Erasmus was a classical scholar who wrote in a pure Latin style. Amongst humanists, he enjoyed the sobriquet "Prince of the Humanists"; he has been called "the crowning glory of the Christian humanists". Using humanist techniques for working on texts, he prepared important new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament. These raised questions that would be influential in the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. He also wrote On Free Will, The Praise of Folly, Handbook of a Christian Knight, On Civility in Children, Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style, Julius Exclusus, and many other works.
Erasmus lived against the backdrop of the growing European religious Reformation; but while he was critical of the abuses within the Church and called for reform, he kept his distance from Luther and Melanchthon and continued to recognise the authority of the pope. Erasmus emphasized a middle way, with a deep respect for traditional faith, piety and grace, and rejected Luther's emphasis on faith alone. Erasmus therefore remained a member of the Catholic Church all his life. Erasmus remained committed to reforming the Church and its clerics' abuses from within. He also held to Catholic doctrines such as that of free will, which some Reformers rejected in favour of the doctrine of predestination. His middle road approach disappointed and even angered scholars in both camps.
Erasmus died suddenly in Basel in 1536 while preparing to return to Brabant, and was buried in the Basel Minster, the former cathedral of the city. A bronze statue of him was erected in his city of birth in 1622, replacing an earlier work in stone. Erasmus was his baptismal name, given after St. Erasmus of Formiae. Desiderius was a self-adopted additional name, which he used from 1496. The Roterodamus in his scholarly name is the Latinized adjectival form for the city of Rotterdam.
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About the Author
Born Percy Stafford in Twickenham, London, he received his early education in Rottingdean. From 1882, he studied Latin and Greek at Clifton College and after 1888 at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. One of his Oxford tutors was the historian and biographer James Anthony Froude In 1892 he received his BA, and his MA in 1896.
From 1897 to 1901 he taught history at Government College in Lahore, British India (modern Pakistan). He returned to Oxford in 1908 as a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford. From 1924 to 1933 he was president of Corpus Christi College.
He was married to Helen Mary Allen (1872-1952), whose surname he added to his own.
Allen is best known as the editor of the complete letters of Erasmus of Rotterdam, a twelve volume work. Among other writings, he also published The Age of Erasmus: Lectures delivered in the University of Oxford and London (1914) and Letters of Richard Fox 1486-1527(1929).