Erasmus of Rotterdam was the greatest of the Renaissance humanists. Praise of Folly, first published in 1511, is both his best-known work and the best introduction to his thought. Although Erasmus claimed it was written in a week to amuse Sir Thomas More, the dazzling display of playful paradoxes and learned high spirits cannot disguise a far deeper purpose. Folly starts by criticizing everything her creator held dear, and celebrating youth, pleasure, drunkenness and the dizzying sexual desires that created us all. Later sections examine human pretensions, foibles and frailties, mock theologians and monks, and praise the 'folly' of simple Christian piety. Erasmus's wit, wisdom, and mastery of tone made the book an instant but controversial success.
Betty Radice read classics at Oxford, then married and, in the intervals of bringing up a family, tutored in classics, philosophy and English. She became joint editor of the Penguin Classics in 1964. As well as editing the translation of Livys The War with Hannibal she translated Livys Rome and Italy, Plinys Letters, The Letters of Abelard and Heloise and Erasmuss Praise of Folly, and also wrote the introduction to Horaces Complete Odes and Epodes, all for the Penguin Classics. She also edited Edward Gibbons Memoirs of My Life for the Penguin English Library, and edited and annotated her translation of the younger Plinys works for the Loeb Library of Classics and translated from Renaissance Latin, Greek and Italian for the Officina Bodoni of Verona. She collaborated as a translator in the Collected Works of Erasmus, and was the author of the Penguin Reference Book Whos Who in the Ancient World. Betty Radice was an honorary fellow of St Hildas College, Oxford, and a vice-president of the Classical Association. Betty Radice died in 1985.
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