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Title: Essays of Michel de Montaigne — Complete
Author: Montaigne, Michel de
Language: English
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Translated by Charles Cotton
Edited by William Carew Hazlitt


     The Life of Montaigne
     The Letters of Montaigne


The present publication is intended to supply a recognised deficiency in
our literature--a library edition of the Essays of Montaigne.  This great
French writer deserves to be regarded as a classic, not only in the land
of his birth, but in all countries and in all literatures.  His Essays,
which are at once the most celebrated and the most permanent of his
productions, form a magazine out of which such minds as those of Bacon
and Shakespeare did not disdain to help themselves; and, indeed, as
Hallam observes, the Frenchman’s literary importance largely results from
the share which his mind had in influencing other minds, coeval and
subsequent.  But, at the same time, estimating the value and rank of the
essayist, we are not to leave out of the account the drawbacks and the
circumstances of the period: the imperfect state of education, the
comparative scarcity of books, and the limited opportunities of
intellectual intercourse.  Montaigne freely borrowed of others, and he
has found men willing to borrow of him as freely.  We need not wonder at
the reputation which he with seeming facility achieved.  He was, without
being aware of it, the leader of a new school in letters and morals.  His
book was different from all others which were at that date in the world.
It diverted the ancient currents of thought into new channels.  It told
its readers, with unexampled frankness, what its writer’s opinion was
about men and things, and threw what must have been a strange kind of new
light on many matters but darkly understood.  Above all, the essayist
uncased himself, and made his intellectual and physical organism public
property.  He took the world into his confidence on all subjects.  His
essays were a sort of literary anatomy, where we get a diagnosis of the
writer’s mind, made by himself at different levels and under a large
variety of operating influences.

Of all egotists, Montaigne, if not the greatest, was the most
fascinating, because, perhaps, he was the least affected and most
truthful.  What he did, and what he had professed to do, was to dissect
his mind, and show us, as best he could, how it was made, and what
relation it bore to external objects.  He investigated his mental
structure as a schoolboy pulls his watch to pieces, to examine the
mechanism of the works; and the result, accompanied by illustrations
abounding with originality and force, he delivered to his fellow-men in a

Eloquence, rhetorical effect, poetry, were alike remote from his design.
He did not write from necessity, scarcely perhaps for fame.  But he
desired to leave France, nay, and the world, something to be remembered
by, something which should tell what kind of a man he was--what he felt,
thought, suffered--and he succeeded immeasurably, I apprehend, beyond his

It was reasonable enough that Montaigne should expect for his work a
certain share of celebrity in Gascony, and even, as time went on,
throughout France; but it is scarcely probable that he foresaw how his
renown was to become world-wide; how he was to occupy an almost unique
position as a man of letters and a moralist; how the Essays would be
read, in all the principal languages of Europe, by millions of
intelligent human beings, who never heard of Perigord or the League, and
who are in doubt, if they are questioned, whether the author lived in the
sixteenth or the eighteenth century.  This is true fame.  A man of genius
belongs to no period and no country.  He speaks the language of nature,
which is always everywhere the same.

The text of these volumes is taken from the first edition of Cotton’s
version, printed in 3 vols.  8vo, 1685-6, and republished in 1693, 1700,
1711, 1738, and 1743, in the same number of volumes and the same size.
In the earliest impression the errors of the press are corrected merely
as far as page 240 of the first volume, and all the editions follow one
another.  That of 1685-6 was the only one which the translator lived to
see.  He died in 1687, leaving behind him an interesting and little-known
collection of poems, which appeared posthumously, 8vo, 1689.

It was considered imperative to correct Cotton’s translation by a careful
collation with the ‘variorum’ edition of the original, Paris, 1854,
4 vols.  8vo or 12mo, and parallel passages from Florin’s earlier
undertaking have occasionally been inserted at the foot of the page.  A
Life of the Author and all his recovered Letters, sixteen in number, have
also been given; but, as regards the correspondence, it can scarcely be
doubted that it is in a purely fragmentary state.  To do more than
furnish a sketch of the leading incidents in Montaigne’s life seemed, in
the presence of Bayle St. John’s charming and able biography, an attempt
as difficult as it was useless.

The besetting sin of both Montaigne’s translators seems to have been a
propensity for reducing his language and phraseology to the language and
phraseology of the age and country to which they belonged, and, moreover,
inserting paragraphs and words, not here and there only, but constantly
and habitually, from an evident desire and view to elucidate or
strengthen their author’s meaning.  The result has generally been
unfortunate; and I have, in the case of all these interpolations on
Cotton’s part, felt bound, where I did not cancel them, to throw them
down into the notes, not thinking it right that Montaigne should be
allowed any longer to stand sponsor for what he never wrote; and
reluctant, on the other hand, to suppress the intruding matter entirely,
where it appeared to possess a value of its own.

Nor is redundancy or paraphrase the only form of transgression in Cotton,
for there are places in his author which he thought proper to omit, and
it is hardly necessary to say that the restoration of all such matter to
the text was considered essential to its integrity and completeness.

My warmest thanks are due to my father, Mr Registrar Hazlitt, the author
of the well-known and excellent edition of Montaigne published in 1842,
for the important assistance which he has rendered to me in verifying and
retranslating the quotations, which were in a most corrupt state, and of
which Cotton’s English versions were singularly loose and inexact, and
for the zeal with which he has co-operated with me in collating the
English text, line for line and word for word, with the best French

By the favour of Mr F. W. Cosens, I have had by me, while at work on this
subject, the copy of Cotgrave’s Dictionary, folio, 1650, which belonged
to Cotton.  It has his autograph and copious MSS.  notes, nor is it too
much to presume that it is the very book employed by him in his
W.  C.  H.
KENSINGTON, November 1877.



I.      That men by various ways arrive at the same end.

II.     Of Sorrow.

III.    That our affections carry themselves beyond us.

IV.     That the soul discharges her passions upon false objects, where
        the true are wanting.

V.      Whether the governor of a place besieged ought himself to go out
        to parley.

VI.     That the hour of parley is dangerous.

VII.    That the intention is judge of our actions

VIII.   Of idleness.

IX.     Of liars.

X.      Of quick or slow speech.

XI.     Of prognostications.

XII.    Of constancy.

XIII.   The ceremony of the interview of princes.

XIV.    That men are justly punished for being obstinate in the defence
        of a fort that is not in reason to be defended.

XV.     Of the punishment of cowardice.

XVI.    A proceeding of some ambassadors.

XVII.   Of fear.

XVIII.  That men are not to judge of our happiness till after death.

XIX.    That to study philosophy is to learn to die.

XX.     Of the force of imagination.

XXI.    That the profit of one man is the damage of another.

XXII.   Of custom, and that we should not easily change a law received.

XXIII.  Various events from the same counsel.

XXIV.   Of pedantry.

XXV.    Of the education of children.

XXVI.   That it is folly to measure truth and error by our own capacity.

XXVII.  Of friendship.

XXVIII. Nine-and-twenty sonnets of Estienne de la Boetie.

XXIX.   Of moderation.

XXX.    Of cannibals.

XXXI.   That a man is soberly to judge of the divine ordinances.

XXXII.  That we are to avoid pleasures, even at the expense of

XXXIII. That fortune is oftentimes observed to act by the rule of reason.

XXXIV.  Of one defect in our government.

XXXV.   Of the custom of wearing clothes.

XXXVI.  Of Cato the Younger.

XXXVII. That we laugh and cry for the same thing.

XXXVIII. Of solitude.

XXXIX.  A consideration upon Cicero.

XL.     That the relish of good and evil depends in a great measure upon
        the opinion we have of them.

XLI.    Not to communicate a man’s honour.

XLII.   Of the inequality amongst us.

XLIII.  Of sumptuary laws.

XLIV.   Of sleep.

XLV.    Of the battle of Dreux.

XLVI.   Of names.

XLVII.  Of the uncertainty of our judgment.

XLVIII. Of war-horses, or destriers.

XLIX.   Of ancient customs.

L.      Of Democritus and Heraclitus.

LI.     Of the vanity of words.

LII.    Of the parsimony of the Ancients.

LIII.   Of a saying of Caesar.

LIV.    Of vain subtleties.

LV.     Of smells.

LVI.    Of prayers.

LVII.   Of age.

                         THE LIFE OF MONTAIGNE

[This is translated freely from that prefixed to the ‘variorum’ Paris
edition, 1854, 4 vols.  8vo.  This biography is the more desirable that
it contains all really interesting and important matter in the journal of
the Tour in Germany and Italy, which, as it was merely written under
Montaigne’s dictation, is in the third person, is scarcely worth
publication, as a whole, in an English dress.]

The author of the Essays was born, as he informs us himself, between
eleven and twelve o’clock in the day, the last of February 1533, at the
chateau of St. Michel de Montaigne.  His father, Pierre Eyquem, esquire,
was successively first Jurat of the town of Bordeaux (1530), Under-Mayor
1536, Jurat for the second time in 1540, Procureur in 1546, and at
length Mayor from 1553 to 1556.  He was a man of austere probity, who had
“a particular regard for honour and for propriety in his person and
attire .  .  .   a mighty good faith in his speech, and a conscience and
a religious feeling inclining to superstition, rather than to the other
extreme.” [Essays, ii. 2.]  Pierre Eyquem bestowed great care on the
education of his children, especially on the practical side of it.  To
associate closely his son Michel with the people, and attach him to those
who stand in need of assistance, he caused him to be held at the font by
persons of meanest position; subsequently he put him out to nurse with a
poor villager, and then, at a later period, made him accustom himself to
the most common sort of living, taking care, nevertheless, to cultivate
his mind, and superintend its development without the exercise of undue
rigour or constraint.  Michel, who gives us the minutest account of his
earliest years, charmingly narrates how they used to awake him by the
sound of some agreeable music, and how he learned Latin, without
suffering the rod or shedding a tear, before beginning French, thanks to
the German teacher whom his father had placed near him, and who never
addressed him except in the language of Virgil and Cicero.  The study of
Greek took precedence.  At six years of age young Montaigne went to the
College of Guienne at Bordeaux, where he had as preceptors the most
eminent scholars of the sixteenth century, Nicolas Grouchy, Guerente,
Muret, and Buchanan.  At thirteen he had passed through all the classes,
and as he was destined for the law he left school to study that science.
He was then about fourteen, but these early years of his life are
involved in obscurity.  The next information that we have is that in 1554
he received the appointment of councillor in the Parliament of Bordeaux;
in 1559 he was at Bar-le-Duc with the court of Francis II, and in the
year following he was present at Rouen to witness the declaration of the
majority of Charles IX.  We do not know in what manner he was engaged on
these occasions.

Between 1556 and 1563 an important incident occurred in the life of
Montaigne, in the commencement of his romantic friendship with Etienne de
la Boetie, whom he had met, as he tells us, by pure chance at some
festive celebration in the town.  From their very first interview the two
found themselves drawn irresistibly close to one another, and during six
years this alliance was foremost in the heart of Montaigne, as it was
afterwards in his memory, when death had severed it.

Although he blames severely in his own book [Essays, i.  27.] those who,
contrary to the opinion of Aristotle, marry before five-and-thirty,
Montaigne did not wait for the period fixed by the philosopher of
Stagyra, but in 1566, in his thirty-third year, he espoused Francoise de
Chassaigne, daughter of a councillor in the Parliament of Bordeaux.  The
history of his early married life vies in obscurity with that of his
youth.  His biographers are not agreed among themselves; and in the
same degree that he lays open to our view all that concerns his secret
thoughts, the innermost mechanism of his mind, he observes too much
reticence in respect to his public functions and conduct, and his social
relations.  The title of Gentleman in Ordinary to the King, which he
assumes, in a preface, and which Henry II.  gives him in a letter, which
we print a little farther on; what he says as to the commotions of
courts, where he passed a portion of his life; the Instructions which he
wrote under the dictation of Catherine de Medici for King Charles IX.,
and his noble correspondence with Henry IV., leave no doubt, however, as
to the part which he played in the transactions of those times, and we
find an unanswerable proof of the esteem in which he was held by the most
exalted personages, in a letter which was addressed to him by Charles at
the time he was admitted to the Order of St. Michael, which was, as he
informs us himself, the highest honour of the French noblesse.

According to Lacroix du Maine, Montaigne, upon the death of his eldest
brother, resigned his post of Councillor, in order to adopt the military
profession, while, if we might credit the President Bouhier, he never
discharged any functions connected with arms.  However, several passages
in the Essays seem to indicate that he not only took service, but that he
was actually in numerous campaigns with the Catholic armies.  Let us add,
that on his monument he is represented in a coat of mail, with his casque
and gauntlets on his right side, and a lion at his feet, all which
signifies, in the language of funeral emblems, that the departed has been
engaged in some important military transactions.

However it may be as to these conjectures, our author, having arrived at
his thirty-eighth year, resolved to dedicate to study and contemplation
the remaining term of his life; and on his birthday, the last of February
1571, he caused a philosophical inscription, in Latin, to be placed upon
one of the walls of his chateau, where it is still to be seen, and of
which the translation is to this effect:--“In the year of Christ .  .  .
in his thirty-eighth year, on the eve of the Calends of March, his
birthday, Michel Montaigne, already weary of court employments and public
honours, withdrew himself entirely into the converse of the learned
virgins where he intends to spend the remaining moiety of the to allotted
to him in tranquil seclusion.”

At the time to which we have come, Montaigne was unknown to the world of
letters, except as a translator and editor.  In 1569 he had published a
translation of the “Natural Theology” of Raymond de Sebonde, which he had
solely undertaken to please his father.  In 1571 he had caused to be
printed at Paris certain ‘opuscucla’ of Etienne de la Boetie; and these
two efforts, inspired in one case by filial duty, and in the other by
friendship, prove that affectionate motives overruled with him mere
personal ambition as a literary man.  We may suppose that he began to
compose the Essays at the very outset of his retirement from public
engagements; for as, according to his own account, observes the President
Bouhier, he cared neither for the chase, nor building, nor gardening, nor
agricultural pursuits, and was exclusively occupied with reading and
reflection, he devoted himself with satisfaction to the task of setting
down his thoughts just as they occurred to him.  Those thoughts became a
book, and the first part of that book, which was to confer immortality on
the writer, appeared at Bordeaux in 1580.  Montaigne was then
fifty-seven; he had suffered for some years past from renal colic and
gravel; and it was with the necessity of distraction from his pain, and
the hope of deriving relief from the waters, that he undertook at this
time a great journey.  As the account which he has left of his travels in
Germany and Italy comprises some highly interesting particulars of his
life and personal history, it seems worth while to furnish a sketch or
analysis of it.

“The Journey, of which we proceed to describe the course simply,” says
the editor of the Itinerary, “had, from Beaumont-sur-Oise to Plombieres,
in Lorraine, nothing sufficiently interesting to detain us .  .  .  we
must go as far, as Basle, of which we have a description, acquainting us
with its physical and political condition at that period, as well as with
the character of its baths.  The passage of Montaigne through Switzerland
is not without interest, as we see there how our philosophical traveller
accommodated himself everywhere to the ways of the country.  The hotels,
the provisions, the Swiss cookery, everything, was agreeable to him; it
appears, indeed, as if he preferred to the French manners and tastes
those of the places he was visiting, and of which the simplicity and
freedom (or frankness) accorded more with his own mode of life and
thinking.  In the towns where he stayed, Montaigne took care to see the
Protestant divines, to make himself conversant with all their dogmas.  He
even had disputations with them occasionally.

“Having left Switzerland he went to Isne, an imperial then on to Augsburg
and Munich.  He afterwards proceeded to the Tyrol, where he was agreeably
surprised, after the warnings which he had received, at the very slight
inconveniences which he suffered, which gave him occasion to remark that
he had all his life distrusted the statements of others respecting
foreign countries, each person’s tastes being according to the notions of
his native place; and that he had consequently set very little on what he
was told beforehand.

“Upon his arrival at Botzen, Montaigne wrote to Francois Hottmann, to say
that he had been so pleased with his visit to Germany that he quitted it
with great regret, although it was to go into Italy.  He then passed
through Brunsol, Trent, where he put up at the Rose; thence going to
Rovera; and here he first lamented the scarcity of crawfish, but made up
for the loss by partaking of truffles cooked in oil and vinegar; oranges,
citrons, and olives, in all of which he delighted.”

After passing a restless night, when he bethought himself in the morning
that there was some new town or district to be seen, he rose, we are
told, with alacrity and pleasure.

His secretary, to whom he dictated his Journal, assures us that he never
saw him take so much interest in surrounding scenes and persons, and
believes that the complete change helped to mitigate his sufferings in
concentrating his attention on other points.  When there was a complaint
made that he had led his party out of the beaten route, and then returned
very near the spot from which they started, his answer was that he had no
settled course, and that he merely proposed to himself to pay visits to
places which he had not seen, and so long as they could not convict him
of traversing the same path twice, or revisiting a point already seen, he
could perceive no harm in his plan.  As to Rome, he cared less to go
there, inasmuch as everybody went there; and he said that he never had a
lacquey who could not tell him all about Florence or Ferrara.  He also
would say that he seemed to himself like those who are reading some
pleasant story or some fine book, of which they fear to come to the end:
he felt so much pleasure in travelling that he dreaded the moment of
arrival at the place where they were to stop for the night.

We see that Montaigne travelled, just as he wrote, completely at his
ease, and without the least constraint, turning, just as he fancied, from
the common or ordinary roads taken by tourists.  The good inns, the soft
beds, the fine views, attracted his notice at every point, and in his
observations on men and things he confines himself chiefly to the
practical side.  The consideration of his health was constantly before
him, and it was in consequence of this that, while at Venice, which
disappointed him, he took occasion to note, for the benefit of readers,
that he had an attack of colic, and that he evacuated two large stones
after supper.  On quitting Venice, he went in succession to Ferrara,
Rovigo, Padua, Bologna (where he had a stomach-ache), Florence, &c.; and
everywhere, before alighting, he made it a rule to send some of his
servants to ascertain where the best accommodation was to be had.  He
pronounced the Florentine women the finest in the world, but had not an
equally good opinion of the food, which was less plentiful than in
Germany, and not so well served.  He lets us understand that in Italy
they send up dishes without dressing, but in Germany they were much
better seasoned, and served with a variety of sauces and gravies.  He
remarked further, that the glasses were singularly small and the wines

After dining with the Grand-Duke of Florence, Montaigne passed rapidly
over the intermediate country, which had no fascination for him, and
arrived at Rome on the last day of November, entering by the Porta del
Popolo, and putting up at Bear.  But he afterwards hired, at twenty
crowns a month, fine furnished rooms in the house of a Spaniard, who
included in these terms the use of the kitchen fire.  What most annoyed
him in the Eternal City was the number of Frenchmen he met, who all
saluted him in his native tongue; but otherwise he was very comfortable,
and his stay extended to five months.  A mind like his, full of grand
classical reflections, could not fail to be profoundly impressed in the
presence of the ruins at Rome, and he has enshrined in a magnificent
passage of the Journal the feelings of the moment: “He said,” writes his
secretary, “that at Rome one saw nothing but the sky under which she had
been built, and the outline of her site: that the knowledge we had of her
was abstract, contemplative, not palpable to the actual senses: that
those who said they beheld at least the ruins of Rome, went too far, for
the ruins of so gigantic a structure must have commanded greater
reverence-it was nothing but her sepulchre.  The world, jealous of her,
prolonged empire, had in the first place broken to pieces that admirable
body, and then, when they perceived that the remains attracted worship
and awe, had buried the very wreck itself.--[Compare a passage in one
of Horace Walpole’s letters to Richard West, 22 March 1740 (Cunningham’s
edit.  i.  41), where Walpole, speaking of Rome, describes her very ruins
as ruined.]--As to those small fragments which were still to be seen on
the surface, notwithstanding the assaults of time and all other attacks,
again and again repeated, they had been favoured by fortune to be some
slight evidence of that infinite grandeur which nothing could entirely
extingish.  But it was likely that these disfigured remains were the
least entitled to attention, and that the enemies of that immortal
renown, in their fury, had addressed themselves in the first instance to
the destruction of what was most beautiful and worthiest of preservation;
and that the buildings of this bastard Rome, raised upon the ancient
productions, although they might excite the admiration of the present
age, reminded him of the crows’ and sparrows’ nests built in the walls
and arches of the old churches, destroyed by the Huguenots.  Again, he
was apprehensive, seeing the space which this grave occupied, that the
whole might not have been recovered, and that the burial itself had been
buried.  And, moreover, to see a wretched heap of rubbish, as pieces of
tile and pottery, grow (as it had ages since) to a height equal to that
of Mount Gurson,--[In Perigord.]--and thrice the width of it, appeared to
show a conspiracy of destiny against the glory and pre-eminence of that
city, affording at the same time a novel and extraordinary proof of its
departed greatness.  He (Montaigne) observed that it was difficult to
believe considering the limited area taken up by any of her seven hills
and particularly the two most favoured ones, the Capitoline and the
Palatine, that so many buildings stood on the site.  Judging only from
what is left of the Temple of Concord, along the ‘Forum Romanum’, of
which the fall seems quite recent, like that of some huge mountain split
into horrible crags, it does not look as if more than two such edifices
could have found room on the Capitoline, on which there were at one
period from five-and-twenty to thirty temples, besides private dwellings.
But, in point of fact, there is scarcely any probability of the views
which we take of the city being correct, its plan and form having changed
infinitely; for instance, the ‘Velabrum’, which on account of its
depressed level, received the sewage of the city, and had a lake, has
been raised by artificial accumulation to a height with the other hills,
and Mount Savello has, in truth, grown simply out of the ruins of the
theatre of Marcellus.  He believed that an ancient Roman would not
recognise the place again.  It often happened that in digging down into
earth the workmen came upon the crown of some lofty column, which, though
thus buried, was still standing upright.  The people there have no
recourse to other foundations than the vaults and arches of the old
houses, upon which, as on slabs of rock, they raise their modern palaces.
It is easy to see that several of the ancient streets are thirty feet
below those at present in use.”

Sceptical as Montaigne shows himself in his books, yet during his sojourn
at Rome he manifested a great regard for religion.  He solicited the
honour of being admitted to kiss the feet of the Holy Father, Gregory
XIII.; and the Pontiff exhorted him always to continue in the devotion
which he had hitherto exhibited to the Church and the service of the Most
Christian King.

“After this, one sees,” says the editor of the Journal, “Montaigne
employing all his time in making excursions bout the neighbourhood on
horseback or on foot, in visits, in observations of every kind.  The
churches, the stations, the processions even, the sermons; then the
palaces, the vineyards, the gardens, the public amusements, as the
Carnival, &c.--nothing was overlooked.  He saw a Jewish child
circumcised, and wrote down a most minute account of the operation.  He
met at San Sisto a Muscovite ambassador, the second who had come to Rome
since the pontificate of Paul III.  This minister had despatches from his
court for Venice, addressed to the ‘Grand Governor of the Signory’.  The
court of Muscovy had at that time such limited relations with the other
powers of Europe, and it was so imperfect in its information, that it
thought Venice to be a dependency of the Holy See.”

Of all the particulars with which he has furnished us during his stay at
Rome, the following passage in reference to the Essays is not the least
singular: “The Master of the Sacred Palace returned him his Essays,
castigated in accordance with the views of the learned monks.  ‘He had
only been able to form a judgment of them,’ said he, ‘through a certain
French monk, not understanding French himself’”--we leave Montaigne
himself to tell the story--“and he received so complacently my excuses
and explanations on each of the passages which had been animadverted upon
by the French monk, that he concluded by leaving me at liberty to revise
the text agreeably to the dictates of my own conscience.  I begged him,
on the contrary, to abide by the opinion of the person who had criticised
me, confessing, among other matters, as, for example, in my use of the
word fortune, in quoting historical poets, in my apology for Julian, in
my animadversion on the theory that he who prayed ought to be exempt from
vicious inclinations for the time being; item, in my estimate of cruelty,
as something beyond simple death; item, in my view that a child ought to
be brought up to do everything, and so on; that these were my opinions,
which I did not think wrong; as to other things, I said that the
corrector understood not my meaning.  The Master, who is a clever man,
made many excuses for me, and gave me to suppose that he did not concur
in the suggested improvements; and pleaded very ingeniously for me in my
presence against another (also an Italian) who opposed my sentiments.”

Such is what passed between Montaigne and these two personages at that
time; but when the Essayist was leaving, and went to bid them farewell,
they used very different language to him.  “They prayed me,” says he,
“to pay no attention to the censure passed on my book, in which other
French persons had apprised them that there were many foolish things;
adding, that they honoured my affectionate intention towards the Church,
and my capacity; and had so high an opinion of my candour and
conscientiousness that they should leave it to me to make such
alterations as were proper in the book, when I reprinted it; among other
things, the word fortune.  To excuse themselves for what they had said
against my book, they instanced works of our time by cardinals and other
divines of excellent repute which had been blamed for similar faults,
which in no way affected reputation of the author, or of the publication
as a whole; they requested me to lend the Church the support of my
eloquence (this was their fair speech), and to make longer stay in the
place, where I should be free from all further intrusion on their part.
It seemed to me that we parted very good friends.”

Before quitting Rome, Montaigne received his diploma of citizenship, by
which he was greatly flattered; and after a visit to Tivoli he set out
for Loretto, stopping at Ancona, Fano, and Urbino.  He arrived at the
beginning of May 1581, at Bagno della Villa, where he established
himself, order to try the waters.  There, we find in the Journal, of his
own accord the Essayist lived in the strictest conformity with the
regime, and henceforth we only hear of diet, the effect which the waters
had by degrees upon system, of the manner in which he took them; in a
word, he does not omit an item of the circumstances connected with his
daily routine, his habit of body, his baths, and the rest.  It was no
longer the journal of a traveller which he kept, but the diary of an
invalid,--[“I am reading Montaigne’s Travels, which have lately been
found; there is little in them but the baths and medicines he took, and
what he had everywhere for dinner.”--H.  Walpole to Sir Horace Mann, June
8, 1774.]--attentive to the minutest details of the cure which he was
endeavouring to accomplish: a sort of memorandum book, in which he was
noting down everything that he felt and did, for the benefit of his
medical man at home, who would have the care of his health on his return,
and the attendance on his subsequent infirmities.  Montaigne gives it as
his reason and justification for enlarging to this extent here, that he
had omitted, to his regret, to do so in his visits to other baths, which
might have saved him the trouble of writing at such great length now; but
it is perhaps a better reason in our eyes, that what he wrote he wrote
for his own use.

We find in these accounts, however, many touches which are valuable as
illustrating the manners of the place.  The greater part of the entries
in the Journal, giving the account of these waters, and of the travels,
down to Montaigne’s arrival at the first French town on his homeward
route, are in Italian, because he wished to exercise himself in that

The minute and constant watchfulness of Montaigne over his health and
over himself might lead one to suspect that excessive fear of death which
degenerates into cowardice.  But was it not rather the fear of the
operation for the stone, at that time really formidable?  Or perhaps he
was of the same way of thinking with the Greek poet, of whom Cicero
reports this saying: “I do not desire to die; but the thought of being
dead is indifferent to me.”  Let us hear, however, what he says himself
on this point very frankly: “It would be too weak and unmanly on my part
if, certain as I am of always finding myself in the position of having to
succumb in that way,--[To the stone or gravel.]--and death coming nearer
and nearer to me, I did not make some effort, before the time came, to
bear the trial with fortitude.  For reason prescribes that we should
joyfully accept what it may please God to send us.  Therefore the only
remedy, the only rule, and the sole doctrine for avoiding the evils by
which mankind is surrounded, whatever they are, is to resolve to bear
them so far as our nature permits, or to put an end to them courageously
and promptly.”

He was still at the waters of La Villa, when, on the 7th September 1581,
he learned by letter that he had been elected Mayor of Bordeaux on the
1st August preceding.  This intelligence made him hasten his departure;
and from Lucca he proceeded to Rome.  He again made some stay in that
city, and he there received the letter of the jurats of Bordeaux,
notifying to him officially his election to the Mayoralty, and inviting
him to return as speedily as possible.  He left for France, accompanied
by young D’Estissac and several other gentlemen, who escorted him a
considerable distance; but none went back to France with him, not even
his travelling companion.  He passed by Padua, Milan, Mont Cenis, and
Chambery; thence he went on to Lyons, and lost no time in repairing to
his chateau, after an absence of seventeen months and eight days.

We have just seen that, during his absence in Italy, the author of the
Essays was elected mayor of Bordeaux.  “The gentlemen of Bordeaux,” says
he, “elected me Mayor of their town while I was at a distance from
France, and far from the thought of such a thing.  I excused myself; but
they gave to understand that I was wrong in so doing, it being also the
command of the king that I should stand.”  This the letter which Henry
III. wrote to him on the occasion:

MONSIEUR, DE MONTAIGNE,--Inasmuch as I hold in great esteem your fidelity
and zealous devotion to my service, it has been a pleasure to me to learn
that you have been chosen mayor of my town of Bordeaux.  I have had the
agreeable duty of confirming the selection, and I did so the more
willingly, seeing that it was made during your distant absence; wherefore
it is my desire, and I require and command you expressly that you proceed
without delay to enter on the duties to which you have received so
legitimate a call.  And so you will act in a manner very agreeable to me,
while the contrary will displease me greatly.  Praying God, M. de
Montaigne, to have you in his holy keeping.

“Written at Paris, the 25th day of November 1581.


“A Monsieur de MONTAIGNE,
Knight of my Order, Gentleman in Ordinary of my
Chamber, being at present in Rome.”

Montaigne, in his new employment, the most important in the province,
obeyed the axiom, that a man may not refuse a duty, though it absorb his
time and attention, and even involve the sacrifice of his blood.  Placed
between two extreme parties, ever on the point of getting to blows, he
showed himself in practice what he is in his book, the friend of a middle
and temperate policy.  Tolerant by character and on principle, he
belonged, like all the great minds of the sixteenth century, to that
political sect which sought to improve, without destroying, institutions;
and we may say of him, what he himself said of La Boetie, “that he had
that maxim indelibly impressed on his mind, to obey and submit himself
religiously to the laws under which he was born.  Affectionately attached
to the repose of his country, an enemy to changes and innovations, he
would have preferred to employ what means he had towards their
discouragement and suppression, than in promoting their success.”  Such
was the platform of his administration.

He applied himself, in an especial manner, to the maintenance of peace
between the two religious factions which at that time divided the town of
Bordeaux; and at the end of his two first years of office, his grateful
fellow-citizens conferred on him (in 1583) the mayoralty for two years
more, a distinction which had been enjoyed, as he tells us, only twice
before.  On the expiration of his official career, after four years’
duration, he could say fairly enough of himself that he left behind him
neither hatred nor cause of offence.

In the midst of the cares of government, Montaigne found time to revise
and enlarge his Essays, which, since their appearance in 1580, were
continually receiving augmentation in the form of additional chapters or
papers.  Two more editions were printed in 1582 and 1587; and during this
time the author, while making alterations in the original text, had
composed part of the Third Book.  He went to Paris to make arrangements
for the publication of his enlarged labours, and a fourth impression in
1588 was the result.  He remained in the capital some time on this
occasion, and it was now that he met for the first time Mademoiselle de
Gournay.  Gifted with an active and inquiring spirit, and, above all,
possessing a sound and healthy tone of mind, Mademoiselle de Gournay had
been carried from her childhood with that tide which set in with
sixteenth century towards controversy, learning, and knowledge.  She
learnt Latin without a master; and when, the age of eighteen, she
accidentally became possessor of a copy of the Essays, she was
transported with delight and admiration.

She quitted the chateau of Gournay, to come and see him.  We cannot do
better, in connection with this journey of sympathy, than to repeat the
words of Pasquier: “That young lady, allied to several great and noble
families of Paris, proposed to herself no other marriage than with her
honour, enriched with the knowledge gained from good books, and, beyond
all others, from the essays of M. de Montaigne, who making in the year
1588 a lengthened stay in the town of Paris, she went there for the
purpose of forming his personal acquaintance; and her mother, Madame de
Gournay, and herself took him back with them to their chateau, where, at
two or three different times, he spent three months altogether, most
welcome of visitors.”  It was from this moment that Mademoiselle de
Gournay dated her adoption as Montaigne’s daughter, a circumstance which
has tended to confer immortality upon her in a far greater measure than
her own literary productions.

Montaigne, on leaving Paris, stayed a short time at Blois, to attend the
meeting of the States-General.  We do not know what part he took in that
assembly: but it is known that he was commissioned, about this period, to
negotiate between Henry of Navarre (afterwards Henry IV.) and the Duke of
Guise.  His political life is almost a blank; but De Thou assures us that
Montaigne enjoyed the confidence of the principal persons of his time.
De Thou, who calls him a frank man without constraint, tells us that,
walking with him and Pasquier in the court at the Castle of Blois, he
heard him pronounce some very remarkable opinions on contemporary events,
and he adds that Montaigne had foreseen that the troubles in France could
not end without witnessing the death of either the King of Navarre or of
the Duke of Guise.  He had made himself so completely master of the views
of these two princes, that he told De Thou that the King of Navarre would
have been prepared to embrace Catholicism, if he had not been afraid of
being abandoned by his party, and that the Duke of Guise, on his part,
had no particular repugnance to the Confession of Augsburg, for which the
Cardinal of Lorraine, his uncle, had inspired him with a liking, if it
had not been for the peril involved in quitting the Romish communion.  It
would have been easy for Montaigne to play, as we call it, a great part
in politics, and create for himself a lofty position but his motto was,
‘Otio et Libertati’; and he returned quietly home to compose a chapter
for his next edition on inconveniences of Greatness.

The author of the Essays was now fifty-five.  The malady which tormented
him grew only worse and worse with years; and yet he occupied himself
continually with reading, meditating, and composition.  He employed the
years 1589, 1590, and 1591 in making fresh additions to his book; and
even in the approaches of old age he might fairly anticipate many happy
hours, when he was attacked by quinsy, depriving him of the power
utterance.  Pasquier, who has left us some details  his last hours,
narrates that he remained three days in full possession of his faculties,
but unable to speak, so that, in order to make known his desires, he was
obliged to resort to writing; and as he felt his end drawing near, he
begged his wife to summon certain of the gentlemen who lived in the
neighbourhood to bid them a last farewell.  When they had arrived, he
caused mass to be celebrated in apartment; and just as the priest was
elevating the host, Montaigne fell forward with his arms extended in
front of him, on the bed, and so expired.  He was in his sixtieth year.
It was the 13th September 1592.

Montaigne was buried near his own house; but a few years after his
decease, his remains were removed to the church of a Commandery of St.
Antoine at Bordeaux, where they still continue.  His monument was
restored in 1803 by a descendant.  It was seen about 1858 by an English
traveller (Mr. St.  John).’--[“Montaigne the Essayist,” by Bayle St.
John, 1858, 2 vols.  8vo, is one of most delightful books of the kind.]--
and was then in good preservation.

In 1595 Mademoiselle de Gournay published a new edition of Montaigne’s
Essays, and the first with the latest emendations of the author, from a
copy presented to her by his widow, and which has not been recovered,
although it is known to have been in existence some years after the date
of the impression, made on its authority.

Coldly as Montaigne’s literary productions appear to have been received
by the generation immediately succeeding his own age, his genius grew
into just appreciation in the seventeenth century, when such great
spirits arose as La Bruyere, Moliere, La Fontaine, Madame de Sevigne.
“O,” exclaimed the Chatelaine des Rochers, “what capital company he is,
the dear man!  he is my old friend; and just for the reason that he is
so, he always seems new.  My God!  how full is that book of sense!”
 Balzac said that he had carried human reason as far and as high as it
could go, both in politics and in morals.  On the other hand, Malebranche
and the writers of Port Royal were against him; some reprehended the
licentiousness of his writings; others their impiety, materialism,
epicureanism.  Even Pascal, who had carefully read the Essays, and gained
no small profit by them, did not spare his reproaches.  But Montaigne has
outlived detraction.  As time has gone on, his admirers and borrowers
have increased in number, and his Jansenism, which recommended him to the
eighteenth century, may not be his least recommendation in the
nineteenth.  Here we have certainly, on the whole, a first-class man, and
one proof of his masterly genius seems to be, that his merits and his
beauties are sufficient to induce us to leave out of consideration
blemishes and faults which would have been fatal to an inferior writer.

                       THE LETTERS OF MONTAIGNE.


To Monsieur de MONTAIGNE

[This account of the death of La Boetie begins imperfectly.  It first
appeared in a little volume of Miscellanies in 1571.  See Hazlitt, ubi
sup.  p.  630.]--As to his last words, doubtless, if any man can
give good account of them, it is I, both because, during the whole of his
sickness he conversed as fully with me as with any one, and also because,
in consequence of the singular and brotherly friendship which we had
entertained for each other, I was perfectly acquainted with the
intentions, opinions, and wishes which he had formed in the course of his
life, as much so, certainly, as one man can possibly be with those of
another man; and because I knew them to be elevated, virtuous, full of
steady resolution, and (after all said) admirable.  I well foresaw that,
if his illness permitted him to express himself, he would allow nothing
to fall from him, in such an extremity, that was not replete with good
example.  I consequently took every care in my power to treasure what was
said.  True it is, Monseigneur, as my memory is not only in itself very
short, but in this case affected by the trouble which I have undergone,
through so heavy and important a loss, that I have forgotten a number of
things which I should wish to have had known; but those which I recollect
shall be related to you as exactly as lies in my power.  For to represent
in full measure his noble career suddenly arrested, to paint to you his
indomitable courage, in a body worn out and prostrated by pain and the
assaults of death, I confess, would demand a far better ability than
mine: because, although, when in former years he discoursed on serious
and important matters, he handled them in such a manner that it was
difficult to reproduce exactly what he said, yet his ideas and his words
at the last seemed to rival each other in serving him.  For I am sure
that I never knew him give birth to such fine conceptions, or display so
much eloquence, as in the time of his sickness.  If, Monseigneur, you
blame me for introducing his more ordinary observations, please to know
that I do so advisedly; for since they proceeded from him at a season of
such great trouble, they indicate the perfect tranquillity of his mind
and thoughts to the last.

On Monday, the 9th day of August 1563, on my return from the Court, I
sent an invitation to him to come and dine with me.  He returned word
that he was obliged, but, being indisposed, he would thank me to do him
the pleasure of spending an hour with him before he started for Medoc.
Shortly after my dinner I went to him.  He had laid himself down on the
bed with his clothes on, and he was already, I perceived, much changed.
He complained of diarrhoea, accompanied by the gripes, and said that he
had it about him ever since he played with M. d’Escars with nothing but
his doublet on, and that with him a cold often brought on such attacks.
I advised him to go as he had proposed, but to stay for the night at
Germignac, which is only about two leagues from the town.  I gave him
this advice, because some houses, near to that where he was ping, were
visited by the plague, about which he was nervous since his return from
Perigord and the Agenois, here it had been raging; and, besides, horse
exercise was, from my own experience, beneficial under similar
circumstances.  He set out, accordingly, with his wife and M.
Bouillhonnas, his uncle.

Early on the following morning, however, I had intelligence from Madame
de la Boetie, that in the night he had fresh and violent attack of
dysentery.  She had called in physician and apothecary, and prayed me to
lose no time coming, which (after dinner) I did.  He was delighted to see
me; and when I was going away, under promise to turn the following day,
he begged me more importunately and affectionately than he was wont to
do, to give him as such of my company as possible.  I was a little
affected; yet was about to leave, when Madame de la Boetie, as if she
foresaw something about to happen, implored me with tears to stay the
night.  When I consented, he seemed to grow more cheerful.  I returned
home the next day, and on the Thursday I paid him another visit.  He had
become worse; and his loss of blood from the dysentery, which reduced his
strength very much, was largely on the increase.  I quitted his side on
Friday, but on Saturday I went to him, and found him very weak.  He then
gave me to understand that his complaint was infectious, and, moreover,
disagreeable and depressing; and that he, knowing thoroughly my
constitution, desired that I should content myself with coming to see him
now and then.  On the contrary, after that I never left his side.

It was only on the Sunday that he began to converse with me on any
subject beyond the immediate one of his illness, and what the ancient
doctors thought of it: we had not touched on public affairs, for I found
at the very outset that he had a dislike to them.

But, on the Sunday, he had a fainting fit; and when he came to himself,
he told me that everything seemed to him confused, as if in a mist and in
disorder, and that, nevertheless, this visitation was not unpleasing to
him.  “Death,” I replied, “has no worse sensation, my brother.”  “None so
bad,” was his answer.  He had had no regular sleep since the beginning of
his illness; and as he became worse and worse, he began to turn his
attention to questions which men commonly occupy themselves with in the
last extremity, despairing now of getting better, and intimating as much
to me.  On that day, as he appeared in tolerably good spirits, I took
occasion to say to him that, in consideration of the singular love I bore
him, it would become me to take care that his affairs, which he had
conducted with such rare prudence in his life, should not be neglected at
present; and that I should regret it if, from want of proper counsel, he
should leave anything unsettled, not only on account of the loss to his
family, but also to his good name.

He thanked me for my kindness; and after a little reflection, as if he
was resolving certain doubts in his own mind, he desired me to summon his
uncle and his wife by themselves, in order that he might acquaint them
with his testamentary dispositions.  I told him that this would shock
them.  “No, no,” he answered, “I will cheer them by making out my case to
be better than it is.”  And then he inquired, whether we were not all
much taken by surprise at his having fainted?  I replied, that it was of
no importance, being incidental to the complaint from which he suffered.
“True, my brother,” said he; “it would be unimportant, even though it
should lead to what you most dread.”  “For you,” I rejoined, “it might be
a happy thing; but I should be the loser, who would thereby be deprived
of so great, so wise, and so steadfast a friend, a friend whose place I
should never see supplied.”  “It is very likely you may not,” was his
answer; “and be sure that one thing which makes me somewhat anxious to
recover, and to delay my journey to that place, whither I am already
half-way gone, is the thought of the loss both you and that poor man and
woman there (referring to his uncle and wife) must sustain; for I love
them with my whole heart, and I feel certain that they will find it very
hard to lose me.  I should also regret it on account of such as have, in
my lifetime, valued me, and whose conversation I should like to have
enjoyed a little longer; and I beseech you, my brother, if I leave the
world, to carry to them for me an assurance of the esteem I entertained
for them to the last moment of my existence.  My birth was, moreover,
scarcely to so little purpose but that, had I lived, I might have done
some service to the public; but, however this may be, I am prepared to
submit to the will of God, when it shall please Him to call me, being
confident of enjoying the tranquillity which you have foretold for me.
As for you, my friend, I feel sure that you are so wise, that you will
control your emotions, and submit to His divine ordinance regarding me;
and I beg of you to see that that good man and woman do not mourn for my
departure unnecessarily.”

He proceeded to inquire how they behaved at present.  “Very well,” said
I, “considering the circumstances.”  “Ah!”  he replied, “that is, so long
as they do not abandon all hope of me; but when that shall be the case,
you will have a hard task to support them.”  It was owing to his strong
regard for his wife and uncle that he studiously disguised from them his
own conviction as to the certainty of his end, and he prayed me to do the
same.  When they were near him he assumed an appearance of gaiety, and
flattered them with hopes.  I then went to call them.  They came, wearing
as composed an air as possible; and when we four were together, he
addressed us, with an untroubled countenance, as follows: “Uncle and
wife, rest assured that no new attack of my disease, or fresh doubt that
I have as to my recovery, has led me to take this step of communicating
to you my intentions, for, thank God, I feel very well and hopeful; but
taught by observation and experience the instability of all human things,
and even of the life to which we are so much attached, and which is,
nevertheless, a mere bubble; and knowing, moreover, that my state of
health brings me more within the danger of death, I have thought proper
to settle my worldly affairs, having the benefit of your advice.”  Then
addressing himself more particularly to his uncle, “Good uncle,” said he,
“if I were to rehearse all the obligations under which I lie to you, I am
sure that I never should make an end.  Let me only say that, wherever I
have been, and with whomsoever I have conversed, I have represented you
as doing for me all that a father could do for a son; both in the care
with which you tended my education, and in the zeal with which you pushed
me forward into public life, so that my whole existence is a testimony of
your good offices towards me.  In short, I am indebted for all that I
have to you, who have been to me as a parent; and therefore I have no
right to part with anything, unless it be with your approval.”

There was a general silence hereupon, and his uncle was prevented from
replying by tears and sobs.  At last he said that whatever he thought for
the best would be agreeable to him; and as he intended to make him his
heir, he was at liberty to dispose of what would be his.

Then he turned to his wife.  “My image,” said he (for so he often called
her, there being some sort of relationship between them), “since I have
been united to you by marriage, which is one of the most weighty and
sacred ties imposed on us by God, for the purpose of maintaining human
society, I have continued to love, cherish, and value you; and I know
that you have returned my affection, for which I have no sufficient
acknowledgment.  I beg you to accept such portion of my estate as I
bequeath to you, and be satisfied with it, though it is very inadequate
to your desert.”

Afterwards he turned to me.  “My brother,” he began, “for whom I have so
entire a love, and whom I selected out of so large a number, thinking to
revive with you that virtuous and sincere friendship which, owing to the
degeneracy of the age, has grown to be almost unknown to us, and now
exists only in certain vestiges of antiquity, I beg of you, as a mark of
my affection to you, to accept my library: a slender offering, but given
with a cordial will, and suitable to you, seeing that you are fond of
learning.  It will be a memorial of your old companion.”

Then he addressed all three of us.  He blessed God that in his extremity
he had the happiness to be surrounded by those whom he held dearest in
the world, and he looked upon it as a fine spectacle, where four persons
were together, so unanimous in their feelings, and loving each other for
each other’s sake.  He commended us one to the other; and proceeded thus:
“My worldly matters being arranged, I must now think of the welfare of my
soul.  I am a Christian; I am a Catholic.  I have lived one, and I shall
die one.  Send for a priest; for I wish to conform to this last Christian
obligation.”  He now concluded his discourse, which he had conducted with
such a firm face and with so distinct an utterance, that whereas, when I
first entered his room, he was feeble, inarticulate in his speech, his
pulse low and feverish, and his features pallid, now, by a sort of
miracle, he appeared to have rallied, and his pulse was so strong that
for the sake of comparison, I asked him to feel mine.

I felt my heart so oppressed at this moment, that I had not the power to
make him any answer; but in the course of two or three hours, solicitous
to keep up his courage, and, likewise, out of the tenderness which I had
had all my life for his honour and fame, wishing a larger number of
witnesses to his admirable fortitude, I said to him, how much I was
ashamed to think that I lacked courage to listen to what he, so great a
sufferer, had the courage to deliver; that down to the present time I had
scarcely conceived that God granted us such command over human
infirmities, and had found a difficulty in crediting the examples I had
read in histories; but that with such evidence of the thing before my
eyes, I gave praise to God that it had shown itself in one so excessively
dear to me, and who loved me so entirely, and that his example would help
me to act in a similar manner when my turn came.  Interrupting me, he
begged that it might happen so, and that the conversation which had
passed between us might not be mere words, but might be impressed deeply
on our minds, to be put in exercise at the first occasion; and that this
was the real object and aim of all philosophy.

He then took my hand, and continued: “Brother, friend, there are many
acts of my life, I think, which have cost me as much difficulty as this
one is likely to do; and, after all, I have been long prepared for it,
and have my lesson by heart.  Have I not lived long enough?  I am just
upon thirty-three.  By the grace of God, my days so far have known
nothing but health and happiness; but in the ordinary course of our
unstable human affairs, this could not have lasted much longer; it would
have become time for me to enter on graver avocations, and I should thus
have involved myself in numberless vexations, and, among them, the
troubles of old age, from which I shall now be exempt.  Moreover, it is
probable that hitherto my life has been spent more simply, and with less
of evil, than if God had spared me, and I had survived to feel the
thirst for riches and worldly prosperity.  I am sure, for my part, that
I now go to God and the place of the blessed.”  He seemed to detect in
my expression some inquietude at his words; and he exclaimed, “What, my
brother, would you make me entertain apprehensions?  Had I any, whom
would it become so much as yourself to remove them?”

The notary, who had been summoned to draw up his will, came in the
evening, and when he had the documents prepared, I inquired of La Boetie
if he would sign them.  “Sign them,” cried he; “I will do so with my own
hand; but I could desire more time, for I feel exceedingly timid and
weak, and in a manner exhausted.”  But when I was going to change the
conversation, he suddenly rallied, said he had but a short time to live,
and asked if the notary wrote rapidly, for he should dictate without
making any pause.  The notary was called, and he dictated his will there
and then with such speed that the man could scarcely keep up with him;
and when he had done, he asked me to read it out, saying to me, “What a
good thing it is to look after what are called our riches.”  ‘Sunt haec,
quoe hominibus vocantur bona’.  As soon as the will was signed, the
chamber being full, he asked me if it would hurt him to talk.  I
answered, that it would not, if he did not speak too loud.  He then
summoned Mademoiselle de Saint Quentin, his niece, to him, and addressed
her thus: “Dear niece, since my earliest acquaintance with thee, I have
observed the marks of, great natural goodness in thee; but the services
which thou rendered to me, with so much affectionate diligence, in my
present and last necessity, inspire me with high hopes of thee; and I am
under great obligations to thee, and give thee most affectionate thanks.
Let me relieve my conscience by counselling thee to be, in the first
place, devout, to God: for this doubtless is our first duty, failing
which all others can be of little advantage or grace, but which, duly
observed, carries with it necessarily all other virtues.  After God, thou
shouldest love thy father and mother--thy mother, my sister, whom I
regard as one of the best and most intelligent of women, and by whom I
beg of thee to let thy own life be regulated.  Allow not thyself to be
led away by pleasures; shun, like the plague, the foolish familiarities
thou seest between some men and women; harmless enough at first, but
which by insidious degrees corrupt the heart, and thence lead it to
negligence, and then into the vile slough of vice.  Credit me, the
greatest safeguard to female chastity is sobriety of demeanour.  I
beseech and direct that thou often call to mind the friendship which was
betwixt us; but I do not wish thee to mourn for me too much--an
injunction which, so far as it is in my power, I lay on all my friends,
since it might seem that by doing so they felt a jealousy of that blessed
condition in which I am about to be placed by death.  I assure thee, my
dear, that if I had the option now of continuing in life or of completing
the voyage on which I have set out, I should find it very hard to choose.
Adieu, dear niece.”

Mademoiselle d’Arsat, his stepdaughter, was next called.  He said to her:
“Daughter, you stand in no great need of advice from me, insomuch as you
have a mother, whom I have ever found most sagacious, and entirely in
conformity with my own opinions and wishes, and whom I have never found
faulty; with such a preceptress, you cannot fail to be properly
instructed.  Do not account it singular that I, with no tie of blood to
you, am interested in you; for, being the child of one who is so closely
allied to me, I am necessarily concerned in what concerns you; and
consequently the affairs of your brother, M. d’Arsat, have ever been
watched by me with as much care as my own; nor perhaps will it be to your
disadvantage that you were my step-daughter.  You enjoy sufficient store
of wealth and beauty; you are a lady of good family; it only remains for
you to add to these possessions the cultivation of your mind, in which I
exhort you not to fail.  I do not think necessary to warn you against
vice, a thing so odious in women, for I would not even suppose that you
could harbour any inclination for it--nay, I believe that you hold the
very name in abhorrence.  Dear daughter, farewell.”

All in the room were weeping and lamenting; but he held without
interruption the thread of his discourse, which was pretty long.  But
when he had done, he directed us all to leave the room, except the women
attendants, whom he styled his garrison.  But first, calling to him my
brother, M. de Beauregard, he said to him: “M. de Beauregard, you have
my best thanks for all the care you have taken of me.  I have now a thing
which I am very anxious indeed to mention to you, and with your
permission I will do so.”  As my brother gave him encouragement to
proceed, he added: “I assure you that I never knew any man who engaged in
the reformation of our Church with greater sincerity, earnestness, and
single-heartedness than yourself.  I consider that you were led to it by
observing the vicious character of our prelates, which no doubt much
requires setting in order, and by imperfections which time has brought
into our Church.  It is not my desire at present  discourage you from
this course, for I would have no one act in opposition to his conscience;
but I wish, having regard to the good repute acquired by your family from
its enduring concord--a family than which none can be dearer to me; a
family, thank God!  no member of which has ever been guilty of dishonour
--in regard, further, to the will of your good father to whom you owe so
much, and of your, uncle, I wish you to avoid extreme means; avoid
harshness and violence: be reconciled with your relatives; do not act
apart, but unite.  You perceive what disasters our quarrels have brought
upon this kingdom, and I anticipate still worse mischiefs; and in your
goodness and wisdom, beware of involving your family in such broils; let
it continue to enjoy its former reputation and happiness.  M. de
Beauregard, take what I say in good part, and as a proof of the
friendship I feel for you.  I postponed till now any communication with
you on the subject, and perhaps the condition in which you see me address
you, may cause my advice and opinion to carry greater authority.”  My
brother expressed his thanks to him cordially.

On the Monday morning he had become so ill that he quite despaired of
himself; and he said to me very pitifully: “Brother, do not you feel pain
for all the pain I am suffering?  Do you not perceive now that the help
you give me has no other effect than that of lengthening my suffering?”

Shortly afterwards he fainted, and we all thought him gone; but by the
application of vinegar and wine he rallied.  But he soon sank, and when
he heard us in lamentation, he murmured, “O God!  who is it that teases
me so?  Why did you break the agreeable repose I was enjoying?  I beg of
you to leave me.”  And then, when he caught the sound of my voice, he
continued: “And art thou, my brother, likewise unwilling to see me at
peace?  O, how thou robbest me of my repose!”  After a while, he seemed
to gain more strength, and called for wine, which he relished, and
declared it to be the finest drink possible.  I, in order to change the
current of his thoughts, put in, “Surely not; water is the best.”  “Ah,
yes,” he returned, “doubtless so;--(Greek phrase)--.”  He had now become,
icy-cold at his extremities, even to his face; a deathly perspiration was
upon him, and his pulse was scarcely perceptible.

This morning he confessed, but the priest had omitted to bring with him
the necessary apparatus for celebrating Mass.  On the Tuesday, however,
M. de la Boetie summoned him to aid him, as he said, in discharging the
last office of a Christian.   After the conclusion of Mass, he took the
sacrament; when the priest was about to depart, he said to him:
“Spiritual father, I implore you humbly, as well as those over whom you
are set, to pray to the Almighty on my behalf; that, if it be decreed in
heaven that I am now to end my life, He will take compassion on my soul,
and pardon me my sins, which are manifold, it not being possible for so
weak and poor a creature as I to obey completely the will of such a
Master; or, if He think fit to keep me longer here, that it may please
Him to release my present extreme anguish, and to direct my footsteps in
the right path, that I may become a better man than I have been.”  He
paused to recover breath a little; priest was about to go away, he called
him back and proceeded: “I desire to say, besides, in your hearing this:
I declare that I was christened and I have lived, and that so I wish to
die, in the faith which Moses preached in Egypt; which afterwards the
Patriarchs accepted and professed in Judaea; and which, in the course of
time, has been transmitted to France and to us.”  He seemed desirous of
adding something more, but he ended with a request to his uncle and me to
send up prayers for him; “for those are,” he said, “the best duties that
Christians can fulfil one for another.”  In the course of talking, his
shoulder was uncovered, and although a man-servant stood near him, he
asked his uncle to re-adjust the clothes.  Then, turning his eyes towards
me, he said, “Ingenui est, cui multum debeas, ei plurimum velle debere.”

M. de Belot called in the afternoon to see him, and M. de la Boetie,
taking his hand, said to him: “I was on the point of discharging my debt,
but my kind creditor has given me a little further time.”  A little while
after, appearing to wake out of a sort of reverie, he uttered words which
he had employed once or twice before in the course of his sickness:
“Ah well, ah well, whenever the hour comes, I await it with pleasure and
fortitude.”  And then, as they were holding his mouth open by force to
give him a draught, he observed to M. de Belot: “An vivere tanti est?”

As the evening approached, he began perceptibly to sink; and while I
supped, he sent for me to come, being no more than the shadow of a man,
or, as he put it himself, ‘non homo, sed species hominis’; and he said to
me with the utmost difficulty: “My brother, my friend, please God I may
realise the imaginations I have just enjoyed.”  Afterwards, having waited
for some time while he remained silent, and by painful efforts was
drawing long sighs (for his tongue at this point began to refuse its
functions), I said, “What are they?”  “Grand, grand!”  he replied.  “I
have never yet failed,” returned I, “to have the honour of hearing your
conceptions and imaginations communicated to me; will you not now still
let me enjoy them?”  “I would indeed,” he answered; “but, my brother,
I am not able to do so; they are admirable, infinite, and unspeakable.”
 We stopped short there, for he could not go on.  A little before, indeed,
he had shown a desire to speak to his wife, and had told her, with as gay
a countenance as he could contrive to assume, that he had a story to tell
her.  And it seemed as if he was making an attempt to gain utterance;
but, his strength failing him, he begged a little wine to resuscitate it.
It was of no avail, for he fainted away suddenly, and was for some time
insensible.  Having become so near a neighbour to death, and hearing the
sobs of Mademoiselle de la Boetie, he called her, and said to her thus:
“My own likeness, you grieve yourself beforehand; will you not have pity
on me?  take courage.  Assuredly, it costs me more than half the pain I
endure, to see you suffer; and reasonably so, because the evils which we
ourselves feel we do not actually ourselves suffer, but it certain
sentient faculties which God plants in us, that feel them: whereas what
we feel on account of others, we feel by consequence of a certain
reasoning process which goes on within our minds.  But I am going away”
 --That he said because his strength was failing him; and fearing that he
had frightened his wife, he resumed, observing: “I am going to sleep.
Good night, my wife; go thy way.”  This was the last farewell he took of

After she had left, “My brother,” said he to me, “keep near me, if you
please;” and then feeling the advance of death more pressing and more
acute, or else the effect of some warm draught which they had made him
swallow, his voice grew stronger and clearer, and he turned quite with
violence in his bed, so that all began again to entertain the hope which
we had lost only upon witnessing his extreme prostration.

At this stage he proceeded, among other things, to pray me again and
again, in a most affectionate manner, to give him a place; so that I was
apprehensive that his reason might be impaired, particularly when, on my
pointing out to him that he was doing himself harm, and that these were
not of the words of a rational man, he did not yield at first, but
redoubled his outcry, saying, “My brother, my brother!  dost thou then
refuse me a place?”  insomuch that he constrained me to demonstrate to
him that, as he breathed and spoke, and had his physical being, therefore
he had his place.  “Yes, yes,” he responded, “I have; but it is not that
which I need; and, besides, when all is said, I have no longer any
existence.”  “God,” I replied, “will grant you a better one soon.”
 “Would it were now, my brother,” was his answer.  “It is now three days
since I have been eager to take my departure.”

Being in this extremity, he frequently called me, merely to satisfy him
that I was at his side.  At length, he composed himself a little to rest,
which strengthened our hopes; so much so, indeed, that I left the room,
and went to rejoice thereupon with Mademoiselle de la Boetie.  But, an
hour or so afterwards, he called me by name once or twice, and then with
a long sigh expired at three o’clock on Wednesday morning, the 18th
August 1563, having lived thirty-two years, nine months, and seventeen


To Monseigneur, Monseigneur de MONTAIGNE.

[This letter is prefixed to Montaigne’s translation of the “Natural
Theology” of Raymond de Sebonde, printed at Paris in 1569.]

In pursuance of the instructions which you gave me last year in your
house at Montaigne, Monseigneur, I have put into a French dress, with my
own hand, Raymond de Sebonde, that great Spanish theologian and
philosopher; and I have divested him, so far as I could, of that rough
bearing and barbaric appearance which you saw him wear at first; that, in
my opinion, he is now qualified to present himself in the best company.
It is perfectly possible that some fastidious persons will detect in the
book some trace of Gascon parentage; but it will be so much the more to
their discredit, that they allowed the task to devolve on one who is
quite a novice in these things.  It is only right, Monseigneur, that the
work should come before the world under your auspices, since whatever
emendations and polish it may have received, are owing to you.  Still I
see well that, if you think proper to balance accounts with the author,
you will find yourself much his debtor; for against his excellent and
religious discourses, his lofty and, so to speak, divine conceptions, you
will find that you will have to set nothing but words and phraseology; a
sort of merchandise so ordinary and commonplace, that whoever has the
most of it, peradventure is the worst off.

Monseigneur, I pray God to grant you a very long and happy life.  From
Paris, this 18th of June 1568.  Your most humble and most obedient son,



To Monsieur, Monsieur de LANSAC,--[This letter appears to belong to
1570.]--Knight of the King’s Order, Privy Councillor, Sub-controller of
his Finance, and Captain of the Cent Gardes of his Household.

MONSIEUR,--I send you the OEconomics of Xenophon, put into French by the
late M. de la Boetie,--[Printed at Paris, 8vo, 1571, and reissued, with
the addition of some notes, in 1572, with a fresh title-page.]--a present
which appears to me to be appropriate, as well because it is the work of
a gentleman of mark,--[Meaning Xenophon.]--a man illustrious in war and
peace, as because it has taken its second shape from a personage whom I
know to have been held by you in affectionate regard during his life.
This will be an inducement to you to continue to cherish towards his
memory, your good opinion and goodwill.  And to be bold with you,
Monsieur, do not fear to increase these sentiments somewhat; for, as you
had knowledge of his high qualities only in his public capacity, it rests
with me to assure you how many endowments he possessed beyond your
personal experience of him.  He did me the honour, while he lived, and I
count it amongst the most fortunate circumstances in my own career, to
have with me a friendship so close and so intricately knit, that no
movement, impulse, thought, of his mind was kept from me, and if I have
not formed a right judgment of him, I must suppose it to be from my own
want of scope.  Indeed, without exaggeration, he was so nearly a prodigy,
that I am afraid of not being credited when I speak of him, even though I
should keep much within the mark of my own actual knowledge.  And for
this time, Monsieur, I shall content myself with praying you, for the
honour and respect we owe to truth, to testify and believe that our
Guienne never beheld his peer among the men of his vocation.  Under the
hope, therefore, that you will pay him his just due, and in order to
refresh him in your memory, I present you this book, which will answer
for me that, were it not for the insufficiency of my power, I would offer
you as willingly something of my own, as an acknowledgment of the
obligations I owe to you, and of the ancient favour and friendship which
you have borne towards the members of our house.  But, Monsieur, in
default of better coin, I offer you in payment the assurance of my desire
to do you humble service.

Monsieur, I pray God to have you in His keeping.  Your obedient servant,


To Monsieur, Monsieur de MESMES, Lord of Roissy and Malassize, Privy
Councillor to the King.

MONSIEUR,--It is one of the most conspicuous follies committed by men,
to employ the strength of their understanding in overturning and
destroying those opinions which are commonly received among us, and which
afford us satisfaction and content; for while everything beneath heaven
employs the ways and means placed at its disposal by nature for the
advancement and commodity of its being, these, in order to appear of a
more sprightly and enlightened wit, not accepting anything which has not
been tried and balanced a thousand times with the most subtle reasoning,
sacrifice their peace of mind to doubt, uneasiness, and feverish
excitement.  It is not without reason that childhood and simplicity have
been recommended by holy writ itself.  For my part, I prefer to be quiet
rather than clever: give me content, even if I am not to be so wide in my
range.  This is the reason, Monsieur, why, although persons of an
ingenious turn laugh at our care as to what will happen after our own
time, for instance, to our souls, which, lodged elsewhere, will lose all
consciousness of what goes on here below, yet I consider it to be a great
consolation for the frailty and brevity of life, to reflect that we have
the power of prolonging it by reputation and fame; and I embrace very
readily this pleasant and favourable notion original with our being,
without inquiring too critically how or why it is.  Insomuch that having
loved, beyond everything, the late M. de la Boetie, the greatest man, in
my judgment, of our age, I should think myself very negligent of my duty
if I failed, to the utmost of my power, to prevent such a name as his,
and a memory so richly meriting remembrance, from falling into oblivion;
and if I did not use my best endeavour to keep them fresh.  I believe
that he feels something of what I do on his behalf, and that my services
touch and rejoice him.  In fact, he lives in my heart so vividly and so
wholly, that I am loath to believe him committed to the dull ground, or
altogether cast off from communication with us.  Therefore, Monsieur,
since every new light I can shed on him and his name, is so much added to
his second period of existence, and, moreover, since his name is ennobled
and honoured by the place which receives it, it falls to me not only to
extend it as widely as I can, but to confide it to the keeping of persons
of honour and virtue; among whom you hold such a rank, that, to afford
you the opportunity of receiving this new guest, and giving him good
entertainment, I decided on presenting to you this little work, not for
any profit you are likely to derive from it, being well aware that you do
not need to have Plutarch and his companions interpreted to you--but it
is possible that Madame de Roissy, reading in it the order of her
household management and of your happy accord painted to the life, will
be pleased to see how her own natural inclination has not only reached
but surpassed the theories of the wisest philosophers, regarding the
duties and laws of the wedded state.  And, at all events, it will be
always an honour to me, to be able to do anything which shall be for the
pleasure of you and yours, on account of the obligation under which I lie
to serve you.

Monsieur, I pray God to grant you a long and happy life.  From Montaigne,
this 30th April 1570.  Your humble servant,


To Monsieur, Monsieur de L’HOSPITAL, Chancellor of France

MONSEIGNEUR,--I am of the opinion that persons such as you, to whom
fortune and reason have committed the charge of public affairs, are not
more inquisitive in any point than in ascertaining the character of those
in office under you; for no society is so poorly furnished, but that, if
a proper distribution of authority be used, it has persons sufficient for
the discharge of all official duties; and when this is the case, nothing
is wanting to make a State perfect in its constitution.  Now, in
proportion as this is so much to be desired, so it is the more difficult
of accomplishment, since you cannot have eyes to embrace a multitude so
large and so widely extended, nor to see to the bottom of hearts, in
order that you may discover intentions and consciences, matters
principally to be considered; so that there has never been any
commonwealth so well organised, in which we might not detect often enough
defect in such a department or such a choice; and in those systems, where
ignorance and malice, favouritism, intrigue, and violence govern, if any
selection happens to be made on the ground of merit and regularity, we
may doubtless thank Fortune, which, in its capricious movements, has for
once taken the path of reason.

This consideration, Monseigneur, often consoled me, when I beheld M.
Etienne de la Boetie, one of the fittest men for high office in France,
pass his whole life without employment and notice, by his domestic
hearth, to the singular detriment of the public; for, so far as he was
concerned, I may assure you, Monseigneur, that he was so rich in those
treasures which defy fortune, that never was man more satisfied or
content.  I know, indeed, that he was raised to the dignities connected
with his neighbourhood--dignities accounted considerable; and I know
also, that no one ever acquitted himself better of them; and when he died
at the age of thirty-two, he enjoyed a reputation in that way beyond all
who had preceded him.

But for all that, it is no reason that a man should be left a common
soldier, who deserves to become a captain; nor to assign mean functions
to those who are perfectly equal to the highest.  In truth, his powers
were badly economised and too sparingly employed; insomuch that, over and
above his actual work, there was abundant capacity lying idle which might
have been called into service, both to the public advantage and his own
private glory.

Therefore, Monseigneur, since he was so indifferent to his own fame (for
virtue and ambition, unfortunately, seldom lodge together), and since he
lived in an age when others were too dull or too jealous to witness to
his character, I have it marvellously at heart that his memory, at all
events, to which I owe the good offices of a friend, should enjoy the
recompense of his brave life; and that it should survive in the good
report of men of honour and virtue.  On this account, sir, I have been
desirous to bring to light, and present to you, such few Latin verses as
he left behind.  Different from the builder, who places the most
attractive, portion of his house towards the street, and to the draper,
who displays in his window his best goods, that which was most precious
in my friend, the juice and marrow of his genius, departed with him, and
there have remained to us but the bark and the leaves.

The exactly regulated movements of his mind, his piety, his virtue, his
justice, his vivacity, the solidity and soundness of his judgment, the
loftiness of his ideas, raised so far above the common level, his
learning, the grace which accompanied his most ordinary actions, the
tender affection he had for his miserable country, and his supreme and
sworn detestation of all vice, but principally of that villainous traffic
which disguises itself under the honourable name of justice, should
certainly impress all well-disposed persons with a singular love towards
him, and an extraordinary regret for his loss.  But, sir, I am unable to
do justice to all these qualities; and of the fruit of his own studies it
had not entered into his mind to leave any proof to posterity; all that
remains, is the little which, as a pastime, he did at intervals.

However this may be, I beg you, sir, to receive it kindly; and as our
judgment of great things is many times formed from lesser things, and as
even the recreations of illustrious men carry with them, to intelligent
observers, some honourable traits of their origin, I would have you form
from this, some knowledge of him, and hence lovingly cherish his name and
his memory.  In this, sir, you will only reciprocate the high opinion
which he had of your virtue, and realise what he infinitely desired in
his lifetime; for there was no one in the world in whose acquaintance and
friendship he would have been so happy to see himself established, as in
your own.  But if any man is offended by the freedom which I use with the
belongings of another, I can tell him that nothing which has been written
or been laid down, even in the schools of philosophy, respecting the
sacred duties and rights of friendship, could give an adequate idea of
the relations which subsisted between this personage and myself.

Moreover, sir, this slender gift, to make two throws of one stone at the
same time, may likewise serve, if you please, to testify the honour and
respect which I entertain for your ability and high qualities; for as to
those gifts which are adventitious and accidental, it is not to my taste
to take them into account.

Sir, I pray God to grant you a very happy and a very long life.  From
Montaigne, this 30th of April 1570.--Your humble and obedient servant,


To Monsieur, Monsieur de Folx, Privy Councillor, and Ambassador of His
Majesty to the Signory of Venice.--[ Printed before the ‘Vers Francois’
of Etienne de la Boetie, 8vo, Paris, 1572.]

SIR,--Being on the point of commending to you and to posterity the memory
of the late Etienne de la Boetie, as well for his extreme virtue as for
the singular affection which he bore to me, it struck me as an
indiscretion very serious in its results, and meriting some coercion from
our laws, the practice which often prevails of robbing virtue of glory,
its faithful associate, in order to confer it, in accordance with our
private interests and without discrimination, on the first comer; seeing
that our two principal guiding reins are reward and punishment, which
only touch us properly, and as men, through the medium of honour and
dishonour, forasmuch as these penetrate the mind, and come home to our
most intimate feelings: just where animals themselves are susceptible,
more or less, to all other kinds of recompense and corporal chastisement.
Moreover, it is well to notice that the custom of praising virtue, even
in those who are no longer with us, impalpable as it is to them, serves
as a stimulant to the living to imitate their example; just as capital
sentences are carried out by the law, more for the sake of warning to
others, than in relation to those who suffer.  Now, commendation and its
opposite being analogous as regards effects, we cannot easily deny
the fact, that although the law prohibits one man from slandering the
reputation of another, it does not prevent us from bestowing reputation
without cause.  This pernicious licence in respect to the distribution of
praise, has formerly been confined in its area of operations; and it may
be the reason why poetry once lost favour with the more judicious.
However this may be, it cannot be concealed that the vice of falsehood is
one very unbecoming in gentleman, let it assume what guise it will.

As for that personage of whom I am speaking to you, sir he leads me far
away indeed from this kind of language; for the danger in his case is
not, lest I should lend him anything, but that I might take something
from him; and it is his ill-fortune that, while he has supplied me, so
far as ever a man could, with just and obvious opportunities for
commendation, I find myself unable and unqualified to render it to him
--I, who am his debtor for so many vivid communications, and who alone
have it in my power to answer for a million of accomplishments,
perfections, and virtues, latent (thanks to his unkind stars) in so noble
a soul.  For the nature of things having (I know not how) permitted that
truth, fair and acceptable--as it may be of itself, is only embraced
where there are arts of persuasion, to insinuate it into our minds, I see
myself so wanting, both in authority to support my simple testimony, and
in the eloquence requisite for lending it value and weight, that I was on
the eve of relinquishing the task, having nothing of his which would
enable me to exhibit to the world a proof of his genius and knowledge.

In truth, sir, having been overtaken by his fate in the flower of his
age, and in the full enjoyment of the most vigorous health, it had been
his design to publish some day works which would have demonstrated to
posterity what sort of a man he was; and, peradventure, he was
indifferent enough to fame, having formed such a plan in his head, to
proceed no further in it.  But I have come to the conclusion, that it was
far more excusable in him to bury with him all his rare endowments, than
it would be on my part to bury also with me the knowledge of them which I
had acquired from him; and, therefore, having collected with care all the
remains which I found scattered here and there among his papers, I intend
to distribute them so as to recommend his memory to as many persons as
possible, selecting the most suitable and worthy of my acquaintance, and
those whose testimony might do him greatest honour: such as you, sir, who
may very possibly have had some knowledge of him during his life, but
assuredly too slight to discover the perfect extent of his worth.
Posterity may credit me, if it chooses, when I swear upon my conscience,
that I knew and saw him to be such as, all things considered, I could
neither desire nor imagine a genius surpassing his.

I beg you very humbly, sir, not only to take his name under your general
protection, but also these ten or twelve French stanzas, which lay
themselves, as of necessity, under shadow of your patronage.  For I will
not disguise from you, that their publication was deferred, upon the
appearance of his other writings, under the pretext (as it was alleged
yonder at Paris) that they were too crude to come to light.  You will
judge, sir, how much truth there is in this; and since it is thought that
hereabout nothing can be produced in our own dialect but what is
barbarous and unpolished, it falls to you, who, besides your rank as the
first house in Guienne, indeed down from your ancestors, possess every
other sort of qualification, to establish, not merely by your example,
but by your authoritative testimony, that such is not always the case:
the more so that, though ‘tis more natural with the Gascons to act than
talk, yet sometimes they employ the tongue more than the arm, and wit in
place of valour.

For my own part; sir, it is not in my way to judge of such matters; but I
have heard persons who are supposed to understand them, say that these
stanzas are not only worthy to be presented in the market-place, but,
independently of that, as regards beauty and wealth of invention, they
are full of marrow and matter as any compositions of the kind, which have
appeared in our language.  Naturally each workman feels himself more
strong in some special part his art, and those are to be regarded as most
fortunate, who lay hands on the noblest, for all the parts essential to
the construction of any whole are not equally precious.  We find
elsewhere, perhaps, greater delicacy phrase, greater softness and harmony
of language; but imaginative grace, and in the store of pointed wit, I do
not think he has been surpassed; and we should take the account that he
made these things neither his occupation nor his study, and that he
scarcely took a pen in his hand more than once a year, as is shown by the
very slender quantity of his remains.  For you see here, sir, green wood
and dry, without any sort of selection, all that has come into my
possession; insomuch that there are among the rest efforts even of his
boyhood.  In point of fact, he seems to have written them merely to show
that he was capable of dealing with all subjects: for otherwise,
thousands of times, in the course of ordinary conversation, I have heard
things drop from him infinitely more worthy of being admired, infinitely
more worthy of being preserved.

Such, sir, is what justice and affection, forming in this instance a rare
conjunction, oblige me to say of this great and good man; and if I have
at all offended by the freedom which I have taken in addressing myself to
you on such a subject at such a length, be pleased to recollect that the
principal result of greatness and eminence is to lay one open to
importunate appeals on behalf of the rest of the world.  Herewith, after
desiring you to accept my affectionate devotion to your service,
I beseech God to vouchsafe you, sir, a fortunate and prolonged life.
From Montaigne, this 1st of September 1570.--Your obedient servant,


To Mademoiselle de MONTAIGNE, my Wife.--[Printed as a preface to the
“Consolation of Plutarch to his Wife,” published by Montaigne, with
several other tracts by La Boetie, about 1571.]

MY WIFE,--You understand well that it is not proper for a man of the
world, according to the rules of this our time, to continue to court and
caress you; for they say that a sensible person may take a wife indeed,
but that to espouse her is to act like a fool.  Let them talk; I adhere
for my part the custom of the good old days; I also wear my hair as it
used to be then; and, in truth, novelty costs this poor country up to the
present moment so dear (and I do not know whether we have reached the
highest pitch yet), that everywhere and in everything I renounce the
fashion.  Let us live, my wife, you and I, in the old French method.
Now, you may recollect that the late M. de la Boetie, my brother and
inseparable companion, gave me, on his death-bed, all his books and
papers, which have remained ever since the most precious part of my
effects.  I do not wish to keep them niggardly to myself alone, nor do I
deserve to have the exclusive use of them; so that I have resolved to
communicate them to my friends; and because I have none, I believe, more
particularly intimate you, I send you the Consolatory Letter written by
Plutarch to his Wife, translated by him into French; regretting much that
fortune has made it so suitable a present you, and that, having had but
one child, and that a daughter, long looked for, after four years of your
married life it was your lot to lose her in the second year of her age.
But I leave to Plutarch the duty of comforting you, acquainting you with
your duty herein, begging you to put your faith in him for my sake; for
he will reveal to you my own ideas, and will express the matter far
better than I should myself.  Hereupon, my wife, I commend myself very
heartily to your good will, and pray God to have you in His keeping.
From Paris, this 10th September 1570.--Your good husband,



To Monsieur DUPUY,--[This is probably the Claude Dupuy, born at Paris in
1545, and one of the fourteen judges sent into Guienne after the treaty
of Fleix in 1580.  It was perhaps under these circumstances that
Montaigne addressed to him the present letter.]--the King’s Councillor in
his Court and Parliament of Paris.

MONSIEUR,--The business of the Sieur de Verres, a prisoner, who is
extremely well known to me, deserves, in the arrival at a decision,
the exercise of the clemency natural to you, if, in the public interest,
you can fairly call it into play.  He has done a thing not only
excusable, according to the military laws of this age, but necessary and
(as we are of opinion) commendable.  He committed the act, without doubt,
unwillingly and under pressure; there is no other passage of his life
which is open to reproach.  I beseech you, sir, to lend the matter your
attentive consideration; you will find the character of it as I represent
it to you.  He is persecuted on this crime, in a way which is far worse
than the offence itself.  If it is likely to be of use to him, I desire
to inform you that he is a man brought up in my house, related to several
respectable families, and a person who, having led an honourable life,
is my particular friend.  By saving him you lay me under an extreme
obligation.  I beg you very humbly to regard him as recommended by me,
and, after kissing your hands, I pray God, sir, to grant you a long and
happy life.  From Castera, this 23d of April [1580].  Your affectionate


To the Jurats of Bordeaux.--[Published from the original among the
archives of the town of Bordeaux, M. Gustave Brunet in the Bulletin du
Bibliophile, July 1839.]

GENTLEMEN,--I trust that the journey of Monsieur de Cursol will be of
advantage to the town.  Having in hand a case so just and so favourable,
you did all in your power to put the business in good trim; and matters
being so well situated, I beg you to excuse my absence for some little
time longer, and I will abridge my stay so far as the pressure of my
affairs permits.  I hope that the delay will be short; however, you will
keep me, if you please, in your good grace, and will command me, if the
occasion shall arise, in employing me in the public service and in yours.
Monsieur de Cursol has also written to me and apprised me of his journey.
I humbly commend myself to you, and pray God, gentlemen, to grant you
long and happy life.  From Montaigne, this 21st of May 1582.  Your humble
brother and servant,


To the same.--[The original is among the archives of Toulouse.]

GENTLEMEN,--I have taken my fair share of the satisfaction which you
announce to me as feeling at the good despatch of your business, as
reported to you by your deputies, and I regard it as a favourable sign
that you have made such an auspicious commencement of the year.  I hope
to join you at the earliest convenient opportunity.  I recommend myself
very humbly to your gracious consideration, and pray God to grant you,
gentlemen, a happy and long life.  From Montaigne, this 8th February
1585.  Your humble brother and servant,


To the same.

GENTLEMEN,--I have here received news of you from M. le Marechal.  I will
not spare either my life or anything else for your service, and will
leave it to your judgment whether the assistance I might be able to
render by my presence at the forthcoming election, would be worth the
risk I should run by going into the town, seeing the bad state it is in,
--[This refers to the plague then raging, and which carried off 14,000
persons at Bordeaux.]--particularly for people coming away from so fine
an air as this is where I am.  I will draw as near to you on Wednesday as
I can, that is, to Feuillas, if the malady has not reached that place,
where, as I write to M. de la Molte, I shall be very pleased to have the
honour of seeing one of you to take your directions, and relieve myself
of the credentials which M. le Marechal will give me for you all:
commending myself hereupon humbly to your good grace, and praying God to
grant you, gentlemen, long and happy life.  At Libourne, this 30th of
July 1585.  Your humble servant and brother,

XII.--[“According to Dr. Payen, this letter belongs to 1588.  Its
authenticity has been called in question; but wrongly, in our opinion.
See ‘Documents inedits’, 1847, p.  12.”--Note in ‘Essais’, ed.  Paris,
1854, iv.  381.  It does not appear to whom the letter was addressed.]

MONSEIGNEUR,--You have heard of our baggage being taken from us under our
eyes in the forest of Villebois: then, after a good deal of discussion
and delay, of the capture being pronounced illegal by the Prince.  We
dared not, however, proceed on our way, from an uncertainty as to the
safety of our persons, which should have been clearly expressed on our
passports.  The League has done this, M. de Barrant and M. de la
Rochefocault; the storm has burst on me, who had my money in my box.  I
have recovered none of it, and most of my papers and cash--[The French
word is hardes, which St. John renders things.  But compare Chambers’s
“Domestic Annals of Scotland,” 2d ed.  i.  48.]--remain in their
possession.  I have not seen the Prince.  Fifty were lost .  .  .  as for
the Count of Thorigny, he lost some ver plate and a few articles of
clothing.  He diverged from his route to pay a visit to the mourning
ladies at Montresor, where are the remains of his two brothers and his
grandmother, and came to us again in this town, whence we shall resume
our journey shortly.  The journey to Normandy is postponed.  The King has
despatched MM. De Bellieure and de la Guiche to M. de Guise to summon him
to court; we shall be there on Thursday.

From Orleans, this 16th of February, in the morning [1588-9?].--Your very
humble servant,


To Mademoiselle PAULMIER.--[This letter, at the time of the publication
of the variorum edition of 1854, appears to have been in private hands.
See vol.  iv.  p.  382.]

MADEMOISELLE,--My friends know that, from the first moment of our
acquaintance, I have destined a copy of my book for you; for I feel that
you have done it much honour.  The courtesy of M. Paulmier would deprive
me of the pleasure of giving it to you now, for he has obliged me since a
great deal beyond the worth of my book.  You will accept it then, if you
please, as having been yours before I owed it to you, and will confer on
me the favour of loving it, whether for its own sake or for mine; and I
will keep my debt to M. Paulmier undischarged, that I may requite him, if
I have at some other time the means of serving him.


To the KING, HENRY IV.--[The original is in the French national library,
in the Dupuy collection.  It was first discovered by M. Achille Jubinal,
who printed it with a facsimile of the entire autograph, in 1850.  St.
John gives the date wrongly as the 1st January 1590.]

SIRE, It is to be above the weight and crowd of your great and important
affairs, to know, as you do, how to lend yourself, and attend to small
matters in their turn, according to the duty of your royal dignity, which
exposes you at all times to every description and degree of person and
employment.  Yet, that your Majesty should have deigned to consider my
letter, and direct a reply to be made to it, I prefer to owe, less to
your strong understanding, than to your kindness of heart.  I have always
looked forward to your enjoyment of your present fortune, and you may
recollect that, even when I had to make confession of itto my cure, I
viewed your successes with satisfaction: now, with the greater propriety
and freedom, I embrace them affectionately.  They serve you where you are
as positive matters of fact; but they serve us here no less by the fame
which they diffuse: the echo carries as much weight as the blow.  We
should not be able to derive from the justice of your cause such powerful
arguments for the maintenance and reduction of your subjects, as we do
from the reports of the success of your undertaking; and then I have to
assure your Majesty, that the recent changes to your advantage, which you
observe hereabouts, the prosperous issue of your proceedings at Dieppe,
have opportunely seconded the honest zeal and marvellous prudence of M.
the Marshal de Matignon, from whom I flatter myself that you do not
receive day by day accounts of such good and signal services without
remembering my assurances and expectations.  I look to the next summer,
not only for fruits which we may eat, but for those to grow out of our
common tranquillity, and that it will pass over our heads with the same
even tenor of happiness, dissipating, like its predecessors, all the fine
promises with which your adversaries sustain the spirits of their
followers.  The popular inclinations resemble a tidal wave; if the
current once commences in your favour, it will go on of its own force to
the end.  I could have desired much that the private gain of the soldiers
of your army, and the necessity for satisfying them, had not deprived
you, especially in this principal town, of the glorious credit of treating
your mutinous subjects, in the midst of victory, with greater clemency
than their own protectors, and that, as distinguished from a passing and
usurped repute, you could have shown them to be really your own, by the
exercise of a protection truly paternal and royal.  In the conduct of
such affairs as you have in hand, men are obliged to have recourse to
unusual expedients.  It is always seen that they are surmounted by their
magnitude and difficulty; it not being found easy to complete the
conquest by arms and force, the end has been accomplished by clemency and
generosity, excellent lures to draw men particularly towards the just and
legitimate side.  If there is to be severity and punishment, let it be
deferred till success has been assured.  A great conqueror of past times
boasts that he gave his enemies as great an inducement to love him, as
his friends.  And here we feel already some effect of the favourable
impression produced upon our rebellious towns by the contrast between
their rude treatment, and that of those which are loyal to you.  Desiring
your Majesty a happiness more tangible and less hazardous, and that you
may be beloved rather than feared by your people, and believing that your
welfare and theirs are of necessity knit together, I rejoice to think that
the progress which you make is one towards more practicable conditions of
peace, as well as towards victory!

Sire, your letter of the last of November came to my hand only just now,
when the time which it pleased you to name for meeting you at Tours had
already passed.  I take it as a singular favour that you should have
deigned to desire a visit from so useless a person, but one who is wholly
yours, and more so even by affection than from duty.  You have acted very
commendably in adapting yourself, in the matter of external forms, to
your new fortunes; but the preservation of your old affability and
frankness in private intercourse is entitled to an equal share of praise.
You have condescended to take thought for my age, no less than for the
desire which I have to see you, where you may be at rest from these
laborious agitations.  Will not that be soon at Paris, Sire?  and may
nothing prevent me from presenting myself there!--Your very humble and
very obedient servant and subject,

From Montaigne, this 18th of January [1590].

To the same.--[ This letter is also in the national collection, among the
Dupuy papers.  It was first printed in the “Journal de l’Instruction
Publique,” 4th November 1846.]

SIRE,--The letter which it pleased your majesty to write to me on the
20th of July, was not delivered to me till this morning, and found me
laid up with a very violent tertian ague, a complaint very common in this
part of the country during the last month.  Sire, I consider myself
greatly honoured by the receipt of your commands, and I have not omitted
to communicate to M. the Marshal de Matignon three times most
emphatically my intention and obligation to proceed to him, and even so
far as to indicate the route by which I proposed to join him secretly, if
he thought proper.  Having received no answer, I consider that he has
weighed the difficulty and risk of the journey to me.  Sire, your Majesty
dill do me the favour to believe, if you please, that I shall never
complain of the expense on occasions where I should not hesitate to
devote my life.  I have never derived any substantial benefit whatever
from the bounty of kings, which I have neither sought nor merited; nor
have I had any recompense for the services which I have performed for
them: whereof your majesty is in part aware.  What I have done for your
predecessors I shall do still more readily for you.  I am as rich, Sire,
as I desire to be.  When I shall have exhausted my purse in attendance on
your Majesty at Paris, I will take the liberty to tell you, and then, if
you should regard me as worthy of being retained any longer in your
suite, you will find me more modest in my claims upon you than the
humblest of your officers.

Sire, I pray God for your prosperity and health.  Your very humble and
very obedient servant and subject,

From Montaigne, this 2d of September [1590].


To the Governor of Guienne.

MONSEIGNEUR,--I have received this morning your letter, which I have
communicated to M. de Gourgues, and we have dined together at the house
of M.[the mayor] of Bourdeaux.  As to the inconvenience of transporting
the money named in your memorandum, you see how difficult a thing it is
to provide for; but you may be sure that we shall keep as close a watch
over it as possible.  I used every exertion to discover the man of whom
you spoke.  He has not been here; and M. de Bordeaux has shown me a
letter in which he mentions that he could not come to see the Director of
Bordeaux, as he intended, having been informed that you mistrust him.
The letter is of the day before yesterday.  If I could have found him, I
might perhaps have pursued the gentler course, being uncertain of your
views; but I entreat you nevertheless to feel no manner of doubt that I
refuse to carry out any wishes of yours, and that, where your commands
are concerned, I know no distinction of person or matter.  I hope that
you have in Guienne many as well affected to you as I am.  They report
that the Nantes galleys are advancing towards Brouage.  M. the Marshal de
Biron has not yet left.  Those who were charged to convey the message to
M. d’Usee say that they cannot find him; and I believe that, if he has
been here, he is so no longer.  We keep a vigilant eye on our gates and
guards, and we look after them a little more attentively in your absence,
which makes me apprehensive, not merely on account of the preservation of
the town, but likewise for your oven sake, knowing that the enemies of
the king feel how necessary you are to his service, and how ill we should
prosper without you.  I am afraid that, in the part where you are, you
will be overtaken by so many affairs requiring your attention on every
side, that it will take you a long time and involve great difficulty
before you have disposed of everything.  If there is any important news,
I will despatch an express at once, and you may conclude that nothing is
stirring if you do not hear from me: at the same time begging you to bear
in mind that movements of this kind are wont to be so sudden and
unexpected that, if they occur, they will grasp me by the throat, before
they say a word.  I will do what I can to collect news, and for this
purpose I will make a point of visiting and seeing men of every shade of
opinion.  Down to the present time nothing is stirring.  M. de Londel has
seen me this morning, and we have been arranging for some advances for
the place, where I shall go to-morrow morning.  Since I began this
letter, I have learnt from Chartreux that two gentlemen, describing
themselves as in the service of M. de Guise, and coming from Agen, have
passed near Chartreux; but I was not able to ascertain which road they
have taken.  They are expecting you at Agen.  The Sieur de Mauvesin came
as far as Canteloup, and thence returned, having got some intelligence.
I am in search of one Captain Rous, to whom .  .  .  wrote, trying to
draw him into his cause by all sorts of promises.  The rumour of the two
Nantes galleys ready to descend on Brouage is confirmed as certain; they
carry two companies of foot.  M. de Mercure is at Nantes.  The Sieur de
la Courbe said to M. the President Nesmond that M. d’Elbeuf is on this
side of Angiers, and lodges with his father.  He is drawing towards Lower
Poictou with 4000 foot and 400 or 500 horse, having been reinforced by
the troops of M. de Brissac and others, and M. de Mercure is to join him.
The report goes also that M. du Maine is about to take the command of all
the forces they have collected in Auvergne, and that he will cross Le
Foret to advance on Rouergue and us, that is to say, on the King of
Navarre, against whom all this is being directed.  M. de Lansac is at
Bourg, and has two war vessels, which remain in attendance on him.  His
functions are naval.  I tell you what I learn, and mix up together the
more or less probable hearsay of the town with actual matter of fact,
that you may be in possession of everything.  I beg you most humbly to
return directly affairs may allow you to do so, and assure you that,
meanwhile, we shall not spare our labour, or (if that were necessary) our
life, to maintain the king’s authority throughout.  Monseigneur, I kiss
your hands very respectfully, and pray God to have you in His keeping.
From Bordeaux, Wednesday night, 22d May (1590-91).--Your very humble


I have seen no one from the king of Navarre; they say that M. de Biron
has seen him.

            THE AUTHOR TO THE READER.--[Omitted by Cotton.]

READER, thou hast here an honest book; it doth at the outset forewarn
thee that, in contriving the same, I have proposed to myself no other
than a domestic and private end: I have had no consideration at all
either to thy service or to my glory.  My powers are not capable of any
such design.  I have dedicated it to the particular commodity of my
kinsfolk and friends, so that, having lost me (which they must do
shortly), they may therein recover some traits of my conditions and
humours, and by that means preserve more whole, and more life-like, the
knowledge they had of me.  Had my intention been to seek the world’s
favour, I should surely have adorned myself with borrowed beauties: I
desire therein to be viewed as I appear in mine own genuine, simple, and
ordinary manner, without study and artifice: for it is myself I paint.
My defects are therein to be read to the life, and any imperfections and
my natural form, so far as public reverence hath permitted me.  If I had
lived among those nations, which (they say) yet dwell under the sweet
liberty of nature’s primitive laws, I assure thee I would most willingly
have painted myself quite fully and quite naked.  Thus, reader, myself am
the matter of my book: there’s no reason thou shouldst employ thy leisure
about so frivolous and vain a subject.   Therefore farewell.

From Montaigne, the 12th June 1580--[So in the edition of 1595; the
edition of 1588 has 12th June 1588]

From Montaigne, the 1st March 1580.

     --[See Bonnefon, Montaigne, 1893, p. 254.  The book had been
     licensed for the press on the 9th May previous.  The edition of 1588
     has 12th June 1588;]--


     Arts of persuasion, to insinuate it into our minds
     Help: no other effect than that of lengthening my suffering
     Judgment of great things is many times formed from lesser thing
     Option now of continuing in life or of completing the voyage
     Two principal guiding reins are reward and punishment
     Virtue and ambition, unfortunately, seldom lodge together


Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazlitt




I.        That Men by Various Ways Arrive at the Same End.
II.       Of Sorrow.
III.      That our affections carry themselves beyond us.
IV.       That the soul discharges her passions upon false objects, where
          the true are wanting.
V.        Whether the governor of a place besieged ought himself to go
          out to parley.
VI.       That the hour of parley is dangerous.
VII.      That the intention is judge of our actions.
VIII.     Of idleness.
IX.       Of liars.
X.        Of quick or slow speech.
XI.       Of prognostications.
XII.      Of constancy.



The most usual way of appeasing the indignation of such as we have any
way offended, when we see them in possession of the power of revenge,
and find that we absolutely lie at their mercy, is by submission, to move
them to commiseration and pity; and yet bravery, constancy, and
resolution, however quite contrary means, have sometimes served to
produce the same effect.--[Florio’s version begins thus: “The most
vsuall waie to appease those minds wee have offended, when revenge lies
in their hands, and that we stand at their mercie, is by submission to
move them to commiseration and pity: Nevertheless, courage, constancie,
and resolution (means altogether opposite) have sometimes wrought the
same effect.”--] [The spelling is Florio’s D.W.]

Edward, Prince of Wales [Edward, the Black Prince.  D.W.] (the same who
so long governed our Guienne, a personage whose condition and fortune
have in them a great deal of the most notable and most considerable parts
of grandeur), having been highly incensed by the Limousins, and taking
their city by assault, was not, either by the cries of the people, or the
prayers and tears of the women and children, abandoned to slaughter and
prostrate at his feet for mercy, to be stayed from prosecuting his
revenge; till, penetrating further into the town, he at last took notice
of three French gentlemen,--[These were Jean de Villemure, Hugh de la
Roche, and Roger de Beaufort.--Froissart, i. c. 289. {The city was
Limoges.  D.W.}]--who with incredible bravery alone sustained the power
of his victorious army.  Then it was that consideration and respect unto
so remarkable a valour first stopped the torrent of his fury, and that
his clemency, beginning with these three cavaliers, was afterwards
extended to all the remaining inhabitants of the city.

Scanderbeg, Prince of Epirus, pursuing one of his soldiers with purpose
to kill him, the soldier, having in vain tried by all the ways of
humility and supplication to appease him, resolved, as his last refuge,
to face about and await him sword in hand: which behaviour of his gave a
sudden stop to his captain’s fury, who, for seeing him assume so notable
a resolution, received him into grace; an example, however, that might
suffer another interpretation with such as have not read of the
prodigious force and valour of that prince.

The Emperor Conrad III. having besieged Guelph, Duke of Bavaria,--[In
1140, in Weinsberg, Upper Bavaria.]--would not be prevailed upon, what
mean and unmanly satisfactions soever were tendered to him, to condescend
to milder conditions than that the ladies and gentlewomen only who were
in the town with the duke might go out without violation of their honour,
on foot, and with so much only as they could carry about them.  Whereupon
they, out of magnanimity of heart, presently contrived to carry out, upon
their shoulders, their husbands and children, and the duke himself;
a sight at which the emperor was so pleased, that, ravished with the
generosity of the action, he wept for joy, and immediately extinguishing
in his heart the mortal and capital hatred he had conceived against this
duke, he from that time forward treated him and his with all humanity.
The one and the other of these two ways would with great facility work
upon my nature; for I have a marvellous propensity to mercy and mildness,
and to such a degree that I fancy of the two I should sooner surrender my
anger to compassion than to esteem.  And yet pity is reputed a vice
amongst the Stoics, who will that we succour the afflicted, but not that
we should be so affected with their sufferings as to suffer with them.
I conceived these examples not ill suited to the question in hand, and
the rather because therein we observe these great souls assaulted and
tried by these two several ways, to resist the one without relenting, and
to be shook and subjected by the other.  It may be true that to suffer a
man’s heart to be totally subdued by compassion may be imputed to
facility, effeminacy, and over-tenderness; whence it comes to pass that
the weaker natures, as of women, children, and the common sort of people,
are the most subject to it but after having resisted and disdained the
power of groans and tears, to yield to the sole reverence of the sacred
image of Valour, this can be no other than the effect of a strong and
inflexible soul enamoured of and honouring masculine and obstinate
courage.  Nevertheless, astonishment and admiration may, in less generous
minds, beget a like effect: witness the people of Thebes, who, having put
two of their generals upon trial for their lives for having continued in
arms beyond the precise term of their commission, very hardly pardoned
Pelopidas, who, bowing under the weight of so dangerous an accusation,
made no manner of defence for himself, nor produced other arguments than
prayers and supplications; whereas, on the contrary, Epaminondas, falling
to recount magniloquently the exploits he had performed in their service,
and, after a haughty and arrogant manner reproaching them with
ingratitude and injustice, they had not the heart to proceed any further
in his trial, but broke up the court and departed, the whole assembly
highly commending the high courage of this personage.--[Plutarch, How
far a Man may praise Himself, c. 5.]

Dionysius the elder, after having, by a tedious siege and through
exceeding great difficulties, taken the city of Reggio, and in it the
governor Phyton, a very gallant man, who had made so obstinate a defence,
was resolved to make him a tragical example of his revenge: in order
whereunto he first told him, “That he had the day before caused his son
and all his kindred to be drowned.”  To which Phyton returned no other
answer but this: “That they were then by one day happier than he.”  After
which, causing him to be stripped, and delivering him into the hands of
the tormentors, he was by them not only dragged through the streets of
the town, and most ignominiously and cruelly whipped, but moreover
vilified with most bitter and contumelious language: yet still he
maintained his courage entire all the way, with a strong voice and
undaunted countenance proclaiming the honourable and glorious cause of
his death; namely, for that he would not deliver up his country into the
hands of a tyrant; at the same time denouncing against him a speedy
chastisement from the offended gods.  At which Dionysius, reading in his
soldiers’ looks, that instead of being incensed at the haughty language
of this conquered enemy, to the contempt of their captain and his
triumph, they were not only struck with admiration of so rare a virtue,
but moreover inclined to mutiny, and were even ready to rescue the
prisoner out of the hangman’s hands, he caused the torturing to cease,
and afterwards privately caused him to be thrown into the sea.--[Diod.
Sic., xiv. 29.]

Man (in good earnest) is a marvellous vain, fickle, and unstable subject,
and on whom it is very hard to form any certain and uniform judgment.
For Pompey could pardon the whole city of the Mamertines, though
furiously incensed against it, upon the single account of the virtue and
magnanimity of one citizen, Zeno,--[Plutarch calls him Stheno, and also
Sthemnus and Sthenis]--who took the fault of the public wholly upon
himself; neither entreated other favour, but alone to undergo the
punishment for all: and yet Sylla’s host, having in the city of Perugia
--[Plutarch says Preneste, a town of Latium.]--manifested the same
virtue, obtained nothing by it, either for himself or his

And, directly contrary to my first examples, the bravest of all men, and
who was reputed so gracious to all those he overcame, Alexander, having,
after many great difficulties, forced the city of Gaza, and, entering,
found Betis, who commanded there, and of whose valour in the time of this
siege he had most marvellous manifest proof, alone, forsaken by all his
soldiers, his armour hacked and hewed to pieces, covered all over with
blood and wounds, and yet still fighting in the crowd of a number of
Macedonians, who were laying on him on all sides, he said to him, nettled
at so dear-bought a victory (for, in addition to the other damage, he had
two wounds newly received in his own person), “Thou shalt not die, Betis,
as thou dost intend; be sure thou shall suffer all the torments that can
be inflicted on a captive.”  To which menace the other returning no other
answer, but only a fierce and disdainful look; “What,” says Alexander,
observing his haughty and obstinate silence, “is he too stiff to bend a
knee!  Is he too proud to utter one suppliant word!  Truly, I will
conquer this silence; and if I cannot force a word from his mouth, I
will, at least, extract a groan from his heart.”  And thereupon
converting his anger into fury, presently commanded his heels to be bored
through, causing him, alive, to be dragged, mangled, and dismembered at a
cart’s tail.--[Quintus Curtius, iv. 6.  This act of cruelty has been
doubted, notwithstanding the statement of Curtius.]--Was it that the
height of courage was so natural and familiar to this conqueror, that
because he could not admire, he respected it the less?  Or was it that he
conceived valour to be a virtue so peculiar to himself, that his pride
could not, without envy, endure it in another?  Or was it that the
natural impetuosity of his fury was incapable of opposition?  Certainly,
had it been capable of moderation, it is to be believed that in the sack
and desolation of Thebes, to see so many valiant men, lost and totally
destitute of any further defence, cruelly massacred before his eyes,
would have appeased it: where there were above six thousand put to the
sword, of whom not one was seen to fly, or heard to cry out for quarter;
but, on the contrary, every one running here and there to seek out and to
provoke the victorious enemy to help them to an honourable end.  Not one
was seen who, however weakened with wounds, did not in his last gasp yet
endeavour to revenge himself, and with all the arms of a brave despair,
to sweeten his own death in the death of an enemy.  Yet did their valour
create no pity, and the length of one day was not enough to satiate the
thirst of the conqueror’s revenge, but the slaughter continued to the
last drop of blood that was capable of being shed, and stopped not till
it met with none but unarmed persons, old men, women, and children, of
them to carry away to the number of thirty thousand slaves.



No man living is more free from this passion than I, who yet neither like
it in myself nor admire it in others, and yet generally the world, as a
settled thing, is pleased to grace it with a particular esteem, clothing
therewith wisdom, virtue, and conscience.  Foolish and sordid guise!
--[“No man is more free from this passion than I, for I neither love nor
regard it: albeit the world hath undertaken, as it were upon covenant, to
grace it with a particular favour.  Therewith they adorne age, vertue,
and conscience.  Oh foolish and base ornament!”  Florio, 1613, p. 3]
--The Italians have more fitly baptized by this name--[La tristezza]--
malignity; for ‘tis a quality always hurtful, always idle and vain; and
as being cowardly, mean, and base, it is by the Stoics expressly and
particularly forbidden to their sages.

But the story--[Herodotus, iii.  14.]--says that Psammenitus, King of
Egypt, being defeated and taken prisoner by Cambyses, King of Persia,
seeing his own daughter pass by him as prisoner, and in a wretched habit,
with a bucket to draw water, though his friends about him were so
concerned as to break out into tears and lamentations, yet he himself
remained unmoved, without uttering a word, his eyes fixed upon the
ground; and seeing, moreover, his son immediately after led to execution,
still maintained the same countenance; till spying at last one of his
domestic and familiar friends dragged away amongst the captives, he fell
to tearing his hair and beating his breast, with all the other
extravagances of extreme sorrow.

A story that may very fitly be coupled with another of the same kind, of
recent date, of a prince of our own nation, who being at Trent, and
having news there brought him of the death of his elder brother, a
brother on whom depended the whole support and honour of his house, and
soon after of that of a younger brother, the second hope of his family,
and having withstood these two assaults with an exemplary resolution; one
of his servants happening a few days after to die, he suffered his
constancy to be overcome by this last accident; and, parting with his
courage, so abandoned himself to sorrow and mourning, that some thence
were forward to conclude that he was only touched to the quick by this
last stroke of fortune; but, in truth, it was, that being before brimful
of grief, the least addition overflowed the bounds of all patience.
Which, I think, might also be said of the former example, did not the
story proceed to tell us that Cambyses asking Psammenitus, “Why, not
being moved at the calamity of his son and daughter, he should with so
great impatience bear the misfortune of his friend?”  “It is,” answered
he, “because only this last affliction was to be manifested by tears, the
two first far exceeding all manner of expression.”

And, peradventure, something like this might be working in the fancy of
the ancient painter,--[Cicero, De Orator., c. 22 ; Pliny, xxxv. 10.]--
who having, in the sacrifice of Iphigenia, to represent the sorrow of the
assistants proportionably to the several degrees of interest every one
had in the death of this fair innocent virgin, and having, in the other
figures, laid out the utmost power of his art, when he came to that of
her father, he drew him with a veil over his face, meaning thereby that
no kind of countenance was capable of expressing such a degree of sorrow.
Which is also the reason why the poets feign the miserable mother, Niobe,
having first lost seven sons, and then afterwards as many daughters
(overwhelmed with her losses), to have been at last transformed into a

               “Diriguisse malis,”

     [“Petrified with her misfortunes.”--Ovid, Met., vi. 304.]

thereby to express that melancholic, dumb, and deaf stupefaction, which
benumbs all our faculties, when oppressed with accidents greater than we
are able to bear.  And, indeed, the violence and impression of an
excessive grief must of necessity astonish the soul, and wholly deprive
her of her ordinary functions: as it happens to every one of us, who,
upon any sudden alarm of very ill news, find ourselves surprised,
stupefied, and in a manner deprived of all power of motion, so that the
soul, beginning to vent itself in tears and lamentations, seems to free
and disengage itself from the sudden oppression, and to have obtained
some room to work itself out at greater liberty.

          “Et via vix tandem voci laxata dolore est.”

     [“And at length and with difficulty is a passage opened by grief for
     utterance.”--AEneid, xi. 151.]

In the war that Ferdinand made upon the widow of King John of Hungary,
about Buda, a man-at-arms was particularly taken notice of by every one
for his singular gallant behaviour in a certain encounter; and, unknown,
highly commended, and lamented, being left dead upon the place: but by
none so much as by Raisciac, a German lord, who was infinitely enamoured
of so rare a valour.  The body being brought off, and the count, with the
common curiosity coming to view it, the armour was no sooner taken off
but he immediately knew him to be his own son, a thing that added a
second blow to the compassion of all the beholders; only he, without
uttering a word, or turning away his eyes from the woeful object, stood
fixedly contemplating the body of his son, till the vehemency of sorrow
having overcome his vital spirits, made him sink down stone-dead to the

          “Chi puo dir com’ egli arde, a in picciol fuoco,”

     [“He who can say how he burns with love, has little fire”
      --Petrarca, Sonetto 137.]

say the Innamoratos, when they would represent an ‘insupportable passion.

                         “Misero quod omneis
               Eripit sensus mihi: nam simul te,
               Lesbia, aspexi, nihil est super mi,
                         Quod loquar amens.
               Lingua sed torpet: tenuis sub artus
               Flamma dimanat; sonitu suopte
               Tintinant aures; gemina teguntur
                         Lumina nocte.”

     [“Love deprives me of all my faculties: Lesbia, when once in thy
     presence, I have not left the power to tell my distracting passion:
     my tongue becomes torpid; a subtle flame creeps through my veins; my
     ears tingle in deafness; my eyes are veiled with darkness.”
      Catullus, Epig. li. 5]

Neither is it in the height and greatest fury of the fit that we are in a
condition to pour out our complaints or our amorous persuasions, the soul
being at that time over-burdened, and labouring with profound thoughts;
and the body dejected and languishing with desire; and thence it is that
sometimes proceed those accidental impotencies that so unseasonably
surprise the lover, and that frigidity which by the force of an
immoderate ardour seizes him even in the very lap of fruition.
--[The edition of 1588 has here, “An accident not unknown to myself.”]--
For all passions that suffer themselves to be relished and digested are
but moderate:

               “Curae leves loquuntur, ingentes stupent.”

     [“Light griefs can speak: deep sorrows are dumb.”
      --Seneca, Hippolytus, act ii. scene 3.]

A surprise of unexpected joy does likewise often produce the same effect:

               “Ut me conspexit venientem, et Troja circum
               Arma amens vidit, magnis exterrita monstris,
               Diriguit visu in medio, calor ossa reliquit,
               Labitur, et longo vix tandem tempore fatur.”

     [“When she beheld me advancing, and saw, with stupefaction, the
     Trojan arms around me, terrified with so great a prodigy, she
     fainted away at the very sight: vital warmth forsook her limbs: she
     sinks down, and, after a long interval, with difficulty speaks.”--
     AEneid, iii. 306.]

Besides the examples of the Roman lady, who died for joy to see her son
safe returned from the defeat of Cannae; and of Sophocles and of
Dionysius the Tyrant,--[Pliny, vii.  53.  Diodorus Siculus, however (xv.
c. 20), tells us that Dionysius “was so overjoyed at the news that he
made a great sacrifice upon it to the gods, prepared sumptuous feasts, to
which he invited all his friends, and therein drank so excessively that
it threw him into a very bad distemper.”]--who died of joy; and of
Thalna, who died in Corsica, reading news of the honours the Roman Senate
had decreed in his favour, we have, moreover, one in our time, of Pope
Leo X., who upon news of the taking of Milan, a thing he had so ardently
desired, was rapt with so sudden an excess of joy that he immediately
fell into a fever and died.--[Guicciardini, Storia d’Italia, vol.
xiv.]--And for a more notable testimony of the imbecility of human
nature, it is recorded by the ancients--[Pliny, ‘ut supra’]--that
Diodorus the dialectician died upon the spot, out of an extreme passion
of shame, for not having been able in his own school, and in the presence
of a great auditory, to disengage himself from a nice argument that was
propounded to him.  I, for my part, am very little subject to these
violent passions; I am naturally of a stubborn apprehension, which also,
by reasoning, I every day harden and fortify.



Such as accuse mankind of the folly of gaping after future things, and
advise us to make our benefit of those which are present, and to set up
our rest upon them, as having no grasp upon that which is to come, even
less than that which we have upon what is past, have hit upon the most
universal of human errors, if that may be called an error to which nature
herself has disposed us, in order to the continuation of her own work,
prepossessing us, amongst several others, with this deceiving
imagination, as being more jealous of our action than afraid of our

We are never present with, but always beyond ourselves: fear, desire,
hope, still push us on towards the future, depriving us, in the meantime,
of the sense and consideration of that which is to amuse us with the
thought of what shall be, even when we shall be no more.--[Rousseau,
Emile, livre ii.]

          “Calamitosus est animus futuri auxius.”

     [“The mind anxious about the future is unhappy.”
      --Seneca, Epist., 98.]

We find this great precept often repeated in Plato, “Do thine own work,
and know thyself.”  Of which two parts, both the one and the other
generally, comprehend our whole duty, and do each of them in like manner
involve the other; for who will do his own work aright will find that his
first lesson is to know what he is, and that which is proper to himself;
and who rightly understands himself will never mistake another man’s work
for his own, but will love and improve himself above all other things,
will refuse superfluous employments, and reject all unprofitable thoughts
and propositions.  As folly, on the one side, though it should enjoy all
it desire, would notwithstanding never be content, so, on the other,
wisdom, acquiescing in the present, is never dissatisfied with itself.
--[Cicero, Tusc.  Quae., 57, v. 18.]--Epicurus dispenses his sages from
all foresight and care of the future.

Amongst those laws that relate to the dead, I look upon that to be very
sound by which the actions of princes are to be examined after their
decease.--[Diodorus Siculus, i. 6.]-- They are equals with, if not
masters of the laws, and, therefore, what justice could not inflict upon
their persons, ‘tis but reason should be executed upon their reputations
and the estates of their successors--things that we often value above
life itself.  ‘Tis a custom of singular advantage to those countries
where it is in use, and by all good princes to be desired, who have
reason to take it ill, that the memories of the wicked should be used
with the same reverence and respect with their own.  We owe subjection
and obedience to all our kings, whether good or bad, alike, for that has
respect unto their office; but as to esteem and affection, these are only
due to their virtue.  Let us grant to political government to endure them
with patience, however unworthy; to conceal their vices; and to assist
them with our recommendation in their indifferent actions, whilst their
authority stands in need of our support.  But, the relation of prince and
subject being once at an end, there is no reason we should deny the
expression of our real opinions to our own liberty and common justice,
and especially to interdict to good subjects the glory of having
reverently and faithfully served a prince, whose imperfections were to
them so well known; this were to deprive posterity of a useful example.
And such as, out of respect to some private obligation, unjustly espouse
and vindicate the memory of a faulty prince, do private right at the
expense of public justice.  Livy does very truly say,--[xxxv. 48.]--
“That the language of men bred up in courts is always full of vain
ostentation and false testimony, every one indifferently magnifying his
own master, and stretching his commendation to the utmost extent of
virtue and sovereign grandeur.”  Some may condemn the freedom of those
two soldiers who so roundly answered Nero to his beard; the one being
asked by him why he bore him ill-will?  “I loved thee,” answered he,
“whilst thou wert worthy of it, but since thou art become a parricide, an
incendiary, a player, and a coachman, I hate thee as thou dost deserve.”
 And the other, why he should attempt to kill him?  “Because,” said he,
“I could think of no other remedy against thy perpetual mischiefs.”
 --[Tacitus, Annal., xv. 67.]--But the public and universal testimonies
that were given of him after his death (and so will be to all posterity,
both of him and all other wicked princes like him), of his tyrannies and
abominable deportment, who, of a sound judgment, can reprove them?

I am scandalised, that in so sacred a government as that of the
Lacedaemonians there should be mixed so hypocritical a ceremony at the
interment of their kings; where all their confederates and neighbours,
and all sorts and degrees of men and women, as well as their slaves, cut
and slashed their foreheads in token of sorrow, repeating in their cries
and lamentations that that king (let him have been as wicked as the
devil) was the best that ever they had;--[Herodotus, vi.  68.]--by this
means attributing to his quality the praise that only belongs to merit,
and that of right is due to supreme desert, though lodged in the lowest
and most inferior subject.

Aristotle, who will still have a hand in everything, makes a ‘quaere’
upon the saying of Solon, that none can be said to be happy until he is
dead: “whether, then, he who has lived and died according to his heart’s
desire, if he have left an ill repute behind him, and that his posterity
be miserable, can be said to be happy?”  Whilst we have life and motion,
we convey ourselves by fancy and preoccupation, whither and to what we
please; but once out of being, we have no more any manner of
communication with that which is, and it had therefore been better said
by Solon that man is never happy, because never so, till he is no more.

          Vix radicitus e vita se tollit, et eicit;
          Sed facit esse sui quiddam super inscius ipse,
          Nec removet satis a projecto corpore sese, et

     [“Scarcely one man can, even in dying, wholly detach himself from
     the idea of life; in his ignorance he must needs imagine that there
     is in him something that survives him, and cannot sufficiently
     separate or emancipate himself from his remains”
      --Lucretius, iii. 890.]

Bertrand de Guesclin, dying at the siege of the Castle of Rancon, near
unto Puy, in Auvergne, the besieged were afterwards, upon surrender,
enjoined to lay down the keys of the place upon the corpse of the dead
general.  Bartolommeo d’Alviano, the Venetian General, happening to die
in the service of the Republic in Brescia, and his corpse being to be
carried through the territory of Verona, an enemy’s country, most of the
army were inclined to demand safe-conduct from the Veronese; but Theodoro
Trivulzio opposed the motion, rather choosing to make his way by force of
arms, and to run the hazard of a battle, saying it was by no means fit
that he who in his life was never afraid of his enemies should seem to
apprehend them when he was dead.  In truth, in affairs of the same
nature, by the Greek laws, he who made suit to an enemy for a body to
give it burial renounced his victory, and had no more right to erect a
trophy, and he to whom such suit was made was reputed victor.  By this
means it was that Nicias lost the advantage he had visibly obtained over
the Corinthians, and that Agesilaus, on the contrary, assured that which
he had before very doubtfully gained over the Boeotians.--[Plutarch,
Life of Nicias, c. ii.; Life of Agesilaus, c. vi.]

These things might appear strange, had it not been a general practice in
all ages not only to extend the concern of ourselves beyond this life,
but, moreover, to fancy that the favour of Heaven does not only very
often accompany us to the grave, but has also, even after life, a concern
for our ashes.  Of which there are so many ancient examples (to say
nothing of those of our own observation), that it is not necessary I
should longer insist upon it.  Edward I., King of England, having in the
long wars betwixt him and Robert, King of Scotland, had experience of how
great importance his own immediate presence was to the success of his
affairs, having ever been victorious in whatever he undertook in his own
person, when he came to die, bound his son in a solemn oath that, so soon
as he should be dead he should boil his body till the flesh parted from
the bones, and bury the flesh, reserving the bones to carry continually
with him in his army, so often as he should be obliged to go against the
Scots, as if destiny had inevitably attached victory, even to his
remains.  John Zisca, the same who, to vindication of Wicliffe’s
heresies, troubled the Bohemian state, left order that they should flay
him after his death, and of his skin make a drum to carry in the war
against his enemies, fancying it would contribute to the continuation of
the successes he had always obtained in the wars against them.  In like
manner certain of the Indians, in their battles with the Spaniards,
carried with them the bones of one of their captains, in consideration of
the victories they had formerly obtained under his conduct.  And other
people of the same New World carry about with them, in their wars, the
relics of valiant men who have died in battle, to incite their courage
and advance their fortune.  Of which examples the first reserve nothing
for the tomb but the reputation they have acquired by their former
achievements, but these attribute to them a certain present and active

The proceeding of Captain Bayard is of a better composition, who finding
himself wounded to death with an harquebuss shot, and being importuned to
retire out of the fight, made answer that he would not begin at the last
gasp to turn his back to the enemy, and accordingly still fought on, till
feeling himself too faint and no longer able to sit on his horse, he
commanded his steward to set him down at the foot of a tree, but so that
he might die with his face towards the enemy, which he did.

I must yet add another example, equally remarkable for the present
consideration with any of the former.  The Emperor Maximilian,
great-grandfather to the now King Philip,--[Philip II. of Spain.]--was a
prince endowed throughout with great and extraordinary qualities, and
amongst the rest with a singular beauty of person, but had withal a
humour very contrary to that of other princes, who for the despatch of
their most important affairs convert their close-stool into a chair of
State, which was, that he would never permit any of his bedchamber, how
familiar soever, to see him in that posture, and would steal aside to
make water as religiously as a virgin, shy to discover to his physician
or any other whomsoever those parts that we are accustomed to conceal.
I myself, who have so impudent a way of talking, am, nevertheless,
naturally so modest this way, that unless at the importunity of necessity
or pleasure, I scarcely ever communicate to the sight of any either those
parts or actions that custom orders us to conceal, wherein I suffer more
constraint than I conceive is very well becoming a man, especially of my
profession.  But he nourished this modest humour to such a degree of
superstition as to give express orders in his last will that they should
put him on drawers so soon as he should be dead; to which, methinks, he
would have done well to have added that he should be blindfolded, too,
that put them on.  The charge that Cyrus left with his children, that
neither they, nor any other, should either see or touch his body after
the soul was departed from it,--[Xenophon, Cyropedia, viii. 7.]--I
attribute to some superstitious devotion of his; for both his historian
and himself, amongst their great qualities, marked the whole course of
their lives with a singular respect and reverence to religion.

I was by no means pleased with a story, told me by a man of very great
quality of a relation of mine, and one who had given a very good account
of himself both in peace and war, that, coming to die in a very old age,
of excessive pain of the stone, he spent the last hours of his life in an
extraordinary solicitude about ordering the honour and ceremony of his
funeral, pressing all the men of condition who came to see him to engage
their word to attend him to his grave: importuning this very prince, who
came to visit him at his last gasp, with a most earnest supplication that
he would order his family to be there, and presenting before him several
reasons and examples to prove that it was a respect due to a man of his
condition; and seemed to die content, having obtained this promise, and
appointed the method and order of his funeral parade.  I have seldom
heard of so persistent a vanity.

Another, though contrary curiosity (of which singularity, also, I do not
want domestic example), seems to be somewhat akin to this, that a man
shall cudgel his brains at the last moments of his life to contrive his
obsequies to so particular and unusual a parsimony as of one servant with
a lantern, I see this humour commended, and the appointment of Marcus.
Emilius Lepidus, who forbade his heirs to bestow upon his hearse even the
common ceremonies in use upon such occasions.  Is it yet temperance and
frugality to avoid expense and pleasure of which the use and knowledge
are imperceptible to us?  See, here, an easy and cheap reformation.  If
instruction were at all necessary in this case, I should be of opinion
that in this, as in all other actions of life, each person should
regulate the matter according to his fortune; and the philosopher Lycon
prudently ordered his friends to dispose of his body where they should
think most fit, and as to his funeral, to order it neither too
superfluous nor too mean.  For my part, I should wholly refer the
ordering of this ceremony to custom, and shall, when the time comes,
accordingly leave it to their discretion to whose lot it shall fall to do
me that last office. “Totus hic locus est contemnendus in nobis, non
negligendus in nostris;”--[“The place of our sepulture is to be contemned
by us, but not to be neglected by our friends.”--Cicero, Tusc. i. 45.]--
and it was a holy saying of a saint, “Curatio funeris, conditio
sepultura: pompa exequiarum, magis sunt vivorum solatia, quam subsidia
mortuorum.”--[“The care of death, the place of sepulture, the pomps of
obsequies, are rather consolations to the living than succours to the
dead.” August. De Civit. Dei, i.  12.]--Which made Socrates answer
Crito, who, at death, asked him how he would be buried: “How you will,”
 said he. “If I were to concern myself beyond the present about this
affair, I should be most tempted, as the greatest satisfaction of this
kind, to imitate those who in their lifetime entertain themselves with
the ceremony and honours of their own obsequies beforehand, and are
pleased with beholding their own dead countenance in marble.  Happy are
they who can gratify their senses by insensibility, and live by their

I am ready to conceive an implacable hatred against all popular
domination, though I think it the most natural and equitable of all, so
oft as I call to mind the inhuman injustice of the people of Athens, who,
without remission, or once vouchsafing to hear what they had to say for
themselves, put to death their brave captains newly returned triumphant
from a naval victory they had obtained over the Lacedaemonians near the
Arginusian Isles, the most bloody and obstinate engagement that ever the
Greeks fought at sea; because (after the victory) they followed up the
blow and pursued the advantages presented to them by the rule of war,
rather than stay to gather up and bury their dead.  And the execution is
yet rendered more odious by the behaviour of Diomedon, who, being one of
the condemned, and a man of most eminent virtue, political and military,
after having heard the sentence, advancing to speak, no audience till
then having been allowed, instead of laying before them his own cause,
or the impiety of so cruel a sentence, only expressed a solicitude for
his judges’ preservation, beseeching the gods to convert this sentence to
their good, and praying that, for neglecting to fulfil the vows which he
and his companions had made (with which he also acquainted them) in
acknowledgment of so glorious a success, they might not draw down the
indignation of the gods upon them; and so without more words went
courageously to his death.

Fortune, a few years after, punished them in the same kind; for Chabrias,
captain-general of their naval forces, having got the better of Pollis,
Admiral of Sparta, at the Isle of Naxos, totally lost the fruits of his
victory, one of very great importance to their affairs, in order not to
incur the danger of this example, and so that he should not lose a few
bodies of his dead friends that were floating in the sea, gave
opportunity to a world of living enemies to sail away in safety, who
afterwards made them pay dear for this unseasonable superstition:--

               “Quaeris, quo jaceas, post obitum, loco?
                    Quo non nata jacent.”

     [“Dost ask where thou shalt lie after death?
     Where things not born lie, that never being had.”]
                                   Seneca, Tyoa. Choro ii. 30.

This other restores the sense of repose to a body without a soul:

     “Neque sepulcrum, quo recipiatur, habeat: portum corporis, ubi,
     remissa human, vita, corpus requiescat a malis.”

     [“Nor let him have a sepulchre wherein he may be received, a haven
     for his body, where, life being gone, that body may rest from its
     woes.”--Ennius, ap.  Cicero, Tusc.  i.  44.]

As nature demonstrates to us that several dead things retain yet an
occult relation to life; wine changes its flavour and complexion in
cellars, according to the changes and seasons of the vine from whence it
came; and the flesh of--venison alters its condition in the
powdering-tub, and its taste according to the laws of the living
flesh of its kind, as it is said.



A gentleman of my country, marvellously tormented with the gout, being
importuned by his physicians totally to abstain from all manner of salt
meats, was wont pleasantly to reply, that in the extremity of his fits he
must needs have something to quarrel with, and that railing at and
cursing, one while the Bologna sausages, and another the dried tongues
and the hams, was some mitigation to his pain.  But, in good earnest, as
the arm when it is advanced to strike, if it miss the blow, and goes by
the wind, it pains us; and as also, that, to make a pleasant prospect,
the sight should not be lost and dilated in vague air, but have some
bound and object to limit and circumscribe it at a reasonable distance.

         “Ventus ut amittit vires, nisi robore densa
          Occurrant sylvae, spatio diffusus inani.”

     [“As the wind loses its force diffused in void space, unless it in
     its strength encounters the thick wood.”--Lucan, iii.  362.]

So it seems that the soul, being transported and discomposed, turns its
violence upon itself, if not supplied with something to oppose it, and
therefore always requires an object at which to aim, and whereon to act.
Plutarch says of those who are delighted with little dogs and monkeys,
that the amorous part that is in us, for want of a legitimate object,
rather than lie idle, does after that manner forge and create one false
and frivolous.  And we see that the soul, in its passions, inclines
rather to deceive itself, by creating a false and fantastical a subject,
even contrary to its own belief, than not to have something to work upon.
After this manner brute beasts direct their fury to fall upon the stone
or weapon that has hurt them, and with their teeth a even execute revenge
upon themselves for the injury they have received from another:

         “Pannonis haud aliter, post ictum saevior ursa,
          Cui jaculum parva Lybis amentavit habena,
          Se rotat in vulnus, telumque irata receptum
          Impetit, et secum fugientem circuit hastam.”

     [“So the she-bear, fiercer after the blow from the Lybian’s thong-
     hurled dart, turns round upon the wound, and attacking the received
     spear, twists it, as she flies.”--Lucan, vi. 220.]

What causes of the misadventures that befall us do we not invent?  what
is it that we do not lay the fault to, right or wrong, that we may have
something to quarrel with?  It is not those beautiful tresses you tear,
nor is it the white bosom that in your anger you so unmercifully beat,
that with an unlucky bullet have slain your beloved brother; quarrel with
something else.  Livy, speaking of the Roman army in Spain, says that for
the loss of the two brothers, their great captains:

          “Flere omnes repente, et offensare capita.”

     [“All at once wept and tore their hair.”-Livy, xxv.  37.]

‘Tis a common practice.  And the philosopher Bion said pleasantly of the
king, who by handsful pulled his hair off his head for sorrow, “Does this
man think that baldness is a remedy for grief?”--[Cicero, Tusc.  Quest.,
iii.  26.]--Who has not seen peevish gamesters chew and swallow the
cards, and swallow the dice, in revenge for the loss of their money?
Xerxes whipped the sea, and wrote a challenge to Mount Athos; Cyrus
employed a whole army several days at work, to revenge himself of the
river Gyndas, for the fright it had put him into in passing over it; and
Caligula demolished a very beautiful palace for the pleasure his mother
had once enjoyed there.

     --[Pleasure--unless ‘plaisir’ were originally ‘deplaisir’--must be
     understood here ironically, for the house was one in which she had
     been imprisoned.--Seneca, De Ira. iii. 22]--

I remember there was a story current, when I was a boy, that one of our
neighbouring kings--[Probably Alfonso XI.  of Castile]--having received
a blow from the hand of God, swore he would be revenged, and in order to
it, made proclamation that for ten years to come no one should pray to
Him, or so much as mention Him throughout his dominions, or, so far as
his authority went, believe in Him; by which they meant to paint not so
much the folly as the vainglory of the nation of which this tale was
told.  They are vices that always go together, but in truth such actions
as these have in them still more of presumption than want of wit.
Augustus Caesar, having been tossed with a tempest at sea, fell to
defying Neptune, and in the pomp of the Circensian games, to be revenged,
deposed his statue from the place it had amongst the other deities.
Wherein he was still less excusable than the former, and less than he was
afterwards when, having lost a battle under Quintilius Varus in Germany,
in rage and despair he went running his head against the wall, crying
out, “O Varus!  give me back my legions!” for these exceed all folly,
forasmuch as impiety is joined therewith, invading God Himself, or at
least Fortune, as if she had ears that were subject to our batteries;
like the Thracians, who when it thunders or lightens, fall to shooting
against heaven with Titanian vengeance, as if by flights of arrows they
intended to bring God to reason.  Though the ancient poet in Plutarch
tells us--

              “Point ne se faut couroucer aux affaires,
               Il ne leur chault de toutes nos choleres.”

     [“We must not trouble the gods with our affairs; they take no heed
     of our angers and disputes.”--Plutarch.]

But we can never enough decry the disorderly sallies of our minds.



Quintus Marcius, the Roman legate in the war against Perseus, King of
Macedon, to gain time wherein to reinforce his army, set on foot some
overtures of accommodation, with which the king being lulled asleep,
concluded a truce for some days, by this means giving his enemy
opportunity and leisure to recruit his forces, which was afterwards the
occasion of the king’s final ruin.  Yet the elder senators, mindful of
their forefathers’ manners, condemned this proceeding as degenerating
from their ancient practice, which, they said, was to fight by valour,
and not by artifice, surprises, and night-encounters; neither by
pretended flight nor unexpected rallies to overcome their enemies; never
making war till having first proclaimed it, and very often assigned both
the hour and place of battle.  Out of this generous principle it was that
they delivered up to Pyrrhus his treacherous physician, and to the
Etrurians their disloyal schoolmaster.  This was, indeed, a procedure
truly Roman, and nothing allied to the Grecian subtlety, nor to the Punic
cunning, where it was reputed a victory of less glory to overcome by
force than by fraud.  Deceit may serve for a need, but he only confesses
himself overcome who knows he is neither subdued by policy nor
misadventure, but by dint of valour, man to man, in a fair and just war.
It very well appears, by the discourse of these good old senators, that
this fine sentence was not yet received amongst them.

               “Dolus, an virtus, quis in hoste requirat?”

     [“What matters whether by valour or by strategem we overcome the
     enemy?”--Aeneid, ii. 390]

The Achaians, says Polybius, abhorred all manner of double-dealing in
war, not reputing it a victory unless where the courage of the enemy was
fairly subdued:

“Eam vir sanctus et sapiens sciet veram esse victoriam, quae, salva fide
et integra dignitate, parabitur.”--[“An honest and prudent man will
acknowledge that only to be a true victory which shall be obtained saving
his own good faith and dignity.”--Florus, i.  12.]--Says another:

          “Vosne velit, an me, regnare hera, quidve ferat,
          fors virtute experiamur.”

     [“Whether you or I shall rule, or what shall happen, let us
     determine by valour.”--Cicero, De Offic., i. 12]

In the kingdom of Ternate, amongst those nations which we so broadly call
barbarians, they have a custom never to commence war, till it be first
proclaimed; adding withal an ample declaration of what means they have to
do it with, with what and how many men, what ammunitions, and what, both
offensive and defensive, arms; but also, that being done, if their
enemies do not yield and come to an agreement, they conceive it lawful to
employ without reproach in their wars any means which may help them to

The ancient Florentines were so far from seeking to obtain any advantage
over their enemies by surprise, that they always gave them a month’s
warning before they drew their army into the field, by the continual
tolling of a bell they called Martinella.--[After St. Martin.]

For what concerns ourselves, who are not so scrupulous in this affair,
and who attribute the honour of the war to him who has the profit of it,
and who after Lysander say, “Where the lion’s skin is too short, we must
eke it out with a bit from that of a fox”; the most usual occasions of
surprise are derived from this practice, and we hold that there are no
moments wherein a chief ought to be more circumspect, and to have his eye
so much at watch, as those of parleys and treaties of accommodation; and
it is, therefore, become a general rule amongst the martial men of these
latter times, that a governor of a place never ought, in a time of siege,
to go out to parley.  It was for this that in our fathers’ days the
Seigneurs de Montmord and de l’Assigni, defending Mousson against the
Count of Nassau, were so highly censured.  But yet, as to this, it would
be excusable in that governor who, going out, should, notwithstanding,
do it in such manner that the safety and advantage should be on his side;
as Count Guido di Rangone did at Reggio (if we are to believe Du Bellay,
for Guicciardini says it was he himself) when the Seigneur de l’Escut
approached to parley, who stepped so little away from his fort, that a
disorder happening in the interim of parley, not only Monsieur de l’Escut
and his party who were advanced with him, found themselves by much the
weaker, insomuch that Alessandro Trivulcio was there slain, but he
himself follow the Count, and, relying upon his honour, to secure himself
from the danger of the shot within the walls of the town.

Eumenes, being shut up in the city of Nora by Antigonus, and by him
importuned to come out to speak with him, as he sent him word it was fit
he should to a greater man than himself, and one who had now an advantage
over him, returned this noble answer.  “Tell him,” said he, “that I shall
never think any man greater than myself whilst I have my sword in my
hand,” and would not consent to come out to him till first, according to
his own demand, Antigonus had delivered him his own nephew Ptolomeus in

And yet some have done very well in going out in person to parley, on the
word of the assailant: witness Henry de Vaux, a cavalier of Champagne,
who being besieged by the English in the Castle of Commercy, and
Bartholomew de Brunes, who commanded at the Leaguer, having so sapped the
greatest part of the castle without, that nothing remained but setting
fire to the props to bury the besieged under the ruins, he requested the
said Henry to come out to speak with him for his own good, which he did
with three more in company; and, his ruin being made apparent to him, he
conceived himself singularly obliged to his enemy, to whose discretion he
and his garrison surrendered themselves; and fire being presently applied
to the mine, the props no sooner began to fail, but the castle was
immediately blown up from its foundations, no one stone being left upon

I could, and do, with great facility, rely upon the faith of another; but
I should very unwillingly do it in such a case, as it should thereby be
judged that it was rather an effect of my despair and want of courage
than voluntarily and out of confidence and security in the faith of him
with whom I had to do.



I saw, notwithstanding, lately at Mussidan, a place not far from my
house, that those who were driven out thence by our army, and others of
their party, highly complained of treachery, for that during a treaty of
accommodation, and in the very interim that their deputies were treating,
they were surprised and cut to pieces: a thing that, peradventure, in
another age, might have had some colour of foul play; but, as I have just
said, the practice of arms in these days is quite another thing, and
there is now no confidence in an enemy excusable till the treaty is
finally sealed; and even then the conqueror has enough to do to keep his
word: so hazardous a thing it is to entrust the observation of the faith
a man has engaged to a town that surrenders upon easy and favourable
conditions, to the licence of a victorious army, and to give the soldier
free entrance into it in the heat of blood.

Lucius AEmilius Regillus, the Roman praetor, having lost his time in
attempting to take the city of Phocaea by force, by reason of the
singular valour wherewith the inhabitants defended themselves,
conditioned, at last, to receive them as friends to the people of Rome,
and to enter the town, as into a confederate city, without any manner of
hostility, of which he gave them all assurance; but having, for the
greater pomp, brought his whole army in with him, it was no more in his
power, with all the endeavour he could use, to restrain his people: so
that, avarice and revenge trampling under foot both his authority and all
military discipline, he there saw a considerable part of the city sacked
and ruined before his face.

Cleomenes was wont to say, “that what mischief soever a man could do his
enemy in time of war was above justice, and nothing accountable to it in
the sight of gods and men.”  And so, having concluded a truce with those
of Argos for seven days, the third night after he fell upon them when
they were all buried in sleep, and put them to the sword, alleging that
there had no nights been mentioned in the truce; but the gods punished
this subtle perfidy.

In a time of parley also; and while the citizens were relying upon their
safety warrant, the city of Casilinum was taken by surprise, and that
even in the age of the justest captains and the most perfect Roman
military discipline; for it is not said that it is not lawful for us, in
time and place, to make advantage of our enemies’ want of understanding,
as well as their want of courage.

And, doubtless, war has naturally many privileges that appear reasonable
even to the prejudice of reason.  And therefore here the rule fails,
“Neminem id agere ut ex alte rius praedetur inscitia.”--[“No one should
preys upon another’s folly.”--Cicero, De Offic., iii.  17.]--But I am
astonished at the great liberty allowed by Xenophon in such cases, and
that both by precept and by the example of several exploits of his
complete emperor; an author of very great authority, I confess, in those
affairs, as being in his own person both a great captain and a
philosopher of the first form of Socrates’ disciples; and yet I cannot
consent to such a measure of licence as he dispenses in all things and

Monsieur d’Aubigny, besieging Capua, and after having directed a furious
battery against it, Signor Fabricio Colonna, governor of the town, having
from a bastion begun to parley, and his soldiers in the meantime being a
little more remiss in their guard, our people entered the place at
unawares, and put them all to the sword.  And of later memory, at Yvoy,
Signor Juliano Romero having played that part of a novice to go out to
parley with the Constable, at his return found his place taken.  But,
that we might not scape scot-free, the Marquess of Pescara having laid
siege to Genoa, where Duke Ottaviano Fregosa commanded under our
protection, and the articles betwixt them being so far advanced that it
was looked upon as a done thing, and upon the point to be concluded, the
Spaniards in the meantime having slipped in, made use of this treachery
as an absolute victory.  And since, at Ligny, in Barrois, where the Count
de Brienne commanded, the emperor having in his own person beleaguered
that place, and Bertheville, the said Count’s lieutenant, going out to
parley, whilst he was capitulating the town was taken.

              “Fu il vincer sempremai laudabil cosa,
               Vincasi o per fortuna, o per ingegno,”

     [“Victory is ever worthy of praise, whether obtained by valour or
     wisdom.”--Ariosto, xv.  I.]

But the philosopher Chrysippus was of another opinion, wherein I also
concur; for he was used to say that those who run a race ought to employ
all the force they have in what they are about, and to run as fast as
they can; but that it is by no means fair in them to lay any hand upon
their adversary to stop him, nor to set a leg before him to throw him
down.  And yet more generous was the answer of that great Alexander to
Polypercon who was persuading him to take the advantage of the night’s
obscurity to fall upon Darius.  “By no means,” said be; “it is not for
such a man as I am to steal a victory, ‘Malo me fortunae poeniteat, quam
victoria pudeat.’”--[“I had rather complain of ill-fortune than be
ashamed of victory.”  Quint. Curt, iv. 13]--

         “Atque idem fugientem baud est dignatus Oroden
          Sternere, nec jacta caecum dare cuspide vulnus
          Obvius, adversoque occurrit, seque viro vir
          Contulit, haud furto melior, sed fortibus armis.”

     [“He deigned not to throw down Orodes as he fled, or with the darted
     spear to give him a wound unseen; but overtaking him, he confronted
     him face to face, and encountered man to man: superior, not in
     stratagem, but in valiant arms.”--AEneid, x.  732.]



‘Tis a saying, “That death discharges us of all our obligations.”  I know
some who have taken it in another sense.  Henry VII., King of England,
articled with Don Philip, son to Maximilian the emperor, or (to place him
more honourably) father to the Emperor Charles V., that the said Philip
should deliver up the Duke of Suffolk of the White Rose, his enemy, who
was fled into the Low Countries, into his hands; which Philip accordingly
did, but upon condition, nevertheless, that Henry should attempt nothing
against the life of the said Duke; but coming to die, the king in his
last will commanded his son to put him to death immediately after his
decease.  And lately, in the tragedy that the Duke of Alva presented to
us in the persons of the Counts Horn and Egmont at Brussels,
--[Decapitated 4th June 1568]--there were very remarkable passages, and
one amongst the rest, that Count Egmont (upon the security of whose word
and faith Count Horn had come and surrendered himself to the Duke of
Alva) earnestly entreated that he might first mount the scaffold, to the
end that death might disengage him from the obligation he had passed to
the other.  In which case, methinks, death did not acquit the former of
his promise, and that the second was discharged from it without dying.
We cannot be bound beyond what we are able to perform, by reason that
effect and performance are not at all in our power, and that, indeed, we
are masters of nothing but the will, in which, by necessity, all the
rules and whole duty of mankind are founded and established: therefore
Count Egmont, conceiving his soul and will indebted to his promise,
although he had not the power to make it good, had doubtless been
absolved of his duty, even though he had outlived the other; but the King
of England wilfully and premeditately breaking his faith, was no more to
be excused for deferring the execution of his infidelity till after his
death than the mason in Herodotus, who having inviolably, during the time
of his life, kept the secret of the treasure of the King of Egypt, his
master, at his death discovered it to his children.--[Herod., ii.  121.]

I have taken notice of several in my time, who, convicted by their
consciences of unjustly detaining the goods of another, have endeavoured
to make amends by their will, and after their decease; but they had as
good do nothing, as either in taking so much time in so pressing an
affair, or in going about to remedy a wrong with so little
dissatisfaction or injury to themselves.  They owe, over and above,
something of their own; and by how much their payment is more strict and
incommodious to themselves, by so much is their restitution more just
meritorious.  Penitency requires penalty; but they yet do worse than
these, who reserve the animosity against their neighbour to the last
gasp, having concealed it during their life; wherein they manifest little
regard of their own honour, irritating the party offended in their
memory; and less to their the power, even out of to make their malice die
with them, but extending the life of their hatred even beyond their own.
Unjust judges, who defer judgment to a time wherein they can have no
knowledge of the cause!  For my part, I shall take care, if I can, that
my death discover nothing that my life has not first and openly declared.



As we see some grounds that have long lain idle and untilled, when grown
rich and fertile by rest, to abound with and spend their virtue in the
product of innumerable sorts of weeds and wild herbs that are
unprofitable, and that to make them perform their true office, we are to
cultivate and prepare them for such seeds as are proper for our service;
and as we see women that, without knowledge of man, do sometimes of
themselves bring forth inanimate and formless lumps of flesh, but that to
cause a natural and perfect generation they are to be husbanded with
another kind of seed: even so it is with minds, which if not applied to
some certain study that may fix and restrain them, run into a thousand
extravagances, eternally roving here and there in the vague expanse of
the imagination--

              “Sicut aqua tremulum labris ubi lumen ahenis,
               Sole repercussum, aut radiantis imagine lunae,
               Omnia pervolitat late loca; jamque sub auras
               Erigitur, summique ferit laquearia tecti.”

     [“As when in brazen vats of water the trembling beams of light,
     reflected from the sun, or from the image of the radiant moon,
     swiftly float over every place around, and now are darted up on
     high, and strike the ceilings of the upmost roof.”--
     AEneid, viii. 22.]

--in which wild agitation there is no folly, nor idle fancy they do not
light upon:--

                    “Velut aegri somnia, vanae
               Finguntur species.”

     [“As a sick man’s dreams, creating vain phantasms.”--
     Hor., De Arte Poetica, 7.]

The soul that has no established aim loses itself, for, as it is said--

          “Quisquis ubique habitat, Maxime, nusquam habitat.”

     [“He who lives everywhere, lives nowhere.”--Martial, vii.  73.]

When I lately retired to my own house, with a resolution, as much as
possibly I could, to avoid all manner of concern in affairs, and to spend
in privacy and repose the little remainder of time I have to live, I
fancied I could not more oblige my mind than to suffer it at full leisure
to entertain and divert itself, which I now hoped it might henceforth do,
as being by time become more settled and mature; but I find--

               “Variam semper dant otia mentem,”

     [“Leisure ever creates varied thought.”--Lucan, iv. 704]

that, quite contrary, it is like a horse that has broke from his rider,
who voluntarily runs into a much more violent career than any horseman
would put him to, and creates me so many chimaeras and fantastic
monsters, one upon another, without order or design, that, the better at
leisure to contemplate their strangeness and absurdity, I have begun to
commit them to writing, hoping in time to make it ashamed of itself.



There is not a man living whom it would so little become to speak from
memory as myself, for I have scarcely any at all, and do not think that
the world has another so marvellously treacherous as mine.  My other
faculties are all sufficiently ordinary and mean; but in this I think
myself very rare and singular, and deserving to be thought famous.
Besides the natural inconvenience I suffer by it (for, certes, the
necessary use of memory considered, Plato had reason when he called it a
great and powerful goddess), in my country, when they would say a man has
no sense, they say, such an one has no memory; and when I complain of the
defect of mine, they do not believe me, and reprove me, as though I
accused myself for a fool: not discerning the difference betwixt memory
and understanding, which is to make matters still worse for me.  But they
do me wrong; for experience, rather, daily shows us, on the contrary,
that a strong memory is commonly coupled with infirm judgment.  They do,
me, moreover (who am so perfect in nothing as in friendship), a great
wrong in this, that they make the same words which accuse my infirmity,
represent me for an ungrateful person; they bring my affections into
question upon the account of my memory, and from a natural imperfection,
make out a defect of conscience.  “He has forgot,” says one, “this
request, or that promise; he no more remembers his friends; he has forgot
to say or do, or conceal such and such a thing, for my sake.”  And,
truly, I am apt enough to forget many things, but to neglect anything my
friend has given me in charge, I never do it.  And it should be enough,
methinks, that I feel the misery and inconvenience of it, without
branding me with malice, a vice so contrary to my humour.

However, I derive these comforts from my infirmity: first, that it is an
evil from which principally I have found reason to correct a worse, that
would easily enough have grown upon me, namely, ambition; the defect
being intolerable in those who take upon them public affairs.  That, like
examples in the progress of nature demonstrate to us, she has fortified
me in my other faculties proportionably as she has left me unfurnished in
this; I should otherwise have been apt implicitly to have reposed my mind
and judgment upon the bare report of other men, without ever setting them
to work upon their own force, had the inventions and opinions of others
been ever been present with me by the benefit of memory.  That by this
means I am not so talkative, for the magazine of the memory is ever
better furnished with matter than that of the invention.  Had mine been
faithful to me, I had ere this deafened all my friends with my babble,
the subjects themselves arousing and stirring up the little faculty I
have of handling and employing them, heating and distending my discourse,
which were a pity: as I have observed in several of my intimate friends,
who, as their memories supply them with an entire and full view of
things, begin their narrative so far back, and crowd it with so many
impertinent circumstances, that though the story be good in itself, they
make a shift to spoil it; and if otherwise, you are either to curse the
strength of their memory or the weakness of their judgment: and it is a
hard thing to close up a discourse, and to cut it short, when you have
once started; there is nothing wherein the force of a horse is so much
seen as in a round and sudden stop.  I see even those who are pertinent
enough, who would, but cannot stop short in their career; for whilst they
are seeking out a handsome period to conclude with, they go on at random,
straggling about upon impertinent trivialities, as men staggering upon
weak legs.  But, above all, old men who retain the memory of things past,
and forget how often they have told them, are dangerous company; and I
have known stories from the mouth of a man of very great quality,
otherwise very pleasant in themselves, become very wearisome by being
repeated a hundred times over and over again to the same people.

Secondly, that, by this means, I the less remember the injuries I have
received; insomuch that, as the ancient said,--[Cicero, Pro Ligar.
c. 12.]--I should have a register of injuries, or a prompter, as Darius,
who, that he might not forget the offence he had received from those of
Athens, so oft as he sat down to dinner, ordered one of his pages three
times to repeat in his ear, “Sir, remember the Athenians”;--[Herod., v.
105.]--and then, again, the places which I revisit, and the books I read
over again, still smile upon me with a fresh novelty.

It is not without good reason said “that he who has not a good memory
should never take upon him the trade of lying.”  I know very well that
the grammarians--[Nigidius, Aulus Gellius, xi.  ii; Nonius, v.  80.]--
distinguish betwixt an untruth and a lie, and say that to tell an untruth
is to tell a thing that is false, but that we ourselves believe to be
true; and that the definition of the word to lie in Latin, from which our
French is taken, is to tell a thing which we know in our conscience to be
untrue; and it is of this last sort of liars only that I now speak.  Now,
these do either wholly contrive and invent the untruths they utter, or so
alter and disguise a true story that it ends in a lie.  When they
disguise and often alter the same story, according to their own fancy,
‘tis very hard for them, at one time or another, to escape being trapped,
by reason that the real truth of the thing, having first taken possession
of the memory, and being there lodged impressed by the medium of
knowledge and science, it will be difficult that it should not represent
itself to the imagination, and shoulder out falsehood, which cannot there
have so sure and settled footing as the other; and the circumstances of
the first true knowledge evermore running in their minds, will be apt to
make them forget those that are illegitimate, and only, forged by their
own fancy.  In what they, wholly invent, forasmuch as there is no
contrary impression to jostle their invention there seems to be less
danger of tripping; and yet even this by reason it is a vain body and
without any hold, is very apt to escape the memory, if it be not well
assured.  Of which I had very pleasant experience, at the expense of such
as profess only to form and accommodate their speech to the affair they
have in hand, or to humour of the great folks to whom they are speaking;
for the circumstances to which these men stick not to enslave their faith
and conscience being subject to several changes, their language must vary
accordingly: whence it happens that of the same thing they tell one man
that it is this, and another that it is that, giving it several colours;
which men, if they once come to confer notes, and find out the cheat,
what becomes of this fine art?  To which may be added, that they must of
necessity very often ridiculously trap themselves; for what memory can be
sufficient to retain so many different shapes as they have forged upon
one and the same subject?  I have known many in my time very ambitious of
the repute of this fine wit; but they do not see that if they have the
reputation of it, the effect can no longer be.

In plain truth, lying is an accursed vice.  We are not men, nor have
other tie upon one another, but by our word.  If we did but discover the
horror and gravity of it, we should pursue it with fire and sword, and
more justly than other crimes.  I see that parents commonly, and with
indiscretion enough, correct their children for little innocent faults,
and torment them for wanton tricks, that have neither impression nor
consequence; whereas, in my opinion, lying only, and, which is of
something a lower form, obstinacy, are the faults which are to be
severely whipped out of them, both in their infancy and in their
progress, otherwise they grow up and increase with them; and after a
tongue has once got the knack of lying, ‘tis not to be imagined how
impossible it is to reclaim it whence it comes to pass that we see some,
who are otherwise very honest men, so subject and enslaved to this vice.
I have an honest lad to my tailor, whom I never knew guilty of one truth,
no, not when it had been to his advantage.  If falsehood had, like truth,
but one face only, we should be upon better terms; for we should then
take for certain the contrary to what the liar says: but the reverse of
truth has a hundred thousand forms, and a field indefinite, without bound
or limit.  The Pythagoreans make good to be certain and finite, and evil,
infinite and uncertain.  There are a thousand ways to miss the white,
there is only one to hit it.  For my own part, I have this vice in so
great horror, that I am not sure I could prevail with my conscience to
secure myself from the most manifest and extreme danger by an impudent
and solemn lie.  An ancient father says “that a dog we know is better
company than a man whose language we do not understand.”

          “Ut externus alieno pene non sit hominis vice.”

     [“As a foreigner cannot be said to supply us the place of a man.”
      --Pliny, Nat. Hist. vii. I]

And how much less sociable is false speaking than silence?

King Francis I. vaunted that he had by this means nonplussed Francesco
Taverna, ambassador of Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, a man very famous
for his science in talking in those days.  This gentleman had been sent
to excuse his master to his Majesty about a thing of very great
consequence, which was this: the King, still to maintain some
intelligence with Italy, out of which he had lately been driven, and
particularly with the duchy of Milan, had thought it convenient to have a
gentleman on his behalf to be with that Duke: an ambassador in effect,
but in outward appearance a private person who pretended to reside there
upon his own particular affairs; for the Duke, much more depending upon
the Emperor, especially at a time when he was in a treaty of marriage
with his niece, daughter to the King of Denmark, who is now dowager of
Lorraine, could not manifest any practice and conference with us without
his great interest.  For this commission one Merveille, a Milanese
gentleman, and an equerry to the King, being thought very fit, was
accordingly despatched thither with private credentials, and instructions
as ambassador, and with other letters of recommendation to the Duke about
his own private concerns, the better to mask and colour the business; and
was so long in that court, that the Emperor at last had some inkling of
his real employment there; which was the occasion of what followed after,
as we suppose; which was, that under pretence of some murder, his trial
was in two days despatched, and his head in the night struck off in
prison.  Messire Francesco being come, and prepared with a long
counterfeit history of the affair (for the King had applied himself to
all the princes of Christendom, as well as to the Duke himself, to demand
satisfaction), had his audience at the morning council; where, after he
had for the support of his cause laid open several plausible
justifications of the fact, that his master had never looked upon this
Merveille for other than a private gentleman and his own subject, who was
there only in order to his own business, neither had he ever lived under
any other aspect; absolutely disowning that he had ever heard he was one
of the King’s household or that his Majesty so much as knew him, so far
was he from taking him for an ambassador: the King, in his turn, pressing
him with several objections and demands, and challenging him on all
sides, tripped him up at last by asking, why, then, the execution was
performed by night, and as it were by stealth?  At which the poor
confounded ambassador, the more handsomely to disengage himself, made
answer, that the Duke would have been very loth, out of respect to his
Majesty, that such an execution should have been performed by day.  Any
one may guess if he was not well rated when he came home, for having so
grossly tripped in the presence of a prince of so delicate a nostril as
King Francis.

Pope Julius II. having sent an ambassador to the King of England to
animate him against King Francis, the ambassador having had his audience,
and the King, before he would give an answer, insisting upon the
difficulties he should find in setting on foot so great a preparation as
would be necessary to attack so potent a King, and urging some reasons to
that effect, the ambassador very unseasonably replied that he had also
himself considered the same difficulties, and had represented them to the
Pope.  From which saying of his, so directly opposite to the thing
propounded and the business he came about, which was immediately to
incite him to war, the King of England first derived the argument (which
he afterward found to be true), that this ambassador, in his own mind,
was on the side of the French; of which having advertised his master, his
estate at his return home was confiscated, and he himself very narrowly
escaped the losing of his head.--[Erasmi Op. (1703), iv. col. 684.]



          “Onc ne furent a touts toutes graces donnees.”

     [“All graces were never yet given to any one man.”--A verse
     in one of La Brebis’ Sonnets.]

So we see in the gift of eloquence, wherein some have such a facility and
promptness, and that which we call a present wit so easy, that they are
ever ready upon all occasions, and never to be surprised; and others more
heavy and slow, never venture to utter anything but what they have long
premeditated, and taken great care and pains to fit and prepare.

Now, as we teach young ladies those sports and exercises which are most
proper to set out the grace and beauty of those parts wherein their
chiefest ornament and perfection lie, so it should be in these two
advantages of eloquence, to which the lawyers and preachers of our age
seem principally to pretend.  If I were worthy to advise, the slow
speaker, methinks, should be more proper for the pulpit, and the other
for the bar: and that because the employment of the first does naturally
allow him all the leisure he can desire to prepare himself, and besides,
his career is performed in an even and unintermitted line, without stop
or interruption; whereas the pleader’s business and interest compels him
to enter the lists upon all occasions, and the unexpected objections and
replies of his adverse party jostle him out of his course, and put him,
upon the instant, to pump for new and extempore answers and defences.
Yet, at the interview betwixt Pope Clement and King Francis at
Marseilles, it happened, quite contrary, that Monsieur Poyet, a man bred
up all his life at the bar, and in the highest repute for eloquence,
having the charge of making the harangue to the Pope committed to him,
and having so long meditated on it beforehand, as, so they said, to have
brought it ready made along with him from Paris; the very day it was to
have been pronounced, the Pope, fearing something might be said that
might give offence to the other princes’ ambassadors who were there
attending on him, sent to acquaint the King with the argument which he
conceived most suiting to the time and place, but, by chance, quite
another thing to that Monsieur de Poyet had taken so much pains about: so
that the fine speech he had prepared was of no use, and he was upon the
instant to contrive another; which finding himself unable to do, Cardinal
du Bellay was constrained to perform that office.  The pleader’s part is,
doubtless, much harder than that of the preacher; and yet, in my opinion,
we see more passable lawyers than preachers, at all events in France.
It should seem that the nature of wit is to have its operation prompt and
sudden, and that of judgment to have it more deliberate and more slow.
But he who remains totally silent, for want of leisure to prepare himself
to speak well, and he also whom leisure does noways benefit to better
speaking, are equally unhappy.

‘Tis said of Severus Cassius that he spoke best extempore, that he stood
more obliged to fortune than to his own diligence; that it was an
advantage to him to be interrupted in speaking, and that his adversaries
were afraid to nettle him, lest his anger should redouble his eloquence.
I know, experimentally, the disposition of nature so impatient of tedious
and elaborate premeditation, that if it do not go frankly and gaily to
work, it can perform nothing to purpose.  We say of some compositions
that they stink of oil and of the lamp, by reason of a certain rough
harshness that laborious handling imprints upon those where it has been
employed.  But besides this, the solicitude of doing well, and a certain
striving and contending of a mind too far strained and overbent upon its
undertaking, breaks and hinders itself like water, that by force of its
own pressing violence and abundance, cannot find a ready issue through
the neck of a bottle or a narrow sluice.  In this condition of nature,
of which I am now speaking, there is this also, that it would not be
disordered and stimulated with such passions as the fury of Cassius (for
such a motion would be too violent and rude); it would not be jostled,
but solicited; it would be roused and heated by unexpected, sudden, and
accidental occasions.  If it be left to itself, it flags and languishes;
agitation only gives it grace and vigour.  I am always worst in my own
possession, and when wholly at my own disposition: accident has more
title to anything that comes from me than I; occasion, company, and even
the very rising and falling of my own voice, extract more from my fancy
than I can find, when I sound and employ it by myself.  By which means,
the things I say are better than those I write, if either were to be
preferred, where neither is worth anything.  This, also, befalls me, that
I do not find myself where I seek myself, and I light upon things more by
chance than by any inquisition of my own judgment.  I perhaps sometimes
hit upon something when I write, that seems quaint and sprightly to me,
though it will appear dull and heavy to another.--But let us leave these
fine compliments; every one talks thus of himself according to his
talent.  But when I come to speak, I am already so lost that I know not
what I was about to say, and in such cases a stranger often finds it out
before me.  If I should make erasure so often as this inconvenience
befalls me, I should make clean work; occasion will, at some other time,
lay it as visible to me as the light, and make me wonder what I should
stick at.



For what concerns oracles, it is certain that a good while before the
coming of Jesus Christ they had begun to lose their credit; for we see
that Cicero troubled to find out the cause of their decay, and he has
these words:

          “Cur isto modo jam oracula Delphis non eduntur,
          non modo nostro aetate, sed jam diu; ut nihil
          possit esse contemptius?”

     [“What is the reason that the oracles at Delphi are no longer
     uttered: not merely in this age of ours, but for a long time past,
     insomuch that nothing is more in contempt?”
      --Cicero, De Divin., ii. 57.]

But as to the other prognostics, calculated from the anatomy of beasts at
sacrifices (to which purpose Plato does, in part, attribute the natural
constitution of the intestines of the beasts themselves), the
scraping of poultry, the flight of birds--

          “Aves quasdam .  .  .  rerum augurandarum
          causa natas esse putamus.”

     [“We think some sorts of birds are purposely created to serve
     the purposes of augury.”--Cicero, De Natura Deor., ii. 64.]

claps of thunder, the overflowing of rivers--

          “Multa cernunt Aruspices, multa Augures provident,
          multa oraculis declarantur, multa vaticinationibus,
          multa somniis, multa portentis.”

     [“The Aruspices discern many things, the Augurs foresee many things,
     many things are announced by oracles, many by vaticinations, many by
     dreams, many by portents.”--Cicero, De Natura Deor., ii. 65.]

--and others of the like nature, upon which antiquity founded most of
their public and private enterprises, our religion has totally abolished
them.  And although there yet remain amongst us some practices of
divination from the stars, from spirits, from the shapes and complexions
of men, from dreams and the like (a notable example of the wild curiosity
of our nature to grasp at and anticipate future things, as if we had not
enough to do to digest the present)--

               “Cur hanc tibi, rector Olympi,
               Sollicitis visum mortalibus addere curam,
               Noscant venturas ut dira per omina clades?...
               Sit subitum, quodcumque paras; sit coeca futuri
               Mens hominum fati, liceat sperare timenti.”

     [“Why, ruler of Olympus, hast thou to anxious mortals thought fit to
     add this care, that they should know by, omens future slaughter?...
     Let whatever thou art preparing be sudden.  Let the mind of men be
     blind to fate in store; let it be permitted to the timid to hope.”
      --Lucan, ii. 14]

               “Ne utile quidem est scire quid futurum sit;
               miserum est enim, nihil proficientem angi,”

     [“It is useless to know what shall come to pass; it is a miserable
     thing to be tormented to no purpose.”
      --Cicero, De Natura Deor., iii. 6.]

yet are they of much less authority now than heretofore.  Which makes so
much more remarkable the example of Francesco, Marquis of Saluzzo, who
being lieutenant to King Francis I. in his ultramontane army, infinitely
favoured and esteemed in our court, and obliged to the king’s bounty for
the marquisate itself, which had been forfeited by his brother; and as to
the rest, having no manner of provocation given him to do it, and even
his own affection opposing any such disloyalty, suffered himself to be so
terrified, as it was confidently reported, with the fine prognostics that
were spread abroad everywhere in favour of the Emperor Charles V., and to
our disadvantage (especially in Italy, where these foolish prophecies
were so far believed, that at Rome great sums of money were ventured out
upon return of greater, when the prognostics came to pass, so certain
they made themselves of our ruin), that, having often bewailed, to those
of his acquaintance who were most intimate with him, the mischiefs that
he saw would inevitably fall upon the Crown of France and the friends he
had in that court, he revolted and turned to the other side; to his own
misfortune, nevertheless, what constellation soever governed at that
time.  But he carried himself in this affair like a man agitated by
divers passions; for having both towns and forces in his hands, the
enemy’s army under Antonio de Leyva close by him, and we not at all
suspecting his design, it had been in his power to have done more than he
did; for we lost no men by this infidelity of his, nor any town, but
Fossano only, and that after a long siege and a brave defence.--[1536]

                   “Prudens futuri temporis exitum
                    Caliginosa nocte premit Deus,
                    Ridetque, si mortalis ultra
                    Fas trepidat.”

     [“A wise God covers with thick night the path of the future, and
     laughs at the man who alarms himself without reason.”
      --Hor., Od., iii. 29.]

                    “Ille potens sui
                    Laetusque deget, cui licet in diem
                    Dixisse vixi!  cras vel atra
                    Nube polum pater occupato,
                    Vel sole puro.”

     [“He lives happy and master of himself who can say as each day
     passes on, ‘I HAVE LIVED:’ whether to-morrow our Father shall give
     us a clouded sky or a clear day.”--Hor., Od., iii. 29]

                    “Laetus in praesens animus; quod ultra est,
                    Oderit curare.”

     [“A mind happy, cheerful in the present state, will take good care
     not to think of what is beyond it.”--Ibid., ii. 25]

And those who take this sentence in a contrary sense interpret it amiss:

               “Ista sic reciprocantur, ut et si divinatio sit,
               dii sint; et si dii lint, sit divinatio.”

     [“These things are so far reciprocal that if there be divination,
     there must be deities; and if deities, divination.”--Cicero, De
     Divin., i. 6.]

Much more wisely Pacuvius--

         “Nam istis, qui linguam avium intelligunt,
          Plusque ex alieno jecore sapiunt, quam ex suo,
          Magis audiendum, quam auscultandum, censeo.”

     [“As to those who understand the language of birds, and who rather
     consult the livers of animals other than their own, I had rather
     hear them than attend to them.”
      --Cicero, De Divin., i. 57, ex Pacuvio]

The so celebrated art of divination amongst the Tuscans took its
beginning thus: A labourer striking deep with his cutter into the earth,
saw the demigod Tages ascend, with an infantine aspect, but endued with a
mature and senile wisdom.  Upon the rumour of which, all the people ran
to see the sight, by whom his words and science, containing the
principles and means to attain to this art, were recorded, and kept for
many ages.--[Cicero, De Devina, ii. 23]--A birth suitable to its
progress; I, for my part, should sooner regulate my affairs by the chance
of a die than by such idle and vain dreams.  And, indeed, in all
republics, a good share of the government has ever been referred to
chance.  Plato, in the civil regimen that he models according to his own
fancy, leaves to it the decision of several things of very great
importance, and will, amongst other things, that marriages should be
appointed by lot; attributing so great importance to this accidental
choice as to ordain that the children begotten in such wedlock be brought
up in the country, and those begotten in any other be thrust out as
spurious and base; yet so, that if any of those exiles, notwithstanding,
should, peradventure, in growing up give any good hope of himself, he
might be recalled, as, also, that such as had been retained, should be
exiled, in case they gave little expectation of themselves in their early

I see some who are mightily given to study and comment upon their
almanacs, and produce them to us as an authority when anything has fallen
out pat; and, for that matter, it is hardly possible but that these
alleged authorities sometimes stumble upon a truth amongst an infinite
number of lies.

          “Quis est enim, qui totum diem jaculans
          non aliquando collineet?”

     [“For who shoots all day at butts that does not sometimes hit the
     white?”--Cicero, De Divin., ii. 59.]

I think never the better of them for some such accidental hit.  There
would be more certainty in it if there were a rule and a truth of always
lying.  Besides, nobody records their flimflams and false prognostics,
forasmuch as they are infinite and common; but if they chop upon one
truth, that carries a mighty report, as being rare, incredible, and
prodigious.  So Diogenes, surnamed the Atheist, answered him in
Samothrace, who, showing him in the temple the several offerings and
stories in painting of those who had escaped shipwreck, said to him,
“Look, you who think the gods have no care of human things, what do you
say to so many persons preserved from death by their especial favour?”
 “Why, I say,” answered he, “that their pictures are not here who were
cast away, who are by much the greater number.”--[Cicero, De Natura
Deor., i.  37.]

Cicero observes that of all the philosophers who have acknowledged a
deity, Xenophanes the Colophonian only has endeavoured to eradicate all
manner of divination--[Cicero, De Divin., i. 3.]--; which makes it the
less a wonder if we have now and then seen some of our princes, sometimes
to their own cost, rely too much upon these vanities.  I had given
anything with my own eyes to see those two great marvels, the book of
Joachim the Calabrian abbot, which foretold all the future Popes, their
names and qualities; and that of the Emperor Leo, which prophesied all
the emperors and patriarchs of Greece.  This I have been an eyewitness
of, that in public confusions, men astonished at their fortune, have
abandoned their own reason, superstitiously to seek out in the stars the
ancient causes and menaces of the present mishaps, and in my time have
been so strangely successful in it, as to make me believe that this being
an amusement of sharp and volatile wits, those who have been versed in
this knack of unfolding and untying riddles, are capable, in any sort of
writing, to find out what they desire.  But above all, that which gives
them the greatest room to play in, is the obscure, ambiguous, and
fantastic gibberish of the prophetic canting, where their authors deliver
nothing of clear sense, but shroud all in riddle, to the end that
posterity may interpret and apply it according to its own fancy.

Socrates demon might, perhaps, be no other but a certain impulsion of the
will, which obtruded itself upon him without the advice or consent of his
judgment; and in a soul so enlightened as his was, and so prepared by a
continual exercise of wisdom-and virtue, ‘tis to be supposed those
inclinations of his, though sudden and undigested, were very important
and worthy to be followed.  Every one finds in himself some image of such
agitations, of a prompt, vehement, and fortuitous opinion; and I may well
allow them some authority, who attribute so little to our prudence, and
who also myself have had some, weak in reason, but violent in persuasion
and dissuasion, which were most frequent with Socrates,--[Plato, in his
account of Theages the Pythagorean]--by which I have suffered myself to
be carried away so fortunately, and so much to my own advantage, that
they might have been judged to have had something in them of a divine



The law of resolution and constancy does not imply that we ought not, as
much as in us lies, to decline and secure ourselves from the mischiefs
and inconveniences that threaten us; nor, consequently, that we shall not
fear lest they should surprise us: on the contrary, all decent and honest
ways and means of securing ourselves from harms, are not only permitted,
but, moreover, commendable, and the business of constancy chiefly is,
bravely to stand to, and stoutly to suffer those inconveniences which are
not possibly to be avoided.  So that there is no supple motion of body,
nor any movement in the handling of arms, how irregular or ungraceful
soever, that we need condemn, if they serve to protect us from the blow
that is made against us.

Several very warlike nations have made use of a retreating and flying way
of fight as a thing of singular advantage, and, by so doing, have made
their backs more dangerous to their enemies than their faces.  Of which
kind of fighting the Turks still retain something in their practice of
arms; and Socrates, in Plato, laughs at Laches, who had defined fortitude
to be a standing firm in the ranks against the enemy.  “What!” says he,
“would it, then, be a reputed cowardice to overcome them by giving
ground?” urging, at the same time, the authority of Homer, who commends
in AEneas the science of flight.  And whereas Laches, considering better
of it, admits the practice as to the Scythians, and, in general, all
cavalry whatever, he again attacks him with the example of the
Lacedaemonian foot--a nation of all other the most obstinate in
maintaining their ground--who, in the battle of Plataea, not being able
to break into the Persian phalanx, bethought themselves to disperse and
retire, that by the enemy supposing they fled, they might break and
disunite that vast body of men in the pursuit, and by that stratagem
obtained the victory.

As for the Scythians, ‘tis said of them, that when Darius went his
expedition to subdue them, he sent, by a herald, highly to reproach their
king, that he always retired before him and declined a battle; to which
Idanthyrses,--[Herod., iv.  127.]--for that was his name, returned
answer, that it was not for fear of him, or of any man living, that he
did so, but that it was the way of marching in practice with his nation,
who had neither tilled fields, cities, nor houses to defend, or to fear
the enemy should make any advantage of but that if he had such a stomach
to fight, let him but come to view their ancient places of sepulture, and
there he should have his fill.

Nevertheless, as to cannon-shot, when a body of men are drawn up in the
face of a train of artillery, as the occasion of war often requires, it
is unhandsome to quit their post to avoid the danger, forasmuch as by
reason of its violence and swiftness we account it inevitable; and many a
one, by ducking, stepping aside, and such other motions of fear, has
been, at all events, sufficiently laughed at by his companions.  And yet,
in the expedition that the Emperor Charles V. made against us into
Provence, the Marquis de Guast going to reconnoitre the city of Arles,
and advancing out of the cover of a windmill, under favour of which he
had made his approach, was perceived by the Seigneurs de Bonneval and the
Seneschal of Agenois, who were walking upon the ‘theatre aux ayenes’; who
having shown him to the Sieur de Villiers, commissary of the artillery,
he pointed a culverin so admirably well, and levelled it so exactly right
against him, that had not the Marquis, seeing fire given to it, slipped
aside, it was certainly concluded the shot had taken him full in the
body.  And, in like manner, some years before, Lorenzo de’ Medici, Duke
of Urbino, and father to the queen-mother--[Catherine de’ Medici, mother
of Henry III.]--laying siege to Mondolfo, a place in the territories of
the Vicariat in Italy, seeing the cannoneer give fire to a piece that
pointed directly against him, it was well for him that he ducked, for
otherwise the shot, that only razed the top of his head, had doubtless
hit him full in the breast.  To say truth, I do not think that these
evasions are performed upon the account of judgment; for how can any man
living judge of high or low aim on so sudden an occasion?  And it is much
more easy to believe that fortune favoured their apprehension, and that
it might be as well at another time to make them face the danger, as to
seek to avoid it.  For my own part, I confess I cannot forbear starting
when the rattle of a harquebuse thunders in my ears on a sudden, and in a
place where I am not to expect it, which I have also observed in others,
braver fellows than I.

Neither do the Stoics pretend that the soul of their philosopher need be
proof against the first visions and fantasies that surprise him; but, as
to a natural subjection, consent that he should tremble at the terrible
noise of thunder, or the sudden clatter of some falling ruin, and be
affrighted even to paleness and convulsion; and so in other passions,
provided his judgment remain sound and entire, and that the seat of his
reason suffer no concussion nor alteration, and that he yield no consent
to his fright and discomposure.  To him who is not a philosopher, a
fright is the same thing in the first part of it, but quite another thing
in the second; for the impression of passions does not remain
superficially in him, but penetrates farther, even to the very seat of
reason, infecting and corrupting it, so that he judges according to his
fear, and conforms his behaviour to it. In this verse you may see the
true state of the wise Stoic learnedly and plainly expressed:--

          “Mens immota manet; lachrymae volvuntur inanes.”

          [“Though tears flow, the mind remains unmoved.”
           --Virgil, AEneid, iv. 449]

The Peripatetic sage does not exempt himself totally from perturbations
of mind, but he moderates them.


     Being dead they were then by one day happier than he
     Books I read over again, still smile upon me with  fresh novelty
     Death discharges us of all our obligations
     Difference betwixt memory and understanding
     Do thine own work, and know thyself
     Effect and performance are not at all in our power
     Fantastic gibberish of the prophetic canting
     Folly of gaping after future things
     Good to be certain and finite, and evil, infinite and uncertain
     He who lives everywhere, lives nowhere
     If they chop upon one truth, that carries a mighty report
     Impotencies that so unseasonably surprise the lover
     Let it be permitted to the timid to hope
     Light griefs can speak: deep sorrows are dumb
     Look, you who think the gods have no care of human things
     Nature of judgment to have it more deliberate and more slow
     Nature of wit is to have its operation prompt and sudden
     Nor have other tie upon one another, but by our word
     Old men who retain the memory of things past
     Pity is reputed a vice amongst the Stoics
     Rather complain of ill-fortune than be ashamed of victory
     Reverse of truth has a hundred thousand forms
     Say of some compositions that they stink of oil and of the lamp
     Solon, that none can be said to be happy until he is dead
     Strong memory is commonly coupled with infirm judgment
     Stumble upon a truth amongst an infinite number of lies
     Suffer those inconveniences which are not possibly to be avoided
     Superstitiously to seek out in the stars the ancient causes
     Their pictures are not here who were cast away
     Things I say are better than those I write
     We are masters of nothing but the will
     We cannot be bound beyond what we are able to perform
     Where the lion’s skin is too short


Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazlitt



XIII.     The ceremony of the interview of princes.
XIV.      That men are justly punished for being obstinate in the defence
          of a fort that is not in reason to be defended
XV.       Of the punishment of cowardice.
XVI.      A proceeding of some ambassadors.
XVII.     Of fear.
XVIII.    That men are not to judge of our happiness till after death.
XIX.      That to study philosophy is to learn to die.
XX.       Of the force of imagination.
XXI.      That the profit of one man is the damage of another.



There is no subject so frivolous that does not merit a place in this
rhapsody.  According to our common rule of civility, it would be a
notable affront to an equal, and much more to a superior, to fail being
at home when he has given you notice he will come to visit you.  Nay,
Queen Margaret of Navarre--[Marguerite de Valois, authoress of the
‘Heptameron’]--further adds, that it would be a rudeness in a gentleman
to go out, as we so often do, to meet any that is coming to see him, let
him be of what high condition soever; and that it is more respectful and
more civil to stay at home to receive him, if only upon the account of
missing him by the way, and that it is enough to receive him at the door,
and to wait upon him.  For my part, who as much as I can endeavour to
reduce the ceremonies of my house, I very often forget both the one and
the other of these vain offices.  If, peradventure, some one may take
offence at this, I can’t help it; it is much better to offend him once
than myself every day, for it would be a perpetual slavery.  To what end
do we avoid the servile attendance of courts, if we bring the same
trouble home to our own private houses?  It is also a common rule in all
assemblies, that those of less quality are to be first upon the place, by
reason that it is more due to the better sort to make others wait and
expect them.

Nevertheless, at the interview betwixt Pope Clement and King Francis at
Marseilles,--[in 1533.]--the King, after he had taken order for the
necessary preparations for his reception and entertainment, withdrew out
of the town, and gave the Pope two or three days’ respite for his entry,
and to repose and refresh himself, before he came to him.  And in like
manner, at the assignation of the Pope and the Emperor,--[Charles V.  in
1532.] at Bologna, the Emperor gave the Pope opportunity to come thither
first, and came himself after; for which the reason given was this, that
at all the interviews of such princes, the greater ought to be first at
the appointed place, especially before the other in whose territories the
interview is appointed to be, intimating thereby a kind of deference to
the other, it appearing proper for the less to seek out and to apply
themselves to the greater, and not the greater to them.

Not every country only, but every city and every society has its
particular forms of civility.  There was care enough to this taken in my
education, and I have lived in good company enough to know the
formalities of our own nation, and am able to give lessons in it.  I love
to follow them, but not to be so servilely tied to their observation that
my whole life should be enslaved to ceremonies, of which there are some
so troublesome that, provided a man omits them out of discretion, and not
for want of breeding, it will be every whit as handsome.  I have seen
some people rude, by being overcivil and troublesome in their courtesy.

Still, these excesses excepted, the knowledge of courtesy and good
manners is a very necessary study.  It is, like grace and beauty, that
which begets liking and an inclination to love one another at the first
sight, and in the very beginning of acquaintance; and, consequently, that
which first opens the door and intromits us to instruct ourselves by the
example of others, and to give examples ourselves, if we have any worth
taking notice of and communicating.



Valour has its bounds as well as other virtues, which, once transgressed,
the next step is into the territories of vice; so that by having too
large a proportion of this heroic virtue, unless a man be very perfect in
its limits, which upon the confines are very hard to discern, he may very
easily unawares run into temerity, obstinacy, and folly.  From this
consideration it is that we have derived the custom, in times of war, to
punish, even with death, those who are obstinate to defend a place that
by the rules of war is not tenable; otherwise men would be so confident
upon the hope of impunity, that not a henroost but would resist and seek
to stop an army.

The Constable Monsieur de Montmorenci, having at the siege of Pavia been
ordered to pass the Ticino, and to take up his quarters in the Faubourg
St. Antonio, being hindered by a tower at the end of the bridge, which
was so obstinate as to endure a battery, hanged every man he found within
it for their labour.  And again, accompanying the Dauphin in his
expedition beyond the Alps, and taking the Castle of Villano by assault,
and all within it being put to the sword by the fury of the soldiers, the
governor and his ensign only excepted, he caused them both to be trussed
up for the same reason; as also did the Captain Martin du Bellay, then
governor of Turin, with the governor of San Buono, in the same country,
all his people having been cut to pieces at the taking of the place.

But forasmuch as the strength or weakness of a fortress is always
measured by the estimate and counterpoise of the forces that attack it
--for a man might reasonably enough despise two culverins, that would be
a madman to abide a battery of thirty pieces of cannon--where also the
greatness of the prince who is master of the field, his reputation, and
the respect that is due unto him, are also put into the balance, there is
danger that the balance be pressed too much in that direction.  And it
may happen that a man is possessed with so great an opinion of himself
and his power, that thinking it unreasonable any place should dare to
shut its gates against him, he puts all to the sword where he meets with
any opposition, whilst his fortune continues; as is plain in the fierce
and arrogant forms of summoning towns and denouncing war, savouring so
much of barbarian pride and insolence, in use amongst the Oriental
princes, and which their successors to this day do yet retain and
practise.  And in that part of the world where the Portuguese subdued the
Indians, they found some states where it was a universal and inviolable
law amongst them that every enemy overcome by the king in person, or by
his lieutenant, was out of composition.

So above all both of ransom and mercy a man should take heed, if he can,
of falling into the hands of a judge who is an enemy and victorious.



I once heard of a prince, and a great captain, having a narration given
him as he sat at table of the proceeding against Monsieur de Vervins, who
was sentenced to death for having surrendered Boulogne to the English,
--[To Henry VIII. in 1544]--openly maintaining that a soldier could not
justly be put to death for want of courage.  And, in truth, ‘tis reason
that a man should make a great difference betwixt faults that merely
proceed from infirmity, and those that are visibly the effects of
treachery and malice: for, in the last, we act against the rules of
reason that nature has imprinted in us; whereas, in the former, it seems
as if we might produce the same nature, who left us in such a state of
imperfection and weakness of courage, for our justification.  Insomuch
that many have thought we are not fairly questionable for anything but
what we commit against our conscience; and it is partly upon this rule
that those ground their opinion who disapprove of capital or sanguinary
punishments inflicted upon heretics and misbelievers; and theirs also who
advocate or a judge is not accountable for having from mere ignorance
failed in his administration.

But as to cowardice, it is certain that the most usual way of chastising
it is by ignominy and and it is supposed that this practice brought into
use by the legislator Charondas; and that, before his time, the laws of
Greece punished those with death who fled from a battle; whereas he
ordained only that they be for three days exposed in the public dressed
in woman’s attire, hoping yet for some service from them, having awakened
their courage by this open shame:

          “Suffundere malis homims sanguinem, quam effundere.”

     [“Rather bring the blood into a man’s cheek than let it out of his
     body.”  Tertullian in his Apologetics.]

It appears also that the Roman laws did anciently punish those with death
who had run away; for Ammianus Marcellinus says that the Emperor Julian
commanded ten of his soldiers, who had turned their backs in an encounter
against the Parthians, to be first degraded, and afterward put to death,
according, says he, to the ancient laws,--[Ammianus Marcellinus, xxiv.
4; xxv. i.]--and yet elsewhere for the like offence he only condemned
others to remain amongst the prisoners under the baggage ensign.  The
severe punishment the people of Rome inflicted upon those who fled from
the battle of Cannae, and those who ran away with Aeneius Fulvius at his
defeat, did not extend to death.  And yet, methinks, ‘tis to be feared,
lest disgrace should make such delinquents desperate, and not only faint
friends, but enemies.

Of late memory,--[In 1523]--the Seigneur de Frauget, lieutenant to the
Mareschal de Chatillon’s company, having by the Mareschal de Chabannes
been put in government of Fuentarabia in the place of Monsieur de Lude,
and having surrendered it to the Spaniard, he was for that condemned to
be degraded from all nobility, and both himself and his posterity
declared ignoble, taxable, and for ever incapable of bearing arms, which
severe sentence was afterwards accordingly executed at Lyons.--[In 1536]
--And, since that, all the gentlemen who were in Guise when the Count of
Nassau entered into it, underwent the same punishment, as several others
have done since for the like offence.  Notwithstanding, in case of such a
manifest ignorance or cowardice as exceeds all ordinary example, ‘tis but
reason to take it for a sufficient proof of treachery and malice, and for
such to be punished.



I observe in my travels this custom, ever to learn something from the
information of those with whom I confer (which is the best school of all
others), and to put my company upon those subjects they are the best able
to speak of:--

               “Basti al nocchiero ragionar de’ venti,
               Al bifolco dei tori; et le sue piaghe
               Conti’l guerrier; conti’l pastor gli armenti.”

     [“Let the sailor content himself with talking of the winds; the
     cowherd of his oxen; the soldier of his wounds; the shepherd of his
     flocks.”--An Italian translation of Propertius, ii. i, 43]

For it often falls out that, on the contrary, every one will rather
choose to be prating of another man’s province than his own, thinking it
so much new reputation acquired; witness the jeer Archidamus put upon
Pertander, “that he had quitted the glory of being an excellent physician
to gain the repute of a very bad poet.--[Plutarch, Apoth. of the
Lacedaemonians, ‘in voce’ Archidamus.]--And do but observe how large and
ample Caesar is to make us understand his inventions of building bridges
and contriving engines of war,--[De Bello Gall., iv. 17.]--and how
succinct and reserved in comparison, where he speaks of the offices of
his profession, his own valour, and military conduct.  His exploits
sufficiently prove him a great captain, and that he knew well enough; but
he would be thought an excellent engineer to boot; a quality something
different, and not necessary to be expected in him.  The elder Dionysius
was a very great captain, as it befitted his fortune he should be; but he
took very great pains to get a particular reputation by poetry, and yet
he was never cut out for a poet.  A man of the legal profession being not
long since brought to see a study furnished with all sorts of books, both
of his own and all other faculties, took no occasion at all to entertain
himself with any of them, but fell very rudely and magisterially to
descant upon a barricade placed on the winding stair before the study
door, a thing that a hundred captains and common soldiers see every day
without taking any notice or offence.

          “Optat ephippia bos piger, optat arare caballus.”

     [“The lazy ox desires a saddle and bridle; the horse wants to
     plough.”--Hor., Ep., i. 14,43.]

By this course a man shall never improve himself, nor arrive at any
perfection in anything.  He must, therefore, make it his business always
to put the architect, the painter, the statuary, every mechanic artisan,
upon discourse of their own capacities.

And, to this purpose, in reading histories, which is everybody’s subject,
I use to consider what kind of men are the authors: if they be persons
that profess nothing but mere letters, I, in and from them, principally
observe and learn style and language; if physicians, I the rather incline
to credit what they report of the temperature of the air, of the health
and complexions of princes, of wounds and diseases; if lawyers, we are
from them to take notice of the controversies of rights and wrongs, the
establishment of laws and civil government, and the like; if divines, the
affairs of the Church, ecclesiastical censures, marriages, and
dispensations; if courtiers, manners and ceremonies; if soldiers, the
things that properly belong to their trade, and, principally, the
accounts of the actions and enterprises wherein they were personally
engaged; if ambassadors, we are to observe negotiations, intelligences,
and practices, and the manner how they are to be carried on.

And this is the reason why (which perhaps I should have lightly passed
over in another) I dwelt upon and maturely considered one passage in the
history written by Monsieur de Langey, a man of very great judgment in
things of that nature: after having given a narrative of the fine oration
Charles V. had made in the Consistory at Rome, and in the presence of the
Bishop of Macon and Monsieur du Velly, our ambassadors there, wherein he
had mixed several injurious expressions to the dishonour of our nation;
and amongst the rest, “that if his captains and soldiers were not men of
another kind of fidelity, resolution, and sufficiency in the knowledge of
arms than those of the King, he would immediately go with a rope about
his neck and sue to him for mercy” (and it should seem the Emperor had
really this, or a very little better opinion of our military men, for he
afterwards, twice or thrice in his life, said the very same thing); as
also, that he challenged the King to fight him in his shirt with rapier
and poignard in a boat.  The said Sieur de Langey, pursuing his history,
adds that the forenamed ambassadors, sending a despatch to the King of
these things, concealed the greatest part, and particularly the last two
passages.  At which I could not but wonder that it should be in the power
of an ambassador to dispense with anything which he ought to signify to
his master, especially of so great importance as this, coming from the
mouth of such a person, and spoken in so great an assembly; and I should
rather conceive it had been the servant’s duty faithfully to have
represented to him the whole thing as it passed, to the end that the
liberty of selecting, disposing, judging, and concluding might have
remained in him: for either to conceal or to disguise the truth for fear
he should take it otherwise than he ought to do, and lest it should
prompt him to some extravagant resolution, and, in the meantime, to leave
him ignorant of his affairs, should seem, methinks, rather to belong to
him who is to give the law than to him who is only to receive it; to him
who is in supreme command, and not to him who ought to look upon himself
as inferior, not only in authority, but also in prudence and good
counsel.  I, for my part, would not be so served in my little concerns.

We so willingly slip the collar of command upon any pretence whatever,
and are so ready to usurp upon dominion, every one does so naturally
aspire to liberty and power, that no utility whatever derived from the
wit or valour of those he employs ought to be so dear to a superior as a
downright and sincere obedience.  To obey more upon the account of
understanding than of subjection, is to corrupt the office of command
--[Taken from Aulus Gellius, i. 13.]--; insomuch that P. Crassus, the same
whom the Romans reputed five times happy, at the time when he was consul
in Asia, having sent to a Greek engineer to cause the greater of two
masts of ships that he had taken notice of at Athens to be brought to
him, to be employed about some engine of battery he had a design to make;
the other, presuming upon his own science and sufficiency in those
affairs, thought fit to do otherwise than directed, and to bring the
less, which, according to the rules of art, was really more proper for
the use to which it was designed; but Crassus, though he gave ear to his
reasons with great patience, would not, however, take them, how sound or
convincing soever, for current pay, but caused him to be well whipped for
his pains, valuing the interest of discipline much more than that of the
work in hand.

Notwithstanding, we may on the other side consider that so precise and
implicit an obedience as this is only due to positive and limited
commands.  The employment of ambassadors is never so confined, many
things in their management of affairs being wholly referred to the
absolute sovereignty of their own conduct; they do not simply execute,
but also, to their own discretion and wisdom, form and model their
master’s pleasure.  I have, in my time, known men of command checked for
having rather obeyed the express words of the king’s letters, than the
necessity of the affairs they had in hand.  Men of understanding do yet,
to this day, condemn the custom of the kings of Persia to give their
lieutenants and agents so little rein, that, upon the least arising
difficulties, they must fain have recourse to their further commands;
this delay, in so vast an extent of dominion, having often very much
prejudiced their affairs; and Crassus, writing to a man whose profession
it was best to understand those things, and pre-acquainting him to what
use this mast was designed, did he not seem to consult his advice, and in
a manner invite him to interpose his better judgment?



          “Obstupui, steteruntque comae et vox faucibus haesit.”

     [“I was amazed, my hair stood on end, and my voice stuck in my
     throat.”  Virgil, AEneid, ii.  774.]

I am not so good a naturalist (as they call it) as to discern by what
secret springs fear has its motion in us; but, be this as it may, ‘tis a
strange passion, and such a one that the physicians say there is no other
whatever that sooner dethrones our judgment from its proper seat; which
is so true, that I myself have seen very many become frantic through
fear; and, even in those of the best settled temper it is most certain
that it begets a terrible astonishment and confusion during the fit.
I omit the vulgar sort, to whom it one while represents their
great-grandsires risen out of their graves in their shrouds, another while
werewolves, nightmares, and chimaeras; but even amongst soldiers, a sort
of men over whom, of all others, it ought to have the least power, how
often has it converted flocks of sheep into armed squadrons, reeds and
bullrushes into pikes and lances, friends into enemies, and the French
white cross into the red cross of Spain!  When Monsieur de Bourbon took
Rome,--[In 1527]--an ensign who was upon guard at Borgo San Pietro was
seized with such a fright upon the first alarm, that he threw himself out
at a breach with his colours upon his shoulder, and ran directly upon the
enemy, thinking he had retreated toward the inward defences of the city,
and with much ado, seeing Monsieur de Bourbon’s people, who thought it
had been a sally upon them, draw up to receive him, at last came to
himself, and saw his error; and then facing about, he retreated full
speed through the same breach by which he had gone out, but not till he
had first blindly advanced above three hundred paces into the open field.
It did not, however, fall out so well with Captain Giulio’s ensign, at
the time when St. Paul was taken from us by the Comte de Bures and
Monsieur de Reu, for he, being so astonished with fear as to throw
himself, colours and all, out of a porthole, was immediately, cut to
pieces by the enemy; and in the same siege, it was a very memorable fear
that so seized, contracted, and froze up the heart of a gentleman, that
he sank down, stone-dead, in the breach, without any manner of wound or
hurt at all.  The like madness does sometimes push on a whole multitude;
for in one of the encounters that Germanicus had with the Germans, two
great parties were so amazed with fear that they ran two opposite ways,
the one to the same place from which the other had fled.--[Tacit, Annal.,
i.  63.]--Sometimes it adds wings to the heels, as in the two first:
sometimes it nails them to the ground, and fetters them from moving; as
we read of the Emperor Theophilus, who, in a battle he lost against the
Agarenes, was so astonished and stupefied that he had no power to fly--

               “Adeo pavor etiam auxilia formidat”

     [“So much does fear dread even the means of safety.”--Quint.
     Curt., ii.  II.]

--till such time as Manuel, one of the principal commanders of his army,
having jogged and shaked him so as to rouse him out of his trance, said
to him, “Sir, if you will not follow me, I will kill you; for it is
better you should lose your life than, by being taken, lose your empire.”
 --[Zonaras, lib.  iii.]--But fear does then manifest its utmost power
when it throws us upon a valiant despair, having before deprived us of
all sense both of duty and honour.  In the first pitched battle the
Romans lost against Hannibal, under the Consul Sempronius, a body of ten
thousand foot, that had taken fright, seeing no other escape for their
cowardice, went and threw themselves headlong upon the great battalion of
the enemies, which with marvellous force and fury they charged through
and through, and routed with a very great slaughter of the Carthaginians,
thus purchasing an ignominious flight at the same price they might have
gained a glorious victory.--[Livy, xxi.  56.]

The thing in the world I am most afraid of is fear, that passion alone,
in the trouble of it, exceeding all other accidents.  What affliction
could be greater or more just than that of Pompey’s friends, who, in his
ship, were spectators of that horrible murder?  Yet so it was, that the
fear of the Egyptian vessels they saw coming to board them, possessed
them with so great alarm that it is observed they thought of nothing but
calling upon the mariners to make haste, and by force of oars to escape
away, till being arrived at Tyre, and delivered from fear, they had
leisure to turn their thoughts to the loss of their captain, and to give
vent to those tears and lamentations that the other more potent passion
had till then suspended.

          “Tum pavor sapientiam omnem mihiex animo expectorat.”

     [“Then fear drove out all intelligence from my mind.”--Ennius, ap.
     Cicero, Tusc., iv.  8.]

Such as have been well rubbed in some skirmish, may yet, all wounded and
bloody as they are, be brought on again the next day to charge; but such
as have once conceived a good sound fear of the enemy, will never be made
so much as to look him in the face.  Such as are in immediate fear of a
losing their estates, of banishment, or of slavery, live in perpetual
anguish, and lose all appetite and repose; whereas such as are actually
poor, slaves, or exiles, ofttimes live as merrily as other folk.  And the
many people who, impatient of the perpetual alarms of fear, have hanged
or drowned themselves, or dashed themselves to pieces, give us
sufficiently to understand that fear is more importunate and
insupportable than death itself.

The Greeks acknowledged another kind of fear, differing from any we have
spoken of yet, that surprises us without any visible cause, by an impulse
from heaven, so that whole nations and whole armies have been struck with
it.  Such a one was that which brought so wonderful a desolation upon
Carthage, where nothing was to be heard but affrighted voices and
outcries; where the inhabitants were seen to sally out of their houses as
to an alarm, and there to charge, wound, and kill one another, as if they
had been enemies come to surprise their city.  All things were in
disorder and fury till, with prayers and sacrifices, they had appeased
their gods--[Diod.  Sic., xv. 7]; and this is that they call panic
terrors.--[Ibid. ; Plutarch on Isis and Osiris, c.  8.]



     [Charron has borrowed with unusual liberality from this and the
     succeeding chapter.  See Nodier, Questions, p. 206.]

                         “Scilicet ultima semper
               Exspectanda dies homini est; dicique beatus
               Ante obitum nemo supremaque funera debet.”

     [“We should all look forward to our last day: no one can be called
     happy till he is dead and buried.”--Ovid, Met, iii. 135]

The very children know the story of King Croesus to this purpose, who
being taken prisoner by Cyrus, and by him condemned to die, as he was
going to execution cried out, “O Solon, Solon!”  which being presently
reported to Cyrus, and he sending to inquire of him what it meant,
Croesus gave him to understand that he now found the teaching Solon had
formerly given him true to his cost; which was, “That men, however
fortune may smile upon them, could never be said to be happy till they
had been seen to pass over the last day of their lives,” by reason of the
uncertainty and mutability of human things, which, upon very light and
trivial occasions, are subject to be totally changed into a quite
contrary condition.  And so it was that Agesilaus made answer to one who
was saying what a happy young man the King of Persia was, to come so
young to so mighty a kingdom: “‘Tis true,” said he, “but neither was
Priam unhappy at his years.”--[Plutarch, Apothegms of the
Lacedaemonians.]--In a short time, kings of Macedon, successors to that
mighty Alexander, became joiners and scriveners at Rome; a tyrant of
Sicily, a pedant at Corinth; a conqueror of one-half of the world and
general of so many armies, a miserable suppliant to the rascally officers
of a king of Egypt: so much did the prolongation of five or six months of
life cost the great Pompey; and, in our fathers’ days, Ludovico Sforza,
the tenth Duke of Milan, whom all Italy had so long truckled under, was
seen to die a wretched prisoner at Loches, but not till he had lived ten
years in captivity,--[He was imprisoned by Louis XI. in an iron cage]--
which was the worst part of his fortune.  The fairest of all queens,
--[Mary, Queen of Scots.]--widow to the greatest king in Europe, did she
not come to die by the hand of an executioner?  Unworthy and barbarous
cruelty!  And a thousand more examples there are of the same kind; for it
seems that as storms and tempests have a malice against the proud and
overtowering heights of our lofty buildings, there are also spirits above
that are envious of the greatnesses here below:

              “Usque adeo res humanas vis abdita quaedam
               Obterit, et pulchros fasces, saevasque secures
               Proculcare, ac ludibrio sibi habere videtur.”

     [“So true it is that some occult power upsets human affairs, the
     glittering fasces and the cruel axes spurns under foot, and seems to
     make sport of them.”--Lucretius, v.  1231.]

And it should seem, also, that Fortune sometimes lies in wait to surprise
the last hour of our lives, to show the power she has, in a moment, to
overthrow what she was so many years in building, making us cry out with

                         “Nimirum hac die
          Una plus vixi mihi, quam vivendum fuit.”

     [“I have lived longer by this one day than I should have
     done.”--Macrobius, ii.  7.]

And, in this sense, this good advice of Solon may reasonably be taken;
but he, being a philosopher (with which sort of men the favours and
disgraces of Fortune stand for nothing, either to the making a man happy
or unhappy, and with whom grandeurs and powers are accidents of a quality
almost indifferent) I am apt to think that he had some further aim, and
that his meaning was, that the very felicity of life itself, which
depends upon the tranquillity and contentment of a well-descended spirit,
and the resolution and assurance of a well-ordered soul, ought never to
be attributed to any man till he has first been seen to play the last,
and, doubtless, the hardest act of his part.  There may be disguise and
dissimulation in all the rest: where these fine philosophical discourses
are only put on, and where accident, not touching us to the quick, gives
us leisure to maintain the same gravity of aspect; but, in this last
scene of death, there is no more counterfeiting: we must speak out plain,
and discover what there is of good and clean in the bottom of the pot,

              “Nam vera; voces turn demum pectore ab imo
               Ejiciuntur; et eripitur persona, manet res.”

     [“Then at last truth issues from the heart; the visor’s gone,
     the man remains.”--Lucretius, iii.  57.]

Wherefore, at this last, all the other actions of our life ought to be
tried and sifted: ‘tis the master-day, ‘tis the day that is judge of all
the rest, “‘tis the day,” says one of the ancients,--[Seneca, Ep., 102]--
“that must be judge of all my foregoing years.”  To death do I refer the
assay of the fruit of all my studies: we shall then see whether my
discourses came only from my mouth or from my heart.  I have seen many by
their death give a good or an ill repute to their whole life.  Scipio,
the father-in-law of Pompey, in dying, well removed the ill opinion that
till then every one had conceived of him.  Epaminondas being asked which
of the three he had in greatest esteem, Chabrias, Iphicrates, or himself.
“You must first see us die,” said he, “before that question can be
resolved.”--[Plutarch, Apoth.]--And, in truth, he would infinitely
wrong that man who would weigh him without the honour and grandeur of his

God has ordered all things as it has best pleased Him; but I have, in my
time, seen three of the most execrable persons that ever I knew in all
manner of abominable living, and the most infamous to boot, who all died
a very regular death, and in all circumstances composed, even to
perfection.  There are brave and fortunate deaths: I have seen death cut
the thread of the progress of a prodigious advancement, and in the height
and flower of its increase, of a certain person,--[Montaigne doubtless
refers to his friend Etienne de la Boetie, at whose death in 1563 he was
present.]--with so glorious an end that, in my opinion, his ambitious
and generous designs had nothing in them so high and great as their
interruption.  He arrived, without completing his course, at the place to
which his ambition aimed, with greater glory than he could either have
hoped or desired, anticipating by his fall the name and power to which he
aspired in perfecting his career.  In the judgment I make of another
man’s life, I always observe how he carried himself at his death; and the
principal concern I have for my own is that I may die well--that is,
patiently and tranquilly.



Cicero says--[Tusc., i.  31.]--“that to study philosophy is nothing but
to prepare one’s self to die.”  The reason of which is, because study and
contemplation do in some sort withdraw from us our soul, and employ it
separately from the body, which is a kind of apprenticeship and a
resemblance of death; or, else, because all the wisdom and reasoning in
the world do in the end conclude in this point, to teach us not to fear
to die.  And to say the truth, either our reason mocks us, or it ought to
have no other aim but our contentment only, nor to endeavour anything
but, in sum, to make us live well, and, as the Holy Scripture says, at
our ease.  All the opinions of the world agree in this, that pleasure is
our end, though we make use of divers means to attain it: they would,
otherwise, be rejected at the first motion; for who would give ear to him
that should propose affliction and misery for his end?  The controversies
and disputes of the philosophical sects upon this point are merely

               “Transcurramus solertissimas nugas”

     [“Let us skip over those subtle trifles.”--Seneca, Ep., 117.]

--there is more in them of opposition and obstinacy than is consistent
with so sacred a profession; but whatsoever personage a man takes upon
himself to perform, he ever mixes his own part with it.

Let the philosophers say what they will, the thing at which we all aim,
even in virtue is pleasure.  It amuses me to rattle in ears this word,
which they so nauseate to and if it signify some supreme pleasure and
contentment, it is more due to the assistance of virtue than to any other
assistance whatever.  This pleasure, for being more gay, more sinewy,
more robust and more manly, is only the more seriously voluptuous, and we
ought give it the name of pleasure, as that which is more favourable,
gentle, and natural, and not that from which we have denominated it.  The
other and meaner pleasure, if it could deserve this fair name, it ought
to be by way of competition, and not of privilege.  I find it less exempt
from traverses and inconveniences than virtue itself; and, besides that
the enjoyment is more momentary, fluid, and frail, it has its watchings,
fasts, and labours, its sweat and its blood; and, moreover, has
particular to itself so many several sorts of sharp and wounding
passions, and so dull a satiety attending it, as equal it to the severest
penance.  And we mistake if we think that these incommodities serve it
for a spur and a seasoning to its sweetness (as in nature one contrary is
quickened by another), or say, when we come to virtue, that like
consequences and difficulties overwhelm and render it austere and
inaccessible; whereas, much more aptly than in voluptuousness, they
ennoble, sharpen, and heighten the perfect and divine pleasure they
procure us.  He renders himself unworthy of it who will counterpoise its
cost with its fruit, and neither understands the blessing nor how to use
it.  Those who preach to us that the quest of it is craggy, difficult,
and painful, but its fruition pleasant, what do they mean by that but to
tell us that it is always unpleasing?  For what human means will ever
attain its enjoyment?  The most perfect have been fain to content
themselves to aspire unto it, and to approach it only, without ever
possessing it.  But they are deceived, seeing that of all the pleasures
we know, the very pursuit is pleasant.  The attempt ever relishes of the
quality of the thing to which it is directed, for it is a good part of,
and consubstantial with, the effect.  The felicity and beatitude that
glitters in Virtue, shines throughout all her appurtenances and avenues,
even to the first entry and utmost limits.

Now, of all the benefits that virtue confers upon us, the contempt of
death is one of the greatest, as the means that accommodates human life
with a soft and easy tranquillity, and gives us a pure and pleasant taste
of living, without which all other pleasure would be extinct.  Which is
the reason why all the rules centre and concur in this one article.  And
although they all in like manner, with common accord, teach us also to
despise pain, poverty, and the other accidents to which human life is
subject, it is not, nevertheless, with the same solicitude, as well by
reason these accidents are not of so great necessity, the greater part of
mankind passing over their whole lives without ever knowing what poverty
is, and some without sorrow or sickness, as Xenophilus the musician, who
lived a hundred and six years in a perfect and continual health; as also
because, at the worst, death can, whenever we please, cut short and put
an end to all other inconveniences.  But as to death, it is inevitable:--

              “Omnes eodem cogimur; omnium
               Versatur urna serius ocius
               Sors exitura, et nos in aeternum
               Exilium impositura cymbae.”

     [“We are all bound one voyage; the lot of all, sooner or later, is
     to come out of the urn.  All must to eternal exile sail away.”
       --Hor., Od., ii.  3, 25.]

and, consequently, if it frights us, ‘tis a perpetual torment, for which
there is no sort of consolation.  There is no way by which it may not
reach us.  We may continually turn our heads this way and that, as in a
suspected country:

          “Quae, quasi saxum Tantalo, semper impendet.”

          [“Ever, like Tantalus stone, hangs over us.”
            --Cicero, De Finib., i. 18.]

Our courts of justice often send back condemned criminals to be executed
upon the place where the crime was committed; but, carry them to fine
houses by the way, prepare for them the best entertainment you can--

                    “Non Siculae dapes
               Dulcem elaborabunt saporem:
               Non avium cyatheaceae cantus
               Somnum reducent.”

     [“Sicilian dainties will not tickle their palates, nor the melody of
     birds and harps bring back sleep.”--Hor., Od., iii. 1, 18.]

Do you think they can relish it? and that the fatal end of their journey
being continually before their eyes, would not alter and deprave their
palate from tasting these regalios?

         “Audit iter, numeratque dies, spatioque viarum
          Metitur vitam; torquetur peste futura.”

     [“He considers the route, computes the time of travelling, measuring
     his life by the length of the journey; and torments himself by
     thinking of the blow to come.”--Claudianus, in Ruf., ii.  137.]

The end of our race is death; ‘tis the necessary object of our aim,
which, if it fright us, how is it possible to advance a step without a
fit of ague?  The remedy the vulgar use is not to think on’t; but from
what brutish stupidity can they derive so gross a blindness?  They must
bridle the ass by the tail:

          “Qui capite ipse suo instituit vestigia retro,”

     [“Who in his folly seeks to advance backwards”--Lucretius, iv. 474]

‘tis no wonder if he be often trapped in the pitfall.  They affright
people with the very mention of death, and many cross themselves, as it
were the name of the devil.  And because the making a man’s will is in
reference to dying, not a man will be persuaded to take a pen in hand to
that purpose, till the physician has passed sentence upon and totally
given him over, and then betwixt and terror, God knows in how fit a
condition of understanding he is to do it.

The Romans, by reason that this poor syllable death sounded so harshly to
their ears and seemed so ominous, found out a way to soften and spin it
out by a periphrasis, and instead of pronouncing such a one is dead,
said, “Such a one has lived,” or “Such a one has ceased to live”
 --[Plutarch, Life of Cicero, c.  22:]--for, provided there was any mention
of life in the case, though past, it carried yet some sound of
consolation.  And from them it is that we have borrowed our expression,
“The late Monsieur such and such a one.”--[“feu Monsieur un tel.”]
Peradventure, as the saying is, the term we have lived is worth our
money.  I was born betwixt eleven and twelve o’clock in the forenoon the
last day of February 1533, according to our computation, beginning the
year the 1st of January,--[This was in virtue of an ordinance of Charles
IX. in 1563.  Previously the year commenced at Easter, so that the 1st
January 1563 became the first day of the year 1563.]--and it is now but
just fifteen days since I was complete nine-and-thirty years old; I make
account to live, at least, as many more.  In the meantime, to trouble a
man’s self with the thought of a thing so far off were folly.  But what?
Young and old die upon the same terms; no one departs out of life
otherwise than if he had but just before entered into it; neither is any
man so old and decrepit, who, having heard of Methuselah, does not think
he has yet twenty good years to come.  Fool that thou art!  who has
assured unto thee the term of life?  Thou dependest upon physicians’
tales: rather consult effects and experience.  According to the common
course of things, ‘tis long since that thou hast lived by extraordinary
favour; thou hast already outlived the ordinary term of life.  And that
it is so, reckon up thy acquaintance, how many more have died before they
arrived at thy age than have attained unto it; and of those who have
ennobled their lives by their renown, take but an account, and I dare
lay a wager thou wilt find more who have died before than after
five-and-thirty years of age.  It is full both of reason and piety, too,
to take example by the humanity of Jesus Christ Himself; now, He ended
His life at three-and-thirty years.  The greatest man, that was no more
than a man, Alexander, died also at the same age.  How many several ways
has death to surprise us?

              “Quid quisque, vitet, nunquam homini satis
               Cautum est in horas.”

     [“Be as cautious as he may, man can never foresee the danger that
     may at any hour befal him.”--Hor. O. ii.  13, 13.]

To omit fevers and pleurisies, who would ever have imagined that a duke
of Brittany,--[Jean II. died 1305.]--should be pressed to death in a
crowd as that duke was at the entry of Pope Clement, my neighbour, into
Lyons?--[Montaigne speaks of him as if he had been a contemporary
neighbour, perhaps because he was the Archbishop of Bordeaux.  Bertrand
le Got was Pope under the title of Clement V., 1305-14.]--Hast thou not
seen one of our kings--[Henry II., killed in a tournament, July 10,
1559]--killed at a tilting, and did not one of his ancestors die by
jostle of a hog?--[Philip, eldest son of Louis le Gros.]--AEschylus,
threatened with the fall of a house, was to much purpose circumspect to
avoid that danger, seeing that he was knocked on the head by a tortoise
falling out of an eagle’s talons in the air.  Another was choked with a
grape-stone;--[Val.  Max., ix.  12, ext. 2.]--an emperor killed with
the scratch of a comb in combing his head.  AEmilius Lepidus with a
stumble at his own threshold,--[Pliny, Nat.  Hist., vii.  33.]--
and Aufidius with a jostle against the door as he entered the
council-chamber.  And betwixt the very thighs of women, Cornelius Gallus
the proctor; Tigillinus, captain of the watch at Rome; Ludovico, son of
Guido di Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua; and (of worse example) Speusippus, a
Platonic philosopher, and one of our Popes.  The poor judge Bebius gave
adjournment in a case for eight days; but he himself, meanwhile, was
condemned by death, and his own stay of life expired.  Whilst Caius
Julius, the physician, was anointing the eyes of a patient, death closed
his own; and, if I may bring in an example of my own blood, a brother of
mine, Captain St. Martin, a young man, three-and-twenty years old, who
had already given sufficient testimony of his valour, playing a match at
tennis, received a blow of a ball a little above his right ear, which, as
it gave no manner of sign of wound or contusion, he took no notice of it,
nor so much as sat down to repose himself, but, nevertheless, died within
five or six hours after of an apoplexy occasioned by that blow.

These so frequent and common examples passing every day before our eyes,
how is it possible a man should disengage himself from the thought of
death, or avoid fancying that it has us every moment by the throat?  What
matter is it, you will say, which way it comes to pass, provided a man
does not terrify himself with the expectation?  For my part, I am of this
mind, and if a man could by any means avoid it, though by creeping under
a calf’s skin, I am one that should not be ashamed of the shift; all I
aim at is, to pass my time at my ease, and the recreations that will most
contribute to it, I take hold of, as little glorious and exemplary as you

              “Praetulerim .  .  .  delirus inersque videri,
               Dum mea delectent mala me, vel denique fallant,
               Quam sapere, et ringi.”

     [“I had rather seem mad and a sluggard, so that my defects are
     agreeable to myself, or that I am not painfully conscious of them,
     than be wise, and chaptious.”--Hor., Ep., ii. 2, 126.]

But ‘tis folly to think of doing anything that way.  They go, they come,
they gallop and dance, and not a word of death.  All this is very fine;
but withal, when it comes either to themselves, their wives, their
children, or friends, surprising them at unawares and unprepared, then,
what torment, what outcries, what madness and despair!  Did you ever see
anything so subdued, so changed, and so confounded?  A man must,
therefore, make more early provision for it; and this brutish negligence,
could it possibly lodge in the brain of any man of sense (which I think
utterly impossible), sells us its merchandise too dear.  Were it an enemy
that could be avoided, I would then advise to borrow arms even of
cowardice itself; but seeing it is not, and that it will catch you as
well flying and playing the poltroon, as standing to’t like an honest

                   “Nempe et fugacem persequitur virum,
                    Nec parcit imbellis juventae
                    Poplitibus timidoque tergo.”

     [“He pursues the flying poltroon, nor spares the hamstrings of the
     unwarlike youth who turns his back”--Hor., Ep., iii. 2, 14.]

And seeing that no temper of arms is of proof to secure us:--

              “Ille licet ferro cautus, se condat et aere,
               Mors tamen inclusum protrahet inde caput”

     [“Let him hide beneath iron or brass in his fear, death will pull
     his head out of his armour.”--Propertious iii. 18]

--let us learn bravely to stand our ground, and fight him.  And to begin
to deprive him of the greatest advantage he has over us, let us take a
way quite contrary to the common course.  Let us disarm him of his
novelty and strangeness, let us converse and be familiar with him, and
have nothing so frequent in our thoughts as death.  Upon all occasions
represent him to our imagination in his every shape; at the stumbling of
a horse, at the falling of a tile, at the least prick with a pin, let us
presently consider, and say to ourselves, “Well, and what if it had been
death itself?”  and, thereupon, let us encourage and fortify ourselves.
Let us evermore, amidst our jollity and feasting, set the remembrance of
our frail condition before our eyes, never suffering ourselves to be so
far transported with our delights, but that we have some intervals of
reflecting upon, and considering how many several ways this jollity of
ours tends to death, and with how many dangers it threatens it.  The
Egyptians were wont to do after this manner, who in the height of their
feasting and mirth, caused a dried skeleton of a man to be brought into
the room to serve for a memento to their guests:

              “Omnem crede diem tibi diluxisse supremum
               Grata superveniet, quae non sperabitur, hora.”

     [“Think each day when past is thy last; the next day, as unexpected,
     will be the more welcome.”--Hor., Ep., i. 4, 13.]

Where death waits for us is uncertain; let us look for him everywhere.
The premeditation of death is the premeditation of liberty; he who has
learned to die has unlearned to serve.  There is nothing evil in life for
him who rightly comprehends that the privation of life is no evil: to
know, how to die delivers us from all subjection and constraint.  Paulus
Emilius answered him whom the miserable King of Macedon, his prisoner,
sent to entreat him that he would not lead him in his triumph, “Let him
make that request to himself.”--[ Plutarch, Life of Paulus Aemilius,
c. 17; Cicero, Tusc., v. 40.]

In truth, in all things, if nature do not help a little, it is very hard
for art and industry to perform anything to purpose.  I am in my own
nature not melancholic, but meditative; and there is nothing I have more
continually entertained myself withal than imaginations of death, even in
the most wanton time of my age:

               “Jucundum quum aetas florida ver ageret.”

          [“When my florid age rejoiced in pleasant spring.”
            --Catullus, lxviii.]

In the company of ladies, and at games, some have perhaps thought me
possessed with some jealousy, or the uncertainty of some hope, whilst I
was entertaining myself with the remembrance of some one, surprised, a
few days before, with a burning fever of which he died, returning from an
entertainment like this, with his head full of idle fancies of love and
jollity, as mine was then, and that, for aught I knew, the same-destiny
was attending me.

          “Jam fuerit, nec post unquam revocare licebit.”

     [“Presently the present will have gone, never to be recalled.”
      Lucretius, iii.  928.]

Yet did not this thought wrinkle my forehead any more than any other.
It is impossible but we must feel a sting in such imaginations as these,
at first; but with often turning and returning them in one’s mind, they,
at last, become so familiar as to be no trouble at all: otherwise, I, for
my part, should be in a perpetual fright and frenzy; for never man was so
distrustful of his life, never man so uncertain as to its duration.
Neither health, which I have hitherto ever enjoyed very strong and
vigorous, and very seldom interrupted, does prolong, nor sickness
contract my hopes.  Every minute, methinks, I am escaping, and it
eternally runs in my mind, that what may be done to-morrow, may be done
to-day.  Hazards and dangers do, in truth, little or nothing hasten our
end; and if we consider how many thousands more remain and hang over our
heads, besides the accident that immediately threatens us, we shall find
that the sound and the sick, those that are abroad at sea, and those that
sit by the fire, those who are engaged in battle, and those who sit idle
at home, are the one as near it as the other.

     “Nemo altero fragilior est; nemo in crastinum sui certior.”

     [“No man is more fragile than another: no man more certain than
     another of to-morrow.”--Seneca, Ep., 91.]

For anything I have to do before I die, the longest leisure would appear
too short, were it but an hour’s business I had to do.

A friend of mine the other day turning over my tablets, found therein a
memorandum of something I would have done after my decease, whereupon I
told him, as it was really true, that though I was no more than a
league’s distance only from my own house, and merry and well, yet when
that thing came into my head, I made haste to write it down there,
because I was not certain to live till I came home.  As a man that am
eternally brooding over my own thoughts, and confine them to my own
particular concerns, I am at all hours as well prepared as I am ever like
to be, and death, whenever he shall come, can bring nothing along with
him I did not expect long before.  We should always, as near as we can,
be booted and spurred, and ready to go, and, above all things, take care,
at that time, to have no business with any one but one’s self:--

                   “Quid brevi fortes jaculamur avo

     [“Why for so short a life tease ourselves with so many projects?”
       --Hor., Od., ii.  16, 17.]

for we shall there find work enough to do, without any need of addition.
One man complains, more than of death, that he is thereby prevented of a
glorious victory; another, that he must die before he has married his
daughter, or educated his children; a third seems only troubled that he
must lose the society of his wife; a fourth, the conversation of his son,
as the principal comfort and concern of his being.  For my part, I am,
thanks be to God, at this instant in such a condition, that I am ready to
dislodge, whenever it shall please Him, without regret for anything
whatsoever.  I disengage myself throughout from all worldly relations;
my leave is soon taken of all but myself.  Never did any one prepare to
bid adieu to the world more absolutely and unreservedly, and to shake
hands with all manner of interest in it, than I expect to do.  The
deadest deaths are the best:

                    “‘Miser, O miser,’ aiunt, ‘omnia ademit
               Una dies infesta mihi tot praemia vitae.’”

     [“‘Wretch that I am,’ they cry, ‘one fatal day has deprived me of
     all joys of life.’”--Lucretius, iii. 911.]

And the builder,

              “Manuet,” says he, “opera interrupta, minaeque
               Murorum ingentes.”

     [“The works remain incomplete, the tall pinnacles of the walls
     unmade.”--AEneid, iv.  88.]

A man must design nothing that will require so much time to the
finishing, or, at least, with no such passionate desire to see it brought
to perfection.  We are born to action:

               “Quum moriar, medium solvar et inter opus.”

     [“When I shall die, let it be doing that I had designed.”
       --Ovid, Amor., ii.  10, 36.]

I would always have a man to be doing, and, as much as in him lies, to
extend and spin out the offices of life; and then let death take me
planting my cabbages, indifferent to him, and still less of my gardens
not being finished.  I saw one die, who, at his last gasp, complained of
nothing so much as that destiny was about to cut the thread of a
chronicle he was then compiling, when he was gone no farther than the
fifteenth or sixteenth of our kings:

         “Illud in his rebus non addunt: nec tibi earum
          jam desiderium rerum super insidet una.”

     [“They do not add, that dying, we have no longer a desire to possess
     things.”--Lucretius, iii.  913.]

We are to discharge ourselves from these vulgar and hurtful humours.
To this purpose it was that men first appointed the places of sepulture
adjoining the churches, and in the most frequented places of the city, to
accustom, says Lycurgus, the common people, women, and children, that
they should not be startled at the sight of a corpse, and to the end,
that the continual spectacle of bones, graves, and funeral obsequies
should put us in mind of our frail condition:

              “Quin etiam exhilarare viris convivia caede
               Mos olim, et miscere epulis spectacula dira
               Certantum ferro, saepe et super ipsa cadentum
               Pocula, respersis non parco sanguine mensis.”

     [“It was formerly the custom to enliven banquets with slaughter, and
     to combine with the repast the dire spectacle of men contending with
     the sword, the dying in many cases falling upon the cups, and
     covering the tables with blood.”--Silius Italicus, xi. 51.]

And as the Egyptians after their feasts were wont to present the company
with a great image of death, by one that cried out to them, “Drink and be
merry, for such shalt thou be when thou art dead”; so it is my custom to
have death not only in my imagination, but continually in my mouth.
Neither is there anything of which I am so inquisitive, and delight to
inform myself, as the manner of men’s deaths, their words, looks, and
bearing; nor any places in history I am so intent upon; and it is
manifest enough, by my crowding in examples of this kind, that I have a
particular fancy for that subject.  If I were a writer of books, I would
compile a register, with a comment, of the various deaths of men: he who
should teach men to die would at the same time teach them to live.
Dicarchus made one, to which he gave that title; but it was designed for
another and less profitable end.

Peradventure, some one may object, that the pain and terror of dying so
infinitely exceed all manner of imagination, that the best fencer will be
quite out of his play when it comes to the push.  Let them say what they
will: to premeditate is doubtless a very great advantage; and besides, is
it nothing to go so far, at least, without disturbance or alteration?
Moreover, Nature herself assists and encourages us: if the death be
sudden and violent, we have not leisure to fear; if otherwise, I perceive
that as I engage further in my disease, I naturally enter into a certain
loathing and disdain of life.  I find I have much more ado to digest this
resolution of dying, when I am well in health, than when languishing of a
fever; and by how much I have less to do with the commodities of life,
by reason that I begin to lose the use and pleasure of them, by so much I
look upon death with less terror.  Which makes me hope, that the further
I remove from the first, and the nearer I approach to the latter, I shall
the more easily exchange the one for the other.  And, as I have
experienced in other occurrences, that, as Caesar says, things often
appear greater to us at distance than near at hand, I have found, that
being well, I have had maladies in much greater horror than when really
afflicted with them.  The vigour wherein I now am, the cheerfulness and
delight wherein I now live, make the contrary estate appear in so great a
disproportion to my present condition, that, by imagination, I magnify
those inconveniences by one-half, and apprehend them to be much more
troublesome, than I find them really to be, when they lie the most heavy
upon me; I hope to find death the same.

Let us but observe in the ordinary changes and declinations we daily
suffer, how nature deprives us of the light and sense of our bodily
decay.  What remains to an old man of the vigour of his youth and better

               “Heu! senibus vitae portio quanta manet.”

     [“Alas, to old men what portion of life remains!”---Maximian, vel
     Pseudo-Gallus, i. 16.]

Caesar, to an old weather-beaten soldier of his guards, who came to ask
him leave that he might kill himself, taking notice of his withered body
and decrepit motion, pleasantly answered, “Thou fanciest, then, that thou
art yet alive.”--[Seneca, Ep., 77.]--Should a man fall into this
condition on the sudden, I do not think humanity capable of enduring such
a change: but nature, leading us by the hand, an easy and, as it were, an
insensible pace, step by step conducts us to that miserable state, and by
that means makes it familiar to us, so that we are insensible of the
stroke when our youth dies in us, though it be really a harder death than
the final dissolution of a languishing body, than the death of old age;
forasmuch as the fall is not so great from an uneasy being to none at
all, as it is from a sprightly and flourishing being to one that is
troublesome and painful.  The body, bent and bowed, has less force to
support a burden; and it is the same with the soul, and therefore it is,
that we are to raise her up firm and erect against the power of this
adversary.  For, as it is impossible she should ever be at rest, whilst
she stands in fear of it; so, if she once can assure herself, she may
boast (which is a thing as it were surpassing human condition) that it is
impossible that disquiet, anxiety, or fear, or any other disturbance,
should inhabit or have any place in her:

              “Non vulnus instants Tyranni
               Mentha cadi solida, neque Auster
               Dux inquieti turbidus Adriae,
               Nec fulminantis magna Jovis manus.”

     [“Not the menacing look of a tyrant shakes her well-settled soul,
     nor turbulent Auster, the prince of the stormy Adriatic, nor yet the
     strong hand of thundering Jove, such a temper moves.”
      --Hor., Od., iii.  3, 3.]

She is then become sovereign of all her lusts and passions, mistress of
necessity, shame, poverty, and all the other injuries of fortune.  Let
us, therefore, as many of us as can, get this advantage; ‘tis the true
and sovereign liberty here on earth, that fortifies us wherewithal to
defy violence and injustice, and to contemn prisons and chains:

                              “In manicis et
               Compedibus saevo te sub custode tenebo.
               Ipse Deus, simul atque volam, me solvet.  Opinor,
               Hoc sentit; moriar; mors ultima linea rerum est.”

          [“I will keep thee in fetters and chains, in custody of a
          savage keeper.--A god will when I ask Him, set me free.
          This god I think is death.  Death is the term of all things.”
           --Hor., Ep., i.  16, 76.]

Our very religion itself has no surer human foundation than the contempt
of death.  Not only the argument of reason invites us to it--for why
should we fear to lose a thing, which being lost, cannot be lamented?
--but, also, seeing we are threatened by so many sorts of death, is it not
infinitely worse eternally to fear them all, than once to undergo one of
them?  And what matters it, when it shall happen, since it is inevitable?
To him that told Socrates, “The thirty tyrants have sentenced thee to
death”; “And nature them,” said he.--[Socrates was not condemned to death
by the thirty tyrants, but by the Athenians.-Diogenes Laertius, ii.35.]--
What a ridiculous thing it is to trouble ourselves about taking the only
step that is to deliver us from all trouble!  As our birth brought us the
birth of all things, so in our death is the death of all things included.
And therefore to lament that we shall not be alive a hundred years hence,
is the same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago.
Death is the beginning of another life.  So did we weep, and so much it
cost us to enter into this, and so did we put off our former veil in
entering into it.  Nothing can be a grievance that is but once.  Is it
reasonable so long to fear a thing that will so soon be despatched?
Long life, and short, are by death made all one; for there is no long,
nor short, to things that are no more.  Aristotle tells us that there are
certain little beasts upon the banks of the river Hypanis, that never
live above a day: they which die at eight of the clock in the morning,
die in their youth, and those that die at five in the evening, in their
decrepitude: which of us would not laugh to see this moment of
continuance put into the consideration of weal or woe?  The most and the
least, of ours, in comparison with eternity, or yet with the duration of
mountains, rivers, stars, trees, and even of some animals, is no less
ridiculous.--[ Seneca, Consol. ad Marciam, c. 20.]

But nature compels us to it.  “Go out of this world,” says she, “as you
entered into it; the same pass you made from death to life, without
passion or fear, the same, after the same manner, repeat from life to
death.  Your death is a part of the order of the universe, ‘tis a part of
the life of the world.

                    “Inter se mortales mutua vivunt
                    Et, quasi cursores, vitai lampada tradunt.”

     [“Mortals, amongst themselves, live by turns, and, like the runners
     in the games, give up the lamp, when they have won the race, to the
     next comer.--” Lucretius, ii.  75, 78.]

“Shall I exchange for you this beautiful contexture of things?  ‘Tis the
condition of your creation; death is a part of you, and whilst you
endeavour to evade it, you evade yourselves.  This very being of yours
that you now enjoy is equally divided betwixt life and death.  The day of
your birth is one day’s advance towards the grave:

          “Prima, qux vitam dedit, hora carpsit.”

     [“The first hour that gave us life took away also an hour.”
      --Seneca, Her.  Fur., 3 Chor.  874.]

          “Nascentes morimur, finisque ab origine pendet.”

     [“As we are born we die, and the end commences with the beginning.”
       --Manilius, Ast., iv.  16.]

“All the whole time you live, you purloin from life and live at the
expense of life itself.  The perpetual work of your life is but to lay
the foundation of death.  You are in death, whilst you are in life,
because you still are after death, when you are no more alive; or, if you
had rather have it so, you are dead after life, but dying all the while
you live; and death handles the dying much more rudely than the dead, and
more sensibly and essentially.  If you have made your profit of life, you
have had enough of it; go your way satisfied.

               “Cur non ut plenus vita; conviva recedis?”

     [“Why not depart from life as a sated guest from a feast?
     “Lucretius, iii.  951.]

“If you have not known how to make the best use of it, if it was
unprofitable to you, what need you care to lose it, to what end would you
desire longer to keep it?

               “‘Cur amplius addere quaeris,
          Rursum quod pereat male, et ingratum occidat omne?’

     [“Why seek to add longer life, merely to renew ill-spent time, and
     be again tormented?”--Lucretius, iii. 914.]

“Life in itself is neither good nor evil; it is the scene of good or evil
as you make it.’ And, if you have lived a day, you have seen all: one day
is equal and like to all other days.  There is no other light, no other
shade; this very sun, this moon, these very stars, this very order and
disposition of things, is the same your ancestors enjoyed, and that shall
also entertain your posterity:

               “‘Non alium videre patres, aliumve nepotes

     [“Your grandsires saw no other thing; nor will your posterity.”
      --Manilius, i. 529.]

“And, come the worst that can come, the distribution and variety of all
the acts of my comedy are performed in a year.  If you have observed the
revolution of my four seasons, they comprehend the infancy, the youth,
the virility, and the old age of the world: the year has played his part,
and knows no other art but to begin again; it will always be the same

               “‘Versamur ibidem, atque insumus usque.’

     [“We are turning in the same circle, ever therein confined.”
      --Lucretius, iii. 1093.]

               “‘Atque in se sua per vestigia volvitur annus.’

     [“The year is ever turning around in the same footsteps.”
      --Virgil, Georg., ii. 402.]

“I am not prepared to create for you any new recreations:

             “‘Nam tibi prxterea quod machiner, inveniamque
               Quod placeat, nihil est; eadem sunt omnia semper.’

     [“I can devise, nor find anything else to please you: ‘tis the same
     thing over and over again.”--Lucretius iii. 957]

“Give place to others, as others have given place to you.  Equality is
the soul of equity.  Who can complain of being comprehended in the same
destiny, wherein all are involved?  Besides, live as long as you can, you
shall by that nothing shorten the space you are to be dead; ‘tis all to
no purpose; you shall be every whit as long in the condition you so much
fear, as if you had died at nurse:

               “‘Licet quot vis vivendo vincere secla,
          Mors aeterna tamen nihilominus illa manebit.’

     [“Live triumphing over as many ages as you will, death still will
     remain eternal.”--Lucretius, iii. 1103]

“And yet I will place you in such a condition as you shall have no reason
to be displeased.

          “‘In vera nescis nullum fore morte alium te,
          Qui possit vivus tibi to lugere peremptum,
          Stansque jacentem.’

     [“Know you not that, when dead, there can be no other living self to
     lament you dead, standing on your grave.”--Idem., ibid., 898.]

“Nor shall you so much as wish for the life you are so concerned about:

          “‘Nec sibi enim quisquam tum se vitamque requirit.
          “‘Nec desiderium nostri nos afficit ullum.’

“Death is less to be feared than nothing, if there could be anything less
than nothing.

        “‘Multo .  .  .  mortem minus ad nos esse putandium,
          Si minus esse potest, quam quod nihil esse videmus.’

“Neither can it any way concern you, whether you are living or dead:
living, by reason that you are still in being; dead, because you are no
more.  Moreover, no one dies before his hour: the time you leave behind
was no more yours than that was lapsed and gone before you came into the
world; nor does it any more concern you.

         “‘Respice enim, quam nil ad nos anteacta vetustas
          Temporis aeterni fuerit.’

     [“Consider how as nothing to us is the old age of times past.”
      --Lucretius iii. 985]

Wherever your life ends, it is all there.  The utility of living consists
not in the length of days, but in the use of time; a man may have lived
long, and yet lived but a little.  Make use of time while it is present
with you.  It depends upon your will, and not upon the number of days, to
have a sufficient length of life.  Is it possible you can imagine never
to arrive at the place towards which you are continually going? and yet
there is no journey but hath its end.  And, if company will make it more
pleasant or more easy to you, does not all the world go the self-same

          “‘Omnia te, vita perfuncta, sequentur.’

          [“All things, then, life over, must follow thee.”
           --Lucretius, iii.  981.]

“Does not all the world dance the same brawl that you do?  Is there
anything that does not grow old, as well as you?  A thousand men, a
thousand animals, a thousand other creatures, die at the same moment that
you die:

        “‘Nam nox nulla diem, neque noctem aurora sequuta est,
          Quae non audierit mistos vagitibus aegris
          Ploratus, mortis comites et funeris atri.’

     [“No night has followed day, no day has followed night, in which
     there has not been heard sobs and sorrowing cries, the companions of
     death and funerals.”--Lucretius, v.  579.]

“To what end should you endeavour to draw back, if there be no
possibility to evade it? you have seen examples enough of those who have
been well pleased to die, as thereby delivered from heavy miseries; but
have you ever found any who have been dissatisfied with dying?  It must,
therefore, needs be very foolish to condemn a thing you have neither
experimented in your own person, nor by that of any other.  Why dost thou
complain of me and of destiny?  Do we do thee any wrong?  Is it for thee
to govern us, or for us to govern thee?  Though, peradventure, thy age
may not be accomplished, yet thy life is: a man of low stature is as much
a man as a giant; neither men nor their lives are measured by the ell.
Chiron refused to be immortal, when he was acquainted with the conditions
under which he was to enjoy it, by the god of time itself and its
duration, his father Saturn.  Do but seriously consider how much more
insupportable and painful an immortal life would be to man than what I
have already given him.  If you had not death, you would eternally curse
me for having deprived you of it; I have mixed a little bitterness with
it, to the end, that seeing of what convenience it is, you might not too
greedily and indiscreetly seek and embrace it: and that you might be so
established in this moderation, as neither to nauseate life, nor have any
antipathy for dying, which I have decreed you shall once do, I have
tempered the one and the other betwixt pleasure and pain.  It was I that
taught Thales, the most eminent of your sages, that to live and to die
were indifferent; which made him, very wisely, answer him, ‘Why then he
did not die?’  ‘Because,’ said he, ‘it is indifferent.’--[Diogenes
Laertius, i.  35.]--Water, earth, air, and fire, and the other parts of
this creation of mine, are no more instruments of thy life than they are
of thy death.  Why dost thou fear thy last day? it contributes no more to
thy dissolution, than every one of the rest: the last step is not the
cause of lassitude: it does not confess it.  Every day travels towards
death; the last only arrives at it.”  These are the good lessons our
mother Nature teaches.

I have often considered with myself whence it should proceed, that in war
the image of death, whether we look upon it in ourselves or in others,
should, without comparison, appear less dreadful than at home in our own
houses (for if it were not so, it would be an army of doctors and whining
milksops), and that being still in all places the same, there should be,
notwithstanding, much more assurance in peasants and the meaner sort of
people, than in others of better quality.  I believe, in truth, that it
is those terrible ceremonies and preparations wherewith we set it out,
that more terrify us than the thing itself; a new, quite contrary way of
living; the cries of mothers, wives, and children; the visits of
astounded and afflicted friends; the attendance of pale and blubbering
servants; a dark room, set round with burning tapers; our beds environed
with physicians and divines; in sum, nothing but ghostliness and horror
round about us; we seem dead and buried already.  Children are afraid
even of those they are best acquainted with, when disguised in a visor;
and so ‘tis with us; the visor must be removed as well from things as
from persons, that being taken away, we shall find nothing underneath but
the very same death that a mean servant or a poor chambermaid died a day
or two ago, without any manner of apprehension.  Happy is the death that
deprives us of leisure for preparing such ceremonials.



            “Fortis imaginatio generat casum,” say the schoolmen.

     [“A strong imagination begets the event itself.”--Axiom. Scholast.]

I am one of those who are most sensible of the power of imagination:
every one is jostled by it, but some are overthrown by it.  It has a very
piercing impression upon me; and I make it my business to avoid, wanting
force to resist it.  I could live by the sole help of healthful and jolly
company: the very sight of another’s pain materially pains me, and I
often usurp the sensations of another person.  A perpetual cough in
another tickles my lungs and throat.  I more unwillingly visit the sick
in whom by love and duty I am interested, than those I care not for, to
whom I less look.  I take possession of the disease I am concerned at,
and take it to myself.  I do not at all wonder that fancy should give
fevers and sometimes kill such as allow it too much scope, and are too
willing to entertain it.  Simon Thomas was a great physician of his time:
I remember, that happening one day at Toulouse to meet him at a rich old
fellow’s house, who was troubled with weak lungs, and discoursing with
the patient about the method of his cure, he told him, that one thing
which would be very conducive to it, was to give me such occasion to be
pleased with his company, that I might come often to see him, by which
means, and by fixing his eyes upon the freshness of my complexion, and
his imagination upon the sprightliness and vigour that glowed in my
youth, and possessing all his senses with the flourishing age wherein I
then was, his habit of body might, peradventure, be amended; but he
forgot to say that mine, at the same time, might be made worse.  Gallus
Vibius so much bent his mind to find out the essence and motions of
madness, that, in the end, he himself went out of his wits, and to such a
degree, that he could never after recover his judgment, and might brag
that he was become a fool by too much wisdom.  Some there are who through
fear anticipate the hangman; and there was the man, whose eyes being
unbound to have his pardon read to him, was found stark dead upon the
scaffold, by the stroke of imagination.  We start, tremble, turn pale,
and blush, as we are variously moved by imagination; and, being a-bed,
feel our bodies agitated with its power to that degree, as even sometimes
to expiring.  And boiling youth, when fast asleep, grows so warm with
fancy, as in a dream to satisfy amorous desires:--

         “Ut, quasi transactis saepe omnibu rebu, profundant
          Fluminis ingentes, fluctus, vestemque cruentent.”

Although it be no new thing to see horns grown in a night on the forehead
of one that had none when he went to bed, notwithstanding, what befell
Cippus, King of Italy,  is memorable; who having one day been a very
delighted spectator of a bullfight, and having all the night dreamed that
he had horns on his head, did, by the force of imagination, really cause
them to grow there.  Passion gave to the son of Croesus the voice which
nature had denied him.  And Antiochus fell into a fever, inflamed with
the beauty of Stratonice, too deeply imprinted in his soul.  Pliny
pretends to have seen Lucius Cossitius, who from a woman was turned into
a man upon her very wedding-day.  Pontanus and others report the like
metamorphosis to have happened in these latter days in Italy.  And,
through the vehement desire of him and his mother:

          “Volta puer solvit, quae foemina voverat, Iphis.”

Myself passing by Vitry le Francois,  saw a man the Bishop of Soissons
had, in confirmation, called Germain, whom all the inhabitants of the
place had known to be a girl till two-and-twenty years of age, called
Mary.  He was, at the time of my being there, very full of beard, old,
and not married.  He told us, that by straining himself in a leap his
male organs came out; and the girls of that place have, to this day, a
song, wherein they advise one another not to take too great strides, for
fear of being turned into men, as Mary Germain was.  It is no wonder if
this sort of accident frequently happen; for if imagination have any
power in such things, it is so continually and vigorously bent upon this
subject, that to the end it may not so often relapse into the same
thought and violence of desire, it were better, once for all, to give
these young wenches the things they long for.

Some attribute the scars of King Dagobert and of St. Francis to the force
of imagination.  It is said, that by it bodies will sometimes be removed
from their places; and Celsus tells us of a priest whose soul would be
ravished into such an ecstasy that the body would, for a long time,
remain without sense or respiration.  St. Augustine makes mention of
another, who, upon the hearing of any lamentable or doleful cries, would
presently fall into a swoon, and be so far out of himself, that it was in
vain to call, bawl in his ears, pinch or burn him, till he voluntarily
came to himself; and then he would say, that he had heard voices as it
were afar off, and did feel when they pinched and burned him; and, to
prove that this was no obstinate dissimulation in defiance of his sense
of feeling, it was manifest, that all the while he had neither pulse nor

‘Tis very probable, that visions, enchantments, and all extraordinary
effects of that nature, derive their credit principally from the power of
imagination, working and making its chiefest impression upon vulgar and
more easy souls, whose belief is so strangely imposed upon, as to think
they see what they do not see.

I am not satisfied whether those pleasant ligatures--[Les nouements
d’aiguillettes, as they were called, knots tied by some one, at a
wedding, on a strip of leather, cotton, or silk, and which, especially
when passed through the wedding-ring, were supposed to have the magical
effect of preventing a consummation of the marriage until they were
untied.  See Louandre, La Sorcellerie, 1853, p. 73.  The same
superstition and appliance existed in England.]--with which this age of
ours is so occupied, that there is almost no other talk, are not mere
voluntary impressions of apprehension and fear; for I know, by
experience, in the case of a particular friend of mine, one for whom I
can be as responsible as for myself, and a man that cannot possibly fall
under any manner of suspicion of insufficiency, and as little of being
enchanted, who having heard a companion of his make a relation of an
unusual frigidity that surprised him at a very unseasonable time; being
afterwards himself engaged upon the same account, the horror of the
former story on a sudden so strangely possessed his imagination, that he
ran the same fortune the other had done; and from that time forward, the
scurvy remembrance of his disaster running in his mind and tyrannising
over him, he was subject to relapse into the same misfortune.  He found
some remedy, however, for this fancy in another fancy, by himself frankly
confessing and declaring beforehand to the party with whom he was to have
to do, this subjection of his, by which means, the agitation of his soul
was, in some sort, appeased; and knowing that, now, some such
misbehaviour was expected from him, the restraint upon his faculties grew
less.  And afterwards, at such times as he was in no such apprehension,
when setting about the act (his thoughts being then disengaged and free,
and his body in its true and natural estate) he was at leisure to cause
the part to be handled and communicated to the knowledge of the other
party, he was totally freed from that vexatious infirmity.  After a man
has once done a woman right, he is never after in danger of misbehaving
himself with that person, unless upon the account of some excusable
weakness.  Neither is this disaster to be feared, but in adventures,
where the soul is overextended with desire or respect, and, especially,
where the opportunity is of an unforeseen and pressing nature; in those
cases, there is no means for a man to defend himself from such a
surprise, as shall put him altogether out of sorts.  I have known some,
who have secured themselves from this mischance, by coming half sated
elsewhere, purposely to abate the ardour of the fury, and others, who,
being grown old, find themselves less impotent by being less able; and
one, who found an advantage in being assured by a friend of his, that he
had a counter-charm of enchantments that would secure him from this
disgrace.  The story itself is not, much amiss, and therefore you shall
have it.

A Count of a very great family, and with whom I was very intimate, being
married to a fair lady, who had formerly been courted by one who was at
the wedding, all his friends were in very great fear; but especially an
old lady his kinswoman, who had the ordering of the solemnity, and in
whose house it was kept, suspecting his rival would offer foul play by
these sorceries.  Which fear she communicated to me.  I bade her rely
upon me: I had, by chance, about me a certain flat plate of gold, whereon
were graven some celestial figures, supposed good against sunstroke or
pains in the head, being applied to the suture: where, that it might the
better remain firm, it was sewed to a ribbon to be tied under the chin; a
foppery cousin-german to this of which I am speaking.  Jaques Pelletier,
who lived in my house, had presented this to me for a singular rarity.
I had a fancy to make some use of this knack, and therefore privately
told the Count, that he might possibly run the same fortune other
bridegrooms had sometimes done, especially some one being in the house,
who, no doubt, would be glad to do him such a courtesy: but let him
boldly go to bed.  For I would do him the office of a friend, and, if
need were, would not spare a miracle it was in my power to do, provided
he would engage to me, upon his honour, to keep it to himself; and only,
when they came to bring him his caudle,--[A custom in France to bring the
bridegroom a caudle in the middle of the night on his wedding-night]--
if matters had not gone well with him, to give me such a sign, and leave
the rest to me.  Now he had had his ears so battered, and his mind so
prepossessed with the eternal tattle of this business, that when he came
to’t, he did really find himself tied with the trouble of his
imagination, and, accordingly, at the time appointed, gave me the sign.
Whereupon, I whispered him in the ear, that he should rise, under
pretence of putting us out of the room, and after a jesting manner pull
my nightgown from my shoulders--we were of much about the same height--
throw it over his own, and there keep it till he had performed what I had
appointed him to do, which was, that when we were all gone out of the
chamber, he should withdraw to make water, should three times repeat such
and such words, and as often do such and such actions; that at every of
the three times, he should tie the ribbon I put into his hand about his
middle, and be sure to place the medal that was fastened to it, the
figures in such a posture, exactly upon his reins, which being done, and
having the last of the three times so well girt and fast tied the ribbon
that it could neither untie nor slip from its place, let him confidently
return to his business, and withal not forget to spread my gown upon the
bed, so that it might be sure to cover them both.  These ape’s tricks are
the main of the effect, our fancy being so far seduced as to believe that
such strange means must, of necessity, proceed from some abstruse
science: their very inanity gives them weight and reverence.  And,
certain it is, that my figures approved themselves more venereal than
solar, more active than prohibitive.  ‘Twas a sudden whimsey, mixed with
a little curiosity, that made me do a thing so contrary to my nature; for
I am an enemy to all subtle and counterfeit actions, and abominate all
manner of trickery, though it be for sport, and to an advantage; for
though the action may not be vicious in itself, its mode is vicious.

Amasis, King of Egypt, having married Laodice, a very beautiful Greek
virgin, though noted for his abilities elsewhere, found himself quite
another man with his wife, and could by no means enjoy her; at which he
was so enraged, that he threatened to kill her, suspecting her to be a
witch.  As ‘tis usual in things that consist in fancy, she put him upon
devotion, and having accordingly made his vows to Venus, he found himself
divinely restored the very first night after his oblations and
sacrifices.  Now women are to blame to entertain us with that disdainful,
coy, and angry countenance, which extinguishes our vigour, as it kindles
our desire; which made the daughter-in-law of Pythagoras--[Theano, the
lady in question was the wife, not the daughter-in-law of Pythagoras.]--
say, “That the woman who goes to bed to a man, must put off her modesty
with her petticoat, and put it on again with the same.”  The soul of the
assailant, being disturbed with many several alarms, readily loses the
power of performance; and whoever the imagination has once put this trick
upon, and confounded with the shame of it (and she never does it but at
the first acquaintance, by reason men are then more ardent and eager, and
also, at this first account a man gives of himself, he is much more
timorous of miscarrying), having made an ill beginning, he enters into
such fever and despite at the accident, as are apt to remain and continue
with him upon following occasions.

Married people, having all their time before them, ought never to compel
or so much as to offer at the feat, if they do not find themselves quite
ready: and it is less unseemly to fail of handselling the nuptial sheets,
when a man perceives himself full of agitation and trembling, and to
await another opportunity at more private and more composed leisure, than
to make himself perpetually miserable, for having misbehaved himself and
been baffled at the first assault.  Till possession be taken, a man that
knows himself subject to this infirmity, should leisurely and by degrees
make several little trials and light offers, without obstinately
attempting at once, to Force an absolute conquest over his own mutinous
and indisposed faculties.  Such as know their members to be naturally
obedient, need take no other care but only to counterplot their

The indocile liberty of this member is very remarkable, so importunately
unruly in its tumidity and impatience, when we do not require it, and so
unseasonably disobedient, when we stand most in need of it: so
imperiously contesting in authority with the will, and with so much
haughty obstinacy denying all solicitation, both of hand and mind.  And
yet, though his rebellion is so universally complained of, and that proof
is thence deduced to condemn him, if he had, nevertheless, feed me
to plead his cause, I should peradventure, bring the rest of his
fellow-members into suspicion of complotting this mischief against him,
out of pure envy at the importance and pleasure especial to his
employment; and to have, by confederacy, armed the whole world against
him, by malevolently charging him alone, with their common offence.  For
let any one consider, whether there is any one part of our bodies that
does not often refuse to perform its office at the precept of the will,
and that does not often exercise its function in defiance of her command.
They have every one of them passions of their own, that rouse and awaken,
stupefy and benumb them, without our leave or consent.  How often do the
involuntary motions of the countenance discover our inward thoughts, and
betray our most private secrets to the bystanders.  The same cause that
animates this member, does also, without our knowledge, animate the
lungs, pulse, and heart, the sight of a pleasing object imperceptibly
diffusing a flame through all our parts, with a feverish motion.  Is
there nothing but these veins and muscles that swell and flag without the
consent, not only of the will, but even of our knowledge also?  We do not
command our hairs to stand on end, nor our skin to shiver either with
fear or desire; the hands often convey themselves to parts to which we do
not direct them; the tongue will be interdict, and the voice congealed,
when we know not how to help it.  When we have nothing to eat, and would
willingly forbid it, the appetite does not, for all that, forbear to stir
up the parts that are subject to it, no more nor less than the other
appetite we were speaking of, and in like manner, as unseasonably leaves
us, when it thinks fit.  The vessels that serve to discharge the belly
have their own proper dilatations and compressions, without and beyond
our concurrence, as well as those which are destined to purge the reins;
and that which, to justify the prerogative of the will, St. Augustine
urges, of having seen a man who could command his rear to discharge as
often together as he pleased, Vives, his commentator, yet further
fortifies with another example in his time,--of one that could break wind
in tune; but these cases do not suppose any more pure obedience in that
part; for is anything commonly more tumultuary or indiscreet?  To which
let me add, that I myself knew one so rude and ungoverned, as for forty
years together made his master vent with one continued and unintermitted
outbursting, and ‘tis like will do so till he die of it.  And I could
heartily wish, that I only knew by reading, how often a man’s belly, by
the denial of one single puff, brings him to the very door of an
exceeding painful death; and that the emperor,--[The Emperor Claudius,
who, however, according to Suetonius (Vita, c. 32), only intended to
authorise this singular privilege by an edict.]--who gave liberty to let
fly in all places, had, at the same time, given us power to do it.  But
for our will, in whose behalf we prefer this accusation, with how much
greater probability may we reproach herself with mutiny and sedition, for
her irregularity and disobedience?  Does she always will what we would
have her to do?  Does she not often will what we forbid her to will, and
that to our manifest prejudice?  Does she suffer herself, more than any
of the rest, to be governed and directed by the results of our reason? To
conclude, I should move, in the behalf of the gentleman, my client, it
might be considered, that in this fact, his cause being inseparably and
indistinctly conjoined with an accessory, yet he only is called in
question, and that by arguments and accusations, which cannot be charged
upon the other; whose business, indeed, it is sometimes inopportunely to
invite, but never to refuse, and invite, moreover, after a tacit and
quiet manner; and therefore is the malice and injustice of his accusers
most manifestly apparent.  But be it how it will, protesting against the
proceedings of the advocates and judges, nature will, in the meantime,
proceed after her own way, who had done but well, had she endowed this
member with some particular privilege; the author of the sole immortal
work of mortals; a divine work, according to Socrates; and love, the
desire of immortality, and himself an immortal demon.

Some one, perhaps, by such an effect of imagination may have had the good
luck to leave behind him here, the scrofula, which his companion who has
come after, has carried with him into Spain.  And ‘tis for this reason
you may see why men in such cases require a mind prepared for the thing
that is to be done.  Why do the physicians possess, before hand, their
patients’ credulity with so many false promises of cure, if not to the
end, that the effect of imagination may supply the imposture of their
decoctions?  They know very well, that a great master of their trade has
given it under his hand, that he has known some with whom the very sight
of physic would work.  All which conceits come now into my head, by the
remembrance of a story was told me by a domestic apothecary of my
father’s, a blunt Swiss, a nation not much addicted to vanity and lying,
of a merchant he had long known at Toulouse, who being a valetudinary,
and much afflicted with the stone, had often occasion to take clysters,
of which he caused several sorts to be prescribed him by the physicians,
acccording to the accidents of his disease; which, being brought him, and
none of the usual forms, as feeling if it were not too hot, and the like,
being omitted, he lay down, the syringe advanced, and all ceremonies
performed, injection alone excepted; after which, the apothecary being
gone, and the patient accommodated as if he had really received a
clyster, he found the same operation and effect that those do who have
taken one indeed; and if at any time the physician did not find the
operation sufficient, he would usually give him two or three more doses,
after the same manner.  And the fellow swore, that to save charges (for
he paid as if he had really taken them) this sick man’s wife, having
sometimes made trial of warm water only, the effect discovered the cheat,
and finding these would do no good, was fain to return to the old way.

A woman fancying she had swallowed a pin in a piece of bread, cried and
lamented as though she had an intolerable pain in her throat, where she
thought she felt it stick; but an ingenious fellow that was brought to
her, seeing no outward tumour nor alteration, supposing it to be only a
conceit taken at some crust of bread that had hurt her as it went down,
caused her to vomit, and, unseen, threw a crooked pin into the basin,
which the woman no sooner saw, but believing she had cast it up, she
presently found herself eased of her pain.  I myself knew a gentleman,
who having treated a large company at his house, three or four days after
bragged in jest (for there was no such thing), that he had made them eat
of a baked cat; at which, a young gentlewoman, who had been at the feast,
took such a horror, that falling into a violent vomiting and fever, there
was no possible means to save her.  Even brute beasts are subject to the
force of imagination as well as we; witness dogs, who die of grief for
the loss of their masters; and bark and tremble and start in their sleep;
so horses will kick and whinny in their sleep.

Now all this may be attributed to the close affinity and relation betwixt
the soul and the body intercommunicating their fortunes; but ‘tis quite
another thing when the imagination works not only upon one’s own
particular body, but upon that of others also.  And as an infected body
communicates its malady to those that approach or live near it, as we see
in the plague, the smallpox, and sore eyes, that run through whole
families and cities:--

          “Dum spectant oculi laesos, laeduntur et ipsi;
          Multaque corporibus transitione nocent.”

     [“When we look at people with sore eyes, our own eyes become sore.
     Many things are hurtful to our bodies by transition.”
      --Ovid, De Rem. Amor., 615.]

--so the imagination, being vehemently agitated, darts out infection
capable of offending the foreign object.  The ancients had an opinion of
certain women of Scythia, that being animated and enraged against any
one, they killed him only with their looks.  Tortoises and ostriches
hatch their eggs with only looking on them, which infers that their eyes
have in them some ejaculative virtue.  And the eyes of witches are said
to be assailant and hurtful:--

          “Nescio quis teneros oculus mihi fascinat agnos.”

     [“Some eye, I know not whose is bewitching my tender lambs.”
      --Virgil, Eclog., iii.  103.]

Magicians are no very good authority with me.  But we experimentally see
that women impart the marks of their fancy to the children they carry in
the womb; witness her that was brought to bed of a Moor; and there was
presented to Charles the Emperor and King of Bohemia, a girl from about
Pisa, all over rough and covered with hair, whom her mother said to be so
conceived by reason of a picture of St. John the Baptist, that hung
within the curtains of her bed.

It is the same with beasts; witness Jacob’s sheep, and the hares and
partridges that the snow turns white upon the mountains.  There was at my
house, a little while ago, a cat seen watching a bird upon the top of a
tree: these, for some time, mutually fixing their eyes one upon another,
the bird at last let herself fall dead into the cat’s claws, either
dazzled by the force of its own imagination, or drawn by some attractive
power of the cat.  Such as are addicted to the pleasures of the field,
have, I make no question, heard the story of the falconer, who having
earnestly fixed his eyes upon a kite in the air; laid a wager that he
would bring her down with the sole power of his sight, and did so, as it
was said; for the tales I borrow I charge upon the consciences of those
from whom I have them.  The discourses are my own, and found themselves
upon the proofs of reason, not of experience; to which every one has
liberty to add his own examples; and who has none, let him not forbear,
the number and varieties of accidents considered, to believe that there
are plenty of them; if I do not apply them well, let some other do it for
me.  And, also, in the subject of which I treat, our manners and motions,
testimonies and instances; how fabulous soever, provided they are
possible, serve as well as the true; whether they have really happened or
no, at Rome or Paris, to John or Peter, ‘tis still within the verge of
human capacity, which serves me to good use.  I see, and make my
advantage of it, as well in shadow as in substance; and amongst the
various readings thereof in history, I cull out the most rare and
memorable to fit my own turn.  There are authors whose only end and
design it is to give an account of things that have happened; mine, if I
could arrive unto it, should be to deliver of what may happen.  There is
a just liberty allowed in the schools, of supposing similitudes, when
they have none at hand.  I do not, however, make any use of that
privilege, and as to that matter, in superstitious religion, surpass all
historical authority.  In the examples which I here bring in, of what I
have heard, read, done, or said, I have forbidden myself to dare to alter
even the most light and indifferent circumstances; my conscience does not
falsify one tittle; what my ignorance may do, I cannot say.

And this it is that makes me sometimes doubt in my own mind, whether a
divine, or a philosopher, and such men of exact and tender prudence and
conscience, are fit to write history: for how can they stake their
reputation upon a popular faith? how be responsible for the opinions of
men they do not know? and with what assurance deliver their conjectures
for current pay?  Of actions performed before their own eyes, wherein
several persons were actors, they would be unwilling to give evidence
upon oath before a judge; and there is no man, so familiarly known to
them, for whose intentions they would become absolute caution.  For my
part, I think it less hazardous to write of things past, than present, by
how much the writer is only to give an account of things every one knows
he must of necessity borrow upon trust.

I am solicited to write the affairs of my own time by some, who fancy I
look upon them with an eye less blinded with passion than another, and
have a clearer insight into them by reason of the free access fortune has
given me to the heads of various factions; but they do not consider, that
to purchase the glory of Sallust, I would not give myself the trouble,
sworn enemy as I am to obligation, assiduity, or perseverance: that there
is nothing so contrary to my style, as a continued narrative, I so often
interrupt and cut myself short in my writing for want of breath; I have
neither composition nor explanation worth anything, and am ignorant,
beyond a child, of the phrases and even the very words proper to express
the most common things; and for that reason it is, that I have undertaken
to say only what I can say, and have accommodated my subject to my
strength.  Should I take one to be my guide, peradventure I should not be
able to keep pace with him; and in the freedom of my liberty might
deliver judgments, which upon better thoughts, and according to reason,
would be illegitimate and punishable.  Plutarch would say of what he has
delivered to us, that it is the work of others: that his examples are all
and everywhere exactly true: that they are useful to posterity, and are
presented with a lustre that will light us the way to virtue, is his own
work.  It is not of so dangerous consequence, as in a medicinal drug,
whether an old story be so or so.



Demades the Athenian--[Seneca, De Beneficiis, vi. 38, whence nearly the
whole of this chapter is taken.]--condemned one of his city, whose trade
it was to sell the necessaries for funeral ceremonies, upon pretence that
he demanded unreasonable profit, and that that profit could not accrue to
him, but by the death of a great number of people.  A judgment that
appears to be ill grounded, forasmuch as no profit whatever can possibly
be made but at the expense of another, and that by the same rule he
should condemn all gain of what kind soever.  The merchant only thrives
by the debauchery of youth, the husband man by the dearness of grain, the
architect by the ruin of buildings, lawyers and officers of justice by
the suits and contentions of men: nay, even the honour and office of
divines are derived from our death and vices.  A physician takes no
pleasure in the health even of his friends, says the ancient Greek comic
writer, nor a soldier in the peace of his country, and so of the rest.
And, which is yet worse, let every one but dive into his own bosom, and
he will find his private wishes spring and his secret hopes grow up at
another’s expense.  Upon which consideration it comes into my head, that
nature does not in this swerve from her general polity; for physicians
hold, that the birth, nourishment, and increase of every thing is the
dissolution and corruption of another:

          “Nam quodcumque suis mutatum finibus exit,
          Continuo hoc mors est illius, quod fuit ante.”

     [“For, whatever from its own confines passes changed, this is at
     once the death of that which before it was.”--Lucretius, ii. 752.]


     Accommodated my subject to my strength
     Affright people with the very mention of death
     All I aim at is, to pass my time at my ease
     All think he has yet twenty good years to come
     Apprenticeship and a resemblance of death
     Become a fool by too much wisdom
     Both himself and his posterity declared ignoble, taxable
     Caesar: he would be thought an excellent engineer to boot
     Courtesy and good manners is a very necessary study
     Dangers do, in truth, little or nothing hasten our end
     Death can, whenever we please, cut short inconveniences
     Death has us every moment by the throat
     Death is a part of you
     Denying all solicitation, both of hand and mind
     Did my discourses came only from my mouth or from my heart
     Die well--that is, patiently and tranquilly.
     Discover what there is of good and clean in the bottom of the po
     Downright and sincere obedience
     Every day travels towards death; the last only arrives at it.
     Fear is more importunate and insupportable than death itself
     Fear to lose a thing, which being lost, cannot be lamented?
     Fear: begets a terrible astonishment and confusion
     Feared, lest disgrace should make such delinquents desperate
     Give these young wenches the things they long for
     Have you ever found any who have been dissatisfied with dying?
     How many more have died before they arrived at thy age
     How many several ways has death to surprise us?
     How much more insupportable and painful an immortal life
     I have lived longer by this one day than I should have done
     I take hold of, as little glorious and exemplary as you will
     If nature do not help a little, it is very hard
     In this last scene of death, there is no more counterfeiting
     Inclination to love one another at the first sight
     Indocile liberty of this member
     Insensible of the stroke when our youth dies in us
     Live at the expense of life itself.
     Much better to offend him once than myself every day
     Nature, who left us in such a state of imperfection
     Neither men nor their lives are measured by the ell
     No man more certain than another of to-morrow.--Seneca
     No one can be called happy till he is dead and buried
     Not certain to live till I came home
     Not melancholic, but meditative
     Nothing can be a grievance that is but once
     Philosophy is nothing but to prepare one’s self to die
     Premeditation of death is the premeditation of liberty
     Profit made only at the expense of another
     Rather prating of another man’s province than his own
     Same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago
     Slaves, or exiles, ofttimes live as merrily as other folk
     some people rude, by being overcivil  in their courtesy
     The day of your birth is one day’s advance towards the grave
     The deadest deaths are the best
     The thing in the world I am most afraid of is fear
     There is no long, nor short, to things that are no more
     Thing at which we all aim, even in virtue is pleasure
     Things often appear greater to us at distance than near at hand
     To study philosophy is nothing but to prepare one’s self to die
     Utility of living consists not in the length of days
     Valour has its bounds as well as other virtues
     Valuing the interest of discipline
     Well, and what if it had been death itself?
     What may be done to-morrow, may be done to-day.
     Who would weigh him without the honour and grandeur of his end.
     Willingly slip the collar of command upon any pretence whatever
     Woman who goes to bed to a man, must put off her modesty
     You must first see us die
     Young and old die upon the same terms


Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazlitt



XXII.     Of custom, and that we should not easily change a law received
XXIII.    Various events from the same counsel.
XXIV.     Of pedantry.



He seems to me to have had a right and true apprehension of the power of
custom, who first invented the story of a country-woman who, having
accustomed herself to play with and carry a young calf in her arms, and
daily continuing to do so as it grew up, obtained this by custom, that,
when grown to be a great ox, she was still able to bear it.  For, in
truth, custom is a violent and treacherous schoolmistress.  She, by
little and little, slily and unperceived, slips in the foot of her
authority, but having by this gentle and humble beginning, with the
benefit of time, fixed and established it, she then unmasks a furious and
tyrannic countenance, against which we have no more the courage or the
power so much as to lift up our eyes.  We see her, at every turn, forcing
and violating the rules of nature:

          “Usus efficacissimus rerum omnium magister.”

          [“Custom is the best master of all things.”
           --Pliny, Nat.  Hist.,xxvi. 2.]

I refer to her Plato’s cave in his Republic, and the physicians, who so
often submit the reasons of their art to her authority; as the story of
that king, who by custom brought his stomach to that pass, as to live by
poison, and the maid that Albertus reports to have lived upon spiders.
In that new world of the Indies, there were found great nations, and in
very differing climates, who were of the same diet, made provision of
them, and fed them for their tables; as also, they did grasshoppers,
mice, lizards, and bats; and in a time of scarcity of such delicacies, a
toad was sold for six crowns, all which they cook, and dish up with
several sauces.  There were also others found, to whom our diet, and the
flesh we eat, were venomous and mortal:

          “Consuetudinis magna vis est: pernoctant venatores in nive:
          in montibus uri se patiuntur: pugiles, caestibus contusi,
          ne ingemiscunt quidem.”

     [“The power of custom is very great: huntsmen will lie out all
     night in the snow, or suffer themselves to be burned up by the sun
     on the mountains; boxers, hurt by the caestus, never utter a
     groan.”--Cicero, Tusc., ii. 17]

These strange examples will not appear so strange if we consider what we
have ordinary experience of, how much custom stupefies our senses.  We
need not go to what is reported of the people about the cataracts of the
Nile; and what philosophers believe of the music of the spheres, that the
bodies of those circles being solid and smooth, and coming to touch and
rub upon one another, cannot fail of creating a marvellous harmony, the
changes and cadences of which cause the revolutions and dances of the
stars; but that the hearing sense of all creatures here below, being
universally, like that of the Egyptians, deafened, and stupefied with the
continual noise, cannot, how great soever, perceive it--[This passage is
taken from Cicero, “Dream of Scipio”; see his De Republica, vi.  II.  The
Egyptians were said to be stunned by the noise of the Cataracts.]--
Smiths, millers, pewterers, forgemen, and armourers could never be able
to live in the perpetual noise of their own trades, did it strike their
ears with the same violence that it does ours.

My perfumed doublet gratifies my own scent at first; but after I have
worn it three days together, ‘tis only pleasing to the bystanders.  This
is yet more strange, that custom, notwithstanding long intermissions and
intervals, should yet have the power to unite and establish the effect of
its impressions upon our senses, as is manifest in such as live near unto
steeples and the frequent noise of the bells.  I myself lie at home in a
tower, where every morning and evening a very great bell rings out the
Ave Maria: the noise shakes my very tower, and at first seemed
insupportable to me; but I am so used to it, that I hear it without any
manner of offence, and often without awaking at it.

Plato--[Diogenes Laertius, iii. 38.  But he whom Plato censured was not
a boy playing at nuts, but a man throwing dice.]--reprehending a boy for
playing at nuts, “Thou reprovest me,” says the boy, “for a very little
thing.”  “Custom,” replied Plato, “is no little thing.”  I find that our
greatest vices derive their first propensity from our most tender
infancy, and that our principal education depends upon the nurse.
Mothers are mightily pleased to see a child writhe off the neck of a
chicken, or to please itself with hurting a dog or a cat; and such wise
fathers there are in the world, who look upon it as a notable mark of a
martial spirit, when they hear a son miscall, or see him domineer over a
poor peasant, or a lackey, that dares not reply, nor turn again; and a
great sign of wit, when they see him cheat and overreach his playfellow
by some malicious treachery and deceit.  Yet these are the true seeds and
roots of cruelty, tyranny, and treason; they bud and put out there, and
afterwards shoot up vigorously, and grow to prodigious bulk, cultivated
by custom.  And it is a very dangerous mistake to excuse these vile
inclinations upon the tenderness of their age, and the triviality of the
subject: first, it is nature that speaks, whose declaration is then more
sincere, and inward thoughts more undisguised, as it is more weak and
young; secondly, the deformity of cozenage does not consist nor depend
upon the difference betwixt crowns and pins; but I rather hold it more
just to conclude thus: why should he not cozen in crowns since he does it
in pins, than as they do, who say they only play for pins, they would not
do it if it were for money?  Children should carefully be instructed to
abhor vices for their own contexture; and the natural deformity of those
vices ought so to be represented to them, that they may not only avoid
them in their actions, but especially so to abominate them in their
hearts, that the very thought should be hateful to them, with what mask
soever they may be disguised.

I know very well, for what concerns myself, that from having been brought
up in my childhood to a plain and straightforward way of dealing, and
from having had an aversion to all manner of juggling and foul play in my
childish sports and recreations (and, indeed, it is to be noted, that the
plays of children are not performed in play, but are to be judged in them
as their most serious actions), there is no game so small wherein from my
own bosom naturally, and without study or endeavour, I have not an
extreme aversion from deceit.  I shuffle and cut and make as much clatter
with the cards, and keep as strict account for farthings, as it were for
double pistoles; when winning or losing against my wife and daughter,
‘tis indifferent to me, as when I play in good earnest with others, for
round sums.  At all times, and in all places, my own eyes are sufficient
to look to my fingers; I am not so narrowly watched by any other, neither
is there any I have more respect to.

I saw the other day, at my own house, a little fellow, a native of
Nantes, born without arms, who has so well taught his feet to perform the
services his hands should have done him, that truly these have half
forgotten their natural office; and, indeed, the fellow calls them his
hands; with them he cuts anything, charges and discharges a pistol,
threads a needle, sews, writes, puts off his hat, combs his head, plays
at cards and dice, and all this with as much dexterity as any other could
do who had more, and more proper limbs to assist him.  The money I gave
him--for he gains his living by shewing these feats--he took in his foot,
as we do in our hand.  I have seen another who, being yet a boy,
flourished a two-handed sword, and, if I may so say, handled a halberd
with the mere motions of his neck and shoulders for want of hands; tossed
them into the air, and caught them again, darted a dagger, and cracked a
whip as well as any coachman in France.

But the effects of custom are much more manifest in the strange
impressions she imprints in our minds, where she meets with less
resistance.  What has she not the power to impose upon our judgments and
beliefs?  Is there any so fantastic opinion (omitting the gross
impostures of religions, with which we see so many great nations, and so
many understanding men, so strangely besotted; for this being beyond the
reach of human reason, any error is more excusable in such as are not
endued, through the divine bounty, with an extraordinary illumination
from above), but, of other opinions, are there any so extravagant, that
she has not planted and established for laws in those parts of the world
upon which she has been pleased to exercise her power?  And therefore
that ancient exclamation was exceeding just:

       “Non pudet physicum, id est speculatorem venatoremque naturae,
        ab animis consuetudine imbutis petere testimonium veritatis?”

     [“Is it not a shame for a natural philosopher, that is, for an
     observer and hunter of nature, to seek testimony of the truth from
     minds prepossessed by custom?”--Cicero, De Natura Deor., i. 30.]

I do believe, that no so absurd or ridiculous fancy can enter into human
imagination, that does not meet with some example of public practice, and
that, consequently, our reason does not ground and back up.  There are
people, amongst whom it is the fashion to turn their backs upon him they
salute, and never look upon the man they intend to honour.  There is a
place, where, whenever the king spits, the greatest ladies of his court
put out their hands to receive it; and another nation, where the most
eminent persons about him stoop to take up his ordure in a linen cloth.
Let us here steal room to insert a story.

A French gentleman was always wont to blow his nose with his fingers (a
thing very much against our fashion), and he justifying himself for so
doing, and he was a man famous for pleasant repartees, he asked me, what
privilege this filthy excrement had, that we must carry about us a fine
handkerchief to receive it, and, which was more, afterwards to lap it
carefully up, and carry it all day about in our pockets, which, he said,
could not but be much more nauseous and offensive, than to see it thrown
away, as we did all other evacuations.  I found that what he said was not
altogether without reason, and by being frequently in his company, that
slovenly action of his was at last grown familiar to me; which
nevertheless we make a face at, when we hear it reported of another
country.  Miracles appear to be so, according to our ignorance of nature,
and not according to the essence of nature the continually being
accustomed to anything, blinds the eye of our judgment.  Barbarians are
no more a wonder to us, than we are to them; nor with any more reason, as
every one would confess, if after having travelled over those remote
examples, men could settle themselves to reflect upon, and rightly to
confer them, with their own.  Human reason is a tincture almost equally
infused into all our opinions and manners, of what form soever they are;
infinite in matter, infinite in diversity.  But I return to my subject.

There are peoples, where, his wife and children excepted, no one speaks
to the king but through a tube.  In one and the same nation, the virgins
discover those parts that modesty should persuade them to hide, and the
married women carefully cover and conceal them.  To which, this custom,
in another place, has some relation, where chastity, but in marriage, is
of no esteem, for unmarried women may prostitute themselves to as many as
they please, and being got with child, may lawfully take physic, in the
sight of every one, to destroy their fruit.  And, in another place, if a
tradesman marry, all of the same condition, who are invited to the
wedding, lie with the bride before him; and the greater number of them
there is, the greater is her honour, and the opinion of her ability and
strength: if an officer marry, ‘tis the same, the same with a labourer,
or one of mean condition; but then it belongs to the lord of the place to
perform that office; and yet a severe loyalty during marriage is
afterward strictly enjoined.  There are places where brothels of young
men are kept for the pleasure of women; where the wives go to war as well
as the husbands, and not only share in the dangers of battle, but,
moreover, in the honours of command.  Others, where they wear rings not
only through their noses, lips, cheeks, and on their toes, but also
weighty gimmals of gold thrust through their paps and buttocks; where, in
eating, they wipe their fingers upon their thighs, genitories, and the
soles of their feet: where children are excluded, and brothers and
nephews only inherit; and elsewhere, nephews only, saving in the
succession of the prince: where, for the regulation of community in goods
and estates, observed in the country, certain sovereign magistrates have
committed to them the universal charge and overseeing of the agriculture,
and distribution of the fruits, according to the necessity of every one
where they lament the death of children, and feast at the decease of old
men: where they lie ten or twelve in a bed, men and their wives together:
where women, whose husbands come to violent ends, may marry again, and
others not: where the condition of women is looked upon with such
contempt, that they kill all the native females, and buy wives of their
neighbours to supply their use; where husbands may repudiate their wives,
without showing any cause, but wives cannot part from their husbands, for
what cause soever; where husbands may sell their wives in case of
sterility; where they boil the bodies of their dead, and afterward pound
them to a pulp, which they mix with their wine, and drink it; where the
most coveted sepulture is to be eaten by dogs, and elsewhere by birds;
where they believe the souls of the blessed live in all manner of
liberty, in delightful fields, furnished with all sorts of delicacies,
and that it is these souls, repeating the words we utter, which we call
Echo; where they fight in the water, and shoot their arrows with the most
mortal aim, swimming; where, for a sign of subjection, they lift up their
shoulders, and hang down their heads; where they put off their shoes when
they enter the king’s palace; where the eunuchs, who take charge of the
sacred women, have, moreover, their lips and noses cut off, that they may
not be loved; where the priests put out their own eyes, to be better
acquainted with their demons, and the better to receive their oracles;
where every one makes to himself a deity of what he likes best; the
hunter of a lion or a fox, the fisher of some fish; idols of every human
action or passion; in which place, the sun, the moon, and the earth are
the ‘principal deities, and the form of taking an oath is, to touch the
earth, looking up to heaven; where both flesh and fish is eaten raw;
where the greatest oath they take is, to swear by the name of some dead
person of reputation, laying their hand upon his tomb; where the
newyear’s gift the king sends every year to the princes, his vassals, is
fire, which being brought, all the old fire is put out, and the
neighbouring people are bound to fetch of the new, every one for
themselves, upon pain of high treason; where, when the king, to betake
himself wholly to devotion, retires from his administration (which often
falls out), his next successor is obliged to do the same, and the right
of the kingdom devolves to the third in succession: where they vary the
form of government, according to the seeming necessity of affairs: depose
the king when they think good, substituting certain elders to govern in
his stead, and sometimes transferring it into the hands of the
commonality: where men and women are both circumcised and also baptized:
where the soldier, who in one or several engagements, has been so
fortunate as to present seven of the enemies’ heads to the king, is made
noble: where they live in that rare and unsociable opinion of the
mortality of the soul: where the women are delivered without pain or
fear: where the women wear copper leggings upon both legs, and if a louse
bite them, are bound in magnanimity to bite them again, and dare not
marry, till first they have made their king a tender of their virginity,
if he please to accept it: where the ordinary way of salutation is by
putting a finger down to the earth, and then pointing it up toward
heaven: where men carry burdens upon their heads, and women on their
shoulders; where the women make water standing, and the men squatting:
where they send their blood in token of friendship, and offer incense to
the men they would honour, like gods: where, not only to the fourth, but
in any other remote degree, kindred are not permitted to marry: where the
children are four years at nurse, and often twelve; in which place, also,
it is accounted mortal to give the child suck the first day after it is
born: where the correction of the male children is peculiarly designed to
the fathers, and to the mothers of the girls; the punishment being to
hang them by the heels in the smoke: where they circumcise the women:
where they eat all sorts of herbs, without other scruple than of the
badness of the smell: where all things are open the finest houses,
furnished in the richest manner, without doors, windows, trunks, or
chests to lock, a thief being there punished double what they are in
other places: where they crack lice with their teeth like monkeys, and
abhor to see them killed with one’s nails: where in all their lives they
neither cut their hair nor pare their nails; and, in another place, pare
those of the right hand only, letting the left grow for ornament and
bravery: where they suffer the hair on the right side to grow as long as
it will, and shave the other; and in the neighbouring provinces, some let
their hair grow long before, and some behind, shaving close the rest:
where parents let out their children, and husbands their wives, to their
guests to hire: where a man may get his own mother with child, and
fathers make use of their own daughters or sons, without scandal: where,
at their solemn feasts, they interchangeably lend their children to one
another, without any consideration of nearness of blood.  In one place,
men feed upon human flesh; in another, ‘tis reputed a pious office for a
man to kill his father at a certain age; elsewhere, the fathers dispose
of their children, whilst yet in their mothers’ wombs, some to be
preserved and carefully brought up, and others to be abandoned or made
away.  Elsewhere the old husbands lend their wives to young men; and in
another place they are in common without offence; in one place
particularly, the women take it for a mark of honour to have as many gay
fringed tassels at the bottom of their garment, as they have lain with
several men.  Moreover, has not custom made a republic of women
separately by themselves? has it not put arms into their hands, and made
them raise armies and fight battles?  And does she not, by her own
precept, instruct the most ignorant vulgar, and make them perfect in
things which all the philosophy in the world could never beat into the
heads of the wisest men?  For we know entire nations, where death was not
only despised, but entertained with the greatest triumph; where children
of seven years old suffered themselves to be whipped to death, without
changing countenance; where riches were in such contempt, that the
meanest citizen would not have deigned to stoop to take up a purse of
crowns.  And we know regions, very fruitful in all manner of provisions,
where, notwithstanding, the most ordinary diet, and that they are most
pleased with, is only bread, cresses, and water.  Did not custom,
moreover, work that miracle in Chios that, in seven hundred years, it was
never known that ever maid or wife committed any act to the prejudice of
her honour?

To conclude; there is nothing, in my opinion, that she does not, or may
not do; and therefore, with very good reason it is that Pindar calls her
the ruler of the world.  He that was seen to beat his father, and
reproved for so doing, made answer, that it was the custom of their
family; that, in like manner, his father had beaten his grandfather, his
grandfather his great-grandfather, “And this,” says he, pointing to his
son, “when he comes to my age, shall beat me.”  And the father, whom the
son dragged and hauled along the streets, commanded him to stop at a
certain door, for he himself, he said, had dragged his father no farther,
that being the utmost limit of the hereditary outrage the sons used to
practise upon the fathers in their family.  It is as much by custom as
infirmity, says Aristotle, that women tear their hair, bite their nails,
and eat coals and earth, and more by custom than nature that men abuse
themselves with one another.

The laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived from nature,
proceed from custom; every one, having an inward veneration for the
opinions and manners approved and received amongst his own people,
cannot, without very great reluctance, depart from them, nor apply
himself to them without applause.  In times past, when those of Crete
would curse any one, they prayed the gods to engage him in some ill
custom.  But the principal effect of its power is, so to seize and
ensnare us, that it is hardly in us to disengage ourselves from its
gripe, or so to come to ourselves, as to consider of and to weigh the
things it enjoins.  To say the truth, by reason that we suck it in with
our milk, and that the face of the world presents itself in this posture
to our first sight, it seems as if we were born upon condition to follow
on this track; and the common fancies that we find in repute everywhere
about us, and infused into our minds with the seed of our fathers, appear
to be the most universal and genuine; from whence it comes to pass, that
whatever is off the hinges of custom, is believed to be also off the
hinges of reason; how unreasonably for the most part, God knows.

If, as we who study ourselves have learned to do, every one who hears a
good sentence, would immediately consider how it does in any way touch
his own private concern, every one would find, that it was not so much a
good saying, as a severe lash to the ordinary stupidity of his own
judgment: but men receive the precepts and admonitions of truth, as
directed to the common sort, and never to themselves; and instead of
applying them to their own manners, do only very ignorantly and
unprofitably commit them to memory.  But let us return to the empire of

Such people as have been bred up to liberty, and subject to no other
dominion but the authority of their own will, look upon all other form of
government as monstrous and contrary to nature.  Those who are inured to
monarchy do the same; and what opportunity soever fortune presents them
with to change, even then, when with the greatest difficulties they have
disengaged themselves from one master, that was troublesome and grievous
to them, they presently run, with the same difficulties, to create
another; being unable to take into hatred subjection itself.

‘Tis by the mediation of custom, that every one is content with the place
where he is planted by nature; and the Highlanders of Scotland no more
pant after Touraine; than the Scythians after Thessaly.  Darius asking
certain Greeks what they would take to assume the custom of the Indians,
of eating the dead bodies of their fathers (for that was their use,
believing they could not give them a better nor more noble sepulture than
to bury them in their own bodies), they made answer, that nothing in the
world should hire them to do it; but having also tried to persuade the
Indians to leave their custom, and, after the Greek manner, to burn the
bodies of their fathers, they conceived a still greater horror at the
motion.--[Herodotus, iii. 38.]--Every one does the same, for use veils
from us the true aspect of things.

         “Nil adeo magnum, nec tam mirabile quidquam
          Principio, quod non minuant mirarier omnes Paullatim.”

     [“There is nothing at first so grand, so admirable, which by degrees
     people do not regard with less admiration.”--Lucretius, ii. 1027]

Taking upon me once to justify something in use amongst us, and that was
received with absolute authority for a great many leagues round about us,
and not content, as men commonly do, to establish it only by force of law
and example, but inquiring still further into its origin, I found the
foundation so weak, that I who made it my business to confirm others, was
very near being dissatisfied myself.  ‘Tis by this receipt that Plato
--[Laws, viii.  6.]--undertakes to cure the unnatural and preposterous
loves of his time, as one which he esteems of sovereign virtue, namely,
that the public opinion condemns them; that the poets, and all other
sorts of writers, relate horrible stories of them; a recipe, by virtue of
which the most beautiful daughters no more allure their fathers’ lust;
nor brothers, of the finest shape and fashion, their sisters’ desire; the
very fables of Thyestes, OEdipus, and Macareus, having with the harmony
of their song, infused this wholesome opinion and belief into the tender
brains of children.  Chastity is, in truth, a great and shining virtue,
and of which the utility is sufficiently known; but to treat of it, and
to set it off in its true value, according to nature, is as hard as ‘tis
easy to do so according to custom, laws, and precepts.  The fundamental
and universal reasons are of very obscure and difficult research, and our
masters either lightly pass them over, or not daring so much as to touch
them, precipitate themselves into the liberty and protection of custom,
there puffing themselves out and triumphing to their heart’s content:
such as will not suffer themselves to be withdrawn from this original
source, do yet commit a greater error, and subject themselves to wild
opinions; witness Chrysippus,--[Sextus Empiricus, Pyyrhon.  Hypotyp., i.
14.]--who, in so many of his writings, has strewed the little account he
made of incestuous conjunctions, committed with how near relations

Whoever would disengage himself from this violent prejudice of custom,
would find several things received with absolute and undoubting opinion,
that have no other support than the hoary head and rivelled face of
ancient usage.  But the mask taken off, and things being referred to the
decision of truth and reason, he will find his judgment as it were
altogether overthrown, and yet restored to a much more sure estate.  For
example, I shall ask him, what can be more strange than to see a people
obliged to obey laws they never understood; bound in all their domestic
affairs, as marriages, donations, wills, sales, and purchases, to rules
they cannot possibly know, being neither written nor published in their
own language, and of which they are of necessity to purchase both the
interpretation and the use?  Not according to the ingenious opinion of
Isocrates,--[Discourse to Nicocles.]--who counselled his king to make
the traffics and negotiations of his subjects, free, frank, and of profit
to them, and their quarrels and disputes burdensome, and laden with heavy
impositions and penalties; but, by a prodigious opinion, to make sale of
reason itself, and to give to laws a course of merchandise.  I think
myself obliged to fortune that, as our historians report, it was a Gascon
gentleman, a countryman of mine, who first opposed Charlemagne, when he
attempted to impose upon us Latin and imperial laws.

What can be more savage, than to see a nation where, by lawful custom,
the office of a judge is bought and sold, where judgments are paid for
with ready money, and where justice may legitimately be denied to him
that has not wherewithal to pay; a merchandise in so great repute, as in
a government to create a fourth estate of wrangling lawyers, to add to
the three ancient ones of the church, nobility, and people; which fourth
estate, having the laws in their own hands, and sovereign power over
men’s lives and fortunes, makes another body separate from nobility:
whence it comes to pass, that there are double laws, those of honour and
those of justice, in many things altogether opposite one to another; the
nobles as rigorously condemning a lie taken, as the other do a lie
revenged: by the law of arms, he shall be degraded from all nobility and
honour who puts up with an affront; and by the civil law, he who
vindicates his reputation by revenge incurs a capital punishment: he who
applies himself to the law for reparation of an offence done to his
honour, disgraces himself; and he who does not, is censured and punished
by the law.  Yet of these two so different things, both of them referring
to one head, the one has the charge of peace, the other of war; those
have the profit, these the honour; those the wisdom, these the virtue;
those the word, these the action; those justice, these valour; those
reason, these force; those the long robe, these the short;--divided
betwixt them.

For what concerns indifferent things, as clothes, who is there seeking to
bring them back to their true use, which is the body’s service and
convenience, and upon which their original grace and fitness depend; for
the most fantastic, in my opinion, that can be imagined, I will instance
amongst others, our flat caps, that long tail of velvet that hangs down
from our women’s heads, with its party-coloured trappings; and that vain
and futile model of a member we cannot in modesty so much as name, which,
nevertheless, we make show and parade of in public.  These
considerations, notwithstanding, will not prevail upon any understanding
man to decline the common mode; but, on the contrary, methinks, all
singular and particular fashions are rather marks of folly and vain
affectation than of sound reason, and that a wise man, within, ought to
withdraw and retire his soul from the crowd, and there keep it at liberty
and in power to judge freely of things; but as to externals, absolutely
to follow and conform himself to the fashion of the time.  Public society
has nothing to do with our thoughts, but the rest, as our actions, our
labours, our fortunes, and our lives, we are to lend and abandon them to
its service and to the common opinion, as did that good and great
Socrates who refused to preserve his life by a disobedience to the
magistrate, though a very wicked and unjust one for it is the rule of
rules, the general law of laws, that every one observe those of the place
wherein he lives.

          [“It is good to obey the laws of one’s country.”
           --Excerpta ex Trag. Gyaecis, Grotio interp., 1626, p. 937.]

And now to another point.  It is a very great doubt, whether any so
manifest benefit can accrue from the alteration of a law received, let it
be what it will, as there is danger and inconvenience in altering it;
forasmuch as government is a structure composed of divers parts and
members joined and united together, with so strict connection, that it is
impossible to stir so much as one brick or stone, but the whole body will
be sensible of it.  The legislator of the Thurians--[Charondas; Diod.
Sic., xii.  24.]--ordained, that whosoever would go about either to
abolish an old law, or to establish a new, should present himself with a
halter about his neck to the people, to the end, that if the innovation
he would introduce should not be approved by every one, he might
immediately be hanged; and he of the Lacedaemonians employed his life to
obtain from his citizens a faithful promise that none of his laws should
be violated.--[Lycurgus; Plutarch, in Vita, c.  22.]--The Ephoros who so
rudely cut the two strings that Phrynis had added to music never stood to
examine whether that addition made better harmony, or that by its means
the instrument was more full and complete; it was enough for him to
condemn the invention, that it was a novelty, and an alteration of the
old fashion.  Which also is the meaning of the old rusty sword carried
before the magistracy of Marseilles.

For my own part, I have a great aversion from a novelty, what face or
what pretence soever it may carry along with it, and have reason, having
been an eyewitness of the great evils it has produced.  For those which
for so many years have lain so heavy upon us, it is not wholly
accountable; but one may say, with colour enough, that it has
accidentally produced and begotten the mischiefs and ruin that have since
happened, both without and against it; it, principally, we are to accuse
for these disorders:

               “Heu! patior telis vulnera facta meis.”

          [“Alas!  The wounds were made by my own weapons.”
           --Ovid, Ep. Phyll. Demophoonti, vers. 48.]

They who give the first shock to a state, are almost naturally the first
overwhelmed in its ruin the fruits of public commotion are seldom enjoyed
by him who was the first motor; he beats and disturbs the water for
another’s net.  The unity and contexture of this monarchy, of this grand
edifice, having been ripped and torn in her old age, by this thing called
innovation, has since laid open a rent, and given sufficient admittance
to such injuries: the royal majesty with greater difficulty declines from
the summit to the middle, then it falls and tumbles headlong from the
middle to the bottom.  But if the inventors do the greater mischief, the
imitators are more vicious to follow examples of which they have felt and
punished both the horror and the offence.  And if there can be any degree
of honour in ill-doing, these last must yield to the others the glory of
contriving, and the courage of making the first attempt.  All sorts of
new disorders easily draw, from this primitive and ever-flowing fountain,
examples and precedents to trouble and discompose our government: we read
in our very laws, made for the remedy of this first evil, the beginning
and pretences of all sorts of wicked enterprises; and that befalls us,
which Thucydides said of the civil wars of his time, that, in favour of
public vices, they gave them new and more plausible names for their
excuse, sweetening and disguising their true titles; which must be done,
forsooth, to reform our conscience and belief:

                    “Honesta oratio est;”

          [“Fine words truly.”--Ter.  And., i. I, 114.]

but the best pretence for innovation is of very dangerous consequence:

          “Aden nihil motum ex antiquo probabile est.”

     [“We are ever wrong in changing ancient ways.”--Livy, xxxiv. 54]

And freely to speak my thoughts, it argues a strange self-love and great
presumption to be so fond of one’s own opinions, that a public peace must
be overthrown to establish them, and to introduce so many inevitable
mischiefs, and so dreadful a corruption of manners, as a civil war and
the mutations of state consequent to it, always bring in their train, and
to introduce them, in a thing of so high concern, into the bowels of
one’s own country.  Can there be worse husbandry than to set up so many
certain and knowing vices against errors that are only contested and
disputable?  And are there any worse sorts of vices than those committed
against a man’s own conscience, and the natural light of his own reason?
The Senate, upon the dispute betwixt it and the people about the
administration of their religion, was bold enough to return this evasion
for current pay:

          “Ad deos id magis, quam ad se, pertinere: ipsos visuros,
          ne sacra sua polluantur;”

     [“Those things belong to the gods to determine than to them; let the
     gods, therefore, take care that their sacred mysteries were not
     profaned.”--Livy, x. 6.]

according to what the oracle answered to those of Delphos who, fearing to
be invaded by the Persians in the Median war, inquired of Apollo, how
they should dispose of the holy treasure of his temple; whether they
should hide, or remove it to some other place?  He returned them answer,
that they should stir nothing from thence, and only take care of
themselves, for he was sufficient to look to what belonged to him.
--[Herodotus, viii. 36.].--

The Christian religion has all the marks of the utmost utility and
justice: but none more manifest than the severe injunction it lays
indifferently upon all to yield absolute obedience to the civil
magistrate, and to maintain and defend the laws.  Of which, what a
wonderful example has the divine wisdom left us, that, to establish the
salvation of mankind, and to conduct His glorious victory over death and
sin, would do it after no other way, but at the mercy of our ordinary
forms of justice subjecting the progress and issue of so high and so
salutiferous an effect, to the blindness and injustice of our customs
and observances; sacrificing the innocent blood of so many of His elect,
and so long a loss of so many years, to the maturing of this inestimable
fruit?  There is a vast difference betwixt the case of one who follows
the forms and laws of his country, and of another who will undertake to
regulate and change them; of whom the first pleads simplicity, obedience,
and example for his excuse, who, whatever he shall do, it cannot be
imputed to malice; ‘tis at the worst but misfortune:

          “Quis est enim, quem non moveat clarissimis monumentis
          testata consignataque antiquitas?”

     [“For who is there that antiquity, attested and confirmed by the
     fairest monuments, cannot move?”--Cicero, De Divin., i. 40.]

besides what Isocrates says, that defect is nearer allied to moderation
than excess: the other is a much more ruffling gamester; for whosoever
shall take upon him to choose and alter, usurps the authority of judging,
and should look well about him, and make it his business to discern
clearly the defect of what he would abolish, and the virtue of what he is
about to introduce.

This so vulgar consideration is that which settled me in my station, and
kept even my most extravagant and ungoverned youth under the rein, so as
not to burden my shoulders with so great a weight, as to render myself
responsible for a science of that importance, and in this to dare, what
in my better and more mature judgment, I durst not do in the most easy
and indifferent things I had been instructed in, and wherein the temerity
of judging is of no consequence at all; it seeming to me very unjust to
go about to subject public and established customs and institutions, to
the weakness and instability of a private and particular fancy (for
private reason has but a private jurisdiction), and to attempt that upon
the divine, which no government will endure a man should do, upon the
civil laws; with which, though human reason has much more commerce than
with the other, yet are they sovereignly judged by their own proper
judges, and the extreme sufficiency serves only to expound and set forth
the law and custom received, and neither to wrest it, nor to introduce
anything, of innovation.  If, sometimes, the divine providence has gone
beyond the rules to which it has necessarily bound and obliged us men,
it is not to give us any dispensation to do the same; those are
masterstrokes of the divine hand, which we are not to imitate, but to
admire, and extraordinary examples, marks of express and particular
purposes, of the nature of miracles, presented before us for
manifestations of its almightiness, equally above both our rules and
force, which it would be folly and impiety to attempt to represent and
imitate; and that we ought not to follow, but to contemplate with the
greatest reverence: acts of His personage, and not for us.  Cotta very
opportunely declares:

     “Quum de religione agitur, Ti. Coruncanium, P. Scipionem,
     P. Scaevolam, pontifices maximos, non Zenonem, aut Cleanthem,
     aut Chrysippum, sequor.”

     [“When matter of religion is in question, I follow the high priests
     T. Coruncanius, P. Scipio, P. Scaevola, and not Zeno, Cleanthes, or
     Chrysippus.”--Cicero, De Natura Deor., iii. 2.]

God knows, in the present quarrel of our civil war, where there are a
hundred articles to dash out and to put in, great and very considerable,
how many there are who can truly boast, they have exactly and perfectly
weighed and understood the grounds and reasons of the one and the other
party; ‘tis a number, if they make any number, that would be able to give
us very little disturbance.  But what becomes of all the rest, under what
ensigns do they march, in what quarter do they lie?  Theirs have the same
effect with other weak and ill-applied medicines; they have only set the
humours they would purge more violently in work, stirred and exasperated
by the conflict, and left them still behind.  The potion was too weak to
purge, but strong enough to weaken us; so that it does not work, but we
keep it still in our bodies, and reap nothing from the operation but
intestine gripes and dolours.

So it is, nevertheless, that Fortune still reserving her authority in
defiance of whatever we are able to do or say, sometimes presents us with
a necessity so urgent, that ‘tis requisite the laws should a little yield
and give way; and when one opposes the increase of an innovation that
thus intrudes itself by violence, to keep a man’s self in so doing, in
all places and in all things within bounds and rules against those who
have the power, and to whom all things are lawful that may in any way
serve to advance their design, who have no other law nor rule but what
serves best to their own purpose, ‘tis a dangerous obligation and an
intolerable inequality:

               “Aditum nocendi perfido praestat fides,”

          [“Putting faith in a treacherous person, opens the door to
          harm.”--Seneca, OEdip., act iii., verse 686.]

forasmuch as the ordinary discipline of a healthful state does not
provide against these extraordinary accidents; it presupposes a body that
supports itself in its principal members and offices, and a common
consent to its obedience and observation.  A legitimate proceeding is
cold, heavy, and constrained, and not fit to make head against a
headstrong and unbridled proceeding.  ‘Tis known to be to this day cast
in the dish of those two great men, Octavius and Cato, in the two civil
wars of Sylla and Caesar, that they would rather suffer their country to
undergo the last extremities, than relieve their fellow-citizens at the
expense of its laws, or be guilty of any innovation; for in truth, in
these last necessities, where there is no other remedy, it would,
peradventure, be more discreetly done, to stoop and yield a little to
receive the blow, than, by opposing without possibility of doing good,
to give occasion to violence to trample all under foot; and better to
make the laws do what they can, when they cannot do what they would.
After this manner did he--[Agesilaus.]--who suspended them for
four-and-twenty hours, and he who, for once shifted a day in the
calendar, and that other--[Alexander the Great.]--who of the month of
June made a second of May.  The Lacedaemonians themselves, who were so
religious observers of the laws of their country, being straitened by
one of their own edicts, by which it was expressly forbidden to choose
the same man twice to be admiral; and on the other side, their affairs
necessarily requiring, that Lysander should again take upon him that
command, they made one Aratus admiral; ‘tis true, but withal, Lysander
went general of the navy; and, by the same subtlety, one of their
ambassadors being sent to the Athenians to obtain the revocation of some
decree, and Pericles remonstrating to him, that it was forbidden to take
away the tablet wherein a law had once been engrossed, he advised him to
turn it only, that being not forbidden; and Plutarch commends
Philopoemen, that being born to command, he knew how to do it, not only
according to the laws, but also to overrule even the laws themselves,
when the public necessity so required.



Jacques Amiot, grand almoner of France, one day related to me this story,
much to the honour of a prince of ours (and ours he was upon several very
good accounts, though originally of foreign extraction),--[The Duc de
Guise, surnamed Le Balafre.]--that in the time of our first commotions,
at the siege of Rouen,--[In 1562]--this prince, having been advertised
by the queen-mother of a conspiracy against his life, and in her letters
particular notice being given him of the person who was to execute the
business (who was a gentleman of Anjou or of Maine, and who to this
effect ordinarily frequented this prince’s house), discovered not a
syllable of this intelligence to any one whatever; but going the next day
to the St. Catherine’s Mount,--[An eminence outside Rouen overlooking the
Seine.  D.W.]--from which our battery played against the town (for it
was during the time of the siege), and having in company with him the
said lord almoner, and another bishop, he saw this gentleman, who had
been denoted to him, and presently sent for him; to whom, being come
before him, seeing him already pale and trembling with the conscience of
his guilt, he thus said, “Monsieur,” such an one, “you guess what I have
to say to you; your countenance discovers it; ‘tis in vain to disguise
your practice, for I am so well informed of your business, that it will
but make worse for you, to go about to conceal or deny it: you know very
well such and such passages” (which were the most secret circumstances of
his conspiracy), “and therefore be sure, as you tender your own life,
to confess to me the whole truth of the design.”  The poor man seeing
himself thus trapped and convicted (for the whole business had been
discovered to the queen by one of the accomplices), was in such a taking,
he knew not what to do; but, folding his hands, to beg and sue for mercy,
he threw himself at his prince’s feet, who taking him up, proceeded to
say, “Come, sir; tell me, have I at any time done you offence?  or have
I, through private hatred or malice, offended any kinsman or friend of
yours?  It is not above three weeks that I have known you; what
inducement, then, could move you to attempt my death?”  To which the
gentleman with a trembling voice replied, “That it was no particular
grudge he had to his person, but the general interest and concern of his
party, and that he had been put upon it by some who had persuaded him it
would be a meritorious act, by any means, to extirpate so great and so
powerful an enemy of their religion.”  “Well,” said the prince, “I will
now let you see, how much more charitable the religion is that I
maintain, than that which you profess: yours has counselled you to kill
me, without hearing me speak, and without ever having given you any cause
of offence; and mine commands me to forgive you, convict as you are, by
your own confession, of a design to kill me without reason.--[Imitated by
Voltaire.  See Nodier, Questions, p. 165.]--Get you gone; let me see you
no more; and, if you are wise, choose henceforward honester men for your
counsellors in your designs.”--[Dampmartin, La Fortune de la Coup, liv.
ii., p. 139]

The Emperor Augustus,--[This story is taken from Seneca, De Clementia,
i.  9.]--being in Gaul, had certain information of a conspiracy L. Cinna
was contriving against him; he therefore resolved to make him an example;
and, to that end, sent to summon his friends to meet the next morning in
counsel.  But the night between he passed in great unquietness of mind,
considering that he was about to put to death a young man, of an
illustrious family, and nephew to the great Pompey, and this made him
break out into several passionate complainings.  “What then,” said he,
“is it possible that I am to live in perpetual anxiety and alarm, and
suffer my would-be assassin, meantime, to walk abroad at liberty?  Shall
he go unpunished, after having conspired against my life, a life that I
have hitherto defended in so many civil wars, in so many battles by land
and by sea?  And after having settled the universal peace of the whole
world, shall this man be pardoned, who has conspired not only to murder,
but to sacrifice me?”--for the conspiracy was to kill him at sacrifice.
After which, remaining for some time silent, he began again, in louder
tones, and exclaimed against himself, saying:  “Why livest thou, if it be
for the good of so many that thou shouldst die? must there be no end of
thy revenges and cruelties?  Is thy life of so great value, that so many
mischiefs must be done to preserve it?”  His wife Livia, seeing him in
this perplexity: “Will you take a woman’s counsel?”  said she.  “Do as
the physicians do, who, when the ordinary recipes will do no good, make
trial of the contrary.  By severity you have hitherto prevailed nothing;
Lepidus has followed Salvidienus; Murena, Lepidus; Caepio, Murena;
Egnatius, Caepio.  Begin now, and try how sweetness and clemency will
succeed.  Cinna is convict; forgive him, he will never henceforth have
the heart to hurt thee, and it will be an act to thy glory.”  Augustus
was well pleased that he had met with an advocate of his own humour;
wherefore, having thanked his wife, and, in the morning, countermanded
his friends he had before summoned to council, he commanded Cinna all
alone to be brought to him; who being accordingly come, and a chair by
his appointment set him, having ordered all the rest out of the room, he
spake to him after this manner: “In the first place, Cinna, I demand of
thee patient audience; do not interrupt me in what I am about to say, and
I will afterwards give thee time and leisure to answer.  Thou knowest,
Cinna,--[This passage, borrowed from Seneca, has been paraphrased in
verse by Corneille.  See Nodier, Questions de la Literature llgale, 1828,
pp. 7, 160.  The monologue of Augustus in this chapter is also from
Seneca.  Ibid., 164.]--that having taken thee prisoner in the enemy’s
camp, and thou an enemy, not only so become, but born so, I gave thee thy
life, restored to thee all thy goods, and, finally, put thee in so good a
posture, by my bounty, of living well and at thy ease, that the
victorious envied the conquered. The sacerdotal office which thou madest
suit to me for, I conferred upon thee, after having denied it to others,
whose fathers have ever borne arms in my service.  After so many
obligations, thou hast undertaken to kill me.”  At which Cinna crying out
that he was very far from entertaining any so wicked a thought: “Thou
dost not keep thy promise, Cinna,” continued Augustus, “that thou wouldst
not interrupt me.  Yes, thou hast undertaken to murder me in such a
place, on such a day, in such and such company, and in such a manner.”
 At which words, seeing Cinna astounded and silent, not upon the account
of his promise so to be, but interdict with the weight of his conscience:
“Why,” proceeded Augustus, “to what end wouldst thou do it?  Is it to be
emperor?  Believe me, the Republic is in very ill condition, if I am the
only man betwixt thee and the empire.  Thou art not able so much as to
defend thy own house, and but t’other day was baffled in a suit, by the
opposed interest of a mere manumitted slave.  What, hast thou neither
means nor power in any other thing, but only to undertake Caesar?  I quit
the throne, if there be no other than I to obstruct thy hopes.  Canst
thou believe that Paulus, that Fabius, that the Cossii and the Servilii,
and so many noble Romans, not only so in title, but who by their virtue
honour their nobility, would suffer or endure thee?”  After this, and a
great deal more that he said to him (for he was two long hours in
speaking), “Now go, Cinna, go thy way: I give thee that life as traitor
and parricide, which I before gave thee in the quality of an enemy.  Let
friendship from this time forward begin betwixt us, and let us show
whether I have given, or thou hast received thy life with the better
faith”; and so departed from him.  Some time after, he preferred him to
the consular dignity, complaining that he had not the confidence to
demand it; had him ever after for his very great friend, and was, at
last, made by him sole heir to all his estate.  Now, from the time of
this accident which befell Augustus in the fortieth year of his age, he
never had any conspiracy or attempt against him, and so reaped the due
reward of this his so generous clemency.  But it did not so happen with
our prince, his moderation and mercy not so securing him, but that he
afterwards fell into the toils of the like treason,--[The Duc de Guise
was assassinated in 1563 by Poltrot.]--so vain and futile a thing is
human prudence; throughout all our projects, counsels and precautions,
Fortune will still be mistress of events.

We repute physicians fortunate when they hit upon a lucky cure, as if
there was no other art but theirs that could not stand upon its own legs,
and whose foundations are too weak to support itself upon its own basis;
as if no other art stood in need of Fortune’s hand to help it.  For my
part, I think of physic as much good or ill as any one would have me:
for, thanks be to God, we have no traffic together.  I am of a quite
contrary humour to other men, for I always despise it; but when I am
sick, instead of recanting, or entering into composition with it, I
begin, moreover, to hate and fear it, telling them who importune me to
take physic, that at all events they must give me time to recover my
strength and health, that I may be the better able to support and
encounter the violence and danger of their potions.  I let nature work,
supposing her to be sufficiently armed with teeth and claws to defend
herself from the assaults of infirmity, and to uphold that contexture,
the dissolution of which she flies and abhors.  I am afraid, lest,
instead of assisting her when close grappled and struggling with disease,
I should assist her adversary, and burden her still more with work to do.

Now, I say, that not in physic only, but in other more certain arts,
fortune has a very great part.

The poetic raptures, the flights of fancy, that ravish and transport the
author out of himself, why should we not attribute them to his good
fortune, since he himself confesses that they exceed his sufficiency and
force, and acknowledges them to proceed from something else than himself,
and that he has them no more in his power than the orators say they have
those extraordinary motions and agitations that sometimes push them
beyond their design.  It is the same in painting, where touches shall
sometimes slip from the hand of the painter, so surpassing both his
conception and his art, as to beget his own admiration and astonishment.
But Fortune does yet more evidently manifest the share she has in all
things of this kind, by the graces and elegances we find in them, not
only beyond the intention, but even without the knowledge of the workman:
a competent reader often discovers in other men’s writings other
perfections than the author himself either intended or perceived, a
richer sense and more quaint expression.

As to military enterprises, every one sees how great a hand Fortune has
in them.  Even in our counsels and deliberations there must, certainly,
be something of chance and good-luck mixed with human prudence; for all
that our wisdom can do alone is no great matter; the more piercing,
quick, and apprehensive it is, the weaker it finds itself, and is by so
much more apt to mistrust itself.  I am of Sylla’s opinion;--[“Who freed
his great deeds from envy by ever attributing them to his good fortune,
and finally by surnaming himself Faustus, the Lucky.”--Plutarch, How far a
Man may praise Himself, c. 9.]--and when I closely examine the most
glorious exploits of war, I perceive, methinks, that those who carry them
on make use of counsel and debate only for custom’s sake, and leave the
best part of the enterprise to Fortune, and relying upon her aid,
transgress, at every turn, the bounds of military conduct and the rules
of war.  There happen, sometimes, fortuitous alacrities and strange
furies in their deliberations, that for the most part prompt them to
follow the worst grounded counsels, and swell their courage beyond the
limits of reason.  Whence it happened that several of the great captains
of old, to justify those rash resolutions, have been fain to tell their
soldiers that they were invited to such attempts by some inspiration,
some sign and prognostic.

Wherefore, in this doubt and uncertainty, that the shortsightedness of
human wisdom to see and choose the best (by reason of the difficulties
that the various accidents and circumstances of things bring along with
them) perplexes us withal, the surest way, in my opinion, did no other
consideration invite us to it, is to pitch upon that wherein is the
greatest appearance of honesty and justice; and not, being certain of the
shortest, to keep the straightest and most direct way; as in the two
examples I have just given, there is no question but it was more noble
and generous in him who had received the offence, to pardon it, than to
do otherwise.  If the former--[The Duc de Guise.]--miscarried in it, he
is not, nevertheless, to be blamed for his good intention; neither does
any one know if he had proceeded otherwise, whether by that means he had
avoided the end his destiny had appointed for him; and he had, moreover,
lost the glory of so humane an act.

You will read in history, of many who have been in such apprehension,
that the most part have taken the course to meet and anticipate
conspiracies against them by punishment and revenge; but I find very few
who have reaped any advantage by this proceeding; witness so many Roman
emperors.  Whoever finds himself in this danger, ought not to expect much
either from his vigilance or power; for how hard a thing is it for a man
to secure himself from an enemy, who lies concealed under the countenance
of the most assiduous friend we have, and to discover and know the wills
and inward thoughts of those who are in our personal service.  ‘Tis to
much purpose to have a guard of foreigners about one, and to be always
fenced about with a pale of armed men; whosoever despises his own life,
is always master of that of another man.--[Seneca, Ep., 4.]--And
moreover, this continual suspicion, that makes a prince jealous of all
the world, must of necessity be a strange torment to him.  Therefore it
was, that Dion, being advertised that Callippus watched all opportunities
to take away his life, had never the heart to inquire more particularly
into it, saying, that he had rather die than live in that misery, that he
must continually stand upon his guard, not only against his enemies, but
his friends also;--[Plutarch, Apothegms.]--which Alexander much more
vividly and more roundly manifested in effect, when, having notice by a
letter from Parmenio, that Philip, his most beloved physician, was by
Darius’ money corrupted to poison him, at the same time he gave the
letter to Philip to read, drank off the potion he had brought him.  Was
not this to express a resolution, that if his friends had a mind to
despatch him out of the world, he was willing to give them opportunity to
do it?  This prince is, indeed, the sovereign pattern of hazardous
actions; but I do not know whether there be another passage in his life
wherein there is so much firm courage as in this, nor so illustrious an
image of the beauty and greatness of his mind.

Those who preach to princes so circumspect and vigilant a jealousy and
distrust, under colour of security, preach to them ruin and dishonour:
nothing noble can be performed without danger.  I know a person,
naturally of a very great daring and enterprising courage, whose good
fortune is continually marred by such persuasions, that he keep himself
close surrounded by his friends, that he must not hearken to any
reconciliation with his ancient enemies, that he must stand aloof, and
not trust his person in hands stronger than his own, what promises or
offers soever they may make him, or what advantages soever he may see
before him.  And I know another, who has unexpectedly advanced his
fortunes by following a clear contrary advice.

Courage, the reputation and glory of which men seek with so greedy an
appetite, presents itself, when need requires, as magnificently in
cuerpo, as in full armour; in a closet, as in a camp; with arms pendant,
as with arms raised.

This over-circumspect and wary prudence is a mortal enemy to all high and
generous exploits.  Scipio, to sound Syphax’s intention, leaving his
army, abandoning Spain, not yet secure nor well settled in his new
conquest, could pass over into Africa in two small ships, to commit
himself, in an enemy’s country, to the power of a barbarian king, to a
faith untried and unknown, without obligation, without hostage, under the
sole security of the grandeur of his own courage, his good fortune, and
the promise of his high hopes.--[ Livy, xxviii. 17.]

          “Habita fides ipsam plerumque fidem obligat.”

          [“Trust often obliges fidelity.”--Livy, xxii. 22.]

In a life of ambition and glory, it is necessary to hold a stiff rein
upon suspicion: fear and distrust invite and draw on offence.  The most
mistrustful of our kings--[ Louis XI.]--established his affairs
principally by voluntarily committing his life and liberty into his
enemies’ hands, by that action manifesting that he had absolute
confidence in them, to the end they might repose as great an assurance in
him.  Caesar only opposed the authority of his countenance and the
haughty sharpness of his rebukes to his mutinous legions in arms against

                              “Stetit aggere fulti
               Cespitis, intrepidus vultu: meruitque timeri,
               Nil metuens.”

     [“He stood on a mound, his countenance intrepid, and merited to be
     feared, he fearing nothing.”--Lucan, v. 316.]

But it is true, withal, that this undaunted assurance is not to be
represented in its simple and entire form, but by such whom the
apprehension of death, and the worst that can happen, does not terrify
and affright; for to represent a pretended resolution with a pale and
doubtful countenance and trembling limbs, for the service of an important
reconciliation, will effect nothing to purpose.  ‘Tis an excellent way to
gain the heart and will of another, to submit and intrust one’s self to
him, provided it appear to be freely done, and without the constraint of
necessity, and in such a condition, that a man manifestly does it out of
a pure and entire confidence in the party, at least, with a countenance
clear from any cloud of suspicion.  I saw, when I was a boy, a gentleman,
who was governor of a great city, upon occasion of a popular commotion
and fury, not knowing what other course to take, go out of a place of
very great strength and security, and commit himself to the mercy of the
seditious rabble, in hopes by that means to appease the tumult before it
grew to a more formidable head; but it was ill for him that he did so,
for he was there miserably slain.  But I am not, nevertheless, of
opinion, that he committed so great an error in going out, as men
commonly reproach his memory withal, as he did in choosing a gentle and
submissive way for the effecting his purpose, and in endeavouring to
quiet this storm, rather by obeying than commanding, and by entreaty
rather than remonstrance; and I am inclined to believe, that a gracious
severity, with a soldierlike way of commanding, full of security and
confidence, suitable to the quality of his person, and the dignity of his
command, would have succeeded better with him; at least, he had perished
with greater decency and, reputation.  There is nothing so little to be
expected or hoped for from this many-headed monster, in its fury, as
humanity and good nature; it is much more capable of reverence and fear.
I should also reproach him, that having taken a resolution (in my
judgment rather brave than rash) to expose himself, weak and naked, in
this tempestuous sea of enraged madmen, he ought to have stuck to his
text, and not for an instant to have abandoned the high part he had
undertaken; whereas, coming to discover his danger nearer hand, and his
nose happening to bleed, he again changed that demiss and fawning
countenance he had at first put on, into another of fear and amazement,
filling his voice with entreaties and his eyes with tears, and,
endeavouring so to withdraw and secure his person, that carriage more
inflamed their fury, and soon brought the effects of it upon him.

It was upon a time intended that there should be a general muster of
several troops in arms (and that is the most proper occasion of secret
revenges, and there is no place where they can be executed with greater
safety), and there were public and manifest appearances, that there was
no safe coming for some, whose principal and necessary office it was to
review them.  Whereupon a consultation was held, and several counsels
were proposed, as in a case that was very nice and of great difficulty;
and moreover of grave consequence.  Mine, amongst the rest, was, that
they should by all means avoid giving any sign of suspicion, but that the
officers who were most in danger should boldly go, and with cheerful and
erect countenances ride boldly and confidently through the ranks, and
that instead of sparing fire (which the counsels of the major part tended
to) they should entreat the captains to command the soldiers to give
round and full volleys in honour of the spectators, and not to spare
their powder.  This was accordingly done, and served so good use, as to
please and gratify the suspected troops, and thenceforward to beget a
mutual and wholesome confidence and intelligence amongst them.

I look upon Julius Caesar’s way of winning men to him as the best and
finest that can be put in practice.  First, he tried by clemency to make
himself beloved even by his very enemies, contenting himself, in detected
conspiracies, only publicly to declare, that he was pre-acquainted with
them; which being done, he took a noble resolution to await without
solicitude or fear, whatever might be the event, wholly resigning himself
to the protection of the gods and fortune: for, questionless, in this
state he was at the time when he was killed.

A stranger having publicly said, that he could teach Dionysius, the
tyrant of Syracuse, an infallible way to find out and discover all the
conspiracies his subjects could contrive against him, if he would give
him a good sum of money for his pains, Dionysius hearing of it, caused
the man to be brought to him, that he might learn an art so necessary to
his preservation.  The man made answer, that all the art he knew, was,
that he should give him a talent, and afterwards boast that he had
obtained a singular secret from him.  Dionysius liked the invention, and
accordingly caused six hundred crowns to be counted out to him.
--[Plutarch, Apothegms.]--It was not likely he should give so great a
sum to a person unknown, but upon the account of some extraordinary
discovery, and the belief of this served to keep his enemies in awe.
Princes, however, do wisely to publish the informations they receive of
all the practices against their lives, to possess men with an opinion
they have so good intelligence that nothing can be plotted against them,
but they have present notice of it.  The Duke of Athens did a great many
foolish things in the establishment of his new tyranny over Florence:
but this especially was most notable, that having received the first
intimation of the conspiracies the people were hatching against him, from
Matteo di Morozzo, one of the conspirators, he presently put him to
death, to suppress that rumour, that it might not be thought any of the
city disliked his government.

I remember I have formerly read a story--[In Appian’s Civil Wars, book
iv..]--of some Roman of great quality who, flying the tyranny of the
Triumvirate, had a thousand times by the subtlety of as many inventions
escaped from falling into the hands of those that pursued him.  It
happened one day that a troop of horse, which was sent out to take him,
passed close by a brake where he was squat, and missed very narrowly of
spying him: but he considering, at this point, the pains and difficulties
wherein he had so long continued to evade the strict and incessant
searches that were every day made for him, the little pleasure he could
hope for in such a kind of life, and how much better it was for him to
die once for all, than to be perpetually at this pass, he started from
his seat, called them back, showed them his form,--[as of a squatting
hare.]--and voluntarily delivered himself up to their cruelty, by that
means to free both himself and them from further trouble.  To invite a
man’s enemies to come and cut his throat, seems a resolution a little
extravagant and odd; and yet I think he did better to take that course,
than to live in continual feverish fear of an accident for which there
was no cure.  But seeing all the remedies a man can apply to such a
disease, are full of unquietness and uncertainty, ‘tis better with a
manly courage to prepare one’s self for the worst that can happen, and to
extract some consolation from this, that we are not certain the thing we
fear will ever come to pass.



I was often, when a boy, wonderfully concerned to see, in the Italian
farces, a pedant always brought in for the fool of the play, and that the
title of Magister was in no greater reverence amongst us: for being
delivered up to their tuition, what could I do less than be jealous of
their honour and reputation?  I sought indeed to excuse them by the
natural incompatibility betwixt the vulgar sort and men of a finer
thread, both in judgment and knowledge, forasmuch as they go a quite
contrary way to one another: but in this, the thing I most stumbled at
was, that the finest gentlemen were those who most despised them; witness
our famous poet Du Bellay--

          “Mais je hay par sur tout un scavoir pedantesque.”

          [“Of all things I hate pedantic learning.”--Du Bellay]

And ‘twas so in former times; for Plutarch says that Greek and Scholar
were terms of reproach and contempt amongst the Romans.  But since, with
the better experience of age, I find they had very great reason so to do,
and that--

          “Magis magnos clericos non sunt magis magnos sapientes.”

     [“The greatest clerks are not the wisest men.”  A proverb given in
     Rabelais’ Gargantua, i. 39.]

But whence it should come to pass, that a mind enriched with the
knowledge of so many things should not become more quick and sprightly,
and that a gross and vulgar understanding should lodge within it, without
correcting and improving itself, all the discourses and judgments of the
greatest minds the world ever had, I am yet to seek.  To admit so many
foreign conceptions, so great, and so high fancies, it is necessary (as a
young lady, one of the greatest princesses of the kingdom, said to me
once, speaking of a certain person) that a man’s own brain must be
crowded and squeezed together into a less compass, to make room for the
others; I should be apt to conclude, that as plants are suffocated and
drowned with too much nourishment, and lamps with too much oil, so with
too much study and matter is the active part of the understanding which,
being embarrassed, and confounded with a great diversity of things, loses
the force and power to disengage itself, and by the pressure of this
weight, is bowed, subjected, and doubled up.  But it is quite otherwise;
for our soul stretches and dilates itself proportionably as it fills; and
in the examples of elder times, we see, quite contrary, men very proper
for public business, great captains, and great statesmen very learned

And, as to the philosophers, a sort of men remote from all public
affairs, they have been sometimes also despised by the comic liberty of
their times; their opinions and manners making them appear, to men of
another sort, ridiculous.  Would you make them judges of a lawsuit, of
the actions of men? they are ready to take it upon them, and straight
begin to examine if there be life, if there be motion, if man be any
other than an ox;--[“If Montaigne has copied all this from Plato’s
Theatetes, p.127, F.  as it is plain by all which he has added
immediately after, that he has taken it from that dialogue, he has
grossly mistaken Plato’s sentiment, who says here no more than this, that
the philosopher is so ignorant of what his neighbour does, that he scarce
knows whether he is a man, or some other animal:--Coste.”]--what it is to
do and to suffer?  what animals law and justice are?  Do they speak of
the magistrates, or to him, ‘tis with a rude, irreverent, and indecent
liberty.  Do they hear their prince, or a king commended?  they make no
more of him, than of a shepherd, goatherd, or neatherd: a lazy Coridon,
occupied in milking and shearing his herds and flocks, but more rudely
and harshly than the herd or shepherd himself.  Do you repute any man the
greater for being lord of two thousand acres of land? they laugh at such
a pitiful pittance, as laying claim themselves to the whole world for
their possession.  Do you boast of your nobility, as being descended from
seven rich successive ancestors? they look upon you with an eye of
contempt, as men who have not a right idea of the universal image of
nature, and that do not consider how many predecessors every one of us
has had, rich, poor, kings, slaves, Greeks, and barbarians; and though
you were the fiftieth descendant from Hercules, they look upon it as a
great vanity, so highly to value this, which is only a gift of fortune.
And ‘twas so the vulgar sort contemned them, as men ignorant of the most
elementary and ordinary things; as presumptuous and insolent.

But this Platonic picture is far different from that these pedants are
presented by.  Those were envied for raising themselves above the common
sort, for despising the ordinary actions and offices of life, for having
assumed a particular and inimitable way of living, and for using a
certain method of high-flight and obsolete language, quite different from
the ordinary way of speaking: but these are contemned as being as much
below the usual form, as incapable of public employment, as leading a
life and conforming themselves to the mean and vile manners of the

          “Odi ignava opera, philosopha sententia.”

     [“I hate men who jabber about philosophy, but do nothing.”
      --Pacuvius, ap Gellium, xiii. 8.]

For what concerns the philosophers, as I have said, if they were in
science, they were yet much greater in action.  And, as it is said of the
geometrician of Syracuse,--[Archimedes.]--who having been disturbed from
his contemplation, to put some of his skill in practice for the defence
of his country, that he suddenly set on foot dreadful and prodigious
engines, that wrought effects beyond all human expectation; himself,
notwithstanding, disdaining all his handiwork, and thinking in this he
had played the mere mechanic, and violated the dignity of his art, of
which these performances of his he accounted but trivial experiments and
playthings so they, whenever they have been put upon the proof of action,
have been seen to fly to so high a pitch, as made it very well appear,
their souls were marvellously elevated, and enriched by the knowledge of
things.  But some of them, seeing the reins of government in the hands of
incapable men, have avoided all management of political affairs; and he
who demanded of Crates, how long it was necessary to philosophise,
received this answer: “Till our armies are no more commanded by fools.”
 --[Diogenes Laertius, vi. 92.]--Heraclitus resigned the royalty to his
brother; and, to the Ephesians, who reproached him that he spent his time
in playing with children before the temple: “Is it not better,” said he,
“to do so, than to sit at the helm of affairs in your company?”  Others
having their imagination advanced above the world and fortune, have
looked upon the tribunals of justice, and even the thrones of kings, as
paltry and contemptible; insomuch, that Empedocles refused the royalty
that the Agrigentines offered to him.  Thales, once inveighing in
discourse against the pains and care men put themselves to to become
rich, was answered by one in the company, that he did like the fox, who
found fault with what he could not obtain.  Whereupon, he had a mind, for
the jest’s sake, to show them to the contrary; and having, for this
occasion, made a muster of all his wits, wholly to employ them in the
service of profit and gain, he set a traffic on foot, which in one year
brought him in so great riches, that the most experienced in that trade
could hardly in their whole lives, with all their industry, have raked so
much together.--[Diogenes Laertius, Life of Thales, i.  26; Cicero, De
Divin., i.  49.]--That which Aristotle reports of some who called both
him and Anaxagoras, and others of their profession, wise but not prudent,
in not applying their study to more profitable things--though I do not
well digest this verbal distinction--that will not, however, serve to
excuse my pedants, for to see the low and necessitous fortune wherewith
they are content, we have rather reason to pronounce that they are
neither wise nor prudent.

But letting this first reason alone, I think it better to say, that this
evil proceeds from their applying themselves the wrong way to the study
of the sciences; and that, after the manner we are instructed, it is no
wonder if neither the scholars nor the masters become, though more
learned, ever the wiser, or more able.  In plain truth, the cares and
expense our parents are at in our education, point at nothing, but to
furnish our heads with knowledge; but not a word of judgment and virtue.
Cry out, of one that passes by, to the people: “O, what a learned man!”
 and of another, “O, what a good man!”--[Translated from Seneca, Ep.,
88.]--they will not fail to turn their eyes, and address their respect
to the former.  There should then be a third crier, “O, the blockheads!”
 Men are apt presently to inquire, does such a one understand Greek or
Latin?  Is he a poet?  or does he write in prose?  But whether he be
grown better or more discreet, which are qualities of principal concern,
these are never thought of.  We should rather examine, who is better
learned, than who is more learned.

We only labour to stuff the memory, and leave the conscience and the
understanding unfurnished and void.  Like birds who fly abroad to forage
for grain, and bring it home in the beak, without tasting it themselves,
to feed their young; so our pedants go picking knowledge here and there,
out of books, and hold it at the tongue’s end, only to spit it out and
distribute it abroad.  And here I cannot but smile to think how I have
paid myself in showing the foppery of this kind of learning, who myself
am so manifest an example; for, do I not the same thing throughout almost
this whole composition?  I go here and there, culling out of several
books the sentences that best please me, not to keep them (for I have no
memory to retain them in), but to transplant them into this; where, to
say the truth, they are no more mine than in their first places.  We are,
I conceive, knowing only in present knowledge, and not at all in what is
past, or more than is that which is to come.  But the worst on’t is,
their scholars and pupils are no better nourished by this kind of
inspiration; and it makes no deeper impression upon them, but passes from
hand to hand, only to make a show to be tolerable company, and to tell
pretty stories, like a counterfeit coin in counters, of no other use or
value, but to reckon with, or to set up at cards:

          “Apud alios loqui didicerunt non ipsi secum.”

     [“They have learned to speak from others, not from themselves.”
      --Cicero, Tusc. Quaes, v. 36.]

               “Non est loquendum, sed gubernandum.”

     [“Speaking is not so necessary as governing.”--Seneca, Ep., 108.]

Nature, to shew that there is nothing barbarous where she has the sole
conduct, oftentimes, in nations where art has the least to do, causes
productions of wit, such as may rival the greatest effect of art
whatever.  In relation to what I am now speaking of, the Gascon proverb,
derived from a cornpipe, is very quaint and subtle:

          “Bouha prou bouha, mas a remuda lous dits quem.”

     [“You may blow till your eyes start out; but if once you offer to
     stir your fingers, it is all over.”]

We can say, Cicero says thus; these were the manners of Plato; these are
the very words of Aristotle: but what do we say ourselves?  What do we
judge?  A parrot would say as much as that.

And this puts me in mind of that rich gentleman of Rome,--[Calvisius
Sabinus.  Seneca, Ep., 27.]--who had been solicitous, with very great
expense, to procure men that were excellent in all sorts of science, whom
he had always attending his person, to the end, that when amongst his
friends any occasion fell out of speaking of any subject whatsoever, they
might supply his place, and be ready to prompt him, one with a sentence
of Seneca, another with a verse of Homer, and so forth, every one
according to his talent; and he fancied this knowledge to be his own,
because it was in the heads of those who lived upon his bounty; as they
also do, whose learning consists in having noble libraries.  I know one,
who, when I question him what he knows, he presently calls for a book to
shew me, and dares not venture to tell me so much, as that he has piles
in his posteriors, till first he has consulted his dictionary, what piles
and what posteriors are.

We take other men’s knowledge and opinions upon trust; which is an idle
and superficial learning. We must make it our own.  We are in this very
like him, who having need of fire, went to a neighbour’s house to fetch
it, and finding a very good one there, sat down to warm himself without
remembering to carry any with him home.--[Plutarch, How a Man should
Listen.]--What good does it do us to have the stomach full of meat, if
it do not digest, if it be not incorporated with us, if it does not
nourish and support us?  Can we imagine that Lucullus, whom letters,
without any manner of experience, made so great a captain, learned to be
so after this perfunctory manner?--[Cicero, Acad., ii. I.]--We suffer
ourselves to lean and rely so strongly upon the arm of another, that we
destroy our own strength and vigour.  Would I fortify myself against the
fear of death, it must be at the expense of Seneca: would I extract
consolation for myself or my friend, I borrow it from Cicero.  I might
have found it in myself, had I been trained to make use of my own reason.
I do not like this relative and mendicant understanding; for though we
could become learned by other men’s learning, a man can never be wise but
by his own wisdom:

     [“I hate the wise man, who in his own concern is not wise.”
      --Euripides, ap. Cicero, Ep. Fam., xiii. 15.]

Whence Ennius:

     “Nequidquam sapere sapientem, qui ipse sibi prodesse non quiret.”

     [“That wise man knows nothing, who cannot profit himself by his
     wisdom.”--Cicero, De Offic., iii. 15.]

                              “Si cupidus, si
               Vanus, et Euganea quantumvis mollior agna.”

     [“If he be grasping, or a boaster, and something softer than an
     Euganean lamb.”--Juvenal, Sat., viii. 14.]

     “Non enim paranda nobis solum, sed fruenda sapientia est.”

     [“For wisdom is not only to be acquired, but to be utilised.”
      --Cicero, De Finib., i. I.]

Dionysius--[It was not Dionysius, but Diogenes the cynic.  Diogenes
Laertius, vi. 27.]--laughed at the grammarians, who set themselves to
inquire into the miseries of Ulysses, and were ignorant of their own;
at musicians, who were so exact in tuning their instruments, and never
tuned their manners; at orators, who made it a study to declare what is
justice, but never took care to do it.  If the mind be not better
disposed, if the judgment be no better settled, I had much rather my
scholar had spent his time at tennis, for, at least, his body would by
that means be in better exercise and breath.  Do but observe him when he
comes back from school, after fifteen or sixteen years that he has been
there; there is nothing so unfit for employment; all you shall find he
has got, is, that his Latin and Greek have only made him a greater
coxcomb than when he went from home.  He should bring back his soul
replete with good literature, and he brings it only swelled and puffed up
with vain and empty shreds and patches of learning; and has really
nothing more in him than he had before.--[Plato’s Dialogues: Protagoras.]

These pedants of ours, as Plato says of the Sophists, their
cousin-germans, are, of all men, they who most pretend to be useful to
mankind, and who alone, of all men, not only do not better and improve
that which is committed to them, as a carpenter or a mason would do, but
make them much worse, and make us pay them for making them worse, to
boot.  If the rule which Protagoras proposed to his pupils were followed
--either that they should give him his own demand, or make affidavit upon
oath in the temple how much they valued the profit they had received
under his tuition, and satisfy him accordingly--my pedagogues would find
themselves sorely gravelled, if they were to be judged by the affidavits
of my experience.  My Perigordin patois very pleasantly calls these
pretenders to learning, ‘lettre-ferits’, as a man should say,
letter-marked--men on whom letters have been stamped by the blow of a
mallet. And, in truth, for the most part, they appear to be deprived even
of common sense; for you see the husbandman and the cobbler go simply and
fairly about their business, speaking only of what they know and
understand; whereas these fellows, to make parade and to get opinion,
mustering this ridiculous knowledge of theirs, that floats on the
superficies of the brain, are perpetually perplexing, and entangling
themselves in their own nonsense. They speak fine words sometimes, ‘tis
true, but let somebody that is wiser apply them.  They are wonderfully
well acquainted with Galen, but not at all with the disease of the
patient; they have already deafened you with a long ribble-row of laws,
but understand nothing of the case in hand; they have the theory of all
things, let who will put it in practice.

I have sat by, when a friend of mine, in my own house, for sport-sake,
has with one of these fellows counterfeited a jargon of Galimatias,
patched up of phrases without head or tail, saving that he interlarded
here and there some terms that had relation to their dispute, and held
the coxcomb in play a whole afternoon together, who all the while thought
he had answered pertinently and learnedly to all his objections; and yet
this was a man of letters, and reputation, and a fine gentleman of the
long robe:

         “Vos, O patricius sanguis, quos vivere par est
          Occipiti caeco, posticae occurrite sannae.”

     [“O you, of patrician blood, to whom it is permitted to live
     with(out) eyes in the back of your head, beware of grimaces at you
     from behind.”--Persius, Sat., i. 61.]

Whosoever shall narrowly pry into and thoroughly sift this sort of
people, wherewith the world is so pestered, will, as I have done, find,
that for the most part, they neither understand others, nor themselves;
and that their memories are full enough, but the judgment totally void
and empty; some excepted, whose own nature has of itself formed them into
better fashion.  As I have observed, for example, in Adrian Turnebus, who
having never made other profession than that of mere learning only, and
in that, in my opinion, he was the greatest man that has been these
thousand years, had nothing at all in him of the pedant, but the wearing
of his gown, and a little exterior fashion, that could not be civilised
to courtier ways, which in themselves are nothing.  I hate our people,
who can worse endure an ill-contrived robe than an ill-contrived mind,
and take their measure by the leg a man makes, by his behaviour, and so
much as the very fashion of his boots, what kind of man he is.  For
within there was not a more polished soul upon earth.  I have often
purposely put him upon arguments quite wide of his profession, wherein I
found he had so clear an insight, so quick an apprehension, so solid a
judgment, that a man would have thought he had never practised any other
thing but arms, and been all his life employed in affairs of State.
These are great and vigorous natures,

                         “Queis arte benigna
          Et meliore luto finxit praecordia Titan.”

     [“Whom benign Titan (Prometheus) has framed of better clay.”
      --Juvenal, xiv. 34.]

that can keep themselves upright in despite of a pedantic education.  But
it is not enough that our education does not spoil us; it must, moreover,
alter us for the better.

Some of our Parliaments, when they are to admit officers, examine only
their learning; to which some of the others also add the trial of
understanding, by asking their judgment of some case in law; of these the
latter, methinks, proceed with the better method; for although both are
necessary, and that it is very requisite they should be defective in
neither, yet, in truth, knowledge is not so absolutely necessary as
judgment; the last may make shift without the other, but the other never
without this.  For as the Greek verse says--

     [“To what use serves learning, if understanding be away.”
      --Apud Stobaeus, tit. iii., p. 37 (1609).]

Would to God that, for the good of our judicature, these societies were
as well furnished with understanding and conscience as they are with

               “Non vita, sed scolae discimus.”

     [“We do not study for life, but only for the school.”
      --Seneca, Ep., 106.]

We are not to tie learning to the soul, but to work and incorporate them
together: not to tincture it only, but to give it a thorough and perfect
dye; which, if it will not take colour, and meliorate its imperfect
state, it were without question better to let it alone.  ‘Tis a dangerous
weapon, that will hinder and wound its master, if put into an awkward and
unskilful hand:

               “Ut fuerit melius non didicisse.”

          [“So that it were better not to have learned.”
           --Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., ii. 4.]

And this, peradventure, is the reason why neither we nor theology require
much learning in women; and that Francis, Duke of Brittany, son of John V.,
one talking with him about his marriage with Isabella the daughter of
Scotland, and adding that she was homely bred, and without any manner of
learning, made answer, that he liked her the better, and that a woman was
wise enough, if she could distinguish her husband’s shirt from his
doublet.  So that it is no so great wonder, as they make of it, that our
ancestors had letters in no greater esteem, and that even to this day
they are but rarely met with in the principal councils of princes; and if
the end and design of acquiring riches, which is the only thing we
propose to ourselves, by the means of law, physic, pedantry, and even
divinity itself, did not uphold and keep them in credit, you would, with
doubt, see them in as pitiful a condition as ever.  And what loss would
this be, if they neither instruct us to think well nor to do well?

          “Postquam docti prodierunt, boni desunt.”

     [Seneca, Ep., 95.  “Since the ‘savans’ have made their appearance
     among us, the good people have become eclipsed.”
      --Rousseau, Discours sur les Lettres.]

All other knowledge is hurtful to him who has not the science of

But the reason I glanced upon but now, may it not also hence proceed,
that, our studies in France having almost no other aim but profit, except
as to those who, by nature born to offices and employments rather of
glory than gain, addict themselves to letters, if at all, only for so
short a time (being taken from their studies before they can come to have
any taste of them, to a profession that has nothing to do with books),
there ordinarily remain no others to apply themselves wholly to learning,
but people of mean condition, who in that only seek the means to live;
and by such people, whose souls are, both by nature and by domestic
education and example, of the basest alloy the fruits of knowledge are
immaturely gathered and ill digested, and delivered to their recipients
quite another thing.  For it is not for knowledge to enlighten a soul
that is dark of itself, nor to make a blind man see.  Her business is not
to find a man’s eyes, but to guide, govern, and direct them, provided he
have sound feet and straight legs to go upon.  Knowledge is an excellent
drug, but no drug has virtue enough to preserve itself from corruption
and decay, if the vessel be tainted and impure wherein it is put to keep.
Such a one may have a sight clear enough who looks asquint, and
consequently sees what is good, but does not follow it, and sees
knowledge, but makes no use of it.  Plato’s principal institution in his
Republic is to fit his citizens with employments suitable to their
nature.  Nature can do all, and does all.  Cripples are very unfit for
exercises of the body, and lame souls for exercises of the mind.
Degenerate and vulgar souls are unworthy of philosophy.  If we see a
shoemaker with his shoes out at the toes, we say, ‘tis no wonder; for,
commonly, none go worse shod than they.  In like manner, experience often
presents us a physician worse physicked, a divine less reformed, and
(constantly) a scholar of less sufficiency, than other people.

Old Aristo of Chios had reason to say that philosophers did their
auditors harm, forasmuch as most of the souls of those that heard them
were not capable of deriving benefit from instruction, which, if not
applied to good, would certainly be applied to ill:

     [“They proceeded effeminate debauchees from the school of
     Aristippus, cynics from that of Zeno.”
      --Cicero, De Natura Deor., iii., 31.]

In that excellent institution that Xenophon attributes to the Persians,
we find that they taught their children virtue, as other nations do
letters.  Plato tells us that the eldest son in their royal succession
was thus brought up; after his birth he was delivered, not to women, but
to eunuchs of the greatest authority about their kings for their virtue,
whose charge it was to keep his body healthful and in good plight; and
after he came to seven years of age, to teach him to ride and to go
a-hunting.  When he arrived at fourteen he was transferred into the hands
of four, the wisest, the most just, the most temperate, and most valiant
of the nation; of whom the first was to instruct him in religion, the
second to be always upright and sincere, the third to conquer his
appetites and desires, and the fourth to despise all danger.

It is a thing worthy of very great consideration, that in that excellent,
and, in truth, for its perfection, prodigious form of civil regimen set
down by Lycurgus, though so solicitous of the education of children,
as a thing of the greatest concern, and even in the very seat of the
Muses, he should make so little mention of learning; as if that generous
youth, disdaining all other subjection but that of virtue, ought to be
supplied, instead of tutors to read to them arts and sciences, with such
masters as should only instruct them in valour, prudence, and justice;
an example that Plato has followed in his laws.  The manner of their
discipline was to propound to them questions in judgment upon men and
their actions; and if they commended or condemned this or that person or
fact, they were to give a reason for so doing; by which means they at
once sharpened their understanding, and learned what was right.
Astyages, in Xenophon, asks Cyrus to give an account of his last lesson;
and thus it was, “A great boy in our school, having a little short
cassock, by force took a longer from another that was not so tall as he,
and gave him his own in exchange: whereupon I, being appointed judge of
the controversy, gave judgment, that I thought it best each should keep
the coat he had, for that they both of them were better fitted with that
of one another than with their own: upon which my master told me, I had
done ill, in that I had only considered the fitness of the garments,
whereas I ought to have considered the justice of the thing, which
required that no one should have anything forcibly taken from him that is
his own.”  And Cyrus adds that he was whipped for his pains, as we are in
our villages for forgetting the first aorist of------.

     [Cotton’s version of this story commences differently, and includes
     a passage which is not in any of the editions of the original before

     “Mandane, in Xenophon, asking Cyrus how he would do to learn
     justice, and the other virtues amongst the Medes, having left all
     his masters behind him in Persia?  He made answer, that he had
     learned those things long since; that his master had often made him
     a judge of the differences amongst his schoolfellows, and had one
     day whipped him for giving a wrong sentence.”--W.C.H.]

My pedant must make me a very learned oration, ‘in genere demonstrativo’,
before he can persuade me that his school is like unto that.  They knew
how to go the readiest way to work; and seeing that science, when most
rightly applied and best understood, can do no more but teach us
prudence, moral honesty, and resolution, they thought fit, at first hand,
to initiate their children with the knowledge of effects, and to instruct
them, not by hearsay and rote, but by the experiment of action, in lively
forming and moulding them; not only by words and precepts, but chiefly by
works and examples; to the end it might not be a knowledge in the mind
only, but its complexion and habit: not an acquisition, but a natural
possession.  One asking to this purpose, Agesilaus, what he thought most
proper for boys to learn?  “What they ought to do when they come to be
men,” said he.--[Plutarch, Apothegms of the Lacedamonians.  Rousseau
adopts the expression in his Diswuys sur tes Lettres.]--It is no wonder,
if such an institution produced so admirable effects.

They used to go, it is said, to the other cities of Greece, to inquire
out rhetoricians, painters, and musicians; but to Lacedaemon for
legislators, magistrates, and generals of armies; at Athens they learned
to speak well: here to do well; there to disengage themselves from a
sophistical argument, and to unravel the imposture of captious
syllogisms; here to evade the baits and allurements of pleasure, and with
a noble courage and resolution to conquer the menaces of fortune and
death; those cudgelled their brains about words, these made it their
business to inquire into things; there was an eternal babble of the
tongue, here a continual exercise of the soul.  And therefore it is
nothing strange if, when Antipater demanded of them fifty children for
hostages, they made answer, quite contrary to what we should do, that
they would rather give him twice as many full-grown men, so much did they
value the loss of their country’s education.  When Agesilaus courted
Xenophon to send his children to Sparta to be bred, “it is not,” said he,
“there to learn logic or rhetoric, but to be instructed in the noblest of
all sciences, namely, the science to obey and to command.”--[Plutarch,
Life of Agesilaus, c. 7.]

It is very pleasant to see Socrates, after his manner, rallying Hippias,
--[Plato’s Dialogues: Hippias Major.]--who recounts to him what a world
of money he has got, especially in certain little villages of Sicily, by
teaching school, and that he made never a penny at Sparta: “What a
sottish and stupid people,” said Socrates, “are they, without sense or
understanding, that make no account either of grammar or poetry, and only
busy themselves in studying the genealogies and successions of their
kings, the foundations, rises, and declensions of states, and such tales
of a tub!”  After which, having made Hippias from one step to another
acknowledge the excellency of their form of public administration, and
the felicity and virtue of their private life, he leaves him to guess at
the conclusion he makes of the inutilities of his pedantic arts.

Examples have demonstrated to us that in military affairs, and all others
of the like active nature, the study of sciences more softens and
untempers the courages of men than it in any way fortifies and excites
them.  The most potent empire that at this day appears to be in the whole
world is that of the Turks, a people equally inured to the estimation of
arms and the contempt of letters.  I find Rome was more valiant before
she grew so learned.  The most warlike nations at this time in being are
the most rude and ignorant: the Scythians, the Parthians, Tamerlane,
serve for sufficient proof of this.  When the Goths overran Greece, the
only thing that preserved all the libraries from the fire was, that some
one possessed them with an opinion that they were to leave this kind of
furniture entire to the enemy, as being most proper to divert them from
the exercise of arms, and to fix them to a lazy and sedentary life.
When our King Charles VIII., almost without striking a blow, saw himself
possessed of the kingdom of Naples and a considerable part of Tuscany,
the nobles about him attributed this unexpected facility of conquest to
this, that the princes and nobles of Italy, more studied to render
themselves ingenious and learned, than vigorous and warlike.


     A parrot would say as much as that
     Agesilaus, what he thought most proper for boys to learn?
     But it is not enough that our education does not spoil us
     Conscience, which we pretend to be derived from nature
     Culling out of several books the sentences that best please me
     “Custom,” replied Plato, “is no little thing”
     Examine, who is better learned, than who is more learned
     Fear and distrust invite and draw on offence
     Fortune will still be mistress of events
     Fox, who found fault with what he could not obtain
     Fruits of public commotion are seldom enjoyed
     Gave them new and more plausible names for their excuse
     Give me time to recover my strength and health
     Great presumption to be so fond of one’s own opinions
     Gross impostures of religions
     Hoary head and rivelled face of ancient usage
     Hold a stiff rein upon suspicion
     I have a great aversion from a novelty
     Knowledge is not so absolutely necessary as judgment
     Laws do what they can, when they cannot do what they would
     Man can never be wise but by his own wisdom
     Memories are full enough, but the judgment totally void
     Miracles appear to be so, according to our ignorance of nature
     Nothing noble can be performed without danger
     Only set the humours they would purge more violently in work
     Ought not to expect much either from his vigilance or power
     Ought to withdraw and retire his soul from the crowd
     Over-circumspect and wary prudence is a mortal enemy
     Physician worse physicked
     Plays of children are not performed in play
     Present himself with a halter about his neck to the people
     Rome was more valiant before she grew so learned
     Study to declare what is justice, but never took care to do it.
     Testimony of the truth from minds prepossessed by custom?
     They neither instruct us to think well nor to do well
     Think of physic as much good or ill as any one would have me
     Use veils from us the true aspect of things
     Victorious envied the conquered
     We only labour to stuff the memory
     We take other men’s knowledge and opinions upon trust
     Weakness and instability of a private and particular fancy
     What they ought to do when they come to be men
     Whosoever despises his own life, is always master
     Worse endure an ill-contrived robe than an ill-contrived mind


Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazlitt



XXV.      Of the education of children.
XXVI.     That it is folly to measure truth and error by our own



TO MADAME DIANE DE FOIX, Comtesse de Gurson

I never yet saw that father, but let his son be never so decrepit or
deformed, would not, notwithstanding, own him: not, nevertheless, if he
were not totally besotted, and blinded with his paternal affection, that
he did not well enough discern his defects; but that with all defaults he
was still his.  Just so, I see better than any other, that all I write
here are but the idle reveries of a man that has only nibbled upon the
outward crust of sciences in his nonage, and only retained a general and
formless image of them; who has got a little snatch of everything and
nothing of the whole, ‘a la Francoise’.  For I know, in general, that
there is such a thing as physic, as jurisprudence: four parts in
mathematics, and, roughly, what all these aim and point at; and,
peradventure, I yet know farther, what sciences in general pretend unto,
in order to the service of our life: but to dive farther than that, and
to have cudgelled my brains in the study of Aristotle, the monarch of all
modern learning, or particularly addicted myself to any one science,
I have never done it; neither is there any one art of which I am able to
draw the first lineaments and dead colour; insomuch that there is not a
boy of the lowest form in a school, that may not pretend to be wiser than
I, who am not able to examine him in his first lesson, which, if I am at
any time forced upon, I am necessitated in my own defence, to ask him,
unaptly enough, some universal questions, such as may serve to try his
natural understanding; a lesson as strange and unknown to him, as his is
to me.

I never seriously settled myself to the reading any book of solid
learning but Plutarch and Seneca; and there, like the Danaides, I
eternally fill, and it as constantly runs out; something of which drops
upon this paper, but little or nothing stays with me. History is my
particular game as to matter of reading, or else poetry, for which I have
particular kindness and esteem: for, as Cleanthes said, as the voice,
forced through the narrow passage of a trumpet, comes out more forcible
and shrill: so, methinks, a sentence pressed within the harmony of verse
darts out more briskly upon the understanding, and strikes my ear and
apprehension with a smarter and more pleasing effect.  As to the natural
parts I have, of which this is the essay, I find them to bow under the
burden; my fancy and judgment do but grope in the dark, tripping and
stumbling in the way; and when I have gone as far as I can, I am in no
degree satisfied; I discover still a new and greater extent of land
before me, with a troubled and imperfect sight and wrapped up in clouds,
that I am not able to penetrate.  And taking upon me to write
indifferently of whatever comes into my head, and therein making use of
nothing but my own proper and natural means, if it befall me, as
oft-times it does, accidentally to meet in any good author, the same heads
and commonplaces upon which I have attempted to write (as I did but just
now in Plutarch’s “Discourse of the Force of Imagination”), to see myself
so weak and so forlorn, so heavy and so flat, in comparison of those
better writers, I at once pity or despise myself.  Yet do I please myself
with this, that my opinions have often the honour and good fortune to
jump with theirs, and that I go in the same path, though at a very great
distance, and can say, “Ah, that is so.”  I am farther satisfied to find
that I have a quality, which every one is not blessed withal, which is,
to discern the vast difference between them and me; and notwithstanding
all that, suffer my own inventions, low and feeble as they are, to run on
in their career, without mending or plastering up the defects that this
comparison has laid open to my own view.  And, in plain truth, a man had
need of a good strong back to keep pace with these people.  The
indiscreet scribblers of our times, who, amongst their laborious
nothings, insert whole sections and pages out of ancient authors, with a
design, by that means, to illustrate their own writings, do quite
contrary; for this infinite dissimilitude of ornaments renders the
complexion of their own compositions so sallow and deformed, that they
lose much more than they get.

The philosophers, Chrysippus and Epicurus, were in this of two quite
contrary humours: the first not only in his books mixed passages and
sayings of other authors, but entire pieces, and, in one, the whole Medea
of Euripides; which gave Apollodorus occasion to say, that should a man
pick out of his writings all that was none of his, he would leave him
nothing but blank paper: whereas the latter, quite on the contrary, in
three hundred volumes that he left behind him, has not so much as one
quotation.--[Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Chyysippus, vii. 181, and
Epicurus, x. 26.]

I happened the other day upon this piece of fortune; I was reading a
French book, where after I had a long time run dreaming over a great many
words, so dull, so insipid, so void of all wit or common sense, that
indeed they were only French words: after a long and tedious travel, I
came at last to meet with a piece that was lofty, rich, and elevated to
the very clouds; of which, had I found either the declivity easy or the
ascent gradual, there had been some excuse; but it was so perpendicular
a precipice, and so wholly cut off from the rest of the work, that by the
first six words, I found myself flying into the other world, and thence
discovered the vale whence I came so deep and low, that I have never had
since the heart to descend into it any more.  If I should set out one of
my discourses with such rich spoils as these, it would but too evidently
manifest the imperfection of my own writing.  To reprehend the fault in
others that I am guilty of myself, appears to me no more unreasonable,
than to condemn, as I often do, those of others in myself: they are to be
everywhere reproved, and ought to have no sanctuary allowed them.  I know
very well how audaciously I myself, at every turn, attempt to equal
myself to my thefts, and to make my style go hand in hand with them, not
without a temerarious hope of deceiving the eyes of my reader from
discerning the difference; but withal it is as much by the benefit of my
application, that I hope to do it, as by that of my invention or any
force of my own.  Besides, I do not offer to contend with the whole body
of these champions, nor hand to hand with anyone of them: ‘tis only by
flights and little light attempts that I engage them; I do not grapple
with them, but try their strength only, and never engage so far as I make
a show to do.  If I could hold them in play, I were a brave fellow; for I
never attack them; but where they are most sinewy and strong.  To cover a
man’s self (as I have seen some do) with another man’s armour, so as not
to discover so much as his fingers’ ends; to carry on a design (as it is
not hard for a man that has anything of a scholar in him, in an ordinary
subject to do) under old inventions patched up here and there with his
own trumpery, and then to endeavour to conceal the theft, and to make it
pass for his own, is first injustice and meanness of spirit in those who
do it, who having nothing in them of their own fit to procure them a
reputation, endeavour to do it by attempting to impose things upon the
world in their own name, which they have no manner of title to; and next,
a ridiculous folly to content themselves with acquiring the ignorant
approbation of the vulgar by such a pitiful cheat, at the price at the
same time of degrading themselves in the eyes of men of understanding,
who turn up their noses at all this borrowed incrustation, yet whose
praise alone is worth the having.  For my own part, there is nothing I
would not sooner do than that, neither have I said so much of others, but
to get a better opportunity to explain myself.  Nor in this do I glance
at the composers of centos, who declare themselves for such; of which
sort of writers I have in my time known many very ingenious, and
particularly one under the name of Capilupus, besides the ancients.
These are really men of wit, and that make it appear they are so, both by
that and other ways of writing; as for example, Lipsius, in that learned
and laborious contexture of his Politics.

But, be it how it will, and how inconsiderable soever these ineptitudes
may be, I will say I never intended to conceal them, no more than my old
bald grizzled likeness before them, where the painter has presented you
not with a perfect face, but with mine.  For these are my own particular
opinions and fancies, and I deliver them as only what I myself believe,
and not for what is to be believed by others.  I have no other end in
this writing, but only to discover myself, who, also shall, peradventure,
be another thing to-morrow, if I chance to meet any new instruction to
change me.  I have no authority to be believed, neither do I desire it,
being too conscious of my own inerudition to be able to instruct others.

Some one, then, having seen the preceding chapter, the other day told me
at my house, that I should a little farther have extended my discourse on
the education of children.--[“Which, how fit I am to do, let my friends
flatter me if they please, I have in the meantime no such opinion of my
own talent, as to promise myself any very good success from my
endeavour.”  This passage would appear to be an interpolation by Cotton.
At all events, I do not find it in the original editions before me, or in

Now, madam, if I had any sufficiency in this subject, I could not
possibly better employ it, than to present my best instructions to the
little man that threatens you shortly with a happy birth (for you are too
generous to begin otherwise than with a male); for, having had so great a
hand in the treaty of your marriage, I have a certain particular right
and interest in the greatness and prosperity of the issue that shall
spring from it; beside that, your having had the best of my services so
long in possession, sufficiently obliges me to desire the honour and
advantage of all wherein you shall be concerned.  But, in truth, all I
understand as to that particular is only this, that the greatest and most
important difficulty of human science is the education of children.  For
as in agriculture, the husbandry that is to precede planting, as also
planting itself, is certain, plain, and well known; but after that which
is planted comes to life, there is a great deal more to be done, more art
to be used, more care to be taken, and much more difficulty to cultivate
and bring it to perfection so it is with men; it is no hard matter to get
children; but after they are born, then begins the trouble, solicitude,
and care rightly to train, principle, and bring them up.  The symptoms of
their inclinations in that tender age are so obscure, and the promises so
uncertain and fallacious, that it is very hard to establish any solid
judgment or conjecture upon them.  Look at Cimon, for example, and
Themistocles, and a thousand others, who very much deceived the
expectation men had of them.  Cubs of bears and puppies readily discover
their natural inclination; but men, so soon as ever they are grownup,
applying themselves to certain habits, engaging themselves in certain
opinions, and conforming themselves to particular laws and customs,
easily alter, or at least disguise, their true and real disposition; and
yet it is hard to force the propension of nature.  Whence it comes to
pass, that for not having chosen the right course, we often take very
great pains, and consume a good part of our time in training up children
to things, for which, by their natural constitution, they are totally
unfit.  In this difficulty, nevertheless, I am clearly of opinion, that
they ought to be elemented in the best and most advantageous studies,
without taking too much notice of, or being too superstitious in those
light prognostics they give of themselves in their tender years, and to
which Plato, in his Republic, gives, methinks, too much authority.

Madam, science is a very great ornament, and a thing of marvellous use,
especially in persons raised to that degree of fortune in which you are.
And, in truth, in persons of mean and low condition, it cannot perform
its true and genuine office, being naturally more prompt to assist in the
conduct of war, in the government of peoples, in negotiating the leagues
and friendships of princes and foreign nations, than in forming a
syllogism in logic, in pleading a process in law, or in prescribing a
dose of pills in physic.  Wherefore, madam, believing you will not omit
this so necessary feature in the education of your children, who yourself
have tasted its sweetness, and are of a learned extraction (for we yet
have the writings of the ancient Counts of Foix, from whom my lord, your
husband, and yourself, are both of you descended, and Monsieur de
Candale, your uncle, every day obliges the world with others, which will
extend the knowledge of this quality in your family for so many
succeeding ages), I will, upon this occasion, presume to acquaint your
ladyship with one particular fancy of my own, contrary to the common
method, which is all I am able to contribute to your service in this

The charge of the tutor you shall provide for your son, upon the choice
of whom depends the whole success of his education, has several other
great and considerable parts and duties required in so important a trust,
besides that of which I am about to speak: these, however, I shall not
mention, as being unable to add anything of moment to the common rules:
and in this, wherein I take upon me to advise, he may follow it so far
only as it shall appear advisable.

For a, boy of quality then, who pretends to letters not upon the account
of profit (for so mean an object is unworthy of the grace and favour
of the Muses, and moreover, in it a man directs his service to and
depends upon others), nor so much for outward ornament, as for his own
proper and peculiar use, and to furnish and enrich himself within, having
rather a desire to come out an accomplished cavalier than a mere scholar
or learned man; for such a one, I say, I would, also, have his friends
solicitous to find him out a tutor, who has rather a well-made than a
well-filled head;--[“‘Tete bien faite’, an expression created by
Montaigne, and which has remained a part of our language.”--Servan.]--
seeking, indeed, both the one and the other, but rather of the two to
prefer manners and judgment to mere learning, and that this man should
exercise his charge after a new method.

‘Tis the custom of pedagogues to be eternally thundering in their pupil’s
ears, as they were pouring into a funnel, whilst the business of the
pupil is only to repeat what the others have said: now I would have a
tutor to correct this error, and, that at the very first, he should
according to the capacity he has to deal with, put it to the test,
permitting his pupil himself to taste things, and of himself to discern
and choose them, sometimes opening the way to him, and sometimes leaving
him to open it for himself; that is, I would not have him alone to invent
and speak, but that he should also hear his pupil speak in turn.
Socrates, and since him Arcesilaus, made first their scholars speak, and
then they spoke to them--[Diogenes Laertius, iv. 36.]

               “Obest plerumque iis, qui discere volunt,
               auctoritas eorum, qui docent.”

     [“The authority of those who teach, is very often an impediment to
     those who desire to learn.”--Cicero, De Natura Deor., i. 5.]

It is good to make him, like a young horse, trot before him, that he may
judge of his going, and how much he is to abate of his own speed, to
accommodate himself to the vigour and capacity of the other.  For want of
which due proportion we spoil all; which also to know how to adjust, and
to keep within an exact and due measure, is one of the hardest things I
know, and ‘tis the effect of a high and well-tempered soul, to know how
to condescend to such puerile motions and to govern and direct them.
I walk firmer and more secure up hill than down.

Such as, according to our common way of teaching, undertake, with one and
the same lesson, and the same measure of direction, to instruct several
boys of differing and unequal capacities, are infinitely mistaken; and
‘tis no wonder, if in a whole multitude of scholars, there are not found
above two or three who bring away any good account of their time and
discipline.  Let the master not only examine him about the grammatical
construction of the bare words of his lesson, but about the sense and let
him judge of the profit he has made, not by the testimony of his memory,
but by that of his life.  Let him make him put what he has learned into a
hundred several forms, and accommodate it to so many several subjects, to
see if he yet rightly comprehends it, and has made it his own, taking
instruction of his progress by the pedagogic institutions of Plato.  ‘Tis
a sign of crudity and indigestion to disgorge what we eat in the same
condition it was swallowed; the stomach has not performed its office
unless it have altered the form and condition of what was committed to it
to concoct.  Our minds work only upon trust, when bound and compelled to
follow the appetite of another’s fancy, enslaved and captivated under the
authority of another’s instruction; we have been so subjected to the
trammel, that we have no free, nor natural pace of our own; our own
vigour and liberty are extinct and gone:

                    “Nunquam tutelae suae fiunt.”

          [“They are ever in wardship.”--Seneca, Ep., 33.]

I was privately carried at Pisa to see a very honest man, but so great an
Aristotelian, that his most usual thesis was: “That the touchstone and
square of all solid imagination, and of all truth, was an absolute
conformity to Aristotle’s doctrine; and that all besides was nothing but
inanity and chimera; for that he had seen all, and said all.” A position,
that for having been a little too injuriously and broadly interpreted,
brought him once and long kept him in great danger of the Inquisition at

Let him make him examine and thoroughly sift everything he reads, and
lodge nothing in his fancy upon simple authority and upon trust.
Aristotle’s principles will then be no more principles to him, than those
of Epicurus and the Stoics: let this diversity of opinions be propounded
to, and laid before him; he will himself choose, if he be able; if not,
he will remain in doubt.

               “Che non men the saver, dubbiar m’ aggrata.”

     [“I love to doubt, as well as to know.”--Dante, Inferno, xi. 93]

for, if he embrace the opinions of Xenophon and Plato, by his own reason,
they will no more be theirs, but become his own.  Who follows another,
follows nothing, finds nothing, nay, is inquisitive after nothing.

          “Non sumus sub rege; sibi quisque se vindicet.”

          [“We are under no king; let each vindicate himself.”
           --Seneca, Ep.,33]

Let him, at least, know that he knows.  It will be necessary that he
imbibe their knowledge, not that he be corrupted with their precepts;
and no matter if he forget where he had his learning, provided he know
how to apply it to his own use.  Truth and reason are common to every
one, and are no more his who spake them first, than his who speaks them
after: ‘tis no more according to Plato, than according to me, since both
he and I equally see and understand them.  Bees cull their several sweets
from this flower and that blossom, here and there where they find them,
but themselves afterwards make the honey, which is all and purely their
own, and no more thyme and marjoram: so the several fragments he borrows
from others, he will transform and shuffle together to compile a work
that shall be absolutely his own; that is to say, his judgment:
his instruction, labour and study, tend to nothing else but to form that.
He is not obliged to discover whence he got the materials that have
assisted him, but only to produce what he has himself done with them.
Men that live upon pillage and borrowing, expose their purchases and
buildings to every one’s view: but do not proclaim how they came by the
money.  We do not see the fees and perquisites of a gentleman of the long
robe; but we see the alliances wherewith he fortifies himself and his
family, and the titles and honours he has obtained for him and his.  No
man divulges his revenue; or, at least, which way it comes in but every
one publishes his acquisitions.  The advantages of our study are to
become better and more wise.  ‘Tis, says Epicharmus, the understanding
that sees and hears, ‘tis the understanding that improves everything,
that orders everything, and that acts, rules, and reigns: all other
faculties are blind, and deaf, and without soul.  And certainly we render
it timorous and servile, in not allowing it the liberty and privilege to
do anything of itself.  Whoever asked his pupil what he thought of
grammar and rhetoric, or of such and such a sentence of Cicero?  Our
masters stick them, full feathered, in our memories, and there establish
them like oracles, of which the letters and syllables are of the
substance of the thing.  To know by rote, is no knowledge, and signifies
no more but only to retain what one has intrusted to our memory.  That
which a man rightly knows and understands, he is the free disposer of at
his own full liberty, without any regard to the author from whence he had
it, or fumbling over the leaves of his book.  A mere bookish learning is
a poor, paltry learning; it may serve for ornament, but there is yet no
foundation for any superstructure to be built upon it, according to the
opinion of Plato, who says, that constancy, faith, and sincerity, are the
true philosophy, and the other sciences, that are directed to other ends;
mere adulterate paint.  I could wish that Paluel or Pompey, those two
noted dancers of my time, could have taught us to cut capers, by only
seeing them do it, without stirring from our places, as these men pretend
to inform the understanding without ever setting it to work, or that we
could learn to ride, handle a pike, touch a lute, or sing without the
trouble of practice, as these attempt to make us judge and speak well,
without exercising us in judging or speaking.  Now in this initiation of
our studies in their progress, whatsoever presents itself before us is
book sufficient; a roguish trick of a page, a sottish mistake of a
servant, a jest at the table, are so many new subjects.

And for this reason, conversation with men is of very great use and
travel into foreign countries; not to bring back (as most of our young
monsieurs do) an account only of how many paces Santa Rotonda--[The
Pantheon of Agrippa.]--is in circuit; or of the richness of Signora
Livia’s petticoats; or, as some others, how much Nero’s face, in a statue
in such an old ruin, is longer and broader than that made for him on some
medal; but to be able chiefly to give an account of the humours, manners,
customs, and laws of those nations where he has been, and that we may
whet and sharpen our wits by rubbing them against those of others.  I
would that a boy should be sent abroad very young, and first, so as to
kill two birds with one stone, into those neighbouring nations whose
language is most differing from our own, and to which, if it be not
formed betimes, the tongue will grow too stiff to bend.

And also ‘tis the general opinion of all, that a child should not be
brought up in his mother’s lap.  Mothers are too tender, and their
natural affection is apt to make the most discreet of them all so
overfond, that they can neither find in their hearts to give them due
correction for the faults they may commit, nor suffer them to be inured
to hardships and hazards, as they ought to be.  They will not endure to
see them return all dust and sweat from their exercise, to drink cold
drink when they are hot, nor see them mount an unruly horse, nor take a
foil in hand against a rude fencer, or so much as to discharge a carbine.
And yet there is no remedy; whoever will breed a boy to be good for
anything when he comes to be a man, must by no means spare him when
young, and must very often transgress the rules of physic:

              “Vitamque sub dio, et trepidis agat
               In rebus.”

     [“Let him live in open air, and ever in movement about something.”
      --Horace, Od. ii., 3, 5.]

It is not enough to fortify his soul; you are also to make his sinews
strong; for the soul will be oppressed if not assisted by the members,
and would have too hard a task to discharge two offices alone.  I know
very well to my cost, how much mine groans under the burden, from being
accommodated with a body so tender and indisposed, as eternally leans and
presses upon her; and often in my reading perceive that our masters, in
their writings, make examples pass for magnanimity and fortitude of mind,
which really are rather toughness of skin and hardness of bones; for I
have seen men, women, and children, naturally born of so hard and
insensible a constitution of body, that a sound cudgelling has been less
to them than a flirt with a finger would have been to me, and that would
neither cry out, wince, nor shrink, for a good swinging beating; and when
wrestlers counterfeit the philosophers in patience, ‘tis rather strength
of nerves than stoutness of heart.  Now to be inured to undergo labour,
is to be accustomed to endure pain:

                    “Labor callum obducit dolori.”

     [“Labour hardens us against pain.”--Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., ii. 15.]

A boy is to be broken in to the toil and roughness of exercise, so as to
be trained up to the pain and suffering of dislocations, cholics,
cauteries, and even imprisonment and the rack itself; for he may come by
misfortune to be reduced to the worst of these, which (as this world
goes) is sometimes inflicted on the good as well as the bad.  As for
proof, in our present civil war whoever draws his sword against the laws,
threatens the honestest men with the whip and the halter.

And, moreover, by living at home, the authority of this governor, which
ought to be sovereign over the boy he has received into his charge, is
often checked and hindered by the presence of parents; to which may also
be added, that the respect the whole family pay him, as their master’s
son, and the knowledge he has of the estate and greatness he is heir to,
are, in my opinion, no small inconveniences in these tender years.

And yet, even in this conversing with men I spoke of but now, I have
observed this vice, that instead of gathering observations from others,
we make it our whole business to lay ourselves open to them, and are more
concerned how to expose and set out our own commodities, than how to
increase our stock by acquiring new.  Silence, therefore, and modesty are
very advantageous qualities in conversation.  One should, therefore,
train up this boy to be sparing and an husband of his knowledge when he
has acquired it; and to forbear taking exceptions at or reproving every
idle saying or ridiculous story that is said or told in his presence; for
it is a very unbecoming rudeness to carp at everything that is not
agreeable to our own palate.  Let him be satisfied with correcting
himself, and not seem to condemn everything in another he would not do
himself, nor dispute it as against common customs.

               “Licet sapere sine pompa, sine invidia.”

          [“Let us be wise without ostentation, without envy.”
           --Seneca, Ep., 103.]

Let him avoid these vain and uncivil images of authority, this childish
ambition of coveting to appear better bred and more accomplished, than he
really will, by such carriage, discover himself to be.  And, as if
opportunities of interrupting and reprehending were not to be omitted, to
desire thence to derive the reputation of something more than ordinary.
For as it becomes none but great poets to make use of the poetical
licence, so it is intolerable for any but men of great and illustrious
souls to assume privilege above the authority of custom:

     “Si quid Socrates ant Aristippus contra morem et consuetudinem
     fecerunt, idem sibi ne arbitretur licere: magnis enim illi et
     divinis bonis hanc licentiam assequebantur.”

     [“If Socrates and Aristippus have committed any act against manners
     and custom, let him not think that he is allowed to do the same; for
     it was by great and divine benefits that they obtained this
     privilege.”--Cicero, De Offic., i. 41.]

Let him be instructed not to engage in discourse or dispute but with a
champion worthy of him, and, even there, not to make use of all the
little subtleties that may seem pat for his purpose, but only such
arguments as may best serve him.  Let him be taught to be curious in the
election and choice of his reasons, to abominate impertinence, and
consequently, to affect brevity; but, above all, let him be lessoned to
acquiesce and submit to truth so soon as ever he shall discover it,
whether in his opponent’s argument, or upon better consideration of his
own; for he shall never be preferred to the chair for a mere clatter of
words and syllogisms, and is no further engaged to any argument whatever,
than as he shall in his own judgment approve it: nor yet is arguing a
trade, where the liberty of recantation and getting off upon better
thoughts, are to be sold for ready money:

          “Neque, ut omnia, qux praescripta et imperata sint,
          defendat, necessitate ulla cogitur.”

     [“Neither is their any necessity upon him, that he should defend
     all things that are prescribed and enjoined him.”
      --Cicero, Acad., ii. 3.]

If his governor be of my humour, he will form his will to be a very good
and loyal subject to his prince, very affectionate to his person, and
very stout in his quarrel; but withal he will cool in him the desire of
having any other tie to his service than public duty.  Besides several
other inconveniences that are inconsistent with the liberty every honest
man ought to have, a man’s judgment, being bribed and prepossessed by
these particular obligations, is either blinded and less free to exercise
its function, or is blemished with ingratitude and indiscretion.  A man
that is purely a courtier, can neither have power nor will to speak or
think otherwise than favourably and well of a master, who, amongst so
many millions of other subjects, has picked out him with his own hand to
nourish and advance; this favour, and the profit flowing from it, must
needs, and not without some show of reason, corrupt his freedom and
dazzle him; and we commonly see these people speak in another kind of
phrase than is ordinarily spoken by others of the same nation, though
what they say in that courtly language is not much to be believed.

Let his conscience and virtue be eminently manifest in his speaking, and
have only reason for their guide.  Make him understand, that to
acknowledge the error he shall discover in his own argument, though only
found out by himself, is an effect of judgment and sincerity, which are
the principal things he is to seek after; that obstinacy and contention
are common qualities, most appearing in mean souls; that to revise and
correct himself, to forsake an unjust argument in the height and heat of
dispute, are rare, great, and philosophical qualities.

Let him be advised, being in company, to have his eye and ear in every
corner; for I find that the places of greatest honour are commonly seized
upon by men that have least in them, and that the greatest fortunes are
seldom accompanied with the ablest parts.  I have been present when,
whilst they at the upper end of the chamber have been only commenting the
beauty of the arras, or the flavour of the wine, many things that have
been very finely said at the lower end of the table have been lost and
thrown away.  Let him examine every man’s talent; a peasant, a
bricklayer, a passenger: one may learn something from every one of these
in their several capacities, and something will be picked out of their
discourse whereof some use may be made at one time or another; nay, even
the folly and impertinence of others will contribute to his instruction.
By observing the graces and manners of all he sees, he will create to
himself an emulation of the good, and a contempt of the bad.

Let an honest curiosity be suggested to his fancy of being inquisitive
after everything; whatever there is singular and rare near the place
where he is, let him go and see it; a fine house, a noble fountain, an
eminent man, the place where a battle has been anciently fought, the
passages of Caesar and Charlemagne:

              “Qux tellus sit lenta gelu, quae putris ab aestu,
               Ventus in Italiam quis bene vela ferat.”

     [“What country is bound in frost, what land is friable with heat,
     what wind serves fairest for Italy.”--Propertius, iv. 3, 39.]

Let him inquire into the manners, revenues, and alliances of princes,
things in themselves very pleasant to learn, and very useful to know.

In this conversing with men, I mean also, and principally, those who only
live in the records of history; he shall, by reading those books,
converse with the great and heroic souls of the best ages.  ‘Tis an idle
and vain study to those who make it so by doing it after a negligent
manner, but to those who do it with care and observation, ‘tis a study of
inestimable fruit and value; and the only study, as Plato reports, that
the Lacedaemonians reserved to themselves.  What profit shall he not reap
as to the business of men, by reading the Lives of Plutarch?  But,
withal, let my governor remember to what end his instructions are
principally directed, and that he do not so much imprint in his pupil’s
memory the date of the ruin of Carthage, as the manners of Hannibal and
Scipio; nor so much where Marcellus died, as why it was unworthy of his
duty that he died there.  Let him not teach him so much the narrative
parts of history as to judge them; the reading of them, in my opinion,
is a thing that of all others we apply ourselves unto with the most
differing measure.  I have read a hundred things in Livy that another has
not, or not taken notice of at least; and Plutarch has read a hundred
more there than ever I could find, or than, peradventure, that author
ever wrote; to some it is merely a grammar study, to others the very
anatomy of philosophy, by which the most abstruse parts of our human
nature penetrate.  There are in Plutarch many long discourses very worthy
to be carefully read and observed, for he is, in my opinion, of all
others the greatest master in that kind of writing; but there are a
thousand others which he has only touched and glanced upon, where he only
points with his finger to direct us which way we may go if we will, and
contents himself sometimes with giving only one brisk hit in the nicest
article of the question, whence we are to grope out the rest.  As, for
example, where he says’--[In the Essay on False Shame.]--that the
inhabitants of Asia came to be vassals to one only, for not having been
able to pronounce one syllable, which is No.  Which saying of his gave
perhaps matter and occasion to La Boetie to write his “Voluntary
Servitude.”  Only to see him pick out a light action in a man’s life, or
a mere word that does not seem to amount even to that, is itself a whole
discourse.  ‘Tis to our prejudice that men of understanding should so
immoderately affect brevity; no doubt their reputation is the better by
it, but in the meantime we are the worse.  Plutarch had rather we should
applaud his judgment than commend his knowledge, and had rather leave us
with an appetite to read more, than glutted with that we have already
read.  He knew very well, that a man may say too much even upon the best
subjects, and that Alexandridas justly reproached him who made very good.
but too long speeches to the Ephori, when he said: “O stranger!  thou
speakest the things thou shouldst speak, but not as thou shouldst speak
them.”--[Plutarch, Apothegms of the Lacedamonians.]--Such as have lean
and spare bodies stuff themselves out with clothes; so they who are
defective in matter endeavour to make amends with words.

Human understanding is marvellously enlightened by daily conversation
with men, for we are, otherwise, compressed and heaped up in ourselves,
and have our sight limited to the length of our own noses.  One asking
Socrates of what country he was, he did not make answer, of Athens, but
of the world;--[Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., v. 37; Plutarch, On Exile, c. 4.]--
he whose imagination was fuller and wider, embraced the whole world for
his country, and extended his society and friendship to all mankind;
not as we do, who look no further than our feet.  When the vines of my
village are nipped with the frost, my parish priest presently concludes,
that the indignation of God has gone out against all the human race, and
that the cannibals have already got the pip.  Who is it that, seeing the
havoc of these civil wars of ours, does not cry out, that the machine of
the world is near dissolution, and that the day of judgment is at hand;
without considering, that many worse things have been seen, and that in
the meantime, people are very merry in a thousand other parts of the
earth for all this?  For my part, considering the licence and impunity
that always attend such commotions, I wonder they are so moderate, and
that there is no more mischief done.  To him who feels the hailstones
patter about his ears, the whole hemisphere appears to be in storm and
tempest; like the ridiculous Savoyard, who said very gravely, that if
that simple king of France could have managed his fortune as he should
have done, he might in time have come to have been steward of the
household to the duke his master: the fellow could not, in his shallow
imagination, conceive that there could be anything greater than a Duke of
Savoy.  And, in truth, we are all of us, insensibly, in this error, an
error of a very great weight and very pernicious consequence.  But
whoever shall represent to his fancy, as in a picture, that great image
of our mother nature, in her full majesty and lustre, whoever in her face
shall read so general and so constant a variety, whoever shall observe
himself in that figure, and not himself but a whole kingdom, no bigger
than the least touch or prick of a pencil in comparison of the whole,
that man alone is able to value things according to their true estimate
and grandeur.

This great world which some do yet multiply as several species under one
genus, is the mirror wherein we are to behold ourselves, to be able to
know ourselves as we ought to do in the true bias.  In short, I would
have this to be the book my young gentleman should study with the most
attention.  So many humours, so many sects, so many judgments, opinions,
laws, and customs, teach us to judge aright of our own, and inform our
understanding to discover its imperfection and natural infirmity, which
is no trivial speculation.  So many mutations of states and kingdoms, and
so many turns and revolutions of public fortune, will make us wise enough
to make no great wonder of our own.  So many great names, so many famous
victories and conquests drowned and swallowed in oblivion, render our
hopes ridiculous of eternising our names by the taking of half-a-score of
light horse, or a henroost, which only derives its memory from its ruin.
The pride and arrogance of so many foreign pomps, the inflated majesty of
so many courts and grandeurs, accustom and fortify our sight without
closing our eyes to behold the lustre of our own; so many trillions of
men, buried before us, encourage us not to fear to go seek such good
company in the other world: and so of the rest Pythagoras was want to
say,--[Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., v.  3.]--that our life resembles the great
and populous assembly of the Olympic games, wherein some exercise the
body, that they may carry away the glory of the prize: others bring
merchandise to sell for profit: there are also some (and those none of
the worst sort) who pursue no other advantage than only to look on, and
consider how and why everything is done, and to be spectators of the
lives of other men, thereby the better to judge of and regulate their

To examples may fitly be applied all the profitable discourses of
philosophy, to which all human actions, as to their best rule, ought to
be especially directed: a scholar shall be taught to know--

                    “Quid fas optare: quid asper
          Utile nummus habet: patrix carisque propinquis
          Quantum elargiri deceat: quern te Deus esse
          Jussit, et humana qua parte locatus es in re;
          Quid sumus, et quidnam victuri gignimur.”

     [“Learn what it is right to wish; what is the true use of coined
     money; how much it becomes us to give in liberality to our country
     and our dear relations; whom and what the Deity commanded thee to
     be; and in what part of the human system thou art placed; what we
     are ant to what purpose engendered.”--Persius, iii. 69]

what it is to know, and what to be ignorant; what ought to be the end and
design of study; what valour, temperance, and justice are; the difference
betwixt ambition and avarice, servitude and subjection, licence and
liberty; by what token a man may know true and solid contentment; how far
death, affliction, and disgrace are to be apprehended;

          “Et quo quemque modo fugiatque feratque laborem.”

          [“And how you may shun or sustain every hardship.”
           --Virgil, AEneid, iii. 459.]

by what secret springs we move, and the reason of our various agitations
and irresolutions: for, methinks the first doctrine with which one should
season his understanding, ought to be that which regulates his manners
and his sense; that teaches him to know himself, and how both well to dig
and well to live.  Amongst the liberal sciences, let us begin with that
which makes us free; not that they do not all serve in some measure to
the instruction and use of life, as all other things in some sort also
do; but let us make choice of that which directly and professedly serves
to that end.  If we are once able to restrain the offices of human life
within their just and natural limits, we shall find that most of the
sciences in use are of no great use to us, and even in those that are,
that there are many very unnecessary cavities and dilatations which we
had better let alone, and, following Socrates’ direction, limit the
course of our studies to those things only where is a true and real

                              “Sapere aude;
               Incipe;  Qui recte vivendi prorogat horam,
               Rusticus exspectat, dum defluat amnis; at ille
               Labitur, et labetur in omne volubilis oevum.”

     [“Dare to be wise; begin! he who defers the hour of living well is
     like the clown, waiting till the river shall have flowed out: but
     the river still flows, and will run on, with constant course, to
     ages without end.”--Horace, Ep., i. 2.]

‘Tis a great foolery to teach our children:

              “Quid moveant Pisces, animosaque signa Leonis,
               Lotus et Hesperia quid Capricornus aqua,”

     [“What influence Pisces have, or the sign of angry Leo, or
     Capricorn, washed by the Hesperian wave.”--Propertius, iv. I, 89.]

the knowledge of the stars and the motion of the eighth sphere before
their own:

     [“What care I about the Pleiades or the stars of Taurus?”
      --Anacreon, Ode, xvii. 10.]

Anaximenes writing to Pythagoras, “To what purpose,” said he, “should I
trouble myself in searching out the secrets of the stars, having death or
slavery continually before my eyes?” for the kings of Persia were at that
time preparing to invade his country.  Every one ought to say thus,
“Being assaulted, as I am by ambition, avarice, temerity, superstition,
and having within so many other enemies of life, shall I go ponder over
the world’s changes?”

After having taught him what will make him more wise and good, you may
then entertain him with the elements of logic, physics, geometry,
rhetoric, and the science which he shall then himself most incline to,
his judgment being beforehand formed and fit to choose, he will quickly
make his own.  The way of instructing him ought to be sometimes by
discourse, and sometimes by reading; sometimes his governor shall put the
author himself, which he shall think most proper for him, into his hands,
and sometimes only the marrow and substance of it; and if himself be not
conversant enough in books to turn to all the fine discourses the books
contain for his purpose, there may some man of learning be joined to him,
that upon every occasion shall supply him with what he stands in need of,
to furnish it to his pupil.  And who can doubt but that this way of
teaching is much more easy and natural than that of Gaza,--[Theodore
Gaza, rector of the Academy of Ferrara.]--in which the precepts are so
intricate, and so harsh, and the words so vain, lean; and insignificant,
that there is no hold to be taken of them, nothing that quickens and
elevates the wit and fancy, whereas here the mind has what to feed upon
and to digest.  This fruit, therefore, is not only without comparison,
much more fair and beautiful; but will also be much more early ripe.

‘Tis a thousand pities that matters should be at such a pass in this age
of ours, that philosophy, even with men of understanding, should be,
looked upon as a vain and fantastic name, a thing of no use, no value,
either in opinion or effect, of which I think those ergotisms and petty
sophistries, by prepossessing the avenues to it, are the cause.  And
people are much to blame to represent it to children for a thing of so
difficult access, and with such a frowning, grim, and formidable aspect.
Who is it that has disguised it thus, with this false, pale, and ghostly
countenance?  There is nothing more airy, more gay, more frolic, and I
had like to have said, more wanton.  She preaches nothing but feasting
and jollity; a melancholic anxious look shows that she does not inhabit
there.  Demetrius the grammarian finding in the temple of Delphos a knot
of philosophers set chatting together, said to them,--[Plutarch, Treatise
on Oracles which have ceased]--“Either I am much deceived, or by your
cheerful and pleasant countenances, you are engaged in no, very deep
discourse.”  To which one of them, Heracleon the Megarean, replied:
“Tis for such as are puzzled about inquiring whether the future tense of
the verb ------ is spelt with a double A, or that hunt after the
derivation of the comparatives ----- and -----, and the superlatives ----
and ------, to knit their brows whilst discoursing of their science: but
as to philosophical discourses, they always divert and cheer up those
that entertain them, and never deject them or make them sad.”

              “Deprendas animi tormenta latentis in aegro
               Corpore; deprendas et gaudia; sumit utrumque
               Inde habitum facies.”

     [“You may discern the torments of mind lurking in a sick body; you
     may discern its joys: either expression the face assumes from the
     mind.”--Juvenal, ix. 18]

The soul that lodges philosophy, ought to be of such a constitution of
health, as to render the body in like manner healthful too; she ought to
make her tranquillity and satisfaction shine so as to appear without, and
her contentment ought to fashion the outward behaviour to her own mould,
and consequently to fortify it with a graceful confidence, an active and
joyous carriage, and a serene and contented countenance.  The most
manifest sign of wisdom is a continual cheerfulness; her state is like
that of things in the regions above the moon, always clear and serene.
‘Tis Baroco and Baralipton--[Two terms of the ancient scholastic
logic.]--that render their disciples so dirty and ill-favoured, and not
she; they do not so much as know her but by hearsay.  What!  It is she
that calms and appeases the storms and tempests of the soul, and who
teaches famine and fevers to laugh and sing; and that, not by certain
imaginary epicycles, but by natural and manifest reasons.  She has virtue
for her end, which is not, as the schoolmen say, situate upon the summit
of a perpendicular, rugged, inaccessible precipice: such as have
approached her find her, quite on the contrary, to be seated in a fair,
fruitful, and flourishing plain, whence she easily discovers all things
below; to which place any one may, however, arrive, if he know but the
way, through shady, green, and sweetly-flourishing avenues, by a
pleasant, easy, and smooth descent, like that of the celestial vault.
‘Tis for not having frequented this supreme, this beautiful, triumphant,
and amiable, this equally delicious and courageous virtue, this so
professed and implacable enemy to anxiety, sorrow, fear, and constraint,
who, having nature for her guide, has fortune and pleasure for her
companions, that they have gone, according to their own weak imagination,
and created this ridiculous, this sorrowful, querulous, despiteful,
threatening, terrible image of it to themselves and others, and placed it
upon a rock apart, amongst thorns and brambles, and made of it a
hobgoblin to affright people.

But the governor that I would have, that is such a one as knows it to be
his duty to possess his pupil with as much or more affection than
reverence to virtue, will be able to inform him, that the poets have
evermore accommodated themselves to the public humour, and make him
sensible, that the gods have planted more toil and sweat in the avenues
of the cabinets of Venus than in those of Minerva.  And when he shall
once find him begin to apprehend, and shall represent to him a Bradamante
or an Angelica--[Heroines of Ariosto.]--for a mistress, a natural,
active, generous, and not a viragoish, but a manly beauty, in comparison
of a soft, delicate, artificial simpering, and affected form; the one in
the habit of a heroic youth, wearing a glittering helmet, the other
tricked up in curls and ribbons like a wanton minx; he will then look
upon his own affection as brave and masculine, when he shall choose quite
contrary to that effeminate shepherd of Phrygia.

Such a tutor will make a pupil digest this new lesson, that the height
and value of true virtue consists in the facility, utility, and pleasure
of its exercise; so far from difficulty, that boys, as well as men, and
the innocent as well as the subtle, may make it their own; it is by
order, and not by force, that it is to be acquired.  Socrates, her first
minion, is so averse to all manner of violence, as totally to throw it
aside, to slip into the more natural facility of her own progress; ‘tis
the nursing mother of all human pleasures, who in rendering them just,
renders them also pure and permanent; in moderating them, keeps them in
breath and appetite; in interdicting those which she herself refuses,
whets our desire to those that she allows; and, like a kind and liberal
mother, abundantly allows all that nature requires, even to satiety, if
not to lassitude: unless we mean to say that the regimen which stops the
toper before he has drunk himself drunk, the glutton before he has eaten
to a surfeit, and the lecher before he has got the pox, is an enemy to
pleasure.  If the ordinary fortune fail, she does without it, and forms
another, wholly her own, not so fickle and unsteady as the other.  She
can be rich, be potent and wise, and knows how to lie upon soft perfumed
beds: she loves life, beauty, glory, and health; but her proper and
peculiar office is to know how to regulate the use of all these good
things, and how to lose them without concern: an office much more noble
than troublesome, and without which the whole course of life is
unnatural, turbulent, and deformed, and there it is indeed, that men may
justly represent those monsters upon rocks and precipices.

If this pupil shall happen to be of so contrary a disposition, that he
had rather hear a tale of a tub than the true narrative of some noble
expedition or some wise and learned discourse; who at the beat of drum,
that excites the youthful ardour of his companions, leaves that to follow
another that calls to a morris or the bears; who would not wish, and find
it more delightful and more excellent, to return all dust and sweat
victorious from a battle, than from tennis or from a ball, with the prize
of those exercises; I see no other remedy, but that he be bound prentice
in some good town to learn to make minced pies, though he were the son of
a duke; according to Plato’s precept, that children are to be placed out
and disposed of, not according to the wealth, qualities, or condition of
the father, but according to the faculties and the capacity of their own

Since philosophy is that which instructs us to live, and that infancy has
there its lessons as well as other ages, why is it not communicated to
children betimes?

         “Udum et molle lutum est; nunc, nunc properandus, et acri
          Fingendus sine fine rota.”

     [“The clay is moist and soft: now, now make haste, and form the
     pitcher on the rapid wheel.”--Persius, iii. 23.]

They begin to teach us to live when we have almost done living.
A hundred students have got the pox before they have come to read
Aristotle’s lecture on temperance.  Cicero said, that though he should
live two men’s ages, he should never find leisure to study the lyric
poets; and I find these sophisters yet more deplorably unprofitable.
The boy we would breed has a great deal less time to spare; he owes but
the first fifteen or sixteen years of his life to education; the
remainder is due to action.  Let us, therefore, employ that short time in
necessary instruction.  Away with the thorny subtleties of dialectics;
they are abuses, things by which our lives can never be amended: take the
plain philosophical discourses, learn how rightly to choose, and then
rightly to apply them; they are more easy to be understood than one of
Boccaccio’s novels; a child from nurse is much more capable of them, than
of learning to read or to write.  Philosophy has discourses proper for
childhood, as well as for the decrepit age of men.

I am of Plutarch’s mind, that Aristotle did not so much trouble his great
disciple with the knack of forming syllogisms, or with the elements of
geometry; as with infusing into him good precepts concerning valour,
prowess, magnanimity, temperance, and the contempt of fear; and with this
ammunition, sent him, whilst yet a boy, with no more than thirty thousand
foot, four thousand horse, and but forty-two thousand crowns, to
subjugate the empire of the whole earth.  For the other acts and
sciences, he says, Alexander highly indeed commended their excellence and
charm, and had them in very great honour and esteem, but not ravished
with them to that degree as to be tempted to affect the practice of them
In his own person:

              “Petite hinc, juvenesque senesque,
              Finem ammo certum, miserisque viatica canis.”

     [“Young men and old men, derive hence a certain end to the mind,
     and stores for miserable grey hairs.”--Persius, v. 64.]

Epicurus, in the beginning of his letter to Meniceus,--[Diogenes
Laertius, x. 122.]--says, “That neither the youngest should refuse to
philosophise, nor the oldest grow weary of it.”  Who does otherwise,
seems tacitly to imply, that either the time of living happily is
not yet come, or that it is already past.  And yet, a for all that, I
would not have this pupil of ours imprisoned and made a slave to his
book; nor would I have him given up to the morosity and melancholic
humour of a sour ill-natured pedant.

I would not have his spirit cowed and subdued, by applying him to the
rack, and tormenting him, as some do, fourteen or fifteen hours a day,
and so make a pack-horse of him.  Neither should I think it good, when,
by reason of a solitary and melancholic complexion, he is discovered to
be overmuch addicted to his book, to nourish that humour in him; for that
renders him unfit for civil conversation, and diverts him from better
employments.  And how many have I seen in my time totally brutified by an
immoderate thirst after knowledge?  Carneades was so besotted with it,
that he would not find time so much as to comb his head or to pare his
nails.  Neither would I have his generous manners spoiled and corrupted
by the incivility and barbarism of those of another.  The French wisdom
was anciently turned into proverb: “Early, but of no continuance.”  And,
in truth, we yet see, that nothing can be more ingenious and pleasing
than the children of France; but they ordinarily deceive the hope and
expectation that have been conceived of them; and grown up to be men,
have nothing extraordinary or worth taking notice of: I have heard men of
good understanding say, these colleges of ours to which we send our young
people (and of which we have but too many) make them such animals as they
are.--[Hobbes said that if he Had been at college as long as other people
he should have been as great a blockhead as they. W.C.H.] [And Bacon
before Hobbe’s time had discussed the “futility” of university teaching.

But to our little monsieur, a closet, a garden, the table, his bed,
solitude, and company, morning and evening, all hours shall be the same,
and all places to him a study; for philosophy, who, as the formatrix of
judgment and manners, shall be his principal lesson, has that privilege
to have a hand in everything.  The orator Isocrates, being at a feast
entreated to speak of his art, all the company were satisfied with and
commended his answer:  “It is not now a time,” said he, “to do what I can
do; and that which it is now time to do, I cannot do.”--[Plutarch,
Symp., i. I.]--For to make orations and rhetorical disputes in a company
met together to laugh and make good cheer, had been very unreasonable and
improper, and as much might have been said of all the other sciences.
But as to what concerns philosophy, that part of it at least that treats
of man, and of his offices and duties, it has been the common opinion of
all wise men, that, out of respect to the sweetness of her conversation,
she is ever to be admitted in all sports and entertainments.  And Plato,
having invited her to his feast, we see after how gentle and obliging a
manner, accommodated both to time and place, she entertained the company,
though in a discourse of the highest and most important nature:

              “Aeque pauperibus prodest, locupletibus aeque;
               Et, neglecta, aeque pueris senibusque nocebit.”

     [“It profits poor and rich alike, but, neglected, equally hurts old
     and young.”--Horace, Ep., i. 25.]

By this method of instruction, my young pupil will be much more and
better employed than his fellows of the college are.  But as the steps we
take in walking to and fro in a gallery, though three times as many, do
not tire a man so much as those we employ in a formal journey, so our
lesson, as it were accidentally occurring, without any set obligation of
time or place, and falling naturally into every action, will insensibly
insinuate itself.  By which means our very exercises and recreations,
running, wrestling, music, dancing, hunting, riding, and fencing, will
prove to be a good part of our study.  I would have his outward fashion
and mien, and the disposition of his limbs, formed at the same time with
his mind.  ‘Tis not a soul, ‘tis not a body that we are training up, but
a man, and we ought not to divide him.  And, as Plato says, we are not to
fashion one without the other, but make them draw together like two
horses harnessed to a coach.  By which saying of his, does he not seem to
allow more time for, and to take more care of exercises for the body, and
to hold that the mind, in a good proportion, does her business at the
same time too?

As to the rest, this method of education ought to be carried on with a
severe sweetness, quite contrary to the practice of our pedants, who,
instead of tempting and alluring children to letters by apt and gentle
ways, do in truth present nothing before them but rods and ferules,
horror and cruelty.  Away with this violence!  away with this compulsion!
than which, I certainly believe nothing more dulls and degenerates a
well-descended nature.  If you would have him apprehend shame and
chastisement, do not harden him to them: inure him to heat and cold, to
wind and sun, and to dangers that he ought to despise; wean him from all
effeminacy and delicacy in clothes and lodging, eating and drinking;
accustom him to everything, that he may not be a Sir Paris,
a carpet-knight, but a sinewy, hardy, and vigorous young man.  I have
ever from a child to the age wherein I now am, been of this opinion, and
am still constant to it.  But amongst other things, the strict
government of most of our colleges has evermore displeased me;
peradventure, they might have erred less perniciously on the indulgent
side.  ‘Tis a real house of correction of imprisoned youth.  They are
made debauched by being punished before they are so.  Do but come in
when they are about their lesson, and you shall hear nothing but the
outcries of boys under execution, with the thundering noise of their
pedagogues drunk with fury. A very pretty way this, to tempt these
tender and timorous souls to love their book, with a furious
countenance, and a rod in hand!  A cursed and pernicious way of
proceeding!  Besides what Quintilian has very well observed, that this
imperious authority is often attended by very dangerous consequences,
and particularly our way of chastising.  How much more decent would it
be to see their classes strewed with green leaves and fine flowers, than
with the bloody stumps of birch and willows?  Were it left to my
ordering.  I should paint the school with the pictures of joy and
gladness; Flora and the Graces, as the philosopher Speusippus did his.
Where their profit is, let them there have their pleasure too. Such
viands as are proper and wholesome for children, should be sweetened
with sugar, and such as are dangerous to them, embittered with gall.
‘Tis marvellous to see how solicitous Plato is in his Laws concerning
the gaiety and diversion of the youth of his city, and how much and
often he enlarges upon the races, sports, songs, leaps, and dances: of
which, he says, that antiquity has given the ordering and patronage
particularly to the gods themselves, to Apollo, Minerva, and the Muses.
He insists long upon, and is very particular in, giving innumerable
precepts for exercises; but as to the lettered sciences, says very
little, and only seems particularly to recommend poetry upon the account
of music.

All singularity in our manners and conditions is to be avoided, as
inconsistent with civil society.  Who would not be astonished at so
strange a constitution as that of Demophoon, steward to Alexander the
Great, who sweated in the shade and shivered in the sun?  I have seen
those who have run from the smell of a mellow apple with greater
precipitation than from a harquebuss-shot; others afraid of a mouse;
others vomit at the sight of cream; others ready to swoon at the making
of a feather bed; Germanicus could neither endure the sight nor the
crowing of a cock.  I will not deny, but that there may, peradventure,
be some occult cause and natural aversion in these cases; but, in my
opinion, a man might conquer it, if he took it in time.  Precept has in
this wrought so effectually upon me, though not without some pains on my
part, I confess, that beer excepted, my appetite accommodates itself
indifferently to all sorts of diet.  Young bodies are supple; one should,
therefore, in that age bend and ply them to all fashions and customs: and
provided a man can contain the appetite and the will within their due
limits, let a young man, in God’s name, be rendered fit for all nations
and all companies, even to debauchery and excess, if need be; that is,
where he shall do it out of complacency to the customs of the place.
Let him be able to do everything, but love to do nothing but what is
good.  The philosophers themselves do not justify Callisthenes for
forfeiting the favour of his master Alexander the Great, by refusing to
pledge him a cup of wine.  Let him laugh, play, wench with his prince:
nay, I would have him, even in his debauches, too hard for the rest of
the company, and to excel his companions in ability and vigour, and that
he may not give over doing it, either through defect of power or
knowledge how to do it, but for want of will.

     “Multum interest, utrum peccare ali quis nolit, an nesciat.”

     [“There is a vast difference betwixt forbearing to sin, and not
     knowing how to sin.”--Seneca, Ep., 90]

I thought I passed a compliment upon a lord, as free from those excesses
as any man in France, by asking him before a great deal of very good
company, how many times in his life he had been drunk in Germany, in the
time of his being there about his Majesty’s affairs; which he also took
as it was intended, and made answer, “Three times”; and withal told us
the whole story of his debauches.  I know some who, for want of this
faculty, have found a great inconvenience in negotiating with that
nation.  I have often with great admiration reflected upon the wonderful
constitution of Alcibiades, who so easily could transform himself to so
various fashions without any prejudice to his health; one while outdoing
the Persian pomp and luxury, and another, the Lacedaemonian austerity and
frugality; as reformed in Sparta, as voluptuous in Ionia:

          “Omnis Aristippum decuit color, et status, et res.”

     [“Every complexion of life, and station, and circumstance became
     Aristippus.”--Horace, Ep., xvii. 23.]

I would have my pupil to be such an one,

                    “Quem duplici panno patentia velat,
               Mirabor, vitae via si conversa decebit,
               Personamque feret non inconcinnus utramque.”

     [“I should admire him who with patience bearing a patched garment,
     bears well a changed fortune, acting both parts equally well.”
      --Horace Ep., xvii. 25.]

These are my lessons, and he who puts them in practice shall reap more
advantage than he who has had them read to him only, and so only knows
them.  If you see him, you hear him; if you hear him, you see him.  God
forbid, says one in Plato, that to philosophise were only to read a great
many books, and to learn the arts.

          “Hanc amplissimam omnium artium bene vivendi disciplinam,
          vita magis quam literis, persequuti sunt.”

     [“They have proceeded to this discipline of living well, which of
     all arts is the greatest, by their lives, rather than by their
     reading.”--Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., iv. 3.]

Leo, prince of the Phliasians, asking Heraclides Ponticus--[It was not
Heraclides of Pontus who made this answer, but Pythagoras.]--of what art
or science he made profession: “I know,” said he, “neither art nor
science, but I am a philosopher.”  One reproaching Diogenes that, being
ignorant, he should pretend to philosophy; “I therefore,” answered he,
“pretend to it with so much the more reason.”  Hegesias entreated that he
would read a certain book to him: “You are pleasant,” said he; “you
choose those figs that are true and natural, and not those that are
painted; why do you not also choose exercises which are naturally true,
rather than those written?”

The lad will not so much get his lesson by heart as he will practise it:
he will repeat it in his actions.  We shall discover if there be prudence
in his exercises, if there be sincerity and justice in his deportment, if
there be grace and judgment in his speaking; if there be constancy in his
sickness; if there be modesty in his mirth, temperance in his pleasures,
order in his domestic economy, indifference in palate, whether what he
eats or drinks be flesh or fish, wine or water:

     “Qui disciplinam suam non ostentationem scientiae, sed legem vitae
     putet: quique obtemperet ipse sibi, et decretis pareat.”

     [“Who considers his own discipline, not as a vain ostentation of
     science, but as a law and rule of life; and who obeys his own
     decrees, and the laws he has prescribed for himself.”
      --Cicero, Tusc.  Quaes., ii. 4.]

The conduct of our lives is the true mirror of our doctrine.  Zeuxidamus,
to one who asked him, why the Lacedaemonians did not commit their
constitutions of chivalry to writing, and deliver them to their young men
to read, made answer, that it was because they would inure them to
action, and not amuse them with words.  With such a one, after fifteen or
sixteen years’ study, compare one of our college Latinists, who has
thrown away so much time in nothing but learning to speak.  The world is
nothing but babble; and I hardly ever yet saw that man who did not rather
prate too much, than speak too little.  And yet half of our age is
embezzled this way: we are kept four or five years to learn words only,
and to tack them together into clauses; as many more to form them into a
long discourse, divided into four or five parts; and other five years, at
least, to learn succinctly to mix and interweave them after a subtle and
intricate manner let us leave all this to those who make a profession of

Going one day to Orleans, I met in that plain on this side Clery, two
pedants who were travelling towards Bordeaux, about fifty paces distant
from one another; and, a good way further behind them, I discovered a
troop of horse, with a gentleman at the head of them, who was the late
Monsieur le Comte de la Rochefoucauld.  One of my people inquired of the
foremost of these masters of arts, who that gentleman was that came after
him; he, having not seen the train that followed after, and thinking his
companion was meant, pleasantly answered, “He is not a gentleman; he is a
grammarian; and I am a logician.”  Now we who, quite contrary, do not
here pretend to breed a grammarian or a logician, but a gentleman, let us
leave them to abuse their leisure; our business lies elsewhere.  Let but
our pupil be well furnished with things, words will follow but too fast;
he will pull them after him if they do not voluntarily follow.  I have
observed some to make excuses, that they cannot express themselves, and
pretend to have their fancies full of a great many very fine things,
which yet, for want of eloquence, they cannot utter; ‘tis a mere shift,
and nothing else.  Will you know what I think of it?  I think they are
nothing but shadows of some imperfect images and conceptions that they
know not what to make of within, nor consequently bring out; they do not
yet themselves understand what they would be at, and if you but observe
how they haggle and stammer upon the point of parturition, you will soon
conclude, that their labour is not to delivery, but about conception, and
that they are but licking their formless embryo.  For my part, I hold,
and Socrates commands it, that whoever has in his mind a sprightly and
clear imagination, he will express it well enough in one kind of tongue
or another, and, if he be dumb, by signs--

               “Verbaque praevisam rem non invita sequentur;”

     [“Once a thing is conceived in the mind, the words to express it
     soon present themselves.” (“The words will not reluctantly follow the
     thing preconceived.”)--Horace, De Arte Poetica. v. 311]

And as another as poetically says in his prose:

          “Quum res animum occupavere, verbs ambiunt,”

     [“When things are once in the mind, the words offer themselves
     readily.”  (“When things have taken possession of the mind, the
     words trip.”)--Seneca, Controvers., iii.  proem.]

and this other.

                    “Ipsae res verbs rapiunt.”

     [“The things themselves force the words to express them.”
      --Cicero, De Finib., iii.  5.]

He knows nothing of ablative, conjunctive, substantive, or grammar, no
more than his lackey, or a fishwife of the Petit Pont; and yet these will
give you a bellyful of talk, if you will hear them, and peradventure
shall trip as little in their language as the best masters of art in
France.  He knows no rhetoric, nor how in a preface to bribe the
benevolence of the courteous reader; neither does he care to know it.
Indeed all this fine decoration of painting is easily effaced by the
lustre of a simple and blunt truth; these fine flourishes serve only to
amuse the vulgar, of themselves incapable of more solid and nutritive
diet, as Aper very evidently demonstrates in Tacitus.  The ambassadors
of Samos, prepared with a long and elegant oration, came to Cleomenes,
king of Sparta, to incite him to a war against the tyrant Polycrates;
who, after he had heard their harangue with great gravity and patience,
gave them this answer: “As to the exordium, I remember it not, nor
consequently the middle of your speech; and for what concerns your
conclusion, I will not do what you desire:”--[Plutarch, Apothegms of the
Lacedaemonians.]--a very pretty answer this, methinks, and a pack of
learned orators most sweetly gravelled.  And what did the other man say?
The Athenians were to choose one of two architects for a very great
building they had designed; of these, the first, a pert affected fellow,
offered his service in a long premeditated discourse upon the subject of
the work in hand, and by his oratory inclined the voices of the people in
his favour; but the other in three words: “O Athenians, what this man
says, I will do.”--[Plutarch, Instructions to Statesmen, c. 4.]--
When Cicero was in the height and heat of an eloquent harangue, many were
struck with admiration; but Cato only laughed, saying, “We have a
pleasant (mirth-making) consul.”  Let it go before, or come after, a good
sentence or a thing well said, is always in season; if it neither suit
well with what went before, nor has much coherence with what follows
after, it is good in itself.  I am none of those who think that good
rhyme makes a good poem.  Let him make short long, and long short if he
will, ‘tis no great matter; if there be invention, and that the wit and
judgment have well performed their offices, I will say, here’s a good
poet, but an ill rhymer.

               “Emunctae naris, durus componere versus.”

          [“Of delicate humour, but of rugged versification.”
           --Horace, Sat, iv. 8.]

Let a man, says Horace, divest his work of all method and measure,

         “Tempora certa modosque, et, quod prius ordine verbum est,
          Posterius facias, praeponens ultima primis
          Invenias etiam disjecti membra poetae.”

     [“Take away certain rhythms and measures, and make the word which
     was first in order come later, putting that which should be last
     first, you will still find the scattered remains of the poet.”
      --Horace, Sat., i. 4, 58.]

he will never the more lose himself for that; the very pieces will be
fine by themselves.  Menander’s answer had this meaning, who being
reproved by a friend, the time drawing on at which he had promised a
comedy, that he had not yet fallen in hand with it; “It is made, and
ready,” said he, “all but the verses.”--[Plutarch, Whether the Athenians
more excelled in Arms or in Letters.]--Having contrived the subject, and
disposed the scenes in his fancy, he took little care for the rest.
Since Ronsard and Du Bellay have given reputation to our French poesy,
every little dabbler, for aught I see, swells his words as high, and
makes his cadences very near as harmonious as they:

                    “Plus sonat, quam valet.”

               [“More sound than sense”--Seneca, Ep., 40.]

For the vulgar, there were never so many poetasters as now; but though
they find it no hard matter to imitate their rhyme, they yet fall
infinitely short of imitating the rich descriptions of the one, and the
delicate invention of the other of these masters.

But what will become of our young gentleman, if he be attacked with the
sophistic subtlety of some syllogism?  “A Westfalia ham makes a man
drink; drink quenches thirst: ergo a Westfalia ham quenches thirst.”
 Why, let him laugh at it; it will be more discretion to do so, than to go
about to answer it; or let him borrow this pleasant evasion from
Aristippus:  “Why should I trouble myself to untie that, which bound as
it is, gives me so much trouble?”--[Diogenes Laertius, ii. 70.]--
One offering at this dialectic juggling against Cleanthes, Chrysippus
took him short, saying, “Reserve these baubles to play with children,
and do not by such fooleries divert the serious thoughts of a man of
years.”  If these ridiculous subtleties,

               “Contorta et aculeata sophismata,”

as Cicero calls them, are designed to possess him with an untruth, they
are dangerous; but if they signify no more than only to make him laugh,
I do not see why a man need to be fortified against them.  There are some
so ridiculous, as to go a mile out of their way to hook in a fine word:

          “Aut qui non verba rebus aptant, sed res extrinsecus
          arcessunt, quibus verba conveniant.”

     [“Who do not fit words to the subject, but seek out for things
     quite from the purpose to fit the words.”--Quintilian, viii. 3.]

And as another says,

          “Qui, alicujus verbi decore placentis, vocentur ad id,
          quod non proposuerant scribere.”

     [“Who by their fondness of some fine sounding word, are tempted to
     something they had no intention to treat of.”--Seneca, Ep., 59.]

I for my part rather bring in a fine sentence by head and shoulders to
fit my purpose, than divert my designs to hunt after a sentence.  On the
contrary, words are to serve, and to follow a man’s purpose; and let
Gascon come in play where French will not do.  I would have things so
excelling, and so wholly possessing the imagination of him that hears,
that he should have something else to do, than to think of words.  The
way of speaking that I love, is natural and plain, the same in writing as
in speaking, and a sinewy and muscular way of expressing a man’s self,
short and pithy, not so elegant and artificial as prompt and vehement;

               “Haec demum sapiet dictio, qux feriet;”

     [“That has most weight and wisdom which pierces the ear.” (“That
     utterance indeed will have a taste which shall strike the ear.”)
     --Epitaph on Lucan, in Fabricius, Biblioth.  Lat., ii. 10.]

rather hard than wearisome; free from affectation; irregular,
incontinuous, and bold; where every piece makes up an entire body; not
like a pedant, a preacher, or a pleader, but rather a soldier-like style,
as Suetonius calls that of Julius Caesar; and yet I see no reason why he
should call it so.  I have ever been ready to imitate the negligent garb,
which is yet observable amongst the young men of our time, to wear my
cloak on one shoulder, my cap on one side, a stocking in disorder, which
seems to express a kind of haughty disdain of these exotic ornaments, and
a contempt of the artificial; but I find this negligence of much better
use in the form of speaking.  All affectation, particularly in the French
gaiety and freedom, is ungraceful in a courtier, and in a monarchy every
gentleman ought to be fashioned according to the court model; for which
reason, an easy and natural negligence does well.  I no more like a web
where the knots and seams are to be seen, than a fine figure, so
delicate, that a man may tell all the bones and veins:

     “Quae veritati operam dat oratio, incomposita sit et simplex.”

     [“Let the language that is dedicated to truth be plain and
     unaffected.--Seneca, Ep. 40.]

          “Quis accurat loquitur, nisi qui vult putide loqui?”

     [“For who studies to speak accurately, that does not at the same
     time wish to perplex his auditory?”--Idem, Ep., 75.]

That eloquence prejudices the subject it would advance, that wholly
attracts us to itself.  And as in our outward habit, ‘tis a ridiculous
effeminacy to distinguish ourselves by a particular and unusual garb or
fashion; so in language, to study new phrases, and to affect words that
are not of current use, proceeds from a puerile and scholastic ambition.
May I be bound to speak no other language than what is spoken in the
market-places of Paris!  Aristophanes the grammarian was quite out, when
he reprehended Epicurus for his plain way of delivering himself, and the
design of his oratory, which was only perspicuity of speech.
The imitation of words, by its own facility, immediately disperses itself
through a whole people; but the imitation of inventing and fitly applying
those words is of a slower progress.  The generality of readers, for
having found a like robe, very mistakingly imagine they have the same
body and inside too, whereas force and sinews are never to be borrowed;
the gloss, and outward ornament, that is, words and elocution, may.  Most
of those I converse with, speak the same language I here write; but
whether they think the same thoughts I cannot say.  The Athenians, says
Plato, study fulness and elegancy of speaking; the Lacedaemonians affect
brevity, and those of Crete to aim more at the fecundity of conception
than the fertility of speech; and these are the best.  Zeno used to say
that he had two sorts of disciples, one that he called cy-----ous,
curious to learn things, and these were his favourites; the other,
aoy---ous, that cared for nothing but words.  Not that fine speaking is
not a very good and commendable quality; but not so excellent and so
necessary as some would make it; and I am scandalised that our whole life
should be spent in nothing else.  I would first understand my own
language, and that of my neighbours, with whom most of my business and
conversation lies.

No doubt but Greek and Latin are very great ornaments, and of very great
use, but we buy them too dear.  I will here discover one way, which has
been experimented in my own person, by which they are to be had better
cheap, and such may make use of it as will.  My late father having made
the most precise inquiry that any man could possibly make amongst men of
the greatest learning and judgment, of an exact method of education, was
by them cautioned of this inconvenience then in use, and made to believe,
that the tedious time we applied to the learning of the tongues of them
who had them for nothing, was the sole cause we could not arrive to the
grandeur of soul and perfection of knowledge, of the ancient Greeks and
Romans.  I do not, however, believe that to be the only cause.  So it is,
that the expedient my father found out for this was, that in my infancy,
and before I began to speak, he committed me to the care of a German, who
since died a famous physician in France, totally ignorant of our
language, and very fluent and a great critic in Latin.  This man, whom he
had fetched out of his own country, and whom he entertained with a great
salary for this only one end, had me continually with him; he had with
him also joined two others, of inferior learning, to attend me, and to
relieve him; these spoke to me in no other language but Latin.  As to the
rest of his household, it was an inviolable rule, that neither himself,
nor my mother, nor valet, nor chambermaid, should speak anything in my
company, but such Latin words as each one had learned to gabble with me.
--[These passages are, the basis of a small volume by the Abbe Mangin:
“Education de Montaigne; ou, L’Art d’enseigner le Latin a l’instar des
meres latines.”]--It is not to be imagined how great an advantage this
proved to the whole family; my father and my mother by this means learned
Latin enough to understand it perfectly well, and to speak it to such a
degree as was sufficient for any necessary use; as also those of the
servants did who were most frequently with me.  In short, we Latined it
at such a rate, that it overflowed to all the neighbouring villages,
where there yet remain, that have established themselves by custom,
several Latin appellations of artisans and their tools.  As for what
concerns myself, I was above six years of age before I understood either
French or Perigordin, any more than Arabic; and without art, book,
grammar, or precept, whipping, or the expense of a tear, I had, by that
time, learned to speak as pure Latin as my master himself, for I had no
means of mixing it up with any other.  If, for example, they were to give
me a theme after the college fashion, they gave it to others in French;
but to me they were to give it in bad Latin, to turn it into that which
was good.  And Nicolas Grouchy, who wrote a book De Comitiis Romanorum;
Guillaume Guerente, who wrote a comment upon Aristotle: George Buchanan,
that great Scottish poet: and Marc Antoine Muret (whom both France and
Italy have acknowledged for the best orator of his time), my domestic
tutors, have all of them often told me that I had in my infancy that
language so very fluent and ready, that they were afraid to enter into
discourse with me.  And particularly Buchanan, whom I since saw attending
the late Mareschal de Brissac, then told me, that he was about to write a
treatise of education, the example of which he intended to take from
mine; for he was then tutor to that Comte de Brissac who afterward proved
so valiant and so brave a gentleman.

As to Greek, of which I have but a mere smattering, my father also
designed to have it taught me by a device, but a new one, and by way of
sport; tossing our declensions to and fro, after the manner of those who,
by certain games of tables, learn geometry and arithmetic.  For he,
amongst other rules, had been advised to make me relish science and duty
by an unforced will, and of my own voluntary motion, and to educate my
soul in all liberty and delight, without any severity or constraint;
which he was an observer of to such a degree, even of superstition, if I
may say so, that some being of opinion that it troubles and disturbs the
brains of children suddenly to wake them in the morning, and to snatch
them violently--and over-hastily from sleep (wherein they are much more
profoundly involved than we), he caused me to be wakened by the sound of
some musical instrument, and was never unprovided of a musician for that
purpose.  By this example you may judge of the rest, this alone being
sufficient to recommend both the prudence and the affection of so good a
father, who is not to be blamed if he did not reap fruits answerable to
so exquisite a culture.  Of this, two things were the cause: first, a
sterile and improper soil; for, though I was of a strong and healthful
constitution, and of a disposition tolerably sweet and tractable, yet I
was, withal, so heavy, idle, and indisposed, that they could not rouse me
from my sloth, not even to get me out to play.  What I saw, I saw clearly
enough, and under this heavy complexion nourished a bold imagination and
opinions above my age.  I had a slow wit that would go no faster than it
was led; a tardy understanding, a languishing invention, and above all,
incredible defect of memory; so that, it is no wonder, if from all these
nothing considerable could be extracted.  Secondly, like those who,
impatient of along and steady cure, submit to all sorts of prescriptions
and recipes, the good man being extremely timorous of any way failing in
a thing he had so wholly set his heart upon, suffered himself at last to
be overruled by the common opinions, which always follow their leader as
a flight of cranes, and complying with the method of the time, having no
more those persons he had brought out of Italy, and who had given him the
first model of education, about him, he sent me at six years of age to
the College of Guienne, at that time the best and most flourishing in
France.  And there it was not possible to add anything to the care he had
to provide me the most able tutors, with all other circumstances of
education, reserving also several particular rules contrary to the
college practice; but so it was, that with all these precautions, it was
a college still.  My Latin immediately grew corrupt, of which also by
discontinuance I have since lost all manner of use; so that this new way
of education served me to no other end, than only at my first coming to
prefer me to the first forms; for at thirteen years old, that I came out
of the college, I had run through my whole course (as they call it), and,
in truth, without any manner of advantage, that I can honestly brag of,
in all this time.

The first taste which I had for books came to me from the pleasure in
reading the fables of Ovid’s Metamorphoses; for, being about seven or
eight years old, I gave up all other diversions to read them, both by
reason that this was my own natural language, the easiest book that I was
acquainted with, and for the subject, the most accommodated to the
capacity of my age: for as for the Lancelot of the Lake, the Amadis of
Gaul, the Huon of Bordeaux, and such farragos, by which children are most
delighted with, I had never so much as heard their names, no more than I
yet know what they contain; so exact was the discipline wherein I was
brought up.  But this was enough to make me neglect the other lessons
that were prescribed me; and here it was infinitely to my advantage,
to have to do with an understanding tutor, who very well knew discreetly
to connive at this and other truantries of the same nature; for by this
means I ran through Virgil’s AEneid, and then Terence, and then Plautus,
and then some Italian comedies, allured by the sweetness of the subject;
whereas had he been so foolish as to have taken me off this diversion,
I do really believe, I had brought away nothing from the college but a
hatred of books, as almost all our young gentlemen do.  But he carried
himself very discreetly in that business, seeming to take no notice, and
allowing me only such time as I could steal from my other regular
studies, which whetted my appetite to devour those books.  For the chief
things my father expected from their endeavours to whom he had delivered
me for education, were affability and good-humour; and, to say the truth,
my manners had no other vice but sloth and want of metal.  The fear was
not that I should do ill, but that I should do nothing; nobody
prognosticated that I should be wicked, but only useless; they foresaw
idleness, but no malice; and I find it falls out accordingly:
The complaints I hear of myself are these: “He is idle, cold in the
offices of friendship and relation, and in those of the public, too
particular, too disdainful.”  But the most injurious do not say, “Why has
he taken such a thing?  Why has he not paid such an one?”  but, “Why does
he part with nothing?  Why does he not give?”  And I should take it for a
favour that men would expect from me no greater effects of supererogation
than these.  But they are unjust to exact from me what I do not owe, far
more rigorously than they require from others that which they do owe.
In condemning me to it, they efface the gratification of the action, and
deprive me of the gratitude that would be my due for it; whereas the
active well-doing ought to be of so much the greater value from my hands,
by how much I have never been passive that way at all.  I can the more
freely dispose of my fortune the more it is mine, and of myself the more
I am my own.  Nevertheless, if I were good at setting out my own actions,
I could, peradventure, very well repel these reproaches, and could give
some to understand, that they are not so much offended, that I do not
enough, as that I am able to do a great deal more than I do.

Yet for all this heavy disposition of mine, my mind, when retired into
itself, was not altogether without strong movements, solid and clear
judgments about those objects it could comprehend, and could also,
without any helps, digest them; but, amongst other things, I do really
believe, it had been totally impossible to have made it to submit by
violence and force.  Shall I here acquaint you with one faculty of my
youth?  I had great assurance of countenance, and flexibility of voice
and gesture, in applying myself to any part I undertook to act: for

          “Alter ab undecimo tum me vix ceperat annus,”

     [“I had just entered my twelfth year.”--Virgil, Bucol., 39.]

I played the chief parts in the Latin tragedies of Buchanan, Guerente,
and Muret, that were presented in our College of Guienne with great
dignity: now Andreas Goveanus, our principal, as in all other parts of
his charge, was, without comparison, the best of that employment in
France; and I was looked upon as one of the best actors.  ‘Tis an
exercise that I do not disapprove in young people of condition; and I
have since seen our princes, after the example of some of the ancients,
in person handsomely and commendably perform these exercises; it was even
allowed to persons of quality to make a profession of it in Greece.

          “Aristoni tragico actori rem aperit: huic et genus et
          fortuna honesta erant: nec ars, quia nihil tale apud
          Graecos pudori est, ea deformabat.”

     [“He imparted this matter to Aristo the tragedian; a man of good
     family and fortune, which neither of them receive any blemish by
     that profession; nothing of this kind being reputed a disparagement
     in Greece.”--Livy, xxiv. 24.]

Nay, I have always taxed those with impertinence who condemn these
entertainments, and with injustice those who refuse to admit such
comedians as are worth seeing into our good towns, and grudge the people
that public diversion.  Well-governed corporations take care to assemble
their citizens, not only to the solemn duties of devotion, but also to
sports and spectacles.  They find society and friendship augmented by it;
and besides, can there possibly be allowed a more orderly and regular
diversion than what is performed m the sight of every one, and very often
in the presence of the supreme magistrate himself?  And I, for my part,
should think it reasonable, that the prince should sometimes gratify his
people at his own expense, out of paternal goodness and affection; and
that in populous cities there should be theatres erected for such
entertainments, if but to divert them from worse and private actions.

To return to my subject, there is nothing like alluring the appetite and
affections; otherwise you make nothing but so many asses laden with
books; by dint of the lash, you give them their pocketful of learning to
keep; whereas, to do well you should not only lodge it with them, but
make them espouse it.



‘Tis not, perhaps, without reason, that we attribute facility of belief
and easiness of persuasion to simplicity and ignorance: for I fancy I
have heard belief compared to the impression of a seal upon the soul,
which by how much softer and of less resistance it is, is the more easy
to be impressed upon.

         “Ut necesse est, lancem in Libra, ponderibus impositis,
          deprimi, sic animum perspicuis cedere.”

     [“As the scale of the balance must give way to the weight that
     presses it down, so the mind yields to demonstration.”
      --Cicero, Acad., ii. 12.]

By how much the soul is more empty and without counterpoise, with so much
greater facility it yields under the weight of the first persuasion.  And
this is the reason that children, the common people, women, and sick
folks, are most apt to be led by the ears.  But then, on the other hand,
‘tis a foolish presumption to slight and condemn all things for false
that do not appear to us probable; which is the ordinary vice of such as
fancy themselves wiser than their neighbours.  I was myself once one of
those; and if I heard talk of dead folks walking, of prophecies,
enchantments, witchcrafts, or any other story I had no mind to believe:

              “Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, sagas,
               Nocturnos lemures, portentaque Thessala,”

     [“Dreams, magic terrors, marvels, sorceries, Thessalian prodigies.”
      --Horace.  Ep. ii. 3, 208.]

I presently pitied the poor people that were abused by these follies.
Whereas I now find, that I myself was to be pitied as much, at least,
as they; not that experience has taught me anything to alter my former
opinions, though my curiosity has endeavoured that way; but reason has
instructed me, that thus resolutely to condemn anything for false and
impossible, is arrogantly and impiously to circumscribe and limit the
will of God, and the power of our mother nature, within the bounds of my
own capacity, than which no folly can be greater.  If we give the names
of monster and miracle to everything our reason cannot comprehend, how
many are continually presented before our eyes?  Let us but consider
through what clouds, and as it were groping in the dark, our teachers
lead us to the knowledge of most of the things about us; assuredly we
shall find that it is rather custom than knowledge that takes away their

                    “Jam nemo, fessus saturusque videndi,
               Suspicere in coeli dignatur lucida templa;”

     [“Weary of the sight, now no one deigns to look up to heaven’s lucid
     temples.”--Lucretius, ii.  1037.  The text has ‘statiate videnai’]

and that if those things were now newly presented to us, we should think
them as incredible, if not more, than any others.

              “Si nunc primum mortalibus adsint
               Ex improviso, si sint objecta repente,
               Nil magis his rebus poterat mirabile dici,
               Aute minus ante quod auderent fore credere gentes.”

     [Lucretius, ii. 1032.  The sense of the passage is in the preceding

He that had never seen a river, imagined the first he met with to be the
sea; and the greatest things that have fallen within our knowledge, we
conclude the extremes that nature makes of the kind.

              “Scilicet et fluvius qui non est maximus, ei’st
               Qui non ante aliquem majorem vidit; et ingens
               Arbor, homoque videtur, et omnia de genere omni
               Maxima quae vidit quisque, haec ingentia fingit.”

     [“A little river seems to him, who has never seen a larger river, a
     mighty stream; and so with other things--a tree, a man--anything
     appears greatest to him that never knew a greater.”--Idem, vi. 674.]

         “Consuetudine oculorum assuescunt animi, neque admirantur,
          neque requirunt rationes earum rerum, quas semper vident.”

     [“Things grow familiar to men’s minds by being often seen; so that
     they neither admire nor are they inquisitive about things they daily
     see.”--Cicero, De Natura Deor., lib. ii. 38.]

The novelty, rather than the greatness of things, tempts us to inquire
into their causes.  We are to judge with more reverence, and with greater
acknowledgment of our own ignorance and infirmity, of the infinite power
of nature.  How many unlikely things are there testified by people worthy
of faith, which, if we cannot persuade ourselves absolutely to believe,
we ought at least to leave them in suspense; for, to condemn them as
impossible, is by a temerarious presumption to pretend to know the utmost
bounds of possibility.  Did we rightly understand the difference betwixt
the impossible and the unusual, and betwixt that which is contrary to the
order and course of nature and contrary to the common opinion of men, in
not believing rashly, and on the other hand, in not being too
incredulous, we should observe the rule of ‘Ne quid nimis’ enjoined by

When we find in Froissart, that the Comte de Foix  knew in Bearn the
defeat of John, king of Castile, at Jubera the next day after it
happened, and the means by which he tells us he came to do so, we may be
allowed to be a little merry at it, as also at what our annals report,
that Pope Honorius, the same day that King Philip Augustus died at
Mantes, performed his public obsequies at Rome, and commanded the like
throughout Italy, the testimony of these authors not being, perhaps, of
authority enough to restrain us.  But what if Plutarch, besides several
examples that he produces out of antiquity, tells us, he knows of certain
knowledge, that in the time of Domitian, the news of the battle lost by
Antony in Germany was published at Rome, many days’ journey from thence,
and dispersed throughout the whole world, the same day it was fought;
and if Caesar was of opinion, that it has often happened, that the report
has preceded the incident, shall we not say, that these simple people
have suffered themselves to be deceived with the vulgar, for not having
been so clear-sighted as we?  Is there anything more delicate, more
clear, more sprightly; than Pliny’s judgment, when he is pleased to set
it to work?  Anything more remote from vanity?  Setting aside his
learning, of which I make less account, in which of these excellences do
any of us excel him?  And yet there is scarce a young schoolboy that does
not convict him of untruth, and that pretends not to instruct him in the
progress of the works of nature.  When we read in Bouchet the miracles of
St. Hilary’s relics, away with them: his authority is not sufficient to
deprive us of the liberty of contradicting him; but generally and offhand
to condemn all suchlike stories, seems to me a singular impudence.  That
great St. Augustin’ testifies to have seen a blind child recover sight
upon the relics of St. Gervasius and St. Protasius at Milan; a woman at
Carthage cured of a cancer, by the sign of the cross made upon her by a
woman newly baptized; Hesperius, a familiar friend of his, to have driven
away the spirits that haunted his house, with a little earth of the
sepulchre of our Lord; which earth, being also transported thence into
the church, a paralytic to have there been suddenly cured by it; a woman
in a procession, having touched St. Stephen’s shrine with a nosegay, and
rubbing her eyes with it, to have recovered her sight, lost many years
before; with several other miracles of which he professes himself to have
been an eyewitness: of what shall we excuse him and the two holy bishops,
Aurelius and Maximinus, both of whom he attests to the truth of these
things?  Shall it be of ignorance, simplicity, and facility; or of malice
and imposture?  Is any man now living so impudent as to think himself
comparable to them in virtue, piety, learning, judgment, or any kind of

              “Qui, ut rationem nullam afferrent,
               ipsa auctoritate me frangerent.”

     [“Who, though they should adduce no reason, would convince me with
     their authority alone.”--Cicero, Tusc. Quaes, i. 21.]

‘Tis a presumption of great danger and consequence, besides the absurd
temerity it draws after it, to contemn what we do not comprehend.  For
after, according to your fine understanding, you have established the
limits of truth and error, and that, afterwards, there appears a
necessity upon you of believing stranger things than those you have
contradicted, you are already obliged to quit your limits.  Now, that
which seems to me so much to disorder our consciences in the commotions
we are now in concerning religion, is the Catholics dispensing so much
with their belief.  They fancy they appear moderate, and wise, when they
grant to their opponents some of the articles in question; but, besides
that they do not discern what advantage it is to those with whom we
contend, to begin to give ground and to retire, and how much this
animates our enemy to follow his blow: these articles which they select
as things indifferent, are sometimes of very great importance.  We are
either wholly and absolutely to submit ourselves to the authority of our
ecclesiastical polity, or totally throw off all obedience to it: ‘tis not
for us to determine what and how much obedience we owe to it.  And this I
can say, as having myself made trial of it, that having formerly taken
the liberty of my own swing and fancy, and omitted or neglected certain
rules of the discipline of our Church, which seemed to me vain and
strange coming afterwards to discourse of it with learned men, I have
found those same things to be built upon very good and solid ground and
strong foundation; and that nothing but stupidity and ignorance makes us
receive them with less reverence than the rest.  Why do we not consider
what contradictions we find in our own judgments; how many things were
yesterday articles of our faith, that to-day appear no other than fables?
Glory and curiosity are the scourges of the soul; the last prompts us to
thrust our noses into everything, the other forbids us to leave anything
doubtful and undecided.


     A child should not be brought up in his mother’s lap
     Acquiesce and submit to truth
     Affect words that are not of current use
     Anything appears greatest to him that never knew a greater
     Appetite to read more, than glutted with that we have
     Applaud his judgment than commend his knowledge
     Attribute facility of belief to simplicity and ignorance
     Away with this violence!  away with this compulsion!
     Bears well a changed fortune, acting both parts equally well
     Belief compared to the impression of a seal upon the soul
     cloak on one shoulder, my cap on one side, a stocking disordered
     College: a real house of correction of imprisoned youth
     Disgorge what we eat in the same condition it was swallowed
     Education ought to be carried on with a severe sweetness
     Eloquence prejudices the subject it would advance
     Fear was not that I should do ill, but that I should do nothing
     Glory and curiosity are the scourges of the soul
     Hobbes said that if he had been at college as long as others--
     Inquisitive after everything
     Insert whole sections and pages out of ancient authors
     It is no hard matter to get children
     Learn what it is right to wish
     Least touch or prick of a pencil in comparison of the whole
     Let him be satisfied with correcting himself
     Let him examine every man’s talent
     Light prognostics they give of themselves in their tender years
     Living well, which of all arts is the greatest
     Lodge nothing in his fancy upon simple authority and upon trust
     Man may say too much even upon the best subjects
     Miracle: everything our reason cannot comprehend
     Morosity and melancholic humour of a sour ill-natured pedant
     Mothers are too tender
     Negligent garb, which is yet observable amongst the young men
     Nobody prognosticated that I should be wicked, but only useless
     Not having been able to pronounce one syllable, which is No!
     O Athenians, what this man says, I will do
     Obstinacy and contention are common qualities
     Occasion to La Boetie to write his “Voluntary Servitude”
      Philosophy has discourses proper for childhood
     Philosophy is that which instructs us to live
     Philosophy looked upon as a vain and fantastic name
     Preface to bribe the benevolence of the courteous reader
     Reading those books, converse with the great and heroic souls
     Silence, therefore, and modesty are very advantageous qualities
     So many trillions of men, buried before us
     Sparing and an husband of his knowledge
     The conduct of our lives is the true mirror of our doctrine
     The most manifest sign of wisdom is a continual cheerfulness
     Their labour is not to delivery, but about conception
     There is nothing like alluring the appetite and affections
     They begin to teach us to live when we have almost done living
     Things grow familiar to men’s minds by being often seen
     To condemn them as impossible, is by a temerarious presumption
     To contemn what we do not comprehend
     To go a mile out of their way to hook in a fine word
     To know by rote, is no knowledge
     Tongue will grow too stiff to bend
     Totally brutified by an immoderate thirst after knowledge
     Unbecoming rudeness to carp at everything
     Unjust to exact from me what I do not owe
     Where their profit is, let them there have their pleasure too
     Who by their fondness of some fine sounding word


Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazlitt



XXVII.    Of friendship.
XXVIII.   Nine-and-twenty sonnets of Estienne de la Boetie.
XXIX.     Of moderation.
XXX.      Of cannibals.
XXXI.     That a man is soberly to judge of the divine ordinances.
XXXII.    That we are to avoid pleasures, even at the expense of life.
XXXIII.   That fortune is oftentimes observed to act by the rule of
XXXIV.    Of one defect in our government.
XXXV.     Of the custom of wearing clothes.
XXXVI.    Of Cato the Younger.
XXXVII.   That we laugh and cry for the same thing.
XXXVIII.  Of solitude.



Having considered the proceedings of a painter that serves me, I had a
mind to imitate his way.  He chooses the fairest place and middle of any
wall, or panel, wherein to draw a picture, which he finishes with his
utmost care and art, and the vacuity about it he fills with grotesques,
which are odd fantastic figures without any grace but what they derive
from their variety, and the extravagance of their shapes.  And in truth,
what are these things I scribble, other than grotesques and monstrous
bodies, made of various parts, without any certain figure, or any other
than accidental order, coherence, or proportion?

               “Desinit in piscem mulier formosa superne.”

          [“A fair woman in her upper form terminates in a fish.”
           --Horace, De Arte Poetica, v. 4.]

In this second part I go hand in hand with my painter; but fall very
short of him in the first and the better, my power of handling not being
such, that I dare to offer at a rich piece, finely polished, and set off
according to art.  I have therefore thought fit to borrow one of Estienne
de la Boetie, and such a one as shall honour and adorn all the rest of my
work--namely, a discourse that he called ‘Voluntary Servitude’; but,
since, those who did not know him have properly enough called it “Le
contr Un.”  He wrote in his youth,--[“Not being as yet eighteen years
old.”--Edition of 1588.] by way of essay, in honour of liberty against
tyrants; and it has since run through the hands of men of great learning
and judgment, not without singular and merited commendation; for it is
finely written, and as full as anything can possibly be.  And yet one may
confidently say it is far short of what he was able to do; and if in that
more mature age, wherein I had the happiness to know him, he had taken a
design like this of mine, to commit his thoughts to writing, we should
have seen a great many rare things, and such as would have gone very near
to have rivalled the best writings of antiquity: for in natural parts
especially, I know no man comparable to him.  But he has left nothing
behind him, save this treatise only (and that too by chance, for I
believe he never saw it after it first went out of his hands), and some
observations upon that edict of January--[1562, which granted to the
Huguenots the public exercise of their religion.]--made famous by our
civil-wars, which also shall elsewhere, peradventure, find a place.
These were all I could recover of his remains, I to whom with so
affectionate a remembrance, upon his death-bed, he by his last will
bequeathed his library and papers, the little book of his works only
excepted, which I committed to the press.  And this particular obligation
I have to this treatise of his, that it was the occasion of my first
coming acquainted with him; for it was showed to me long before I had the
good fortune to know him; and the first knowledge of his name, proving
the first cause and foundation of a friendship, which we afterwards
improved and maintained, so long as God was pleased to continue us
together, so perfect, inviolate, and entire, that certainly the like is
hardly to be found in story, and amongst the men of this age, there is no
sign nor trace of any such thing in use; so much concurrence is required
to the building of such a one, that ‘tis much, if fortune bring it but
once to pass in three ages.

There is nothing to which nature seems so much to have inclined us, as to
society; and Aristotle , says that the good legislators had more respect
to friendship than to justice.  Now the most supreme point of its
perfection is this: for, generally, all those that pleasure, profit,
public or private interest create and nourish, are so much the less
beautiful and generous, and so much the less friendships, by how much
they mix another cause, and design, and fruit in friendship, than itself.
Neither do the four ancient kinds, natural, social, hospitable, venereal,
either separately or jointly, make up a true and perfect friendship.

That of children to parents is rather respect: friendship is nourished by
communication, which cannot by reason of the great disparity, be betwixt
these, but would rather perhaps offend the duties of nature; for neither
are all the secret thoughts of fathers fit to be communicated to
children, lest it beget an indecent familiarity betwixt them; nor can the
advices and reproofs, which is one of the principal offices of
friendship, be properly performed by the son to the father.  There are
some countries where ‘twas the custom for children to kill their fathers;
and others, where the fathers killed their children, to avoid their being
an impediment one to another in life; and naturally the expectations of
the one depend upon the ruin of the other.  There have been great
philosophers who have made nothing of this tie of nature, as Aristippus
for one, who being pressed home about the affection he owed to his
children, as being come out of him, presently fell to spit, saying, that
this also came out of him, and that we also breed worms and lice; and
that other, that Plutarch endeavoured to reconcile to his brother:
“I make never the more account of him,” said he, “for coming out of the
same hole.”  This name of brother does indeed carry with it a fine and
delectable sound, and for that reason, he and I called one another
brothers but the complication of interests, the division of estates, and
that the wealth of the one should be the property of the other, strangely
relax and weaken the fraternal tie: brothers pursuing their fortune and
advancement by the same path, ‘tis hardly possible but they must of
necessity often jostle and hinder one another.  Besides, why is it
necessary that the correspondence of manners, parts, and inclinations,
which begets the true and perfect friendships, should always meet in
these relations?  The father and the son may be of quite contrary
humours, and so of brothers: he is my son, he is my brother; but he is
passionate, ill-natured, or a fool.  And moreover, by how much these are
friendships that the law and natural obligation impose upon us, so much
less is there of our own choice and voluntary freedom; whereas that
voluntary liberty of ours has no production more promptly and; properly
its own than affection and friendship.  Not that I have not in my own
person experimented all that can possibly be expected of that kind,
having had the best and most indulgent father, even to his extreme old
age, that ever was, and who was himself descended from a family for many
generations famous and exemplary for brotherly concord:

                                   “Et ipse
                    Notus in fratres animi paterni.”

     [“And I myself, known for paternal love toward my brothers.”
      --Horace, Ode, ii. 2, 6.]

We are not here to bring the love we bear to women, though it be an act
of our own choice, into comparison, nor rank it with the others.  The
fire of this, I confess,

                   “Neque enim est dea nescia nostri
                    Qux dulcem curis miscet amaritiem,”

     [“Nor is the goddess unknown to me who mixes a sweet bitterness
     with my love.”---Catullus, lxviii. 17.]

is more active, more eager, and more sharp: but withal, ‘tis more
precipitant, fickle, moving, and inconstant; a fever subject to
intermissions and paroxysms, that has seized but on one part of us.
Whereas in friendship, ‘tis a general and universal fire, but temperate
and equal, a constant established heat, all gentle and smooth, without
poignancy or roughness.  Moreover, in love, ‘tis no other than frantic
desire for that which flies from us:

              “Come segue la lepre il cacciatore
               Al freddo, al caldo, alla montagna, al lito;
               Ne piu l’estima poi the presa vede;
               E sol dietro a chi fugge affretta il piede”

     [“As the hunter pursues the hare, in cold and heat, to the mountain,
     to the shore, nor cares for it farther when he sees it taken, and
     only delights in chasing that which flees from him.”--Aristo, x. 7.]

so soon as it enters unto the terms of friendship, that is to say, into a
concurrence of desires, it vanishes and is gone, fruition destroys it,
as having only a fleshly end, and such a one as is subject to satiety.
Friendship, on the contrary, is enjoyed proportionably as it is desired;
and only grows up, is nourished and improved by enjoyment, as being of
itself spiritual, and the soul growing still more refined by practice.
Under this perfect friendship, the other fleeting affections have in my
younger years found some place in me, to say nothing of him, who himself
so confesses but too much in his verses; so that I had both these
passions, but always so, that I could myself well enough distinguish
them, and never in any degree of comparison with one another; the first
maintaining its flight in so lofty and so brave a place, as with disdain
to look down, and see the other flying at a far humbler pitch below.

As concerning marriage, besides that it is a covenant, the entrance into
which only is free, but the continuance in it forced and compulsory,
having another dependence than that of our own free will, and a bargain
commonly contracted to other ends, there almost always happens a thousand
intricacies in it to unravel, enough to break the thread and to divert
the current of a lively affection: whereas friendship has no manner of
business or traffic with aught but itself.  Moreover, to say truth, the
ordinary talent of women is not such as is sufficient to maintain the
conference and communication required to the support of this sacred tie;
nor do they appear to be endued with constancy of mind, to sustain the
pinch of so hard and durable a knot.  And doubtless, if without this,
there could be such a free and voluntary familiarity contracted, where
not only the souls might have this entire fruition, but the bodies also
might share in the alliance, and a man be engaged throughout, the
friendship would certainly be more full and perfect; but it is without
example that this sex has ever yet arrived at such perfection; and, by
the common consent of the ancient schools, it is wholly rejected from it.

That other Grecian licence is justly abhorred by our manners, which also,
from having, according to their practice, a so necessary disparity of age
and difference of offices betwixt the lovers, answered no more to the
perfect union and harmony that we here require than the other:

         “Quis est enim iste amor amicitiae? cur neque deformem
          adolescentem quisquam amat, neque formosum senem?”

     [“For what is that friendly love? why does no one love a deformed
     youth or a comely old man?”--Cicero, Tusc.  Quaes., iv. 33.]

Neither will that very picture that the Academy presents of it, as I
conceive, contradict me, when I say, that this first fury inspired by the
son of Venus into the heart of the lover, upon sight of the flower and
prime of a springing and blossoming youth, to which they allow all the
insolent and passionate efforts that an immoderate ardour can produce,
was simply founded upon external beauty, the false image of corporal
generation; for it could not ground this love upon the soul, the sight of
which as yet lay concealed, was but now springing, and not of maturity to
blossom; that this fury, if it seized upon a low spirit, the means by
which it preferred its suit were rich presents, favour in advancement to
dignities, and such trumpery, which they by no means approve; if on a
more generous soul, the pursuit was suitably generous, by philosophical
instructions, precepts to revere religion, to obey the laws, to die for
the good of one’s country; by examples of valour, prudence, and justice,
the lover studying to render himself acceptable by the grace and beauty
of the soul, that of his body being long since faded and decayed, hoping
by this mental society to establish a more firm and lasting contract.
When this courtship came to effect in due season (for that which they do
not require in the lover, namely, leisure and discretion in his pursuit,
they strictly require in the person loved, forasmuch as he is to judge of
an internal beauty, of difficult knowledge and abstruse discovery), then
there sprung in the person loved the desire of a spiritual conception;
by the mediation of a spiritual beauty.  This was the principal; the
corporeal, an accidental and secondary matter; quite the contrary as to
the lover.  For this reason they prefer the person beloved, maintaining
that the gods in like manner preferred him too, and very much blame the
poet AEschylus for having, in the loves of Achilles and Patroclus, given
the lover’s part to Achilles, who was in the first and beardless flower
of his adolescence, and the handsomest of all the Greeks.  After this
general community, the sovereign, and most worthy part presiding and
governing, and performing its proper offices, they say, that thence great
utility was derived, both by private and public concerns; that it
constituted the force and power of the countries where it prevailed, and
the chiefest security of liberty and justice.  Of which the healthy loves
of Harmodius and Aristogiton are instances.  And therefore it is that
they called it sacred and divine, and conceive that nothing but the
violence of tyrants and the baseness of the common people are inimical to
it.  Finally, all that can be said in favour of the Academy is, that it
was a love which ended in friendship, which well enough agrees with the
Stoical definition of love:

              “Amorem conatum esse amicitiae faciendae
               ex pulchritudinis specie.”

     [“Love is a desire of contracting friendship arising from the beauty
     of the object.”--Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., vi. 34.]

I return to my own more just and true description:

          “Omnino amicitiae, corroboratis jam confirmatisque,
          et ingeniis, et aetatibus, judicandae sunt.”

     [“Those are only to be reputed friendships that are fortified and
     confirmed by judgement and the length of time.”
      --Cicero, De Amicit., c. 20.]

For the rest, what we commonly call friends and friendships, are nothing
but acquaintance and familiarities, either occasionally contracted, or
upon some design, by means of which there happens some little intercourse
betwixt our souls.  But in the friendship I speak of, they mix and work
themselves into one piece, with so universal a mixture, that there is no
more sign of the seam by which they were first conjoined.  If a man
should importune me to give a reason why I loved him, I find it could no
otherwise be expressed, than by making answer: because it was he, because
it was I.  There is, beyond all that I am able to say, I know not what
inexplicable and fated power that brought on this union.  We sought one
another long before we met, and by the characters we heard of one
another, which wrought upon our affections more than, in reason, mere
reports should do; I think ‘twas by some secret appointment of heaven.
We embraced in our names; and at our first meeting, which was
accidentally at a great city entertainment, we found ourselves so
mutually taken with one another, so acquainted, and so endeared betwixt
ourselves, that from thenceforward nothing was so near to us as one
another.  He wrote an excellent Latin satire, since printed, wherein he
excuses the precipitation of our intelligence, so suddenly come to
perfection, saying, that destined to have so short a continuance, as
begun so late (for we were both full-grown men, and he some years the
older), there was no time to lose, nor were we tied to conform to the
example of those slow and regular friendships, that require so many
precautions of long preliminary conversation: This has no other idea than
that of itself, and can only refer to itself: this is no one special
consideration, nor two, nor three, nor four, nor a thousand; ‘tis I know
not what quintessence of all this mixture, which, seizing my whole will,
carried it to plunge and lose itself in his, and that having seized his
whole will, brought it back with equal concurrence and appetite to plunge
and lose itself in mine.  I may truly say lose, reserving nothing to
ourselves that was either his or mine.--[All this relates to Estienne de
la Boetie.]

When Laelius,--[Cicero, De Amicit., c. II.]--in the presence of the
Roman consuls, who after thay had sentenced Tiberius Gracchus, prosecuted
all those who had had any familiarity with him also; came to ask Caius
Blosius, who was his chiefest friend, how much he would have done for
him, and that he made answer:  “All things.”--“How!  All things!”  said
Laelius.  “And what if he had commanded you to fire our temples?”--“He
would never have commanded me that,” replied Blosius.--“But what if he
had?” said Laelius.--“I would have obeyed him,” said the other.  If he
was so perfect a friend to Gracchus as the histories report him to have
been, there was yet no necessity of offending the consuls by such a bold
confession, though he might still have retained the assurance he had of
Gracchus’ disposition.  However, those who accuse this answer as
seditious, do not well understand the mystery; nor presuppose, as it was
true, that he had Gracchus’ will in his sleeve, both by the power of a
friend, and the perfect knowledge he had of the man: they were more
friends than citizens, more friends to one another than either enemies or
friends to their country, or than friends to ambition and innovation;
having absolutely given up themselves to one another, either held
absolutely the reins of the other’s inclination; and suppose all this
guided by virtue, and all this by the conduct of reason, which also
without these it had not been possible to do, Blosius’ answer was such as
it ought to be.  If any of their actions flew out of the handle, they
were neither (according to my measure of friendship) friends to one
another, nor to themselves.  As to the rest, this answer carries no worse
sound, than mine would do to one that should ask me: “If your will should
command you to kill your daughter, would you do it?” and that I should
make answer, that I would; for this expresses no consent to such an act,
forasmuch as I do not in the least suspect my own will, and as little
that of such a friend.  ‘Tis not in the power of all the eloquence in the
world, to dispossess me of the certainty I have of the intentions and
resolutions of my friend; nay, no one action of his, what face soever it
might bear, could be presented to me, of which I could not presently,
and at first sight, find out the moving cause.  Our souls had drawn so
unanimously together, they had considered each other with so ardent an
affection, and with the like affection laid open the very bottom of our
hearts to one another’s view, that I not only knew his as well as my own;
but should certainly in any concern of mine have trusted my interest much
more willingly with him, than with myself.

Let no one, therefore, rank other common friendships with such a one as
this.  I have had as much experience of these as another, and of the most
perfect of their kind: but I do not advise that any should confound the
rules of the one and the other, for they would find themselves much
deceived.  In those other ordinary friendships, you are to walk with
bridle in your hand, with prudence and circumspection, for in them the
knot is not so sure that a man may not half suspect it will slip.  “Love
him,” said Chilo,--[Aulus Gellius, i. 3.]--“so as if you were one day to
hate him; and hate him so as you were one day to love him.”  This
precept, though abominable in the sovereign and perfect friendship I
speak of, is nevertheless very sound as to the practice of the ordinary
and customary ones, and to which the saying that Aristotle had so
frequent in his mouth, “O my friends, there is no friend,” may very fitly
be applied.  In this noble commerce, good offices, presents, and
benefits, by which other friendships are supported and maintained, do not
deserve so much as to be mentioned; and the reason is the concurrence of
our wills; for, as the kindness I have for myself receives no increase,
for anything I relieve myself withal in time of need (whatever the Stoics
say), and as I do not find myself obliged to myself for any service I do
myself: so the union of such friends, being truly perfect, deprives them
of all idea of such duties, and makes them loathe and banish from their
conversation these words of division and distinction, benefits,
obligation, acknowledgment, entreaty, thanks, and the like.  All things,
wills, thoughts, opinions, goods, wives, children, honours, and lives,
being in effect common betwixt them, and that absolute concurrence of
affections being no other than one soul in two bodies (according to that
very proper definition of Aristotle), they can neither lend nor give
anything to one another.  This is the reason why the lawgivers, to honour
marriage with some resemblance of this divine alliance, interdict all
gifts betwixt man and wife; inferring by that, that all should belong to
each of them, and that they have nothing to divide or to give to each

If, in the friendship of which I speak, one could give to the other, the
receiver of the benefit would be the man that obliged his friend; for
each of them contending and above all things studying how to be useful to
the other, he that administers the occasion is the liberal man, in giving
his friend the satisfaction of doing that towards him which above all
things he most desires.  When the philosopher Diogenes wanted money, he
used to say, that he redemanded it of his friends, not that he demanded
it.  And to let you see the practical working of this, I will here
produce an ancient and singular example.  Eudamidas, a Corinthian, had
two friends, Charixenus a Sicyonian and Areteus a Corinthian; this man
coming to die, being poor, and his two friends rich, he made his will
after this manner.  “I bequeath to Areteus the maintenance of my mother,
to support and provide for her in her old age; and to Charixenus I
bequeath the care of marrying my daughter, and to give her as good a
portion as he is able; and in case one of these chance to die, I hereby
substitute the survivor in his place.”  They who first saw this will made
themselves very merry at the contents: but the legatees, being made
acquainted with it, accepted it with very great content; and one of them,
Charixenus, dying within five days after, and by that means the charge of
both duties devolving solely on him, Areteus nurtured the old woman with
very great care and tenderness, and of five talents he had in estate, he
gave two and a half in marriage with an only daughter he had of his own,
and two and a half in marriage with the daughter of Eudamidas, and on one
and the same day solemnised both their nuptials.

This example is very full, if one thing were not to be objected, namely
the multitude of friends for the perfect friendship I speak of is
indivisible; each one gives himself so entirely to his friend, that he
has nothing left to distribute to others: on the contrary, is sorry that
he is not double, treble, or quadruple, and that he has not many souls
and many wills, to confer them all upon this one object.  Common
friendships will admit of division; one may love the beauty of this
person, the good-humour of that, the liberality of a third, the paternal
affection of a fourth, the fraternal love of a fifth, and so of the rest:
but this friendship that possesses the whole soul, and there rules and
sways with an absolute sovereignty, cannot possibly admit of a rival.
If two at the same time should call to you for succour, to which of them
would you run?  Should they require of you contrary offices, how could
you serve them both?  Should one commit a thing to your silence that it
were of importance to the other to know, how would you disengage
yourself?  A unique and particular friendship dissolves all other
obligations whatsoever: the secret I have sworn not to reveal to any
other, I may without perjury communicate to him who is not another, but
myself.  ‘Tis miracle enough certainly, for a man to double himself, and
those that talk of tripling, talk they know not of what.  Nothing is
extreme, that has its like; and he who shall suppose, that of two, I love
one as much as the other, that they mutually love one another too, and
love me as much as I love them, multiplies into a confraternity the most
single of units, and whereof, moreover, one alone is the hardest thing in
the world to find.  The rest of this story suits very well with what I
was saying; for Eudamidas, as a bounty and favour, bequeaths to his
friends a legacy of employing themselves in his necessity; he leaves them
heirs to this liberality of his, which consists in giving them the
opportunity of conferring a benefit upon him; and doubtless, the force of
friendship is more eminently apparent in this act of his, than in that of
Areteus.  In short, these are effects not to be imagined nor comprehended
by such as have not experience of them, and which make me infinitely
honour and admire the answer of that young soldier to Cyrus, by whom
being asked how much he would take for a horse, with which he had won the
prize of a race, and whether he would exchange him for a kingdom?
--“No, truly, sir,” said he, “but I would give him with all my heart,
to get thereby a true friend, could I find out any man worthy of that
alliance.”--[Xenophon, Cyropadia, viii.  3.]--He did not say ill in
saying, “could I find”: for though one may almost everywhere meet with
men sufficiently qualified for a superficial acquaintance, yet in this,
where a man is to deal from the very bottom of his heart, without any
manner of reservation, it will be requisite that all the wards and
springs be truly wrought and perfectly sure.

In confederations that hold but by one end, we are only to provide
against the imperfections that particularly concern that end.  It can be
of no importance to me of what religion my physician or my lawyer is;
this consideration has nothing in common with the offices of friendship
which they owe me; and I am of the same indifference in the domestic
acquaintance my servants must necessarily contract with me.  I never
inquire, when I am to take a footman, if he be chaste, but if he be
diligent; and am not solicitous if my muleteer be given to gaming, as if
he be strong and able; or if my cook be a swearer, if he be a good cook.
I do not take upon me to direct what other men should do in the
government of their families, there are plenty that meddle enough with
that, but only give an account of my method in my own:

          “Mihi sic usus est: tibi, ut opus est facto, face.”

     [“This has been my way; as for you, do as you find needful.
     --“Terence, Heaut., i. I., 28.]

For table-talk, I prefer the pleasant and witty before the learned and
the grave; in bed, beauty before goodness; in common discourse the ablest
speaker, whether or no there be sincerity in the case.  And, as he that
was found astride upon a hobby-horse, playing with his children,
entreated the person who had surprised him in that posture to say nothing
of it till himself came to be a father,--[Plutarch, Life of Agesilaus,
c.  9.]--supposing that the fondness that would then possess his own
soul, would render him a fairer judge of such an action; so I, also,
could wish to speak to such as have had experience of what I say: though,
knowing how remote a thing such a friendship is from the common practice,
and how rarely it is to be found, I despair of meeting with any such
judge.  For even these discourses left us by antiquity upon this subject,
seem to me flat and poor, in comparison of the sense I have of it, and in
this particular, the effects surpass even the precepts of philosophy.

               “Nil ego contulerim jucundo sanus amico.”

     [“While I have sense left to me, there will never be anything more
     acceptable to me than an agreeable friend.”
      --Horace, Sat., i. 5, 44.]

The ancient Menander declared him to be happy that had had the good
fortune to meet with but the shadow of a friend: and doubtless he had
good reason to say so, especially if he spoke by experience: for in good
earnest, if I compare all the rest of my life, though, thanks be to God,
I have passed my time pleasantly enough, and at my ease, and the loss of
such a friend excepted, free from any grievous affliction, and in great
tranquillity of mind, having been contented with my natural and original
commodities, without being solicitous after others; if I should compare
it all, I say, with the four years I had the happiness to enjoy the sweet
society of this excellent man, ‘tis nothing but smoke, an obscure and
tedious night.  From the day that I lost him:

                              “Quern semper acerbum,
               Semper honoratum (sic, di, voluistis) habebo,”

     [“A day for me ever sad, for ever sacred, so have you willed ye
     gods.”--AEneid, v. 49.]

I have only led a languishing life; and the very pleasures that present
themselves to me, instead of administering anything of consolation,
double my affliction for his loss.  We were halves throughout, and to
that degree, that methinks, by outliving him, I defraud him of his part.

              “Nec fas esse ulla me voluptate hic frui
               Decrevi, tantisper dum ille abest meus particeps.”

     [“I have determined that it will never be right for me to enjoy any
     pleasure, so long as he, with whom I shared all pleasures is away.”
      --Terence, Heaut., i. I. 97.]

I was so grown and accustomed to be always his double in all places and
in all things, that methinks I am no more than half of myself:

              “Illam meae si partem anima tulit
               Maturior vis, quid moror altera?
                    Nec carus aeque, nec superstes
                    Integer?  Ille dies utramque
               Duxit ruinam.”

     [“If that half of my soul were snatch away from me by an untimely
     stroke, why should the other stay?  That which remains will not be
     equally dear, will not be whole: the same day will involve the
     destruction of both.”]


     [“If a superior force has taken that part of my soul, why do I, the
     remaining one, linger behind?  What is left is not so dear, nor an
     entire thing: this day has wrought the destruction of both.”
      --Horace, Ode, ii. 17, 5.]

There is no action or imagination of mine wherein I do not miss him; as I
know that he would have missed me: for as he surpassed me by infinite
degrees in virtue and all other accomplishments, so he also did in the
duties of friendship:

              “Quis desiderio sit pudor, aut modus
               Tam cari capitis?”

     [“What shame can there, or measure, in lamenting so dear a friend?”
      --Horace, Ode, i. 24, I.]

              “O misero frater adempte mihi!
               Omnia tecum una perierunt gaudia nostra,
               Quae tuus in vita dulcis alebat amor.
               Tu mea, tu moriens fregisti commoda, frater;
               Tecum una tota est nostra sepulta anima
               Cujus ego interitu tota de menthe fugavi
               Haec studia, atque omnes delicias animi.
               Alloquar?  audiero nunquam tua verba loquentem?
               Nunquam ego te, vita frater amabilior
               Aspiciam posthac; at certe semper amabo;”

     [“O brother, taken from me miserable!  with thee, all our joys have
     vanished, those joys which, in thy life, thy dear love nourished.
     Dying, thou, my brother, hast destroyed all my happiness.  My whole
     soul is buried with thee.  Through whose death I have banished from
     my mind these studies, and all the delights of the mind.  Shall I
     address thee?  I shall never hear thy voice.  Never shall I behold
     thee hereafter.  O brother, dearer to me than life.  Nought remains,
     but assuredly I shall ever love thee.”--Catullus, lxviii.  20; lxv.]

But let us hear a boy of sixteen speak:

     --[In Cotton’s translation the work referred to is “those Memoirs
     upon the famous edict of January,” of which mention has already been
     made in the present edition.  The edition of 1580, however, and the
     Variorum edition of 1872-1900, indicate no particular work; but the
     edition of 1580 has it “this boy of eighteen years” (which was the
     age at which La Boetie wrote his “Servitude Volontaire”), speaks of
     “a boy of sixteen” as occurring only in the common editions, and it
     would seem tolerably clear that this more important work was, in
     fact, the production to which Montaigne refers, and that the proper
     reading of the text should be “sixteen years.”  What “this boy
     spoke” is not given by Montaigne, for the reason stated in the next
     following paragraph.]

“Because I have found that that work has been since brought out, and with
a mischievous design, by those who aim at disturbing and changing the
condition of our government, without troubling themselves to think
whether they are likely to improve it: and because they have mixed up his
work with some of their own performance, I have refrained from inserting
it here.  But that the memory of the author may not be injured, nor
suffer with such as could not come near-hand to be acquainted with his
principles, I here give them to understand, that it was written by him in
his boyhood, and that by way of exercise only, as a common theme that has
been hackneyed by a thousand writers.  I make no question but that he
himself believed what he wrote, being so conscientious that he would not
so much as lie in jest: and I moreover know, that could it have been in
his own choice, he had rather have been born at Venice, than at Sarlac;
and with reason.  But he had another maxim sovereignty imprinted in his
soul, very religiously to obey and submit to the laws under which he was
born.  There never was a better citizen, more affectionate to his
country; nor a greater enemy to all the commotions and innovations of his
time: so that he would much rather have employed his talent to the
extinguishing of those civil flames, than have added any fuel to them;
he had a mind fashioned to the model of better ages.  Now, in exchange of
this serious piece, I will present you with another of a more gay and
frolic air, from the same hand, and written at the same age.”




     [They scarce contain anything but amorous complaints, expressed in a
     very rough style, discovering the follies and outrages of a restless
     passion, overgorged, as it were, with jealousies, fears and

     [These....contained in the edition of 1588 nine-and-twenty sonnets
     of La Boetie, accompanied by a dedicatory epistle to Madame de
     Grammont.  The former, which are referred to at the end of Chap.
     XXVIL, do not really belong to the book, and are of very slight
     interest at this time; the epistle is transferred to the
     Correspondence.  The sonnets, with the letter, were presumably sent
     some time after Letters V. et seq.  Montaigne seems to have had
     several copies written out to forward to friends or acquaintances.]



As if we had an infectious touch, we, by our manner of handling, corrupt
things that in themselves are laudable and good: we may grasp virtue so
that it becomes vicious, if we embrace it too stringently and with too
violent a desire.  Those who say, there is never any excess in virtue,
forasmuch as it is not virtue when it once becomes excess, only play upon

              “Insani sapiens nomen ferat, aequus iniqui,
               Ultra quam satis est, virtutem si petat ipsam.”

     [“Let the wise man bear the name of a madman, the just one of an
     unjust, if he seek wisdom more than is sufficient.”
      --Horace, Ep., i. 6, 15.]

     [“The wise man is no longer wise, the just man no longer just, if he
     seek to carry his love for wisdom or virtue beyond that which is

This is a subtle consideration of philosophy.  A man may both be too much
in love with virtue, and be excessive in a just action.  Holy Writ agrees
with this, Be not wiser than you should, but be soberly wise.--[St.
Paul, Epistle to the Romans, xii. 3.]--I have known a great man,

     --[“It is likely that Montaigne meant Henry III., king of France.
     The Cardinal d’Ossat, writing to Louise, the queen-dowager, told
     her, in his frank manner, that he had lived as much or more like a
     monk than a monarch (Letter XXIII.) And Pope Sextus V., speaking of
     that prince one day to the Cardinal de Joyeuse, protector of the
     affairs of France, said to him pleasantly, ‘There is nothing that
     your king hath not done, and does not do so still, to be a monk, nor
     anything that I have not done, not to be a monk.’”--Coste.]

prejudice the opinion men had of his devotion, by pretending to be devout
beyond all examples of others of his condition.  I love temperate and
moderate natures.  An immoderate zeal, even to that which is good, even
though it does not offend, astonishes me, and puts me to study what name
to give it.  Neither the mother of Pausanias,

     --[“Montaigne would here give us to understand, upon the authority of
     Diodorus Siculus, that Pausanias’ mother gave the first hint of the
     punishment that was to be inflicted on her son.  ‘Pausanias,’ says
     this historian, ‘perceiving that the ephori, and some other
     Lacedoemonians, aimed at apprehending him, got the start of them,
     and went and took sanctuary m Minerva’s temple: and the
     Lacedaemonians, being doubtful whether they ought to take him from
     thence in violation of the franchise there, it is said that his own
     mother came herself to the temple but spoke nothing nor did anything
     more than lay a piece of brick, which she brought with her, on the
     threshold of the temple, which, when she had done, she returned
     home.  The Lacedaemonians, taking the hint from the mother, caused
     the gate of the temple to be walled up, and by this means starved
     Pausanias, so that he died with hunger, &c. (lib. xi. cap. 10., of
     Amyot’s translation).  The name of Pausanias’ mother was Alcithea,
     as we are informed by Thucydides’ scholiast, who only says that it
     was reported, that when they set about walling up the gates of the
     chapel in which Pausanias had taken refuge, his mother Alcithea laid
     the first stone.”--Coste.]

who was the first instructor of her son’s process, and threw the first
stone towards his death, nor Posthumius the dictator, who put his son to
death, whom the ardour of youth had successfully pushed upon the enemy a
little more advanced than the rest of his squadron, do appear to me so
much just as strange; and I should neither advise nor like to follow so
savage a virtue, and that costs so dear.

     --[“Opinions differ as to the truth of this fact.  Livy thinks he
     has good authority for rejecting it because it does not appear in
     history that Posthumious was branded with it, as Titus Manlius was,
     about 100 years after his time; for Manlius, having put his son to
     death for the like cause, obtained the odious name of Imperiosus,
     and since that time Manliana imperia has been used as a term to
     signify orders that are too severe; Manliana Imperia, says Livy,
     were not only horrible for the time present, but of a bad example to
     posterity.  And this historian makes no doubt but such commands
     would have been actually styled Posthumiana Imperia, if Posthumius
     had been the first who set so barbarous an example (Livy, lib. iv.
     cap. 29, and lib. viii. cap. 7).  But, however, Montaigne has Valer.
     Maximus on his side, who says expressly, that Posthumius caused his
     son to be put to death, and Diodorus of Sicily (lib.  xii.  cap.

The archer that shoots over, misses as much as he that falls short, and
‘tis equally troublesome to my sight, to look up at a great light, and
to look down into a dark abyss.  Callicles in Plato says, that the
extremity of philosophy is hurtful, and advises not to dive into it
beyond the limits of profit; that, taken moderately, it is pleasant and
useful; but that in the end it renders a man brutish and vicious, a
contemner of religion and the common laws, an enemy to civil
conversation, and all human pleasures, incapable of all public
administration, unfit either to assist others or to relieve himself, and
a fit object for all sorts of injuries and affronts.  He says true; for
in its excess, it enslaves our natural freedom, and by an impertinent
subtlety, leads us out of the fair and beaten way that nature has traced
for us.

The love we bear to our wives is very lawful, and yet theology thinks fit
to curb and restrain it.  As I remember, I have read in one place of St.
Thomas Aquinas,--[Secunda Secundx, Quaest. 154, art. 9.]--where he
condemns marriages within any of the forbidden degrees, for this reason,
amongst others, that there is some danger, lest the friendship a man
bears to such a woman, should be immoderate; for if the conjugal
affection be full and perfect betwixt them, as it ought to be, and that
it be over and above surcharged with that of kindred too, there is no
doubt, but such an addition will carry the husband beyond the bounds of

Those sciences that regulate the manners of men, divinity and philosophy,
will have their say in everything; there is no action so private and
secret that can escape their inspection and jurisdiction.  They are best
taught who are best able to control and curb their own liberty; women
expose their nudities as much as you will upon the account of pleasure,
though in the necessities of physic they are altogether as shy.  I will,
therefore, in their behalf:

     --[Coste translates this: “on the part of philosophy and theology,”
      observing that but few wives would think themselves obliged to
     Montaigne for any such lesson to their husbands.]--

teach the husbands, that is, such as are too vehement in the exercise of
the matrimonial duty--if such there still be--this lesson, that the very
pleasures they enjoy in the society of their wives are reproachable if
immoderate, and that a licentious and riotous abuse of them is a fault as
reprovable here as in illicit connections.  Those immodest and debauched
tricks and postures, that the first ardour suggests to us in this affair,
are not only indecently but detrimentally practised upon our wives.  Let
them at least learn impudence from another hand; they are ever ready
enough for our business, and I for my part always went the plain way to

Marriage is a solemn and religious tie, and therefore the pleasure we
extract from it should be a sober and serious delight, and mixed with a
certain kind of gravity; it should be a sort of discreet and
conscientious pleasure.  And seeing that the chief end of it is
generation, some make a question, whether when men are out of hopes as
when they are superannuated or already with child, it be lawful to
embrace our wives.  ‘Tis homicide, according to Plato.--[Laws, 8.]--
Certain nations (the Mohammedan, amongst others) abominate all conjunction
with women with child, others also, with those who are in their courses.
Zenobia would never admit her husband for more than one encounter, after
which she left him to his own swing for the whole time of her conception,
and not till after that would again receive him:--[Trebellius Pollio,
Triginta Tyran., c. 30.]--a brave and generous example of conjugal
continence.  It was doubtless from some lascivious poet,--[The lascivious
poet is Homer; see his Iliad, xiv.  294.]--and one that himself was in
great distress for a little of this sport, that Plato borrowed this
story; that Jupiter was one day so hot upon his wife, that not having so
much patience as till she could get to the couch, he threw her upon the
floor, where the vehemence of pleasure made him forget the great and
important resolutions he had but newly taken with the rest of the gods in
his celestial council, and to brag that he had had as good a bout, as
when he got her maidenhead, unknown to their parents.

The kings of Persia were wont to invite their wives to the beginning of
their festivals; but when the wine began to work in good earnest, and
that they were to give the reins to pleasure, they sent them back to
their private apartments, that they might not participate in their
immoderate lust, sending for other women in their stead, with whom they
were not obliged to so great a decorum of respect.--[Plutarch, Precepts
of Marriage, c.  14.]--All pleasures and all sorts of gratifications
are not properly and fitly conferred upon all sorts of persons.
Epaminondas had committed to prison a young man for certain debauches;
for whom Pelopidas mediated, that at his request he might be set at
liberty, which Epaminondas denied to him, but granted it at the first
word to a wench of his, that made the same intercession; saying, that it
was a gratification fit for such a one as she, but not for a captain.
Sophocles being joint praetor with Pericles, seeing accidentally a fine
boy pass by: “O what a charming boy is that!” said he.  “That might be
very well,” answered Pericles, “for any other than a praetor, who ought
not only to have his hands, but his eyes, too, chaste.”--[Cicero, De
Offic., i. 40.]  AElius Verus, the emperor, answered his wife, who
reproached him with his love to other women, that he did it upon a
conscientious account, forasmuch as marriage was a name of honour and
dignity, not of wanton and lascivious desire; and our ecclesiastical
history preserves the memory of that woman in great veneration, who
parted from her husband because she would not comply with his indecent
and inordinate desires.  In fine, there is no pleasure so just and
lawful, where intemperance and excess are not to be condemned.

But, to speak the truth, is not man a most miserable creature the while?
It is scarce, by his natural condition, in his power to taste one
pleasure pure and entire; and yet must he be contriving doctrines and
precepts to curtail that little he has; he is not yet wretched enough,
unless by art and study he augment his own misery:

               “Fortunae miseras auximus arte vias.”

     [“We artificially augment the wretchedness of fortune.”
      --Properitius, lib. iii. 7, 44.]

Human wisdom makes as ill use of her talent, when she exercises it in
rescinding from the number and sweetness of those pleasures that are
naturally our due, as she employs it favourably and well in artificially
disguising and tricking out the ills of life, to alleviate the sense of
them.  Had I ruled the roast, I should have taken another and more
natural course, which, to say the truth, is both commodious and holy, and
should, peradventure, have been able to have limited it too;
notwithstanding that both our spiritual and corporal physicians, as by
compact betwixt themselves, can find no other way to cure, nor other
remedy for the infirmities of the body and the soul, than by misery and
pain.  To this end, watchings, fastings, hair-shirts, remote and solitary
banishments, perpetual imprisonments, whips and other afflictions, have
been introduced amongst men: but so, that they should carry a sting with
them, and be real afflictions indeed; and not fall out as it once did to
one Gallio, who having been sent an exile into the isle of Lesbos, news
was not long after brought to Rome, that he there lived as merry as the
day was long; and that what had been enjoined him for a penance, turned
to his pleasure and satisfaction: whereupon the Senate thought fit to
recall him home to his wife and family, and confine him to his own house,
to accommodate their punishment to his feeling and apprehension.  For to
him whom fasting would make more healthful and more sprightly, and to him
to whose palate fish were more acceptable than flesh, the prescription of
these would have no curative effect; no more than in the other sort of
physic, where drugs have no effect upon him who swallows them with
appetite and pleasure: the bitterness of the potion and the abhorrence of
the patient are necessary circumstances to the operation.  The nature
that would eat rhubarb like buttered turnips, would frustrate the use and
virtue of it; it must be something to trouble and disturb the stomach,
that must purge and cure it; and here the common rule, that things are
cured by their contraries, fails; for in this one ill is cured by

This belief a little resembles that other so ancient one, of thinking to
gratify the gods and nature by massacre and murder: an opinion
universally once received in all religions.  And still, in these later
times wherein our fathers lived, Amurath at the taking of the Isthmus,
immolated six hundred young Greeks to his father’s soul, in the nature of
a propitiatory sacrifice for his sins.  And in those new countries
discovered in this age of ours, which are pure and virgin yet, in
comparison of ours, this practice is in some measure everywhere received:
all their idols reek with human blood, not without various examples of
horrid cruelty: some they burn alive, and take, half broiled, off the
coals to tear out their hearts and entrails; some, even women, they flay
alive, and with their bloody skins clothe and disguise others.  Neither
are we without great examples of constancy and resolution in this affair
the poor souls that are to be sacrificed, old men, women, and children,
themselves going about some days before to beg alms for the offering of
their sacrifice, presenting themselves to the slaughter, singing and
dancing with the spectators.

The ambassadors of the king of Mexico, setting out to Fernando Cortez the
power and greatness of their master, after having told him, that he had
thirty vassals, of whom each was able to raise an hundred thousand
fighting men, and that he kept his court in the fairest and best
fortified city under the sun, added at last, that he was obliged yearly
to offer to the gods fifty thousand men.  And it is affirmed, that he
maintained a continual war, with some potent neighbouring nations, not
only to keep the young men in exercise, but principally to have
wherewithal to furnish his sacrifices with his prisoners of war.  At a
certain town in another place, for the welcome of the said Cortez, they
sacrificed fifty men at once.  I will tell you this one tale more, and I
have done; some of these people being beaten by him, sent to acknowledge
him, and to treat with him of a peace, whose messengers carried him three
sorts of gifts, which they presented in these terms: “Behold, lord, here
are five slaves: if thou art a furious god that feedeth upon flesh and
blood, eat these, and we will bring thee more; if thou art an affable
god, behold here incense and feathers; but if thou art a man, take these
fowls and these fruits that we have brought thee.”



When King Pyrrhus invaded Italy, having viewed and considered the order
of the army the Romans sent out to meet him; “I know not,” said he,
“what kind of barbarians” (for so the Greeks called all other nations)
“these may be; but the disposition of this army that I see has nothing of
barbarism in it.”--[Plutarch, Life of Pyrrhus, c. 8.]--As much said the
Greeks of that which Flaminius brought into their country; and Philip,
beholding from an eminence the order and distribution of the Roman camp
formed in his kingdom by Publius Sulpicius Galba, spake to the same
effect.  By which it appears how cautious men ought to be of taking
things upon trust from vulgar opinion, and that we are to judge by the
eye of reason, and not from common report.

I long had a man in my house that lived ten or twelve years in the New
World, discovered in these latter days, and in that part of it where
Villegaignon landed,--[At Brazil, in 1557.]--which he called Antarctic
France.  This discovery of so vast a country seems to be of very great
consideration.  I cannot be sure, that hereafter there may not be
another, so many wiser men than we having been deceived in this.  I am
afraid our eyes are bigger than our bellies, and that we have more
curiosity than capacity; for we grasp at all, but catch nothing but wind.

Plato brings in Solon,--[In Timaeus.]--telling a story that he had
heard from the priests of Sais in Egypt, that of old, and before the
Deluge, there was a great island called Atlantis, situate directly at the
mouth of the straits of Gibraltar, which contained more countries than
both Africa and Asia put together; and that the kings of that country,
who not only possessed that Isle, but extended their dominion so far into
the continent that they had a country of Africa as far as Egypt, and
extending in Europe to Tuscany, attempted to encroach even upon Asia, and
to subjugate all the nations that border upon the Mediterranean Sea, as
far as the Black Sea; and to that effect overran all Spain, the Gauls,
and Italy, so far as to penetrate into Greece, where the Athenians
stopped them: but that some time after, both the Athenians, and they and
their island, were swallowed by the Flood.

It is very likely that this extreme irruption and inundation of water
made wonderful changes and alterations in the habitations of the earth,
as ‘tis said that the sea then divided Sicily from Italy--

         “Haec loca, vi quondam et vasta convulsa ruina,
          Dissiluisse ferunt, quum protenus utraque tellus
          Una foret”

     [“These lands, they say, formerly with violence and vast desolation
     convulsed, burst asunder, where erewhile were.”--AEneid, iii. 414.]

Cyprus from Syria, the isle of Negropont from the continent of Beeotia,
and elsewhere united lands that were separate before, by filling up the
channel betwixt them with sand and mud:

              “Sterilisque diu palus, aptaque remis,
               Vicinas urbes alit, et grave sentit aratrum.”

     [“That which was once a sterile marsh, and bore vessels on its
     bosom, now feeds neighbouring cities, and admits the plough.”
      --Horace, De Arte Poetica, v. 65.]

But there is no great appearance that this isle was this New World so
lately discovered: for that almost touched upon Spain, and it were an
incredible effect of an inundation, to have tumbled back so prodigious a
mass, above twelve hundred leagues: besides that our modern navigators
have already almost discovered it to be no island, but terra firma, and
continent with the East Indies on the one side, and with the lands under
the two poles on the other side; or, if it be separate from them, it is
by so narrow a strait and channel, that it none the more deserves the
name of an island for that.

It should seem, that in this great body, there are two sorts of motions,
the one natural and the other febrific, as there are in ours.  When I
consider the impression that our river of Dordogne has made in my time on
the right bank of its descent, and that in twenty years it has gained so
much, and undermined the foundations of so many houses, I perceive it to
be an extraordinary agitation: for had it always followed this course,
or were hereafter to do it, the aspect of the world would be totally
changed.  But rivers alter their course, sometimes beating against the
one side, and sometimes the other, and some times quietly keeping the
channel.  I do not speak of sudden inundations, the causes of which
everybody understands.  In Medoc, by the seashore, the Sieur d’Arsac, my
brother, sees an estate he had there, buried under the sands which the
sea vomits before it: where the tops of some houses are yet to be seen,
and where his rents and domains are converted into pitiful barren
pasturage.  The inhabitants of this place affirm, that of late years the
sea has driven so vehemently upon them, that they have lost above four
leagues of land.  These sands are her harbingers: and we now see great
heaps of moving sand, that march half a league before her, and occupy the

The other testimony from antiquity, to which some would apply this
discovery of the New World, is in Aristotle; at least, if that little
book of Unheard of Miracles be his--[one of the spurious publications
brought out under his name--D.W.].  He there tells us, that certain
Carthaginians, having crossed the Atlantic Sea without the Straits of
Gibraltar, and sailed a very long time, discovered at last a great and
fruitful island, all covered over with wood, and watered with several
broad and deep rivers, far remote from all terra firma; and that they,
and others after them, allured by the goodness and fertility of the soil,
went thither with their wives and children, and began to plant a colony.
But the senate of Carthage perceiving their people by little and little
to diminish, issued out an express prohibition, that none, upon pain of
death, should transport themselves thither; and also drove out these new
inhabitants; fearing, ‘tis said, lest’ in process of time they should so
multiply as to supplant themselves and ruin their state.  But this
relation of Aristotle no more agrees with our new-found lands than the

This man that I had was a plain ignorant fellow, and therefore the more
likely to tell truth: for your better-bred sort of men are much more
curious in their observation, ‘tis true, and discover a great deal more;
but then they gloss upon it, and to give the greater weight to what they
deliver, and allure your belief, they cannot forbear a little to alter
the story; they never represent things to you simply as they are, but
rather as they appeared to them, or as they would have them appear to
you, and to gain the reputation of men of judgment, and the better to
induce your faith, are willing to help out the business with something
more than is really true, of their own invention.  Now in this case, we
should either have a man of irreproachable veracity, or so simple that he
has not wherewithal to contrive, and to give a colour of truth to false
relations, and who can have no ends in forging an untruth.  Such a one
was mine; and besides, he has at divers times brought to me several
seamen and merchants who at the same time went the same voyage.  I shall
therefore content myself with his information, without inquiring what the
cosmographers say to the business.  We should have topographers to trace
out to us the particular places where they have been; but for having had
this advantage over us, to have seen the Holy Land, they would have the
privilege, forsooth, to tell us stories of all the other parts of the
world beside.  I would have every one write what he knows, and as much as
he knows, but no more; and that not in this only but in all other
subjects; for such a person may have some particular knowledge and
experience of the nature of such a river, or such a fountain, who, as to
other things, knows no more than what everybody does, and yet to give a
currency to his little pittance of learning, will undertake to write the
whole body of physics: a vice from which great inconveniences derive
their original.

Now, to return to my subject, I find that there is nothing barbarous and
savage in this nation, by anything that I can gather, excepting, that
every one gives the title of barbarism to everything that is not in use
in his own country.  As, indeed, we have no other level of truth and
reason than the example and idea of the opinions and customs of the place
wherein we live: there is always the perfect religion, there the perfect
government, there the most exact and accomplished usage of all things.
They are savages at the same rate that we say fruits are wild, which
nature produces of herself and by her own ordinary progress; whereas, in
truth, we ought rather to call those wild whose natures we have changed
by our artifice and diverted from the common order.  In those, the
genuine, most useful, and natural virtues and properties are vigorous and
sprightly, which we have helped to degenerate in these, by accommodating
them to the pleasure of our own corrupted palate.  And yet for all this,
our taste confesses a flavour and delicacy excellent even to emulation of
the best of ours, in several fruits wherein those countries abound
without art or culture.  Neither is it reasonable that art should gain
the pre-eminence of our great and powerful mother nature.  We have so
surcharged her with the additional ornaments and graces we have added to
the beauty and riches of her own works by our inventions, that we have
almost smothered her; yet in other places, where she shines in her own
purity and proper lustre, she marvellously baffles and disgraces all our
vain and frivolous attempts:

              “Et veniunt hederae sponte sua melius;
               Surgit et in solis formosior arbutus antris;
               Et volucres nulls dulcius arte canunt.”

     [“The ivy grows best spontaneously, the arbutus best in shady caves;
     and the wild notes of birds are sweeter than art can teach.
     --“Propertius, i. 2, 10.]

Our utmost endeavours cannot arrive at so much as to imitate the nest of
the least of birds, its contexture, beauty, and convenience: not so much
as the web of a poor spider.

All things, says Plato,--[Laws, 10.]--are produced either by nature, by
fortune, or by art; the greatest and most beautiful by the one or the
other of the former, the least and the most imperfect by the last.

These nations then seem to me to be so far barbarous, as having received
but very little form and fashion from art and human invention, and
consequently to be not much remote from their original simplicity.  The
laws of nature, however, govern them still, not as yet much vitiated with
any mixture of ours: but ‘tis in such purity, that I am sometimes
troubled we were not sooner acquainted with these people, and that they
were not discovered in those better times, when there were men much more
able to judge of them than we are.  I am sorry that Lycurgus and Plato
had no knowledge of them; for to my apprehension, what we now see in
those nations, does not only surpass all the pictures with which the
poets have adorned the golden age, and all their inventions in feigning a
happy state of man, but, moreover, the fancy and even the wish and desire
of philosophy itself; so native and so pure a simplicity, as we by
experience see to be in them, could never enter into their imagination,
nor could they ever believe that human society could have been maintained
with so little artifice and human patchwork.  I should tell Plato that it
is a nation wherein there is no manner of traffic, no knowledge of
letters, no science of numbers, no name of magistrate or political
superiority; no use of service, riches or poverty, no contracts, no
successions, no dividends, no properties, no employments, but those of
leisure, no respect of kindred, but common, no clothing, no agriculture,
no metal, no use of corn or wine; the very words that signify lying,
treachery, dissimulation, avarice, envy, detraction, pardon, never heard

     --[This is the famous passage which Shakespeare, through Florio’s
     version, 1603, or ed.  1613, p. 102, has employed in the “Tempest,”
      ii. 1.]

How much would he find his imaginary Republic short of his perfection?

                    “Viri a diis recentes.”

          [“Men fresh from the gods.”--Seneca, Ep., 90.]

               “Hos natura modos primum dedit.”

          [“These were the manners first taught by nature.”
           --Virgil, Georgics, ii. 20.]

As to the rest, they live in a country very pleasant and temperate, so
that, as my witnesses inform me, ‘tis rare to hear of a sick person, and
they moreover assure me, that they never saw any of the natives, either
paralytic, bleareyed, toothless, or crooked with age.  The situation of
their country is along the sea-shore, enclosed on the other side towards
the land, with great and high mountains, having about a hundred leagues
in breadth between.  They have great store of fish and flesh, that have
no resemblance to those of ours: which they eat without any other
cookery, than plain boiling, roasting, and broiling.  The first that rode
a horse thither, though in several other voyages he had contracted an
acquaintance and familiarity with them, put them into so terrible a
fright, with his centaur appearance, that they killed him with their
arrows before they could come to discover who he was.  Their buildings
are very long, and of capacity to hold two or three hundred people, made
of the barks of tall trees, reared with one end upon the ground, and
leaning to and supporting one another at the top, like some of our barns,
of which the covering hangs down to the very ground, and serves for the
side walls. They have wood so hard, that they cut with it, and make their
swords of it, and their grills of it to broil their meat.  Their beds are
of cotton, hung swinging from the roof, like our seamen’s hammocks, every
man his own, for the wives lie apart from their husbands.  They rise with
the sun, and so soon as they are up, eat for all day, for they have no
more meals but that; they do not then drink, as Suidas reports of some
other people of the East that never drank at their meals; but drink very
often all day after, and sometimes to a rousing pitch.  Their drink is
made of a certain root, and is of the colour of our claret, and they
never drink it but lukewarm.  It will not keep above two or three days;
it has a somewhat sharp, brisk taste, is nothing heady, but very
comfortable to the stomach; laxative to strangers, but a very pleasant
beverage to such as are accustomed to it.  They make use, instead of
bread, of a certain white compound, like coriander seeds; I have tasted
of it; the taste is sweet and a little flat.  The whole day is spent in
dancing.  Their young men go a-hunting after wild beasts with bows and
arrows; one part of their women are employed in preparing their drink the
while, which is their chief employment.  One of their old men, in the
morning before they fall to eating, preaches to the whole family, walking
from the one end of the house to the other, and several times repeating
the same sentence, till he has finished the round, for their houses are
at least a hundred yards long.  Valour towards their enemies and love
towards their wives, are the two heads of his discourse, never failing in
the close, to put them in mind, that ‘tis their wives who provide them
their drink warm and well seasoned.  The fashion of their beds, ropes,
swords, and of the wooden bracelets they tie about their wrists, when
they go to fight, and of the great canes, bored hollow at one end, by the
sound of which they keep the cadence of their dances, are to be seen in
several places, and amongst others, at my house.  They shave all over,
and much more neatly than we, without other razor than one of wood or
stone.  They believe in the immortality of the soul, and that those who
have merited well of the gods are lodged in that part of heaven where the
sun rises, and the accursed in the west.

They have I know not what kind of priests and prophets, who very rarely
present themselves to the people, having their abode in the mountains.
At their arrival, there is a great feast, and solemn assembly of many
villages: each house, as I have described, makes a village, and they are
about a French league distant from one another.  This prophet declaims to
them in public, exhorting them to virtue and their duty: but all their
ethics are comprised in these two articles, resolution in war, and
affection to their wives.  He also prophesies to them events to come, and
the issues they are to expect from their enterprises, and prompts them to
or diverts them from war: but let him look to’t; for if he fail in his
divination, and anything happen otherwise than he has foretold, he is cut
into a thousand pieces, if he be caught, and condemned for a false
prophet: for that reason, if any of them has been mistaken, he is no more
heard of.

Divination is a gift of God, and therefore to abuse it, ought to be a
punishable imposture.  Amongst the Scythians, where their diviners failed
in the promised effect, they were laid, bound hand and foot, upon carts
loaded with firs and bavins, and drawn by oxen, on which they were burned
to death.--[Herodotus, iv.  69.]--Such as only meddle with things
subject to the conduct of human capacity, are excusable in doing the best
they can: but those other fellows that come to delude us with assurances
of an extraordinary faculty, beyond our understanding, ought they not to
be punished, when they do not make good the effect of their promise, and
for the temerity of their imposture?

They have continual war with the nations that live further within the
mainland, beyond their mountains, to which they go naked, and without
other arms than their bows and wooden swords, fashioned at one end like
the head of our javelins.  The obstinacy of their battles is wonderful,
and they never end without great effusion of blood: for as to running
away, they know not what it is.  Every one for a trophy brings home the
head of an enemy he has killed, which he fixes over the door of his
house.  After having a long time treated their prisoners very well, and
given them all the regales they can think of, he to whom the prisoner
belongs, invites a great assembly of his friends.  They being come, he
ties a rope to one of the arms of the prisoner, of which, at a distance,
out of his reach, he holds the one end himself, and gives to the friend
he loves best the other arm to hold after the same manner; which being.
done, they two, in the presence of all the assembly, despatch him with
their swords.  After that, they roast him, eat him amongst them, and send
some chops to their absent friends.  They do not do this, as some think,
for nourishment, as the Scythians anciently did, but as a representation
of an extreme revenge; as will appear by this: that having observed the
Portuguese, who were in league with their enemies, to inflict another
sort of death upon any of them they took prisoners, which was to set them
up to the girdle in the earth, to shoot at the remaining part till it was
stuck full of arrows, and then to hang them, they thought those people of
the other world (as being men who had sown the knowledge of a great many
vices amongst their neighbours, and who were much greater masters in all
sorts of mischief than they) did not exercise this sort of revenge
without a meaning, and that it must needs be more painful than theirs,
they began to leave their old way, and to follow this.  I am not sorry
that we should here take notice of the barbarous horror of so cruel an
action, but that, seeing so clearly into their faults, we should be so
blind to our own.  I conceive there is more barbarity in eating a man
alive, than when he is dead; in tearing a body limb from limb by racks
and torments, that is yet in perfect sense; in roasting it by degrees; in
causing it to be bitten and worried by dogs and swine (as we have not
only read, but lately seen, not amongst inveterate and mortal enemies,
but among neighbours and fellow-citizens, and, which is worse, under
colour of piety and religion), than to roast and eat him after he is

Chrysippus and Zeno, the two heads of the Stoic sect, were of opinion
that there was no hurt in making use of our dead carcasses, in what way
soever for our necessity, and in feeding upon them too;--[Diogenes
Laertius, vii.  188.]--as our own ancestors, who being besieged by
Caesar in the city Alexia, resolved to sustain the famine of the siege
with the bodies of their old men, women, and other persons who were
incapable of bearing arms.

              “Vascones, ut fama est, alimentis talibus usi
               Produxere animas.”

     [“‘Tis said the Gascons with such meats appeased their hunger.”
      --Juvenal, Sat., xv. 93.]

And the physicians make no bones of employing it to all sorts of use,
either to apply it outwardly; or to give it inwardly for the health of
the patient.  But there never was any opinion so irregular, as to excuse
treachery, disloyalty, tyranny, and cruelty, which are our familiar
vices.  We may then call these people barbarous, in respect to the rules
of reason: but not in respect to ourselves, who in all sorts of barbarity
exceed them.  Their wars are throughout noble and generous, and carry as
much excuse and fair pretence, as that human malady is capable of; having
with them no other foundation than the sole jealousy of valour.  Their
disputes are not for the conquest of new lands, for these they already
possess are so fruitful by nature, as to supply them without labour or
concern, with all things necessary, in such abundance that they have no
need to enlarge their borders.  And they are, moreover, happy in this,
that they only covet so much as their natural necessities require: all
beyond that is superfluous to them: men of the same age call one another
generally brothers, those who are younger, children; and the old men are
fathers to all.  These leave to their heirs in common the full possession
of goods, without any manner of division, or other title than what nature
bestows upon her creatures, in bringing them into the world.  If their
neighbours pass over the mountains to assault them, and obtain a victory,
all the victors gain by it is glory only, and the advantage of having
proved themselves the better in valour and virtue: for they never meddle
with the goods of the conquered, but presently return into their own
country, where they have no want of anything necessary, nor of this
greatest of all goods, to know happily how to enjoy their condition and
to be content.  And those in turn do the same; they demand of their
prisoners no other ransom, than acknowledgment that they are overcome:
but there is not one found in an age, who will not rather choose to die
than make such a confession, or either by word or look recede from the
entire grandeur of an invincible courage.  There is not a man amongst
them who had not rather be killed and eaten, than so much as to open his
mouth to entreat he may not.  They use them with all liberality and
freedom, to the end their lives may be so much the dearer to them; but
frequently entertain them with menaces of their approaching death, of the
torments they are to suffer, of the preparations making in order to it,
of the mangling their limbs, and of the feast that is to be made, where
their carcass is to be the only dish.  All which they do, to no other
end, but only to extort some gentle or submissive word from them, or to
frighten them so as to make them run away, to obtain this advantage that
they were terrified, and that their constancy was shaken; and indeed, if
rightly taken, it is in this point only that a true victory consists:

                              “Victoria nulla est,
          Quam quae confessor animo quoque subjugat hostes.”

     [“No victory is complete, which the conquered do not admit to be
     so.--“Claudius, De Sexto Consulatu Honorii, v. 248.]

The Hungarians, a very warlike people, never pretend further than to
reduce the enemy to their discretion; for having forced this confession
from them, they let them go without injury or ransom, excepting, at the
most, to make them engage their word never to bear arms against them
again.  We have sufficient advantages over our enemies that are borrowed
and not truly our own; it is the quality of a porter, and no effect of
virtue, to have stronger arms and legs; it is a dead and corporeal
quality to set in array; ‘tis a turn of fortune to make our enemy
stumble, or to dazzle him with the light of the sun; ‘tis a trick of
science and art, and that may happen in a mean base fellow, to be a good
fencer.  The estimate and value of a man consist in the heart and in the
will: there his true honour lies.  Valour is stability, not of legs and
arms, but of the courage and the soul; it does not lie in the goodness of
our horse or our arms but in our own.  He that falls obstinate in his

                    “Si succiderit, de genu pugnat”

          [“If his legs fail him, he fights on his knees.”
           --Seneca, De Providentia, c. 2.]

--he who, for any danger of imminent death, abates nothing of his
assurance; who, dying, yet darts at his enemy a fierce and disdainful
look, is overcome not by us, but by fortune; he is killed, not conquered;
the most valiant are sometimes the most unfortunate.  There are defeats
more triumphant than victories.  Never could those four sister victories,
the fairest the sun ever be held, of Salamis, Plataea, Mycale, and
Sicily, venture to oppose all their united glories, to the single glory
of the discomfiture of King Leonidas and his men, at the pass of
Thermopylae.  Who ever ran with a more glorious desire and greater
ambition, to the winning, than Captain Iscolas to the certain loss of a
battle?--[Diodorus Siculus, xv.  64.]--Who could have found out a more
subtle invention to secure his safety, than he did to assure his
destruction?  He was set to defend a certain pass of Peloponnesus against
the Arcadians, which, considering the nature of the place and the
inequality of forces, finding it utterly impossible for him to do, and
seeing that all who were presented to the enemy, must certainly be left
upon the place; and on the other side, reputing it unworthy of his own
virtue and magnanimity and of the Lacedaemonian name to fail in any part
of his duty, he chose a mean betwixt these two extremes after this
manner; the youngest and most active of his men, he preserved for the
service and defence of their country, and sent them back; and with the
rest, whose loss would be of less consideration, he resolved to make good
the pass, and with the death of them, to make the enemy buy their entry
as dear as possibly he could; as it fell out, for being presently
environed on all sides by the Arcadians, after having made a great
slaughter of the enemy, he and his were all cut in pieces.  Is there any
trophy dedicated to the conquerors which was not much more due to these
who were overcome?  The part that true conquering is to play, lies in the
encounter, not in the coming off; and the honour of valour consists in
fighting, not in subduing.

But to return to my story: these prisoners are so far from discovering
the least weakness, for all the terrors that can be represented to them,
that, on the contrary, during the two or three months they are kept, they
always appear with a cheerful countenance; importune their masters to
make haste to bring them to the test, defy, rail at them, and reproach
them with cowardice, and the number of battles they have lost against
those of their country.  I have a song made by one of these prisoners,
wherein he bids them “come all, and dine upon him, and welcome, for they
shall withal eat their own fathers and grandfathers, whose flesh has
served to feed and nourish him.  These muscles,” says he, “this flesh and
these veins, are your own: poor silly souls as you are, you little think
that the substance of your ancestors’ limbs is here yet; notice what you
eat, and you will find in it the taste of your own flesh:” in which song
there is to be observed an invention that nothing relishes of the
barbarian.  Those that paint these people dying after this manner,
represent the prisoner spitting in the faces of his executioners and
making wry mouths at them.  And ‘tis most certain, that to the very last
gasp, they never cease to brave and defy them both in word and gesture.
In plain truth, these men are very savage in comparison of us; of
necessity, they must either be absolutely so or else we are savages; for
there is a vast difference betwixt their manners and ours.

The men there have several wives, and so much the greater number, by how
much they have the greater reputation for valour.  And it is one very
remarkable feature in their marriages, that the same jealousy our wives
have to hinder and divert us from the friendship and familiarity of other
women, those employ to promote their husbands’ desires, and to procure
them many spouses; for being above all things solicitous of their
husbands’ honour, ‘tis their chiefest care to seek out, and to bring in
the most companions they can, forasmuch as it is a testimony of the
husband’s virtue.  Most of our ladies will cry out, that ‘tis monstrous;
whereas in truth it is not so, but a truly matrimonial virtue, and of the
highest form.  In the Bible, Sarah, with Leah and Rachel, the two wives
of Jacob, gave the most beautiful of their handmaids to their husbands;
Livia preferred the passions of Augustus to her own interest;
--[Suetonius, Life of Augustus, c. 71.]--and the wife of King Deiotarus,
Stratonice, did not only give up a fair young maid that served her to her
husband’s embraces, but moreover carefully brought up the children he had
by her, and assisted them in the succession to their father’s crown.

And that it may not be supposed, that all this is done by a simple and
servile obligation to their common practice, or by any authoritative
impression of their ancient custom, without judgment or reasoning, and
from having a soul so stupid that it cannot contrive what else to do, I
must here give you some touches of their sufficiency in point of
understanding.  Besides what I repeated to you before, which was one of
their songs of war, I have another, a love-song, that begins thus:

     “Stay, adder, stay, that by thy pattern my sister may draw the
     fashion and work of a rich ribbon, that I may present to my beloved,
     by which means thy beauty and the excellent order of thy scales
     shall for ever be preferred before all other serpents.”

Wherein the first couplet, “Stay, adder,” &c., makes the burden of the
song.  Now I have conversed enough with poetry to judge thus much that
not only there is nothing barbarous in this invention, but, moreover,
that it is perfectly Anacreontic.  To which it may be added, that their
language is soft, of a pleasing accent, and something bordering upon the
Greek termination.

Three of these people, not foreseeing how dear their knowledge of the
corruptions of this part of the world will one day cost their happiness
and repose, and that the effect of this commerce will be their ruin, as I
presuppose it is in a very fair way (miserable men to suffer themselves
to be deluded with desire of novelty and to have left the serenity of
their own heaven to come so far to gaze at ours!), were at Rouen at the
time that the late King Charles IX. was there.  The king himself talked
to them a good while, and they were made to see our fashions, our pomp,
and the form of a great city.  After which, some one asked their opinion,
and would know of them, what of all the things they had seen, they found
most to be admired?  To which they made answer, three things, of which I
have forgotten the third, and am troubled at it, but two I yet remember.
They said, that in the first place they thought it very strange that so
many tall men, wearing beards, strong, and well armed, who were about the
king (‘tis like they meant the Swiss of the guard), should submit to obey
a child, and that they did not rather choose out one amongst themselves
to command.  Secondly (they have a way of speaking in their language to
call men the half of one another), that they had observed that there were
amongst us men full and crammed with all manner of commodities, whilst,
in the meantime, their halves were begging at their doors, lean and
half-starved with hunger and poverty; and they thought it strange that
these necessitous halves were able to suffer so great an inequality and
injustice, and that they did not take the others by the throats, or set
fire to their houses.

I talked to one of them a great while together, but I had so ill an
interpreter, and one who was so perplexed by his own ignorance to
apprehend my meaning, that I could get nothing out of him of any moment:
Asking him what advantage he reaped from the superiority he had amongst
his own people (for he was a captain, and our mariners called him king),
he told me, to march at the head of them to war.  Demanding of him
further how many men he had to follow him, he showed me a space of
ground, to signify as many as could march in such a compass, which might
be four or five thousand men; and putting the question to him whether or
no his authority expired with the war, he told me this remained: that
when he went to visit the villages of his dependence, they planed him
paths through the thick of their woods, by which he might pass at his
ease.  All this does not sound very ill, and the last was not at all
amiss, for they wear no breeches.



The true field and subject of imposture are things unknown, forasmuch as,
in the first place, their very strangeness lends them credit, and
moreover, by not being subjected to our ordinary reasons, they deprive us
of the means to question and dispute them: For which reason, says Plato,
--[In Critias.]--it is much more easy to satisfy the hearers, when
speaking of the nature of the gods than of the nature of men, because the
ignorance of the auditory affords a fair and large career and all manner
of liberty in the handling of abstruse things.  Thence it comes to pass,
that nothing is so firmly believed, as what we least know; nor any people
so confident, as those who entertain us with fables, such as your
alchemists, judicial astrologers, fortune-tellers, and physicians,

                         “Id genus omne.”

          [“All that sort of people.”--Horace, Sat., i. 2, 2.]

To which I would willingly, if I durst, join a pack of people that take
upon them to interpret and control the designs of God Himself, pretending
to find out the cause of every accident, and to pry into the secrets of
the divine will, there to discover the incomprehensible motive, of His
works; and although the variety, and the continual discordance of events,
throw them from corner to corner, and toss them from east to west, yet do
they still persist in their vain inquisition, and with the same pencil to
paint black and white.

In a nation of the Indies, there is this commendable custom, that when
anything befalls them amiss in any encounter or battle, they publicly ask
pardon of the sun, who is their god, as having committed an unjust
action, always imputing their good or evil fortune to the divine justice,
and to that submitting their own judgment and reason.  ‘Tis enough for a
Christian to believe that all things come from God, to receive them with
acknowledgment of His divine and inscrutable wisdom, and also thankfully
to accept and receive them, with what face soever they may present
themselves.  But I do not approve of what I see in use, that is, to seek
to affirm and support our religion by the prosperity of our enterprises.
Our belief has other foundation enough, without going about to authorise
it by events: for the people being accustomed to such plausible arguments
as these and so proper to their taste, it is to be feared, lest when they
fail of success they should also stagger in their faith: as in the war
wherein we are now engaged upon the account of religion, those who had
the better in the business of Rochelabeille,--[May 1569.]--making great
brags of that success as an infallible approbation of their cause, when
they came afterwards to excuse their misfortunes of Moncontour and
Jarnac, by saying they were fatherly scourges and corrections that they
had not a people wholly at their mercy, they make it manifestly enough
appear, what it is to take two sorts of grist out of the same sack, and
with the same mouth to blow hot and cold.  It were better to possess the
vulgar with the solid and real foundations of truth.  ‘Twas a fine naval
battle that was gained under the command of Don John of Austria a few
months since--[That of Lepanto, October 7, 1571.]--against the Turks;
but it has also pleased God at other times to let us see as great
victories at our own expense.  In fine, ‘tis a hard matter to reduce
divine things to our balance, without waste and losing a great deal of
the weight.  And who would take upon him to give a reason that Arius and
his Pope Leo, the principal heads of the Arian heresy, should die, at
several times, of so like and strange deaths (for being withdrawn from
the disputation by a griping in the bowels, they both of them suddenly
gave up the ghost upon the stool), and would aggravate this divine
vengeance by the circumstances of the place, might as well add the death
of Heliogabalus, who was also slain in a house of office.  And, indeed,
Irenaeus was involved in the same fortune.  God, being pleased to show
us, that the good have something else to hope for and the wicked
something else to fear, than the fortunes or misfortunes of this world,
manages and applies these according to His own occult will and pleasure,
and deprives us of the means foolishly to make thereof our own profit.
And those people abuse themselves who will pretend to dive into these
mysteries by the strength of human reason.  They never give one hit that
they do not receive two for it; of which St. Augustine makes out a great
proof upon his adversaries.  ‘Tis a conflict that is more decided by
strength of memory than by the force of reason.  We are to content
ourselves with the light it pleases the sun to communicate to us, by
virtue of his rays; and who will lift up his eyes to take in a greater,
let him not think it strange, if for the reward of his presumption, he
there lose his sight.

               “Quis hominum potest scire consilium Dei?
               Aut quis poterit cogitare quid velit Dominus?”

     [“Who of men can know the counsel of God? or who can think what the
     will of the Lord is.”--Book of Wisdom, ix. 13.]



I had long ago observed most of the opinions of the ancients to concur in
this, that it is high time to die when there is more ill than good in
living, and that to preserve life to our own torment and inconvenience is
contrary to the very rules of nature, as these old laws instruct us.

     [“Either tranquil life, or happy death.  It is well to die when life
     is wearisome.  It is better to die than to live miserable.”
      --Stobaeus, Serm. xx.]

But to push this contempt of death so far as to employ it to the removing
our thoughts from the honours, riches, dignities, and other favours and
goods, as we call them, of fortune, as if reason were not sufficient to
persuade us to avoid them, without adding this new injunction, I had
never seen it either commanded or practised, till this passage of Seneca
fell into my hands; who advising Lucilius, a man of great power and
authority about the emperor, to alter his voluptuous and magnificent way
of living, and to retire himself from this worldly vanity and ambition,
to some solitary, quiet, and philosophical life, and the other alleging
some difficulties: “I am of opinion,” says he, “either that thou leave
that life of thine, or life itself; I would, indeed, advise thee to the
gentle way, and to untie, rather than to break, the knot thou hast
indiscreetly knit, provided, that if it be not otherwise to be untied,
thou resolutely break it.  There is no man so great a coward, that had
not rather once fall than to be always falling.”  I should have found
this counsel conformable enough to the Stoical roughness: but it appears
the more strange, for being borrowed from Epicurus, who writes the same
thing upon the like occasion to Idomeneus.  And I think I have observed
something like it, but with Christian moderation, amongst our own people.

St. Hilary, Bishop of Poictiers, that famous enemy of the Arian heresy,
being in Syria, had intelligence thither sent him, that Abra, his only
daughter, whom he left at home under the eye and tuition of her mother,
was sought in marriage by the greatest noblemen of the country, as being
a virgin virtuously brought up, fair, rich, and in the flower of her age;
whereupon he wrote to her (as appears upon record), that she should
remove her affection from all the pleasures and advantages proposed to
her; for that he had in his travels found out a much greater and more
worthy fortune for her, a husband of much greater power and magnificence,
who would present her with robes and jewels of inestimable value; wherein
his design was to dispossess her of the appetite and use of worldly
delights, to join her wholly to God; but the nearest and most certain way
to this, being, as he conceived, the death of his daughter; he never
ceased, by vows, prayers, and orisons, to beg of the Almighty, that He
would please to call her out of this world, and to take her to Himself;
as accordingly it came to pass; for soon after his return, she died, at
which he expressed a singular joy.  This seems to outdo the other,
forasmuch as he applies himself to this means at the outset, which they
only take subsidiarily; and, besides, it was towards his only daughter.
But I will not omit the latter end of this story, though it be for my
purpose; St. Hilary’s wife, having understood from him how the death of
their daughter was brought about by his desire and design, and how much
happier she was to be removed out of this world than to have stayed in
it, conceived so vivid an apprehension of the eternal and heavenly
beatitude, that she begged of her husband, with the extremest
importunity, to do as much for her; and God, at their joint request,
shortly after calling her to Him, it was a death embraced with singular
and mutual content.



The inconstancy and various motions of Fortune

     [The term Fortune, so often employed by Montaigne, and in passages
     where he might have used Providence, was censured by the doctors who
     examined his Essays when he was at Rome in 1581.  See his Travels,
     i. 35 and 76.]

may reasonably make us expect she should present us with all sorts of
faces.  Can there be a more express act of justice than this?  The Duc de
Valentinois,--[Caesar Borgia.]--having resolved to poison Adrian,
Cardinal of Corneto, with whom Pope Alexander VI., his father and
himself, were to sup in the Vatican, he sent before a bottle of poisoned
wine, and withal, strict order to the butler to keep it very safe.
The Pope being come before his son, and calling for drink, the butler
supposing this wine had not been so strictly recommended to his care,
but only upon the account of its excellency, presented it forthwith to
the Pope, and the duke himself coming in presently after, and being
confident they had not meddled with his bottle, took also his cup; so
that the father died immediately upon the spot--[Other historians assign
the Pope several days of misery prior to death.  D.W.]--, and the son,
after having been long tormented with sickness, was reserved to another
and a worse fortune.

Sometimes she seems to play upon us, just in the nick of an affair;
Monsieur d’Estrees, at that time ensign to Monsieur de Vendome, and
Monsieur de Licques, lieutenant in the company of the Duc d’Ascot, being
both pretenders to the Sieur de Fougueselles’ sister, though of several
parties (as it oft falls out amongst frontier neighbours), the Sieur de
Licques carried her; but on the same day he was married, and which was
worse, before he went to bed to his wife, the bridegroom having a mind to
break a lance in honour of his new bride, went out to skirmish near St.
Omer, where the Sieur d’Estrees proving the stronger, took him prisoner,
and the more to illustrate his victory, the lady was fain--

              “Conjugis ante coacta novi dimittere collum,
               Quam veniens una atque altera rursus hyems
               Noctibus in longis avidum saturasset amorem,”

     [“Compelled to abstain from embracing her new spouse in her arms
     before two winters pass in succession, during their long nights had
     satiated her eager love.”--Catullus, lxviii.  81.]

--to request him of courtesy, to deliver up his prisoner to her, as he
accordingly did, the gentlemen of France never denying anything to

Does she not seem to be an artist here?  Constantine, son of Helena,
founded the empire of Constantinople, and so many ages after,
Constantine, the son of Helen, put an end to it.  Sometimes she is
pleased to emulate our miracles we are told, that King Clovis besieging
Angouleme, the walls fell down of themselves by divine favour and Bouchet
has it from some author, that King Robert having sat down before a city,
and being stolen away from the siege to go keep the feast of St. Aignan
at Orleans, as he was in devotion at a certain part of the Mass, the
walls of the beleaguered city, without any manner of violence, fell down
with a sudden ruin.  But she did quite contrary in our Milan wars; for,
le Capitaine Rense laying siege for us to the city Arona, and having
carried a mine under a great part of the wall, the mine being sprung, the
wall was lifted from its base, but dropped down again nevertheless, whole
and entire, and so exactly upon its foundation, that the besieged
suffered no inconvenience by that attempt.

Sometimes she plays the physician.  Jason of Pheres being given over by
the physicians, by reason of an imposthume in his breast, having a mind
to rid himself of his pain, by death at least, threw himself in a battle
desperately into the thickest of the enemy, where he was so fortunately
wounded quite through the body, that the imposthume broke, and he was
perfectly cured.  Did she not also excel the painter Protogenes in his
art? who having finished the picture of a dog quite tired and out of
breath, in all the other parts excellently well to his own liking, but
not being able to express, as he would, the slaver and foam that should
come out of its mouth, vexed and angry at his work, he took his sponge,
which by cleaning his pencils had imbibed several sorts of colours, and
threw it in a rage against the picture, with an intent utterly to deface
it; when fortune guiding the sponge to hit just upon the mouth of the
dog, it there performed what all his art was not able to do.  Does she
not sometimes direct our counsels and correct them?  Isabel, Queen of
England, having to sail from Zealand into her own kingdom,--[in 1326]--
with an army, in favour of her son against her husband, had been lost,
had she come into the port she intended, being there laid wait for by the
enemy; but fortune, against her will, threw her into another haven, where
she landed in safety.  And that man of old who, throwing a stone at a
dog, hit and killed his mother-in-law, had he not reason to pronounce
this verse:

          [“Fortune has more judgement than we.”--Menander]

Icetes had contracted with two soldiers to kill Timoleon at Adrana in
Sicily.--[Plutarch, Life of Timoleon, c. 7.]--They took their time to do
it when he was assisting at a sacrifice, and thrusting into the crowd,
as they were making signs to one another, that now was a fit time to do
their business, in steps a third, who, with a sword takes one of them
full drive over the pate, lays him dead upon the place and runs away,
which the others see, and concluding himself discovered and lost, runs to
the altar and begs for mercy, promising to discover the whole truth,
which as he was doing, and laying open the full conspiracy, behold the
third man, who being apprehended, was, as a murderer, thrust and hauled
by the people through the press, towards Timoleon, and the other most
eminent persons of the assembly, before whom being brought, he cries out
for pardon, pleading that he had justly slain his father’s murderer;
which he, also, proving upon the spot, by sufficient witnesses, whom his
good fortune very opportunely supplied him withal, that his father was
really killed in the city of Leontini, by that very man on whom he had
taken his revenge, he was presently awarded ten Attic minae, for having
had the good fortune, by designing to revenge the death of his father,
to preserve the life of the common father of Sicily.  Fortune, truly, in
her conduct surpasses all the rules of human prudence.

But to conclude: is there not a direct application of her favour, bounty,
and piety manifestly discovered in this action?  Ignatius the father and
Ignatius the son being proscribed by the triumvirs of Rome, resolved upon
this generous act of mutual kindness, to fall by the hands of one
another, and by that means to frustrate and defeat the cruelty of the
tyrants; and accordingly with their swords drawn, ran full drive upon one
another, where fortune so guided the points, that they made two equally
mortal wounds, affording withal so much honour to so brave a friendship,
as to leave them just strength enough to draw out their bloody swords,
that they might have liberty to embrace one another in this dying
condition, with so close and hearty an embrace, that the executioner cut
off both their heads at once, leaving the bodies still fast linked
together in this noble bond, and their wounds joined mouth to mouth,
affectionately sucking in the last blood and remainder of the lives of
each other.



My late father, a man that had no other advantages than experience and
his own natural parts, was nevertheless of a very clear judgment,
formerly told me that he once had thoughts of endeavouring to introduce
this practice; that there might be in every city a certain place assigned
to which such as stood in need of anything might repair, and have their
business entered by an officer appointed for that purpose.  As for
example: I want a chapman to buy my pearls; I want one that has pearls to
sell; such a one wants company to go to Paris; such a one seeks a servant
of such a quality; such a one a master; such a one such an artificer;
some inquiring for one thing, some for another, every one according to
what he wants.  And doubtless, these mutual advertisements would be of no
contemptible advantage to the public correspondence and intelligence: for
there are evermore conditions that hunt after one another, and for want
of knowing one another’s occasions leave men in very great necessity.

I have heard, to the great shame of the age we live in, that in our very
sight two most excellent men for learning died so poor that they had
scarce bread to put in their mouths: Lilius Gregorius Giraldus in Italy
and Sebastianus Castalio in Germany: and I believe there are a thousand
men would have invited them into their families, with very advantageous
conditions, or have relieved them where they were, had they known their
wants.  The world is not so generally corrupted, but that I know a man
that would heartily wish the estate his ancestors have left him might be
employed, so long as it shall please fortune to give him leave to enjoy
it, to secure rare and remarkable persons of any kind, whom misfortune
sometimes persecutes to the last degree, from the dangers of necessity;
and at least place them in such a condition that they must be very hard
to please, if they are not contented.

My father in his domestic economy had this rule (which I know how to
commend, but by no means to imitate), namely, that besides the day-book
or memorial of household affairs, where the small accounts, payments, and
disbursements, which do not require a secretary’s hand, were entered, and
which a steward always had in custody, he ordered him whom he employed to
write for him, to keep a journal, and in it to set down all the
remarkable occurrences, and daily memorials of the history of his house:
very pleasant to look over, when time begins to wear things out of
memory, and very useful sometimes to put us out of doubt when such a
thing was begun, when ended; what visitors came, and when they went; our
travels, absences, marriages, and deaths; the reception of good or ill
news; the change of principal servants, and the like.  An ancient custom,
which I think it would not be amiss for every one to revive in his own
house; and I find I did very foolishly in neglecting it.



Whatever I shall say upon this subject, I am of necessity to invade some
of the bounds of custom, so careful has she been to shut up all the
avenues.  I was disputing with myself in this shivering season, whether
the fashion of going naked in those nations lately discovered is imposed
upon them by the hot temperature of the air, as we say of the Indians and
Moors, or whether it be the original fashion of mankind.  Men of
understanding, forasmuch as all things under the sun, as the Holy Writ
declares, are subject to the same laws, were wont in such considerations
as these, where we are to distinguish the natural laws from those which
have been imposed by man’s invention, to have recourse to the general
polity of the world, where there can be nothing counterfeit.  Now, all
other creatures being sufficiently furnished with all things necessary
for the support of their being--[Montaigne’s expression is, “with needle
and thread.”--W.C.H.]--it is not to be imagined that we only are brought
into the world in a defective and indigent condition, and in such a state
as cannot subsist without external aid.  Therefore it is that I believe,
that as plants, trees, and animals, and all things that have life, are
seen to be by nature sufficiently clothed and covered, to defend them
from the injuries of weather:

         “Proptereaque fere res omnes ant corio sunt,
          Aut seta, ant conchis, ant callo, ant cortice tectae,”

     [“And that for this reason nearly all things are clothed with skin,
     or hair, or shells, or bark, or some such thing.”
      --Lucretius, iv. 936.]

so were we: but as those who by artificial light put out that of day, so
we by borrowed forms and fashions have destroyed our own.  And ‘tis plain
enough to be seen, that ‘tis custom only which renders that impossible
that otherwise is nothing so; for of those nations who have no manner of
knowledge of clothing, some are situated under the same temperature that
we are, and some in much colder climates.  And besides, our most tender
parts are always exposed to the air, as the eyes, mouth, nose, and ears;
and our country labourers, like our ancestors in former times, go with
their breasts and bellies open.  Had we been born with a necessity upon
us of wearing petticoats and breeches, there is no doubt but nature would
have fortified those parts she intended should be exposed to the fury of
the seasons with a thicker skin, as she has done the finger-ends and the
soles of the feet.  And why should this seem hard to believe?  I observe
much greater distance betwixt my habit and that of one of our country
boors, than betwixt his and that of a man who has no other covering but
his skin.  How many men, especially in Turkey, go naked upon the account
of devotion?  Some one asked a beggar, whom he saw in his shirt in the
depth of winter, as brisk and frolic as he who goes muffled up to the
ears in furs, how he was able to endure to go so?  “Why, sir,” he
answered, “you go with your face bare: I am all face.”  The Italians have
a story of the Duke of Florence’s fool, whom his master asking how, being
so thinly clad, he was able to support the cold, when he himself, warmly
wrapped up as he was, was hardly able to do it?  “Why,” replied the fool,
“use my receipt to put on all your clothes you have at once, and you’ll
feel no more cold than I.”  King Massinissa, to an extreme old age, could
never be prevailed upon to go with his head covered, how cold, stormy, or
rainy soever the weather might be; which also is reported of the Emperor
Severus.  Herodotus tells us, that in the battles fought betwixt the
Egyptians and the Persians, it was observed both by himself and by
others, that of those who were left dead upon the field, the heads of the
Egyptians were without comparison harder than those of the Persians, by
reason that the last had gone with their heads always covered from their
infancy, first with biggins, and then with turbans, and the others always
shaved and bare.  King Agesilaus continued to a decrepit age to wear
always the same clothes in winter that he did in summer.  Caesar, says
Suetonius, marched always at the head of his army, for the most part on
foot, with his head bare, whether it was rain or sunshine, and as much is
said of Hannibal:

                              “Tum vertice nudo,
               Excipere insanos imbres, coelique ruinam.”

     [“Bareheaded he marched in snow, exposed to pouring rain and the
     utmost rigour of the weather.”--Silius Italicus, i. 250.]

A Venetian who has long lived in Pegu, and has lately returned thence,
writes that the men and women of that kingdom, though they cover all
their other parts, go always barefoot and ride so too; and Plato very
earnestly advises for the health of the whole body, to give the head and
the feet no other clothing than what nature has bestowed.  He whom the
Poles have elected for their king,--[Stephen Bathory]--since ours came
thence, who is, indeed, one of the greatest princes of this age, never
wears any gloves, and in winter or whatever weather can come, never wears
other cap abroad than that he wears at home.  Whereas I cannot endure to
go unbuttoned or untied; my neighbouring labourers would think themselves
in chains, if they were so braced.  Varro is of opinion, that when it was
ordained we should be bare in the presence of the gods and before the
magistrate, it was so ordered rather upon the score of health, and to
inure us to the injuries of weather, than upon the account of reverence;
and since we are now talking of cold, and Frenchmen used to wear variety
of colours (not I myself, for I seldom wear other than black or white, in
imitation of my father), let us add another story out of Le Capitaine
Martin du Bellay, who affirms, that in the march to Luxembourg he saw so
great frost, that the munition-wine was cut with hatchets and wedges, and
delivered out to the soldiers by weight, and that they carried it away in
baskets: and Ovid,

              “Nudaque consistunt, formam servantia testae,
               Vina; nec hausta meri, sed data frusta, bibunt.”

     [“The wine when out of the cask retains the form of the cask;
     and is given out not in cups, but in bits.”
      --Ovid, Trist., iii. 10, 23.]

At the mouth of Lake Maeotis the frosts are so very sharp, that in the
very same place where Mithridates’ lieutenant had fought the enemy
dryfoot and given them a notable defeat, the summer following he obtained
over them a naval victory.  The Romans fought at a very great
disadvantage, in the engagement they had with the Carthaginians near
Piacenza, by reason that they went to the charge with their blood
congealed and their limbs numbed with cold, whereas Hannibal had caused
great fires to be dispersed quite through his camp to warm his soldiers,
and oil to be distributed amongst them, to the end that anointing
themselves, they might render their nerves more supple and active, and
fortify the pores against the violence of the air and freezing wind,
which raged in that season.

The retreat the Greeks made from Babylon into their own country is famous
for the difficulties and calamities they had to overcome; of which this
was one, that being encountered in the mountains of Armenia with a
horrible storm of snow, they lost all knowledge of the country and of the
ways, and being driven up, were a day and a night without eating or
drinking; most of their cattle died, many of themselves were starved to
death, several struck blind with the force of the hail and the glare of
the snow, many of them maimed in their fingers and toes, and many stiff
and motionless with the extremity of the cold, who had yet their
understanding entire.

Alexander saw a nation, where they bury their fruit-trees in winter to
protect them from being destroyed by the frost, and we also may see the

But, so far as clothes go, the King of Mexico changed four times a day
his apparel, and never put it on again, employing that he left off in his
continual liberalities and rewards; and neither pot, dish, nor other
utensil of his kitchen or table was ever served twice.



     [“I am not possessed with this common errour, to judge of others
     according to what I am my selfe.  I am easie to beleeve things
     differing from my selfe.  Though I be engaged to one forme, I do not
     tie the world unto it, as every man doth.  And I beleeve and
     conceive a thousand manners of life, contrary to the common sorte.”
      --Florio, ed. 1613, p. 113.]

I am not guilty of the common error of judging another by myself.  I
easily believe that in another’s humour which is contrary to my own; and
though I find myself engaged to one certain form, I do not oblige others
to it, as many do; but believe and apprehend a thousand ways of living;
and, contrary to most men, more easily admit of difference than
uniformity amongst us.  I as frankly as any one would have me, discharge
a man from my humours and principles, and consider him according to his
own particular model.  Though I am not continent myself, I nevertheless
sincerely approve the continence of the Feuillans and Capuchins, and
highly commend their way of living.  I insinuate myself by imagination
into their place, and love and honour them the more for being other than
I am.  I very much desire that we may be judged every man by himself, and
would not be drawn into the consequence of common examples.  My own
weakness nothing alters the esteem I ought to have for the force and
vigour of those who deserve it:

     “Sunt qui nihil suadent, quam quod se imitari posse confidunt.”

     [“There are who persuade nothing but what they believe they can
     imitate themselves.”--Cicero, De Orator., c. 7.]

Crawling upon the slime of the earth, I do not for all that cease to
observe up in the clouds the inimitable height of some heroic souls.
‘Tis a great deal for me to have my judgment regular and just, if the
effects cannot be so, and to maintain this sovereign part, at least, free
from corruption; ‘tis something to have my will right and good where my
legs fail me.  This age wherein we live, in our part of the world at
least, is grown so stupid, that not only the exercise, but the very
imagination of virtue is defective, and seems to be no other but college

                        “Virtutem verba putant, ut
                 Lucum ligna:”

     [“They think words virtue, as they think mere wood a sacred grove.”
      --Horace, Ep., i. 6, 31.]

          “Quam vereri deberent, etiam si percipere non possent.”

     [“Which they ought to reverence, though they cannot comprehend.”
      --Cicero, Tusc. Quas., v. 2.]

‘Tis a gewgaw to hang in a cabinet or at the end of the tongue, as on the
tip of the ear, for ornament only.  There are no longer virtuous actions
extant; those actions that carry a show of virtue have yet nothing of its
essence; by reason that profit, glory, fear, custom, and other suchlike
foreign causes, put us on the way to produce them.  Our justice also,
valour, courtesy, may be called so too, in respect to others and
according to the face they appear with to the public; but in the doer it
can by no means be virtue, because there is another end proposed, another
moving cause.  Now virtue owns nothing to be hers, but what is done by
herself and for herself alone.

In that great battle of Plataea, that the Greeks under the command of
Pausanias gained against Mardonius and the Persians, the conquerors,
according to their custom, coming to divide amongst them the glory of the
exploit, attributed to the Spartan nation the pre-eminence of valour in
the engagement.  The Spartans, great judges of virtue, when they came to
determine to what particular man of their nation the honour was due of
having the best behaved himself upon this occasion, found that
Aristodemus had of all others hazarded his person with the greatest
bravery; but did not, however, allow him any prize, by reason that his
virtue had been incited by a desire to clear his reputation from the
reproach of his miscarriage at the business of Thermopylae, and to die
bravely to wipe off that former blemish.

Our judgments are yet sick, and obey the humour of our depraved manners.
I observe most of the wits of these times pretend to ingenuity, by
endeavouring to blemish and darken the glory of the bravest and most
generous actions of former ages, putting one vile interpretation or
another upon them, and forging and supposing vain causes and motives for
the noble things they did: a mighty subtlety indeed!  Give me the
greatest and most unblemished action that ever the day beheld, and I will
contrive a hundred plausible drifts and ends to obscure it.  God knows,
whoever will stretch them out to the full, what diversity of images our
internal wills suffer under.  They do not so maliciously play the
censurers, as they do it ignorantly and rudely in all their detractions.

The same pains and licence that others take to blemish and bespatter
these illustrious names, I would willingly undergo to lend them a
shoulder to raise them higher.  These rare forms, that are culled out by
the consent of the wisest men of all ages, for the world’s example,
I should not stick to augment in honour, as far as my invention would
permit, in all the circumstances of favourable interpretation; and we may
well believe that the force of our invention is infinitely short of their
merit.  ‘Tis the duty of good men to portray virtue as beautiful as they
can, and there would be nothing wrong should our passion a little
transport us in favour of so sacred a form.  What these people do, on the
contrary, they either do out of malice, or by the vice of confining their
belief to their own capacity; or, which I am more inclined to think, for
not having their sight strong, clear, and elevated enough to conceive the
splendour of virtue in her native purity: as Plutarch complains, that in
his time some attributed the cause of the younger Cato’s death to his
fear of Caesar, at which he seems very angry, and with good reason; and
by this a man may guess how much more he would have been offended with
those who have attributed it to ambition.  Senseless people!  He would
rather have performed a noble, just, and generous action, and to have had
ignominy for his reward, than for glory.  That man was in truth a pattern
that nature chose out to show to what height human virtue and constancy
could arrive.

But I am not capable of handling so rich an argument, and shall therefore
only set five Latin poets together, contending in the praise of Cato;
and, incidentally, for their own too.  Now, a well-educated child will
judge the two first, in comparison of the others, a little flat and
languid; the third more vigorous, but overthrown by the extravagance of
his own force; he will then think that there will be room for one or two
gradations of invention to come to the fourth, and, mounting to the pitch
of that, he will lift up his hands in admiration; coming to the last, the
first by some space’ (but a space that he will swear is not to be filled
up by any human wit), he will be astounded, he will not know where he is.

And here is a wonder: we have far more poets than judges and interpreters
of poetry; it is easier to write it than to understand it.  There is,
indeed, a certain low and moderate sort of poetry, that a man may well
enough judge by certain rules of art; but the true, supreme, and divine
poesy is above all rules and reason.  And whoever discerns the beauty of
it with the most assured and most steady sight, sees no more than the
quick reflection of a flash of lightning: it does not exercise, but
ravishes and overwhelms our judgment.  The fury that possesses him who is
able to penetrate into it wounds yet a third man by hearing him repeat
it; like a loadstone that not only attracts the needle, but also infuses
into it the virtue to attract others.  And it is more evidently manifest
in our theatres, that the sacred inspiration of the Muses, having first
stirred up the poet to anger, sorrow, hatred, and out of himself, to
whatever they will, does moreover by the poet possess the actor, and by
the actor consecutively all the spectators.  So much do our passions hang
and depend upon one another.

Poetry has ever had that power over me from a child to transpierce and
transport me; but this vivid sentiment that is natural to me has been
variously handled by variety of forms, not so much higher or lower (for
they were ever the highest of every kind), as differing in colour.
First, a gay and sprightly fluency; afterwards, a lofty and penetrating
subtlety; and lastly, a mature and constant vigour.  Their names will
better express them: Ovid, Lucan, Virgil.

But our poets are beginning their career:

         “Sit Cato, dum vivit, sane vel Caesare major,”

     [“Let Cato, whilst he live, be greater than Caesar.”
      --Martial, vi. 32]

says one.

               “Et invictum, devicta morte, Catonem,”

          [“And Cato invincible, death being overcome.”
           --Manilius, Astron., iv. 87.]

says the second.  And the third, speaking of the civil wars betwixt
Caesar and Pompey,

          “Victrix causa diis placuit, set victa Catoni.”

     [“The victorious cause blessed the gods, the defeated one Cato.
     --“Lucan, i. 128.]

And the fourth, upon the praises of Caesar:

              “Et cuncta terrarum subacta,
               Praeter atrocem animum Catonis.”

     [“And conquered all but the indomitable mind of Cato.”
      --Horace, Od., ii. 1, 23.]

And the master of the choir, after having set forth all the great names
of the greatest Romans, ends thus:

                    “His dantem jura Catonem.”

     [“Cato giving laws to all the rest.”--AEneid, viii. 670.]



When we read in history that Antigonus was very much displeased with his
son for presenting him the head of King Pyrrhus his enemy, but newly
slain fighting against him, and that seeing it, he wept; and that Rene,
Duke of Lorraine, also lamented the death of Charles, Duke of Burgundy,
whom he had himself defeated, and appeared in mourning at his funeral;
and that in the battle of D’Auray (which Count Montfort obtained over
Charles de Blois, his competitor for the duchy of Brittany), the
conqueror meeting the dead body of his enemy, was very much afflicted at
his death, we must not presently cry out:

              “E cosi avven, the l’animo ciascuna
               Sua passion sotto ‘l contrario manto,
               Ricopre, con la vista or’chiara, or’bruna.”

     [“And thus it happens that the mind of each veils its passion under
     a different appearance, and beneath a smiling visage, gay beneath a
     sombre air.”--Petrarch.]

When Pompey’s head was presented to Caesar, the histories tell us that he
turned away his face, as from a sad and unpleasing object.  There had
been so long an intelligence and society betwixt them in the management
of the public affairs, so great a community of fortunes, so many mutual
offices, and so near an alliance, that this countenance of his ought not
to suffer under any misinterpretation, or to be suspected for either
false or counterfeit, as this other seems to believe:

                             “Tutumque putavit
          Jam bonus esse socer; lacrymae non sponte cadentes,
          Effudit, gemitusque expressit pectore laeto;”

     [“And now he thought it safe to play the kind father-in-law,
     shedding forced tears, and from a joyful breast discharging sighs
     and groans.”--Lucan, ix. 1037.]

for though it be true that the greatest part of our actions are no other
than visor and disguise, and that it may sometimes be true that

               “Haeredis fletus sub persona rises est,”

          [“The heir’s tears behind the mask are smiles.”
           --Publius Syrus, apud Gellium, xvii. 14.]

yet, in judging of these accidents, we are to consider how much our souls
are oftentimes agitated with divers passions.  And as they say that in
our bodies there is a congregation of divers humours, of which that is
the sovereign which, according to the complexion we are of, is commonly
most predominant in us: so, though the soul have in it divers motions to
give it agitation, yet must there of necessity be one to overrule all the
rest, though not with so necessary and absolute a dominion but that
through the flexibility and inconstancy of the soul, those of less
authority may upon occasion reassume their place and make a little sally
in turn.  Thence it is, that we see not only children, who innocently
obey and follow nature, often laugh and cry at the same thing, but not
one of us can boast, what journey soever he may have in hand that he has
the most set his heart upon, but when he comes to part with his family
and friends, he will find something that troubles him within; and though
he refrain his tears yet he puts foot in the stirrup with a sad and
cloudy countenance.  And what gentle flame soever may warm the heart of
modest and wellborn virgins, yet are they fain to be forced from about
their mothers’ necks to be put to bed to their husbands, whatever this
boon companion is pleased to say:

         “Estne novis nuptis odio Venus?  anne parentum
          Frustrantur falsis gaudia lachrymulis,
          Ubertim thalami quasi intra limina fundunt?
          Non, ita me divi, vera gemunt, juverint.”

     [“Is Venus really so alarming to the new-made bride, or does she
     honestly oppose her parent’s rejoicing the tears she so abundantly
     sheds on entering the nuptial chamber?  No, by the Gods, these are
     no true tears.”--Catullus, lxvi. 15.]

     [“Is Venus really so repugnant to newly-married maids?  Do they meet
     the smiles of parents with feigned tears?  They weep copiously
     within the very threshold of the nuptial chamber.  No, so the gods
     help me, they do not truly grieve.”--Catullus, lxvi.  15.]--
     [A more literal translation.  D.W.]

Neither is it strange to lament a person dead whom a man would by no
means should be alive.  When I rattle my man, I do it with all the mettle
I have, and load him with no feigned, but downright real curses; but the
heat being over, if he should stand in need of me, I should be very ready
to do him good: for I instantly turn the leaf.  When I call him calf and
coxcomb, I do not pretend to entail those titles upon him for ever;
neither do I think I give myself the lie in calling him an honest fellow
presently after.  No one quality engrosses us purely and universally.
Were it not the sign of a fool to talk to one’s self, there would hardly
be a day or hour wherein I might not be heard to grumble and mutter to
myself and against myself, “Confound the fool!” and yet I do not think
that to be my definition.  Who for seeing me one while cold and presently
very fond towards my wife, believes the one or the other to be
counterfeited, is an ass.  Nero, taking leave of his mother whom he was
sending to be drowned, was nevertheless sensible of some emotion at this
farewell, and was struck with horror and pity.  ‘Tis said, that the light
of the sun is not one continuous thing, but that he darts new rays so
thick one upon another that we cannot perceive the intermission:

         “Largus enim liquidi fons luminis, aetherius sol,
          Irrigat assidue coelum candore recenti,
          Suppeditatque novo confestim lumine lumen.”

     [“So the wide fountain of liquid light, the ethereal sun, steadily
     fertilises the heavens with new heat, and supplies a continuous
     store of fresh light.”--Lucretius, v. 282.]

Just so the soul variously and imperceptibly darts out her passions.

Artabanus coming by surprise once upon his nephew Xerxes, chid him for
the sudden alteration of his countenance.  He was considering the
immeasurable greatness of his forces passing over the Hellespont for the
Grecian expedition: he was first seized with a palpitation of joy, to see
so many millions of men under his command, and this appeared in the
gaiety of his looks: but his thoughts at the same instant suggesting to
him that of so many lives, within a century at most, there would not be
one left, he presently knit his brows and grew sad, even to tears.

We have resolutely pursued the revenge of an injury received, and been
sensible of a singular contentment for the victory; but we shall weep
notwithstanding.  ‘Tis not for the victory, though, that we shall weep:
there is nothing altered in that but the soul looks upon things with
another eye and represents them to itself with another kind of face; for
everything has many faces and several aspects.

Relations, old acquaintances, and friendships, possess our imaginations
and make them tender for the time, according to their condition; but the
turn is so quick, that ‘tis gone in a moment:

              “Nil adeo fieri celeri ratione videtur,
               Quam si mens fieri proponit, et inchoat ipsa,
               Ocius ergo animus, quam res se perciet ulla,
               Ante oculos quorum in promptu natura videtur;”

     [“Nothing therefore seems to be done in so swift a manner than if
     the mind proposes it to be done, and itself begins.  It is more
     active than anything which we see in nature.”--Lucretius, iii. 183.]

and therefore, if we would make one continued thing of all this
succession of passions, we deceive ourselves.  When Timoleon laments the
murder he had committed upon so mature and generous deliberation, he does
not lament the liberty restored to his country, he does not lament the
tyrant; but he laments his brother: one part of his duty is performed;
let us give him leave to perform the other.



Let us pretermit that long comparison betwixt the active and the solitary
life; and as for the fine sayings with which ambition and avarice
palliate their vices, that we are not born for ourselves but for the
public,--[This is the eulogium passed by Lucan on Cato of Utica, ii.
383.]--let us boldly appeal to those who are in public affairs; let them
lay their hands upon their hearts, and then say whether, on the contrary,
they do not rather aspire to titles and offices and that tumult of the
world to make their private advantage at the public expense.  The corrupt
ways by which in this our time they arrive at the height to which their
ambitions aspire, manifestly enough declares that their ends cannot be
very good.  Let us tell ambition that it is she herself who gives us a
taste of solitude; for what does she so much avoid as society?  What does
she so much seek as elbowroom?  A man many do well or ill everywhere; but
if what Bias says be true, that the greatest part is the worse part, or
what the Preacher says: there is not one good of a thousand:

              “Rari quippe boni: numero vix sunt totidem quot
               Thebarum portae, vel divitis ostia Nili,”

     [“Good men forsooth are scarce: there are hardly as many as there
     are gates of Thebes or mouths of the rich Nile.”
      --Juvenal, Sat., xiii. 26.]

the contagion is very dangerous in the crowd.  A man must either imitate
the vicious or hate them both are dangerous things, either to resemble
them because they are many or to hate many because they are unresembling
to ourselves.  Merchants who go to sea are in the right when they are
cautious that those who embark with them in the same bottom be neither
dissolute blasphemers nor vicious other ways, looking upon such society
as unfortunate.  And therefore it was that Bias pleasantly said to some,
who being with him in a dangerous storm implored the assistance of the
gods: “Peace, speak softly,” said he, “that they may not know you are
here in my company.”--[Diogenes Laertius]--And of more pressing
example, Albuquerque, viceroy in the Indies for Emmanuel, king of
Portugal, in an extreme peril of shipwreck, took a young boy upon his
shoulders, for this only end that, in the society of their common danger
his innocence might serve to protect him, and to recommend him to the
divine favour, that they might get safe to shore.  ‘Tis not that a wise
man may not live everywhere content, and be alone in the very crowd of a
palace; but if it be left to his own choice, the schoolman will tell you
that he should fly the very sight of the crowd: he will endure it if need
be; but if it be referred to him, he will choose to be alone.  He cannot
think himself sufficiently rid of vice, if he must yet contend with it in
other men.  Charondas punished those as evil men who were convicted of
keeping ill company.  There is nothing so unsociable and sociable as man,
the one by his vice, the other by his nature.  And Antisthenes, in my
opinion, did not give him a satisfactory answer, who reproached him with
frequenting ill company, by saying that the physicians lived well enough
amongst the sick, for if they contribute to the health of the sick, no
doubt but by the contagion, continual sight of, and familiarity with
diseases, they must of necessity impair their own.

Now the end, I take it, is all one, to live at more leisure and at one’s
ease: but men do not always take the right way.  They often think they
have totally taken leave of all business, when they have only exchanged
one employment for another: there is little less trouble in governing a
private family than a whole kingdom.  Wherever the mind is perplexed, it
is in an entire disorder, and domestic employments are not less
troublesome for being less important.  Moreover, for having shaken off
the court and the exchange, we have not taken leave of the principal
vexations of life:

              “Ratio et prudentia curas,
               Non locus effusi late maris arbiter, aufert;”

     [“Reason and prudence, not a place with a commanding view of the
     great ocean, banish care.”--Horace, Ep., i. 2.]

ambition, avarice, irresolution, fear, and inordinate desires, do not
leave us because we forsake our native country:

                    Post equitem sedet atra cura;”

               [“Black care sits behind the horse man.”
                --Horace, Od., iii. 1, 40].

they often follow us even to cloisters and philosophical schools; nor
deserts, nor caves, hair-shirts, nor fasts, can disengage us from them:

                    “Haeret lateri lethalis arundo.”

          [“The fatal shaft adheres to the side.”--AEneid, iv. 73.]

One telling Socrates that such a one was nothing improved by his travels:
“I very well believe it,” said he, “for he took himself along with him”

                   “Quid terras alio calentes
                    Sole mutamus?  patriae quis exsul
                    Se quoque fugit?”

     [“Why do we seek climates warmed by another sun?  Who is the man
     that by fleeing from his country, can also flee from himself?”
      --Horace, Od., ii. 16, 18.]

If a man do not first discharge both himself and his mind of the burden
with which he finds himself oppressed, motion will but make it press the
harder and sit the heavier, as the lading of a ship is of less
encumbrance when fast and bestowed in a settled posture.  You do a sick
man more harm than good in removing him from place to place; you fix and
establish the disease by motion, as stakes sink deeper and more firmly
into the earth by being moved up and down in the place where they are
designed to stand.  Therefore, it is not enough to get remote from the
public; ‘tis not enough to shift the soil only; a man must flee from the
popular conditions that have taken possession of his soul, he must
sequester and come again to himself:

                         “Rupi jam vincula, dicas
               Nam luctata canis nodum arripit; attamen illi,
               Quum fugit, a collo trahitur pars longa catenae.”

     [“You say, perhaps, you have broken your chains: the dog who after
     long efforts has broken his chain, still in his flight drags a heavy
     portion of it after him.”--Persius, Sat., v. 158.]

We still carry our fetters along with us.  ‘Tis not an absolute liberty;
we yet cast back a look upon what we have left behind us; the fancy is
still full of it:

          “Nisi purgatum est pectus, quae praelia nobis
          Atque pericula tunc ingratis insinuandum?
          Quantae connscindunt hominem cupedinis acres
          Sollicitum curae? quantique perinde timores?
          Quidve superbia, spurcitia, ac petulantia, quantas
          Efficiunt clades? quid luxus desidiesque?”

     [“But unless the mind is purified, what internal combats and dangers
     must we incur in spite of all our efforts!  How many bitter
     anxieties, how many terrors, follow upon unregulated passion!
     What destruction befalls us from pride, lust, petulant anger!
     What evils arise from luxury and sloth!”--Lucretius, v. 4.]

Our disease lies in the mind, which cannot escape from itself;

          “In culpa est animus, qui se non effugit unquam,”
           --Horace, Ep., i. 14, 13.

and therefore is to be called home and confined within itself: that is
the true solitude, and that may be enjoyed even in populous cities and
the courts of kings, though more commodiously apart.

Now, since we will attempt to live alone, and to waive all manner of
conversation amongst them, let us so order it that our content may depend
wholly upon ourselves; let us dissolve all obligations that ally us to
others; let us obtain this from ourselves, that we may live alone in good
earnest, and live at our ease too.

Stilpo having escaped from the burning of his town, where he lost wife,
children, and goods, Demetrius Poliorcetes seeing him, in so great a ruin
of his country, appear with an undisturbed countenance, asked him if he
had received no loss?  To which he made answer, No; and that, thank God,
nothing was lost of his.--[Seneca, Ep. 7.]--This also was the meaning of
the philosopher Antisthenes, when he pleasantly said, that “men should
furnish themselves with such things as would float, and might with the
owner escape the storm”;--[Diogenes Laertius, vi. 6.] and certainly a
wise man never loses anything if he have himself.  When the city of Nola
was ruined by the barbarians, Paulinus, who was bishop of that place,
having there lost all he had, himself a prisoner, prayed after this
manner: “O Lord, defend me from being sensible of this loss; for Thou
knowest they have yet touched nothing of that which is mine.”--[St.
Augustin, De Civit. Dei, i. 10.]--The riches that made him rich and the
goods that made him good, were still kept entire.  This it is to make
choice of treasures that can secure themselves from plunder and violence,
and to hide them in such a place into which no one can enter and that is
not to be betrayed by any but ourselves.  Wives, children, and goods must
be had, and especially health, by him that can get it; but we are not so
to set our hearts upon them that our happiness must have its dependence
upon them; we must reserve a backshop, wholly our own and entirely free,
wherein to settle our true liberty, our principal solitude and retreat.
And in this we must for the most part entertain ourselves with ourselves,
and so privately that no exotic knowledge or communication be admitted
there; there to laugh and to talk, as if without wife, children, goods,
train, or attendance, to the end that when it shall so fall out that we
must lose any or all of these, it may be no new thing to be without them.
We have a mind pliable in itself, that will be company; that has
wherewithal to attack and to defend, to receive and to give: let us not
then fear in this solitude to languish under an uncomfortable vacuity.

                    “In solis sis tibi turba locis.”

     [“In solitude, be company for thyself.”--Tibullus, vi. 13. 12.]

Virtue is satisfied with herself, without discipline, without words,
without effects.  In our ordinary actions there is not one of a thousand
that concerns ourselves.  He that thou seest scrambling up the ruins of
that wall, furious and transported, against whom so many harquebuss-shots
are levelled; and that other all over scars, pale, and fainting with
hunger, and yet resolved rather to die than to open the gates to him;
dost thou think that these men are there upon their own account?  No;
peradventure in the behalf of one whom they never saw and who never
concerns himself for their pains and danger, but lies wallowing the while
in sloth and pleasure: this other slavering, blear-eyed, slovenly fellow,
that thou seest come out of his study after midnight, dost thou think he
has been tumbling over books to learn how to become a better man, wiser,
and more content?  No such matter; he will there end his days, but he
will teach posterity the measure of Plautus’ verses and the true
orthography of a Latin word.  Who is it that does not voluntarily
exchange his health, his repose, and his very life for reputation and
glory, the most useless, frivolous, and false coin that passes current
amongst us?  Our own death does not sufficiently terrify and trouble us;
let us, moreover, charge ourselves with those of our wives, children, and
family: our own affairs do not afford us anxiety enough; let us undertake
those of our neighbours and friends, still more to break our brains and
torment us:

         “Vah! quemquamne hominem in animum instituere, aut
          Parare, quod sit carius, quam ipse est sibi?”

     [“Ah! can any man conceive in his mind or realise what is dearer
     than he is to himself?”--Terence, Adelph., i. I, 13.]

Solitude seems to me to wear the best favour in such as have already
employed their most active and flourishing age in the world’s service,
after the example of Thales.  We have lived enough for others; let us at
least live out the small remnant of life for ourselves; let us now call
in our thoughts and intentions to ourselves, and to our own ease and
repose.  ‘Tis no light thing to make a sure retreat; it will be enough
for us to do without mixing other enterprises.  Since God gives us
leisure to order our removal, let us make ready, truss our baggage, take
leave betimes of the company, and disentangle ourselves from those
violent importunities that engage us elsewhere and separate us from

We must break the knot of our obligations, how strong soever, and
hereafter love this or that, but espouse nothing but ourselves: that is
to say, let the remainder be our own, but not so joined and so close as
not to be forced away without flaying us or tearing out part of our
whole.  The greatest thing in the world is for a man to know that he is
his own.  ‘Tis time to wean ourselves from society when we can no longer
add anything to it; he who is not in a condition to lend must forbid
himself to borrow.  Our forces begin to fail us; let us call them in and
concentrate them in and for ourselves.  He that can cast off within
himself and resolve the offices of friendship and company, let him do it.
In this decay of nature which renders him useless, burdensome, and
importunate to others, let him take care not to be useless, burdensome,
and importunate to himself.  Let him soothe and caress himself, and above
all things be sure to govern himself with reverence to his reason and
conscience to that degree as to be ashamed to make a false step in their

               “Rarum est enim, ut satis se quisque vereatur.”

     [“For ‘tis rarely seen that men have respect and reverence enough
     for themselves.”--Quintilian, x. 7.]

Socrates says that boys are to cause themselves to be instructed, men to
exercise themselves in well-doing, and old men to retire from all civil
and military employments, living at their own discretion, without the
obligation to any office. There are some complexions more proper for
these precepts of retirement than others.  Such as are of a soft and dull
apprehension, and of a tender will and affection, not readily to be
subdued or employed, whereof I am one, both by natural condition and by
reflection, will sooner incline to this advice than active and busy
souls, which embrace: all, engage in all, are hot upon everything, which
offer, present, and give themselves up to every occasion.  We are to use
these accidental and extraneous commodities, so far as they are pleasant
to us, but by no means to lay our principal foundation there; ‘tis no
true one; neither nature nor reason allows it so to be.  Why therefore
should we, contrary to their laws, enslave our own contentment to the
power of another?  To anticipate also the accidents of fortune, to
deprive ourselves of the conveniences we have in our own power, as
several have done upon the account of devotion, and some philosophers by
reasoning; to be one’s own servant, to lie hard, to put out our own eyes,
to throw our wealth into the river, to go in search of grief; these, by
the misery of this life, aiming at bliss in another; those by laying
themselves low to avoid the danger of falling: all such are acts of an
excessive virtue.  The stoutest and most resolute natures render even
their seclusion glorious and exemplary:

                    “Tuta et parvula laudo,
          Quum res deficiunt, satis inter vilia fortis
          Verum, ubi quid melius contingit et unctius, idem
          Hos sapere et solos aio bene vivere, quorum
          Conspicitur nitidis fundata pecunia villis.”

     [“When means are deficient, I laud a safe and humble condition,
     content with little: but when things grow better and more easy, I
     all the same say that you alone are wise and live well, whose
     invested money is visible in beautiful villas.”
      --Horace, Ep., i. 15, 42.]

A great deal less would serve my turn well enough.  ‘Tis enough for me,
under fortune’s favour, to prepare myself for her disgrace, and, being at
my ease, to represent to myself, as far as my imagination can stretch,
the ill to come; as we do at jousts and tiltings, where we counterfeit
war in the greatest calm of peace.  I do not think Arcesilaus the
philosopher the less temperate and virtuous for knowing that he made use
of gold and silver vessels, when the condition of his fortune allowed him
so to do; I have indeed a better opinion of him than if he had denied
himself what he used with liberality and moderation.  I see the utmost
limits of natural necessity: and considering a poor man begging at my
door, ofttimes more jocund and more healthy than I myself am, I put
myself into his place, and attempt to dress my mind after his mode;
and running, in like manner, over other examples, though I fancy death,
poverty, contempt, and sickness treading on my heels, I easily resolve
not to be affrighted, forasmuch as a less than I takes them with so much
patience; and am not willing to believe that a less understanding can do
more than a greater, or that the effects of precept cannot arrive to as
great a height as those of custom.  And knowing of how uncertain duration
these accidental conveniences are, I never forget, in the height of all
my enjoyments, to make it my chiefest prayer to Almighty God, that He
will please to render me content with myself and the condition wherein I
am.  I see young men very gay and frolic, who nevertheless keep a mass of
pills in their trunk at home, to take when they’ve got a cold, which they
fear so much the less, because they think they have remedy at hand.
Every one should do in like manner, and, moreover, if they find
themselves subject to some more violent disease, should furnish
themselves with such medicines as may numb and stupefy the part.

The employment a man should choose for such a life ought neither to be a
laborious nor an unpleasing one; otherwise ‘tis to no purpose at all to
be retired.  And this depends upon every one’s liking and humour.  Mine
has no manner of complacency for husbandry, and such as love it ought to
apply themselves to it with moderation:

          [“Endeavour to make circumstances subject to me,
          and not me subject to circumstances.”
           --Horace, Ep., i. i, 19.]

Husbandry is otherwise a very servile employment, as Sallust calls it;
though some parts of it are more excusable than the rest, as the care of
gardens, which Xenophon attributes to Cyrus; and a mean may be found out
betwixt the sordid and low application, so full of perpetual solicitude,
which is seen in men who make it their entire business and study, and the
stupid and extreme negligence, letting all things go at random which we
see in others

                    “Democriti pecus edit agellos
          Cultaque, dum peregre est animus sine corpore velox.”

     [“Democritus’ cattle eat his corn and spoil his fields, whilst his
     soaring mind ranges abroad without the body.”
      --Horace, Ep., i, 12, 12.]

But let us hear what advice the younger Pliny gives his friend Caninius
Rufus upon the subject of solitude: “I advise thee, in the full and
plentiful retirement wherein thou art, to leave to thy hinds the care of
thy husbandry, and to addict thyself to the study of letters, to extract
from thence something that may be entirely and absolutely thine own.”  By
which he means reputation; like Cicero, who says that he would employ his
solitude and retirement from public affairs to acquire by his writings an
immortal life.

                              “Usque adeone
          Scire tuum, nihil est, nisi to scire hoc, sciat alter?”

          [“Is all that thy learning nothing, unless another knows
          that thou knowest?”--Persius, Sat., i. 23.]

It appears to be reason, when a man talks of retiring from the world,
that he should look quite out of [for] himself.  These do it but by
halves: they design well enough for themselves when they shall be no more
in it; but still they pretend to extract the fruits of that design from
the world, when absent from it, by a ridiculous contradiction.

The imagination of those who seek solitude upon the account of devotion,
filling their hopes and courage with certainty of divine promises in the
other life, is much more rationally founded.  They propose to themselves
God, an infinite object in goodness and power; the soul has there
wherewithal, at full liberty, to satiate her desires: afflictions and
sufferings turn to their advantage, being undergone for the acquisition
of eternal health and joy; death is to be wished and longed for, where it
is the passage to so perfect a condition; the asperity of the rules they
impose upon themselves is immediately softened by custom, and all their
carnal appetites baffled and subdued, by refusing to humour and feed
them, these being only supported by use and exercise.  This sole end of
another happily immortal life is that which really merits that we should
abandon the pleasures and conveniences of this; and he who can really and
constantly inflame his soul with the ardour of this vivid faith and hope,
erects for himself in solitude a more voluptuous and delicious life than
any other sort of existence.

Neither the end, then, nor the means of this advice pleases me, for we
often fall out of the frying-pan into the fire.--[or: we always relapse
ill from fever into fever.]--This  book-employment is as painful as any
other, and as great an enemy to health, which ought to be the first thing
considered; neither ought a man to be allured with the pleasure of it,
which is the same that destroys the frugal, the avaricious, the
voluptuous, and the ambitious man.

     [“This plodding occupation of bookes is as painfull as any other,
     and as great an enemie vnto health, which ought principally to be
     considered.  And a man should not suffer him selfe to be inveagled
     by the pleasure he takes in them.”--Florio, edit. 1613, p. 122.]

The sages give us caution enough to beware the treachery of our desires,
and to distinguish true and entire pleasures from such as are mixed and
complicated with greater pain.  For the most of our pleasures, say they,
wheedle and caress only to strangle us, like those thieves the Egyptians
called Philistae; if the headache should come before drunkenness, we
should have a care of drinking too much; but pleasure, to deceive us,
marches before and conceals her train.  Books are pleasant, but if, by
being over-studious, we impair our health and spoil our goodhumour, the
best pieces we have, let us give it over; I, for my part, am one of those
who think, that no fruit derived from them can recompense so great a
loss.  As men who have long felt themselves weakened by indisposition,
give themselves up at last to the mercy of medicine and submit to certain
rules of living, which they are for the future never to transgress; so he
who retires, weary of and disgusted with the common way of living, ought
to model this new one he enters into by the rules of reason, and to
institute and establish it by premeditation and reflection.  He ought to
have taken leave of all sorts of labour, what advantage soever it may
promise, and generally to have shaken off all those passions which
disturb the tranquillity of body and soul, and then choose the way that
best suits with his own humour:

               “Unusquisque sua noverit ire via.”

In husbandry, study, hunting, and all other exercises, men are to proceed
to the utmost limits of pleasure, but must take heed of engaging further,
where trouble begins to mix with it.  We are to reserve so much
employment only as is necessary to keep us in breath and to defend us
from the inconveniences that the other extreme of a dull and stupid
laziness brings along with it.  There are sterile knotty sciences,
chiefly hammered out for the crowd; let such be left to them who are
engaged in the world’s service.  I for my part care for no other books,
but either such as are pleasant and easy, to amuse me, or those that
comfort and instruct me how to regulate my life and death:

               “Tacitum sylvas inter reptare salubres,
               Curantem, quidquid dignum sapienti bonoque est.”

     [“Silently meditating in the healthy groves, whatever is worthy
     of a wise and good man.”--Horace, Ep., i. 4, 4.]

Wiser men, having great force and vigour of soul, may propose to
themselves a rest wholly spiritual but for me, who have a very ordinary
soul, it is very necessary to support myself with bodily conveniences;
and age having of late deprived me of those pleasures that were more
acceptable to me, I instruct and whet my appetite to those that remain,
more suitable to this other reason.  We ought to hold with all our force,
both of hands and teeth, the use of the pleasures of life that our years,
one after another, snatch away from us:

                         “Carpamus dulcia; nostrum est,
               Quod vivis; cinis, et manes, et fabula fies.”

     [“Let us pluck life’s sweets, ‘tis for them we live: by and by we
     shall be ashes, a ghost, a mere subject of talk.”
      --Persius, Sat., v. 151.]

Now, as to the end that Pliny and Cicero propose to us of glory, ‘tis
infinitely wide of my account.  Ambition is of all others the most
contrary humour to solitude; glory and repose are things that cannot
possibly inhabit in one and the same place.  For so much as I understand,
these have only their arms and legs disengaged from the crowd; their soul
and intention remain confined behind more than ever:

          “Tun’, vetule, auriculis alienis colligis escas?”

     [“Dost thou, then, old man, collect food for others’ ears?”
      --Persius, Sat., i. 22.]

they have only retired to take a better leap, and by a stronger motion to
give a brisker charge into the crowd.  Will you see how they shoot short?
Let us put into the counterpoise the advice of two philosophers, of two
very different sects, writing, the one to Idomeneus, the other to
Lucilius, their friends, to retire into solitude from worldly honours and
affairs.  “You have,” say they, “hitherto lived swimming and floating;
come now and die in the harbour: you have given the first part of your
life to the light, give what remains to the shade.  It is impossible to
give over business, if you do not also quit the fruit; therefore
disengage yourselves from all concern of name and glory; ‘tis to be
feared the lustre of your former actions will give you but too much
light, and follow you into your most private retreat.  Quit with other
pleasures that which proceeds from the approbation of another man: and as
to your knowledge and parts, never concern yourselves; they will not lose
their effect if yourselves be the better for them.  Remember him, who
being asked why he took so much pains in an art that could come to the
knowledge of but few persons?  ‘A few are enough for me,’ replied he;
‘I have enough with one; I have enough with never an one.’--[Seneca, Ep.,
7.]--He said true; you and a companion are theatre enough to one
another, or you to yourself.  Let the people be to you one, and be you
one to the whole people.  ‘Tis an unworthy ambition to think to derive
glory from a man’s sloth and privacy: you are to do like the beasts of
chase, who efface the track at the entrance into their den.  You are no
more to concern yourself how the world talks of you, but how you are to
talk to yourself.  Retire yourself into yourself, but first prepare
yourself there to receive yourself: it were a folly to trust yourself in
your own hands, if you cannot govern yourself.  A man may miscarry alone
as well as in company.  Till you have rendered yourself one before whom
you dare not trip, and till you have a bashfulness and respect for

               “Obversentur species honestae animo;”

          [“Let honest things be ever present to the mind”
           --Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., ii. 22.]

present continually to your imagination Cato, Phocion, and Aristides, in
whose presence the fools themselves will hide their faults, and make them
controllers of all your intentions; should these deviate from virtue,
your respect to those will set you right; they will keep you in this way
to be contented with yourself; to borrow nothing of any other but
yourself; to stay and fix your soul in certain and limited thoughts,
wherein she may please herself, and having understood the true and real
goods, which men the more enjoy the more they understand, to rest
satisfied, without desire of prolongation of life or name.”  This is the
precept of the true and natural philosophy, not of a boasting and prating
philosophy, such as that of the two former.


     A man must either imitate the vicious or hate them
     Abhorrence of the patient are necessary circumstances
     Acquire by his writings an immortal life
     Addict thyself to the study of letters
     Always the perfect religion
     And hate him so as you were one day to love him
     Archer that shoots over, misses as much as he that falls short
     Art that could come to the knowledge of but few persons
     Being over-studious, we impair our health and spoil our humour
     By the misery of this life, aiming at bliss in another
     Carnal appetites only supported by use and exercise
     Coming out of the same hole
     Common friendships will admit of division
     Dost thou, then, old man, collect food for others’ ears?
     Either tranquil life, or happy death
     Enslave our own contentment to the power of another?
     Entertain us with fables: astrologers and physicians
     Everything has many faces and several aspects
     Extremity of philosophy is hurtful
     Friendships that the law and natural obligation impose upon us
     Gewgaw to hang in a cabinet or at the end of the tongue
     Gratify the gods and nature by massacre and murder
     He took himself along with him
     He will choose to be alone
     Headache should come before drunkenness
     High time to die when there is more ill than good in living
     Honour of valour consists in fighting, not in subduing
     How uncertain duration these accidental conveniences are
     I bequeath to Areteus the maintenance of my mother
     I for my part always went the plain way to work.
     I love temperate and moderate natures.
     Impostures: very strangeness lends them credit
     In solitude, be company for thyself.--Tibullus
     In the meantime, their halves were begging at their doors
     Interdict all gifts betwixt man and wife
     It is better to die than to live miserable
     Judge by the eye of reason, and not from common report
     Knot is not so sure that a man may not half suspect it will slip
     Lascivious poet: Homer
     Laying themselves low to avoid the danger of falling
     Leave society when we can no longer add anything to it
     Little less trouble in governing a private family than a kingdom
     Love we bear to our wives is very lawful
     Man (must) know that he is his own
     Men should furnish themselves with such things as would float
     Methinks I am no more than half of myself
     Must for the most part entertain ourselves with ourselves
     Never represent things to you simply as they are
     No effect of virtue, to have stronger arms and legs
     Not in a condition to lend must forbid himself to borrow
     Nothing is so firmly believed, as what we least know
     O my friends, there is no friend: Aristotle
     Oftentimes agitated with divers passions
     Ordinary friendships, you are to walk with bridle in your hand
     Ought not only to have his hands, but his eyes, too, chaste
     Our judgments are yet sick
     Perfect friendship I speak of is indivisible
     Phusicians cure by by misery and pain
     Prefer in bed, beauty before goodness
     Pretending to find out the cause of every accident
     Reputation: most useless, frivolous, and false coin that passes
     Reserve a backshop, wholly our own and entirely free
     Rest satisfied, without desire of prolongation of life or name
     Stilpo lost wife, children, and goods
     Stilpo: thank God, nothing was lost of his
     Take two sorts of grist out of the same sack
     Taking things upon trust from vulgar opinion
     Tearing a body limb from limb by racks and torments
     The consequence of common examples
     There are defeats more triumphant than victories
     They can neither lend nor give anything to one another
     They have yet touched nothing of that which is mine
     They must be very hard to please, if they are not contented
     Things that engage us elsewhere and separate us from ourselves
     This decay of nature which renders him useless, burdensome
     This plodding occupation of bookes is as painfull as any other
     Those immodest and debauched tricks and postures
     Though I be engaged to one forme, I do not tie the world unto it
     Title of barbarism to everything that is not familiar
     To give a currency to his little pittance of learning
     To make their private advantage at the public expense
     Under fortune’s favour, to prepare myself for her disgrace
     Vice of confining their belief to their own capacity
     We have lived enough for others
     We have more curiosity than capacity
     We still carry our fetters along with us
     When time begins to wear things out of memory
     Wherever the mind is perplexed, it is in an entire disorder
     Who can  flee from himself
     Wise man never loses anything if he have himself
     Wise whose invested money is visible in beautiful villas
     Write what he knows, and as much as he knows, but no more
     You and companion are theatre enough to one another


Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazlitt



XXXIX.    A consideration upon Cicero.
XL.       That the relish of good and evil depends in a great measure
          upon opinion.
XLI.      Not to communicate a man’s honour.
XLII.     Of the inequality amongst us.
XLIII.    Of sumptuary laws.
XLIV.     Of sleep.
XLV.      Of the battle of Dreux.
XLVI.     Of names.
XLVII.    Of the uncertainty of our judgment.



One word more by way of comparison betwixt these two.  There are to be
gathered out of the writings of Cicero and the younger Pliny (but little,
in my opinion, resembling his uncle in his humours) infinite testimonies
of a beyond measure ambitious nature; and amongst others, this for one,
that they both, in the sight of all the world, solicit the historians of
their time not to forget them in their memoirs; and fortune, as if in
spite, has made the vanity of those requests live upon record down to
this age of ours, while she has long since consigned the histories
themselves to oblivion.  But this exceeds all meanness of spirit in
persons of such a quality as they were, to think to derive any great
renown from babbling and prating; even to the publishing of their private
letters to their friends, and so withal, that though some of them were
never sent, the opportunity being lost, they nevertheless presented them
to the light, with this worthy excuse that they were unwilling to lose
their labours and lucubrations.  Was it not very well becoming two
consuls of Rome, sovereign magistrates of the republic that commanded
the world, to spend their leisure in contriving quaint and elegant
missives, thence to gain the reputation of being versed in their own
mother-tongues?  What could a pitiful schoolmaster have done worse, whose
trade it was thereby to get his living?  If the acts of Xenophon and
Caesar had not far transcended their eloquence, I scarce believe they
would ever have taken the pains to have written them; they made it their
business to recommend not their speaking, but their doing.  And could the
perfection of eloquence have added a lustre suitable to a great
personage, certainly Scipio and Laelius had never resigned the honour of
their comedies, with all the luxuriances and elegances of the Latin
tongue, to an African slave; for that the work was theirs, its beauty and
excellence sufficiently declare; Terence himself confesses as much, and I
should take it ill from any one that would dispossess me of that belief.

‘Tis a kind of mockery and offence to extol a man for qualities
misbecoming his condition, though otherwise commendable in themselves,
but such as ought not, however, to be his chief talent; as if a man
should commend a king for being a good painter, a good architect, a good
marksman, or a good runner at the ring: commendations that add no honour,
unless mentioned altogether and in the train of those that are properly
applicable to him, namely, justice and the science of governing and
conducting his people both in peace and war.  At this rate, agriculture
was an honour to Cyrus, and eloquence and the knowledge of letters to
Charlemagne.  I have in my time known some, who by writing acquired both
their titles and fortune, disown their apprenticeship, corrupt their
style, and affect ignorance in so vulgar a quality (which also our nation
holds to be rarely seen in very learned hands), and to seek a reputation
by better qualities.  Demosthenes’ companions in the embassy to Philip,
extolling that prince as handsome, eloquent, and a stout drinker,
Demosthenes said that those were commendations more proper for a woman,
an advocate, or a sponge, than for a king’:

                    “Imperet bellante prior, jacentem
                    Lenis in hostem.”

     [“In the fight, overthrow your enemy, but be merciful to him when
     fallen.--“Horace, Carm. Saec., v. 51.]

‘Tis not his profession to know either how to hunt or to dance well;

               “Orabunt causas alii, coelique meatus
               Describent radio, et fulgentia sidera dicent;
               Hic regere imperio populos sciat.”

     [“Let others plead at the bar, or describe the spheres, and point
     out the glittering stars; let this man learn to rule the nations.”
      --AEneid, vi. 849.]

Plutarch says, moreover, that to appear so excellent in these less
necessary qualities is to produce witness against a man’s self, that he
has spent his time and applied his study ill, which ought to have been
employed in the acquisition of more necessary and more useful things.
So that Philip, king of Macedon, having heard that great Alexander his
son sing once at a feast to the wonder of the best musicians there: “Art
thou not ashamed,” said he to him, “to sing so well?” And to the same
Philip a musician, with whom he was disputing about some things
concerning his art: “Heaven forbid, sir,” said he, “that so great a
misfortune should ever befall you as to understand these things better
than I.”  A king should be able to answer as Iphicrates did the orator,
who pressed upon him in his invective after this manner: “And what art
thou that thou bravest it at this rate?  art thou a man at arms, art thou
an archer, art thou a pikeman?”--“I am none of all this; but I know how
to command all these.”  And Antisthenes took it for an argument of little
value in Ismenias that he was commended for playing excellently well upon
a flute.

I know very well, that when I hear any one dwell upon the language of my
essays, I had rather a great deal he would say nothing: ‘tis not so much
to elevate the style as to depress the sense, and so much the more
offensively as they do it obliquely; and yet I am much deceived if many
other writers deliver more worth noting as to the matter, and, how well
or ill soever, if any other writer has sown things much more materials or
at all events more downright, upon his paper than myself.  To bring the
more in, I only muster up the heads; should I annex the sequel, I should
trebly multiply the volume.  And how many stories have I scattered up and
down in this book that I only touch upon, which, should any one more
curiously search into, they would find matter enough to produce infinite
essays.  Neither those stories nor my quotations always serve simply for
example, authority, or ornament; I do not only regard them for the use I
make of them: they carry sometimes besides what I apply them to, the seed
of a more rich and a bolder matter, and sometimes, collaterally, a more
delicate sound both to myself who will say no more about it in this
place, and to others who shall be of my humour.

But returning to the speaking virtue: I find no great choice betwixt not
knowing to speak anything but ill, and not knowing to speak anything but

               “Non est ornamentum virile concimitas.”

          [“A carefully arranged dress is no manly ornament.”
           --Seneca, Ep., 115.]

The sages tell us that, as to what concerns knowledge, ‘tis nothing but
philosophy; and as to what concerns effects, nothing but virtue, which is
generally proper to all degrees and to all orders.

There is something like this in these two other philosophers, for they
also promise eternity to the letters they write to their friends; but
‘tis after another manner, and by accommodating themselves, for a good
end, to the vanity of another; for they write to them that if the concern
of making themselves known to future ages, and the thirst of glory, do
yet detain them in the management of public affairs, and make them fear
the solitude and retirement to which they would persuade them, let them
never trouble themselves more about it, forasmuch as they shall have
credit enough with posterity to ensure them that were there nothing else
but the letters thus written to them, those letters will render their
names as known and famous as their own public actions could do.  And
besides this difference, these are not idle and empty letters, that
contain nothing but a fine jingle of well-chosen words and delicate
couched phrases, but rather replete and abounding with grand discourses
of reason, by which a man may render himself not more eloquent, but more
wise, and that instruct us not to speak, but to do well.  Away with that
eloquence that enchants us with itself, and not with actual things!
unless you will allow that of Cicero to be of so supreme a perfection as
to form a complete body of itself.

I shall farther add one story we read of him to this purpose, wherein his
nature will much more manifestly be laid open to us.  He was to make an
oration in public, and found himself a little straitened for time to make
himself ready at his ease; when Eros, one of his slaves, brought him word
that the audience was deferred till the next day, at which he was so
ravished with joy that he enfranchised him for the good news.

Upon this subject of letters, I will add this more to what has been
already said, that it is a kind of writing wherein my friends think I can
do something; and I am willing to confess I should rather have chosen to
publish my whimsies that way than any other, had I had to whom to write;
but I wanted such a settled intercourse, as I once had, to attract me to
it, to raise my fancy, and to support me.  For to traffic with the wind,
as some others have done, and to forge vain names to direct my letters
to, in a serious subject, I could never do it but in a dream, being a
sworn enemy to all manner of falsification.  I should have been more
diligent and more confident had I had a judicious and indulgent friend
whom to address, than thus to expose myself to the various judgments of a
whole people, and I am deceived if I had not succeeded better.  I have
naturally a humorous and familiar style; but it is a style of my own, not
proper for public business, but, like the language I speak, too compact,
irregular, abrupt, and singular; and as to letters of ceremony that have
no other substance than a fine contexture of courteous words, I am wholly
to seek.  I have neither faculty nor relish for those tedious tenders of
service and affection; I believe little in them from others, and I should
not forgive myself should I say to others more than I myself believe.
‘Tis, doubtless, very remote from the present practice; for there never
was so abject and servile prostitution of offers: life, soul, devotion,
adoration, vassal, slave, and I cannot tell what, as now; all which
expressions are so commonly and so indifferently posted to and fro by
every one and to every one, that when they would profess a greater and
more respectful inclination upon more just occasions, they have not
wherewithal to express it.  I mortally hate all air of flattery, which is
the cause that I naturally fall into a shy, rough, and crude way of
speaking, that, to such as do not know me, may seem a little to relish of
disdain.  I honour those most to whom I show the least honour, and where
my soul moves with the greatest cheerfulness, I easily forget the
ceremonies of look and gesture, and offer myself faintly and bluntly to
them to whom I am the most devoted: methinks they should read it in my
heart, and that the expression of my words does but injure the love I
have conceived within.  To welcome, take leave, give thanks, accost,
offer my service, and such verbal formalities as the ceremonious laws of
our modern civility enjoin, I know no man so stupidly unprovided of
language as myself; and I have never been employed in writing letters of
favour and recommendation, that he, in whose behalf it was written, did
not think my mediation cold and imperfect.  The Italians are great
printers of letters; I do believe I have at least an hundred several
volumes of them; of all which those of Annibale Caro seem to me to be the
best.  If all the paper I have scribbled to the ladies at the time when
my hand was really prompted by my passion, were now in being, there
might, peradventure, be found a page worthy to be communicated to our
young inamoratos, that are besotted with that fury.  I always write my
letters post-haste--so precipitately, that though I write intolerably
ill, I rather choose to do it myself, than to employ another; for I can
find none able to follow me: and I never transcribe any.  I have
accustomed the great ones who know me to endure my blots and dashes, and
upon paper without fold or margin.  Those that cost me the most pains,
are the worst; when I once begin to draw it in by head and shoulders,
‘tis a sign that I am not there.  I fall too without premeditation or
design; the first word begets the second, and so to the end of the
chapter.  The letters of this age consist more in fine edges and prefaces
than in matter.  Just as I had rather write two letters than close and
fold up one, and always assign that employment to some other, so, when
the real business of my letter is dispatched, I would with all my heart
transfer it to another hand to add those long harangues, offers, and
prayers, that we place at the bottom, and should be glad that some new
custom would discharge us of that trouble; as also of superscribing them
with a long legend of qualities and titles, which for fear of mistakes,
I have often not written at all, and especially to men of the long robe
and finance; there are so many new offices, such a dispensation and
ordering of titles of honour, that ‘tis hard to set them forth aright
yet, being so dearly bought, they are neither to be altered nor forgotten
without offence.  I find it equally in bad taste to encumber the fronts
and inscriptions of the books we commit to the press with such.



Men (says an ancient Greek sentence)--[Manual of Epictetus, c. 10.]--
are tormented with the opinions they have of things and not by the things
themselves.  It were a great victory obtained for the relief of our
miserable human condition, could this proposition be established for
certain and true throughout.  For if evils have no admission into us but
by the judgment we ourselves make of them, it should seem that it is,
then, in our own power to despise them or to turn them to good.  If
things surrender themselves to our mercy, why do we not convert and
accommodate them to our advantage?  If what we call evil and torment is
neither evil nor torment of itself, but only that our fancy gives it that
quality, it is in us to change it, and it being in our own choice, if
there be no constraint upon us, we must certainly be very strange fools
to take arms for that side which is most offensive to us, and to give
sickness, want, and contempt a bitter and nauseous taste, if it be in our
power to give them a pleasant relish, and if, fortune simply providing
the matter, ‘tis for us to give it the form.  Now, that what we call evil
is not so of itself, or at least to that degree that we make it, and that
it depends upon us to give it another taste and complexion (for all comes
to one), let us examine how that can be maintained.

If the original being of those things we fear had power to lodge itself
in us by its own authority, it would then lodge itself alike, and in like
manner, in all; for men are all of the same kind, and saving in greater
and less proportions, are all provided with the same utensils and
instruments to conceive and to judge; but the diversity of opinions we
have of those things clearly evidences that they only enter us by
composition; one person, peradventure, admits them in their true being,
but a thousand others give them a new and contrary being in them.  We
hold death, poverty, and pain for our principal enemies; now, this death,
which some repute the most dreadful of all dreadful things, who does not
know that others call it the only secure harbour from the storms and
tempests of life, the sovereign good of nature, the sole support of
liberty, and the common and prompt remedy of all evils?  And as the one
expect it with fear and trembling, the others support it with greater
ease than life.  That one complains of its facility:

          “Mors! utinam pavidos vitae subducere nolles.
          Sed virtus to sola daret!”

     [“O death! wouldst that thou might spare the coward, but that
     valour alone should pay thee tribute.”--Lucan, iv. 580.]

Now, let us leave these boastful courages.  Theodorus answered
Lysimachus, who threatened to kill him, “Thou wilt do a brave feat,” said
he, “to attain the force of a cantharides.”  The majority of philosophers
are observed to have either purposely anticipated, or hastened and
assisted their own death.  How many ordinary people do we see led to
execution, and that not to a simple death, but mixed with shame and
sometimes with grievous torments, appear with such assurance, whether
through firm courage or natural simplicity, that a man can discover no
change from their ordinary condition; settling their domestic affairs,
commending themselves to their friends, singing, preaching, and
addressing the people, nay, sometimes sallying into jests, and drinking
to their companions, quite as well as Socrates?

One that they were leading to the gallows told them they must not take
him through such a street, lest a merchant who lived there should arrest
him by the way for an old debt.  Another told the hangman he must not
touch his neck for fear of making him laugh, he was so ticklish.  Another
answered his confessor, who promised him he should that day sup with our
Lord, “Do you go then,” said he, “in my room [place]; for I for my part
keep fast to-day.”  Another having called for drink, and the hangman
having drunk first, said he would not drink after him, for fear of
catching some evil disease.  Everybody has heard the tale of the Picard,
to whom, being upon the ladder, they presented a common wench, telling
him (as our law does some times permit) that if he would marry her they
would save his life; he, having a while considered her and perceiving
that she halted: “Come, tie up, tie up,” said he, “she limps.”  And they
tell another story of the same kind of a fellow in Denmark, who being
condemned to lose his head, and the like condition being proposed to him
upon the scaffold, refused it, by reason the girl they offered him had
hollow cheeks and too sharp a nose.  A servant at Toulouse being accused
of heresy, for the sum of his belief referred himself to that of his
master, a young student, prisoner with him, choosing rather to die than
suffer himself to be persuaded that his master could err.  We read that
of the inhabitants of Arras, when Louis XI. took that city, a great many
let themselves be hanged rather than they would say, “God save the King.”
 And amongst that mean-souled race of men, the buffoons, there have been
some who would not leave their fooling at the very moment of death.  One
that the hang man was turning off the ladder cried:  “Launch the galley,”
 an ordinary saying of his.  Another, whom at the point of death his
friends had laid upon a bed of straw before the fire, the physician
asking him where his pain lay: “Betwixt the bench and the fire,” said he,
and the priest, to give him extreme unction, groping for his feet which
his pain had made him pull up to him: “You will find them,” said he, “at
the end of my legs.”  To one who being present exhorted him to recommend
himself to God: “Why, who goes thither?”  said he; and the other
replying: “It will presently be yourself, if it be His good pleasure.”
 “Shall I be sure to be there by to-morrow night?” said he.  “Do, but
recommend yourself to Him,” said the other, “and you will soon be there.”
 “I were best then,” said he, “to carry my recommendations myself.”

In the kingdom of Narsingah to this day the wives of their priests are
buried alive with the bodies of their husbands; all other wives are burnt
at their husbands’ funerals, which they not only firmly but cheerfully
undergo.  At the death of their king, his wives and concubines, his
favourites, all his officers, and domestic servants, who make up a whole
people, present themselves so gaily to the fire where his body is burnt,
that they seem to take it for a singular honour to accompany their master
in death.  During our late wars of Milan, where there happened so many
takings and retakings of towns, the people, impatient of so many changes
of fortune, took such a resolution to die, that I have heard my father
say he there saw a list taken of five-and-twenty masters of families who
made themselves away in one week’s time: an incident somewhat resembling
that of the Xanthians, who being besieged by Brutus, fell--men, women,
and children--into such a furious appetite of dying, that nothing can be
done to evade death which they did not to avoid life; insomuch that
Brutus had much difficulty in saving a very small number.--[“Only fifty
were saved.”--Plutarch, Life of Brutus, c. 8.]

Every opinion is of force enough to cause itself to be espoused at the
expense of life.  The first article of that valiant oath that Greece took
and observed in the Median war, was that every one should sooner exchange
life for death, than their own laws for those of Persia.  What a world of
people do we see in the wars betwixt the Turks and the Greeks, rather
embrace a cruel death than uncircumcise themselves to admit of baptism?
An example of which no sort of religion is incapable.

The kings of Castile having banished the Jews out of their dominions,
John, King of Portugal, in consideration of eight crowns a head, sold
them a retreat into his for a certain limited time, upon condition that
the time fixed coming to expire they should begone, and he to furnish
them with shipping to transport them into Africa.  The day comes, which
once lapsed they were given to understand that such as were afterward
found in the kingdom should remain slaves; vessels were very slenderly
provided; and those who embarked in them were rudely and villainously
used by the passengers, who, besides other indignities, kept them
cruising upon the sea, one while forwards and another backwards, till
they had spent all their provisions, and were constrained to buy of them
at so dear a rate and so long withal, that they set them not on shore
till they were all stripped to the very shirts.  The news of this inhuman
usage being brought to those who remained behind, the greater part of
them resolved upon slavery and some made a show of changing religion.
Emmanuel, the successor of John, being come to the crown, first set them
at liberty, and afterwards altering his mind, ordered them to depart his
country, assigning three ports for their passage.  He hoped, says Bishop
Osorius, no contemptible Latin historian of these later times, that the
favour of the liberty he had given them having failed of converting them
to Christianity, yet the difficulty of committing themselves to the mercy
of the mariners and of abandoning a country they were now habituated to
and were grown very rich in, to go and expose themselves in strange and
unknown regions, would certainly do it.  But finding himself deceived in
his expectation, and that they were all resolved upon the voyage, he cut
off two of the three ports he had promised them, to the end that the
length and incommodity of the passage might reduce some, or that he might
have opportunity, by crowding them all into one place, the more
conveniently to execute what he had designed, which was to force all the
children under fourteen years of age from the arms of their fathers and
mothers, to transport them from their sight and conversation, into a
place where they might be instructed and brought up in our religion.  He
says that this produced a most horrid spectacle the natural affection
betwixt the parents and their children, and moreover their zeal to their
ancient belief, contending against this violent decree, fathers and
mothers were commonly seen making themselves away, and by a yet much more
rigorous example, precipitating out of love and compassion their young
children into wells and pits, to avoid the severity of this law.  As to
the remainder of them, the time that had been prefixed being expired,
for want of means to transport them they again returned into slavery.
Some also turned Christians, upon whose faith, as also that of their
posterity, even to this day, which is a hundred years since, few
Portuguese can yet rely; though custom and length of time are much more
powerful counsellors in such changes than all other constraints whatever.
In the town of Castelnaudari, fifty heretic Albigeois at one time
suffered themselves to be burned alive in one fire rather than they would
renounce their opinions.

     “Quoties non modo ductores nostri, sed universi etiam exercitus,
     ad non dubiam mortem concurrerunt?”

     [“How often have not only our leaders, but whole armies, run to a
     certain and manifest death.”--Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., i. 37.]

I have seen an intimate friend of mine run headlong upon death with a
real affection, and that was rooted in his heart by divers plausible
arguments which he would never permit me to dispossess him of, and upon
the first honourable occasion that offered itself to him, precipitate
himself into it, without any manner of visible reason, with an obstinate
and ardent desire of dying.  We have several examples in our own times of
persons, even young children, who for fear of some little inconvenience
have despatched themselves.  And what shall we not fear, says one of the
ancients--[Seneca, Ep., 70.]--to this purpose, if we dread that which
cowardice itself has chosen for its refuge?

Should I here produce a long catalogue of those, of all sexes and
conditions and sects, even in the most happy ages, who have either with
great constancy looked death in the face, or voluntarily sought it, and
sought it not only to avoid the evils of this life, but some purely to
avoid the satiety of living, and others for the hope of a better
condition elsewhere, I should never have done.  Nay, the number is so
infinite that in truth I should have a better bargain on’t to reckon up
those who have feared it.  This one therefore shall serve for all:
Pyrrho the philosopher being one day in a boat in a very great tempest,
shewed to those he saw the most affrighted about him, and encouraged
them, by the example of a hog that was there, nothing at all concerned at
the storm.  Shall we then dare to say that this advantage of reason, of
which we so much boast, and upon the account of which we think ourselves
masters and emperors over the rest of all creation, was given us for a
torment?  To what end serves the knowledge of things if it renders us
more unmanly? if we thereby lose the tranquillity and repose we should
enjoy without it? and if it put us into a worse condition than Pyrrho’s
hog?  Shall we employ the understanding that was conferred upon us for
our greatest good to our own ruin; setting ourselves against the design
of nature and the universal order of things, which intend that every one
should make use of the faculties, members, and means he has to his own
best advantage?

But it may, peradventure, be objected against me: Your rule is true
enough as to what concerns death; but what will you say of indigence?
What will you, moreover, say of pain, which Aristippus, Hieronimus, and
most of the sages have reputed the worst of evils; and those who have
denied it by word of mouth have, however, confessed it in effect?
Posidonius being extremely tormented with a sharp and painful disease,
Pompeius came to visit him, excusing himself that he had taken so
unseasonable a time to come to hear him discourse of philosophy.
“The gods forbid,” said Posidonius to him, “that pain should ever have
the power to hinder me from talking,” and thereupon fell immediately upon
a discourse of the contempt of pain: but, in the meantime, his own
infirmity was playing his part, and plagued him to purpose; to which he
cried out, “Thou mayest work thy will, pain, and torment me with all the
power thou hast, but thou shalt never make me say that thou art an evil.”
 This story that they make such a clutter withal, what has it to do,
I fain would know, with the contempt of pain?  He only fights it with
words, and in the meantime, if the shootings and dolours he felt did not
move him, why did he interrupt his discourse?  Why did he fancy he did so
great a thing in forbearing to confess it an evil?  All does not here
consist in the imagination; our fancies may work upon other things: but
here is the certain science that is playing its part, of which our senses
themselves are judges:

          “Qui nisi sunt veri, ratio quoque falsa sit omnis.”

     [“Which, if they be not true, all reasoning may also be false.
     --“Lucretius, iv. 486.]

Shall we persuade our skins that the jerks of a whip agreeably tickle us,
or our taste that a potion of aloes is vin de Graves?  Pyrrho’s hog is
here in the same predicament with us; he is not afraid of death, ‘tis
true, but if you beat him he will cry out to some purpose.  Shall we
force the general law of nature, which in every living creature under
heaven is seen to tremble under pain?  The very trees seem to groan under
the blows they receive.  Death is only felt by reason, forasmuch as it is
the motion of an instant;

         “Aut fuit, aut veniet; nihil est praesentis in illa.”

     [“Death has been, or will come: there is nothing of the present in
     it.”--Estienne de la Boetie, Satires.]

          “Morsque minus poenae, quam mora mortis, habet;”

     [“The delay of death is more painful than death itself.”
      --Ovid, Ep. Ariadne to Theseus, v. 42.]

a thousand beasts, a thousand men, are sooner dead than threatened.  That
also which we principally pretend to fear in death is pain, its ordinary
forerunner: yet, if we may believe a holy father:

          “Malam mortem non facit, nisi quod sequitur mortem.”

          [“That which follows death makes death bad.”
           --St. Augustin, De Civit. Dei, i. ii.]

And I should yet say, more probably, that neither that which goes before
nor that which follows after is at all of the appurtenances of death.

We excuse ourselves falsely: and I find by experience that it is rather
the impatience of the imagination of death that makes us impatient of
pain, and that we find it doubly grievous as it threatens us with death.
But reason accusing our cowardice for fearing a thing so sudden, so
inevitable, and so insensible, we take the other as the more excusable
pretence.  All ills that carry no other danger along with them but simply
the evils themselves, we treat as things of no danger: the toothache or
the gout, painful as they are, yet being not reputed mortal, who reckons
them in the catalogue of diseases?

But let us presuppose that in death we principally regard the pain; as
also there is nothing to be feared in poverty but the miseries it brings
along with it of thirst, hunger, cold, heat, watching, and the other
inconveniences it makes us suffer, still we have nothing to do with
anything but pain.  I will grant, and very willingly, that it is the
worst incident of our being (for I am the man upon earth who the most
hates and avoids it, considering that hitherto, I thank God, I have had
so little traffic with it), but still it is in us, if not to annihilate,
at least to lessen it by patience; and though the body and the reason
should mutiny, to maintain the soul, nevertheless, in good condition.
Were it not so, who had ever given reputation to virtue; valour, force,
magnanimity, and resolution?  where were their parts to be played if
there were no pain to be defied?

               “Avida est periculi virtus.”

     [“Courage is greedy of danger.”--Seneca, De Providentia, c. 4]

Were there no lying upon the hard ground, no enduring, armed at all
points, the meridional heats, no feeding upon the flesh of horses and
asses, no seeing a man’s self hacked and hewed to pieces, no suffering a
bullet to be pulled out from amongst the shattered bones, no sewing up,
cauterising and searching of wounds, by what means were the advantage we
covet to have over the vulgar to be acquired?  ‘Tis far from flying evil
and pain, what the sages say, that of actions equally good, a man should
most covet to perform that wherein there is greater labour and pain.

          “Non est enim hilaritate, nec lascivia, nec risu, aut joco
          comite levitatis, sed saepe etiam tristes firmitate et
          constantia sunt beati.”

     [“For men are not only happy by mirth and wantonness, by laughter
     and jesting, the companion of levity, but ofttimes the serious sort
     reap felicity from their firmness and constancy.”
      --Cicero, De Finib. ii. 10.]

And for this reason it has ever been impossible to persuade our
forefathers but that the victories obtained by dint of force and the
hazard of war were not more honourable than those performed in great
security by stratagem or practice:

          “Laetius est, quoties magno sibi constat honestum.”

     [“A good deed is all the more a satisfaction by how much the more
     it has cost us”--Lucan, ix. 404.]

Besides, this ought to be our comfort, that naturally, if the pain be
violent, ‘tis but short; and if long, nothing violent:

                        “Si gravis, brevis;
                         Si longus, levis.”

Thou wilt not feel it long if thou feelest it too much; it will either
put an end to itself or to thee; it comes to the same thing; if thou
canst not support it, it will export thee:

     [“Remember that the greatest pains are terminated by death; that
     slighter pains have long intermissions of repose, and that we are
     masters of the more moderate sort: so that, if they be tolerable,
     we bear them; if not, we can go out of life, as from a theatre, when
     it does not please us”--Cicero, De Finib. i. 15.]

That which makes us suffer pain with so much impatience is the not being
accustomed to repose our chiefest contentment in the soul; that we do not
enough rely upon her who is the sole and sovereign mistress of our
condition.  The body, saving in the greater or less proportion, has but
one and the same bent and bias; whereas the soul is variable into all
sorts of forms; and subject to herself and to her own empire, all things
whatsoever, both the senses of the body and all other accidents: and
therefore it is that we ought to study her, to inquire into her, and to
rouse up all her powerful faculties.  There is neither reason, force, nor
prescription that can anything prevail against her inclination and
choice.  Of so many thousands of biases that she has at her disposal, let
us give her one proper to our repose and conversation, and then we shall
not only be sheltered and secured from all manner of injury and offence,
but moreover gratified and obliged, if she will, with evils and offences.
She makes her profit indifferently of all things; error, dreams, serve
her to good use, as loyal matter to lodge us in safety and contentment.
‘Tis plain enough to be seen that ‘tis the sharpness of our mind that
gives the edge to our pains and pleasures: beasts that have no such
thing, leave to their bodies their own free and natural sentiments, and
consequently in every kind very near the same, as appears by the
resembling application of their motions.  If we would not disturb in our
members the jurisdiction that appertains to them in this, ‘tis to be
believed it would be the better for us, and that nature has given them a
just and moderate temper both to pleasure and pain; neither can it fail
of being just, being equal and common.  But seeing we have enfranchised
ourselves from her rules to give ourselves up to the rambling liberty of
our own fancies, let us at least help to incline them to the most
agreeable side.  Plato fears our too vehemently engaging ourselves with
pain and pleasure, forasmuch as these too much knit and ally the soul to
the body; whereas I rather, quite contrary, by reason it too much
separates and disunites them.  As an enemy is made more fierce by our
flight, so pain grows proud to see us truckle under her.  She will
surrender upon much better terms to them who make head against her: a man
must oppose and stoutly set himself against her.  In retiring and giving
ground, we invite and pull upon ourselves the ruin that threatens us.  As
the body is more firm in an encounter, the more stiffly and obstinately
it applies itself to it, so is it with the soul.

But let us come to examples, which are the proper game of folks of such
feeble force as myself; where we shall find that it is with pain as with
stones, that receive a brighter or a duller lustre according to the foil
they are set in, and that it has no more room in us than we are pleased
to allow it:

          “Tantum doluerunt, quantum doloribus se inseruerunt.”

     [“They suffered so much the more, by how much more they gave way to
     suffering.”--St. Augustin, De Civit. Dei, i. 10.]

We are more sensible of one little touch of a surgeon’s lancet than of
twenty wounds with a sword in the heat of fight.  The pains of
childbearing, said by the physicians and by God himself to be great, and
which we pass through with so many ceremonies--there are whole nations
that make nothing of them.  I set aside the Lacedaemonian women, but what
else do you find in the Swiss among our foot-soldiers, if not that, as
they trot after their husbands, you see them to-day carry the child at
their necks that they carried yesterday in their bellies?  The
counterfeit Egyptians we have amongst us go themselves to wash theirs,
so soon as they come into the world, and bathe in the first river they
meet.  Besides so many wenches as daily drop their children by stealth,
as they conceived them, that fair and noble wife of Sabinus, a patrician
of Rome, for another’s interest, endured alone, without help, without
crying out, or so much as a groan, the bearing of twins.--[Plutarch, On
Love, c.  34.]--A poor simple boy of Lacedaemon having stolen a fox (for
they more fear the shame of stupidity in stealing than we do the
punishment of the knavery), and having got it under his coat, rather
endured the tearing out of his bowels than he would discover his theft.
And another offering incense at a sacrifice, suffered himself to be
burned to the bone by a coal that fell into his sleeve, rather than
disturb the ceremony.  And there have been a great number, for a sole
trial of virtue, following their institutions, who have at seven years
old endured to be whipped to death without changing their countenance.
And Cicero has seen them fight in parties, with fists, feet, and teeth,
till they have fainted and sunk down, rather than confess themselves

     [“Custom could never conquer nature; she is ever invincible; but we
     have infected the mind with shadows, delights, negligence, sloth;
     we have grown effeminate through opinions and corrupt morality.”
      --Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., v. 27.]

Every one knows the story of Scaevola, that having slipped into the
enemy’s camp to kill their general, and having missed his blow, to repair
his fault, by a more strange invention and to deliver his country, he
boldly confessed to Porsenna, who was the king he had a purpose to kill,
not only his design, but moreover added that there were then in the camp
a great number of Romans, his accomplices in the enterprise, as good men
as he; and to show what a one he himself was, having caused a pan of
burning coals to be brought, he saw and endured his arm to broil and
roast, till the king himself, conceiving horror at the sight, commanded
the pan to be taken away.  What would you say of him that would not
vouchsafe to respite his reading in a book whilst he was under incision?
And of the other that persisted to mock and laugh in contempt of the
pains inflicted upon him; so that the provoked cruelty of the
executioners that had him in handling, and all the inventions of tortures
redoubled upon him, one after another, spent in vain, gave him the
bucklers?  But he was a philosopher.  But what! a gladiator of Caesar’s
endured, laughing all the while, his wounds to be searched, lanced, and
laid open:

     [“What ordinary gladiator ever groaned?  Which of them ever changed
     countenance?  Which of them not only stood or fell indecorously?
     Which, when he had fallen and was commanded to receive the stroke of
     the sword, contracted his neck.”--Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., ii. 17.]

Let us bring in the women too.  Who has not heard at Paris of her that
caused her face to be flayed only for the fresher complexion of a new
skin?  There are who have drawn good and sound teeth to make their voices
more soft and sweet, or to place the other teeth in better order.  How
many examples of the contempt of pain have we in that sex?  What can they
not do, what do they fear to do, for never so little hope of an addition
to their beauty?

               “Vallere queis cura est albos a stirpe capillos,
               Et faciem, dempta pelle, referre novam.”

     [“Who carefully pluck out their grey hairs by the roots, and renew
     their faces by peeling off the old skin.”--Tibullus, i. 8, 45.]

I have seen some of them swallow sand, ashes, and do their utmost to
destroy their stomachs to get pale complexions.  To make a fine Spanish
body, what racks will they not endure of girding and bracing, till they
have notches in their sides cut into the very quick, and sometimes to

It is an ordinary thing with several nations at this day to wound
themselves in good earnest to gain credit to what they profess; of which
our king, relates notable examples of what he has seen in Poland and done
towards himself.--[Henry III.]--But besides this, which I know to have
been imitated by some in France, when I came from that famous assembly of
the Estates at Blois, I had a little before seen a maid in Picardy, who
to manifest the ardour of her promises, as also her constancy, give
herself, with a bodkin she wore in her hair, four or five good lusty
stabs in the arm, till the blood gushed out to some purpose.  The Turks
give themselves great scars in honour of their mistresses, and to the end
they may the longer remain, they presently clap fire to the wound, where
they hold it an incredible time to stop the blood and form the cicatrice;
people that have been eyewitnesses of it have both written and sworn it
to me.  But for ten aspers--[A Turkish coin worth about a penny]--there
are there every day fellows to be found that will give themselves a good
deep slash in the arms or thighs.  I am willing, however, to have the
testimonies nearest to us when we have most need of them; for Christendom
furnishes us with enough.  After the example of our blessed Guide there
have been many who have crucified themselves.  We learn by testimony very
worthy of belief, that King St. Louis wore a hair-shirt till in his old
age his confessor gave him a dispensation to leave it off; and that every
Friday he caused his shoulders to be drubbed by his priest with five
small chains of iron which were always carried about amongst his night
accoutrements for that purpose.

William, our last Duke of Guienne, the father of that Eleanor who
transmitted that duchy to the houses of France and England, continually
for the last ten or twelve years of his life wore a suit of armour under
a religious habit by way of penance.  Foulke, Count of Anjou, went as far
as Jerusalem, there to cause himself to be whipped by two of his
servants, with a rope about his neck, before the sepulchre of our Lord.
But do we not, moreover, every Good Friday, in various places, see great
numbers of men and women beat and whip themselves till they lacerate and
cut the flesh to the very bones?  I have often seen it, and ‘tis without
any enchantment; and it was said there were some amongst them (for they
go disguised) who for money undertook by this means to save harmless the
religion of others, by a contempt of pain, so much the greater, as the
incentives of devotion are more effectual than those of avarice.
Q. Maximus buried his son when he was a consul, and M. Cato his when
praetor elect, and L. Paulus both his, within a few days one after
another, with such a countenance as expressed no manner of grief.  I said
once merrily of a certain person, that he had disappointed the divine
justice; for the violent death of three grown-up children of his being
one day sent him, for a severe scourge, as it is to be supposed, he was
so far from being afflicted at the accident, that he rather took it for a
particular grace and favour of heaven.  I do not follow these monstrous
humours, though I lost two or three at nurse, if not without grief, at
least without repining, and yet there is hardly any accident that pierces
nearer to the quick.  I see a great many other occasions of sorrow, that
should they happen to me I should hardly feel; and have despised some,
when they have befallen me, to which the world has given so terrible a
figure that I should blush to boast of my constancy:

         “Ex quo intelligitur, non in natura, sed in opinione,
          esse aegritudinem.”

     [“By which one may understand that grief is not in nature, but in
     opinion.”--Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., iii. 28.]

Opinion is a powerful party, bold, and without measure.  Who ever so
greedily hunted after security and repose as Alexander and Caesar did
after disturbance and difficulties?  Teres, the father of Sitalces, was
wont to say that “when he had no wars, he fancied there was no difference
betwixt him and his groom.”  Cato the consul, to secure some cities of
Spain from revolt, only interdicting the inhabitants from wearing arms, a
great many killed themselves:

          “Ferox gens, nullam vitam rati sine armis esse.”

     [“A fierce people, who thought there was no life without war.”
      --Livy, xxxiv. 17.]

How many do we know who have forsaken the calm and sweetness of a quiet
life at home amongst their acquaintance, to seek out the horror of
unhabitable deserts; and having precipitated themselves into so abject a
condition as to become the scorn and contempt of the world, have hugged
themselves with the conceit, even to affectation.  Cardinal Borromeo, who
died lately at Milan, amidst all the jollity that the air of Italy, his
youth, birth, and great riches, invited him to, kept himself in so
austere a way of living, that the same robe he wore in summer served him
for winter too; he had only straw for his bed, and his hours of leisure
from affairs he continually spent in study upon his knees, having a
little bread and a glass of water set by his book, which was all the
provision of his repast, and all the time he spent in eating.

I know some who consentingly have acquired both profit and advancement
from cuckoldom, of which the bare name only affrights so many people.

If the sight be not the most necessary of all our senses, ‘tis at least
the most pleasant; but the most pleasant and most useful of all our
members seem to be those of generation; and yet a great many have
conceived a mortal hatred against them only for this, that they were too
pleasant, and have deprived themselves of them only for their value:
as much thought he of his eyes that put them out.  The generality and
more solid sort of men look upon abundance of children as a great
blessing; I, and some others, think it as great a benefit to be without
them.  And when you ask Thales why he does not marry, he tells you,
because he has no mind to leave any posterity behind him.

That our opinion gives the value to things is very manifest in the great
number of those which we do, not so much prizing them, as ourselves, and
never considering either their virtues or their use, but only how dear
they cost us, as though that were a part of their substance; and we only
repute for value in them, not what they bring to us, but what we add to
them.  By which I understand that we are great economisers of our
expense: as it weighs, it serves for so much as it weighs.  Our opinion
will never suffer it to want of its value: the price gives value to the
diamond; difficulty to virtue; suffering to devotion; and griping to
physic.  A certain person, to be poor, threw his crowns into the same sea
to which so many come, in all parts of the world, to fish for riches.
Epicurus says  that to be rich is no relief, but only an alteration, of
affairs.  In truth, it is not want, but rather abundance, that creates
avarice.  I will deliver my own experience concerning this affair.

I have since my emergence from childhood lived in three sorts of
conditions.  The first, which continued for some twenty years, I passed
over without any other means but what were casual and depending upon the
allowance and assistance of others, without stint, but without certain
revenue.  I then spent my money so much the more cheerfully, and with so
much the less care how it went, as it wholly depended upon my
overconfidence of fortune.  I never lived more at my ease; I never had
the repulse of finding the purse of any of my friends shut against me,
having enjoined myself this necessity above all other necessities
whatever, by no means to fail of payment at the appointed time, which
also they have a thousand times respited, seeing how careful I was to
satisfy them; so that I practised at once a thrifty, and withal a kind of
alluring, honesty.  I naturally feel a kind of pleasure in paying, as if
I eased my shoulders of a troublesome weight and freed myself from an
image of slavery; as also that I find a ravishing kind of satisfaction in
pleasing another and doing a just action.  I except payments where the
trouble of bargaining and reckoning is required; and in such cases; where
I can meet with nobody to ease me of that charge, I delay them, how
scandalously and injuriously soever, all I possibly can, for fear of the
wranglings for which both my humour and way of speaking are so totally
improper and unfit.  There is nothing I hate so much as driving a
bargain; ‘tis a mere traffic of cozenage and impudence, where, after an
hour’s cheapening and hesitating, both parties abandon their word and
oath for five sols’ abatement.  Yet I always borrowed at great
disadvantage; for, wanting the confidence to speak to the person myself,
I committed my request to the persuasion of a letter, which usually is no
very successful advocate, and is of very great advantage to him who has a
mind to deny.  I, in those days, more jocundly and freely referred the
conduct of my affairs to the stars, than I have since done to my own
providence and judgment.  Most good managers look upon it as a horrible
thing to live always thus in uncertainty, and do not consider, in the
first place, that the greatest part of the world live so: how many worthy
men have wholly abandoned their own certainties, and yet daily do it, to
the winds, to trust to the inconstant favour of princes and of fortune?
Caesar ran above a million of gold, more than he was worth, in debt to
become Caesar; and how many merchants have begun their traffic by the
sale of their farms, which they sent into the Indies,

                    “Tot per impotentia freta.”

     [“Through so many ungovernable seas.”--Catullus, iv. 18.]

In so great a siccity of devotion as we see in these days, we have a
thousand and a thousand colleges that pass it over commodiously enough,
expecting every day their dinner from the liberality of Heaven.
Secondly, they do not take notice that this certitude upon which they so
much rely is not much less uncertain and hazardous than hazard itself.
I see misery as near beyond two thousand crowns a year as if it stood
close by me; for besides that it is in the power of chance to make a
hundred breaches to poverty through the greatest strength of our riches
--there being very often no mean betwixt the highest and the lowest

          “Fortuna vitrea est: turn, quum splendet, frangitur,”

     [“Fortune is glass: in its greatest brightness it breaks.”
      --Ex Mim. P. Syrus.]

and to turn all our barricadoes and bulwarks topsy-turvy, I find that, by
divers causes, indigence is as frequently seen to inhabit with those who
have estates as with those that have none; and that, peradventure, it is
then far less grievous when alone than when accompanied with riches.
These flow more from good management than from revenue;

               “Faber est suae quisque fortunae”

          [“Every one is the maker of his own fortune.”
           --Sallust, De Repub.  Ord., i. I.]

and an uneasy, necessitous, busy, rich man seems to me more miserable
than he that is simply poor.

     “In divitiis mopes, quod genus egestatis gravissimum est.”

     [“Poor in the midst of riches, which is the sorest kind of poverty.”
      --Seneca, Ep., 74.]

The greatest and most wealthy princes are by poverty and want driven to
the most extreme necessity; for can there be any more extreme than to
become tyrants and unjust usurpers of their subjects’ goods and estates?

My second condition of life was to have money of my own, wherein I so
ordered the matter that I had soon laid up a very notable sum out of a
mean fortune, considering with myself that that only was to be reputed
having which a man reserves from his ordinary expense, and that a man
cannot absolutely rely upon revenue he hopes to receive, how clear soever
the hope may be.  For what, said I, if I should be surprised by such or
such an accident?  And after such-like vain and vicious imaginations,
would very learnedly, by this hoarding of money, provide against all
inconveniences; and could, moreover, answer such as objected to me that
the number of these was too infinite, that if I could not lay up for all,
I could, however, do it at least for some and for many.  Yet was not this
done without a great deal of solicitude and anxiety of mind; I kept it
very close, and though I dare talk so boldly of myself, never spoke of my
money, but falsely, as others do, who being rich, pretend to be poor, and
being poor, pretend to be rich, dispensing their consciences from ever
telling sincerely what they have: a ridiculous and shameful prudence.
Was I going a journey?  Methought I was never enough provided: and the
more I loaded myself with money, the more also was I loaded with fear,
one while of the danger of the roads, another of the fidelity of him who
had the charge of my baggage, of whom, as some others that I know, I was
never sufficiently secure if I had him not always in my eye.  If I
chanced to leave my cash-box behind me, O, what strange suspicions and
anxiety of mind did I enter into, and, which was worse, without daring to
acquaint anybody with it.  My mind was eternally taken up with such
things as these, so that, all things considered, there is more trouble in
keeping money than in getting it.  And if I did not altogether so much as
I say, or was not really so scandalously solicitous of my money as I have
made myself out to be, yet it cost me something at least to restrain
myself from being so.  I reaped little or no advantage by what I had, and
my expenses seemed nothing less to me for having the more to spend; for,
as Bion said, the hairy men are as angry as the bald to be pulled; and
after you are once accustomed to it and have once set your heart upon
your heap, it is no more at your service; you cannot find in your heart
to break it: ‘tis a building that you will fancy must of necessity all
tumble down to ruin if you stir but the least pebble; necessity must
first take you by the throat before you can prevail upon yourself to
touch it; and I would sooner have pawned anything I had, or sold a horse,
and with much less constraint upon myself, than have made the least
breach in that beloved purse I had so carefully laid by.  But the danger
was that a man cannot easily prescribe certain limits to this desire
(they are hard to find in things that a man conceives to be good), and to
stint this good husbandry so that it may not degenerate into avarice: men
still are intent upon adding to the heap and increasing the stock from
sum to sum, till at last they vilely deprive themselves of the enjoyment
of their own proper goods, and throw all into reserve, without making any
use of them at all.  According to this rule, they are the richest people
in the world who are set to guard the walls and gates of a wealthy city.
All moneyed men I conclude to be covetous.  Plato places corporal or
human goods in this order: health, beauty, strength, riches; and riches,
says he, are not blind, but very clear-sighted, when illuminated by
prudence.  Dionysius the son did a very handsome act upon this subject;
he was informed that one of the Syracusans had hid a treasure in the
earth, and thereupon sent to the man to bring it to him, which he
accordingly did, privately reserving a small part of it only to himself,
with which he went to another city, where being cured of his appetite of
hoarding, he began to live at a more liberal rate; which Dionysius
hearing, caused the rest of his treasure to be restored to him, saying,
that since he had learned to use it, he very willingly returned it back
to him.

I continued some years in this hoarding humour, when I know not what good
demon fortunately put me out of it, as he did the Syracusan, and made me
throw abroad all my reserve at random, the pleasure of a certain journey
I took at very great expense having made me spurn this fond love of money
underfoot; by which means I am now fallen into a third way of living (I
speak what I think of it), doubtless much more pleasant and regular,
which is, that I live at the height of my revenue; sometimes the one,
sometimes the other may perhaps exceed, but ‘tis very little and but
rarely that they differ.  I live from hand to mouth, and content myself
in having sufficient for my present and ordinary expense; for as to
extraordinary occasions, all the laying up in the world would never
suffice.  And ‘tis the greatest folly imaginable to expect that fortune
should ever sufficiently arm us against herself; ‘tis with our own arms
that we are to fight her; accidental ones will betray us in the pinch of
the business.  If I lay up, ‘tis for some near and contemplated purpose;
not to purchase lands, of which I have no need, but to purchase pleasure:

     “Non esse cupidum, pecunia est; non esse emacem, vertigal est.”

     [“Not to be covetous, is money; not to be acquisitive, is revenue.”
      --Cicero, Paradox., vi. 3.]

I neither am in any great apprehension of wanting, nor in desire of any

     “Divinarum fructus est in copia; copiam declarat satietas.”

     [“The fruit of riches is in abundance; satiety declares abundance.”
      --Idem, ibid., vi. 2.]

And I am very well pleased that this reformation in me has fallen out in
an age naturally inclined to avarice, and that I see myself cleared of a
folly so common to old men, and the most ridiculous of all human follies.

Feraulez, a man that had run through both fortunes, and found that the
increase of substance was no increase of appetite either to eating or
drinking, sleeping or the enjoyment of his wife, and who on the other
side felt the care of his economics lie heavy upon his shoulders, as it
does on mine, was resolved to please a poor young man, his faithful
friend, who panted after riches, and made him a gift of all his, which
were excessively great, and, moreover, of all he was in the daily way of
getting by the liberality of Cyrus, his good master, and by the war;
conditionally that he should take care handsomely to maintain and
plentifully to entertain him as his guest and friend; which being
accordingly done, they afterwards lived very happily together, both of
them equally content with the change of their condition.  ‘Tis an example
that I could imitate with all my heart; and I very much approve the
fortune of the aged prelate whom I see to have so absolutely stripped
himself of his purse, his revenue, and care of his expense, committing
them one while to one trusty servant, and another while to another, that
he has spun out a long succession of years, as ignorant, by this means,
of his domestic affairs as a mere stranger.

The confidence in another man’s virtue is no light evidence of a man’s
own, and God willingly favours such a confidence.  As to what concerns
him of whom I am speaking, I see nowhere a better governed house, more
nobly and constantly maintained than his.  Happy to have regulated his
affairs to so just a proportion that his estate is sufficient to do it
without his care or trouble, and without any hindrance, either in the
spending or laying it up, to his other more quiet employments, and more
suitable both to his place and liking.

Plenty, then, and indigence depend upon the opinion every one has of
them; and riches no more than glory or health have other beauty or
pleasure than he lends them by whom they are possessed.

Every one is well or ill at ease, according as he so finds himself; not
he whom the world believes, but he who believes himself to be so, is
content; and in this alone belief gives itself being and reality.
Fortune does us neither good nor hurt; she only presents us the matter
and the seed, which our soul, more powerful than she, turns and applies
as she best pleases; the sole cause and sovereign mistress of her own
happy or unhappy condition.  All external accessions receive taste and
colour from the internal constitution, as clothes warm us, not with their
heat, but our own, which they are fit to cover and nourish; he who would
shield therewith a cold body, would do the same service for the cold, for
so snow and ice are preserved.  And, certes, after the same manner that
study is a torment to an idle man, abstinence from wine to a drunkard,
frugality to the spendthrift, and exercise to a lazy, tender-bred fellow,
so it is of all the rest.  The things are not so painful and difficult of
themselves, but our weakness or cowardice makes them so.  To judge of
great, and high matters requires a suitable soul; otherwise we attribute
the vice to them which is really our own.  A straight oar seems crooked
in the water it does not only import that we see the thing, but how and
after what manner we see it.

After all this, why, amongst so many discourses that by so many arguments
persuade men to despise death and to endure pain, can we not find out one
that helps us?  And of so many sorts of imaginations as have so prevailed
upon others as to persuade them to do so, why does not every one apply
some one to himself, the most suitable to his own humour?  If he cannot
digest a strong-working decoction to eradicate the evil, let him at least
take a lenitive to ease it:

     [“It is an effeminate and flimsy opinion, nor more so in pain than
     in pleasure, in which, while we are at our ease, we cannot bear
     without a cry the sting of a bee.  The whole business is to commend
     thyself.”--Cicero, Tusc.  Quaes., ii. 22.]

As to the rest, a man does not transgress philosophy by permitting the
acrimony of pains and human frailty to prevail so much above measure; for
they constrain her to go back to her unanswerable replies: “If it be ill
to live in necessity, at least there is no necessity upon a man to live
in necessity”: “No man continues ill long but by his own fault.”  He who
has neither the courage to die nor the heart to live, who will neither
resist nor fly, what can we do with him?



Of all the follies of the world, that which is most universally received
is the solicitude of reputation and glory; which we are fond of to that
degree as to abandon riches, peace, life, and health, which are effectual
and substantial goods, to pursue this vain phantom and empty word, that
has neither body nor hold to be taken of it:

               La fama, ch’invaghisce a un dolce suono
               Gli superbi mortali, et par si bella,
               E un eco, un sogno, anzi d’un sogno un’ombra,
               Ch’ad ogni vento si dilegua a sgombra.”

     [“Fame, which with alluring sound charms proud mortals, and appears
     so fair, is but an echo, a dream, nay, the shadow of a dream, which
     at every breath vanishes and dissolves.”
      --Tasso, Gerus., xiv. 63.]

And of all the irrational humours of men, it should seem that the
philosophers themselves are among the last and the most reluctant to
disengage themselves from this: ‘tis the most restive and obstinate of

         “Quia etiam bene proficientes animos tentare non cessat.”

     [“Because it ceases not to assail even well-directed minds”
      --St. Augustin, De Civit. Dei, v. 14.]

There is not any one of which reason so clearly accuses the vanity; but
it is so deeply rooted in us that I dare not determine whether any one
ever clearly discharged himself from it or no.  After you have said all
and believed all has been said to its prejudice, it produces so intestine
an inclination in opposition to your best arguments that you have little
power to resist it; for, as Cicero says,  even those who most controvert
it, would yet that the books they write about it should visit the light
under their own names, and seek to derive glory from seeming to despise
it.  All other things are communicable and fall into commerce: we lend
our goods and stake our lives for the necessity and service of our
friends; but to communicate a man’s honour, and to robe another with a
man’s own glory, is very rarely seen.

And yet we have some examples of that kind.  Catulus Luctatius in the
Cimbrian war, having done all that in him lay to make his flying soldiers
face about upon the enemy, ran himself at last away with the rest, and
counterfeited the coward, to the end his men might rather seem to follow
their captain than to fly from the enemy; which was to abandon his own
reputation in order to cover the shame of others.  When Charles V. came
into Provence in the year 1537, ‘tis said that Antonio de Leva, seeing
the emperor positively resolved upon this expedition, and believing it
would redound very much to his honour, did, nevertheless, very stiffly
oppose it in the council, to the end that the entire glory of that
resolution should be attributed to his master, and that it might be said
his own wisdom and foresight had been such as that, contrary to the
opinion of all, he had brought about so great an enterprise; which was to
do him honour at his own expense.  The Thracian ambassadors coming to
comfort Archileonida, the mother of Brasidas, upon the death of her son,
and commending him to that height as to say he had not left his like
behind him, she rejected this private and particular commendation to
attribute it to the public: “Tell me not that,” said she; “I know the
city of Sparta has many citizens both greater and of greater worth than
he.”   In the battle of Crecy, the Prince of Wales, being then very
young, had the vanguard committed to him: the main stress of the battle
happened to be in that place, which made the lords who were with him,
finding themselves overmatched, send to King Edward to advance to their
relief.  He inquired of the condition his son was in, and being answered
that he was alive and on horseback: “I should, then, do him wrong,” said
the king, “now to go and deprive him of the honour of winning this battle
he has so long and so bravely sustained; what hazard soever he runs, that
shall be entirely his own”; and, accordingly, would neither go nor send,
knowing that if he went, it would be said all had been lost without his
succour, and that the honour of the victory would be wholly attributed to

              “Semper enim quod postremum adjectum est,
               id rem totam videtur traxisse.”

     [“For always that which is last added, seems to have accomplished
     the whole affair.”--Livy, xxvii. 45.]

Many at Rome thought, and would usually say, that the greatest of
Scipio’s acts were in part due to Laelius, whose constant practice it was
still to advance and support Scipio’s grandeur and renown, without any
care of his own.  And Theopompus, king of Sparta, to him who told him the
republic could not miscarry since he knew so well how to command, “Tis
rather,” answered he, “because the people know so well how to obey.”
 As women succeeding to peerages had, notwithstanding their sex, the
privilege to attend and give their votes in the trials that appertained
to the jurisdiction of peers; so the ecclesiastical peers,
notwithstanding their profession, were obliged to attend our kings in
their wars, not only with their friends and servants, but in their own
persons.  As the Bishop of Beauvais did, who being with Philip Augustus
at the battle of Bouvines, had a notable share in that action; but he did
not think it fit for him to participate in the fruit and glory of that
violent and bloody trade.  He with his own hand reduced several of the
enemy that day to his mercy, whom he delivered to the first gentleman he
met either to kill or receive them to quarter, referring the whole
execution to this other hand; and he did this with regard to William,
Earl of Salisbury, whom he gave up to Messire Jehan de Nesle.  With a
like subtlety of conscience to that I have just named, he would kill but
not wound, and for that reason ever fought with a mace.  And a certain
person of my time, being reproached by the king that he had laid hands on
a priest, stiffly and positively denied he had done any such thing: the
meaning of which was, he had cudgelled and kicked him.



Plutarch says somewhere that he does not find so great a difference
betwixt beast and beast as he does betwixt man and man; which he says in
reference to the internal qualities and perfections of the soul.  And, in
truth, I find so vast a distance betwixt Epaminondas, according to my
judgment of him, and some that I know, who are yet men of good sense,
that I could willingly enhance upon Plutarch, and say that there is more
difference betwixt such and such a man than there is betwixt such a man
and such a beast:

          [“Ah! how much may one man surpass another!”
           --Terence, Eunuchus, ii. 2.]

and that there are as many and innumerable degrees of mind as there are
cubits betwixt this and heaven.  But as touching the estimate of men,
‘tis strange that, ourselves excepted, no other creature is esteemed
beyond its proper qualities; we commend a horse for his strength and
sureness of foot,

               Sic laudamus equum, facili cui plurima palma
               Fervet, et exsultat rauco victoria circo,”

     [“So we praise the swift horse, for whose easy mastery many a hand
     glows in applause, and victory exults in the hoarse circus.
     --“Juvenal, viii. 57.]

and not for his rich caparison; a greyhound for his speed of heels, not
for his fine collar; a hawk for her wing, not for her gesses and bells.
Why, in like manner, do we not value a man for what is properly his own?
He has a great train, a beautiful palace, so much credit, so many
thousand pounds a year: all these are about him, but not in him.  You
will not buy a pig in a poke: if you cheapen a horse, you will see him
stripped of his housing-cloths, you will see him naked and open to your
eye; or if he be clothed, as they anciently were wont to present them to
princes to sell, ‘tis only on the less important parts, that you may not
so much consider the beauty of his colour or the breadth of his crupper,
as principally to examine his legs, eyes, and feet, which are the members
of greatest use:

         “Regibus hic mos est: ubi equos mercantur, opertos
          Inspiciunt; ne, si facies, ut saepe, decora
          Molli fulta pede est, emptorem inducat hiantem”

     [“This is the custom of kings: when they buy horses, they have open
     inspection, lest, if a fair head, as often chances, is supported by
     a weak foot, it should tempt the gaping purchaser.”
      --Horace, Sat., i. 2, 86.]

why, in giving your estimate of a man, do you prize him wrapped and
muffled up in clothes?  He then discovers nothing to you but such parts
as are not in the least his own, and conceals those by which alone one
may rightly judge of his value.  ‘Tis the price of the blade that you
inquire into, not of the scabbard: you would not peradventure bid a
farthing for him, if you saw him stripped.  You are to judge him by
himself and not by what he wears; and, as one of the ancients very
pleasantly said: “Do you know why you repute him tall?  You reckon withal
the height of his pattens.”--[Seneca, Ep. 76.]--The pedestal is no part
of the statue.  Measure him without his stilts; let him lay aside his
revenues and his titles; let him present himself in his shirt. Then
examine if his body be sound and sprightly, active and disposed to
perform its functions.  What soul has he?  Is she beautiful, capable, and
happily provided of all her faculties?  Is she rich of what is her own,
or of what she has borrowed?  Has fortune no hand in the affair?  Can
she, without winking, stand the lightning of swords? is she indifferent
whether her life expire by the mouth or through the throat?  Is she
settled, even and content?  This is what is to be examined, and by that
you are to judge of the vast differences betwixt man and man.  Is he:

          “Sapiens, sibique imperiosus,
          Quern neque pauperies, neque mors, neque vincula terrent;
          Responsare cupidinibus, contemnere honores
          Fortis; et in seipso totus teres atque rotundus,
          Externi ne quid valeat per laeve morari;
          In quem manca ruit semper fortuna?”

     [“The wise man, self-governed, whom neither poverty, nor death,
     nor chains affright: who has the strength to resist his appetites
     and to contemn honours: who is wholly self-contained: whom no
     external objects affect: whom fortune assails in vain.”
      --Horace, Sat., ii. 7,]

such a man is five hundred cubits above kingdoms and duchies; he is an
absolute monarch in and to himself:

          “Sapiens, .  .  .  Pol!  ipse fingit fortunam sibi;”

          [“The wise man is the master of his own fortune,”
           --Plautus, Trin., ii. 2, 84.]

what remains for him to covet or desire?

                         “Nonne videmus,
          Nil aliud sibi naturam latrare, nisi ut, quoi
          Corpore sejunctus dolor absit, mente fruatur,
          Jucundo sensu, cura semotu’ metuque?”

     [“Do we not see that human nature asks no more for itself than
     that, free from bodily pain, it may exercise its mind agreeably,
     exempt from care and fear.”--Lucretius, ii. 16.]

Compare with such a one the common rabble of mankind, stupid and
mean-spirited, servile, instable, and continually floating with the
tempest of various passions, that tosses and tumbles them to and fro, and
all depending upon others, and you will find a greater distance than
betwixt heaven and earth; and yet the blindness of common usage is such
that we make little or no account of it; whereas if we consider a peasant
and a king, a nobleman and a vassal, a magistrate and a private man, a
rich man and a poor, there appears a vast disparity, though they differ
no more, as a man may say, than in their breeches.

In Thrace the king was distinguished from his people after a very
pleasant and especial manner; he had a religion by himself, a god all his
own, and which his subjects were not to presume to adore, which was
Mercury, whilst, on the other hand, he disdained to have anything to do
with theirs, Mars, Bacchus, and Diana.  And yet they are no other than
pictures that make no essential dissimilitude; for as you see actors in a
play representing the person of a duke or an emperor upon the stage, and
immediately after return to their true and original condition of valets
and porters, so the emperor, whose pomp and lustre so dazzle you in

               “Scilicet grandes viridi cum luce smaragdi
               Auto includuntur, teriturque thalassina vestis
               Assidue, et Veneris sudorem exercita potat;”

     [“Because he wears great emeralds richly set in gold, darting green
     lustre; and the sea-blue silken robe, worn with pressure, and moist
     with illicit love (and absorbs the sweat of Venus).”
      --Lucretius, iv. 1123.]

do but peep behind the curtain, and you will see no thing more than an
ordinary man, and peradventure more contemptible than the meanest of his

     “Ille beatus introrsum est, istius bracteata felicitas est;”

     [“The one is happy in himself; the happiness of the other is
     counterfeit.”--Seneca, Ep., 115.]

cowardice, irresolution, ambition, spite, and envy agitate him as much as

              “Non enim gazae, neque consularis
               Submovet lictor miseros tumultus
               Mentis, et curas laqueata circum
               Tecta volantes.”

     [“For not treasures, nor the consular lictor, can remove the
     miserable tumults of the mind, nor cares that fly about panelled
     ceilings.”--Horace, Od., ii. 16, 9.]

Care and fear attack him even in the centre of his battalions:

               “Re veraque metus hominum curaeque sequaces
               Nec metuunt sonitus armorum, nee fera tela;
               Audacterque inter reges, rerumque potentes
               Versantur, neque fulgorem reverentur ab auro.”

     [“And in truth the fears and haunting cares of men fear not the
     clash of arms nor points of darts, and mingle boldly with great
     kings and men in authority, nor respect the glitter of gold.”
      --Lucretius, ii. 47.]

Do fevers, gout, and apoplexies spare him any more than one of us?  When
old age hangs heavy upon his shoulders, can the yeomen of his guard ease
him of the burden?  When he is astounded with the apprehension of death,
can the gentlemen of his bedchamber comfort and assure him?  When
jealousy or any other caprice swims in his brain, can our compliments and
ceremonies restore him to his good-humour?  The canopy embroidered with
pearl and gold he lies under has no virtue against a violent fit of the

               “Nee calidae citius decedunt corpore febres
               Textilibus si in picturis, ostroque rubenti
               Jactaris, quam si plebeia in veste cubandum est.”

     [“Nor do burning fevers quit you sooner if you are stretched on a
     couch of rich tapestry and in a vest of purple dye, than if you be
     in a coarse blanket.”--Idem, ii. 34.]

The flatterers of Alexander the Great possessed him that he was the son
of Jupiter; but being one day wounded, and observing the blood stream
from his wound: “What say you now, my masters,” said he, “is not this
blood of a crimson colour and purely human?  This is not of the
complexion of that which Homer makes to issue from the wounded gods.”
 The poet Hermodorus had written a poem in honour of Antigonus, wherein
he called him the son of the sun: “He who has the emptying of my
close-stool,” said Antigonus, “knows to the contrary.”  He is but a man
at best, and if he be deformed or ill-qualified from his birth, the
empire of the universe cannot set him to rights:

          Hunc rapiant; quidquid calcaverit hic, rosa fiat,”

     [“Let girls carry him off; wherever he steps let there spring up a
     rose!”--Persius, Sat., ii. 38.]

what of all that, if he be a fool?  even pleasure and good fortune are
not relished without vigour and understanding:

          “Haec perinde sunt, ut ilius animus; qui ea possidet
          Qui uti scit, ei bona; illi, qui non uritur recte, mala.”

     [“Things are, as is the mind of their possessor; who knows how to
     use them, to him they are good; to him who abuses them, ill.”
      --Terence, Heart., i.  3, 21.]

Whatever the benefits of fortune are, they yet require a palate to relish
them.  ‘Tis fruition, and not possession, that renders us happy:

     [“‘Tis not lands, or a heap of brass and gold, that has removed
     fevers from the ailing body of the owner, or cares from his mind.
     The possessor must be healthy, if he thinks to make good use of his
     realised wealth.  To him who is covetous or timorous his house and
     estate are as a picture to a blind man, or a fomentation to a
     gouty.”--Horace, Ep., i. 2, 47.]

He is a sot, his taste is palled and flat; he no more enjoys what he has
than one that has a cold relishes the flavour of canary, or than a horse
is sensible of his rich caparison.  Plato is in the right when he tells
us that health, beauty, vigour, and riches, and all the other things
called goods, are equally evil to the unjust as good to the just, and the
evil on the contrary the same.  And therefore where the body and the mind
are in disorder, to what use serve these external conveniences:
considering that the least prick with a pin, or the least passion of the
soul, is sufficient to deprive one of the pleasure of being sole monarch
of the world.  At the first twitch of the gout it signifies much to be
called Sir and Your Majesty!

               “Totus et argento conflatus, totus et auro;”

     [“Wholly made up of silver and gold.”--Tibullus, i. 2, 70.]

does he not forget his palaces and girandeurs?  If he be angry, can his
being a prince keep him from looking red and looking pale, and grinding
his teeth like a madman?  Now, if he be a man of parts and of right
nature, royalty adds very little to his happiness;

          “Si ventri bene, si lateri est, pedibusque tuffs, nil
          Divitix poterunt regales addere majus;”

     [“If it is well with thy belly, thy side and thy feet, regal wealth
     will be able to add nothing.”--Horace, Ep., i. 12, 5.]

he discerns ‘tis nothing but counterfeit and gullery.  Nay, perhaps he
would be of King Seleucus’ opinion, that he who knew the weight of a
sceptre would not stoop to pick it up, if he saw it lying before him, so
great and painful are the duties incumbent upon a good king.--[Plutarch,
If a Sage should Meddle with Affairs of Stale, c. 12.]--Assuredly it can
be no easy task to rule others, when we find it so hard a matter to
govern ourselves; and as to dominion, that seems so charming, the frailty
of human judgment and the difficulty of choice in things that are new and
doubtful considered, I am very much of opinion that it is far more easy
and pleasant to follow than to lead; and that it is a great settlement
and satisfaction of mind to have only one path to walk in, and to have
none to answer for but a man’s self;

               “Ut satius multo jam sit parere quietum,
               Quam regere imperio res velle.”

     [“‘Tis much better quietly to obey than wish to rule.”
      --Lucretius, V, 1126.]

To which we may add that saying of Cyrus, that no man was fit to rule but
he who in his own worth was of greater value than those he was to govern;
but King Hiero in Xenophon says further, that in the fruition even of
pleasure itself they are in a worse condition than private men; forasmuch
as the opportunities and facility they have of commanding those things at
will takes off from the delight that ordinary folks enjoy:

          “Pinguis amor, nimiumque patens, in taedia nobis
          Vertitur, et, stomacho dulcis ut esca, nocet.”

     [“Love in excess and too palpable turns to weariness, and, like
     sweetmeats to the stomach, is injurious.”--Ovid, Amoy., ii. 19, 25.]

Can we think that the singing boys of the choir take any great delight in
music?  the satiety rather renders it troublesome and tedious to them.
Feasts, balls, masquerades and tiltings delight such as but rarely see,
and desire to see, them; but having been frequently at such
entertainments, the relish of them grows flat and insipid.  Nor do women
so much delight those who make a common practice of the sport.  He who
will not give himself leisure to be thirsty can never find the true
pleasure of drinking.  Farces and tumbling tricks are pleasant to the
spectators, but a wearisome toil to those by whom they are performed.
And that this is so, we see that princes divert themselves sometimes in
disguising their quality, awhile to depose themselves, and to stoop to
the poor and ordinary way of living of the meanest of their people.

              “Plerumque gratae divitibus vices
               Mundaeque parvo sub lare pauperum
               Coenae, sine aulaeis et ostro,
               Soliicitam explicuere frontem.”

     [“The rich are often pleased with variety; and the plain supper in a
     poor cottage, without tapestry and purple, has relaxed the anxious
     brow.”--Horace, Od., iii.  29, 13.]

Nothing is so distasteful and clogging as abundance.  What appetite would
not be baffled to see three hundred women at its mercy, as the grand
signor has in his seraglio?  And, of his ancestors what fruition or taste
of sport did he reserve to himself, who never went hawking without seven
thousand falconers?  And besides all this, I fancy that this lustre of
grandeur brings with it no little disturbance and uneasiness upon the
enjoyment of the most tempting pleasures; the great are too conspicuous
and lie too open to every one’s view.  Neither do I know to what end a
man should more require of them to conceal their errors, since what is
only reputed indiscretion in us, the people in them brand with the names
of tyranny and contempt of the laws, and, besides their proclivity to
vice, are apt to hold that it is a heightening of pleasure to them, to
insult over and to trample upon public observances.  Plato, indeed, in
his Goygias, defines a tyrant to be one who in a city has licence to do
whatever his own will leads him to do; and by reason of this impunity,
the display and publication of their vices do ofttimes more mischief than
the vice itself.  Every one fears to be pried into and overlooked; but
princes are so, even to their very gestures, looks and thoughts, the
people conceiving they have right and title to be judges of them besides
that the blemishes of the great naturally appear greater by reason of the
eminence and lustre of the place where they are seated, and that a mole
or a wart appears greater in them than a wide gash in others.  And this
is the reason why the poets feign the amours of Jupiter to be performed
in the disguises of so many borrowed shapes, and that amongst the many
amorous practices they lay to his charge, there is only one, as I
remember, where he appears in his own majesty and grandeur.

But let us return to Hiero, who further complains of the inconveniences
he found in his royalty, in that he could not look abroad and travel the
world at liberty, being as it were a prisoner in the bounds and limits of
his own dominion, and that in all his actions he was evermore surrounded
with an importunate crowd.  And in truth, to see our kings sit all alone
at table, environed with so many people prating about them, and so many
strangers staring upon them, as they always are, I have often been moved
rather to pity than to envy their condition.  King Alfonso was wont to
say, that in this asses were in a better condition than kings, their
masters permitting them to feed at their own ease and pleasure, a favour
that kings cannot obtain of their servants.  And it has never come into
my fancy that it could be of any great benefit to the life of a man of
sense to have twenty people prating about him when he is at stool; or
that the services of a man of ten thousand livres a year, or that has
taken Casale or defended Siena, should be either more commodious or more
acceptable to him, than those of a good groom of the chamber who
understands his place.  The advantages of sovereignty are in a manner but
imaginary: every degree of fortune has in it some image of principality.
Caesar calls all the lords of France, having free franchise within their
own demesnes, roitelets or petty kings; and in truth, the name of sire
excepted, they go pretty far towards kingship; for do but look into the
provinces remote from court, as Brittany for example; take notice of the
train, the vassals, the officers, the employments, service, ceremony, and
state of a lord who lives retired from court in his own house, amongst
his own tenants and servants; and observe withal the flight of his
imagination; there is nothing more royal; he hears talk of his master
once a year, as of a king of Persia, without taking any further
recognition of him, than by some remote kindred his secretary keeps in
some register.  And, to speak the truth, our laws are easy enough, so
easy that a gentleman of France scarce feels the weight of sovereignty
pinch his shoulders above twice in his life.  Real and effectual
subjection only concerns such amongst us as voluntarily thrust their
necks under the yoke, and who design to get wealth and honours by such
services: for a man that loves his own fireside, and can govern his house
without falling by the ears with his neighbours or engaging in suits of
law, is as free as a Duke of Venice.

               “Paucos servitus, plures servitutem tenent.”

          [“Servitude enchains few, but many enchain themselves to
          servitude.”--Seneca, Ep., 22.]

But that which Hiero is most concerned at is, that he finds himself
stripped of all friendship, deprived of all mutual society, wherein the
true and most perfect fruition of human life consists.  For what
testimony of affection and goodwill can I extract from him that owes me,
whether he will or no, all that he is able to do?  Can I form any
assurance of his real respect to me, from his humble way of speaking and
submissive behaviour, when these are ceremonies it is not in his choice
to deny?  The honour we receive from those that fear us is not honour;
those respects are due to royalty and not to me:

               “Maximum hoc regni bonum est
               Quod facta domini cogitur populus sui
               Quam ferre, tam laudare.”

     [“‘Tis the greatest benefit of a kingdom that the people is forced
     to commend, as well as to bear the acts of the ruler.”
      --Seneca, Thyestes, ii.  i, 30.]

Do I not see that the wicked and the good king, he that is hated and he
that is beloved, have the one as much reverence paid him as the other?
My predecessor was, and my successor shall be, served with the same
ceremony and state.  If my subjects do me no harm, ‘tis no evidence of
any good affection; why should I look upon it as such, seeing it is not
in their power to do it if they would?  No one follows me or obeys my
commands upon the account of any friendship, betwixt him and me; there
can be no contracting of friendship where there is so little relation and
correspondence: my own height has put me out of the familiarity of and
intelligence with men; there is too great disparity and disproportion
betwixt us.  They follow me either upon the account of decency and
custom; or rather my fortune, than me, to increase their own.  All they
say to me or do for me is but outward paint, appearance, their liberty
being on all parts restrained by the great power and authority I have
over them.  I see nothing about me but what is dissembled and disguised.

The Emperor Julian being one day applauded by his courtiers for his exact
justice: “I should be proud of these praises,” said he, “did they come
from persons that durst condemn or disapprove the contrary, in case I
should do it.”  All the real advantages of princes are common to them
with men of meaner condition (‘tis for the gods to mount winged horses
and feed upon ambrosia): they have no other sleep, nor other appetite
than we; the steel they arm themselves withal is of no better temper than
that we also use; their crowns neither defend them from the rain nor the

Diocletian, who wore a crown so fortunate and revered, resigned it to
retire to the felicity of a private life; and some time after the
necessity of public affairs requiring that he should reassume his charge,
he made answer to those who came to court him to it: “You would not
offer,” said he, “to persuade me to this, had you seen the fine order of
the trees I have planted in my orchard, and the fair melons I have sown
in my garden.”

In Anacharsis’ opinion, the happiest state of government would be where,
all other things being equal, precedence should be measured out by the
virtues, and repulses by the vices of men.

When King Pyrrhus prepared for his expedition into Italy, his wise
counsellor Cyneas, to make him sensible of the vanity of his ambition:
“Well, sir,” said he, “to what end do you make all this mighty
preparation?”--“To make myself master of Italy,” replied the king.
“And what after that  is done?” said Cyneas.  “I will pass over into Gaul
and Spain,” said the other.  “And what then?”--“I will then go to subdue
Africa; and lastly, when I have brought the whole world to my subjection,
I will sit down and rest content at my own ease.”

“For God sake, sir,” replied Cyneas, “tell me what hinders that you may
not, if you please, be now in the condition you speak of?  Why do you not
now at this instant settle yourself in the state you seem to aim at, and
spare all the labour and hazard you interpose?”

         “Nimirum, quia non cognovit, qux esset habendi
          Finis, et omnino quoad crescat vera voluptas.”

     [“Forsooth because he does not know what should be the limit of
     acquisition, and altogether how far real pleasure should increase.”
      --Lucretius, v. 1431]

I will conclude with an old versicle, that I think very apt to the

               “Mores cuique sui fingunt fortunam.”

               [“Every man frames his own fortune.”
                --Cornelius Nepos, Life of Atticus]



The way by which our laws attempt to regulate idle and vain expenses in
meat and clothes, seems to be quite contrary to the end designed.  The
true way would be to beget in men a contempt of silks and gold, as vain,
frivolous, and useless; whereas we augment to them the honours, and
enhance the value of such things, which, sure, is a very improper way to
create a disgust.  For to enact that none but princes shall eat turbot,
shall wear velvet or gold lace, and interdict these things to the people,
what is it but to bring them into a greater esteem, and to set every one
more agog to eat and wear them?  Let kings leave off these ensigns of
grandeur; they have others enough besides; those excesses are more
excusable in any other than a prince.  We may learn by the example of
several nations better ways of exterior distinction of quality (which,
truly, I conceive to be very requisite in a state) enough, without
fostering to this purpose such corruption and manifest inconvenience.
‘Tis strange how suddenly and with how much ease custom in these
indifferent things establishes itself and becomes authority.  We had
scarce worn cloth a year, in compliance with the court, for the mourning
of Henry II., but that silks were already grown into such contempt with
every one, that a man so clad was presently concluded a citizen: silks
were divided betwixt the physicians and surgeons, and though all other
people almost went in the same habit, there was, notwithstanding, in one
thing or other, sufficient distinction of the several conditions of men.
How suddenly do greasy chamois and linen doublets become the fashion in
our armies, whilst all neatness and richness of habit fall into contempt?
Let kings but lead the dance and begin to leave off this expense, and in
a month the business will be done throughout the kingdom, without edict
or ordinance; we shall all follow.  It should be rather proclaimed, on
the contrary, that no one should wear scarlet or goldsmiths’ work but
courtesans and tumblers.

Zeleucus by the like invention reclaimed the corrupted manners of the
Locrians.  His laws were, that no free woman should be allowed any more
than one maid to follow her, unless she was drunk: nor was to stir out of
the city by night, wear jewels of gold about her, or go in an embroidered
robe, unless she was a professed and public prostitute; that, bravos
excepted, no man was to wear a gold ring, nor be seen in one of those
effeminate robes woven in the city of Miletus.  By which infamous
exceptions he discreetly diverted his citizens from superfluities and
pernicious pleasures, and it was a project of great utility to attract
then by honour and ambition to their duty and obedience.

Our kings can do what they please in such external reformations; their
own inclination stands in this case for a law:

          “Quicquid principes faciunt, praecipere videntur.”

     [“What princes themselves do, they seem to prescribe.”
      --Quintil., Declam., 3.]

Whatever is done at court passes for a rule through the rest of France.
Let the courtiers fall out with these abominable breeches, that discover
so much of those parts should be concealed; these great bellied doublets,
that make us look like I know not what, and are so unfit to admit of
arms; these long effeminate locks of hair; this foolish custom of kissing
what we present to our equals, and our hands in saluting them, a ceremony
in former times only due to princes.  Let them not permit that a
gentleman shall appear in place of respect without his sword, unbuttoned
and untrussed, as though he came from the house of office; and that,
contrary to the custom of our forefathers and the particular privilege of
the nobles of this kingdom, we stand a long time bare to them in what
place soever, and the same to a hundred others, so many tiercelets and
quartelets of kings we have got nowadays and other like vicious
innovations: they will see them all presently vanish and cried down.
These are, ‘tis true, but superficial errors; but they are of ill augury,
and enough to inform us that the whole fabric is crazy and tottering,
when we see the roughcast of our walls to cleave and split.

Plato in his Laws esteems nothing of more pestiferous consequence to his
city than to give young men the liberty of introducing any change in
their habits, gestures, dances, songs, and exercises, from one form to
another; shifting from this to that, hunting after novelties, and
applauding the inventors; by which means manners are corrupted and the
old institutions come to be nauseated and despised.  In all things,
saving only in those that are evil, a change is to be feared; even the
change of seasons, winds, viands, and humours.  And no laws are in their
true credit, but such to which God has given so long a continuance that
no one knows their beginning, or that there ever was any other.



Reason directs that we should always go the same way, but not always at
the same pace.  And, consequently, though a wise man ought not so much to
give the reins to human passions as to let him deviate from the right
path, he may, notwithstanding, without prejudice to his duty, leave it to
them to hasten or to slacken his speed, and not fix himself like a
motionless and insensible Colossus.  Could virtue itself put on flesh and
blood, I believe the pulse would beat faster going on to assault than in
going to dinner: that is to say, there is a necessity she should heat and
be moved upon this account.  I have taken notice, as of an extraordinary
thing, of some great men, who in the highest enterprises and most
important affairs have kept themselves in so settled and serene a calm,
as not at all to break their sleep.  Alexander the Great, on the day
assigned for that furious battle betwixt him and Darius, slept so
profoundly and so long in the morning, that Parmenio was forced to enter
his chamber, and coming to his bedside, to call him several times by his
name, the time to go to fight compelling him so to do.  The Emperor Otho,
having put on a resolution to kill himself that night, after having
settled his domestic affairs, divided his money amongst his servants, and
set a good edge upon a sword he had made choice of for the purpose, and
now staying only to be satisfied whether all his friends had retired in
safety, he fell into so sound a sleep that the gentlemen of his chamber
heard him snore.  The death of this emperor has in it circumstances
paralleling that of the great Cato, and particularly this just related
for Cato being ready to despatch himself, whilst he only stayed his hand
in expectation of the return of a messenger he had sent to bring him news
whether the senators he had sent away were put out from the Port of
Utica, he fell into so sound a sleep, that they heard him snore in the
next room; and the man, whom he had sent to the port, having awakened him
to let him know that the tempestuous weather had hindered the senators
from putting to sea, he despatched away another messenger, and composing
again himself in the bed, settled to sleep, and slept till by the return
of the last messenger he had certain intelligence they were gone.  We may
here further compare him with Alexander in the great and dangerous storm
that threatened him by the sedition of the tribune Metellus, who,
attempting to publish a decree for the calling in of Pompey with his army
into the city at the time of Catiline’s conspiracy, was only and that
stoutly opposed by Cato, so that very sharp language and bitter menaces
passed betwixt them in the senate about that affair; but it was the next
day, in the forenoon, that the controversy was to be decided, where
Metellus, besides the favour of the people and of Caesar--at that time of
Pompey’s faction--was to appear accompanied with a rabble of slaves and
gladiators; and Cato only fortified with his own courage and constancy;
so that his relations, domestics, and many virtuous people of his friends
were in great apprehensions for him; and to that degree, that some there
were who passed over the whole night without sleep, eating, or drinking,
for the danger they saw him running into; his wife and sisters did
nothing but weep and torment themselves in his house; whereas, he, on the
contrary, comforted every one, and after having supped after his usual
manner, went to bed, and slept profoundly till morning, when one of his
fellow-tribunes roused him to go to the encounter.  The knowledge we have
of the greatness of this man’s courage by the rest of his life, may
warrant us certainly to judge that his indifference proceeded from a soul
so much elevated above such accidents, that he disdained to let it take
any more hold of his fancy than any ordinary incident.

In the naval engagement that Augustus won of Sextus Pompeius in Sicily,
just as they were to begin the fight, he was so fast asleep that his
friends were compelled to wake him to give the signal of battle: and this
was it that gave Mark Antony afterwards occasion to reproach him that he
had not the courage so much as with open eyes to behold the order of his
own squadrons, and not to have dared to present himself before the
soldiers, till first Agrippa had brought him news of the victory
obtained.  But as to the young Marius, who did much worse (for the day of
his last battle against Sylla, after he had marshalled his army and given
the word and signal of battle, he laid him down under the shade of a tree
to repose himself, and fell so fast asleep that the rout and flight of
his men could hardly waken him, he having seen nothing of the fight), he
is said to have been at that time so extremely spent and worn out with
labour and want of sleep, that nature could hold out no longer.  Now,
upon what has been said, the physicians may determine whether sleep be so
necessary that our lives depend upon it: for we read that King Perseus of
Macedon, being prisoner at Rome, was killed by being kept from sleep; but
Pliny instances such as have lived long without sleep.  Herodotus speaks
of nations where the men sleep and wake by half-years, and they who write
the life of the sage Epimenides affirm that he slept seven-and-fifty
years together.



     [December 19, 1562, in which the Catholics, under the command of the
     Duc de Guise and the Constable de Montmorenci, defeated the
     Protestants, commanded by the Prince de Conde.  See Sismondi, Hist.
     des Francais, vol.  xviii., p. 354.]

Our battle of Dreux is remarkable for several extraordinary incidents;
but such as have no great kindness for M. de Guise, nor much favour his
reputation, are willing to have him thought to blame, and that his making
a halt and delaying time with the forces he commanded, whilst the
Constable, who was general of the army, was racked through and through
with the enemy’s artillery, his battalion routed, and himself taken
prisoner, is not to be excused; and that he had much better have run the
hazard of charging the enemy in flank, than staying for the advantage of
falling in upon the rear, to suffer so great and so important a loss.
But, besides what the event demonstrated, he who will consider it without
passion or prejudice will easily be induced to confess that the aim and
design, not of a captain only, but of every private soldier, ought to
regard the victory in general, and that no particular occurrences, how
nearly soever they may concern his own interest, should divert him from
that pursuit.  Philopoemen,  in an encounter with Machanidas, having sent
before a good strong party of his archers and slingers to begin the
skirmish, and these being routed and hotly pursued by the enemy, who,
pushing on the fortune of their arms, and in that pursuit passing by the
battalion where Philopoemen was, though his soldiers were impatient to
fall on, he did not think fit to stir from his post nor to present
himself to the enemy to relieve his men, but having suffered these to be
chased and cut in pieces before his face, charged in upon the enemy’s
foot when he saw them left unprotected by the horse, and notwithstanding
that they were Lacedaemonians, yet taking them in the nick, when thinking
themselves secure of the victory, they began to disorder their ranks; he
did this business with great facility, and then put himself in pursuit of
Machanidas.  Which case is very like that of Monsieur de Guise.

In that bloody battle betwixt Agesilaus and the Boeotians, which
Xenophon, who was present at it, reports to be the sharpest that he had
ever seen, Agesilaus waived the advantage that fortune presented him, to
let the Boeotian battalions pass by and then to charge them in the rear,
how certain soever he might make himself of the victory, judging it would
rather be an effect of conduct than valour, to proceed that way; and
therefore, to show his prowess, rather chose with a marvellous ardour of
courage to charge them in the front; but he was well beaten and well
wounded for his pains, and constrained at last to disengage himself, and
to take the course he had at first neglected; opening his battalion to
give way to this torrent of Boeotians, and they being passed by, taking
notice that they marched in disorder, like men who thought themselves out
of danger, he pursued and charged them in flank; yet could not so prevail
as to bring it to so general a rout but that they leisurely retreated,
still facing about upon him till they had retired to safety.



What variety of herbs soever are shufed together in the dish, yet the
whole mass is swallowed up under one name of a sallet.  In like manner,
under the consideration of names, I will make a hodge-podge of divers

Every nation has certain names, that, I know not why, are taken in no
good sense, as with us, John, William, Benedict.  In the genealogy of
princes, also, there seem to be certain names fatally affected, as the
Ptolemies of Egypt, the Henries in England, the Charleses in France, the
Baldwins in Flanders, and the Williams of our ancient Aquitaine, from
whence, ‘tis said, the name of Guyenne has its derivation; which would
seem far fetched were there not as crude derivations in Plato himself.

Item, ‘tis a frivolous thing in itself, but nevertheless worthy to be
recorded for the strangeness of it, that is written by an eyewitness,
that Henry, Duke of Normandy, son of Henry II., king of England, making a
great feast in France, the concourse of nobility and gentry was so great,
that being, for sport’s sake, divided into troops, according to their
names, in the first troop, which consisted of Williams, there were found
an hundred and ten knights sitting at the table of that name, without
reckoning the ordinary gentlemen and servants.

It is as pleasant to distinguish the tables by the names of the guests as
it was in the Emperor Geta to distinguish the several courses of his meat
by the first letters of the meats themselves; so that those that began
with B were served up together, as brawn, beef, bream, bustards,
becca-ficos; and so of the others.  Item, there is a saying that it is a
good thing to have a good name, that is to say, credit and a good repute;
but besides this, it is really convenient to have a well-sounding name,
such as is easy of pronunciation and easy to be remembered, by reason
that kings and other great persons do by that means the more easily know
and the more hardly forget us; and indeed of our own servants we more
frequently call and employ those whose names are most ready upon the
tongue.  I myself have seen Henry II., when he could not for his heart
hit of a gentleman’s name of our country of Gascony, and moreover was
fain to call one of the queen’s maids of honour by the general name of
her race, her own family name being so difficult to pronounce or
remember; and Socrates thinks it worthy a father’s care to give fine
names to his children.

Item, ‘tis said that the foundation of Notre Dame la Grande at Poitiers
took its original from hence that a debauched young fellow formerly
living in that place, having got to him a wench, and, at her first coming
in, asking her name, and being answered that it was Mary, he felt himself
so suddenly pierced through with the awe of religion and the reverence to
that sacred name of the Blessed Virgin, that he not only immediately sent
the girl away, but became a reformed man and so continued the remainder
of his life; and that, in consideration of this miracle, there was
erected upon the place where this young man’s house stood, first a chapel
dedicated to our Lady and afterwards the church that we now see standing
there.  This vocal and auricular reproof wrought upon the conscience, and
that right into the soul; this that follows, insinuated itself merely by
the senses.  Pythagoras being in company with some wild young fellows,
and perceiving that, heated with the feast, they comploted to go violate
an honest house, commanded the singing wench to alter her wanton airs;
and by a solemn, grave, and spondaic music, gently enchanted and laid
asleep their ardour.

Item, will not posterity say that our modern reformation has been
wonderfully delicate and exact, in having not only combated errors and
vices, and filled the world with devotion, humility, obedience, peace,
and all sorts of virtue; but in having proceeded so far as to quarrel
with our ancient baptismal names of Charles, Louis, Francis, to fill the
world with Methuselahs, Ezekiels, and Malachis, names of a more spiritual
sound?  A gentleman, a neighbour of mine, a great admirer of antiquity,
and who was always extolling the excellences of former times in
comparison with this present age of ours, did not, amongst the rest,
forget to dwell upon the lofty and magnificent sound of the gentleman’s
names of those days, Don Grumedan, Quedregan, Agesilan, which, but to
hear named he conceived to denote other kind of men than Pierre, Guillot,
and Michel.

Item, I am mightily pleased with Jacques Amyot for leaving, throughout a
whole French oration, the Latin names entire, without varying and
garbling them to give them a French cadence.  It seemed a little harsh
and rough at first; but already custom, by the authority of his Plutarch,
has overcome that novelty.  I have often wished that such as write
histories in Latin would leave our names as they find them and as they
are; for in making Vaudemont into Vallemontanus, and metamorphosing names
to make them suit better with the Greek or Latin, we know not where we
are, and with the persons of the men lose the benefit of the story.

To conclude, ‘tis a scurvy custom and of very ill consequence that we
have in our kingdom of France to call every one by the name of his manor
or seigneury; ‘tis the thing in the world that the most prejudices and
confounds families and descents.  A younger brother of a good family,
having a manor left him by his father, by the name of which he has been
known and honoured, cannot handsomely leave it; ten years after his
decease it falls into the hand of a stranger, who does the same: do but
judge whereabouts we shall be concerning the knowledge of these men.  We
need look no further for examples than our own royal family, where every
partition creates a new surname, whilst, in the meantime, the original of
the family is totally lost.  There is so great liberty taken in these
mutations, that I have not in my time seen any one advanced by fortune to
any extraordinary condition who has not presently had genealogical titles
added to him, new and unknown to his father, and who has not been
inoculated into some illustrious stem by good luck; and the obscurest
families are the most apt for falsification.  How many gentlemen have we
in France who by their own account are of royal extraction? more, I
think, than who will confess they are not.  Was it not a pleasant passage
of a friend of mine?  There were, several gentlemen assembled together
about the dispute of one seigneur with another; which other had, in
truth, some preeminence of titles and alliances above the ordinary
gentry.  Upon the debate of this prerogative, every one, to make himself
equal to him, alleged, this one extraction, that another; this, the near
resemblance of name, that, of arms; another, an old worm-eaten patent;
the very least of them was great-grandchild to some foreign king.  When
they came to sit down, to dinner, my friend, instead of taking his place
amongst them, retiring with most profound conges, entreated the company
to excuse him for having hitherto lived with them at the saucy rate of a
companion; but being now better informed of their quality, he would begin
to pay them the respect due to their birth and grandeur, and that it
would ill become him to sit down among so many princes--ending this farce
with a thousand reproaches: “Let us, in God’s name, satisfy ourselves
with what our fathers were contented with, with what we are.  We are
great enough, if we rightly understand how to maintain it.  Let us not
disown the fortune and condition of our ancestors, and let us lay aside
these ridiculous pretences, that can never be wanting to any one that has
the impudence to allege them.”

Arms have no more security than surnames.  I bear azure powdered with
trefoils or, with a lion’s paw of the same armed gules in fesse.  What
privilege has this to continue particularly in my house?  A son-in-law
will transport it into another family, or some paltry purchaser will make
them his first arms.  There is nothing wherein there is more change and

But this consideration leads me, perforce, into another subject.  Let us
pry a little narrowly into, and, in God’s name, examine upon what
foundation we erect this glory and reputation for which the world is
turned topsy-turvy: wherein do we place this renown that we hunt after
with so much pains?  It is, in the end, Peter or William that carries it,
takes it into his possession, and whom it only concerns.  O what a
valiant faculty is hope, that in a mortal subject, and in a moment, makes
nothing of usurping infinity, immensity, eternity, and of supplying its
master’s indigence, at its pleasure, with all things he can imagine or
desire!  Nature has given us this passion for a pretty toy to play
withal.  And this Peter or William, what is it but a sound, when all is
done? or three or four dashes with a pen, so easy to be varied that I
would fain know to whom is to be attributed the glory of so many
victories, to Guesquin, to Glesquin, or to Gueaquin?  and yet there would
be something of greater moment in the case than in Lucian, that Sigma
should serve Tau with a process; for

                         “Non levia aut ludicra petuntur

     [“They aim at no slight or jocular rewards.”--AEneid, xii. 764.]

the chase is there in very good earnest: the question is, which of these
letters is to be rewarded for so many sieges, battles, wounds,
imprisonments, and services done to the crown of France by this famous
constable?  Nicholas Denisot--[Painter and poet, born at Le Mans,1515.]--
never concerned himself further than the letters of his name, of which he
has altered the whole contexture to build up by anagram the Count
d’Alsinois, whom he has handsomely endowed with the glory of his poetry
and painting.  The historian Suetonius was satisfied with only the
meaning of his name, which made him cashier his father’s surname, Lenis,
to leave Tranquillus successor to the reputation of his writings.  Who
would believe that Captain Bayard should have no honour but what he
derives from the deeds of Peter Terrail; and that Antonio Iscalin should
suffer himself to his face to be robbed of the honour of so many
navigations and commands at sea and land by Captain Paulin and the Baron
de la Garde?  Secondly, these are dashes of the pen common to a thousand
people.  How many are there, in every family, of the same name and
surname? and how many more in several families, ages, and countries?
History tells us of three of the name of Socrates, of five Platos, of
eight Aristotles, of seven Xenophons, of twenty Demetrii, and of twenty
Theodores; and how many more she was not acquainted with we may imagine.
Who hinders my groom from calling himself Pompey the Great?  But after
all, what virtue, what authority, or what secret springs are there that
fix upon my deceased groom, or the other Pompey, who had his head cut off
in Egypt, this glorious renown, and these so much honoured flourishes of
the pen, so as to be of any advantage to them?

          “Id cinerem et manes credis curare sepultos?”

     [“Do you believe the dead regard such things?”--AEneid, iv. 34.]

What sense have the two companions in greatest esteem amongst me,
Epaminondas, of this fine verse that has been so many ages current in his

          “Consiliis nostris laus est attrita Laconum;”

     [“The glory of the Spartans is extinguished by my plans.
     --“Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., v. 17.]

or Africanus, of this other,

          “A sole exoriente supra Maeotis Paludes
          Nemo est qui factis me aequiparare queat.”

     [“From where the sun rises over the Palus Maeotis, to where it sets,
     there is no one whose acts can compare with mine”--Idem, ibid.]

Survivors indeed tickle themselves with these fine phrases, and by them
incited to jealousy and desire, inconsiderately and according to their
own fancy, attribute to the dead this their own feeling, vainly
flattering themselves that they shall one day in turn be capable of the
same character.  However:

                              “Ad haec se
          Romanus Graiusque, et Barbaras induperator
          Erexit; caucus discriminis atque laboris
          Inde habuit: tanto major famae sitis est, quam

     [“For these the Roman, the Greek, and the Barbarian commander hath
     aroused himself; he has incurred thence causes of danger and toil:
     so much greater is the thirst for fame than for virtue.”
      --Juvenal, x. 137.]



Well says this verse:

     [“There is everywhere much liberty of speech.”--Iliad, xx.  249.]

For example:

     [“Hannibal conquered, but knew not how to make the best use of his
     victorious venture.”--Petrarch, Son., 83.]

Such as would improve this argument, and condemn the oversight of our
leaders in not pushing home the victory at Moncontour, or accuse the King
of Spain of not knowing how to make the best use of the advantage he had
against us at St. Quentin, may conclude these oversights to proceed from
a soul already drunk with success, or from a spirit which, being full and
overgorged with this beginning of good fortune, had lost the appetite of
adding to it, already having enough to do to digest what it had taken in:
he has his arms full, and can embrace no more: unworthy of the benefit
fortune has conferred upon him and the advantage she had put into his
hands: for what utility does he reap from it, if, notwithstanding, he
give his enemy respite to rally and make head against him?  What hope is
there that he will dare at another time to attack an enemy reunited and
recomposed, and armed anew with anger and revenge, who did not dare to
pursue them when routed and unmanned by fear?

          “Dum fortuna calet, dum conficit omnia terror.”

     [“Whilst fortune is fresh, and terror finishes all.”
      --Lucan, vii. 734.]

But withal, what better opportunity can he expect than that he has lost?
‘Tis not here, as in fencing, where the most hits gain the prize; for so
long as the enemy is on foot, the game is new to begin, and that is not
to be called a victory that puts not an end to the war.  In the encounter
where Caesar had the worst, near the city of Oricum, he reproached
Pompey’s soldiers that he had been lost had their general known how to
overcome; and afterwards clawed him in a very different fashion when it
came to his turn.

But why may not a man also argue, on the contrary, that it is the effect
of a precipitous and insatiate spirit not to know how to bound and
restrain its coveting; that it is to abuse the favours of God to exceed
the measure He has prescribed them: and that again to throw a man’s self
into danger after a victory obtained is again to expose himself to the
mercy of fortune: that it is one of the greatest discretions in the rule
of war not to drive an enemy to despair?  Sylla and Marius in the social
war, having defeated the Marsians, seeing yet a body of reserve that,
prompted by despair, was coming on like enraged brutes to dash in upon
them, thought it not convenient to stand their charge.  Had not Monsieur
de Foix’s ardour transported him so furiously to pursue the remains of
the victory of Ravenna, he had not obscured it by his own death.  And yet
the recent memory of his example served to preserve Monsieur d’Anguien
from the same misfortune at the battle of Serisoles.  ‘Tis dangerous to
attack a man you have deprived of all means to escape but by his arms,
for necessity teaches violent resolutions:

          “Gravissimi sunt morsus irritatae necessitatis.”

     [“Irritated necessity bites deepest.”--Portius Latro., Declam.]

          “Vincitur haud gratis, jugulo qui provocat hostem.”

     [“He is not readily beaten who provokes the enemy by shewing
     his throat.”--or: “He who presents himself to his foe, sells his
     life dear.”--Lucan, iv. 275.]

This was it that made Pharax withhold the King of Lacedaemon, who had won
a battle against the Mantineans, from going to charge a thousand Argians,
who had escaped in an entire body from the defeat, but rather let them
steal off at liberty that he might not encounter valour whetted and
enraged by mischance.  Clodomir, king of Aquitaine, after his victory
pursuing Gondemar, king of Burgundy, beaten and making off as fast as he
could for safety, compelled him to face about and make head, wherein his
obstinacy deprived him of the fruit of his conquest, for he there lost
his life.

In like manner, if a man were to choose whether he would have his
soldiers richly and sumptuously accoutred or armed only for the necessity
of the matter in hand, this argument would step in to favour the first,
of which opinion was Sertorius, Philopcemen, Brutus, Caesar, and others,
that it is to a soldier an enflaming of courage and a spur himself in
brave attire; and withal a motive to be more obstinate in fight, having
his arms, which are in a manner his estate and whole inheritance to
defend; which is the reason, says Xenophon, why those of Asia carried
their wives and concubines, with their choicest jewels and greatest
wealth, along with them to the wars.  But then these arguments would be
as ready to stand up for the other side; that a general ought rather to
lessen in his men their solicitude of preserving themselves than to
increase it; that by such means they will be in a double fear of
hazarding their persons, as it will be a double temptation to the enemy
to fight with greater resolution where so great booty and so rich spoils
are to be obtained; and this very thing has been observed in former
times, notably to encourage the Romans against the Samnites.  Antiochus,
shewing Hannibal the army he had raised, wonderfully splendid and rich in
all sorts of equipage, asked him if the Romans would be satisfied with
that army?  “Satisfied,” replied the other, “yes, doubtless, were their
avarice never so great.”  Lycurgus not only forbad his soldiers all
manner of bravery in their equipage, but, moreover, to strip their
conquered enemies, because he would, as he said, that poverty and
frugality should shine with the rest of the battle.

At sieges and elsewhere, where occasion draws us near to the enemy, we
willingly suffer our men to brave, rate, and affront him with all sorts
of injurious language; and not without some colour of reason: for it is
of no little consequence to take from them all hopes of mercy and
composition, by representing to them that there is no fair quarter to be
expected from an enemy they have incensed to that degree, nor other
remedy remaining but in victory.  And yet Vitellius found himself
deceived in this way of proceeding; for having to do with Otho, weaker in
the valour of his soldiers, long unaccustomed to war and effeminated with
the delights of the city, he so nettled them at last with injurious
language, reproaching them with cowardice and regret for the mistresses
and entertainments they had left behind at Rome, that by this means he
inspired them with such resolution as no exhortation had had the power to
have done, and himself made them fall upon him, with whom their own
captains before could by no means prevail.  And, indeed, when they are
injuries that touch to the quick, it may very well fall out that he who
went but unwillingly to work in the behalf of his prince will fall to’t
with another sort of mettle when the quarrel is his own.

Considering of how great importance is the preservation of the general of
an army, and that the universal aim of an enemy is levelled directly at
the head, upon which all the others depend, the course seems to admit of
no dispute, which we know has been taken by so many great captains, of
changing their habit and disguising their persons upon the point of going
to engage.  Nevertheless, the inconvenience a man by so doing runs into
is not less than that he thinks to avoid; for the captain, by this means
being concealed from the knowledge of his own men, the courage they
should derive from his presence and example happens by degrees to cool
and to decay; and not seeing the wonted marks and ensigns of their
leader, they presently conclude him either dead, or that, despairing of
the business, he is gone to shift for himself.  And experience shows us
that both these ways have been successful and otherwise.  What befell
Pyrrhus in the battle he fought against the Consul Levinus in Italy will
serve us to both purposes; for though by shrouding his person under the
armour of Megacles and making him wear his own, he undoubtedly preserved
his own life, yet, by that very means, he was withal very near running
into the other mischief of losing the battle.  Alexander, Caesar, and
Lucullus loved to make themselves known in a battle by rich accoutrements
and armour of a particular lustre and colour: Agis, Agesilaus, and that
great Gilippus, on the contrary, used to fight obscurely armed, and
without any imperial attendance or distinction.

Amongst other oversights Pompey is charged withal at the battle of
Pharsalia, he is condemned for making his army stand still to receive the
enemy’s charge; by “reason that” (I shall here steal Plutarch’s own
words, which are better than mine) “he by so doing deprived himself of
the violent impression the motion of running adds to the first shock of
arms, and hindered that clashing of the combatants against one another
which is wont to give them greater impetuosity and fury; especially when
they come to rush in with their utmost vigour, their courages increasing
by the shouts and the career; ‘tis to render the soldiers’ ardour, as a
man may say, more reserved and cold.”  This is what he says.  But if
Caesar had come by the worse, why might it not as well have been urged by
another, that, on the contrary, the strongest and most steady posture of
fighting is that wherein a man stands planted firm without motion; and
that they who are steady upon the march, closing up, and reserving their
force within themselves for the push of the business, have a great
advantage against those who are disordered, and who have already spent
half their breath in running on precipitately to the charge?  Besides
that an army is a body made up of so many individual members, it is
impossible for it to move in this fury with so exact a motion as not to
break the order of battle, and that the best of them are not engaged
before their fellows can come on to help them.  In that unnatural battle
betwixt the two Persian brothers, the Lacedaemonian Clearchus, who
commanded the Greeks of Cyrus’ party, led them on softly and without
precipitation to the charge; but, coming within fifty paces, hurried them
on full speed, hoping in so short a career both to keep their order and
to husband their breath, and at the same time to give the advantage of
impetuosity and impression both to their persons and their missile arms.
Others have regulated this question as to their armies thus if your enemy
come full drive upon you, stand firm to receive him; if he stand to
receive you, run full drive upon him.

In the expedition of the Emperor Charles V. into Provence, King Francis
was put to choose either to go meet him in Italy or to await him in his
own dominions; wherein, though he very well considered of how great
advantage it was to preserve his own territory entire and clear from the
troubles of war, to the end that, being unexhausted of its stores, it
might continually supply men and money at need; that the necessity of war
requires at every turn to spoil and lay waste the country before us,
which cannot very well be done upon one’s own; to which may be added,
that the country people do not so easily digest such a havoc by those of
their own party as from an enemy, so that seditions and commotions might
by such means be kindled amongst us; that the licence of pillage and
plunder (which are not to be tolerated at home) is a great ease and
refreshment against the fatigues and sufferings of war; and that he who
has no other prospect of gain than his bare pay will hardly be kept from
running home, being but two steps from his wife and his own house; that
he who lays the cloth is ever at the charge of the feast; that there is
more alacrity in assaulting than defending; and that the shock of a
battle’s loss in our own bowels is so violent as to endanger the
disjointing of the whole body, there being no passion so contagious as
that of fear, that is so easily believed, or that so suddenly diffuses
itself; and that the cities that should hear the rattle of this tempest
at their gates, that should take in their captains and soldiers yet
trembling and out of breath, would be in danger in this heat and hurry to
precipitate themselves upon some untoward resolution: notwithstanding all
this, so it was that he chose to recall the forces he had beyond the
mountains and to suffer the enemy to come to him.  For he might, on the
other hand, imagine that, being at home and amongst his friends, he could
not fail of plenty of all manner of conveniences; the rivers and passes
he had at his devotion would bring him in both provisions and money in
all security, and without the trouble of convoy; that he should find his
subjects by so much the more affectionate to him, by how much their
danger was more near and pressing; that having so many cities and
barriers to secure him, it would be in his power to give the law of
battle at his own opportunity and advantage; and that, if it pleased him
to delay the time, under cover and at his ease he might see his enemy
founder and defeat himself with the difficulties he was certain to
encounter, being engaged in a hostile country, where before, behind, and
on every side war would be made upon him; no means to refresh himself or
to enlarge his quarters, should diseases infest them, or to lodge his
wounded men in safety; no money, no victuals, but at the point of the
lance; no leisure to repose and take breath; no knowledge of the ways or
country to secure him from ambushes and surprises; and in case of losing
a battle, no possible means of saving the remains.  Neither is there want
of example in both these cases.

Scipio thought it much better to go and attack his enemy’s territories in
Africa than to stay at home to defend his own and to fight him in Italy,
and it succeeded well with him.  But, on the contrary, Hannibal in the
same war ruined himself by abandoning the conquest of a foreign country
to go and defend his own.  The Athenians having left the enemy in their
own dominions to go over into Sicily, were not favoured by fortune in
their design; but Agathocles, king of Syracuse, found her favourable to
him when he went over into Africa and left the war at home.

By which examples we are wont to conclude, and with some reason, that
events, especially in war, for the most part depend upon fortune, who
will not be governed by nor submit unto human reasons and prudence,
according to the poet:

         “Et male consultis pretium est: prudentia fallit
          Nec fortune probat causas, sequiturque merentes,
          Sed vaga per cunctos nullo discrimine fertur.
          Scilicet est aliud, quod nos cogatque regatque
          Majus, et in proprias ducat mortalia leges.”

     [“And there is value in ill counsel: prudence deceives: nor does
     fortune inquire into causes, nor aid the most deserving, but turns
     hither and thither without discrimination.  Indeed there is a
     greater power which directs and rules us, and brings mortal affairs
     under its own laws.”--Manilius, iv. 95.]

But, to take the thing right, it should seem that our counsels and
deliberations depend as much upon fortune as anything else we do, and
that she engages also our arguments in her uncertainty and confusion.
“We argue rashly and adventurously,” says Timaeus in Plato, “by reason
that, as well as ourselves, our discourses have great participation in
the temerity of chance.”


     “Art thou not ashamed,” said he to him, “to sing so well?”
      As great a benefit to be without (children)
     Away with that eloquence that enchants us with itself
     Because the people know so well how to obey
     Blemishes of the great naturally appear greater
     Change is to be feared
     Cicero: on fame
     Confidence in another man’s virtue
     Dangerous  man you have deprived of all means to escape
     Depend as much upon fortune as anything else we do
     Fame: an echo, a dream, nay, the shadow of a dream
     Far more easy and pleasant to follow than to lead
     He who lays the cloth is ever at the charge of the feast
     I honour those most to whom I show the least honour
     In war not to drive an enemy to despair
     My words does but injure the love I have conceived within.
     Neither the courage to die nor the heart to live
     Never spoke of my money, but falsely, as others do
     No great choice betwixt not knowing to speak anything but ill
     No man continues ill long but by his own fault
     No necessity upon a man to live in necessity
     No passion so contagious as that of fear
     Not a victory that puts not an end to the war
     Not want, but rather abundance, that creates avarice
     Only secure harbour from the storms and tempests of life
     Opinions they have of things and not by the things themselves
     People conceiving they have right and title to be judges
     Pyrrho’s hog
     Repute for value in them, not what they bring to us
     Satisfaction of mind to have only one path to walk in
     That which cowardice itself has chosen for its refuge
     The honour we receive from those that fear us is not honour
     The pedestal is no part of the statue
     There is more trouble in keeping money than in getting it.
     There is nothing I hate so much as driving a bargain
     Thou wilt not feel it long if thou feelest it too much
     Tis the sharpnss of our mind that gives the edge to our pains
     Titles being so dearly bought
     Twenty people prating about him when he is at stool
     Valour whetted and enraged by mischance
     What can they not do; what do they fear to do (for beauty)


Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazlitt



XLVIII.   Of war-horses, or destriers.
XLIX.     Of ancient customs.
L.        Of Democritus and Heraclitus.
LI.       Of the vanity of words.
LII.      Of the parsimony of the Ancients.
LIII.     Of a saying of Caesar.
LIV.      Of vain subtleties.
LV.       Of smells.
LVI.      Of prayers.
LVII.     Of age.



I here have become a grammarian, I who never learned any language but by
rote, and who do not yet know adjective, conjunction, or ablative.  I
think I have read that the Romans had a sort of horses by them called
‘funales’ or ‘dextrarios’, which were either led horses, or horses laid
on at several stages to be taken fresh upon occasion, and thence it is
that we call our horses of service ‘destriers’; and our romances commonly
use the phrase of ‘adestrer’ for ‘accompagner’, to accompany.  They also
called those that were trained in such sort, that running full speed,
side by side, without bridle or saddle, the Roman gentlemen, armed at all
pieces, would shift and throw themselves from one to the other,
‘desultorios equos’.  The Numidian men-at-arms had always a led horse in
one hand, besides that they rode upon, to change in the heat of battle:

    “Quibus, desultorum in modum, binos trahentibus equos, inter
     acerrimam saepe pugnam, in recentem equum, ex fesso, armatis
     transultare mos erat: tanta velocitas ipsis, tamque docile
     equorum genus.”

     [“To whom it was a custom, leading along two horses, often in the
     hottest fight, to leap armed from a tired horse to a fresh one; so
     active were the men, and the horses so docile.”--Livy, xxiii. 29.]

There are many horses trained to help their riders so as to run upon any
one, that appears with a drawn sword, to fall both with mouth and heels
upon any that front or oppose them: but it often happens that they do
more harm to their friends than to their enemies; and, moreover, you
cannot loose them from their hold, to reduce them again into order, when
they are once engaged and grappled, by which means you remain at the
mercy of their quarrel.  It happened very ill to Artybius, general of the
Persian army, fighting, man to man, with Onesilus, king of Salamis, to be
mounted upon a horse trained after this manner, it being the occasion of
his death, the squire of Onesilus cleaving the horse down with a scythe
betwixt the shoulders as it was reared up upon his master.  And what the
Italians report, that in the battle of Fornova, the horse of Charles
VIII., with kicks and plunges, disengaged his master from the enemy that
pressed upon him, without which he had been slain, sounds like a very
great chance, if it be true.

     [In the narrative which Philip de Commines has given of this battle,
     in which he himself was present (lib. viii.  ch. 6), he tells us
     of wonderful performances by the horse on which the king was
     mounted.  The name of the horse was Savoy, and it was the most
     beautiful horse he had ever seen.  During the battle the king was
     personally attacked, when he had nobody near him but a valet de
     chambre, a little fellow, and not well armed.  “The king,” says
     Commines, “had the best horse under him in the world, and therefore
     he stood his ground bravely, till a number of his men, not a great
     way from him, arrived at the critical minute.”]

The Mamalukes make their boast that they have the most ready horses of
any cavalry in the world; that by nature and custom they were taught to
know and distinguish the enemy, and to fall foul upon them with mouth and
heels, according to a word or sign given; as also to gather up with their
teeth darts and lances scattered upon the field, and present them to
their riders, on the word of command.  ‘T is said, both of Caesar and
Pompey, that amongst their other excellent qualities they were both very
good horsemen, and particularly of Caesar, that in his youth, being
mounted on the bare back, without saddle or bridle, he could make the
horse run, stop, and turn, and perform all its airs, with his hands
behind him.  As nature designed to make of this person, and of Alexander,
two miracles of military art, so one would say she had done her utmost to
arm them after an extraordinary manner for every one knows that
Alexander’s horse, Bucephalus, had a head inclining to the shape of a
bull; that he would suffer himself to be mounted and governed by none but
his master, and that he was so honoured after his death as to have a city
erected to his name.  Caesar had also one which had forefeet like those
of a man, his hoofs being divided in the form of fingers, which likewise
was not to be ridden, by any but Caesar himself, who, after his death,
dedicated his statue to the goddess Venus.

I do not willingly alight when I am once on horseback, for it is the
place where, whether well or sick, I find myself most at ease.  Plato
recommends it for health, as also Pliny says it is good for the stomach
and the joints.  Let us go further into this matter since here we are.

We read in Xenophon a law forbidding any one who was master of a horse to
travel on foot.  Trogus Pompeius and Justin say that the Parthians were
wont to perform all offices and ceremonies, not only in war but also all
affairs whether public or private, make bargains, confer, entertain, take
the air, and all on horseback; and that the greatest distinction betwixt
freemen and slaves amongst them was that the one rode on horseback and
the other went on foot, an institution of which King Cyrus was the

There are several examples in the Roman history (and Suetonius more
particularly observes it of Caesar) of captains who, on pressing
occasions, commanded their cavalry to alight, both by that means to take
from them all hopes of flight, as also for the advantage they hoped in
this sort of fight.

               “Quo baud dubie superat Romanus,”

     [“Wherein the Roman does questionless excel.”--Livy, ix. 22.]

says Livy.  And so the first thing they did to prevent the mutinies and
insurrections of nations of late conquest was to take from them their
arms and horses, and therefore it is that we so often meet in Caesar:

          “Arma proferri, jumenta produci, obsides dari jubet.”

     [“He commanded the arms to be produced, the horses brought out,
     hostages to be given.”--De Bello Gall., vii. II.]

The Grand Signior to this day suffers not a Christian or a Jew to keep a
horse of his own throughout his empire.

Our ancestors, and especially at the time they had war with the English,
in all their greatest engagements and pitched battles fought for the most
part on foot, that they might have nothing but their own force, courage,
and constancy to trust to in a quarrel of so great concern as life and
honour.  You stake (whatever Chrysanthes in Xenophon says to the
contrary) your valour and your fortune upon that of your horse; his
wounds or death bring your person into the same danger; his fear or fury
shall make you reputed rash or cowardly; if he have an ill mouth or will
not answer to the spur, your honour must answer for it.  And, therefore,
I do not think it strange that those battles were more firm and furious
than those that are fought on horseback:

               “Caedebant pariter, pariterque ruebant
          Victores victique; neque his fuga nota, neque illis.”

     [“They fought and fell pell-mell, victors and vanquished; nor was
     flight thought of by either.”--AEneid, x. 756.]

Their battles were much better disputed.  Nowadays there are nothing but

          “Primus clamor atque impetus rem decernit.”

     [“The first shout and charge decides the business.”--Livy, xxv. 41.]

And the means we choose to make use of in so great a hazard should be as
much as possible at our own command: wherefore I should advise to choose
weapons of the shortest sort, and such of which we are able to give the
best account.  A man may repose more confidence in a sword he holds in
his hand than in a bullet he discharges out of a pistol, wherein there
must be a concurrence of several circumstances to make it perform its
office, the powder, the stone, and the wheel: if any of which fail it
endangers your fortune.  A man himself strikes much surer than the air
can direct his blow:

          “Et, quo ferre velint, permittere vulnera ventis
          Ensis habet vires; et gens quaecumque virorum est,
          Bella gerit gladiis.”

     [“And so where they choose to carry [the arrows], the winds allow
     the wounds; the sword has strength of arm: and whatever nation of
     men there is, they wage war with swords.”--Lucan, viii. 384.]

But of that weapon I shall speak more fully when I come to compare the
arms of the ancients with those of modern use; only, by the way, the
astonishment of the ear abated, which every one grows familiar with in a
short time, I look upon it as a weapon of very little execution, and hope
we shall one day lay it aside.  That missile weapon which the Italians
formerly made use of both with fire and by sling was much more terrible:
they called a certain kind of javelin, armed at the point with an iron
three feet long, that it might pierce through and through an armed man,
Phalarica, which they sometimes in the field darted by hand, sometimes
from several sorts of engines for the defence of beleaguered places; the
shaft being rolled round with flax, wax, rosin, oil, and other
combustible matter, took fire in its flight, and lighting upon the body
of a man or his target, took away all the use of arms and limbs.  And
yet, coming to close fight, I should think they would also damage the
assailant, and that the camp being as it were planted with these flaming
truncheons, would produce a common inconvenience to the whole crowd:

          “Magnum stridens contorta Phalarica venit,
          Fulminis acta modo.”

     [“The Phalarica, launched like lightning, flies through
     the air with a loud rushing sound.”--AEneid, ix. 705.]

They had, moreover, other devices which custom made them perfect in
(which seem incredible to us who have not seen them), by which they
supplied the effects of our powder and shot.  They darted their spears
with so great force, as ofttimes to transfix two targets and two armed
men at once, and pin them together.  Neither was the effect of their
slings less certain of execution or of shorter carriage:

     [“Culling round stones from the beach for their slings; and with
     these practising over the waves, so as from a great distance to
     throw within a very small circuit, they became able not only to
     wound an enemy in the head, but hit any other part at pleasure.”
      --Livy, xxxviii. 29.]

Their pieces of battery had not only the execution but the thunder of our
cannon also:

          “Ad ictus moenium cum terribili sonitu editos,
          pavor et trepidatio cepit.”

     [“At the battery of the walls, performed with a terrible noise,
     the defenders began to fear and tremble.”--Idem, ibid., 5.]

The Gauls, our kinsmen in Asia, abominated these treacherous missile
arms, it being their use to fight, with greater bravery, hand to hand:

     [“They are not so much concerned about large gashes-the bigger and
     deeper the wound, the more glorious do they esteem the combat but
     when they find themselves tormented by some arrow-head or bullet
     lodged within, but presenting little outward show of wound,
     transported with shame and anger to perish by so imperceptible a
     destroyer, they fall to the ground.”---Livy, xxxviii.  21.]

A pretty description of something very like an arquebuse-shot.  The ten
thousand Greeks in their long and famous retreat met with a nation who
very much galled them with great and strong bows, carrying arrows so long
that, taking them up, one might return them back like a dart, and with
them pierce a buckler and an armed man through and through.  The engines,
that Dionysius invented at Syracuse to shoot vast massy darts and stones
of a prodigious greatness with so great impetuosity and at so great a
distance, came very near to our modern inventions.

But in this discourse of horses and horsemanship, we are not to forget
the pleasant posture of one Maistre Pierre Pol, a doctor of divinity,
upon his mule, whom Monstrelet reports always to have ridden sideways
through the streets of Paris like a woman.  He says also, elsewhere, that
the Gascons had terrible horses, that would wheel in their full speed,
which the French, Picards, Flemings, and Brabanters looked upon as a
miracle, “having never seen the like before,” which are his very words.

Caesar, speaking of the Suabians: “in the charges they make on
horseback,” says he, “they often throw themselves off to fight on foot,
having taught their horses not to stir in the meantime from the place,
to which they presently run again upon occasion; and according to their
custom, nothing is so unmanly and so base as to use saddles or pads, and
they despise such as make use of those conveniences: insomuch that, being
but a very few in number, they fear not to attack a great many.”  That
which I have formerly wondered at, to see a horse made to perform all his
airs with a switch only and the reins upon his neck, was common with the
Massilians, who rid their horses without saddle or bridle:

          “Et gens, quae nudo residens Massylia dorso,
          Ora levi flectit, fraenorum nescia, virga.”

     [“The Massylians, mounted on the bare backs of their horses,
     bridleless, guide them by a mere switch.”--Lucan, iv.  682.]

               “Et Numidae infraeni cingunt.”

     [“The Numidians guiding their horses without bridles.”
      --AEneid, iv.  41.]

          “Equi sine fraenis, deformis ipse cursus,
          rigida cervice et extento capite currentium.”

     [“The career of a horse without a bridle is ungraceful; the neck
     extended stiff, and the nose thrust out.”--Livy, xxxv. II.]

King Alfonso,--[Alfonso XI., king of Leon and Castile, died 1350.]--
he who first instituted the Order of the Band or Scarf in Spain, amongst
other rules of the order, gave them this, that they should never ride
mule or mulet, upon penalty of a mark of silver; this I had lately out of
Guevara’s Letters.  Whoever gave these the title of Golden Epistles had
another kind of opinion of them than I have.  The Courtier says, that
till his time it was a disgrace to a gentleman to ride on one of these
creatures: but the Abyssinians, on the contrary, the nearer they are to
the person of Prester John, love to be mounted upon large mules, for the
greatest dignity and grandeur.

Xenophon tells us, that the Assyrians were fain to keep their horses
fettered in the stable, they were so fierce and vicious; and that it
required so much time to loose and harness them, that to avoid any
disorder this tedious preparation might bring upon them in case of
surprise, they never sat down in their camp till it was first well
fortified with ditches and ramparts.  His Cyrus, who was so great a
master in all manner of horse service, kept his horses to their due work,
and never suffered them to have anything to eat till first they had
earned it by the sweat of some kind of exercise.  The Scythians when in
the field and in scarcity of provisions used to let their horses blood,
which they drank, and sustained themselves by that diet:

               “Venit et epoto Sarmata pastus equo.”

          [“The Scythian comes, who feeds on horse-flesh”
           --Martial, De Spectaculis Libey, Epigr. iii. 4.]

Those of Crete, being besieged by Metellus, were in so great necessity
for drink that they were fain to quench their thirst with their horses
urine.--[Val.  Max., vii. 6, ext. 1.]

To shew how much cheaper the Turkish armies support themselves than our
European forces, ‘tis said that besides the soldiers drink nothing but
water and eat nothing but rice and salt flesh pulverised (of which every
one may easily carry about with him a month’s provision), they know how
to feed upon the blood of their horses as well as the Muscovite and
Tartar, and salt it for their use.

These new-discovered people of the Indies [Mexico and Yucatan  D.W.],
when the Spaniards first landed amongst them, had so great an opinion
both of the men and horses, that they looked upon the first as gods and
the other as animals ennobled above their nature; insomuch that after
they were subdued, coming to the men to sue for peace and pardon, and to
bring them gold and provisions, they failed not to offer of the same to
the horses, with the same kind of harangue to them they had made to the
others: interpreting their neighing for a language of truce and

In the other Indies, to ride upon an elephant was the first and royal
place of honour; the second to ride in a coach with four horses; the
third to ride upon a camel; and the last and least honour to be carried
or drawn by one horse only.  Some one of our late writers tells us that
he has been in countries in those parts where they ride upon oxen with
pads, stirrups, and bridles, and very much at their ease.

Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, in a battle with the Samnites, seeing
his horse, after three or four charges, had failed of breaking into the
enemy’s battalion, took this course, to make them unbridle all their
horses and spur their hardest, so that having nothing to check their
career, they might through weapons and men open the way to his foot, who
by that means gave them a bloody defeat.  The same command was given by
Quintus Fulvius Flaccus against the Celtiberians:

     [“You will do your business with greater advantage of your horses’
     strength, if you send them unbridled upon the enemy, as it is
     recorded the Roman horse to their great glory have often done; their
     bits being taken off, they charged through and again back through
     the enemy’s ranks with great slaughter, breaking down all their
     spears.”--Idem, xl. 40.]

The Duke of Muscovy was anciently obliged to pay this reverence to the
Tartars, that when they sent an embassy to him he went out to meet them
on foot, and presented them with a goblet of mares’ milk (a beverage of
greatest esteem amongst them), and if, in drinking, a drop fell by chance
upon their horse’s mane, he was bound to lick it off with his tongue.
The army that Bajazet had sent into Russia was overwhelmed with so
dreadful a tempest of snow, that to shelter and preserve themselves from
the cold, many killed and embowelled their horses, to creep into their
bellies and enjoy the benefit of that vital heat.  Bajazet, after that
furious battle wherein he was overthrown by Tamerlane,  was in a hopeful
way of securing his own person by the fleetness of an Arabian mare he had
under him, had he not been constrained to let her drink her fill at the
ford of a river in his way, which rendered her so heavy and indisposed,
that he was afterwards easily overtaken by those that pursued him.  They
say, indeed, that to let a horse stale takes him off his mettle, but as
to drinking, I should rather have thought it would refresh him.

Croesus, marching his army through certain waste lands near Sardis, met
with an infinite number of serpents, which the horses devoured with great
appetite, and which Herodotus says was a prodigy of ominous portent to
his affairs.

We call a horse entire, that has his mane and ears so, and no other will
pass muster.  The Lacedaemonians, having defeated the Athenians in
Sicily, returning triumphant from the victory into the city of Syracuse,
amongst other insolences, caused all the horses they had taken to be
shorn and led in triumph.  Alexander fought with a nation called Dahas,
whose discipline it was to march two and two together armed on one horse,
to the war; and being in fight, one of them alighted, and so they fought
on horseback and on foot, one after another by turns.

I do not think that for graceful riding any nation in the world excels
the French.  A good horseman, according to our way of speaking, seems
rather to have respect to the courage of the man than address in riding.
Of all that ever I saw, the most knowing in that art, who had the best
seat and the best method in breaking horses, was Monsieur de Carnavalet,
who served our King Henry II.

I have seen a man ride with both his feet upon the saddle, take off his
saddle, and at his return take it up again and replace it, riding all the
while full speed; having galloped over a cap, make at it very good shots
backwards with his bow; take up anything from the ground, setting one
foot on the ground and the other in the stirrup: with twenty other ape’s
tricks, which he got his living by.

There has been seen in my time at Constantinople two men upon one horse,
who, in the height of its speed, would throw themselves off and into the
saddle again by turn; and one who bridled and saddled his horse with
nothing but his teeth; an other who betwixt two horses, one foot upon one
saddle and the other upon another, carrying the other man upon his
shoulders, would ride full career, the other standing bolt upright upon
and making very good shots with his bow; several who would ride full
speed with their heels upward, and their heads upon the saddle betwixt
several scimitars, with the points upwards, fixed in the harness.  When I
was a boy, the prince of Sulmona, riding an unbroken horse at Naples,
prone to all sorts of action, held reals--[A small coin of Spain, the
Two Sicilies, &c.]--under his knees and toes, as if they had been nailed
there, to shew the firmness of his seat.



I should willingly pardon our people for admitting no other pattern or
rule of perfection than their own peculiar manners and customs; for ‘tis
a common vice, not of the vulgar only, but almost of all men, to walk in
the beaten road their ancestors have trod before them.  I am content,
when they see Fabricius or Laelius, that they look upon their countenance
and behaviour as barbarous, seeing they are neither clothed nor fashioned
according to our mode.  But I find fault with their singular indiscretion
in suffering themselves to be so blinded and imposed upon by the
authority of the present usage as every month to alter their opinion, if
custom so require, and that they should so vary their judgment in their
own particular concern.  When they wore the busk of their doublets up as
high as their breasts, they stiffly maintained that they were in their
proper place; some years after it was slipped down betwixt their thighs,
and then they could laugh at the former fashion as uneasy and
intolerable.  The fashion now in use makes them absolutely condemn the
other two with so great resolution and so universal consent, that a man
would think there was a certain kind of madness crept in amongst them,
that infatuates their understandings to this strange degree.  Now, seeing
that our change of fashions is so prompt and sudden, that the inventions
of all the tailors in the world cannot furnish out new whim-whams enow to
feed our vanity withal, there will often be a necessity that the despised
forms must again come in vogue, these immediately after fall into the
same contempt; and that the same judgment must, in the space of fifteen
or twenty years, take up half-a-dozen not only divers but contrary
opinions, with an incredible lightness and inconstancy; there is not any
of us so discreet, who suffers not himself to be gulled with this
contradiction, and both in external and internal sight to be insensibly

I wish to muster up here some old customs that I have in memory, some of
them the same with ours, the others different, to the end that, bearing
in mind this continual variation of human things, we may have our
judgment more clearly and firmly settled.

The thing in use amongst us of fighting with rapier and cloak was in
practice amongst the Romans also:

          “Sinistras sagis involvunt, gladiosque distringunt,”

     [“They wrapt their cloaks upon the left arm, and drew their
     swords.”--De Bello Civili, i. 75.]

says Caesar; and he observes a vicious custom of our nation, that
continues yet amongst us, which is to stop passengers we meet upon the
road, to compel them to give an account who they are, and to take it for
an affront and just cause of quarrel if they refuse to do it.

At the Baths, which the ancients made use of every day before they went
to dinner, and as frequently as we wash our hands, they at first only
bathed their arms and legs; but afterwards, and by a custom that has
continued for many ages in most nations of the world, they bathed stark
naked in mixed and perfumed water, looking upon it as a great simplicity
to bathe in mere water.  The most delicate and affected perfumed
themselves all over three or four times a day.  They often caused their
hair to be pinched off, as the women of France have some time since taken
up a custom to do their foreheads,

          “Quod pectus, quod crura tibi, quod brachia veilis,”

     [“You pluck the hairs out of your breast, your arms, and thighs.”
      --Martial, ii.  62, i.]

though they had ointments proper for that purpose:

          “Psilotro nitet, aut acids latet oblita creta.”

     [“She shines with unguents, or with chalk dissolved in vinegar.”
      --Idem, vi.  93, 9.]

They delighted to lie soft, and alleged it as a great testimony of
hardiness to lie upon a mattress.  They ate lying upon beds, much after
the manner of the Turks in this age:

          “Inde thoro pater AEneas sic orsus ab alto.”

     [“Thus Father AEneas, from his high bed of state, spoke.”
      --AEneid, ii. 2.]

And ‘tis said of the younger Cato, that after the battle of Pharsalia,
being entered into a melancholy disposition at the ill posture of the
public affairs, he took his repasts always sitting, assuming a strict and
austere course of life.  It was also their custom to kiss the hands of
great persons; the more to honour and caress them.  And meeting with
friends, they always kissed in salutation, as do the Venetians:

          “Gratatusque darem cum dulcibus oscula verbis.”

          [“And kindest words I would mingle with kisses.”
           --Ovid, De Pont., iv. 9, 13]

In petitioning or saluting any great man, they used to lay their hands
upon his knees.  Pasicles the philosopher, brother of Crates, instead of
laying his hand upon the knee laid it upon the private parts, and being
roughly repulsed by him to whom he made that indecent compliment:
“What,” said he, “is not that part your own as well as the other?”
 --[Diogenes Laertius, vi. 89.]--They used to eat fruit, as we do, after
dinner.  They wiped their fundaments (let the ladies, if they please,
mince it smaller) with a sponge, which is the reason that ‘spongia’ is a
smutty word in Latin; which sponge was fastened to the end of a stick, as
appears by the story of him who, as he was led along to be thrown to the
wild beasts in the sight of the people, asking leave to do his business,
and having no other way to despatch himself, forced the sponge and stick
down his throat and choked himself.--[Seneca, Ep., 70.] They used to
wipe, after coition, with perfumed wool:

          “At tibi nil faciam; sed Iota mentula lana.”

They had in the streets of Rome vessels and little tubs for passengers to
urine in:

          “Pusi saepe lacum propter se, ac dolia curta.
          Somno devincti, credunt extollere vestem.”

     [“The little boys in their sleep often think they are near the
     public urinal, and raise their coats to make use of it.”
      --Lucretius, iv.]

They had collation betwixt meals, and had in summer cellars of snow to
cool their wine; and some there were who made use of snow in winter, not
thinking their wine cool enough, even at that cold season of the year.
The men of quality had their cupbearers and carvers, and their buffoons
to make them sport.  They had their meat served up in winter upon chafing
dishes, which were set upon the table, and had portable kitchens (of
which I myself have seen some) wherein all their service was carried
about with them:

               “Has vobis epulas habete, lauti
               Nos offendimur ambulante caena.”

     [“Do you, if you please, esteem these feasts: we do not like the
     ambulatory suppers.”--Martial, vii. 48, 4.]

In summer they had a contrivance to bring fresh and clear rills through
their lower rooms, wherein were great store of living fish, which the
guests took out with their own hands to be dressed every man according to
his own liking.  Fish has ever had this pre-eminence, and keeps it still,
that the grandees, as to them, all pretend to be cooks; and indeed the
taste is more delicate than that of flesh, at least to my fancy.  But in
all sorts of magnificence, debauchery, and voluptuous inventions of
effeminacy and expense, we do, in truth, all we can to parallel them;
for our wills are as corrupt as theirs: but we want ability to equal
them.  Our force is no more able to reach them in their vicious, than in
their virtuous, qualities, for both the one and the other proceeded from
a vigour of soul which was without comparison greater in them than in us;
and souls, by how much the weaker they are, by so much have they less
power to do either very well or very ill.

The highest place of honour amongst them was the middle.  The name going
before, or following after, either in writing or speaking, had no
signification of grandeur, as is evident by their writings; they will as
soon say Oppius and Caesar, as Caesar and Oppius; and me and thee, as
thee and me.  This is the reason that made me formerly take notice in the
life of Flaminius, in our French Plutarch, of one passage, where it seems
as if the author, speaking of the jealousy of honour betwixt the
AEtolians and Romans, about the winning of a battle they had with their
joined forces obtained, made it of some importance, that in the Greek
songs they had put the AEtolians before the Romans: if there be no
amphibology in the words of the French translation.

The ladies, in their baths, made no scruple of admitting men amongst
them, and moreover made use of their serving-men to rub and anoint them:

          “Inguina succinctus nigri tibi servus aluta
          Stat, quoties calidis nuda foveris aquis.”

     [“A slave--his middle girded with a black apron--stands before you,
     when, naked, you take a hot bath.”--Martial, vii. 35, i.]

They all powdered themselves with a certain powder, to moderate their

The ancient Gauls, says Sidonius Apollinaris, wore their hair long before
and the hinder part of the head shaved, a fashion that begins to revive
in this vicious and effeminate age.

The Romans used to pay the watermen their fare at their first stepping
into the boat, which we never do till after landing:

               “Dum aes exigitur, dum mula ligatur,
               Tota abit hora.”

     [“Whilst the fare’s paying, and the mule is being harnessed, a whole
     hour’s time is past.”--Horace, Sat. i. 5, 13.]

The women used to lie on the side of the bed next the wall: and for that
reason they called Caesar,

                    “Spondam regis Nicomedis,”

     [“The bed of King Nicomedes.”--Suetonius, Life of Caesar, 49.]

They took breath in their drinking, and watered their wine

                   “Quis puer ocius
                    Restinguet ardentis Falerni
                    Pocula praetereunte lympha?”

     [“What boy will quickly come and cool the heat of the Falernian
     wine with clear water?”--Horace, Od., ii. z, 18.]

And the roguish looks and gestures of our lackeys were also in use
amongst them:

          “O Jane, a tergo quern nulls ciconia pinsit,
          Nec manus, auriculas imitari est mobilis albas,
          Nec lingua, quantum sitiat canis Appula, tantum.”

     [“O Janus, whom no crooked fingers, simulating a stork, peck at
     behind your back, whom no quick hands deride behind you, by
     imitating the motion of the white ears of the ass, against whom no
     mocking tongue is thrust out, as the tongue of the thirsty Apulian
     dog.”--Persius, i. 58.]

The Argian and Roman ladies mourned in white, as ours did formerly and
should do still, were I to govern in this point.  But there are whole
books on this subject.



The judgment is an utensil proper for all subjects, and will have an oar
in everything: which is the reason, that in these Essays I take hold of
all occasions where, though it happen to be a subject I do not very well
understand, I try, however, sounding it at a distance, and finding it too
deep for my stature, I keep me on the shore; and this knowledge that a
man can proceed no further, is one effect of its virtue, yes, one of
those of which it is most proud.  One while in an idle and frivolous
subject, I try to find out matter whereof to compose a body, and then to
prop and support it; another while, I employ it in a noble subject, one
that has been tossed and tumbled by a thousand hands, wherein a man can
scarce possibly introduce anything of his own, the way being so beaten on
every side that he must of necessity walk in the steps of another: in
such a case, ‘tis the work of the judgment to take the way that seems
best, and of a thousand paths, to determine that this or that is the
best.  I leave the choice of my arguments to fortune, and take that she
first presents to me; they are all alike to me, I never design to go
through any of them; for I never see all of anything: neither do they who
so largely promise to show it others.  Of a hundred members and faces
that everything has, I take one, onewhile to look it over only, another
while to ripple up the skin, and sometimes to pinch it to the bones: I
give a stab, not so wide but as deep as I can, and am for the most part
tempted to take it in hand by some new light I discover in it.  Did I
know myself less, I might perhaps venture to handle something or other to
the bottom, and to be deceived in my own inability; but sprinkling here
one word and there another, patterns cut from several pieces and
scattered without design and without engaging myself too far, I am not
responsible for them, or obliged to keep close to my subject, without
varying at my own liberty and pleasure, and giving up myself to doubt and
uncertainty, and to my own governing method, ignorance.

All motion discovers us: the very same soul of Caesar, that made itself
so conspicuous in marshalling and commanding the battle of Pharsalia, was
also seen as solicitous and busy in the softer affairs of love and
leisure.  A man makes a judgment of a horse, not only by seeing him when
he is showing off his paces, but by his very walk, nay, and by seeing him
stand in the stable.

Amongst the functions of the soul, there are some of a lower and meaner
form; he who does not see her in those inferior offices as well as in
those of nobler note, never fully discovers her; and, peradventure, she
is best shown where she moves her simpler pace.  The winds of passions
take most hold of her in her highest flights; and the rather by reason
that she wholly applies herself to, and exercises her whole virtue upon,
every particular subject, and never handles more than one thing at a
time, and that not according to it, but according to herself.  Things in
respect to themselves have, peradventure, their weight, measures, and
conditions; but when we once take them into us, the soul forms them as
she pleases.  Death is terrible to Cicero, coveted by Cato, indifferent
to Socrates.  Health, conscience, authority, knowledge, riches, beauty,
and their contraries, all strip themselves at their entering into us, and
receive a new robe, and of another fashion, from the soul; and of what
colour, brown, bright, green, dark, and of what quality, sharp, sweet,
deep, or superficial, as best pleases each of them, for they are not
agreed upon any common standard of forms, rules, or proceedings; every
one is a queen in her own dominions.  Let us, therefore, no more excuse
ourselves upon the external qualities of things; it belongs to us to give
ourselves an account of them.  Our good or ill has no other dependence
but on ourselves.  ‘Tis there that our offerings and our vows are due,
and not to fortune she has no power over our manners; on the contrary,
they draw and make her follow in their train, and cast her in their own
mould.  Why should not I judge of Alexander at table, ranting and
drinking at the prodigious rate he sometimes used to do?

Or, if he played at chess?  what string of his soul was not touched by
this idle and childish game?  I hate and avoid it, because it is not play
enough, that it is too grave and serious a diversion, and I am ashamed to
lay out as much thought and study upon it as would serve to much better
uses.  He did not more pump his brains about his glorious expedition into
the Indies, nor than another in unravelling a passage upon which depends
the safety of mankind.  To what a degree does this ridiculous diversion
molest the soul, when all her faculties are summoned together upon this
trivial account! and how fair an opportunity she herein gives every one
to know and to make a right judgment of himself?  I do not more
thoroughly sift myself in any other posture than this: what passion are
we exempted from in it?  Anger, spite, malice, impatience, and a vehement
desire of getting the better in a concern wherein it were more excusable
to be ambitious of being overcome; for to be eminent, to excel above the
common rate in frivolous things, nowise befits a man of honour.  What I
say in this example may be said in all others.  Every particle, every
employment of man manifests him equally with any other.

Democritus and Heraclitus were two philosophers, of whom the first,
finding human condition ridiculous and vain, never appeared abroad but
with a jeering and laughing countenance; whereas Heraclitus commiserating
that same condition of ours, appeared always with a sorrowful look, and
tears in his eyes:

               Ridebat, quoties a limine moverat unum
               Protuleratque pedem; flebat contrarius alter.”

     [“The one always, as often as he had stepped one pace from his
     threshold, laughed, the other always wept.”--Juvenal, Sat., x. 28.]

          [Or, as Voltaire: “Life is a comedy to those who think;
          a tragedy to those who feel.”  D.W.]

I am clearly for the first humour; not because it is more pleasant to
laugh than to weep, but because it expresses more contempt and
condemnation than the other, and I think we can never be despised
according to our full desert.  Compassion and bewailing seem to imply
some esteem of and value for the thing bemoaned; whereas the things we
laugh at are by that expressed to be of no moment.  I do not think that
we are so unhappy as we are vain, or have in us so much malice as folly;
we are not so full of mischief as inanity; nor so miserable as we are
vile and mean.  And therefore Diogenes, who passed away his time in
rolling himself in his tub, and made nothing of the great Alexander,
esteeming us no better than flies or bladders puffed up with wind, was a
sharper and more penetrating, and, consequently in my opinion, a juster
judge than Timon, surnamed the Man-hater; for what a man hates he lays to
heart.  This last was an enemy to all mankind, who passionately desired
our ruin, and avoided our conversation as dangerous, proceeding from
wicked and depraved natures: the other valued us so little that we could
neither trouble nor infect him by our example; and left us to herd one
with another, not out of fear, but from contempt of our society:
concluding us as incapable of doing good as evil.

Of the same strain was Statilius’ answer, when Brutus courted him into
the conspiracy against Caesar; he was satisfied that the enterprise was
just, but he did not think mankind worthy of a wise man’s concern’;
according to the doctrine of Hegesias, who said, that a wise man ought to
do nothing but for himself, forasmuch as he only was worthy of it: and to
the saying of Theodorus, that it was not reasonable a wise man should
hazard himself for his country, and endanger wisdom for a company of
fools.  Our condition is as ridiculous as risible.



A rhetorician of times past said, that to make little things appear great
was his profession.  This was a shoemaker, who can make a great shoe for
a little foot.--[A saying of Agesilaus.]--They would in Sparta have
sent such a fellow to be whipped for making profession of a tricky and
deceitful act; and I fancy that Archidamus, who was king of that country,
was a little surprised at the answer of Thucydides, when inquiring of
him, which was the better wrestler, Pericles, or he, he replied, that it
was hard to affirm; for when I have thrown him, said he, he always
persuades the spectators that he had no fall and carries away the prize.
--[Quintilian, ii.  15.]--The women who paint, pounce, and plaster up
their ruins, filling up their wrinkles and deformities, are less to
blame, because it is no great matter whether we see them in their natural
complexions; whereas these make it their business to deceive not our
sight only but our judgments, and to adulterate and corrupt the very
essence of things.  The republics that have maintained themselves in a
regular and well-modelled government, such as those of Lacedaemon and
Crete, had orators in no very great esteem.  Aristo wisely defined
rhetoric to be “a science to persuade the people;” Socrates and Plato
“an art to flatter and deceive.”  And those who deny it in the general
description, verify it throughout in their precepts.  The Mohammedans
will not suffer their children to be instructed in it, as being useless,
and the Athenians, perceiving of how pernicious consequence the practice
of it was, it being in their city of universal esteem, ordered the
principal part, which is to move the affections, with their exordiums and
perorations, to be taken away.  ‘Tis an engine invented to manage and
govern a disorderly and tumultuous rabble, and that never is made use of,
but like physic to the sick, in a discomposed state.  In those where the
vulgar or the ignorant, or both together, have been all-powerful and able
to give the law, as in those of Athens, Rhodes, and Rome, and where the
public affairs have been in a continual tempest of commotion, to such
places have the orators always repaired.  And in truth, we shall find few
persons in those republics who have pushed their fortunes to any great
degree of eminence without the assistance of eloquence.

Pompey, Caesar, Crassus, Lucullus, Lentulus, Metellus, thence took their
chiefest spring, to mount to that degree of authority at which they at
last arrived, making it of greater use to them than arms, contrary to the
opinion of better times; for, L. Volumnius speaking publicly in favour of
the election of Q. Fabius and Pub. Decius, to the consular dignity:
“These are men,” said he, “born for war and great in execution; in the
combat of the tongue altogether wanting; spirits truly consular.  The
subtle, eloquent, and learned are only good for the city, to make
praetors of, to administer justice.”--[Livy, x. 22.]

Eloquence most flourished at Rome when the public affairs were in the
worst condition and most disquieted with intestine commotions; as a free
and untilled soil bears the worst weeds.  By which it should seem that a
monarchical government has less need of it than any other: for the
stupidity and facility natural to the common people, and that render them
subject to be turned and twined and, led by the ears by this charming
harmony of words, without weighing or considering the truth and reality
of things by the force of reason: this facility, I say, is not easily
found in a single person, and it is also more easy by good education and
advice to secure him from the impression of this poison.  There was never
any famous orator known to come out of Persia or Macedon.

I have entered into this discourse upon the occasion of an Italian I
lately received into my service, and who was clerk of the kitchen to the
late Cardinal Caraffa till his death.  I put this fellow upon an account
of his office: when he fell to discourse of this palate-science, with
such a settled countenance and magisterial gravity, as if he had been
handling some profound point of divinity.  He made a learned distinction
of the several sorts of appetites; of that a man has before he begins to
eat, and of those after the second and third service; the means simply to
satisfy the first, and then to raise and actuate the other two; the
ordering of the sauces, first in general, and then proceeded to the
qualities of the ingredients and their effects; the differences of salads
according to their seasons, those which ought to be served up hot, and
which cold; the manner of their garnishment and decoration to render them
acceptable to the eye.  After which he entered upon the order of the
whole service, full of weighty and important considerations:

               “Nec minimo sane discrimine refert,
               Quo gestu lepores, et quo gallina secetur;”

     [“Nor with less discrimination observes how we should carve a hare,
     and how a hen.” or, (“Nor with the least discrimination relates how
     we should carve hares, and how cut up a hen.)”
      --Juvenal, Sat., v. 123.]

and all this set out with lofty and magnificent words, the very same we
make use of when we discourse of the government of an empire.  Which
learned lecture of my man brought this of Terence into my memory:

         “Hoc salsum est, hoc adustum est, hoc lautum est, parum:
          Illud recte: iterum sic memento: sedulo
          Moneo, qux possum, pro mea sapientia.
          Postremo, tanquam in speculum, in patinas,
          Demea, Inspicere jubeo, et moneo, quid facto usus sit.”

     [“This is too salt, that’s burnt, that’s not washed enough; that’s
     well; remember to do so another time.  Thus do I ever advise them to
     have things done properly, according to my capacity; and lastly,
     Demea, I command my cooks to look into every dish as if it were a
     mirror, and tell them what they should do.”
      --Terence, Adelph., iii. 3, 71.]

And yet even the Greeks themselves very much admired and highly applauded
the order and disposition that Paulus AEmilius observed in the feast he
gave them at his return from Macedon.  But I do not here speak of
effects, I speak of words only.

I do not know whether it may have the same operation upon other men that
it has upon me, but when I hear our architects thunder out their bombast
words of pilasters, architraves, and cornices, of the Corinthian and
Doric orders, and suchlike jargon, my imagination is presently possessed
with the palace of Apollidon; when, after all, I find them but the paltry
pieces of my own kitchen door.

To hear men talk of metonomies, metaphors, and allegories, and other
grammar words, would not one think they signified some rare and exotic
form of speaking?  And yet they are phrases that come near to the babble
of my chambermaid.

And this other is a gullery of the same stamp, to call the offices of our
kingdom by the lofty titles of the Romans, though they have no similitude
of function, and still less of authority and power.  And this also, which
I doubt will one day turn to the reproach of this age of ours, unworthily
and indifferently to confer upon any we think fit the most glorious
surnames with which antiquity honoured but one or two persons in several
ages.  Plato carried away the surname of Divine, by so universal a
consent that never any one repined at it, or attempted to take it from
him; and yet the Italians, who pretend, and with good reason, to more
sprightly wits and sounder sense than the other nations of their time,
have lately bestowed the same title upon Aretin, in whose writings, save
tumid phrases set out with smart periods, ingenious indeed but
far-fetched and fantastic, and the eloquence, be it what it may, I see
nothing in him above the ordinary writers of his time, so far is he from
approaching the ancient divinity.  And we make nothing of giving the
surname of great to princes who have nothing more than ordinary in them.



Attilius Regulus, general of the Roman army in Africa, in the height of
all his glory and victories over the Carthaginians, wrote to the Republic
to acquaint them that a certain hind he had left in trust with his
estate, which was in all but seven acres of land, had run away with all
his instruments of husbandry, and entreating therefore, that they would
please to call him home that he might take order in his own affairs, lest
his wife and children should suffer by this disaster.  Whereupon the
Senate appointed another to manage his business, caused his losses to be
made good, and ordered his family to be maintained at the public expense.

The elder Cato, returning consul from Spain, sold his warhorse to save
the money it would have cost in bringing it back by sea into Italy; and
being Governor of Sardinia, he made all his visits on foot, without other
train than one officer of the Republic who carried his robe and a censer
for sacrifices, and for the most part carried his trunk himself.  He
bragged that he had never worn a gown that cost above ten crowns, nor had
ever sent above tenpence to the market for one day’s provision; and that
as to his country houses, he had not one that was rough-cast on the

Scipio AEmilianus, after two triumphs and two consulships, went an
embassy with no more than seven servants in his train.  ‘Tis said that
Homer had never more than one, Plato three, and Zeno, founder of the sect
of Stoics, none at all.  Tiberius Gracchus was allowed but fivepence
halfpenny a day when employed as public minister about the public
affairs, and being at that time the greatest man of Rome.



If we would sometimes bestow a little consideration upon ourselves, and
employ the time we spend in prying into other men’s actions, and
discovering things without us, in examining our own abilities we should
soon perceive of how infirm and decaying material this fabric of ours is
composed.  Is it not a singular testimony of imperfection that we cannot
establish our satisfaction in any one thing, and that even our own fancy
and desire should deprive us of the power to choose what is most proper
and useful for us?  A very good proof of this is the great dispute that
has ever been amongst the philosophers, of finding out man’s sovereign
good, that continues yet, and will eternally continue, without solution
or accord:

              “Dum abest quod avemus, id exsuperare videtur
               Caetera; post aliud, quum contigit illud, avemus,
               Et sitis aequa tenet.”

     [“While that which we desire is wanting, it seems to surpass all the
     rest; then, when we have got it, we want something else; ‘tis ever
     the same thirst”--Lucretius, iii. 1095.]

Whatever it is that falls into our knowledge and possession, we find that
it satisfies not, and we still pant after things to come and unknown,
inasmuch as those present do not suffice for us; not that, in my
judgment, they have not in them wherewith to do it, but because we seize
them with an unruly and immoderate haste:

         “Nam quum vidit hic, ad victum qux flagitat usus,
          Et per quae possent vitam consistere tutam,
          Omnia jam ferme mortalibus esse parata;
          Divitiis homines, et honore, et laude potentes
          Aflluere, atque bona natorum excellere fama;
          Nec minus esse domi cuiquam tamen anxia corda,
          Atque animi ingratis vitam vexare querelis
          Causam, quae infestis cogit saevire querelis,
          Intellegit ibi; vitium vas efficere ipsum,
          Omniaque, illius vitio, corrumpier intus,
          Qux collata foris et commoda quomque venirent.”

     [“For when he saw that almost all things necessarily required for
     subsistence, and which may render life comfortable, are already
     prepared to their hand, that men may abundantly attain wealth,
     honour, praise, may rejoice in the reputation of their children, yet
     that, notwithstanding, every one has none the less in his heart and
     home anxieties and a mind enslaved by wearing complaints, he saw
     that the vessel itself was in fault, and that all good things which
     were brought into it from without were spoilt by its own
     imperfections.”--Lucretius, vi. 9.]

Our appetite is irresolute and fickle; it can neither keep nor enjoy
anything with a good grace: and man concluding it to be the fault of the
things he is possessed of, fills himself with and feeds upon the idea of
things he neither knows nor understands, to which he devotes his hopes
and his desires, paying them all reverence and honour, according to the
saying of Caesar:

          “Communi fit vitio naturae, ut invisis, latitantibus
          atque incognitis rebus magis confidamas,
          vehementiusque exterreamur.”

     [“‘Tis the common vice of nature, that we at once repose most
     confidence, and receive the greatest apprehensions, from things
     unseen, concealed, and unknown.”--De Bello Civil, xi. 4.]



There are a sort of little knacks and frivolous subtleties from which men
sometimes expect to derive reputation and applause: as poets, who compose
whole poems with every line beginning with the same letter; we see the
shapes of eggs, globes, wings, and hatchets cut out by the ancient Greeks
by the measure of their verses, making them longer or shorter, to
represent such or such a figure.  Of this nature was his employment who
made it his business to compute into how many several orders the letters
of the alphabet might be transposed, and found out that incredible number
mentioned in Plutarch.  I am mightily pleased with the humour of him,

     [“Alexander, as may be seen in Quintil., Institut.  Orat., lib.
     ii., cap. 20, where he defines Maratarexvia to be a certain
     unnecessary imitation of art, which really does neither good nor
     harm, but is as unprofitable and ridiculous as was the labour of
     that man who had so perfectly learned to cast small peas through the
     eye of a needle at a good distance that he never missed one, and was
     justly rewarded for it, as is said, by Alexander, who saw the
     performance, with a bushel of peas.”--Coste.]

who having a man brought before him that had learned to throw a grain of
millet with such dexterity and assurance as never to miss the eye of a
needle; and being afterwards entreated to give something for the reward
of so rare a performance, he pleasantly, and in my opinion justly,
ordered a certain number of bushels of the same grain to be delivered to
him, that he might not want wherewith to exercise so famous an art.  ‘Tis
a strong evidence of a weak judgment when men approve of things for their
being rare and new, or for their difficulty, where worth and usefulness
are not conjoined to recommend them.

I come just now from playing with my own family at who could find out the
most things that hold by their two extremities; as Sire, which is a title
given to the greatest person in the nation, the king, and also to the
vulgar, as merchants, but never to any degree of men between.  The women
of great quality are called Dames, inferior gentlewomen, Demoiselles, and
the meanest sort of women, Dames, as the first.  The cloth of state over
our tables is not permitted but in the palaces of princes and in taverns.
Democritus said, that gods and beasts had sharper sense than men, who are
of a middle form.  The Romans wore the same habit at funerals and feasts.
It is most certain that an extreme fear and an extreme ardour of courage
equally trouble and relax the belly.  The nickname of Trembling with
which they surnamed Sancho XII., king of Navarre, tells us that valour
will cause a trembling in the limbs as well as fear.  Those who were
arming that king, or some other person, who upon the like occasion was
wont to be in the same disorder, tried to compose him by representing the
danger less he was going to engage himself in: “You understand me ill,”
 said he, “for could my flesh know the danger my courage will presently
carry it into, it would sink down to the ground.”  The faintness that
surprises us from frigidity or dislike in the exercises of Venus are also
occasioned by a too violent desire and an immoderate heat.  Extreme
coldness and extreme heat boil and roast.  Aristotle says, that sows of
lead will melt and run with cold and the rigour of winter just as with a
vehement heat.  Desire and satiety fill all the gradations above and
below pleasure with pain.  Stupidity and wisdom meet in the same centre
of sentiment and resolution, in the suffering of human accidents.  The
wise control and triumph over ill, the others know it not: these last
are, as a man may say, on this side of accidents, the others are beyond
them, who after having well weighed and considered their qualities,
measured and judged them what they are, by virtue of a vigorous soul leap
out of their reach; they disdain and trample them underfoot, having a
solid and well-fortified soul, against which the darts of fortune, coming
to strike, must of necessity rebound and blunt themselves, meeting with a
body upon which they can fix no impression; the ordinary and middle
condition of men are lodged betwixt these two extremities, consisting of
such as perceive evils, feel them, and are not able to support them.
Infancy and decrepitude meet in the imbecility of the brain; avarice and
profusion in the same thirst and desire of getting.

A man may say with some colour of truth that there is an Abecedarian
ignorance that precedes knowledge, and a doctoral ignorance that comes
after it: an ignorance that knowledge creates and begets, at the same
time that it despatches and destroys the first.  Of mean understandings,
little inquisitive, and little instructed, are made good Christians, who
by reverence and obedience simply believe and are constant in their
belief.  In the average understandings and the middle sort of capacities,
the error of opinion is begotten; they follow the appearance of the first
impression, and have some colour of reason on their side to impute our
walking on in the old beaten path to simplicity and stupidity, meaning us
who have not informed ourselves by study.  The higher and nobler souls,
more solid and clear-sighted, make up another sort of true believers, who
by a long and religious investigation of truth, have obtained a clearer
and more penetrating light into the Scriptures, and have discovered the
mysterious and divine secret of our ecclesiastical polity; and yet we see
some, who by the middle step, have arrived at that supreme degree with
marvellous fruit and confirmation, as to the utmost limit of Christian
intelligence, and enjoy their victory with great spiritual consolation,
humble acknowledgment of the divine favour, reformation of manners, and
singular modesty.  I do not intend with these to rank those others, who
to clear themselves from all suspicion of their former errors and to
satisfy us that they are sound and firm, render themselves extremely
indiscreet and unjust, in the carrying on our cause, and blemish it with
infinite reproaches of violence and oppression.  The simple peasants are
good people, and so are the philosophers, or whatever the present age
calls them, men of strong and clear reason, and whose souls are enriched
with an ample instruction of profitable sciences.  The mongrels who have
disdained the first form of the ignorance of letters, and have not been
able to attain to the other (sitting betwixt two stools, as I and a great
many more of us do), are dangerous, foolish, and importunate; these are
they that trouble the world.  And therefore it is that I, for my own
part, retreat as much as I can towards the first and natural station,
whence I so vainly attempted to advance.

Popular and purely natural poesy

     [“The term poesie populaire was employed, for the first time, in the
     French language on this occasion.  Montaigne created the expression,
     and indicated its nature.”--Ampere.]

has in it certain artless graces, by which she may come into comparison
with the greatest beauty of poetry perfected by art: as we see in our
Gascon villanels and the songs that are brought us from nations that have
no knowledge of any manner of science, nor so much as the use of writing.
The middle sort of poesy betwixt these two is despised, of no value,
honour, or esteem.

But seeing that the path once laid open to the fancy, I have found, as it
commonly falls out, that what we have taken for a difficult exercise and
a rare subject, prove to be nothing so, and that after the invention is
once warm, it finds out an infinite number of parallel examples.  I shall
only add this one--that, were these Essays of mine considerable enough to
deserve a critical judgment, it might then, I think, fall out that they
would not much take with common and vulgar capacities, nor be very
acceptable to the singular and excellent sort of men; the first would not
understand them enough, and the last too much; and so they may hover in
the middle region.



It has been reported of some, as of Alexander the Great, that their sweat
exhaled an odoriferous smell, occasioned by some rare and extraordinary
constitution, of which Plutarch and others have been inquisitive into the
cause.  But the ordinary constitution of human bodies is quite otherwise,
and their best and chiefest excellency is to be exempt from smell.  Nay,
the sweetness even of the purest breath has nothing in it of greater
perfection than to be without any offensive smell, like those of
healthful children, which made Plautus say of a woman:

               “Mulier tum bene olet, ubi nihil olet.”

          [“She smells sweetest, who smells not at all.”
           --Plautus, Mostel, i. 3, 116.]

And such as make use of fine exotic perfumes are with good reason to be
suspected of some natural imperfection which they endeavour by these
odours to conceal.  To smell, though well, is to stink:

              “Rides nos, Coracine, nil olentes
               Malo, quam bene olere, nil olere.”

     [“You laugh at us, Coracinus, because we are not scented; I would,
     rather than smell well, not smell at all.”--Martial, vi. 55, 4.]

And elsewhere:

          “Posthume, non bene olet, qui bene semper olet.”

     [“Posthumus, he who ever smells well does not smell well.”
      --Idem, ii. 12, 14.]

I am nevertheless a great lover of good smells, and as much abominate the
ill ones, which also I scent at a greater distance, I think, than other

              “Namque sagacius unus odoror,
               Polypus, an gravis hirsutis cubet hircus in aliis
               Quam canis acer, ubi latest sus.”

     [“My nose is quicker to scent a fetid sore or a rank armpit, than a
     dog to smell out the hidden sow.”--Horace, Epod., xii.  4.]

Of smells, the simple and natural seem to me the most pleasing.  Let the
ladies look to that, for ‘tis chiefly their concern: amid the most
profound barbarism, the Scythian women, after bathing, were wont to
powder and crust their faces and all their bodies with a certain
odoriferous drug growing in their country, which being cleansed off, when
they came to have familiarity with men they were found perfumed and
sleek.  ‘Tis not to be believed how strangely all sorts of odours cleave
to me, and how apt my skin is to imbibe them.  He that complains of
nature that she has not furnished mankind with a vehicle to convey smells
to the nose had no reason; for they will do it themselves, especially to
me; my very mustachios, which are full, perform that office; for if I
stroke them but with my gloves or handkerchief, the smell will not out a
whole day; they manifest where I have been, and the close, luscious,
devouring, viscid melting kisses of youthful ardour in my wanton age left
a sweetness upon my lips for several hours after.  And yet I have ever
found myself little subject to epidemic diseases, that are caught, either
by conversing with the sick or bred by the contagion of the air, and have
escaped from those of my time, of which there have been several sorts in
our cities and armies.  We read of Socrates, that though he never
departed from Athens during the frequent plagues that infested the city,
he only was never infected.

Physicians might, I believe, extract greater utility from odours than
they do, for I have often observed that they cause an alteration in me
and work upon my spirits according to their several virtues; which makes
me approve of what is said, that the use of incense and perfumes in
churches, so ancient and so universally received in all nations and
religions, was intended to cheer us, and to rouse and purify the senses,
the better to fit us for contemplation.

I could have been glad, the better to judge of it, to have tasted the
culinary art of those cooks who had so rare a way of seasoning exotic
odours with the relish of meats; as it was particularly observed in the
service of the king of Tunis, who in our days--[Muley-Hassam, in 1543.]
--landed at Naples to have an interview with Charles the Emperor.  His
dishes were larded with odoriferous drugs, to that degree of expense that
the cookery of one peacock and two pheasants amounted to a hundred ducats
to dress them after their fashion; and when the carver came to cut them
up, not only the dining-room, but all the apartments of his palace and
the adjoining streets were filled with an aromatic vapour which did not
presently vanish.

My chiefest care in choosing my lodgings is always to avoid a thick and
stinking air; and those beautiful cities, Venice and Paris, very much
lessen the kindness I have for them, the one by the offensive smell of
her marshes, and the other of her dirt.



I propose formless and undetermined fancies, like those who publish
doubtful questions, to be after a disputed upon in the schools, not to
establish truth but to seek it; and I submit them to the judgments of
those whose office it is to regulate, not my writings and actions only,
but moreover my very thoughts.  Let what I here set down meet with
correction or applause, it shall be of equal welcome and utility to me,
myself beforehand condemning as absurd and impious, if anything shall be
found, through ignorance or inadvertency, couched in this rhapsody,
contrary to the holy resolutions and prescriptions of the Catholic
Apostolic and Roman Church, into which I was born and in which I will
die.  And yet, always submitting to the authority of their censure, which
has an absolute power over me, I thus rashly venture at everything, as in
treating upon this present subject.

I know not if or no I am wrong, but since, by a particular favour of the
divine bounty, a certain form of prayer has been prescribed and dictated
to us, word by word, from the mouth of God Himself, I have ever been of
opinion that we ought to have it in more frequent use than we yet have;
and if I were worthy to advise, at the sitting down to and rising from
our tables, at our rising from and going to bed, and in every particular
action wherein prayer is used, I would that Christians always make use of
the Lord’s Prayer, if not alone, yet at least always.  The Church may
lengthen and diversify prayers, according to the necessity of our
instruction, for I know very well that it is always the same in substance
and the same thing: but yet such a privilege ought to be given to that
prayer, that the people should have it continually in their mouths; for
it is most certain that all necessary petitions are comprehended in it,
and that it is infinitely proper for all occasions.  ‘Tis the only prayer
I use in all places and conditions, and which I still repeat instead of
changing; whence it also happens that I have no other so entirely by
heart as that.

It just now came into my mind, whence it is we should derive that error
of having recourse to God in all our designs and enterprises, to call Him
to our assistance in all sorts of affairs, and in all places where our
weakness stands in need of support, without considering whether the
occasion be just or otherwise; and to invoke His name and power, in what
state soever we are, or action we are engaged in, howsoever vicious.  He
is indeed, our sole and unique protector, and can do all things for us:
but though He is pleased to honour us with this sweet paternal alliance,
He is, notwithstanding, as just as He is good and mighty; and more often
exercises His justice than His power, and favours us according to that,
and not according to our petitions.

Plato in his Laws, makes three sorts of belief injurious to the gods;
“that there are none; that they concern not themselves about our affairs;
that they never refuse anything to our vows, offerings, and sacrifices.”
 The first of these errors (according to his opinion, never continued
rooted in any man from his infancy to his old age); the other two, he
confesses, men might be obstinate in.

God’s justice and His power are inseparable; ‘tis in vain we invoke His
power in an unjust cause.  We are to have our souls pure and clean, at
that moment at least wherein we pray to Him, and purified from all
vicious passions; otherwise we ourselves present Him the rods wherewith
to chastise us; instead of repairing anything we have done amiss, we
double the wickedness and the offence when we offer to Him, to whom we
are to sue for pardon, an affection full of irreverence and hatred.
Which makes me not very apt to applaud those whom I observe to be so
frequent on their knees, if the actions nearest to the prayer do not give
me some evidence of amendment and reformation:

              “Si, nocturnus adulter,
               Tempora Santonico velas adoperta cucullo.”

     [“If a night adulterer, thou coverest thy head with a Santonic
     cowl.”--Juvenal, Sat., viii.  144.--The Santones were the people
     who inhabited Saintonge in France, from whom the Romans derived the
     use of hoods or cowls covering the head and face.]

And the practice of a man who mixes devotion with an execrable life seems
in some sort more to be condemned than that of a man conformable to his
own propension and dissolute throughout; and for that reason it is that
our Church denies admittance to and communion with men obstinate and
incorrigible in any notorious wickedness.  We pray only by custom and for
fashion’s sake; or rather, we read or pronounce our prayers aloud, which
is no better than an hypocritical show of devotion; and I am scandalised
to see a man cross himself thrice at the Benedicite, and as often at
Grace (and the more, because it is a sign I have in great veneration and
continual use, even when I yawn), and to dedicate all the other hours of
the day to acts of malice, avarice, and injustice.  One hour to God, the
rest to the devil, as if by composition and compensation.  ‘Tis a wonder
to see actions so various in themselves succeed one another with such an
uniformity of method as not to interfere nor suffer any alteration, even
upon the very confines and passes from the one to the other.  What a
prodigious conscience must that be that can be at quiet within itself
whilst it harbours under the same roof, with so agreeing and so calm a
society, both the crime and the judge?

A man whose whole meditation is continually working upon nothing but
impurity which he knows to be so odious to Almighty God, what can he say
when he comes to speak to Him?  He draws back, but immediately falls into
a relapse.  If the object of divine justice and the presence of his Maker
did, as he pretends, strike and chastise his soul, how short soever the
repentance might be, the very fear of offending the Infinite Majesty
would so often present itself to his imagination that he would soon see
himself master of those vices that are most natural and vehement in him.
But what shall we say of those who settle their whole course of life upon
the profit and emolument of sins, which they know to be mortal?  How many
trades and vocations have we admitted and countenanced amongst us, whose
very essence is vicious?  And he that, confessing himself to me,
voluntarily told me that he had all his lifetime professed and practised
a religion, in his opinion damnable and contrary to that he had in his
heart, only to preserve his credit and the honour of his employments, how
could his courage suffer so infamous a confession?  What can men say to
the divine justice upon this subject?

Their repentance consisting in a visible and manifest reparation, they
lose the colour of alleging it both to God and man.  Are they so impudent
as to sue for remission without satisfaction and without penitence?
I look upon these as in the same condition with the first: but the
obstinacy is not there so easy to be overcome.  This contrariety and
volubility of opinion so sudden, so violent, that they feign, are a kind
of miracle to me: they present us with the state of an indigestible agony
of mind.

It seemed to me a fantastic imagination in those who, these late years
past, were wont to reproach every man they knew to be of any
extraordinary parts, and made profession of the Catholic religion, that
it was but outwardly; maintaining, moreover, to do him honour forsooth,
that whatever he might pretend to the contrary he could not but in his
heart be of their reformed opinion.  An untoward disease, that a man
should be so riveted to his own belief as to fancy that others cannot
believe otherwise than as he does; and yet worse, that they should
entertain so vicious an opinion of such great parts as to think any man
so qualified, should prefer any present advantage of fortune to the
promises of eternal life and the menaces of eternal damnation.  They may
believe me: could anything have tempted my youth, the ambition of the
danger and difficulties in the late commotions had not been the least

It is not without very good reason, in my opinion, that the Church
interdicts the promiscuous, indiscreet, and irreverent use of the holy
and divine Psalms, with which the Holy Ghost inspired King David.  We
ought not to mix God in our actions, but with the highest reverence and
caution; that poesy is too holy to be put to no other use than to
exercise the lungs and to delight our ears; it ought to come from the
conscience, and not from the tongue.  It is not fit that a prentice in
his shop, amongst his vain and frivolous thoughts, should be permitted to
pass away his time and divert himself with such sacred things.  Neither
is it decent to see the Holy Book of the holy mysteries of our belief
tumbled up and down a hall or a kitchen they were formerly mysteries, but
are now become sports and recreations.  ‘Tis a book too serious and too
venerable to be cursorily or slightly turned over: the reading of the
scripture ought to be a temperate and premeditated act, and to which men
should always add this devout preface, ‘sursum corda’, preparing even the
body to so humble and composed a gesture and countenance as shall
evidence a particular veneration and attention.  Neither is it a book for
everyone to fist, but the study of select men set apart for that purpose,
and whom Almighty God has been pleased to call to that office and sacred
function: the wicked and ignorant grow worse by it.  ‘Tis, not a story to
tell, but a history to revere, fear, and adore.  Are not they then
pleasant men who think they have rendered this fit for the people’s
handling by translating it into the vulgar tongue?  Does the
understanding of all therein contained only stick at words?  Shall I
venture to say further, that by coming so near to understand a little,
they are much wider of the whole scope than before.  A pure and simple
ignorance and wholly depending upon the exposition of qualified persons,
was far more learned and salutary than this vain and verbal knowledge,
which has only temerity and presumption.

And I do further believe that the liberty every one has taken to disperse
the sacred writ into so many idioms carries with it a great deal more of
danger than utility.  The Jews, Mohammedans, and almost all other
peoples, have reverentially espoused the language wherein their mysteries
were first conceived, and have expressly, and not without colour of
reason, forbidden the alteration of them into any other.  Are we assured
that in Biscay and in Brittany there are enough competent judges of this
affair to establish this translation into their own language?  The
universal Church has not a more difficult and solemn judgment to make.
In preaching and speaking the interpretation is vague, free, mutable, and
of a piece by itself; so ‘tis not the same thing.

One of our Greek historians age justly censures the he lived in, because
the secrets of the Christian religion were dispersed into the hands of
every mechanic, to expound and argue upon, according to his own fancy,
and that we ought to be much ashamed, we who by God’s especial favour
enjoy the pure mysteries of piety, to suffer them to be profaned by the
ignorant rabble; considering that the Gentiles expressly forbad Socrates,
Plato, and the other sages to inquire into or so much as mention the
things committed to the priests of Delphi; and he says, moreover, that
the factions of princes upon theological subjects are armed not with zeal
but fury; that zeal springs from the divine wisdom and justice, and
governs itself with prudence and moderation, but degenerates into hatred
and envy, producing tares and nettles instead of corn and wine when
conducted by human passions.  And it was truly said by another, who,
advising the Emperor Theodosius, told him that disputes did not so much
rock the schisms of the Church asleep, as it roused and animated
heresies; that, therefore, all contentions and dialectic disputations
were to be avoided, and men absolutely to acquiesce in the prescriptions
and formulas of faith established by the ancients.  And the Emperor
Andronicus having overheard some great men at high words in his palace
with Lapodius about a point of ours of great importance, gave them so
severe a check as to threaten to cause them to be thrown into the river
if they did not desist.  The very women and children nowadays take upon
them to lecture the oldest and most experienced men about the
ecclesiastical laws; whereas the first of those of Plato forbids them to
inquire so much as into the civil laws, which were to stand instead of
divine ordinances; and, allowing the old men to confer amongst themselves
or with the magistrate about those things, he adds, provided it be not in
the presence of young or profane persons.

A bishop has left in writing that at the other end of the world there is
an isle, by the ancients called Dioscorides, abundantly fertile in all
sorts of trees and fruits, and of an exceedingly healthful air; the
inhabitants of which are Christians, having churches and altars, only
adorned with crosses without any other images, great observers of fasts
and feasts, exact payers of their tithes to the priests, and so chaste,
that none of them is permitted to have to do with more than one woman in
his life--[What Osorius says is that these people only had one wife at a
time.]--as to the rest, so content with their condition, that environed
with the sea they know nothing of navigation, and so simple that they
understand not one syllable of the religion they profess and wherein they
are so devout: a thing incredible to such as do not know that the Pagans,
who are so zealous idolaters, know nothing more of their gods than their
bare names and their statues.  The ancient beginning of ‘Menalippus’, a
tragedy of Euripides, ran thus:

               “O Jupiter!  for that name alone
               Of what thou art to me is known.”

I have also known in my time some men’s writings found fault with for
being purely human and philosophical, without any mixture of theology;
and yet, with some show of reason, it might, on the contrary, be said
that the divine doctrine, as queen and regent of the rest, better keeps
her state apart, that she ought to be sovereign throughout, not
subsidiary and suffragan, and that, peradventure, grammatical,
rhetorical, logical examples may elsewhere be more suitably chosen, as
also the material for the stage, games, and public entertainments, than
from so sacred a matter; that divine reasons are considered with greater
veneration and attention by themselves, and in their own proper style,
than when mixed with and adapted to human discourse; that it is a fault
much more often observed that the divines write too humanly, than that
the humanists write not theologically enough.  Philosophy, says St.
Chrysostom, has long been banished the holy schools, as an handmaid
altogether useless and thought unworthy to look, so much as in passing
by the door, into the sanctuary of the holy treasures of the celestial
doctrine; that the human way of speaking is of a much lower form and
ought not to adopt for herself the dignity and majesty of divine
eloquence.  Let who will ‘verbis indisciplinatis’ talk of fortune,
destiny, accident, good and evil hap, and other suchlike phrases,
according to his own humour; I for my part propose fancies merely human
and merely my own, and that simply as human fancies, and separately
considered, not as determined by any decree from heaven, incapable of
doubt or dispute; matter of opinion, not matter of faith; things which I
discourse of according to my own notions, not as I believe, according to
God; after a laical, not clerical, and yet always after a very religious
manner, as children prepare their exercises, not to instruct but to be

And might it not be said, that an edict enjoining all people but such as
are public professors of divinity, to be very reserved in writing of
religion, would carry with it a very good colour of utility and justice
--and to me, amongst the rest peradventure, to hold my prating?  I have
been told that even those who are not of our Church nevertheless amongst
themselves expressly forbid the name of God to be used in common
discourse, nor so much even by way of interjection, exclamation,
assertion of a truth, or comparison; and I think them in the right: upon
what occasion soever we call upon God to accompany and assist us, it
ought always to be done with the greatest reverence and devotion.

There is, as I remember, a passage in Xenophon where he tells us that we
ought so much the more seldom to call upon God, by how much it is hard to
compose our souls to such a degree of calmness, patience, and devotion as
it ought to be in at such a time; otherwise our prayers are not only vain
and fruitless, but vicious: “forgive us,” we say, “our trespasses, as we
forgive them that trespass against us”; what do we mean by this petition
but that we present to God a soul free from all rancour and revenge?  And
yet we make nothing of invoking God’s assistance in our vices, and
inviting Him into our unjust designs:

          “Quae, nisi seductis, nequeas committere divis”

     [“Which you can only impart to the gods, when you have gained them
     over.”--Persius, ii. 4.]

the covetous man prays for the conservation of his vain and superfluous
riches; the ambitious for victory and the good conduct of his fortune;
the thief calls Him to his assistance, to deliver him from the dangers
and difficulties that obstruct his wicked designs, or returns Him thanks
for the facility he has met with in cutting a man’s throat; at the door
of the house men are going to storm or break into by force of a petard,
they fall to prayers for success, their intentions and hopes of cruelty,
avarice, and lust.

         “Hoc igitur, quo to Jovis aurem impellere tentas,
          Dic agedum Staio: ‘proh Jupiter!  O bone, clamet,
          Jupiter!’  At sese non clamet Jupiter ipse.”

     [“This therefore, with which you seek to draw the ear of Jupiter,
     say to Staius.  ‘O Jupiter!  O good Jupiter!’ let him cry.  Think
     you Jupiter himself would not cry out upon it?”--Persius, ii. 21.]

Marguerite, Queen of Navarre,--[In the Heptameron.]--tells of a young
prince, who, though she does not name him, is easily enough by his great
qualities to be known, who going upon an amorous assignation to lie with
an advocate’s wife of Paris, his way thither being through a church, he
never passed that holy place going to or returning from his pious
exercise, but he always kneeled down to pray.  Wherein he would employ
the divine favour, his soul being full of such virtuous meditations,
I leave others to judge, which, nevertheless, she instances for a
testimony of singular devotion.  But this is not the only proof we have
that women are not very fit to treat of theological affairs.

A true prayer and religious reconciling of ourselves to Almighty God
cannot enter into an impure soul, subject at the very time to the
dominion of Satan.  He who calls God to his assistance whilst in a course
of vice, does as if a cut-purse should call a magistrate to help him, or
like those who introduce the name of God to the attestation of a lie.

                         “Tacito mala vota susurro

          [“We whisper our guilty prayers.”---Lucan, v. 104.]

There are few men who durst publish to the world the prayers they make to
Almighty God:

         “Haud cuivis promptum est, murmurque, humilesque susurros
          Tollere de templis, et aperto vivere voto”

     [“‘Tis not convenient for every one to bring the prayers he mutters
     out of the temple, and to give his wishes to the public ear.
     --“Persius, ii. 6.]

and this is the reason why the Pythagoreans would have them always public
and heard by every one, to the end they might not prefer indecent or
unjust petitions as this man:

              “Clare quum dixit, Apollo!
               Labra movet, metuens audiri: Pulcra Laverna,
               Da mihi fallere, da justum sanctumque videri;
               Noctem peccatis, et fraudibus objice nubem.”

     [“When he has clearly said Apollo!  he moves his lips, fearful to be
     heard; he murmurs: O fair Laverna, grant me the talent to deceive;
     grant me to appear holy and just; shroud my sins with night, and
     cast a cloud over my frauds.”--Horace, Ep., i.  16, 59.--(Laverna
     was the goddess of thieves.)]

The gods severely punished the wicked prayers of OEdipus in granting
them: he had prayed that his children might amongst themselves determine
the succession to his throne by arms, and was so miserable as to see
himself taken at his word.  We are not to pray that all things may go as
we would have them, but as most concurrent with prudence.

We seem, in truth, to make use of our prayers as of a kind of jargon, and
as those do who employ holy words about sorceries and magical operations;
and as if we reckoned the benefit we are to reap from them as depending
upon the contexture, sound, and jingle of words, or upon the grave
composing of the countenance.  For having the soul contaminated with
concupiscence, not touched with repentance, or comforted by any late
reconciliation with God, we go to present Him such words as the memory
suggests to the tongue, and hope from thence to obtain the remission of
our sins.  There is nothing so easy, so sweet, and so favourable, as the
divine law: it calls and invites us to her, guilty and abominable as we
are; extends her arms and receives us into her bosom, foul and polluted
as we at present are, and are for the future to be.  But then, in return,
we are to look upon her with a respectful eye; we are to receive this
pardon with all gratitude and submission, and for that instant at least,
wherein we address ourselves to her, to have the soul sensible of the
ills we have committed, and at enmity with those passions that seduced us
to offend her; neither the gods nor good men (says Plato) will accept the
present of a wicked man:

                   “Immunis aram si terigit manus,
                    Non sumptuosa blandior hostia
                    Mollivit aversos Penates
                    Farre pio et saliente mica.”

     [“If a pure hand has touched the altar, the pious offering of a
     small cake and a few grains of salt will appease the offended gods
     more effectually than costly sacrifices.”
      --Horace, Od., iii. 23, 17.]



I cannot allow of the way in which we settle for ourselves the duration
of our life.  I see that the sages contract it very much in comparison of
the common opinion: “what,” said the younger Cato to those who would stay
his hand from killing himself, “am I now of an age to be reproached that
I go out of the world too soon?”  And yet he was but eight-and-forty
years old.  He thought that to be a mature and advanced age, considering
how few arrive unto it.  And such as, soothing their thoughts with I know
not what course of nature, promise to themselves some years beyond it,
could they be privileged from the infinite number of accidents to which
we are by a natural subjection exposed, they might have some reason so to
do.  What am idle conceit is it to expect to die of a decay of strength,
which is the effect of extremest age, and to propose to ourselves no
shorter lease of life than that, considering it is a kind of death of all
others the most rare and very seldom seen?  We call that only a natural
death; as if it were contrary to nature to see a man break his neck with
a fall, be drowned in shipwreck, be snatched away with a pleurisy or the
plague, and as if our ordinary condition did not expose us to these
inconveniences.  Let us no longer flatter ourselves with these fine
words; we ought rather, peradventure, to call that natural which is
general, common, and universal.

To die of old age is a death rare, extraordinary, and singular, and,
therefore, so much less natural than the others; ‘tis the last and
extremest sort of dying: and the more remote, the less to be hoped for.
It is, indeed, the bourn beyond which we are not to pass, and which the
law of nature has set as a limit, not to be exceeded; but it is, withal,
a privilege she is rarely seen to give us to last till then.  ‘Tis a
lease she only signs by particular favour, and it may be to one only in
the space of two or three ages, and then with a pass to boot, to carry
him through all the traverses and difficulties she has strewed in the way
of this long career.  And therefore my opinion is, that when once forty
years we should consider it as an age to which very few arrive.  For
seeing that men do not usually proceed so far, it is a sign that we are
pretty well advanced; and since we have exceeded the ordinary bounds,
which is the just measure of life, we ought not to expect to go much
further; having escaped so many precipices of death, whereinto we have
seen so many other men fall, we should acknowledge that so extraordinary
a fortune as that which has hitherto rescued us from those eminent
perils, and kept us alive beyond the ordinary term of living, is not like
to continue long.

‘Tis a fault in our very laws to maintain this error: these say that a
man is not capable of managing his own estate till he be five-and-twenty
years old, whereas he will have much ado to manage his life so long.
Augustus cut off five years from the ancient Roman standard, and declared
that thirty years old was sufficient for a judge.  Servius Tullius
superseded the knights of above seven-and-forty years of age from the
fatigues of war; Augustus dismissed them at forty-five; though methinks
it seems a little unreasonable that men should be sent to the fireside
till five-and-fifty or sixty years of age.  I should be of opinion that
our vocation and employment should be as far as possible extended for the
public good: I find the fault on the other side, that they do not employ
us early enough.  This emperor was arbiter of the whole world at
nineteen, and yet would have a man to be thirty before he could be fit to
determine a dispute about a gutter.

For my part, I believe our souls are adult at twenty as much as they are
ever like to be, and as capable then as ever.  A soul that has not by
that time given evident earnest of its force and virtue will never after
come to proof.  The natural qualities and virtues produce what they have
of vigorous and fine, within that term or never,

                   “Si l’espine rion picque quand nai,
                    A pene que picque jamai,”

               [“If the thorn does not prick at its birth,
               ‘twill hardly ever prick at all.”]

as they say in Dauphin.

Of all the great human actions I ever heard or read of, of what sort
soever, I have observed, both in former ages and our own, more were
performed before the age of thirty than after; and this ofttimes in the
very lives of the same men.  May I not confidently instance in those of
Hannibal and his great rival Scipio?  The better half of their lives they
lived upon the glory they had acquired in their youth; great men after,
‘tis true, in comparison of others; but by no means in comparison of
themselves.  As to my own particular, I do certainly believe that since
that age, both my understanding and my constitution have rather decayed
than improved, and retired rather than advanced.  ‘Tis possible, that
with those who make the best use of their time, knowledge and experience
may increase with their years; but vivacity, promptitude, steadiness, and
other pieces of us, of much greater importance, and much more essentially
our own, languish and decay:

              “Ubi jam validis quassatum est viribus aevi
               Corpus, et obtusis ceciderunt viribus artus,
               Claudicat ingenium, delirat linguaque, mensque.”

          [“When once the body is shaken by the violence of time,
          blood and vigour ebbing away, the judgment halts,
          the tongue and the mind dote.”--Lucretius, iii. 452.]

Sometimes the body first submits to age, sometimes the mind; and I have
seen enough who have got a weakness in their brains before either in
their legs or stomach; and by how much the more it is a disease of no
great pain to the sufferer, and of obscure symptoms, so much greater is
the danger.  For this reason it is that I complain of our laws, not that
they keep us too long to our work, but that they set us to work too late.
For the frailty of life considered, and to how many ordinary and natural
rocks it is exposed, one ought not to give up so large a portion of it to
childhood, idleness, and apprenticeship.

     [Which Cotton thus renders: “Birth though noble, ought not to share
     so large a vacancy, and so tedious a course of education.”  Florio
     (1613) makes the passage read as-follows: “Methinks that,
     considering the weakness of our life, and seeing the infinite number
     of ordinary rocks and natural dangers it is subject unto, we should
     not, so soon as we come into the world, allot so large a share
     thereof unto unprofitable wantonness in youth, ill-breeding
     idleness, and slow-learning prentisage.”]


     Advise to choose weapons of the shortest sort
     An ignorance that knowledge creates and begets
     Ashamed to lay out as much thought and study upon it
     Can neither keep nor enjoy anything with a good grace
     Change of fashions
     Chess: this idle and childish game
     Death is terrible to Cicero, coveted by Cato
     Death of old age the most rare and very seldom seen
     Diogenes, esteeming us no better than flies or bladders
     Do not to pray that all things may go as we would have them
     Excel above the common rate in frivolous things
     Expresses more contempt and condemnation than the other
     Fancy that others cannot believe otherwise than as he does
     Gradations above and below pleasure
     Greatest apprehensions, from things unseen, concealed
     He did not think mankind worthy of a wise man’s concern
     Home anxieties and a mind enslaved by wearing complaints
     How infirm and decaying material this fabric of ours is
     I do not willingly alight when I am once on horseback
     Led by the ears by this charming harmony of words
     Little knacks  and frivolous subtleties
     Men approve of things for their being rare and new
     Must of necessity walk in the steps of another
     Natural death the most rare and very seldom seen
     Not to instruct but to be instructed.
     Present Him such words as the memory suggests to the tongue
     Psalms of King David: promiscuous, indiscreet
     Rhetoric: an art to flatter and deceive
     Rhetoric: to govern a disorderly and tumultuous rabble
     Sitting betwixt two stools
     Sometimes the body first submits to age, sometimes the mind
     Stupidity and facility natural to the common people
     The Bible: the wicked and ignorant grow worse by it.
     The faintness that surprises in the exercises of Venus
     Thucydides: which was the better wrestler
     To die of old age is a death rare, extraordinary, and singular
     To make little things appear great was his profession
     To smell, though well, is to stink
     Valour will cause a trembling in the limbs as well as fear
     Viscid melting kisses of youthful ardour in my wanton age
     We can never be despised according to our full desert
     When we have got it, we want something else
     Women who paint, pounce, and plaster up their ruins


Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazlitt



I.        Of the inconstancy of our actions.
II.       Of drunkenness.
III.      A custom of the Isle of Cea.
IV.       To-morrow’s a new day.
V.        Of conscience.
VI.       Use makes perfect.





Such as make it their business to oversee human actions, do not find
themselves in anything so much perplexed as to reconcile them and bring
them into the world’s eye with the same lustre and reputation; for they
commonly so strangely contradict one another that it seems impossible
they should proceed from one and the same person.  We find the younger
Marius one while a son of Mars and another a son of Venus.  Pope Boniface
VIII. entered, it is said, into his Papacy like a fox, behaved himself in
it like a lion, and died like a dog; and who could believe it to be the
same Nero, the perfect image of all cruelty, who, having the sentence of
a condemned man brought to him to sign, as was the custom, cried out,
“O that I had never been taught to write!” so much it went to his heart
to condemn a man to death.  All story is full of such examples, and every
man is able to produce so many to himself, or out of his own practice or
observation, that I sometimes wonder to see men of understanding give
themselves the trouble of sorting these pieces, considering that
irresolution appears to me to be the most common and manifest vice of our
nature witness the famous verse of the player Publius:

          “Malum consilium est, quod mutari non potest.”

          [“‘Tis evil counsel that will admit no change.”
           --Pub.  Mim., ex Aul. Gell., xvii. 14.]

There seems some reason in forming a judgment of a man from the most
usual methods of his life; but, considering the natural instability of
our manners and opinions, I have often thought even the best authors a
little out in so obstinately endeavouring to make of us any constant and
solid contexture; they choose a general air of a man, and according to
that interpret all his actions, of which, if they cannot bend some to a
uniformity with the rest, they are presently imputed to dissimulation.
Augustus has escaped them, for there was in him so apparent, sudden, and
continual variety of actions all the whole course of his life, that he
has slipped away clear and undecided from the most daring critics.  I can
more hardly believe a man’s constancy than any other virtue, and believe
nothing sooner than the contrary.  He that would judge of a man in detail
and distinctly, bit by bit, would oftener be able to speak the truth.  It
is a hard matter, from all antiquity, to pick out a dozen men who have
formed their lives to one certain and constant course, which is the
principal design of wisdom; for to comprise it all in one word, says one
of the ancients, and to contract all the rules of human life into one,
“it is to will, and not to will, always one and the same thing: I will
not vouchsafe,” says he, “to add, provided the will be just, for if it be
not just, it is impossible it should be always one.”  I have indeed
formerly learned that vice is nothing but irregularity, and want of
measure, and therefore ‘tis impossible to fix constancy to it.  ‘Tis a
saying of.  Demosthenes, “that the beginning oh all virtue is
consultation and deliberation; the end and perfection, constancy.”  If we
would resolve on any certain course by reason, we should pitch upon the
best, but nobody has thought on’t:

          “Quod petit, spernit; repetit, quod nuper omisit;
          AEstuat, et vitae disconvenit ordine toto.”

     [“That which he sought he despises; what he lately lost, he seeks
     again.  He fluctuates, and is inconsistent in the whole order of
     life.”--Horace, Ep., i. I, 98.]

Our ordinary practice is to follow the inclinations of our appetite, be
it to the left or right, upwards or downwards, according as we are wafted
by the breath of occasion.  We never meditate what we would have till the
instant we have a mind to have it; and change like that little creature
which receives its colour from what it is laid upon.  What we but just
now proposed to ourselves we immediately alter, and presently return
again to it; ‘tis nothing but shifting and inconsistency:

               “Ducimur, ut nervis alienis mobile lignum.”

     [“We are turned about like the top with the thong of others.”
      --Idem, Sat., ii. 7, 82.]

We do not go, we are driven; like things that float, now leisurely, then
with violence, according to the gentleness or rapidity of the current:

                         “Nonne videmus,
          Quid sibi quisque velit, nescire, et quaerere semper
          Commutare locum, quasi onus deponere possit?”

     [“Do we not see them, uncertain what they want, and always asking
     for something new, as if they could get rid of the burthen.”
      --Lucretius, iii. 1070.]

Every day a new whimsy, and our humours keep motion with the time.

         “Tales sunt hominum mentes, quali pater ipse
          Juppiter auctificas lustravit lumine terras.”

     [“Such are the minds of men, that they change as the light with
     which father Jupiter himself has illumined the increasing earth.”
      --Cicero, Frag.  Poet, lib. x.]

We fluctuate betwixt various inclinations; we will nothing freely,
nothing absolutely, nothing constantly.  In any one who had prescribed
and established determinate laws and rules in his head for his own
conduct, we should perceive an equality of manners, an order and an
infallible relation of one thing or action to another, shine through his
whole life; Empedocles observed this discrepancy in the Agrigentines,
that they gave themselves up to delights, as if every day was their last,
and built as if they had been to live for ever.  The judgment would not
be hard to make, as is very evident in the younger Cato; he who therein
has found one step, it will lead him to all the rest; ‘tis a harmony of
very according sounds, that cannot jar.  But with us ‘t is quite
contrary; every particular action requires a particular judgment.  The
surest way to steer, in my opinion, would be to take our measures from
the nearest allied circumstances, without engaging in a longer
inquisition, or without concluding any other consequence.  I was told,
during the civil disorders of our poor kingdom, that a maid, hard by the
place where I then was, had thrown herself out of a window to avoid being
forced by a common soldier who was quartered in the house; she was not
killed by the fall, and therefore, repeating her attempt would have cut
her own throat, had she not been prevented; but having, nevertheless,
wounded herself to some show of danger, she voluntarily confessed that
the soldier had not as yet importuned her otherwise; than by courtship,
earnest solicitation, and presents; but that she was afraid that in the
end he would have proceeded to violence, all which she delivered with
such a countenance and accent, and withal embrued in her own blood, the
highest testimony of her virtue, that she appeared another Lucretia; and
yet I have since been very well assured that both before and after she
was not so difficult a piece.  And, according to my host’s tale in
Ariosto, be as handsome a man and as worthy a gentleman as you will, do
not conclude too much upon your mistress’s inviolable chastity for having
been repulsed; you do not know but she may have a better stomach to your

Antigonus, having taken one of his soldiers into a great degree of favour
and esteem for his valour, gave his physicians strict charge to cure him
of a long and inward disease under which he had a great while languished,
and observing that, after his cure, he went much more coldly to work than
before, he asked him what had so altered and cowed him: “Yourself, sir,”
 replied the other, “by having eased me of the pains that made me weary of
my life.”  Lucullus’s soldier having been rifled by the enemy, performed
upon them in revenge a brave exploit, by which having made himself a
gainer, Lucullus, who had conceived a good opinion of him from that
action, went about to engage him in some enterprise of very great danger,
with all the plausible persuasions and promises he could think of;

          “Verbis, quae timido quoque possent addere mentem”

          [“Words which might add courage to any timid man.”
           --Horace, Ep., ii. 2, 1, 2.]

“Pray employ,” answered he, “some miserable plundered soldier in that

                         “Quantumvis rusticus, ibit,
               Ibit eo, quo vis, qui zonam perdidit, inquit;”

     [“Some poor fellow, who has lost his purse, will go whither you
     wish, said he.”--Horace, Ep., ii. 2, 39.]

and flatly refused to go.  When we read that Mahomet having furiously
rated Chasan, Bassa of the Janissaries, because he had seen the
Hungarians break into his squadrons, and himself behave very ill in the
business, and that Chasan, instead of any other answer, rushed furiously
alone, scimitar in hand, into the first body of the enemy, where he was
presently cut to pieces, we are not to look upon that action,
peradventure, so much as vindication as a turn of mind, not so much
natural valour as a sudden despite.  The man you saw yesterday so
adventurous and brave, you must not think it strange to see him as great
a poltroon the next: anger, necessity, company, wine, or the sound of the
trumpet had roused his spirits; this is no valour formed and established
by reason, but accidentally created by such circumstances, and therefore
it is no wonder if by contrary circumstances it appear quite another

These supple variations and contradictions so manifest in us, have given
occasion to some to believe that man has two souls; other two distinct
powers that always accompany and incline us, the one towards good and the
other towards ill, according to their own nature and propension; so
abrupt a variety not being imaginable to flow from one and the same

For my part, the puff of every accident not only carries me along with it
according to its own proclivity, but moreover I discompose and trouble
myself by the instability of my own posture; and whoever will look
narrowly into his own bosom, will hardly find himself twice in the same
condition.  I give to my soul sometimes one face and sometimes another,
according to the side I turn her to.  If I speak variously of myself, it
is because I consider myself variously; all the contrarieties are there
to be found in one corner or another; after one fashion or another:
bashful, insolent; chaste, lustful; prating, silent; laborious, delicate;
ingenious, heavy; melancholic, pleasant; lying, true; knowing, ignorant;
liberal, covetous, and prodigal: I find all this in myself, more or less,
according as I turn myself about; and whoever will sift himself to the
bottom, will find in himself, and even in his own judgment, this
volubility and discordance.  I have nothing to say of myself entirely,
simply, and solidly without mixture and confusion.  ‘Distinguo’ is the
most universal member of my logic.  Though I always intend to speak well
of good things, and rather to interpret such things as fall out in the
best sense than otherwise, yet such is the strangeness of our condition,
that we are often pushed on to do well even by vice itself, if well-doing
were not judged by the intention only.  One gallant action, therefore,
ought not to conclude a man valiant; if a man were brave indeed, he would
be always so, and upon all occasions.  If it were a habit of valour and
not a sally, it would render a man equally resolute in all accidents; the
same alone as in company; the same in lists as in a battle: for, let them
say what they will, there is not one valour for the pavement and another
for the field; he would bear a sickness in his bed as bravely as a wound
in the field, and no more fear death in his own house than at an assault.
We should not then see the same man charge into a breach with a brave
assurance, and afterwards torment himself like a woman for the loss of a
trial at law or the death of a child; when, being an infamous coward, he
is firm in the necessities of poverty; when he shrinks at the sight of a
barber’s razor, and rushes fearless upon the swords of the enemy, the
action is commendable, not the man.

Many of the Greeks, says Cicero,--[Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., ii. 27.]--
cannot endure the sight of an enemy, and yet are courageous in sickness;
the Cimbrians and Celtiberians quite contrary;

              “Nihil enim potest esse aequabile,
               quod non a certa ratione proficiscatur.”

     [“Nothing can be regular that does not proceed from a fixed ground
     of reason.”--Idem, ibid., c. 26.]

No valour can be more extreme in its kind than that of Alexander: but it
is of but one kind, nor full enough throughout, nor universal.
Incomparable as it is, it has yet some blemishes; of which his being so
often at his wits’ end upon every light suspicion of his captains
conspiring against his life, and the carrying himself in that inquisition
with so much vehemence and indiscreet injustice, and with a fear that
subverted his natural reason, is one pregnant instance.  The
superstition, also, with which he was so much tainted, carries along with
it some image of pusillanimity; and the excess of his penitence for the
murder of Clytus is also a testimony of the unevenness of his courage.
All we perform is no other than a cento, as a man may say, of several
pieces, and we would acquire honour by a false title.  Virtue cannot be
followed but for herself, and if one sometimes borrows her mask to some
other purpose, she presently pulls it away again.  ‘Tis a vivid and
strong tincture which, when the soul has once thoroughly imbibed it, will
not out but with the piece.  And, therefore, to make a right judgment of
a man, we are long and very observingly to follow his trace: if constancy
does not there stand firm upon her own proper base,

               “Cui vivendi via considerata atque provisa est,”

     [“If the way of his life is thoroughly considered and traced out.”
      --Cicero, Paradox, v. 1.]

if the variety of occurrences makes him alter his pace (his path, I mean,
for the pace may be faster or slower) let him go; such an one runs before
the wind, “Avau le dent,” as the motto of our Talebot has it.

‘Tis no wonder, says one of the ancients, that chance has so great a
dominion over us, since it is by chance we live.  It is not possible for
any one who has not designed his life for some certain end, it is
impossible for any one to arrange the pieces, who has not the whole form
already contrived in his imagination.  Of what use are colours to him
that knows not what he is to paint?  No one lays down a certain design
for his life, and we only deliberate thereof by pieces.  The archer ought
first to know at what he is to aim, and then accommodate his arm, bow,
string, shaft, and motion to it; our counsels deviate and wander, because
not levelled to any determinate end.  No wind serves him who addresses
his voyage to no certain, port.  I cannot acquiesce in the judgment given
by one in the behalf of Sophocles,  who concluded him capable of the
management of domestic affairs, against the accusation of his son, from
having read one of his tragedies.

Neither do I allow of the conjecture of the Parians, sent to regulate the
Milesians sufficient for such a consequence as they from thence derived
coming to visit the island, they took notice of such grounds as were best
husbanded, and such country-houses as were best governed; and having
taken the names of the owners, when they had assembled the citizens, they
appointed these farmers for new governors and magistrates; concluding
that they, who had been so provident in their own private concerns, would
be so of the public too.  We are all lumps, and of so various and inform
a contexture, that every piece plays, every moment, its own game, and
there is as much difference betwixt us and ourselves as betwixt us and

               “Magnam rem puta, unum hominem agere.”

     [“Esteem it a great thing always to act as one and the same
     man.”--Seneca, Ep., 150.]

Since ambition can teach man valour, temperance, and liberality, and even
justice too; seeing that avarice can inspire the courage of a shop-boy,
bred and nursed up in obscurity and ease, with the assurance to expose
himself so far from the fireside to the mercy of the waves and angry
Neptune in a frail boat; that she further teaches discretion and
prudence; and that even Venus can inflate boys under the discipline of
the rod with boldness and resolution, and infuse masculine courage into
the heart of tender virgins in their mothers’ arms:

         “Hac duce, custodes furtim transgressa jacentes,
          Ad juvenem tenebris sola puella venit:”

     [“She leading, the maiden, furtively passing by the recumbent
     guards, goes alone in the darkness to the youth.”
      --Tibullus, ii. 2, 75.]

‘tis not all the understanding has to do, simply to judge us by our
outward actions; it must penetrate the very soul, and there discover by
what springs the motion is guided.  But that being a high and hazardous
undertaking, I could wish that fewer would attempt it.



The world is nothing but variety and disemblance, vices are all alike, as
they are vices, and peradventure the Stoics understand them so; but
although they are equally vices, yet they are not all equal vices; and he
who has transgressed the ordinary bounds a hundred paces:

          “Quos ultra citraque nequit consistere rectum,”

          [“Beyond or within which the right cannot exist.”
           --Horace, Sat., i, 1, 107.]

should not be in a worse condition than he that has advanced but ten, is
not to be believed; or that sacrilege is not worse than stealing a

         “Nec vincet ratio hoc, tantumdem ut peccet, idemque,
          Qui teneros caules alieni fregerit horti,
          Et qui nocturnus divum sacra legerit.”

There is in this as great diversity as in anything whatever.  The
confounding of the order and measure of sins is dangerous: murderers,
traitors, and tyrants get too much by it, and it is not reasonable they
should flatter their consciences, because another man is idle,
lascivious, or not assiduous at his devotion.  Every one overrates the
offence of his companions, but extenuates his own.  Our very instructors
themselves rank them sometimes, in my opinion, very ill.  As Socrates
said that the principal office of wisdom was to distinguish good from
evil, we, the best of whom are vicious, ought also to say the same of the
science of distinguishing betwixt vice and vice, without which, and that
very exactly performed, the virtuous and the wicked will remain
confounded and unrecognised.

Now, amongst the rest, drunkenness seems to me to be a gross and brutish
vice.  The soul has greater part in the rest, and there are some vices
that have something, if a man may so say, of generous in them; there are
vices wherein there is a mixture of knowledge, diligence, valour,
prudence, dexterity, and address; this one is totally corporeal and
earthly.  And the rudest nation this day in Europe is that alone where it
is in fashion.  Other vices discompose the understanding: this totally
overthrows it and renders the body stupid:

              “Cum vini vis penetravit .  .  .
               Consequitur gravitas membrorum, praepediuntur
               Crura vacillanti, tardescit lingua, madet mens,
               Nant oculi; clamor, singultus, jurgia, gliscunt.”

     [“When the power of wine has penetrated us, a heaviness of the limbs
     follows, the legs of the tottering person are impeded; the tongue
     grows torpid, the mind is dimmed, the eyes swim; noise, hiccup, and
     quarrels arise.--“Lucretius, i. 3, 475.]

The worst state of man is that wherein he loses the knowledge and
government of himself.  And ‘tis said amongst other things upon this
subject, that, as the must fermenting in a vessel, works up to the top
whatever it has in the bottom, so wine, in those who have drunk beyond
measure, vents the most inward secrets:

                   “Tu sapientum
                    Curas et arcanum jocoso
                    Consilium retegis Lyaeo.”

     [“Thou disclosest to the merry Lyacus the cares and secret
     counsel of the wise.”--Horace, Od., xxi. 1, 114.]

     [Lyacus, a name given to Bacchus.]

Josephus tells us that by giving an ambassador the enemy had sent to him
his full dose of liquor, he wormed out his secrets.  And yet, Augustus,
committing the most inward secrets of his affairs to Lucius Piso, who
conquered Thrace, never found him faulty in the least, no more than
Tiberias did Cossus, with whom he intrusted his whole counsels, though we
know they were both so given to drink that they have often been fain to
carry both the one and the other drunk out of the Senate:

          “Hesterno inflatum venas ut semper, Lyaeo.”

     [“Their veins full, as usual, of yesterday’s wine.”
      --Virgil, Egl., vi.  15.]

And the design of killing Caesar was as safely communicated to Cimber,
though he would often be drunk, as to Cassius, who drank nothing but

     [As to which Cassius pleasantly said: “What, shall I bear
     a tyrant, I who cannot bear wine?”]

We see our Germans, when drunk as the devil, know their post, remember
the word, and keep to their ranks:

               “Nec facilis victoria de madidis, et
               Blaesis, atque mero titubantibus.”

     [“Nor is a victory easily obtained over men so drunk, they can
     scarce speak or stand.”--Juvenal, Sat., xv.  47.]

I could not have believed there had been so profound, senseless, and dead
a degree of drunkenness had I not read in history that Attalus having,
to put a notable affront upon him, invited to supper the same Pausanias,
who upon the very same occasion afterwards killed Philip of Macedon,
a king who by his excellent qualities gave sufficient testimony of his
education in the house and company of Epaminondas, made him drink to such
a pitch that he could after abandon his beauty, as of a hedge strumpet,
to the muleteers and servants of the basest office in the house.  And I
have been further told by a lady whom I highly honour and esteem, that
near Bordeaux and about Castres  where she lives, a country woman, a
widow of chaste repute, perceiving in herself the first symptoms of
breeding, innocently told her neighbours that if she had a husband she
should think herself with child; but the causes of suspicion every day
more and more increasing, and at last growing up to a manifest proof, the
poor woman was reduced to the necessity of causing it to be proclaimed in
her parish church, that whoever had done that deed and would frankly
confess it, she did not only promise to forgive, but moreover to marry
him, if he liked the motion; whereupon a young fellow that served her in
the quality of a labourer, encouraged by this proclamation, declared that
he had one holiday found her, having taken too much of the bottle, so
fast asleep by the chimney and in so indecent a posture, that he could
conveniently do his business without waking her; and they yet live
together man and wife.

It is true that antiquity has not much decried this vice; the writings
even of several philosophers speak very tenderly of it, and even amongst
the Stoics there are some who advise folks to give themselves sometimes
the liberty to drink, nay, to drunkenness, to refresh the soul:

          “Hoc quoque virtutum quondam certamine, magnum
          Socratem palmam promeruisse ferunt.”

     [“In this trial of power formerly they relate that the great
     Socrates deserved the palm.”--Cornet. Gallus, Ep., i. 47.]

That censor and reprover of others, Cato, was reproached that he was a
hard drinker:

                    “Narratur et prisci Catonis
                    Saepe mero caluisse virtus.”

     [“And of old Cato it is said, that his courage was often warmed with
     wine.”--Horace, Od., xxi. 3, 11.--Cato the Elder.]

Cyrus, that so renowned king, amongst the other qualities by which he
claimed to be preferred before his brother Artaxerxes, urged this
excellence, that he could drink a great deal more than he.  And in the
best governed nations this trial of skill in drinking is very much in
use.  I have heard Silvius, an excellent physician of Paris, say that
lest the digestive faculties of the stomach should grow idle, it were not
amiss once a month to rouse them by this excess, and to spur them lest
they should grow dull and rusty; and one author tells us that the
Persians used to consult about their most important affairs after being
well warmed with wine.

My taste and constitution are greater enemies to this vice than my
discourse; for besides that I easily submit my belief to the authority of
ancient opinions, I look upon it indeed as an unmanly and stupid vice,
but less malicious and hurtful than the others, which, almost all, more
directly jostle public society.  And if we cannot please ourselves but it
must cost us something, as they hold, I find this vice costs a man’s
conscience less than the others, besides that it is of no difficult
preparation, nor hard to be found, a consideration not altogether to be
despised.  A man well advanced both in dignity and age, amongst three
principal commodities that he said remained to him of life, reckoned to
me this for one, and where would a man more justly find it than amongst
the natural conveniences?  But he did not take it right, for delicacy and
the curious choice of wines is therein to be avoided.  If you found your
pleasure upon drinking of the best, you condemn yourself to the penance
of drinking of the worst.  Your taste must be more indifferent and free;
so delicate a palate is not required to make a good toper.  The Germans
drink almost indifferently of all wines with delight; their business is
to pour down and not to taste; and it’s so much the better for them:
their pleasure is so much the more plentiful and nearer at hand.

Secondly, to drink, after the French fashion, but at two meals, and then
very moderately, is to be too sparing of the favours of the god.  There
is more time and constancy required than so.  The ancients spent whole
nights in this exercise, and ofttimes added the day following to eke it
out, and therefore we are to take greater liberty and stick closer to our
work.  I have seen a great lord of my time, a man of high enterprise and
famous success, that without setting himself to’t, and after his ordinary
rate of drinking at meals, drank not much less than five quarts of wine,
and at his going away appeared but too wise and discreet, to the
detriment of our affairs.  The pleasure we hold in esteem for the course
of our lives ought to have a greater share of our time dedicated to it;
we should, like shopboys and labourers, refuse no occasion nor omit any
opportunity of drinking, and always have it in our minds.  Methinks we
every day abridge and curtail the use of wine, and that the after
breakfasts, dinner snatches, and collations I used to see in my father’s
house, when I was a boy, were more usual and frequent then than now.

Is it that we pretend to a reformation?  Truly, no: but it may be we are
more addicted to Venus than our fathers were.  They are two exercises
that thwart and hinder one another in their vigour.  Lechery weakens our
stomach on the one side; and on the other sobriety renders us more spruce
and amorous for the exercise of love.

‘Tis wonderful what strange stories I have heard my father tell of the
chastity of that age wherein he lived.  It was for him to say it, being
both by art and nature cut out and finished for the service of ladies.
He spoke well and little: ever mixing his language with some illustration
out of authors most in use, especially in Spanish, and among the Spanish
he whom they called Marcus Aurelius--[ Guevara’s Golden Book of Marcus
Aurelius Antoninus.]--was ordinarily in his mouth.  His behaviour was
gently grave, humble, and very modest; he was very solicitous of neatness
and propriety both in his person and clothes, whether on horseback or
afoot, he was monstrously punctual in his word; and of a conscience and
religion generally tending rather towards superstition than otherwise.
For a man of little stature, very strong, well proportioned, and well
knit; of a pleasing countenance inclining to brown, and very adroit in
all noble exercises.  I have yet in the house to be seen canes poured
full of lead, with which they say he exercised his arms for throwing the
bar or the stone, or in fencing; and shoes with leaden soles to make him
lighter for running or leaping.  Of his vaulting he has left little
miracles behind him: I have seen him when past three score laugh at our
exercises, and throw himself in his furred gown into the saddle, make the
tour of a table upon his thumbs and scarce ever mount the stairs into his
chamber without taking three or four steps at a time.  But as to what I
was speaking of before; he said there was scarce one woman of quality of
ill fame in the whole province: he would tell of strange confidences, and
some of them his own, with virtuous women, free from any manner of
suspicion of ill, and for his own part solemnly swore he was a virgin at
his marriage; and yet it was after a long practice of arms beyond the
mountains, of which wars he left us a journal under his own hand, wherein
he has given a precise account from point to point of all passages, both
relating to the public and to himself.  And he was, moreover, married at
a well advanced maturity, in the year 1528, the three-and-thirtieth year
of his age, upon his way home from Italy.  But let us return to our

The incommodities of old age, that stand in need of some refreshment and
support, might with reason beget in me a desire of this faculty, it being
as it were the last pleasure the course of years deprives us of.  The
natural heat, say the good-fellows, first seats itself in the feet: that
concerns infancy; thence it mounts into the middle region, where it makes
a long abode and produces, in my opinion, the sole true pleasures of
human life; all other pleasures in comparison sleep; towards the end,
like a vapour that still mounts upward, it arrives at the throat, where
it makes its final residence, and concludes the progress.  I do not,
nevertheless, understand how a man can extend the pleasure of drinking
beyond thirst, and forge in his imagination an appetite artificial and
against nature; my stomach would not proceed so far; it has enough to do
to deal with what it takes in for its necessity.  My constitution is not
to care for drink but as following eating and washing down my meat, and
for that reason my last draught is always the greatest.  And seeing that
in old age we have our palate furred with phlegms or depraved by some
other ill constitution, the wine tastes better to us as the pores are
cleaner washed and laid more open.  At least, I seldom taste the first
glass well.  Anacharsis wondered that the Greeks drank in greater glasses
towards the end of a meal than at the beginning; which was, I suppose,
for the same reason the Germans do the same, who then begin the battle of

Plato forbids children wine till eighteen years of age, and to get drunk
till forty; but, after forty, gives them leave to please themselves, and
to mix a little liberally in their feasts the influence of Dionysos, that
good deity who restores to younger men their gaiety and to old men their
youth; who mollifies the passions of the soul, as iron is softened by
fire; and in his Lazes allows such merry meetings, provided they have a
discreet chief to govern and keep them in order, as good and of great
utility; drunkenness being, he says, a true and certain trial of every
one’s nature, and, withal, fit to inspire old men with mettle to divert
themselves in dancing and music; things of great use, and that they dare
not attempt when sober.  He, moreover, says that wine is able to supply
the soul with temperance and the body with health.  Nevertheless, these
restrictions, in part borrowed from the Carthaginians, please him: that
men forbear excesses in the expeditions of war; that every judge and
magistrate abstain from it when about the administrations of his place or
the consultations of the public affairs; that the day is not to be
employed with it, that being a time due to other occupations, nor the
night on which a man intends to get children.

‘Tis said that the philosopher Stilpo, when oppressed with age, purposely
hastened his end by drinking pure wine.  The same thing, but not designed
by him, despatched also the philosopher Arcesilaus.

But ‘tis an old and pleasant question, whether the soul of a wise man can
be overcome by the strength of wine?

               “Si munitae adhibet vim sapientiae.”

To what vanity does the good opinion we have of ourselves push us?  The
most regular and most perfect soul in the world has but too much to do to
keep itself upright, and from being overthrown by its own weakness.
There is not one of a thousand that is right and settled so much as one
minute in a whole life, and that may not very well doubt, whether
according to her natural condition she ever can be; but to join constancy
to it is her utmost perfection; I mean when nothing should jostle and
discompose her, which a thousand accidents may do.  ‘Tis to much purpose
that the great poet Lucretius keeps such a clatter with his philosophy,
when, behold!  he goes mad with a love philtre.  Is it to be imagined
that an apoplexy will not stun Socrates as well as a porter?  Some men
have forgotten their own names by the violence of a disease; and a slight
wound has turned the judgment of others topsy-turvy.  Let him be as wise
as he will, after all he is but a man; and than that what is there more
frail, more miserable, or more nothing?  Wisdom does not force our
natural dispositions,

               “Sudores itaque, et pallorem exsistere toto
               Corpore, et infringi linguam, vocemque aboriri,
               Caligare oculos, sonere aures, succidere artus,
               Demque concidere, ex animi terrore, videmus.”

     [“Sweat and paleness come over the whole body, the tongue is
     rendered powerless, the voice dies away, the eyes are darkened,
     there is ringing in the ears, the limbs sink under us by the
     influence of fear.”--Lucretius, iii. 155.]

he must shut his eyes against the blow that threatens him; he must
tremble upon the margin of a precipice, like a child; nature having
reserved these light marks of her authority, not to be forced by our
reason and the stoic virtue, to teach man his mortality and our weakness;
he turns pale with fear, red with shame, and groans with the cholic, if
not with desperate outcry, at least with hoarse and broken voice:

               “Humani a se nihil alienum putet.”

     [“Let him not think himself exempt from that which is incidental to
     men in general.”--Terence, Heauton, i. 1, 25.]

The poets, that feign all things at pleasure, dare not acquit their
greatest heroes of tears:

          “Sic fatur lacrymans, classique immittit habenas.”

     [“Thus he speaks, weeping, and then sets sail with his fleet.”
      --Aeneid, vi. i.]

‘Tis sufficient for a man to curb and moderate his inclinations, for
totally to suppress them is not in him to do.  Even our great Plutarch,
that excellent and perfect judge of human actions, when he sees Brutus
and Torquatus kill their children, begins to doubt whether virtue could
proceed so far, and to question whether these persons had not rather been
stimulated by some other passion.--[Plutarch, Life of Publicola, c.  3.]
--All actions exceeding the ordinary bounds are liable to sinister
interpretation, for as much as our liking no more holds with what is
above than with what is below it.

Let us leave that other sect, that sets up an express profession of
scornful superiority--[The Stoics.]--: but when even in that sect,
reputed the most quiet and gentle, we hear these rhodomontades of

          “Occupavi te, Fortuna, atque cepi: omnesque aditus tuos
          interclusi ut ad me aspirare non posses;”

     [“Fortune, I have got the better of thee, and have made all the
     avenues so sure thou canst not come at me.”
      --Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., v. 9.]

when Anaxarchus, by command of Nicocreon the tyrant of Cyprus, was put
into a stone mortar, and laid upon with mauls of iron, ceases not to say,
“Strike, batter, break; ‘tis not Anaxarchus, ‘tis but his sheath that you
pound and bray so”; when we hear our martyrs cry out to the tyrant from
the middle of the flame, “This side is roasted enough, fall to and eat,
it is enough done; fall to work with the other;” when we hear the child
in Josephus’ torn piece-meal with pincers, defying Antiochus, and crying
out with a constant and assured voice: “Tyrant, thou losest thy labour,
I am still at ease; where is the pain, where are the torments with which
thou didst so threaten me?  Is this all thou canst do?  My constancy
torments thee more than thy cruelty does me.  O pitiful coward, thou
faintest, and I grow stronger; make me complain, make me bend, make me
yield if thou canst; encourage thy guards, cheer up thy executioners;
see, see they faint, and can do no more; arm them, flesh them anew, spur
them up”; truly, a man must confess that there is some phrenzy, some
fury, how holy soever, that at that time possesses those souls.  When we
come to these Stoical sallies: “I had rather be mad than voluptuous,” a
saying of Antisthenes.  When Sextius tells us, “he had rather be fettered
with affliction than pleasure”: when Epicurus takes upon him to play with
his gout, and, refusing health and ease, defies all torments, and
despising the lesser pains, as disdaining to contend with them, he covets
and calls out for others sharper, more violent, and more worthy of him;

          “Spumantemque dari, pecora inter inertia, votis
          Optat aprum, aut fulvum descendere monte leonem:”

     [“And instead of timid beasts, wishes the foaming boar or tawny lion
     would come from the mountain.”--AEneid, iv. 158.]

who but must conclude that these are wild sallies pushed on by a courage
that has broken loose from its place?  Our soul cannot from her own seat
reach so high; ‘tis necessary she must leave it, raise herself up, and,
taking the bridle in her teeth, transport her man so far that he shall
afterwards himself be astonished at what he has done; as, in war, the
heat of battle impels generous soldiers to perform things of so infinite
danger, as afterwards, recollecting them, they themselves are the first
to wonder at; as it also fares with the poets, who are often rapt with
admiration of their own writings, and know not where again to find the
track through which they performed so fine a Career; which also is in
them called fury and rapture.  And as Plato says, ‘tis to no purpose for
a sober-minded man to knock at the door of poesy: so Aristotle says, that
no excellent soul is exempt from a mixture of madness; and he has reason
to call all transports, how commendable soever, that surpass our own
judgment and understanding, madness; forasmuch as wisdom is a regular
government of the soul, which is carried on with measure and proportion,
and for which she is to herself responsible.  Plato argues thus, that the
faculty of prophesying is so far above us, that we must be out of
ourselves when we meddle with it, and our prudence must either be
obstructed by sleep or sickness, or lifted from her place by some
celestial rapture.



          [Cos.  Cea is the form of the name given by Pliny]

If to philosophise be, as ‘tis defined, to doubt, much more to write at
random and play the fool, as I do, ought to be reputed doubting, for it
is for novices and freshmen to inquire and to dispute, and for the
chairman to moderate and determine.

My moderator is the authority of the divine will, that governs us without
contradiction, and that is seated above these human and vain

Philip having forcibly entered into Peloponnesus, and some one saying to
Damidas that the Lacedaemonians were likely very much to suffer if they
did not in time reconcile themselves to his favour:  “Why, you pitiful
fellow,” replied he, “what can they suffer who do not fear to die?”  It
being also asked of Agis, which way a man might live free?  “Why,” said
he, “by despising death.”  These, and a thousand other sayings to the
same purpose, distinctly sound of something more than the patient
attending the stroke of death when it shall come; for there are several
accidents in life far worse to suffer than death itself.  Witness the
Lacedaemonian boy taken by Antigonus, and sold for a slave, who being by
his master commanded to some base employment: “Thou shalt see,” says the
boy, “whom thou hast bought; it would be a shame for me to serve, being
so near the reach of liberty,” and having so said, threw himself from the
top of the house.  Antipater severely threatening the Lacedaemonians,
that he might the better incline them to acquiesce in a certain demand of
his: “If thou threatenest us with more than death,” replied they, “we
shall the more willingly die”; and to Philip, having written them word
that he would frustrate all their enterprises: “What, wilt thou also
hinder us from dying?”  This is the meaning of the sentence, “That the
wise man lives as long as he ought, not so long as he can; and that the
most obliging present Nature has made us, and which takes from us all
colour of complaint of our condition, is to have delivered into our own
custody the keys of life; she has only ordered, one door into life, but a
hundred thousand ways out.  We may be straitened for earth to live upon,
but earth sufficient to die upon can never be wanting, as Boiocalus
answered the Romans.”--[Tacitus, Annal., xiii.  56.]--Why dost thou
complain of this world?  it detains thee not; thy own cowardice is the
cause, if thou livest in pain.  There needs no more to die but to will to

               “Ubique mors est; optime hoc cavit deus.
               Eripere vitam nemo non homini potest;
               At nemo mortem; mille ad hanc aditus patent.”

     [“Death is everywhere: heaven has well provided for that.  Any one
     may deprive us of life; no one can deprive us of death.  To death
     there are a thousand avenues.”--Seneca, Theb:, i, I, 151.]

Neither is it a recipe for one disease only; death is the infallible cure
of all; ‘tis a most assured port that is never to be feared, and very
often to be sought.  It comes all to one, whether a man give himself his
end, or stays to receive it by some other means; whether he pays before
his day, or stay till his day of payment come; from whencesoever it
comes, it is still his; in what part soever the thread breaks, there’s
the end of the clue.  The most voluntary death is the finest.  Life
depends upon the pleasure of others; death upon our own.  We ought not to
accommodate ourselves to our own humour in anything so much as in this.
Reputation is not concerned in such an enterprise; ‘tis folly to be
concerned by any such apprehension. Living is slavery if the liberty of
dying be wanting.  The ordinary method of cure is carried on at the
expense of life; they torment us with caustics, incisions, and
amputations of limbs; they interdict aliment and exhaust our blood; one
step farther and we are cured indeed and effectually.  Why is not the
jugular vein as much at our disposal as the median vein?  For a desperate
disease a desperate cure.  Servius the grammarian, being tormented with
the gout, could think of no better remedy than to apply poison to his
legs, to deprive them of their sense; let them be gouty at their will, so
they were insensible of pain.  God gives us leave enough to go when He is
pleased to reduce us to such a condition that to live is far worse than
to die.  ‘Tis weakness to truckle under infirmities, but it’s madness to
nourish them.  The Stoics say, that it is living according to nature in a
wise man to, take his leave of life, even in the height of prosperity,
if he do it opportunely; and in a fool to prolong it, though he be
miserable, provided he be not indigent of those things which they repute
to be according to nature.  As I do not offend the law against thieves
when I embezzle my own money and cut my own purse; nor that against
incendiaries when I burn my own wood; so am I not under the lash of those
made against murderers for having deprived myself of my own life.
Hegesias said, that as the condition of life did, so the condition of
death ought to depend upon our own choice.  And Diogenes meeting the
philosopher Speusippus, so blown up with an inveterate dropsy that he was
fain to be carried in a litter, and by him saluted with the compliment,
“I wish you good health.”  “No health to thee,” replied the other,
“who art content to live in such a condition.”

And in fact, not long after, Speusippus, weary of so languishing a state
of life, found a means to die.

But this does not pass without admitting a dispute: for many are of
opinion that we cannot quit this garrison of the world without the
express command of Him who has placed us in it; and that it appertains to
God who has placed us here, not for ourselves only but for His Glory and
the service of others, to dismiss us when it shall best please Him, and
not for us to depart without His licence: that we are not born for
ourselves only, but for our country also, the laws of which require an
account from us upon the score of their own interest, and have an action
of manslaughter good against us; and if these fail to take cognisance of
the fact, we are punished in the other world as deserters of our duty:

         “Proxima deinde tenent maesti loca, qui sibi letum
          Insontes peperere manu, lucemque perosi
          Proiecere animas.”

     [“Thence the sad ones occupy the next abodes, who, though free
     from guilt, were by their own hands slain, and, hating light,
     sought death.”--AEneid, vi. 434.]

There is more constancy in suffering the chain we are tied to than in
breaking it, and more pregnant evidence of fortitude in Regulus than in
Cato; ‘tis indiscretion and impatience that push us on to these
precipices: no accidents can make true virtue turn her back; she seeks
and requires evils, pains, and grief, as the things by which she is
nourished and supported; the menaces of tyrants, racks, and tortures
serve only to animate and rouse her:

              “Duris ut ilex tonsa bipennibus
               Nigrae feraci frondis in Algido,
               Per damma, percmdes, ab ipso
               Ducit opes, animumque ferro.”

     [“As in Mount Algidus, the sturdy oak even from the axe itself
     derives new vigour and life.”--Horace, Od., iv. 4, 57.]

And as another says:

              “Non est, ut putas, virtus, pater,
               Timere vitam; sed malis ingentibus
               Obstare, nec se vertere, ac retro dare.”

     [“Father, ‘tis no virtue to fear life, but to withstand great
     misfortunes, nor turn back from them.”--Seneca, Theb., i. 190.]

Or as this:

          “Rebus in adversis facile est contemnere mortem
          Fortius ille facit, qui miser esse potest.”

     [“It is easy in adversity to despise death; but he acts more
     bravely, who can live wretched.”--Martial, xi. 56, 15.]

‘Tis cowardice, not virtue, to lie squat in a furrow, under a tomb, to
evade the blows of fortune; virtue never stops nor goes out of her path,
for the greatest storm that blows:

                    “Si fractus illabatur orbis,
                    Impavidum ferient ruinae.”

     [“Should the world’s axis crack, the ruins will but crush
      a fearless head.”--Horace, Od., iii. 3, 7.]

For the most part, the flying from other inconveniences brings us to
this; nay, endeavouring to evade death, we often run into its very mouth:

          “Hic, rogo, non furor est, ne moriare, mori?”

     [“Tell me, is it not madness, that one should die for fear
     of dying?”--Martial, ii. 80, 2.]

like those who, from fear of a precipice, throw themselves headlong into

              “Multos in summa pericula misfit
               Venturi timor ipse mali: fortissimus ille est,
               Qui promptus metuenda pati, si cominus instent,
               Et differre potest.”

     [“The fear of future ills often makes men run into extreme danger;
     he is truly brave who boldly dares withstand the mischiefs he
     apprehends, when they confront him and can be deferred.”
      --Lucan, vii. 104.]

               “Usque adeo, mortis formidine, vitae
               Percipit humanos odium, lucisque videndae,
               Ut sibi consciscant moerenti pectore lethum
               Obliti fontem curarum hunc esse timorem.”

     [“Death to that degree so frightens some men, that causing them to
     hate both life and light, they kill themselves, miserably forgetting
     that this same fear is the fountain of their cares.”
      --Lucretius, iii. 79.]

Plato, in his Laws, assigns an ignominious sepulture to him who has
deprived his nearest and best friend, namely himself, of life and his
destined course, being neither compelled so to do by public judgment,
by any sad and inevitable accident of fortune, nor by any insupportable
disgrace, but merely pushed on by cowardice and the imbecility of a
timorous soul.  And the opinion that makes so little of life, is
ridiculous; for it is our being, ‘tis all we have.  Things of a nobler
and more elevated being may, indeed, reproach ours; but it is against
nature for us to contemn and make little account of ourselves; ‘tis a
disease particular to man, and not discerned in any other creatures, to
hate and despise itself.  And it is a vanity of the same stamp to desire
to be something else than what we are; the effect of such a desire does
not at all touch us, forasmuch as it is contradicted and hindered in
itself.  He that desires of a man to be made an angel, does nothing for
himself; he would be never the better for it; for, being no more, who
shall rejoice or be sensible of this benefit for him.

         “Debet enim, misere cui forti, aegreque futurum est,
          Ipse quoque esse in eo turn tempore, cum male possit

     [“For he to whom misery and pain are to be in the future, must
     himself then exist, when these ills befall him.”
      --Idem, ibid., 874.]

Security, indolence, impassability, the privation of the evils of this
life, which we pretend to purchase at the price of dying, are of no
manner of advantage to us: that man evades war to very little purpose who
can have no fruition of peace; and as little to the purpose does he avoid
trouble who cannot enjoy repose.

Amongst those of the first of these two opinions, there has been great
debate, what occasions are sufficient to justify the meditation of
self-murder, which they call “A reasonable exit.”--[ Diogenes Laertius,
Life of Zeno.]--For though they say that men must often die for trivial
causes, seeing those that detain us in life are of no very great weight,
yet there is to be some limit.  There are fantastic and senseless humours
that have prompted not only individual men, but whole nations to destroy
themselves, of which I have elsewhere given some examples; and we further
read of the Milesian virgins, that by a frantic compact they hanged
themselves one after another till the magistrate took order in it,
enacting that the bodies of such as should be found so hanged should be
drawn by the same halter stark naked through the city.  When Therykion
tried to persuade Cleomenes to despatch himself, by reason of the ill
posture of his affairs, and, having missed a death of more honour in the
battle he had lost, to accept of this the second in honour to it, and not
to give the conquerors leisure to make him undergo either an ignominious
death or an infamous life; Cleomenes, with a courage truly Stoic and
Lacedaemonian, rejected his counsel as unmanly and mean; “that,” said he,
“is a remedy that can never be wanting, but which a man is never to make
use of, whilst there is an inch of hope remaining”: telling him, “that
it was sometimes constancy and valour to live; that he would that even
his death should be of use to his country, and would make of it an act of
honour and virtue.”  Therykion, notwithstanding, thought himself in the
right, and did his own business; and Cleomenes afterwards did the same,
but not till he had first tried the utmost malevolence of fortune.  All
the inconveniences in the world are not considerable enough that a man
should die to evade them; and, besides, there being so many, so sudden
and unexpected changes in human things, it is hard rightly to judge when
we are at the end of our hope:

              “Sperat et in saeva victus gladiator arena,
               Sit licet infesto pollice turba minax.”

     [“The gladiator conquered in the lists hopes on, though the
     menacing spectators, turning their thumb, order him to die.”
      --Pentadius, De Spe, ap. Virgilii Catadecta.]

All things, says an old adage, are to be hoped for by a man whilst he
lives; ay, but, replies Seneca, why should this rather be always running
in a man’s head that fortune can do all things for the living man, than
this, that fortune has no power over him that knows how to die?
Josephus, when engaged in so near and apparent danger, a whole people
being violently bent against him, that there was no visible means of
escape, nevertheless, being, as he himself says, in this extremity
counselled by one of his friends to despatch himself, it was well for him
that he yet maintained himself in hope, for fortune diverted the accident
beyond all human expectation, so that he saw himself delivered without
any manner of inconvenience.  Whereas Brutus and Cassius, on the
contrary, threw away the remains of the Roman liberty, of which they were
the sole protectors, by the precipitation and temerity wherewith they
killed themselves before the due time and a just occasion.  Monsieur
d’Anguien, at the battle of Serisolles, twice attempted to run himself
through, despairing of the fortune of the day, which went indeed very
untowardly on that side of the field where he was engaged, and by that
precipitation was very near depriving himself of the enjoyment of so
brave a victory.  I have seen a hundred hares escape out of the very
teeth of the greyhounds:

               “Aliquis carnifici suo superstes fuit.”

     [“Some have survived their executioners.”--Seneca, Ep., 13.]

              “Multa dies, variusque labor mutabilis nevi
               Rettulit in melius; multos alterna revisens
               Lusit, et in solido rursus fortuna locavit.”

     [“Length of days, and the various labour of changeful time, have
     brought things to a better state; fortune turning, shews a reverse
     face, and again restores men to prosperity.”--AEneid, xi. 425.]

Piny says there are but three sorts of diseases, to escape which a man
has good title to destroy himself; the worst of which is the stone in the
bladder, when the urine is suppressed.

     [“In the quarto edition of these essays, in 1588, Pliny is said to
     mention two more, viz., a pain in the stomach and a headache, which,
     he says (lib. xxv. c. 9.), were the only three distempers almost
     for which men killed themselves.”]

Seneca says those only which for a long time are discomposing the
functions of the soul.  And some there have been who, to avoid a worse
death, have chosen one to their own liking.  Democritus, general of the
AEtolians, being brought prisoner to Rome, found means to make his escape
by night: but close pursued by his keepers, rather than suffer himself to
be retaken, he fell upon his own sword and died.  Antinous and Theodotus,
their city of Epirus being reduced by the Romans to the last extremity,
gave the people counsel universally to kill themselves; but, these
preferring to give themselves up to the enemy, the two chiefs went to
seek the death they desired, rushing furiously upon the enemy, with
intention to strike home but not to ward a blow.  The Island of Gozzo
being taken some years ago by the Turks, a Sicilian, who had two
beautiful daughters marriageable, killed them both with his own hand, and
their mother, running in to save them, to boot, which having done,
sallying out of the house with a cross-bow and harquebus, with two shots
he killed two of the Turks nearest to his door, and drawing his sword,
charged furiously in amongst the rest, where he was suddenly enclosed and
cut to pieces, by that means delivering his family and himself from
slavery and dishonour.  The Jewish women, after having circumcised their
children, threw them and themselves down a precipice to avoid the cruelty
of Antigonus.  I have been told of a person of condition in one of our
prisons, that his friends, being informed that he would certainly be
condemned, to avoid the ignominy of such a death suborned a priest to
tell him that the only means of his deliverance was to recommend himself
to such a saint, under such and such vows, and to fast eight days
together without taking any manner of nourishment, what weakness or
faintness soever he might find in himself during the time; he followed
their advice, and by that means destroyed himself before he was aware,
not dreaming of death or any danger in the experiment.  Scribonia
advising her nephew Libo to kill himself rather than await the stroke of
justice, told him that it was to do other people’s business to preserve
his life to put it after into the hands of those who within three or four
days would fetch him to execution, and that it was to serve his enemies
to keep his blood to gratify their malice.

We read in the Bible that Nicanor, the persecutor of the law of God,
having sent his soldiers to seize upon the good old man Razis, surnamed
in honour of his virtue the father of the Jews: the good man, seeing no
other remedy, his gates burned down, and the enemies ready to seize him,
choosing rather to die nobly than to fall into the hands of his wicked
adversaries and suffer himself to be cruelly butchered by them, contrary
to the honour of his rank and quality, stabbed himself with his own
sword, but the blow, for haste, not having been given home, he ran and
threw himself from the top of a wall headlong among them, who separating
themselves and making room, he pitched directly upon his head;
notwithstanding which, feeling yet in himself some remains of life, he
renewed his courage, and starting up upon his feet all bloody and wounded
as he was, and making his way through the crowd to a precipitous rock,
there, through one of his wounds, drew out his bowels, which, tearing and
pulling to pieces with both his hands, he threw amongst his pursuers, all
the while attesting and invoking the Divine vengeance upon them for their
cruelty and injustice.

Of violences offered to the conscience, that against the chastity of
woman is, in my opinion, most to be avoided, forasmuch as there is a
certain pleasure naturally mixed with it, and for that reason the dissent
therein cannot be sufficiently perfect and entire, so that the violence
seems to be mixed with a little consent of the forced party.  The
ecclesiastical history has several examples of devout persons who have
embraced death to secure them from the outrages prepared by tyrants
against their religion and honour.  Pelagia and Sophronia, both
canonised, the first of these precipitated herself with her mother and
sisters into the river to avoid being forced by some soldiers, and the
last also killed herself to avoid being ravished by the Emperor

It may, peradventure, be an honour to us in future ages, that a learned
author of this present time, and a Parisian, takes a great deal of pains
to persuade the ladies of our age rather to take any other course than to
enter into the horrid meditation of such a despair.  I am sorry he had
never heard, that he might have inserted it amongst his other stories,
the saying of a woman, which was told me at Toulouse, who had passed
through the handling of some soldiers: “God be praised,” said she, “that
once at least in my life I have had my fill without sin.”  In truth,
these cruelties are very unworthy the French good nature, and also, God
be thanked, our air is very well purged of them since this good advice:
‘tis enough that they say “no” in doing it, according to the rule of the
good Marot.

              “Un doulx nenny, avec un doulx sourire
               Est tant honneste.”--Marot.

History is everywhere full of those who by a thousand ways have exchanged
a painful and irksome life for death.  Lucius Aruntius killed himself, to
fly, he said, both the future and the past.  Granius Silvanus and Statius
Proximus, after having been pardoned by Nero, killed themselves; either
disdaining to live by the favour of so wicked a man, or that they might
not be troubled, at some other time, to obtain a second pardon,
considering the proclivity of his nature to suspect and credit
accusations against worthy men.  Spargapises, son of Queen Tomyris, being
a prisoner of war to Cyrus, made use of the first favour Cyrus shewed
him, in commanding him to be unbound, to kill himself, having pretended
to no other benefit of liberty, but only to be revenged of himself for
the disgrace of being taken.  Boges, governor in Eion for King Xerxes,
being besieged by the Athenian army under the conduct of Cimon, refused
the conditions offered, that he might safe return into Asia with all his
wealth, impatient to survive the loss of a place his master had given him
to keep; wherefore, having defended the city to the last extremity,
nothing being left to eat, he first threw all the gold and whatever else
the enemy could make booty of into the river Strymon, and then causing a
great pile to be set on fire, and the throats of all the women, children,
concubines, and servants to be cut, he threw their bodies into the fire,
and at last leaped into it himself.

Ninachetuen, an Indian lord, so soon as he heard the first whisper of the
Portuguese Viceroy’s determination to dispossess him, without any
apparent cause, of his command in Malacca, to transfer it to the King of
Campar, he took this resolution with himself: he caused a scaffold, more
long than broad, to be erected, supported by columns royally adorned with
tapestry and strewed with flowers and abundance of perfumes; all which
being prepared, in a robe of cloth of gold, set full of jewels of great
value, he came out into the street, and mounted the steps to the
scaffold, at one corner of which he had a pile lighted of aromatic wood.
Everybody ran to see to what end these unusual preparations were made;
when Ninachetuen, with a manly but displeased countenance, set forth how
much he had obliged the Portuguese nation, and with how unspotted
fidelity he had carried himself in his charge; that having so often,
sword in hand, manifested in the behalf of others, that honour was much
more dear to him than life, he was not to abandon the concern of it for
himself: that fortune denying him all means of opposing the affront
designed to be put upon him, his courage at least enjoined him to free
himself from the sense of it, and not to serve for a fable to the people,
nor for a triumph to men less deserving than himself; which having said
he leaped into the fire.

Sextilia, wife of Scaurus, and Paxaea, wife of Labeo, to encourage their
husbands to avoid the dangers that pressed upon them, wherein they had no
other share than conjugal affection, voluntarily sacrificed their own
lives to serve them in this extreme necessity for company and example.
What they did for their husbands, Cocceius Nerva did for his country,
with less utility though with equal affection: this great lawyer,
flourishing in health, riches, reputation, and favour with the Emperor,
had no other cause to kill himself but the sole compassion of the
miserable state of the Roman Republic.  Nothing can be added to the
beauty of the death of the wife of Fulvius, a familiar favourite of
Augustus: Augustus having discovered that he had vented an important
secret he had entrusted him withal, one morning that he came to make his
court, received him very coldly and looked frowningly upon him.  He
returned home, full of, despair, where he sorrowfully told his wife that,
having fallen into this misfortune, he was resolved to kill himself: to
which she roundly replied, “‘tis but reason you should, seeing that
having so often experienced the incontinence of my tongue, you could not
take warning: but let me kill myself first,” and without any more saying
ran herself through the body with a sword.  Vibius Virrius, despairing of
the safety of his city besieged by the Romans and of their mercy, in the
last deliberation of his city’s senate, after many arguments conducing to
that end, concluded that the most noble means to escape fortune was by
their own hands: telling them that the enemy would have them in honour,
and Hannibal would be sensible how many faithful friends he had
abandoned; inviting those who approved of his advice to come to a good
supper he had ready at home, where after they had eaten well, they would
drink together of what he had prepared; a beverage, said he, that will
deliver our bodies from torments, our souls from insult, and our eyes and
ears from the sense of so many hateful mischiefs, as the conquered suffer
from cruel and implacable conquerors.  I have, said he, taken order for
fit persons to throw our bodies into a funeral pile before my door so
soon as we are dead.  Many enough approved this high resolution, but few
imitated it; seven-and-twenty senators followed him, who, after having
tried to drown the thought of this fatal determination in wine, ended the
feast with the mortal mess; and embracing one another, after they had
jointly deplored the misfortune of their country, some retired home to
their own houses, others stayed to be burned with Vibius in his funeral
pyre; and were all of them so long in dying, the vapour of the wine
having prepossessed the veins, and by that means deferred the effect of
poison, that some of them were within an hour of seeing the enemy inside
the walls of Capua, which was taken the next morning, and of undergoing
the miseries they had at so dear a rate endeavoured to avoid.  Jubellius
Taurea, another citizen of the same country, the Consul Fulvius returning
from the shameful butchery he had made of two hundred and twenty-five
senators, called him back fiercely by name, and having made him stop:
“Give the word,” said he, “that somebody may dispatch me after the
massacre of so many others, that thou mayest boast to have killed a much
more valiant man than thyself.”  Fulvius, disdaining him as a man out of
his wits, and also having received letters from Rome censuring the
inhumanity of his execution which tied his hands, Jubellius proceeded:
“Since my country has been taken, my friends dead, and having with my own
hands slain my wife and children to rescue them from the desolation of
this ruin, I am denied to die the death of my fellow-citizens, let me
borrow from virtue vengeance on this hated life,” and therewithal drawing
a short sword he carried concealed about him, he ran it through his own
bosom, falling down backward, and expiring at the consul’s feet.

Alexander, laying siege to a city of the Indies, those within, finding
themselves very hardly set, put on a vigorous resolution to deprive him
of the pleasure of his victory, and accordingly burned themselves in
general, together with their city, in despite of his humanity: a new kind
of war, where the enemies sought to save them, and they to destroy
themselves, doing to make themselves sure of death, all that men do to
secure life.

Astapa, a city of Spain, finding itself weak in walls and defence to
withstand the Romans, the inhabitants made a heap of all their riches and
furniture in the public place; and, having ranged upon this heap all the
women and children, and piled them round with wood and other combustible
matter to take sudden fire, and left fifty of their young men for the
execution of that whereon they had resolved, they made a desperate sally,
where for want of power to overcome, they caused themselves to be every
man slain.  The fifty, after having massacred every living soul
throughout the whole city, and put fire to this pile, threw themselves
lastly into it, finishing their generous liberty, rather after an
insensible, than after a sorrowful and disgraceful manner, giving the
enemy to understand, that if fortune had been so pleased, they had as
well the courage to snatch from them victory as they had to frustrate and
render it dreadful, and even mortal to those who, allured by the
splendour of the gold melting in this flame, having approached it,
a great number were there suffocated and burned, being kept from retiring
by the crowd that followed after.

The Abydeans, being pressed by King Philip, put on the same resolution;
but, not having time, they could not put it ‘in effect.  The king, who
was struck with horror at the rash precipitation of this execution (the
treasure and movables that they had condemned to the flames being first
seized), drawing off his soldiers, granted them three days’ time to kill
themselves in, that they might do it with more order and at greater ease:
which time they filled with blood and slaughter beyond the utmost excess
of all hostile cruelty, so that not so much as any one soul was left
alive that had power to destroy itself.  There are infinite examples of
like popular resolutions which seem the more fierce and cruel in
proportion as the effect is more universal, and yet are really less so
than when singly executed; what arguments and persuasion cannot do with
individual men, they can do with all, the ardour of society ravishing
particular judgments.

The condemned who would live to be executed in the reign of Tiberius,
forfeited their goods and were denied the rites of sepulture; those who,
by killing themselves, anticipated it, were interred, and had liberty to
dispose of their estates by will.

But men sometimes covet death out of hope of a greater good.  “I desire,”
 says St. Paul, “to be with Christ,” and “who shall rid me of these
bands?”  Cleombrotus of Ambracia, having read Plato’s Pheedo, entered
into so great a desire of the life to come that, without any other
occasion, he threw himself into the sea.  By which it appears how
improperly we call this voluntary dissolution, despair, to which the
eagerness of hope often inclines us, and, often, a calm and temperate
desire proceeding from a mature and deliberate judgment.  Jacques du
Chastel, bishop of Soissons, in St. Louis’s foreign expedition, seeing
the king and whole army upon the point of returning into France, leaving
the affairs of religion imperfect, took a resolution rather to go into
Paradise; wherefore, having taken solemn leave of his friends, he charged
alone, in the sight of every one, into the enemy’s army, where he was
presently cut to pieces.  In a certain kingdom of the new discovered
world, upon a day of solemn procession, when the idol they adore is drawn
about in public upon a chariot of marvellous greatness; besides that many
are then seen cutting off pieces of their flesh to offer to him, there
are a number of others who prostrate themselves upon the place, causing
themselves to be crushed and broken to pieces under the weighty wheels,
to obtain the veneration of sanctity after death, which is accordingly
paid them.  The death of the bishop, sword in hand, has more of
magnanimity in it, and less of sentiment, the ardour of combat taking
away part of the latter.

There are some governments who have taken upon them to regulate the
justice and opportunity of voluntary death.  In former times there was
kept in our city of Marseilles a poison prepared out of hemlock, at the
public charge, for those who had a mind to hasten their end, having
first, before the six hundred, who were their senate, given account of
the reasons and motives of their design, and it was not otherwise lawful,
than by leave from the magistrate and upon just occasion to do violence
to themselves.--[Valerius Maximus, ii. 6, 7.]--The same law was also
in use in other places.

Sextus Pompeius, in his expedition into Asia, touched at the isle of Cea
in Negropont: it happened whilst he was there, as we have it from one
that was with him, that a woman of great quality, having given an account
to her citizens why she was resolved to put an end to her life, invited
Pompeius to her death, to render it the more honourable, an invitation
that he accepted; and having long tried in vain by the power of his
eloquence, which was very great, and persuasion, to divert her from that
design, he acquiesced in the end in her own will.  She had passed the age
of four score and ten in a very happy state, both of body and mind; being
then laid upon her bed, better dressed than ordinary and leaning upon her
elbow, “The gods,” said she, “O Sextus Pompeius, and rather those I leave
than those I go to seek, reward thee, for that thou hast not disdained to
be both the counsellor of my life and the witness of my death.  For my
part, having always experienced the smiles of fortune, for fear lest the
desire of living too long may make me see a contrary face, I am going, by
a happy end, to dismiss the remains of my soul, leaving behind two
daughters of my body and a legion of nephews”; which having said, with
some exhortations to her family to live in peace, she divided amongst
them her goods, and recommending her domestic gods to her eldest
daughter, she boldly took the bowl that contained the p