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By Christopher Hollis
Erasmus is one of the giants of Christian and humanist letters. Representative of the spirit of the Renaissance, forerunner of the Enlightenment, he is indelibly associated with culture, education, and literature. Christopher Hollis’s Erasmus (originally part of the Science and Cultured Series, edited by Joseph Husslein, S.J.) is a chronicle of a brilliant yet erratic individual, a candid study of a scholar of monumental importance, and—perhaps most importantly—a clear explanation of Erasmus’s religiosity, his relationship to the Catholic Church and attitude toward the Reformation. The key events and works of Erasmus’s life are presented here, including his visits to England and friendship with Thomas More; the Praise of Folly and the Enchiridion militis Christiani; the Greek New Testament and editions of the Church Fathers; and his contentions with Luther.
No man is wise at all times, or is without his blind side. (Erasmus)
When Erasmus first met Thomas More, he reportedly exclaimed: “Either you are More or no one”; to which More replied, “And you are either God or the Devil or my Erasmus.” Hollis, Husslein notes in the Preface, aims “to give that interpretative likeness which the canvas of the artist alone can reveal”—such also, he adds, is its achievement. In light of that achievement, the reader might parse More’s tripartite identification of Erasmus, the man and the legend.
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Christopher Hollis (1902–1977) was an English Catholic author, historian, professor, and politician. Educated at Oxford University and friend to Ronald Knox and Evelyn Waugh, he converted to Catholicism in 1929. After holding professorships at Stonyhurst College and the University of Notre Dame, he served in the Royal Air Force during World War II and then as a Member of Parliament until 1955. His best-known books include A Study of George Orwell and The Jesuits: A History.