He thought of trying to explain something he had recently noticed about himself: that if anyone insulted him, or one of his friends, he didn't really mind--or not much, anyway. Whereas if anyone insulted a novel, a story, a poem that he loved, something visceral and volcanic occurred within him. He wasn't sure what this might mean--except perhaps that he had got life and art mixed up, back to front, upside down.
It was expected, however, that [Erasmus] should make some reply and give some definition. But instead, by availing himself of a rhetorical transition, he drags us who knew nothing of rhetoric away with him, as if the matter at issue here were of no moment, but simply a lot of quibbling, and dashes bravely out of the crowded court, crowned with ivy and laurel.