Friday, November 16, 2007

Erasmus In Praise of English Women

[Erasmus to Faustus Andrelinus, Laureate Poet]
Epistle 98

eavens, what do I hear? Is our Scopus really turned all at once from poet to soldier, and handling deadly weapons instead of books? How much better was it when he did battle with Delius the Volscian, as he called himself, and what a triumph awaited him, if he had slain that champion!

We too have made progress in England. The Erasmus you once knew is now become almost a sportsman, no bad rider, a courtier of some practice, bows with politeness, smiles with grace, and all this in spite of himself. If you are wise, you too will fly over here. Why should a man with a nose like yours grow to old age with nothing but French filth about him? But you will say, your gout detains you. The devil take your gout, if he will only leave you! Nevertheless, did you but know the blessings of Britain, you would clap wings to your feet, and run hither; and if the gout stopped you, would wish yourself a Daedalus.

To take one attraction out of many; there are nymphs here with divine features, so gentle and kind, that you may well prefer them to your Camenae. Besides, there is a fashion which cannot be commended enough. Wherever you go, you are received on all hands with kisses; when you take leave, you are dismissed with kisses. If you go back, your salutes are returned to you. When a visit is paid, the first act of hospitality is a kiss, and when guests depart, the same entertainment is repeated; where ever a meeting takes place there is kissing in abundance; in fact whatever way you turn, you are never without it. Oh Faustus, if you had once tasted how sweet and fragrant those kisses are, you would indeed wish to be a traveller, not for ten years, like Solon, but for your whole life, in England.

The rest of my story we will laugh over together, for I hope to see you before long. Farewell.

From England, 1499.

-from The Epistles of Erasmus, From the Earliest Letters to His Fifty-First Year, Arranged in Order of Time; translated from the Latin with notes and commentary by Francis Morgan Nichols (London: Longman's Green & Co., 1901) p. 203-204.

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