the Truth. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 103 

so is there nothing more indiscreet than an unreasonable 
reproof. And therefore he is to be hooted out of all 
society that will not be pliable, conformable, and willing 
to suit his humor with other men's, remembering the 
law of clubs and meetings, that he who will not do as 
the rest must get him out of the company. 

And it is certainly one great degree of wisdom for 
every one to consider that he is but a man, and therefore 
he should not pitch his soaring thoughts beyond the 
level of mortality, but clip the wings of his towering 
ambition, and obligingly submit and condescend to the 
weakness of others, it being many times a piece of com- 
plaisance to go out of the road for company's sake. No 
(say you), this is a grand piece of Folly : true, but yet 
all our living is no more than such kind of fooling, which 
though it may seem harsh to assert, yet it is not so 
strange as true. 

For the better making it out it might perhaps be req- 
uisite to invoke the aid of the muses, to whom the poets 
devoutly apply themselves upon far more slender occa- 
sions. Come then and assist, ye Heliconian lasses, while 
I attempt to prove that there is no method for an arrival 
at wisdom, and consequently no track to the goal of 
happiness, without the instructions and directions of 
Folly. 

And here, in the first place, it has been already ac- 
knowledged that all the passions are enlisted under my 
regiment, since this is resolved to be the only distinction 
betwixt a wise man and a fool, that the latter is governed 
by passion, the other guided by reason ; and therefore 
the Stoics look upon passions as no other than the in- 



104 TH E PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

faction and malady of the soul that disorders the consti- 
tution of the whole man, and by putting the spirits into 
a feverish ferment, occasions many times some mortal 
distemper. And yet these, however decried, are not only 
our tutors to instruct us towards the attainment of wis- 
dom, but even embolden us likewise, and spur us on 
to a quicker dispatch of all our undertakings. This, I 
suppose, will be stomached by the stoical Seneca, who 
pretends that the only emblem of wisdom is the man 
without passion ; whereas the supposing any person to 
be so, is perfectly to unman him, or else transform him 
into some fabulous deity that never was, nor ever will 
be ; nay, to speak more plainly, it is but the making him 
a mere statue, immovable, senseless, and altogether in- 
active. And if this be their wise man, let them take him 
to themselves, and remove him into Plato's common- 
wealth, the new Atlantis, or some other-like fairy land. 

For who would not hate and avoid such a person as 
should be deaf to all the dictates of common sense ? that 
should have no more power of love or pity than a block 
or stone that remains heedless of all dangers ? that thinks 
he can never mistake, but can foresee all contingencies 
at the greatest distance, and make provision for the worst 
presages? that feeds upon himself and his own thoughts ? 
that monopolizes health, wealth, power, dignity, and all 
to himself? that loves no man, nor is beloved of any ? 
that has the impudence to tax even divine providence of 
ill contrivance, and proudly grudges, nay, tramples under 
foot all other men's reputation ; and this is he that is 
the Stoic's perfectly wise man. 

But prithee, what city would choose such a magistrate? 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 107 

what army would be willing to serve under such a com- 
mander? or what woman would be content with such an 
incompetent husband. Who would invite such a guest? 
or what servant would be retained under such a master ? 
The most illiterate mechanic would in all respects be a 
more acceptable man, for he would be frolicsome with 
his wife, free with his friends, jovial at a feast, pliable in 
converse, and obliging to all company. 

But I am tired out with this part of my subject, and 
so must pass to other topics. 

And now were any one placed on that tower, from 
whence Jove is fancied by the poets to survey the world, 
he would discern all around how many grievances and 
calamities our whole life is on every side encompassed 
with : how unclean our birth, how troublesome our tend- 
ance in the cradle, how liable our childhood is to a thou- 
sand misfortunes, how toilsome and full of drudgery our 
riper years, how heavy and uncomfortable our old age, 
and lastly, how unwelcome the unavoidableness of death. 
Farther, in every course of life how many wracks there 
may be of torturing diseases, how many unhappy acci- 
dents may casually occur, how many unexpected disas- 
ters may arise, and what strange alterations may one 
moment produce ? Not to mention such miseries as men 
are mutually the cause of, as poverty, imprisonment, 
slander, reproach, revenge, treachery, malice, cousenage, 
deceit, and so many more, as to reckon them all would 
be as puzzling arithmetic as the numbering of the sands. 

How mankind became environed with such hard cir- 
cumstances, or what deity imposed these plagues, as a 
penance on rebellious mortals, I am not now at leisure 



IO8 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

to enquire : but whoever seriously takes them into con- 
sideration must needs commend the value of the Milesian 
virgins, who voluntarily killed themselves to get rid of 
a troublesome world : and how many wise men have 
taken the same course of becoming their own execution- 
ers : among whom, not to mention Diogenes, Xenocrates, 
Cato, Cassius, Brutus, and other heroes, the self-denying 
Chiron is never enough to be commended ; who, when 
he was offered by Apollo the privilege of being exempted 
from death, and living on to the world's end, refused the 
enticing proposal, as deservedly thinking it a punishment 
rather than a reward. 

But if all were thus wise you see how soon the world 
would be unpeopled, and what need there would be of a 
second Prometheus, to plaster up the decayed image of 
mankind. I therefore come and stand in this gap of 
danger, and prevent farther mischief; partly by igno- 
rance, partly by inadvertence ; by the oblivion of what- 
ever would be grating to remember, and the hopes of 
whatever may be grateful to expec"l, together palliating 
all griefs with an intermixture of pleasure ; whereby I 
make men so far from being weary of their lives, that 
when their thread is spun to its full length, they are yet 
unwilling to die, and hardly can be brought to take 
their last farewell of their friends. 

Thus some decrepit old fellows, that look as hollow 
as the grave into which they are falling, that rattle in 
the throat at every word they speak, that can eat no 
meat but what is tender enough to suck, that have more 
hair on their beard than they have on their head, and go 
stooping toward the dust they must shortly return to; 
\ 




The Begging Friar. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. Ill 

whose skin seems already drest into parchment, and their 
bones already dried to a skeleton ; these shadows of men 
shall be wonderful ambitious of living longer, and there- 
fore fence off the attacks of death with all imaginable 
sleights and impostures ; one shall dye his gray hairs, 
for fear their color should betray his age ; another shall 
spruce himself up in a light periwig ; a third shall repair 
the loss of his teeth with an ivory set ; and a fourth per- 
haps shall fall deeply in love with a young girl, and 
accordingly court her with as much of gaiety and brisk- 
ness as the liveliest spark in the whole town : and we 
cannot but know, that for an old man to marry a young 
wife without a portion, to be a cooler to other men's lust, 
is grown so common, that it has become the a-la-mode 
of the times. And what is yet more comical, you shall 
have some wrinkled old woman, whose very looks are a 
sufficient antidote to lechery, that shall be canting out, 
"Ah, life is a sweet thing -," and so run a caterwauling, 
and hire some strong-backed suitors to recover their 
almost lost sense of feeling ; and to set themselves off 
the better, they shall paint and daub their faces, always 
stand a tricking up themselves at their looking-glass, go 
naked-necked, bare-breasted, be tickled at a vulgar jest, 
dance among the young girls, write love-letters, and do 
all the other knacks of attracting hot-blooded suitors ; 
and in the meanwhile, however they are laughed at, they 
enjoy themselves to the full, live to their hearts' desire, 
and want for nothing that may complete their happiness. 
As for those that think them herein so ridiculous, I would 
have them give an ingenuous answer to this one query, 
whether if folly or hanging were left to their choice, they 



112 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

had not much rather live like fools, than die like dogs ? 
But what matter is it if these things are resented by 
the vulgar ? Their ill word is no injury to fools, who 
are either altogether insensible of any affront, or at least 
lay it not much to heart. If they were knocked on the 
head, or had their brains dashed out, they would have 
some cause to complain ; but alas, slander, calumny, 
and disgrace, are not otherwise injurious than as they 
are interpreted; nor otherwise evil than as they are 
thought to be so. What harm is it then if all persons 
deride and scoff you, if you bear but up in your own 
thoughts, and be yourself thoroughly conceited of your 
deserts? And prithee, why should it be thought any 
scandal to be a fool, since the being so is one part of our 
nature and essence ; and as so, our not being wise can 
no more reasonably be imputed as a fault, than it would 
be proper to laugh at a man because he cannot fly in the 
air like birds and fowls ; because he goes not on all fours 
as beasts of the field ; because he does not wear a pair of 
visible horns as a crest on his forehead, like bulls or stags. 
By the same figure we may call a horse unhappy, be- 
cause he was never taught his grammar ; and an ox mis- 
erable, because he never learned to fence. But, sure as 
a horse, though not knowing a letter is nevertheless val- 
uable, so a man, for being a fool, is never the more un- 
fortunate, it being by nature and providence so ordained 
for each. 

Ay, but (say our patrons of wisdom) the knowledge of 
arts and sciences is purposely attainable by men, that 
the defect of natural parts maybe supplied by the help of 
those acquired : as if it were probable that nature, which 




The First Scene of Infancy. 




The Lawyer. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 115 

has been so exact and curious in the mechanism of flow- 
ers, herbs, and flies, should have bungled most in her 
masterpiece, and made man as it were by halves, to be 
afterward polished and refined by his own industry, in 
the attainment of such sciences as the Egyptians feigned 
were invented by their god Theuth, as a sure plague and 
punishment to mankind, being so far from augmenting 
their happiness, that they do not answer the end that 
they were first designed for, which was the improvement 
of memory, as Plato in his Phsedrus doth wittily observe. 

In the first golden age of the world, there was no need 
of these perplexities ; there was then no other sort of 
learning but what was collected from every man's com- 
mon sense, improved by an easy experience. 

What use could there have been of grammar, when all 
men spoke the same mother- tongue, and aimed at no 
higher pitch of oratory, than barely to be understood by 
each other? What need of logic, when they were too 
wise to enter into any dispute? or what occasion for 
rhetoriofwhere no difference arose to require any labori- 
ous decision? And as little reason had they to be tied 
up by any laws, since the dictates of nature and common 
morality were restraint and obligation sufficient : and as 
to all the mysteries of providence, they made them rather 
the objecl of their wonder, than their curiosity ; and 
therefore were not so presumptuous as to dive into the 
depths of nature, to labor for the solving of all phenom- 
ena in astronomy, or to wrack their brains in the split- 
ting of entities, and unfolding the nicest speculations, 
judging it a crime for any man to aim at what is put 
beyond the reach of his shallow apprehension. 



Il6 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

Thus was ignorance, in the infancy of the world, as 
much the parent of happiness as it has since been of de- 
votion ; but as soon as the golden age began by degrees 
to degenerate into the more common metals, then were 
arts likewise invented ; yet at first but few in number, 
and those rarely understood, till in farther process of 
time the superstition of the Chaldeans, and the curiosity 
of the Grecians, spawned so many subtleties, that now it 
is scarce the work of an age to be thoroughly acquainted 
with all the criticisms in grammar only. And among 
all the several Arts, those are proportionably most es- 
teemed that come nearest to weakness and folly. For 
thus divines may bite their nails, and naturalists may 
blow their fingers, astrologers may know their own for- 
tune is to be poor, and the logician may shut his fist 
$nd grasp the wind. 

While all these hard-named fellows cannot make 
So great a figure as a single quack. 

And in this profession, those that have most confidence, 
though the least skill, shall be sure of the greatest cus- 
tom ; and indeed this whole art as it is now practised, is 
but one incorporated compound of craft and imposture. 
Next to the physician comes the lawyer, (who will 
perhaps commence a suit with me for not having beea 
first mentioned), who is so silly as to be, proverbially, an 
ignoramus, and yet by such are all difficulties solved, all 
controversies determined, and all affairs managed so 
much to their own advantage, that they get those estates 
to themselves which they are employed to recover for 
their clients : while in the mean time the poor divine 
shall have the lice crawl upon his thread-bare gown, 




The Old Man Spruced Up. 




The Old Woman Spmced up. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 131 

before, by all his sweat and drudgery, he can get money 
enough to purchase a new one. As those arts therefore 
are most advantageous to their respective professors 
which are farthest distant from wisdom, so are those per- 
sons incomparably most happy that have least to do with 
any at all, but jog on in the common road of nature, 
which will never mislead us, except we voluntarily leap 
over those boundaries which she has cautiously set to all 
finite beings. Nature glitters most in her own plain, 
homely garb, and then gives the greatest lustre when 
she is unsullied from all artificial garnish. 

Thus if we enquire into the state of all dumb creatures, 
we shall find that those fare best that are left to nature's 
conduct : as for instance in bees, what is more to be ad- 
mired than the industry and contrivance of these little 
insects ? What architect could ever form so curious a 
structure as they give a model of in their inimitable 
combs? What kingdom can be governed with better 
discipline than they exactly observe in their respective 
hives ? While the horse, by turning a rebel to nature, 
and becoming a slave to man, undergoes the worst of 
tyranny. 

He is sometimes spurred on to battle when wounded 
so severely that his intestines drag after him, and, falling, 
he bites the ground instead of grass ; not to mention the 
cruelty of his jaws being curbed, his tail docked, his 
back wrung, his sides spur-galled, his close imprisonment 
in a stable, and a great many other plagues, which he 
might have avoided if he had kept to that first station of 
freedom in which nature placed him. 

How much more desirable is the unconfined range of 



122 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

flies and birds, who living by instinct, would want noth- 
ing to complete their happiness, if some well-employed 
Domitian would not persecute the former, nor the sly 
fowler lay snares and gins for the entrapping of the 
other? And if young birds, before their unfledged wings 
can carry them from their nests, are caught, and pent up 
in a cage for the purpose of learning them to sing or 
whistle, all their new tunes make not half such sweet 
music as their wild notes, and natural melody so much 
does that which is but rough-drawn by nature surpass 
and excel all the additional paint and varnish of art, and 
we cannot but commend and admire that Pythagorean 
cock, which (as Lucian relates) had been successively a 
man, a woman, a prince, a subject, a fish, a horse, and a 
frog : after all his experience, he summed up his judg- 
ment in this censure, that "Man was the most wretched 
and deplorable of all creatures, all others patiently graz- 
ing within the enclosures of nature, while man only 
broke out, and strayed beyond those safer limits, 
which he was justly confined to." And Gryllus is to be 
adjuged wiser than the much counseling Ulysses, inas- 
much as when by the enchantment of Circe he had been 
turned into a hog, he would not lay down his swinish- 
ness, nor forsake his beloved sty, to run the peril of a 
hazardous voyage. 

For a farther confirmation whereof I have the authority 
of Homer, that captain of all poetry, who, as he gives 
to mankind in general, the epithet of wretched and un- 
happy, so he bestows in particular upon Ulysses the title 
of miserable, which he never attributes to Paris, Ajax, 
Achilles, or any other of the commanders ; and that for 




The Capuchin. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 125 

this reason, because Ulysses was more crafty, cautious, 
and wise, than any of the rest. 

As those therefore fall shortest of happiness that reach 
highest at wisdom, meeting with the greater repulse for 
soaring beyond the boundaries of their nature, and with- 
out remembering themselves to be but men, like the fallen 
angels, daring them to vie with Omnipotence, and giant- 
like scale heaven with the engines of their own brain ; so 
are those most exalted in the road of bliss that degenerate 
nearest into brutes, and quietly divest themselves of all 
use and exercise of reason. 

And this we can prove by a familiar instance. As 
namely, can there be any one sort of men that enjoy 
themselves better than those which we call changelings, 
idiots, fools, and naturals ? It may perhaps sound harsh, 
but upon due consideration it will be found absolutely 
true, that these persons in all circumstances fare best, 
and live most comfortably ; as first, they are void of all 
fear, which is a very great privilege to be exempted from ; 
they are troubled with no remorse, nor pricks of con- 
science ; they are not frighted with any bugbear stories 
of another world ; they startle not at the fancied appear- 
ance of ghosts, or apparitions ; they are not wracked with 
the dread of impending mischiefs, nor bandied with the 
hopes of any expected enjoyments : in short, they are 
unassaulted by all those legions of cares that war against 
the quiet of rational souls ; they are ashamed of nothing, 
fear no man, banish the uneasiness of ambition, envy, 
and love ; and to add the reversion of a future happiness 
to the enjoyment of a present one, they have no sin 
neither to answer for ; divines unanimously maintaining 



126 THE PRAISE OF 

that a gross and unavoidable ignorance does not only 
extenuate and abate from the aggravation, but wholly 
expiates the guilt of any immorality. 

Come now then as many of you as challenge the re- 
spect of being accounted wise, ingenuously confess how 
many insurrections of rebellious thoughts, and pangs of 
a laboring mind, ye are perpetually vexed and tortured 
with ; reckon up all those inconveniences that you are 
unavoidably subject to, and then tell me whether fools, 
by being exempted from all these embroilments, are not 
infinitely more free and happy than yourselves ? Add 
to this, that fools do not barely laugh and sing, and play 
the good-fellow alone to themselves : but as it is the na- 
ture of good to be communicative, so they impart their 
mirth to others, by making sport for the whole company 
they are at any time engaged in, as if providence purpose- 
ly designed them for an antidote to melancholy: where- 
by they make all persons so fond of their society, that 
they are welcomed to all places, hugged, caressed, and 
defended, a liberty given them of saying or doing any- 
thing ; so well beloved, that none dares to offer them 
the least injury ; nay, the most ravenous beasts of prey 
will pass them by untouched, as if by instinct they were 
warned that such innocence ought to receive no hurt. 
Farther, their converse is so acceptable in the court of 
princes, that few kings will banquet, walk, or take any 
other diversion, without their attendance ; nay, and had 
much rather have their company, than that of their 
gravest counselors, whom they maintain more for fashion' 
sake than good-will ; nor is it so strange that these fools 
should be preferred before graver politicians, since these 




The Commentator. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 129 

last, by their harsh, sour advice, and ill-timing the truth, 
are fit only to put a prince out of humor, while the others 
laugh, and talk, and joke, without any danger of dis- 
obliging. 

It is another very commendable property of fools, 
that they always speak the truth, than which there is 
nothing more noble and heroical. For so, though Plato 
relates it as a sentence of Alcibiades, that in the sea of 
drunkenness truth swims uppermost, and so wine is 
the only teller of truth, yet this character may more 
justly be assumed by me, as I can make good from the 
authority of Euripides, who lays down this as an ax- 
iom itaopu {i&pos Aeyst, children and fools always speak the 
truth. 

Whatever the fool has in his heart he betrays it in his 
face: or what is more evident, discovers it by his words: 
while the wise man, as Euripides observes, carries a 
double tongue ; the one to speak what may be said, the 
other what ought to be ; the one what truth, the other 
what the times require : whereby he can in a trice so 
alter his judgment, as to prove that to be now white, 
which he had just before sworn to be black ; like the 
satyr at his porridge, blowing hot and cold at the same 
breath ; in his lips professing one thing, when in his 
deart he means another. 

Futhermore, princes in their greatest splendor seem 
upon this account unhappy, in that they miss the advan- 
tage of being told the truth, and are shammed off by a 
parcel of insinuating courtiers, that acquit themselves as 
flatterers more than as friends. But some will perchance 
object, that princes do not love to hear the truth, and 



130 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

therefore wise men must be very cautious how they be- 
have themselves before them, lest they should take too 
great a liberty in speaking what is true, rather than 
what is acceptable. 

This much must be confessed, that truth indeed is 
seldom palatable to the ears of kings ; yet fools have so 
great a privilege as to have free leave, not only to speak 
bare truths, but the most bitter ones too; so as the same 
reproof, which had it come from the mouth of a wise 
man would have cost him his head, being blurted out by 
a fool, is not only pardoned, but welcomed and rewarded. 
For truth has naturally a mixture of pleasure, if it carry 
with it nothing of offence to the person whom it is ap- 
plied to ; and the happy knack of ordering it so is be- 
stowed only on fools. 

' Tis for the same reason that this sort of men are more 
fondly beloved by women, who like their tumbling them 
about, and playing with them though never so boister- 
ously ; pretending to take that only in jest, which they 
would have to be meant in earnest, as that sex is very 
ingenious in palliating, and dissembling the bent of 
their wanton inclinations. 

But to retnrn. An additional happiness of these fools 
appears farther in this, that when they have run merrily 
on to their last stage of life, they neither find any fear 
nor feel any pain to die, but march contentedly to the 
other world, where their company must surely be as ac- 
ceptable as it was here upon earth. 

Let us draw now a comparison between the condition 
of a fool and that of a wise man, and see how infinitely 
the one outweighs the other. 




The Daily Tally of Psalms. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 133 

Give me any instance then, of a man as wise as you 
can fancy him possible to be, that has spent all his 
younger years in poring over books, and trudging after 
learning, in the pursuit whereof he squanders away the 
pleasantest time of his life in watching, sweating, and 
fasting ; and in his latter days he never tastes one mouth- 
ful of delight, but is always stingy, poor, dejected, mel- 
ancholy, burthensome to himself, and unwelcome to 
others, pale, lean, thin-jawed, sickly, contracting by his 
sedentariness such hurtful distempers as bring him to an 
untimely death, like rose-buds plucked before they bloom. 
Thus have you a picture of the wise man's happiness 
more the object of commiseration and pity, than of jeal- 
ousy and envy. 

But now again come the croaking Stoics, and tell me 
in mood and figure, that nothing is more miserable than 
the being mad : but the being a fool is the being mad : 
therefore there is nothing more miserable than the being 
a fool. Alas, this is but a fallacy, the discovery whereof 
solves the force of the whole syllogism. Well then, they 
argue subtlely, 'tis true ; but as Socrates in Plato makes 
two Venuses and two Cupids, and shows how their ac- 
tions and properties ought not to be confounded ; so 
these disputants, if they had not been mad themselves, 
should have distinguished between a double madness in 
others : and there is certainly a great difference in the 
nature as well as in the degrees of them, and they are 
not both equally scandalous ; for Horace seems to take 
delight in one sort, when he says : 

Does welcome frenzy make me thus mistake ? 

And Plato in his Phaedon ranks the madness of poets, 



134 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

of prophets, and of lovers among those properties which 
conduce to a happy life. And Virgil, in the sixth 
^Eneid, gives this epithet to his industrious ^Eneas : 

If yoii will proceed to these your mad attempts. 
And indeed there is a two-fold sort of madness ; the one 
that which the furies bring from hell ; those that are 
herewith possessed, are hurried on to wars and conten- 
tions, by an inexhaustible thirst of power and riches, 
inflamed to some infamous and unlawful lust, enraged to 
acl the parricide, seduced to become guilty of incest, sac- 
rilege, or some other of those crimson-dyed crimes ; or, 
finally, to be so pricked in conscience as to be lashed 
and stung with the whips and snakes of grief and re- 
morse. But there is another sort of madness that pro- 
ceeds from Folly, so far from being any way injurious or 
distasteful that it is thoroughly good and desirable ; and 
this happens when by a harmless mistake in the judg- 
ment of things the mind is freed from those cares which 
would otherwise gratingly afflict it, and smoothed over 
with a content and satisfaction it could not under other 
circumstances so happily enjoy. 

And, this is that comfortable apathy or insensibleness 
which Cicero, in an epistle to his friend Atticus, wishes 
himself master of, that he might the less take to heart 
those insufferable outrages committed by the tyrannizing 
triumvirate, Lepidus, Antonius, and Augustus. 

That Grecian likewise had a happy time of it, who 
was so frantic as to sit a whole day in an empty theatre 
laughing, shouting, and clapping his hands, as if he 
had really seen some pathetic tragedy acted to the 
life, when indeed all was no more than the strength of 




The Last shall be First, and the First, Last. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 139 

imagination, and the effects of delusion, while in all 
other respects the same person behaved himself very 
discreetly, was 

Sweet to his friends, to his wife, obliging, kind, 

And so averse from a revengeful mind, 

That had his men unsealed his bottled wine, 

He would not fret, nor doggedly repine. 
And when by a course of physic he was recovered 
from this frenzy, he looked upon his cure so far from a 
kindness, that he thus reasons the case with his friends: 

This remedy, my friends, is worse i' tK main 
Than the disease, the cure augments the pain ; 
My only hope is a relapse again. 

And certainly they were the more mad of the two who 
endeavored tp bereave him of so pleasing a delirium, and 
recall all the aches of his head by dispelling the mists 
of his brain. 

I have not yet determined whether it be proper to in- 
clude all the defects of sense and understanding under 
the common genius of madness. For if anyone be so 
short-sighted as to take a mule for an ass, or so shallow- 
pated as to admire a paltry ballad for an elegant poem, 
he is not thereupon immediately censured as mad. But 
if anyone let not only his senses but his judgment be 
imposed upon in the most ordinary common concerns, 
he shall come under the scandal of being thought next 
door to a madman. As suppose any one should hear an 
ass bray, and should take it for ravishing music ; or if 
any one, born a beggar, should fancy himself as great as 
a prince, or the like. But this sort of madness, if (as is 



140 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

most usual) it be accompanied with pleasure, brings a 
great satisfaction both to those who are possessed with it 
themselves, and those who deride it in others, though 
they are not both equally frantic. And this species of 
madness is of larger extent than the world commonly 
imagines. Thus the whole tribe of madmen make spor*; 
among themselves, while one laughs at another ; he that 
is more mad many times jeering him that is less so. 

But indeed the greater each man's madness is, the 
greater is his happiness, if it be but such a sort as pro- 
ceeds from an excess of folly, which is so epidemical a 
distemper that it is hard to find any one man so uninfec- 
led as not to have sometimes a fit or two of some sort of 
frenzy. There is only this difference between the several 
patients : He that shall take a broom-stick for a straight- 
bodied woman is without more ado sentenced for a mad- 
man, because this is so strange a blunder as very seldom 
happens ; whereas he whose wife is a common jilt, that 
keeps a warehouse free for all customers, and yet swears 
she is as chaste as an untouched virgin, and hugs him- 
self in his contented mistake, is scarce taken notice of, 
because he fares no worse than a great many more of his 
good-natured neighbors. Among these are to be ranked 
such as take an immoderate delight in hunting, and 
think no music comparable to the sounding of horns 
and the yelping of beagles ; and were they to take physic, 
would without question think the most sovereign virtues 
to be in the album Grcscum of a dog's excrements. 

When they have run down their game, what strange 
pleasure they take in cutting of it up ! Cows and sheep 
may be slaughtered by common butchers, but what is 




The Lazy Wretch. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLI,Y. 143 

killed in hunting must be broken up by none under a 
gentleman, who shall throw down his hat, fall devoutly 
on his knees, and drawing out a slashing hanger (for a 
common knife is not good enough), after several ceremo- 
nies shall dissect all the parts as artificially as the best 
anatomist, while all that stand round shall look very in- 
tently, and seem to be mightily surprised with the nov- 
elty, though they have seen the same an hundred times 
before ; and he that can but dip his finger, and taste of 
the blood, shall think his own bettered by it ; and 
though the constant feeding on such diet does but assim- 
ilate them to the nature of those beasts they eat of, yet 
they will swear that venison is meat for princes, and 
that their living upon it makes them as great as 
emperors. 

Near akin to these are such as take a great fancy for 
building. They raise up, pull down, begin anew, alter 
the model, and never rest till they run themselves out 
of their whole estate, taking up such a compass for 
buildings, till they leave themselves not one foot of land 
to live upon, nor one poor cottage to shelter themselves 
from cold and hunger ; and yet all the while are mighty 
proud of their contrivances, and sing a sweet requiem to 
their own happiness. 

To these are to be added those plodding virtuosos, 
that plunder the most inward recesses of nature for the 
pillage of a new invention, and rake over sea and land 
for the turning up some hitherto latent mystery ; and 
are so continually tickled with the hopes of success, that 
they spare for no cost nor pains, but trudge on, and upon 
a defeat in one attempt, courageously tack about to an- 



144 TH E PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

other, and fall upon new experiments, never giving over 
till they have calcined their whole estate to ashes, and 
have not money enough left unmelted to purchase one 
crucible or limbeck. And yet after all, they are not so 
much discouraged, but that they dream fine things still, 
and influence others all they can to the like undertak- 
ings ; nay, when their hopes come to the last gasp, after 
all their disappointments, they have yet one salvo for 
their credit, that : 

In great exploits our bare attempts suffice. 
And so inveigh against the shortness of their life, which 
allows them not time enough to bring their designs to 
maturity and perfection. 

Whether dice-players may be so favorably dealt with 
as to be admitted among the rest, is scarce yet resolved 
upon : but sure it is hugely vain and ridiculous, when 
we see some persons so devoutly addicted to this diver- 
sion, that at the first rattle of the box their heart shakes 
within them, and keeps consort with the motion of the 
dice: they are egged on so long with the hopes of always 
winning, till at last, in a literal sense, they have thrown 
away their whole estate, and made shipwreck of all they 
have, scarce escaping to shore with their own clothes to 
their backs ; thinking it in the meanwhile a great piece 
of religion to be just in the payment of their stakes, and 
will cheat any creditor sooner than him who trusts them 
in play : and that poring old men, that cannot tell their 
cast without the help of spectacles, should be sweating 
at the same sport ; nay, that such decrepit blades, as by 
the gout have lost the use of their fingers, should look 
over, and hire others to throw for them. This indeed 




The Dice Players. 




Profusely Lavish in Charity. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 149 

is prodigiously extravagant ; but the consequence of it 
ends so oft in downright madness, that it seems rather 
to belong to the furies than to folly. 

The next to be placed among the regiment of fools are 
such as make a trade of telling or enquiring after incred- 
ible stories of miracles and prodigies : never doubting 
that a lie will choke them, they will muster up a thou- 
sand several strange relations of spirits, ghosts, appari- 
tions, raising of the devil, and such like bugbears of 
superstition, which the farther they are from being prob- 
ably true, the more greedily they are swallowed, and the 
more devoutly believed. And these absurdities do not 
only bring an empty pleasure, and cheap divertisement, 
but they procure a comfortable income to such priests 
and friars as by this craft get their gain. To these again 
are nearly related such others as attribute strange virtues 
to the shrines and images of saints and martyrs, and so 
would make their credulous proselytes believe, that if 
they pay their devotion to St. Christopher in the morn- 
ing, they shall be guarded and secured the day follow- 
ing from all dangers and misfortunes : if soldiers, when 
they first take arms, shall come and mumble over such 
a set prayer before the picture of St. Barbara, they shall 
return safe from all engagements : or if any pray to Eras- 
mus on such particular holidays, with the ceremony of 
wax candles, and other fopperies, he shall in a short 
time be rewarded with a plentiful increase of wealth and 
riches. The Christians have now their gigantic St. 
George, as well as the Pagans had their Hercules ; they 
paint the saint on horseback, and picture the horse in 
splendid trappings, very gloriously accoutred, they 



150 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

scarce refrain in a literal sense from worshiping the very 
beast. 

What shall I say of such as cry up and maintain the 
cheat of pardons and indulgences ? that by these com- 
pute the time of each soul's residence in purgatory, and 
assign them a longer or shorter continuance, according 
as they purchase more or fewer of these paltry pardons, 
and saleable exemptions ? Or what can be said bad 
enough of others, who pretend that by the force of such 
magical charms, or by the fumbling over their beads in 
the rehearsal of such and such petitions (which some re- 
ligious impostors invented, either for diversion, or what 
is more likely, for advantage), they shall procure riches, 
honor, pleasure, health, long life, a lusty old age, nay, 
after death a sitting at the right hand of our Saviour in 
His kingdom ; though as to this last part of their happi- 
ness, they care not how long it be deferred, having scarce 
any appetite toward a tasting the joys of heaven, till they 
are surfeited, glutted with, and can no longer relish their 
enjoyments on earth. 

By this easy way of purchasing pardons, any notorious 
highwayman, any plundering soldier, or any bribe-taking 
judge, shall disburse some part of their unjust gains, and 
so think all their grossest impieties sufficiently atoned 
for ; so many perjuries, lusts, drunkenness, quarrels, 
bloodsheds, cheats, treacheries, and all sorts of debauch- 
eries, shall all be, as it were, struck a bargain for, and 
such a contract made, as if they had paid off all arrears, 
and might now begin upon a new score. 

And what can be more ridiculous, than for some others 
to be confident of going to heaven by repeating daily 




St. Bernard and the Devil. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 153 

those seven verses out of the Psalms, which the devil 
taught St. Bernard, thinking thereby to have put a trick 
upon him, but that he was over-reached in his cunning. 

Several of these fooleries, which are so gross and ab- 
surd, as I myself am even ashamed to own, are practised 
and admired, not only by the vulgar, but by such profi- 
cients in religion as one might well expect should have 
more wit. 

The custom of each country challenging their particu- 
lar guardian-saint, proceeds from the same principles of 
folly ; nay, each saint has his distinct office allotted to 
him, and is accordingly addressed to upon the respective 
occasions : as one for the tooth-ache, a second to grant 
an easy delivery in child-birth, a third to recover lost 
goods, another to protect seamen in a long voyage, a 
fifth to guard the farmer's cows and sheep, and so on; 
for to rehearse all instances would be extremely tedious. 

There are some more catholic saints petitioned to upon 
all occasions, as more especially the Virgin Mary, whose 
blind devotees think it manners now to place the mother 
before the son. 

And of all the prayers and intercessions that are made 
to these respective saints, the substance of them is no 
more than downright Folly. 

Among all the trophies that for tokens of gratitude 
are hung upon the walls and ceilings of churches, you 
shall find no relics presented as a memorandum of any 
that were ever cured of Folly, or had been made one 
dram the wiser. One perhaps after shipwreck got safe 
to shore ; another recovered when he had been run 
through by an enemy ; one, when all his fellow-soldiers 



154 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

were killed upon the spot, as cunningly perhaps as cow- 
ardly, made his escape from the field ; another, while 
he was a hanging, the rope broke, and so he 'saved his 
neck, and renewed his license for practicing his old trade 
of thieving ; another broke jail, and got loose ; a patient 
(against his physician's will) recovered of a dangerous 
fever ; another drank poison, which putting him into a 
violent looseness, did his body more good than harm, to 
the great grief of his wife, who hoped upon this occasion 
to have become a joyful widow ; another had his wagon 
overturned, and yet none of his horses lamed ; another 
had caught a grievous fall, and yet recovered from the 
bruise ; another had been tampering with his neighbor's 
wife, and escaped very narrowly from being caught by 
the enraged cuckold in the very act. After all these 
acknowledgments of escapes from such singular dangers, 
there is none (as I have before intimated) that returns 
thanks for being freed from Folly ; Folly being so sweet 
and luscious, that it is rather sued for as a happiness, 
than deprecated as a punishment. But why should I 
launch out into so wide a sea of superstitions ? 
Had I as many tongues as Argus eyes, 
Briareus hands, they all would not suffice 
Folly in all her shapes f epitomize. 

Almost all Christians being wretchedly enslaved to 
blindness and ignorance, which the priests are so far 
from preventing or removing, that they blacken the 
darkness, and promote the delusion ; wisely foreseeing 
that the people (like cows, which never give down their 
milk so well as when they are gently stroked), would 
part with less if they knew more, their bounty proceed- 




The Actor. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 157 

ing only from a mistake of charity. Now if any grave, 
wise man should stand up, and unseasonably speak the 
truth, telling every one that a pious life is the only way 
of securing a happy death ; that the best title to a pardon 
of our sins is purchased by a hearty abhorrence of our 
guilt, and sincere resolutions of amendment ; that the 
best devotion which can be paid to any saints is to imi- 
tate them in their exemplary life ; if he should proceed 
thus to inform them of their several mistakes, there 
would be quite another estimate put upon tears, watch- 
ings, masses, fastings, and other severities, which before 
were so much prized, as persons will now be vexed to 
lose that satisfaction they formerly found in them. 

In the same predicament of fools are to be ranked such, 
as while they are yet living, and in good health, take so 
great a care how they shall be buried when they die, 
that they solemnly appoint how many torches, how 
many escutcheons, how many gloves to be given, and 
how many mourners they will have at their funeral; as if 
they thought they themselves in their coffins could be 
sensible of what respect was paid to their corpse ; or as 
if they doubted they should rest a whit the less quiet 
in the grave if they were with less state and pomp 
interred. 

Now, though I am in so great haste, as I would not 
willingly be stopped or detained, yet I cannot pass by 
without bestowing some remarks upon another sort of 
fools ; who, though their first descent was perhaps no 
better than from a tapster or tinker, yet highly value 
themselves upon their birth and parentage. One fetches 
his pedigree from ^Eneas, another from Brute, a third 



158 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

from king Arthur : they hang up their ancestors' worm- 
eaten pictures as records |of antiquity, and keep a long 
list of their predecessors, with an account of all their 
offices and titles, while they themselves are but tran- 
scripts of their forefathers' dumb statues, and degenerate 
even into those very beasts which they carry in their 
coat of arms as ensigns of their nobility : and yet by 
a strong presumption of their birth and quality, they 
live not only the most unconcerned lives themselves, 
but there are not wanting others too who cry up 
these brutes as almost equal to the gods. But why 
should I dwell upon one or two instances of Folly, when 
there are so many of like nature. Conceitedness and 
self-love making many, by strength of Fancy, believe 
themselves happy, when otherwise they are really 
wretched and despicable. Thus the most ape-faced, 
ugliest fellow in the whole town, shall think himself a 
mirror of beauty : another shall be so proud of his parts, 
that if he can but mark out a triangle with a pair of 
compasses, he thinks he has mastered all the difficulties 
of geometry, and could outdo Euclid himself. A third 
shall admire himself for a ravishing musician, though 
he have no more skill in the handling of any instrument 
than a pig has of playing on the organ : and another, 
that rattles in the throat as hoarse as a cock crows, shall 
be proud of his voice, and think that he sings like a 
nightingale. 

There is another very pleasant sort of madness, 
whereby persons assume to themselves whatever of ac- 
complishment they discern in others. Thus the happy 
rich churl in Seneca, who had so short a memory, that 




The Grammarian. 




The Restorative of Youth. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 163 

he could not tell the least story without a servant stand- 
ing by to prompt him, and was at the same time so weak 
that he could scarce go upright, yet he thought he might 
adventure to acccept a challenge to a duel, because he 
kept at home some lusty, sturdy fellows, whose strength 
he relied upon instead of his own. 

It is almost needless to insist upon the several profess- 
ors of arts and sciences, who are all so egregiously con- 
ceited, that they would sooner give up their title to an 
estate in lands, than part with the reversion of their 
wits : among these, more especially stage-players, mu- 
sicians, orators, and poets, each of which, the more of 
duncery they have, and the more of pride, the greater is 
their ambition : and how notoriously soever dull they be, 
they meet with their admirers ; nay, the more silly they 
are the higher they are extolled; Folly (as we have before 
intimated) never failing of respect and esteem. If there- 
fore every one, the more ignorant he is, the greater sat- 
isfaction he is to himself, and the more commended by 
others, to what purpose is it to sweat and toil in the pur- 
suit of true learning, which shall cost so many gripes 
and pangs of the brain to acquire, and when obtained, 
shall only make the laborious student more uneasy to 
himself, and less acceptable to others ? 

As nature ,in her dispensation of conceitedness has 
dealt with private persons, so has she given a particular 
smatch of self-love to each country and nation. Upon 
this account it is that the English challenge the prerog- 
ative of having the most handsome women, of being the 
most accomplished in the science of music, and of keep- 
ing the best tables. The Scotch brag of their gentility, 



164 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

and pretend the genius of their native soil inclines them 
to be good disputants. The French think themselves 
remarkable for complaisance and good breeding ; the 
Sorbonists of Paris pretend before any others to have 
made the greatest proficiency in polemic divinity. The 
Italians value themselves for learning and eloquence ; 
and, like the Grecians of old, account all the world bar- 
barians compared to themselves; to which piece of vanity 
the inhabitants of Rome are more especially addicted, 
pretending themselves to be owners of all those heroic 
virtues, which their city so many ages since was deserv- 
edly famous for. The Venitians stand upon their birth 
and pedigree. The Grecians pride themselves in having 
been the first inventors of most arts, and in their country 
being famed for the product of so many eminent philos- 
ophers. The Turks, and all the other refuse of Ma- 
hometanism, pretend they profess the only true religion, 
and laugh at all Christians for superstitious, narrow- 
souled fools. The Jews to this day expect their Messias 
as devoutly as they believe in their first prophet Moses. 
The Spaniards challenge the repute of being accounted 
good soldiers. And the Germans are noted for their tall, 
proper stature, and for their skill in magic. 

But not to mention any more, I suppose you are 
already convinced how great an improvement and addi- 
tion to the happiness of human life is occasioned by self- 
love : the next step to which is flattery ; for as self-love 
is nothing but the coaxing up of ourselves, so the same 
currying and humoring of others is termed flattery. 

Flattery, it is true, is now looked upon as a scandalous 
name, but it is by such only as mind words more than 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 167 

things. They are prejudiced against it upon this account, 
because they suppose it jostles out all truth and sincerity, 
whereas indeed its property is quite contrary, as appears 
from the examples of several brute creatures. What is 
more fawning than a spaniel ? And yet what animal is 
more faithful to its master ? What is more fond and 
loving than a tame squirrel? And yet what is more 
sportive and inoffensive? This little frisking creature 
is kept up in a cage to play withal, while lions, tigers, 
leopards, and such other savage emblems of rapine and 
cruelty are shown only for their great rarity, and other- 
wise yield no pleasure to their respective keepers. 

There is indeed a pernicious and destructive sort of 
flattery wherewith rookers and sharks work their several 
ends upon such as they can make a prey of, by decoying 
them into traps and snares beyond recovery. But that 
which is the effect of folly is of a very different nature ; 
it proceeds from a softness of spirit, and a flexibleness of 
good humor, and comes far nearer to virtue than that 
other extreme of friendship, namely, a stiff, sour, dogged 
moroseness : it refreshes our minds when tired, enlivens 
them when melancholy, reinforces them when languish- 
ing, invigorates them when heavy, recovers them when 
sick, and pacifies them when rebellious : it puts us in a 
method of procuring friends, and learns us how to keep 
them ; it entices children to swallow the bitter rudiments 
of learning ; it gives a new ferment to the almost stag- 
nated souls of old men ; it both reproves and inculcates 
principles without offence under the mask of commenda- 
tion : in short, it makes every man fond and indulgent 
of himself, which is indeed no small part of each man's 



1 68 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

happiness, and at the same time renders him obliging 
and complaisant in all company, where it is pleasant to 
see how the asses rub and scratch one another. 

This again is a great accomplishment to an orator, a 
greater to a physician, and the only one to a poet : in 
fine, it is the best sweetener to all afflictions, and gives 
a true relish to the otherwise insipid enjoyments of our 
whole life. "Aye," (say you) " to flatter is to deceive ; 
to deceive is very wrong and hurtful." No, rather just 
the reverse ; nothing is more welcome and bewitching 
than the being deceived. They are much to be blamed 
for an undistinguishing head, that make a judgment of 
things according to what they are in themselves, when 
their whole nature consists barely in the opinions that 
are had of them. 

For all sublinary matters are enveloped in such a 
cloud of obscurity, that the short-sightedness of human 
understanding, cannot pry through nor arrive at any 
comprehensive knowledge of them : hence the sect of 
academic philosophers have modestly resolved, that all 
things being no more than probable, nothing can be 
known as certain ; or if there could, yet it would but 
interrupt and abate from the pleasure of a more happy 
gnorance. Finally, our souls are so fashioned and 
moulded, that they are sooner captivated by appearances 
than by real truths ; of which, if any one would demand 
an example, he may find a familiar one in churches, 
where, if what is delivered from the pulpit be a grave, 
solid, rational discourse, all the congregation grow weary 
and fall asleep, till their patience be released ; whereas, 
if the preacher (pardon the impropriety of the word, the 




The Two Asses. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 171 

prater I should have said) be zealous, in his thumps of 
the cushion, his antic gestures, and spends his time in 
the telling of pleasant stories, his beloved shall then 
stand up, tuck their hair behind their ears, and be very 
devoutly attentive. 

So among the saints, those are most resorted to who 
are most romantic and fabulous : as for instance, a poetic 
St. George, a St. Christopher, or a St. Barbara, shall be 
oftener prayed to than St. Peter, St. Paul, nay, perhaps 
than Christ himself ; but this, it is possible, may more 
probably be referred to another place. 

In the mean while observe what a cheap purchase of 
happiness is made by the strength of fancy. For whereas 
many things even of inconsiderable value, would cost a 
great deal of pains and perhaps pelf, to procure ; opinion 
spares charges, and yet gives us them in as ample a 
manner by conceit, as if we possessed them in reality. 
Thus he who feeds on such a stinking dish of fish, as 
another must hold his nose at a yard's distance from, yet 
if he feed heartily, and relish them palatably, they are 
to him as good as if they were freshly caught ; whereas, 
on the other hand, if any one be invited to never so 
dainty a joul of sturgeon, if it go against his stomach to 
eat any, he may sit a hungry, and bite his nails with 
greater appetite than his victuals. If a woman be never 
so ugly and nauseous, yet if her husband can but think 
her handsome, it is all one to him as if she really were 
so : if any man have never so ordinary and disagreeable 
a drawing, yet if he admires the excellency of it, and 
can suppose it to have been drawn by some old Apelles, 
or modern Vandyke, he is as proud of it as if it had really 



172 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

been drawn by one of them. I knew a friend of mine 
that presented his bride with several false and counterfeit 
stones, making her believe that they were real jewels, 
and cost him many hundred thousand crowns. Under 
this impression the deluded woman was as choice of peb- 
bles and painted glass, as if they had been so many nat- 
ural rubies and diamonds, while the subtle husband 
saved a large amount in his pocket, and yet made his 
wife as well pleased as if he had been at ten hundred 
times the cost. What difference is there between them 
that in the darkest dungeon can with a platonic brain 
survey the whole world in idea, and him that stands in 
the open air, and takes a less deluding prospect of the 
universe ? If the beggar in L,ucian, that dreamt he 
was a prince, had never waked, his imaginary kingdom 
had been as great as a real one. Between him therefore 
that truly is happy, and him that thinks himself so, 
there is no perceivable distinction ; or if any, the fool 
has the better of it : first, because his happiness costs 
him less, standing him only in the price of a single 
thought ; and then, secondly, because he has more fellow- 
companions and partakers of his good fortune ; for no 
enjoyment is desirable where the benefit is not imparted 
to others ; nor is any one station in life desirable, where 
we can have no converse with persons of the same con- 
dition with ourselves : and yet this is the hard fate of 
wise men, who are grown so scarce, that like the fabled 
Phoenix, but one appears in an age. 

The Grecians, it is true, reckoned up seven within 
the narrow precints of their own country ; yet I believe, 
were they to cast up their accounts anew, they would not 




Imaginary Excellence. 




The Juice Yielding Grape. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 177 

find a half, nay, not a third part, of one in far larger 
extent. 

Farther, when among the several good properties of 
Bacchus this is looked upon as the chief, namely, thaf 
he drowns the cares and anxieties of the mind, though it 
be indeed but for a short time ; for after a small nap, 
when our brains are a little settled, they all return to 
their former corrodings. How much greater is the more 
durable advantage which I bring? while by one uninter- 
rupted state of being drunk in conceit, I perpetually 
cajole the mind with riots, revels, and all the excess and 
energy of joy. 

Add to this, that I am so communicative and bounti- 
ful, as to let no one particular person pass without some 
token of my favor ; whereas other deities bestow their 
gifts sparingly to their elect only. Bacchus has not 
thought fit that every soil should bear the same juice- 
yielding grape : Venus has not given to all a like portion 
of beauty : Mercury endows but few with the gift of a 
persuasive eloquence : Hercules gives not to all the same 
measure of wealth and power : Jupiter has destined but 
a few to inherit a kingdom : Mars in battle gives but 
to one party a complete victory ; and often he makes 
them both losers : Apollo answers not the expectations 
of all who consult his oracles : Jove oft thunders : 
Phoebus sometimes shoots the plague or some other 
infectious disease at the point of his darts: and Neptune 
swallows down remorselessly many who trust his 
treacherous waves : not to mention their Ve-Jupiters, 
their Plutos, their Ate, goddess of loss, their evil gen- 
iuses, and such other monsters of divinity, as had more 



178 THE PRAISE OF FOIAY. 

of the hangman than the god in them, and were wor- 
shiped only to deprecate that hurt which used to be in- 
flicted by them : I say, not to mention these, I am that 
high and mighty goddess, whose liberality is of as large 
an extent as her omnipotence : I give to all that ask : I 
never appear sullen, nor out of humor, nor ever demand 
any atonement or satisfaction for the omission of any 
ceremonious punctilio in my worship : I do not storm 
or rage, if mortals, in their addresses to the other gods 
pass me by unregarded, without the acknowledgment of 
any respect or application : whereas all the other gods 
are so scrupulous and exact, that it often proves less dan- 
gerous manfully to despise them, than sneakingly to 
attempt the difficulty of pleasing them. Thus some 
men are of that captious, perverse humor, that a man 
had better be wholly strangers to them, than never so 
intimate friends. 

Well, but there are none (say you) who build any 
altars, or dedicate any temple to Folly. I am surprised 
(as I have before intimated) that the world should be so 
wretchedly ungrateful. But I am so good-natured as to 
pass by and pardon this seeming affront, though indeed 
the charge thereof, as unnecessary, may well be saved ; 
for to what purpose should I demand the sacrifice of 
frankincense, cakes, goats, and swine, since all persons 
everywhere pay me that more acceptable service, which 
all divines agree to be more effectual and meritorious, 
namely, an imitation of my various attributes? I do 
not therefore envy Diana for having her altars bedewed 
with human blood : I think myself then most religiously 
adored, when my respective devotees (as is their usual 




The Worship of Descent. 




An Apostle. 




The Strength of Fancy. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 183 

custom) conform themselves to my practice, transcribe 
my pattern, and so live the copy of me their original. 
And truly this pious devotion is not so much in use 
among Christians as is much to be wished it were : for 
how many zealous votaries are there that pay so profound 
a respect to the Virgin Mary, as to place lighted tapers 
even at noon day upon her altars ? And yet how few of 
them copy after her untouched chastity, her modesty, 
and her other commendable virtues, in the imitation 
whereof consists the truest esteem of divine worship ? 
Farther, why should I desire a temple, since the whole 
world is but one ample continued choir, entirely dedica- 
ted to my use and service ? Nor do I want worshipers 
at any place where the earth wants not inhabitants. 
And as to the manner of my worship, I am not yet so 
irrecoverably foolish, as to be prayed to by proxy, and 
to have my honor intermediately bestowed upon sense- 
less images and pictures, which quite subvert the true 
end of religion ; while the unwary supplicants seldom 
distinguish betwixts the things themselves and the ob- 
jects they represent. 

The same respect in the meanwhile is paid to me in a 
more legitimate manner ; for to me there are as many 
statues erected as there are moving fabrics of mortality ; 
every person, even against his own will, carrying the 
image of me, i.e., the seal of Folly instamped upon 
his countenance. 

I have not therefore the least tempting inducement 
to envy the more seeming state and splendor of the other 
gods, who are worshiped at set times and places ; as 
Phoebus at Rhodes, Venus in her Cyprian isle, Juno in 



184 THE PRAISE OF 

the city of Argos, Minerva at Athens, Jupiter on the 
hill Olympus, Neptune at Tarentum, and Priapus in 
the town of L,ampsacum ; while my worship extending 
as far as my influence, the whole world is my one altar, 
whereon the most valuble incense and sacrifice is perpet- 
ually offered up. 

But lest I should seem to speak this with more of con- 
fidence than truth, let us take a nearer view of the mode 
of men's lives, whereby it will be rendered more appar- 
ently evident what largesses I everywhere bestow, and 
how much I am respected and esteemed by persons from 
the highest to the lowest quality. For the proof whereof, 
it being too tedious to insist upon each particular, I shall 
only mention such in general as are most worthy the 
remark, from which by analogy we may easily judge of 
the remainder. And indeed to what purpose would it 
be singly to recount the commonality and rabble of man- 
kind, who beyond all question are entirely on my side ? 
and for a token of their vassalage do wear my livery in 
so many older shapes, and more newly invented modes 
of Folly, that the lungs of a thousand Democrituses 
would never hold out to such a laughter as this subje<5l 
would excite ; and to these thousand must be super- 
added one more, to laugh at them as much as they do 
at the other. 

It is indeed almost incredible to relate what mirth, 
what sport, what diversion, the groveling inhabitants 
here on earth give to the above-seated gods in heaven : 
for these exalted deities spend their fasting sober hours 
in listening to those petitions that are offered up, and in 
succoring such as appeal to them for redress ; but when 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 185 

they have imbibed a glass of nectar, they throw off all 
serious concerns, placing themselves on the ascent of 
some promontory in heaven, and from thence surveying 
the little mole-hill of earth. And trust me, there cannot 
be a more delightsome prospect, than to view such a 
theatre so stuffed and crammed with swarms of fools. 

One falls desperately in love, and the more he is 
slighted the more does his spaniel-like passion increase ; 
another is wedded to wealth rather than to a wife; a 
fourth is haunted with a jealousy of his visiting neigh- 
bors ; another sobs and roars, and plays the child, for 
the death of a friend or relative ; and lest his own tears 
should not rise high enough to express the torrent of his 
grief, he hires other mourners to accompany the corpse 
to the grave, and sing its requiem in sighs and lamenta- 
tions ; another hypocritically weeps at the funeral of one 
whose death at heart he rejoices for ; here a gluttonous 
cormorant, whatever he can scrape up, thrusts all down 
his throat to pacify the cryings of a hungry stomach ; 
there a lazy wretch sits yawning and stretching, and 
thinks nothing so desirable as sleep and idleness ; some 
are extremely industrious in other men's business, and 
sottishly neglectful of their own; some think themselves 
rich because their credit is good, though they can never 
pay, till they fail, and compound for their debts ; one is 
so covetous that he lives poor to die rich ; one for a little 
uncertain gain will venture to cross the roughest seas, 
and expose his life for the purchase of a livelihood ; an- 
other will depend on the plunders of war, rather than on 
the honest gains of peace ; some will close with and 
humor such warm old blades as have a good estate, and no 



1 86 THB PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

children of their own to bestow it upon; others practice 
the same art of wheedling upon good old women, that have 
hoarded and coffered up more bags than they know how 
to dispose of ; both of these sly flatteries make fine sport 
for the gods, when they are beaten at their own weapons, 
and (as oft happens) are gulled by those very persons 
they intended to make a prey of. 

There is another sort of base scoundrels in gentility, 
such obsequious merchants, who, although they lie, 
swear, cheat, and practice all the intrigues of dishonesty, 
yet think themselves no way inferior to persons of the 
highest quality, only because they have raked together a 
plentiful estate ; and there are not wanting such insinu- 
ating hangers on, as shall caress and compliment them 
with the greatest respect, in hopes of going snacks in 
some of their dishonest gains. There are others so in- 
fected with the philosophical paradox of banishing prop- 
erty, and having all things in common, that they make 
no conscience of fastening on, and purloining whatever 
they can get, and converting it to their own use and 
possession ; there are some who are rich only in wishes, 
and yet while they barely dream of vast mountains of 
wealth, they are as happy as if their imaginary fancies 
were real truths ; some put on the best side outermost, 
and starve themselves at home to appear gay and splen- 
did abroad ; one with an open handed freedom spends 
all he lays his fingers on ; another with a logic-fisted 
gripingness catches at and grasps all he can come within 
the reach of; one apes it about the streets to court pop- 
ularity ; another consults his ease, and sticks to the con- 
finement of a chimney-corner ; many others are tugging 




The Pilgrim. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 189 

hard at law for a trifle, and drive on an endless suit, only 
to enrich a deferring judge, or a knavish advocate ; one 
is for new-modeling a settled government ; another is for 
some notably heroic attempt ; and a third by all means 
must travel a pilgrim to Rome, Jerusalem, or some shrine 
of a saint elsewhere, though he have no other business 
than the paying of a formal obsequious visit, leaving his 
wife and children to fast, while he himself, forsooth, is 
gone to pray. 

In short, if (as Lucian fancies Menippus to have done 
heretofore,) any man could now again look down from 
the orb of the moon, he would see thick swarms as it 
were of flies and gnats, that were quarreling with each 
other, jostling, fighting, fluttering, skipping, playing, 
newly produced soon after decaying, and then immedi- 
ately vanishing, and it can scarce be imagined how 
many tumults and tragedies so inconsiderate a creature 
as man doth give occasion to, and that, in so short a 
space as the small span of human life, which is subject 
to so many casualties of sword, flame, famine, and pesti- 
lence, which often sweeps away thousands in the briefest 
periods of time. 

But hold ; I should but expose myself too far, and in- 
cur the guilt of being roundly laughed at, if I proceed to 
enumerate the several kinds of the folly of the vulgar. 
I shall confine my following discourse, therefore, to such 
only as challenge the repute of wisdom, and seemingly 
pass for men of the soundest intellects. 

And among these the Grammarians present themselves 
in the front, a sort of men who would be the most mis- 
erable, the most slavish, and the most hateful of all per- 



IQO THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

sons, if I did not in some way alleviate the cares and 
miseries of their profession by blessing them with a be- 
witching sort of madness : for they are not only liable 
to those five curses, which they so oft recite from the 
first five verses of Homer, but to five hundred more of a 
worse nature ; as being always damned to thirst and hun- 
ger, to be choked with dust in their unswept schools, 
(schools shall I term them, or rather laboratories, nay, 
bridewells, and houses of correction?) to wear them- 
selves out in fret and drudgery ; to be deafened with the 
noise of gaping boys ; and in short, to be stifled with 
heat and stench ; and yet they cheerfully endure all 
these inconveniences and, by the help of a fond conceit, 
they think themselves as happy as any men living : 
taking a great pride and delight in frowning and looking 
fierce upon the trembling urchins, in boxing the ears, 
slashing, striking with the ferula, and in the exercise of 
all their other methods of tyranny ; while thus lording 
it over a parcel of young, weak chits, they imitate the 
Cuman ass, and think themselves as stately as a lion, 
that domineers over all the inferior herd. Elevated with 
this conceit, they can hold filth and nastiness to be an 
ornament ; reconcile their nose to the most intolerable 
smells ; and finally think that their wretched surround- 
ings are the most pleasant and desirable that can be 
conceived, and which they would not consent to ex- 
change for the jurisdiction of the most sovereign poten- 
tate. And they are yet more happy by a strong per- 
suasion of their own parts and abilities ; for thus when 
their employment is only to rehearse silly stories, and 
poetical fictions, they will yet think themselves wiser 




The Professor. 




The Fabulous Story. 




The Rich Man. 



THE PRAISE OP FOLLY. 195 

than the most experienced philosopher ; nay, they have 
an art of making ordinary people, (such as their school 
boys' fond parents,) think them as considerable as their 
own pride has made them. 

Add hereunto this other sort of ravishing pleasure. 
When any of them has found out who was the mother of 
Anchises, or has lighted upon some old unusual word, 
such as bubsequa ; bovinator ; manticulator ; or other 
like obsolete cramp terms ; or can, after a great deal of 
poring, spell out the inscription of some battered monu- 
ment ; Lord, what joy, what triumph, what congratula- 
tions of their success, as if they had conquered Africa, or 
taken Babylon the Great ! 

When they recite some of their frothy, bombastic verses, 
if any happen to admire them, they are presently flushed 
with the least hint of commendation, and devoutly thank 
Pythagoras for his grateful hypothesis, whereby they 
have now become actuated with a descent of Virgil's po- 
etic soul. Nor is any divertisement more pleasant, than 
when they meet to flatter and curry one another ; yet 
they are so critical, that if any one happen to be guilty 
of the least slip, or seeming blunder, another shall pres- 
ently correct him for it, and then to it they go in a 
tongue-combat, with all the fervor, spleen, and eagerness 
imaginable. May Priscian himself be my enemy, if what 
I am now going to say be not exactly true. 

I knew an old Sophister that was a Grecian, a latinist, 
a mathematician, a philosopher, a musician, and all to 
the utmost perfection ; who, after threescore years' ex- 
perience in the world, had spent the last twenty of them 
only in drudging to conquer the criticisms of grammar, 



196 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

and made it the chief part of his prayers, that his life 
might be so long spared till he had learned how rightly 
to distinguish betwixt the eight parts of speech, which 
no grammarian, whether Greek or I<atin, had yet accu- 
rately done. If any have chanced to place that as a con- 
junction which ought to have been used as an adverb, it 
is a sufficient cause to raise an alarm for doing justice to 
the injured word. And since there have been as many 
several grammars, as particular grammarians (nay, more, 
for Aldus alone wrote five distinct grammars for his own 
share), the schoolmaster must be obliged to consult them 
all, sparing for no time nor trouble, though never so 
great, lest he should be otherwise posed in an unobserved 
criticism, and so by an irreparable disgrace lose the re- 
ward of all his toil. 

It is indifferent to me whether you call this folly or 
madness, since you must needs confess that it is by my 
influence these school tyrants, though in never so despic- 
able a condition, are so happy in their own thoughts, 
that they would not change fortunes with the most illus- 
trious Sophi of Persia. 

The Poets, however somewhat less beholden to me, 
own a professed dependence on me, being a sort of law- 
less blades, that by prescription claim a license to a 
proverb, while the whole intent of their profession is 
only to smooth up and tickle the ears of fools, that by 
mere toys and fabulous shams, with which, (however 
ridiculous) they are so bolstered up in an airy imagina- 
tion, as to win for themselves an everlasting name, and 
promise, by their balderdash, at the same time to cele- 
brate the never-dying memory of others. To these rap- 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 197 

turous wits self-love and flattery are never-failing attend- 
ants ; nor do any prove more zealous or constant devo- 
tees to folly. 

The Rhetoricians likewise, though they are ambitious 
of being ranked among the Philosophers, yet are appar- 
ently of my faction, as appears among other arguments, 
by this more especially ; in that among their several 
topics of completing the art of oratory, they all particu- 
larly insist upon the knack of jesting, which is one spe- 
cies of folly ; as is evident from the books of oratory 
written to Herennius, put among Cicero's works, but 
done by some unknown author ; and in Quintilian, that 
great master of eloquence, there is one entire chapter 
used in describing the methods of raising laughter. In 
short, they may well attribute a great efficacy to Folly, 
since on any argument they may use, they can many 
times triumph by a slight laugh over what they could 
never seriously confute. 

Of the same gang are those scribbling fops, who think 
to eternize their memory by setting up for authors : 
among which, though they are all in some way in- 
debted to me, yet are those more especially so, who 
spoil paper in blotting it with mere trifles and im- 
pertinences. For as to those graver drudgers to the 
press, that write learnedly, beyond the reach of an ordi- 
nary reader, who dare submit their labors to the review 
of the most severe critic, these are not so liable to be 
envied for their honor, as to be pitied for their toil and 
slavery. They make additions, alterations, blot out, 
write anew, amend, interline, turn it upside down, and 
yet can never please their fickle judgment, but that they 



198 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

shall dislike the next hour what they penned in the for- 
mer ; and all this to purchase the airy commendations 
of a few critical readers, which at most is but a poor 
reward for all their fastings, watchings, confinements, 
and brain-breaking tortures of invention. 

Add to this the impairing of their health, the weaken- 
ing of their constitution, their contracting sore eyes, or 
perhaps turning stark blind ; their poverty, their envy, 
their debarment from all pleasures, their hastening on 
old age, their untimely death, and what other inconveni- 
ences of a like or worse nature can be thought upon ; 
and yet the recompense for all this severe penance is at 
best no more than a mouthful or two of frothy praise. 

These, as they are more laborious, so are they less 
happy than those other hackneyed scribblers which I 
first mentioned, who never stand much to consider, but 
write what comes next at a venture, knowing that the 
more silly their compositions are, the more will they be 
bought up by the greater number of readers, who are 
fools and blockheads ; and if they should happen to be 
condemned by some few judicious persons, it is an easy 
matter by clamor to drown their censure, and to silence 
them by urging the more numerous commendations of 
others. They are yet the wisest who transcribe whole 
discourses from others, and then reprint them as their 
own. By doing so they make a cheap and easy seizure 
to themselves of that reputation which cost the first au- 
thor so much time and trouble to procure. If however, 
they are at any time pricked a little in conscience for 
fear of discovery, they console themselves with this 
thought, that if they are at last found guilty of plagia- 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 199 

rism, yet at least for some time they have enjoyed the 
credit of passing for genuine authors. 

It is a pleasure to see how all these several writers are 
puffed up with the least blast of applause, especially if 
they come to the honor of being pointed at as they walk 
along the streets ; when their several pieces are laid open 
upon every bookseller's stall, when their names are em- 
bossed in a different character upon the title-page, some- 
times only with the two first letters, and sometimes with 
fictitious titles, which few shall understand the meaning 
of; and of those that do, all shall not agree in their 
verdict of the performance ; some censuring, others ap- 
proving it, men's judgments being as different as their 
palates, that being toothsome to one which is unsavory 
and nauseous to another, though it is a sneaking piece 
of cowardice for authors to put feigned names to their 
works, as if, like bastards of their brain, they were afraid 
to own them. Thus one styles himself Telemachus, 
another Stelenus, a third Polycrates, another Thrasyma- 
chus, and so on. By the same liberty we may ransack 
the whole alphabet, and jumble together any letters that 
come next to hand. 

It is farther very pleasant when these coxcombs em- 
ploy their pens in writing congratulatory epistles, poems 
and panegyrics, upon each other, wherein one shall be 
complimented with the title of Alcaeus, another as the 
incomparable Callimachus ; this shall be commended as a 
more complete orator than Tully himself ; a fourth shall 
be told by his fellow-fool that the divine Plato comes 
short of him for a philosophic soul. Sometimes again 
they take up the cudgels, and challenge an antagonist, 



2OO THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

and so get a name by a combat at dispute and contro- 
versy while the unwary readers draw sides according to 
their different judgments. The longer the quarrel holds 
the more irreconcilable it grows ; and when both parties 
are weary, they each pretend themselves the conquerors, 
and both lay claim to the credit of coming off with 
victory. 

These fooleries make sport for wise men, as being 
highly absurd, ridiculous and extravagant. True, but 
yet these paper combatants, by my assistance, are so 
flushed with a conceit of their own greatness, that they 
prefer the solving of a syllogism before the sacking of 
Carthage ; and upon the defeat of a poor objection carry 
themselves more triumphantly than the most victorious 
Scipio. 

Nay, even the learned and more judicious, that have 
wit enough to laugh at the other's folly, are very much 
beholden to my goodness, which (except ingratitude has 
drowned their ingenuity,) they must be ready upon all 
occasions to confess. 

Among these I suppose the lawyers will shuffle in for 
precedence, and they of all men have the greatest conceit 
of their own abilities. They will argue as confidently 
as if they spoke gospel instead of law ; they will cite you 
six hundred precedents, though not one of them come 
near to the case in hand ; they will muster up the au- 
thority of judgments, deeds, glosses, and reports, and 
tumble over so many musty records, that they make 
their employment, though in itself easy, the greatest 
slavery imaginable ; always accounting that the best 
plea which they have taken the most pains to produce. 




The Rhetorician. 




^^^ 



The Divine. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 205 

To these, as bearing a great resemblance to them, may 
be added logicians and sophisters, fellows that talk as 
much by rote as a parrot ; who shall run down a whole 
bevy of gossiping old women, nay, silence the very noise 
of a belfry, with louder clappers than those of the steeple ; 
and if their unappeasable clamorousness were their only 
fault it would admit of some excuse ; but they are at the 
same time so fierce and quarrelsome, that they will wran- 
gle bloodily for the least trifle, and be so over intent and 
eager, that they many times lose their game in the 
chase, and fright away that truth they are hunting for. 

Yet self-conceit makes these nimble disputants such 
doughty champions, that armed with three or four close- 
linked syllogisms, they shall enter the lists with the 
greatest masters of reason, and not question the foiling 
of them in an irresistible baffle : nay, their obstinacy 
makes them so confident of their being in the right, that 
all the arguments in the world shall never convince them 
to the contrary. 

Next to these come the philosophers, with their long 
beards and short cloaks, who esteem themselves as the 
only favorites of wisdom, and look upon the rest of man- 
kind as the dirt and rubbish of the creation ; yet these 
men's happiness is only a frantic craziness of brain. 
They build castles in the air, and infinite worlds in a 
vacuum. They will give you to a hair's breadth the 
dimensions of the sun, moon, and stars, as easily as they 
would that of a flagon or pipkin : they will give an 
elaborate account of the cause of thunder, of the origin 
of the winds, of the nature of eclipses, and of the 
most abstruse difficulties in physics, without the least 



206 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

demur or hesitation, as if they had been admitted into 
the cabinet council of nature, or had been eye-witnesses 
to all the methods of creation ; though in facl: nature 
does but laugh at all their puny conjectures : for they 
never yet made one considerable discovery, as appears 
from the fact that on no single point of the smallest 
moment have they unanimously agreed ; nothing being 
so plain or evident but that by some one it is opposed 
and contradicted. 

But although they are ignorant of the unknown cause 
of the least insect's life, they vaunt however, and brag 
that they know all things, when indeed they are unable 
to construe the mechanism of their own bodies : nay, 
when they are so purblind as not to be able to see a 
stone's cast before them, yet they shall be as sharp- 
sighted as possible in spying-out ideas, universals, sepa- 
rate forms, first matters, quiddities, formalities, and a 
hundred such like niceties, so diminutively small, that 
were not their eyes extremely magnifying, all the art of 
optics could never make them discernible. 

But they most despise the low, groveling vulgar when 
they bring out their parallels, triangles, circles, and 
other mathematical figures, drawn up in battalia, like so 
many spells and charms of conjuration in muster, with 
letters to refer to the explication of the several problems ; 
hereby raising devils as it were, only to have the credit 
of laying them, and exciting the wonder of the ordinary 
spectators, because they have not wit enough to under- 
stand the juggle. 

Of these some undertake to profess themselves judicial 
astrologers, pretending to have correspondence with the 




The Sophist. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 209 

stars, and so from their information can resolve any 
query ; and though it is all but a presumptuous impos- 
ture, yet some to be sure will be such great fools as to 
believe them. 

The divines present themselves next ; but it may per- 
haps be most safe to pass them by, and not to touch upon 
so harsh a string as this subject would afford. Besides, 
the undertaking may be very hazardous, for they are a 
sort of men generally very hot and passionate ; and should 
I provoke them, I doubt not would set upon me with a 
full cry, and force me with shame to recant, which if I 
stubbornly refused to do, they would presently brand me 
for a heretic, and thunder out an excommunication, 
which is their spiritual weapon to wound such as lift up 
a hand against them. 

It is true, no men own a less dependence on Folly, yet 
have they reason to confess themselves indebted for no 
small obligations. For it is by one of my properties, self- 
love, that they fancy themselves, with their elder brother 
Paul, caught up into the third heaven, from whence, 
like shepherds indeed, they look down upon their flocks, 
(the laity,) grazing as it were, in the vales of the world 
below. They fence themselves in with so many sur- 
rounders of magisterial definitions, conclusions, corolla- 
ries, propositions explicit and implicit, that there is no 
falling in with them ; or if they do chance to be urged 
to a seeming non-plus, yet they find out so many eva- 
sions, that all the art of man can never bind them so fast, 
but that an easy distinction shall give them a starting- 
hole to escape the scandal of being baffled. 

They will cut asunder the toughest argument with as 



310 THE PRAISE OF FOW.Y. 

much ease as Alexander did the Gordian knot ; they will 
thunder out so many rattling terms as shall affright an 
adversary into conviction. They are exquisitely dexter- 
ous in unfolding the most intricate mysteries ; they will 
tell you to a tittle all the successive proceedings of Om- 
nipotence in the creation of the universe ; they will ex- 
plain the precise manner of original sin being derived 
from our first parents; they will satisfy you in what man- 
ner, by what degrees, and in how long a time, our Savior 
was conceived in the Virgin's womb, and demonstrate in 
the consecrated wafer how accidents may subsist without a 
subject. Nay, these are accounted trivial, easy questions ; 
they have yet far greater difficulties behind, which, not- 
withstanding, they solve with as much expedition as 
the former ; as namely, whether supernatural genera- 
tion requires any instant of time for its acting ? whether 
Christ, as a son, bears a double and specifically distinct 
relation to God the Father, and his virgin mother? 
whether this proposition is possible to be true, that the 
first person of the Trinity hated the second? whether 
God who took our nature upon him in the form of a man, 
could as well have become a woman, a devil, a beast, an 
herb, or a stone? and if it were possible that if the God- 
head had appeared in any shape of an inanimate sub- 
stance, how he should then have preached his gospel ? 
or how have been nailed to the cross ? whether if St. 
Peter had celebrated the eucharist at the same time our 
Savior was hanging on the cross, the consecrated bread 
would have been transubstantiated into the same body 
that remained on the tree ? whether in Christ's corporal 
presence in the sacramental wafer, his humanity be not 




The Schoolman. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 213 

abstracted from his Godhead ? whether after the resur- 
rection we shall carnally eat and drink as we do in this 
life? 

There are a thousand other more sublimated and re- 
fined niceities of notions, relations, quantities, formalities, 
quiddities, hsecceities, and such like abstrusities, as one 
would think no one could pry into, except he had not 
only such cat's eyes as to see best in the dark, but even 
such a piercing faculty as to see through an inch-board, 
and spy out what really never existed. 

Add to these some of their tenets and beliefs, which 
are so absurd and extravagant, that the wildest fancies 
of the Stoics, which they so much disdain and decry as 
paradoxes, seem in comparison just and rational; as their 
maintaining, that it is a less aggravating fault to kill a 
hundred men, than for a poor cobbler to set a stitch on 
the sabbath-day ; or, that it is more justifiable to do the 
greatest injury imaginable to others, than to tell the least 
lie ourselves. 

And these subtleties are alchemized to a more refined 
sublimate by the abstracting brains of their several 
schoolmen ; the Realists, the Nominalists, the Thomists, 
the Albertists, the Occamists, the Scotists ; and these 
are not all, but the rehearsal of a few only, as a speci- 
men of their divided sects ; in each of which there is 
so much of deep learning, so much of unfathomable dif- 
ficulty, that I believe the apostles themselves would 
stand in need of a jiew illuminating spirit, if they were 
to engage in any controversy with these new divines. 

St. Paul, without question, had a full measure of faith, 
yet when he lays down faith to be the substance of things 



214 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

not seen, these men carp at it for an imperfect definition, 
and would undertake to teach the apostles better logic. 
Thus, the same holy author wanted for nothing of the 
grace of charity, yet, say they, he describes and defines 
it but very inaccurately when he treats of it in the thir- 
teenth chapter of his first Epistle to the Corinthians. 

The primitive disciples were very frequent in admin- 
istering the holy sacrament, breaking bread from house 
to house ; yet should they be asked of the Terminus a 
quo and the Terminus ad quern, the nature of transub- 
stantiation ? the possibility of one body being in several 
different places at the same time ? the difference betwixt 
the several attributes of Christ in heaven, on the cross, 
and in the consecrated bread ? what time is required for 
the transubstantiating of the bread into flesh? how it 
can be done by a short sentence pronounced by the priest, 
which sentence is a species of discreet quantity, that has 
no permanent punctu m ? 

Were they asked, (I say,) these and several other con- 
fused queries, I do not believe they could answer so 
readily as our mincing school-men now-a-days take a 
pride in doing. 

They were well acquainted with the Virgin Mary, yet 
none of them undertook to prove that she was preserved 
immaculate from original sin, as some of our divines 
now very hotly contend for. 

St. Peter had the keys of heaven given to him, and 
that by our Savior himself, who had never entrusted 
him except he had known him capable of their manage- 
ment and custody ; and yet it is much to be questioned 
whether Peter was sensible of that subtle^ broached by 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 215 

Scotus, that he may have the key of knowledge effectu- 
ally for others who has no knowledge actually in him- 
self. 

Again, they baptized all nations, and yet never taught 
what was the formal, material, efficient, and final cause 
of baptism, and certainly never dreamt of distinguishing 
between a delible and an indelible character in this sac- 
rament. 

They worshiped in the spirit, following their master's 
injunction, ' ' God is a spirit, and they which worship him, 
must worship him in spirit and in truth ; ' ' yet it does 
not appear that it was ever revealed to them how divine 
adoration should be paid at the same time to our blessed 
Savior in heaven, and to his picture here below on a 
wall, drawn with arm extended, two fingers held out, a 
bald crown, and a circle round his head. 

To reconcile these intricacies to an appearance of rea- 
son, requires three-score years in the study of meta- 
physics. 

Farther, the apostles often mention Grace, yet never 
distinguish between gratia, gratis data, and gratia 
gratificans. They earnestly exhort us likewise to good 
works, yet never explain the difference between Opus 
operans, and Opus operatum. They very frequently 
press and invite us to seek after charity, without dividing 
it into infused and acquired, or determining whether it 
be a substance or an accident, a created or an uncreated 
being. They detested sin themselves, and warned 
others from the commission of it ; and yet I am sure 
they could never have defined so dogmatically, as the 
Scotists have since done. 



2l6 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

St. Paul, who in other's judgment is no less the chief 
of the apostles than he was in his own the chief of sin- 
ners, who being bred at the feet of Gamaliel, was cer- 
tainly more eminently a scholar than any of the rest, 
yet he often exclaims against vain philosophy, warns us 
from debating about questions and strifes of words, and 
charges us to avoid profane and vain babblings, and op- 
positions of science, falsely so called; which he would 
not have done, if he had thought it worth his while to 
have become acquainted with them, which he might 
soon have been, the disputes of that age being but 
small, and mere intelligible sophisms, in comparison to 
the vastly greater intricacies they are now improved into. 
But yet, however, our scholastic divines are so modest, 
that if they meet with any passage in St. Paul, or any 
other penman of holy writ, not modeled or critically dis- 
posed of as they could wish, they will not roughly con- 
demn it, but bend it rather to a favorable interpretation, 
out of reverence to antiquity, and respect to the holy 
scriptures ; though indeed it were unreasonable to ex- 
peel; anything of this nature from the apostles, whose 
lord and master had given unto them to know the mys- 
teries of God, but not those of philosophy. 

If the same divines meet with anything of like nature 
unpalatable in St. Chrysostom, St. Basil, St. Hierom, or 
others of the fathers, they will not hesitate to appeal 
from their authority, and even to resolve that they lay 
under a mistake. 

Yet these ancient fathers were they who confuted both 
the Jews and Heathen, though they both obstinately 
adhered to their respective prejudices ; they confuted 




The Prayer for Forgiveness. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 219 

them, I say, yet rather by their virtuous lives and good 
works than by words and syllogisms : and the persons 
they thus proselyted were downright honest, well mean- 
ing people, such as understood plain sense better than 
any artificial pomp of reasoning : whereas if our divines 
should now set about the gaining of converts from pa- 
ganism by their mataphysical subtleties, they would 
find that most of the persons they applied themselves to 
were either so ignorant as not at all to apprehend them, 
or so impudent as to scoff and deride them ; or finally, 
so well skilled at the same weapons, that they would be 
able to keep their pass, and fence off all assaults of con- 
viction : and in this last way the victory would be alto- 
gether as hopeless, as if two persons were combating, of 
so equal strength and dexterity, that it were impossible 
that either one should overpower the other. 

If my judgment may be taken, I would advise Chris- 
tians, in their next expedition to a holy war, instead of 
those many unsuccessful legions, which they have hith- 
erto sent to encounter the Turks and Saracens, that they 
would furnish out their clamorous Scotists, their obsti- 
nate Occamists, their invincible Albertists, and all their 
forces of tough, crabbed and profound disputants : the 
engagement, I fancy, would be mighty pleasant, and the 
victory we may imagine unquestionably on our side. 
For which of the enemies would not veil their turbans 
at so solemn an appearance ? Which of the fiercest 
Janizaries would not throw away his scimitar, and all 
the half-moons be eclipsed by the interposition of so 
glorious an army ? 

I suppose you mistrust I speak all this by way of jeer 



22O THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

and irony ; and well I may, since among divines them- 
selves there are some so ingenuous as to despise these 
captious and frivolous impertinences. They look upon it 
as a kind of profane sacrilege, and a little less than blas- 
phemous impiety, to determine of such niceties in relig- 
ion, as ought rather to be the subject of an humble and 
uncontradidling faith, than of a scrupulous and inquisi- 
tive reason. They abhor defiling the mysteries of Chris- 
tianity with an intermixture of heathenish philosophy, 
and judge it very improper to reduce divinity to an 
obscure speculative science, whose end is such a happi- 
ness as can be gained only by the means of practice. 

But, alas, those notional divines, however condemned 
by the soberer judgment of others, are yet mightily 
pleased with themselves, and are so laboriously intent 
upon prosecuting their crabbed studies, that they cannot 
afford so much time as to read a single chapter in any 
one book of the whole bible. 

And while they thus trifle away their misspent hours 
in trash and babble, they think they support the church 
with the props and pillars of propositions and syllogisms, 
no less effectually than Atlas is feigned by the poets 
to sustain on his shoulders the burden of a tottering 
world. Their privileges, too, and authority are very 
considerable. They can deal with any text of scrip- 
ture as with a nose of wax, knead it into what shape 
best suits their interest ; and whatever conclusions 
they have dogmatically resolved upon, they would 
have them as irrepealably ratified as Solon's laws, 
and in as absolute force as the very decrees of the papal 
chair. If any be so bold as to remonstrate against their 




<SS". 

Upholding the World. 




Jove and Vulcan. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 225 

decisions, they will bring him on his knees to a recan- 
tation of his impudence. 

They shall pronounce as irrevocably as an oracle : this 
proposition is scandalous, that irreverant ; this has a 
smack of heresy, and that is bald and improper ; so that 
it is not the being baptized into the church, the believ- 
ing of the scriptures, the giving credit to St. Peter, St. 
Paul, St. Hierom, St. Augustin, nay, or to St. Thomas 
Aquinas himself, that shall make a man a Christian, 
except he have the joint suffrage of these novices in 
learning, who have blessed the world no doubt with a 
great many discoveries, which had never come to light 
had they not struck the fire of subtlety out of the flint of 
obscurity. These fooleries must surely be a happy em- 
ployment. 

Farther, they make as many partitions and divisions 
in hell and purgatory, and describe as many different 
sorts and degrees of punishment, as if they were very 
well acquainted with the soil and situation of those in- 
fernal regions. 

And to prepare a seat for the blessed above, they in- 
vent new orbs, and a stately empyrean heaven, so wide 
and spacious as if they had purposely contrived it, that 
the glorified saints might have room enough to walk, 
to feast, or to take any recreation. 

With these and a thousand more such like toys, their 
heads are more stuffed and swelled than Jove, when he 
went big of Pallas in his brain, and was forced to use 
the midwifery of Vulcan's axe to ease him of his teem- 
ing burden. 

Do not wonder, therefore, that at public disputations 



226 THE PRAISE OF 

they bind their heads with so many caps one over an- 
other; for this is to prevent the loss of their brains, 
which would otherwise break out from their uneasy 
confinement. 

It affords likewise a pleasant scene of laughter, to lis- 
ten to these divines in their hotly managed disputations, 
to see how proud they are of talking such hard gibber- 
ish, and stammering out such blundering distinctions, 
as the auditors perhaps may sometimes gape at, but sel- 
dom comprehend. 

And they take such a liberty in their speaking of 
I^atin, that they scorn to stick to the exactness of syntax 
or concord ; pretending it is below the majesty of a divine 
to talk like a pedagogue, and be tied to the slavish ob- 
servance of the rules of grammar. 

Finally, they take a vast pride, among other citations, 
to allege the authority of their respected master, whose 
word they bear as profound a respecl to as the Jews did 
to their ineffable tetragrammaton, and therefore they 
will be sure never to write it otherwise than in great 
letters, MAGISTER NOSTER ; and if any happen 
to invert the order of the words, and say, noster magister 
instead of magister noster, they will presently exclaim 
against him as a pestilent heretic and underminer of the 
catholic faith. 

The next to these are another sort of brainless fools, 
who style themselves monks, or members of religious 
orders, though they assume both titles very unjustly : 
for as to the last, they have very little religion in them ; 
and as to the former, the etymology of the word monk 
implies a solitariness, or being alone ; whereas they are 




John, the Baptist. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. . 229 

so thick abroad that we cannot pass any street or alley { 
without meeting them : and I cannot imagine which 
degree of men would be more hopelessly wretched 
if I did not stand their friend, and buoy them up in that 
lake of misery, which by the engagements of a religious 
vow they have voluntarily immerged themselves into. 

But when these sort of men are so unwelcome to oth- 
ers, as that the very sight of them is thought ominous, I 
yet make them highly in love with themselves, and fond 
admirers of their own happiness. The first step where- 
unto they esteem a profound ignorance, thinking carnal 
knowledge a great enemy to their spiritual welfare, and 
seem confident of becoming greater proficients in divine 
mysteries, the less they are influenced with any human, 
learning. 

They imagine that they bear a sweet consort with the 
heavenly choir, when they tone out their daily tally of 
psalms, which they rehearse only by rote, without per- 
mitting their understanding or affections to go along 
with their voice. 

Among these, some make a good and profitable trade 
by beggary, going about from house to house, not like 
the apostles, to break, but to beg, their bread; nay, they 
thrust themselves into all public-houses, come aboard 
the passage-boats, get into the traveling wagons, and 
omit no opportunity of time or place for craving people's 
charity, and doing a great deal of injury to common high- 
way beggars by interfering with their traffic of alms. 

And when they are thus voluntarily poor, destitute, 
not provided with two coats, nor with any money in 
their purse, they have the impudence to pretend that 



23 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

they imitate the first disciples, whom their master ex- 
pressly sent out in such an equipage. 

It is amusing to observe how they regulate all their 
actions, as it were by weight and measure, to so exact a 
proportion, as if the whole loss of their religion depended 
upon the omission of the least punctilio. 

Thus, they must be very critical in the precise num- 
ber of knots requisite for tying on their sandals ; what 
distinct colors their respective habits should be, and of 
what material made ; how broad and long their girdles ; 
how big, and in what fashion, their hoods ; whether 
their bald crowns be to a hair's-breadth of the right cut ; 
how many hours they must sleep, at what minute rise to 
prayers, etc. 

And these several customs are altered according to the 
humors of different persons and places. 

While they are sworn to the superstitious observance 
of these trifles, they not only despise all others, but are 
even inclined to fall out among themselves ; for though 
they make profession of an apostolical charity, yet they 
will pick a quarrel, and be implacably passionate for such 
slight provocations as for putting on a coat the wrong 
way, for wearing clothes a little too dark in color, or any 
such nicety not worth speaking of. 

Some are so obstinately superstitious that they will 
wear their upper garment of some coarse dog's hair stuff, 
and that next theii skin as soft as silk : but others on 
the contrary, will have linen frocks outermost, and their 
shirts of wool, or hair. Some again will not touch a 
piece of money, though they make no scruple of the 
sin of drunkenness, and the lust of the flesh. 



THE PRAISE OP FOLLY. 33! 

All their several orders are mindful of nothing more 
than of their being distinguished from each other by 
their different costumes and habits. They seem indeed 
not so careful of becoming like Christ, and of being 
known to be his disciples, as the being unlike to one an- 
other, and distinguishable for followers of their several 
founders. 

A great part of their religion consists in their title. 
Some will be called Cordeliers, and these subdivided into 
Capuchines, Minors, Minims, and Mendicants ; some 
again are styled Benedictines, others of the order of St. 
Bernard, others of that of St. Bridget ; some are Augus- 
tin Monks, some Willielmites, and others Jacobists, as if 
the common name of Christian were too mean and 
vulgar. 

Most of them place their greatest stress for salvation 
on a strict conformity to their foppish ceremonies, and a 
belief of their legendary traditions ; wherein they fancy 
to have acquitted themselves with so much of superero- 
gation, that one heaven can never be a condign reward 
for their meritorious life ; little thinking that the Judge 
of all the earth at the last day shall put them off, with a 
who hath required these things at your hands ; and call 
them to account only for the stewardship of his legacy, 
which was the precept of love and charity. 

It will be interesting to hear their pleas before the 
great tribunal : one will brag how he mortified his car- 
nal appetite by feeding only upon fish : another will urge 
that he spent most of his time on earth in the divine ex- 
ercise of singing psalms : a third will tell how many 
days he fasted, and what severe penance he imposed on 



232 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

himself for the bringing his body into subjection : an- 
other shall produce in his own behalf as many ceremo- 
nies as would load a fleet of merchantmen : a fifth shall 
plead that in threescore years he never so much as 
touched a piece of money, except he fingered it through 
a thick pair of gloves : a sixth, to testify his former hu 
mility, shall bring 'along with him his sacred hood, so 
old and nasty, that any seaman had rather stand bare- 
headed on the deck, than put it on to defend his ears in 
the sharpest storms : the next that comes to answer for 
himself shall plead, that for fifty years together, he had 
lived like a sponge upon the same place, and was content 
never to change his homely habitation : another shall 
whisper softly, and tell the judge he has lost his voice 
by a continual singing of holy hymns and anthems : the 
next shall confess how he fell into a lethargy by a strict, 
reserved, and sedentary life ; and the last shall intimate 
that he has forgotten to speak, by having always kept 
silence, in obedience to the injunction of taking heed 
lest he should have offended with his tongue. 

But amidst all their fine excuses our Savior shall in- 
terrupt them with this answer, " Woe unto you, scribes 
and pharisees, hypocrites, verily I know you not ; I left 
you but one precept, of loving one another, which I do 
not hear any one plead he has faithfully discharged ; I 
told you plainly in my gospel, without any parable, that 
my father's kingdom was prepared not for such as should 
lay claim to it by austerities, prayers, or fastings, but for 
those who should render themselves worthy of it by the 
exercise of faith, and the offices of charity : I cannot 
own such as depend on their own merits without a reli- 




The Monk with the Sacred Hood. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 235 

r.nce on my mercy : as many of you therefore as trust to 
the broken reeds of your own deserts may even go and 
search out a new heaven, for you shall never enter into 
that, which from the foundations of the world was pre- 
pared only for such as are true of heart." 

When these monks and friars shall meet with such a 
shameful repulse, and see that ploughmen and mechan- 
ics are admitted into that kingdom, from which they 
themselves are shut out, how sneakingly will they look, 
and how pitifully slink away ? 

Yet till this last trial they had more comfort of a future 
happiness, because more hopes of it, than any other class 
of men. And these persons are not only great in their own 
eyes, but highly esteemed and respected by others, es- 
pecially those of the order of mendicants, whom none 
dare to offer any affront to, because as confessors they are 
intrusted with all the secrets of particular intrigues, 
which they are bound by oath not to discover ; yet many 
times, when they are almost drunk, they cannot keep 
their tongue so far within their head, as not to be bab- 
bling out some hints, and showing themselves so full, 
that they are in pain to be delivered. 

If any person give them the least provocation they 
will surely be revenged on him, and in their next public 
harangue will give him such shrewd hints and reflec- 
tions, that the whole congregation must needs take no- 
tice at whom they are leveled ; nor will they ever desist 
from this way of declaiming, till their mouth be stopped 
with a bribe to hold their tongue. 

All their preaching is mere stage-playing, and their 
delivery the very transports of ridicule and drollery. 



236 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

Good Lord! how inimical are their gestures? What 
heights and falls in their voices ? What toning, what 
bawling, what singing, what squeaking, what grimaces; 
making of mouths, apes' faces, and distorting of their 
countenances ; and this art of oratory, as a choice mys- 
tery, they convey down by tradition to succeeding ages. 

The manner of it, I may adventure, thus farther to 
enlarge upon. 

First, in a kind of mockery, they implore the Divine 
assistance, which they borrowed from the solemn custom 
of the poets : then their text, (suppose it be of Charity), 
they shall take their exordium as far off as from a de- 
scription of the river Nile in Egypt; or if they are to 
discourse of the Mystery of the Cross, they shall begin 
with a story of Bell and the Dragon ; or perchance, if 
their subjedl be of Fasting, for an entrance to their 
sermon they shall pass through the Twelve Signs of 
the Zodiac ; or lastly, if they are to preach of Faith, 
they shall address themselves in a long mathematical 
account of the Quadrature of the Circle. 

I myself once heard a great fool (a great scholar I 
would have said) undertaking in a laborious discourse to 
explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity ; in the un- 
folding whereof, that he might show his wit and reading, 
and also satisfy itching ears, he proceeded in a new 
method, as by insisting on the letters, syllables, and 
proposition, on the concord of noun and verb, and that 
of noun substantive, and noun adjective. 

The auditors all wondered, and some mumbled to 
themselves that hemistitch of Horace : 

all this needless trash? 




Bell and the Dragon. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 239 

But at last he brought it thus far, that he could dem- 
onstrate the whole Trinity to be represented by these 
first rudiments of grammar, as clearly and plainly as it 
was possible for a mathematician to draw a triangle in 
the sand : and for the making of this grand discovery, 
this subtle divine had plodded so hard for eight months 
together, that he studied himself as blind as a beetle, 
the intenseness of the eye of his understanding overshad- 
owing and extinguishing that of his body ; and yet he 
did not at all repent him of his blindness, but thinks the 
loss of his sight an easy purchase for the gain of glory 
and credit. 

I heard at another time a grave divine, of fourscore 
years of age at least, so sour and hard-favored, that one 
would be apt to mistrust that he was Scotus Redivivus ; 
he taking upon him to treat of that mysterious name, 
JESUS, did very subtly pretend that in the very letters 
was contained, whatever could be said of it : for first, its 
being declined with only three cases, did expressly point 
out the trinity of persons, then that the nominative 
ended in S, the accusative in M, and the ablative in U, 
did imply some unspeakable mystery, z/z>., that in words 
of those initial letters Christ was the summus, or begin- 
ning, the mediuS) or middle, and the ultimus, or end of 
all things. 

There was yet a more abstruse riddle to be explained, 
which was by dividing the word JESUS into two parts, 
and separating the S in the middle from the two extreme 
syllables, making a kind of pentameter, the word con- 
sisting of five letters : and this intermedial S being in 
the Hebrew alphabet called sin, which in the English 



240 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

language signifies what the Latins term peccatum, was 
urged to imply that the holy Jesus should purify us from 
all sin and wickedness. 

Thus did the pulpiteer cant, while all the congregation, 
especially the brotherhood of divines, were so surprised 
at his odd way of preaching, that wonder served them, 
as grief did Niobe, and almost turned them into stones. 
I among the rest (as Horace describes Priapus viewing 
the enchantments of the two sorceresses, Canidia and 
Sagane) could no longer endure, but let fly a report of 
the effect it had upon me. 

These impertinent introductions are not without 
reason condemned ; for of old, whenever Demosthenes 
among the Greeks, or Tully among the Latins, began 
their orations with so great a digression from the matter 
in hand, it was always looked upon as improper and in- 
elegant, and indeed, were such a long-fetched exordium 
any token of a good invention, shepherds and ploughmen 
might lay claim to the title of men of greatest parts, 
since upon any argument it is easiest for them to talk 
about what is least to the purpose. 

These preachers think their preamble (as we may well 
term it,) to be the most fashionable, when it is farthest 
from the subject they propose to treat of, while each 
auditor sits and wonders what they drive at, and many 
times mutters out the complaint of Virgil : 
" Whither doth all this jargon tend? " 

In the third place, when they come to the division of 
their text, they shall give only a very short interpretation 
of the words, when a fuller explication of their sense 
ought to have been their only province. 



THE PRAISE OF FOU.Y. 241 

Fourthly, after they are a little entered, they shall 
start some theological queries, far enough off from the 
matter in hand, and bandy it about pro and con till they 
lose it in the heat of the scuffle. And here they shall 
cite their doctors invincible, subtle, seraphic, cherubic, 
holy, irrefragable, and such like great names to confirm 
their several assertions. Then out they bring their syl- 
logisms, their majors, their minors, conclusions, corolla- 
ries, suppositions, and distinctions, that will sooner 
terrify the congregation into an amazement, than per- 
suade them into a conviction. 

Now comes the fifth act, in which they must exert 
their utmost skill to come off with applause. Here, 
therefore, they fall a telling some sad lamentable story 
out of their legend, or some other fabulous history, and 
this they descant upon allegorically, tropologically, and 
analogically ; and so they draw to a conclusion of their 
discourse, which is a more brain sick chimera than ever 
Horace could describe in his De Arte Poetica, when he 

began : 

Humano Capiti, &c. 

Their praying is altogether as ridiculous as their 
preaching ; for imagining that in their addresses to 
heaven they should set out in a low and tremulous voice, 
as a token of dread and reverence, they begin therefore 
with such a soft whispering as if they were afraid any 
one should overhear what they said ; but when they are 
gone a little way, they clear up their pipes by degrees, 
and at last bawl out so loud as if, with Baal's priests, 
they were resolved to awake a sleeping god ; and then 
again, being told by rhetoricians that heights and falls, 



242 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

and a different cadency in pronunciation, is a great ad- 
vantage to the setting off any thing that is spoken, they 
will sometimes as it were mutter their words inwardly, 
and then of a sudden hollo them out, and be sure at last 
to finish in such a flat, faltering tone as if their spirits 
were spent, and they had run themselves out of breath. 
Lastly, they have read that most systems of rhetoric 
treat of the art of exciting laughter ; therefore, for the 
effecting of this, they will sprinkle some jests and puns 
that must pass for ingenuity, though they are only the 
froth and folly of affectedness. Sometimes they will 
nibble at the wit of being satirical, though their utmost 
spleen is so toothless, that they suck rather than bite, 
tickle rather than scratch or wound: nor do they ever flat- 
ter more than at such times as they pretend to speak 
with greatest freedom. 

Finally, all their actions are so buffoonish and inimical, 
that any would judge they had learned all their tricks of 
mountebanks and stage players, who in action it is true 
may perhaps outdo them, but in oratory there is so little 
odds between both, that it is hard to determine which 
seems of longest standing in the schools of eloquence. 
Yet these preachers, however ridiculous, meet with such 
hearers, who admire them as much as the people of 
Athens did Demosthenes, or the citizens of Rome could 
do Cicero : among which admirers are chiefly shopkeep- 
ers, and women, whose approbation and good opinion 
they only court ; because the first, if they are humored, 
give them some snacks out of unjust gain, and the last 
come and confess to them with great regularity, and 
receive in return advice, comfort and consolation. 




King David. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 245 

Thus much I suppose may suffice to make you sensible 
how much these cell-hermits and recluses are indebted 
to my bounty ; who when they tyrannize over the con- 
sciences of the deluded laity with fopperies, juggles, and 
impostures, yet think themselves as eminently pious as 
St. Paul, St. Anthony, or any other of the saints ; but 
these stage-divines, not less ungrateful disowners of 
their obligations to folly, than they are impudent pre- 
tenders to the profession of piety, I willingly take my 
leave of, and pass now to kings, princes, and courtiers, 
who paying me a devout acknowledgment, may justly 
challenge back the respect of being mentioned and taken 
notice of by me. 

And first, had they wisdom enough to make a true 
judgment of things, they would find their own condition 
to be more despicable and slavish than that of their most 
menial subjects. For certainly none can esteem perjury 
or parricide a cheap purchase for a crown, if he doth but 
seriously reflect upon that weight of cares a princely dia- 
dem is loaded with. 

He that sits at the helm of government acts in a pub- 
lic capacity, and so must sacrifice all private interest to 
the attainment of the common good ; he must himself 
be conformable to those laws his prerogative exacts, or 
else he can expect no obedience paid them from others ; 
he must have a strict eye over all his inferior magistrates 
and officers, or otherwise it is not to be doubted but that 
they will carelessly discharge their respective duties. 

Hvery king, within his own territories, is placed for a 
shining example as it were in the firmament of his wide 
spread dominions, to prove either a glorious star of be- 



246 THE PRAISE OF POLLY. 

nign influence, if his behavior be remarkably just and 
innocent, or else to impend as a threatening comet, if 
his blazing power be pestilent and hurtful. 

Subjects move in a darker sphere, and so their wan- 
derings and failings are less discernible ; whereas princes, 
being fixed in a more exalted orb, and encompassed with 
a brighter dazzling lustre, their spots are more apparently 
visible, and their eclipses, or other defects, apparent to 
all that are inferior to them. 

Kings are baited with so many temptations and op- 
portunities to vice and immorality, such as are high 
feeding, liberty, flattery, luxury, and the like, that they 
must stand perpetually on their guard, to fence off those 
assaults that are always ready to be made upon them. 

In fine, abating from treachery, hatred, dangers, fear, 
and a thousand other mischiefs impending on crowned 
heads, however uncontrollable they are this side the 
grave, yet after their reign here they must appear before 
a supremer judge, and there be called to an exact ac- 
count for the discharge of that great stewardship which 
was committed to their trust. 

If princes did but seriously consider (and consider they 
would if they were but wise), these many hardships of a 
royal life, they would be so perplexed in the result of 
their thoughts thereupon, as scarce to eat or sleep in 
quiet. But now by my assistance they leave all these 
cares to the gods, and mind only their own ease and 
pleasure, and therefore will admit none to their attend- 
ance but those who will divert them with sport and 
mirth, lest they should otherwise be seized and damped 
with the surprisal of sober thoughts. They think they 




The Sovereign. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 349 

have sufficiently acquitted themselves in the duty of 
governing, if they do but ride constantly a hunting, 
breed up good race-horses, sell places and offices to those 
of the courtiers that will give most for them, and find 
out new ways for invading of their people's property, 
and securing a larger revenue to their own exchequer ; 
for the procurement whereof they will always have some 
pretended claim and title ; that though it be manifest 
extortion, yet it may bear the show of law and justice : 
and then they daub over their oppression with a submis- 
sive, flattering carriage, that they may so far insinuate 
into the affections of the vulgar, that they may not 
tumult nor rebel, but patiently crouch to burdens and 
exactions. 

L/et us feign now a person ignorant of the laws and 
constitutions of that realm he lives in, an enemy to the 
public good, studious only for his own private interest, 
addicted wholly to pleasures and delights, a hater of 
learning, a professed enemy to liberty and truth, careless 
and unmindful of the common concerns, taking all the 
measures of justice and honesty from the false beam of 
self-interest and advantage, after this hang about his 
neck a gold chain, for an intimation that he ought to 
have all virtues linked together ; then set a crown of 
gold and jewels on his head, for a token that he ought 
to overtop and outshine others in all commendable qual- 
ifications ; next, put into his hand a royal sceptre for a 
symbol of justice and integrity ; lastly, clothe him with 
purple, for an hieroglyphic of a tender love and affection 
to the commonwealth. 

If a prince should look upon this portraiture, and draw 



250 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

a comparison between that and himself, certainly he 
would be ashamed of his ensigns of majesty, and be 
afraid of being laughed out of them. 

Next to kings themselves may come their courtiers, 
who, though they are for the most part a base, servile, 
cringing, low-spirited sort of flatterers, yet they look 
big, swell great, and have high thoughts of their honor 
and grandeur. 

Their confidence appears upon all occasions ; yet in 
this one thing they are very modest, in that they are 
content to adorn their bodies with gold, jewels, purple, 
and other glorious ensigns of virtue and wisdom, but 
leave their minds empty and unfraught ; and taking 
the resemblance of goodness to themselves, turn over the 
truth and reality of it to others. 

They think themselves mighty happy in that they can 
call the king master, and be allowed the familiarity of 
talking with him ; that they can volubly rehearse his 
several titles of august highness, supereminent excel- 
lence, and most serene majesty ; that they can boldly 
usher in any discourse, and that they have the complete 
knack of insinuation and flattery : for these are the arts 
that make them truly genteel and noble. 

If you make a stricter enquiry after their other endow- 
ments, you shall find them mere sots and dolts. They 
will sleep generally till noon, and then their mercenary 
chaplains shall come to their bed-side, and entertain 
them perhaps with a short morning prayer. 

As soon as they are dressed they must go to breakfast, 
and when that is done, immediately to dinner. When 
the cloth is taken away, then to cards, dice, tables, or 




Searching the Scriptures. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 253 

some such like diversion. After this they must have 
one or two afternoon banquets, and so in the evening to 
supper. When they have supped then begins the game 
of drinking ; the bottles are marshaled, the glasses ranked, 
and round go the healths and bumpers till they are car- 
ried to bed. And this is the constant method of passing 
away their hours, days, months, years, and ages. 

I have many times taken great satisfaction, standing 
in the court, and seeing how the tawdry butterflies vie 
one with another. The ladies shall measure the height 
of their humors by the length of their trails, which must 
be borne up by a page behind. The nobles jostle one 
another to get nearest to the king's elbow, and wear gold 
chains of that weight and size, as require no less strength 
to carry than they do wealth to purchase. 

And now for some reflections upon popes, cardinals, 
and bishops, who in pomp and splendor have almost 
equaled if not outdone secular princes. 

Now, if any one considers that their upper crochet of 
white linen is to signify their unspotted purity and in- 
nocence ; that their forked mitres, with both divisions 
tied together by the same knot, are to denote the joint 
knowledge of the Old and New Testament ; that their 
always wearing gloves, represents their keeping their 
hands clean and undefiled from lucre and covetousness ; 
that the pastoral staff implies the care of a flock com- 
mitted to their charge ; that the cross carried before 
them expresses their victory over all carnal affec- 
tions ; he (I say) that considers this, and much more of 
the like nature, must needs conclude that they are en- 
trusted with a very weighty and difficult office. But, 



254 THE PRAISE OF FOI^Y. 

alas, they think it sufficient if they can but feed them- 
selves; and as to their flock, either commend them to the 
care of Christ himself, or commit them to the guidance 
of some inferior vicars and curates ; not so much as 
remembering what their name of bishop imports, to wit, 
xabor, pains, and diligence, but by base simoniacal con- 
tracts, they are in a profane sense, Episcopi, i.e., over- 
seers of their own gain and income. 

So cardinals, in like manner, if they did but consider 
that the church supposes them to succeed in the room of 
the apostles ; that therefore they must behave themselves 
as their predecessors, and so not be lords, but dispensers 
of spiritual gifts, of the disposal whereof they must one 
day render a strict account. Or if they would but reflect 
a little on their habit, and thus reason with themselves, 
What means this white upper garment but only an 
unspotted innocence ? What signifies my inner purple 
but only an ardent love and zeal to God ? What imports 
my outermost pall, so wide and long that it covers the 
whole mule when I ride, nay, should be big enough to 
cover a camel, but only a diffusive charity, that should 
spread itself for a succor and protection to all, by teach- 
ing, exhorting, comforting, reproving, admonishing, 
composing of differences, courageously withstanding 
wicked princes, and sacrificing for the safety of our flock 
our life and blood, as well as our wealth and riches ; 
though indeed riches ought not to be at all possessed by 
such as boast themselves successors to the apostles, who 
were poor, needy, and destitute. I say, if they did but 
lay these considerations to heart they would never be so 
ambitious of being promoted to this honor, they would 




^~v? 
The Bishop. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 257 

willingly resign it when conferred upon them, or at least 
would be as industrious, watchful and laborious as the 
primitive apostles were. 

Now as to the popes of Rome, who pretend themselves 
Christ's vicars, if they would but imitate his exemplary 
life, in the being employed in an unintermitted course 
of preaching ; in the being attended with poverty, naked- 
ness, hunger, and a contempt of this world ; if they did 
but consider the import of the word Pope, which signifies 
a father ; or if they did but practice their surname of 
most holy, what order or degrees of men would be in a 
worse condition ? 

There would be then no such vigorous making of par- 
ties and buying of votes in the Conclave, upon a vacancy 
of that See : and those who by bribery, or other indirect 
courses, should get themselves elected, would never se- 
cure their sitting firm in the chair by pistol, poison, 
force, and violence. 

How much of their pleasure would be abated if they 
were but endowed with one dram of wisdom ? Wisdom, 
did I say ? Nay, with one grain of that salt which our 
Savior bade them not to lose the savor of. 

All their riches, all their honors, their jurisdictions, 
their Peter's patrimony, their offices, their dispensations, 
their licenses, their indulgences, their long train of 
attendants (see in how short a compass I have abbrevia- 
ted all their marketing of religion); in a word, all their 
perquisites would be forfeited and lost ; and in their 
room would succeed watchings, fastings, tears, prayers, 
sermons, hard studies, repenting sighs, and a thousand 
such like severe penalties : nay, what's yet more deplor- 



258 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

able, it would then follow, that all their clerks, amanu- 
enses, notaries, advocates, proctors, secretaries, the offices 
of grooms, ostlers, serving-men, pimps, (and somewhat 
else, which for modesty's sake I shall not mention) ; in 
short, all these troops of attendants, which depend on 
his holiness, would all lose their several employments. 
This indeed would be hard, but what yet remains would 
be more dreadful : the very Head of the Church, the 
spiritual prince, would then be brought from all his 
splendor to the poor equipage of a scrip and staff. 

But all this is upon the supposition only that they 
understood the circumstances they are placed in ; whereas 
now, by a wholesome neglect of thinking, they live as 
well as heart can wish. 

Whatever of toil and drudgery belongs to their office, 
that they assign over to St. Peter or St. Paul, who have 
time enough to mind it ; but if there be any thing of 
pleasure and grandeur, that they assume to themselves, 
as being u hereunto called : " so that by my influence no 
sort of people live more to their own ease and content. 

They think to satisfy that Master they pretend to serve, 
our L/ord and Savior, with their great state and mag- 
nificence, with the ceremonies of installments, with the 
titles of reverence and holiness, and with exercising 
their episcopal function only in blessing and cursing. 

The working of miracles is old and out-dated ; to teach 
the people is too laborious ; to interpret scripture is to 
invade the prerogative of the schoolmen ; to pray is too 
idle ; to shed tears is cowardly and unmanly ; to fast is 
too mean and sordid ; to be easy and familiar is beneath 
the grandeur of him, who, without being sued to and 




TTie Cardinal. 




Fingering Money through a Thick Pair of Gloves. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 263 

intreated, will scarce give princes the honor of kissing 
his toe ; finally, to die for religion is too self-denying; 
and to be crucified as their Lord of Life, is base and 
ignominious. 

Their only weapons ought to be those of the Spirit ; 
and of these indeed they are mighty liberal, as of their 
interdicts, their suspensions, their denunciations, their 
aggravations, their greater and lesser excommunications, 
and their roaring bulls, that fright whomsoever they are 
thundered against ; and these most holy fathers never 
issue them out more frequently than against those, who, 
at the instigation of the devil, and not having the fear 
of God before their eyes, do feloniously and maliciously 
attempt to lessen and impair St. Peter's patrimony : and 
though that apostle tells our Savior in the gospel, in the 
name of all the other disciples, we have left all and fol- 
lowed you, yet they challenge as his inheritance, fields, 
towns, treasures, and large dominions ; for the defending 
whereof, inflamed with a holy zeal, they fight with fire 
and sword, to the great loss and effusion of Christian 
blood, thinking they are apostolical maintainers of 
Christ's spouse, the church, when they have murdered 
all such as they call her enemies ; though indeed the 
church has no enemies more bloody and tyrannical than 
such impious popes, who give dispensations for the not 
preaching of Christ ; evacuate the main effect and design 
of our redemption by their pecuniary bribes and sales ; 
adulterate the gospel by their forced interpretations, and 
undermining traditions ; and lastly, by their lusts and 
wickedness grieve the Holy Spirit, and make their 
Savior's wounds to bleed anew. 



264 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

Farther, when the Christian church has been all along 
first planted, then confirmed, and since established by the 
blood of her martyrs, as if Christ, her head, would be 
wanting in the same methods still of protecting her, 
they invert the order, and propagate their religion now 
by arms and violence, which was wont formerly to be 
done only with patience and suffering. 

And though war be so brutish, as that it becomes 
beasts rather than men ; so extravagant, that the poets 
feigned it an effect of the furies ; so licentious, that it 
stops the course of all justice and honesty, so desperate, 
that it is best waged by ruffians and banditti, and so 
unchristian, that it is contrary to the express commands 
of the gospel ; yet magure all this, peace is too quiet, 
too inactive, and they must be engaged in the boister- 
ousness of war. 

Among which latter undertaking you shall have some 
popes so old that they can scarce creep, and yet they will 
put on a young, brisk resolution, will resolve to stick 
at no pains, to spare no cost, nor to waive any inconven- 
ience, so they may involve laws, religion, peace, and all 
other concerns, whether sacred or civil, in unappeasable 
tumults and distractions. 

And yet some of their learned fawning courtiers will 
interpret this notorious madness for zeal, and piety, and 
fortitude, having found out the way how a man may 
draw his sword, and sheathe it in his brother's bowels, 
and yet not offend against the commandment whereby 
we are taught to love our neighbors as ourselves. 

It is yet uncertain whether these Romish fathers have 
taken example from, or given precedent to, such other 




The Threatening* of the Church. 




Religion turned over to the Care of the Laity. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 369 

German bishops who, omitting their ecclesiastical habit, 
and other ceremonies, appear openly armed cap-a-pie, 
like so many champions and warriors, thinking no 
doubt that they come short of the duty of their function, 
if they die in any other place than the open field, 
fighting the battles of the L,ord. 

The inferior clergy, deeming it unmannerly not to 
conform to their patrons and diocesans, devoutly tug and 
fight for their tithes with syllogisms, and arguments, as 
fiercely as with swords, sticks, stones, or anything that 
came next to hand. When they read the rabbies, fa- 
thers, or other ancient writings, how quick-sighted are 
they in spying out any sentences that they may frighten 
the people with, and make them believe that more than 
the tenth is due, passing by whatever they meet with 
in the same authors that reminds them of the duty and 
difficulty of their own office. 

They never consider that their shaven crown is a 
token that they should pare off and cut away all the 
superfluous lusts of this world, and give themselves 
wholly to divine meditation; but instead of this, our 
bald-pated priests think they have done enough, if they 
do but mumble over such a fardel of prayers ; which it 
is a wonder if God should hear or understand, when 
they whisper them so softly, and in so unknown a 
language, which they can scarce hear or understand 
themselves. This they have in common with other 
mechanics, that they are most subtle in the craft of 
getting money, and wonderfully skilled in their respec- 
tive dues of tithes, offerings, perquisites, &c. 

Thus they are all content to reap the profit, but as to 



270 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

the burden, that they toss as a ball from one hand to 
another, and assign it over to any they can get or hire. 
For as secular princes have their judges and subordinate 
ministers to act in their name, and supply their stead ; 
so ecclesiastical governors have their deputies, vicars, 
and curates, nay, many times turn over the whole care 
of religion to the laity. The laity, supposing they have 
nothing to do with the church (as if their baptismal vow 
did not initiate them members of it), make it over to the 
priests ; of the priests again, those that are secular, 
thinking their title implies them to be a little too pro- 
fane, assign this task over to the regulars, the regulars 
to the monks, the monks bandy it from one order to 
another, till it light upon the mendicants ; they lay it 
upon the carthusians, which order alone keeps honesty 
and piety among them, but really keep them so close 
that nobody could ever yet see them. 

Thus the Popes, thrusting out their sickle into the 
harvest of profit, leave all the other toil of spiritual hus- 
bandry to the bishops, the bishops bestow it upon the 
pastors, the pastors on their curates, and the curates 
commit it to the mendicants, who return it again to such 
as well know how to make good advantage of the flock, 
by securing the benefit of their fleece. 

But I would not be thought purposely to expose the 
weaknesses of popes and priests, lest I should seem to 
recede from my title, and make a satire instead of a pan- 
egyric. Nor let any one imagine that I reflect on good 
princes, by commending of bad ones. I did this only 
in brief, to show that there is no one particular person 
can lead a comfortable life, except he be entered of my 




All Concerns Arranged with Money. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 273 

society, and retain me for his friend. Nor indeed can 
it be otherwise, since fortune, that empress of the world, 
is so much in league and amity with me, that to wise 
men, she is always stingy, and sparing of her gifts, but 
is profusely liberal and lavish to fools. 

Thus Timotheus, the Athenian commander, in all his 
expeditions, was a mirror of good luck, because he was 
a little underwitted ; from him was occasioned the 
Grecian proverb, 'H evdovros nvpros fapei, The net fills, 
though the fisherman sleeps ; there is still another favor- 
able proverb yhabz inrarai, The owl flies, an omen of 
success. But against wise men are pointed these ill- 
aboding proverbs, 'Ev rerpaSt yevvrjQevTas, Born under a 
bad planet; equum habet seianum, He cannot ride the 
fore-horse: aurum tholosanum, Ill-gotten goods will 
never prosper : and more to the same purpose. But I 
forbear from any farther proverbializing, lest I should 
be thought to have rifled my Erasmus's adages. 

To return, therefore, fortune we find still favoring the 
blunt, and flushing the forward ; strokes and smoothes 
up fools, crowning all their undertakings with success ; 
but wisdom makes her followers bashful, sneaking, and 
timorous, and therefore you see that they are commonly 
reduced to hard shifts, must grapple with poverty, cold 
and hunger, must lie recluse, despised, and unregarded, 
while fools roll in money, are advanced to dignities and 
offices, and in a word have the whole world at com- 
mand. 

If any one think it happy to be a favorite at court, 
and to manage the disposal of places and preferments, 
alas, this happiness is so far from being attainable by 



274 T H E PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

wisdom, that the very suspicion of it would put a stop 
to all advancement. 

Has any man a mind to raise himself a good estate ? 
Alas, what dealer in the world would ever get a farthing 
if he be so wise as to scruple at perjury, blush at a lie, 
or stick at any fraud and over-reaching. 

Farther, does any one appear a candidate for any ec- 
clesiastical dignity ? Why, an ass, or a plough-jobber, 
shall sooner gain it than a wise man. Again, are you 
in love with any handsome lady? Alas, woman-kind 
are so addicted to folly, that they will not at all listen 
to the courtship of a wise suitor. Finally, wherever 
there is any preparation made for mirth and jollity, all 
wise men are sure to be excluded from the company, lest 
they should stint the joy, and damp the frolic. 

In a word, to what side soever we turn ourselves, to 
popes, princes, judges, magistrates, friends, enemies, 
rich or poor, all their concerns are managed by money, 
which because it is undervalued by wise men, therefore, 
in revenge to be sure, it never comes to them. 

But now, though my praise and commendation might 
well be endless, yet it is requisite I should put some pe- 
riod to my speech. I'll therefore draw toward an end, 
when I have first confirmed what I have said by the 
authority of several authors. Which by way of farther 
proof I shall insist upon, partly, that I may not be 
thought to have said more in my own behalf than what 
will be justified by others ; and partly, that the lawyers 
may not check me for citing no precedents nor allega- 
tions. 

To imitate them therefore I will produce some re- 




The Courtier. 




The Brutish Man. 



THE PRAISE OF POLLY. 279 

ports and authorities, though perhaps like theirs too, 
they are nothing to the purpose. 

First, then, it is confessed almost to a proverb, that 
the art of dissembling is a very necessary accomplish- 
ment ; and therefore it is a common verse among 
school-boys : 

To feign the fool when fit occasions rise, 
Argues the being more completely wise. 

It is easy therefore to realize how great a value ought to 
be put upon real folly, when the very shadow, and bare 
imitation of it, is so much esteemed. Horace, who in 
his epistles thus styles himself : 

My sleek- skinn 'd corpse as smooth as if I lie 
'Mong ttt fatted swine of Epicurus 's sty. 

This poet (I say) gives this advice in one of his odes : 

Short Folly with your counsels mix. 

The epithet of short, it is true, is a little improper. 
The same poet again has this passage elsewhere : 

Well-timed Folly has a sweet relish. 
And in another place : 

I'd rather much be censured for a fool, 
Than feel the lash and smart of wisdom's school. 

Homer praises Telemachus as much as any one of his 
heroes, and yet he gives him the epithet of N^tos, Silly: 
and the Grecians generally use the same word to express 
children, as a token of their innocence. And what is 
the argument of all Homer's Iliads, but only as Horace 
observes : 

They kings and subjects dotages contain ? 



280 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

How positive also is Tully's commendation that all 
places are filled with fools? Now every excellence 
being measured by its extent, the goodness of folly must 
be of as large compass as those universal places she 
reaches to. But perhaps Christians may slight the au- 
thority of a heathen. I could therefore, if I pleased, back 
and confirm the truth hereof by the citations of several 
texts of scripture ; though herein it were perhaps my 
duty to beg leave of the divines, that I might so far in- 
trench upon their prerogative. 

Supposing a grant, the task being so difficult as to 
require the invocation of some aid and assistance ; yet 
because it is unreasonable to put the muses to the ex- 
pense and trouble of so tedious a journey, especially 
since the business is out of their sphere, I shall choose 
rather (while I am acting the divine, and venturing in 
their polemic difficulties), to wish myself for such time 
animated with Scotus, his bristling and prickly soul, 
which I would not care how afterwards it returned to his 
body, though for refinement it were stopped at a purga- 
tory by the way. 

I cannot but wish that I might wholly change my 
character, or at least that some grave divine, in my stead, 
might rehearse this part of the subject for me ; for truly 
I suspect that somebody will accuse me of plundering 
the closets of those reverend men, while I pretend to so 
much divinity as must appear in my following discourse. 
Yet, however, it may not seem strange, that after so 
long and frequent a converse, I have gleaned some 
scraps from the divines ; since Horace's wooden god by 
hearing his master read Homer, learned some words 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 28l 

of Greek ; and Lucian's cock, by long attention, could 
readily understand what any man spoke. 

But now to the purpose, wishing myself success. 

Ecclesiastes doth somewhere confess that there are an 
infinite number of fools. Now when he speaks of an 
infinite number, what does he else but imply that herein 
is included the whole race of mankind, except some very 
few, which I know not whether any one ever yet had 
the happiness to see ? 

The prophet Jeremiah speaks yet more plainly in his 
tenth chapter, where he saith, that Every man is brutish 
in his knowledge. He just before attributes wisdom to 
God alone, saying, that the Wise men of the nations are 
altogether brutish and foolish. And in the preceding 
chapter he gives this seasonable caution, Let not the 
wise man glory in his wisdom : the reason is obvious, 
because no man hath truly any whereof to glory. 

But to return to Ecclesiastes, when he saith, Vanity 
of vanities, all is vanity, what else can we imagine his 
meaning to be, than that our whole life is nothing but 
one continued interlude of Folly ? 

This confirms that assertion of Tully, which is deliv- 
ered in that noted passage we but just now mentioned, 
namely, that All places swarm with fools. 

Farther, what does the son of Sirach mean when he 
saith in Ecclesiasticus, that the Fool is changed as the 
moon, while the Wise man is fixed as the sun, than only 
to hint out the folly of all mankind ; and that the name 
of wise is due to no other but the all-wise God ? for all 
interpreters by Moon understand mankind, and by Sun 
that fountain of all light, the Almighty. The same 



282 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

sense is implied in that saying of our Savior in the gos- 
pel, There is none good but one, that is God: for if 
whoever is not wise must be consequently a fool, and if, 
according to the Stoics, every man be wise so far only 
as he is good, the meaning of the text must be, all mor- 
tals are unavoidably fools ; and there is none wise but 
one, that is God. 

Solomon also in the fifteenth chapter of his proverbs 
hath this expression, Folly is joy to him that is destitute 
of wisdom ; plainly intimating, that the wise man is 
attended with grief and vexation, while the foolish only 
roll in delight and pleasure. To the same purpose is 
that saying of his in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes, In 
much wisdom is much grief ; and he that increaseth 
knowledge increaseth sorrow. Again, it is confessed by 
the same preacher in the seventh chapter of the same 
book, That the heart of the wise is in the house of mourn- 
ing, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. This 
author himself had never attained to such a portion of 
wisdom, it he had not applied himself to a searching out 
the frailties and infirmities of human nature ; as, if you 
believe not me, may appear from his own words in his 
first chapter, I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to 
know madness and folly ; where it is worthy to be ob- 
served that as to the order of words, Folly, for its advan- 
tage is put in the last place. 

Thus Ecclesiastes wrote, and thus indeed did an 
ecclesiastical method require ; namely, that what has 
the precedence in dignity should come hindmost in rank 
and order, according to the tenor of that evangelical 
precept, The last shall be first and the first shall be last. 




All is Vanity. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 285 

And in Ecclesiasticus likewise (whoever was the au- 
thor of the holy book which bears that name) in the 
forty-fourth chapter, the excellency of folly above wis- 
dom is positively acknowledged ; the very words I shall 
not cite, till I have the advantage of an answer to a 
question I am proposing, this way of interrogating being 
frequently made use of by Plato in his dialogues between 
Socrates and other disputants. 

I ask you then, what is it we usually hoard and lock 
up, things of greater esteem and value, or those which 
are more common, trite, and despicable ? 

Why are you so backward in making an answer ? 

Since you are so shy and reserved, I'll take the Greek 
proverb for a coherent reply; namely, r?/r tni QvpoaSvSpiav, 
Foul water is thrown down the sink : which saying, that 
no person may slight it, may be convenient to advertise 
that it comes from no meaner an author than that oracle 
of truth, Aristotle himself. 

And indeed there is no one on this side Bedlam so 
mad as to throw out upon the dunghill his gold and 
jewels, but rather all persons have a close repository to 
preserve them in, and secure them under all the locks, 
bolts, and bars, that either art can contrive, or fears 
suggest ; whereas the dirt, pebbles, and oyster-shells, 
that lie scattered in the streets, ye trample upon, pass by, 
and take no notice of. 

If then what is more valuable be coffered up, and 
what less so lies unregarded, it follows, that accordingly 
Folly should meet with a greater esteem than wisdom, 
because that wise author advises us to the keeping close 
and concealing the first, and exposing or laying open the 



286 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

other : as take him now in his own words, Better is he 
that hideth his folly than him that hidelh his wisdom. 
Beside, the sacred text doth oft ascribe innocence and 
sincerity to fools, while the wise man is apt to be a 
haughty scorner of all such as he thinks or believes to 
have less wit than himself: for so I understand that 
passage in the tenth chapter of Ecclesiastes, When he 
that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, 
and he saith to every one that he is a fool. Now what 
greater argument of candor or ingenuity can there be, 
than to demean himself equal with all others, and not 
think their deserts any way inferior to his own ? 

Folly is no such scandalous attribute, but that the 
wise Agur was not ashamed to confess it, in the thirtieth 
chapter of Proverbs : Surely I am more brutish than 
any man, and have not the understanding of a man. 

Nay, St. Paul himself, that great doctor of the Gen- 
tiles, writing to his Corinthians, readily owns the name, 
saying, If any man speak as a fool, I am more ; as if to 
have been less so had been a reproach and disgrace. 

But perhaps I may be censured for misinterpreting 
this text by some modern annotators, who like crows 
pecking at one another's eyes, find fault, and correct all 
that went before them, each pretending that their own 
glosses contain the only true and genuine explication : 
among whom my Erasmus (whom I cannot but mention 
with respect) may challenge the second place, if not the 
precedency. This citation (say they) is purely imperti- 
nent ; the meaning of the apostle is far different from 
what you dream of. He would not have these words so 
understood, as if he desired to be thought a greater fool 




The Devotion to Folly. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 291 

than the rest, but only when he had before said, Are 
they ministers of Christ? so am I : as if the comparing 
himself herein to others had been too little, he adds, / 
am more, thinking a bare equality not enough, unless 
he were even superior to those he compares himself with. 
This he would have to be believed as true ; yet lest it 
might be thought offensive, as bordering too much on 
arrogance and conceit, he tempers and alleviates it by 
the covert of Folly. I speak (says he) as a fool, knowing 
it to be the peculiar privilege of fools to speak the truth, 
without giving offence. But what St. Paul's thoughts 
were when he wrote this, I leave for them to determine. 
In my own judgment at least I prefer the opinion of the 
good old tun-bellied divines, with whom it's safer and 
more creditable to err, than to be in the right with 
smattering, raw, novices. 

Nor indeed should any one mina the late critics any 
more than the senseless chattering of a daw : especially 
since one of the most eminent of them (whose name I 
advisedly conceal, lest some of our wits should be taunt- 
ing him with the Greek proverb, *Oo? npte Mpav, ad 
lyram asinus) magisterially and dogmatically descanting 
upon his text [are they the ministers of Christ? (I speak 
as a foot) I am more} makes a distinct chapter, and 
(which without good store of logic he could never have 
done) adds a new section, and then gives this paraphrase, 
which I shall verbatim recite, that you may have his 
words materially, as well as formerly his sense (for that's 
one of their babbling distinctions). [/ speak as a fool} 
that is, if the equaling myself to those false apostles 
would have been construed as the vaunt of a fool, I will 



2Q2 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

willingly be accounted a greater fool, by taking the 
place of them, and openly pleading, that as to their 
ministry, I not only come up even with them, but out- 
strip and go beyond them : though this same commenta- 
tor a little after, as it were forgetting what he had just 
before delivered, tacks about and shifts to another in- 
terpretation. 

But why do I insist upon any one particular example, 
when in general it is the public charter of all divines, to 
mould and bend the sacred oracles till they comply with 
their own fancy, spreading them (as Heaven by its Cre- 
ator) like a curtain, closing together, or drawing them 
back as they please ? 

Thus indeed St. Paul himself minces and mangles 
some citations he makes use of, and seems to wrest them 
to a different sense from that for which they were first 
intended, as is confessed by the great linguist, St. 
Hierom. 

Thus, when that apostle saw at Athens the inscription 
of an altar, he draws from it an argument for the proof 
of the Christian religion ; but leaving out a great part 
of the sentence, which perhaps if fully recited might 
have prejudiced his cause, he mentions only the two last 
words, viz., To the unknown God ; and this too not 
without alteration, for the whole inscription runs thus : 
To the Gods 0/"Asia, Europe, and Africa, to all foreign 
and unknown Gods. 

'Tis an imitation of the same pattern, I will warrant 
you, that our young divines, by leaving out four or five 
words in a place, and putting a false construction on the 
rest, can make any passage serviceable to their own pur- 




The Pope. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 295 

pose ; though from the coherence of what went before, 
or follows after, the genuine meaning appears to be 
either [wide enough, or perhaps quite contradictory to 
what they would thrust and impose upon .it. In which 
knack the divines have grown now so expert, that the 
lawyers themselves begin to be jealous of an encroach- 
ment upon what was formerly their sole privilege and 
practice. And indeed what can they despair of proving, 
since the fore-mentioned commentator, (I had almost 
blundered out his name, but that I am restrained by 
fear of the same Greek proverbial sarcasm), did upon 
a text of St. lyuke put an interpretation no more agreea- 
ble to the meaning of the piece than one contrary quality 
is to another. 

The passage is this : when Judas' s treachery was pre- 
paring to be executed, and accordingly it seemed requi- 
site that all the disciples should be provided to guard 
and secure their assaulted master, our Savior, that he 
might piously caution them against reliance for his de- 
livery on any worldly strength, asks them, whether in 
all their embassy they lacked anything, when he had 
sent them out so unfurnished for the performance of a 
long journey, that they had not so much as shoes to de- 
fend their feet from the injuries of flints and thorns, or 
a scrip to carry a meal's meat in ; and when they had 
answered that they lacked nothing, he adds, But now 
he that hath a purse let him take it, and likewise a scrip : 
and he that hath no sword let him sell his garment, and 
buy one. 

Now when the whole doctrine of our Savior inculcates 
nothing more frequently than meekness, patience, and a 



296 THE PRAISE OP FOLLY. 

contempt of this world, is it not plain what the meaning 
of the advice is ? Namely, that he might now dismiss 
his ambassadors in a more naked, defenceless condition. 
He does not only advise them to take no thought for 
shoes or scrip, but even commands them to part with the 
very clothes from their back, that so they might have 
the less incumbrance and entanglement in the going 
through their office and function. 

He cautions them, it is true, to be furnished with a 
sword, yet not such a carnal one as rogues and highway- 
men make use of for murder and bloodshed, but with 
the sword of the Spirit, which pierces through the heart, 
and searches out the innermost retirements of the soul, 
lopping off all our lust, and corrupt affections, and 
leaving nothing in possession of our breast but piety, 
zeal, and devotion. 

This, I say, in my opinion is the most natural inter- 
pretation. But see how that divine misunderstands the 
subject. 

By sword, says he, is meant defence against persecu- 
tion ; by scrip or purse, a sufficient quantity of provision ; 
as if Christ had, by considering better of it, changed his 
mind in reference to that mean equipage, which he had 
before sent his disciples in, and therefore came now to a 
recantation of what he had formerly instituted : or as if 
he had forgotten what in time past he had told them, 
Blessed are you when men shall revile you, and persecute 
you, and say all manner of evil against you for my sake. 
Render not evil for evil, for blessed are the meek, not 
the cruel : as if he had forgotten that he encouraged 
them by the examples of sparrows and lilies to take no 




Self Admiration. 




The Provident Preacher. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 301 

thought for the morrow; he gives them now another 
lesson, and charges them, rather than go without a sword, 
to sell their garment, and buy one ; as if the going cold 
and naked were more excusable than the marching un- 
armed. And, as this author thinks all means which are 
requisite for the prevention or retaliation of injuries to 
be implied under the name of sword, so under that of 
scrip, he would have everything to be comprehended, 
which either the necessity or conveniency of life re- 
quires. 

Thus does this provident commentator furnish out the 
disciples with halberts, spears, and guns, for the enter- 
prise of preaching Christ crucified ; he supplies them at 
the same time with pockets, bags, and portmanteaus, 
that they might carry their cupboards as well as their 
bellies always about them : he takes no notice how our 
Savior afterwards rebukes Peter for drawing that sword 
which he had just before so strictly charged him to buy; 
nor that it is ever recorded that the primitive Christians 
did by no ways withstand their heathen persecutors 
otherwise than with tears and prayers, which they would 
have exchanged more effectually for swords and bucklers, 
if they had thought this text would have borne them out. 

There is another, and he of no mean credit, whom for 
respect to his person I shall forbear to name, who com- 
menting upon that verse in the prophet Habakkuk (/ 
saw the tents of Cushan in affliction, and the curtains of 
the landofMidian did tremble), because tents were some- 
times made of skins, he pretended that the word tents 
did here signify the skin of St. Bartholomew, who was 
flayed for a martyr. 



302 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

I myself was lately at a divinity disputation (where I 
very often pay my attendance), where one of the oppo- 
nents demanded a reason why it should be thought 
more proper to silence all heretics by sword and fagot, 
rather than convert them by moderate and sober 
arguments. 

A certain cynical old blade, who bore the character ol 
a divine, legible in the frowns and wrinkles of his face, 
not without a great deal of disdain answered, that it was 
the express injunction of St. Paul himself, in those di- 
rections to Titus (A man that is an heretic, after the 
first and second admonition, reject\ quoting it in Latin, 
where the word reject is devita, while all the auditory 
wondered at this citation, and deemed it no way appli- 
cable to his purpose ; he at last explained himself, saying, 
that devita signified de vita tollendum hereticum, a he- 
retic must be slain. Some smiled at his ignorance, but 
others approved of it as an orthodox comment. And 
however some disliked that such violence should be done 
to so easy a text, our hair-splitting and irrefragable doc- 
tor went on in triumph. 

To prove it yet (says he) more undeniably, it is com- 
manded in the old law [ Thou shall not suffer a witch to 
live .] now, then, every Maleficus, or witch, is to be 
killed, but an heretic is Maleficus, which in the Latin 
translation is put for a witch, ergo, &c. 

All that were present wondered at the ingenuity of the 
person, and very devoutly embraced his opinion, never 
dreaming that the law was restrained only to magicians, 
sorcerers, and enchanters : for otherwise, if the word 
Maleficus signified what it most naturally implies, every 




Slow of Heart. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 305 

evil-doer, then drunkenness and whoredom were to meet 
with the same capital punishment as witchcraft, magic, 
and sorcery. 

But why should I squander away my time in a too 
tedious prosecution of this topic, which if drove on to 
the utmost would afford talk to eternity ? I aim herein 
at no more than this, namely, that since those grave 
doctors take such a swinging range and latitude, I, who 
am but a smattering novice in divinity, may have the 
larger allowance for any slips or mistakes. 

Now, therefore, I return to St. Paul, who uses these 
expressions [Ye suffer fools gladly], applying it to him- 
self; and again \_As a fool receive me], and \That which 
I speak, I speak not after the Lord, but as it were fool- 
ishly}; and in another place \We are fools for Chris fs 
sake]. 

See how these commendations of Folly are equal to 
the author of them, both great and sacred. The same 
holy person does yet enjoin and command the being a 
fool, as a virtue of all others most requisite and necessary : 
for, says he, \Jf any man seem to be wise in this world, 
let him become a fool that he may be wise]. Thus St. 
L/uke records, how our Savior, after his resurrection, 
joining himself with two of his disciples traveling to 
Emmaus, at his first salutation he calls them fools, say- 
ing \_Ofools and slow of heart to believe"]. Nor may this 
seem strange in comparison to what is yet farther deliv- 
ered by St. Paul, who adventures to attribute something 
of Folly even to the all- wise God himself {The foolish- 
ness of God (says he) is wiser than men] ; in which text 
St. Origen would not have the word foolishness any way 



306 THE PRAISE OF 

referred to men, or applicable to the same sense, wherein 
is to be understood that other passage of St. Paul \The 
preaching of the cross to them that perish, foolishness']. 

But why do I put myself to the trouble of citing so 
many proofs, since this one may suffice for all, namely, 
that in those mystical psalms, wherein David represents 
the type of Christ, it is there acknowledged by our Sav- 
ior, in way of confession, that even he himself was guilty 
of Folly; Thou (says he) O God knowest my foolishness f 

Nor is it without some reason that fools for their 
plainness and sincerity of heart have always been most 
acceptable to God Almighty. For as the princes of this 
world have shrewdly suspected, and carried ajealous eye 
over such of their subjects as were the most observant 
and deepest politicians (for thus Caesar was afraid of the 
plodding Cassius, and Brutus thought himself secure 
enough from the careless drinking Anthony ; Nero like- 
wise mistrusted Seneca, and Dionysius would have been 
willingly rid of Plato), whereas they can all put greater 
confidence in such as are of less subtlety and contrivance. 

So our Savior in like manner dislikes and condemns 
the wise and crafty, as St. Paul expressly declared in 
these words, God hath chosen the foolish things of the 
world ; and again, it pleased God by foolishness to save 
the world; implying that by wisdom it could never have 
been saved. 

Nay, God himself testifies as much when he speaks by 
the mouth of his prophet, / will destroy the wisdom of 
the wise, and bring to naught the understanding of the 
learned. 

Again, our Savior does solemnly return his Father 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 307 

thanks for that he had hidden the mysteries of salvation 
from the wise, and revealed them unto babes, i. e., to 
fools ; for the original word vrjitiois, being opposed to 
dofox, if one signify wise, the other must foolish. 

To the same purpose did our blessed Lord frequently 
condemn and upbraid the scribes, pharisees, and lawyers, 
while he carries himself kind and obliging to the un- 
learned multitude : for what otherwise can be the mean- 
ing of that tart denunciation, Woe unto you scribes and 
Pharisees, than woe unto you wise men, whereas he 
seems chiefly delighted with children, women, and illit- 
erate fishermen. 

We may farther take notice, that among all the sev- 
eral kinds of brute creatures he shows greatest liking to 
such as are farthest distant from the subtlety of the fox. 
Thus in his progress to Jerusalem he chose to ride sitting 
upon an ass, though, if he pleased, he might have 
mounted the back of a lion with more of state, and as 
little of danger. The Holy Spirit chose rather likewise 
to descend from heaven in the shape of a simple guile- 
less dove, than that of an eagle, kite, or other more 
lofty fowl. 

Thus all along in the holy scriptures there are frequent 
metaphors and similitudes of the most inoffensive creat- 
ures, such as stags, hinds, lambs, and the like. Nay, 
those blessed souls that in the day of judgment are to be 
placed at our Savior's right hand are called sheep, which 
are the most senseless and stupid of all cattle, as is evi- 
denced by Aristotle's Greek proverb, Ttpo/Sdroov r$o$, a 
sheepishness of temper, i. e., a dull, blockish, sleepy, un- 
manly humor. Yet of such a flock Christ is not ashamed 



308 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

to profess himself the shepherd. Nay, he would not 
only have all his proselytes termed sheep, but even he 
himself would be called a lamb ; as when John the Bap- 
tist seeth Jesus coming unto him, he saith, Behold the 
Lamb of God ; which same title is very often given to 
our Savior in the apocalypse. 

All this amounts to no less than that all mortal men 
are fools, even the righteous and godly as well as sin- 
ners; nay, in some sense our blessed Lord himself, who, 
although he was the wisdom of the Father, yet to repair 
the infirmities of fallen man, he became in some measure 
a partaker of human Folly, when he took our nature 
upon him, and was formed in fashion as a man ; or when 
God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we 
might be made the righteousness of God in him. 

Nor would he heal those breaches our sins had made 
by any other method than by the foolishness of 'the cross, 
published by the ignorant and unlearned apostles, to 
whom he frequently recommends the excellence of Folly, 
cautioning them against the infectionness of wisdom, by 
the several examples he proposes them to imitate, such 
as children, lilies, sparrows, mustard, and such like 
beings, which are either wholly inanimate, or at least 
devoid of reason and ingenuity, guided by no other con- 
duct than that of instinct, without care, trouble or con- 
trivance. 

To the same intent the disciples were warned by their 
lord and master, that when they should be brought unto 
the synagogues, and unto magistrates and powers, they 
shall take no thought how, or what thing they should an- 
swer, nor what they should say : they were again strictly 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 309 

forbid to enquire into the times and seasons, or to place 
any confidence in their own abilities, but to depend 
wholly upon divine assistance. 

At the first peopling of paradise the Almighty had 
never laid so strict a charge on our father Adam to re- 
frain from eating of the tree of knowledge except he had 
thereby forewarned him that the taste of knowledge 
would be the bane of all happiness. 

St. Paul says expressly, that knowledge puffeth up, i.e., 
it is fatal and poisonous. In pursuance whereunto St. 
Bernard interprets that the exceeding high mountain, 
whereon the devil had erected his seat, must have been 
the mountain of knowledge. 

And perhaps this may be another argument which 
ought not to be omitted, namely, that Folly is accepta- 
ble, or at least excusable, with the gods, inasmuch, as 
they easily pass by the heedless failures of fools, while 
the miscarriages of such as are known to have more wit 
shall very hardly obtain a pardon ; nay, when a wise 
man comes to sue for an acquitment from any guilt, he 
must shroud himself under the patronage and pretext of 
Folly. 

For thus in the twelfth of Numbers, Aaron entreats 
Moses to stay the leprosy of his sister Miriam, saying, 
alas, my Lord, I beseech thee lay not the sin upon us, 
wherein we have done foolishly. 

Thus, when David spared Saul's life, when he found 
him sleeping in a tent of Hachilah, not willing to stretch 
forth his hand against the Lord's anointed, Saul excuses 
his former severity by confessing, Behold, I have played 
the fool and have erred exceedingly. 



310 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

David also, in much the same form, begs the remission 
of his sin from God Almighty with this prayer, Lord, I 
pray thee take away the iniquity of thy servant, for I 
have done very foolishly ; as if he could not have hoped 
otherwise to have his pardon granted except he petitioned 
for it under the covert and mitigation of Folly. 

The agreeable practice of our Savior is yet more con- 
vincing, who, when he hung upon the cross, prayed for 
his enemies, saying, Father, forgive them, urging no 
other plea in their behalf than that of their ignorance, 
for they know not what they do. To the same effect St. 
Paul in his first epistle to Timothy acknowledges he had 
been a blasphemer and a persecutor, But (saith he) / 
obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 
Now what is the meaning of the phrase [/ did it igno- 
rantly^ but only this ? My fault was occasioned from a 
misinformed Folly, not from a deliberate malice. What 
signifies [ / obtained mercy} but only that I should not 
otherwise have obtained it had not folly and ignorance 
been my vindication ? 

To the same purpose is that other passage in the mys- 
terious Psalmist, which I forgot to mention in its proper 
place, namely, Oh, remember not the sins and offences of 
my youth ! the word which we render offences, is in 
Latin ignorantias, ignorances. Observe, the two things 
he alleges in his excuse are, first, his rawness of age, to 
which Folly and want of experience are constant attend- 
ants : and secondly, his ignorances, expressed in the 
plural number for an enhancement and aggravation of 
his foolishness. 

But that I may .not wear out this subject too far, to 




Wise in the Distribution of Charity. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 313 

draw now towards a conclusion, it is observable that the 
Christian religion seems to have some relation to Folly, 
and no alliance at all with wisdom. Of the truth 
whereof, if you desire farther proof than my bare word, 
you may please, first, to consider, that children, women, 
old men, and fools, led as it were by a secret impulse o. 
nature, are always most constant in repairing to church, 
and most zealous, devout and attentive in the perform- 
ance of the several parts of divine service ; nay, the first 
promulgators of the gospel, and the first converts to 
Christianity, were men of plainness and simplicity, 
wholly unacquainted with secular policy or learning. 

Farther, there are none more silly, or nearer their 
wits' end, than those who are too superstitiously relig- 
ious. They are profusely lavish in their charity; they 
invite fresh affronts by an easy forgiveness of past in- 
juries ; they suffer themselves to be cheated and imposed 
upon by laying claim to the innocence of the dove ; they 
make it the interest of no person to oblige them, because 
they will love, and do good to their enemies, as much as 
to the most endearing friends ; they banish all pleasure, 
feeding upon the penance of watching, weeping, fasting, 
sorrow and reproach ; they value not their lives, but 
with St. Paul, wish to be dissolved, and covet the fiery 
trial of martyrdom : in a word, they seem altogether so 
destitute of common sense, that their soul seems already 
separated from the dead and inactive body. And what 
else can we imagine all this to be than downright 
madness ? 

Is it the less strange therefore that at the feast of 
Pentecost the apostles should be thought drunk with 



314 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

new wine ? or that St. Paul was censured by Festus to 
have been beside himself? 

And, since I have had the confidence to go thus far, I 
shall venture yet a little farther, and be so bold as to 
say this much more : All that final happiness which 
Christians, through so many rubs and briars of difficul- 
ties, contend for, is at last no better than a sort of folly 
and madness. 

This, no question, will be thought extravagantly 
spoken ; but consider awhile, and deliberately examine 
the case. 

First, then, the Christians so far agree with the Plato- 
nists as to believe that the body is no better than a dun- 
geon or prison for the confinement of the soul. That, 
therefore, while the sotfl is shackled to the walls of flesh, 
her soaring wings are impeded, and all her enlivening 
faculties clogged and fettered by the gross particles of 
matter, so that she may neither freely range after, nor, 
when happily overtaken, can quietly contemplate her 
proper object of truth. 

Farther, Plato defines philosophy to be the meditation 
of death, because the one performs the same office with 
the other ; namely, withdraws the mind from all visible 
and corporeal objects ; therefore while the soul doth pa- 
tiently actuate the several organs and members of the 
body, so long is a man accounted of a good and sound 
disposition ; but when the soul, weary of her confine- 
ment, struggles to break jail, and fly beyond her cage of 
flesh and blood, then a man is censured at least for being 
maggoty and crack-brained ; nay, if there be any defect in 
the external organs it is then termed downright madness. 




Industry. 



THE PRAISE OF FOU,Y. 317 

And yet many times persons thus affected shall have 
prophetic ecstasies of foretelling things to come, shall in 
a rapture talk languages they never before learned, and 
seem in all things actuated by something divine and ex- 
traordinary; and all this, no doubt, is only the effect of 
the soul's being more released from its engagement to 
the body, whereby it can with less impediment exert the 
energy of life and motion. 

From hence, no doubt, has sprung an observation of 
like nature, confirmed now into a settled opinion, that 
some long experienced souls in the world, before their 
dislodging, arrive to the height of prophetic spirits. 

If this disorder arises from an intemperance in religion 
and too high a strain of devotion, though it be of a some- 
what differing sort, yet it is so near akin to the former, 
that a great part of mankind apprehend it as a mere 
madness ; especially when persons of that superstitious 
humor are so pragmatical and singular as to separate and 
live apart as it were from all the world beside. So as 
they seem to have experienced what Plato dreams to 
have happened between some, who, enclosed in a dark 
cave, did only ruminate on the ideas and abstract specu- 
lations of entities ; and one other of their company who 
had got abroad into the open light, and at his return 
tells them what a blind mistake they had lain under, 
that he had seen the substance of what their dotage of 
imagination reached only in shadow; that, therefore, he 
could not but pity and regret their deluding dreams, 
while they on the other side no less bewailed his frenzy, 
and turned him out of their society for a lunatic and 
madman. 



318 THE PRAISE OF FOLI<Y. 

Thus the vulgar are wholly taken up with those ob- 
jects that are most familiar to their senses, beyond which 
they are apt to think all is but fairy-land ; while those 
that are devoutly religious scorn to set their thoughts or 
affections on any things below, but mount their soul to 
the pursuit of incorporeal and invisible beings. 

The former, in their marshaling the requisites of hap- 
piness, place riches in the front, the endowments of the 
body in the next rank, and leave the accomplishments 
of the soul to bring up the rear ; nay, some will scarce 
believe there is any such thing at all as the soul, because 
they cannot literally see a reason for their faith ; while 
the others pay their first fruits of service to that most 
simple and incomprehensible Being, God, and employ 
themselves next in providing for the happiness of that 
which comes nearest to their immortal soul, being not 
at all mindful of their corrupt bodily carcases, and 
even slighting money as the dirt and rubbish of the 
world. 

Or if at any time some urging occasions require them 
to become entangled in secular affairs, they do it with 
regret, and a kind of ill-will, observing what St. Paul 
advises his Corinthians, having wives, and yet being as 
though they had none ; buying, and yet remaining as 
though they possessed not. 

There are between these two sorts of persons many 
differences in several other respects. As first, though 
all the senses have the same mutual relation to the body, 
yet some are more gross than others ; as those five cor- 
poreal ones, of touching, hearing, smelling, seeing, 
tasting : whereas some again are more refined, and less 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 319 

adulterated with matter ; such are the memory, the un- 
derstanding, and the will. 

Now, the mind will always be most ready and expe- 
ditious at that to which it is naturally most inclined. 
Hence is it that a pious soul, employing all its power 
and abilities in the pressing after such things as are far- 
thest removed from sense, is perfectly stupid and brutish 
in the management of any worldly affairs; while on the 
other side, the vulgar are so intent upon their business 
and employment, that they have not time to bestow one 
poor thought upon a future eternity. 

From such ardor of divine meditation it was that Saint 
Bernard in his study drank oil instead of wine, and yet 
his thoughts were so taken up that he never observed 
the mistake. 

Farther, among the passions of the soul, some have a 
greater communication with the body than others ; as 
lust, the desire of meat and sleep, anger, pride, and 
envy : with these the pious man is at continual war, and 
irreconcilable enmity, while the vulgar cherish and 
foment them as the best comforts of life. 

There are other affections of a middle nature, common 
and innate to every man ; such as love to one's country, 
duty to parents, love to children, kindness to friends, 
and such like ; to these the vulgar pay some respect, but 
the religious endeavor to supplant and eradicate them 
from their soul, except they can raise and sublimate 
them to the most refined pitch of virtue; so as to love 
or honor their parents, not barely under that character 
(for what did they do more than generate a body ? nay, 
even for that we are primarily beholden to God, the first 



320 THE PRAISE OF FOI^Y. 

parent of all mankind), but as good men only, upon 
whom is imprinted the lively image of that divine 
nature, which they esteem as the chief and only good, 
beyond whom nothing deserves to be beloved nothing 
desired. 

By the same rule they measure all the other offices or 
duties of life ; in each of which, whatever is earthly or 
corporeal, shall be, if not wholly rejected, yet at least 
put behind what faith makes the substance of things not 
seen. Thus in the sacraments, and all other acts of re- 
ligion, they make a difference between the outward 
appearance or body of them, and the more inward soul 
or spirit. As for instance, in fasting, they think it very 
ineffectual to abstain from flesh, or debar themselves of 
a meal's meat (which yet is all the vulgar understand by 
this duty), unless they likewise restrain their passions, 
subdue their anger, and mortify their pride ; that the 
soul being thus disengaged from the entanglement of the 
body, may have a better relish for spiritual objects, and 
take a foretaste of heaven. 

Thus (say they) in the holy Eucharist, though the 
outward form and ceremonies are not wholly to be de- 
spised, yet are these prejudicial, at least unprofitable, if 
as bare signs only they are not accompanied with the 
thing signified, which is the body and blood of Christ, 
whose death, till his second coming, we are hereby to 
represent by the vanquishing and burying of our vile 
affections that they may arise to a newness of life, and 
be united first to each other, then all to Christ. 

These are the actions and meditations of the truly 
pious person ; while the vulgar display all their religion 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 331 

in crowding up close to the altar, in listening to the 
words of the priest, and in being very circumspect in the 
observance of each trifling ceremony. 

Nor is it in such cases only as we have here given for 
instances, but through his whole course of life, that the 
pious man, without any regard to the baser materials of 
the body, interests himself wholly in a fixed intentness 
upon spiritual, invisible, and eternal objects. 

Now since these persons stand off, and keep at so wide 
a distance between themselves, it is customary for them 
both to think each other mad ; and were I to give my 
opinion as to which of the two the name doth most prop- 
erly belong, I should, I confess, adjudge it to the relig- 
ious ; of the reasonableness whereof you may be farther 
convinced, if I proceed to demonstrate what I formerly 
hinted at, namely, that the ultimate happiness which 
religion proposes is no other than some sort of madness. 

First, therefore, Plato dreamed somewhat of this na- 
ture when he tells us that the madness of lovers was of 
all other dispositions of the body most desirable ; for he 
who is once thoroughly smitten with this passion, lives 
no longer within himself, but has removed his soul to 
the same place where he has settled his affections, and 
loses himself to find the object he so much dotes upon. 

This straying now, and wandering of a soul from its 
own mansion, what is it better than a plain transport of 
madness ? What else can be the meaning of those pro- 
verbial phrases, non est apud se, he is not himself; ad 
te redi, recover yourself; and sibi redditus est, he is 
come again to himself? 

And, accordingly, as love is more hot and eager, so is 



322 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

the madness, thence ensuing, more incurable and yet 
more happy. 

Now what shall be that future happiness of glorified 
saints, which pious souls here on earth so earnestly groan 
for, but only that the spirit, as the more potent and 
prevalent victor, shall over-master and swallow up the 
body; and that the more easily, because while here 
below, the several members, by being mortified and kept 
in subjection, were the better prepared for this separa- 
ting change ; and afterward the spirit itself shall be lost 
and drowned in the abyss of beatific vision, so as the 
man's whole nature will then be beyond its own bounds 
and, transported into ecstasy and wonder, will feel some 
unspeakable influence from that omnipotent Being who 
makes all things completely blessed by assimilating 
them to his own likeness. 

Now, although this happiness be then only con- 
summated when souls at the general resurrection shall 
be reunited to their bodies, and both be clothed with im- 
mortality, yet because a religious life is but a continued 
meditation upon, and as it were a transcript of the joys 
of heaven, therefore to such persons is allowed some rel- 
ish and foretaste of that pleasure here, which is to be 
their reward hereafter. 

And although this indeed be but a small pittance of 
satisfaction compared with that future inexhaustible 
fountain of blessedness, yet it doth abundantly over- 
balance all worldly delights, were they all in conjunction 
set off to their best advantage ; so great is the pre- 
cedency of spiritual things before corporeal of invisible 
before material and visible. 



THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 325 

This is what the apostle gives an eloquent description 
of, where he says by way of encouragement, that eye 
hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the 
heart of man to conceive those things which God hath 
prepared for them that love him. This likewise is that 
better part which Mary chose, which shall not be taken 
from her, but perfected and completed by her : mortal 
putting on immortality. 

Now those who are thus devoutly affected (though 
few are so), undergo somewhat of a strange alteration 
very nearly approaching to madness ; they speak many 
things in an abrupt and incoherent manner, as if they 
were actuated by some malevolent demon ; they make 
an articulate noise, without any distinguishable sense 
or meaning ; they sometimes twist and distort their 
faces into uncouth and antic forms ; at one time being 
beyond measure cheerful, then as immoderately sullen ; 
now sobbing, then laughing, and soon after sighing, as 
if they were perfectly distracted, and out of their senses. 
If they have any sober intervals of coming to themselves 
again, like St. Paul, they then confess, that they were 
caught up they know not where, whether in the body, or 
out of the body, they cannot tell ; as if they had been in 
a dead sleep or trance, they remember nothing of what 
they have heard, seen, said or done. This they only 
know, that their past delusion was a most desirable hap- 
piness ; that therefore they bewail nothing more than 
the loss of it, nor wish for any greater joy than the quick 
return of it, and its more durable abode with them for- 
ever. And this (as I have said) is the foretaste or antic- 
ipation of future blessedness. 



326 THE PRAISE OF FOLLY. 

But I dbubt not but that I have forgotten myself, 
and have already transgressed the bounds of modesty. 
However, if I have said anything too confidently or im- 
pertinently, be pleased to consider that it was spoken by 
Folly, and that under the person of a woman ; yet at 
the same time remember the applicableness of that 
Greek proverb : 

A fool oft speaks a seasonable buth. 

Unless you will be so witty as to object that this makes 
no apology for me, because the word d^p signifies a man, 
not a woman, and consequently my sex debars me from 
the benefit of that observation. 

I perceive now, that, for a concluding treat, you ex- 
pect a formal epilogue, and the summing up of all in a 
brief recitation; but I will assure you, you are grossly 
mistaken if you suppose that after such a hodge-podge 
medley of speech I should be able to recollect anything I 
have delivered. Beside, as it is an old proverb, /<? 
juvtitiovav Gvintorav . I hate a pot companion with a good 
memory ; so indeed I may as truly say, mGu juvu^ovay 
axpoarjiv : I hate a hearer that will carry any thing away 
with him. Wherefore, in short : 

Farewell .' live long, drink deep, be jolly > 
Ye most illustrious votaries of folly ! 



LINES ON THE PRECEDING WORK. 

THERE'S ne'er a blade of honor in the town, 
But if you chance to term him fool and clown, 
Straight satisfaction cries, and then with speed 
The time, the place, and rapier's length's decreed. 
Prodigious fops, I'll swear, which can't agree 
To be call'd what 'tis their happiness to be : 

Blest Idiots! 

That in an humble sphere securely move, 
And there the sweets of a safe dullness prove, 
Nor envy the proud heights of those who range above, 
Folly, sure friend of a misguided will, 
Affords a kind excuse for doing ill ; 
And Socrates, that prudent, thinking tool, 
Had the gods lik'd him, would have prov'd a. fool. 
Methinks our author, when without a flaw, 
The graces of his mistress he doth draw, 
Wishes (if Metempsychosis be but true, 
And souls do change their case, and act anew), ' 
In his next life he surely might aspire 
To the dull brains of some soft country squire, 
Whose head with such like rudiments is fraught, 
As in his youth his careful grannam taught. 

And now (dear friend) how shall we to thy brow 
Pay all those laurels which we justly owe? 
For thou fresh honors to the work dost bring, 
And to the theme : nor seems that pleasing thing, 
Which he so well in Latin hath express'd, 
Less comical in English garments dress'd ; 
Thy sentences are all so clearly wrought, 
And so exactly plac'd is every thought, 
That, which is more oblig'd we scarce can see 
The subjedl by thine author, or himself by thee. 
(327) 



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