Erasmus’ timeless Praise of Folly has the foolish lady up in the pulpit, mocking all comers with humour and charm, and praising herself to the hilt. Here she gives a brief account of her pedigree, up there with the best of the Greek gods, and even one up on the great Athena, born of Zeus’s brain and whom she describes wryly as ‘cross-grained’.

‘Now Plutus didn’t give birth to me from his brain, as Jupiter did to that severe and cross-grained Pallas; he had me by the Greek nymph Youthfulness, quite the loveliest and liveliest of them all.’

Source: Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536), Praise of Folly, trans. Roger Clarke (Richmond: Oneworld Classics, 2008 (1511)), p. 11


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