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THE PREFACE. - Desiderius Erasmus, The Colloquies vol. 1 
The Colloquies of Erasmus. Translated by Nathan Bailey. Edited with Notes, by the Rev. E. Johnson, M.A. (London: Reeves and Turner, 1878). Vol. 1.
Part of: The Colloquies 2 vols.
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THERE are two Things I would take some Notice of: The first relates to my Author, and the second to myself, or the Reasons why I have attempted this Translation of him. And in speaking of the first, I presume I shall save myself much of what might be said as to the second. Tho’ Erasmus is so well known, especially to those versed in the Latin Tongue, that there seems to be but little Occasion to say any Thing in his Commendation; yet since I have taken upon me to make him an English–man, give me Leave to say, that in my Opinion, he as well deserves this Naturalization, as any modern Foreigner whose Works are in Latin, as well for the Usefulness of the Matter of his Colloquies, as the Pleasantness of Style, and Elegancy of the Latin.
They are under an egregious Mistake, who think there is nothing to be found in them, but Things that savour of Puerility, written indeed ingeniously, and in elegant Latin. For this Book contains, besides those, Things of a far greater Concern; and indeed, there is scarce any Thing wanting in them, fit to be taught to a Christian Youth, design’d for liberal Studies.
The Principles of Faith are not only plainly and clearly laid down, but establish’d upon their own firm and genuine Basis. The Rules of Piety, Justice, Charity, Purity, Meekness, Brotherly Concord, the Subjection due to Superiors, are so treated of, that, in a Word, scarce any Thing is omitted that belongs to a Man, a Subject, or a Christian.
Neither are those Things omitted, which respect a Medium of Life, by which every one may chuse out safely what Ratio of Life he has most Mind to, and by which he may be taught, not only Civility and Courtesy, but also may know how to behave himself in the World, so as to gain himself the good Will of many, and a good Name among all, and may be able to discern the Follies and Childishnesses of Fools, and the Frauds and Villanies of Knaves, so as to guard against ’em all.
And neither are there wanting Sketches, and that ample ones too, of Poetical Story, or Pagan Theology, universal History, sacred and profane, Poetry, Criticism, Logick, Natural and Moral Philosophy, Oeconomics and Politics; to which are added, a good Number of Proverbs and Apothegms used by the most celebrated of the Antients.
But there is one Thing in an especial Manner, that should recommend this Book to all Protestants in general, and cause them to recommend it to be read by their Children, that there is no Book fitter for them to read, which does in so delightful and instructing a Manner utterly overthrow almost all the Popish Opinions and Superstitions, and erect in their Stead, a Superstructure of Opinions that are purely Protestant.
And notwithstanding whatsoever Erasmus hath said in his Apology concerning the Utility of his Colloquies, that he could say with Modesty, according to his wonted Dexterity, to temper, and alleviate the Bitterness of the Wormwood that he gave the Papists to drink in the Colloquies, it is past a Question, that he lays down a great many Things agreeable to the Protestant Hypothesis, so that (if you except Transubstantiation) he reprehends, explodes and derides almost all the Popish Opinions, Superstitions and Customs.
Therefore if this golden Book be read with Attention, I doubt not but it will plainly appear, that the Scripture was in all Things preferr’d by the Author before them all; and that he accounted that alone truly infallible, and of irrefragable Authority, and did not account the Councils, Popes or Bishops so.
And as to the praying to Saints, it was his Opinion, the christian World would be well enough without it, and that he abhor’d that common Custom of asking unworthy Things of them, and flying to them for Refuge more than to the Father and Christ.
That he look’d upon all external Things of very small Account, of whatsoever Species they were: Either the Choice of Meats, Processions, Stations, and innumerable other Ordinances and Ceremonies, and that they were in themselves unprofitable, although he, for the sake of Peace and Order, did conform himself to all harmless Things that publick Authority had appointed. Not judging those Persons, who out of a Scrupulousness of Conscience thought otherwise, but wishing that those in Authority would use their Power with more Mildness.
And that he esteem’d, as Trifles and Frauds, the Community of good Works, of all Men whatsoever, or in any Society whatsoever; that he abhor’d the Sale of Pardons for Sins, and derided the Treasury of Indulgences, from whence it is a plain Inference, that he believ’d nothing of Purgatory.
And that he more than doubted, whether auricular Confession was instituted by Christ or the Apostles; and he plainly condemns Absolution, and laugh’d at the giving it in an unknown Tongue. From whence we may fairly infer, that he was against having the Liturgy (which ought to be read to Edification) in an unknown Tongue. But he either thought it not safe, or not convenient, or at least not absolutely necessary to speak his Mind plainly as to that Matter.
Likewise, he particularly laugh’d at all the Species of popular and monastical Piety; such as Prayers repeated over and over, without the Mind, but recited by a certain Number with their Rosaries, and Ave–Maria’s, by which, God being neglected, they expected to obtain all Things, though none were particularly nam’d: Their tricenary, and anniversary Masses, nay, and all those for the Dead: The dying and being buried in a Franciscan’s and Dominican’s Garment or Cowl, and all the Trumpery belonging to it; and did, in a manner condemn all Sorts of Monastical Life and Order, as practis’d among the Papists.
He shews it likewise to have been his Opinion, as to the Reliques of Christ, and he and she Saints, that he judg’d the Worship of them a vain and foolish Thing, and believ’d no Virtue to be in any of them, nay, that the most, if not all of them, were false and counterfeit.
And to crown the Whole, he did not spare that beloved Principle and Custom of the Papists, so zealously practis’d by them upon Protestants, viz. the Persecution and Burning of Hereticks.
And now, of how much Use and Advantage such Things, and from such a Person as Erasmus, may be, and how much they may conduce to the extirpating those Seeds of Popery, that may have been unhappily sown, or may be subtilly instill’d into the Minds of uncautious Persons, under the specious Shew of Sanctity, will, I presume, easily appear. Tho’ the Things before–mention’d may be Reason sufficient for the turning these Colloquies of Erasmus into English, that so useful a Treatise may not be a Book seal’d, either to Persons not at all, or not enough acquainted with the Latin tongue, as to read them with Edification; yet I did it from another Motive, i. e. the Benefit of such as having been initiated, desire a more familiar Acquaintance with the Latin Tongue (as to the Speaking Part especially, to which Erasmus’s Colloquies are excellently adapted) that by comparing this Version with the Original, they may be thereby assisted, to more perfectly understand, and familiarize themselves with those Beauties of the Latin Language, in which Erasmus in these Colloquies abounds.
And for that End, I have labour’d to give such a Translation of them, as might in the general, be capable of being compar’d with the Original, endeavouring to avoid running into a Paraphrase: But keeping as close to the Original as I could, without Latinizing and deviating from the English Idiom, and so depriving the English Reader of that Pleasure, that Erasmus so plentifully entertains his Reader with in Latin.
It is true, Sir Roger l’ Estrange and Mr. Tho. Brown, have formerly done some select Colloquies, and Mr. H. M. many years since has translated the whole; but the former being rather Paraphrases than Translations, are not so capable of affording the Assistance before–mention’d; and as to the latter, besides that his Version is grown very scarce, the Style is not only antient, but too flat for so pleasant and facetious an Author as Erasmus is.
I do not pretend to have come up in my English, to that Life and Beauty of Erasmus in Latin, which as it is often inimitable in the English Language, so it is also a Task fit to be undertaken by none but an English Erasmus himself, i. e. one that had the same Felicity of Expression that he had; but I hope it will appear that I have kept my Author still in my Eye, tho’ I have follow’d him passibus haud æquis, and could seldom come up to him. I shall not detain you any longer; but subscribe my self, yours to serve you,
Jan. 25th, 1724–5.