Other Comments

Erasmus’s letters include many comments that are inconsistent with the hypothesis that he was gay. One of the earliest was in his first letter to Cornelis Gerard, a distinguished poet: “If by any means it were possible, I should myself prefer to have an opportunity of conversing with you face to face and enjoying your company at close quarters, together with your embraces and most chaste kisses.” Now, if you remove the single word for ’most chaste’, you have a solid piece of evidence in favor of the disputed hypothesis. But that single word completely reverses the implication of the sentence. Erasmus unambiguously asserts that his pleasure at being with Cornelis is not erotic.

Another example comes from a letter to Jacob Batt: “I will not allow that you are more ardently affectionate to me than I to you, but I am firmly of the opinion that the warmth of our affection should not become too heated.”

In a letter to Willem Hermans cited earlier, he speaks of himself in the third person: “Nevertheless he lives in perfect blamelessness.”

Writing to John Colet: “We give up sleep, we study, we fast, we say our prayers, we observe celibacy; none of these do we desire for their own sake, yet we still desire to do them.”

The Epigramma Erasmi in Julium II was a savagely satirical piece on Pope Julius II, so fierce in its attack that it was not published for four hundred years. The conclusion of the piece is a suggestion that the Pope was gay, presented with a nastiness that makes Erasmus’ attitudes towards homosexuality quite plain.