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The Essays of Montaigne, Complete by Michel de Montaigne

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This etext was produced by David Widger

[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, at the end of each volume
for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making
an entire meal of them. D.W.]


Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazilitt


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.


[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.



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," pub. fished 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 23 d 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.

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