Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Essays of Montaigne, Complete by Michel de Montaigne

Part 11 out of 23

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 2.8 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

advanced and employed in commands of great trust and honour, as Pope
Clement VII., give ample testimony. As to that part which he thinks
himself the best at, namely, his digressions and discourses, he has
indeed some very good, and enriched with fine features; but he is too
fond of them: for, to leave nothing unsaid, having a subject so full,
ample, almost infinite, he degenerates into pedantry and smacks a little
of scholastic prattle. I have also observed this in him, that of so many
souls and so many effects, so many motives and so many counsels as he
judges, he never attributes any one to virtue, religion, or conscience,
as if all these were utterly extinct in the world: and of all the
actions, how brave soever in outward show they appear in themselves, he
always refers the cause and motive to some vicious occasion or some
prospect of profit. It is impossible to imagine but that, amongst such
an infinite number of actions as he makes mention of, there must be some
one produced by the way of honest reason. No corruption could so
universally have infected men that some one would not escape the
contagion which makes me suspect that his own taste was vicious, whence
it might happen that he judged other men by himself."

In my Philip de Commines there is this written: "You will here find the
language sweet and delightful, of a natural simplicity, the narration
pure, with the good faith of the author conspicuous therein; free from
vanity, when speaking of himself, and from affection or envy, when
speaking of others: his discourses and exhortations rather accompanied
with zeal and truth, than with any exquisite sufficiency; and,
throughout, authority and gravity, which bespeak him a man of good
extraction, and brought up in great affairs."

Upon the Memoirs of Monsieur du Bellay I find this: "'Tis always pleasant
to read things written by those that have experienced how they ought to
be carried on; but withal, it cannot be denied but there is a manifest
decadence in these two lords--[Martin du Bellay and Guillaume de Langey,
brothers, who jointly wrote the Memoirs.]--from the freedom and liberty
of writing that shine in the elder historians, such as the Sire de
Joinville, the familiar companion of St. Louis; Eginhard, chancellor to
Charlemagne; and of later date, Philip de Commines. What we have here is
rather an apology for King Francis, against the Emperor Charles V., than
history. I will not believe that they have falsified anything, as to
matter of fact; but they make a common practice of twisting the judgment
of events, very often contrary to reason, to our advantage, and of
omitting whatsoever is ticklish to be handled in the life of their
master; witness the proceedings of Messieurs de Montmorency and de Biron,
which are here omitted: nay, so much as the very name of Madame
d'Estampes is not here to be found. Secret actions an historian may
conceal; but to pass over in silence what all the world knows and things
that have drawn after them public and such high consequences, is an
inexcusable defect. In fine, whoever has a mind to have a perfect
knowledge of King Francis and the events of his reign, let him seek it
elsewhere, if my advice may prevail. The only profit a man can reap from
these Memoirs is in the special narrative of battles and other exploits
of war wherein these gentlemen were personally engaged; in some words and
private actions of the princes of their time, and in the treaties and
negotiations carried on by the Seigneur de Langey, where there are
everywhere things worthy to be known, and discourses above the vulgar



I fancy virtue to be something else, and something more noble, than good
nature, and the mere propension to goodness, that we are born into the
world withal. Well-disposed and well-descended souls pursue, indeed, the
same methods, and represent in their actions the same face that virtue
itself does: but the word virtue imports, I know not what, more great and
active than merely for a man to suffer himself, by a happy disposition,
to be gently and quietly drawn to the rule of reason. He who, by a
natural sweetness and facility, should despise injuries received, would
doubtless do a very fine and laudable thing; but he who, provoked and
nettled to the quick by an offence, should fortify himself with the arms
of reason against the furious appetite of revenge, and after a great
conflict, master his own passion, would certainly do a great deal more.
The first would do well; the latter virtuously: one action might be
called goodness, and the other virtue; for methinks, the very name of
virtue presupposes difficulty and contention, and cannot be exercised
without an opponent. 'Tis for this reason, perhaps, that we call God
good, mighty, liberal and just; but we do not call Him virtuous, being
that all His operations are natural and without endeavour.--[Rousseau,
in his Emile, book v., adopts this passage almost in the same words.]--
It has been the opinion of many philosophers, not only Stoics, but
Epicureans--(and this addition----

["Montaigne stops here to make his excuse for thus naming the
Epicureans with the Stoics, in conformity to the general opinion
that the Epicureans were not so rigid in their morals as the Stoics,
which is not true in the main, as he demonstrates at one view. This
involved Montaigne in a tedious parenthesis, during which it is
proper that the reader be attentive, that he may not entirely lose
the thread of the argument. In some later editions of this author,
it has been attempted to remedy this inconvenience, but without
observing that Montaigne's argument is rendered more feeble and
obscure by such vain repetitions: it is a licence that ought not to
be taken, because he who publishes the work of another, ought to
give it as the other composed ft. But, in Mr Cotton's translation,
be was so puzzled with this enormous parenthesis that he has quite
left it out"--Coste.]

I borrow from the vulgar opinion, which is false, notwithstanding the
witty conceit of Arcesilaus in answer to one, who, being reproached that
many scholars went from his school to the Epicurean, but never any from
thence to his school, said in answer, "I believe it indeed; numbers of
capons being made out of cocks, but never any cocks out of capons."--
[Diogenes Laertius, Life of Archesilaus, lib. iv., 43.]--For, in truth,
the Epicurean sect is not at all inferior to the Stoic in steadiness, and
the rigour of opinions and precepts. And a certain Stoic, showing more
honesty than those disputants, who, in order to quarrel with Epicurus,
and to throw the game into their hands, make him say what he never
thought, putting a wrong construction upon his words, clothing his
sentences, by the strict rules of grammar, with another meaning, and a
different opinion from that which they knew he entertained in his mind
and in his morals, the Stoic, I say, declared that he abandoned the
Epicurean sect, upon this among other considerations, that he thought
their road too lofty and inaccessible;

["And those are called lovers of pleasure, being in effect
lovers of honour and justice, who cultivate and observe all
the virtues."--Cicero, Ep. Fam., xv. i, 19.]

These philosophers say that it is not enough to have the soul seated in
a good place, of a good temper, and well disposed to virtue; it is not
enough to have our resolutions and our reasoning fixed above all the
power of fortune, but that we are, moreover, to seek occasions wherein to
put them to the proof: they would seek pain, necessity, and contempt to
contend with them and to keep the soul in breath:

"Multum sibi adjicit virtus lacessita."

["Virtue is much strengthened by combats."
or: "Virtue attacked adds to its own force."
--Seneca, Ep., 13.]

'Tis one of the reasons why Epaminondas, who was yet of a third sect,
--[The Pythagorean.]--refused the riches fortune presented to him by
very lawful means; because, said he, I am to contend with poverty, in
which extreme he maintained himself to the last. Socrates put himself,
methinks, upon a ruder trial, keeping for his exercise a confounded
scolding wife, which was fighting at sharps. Metellus having, of all the
Roman senators, alone attempted, by the power of virtue, to withstand the
violence of Saturninus, tribune of the people at Rome, who would, by all
means, cause an unjust law to pass in favour of the commons, and, by so
doing, having incurred the capital penalties that Saturninus had
established against the dissentient, entertained those who, in this
extremity, led him to execution with words to this effect: That it was a
thing too easy and too base to do ill; and that to do well where there
was no danger was a common thing; but that to do well where there was
danger was the proper office of a man of virtue. These words of Metellus
very clearly represent to us what I would make out, viz., that virtue
refuses facility for a companion; and that the easy, smooth, and
descending way by which the regular steps of a sweet disposition of
nature are conducted is not that of a true virtue; she requires a rough
and stormy passage; she will have either exotic difficulties to wrestle
with, like that of Metellus, by means whereof fortune delights to
interrupt the speed of her career, or internal difficulties, that the
inordinate appetites and imperfections of our condition introduce to
disturb her.

I am come thus far at my ease; but here it comes into my head that the
soul of Socrates, the most perfect that ever came to my knowledge, should
by this rule be of very little recommendation; for I cannot conceive in
that person any the least motion of a vicious inclination: I cannot
imagine there could be any difficulty or constraint in the course of his
virtue: I know his reason to be so powerful and sovereign over him that
she would never have suffered a vicious appetite so much as to spring in
him. To a virtue so elevated as his, I have nothing to oppose. Methinks
I see him march, with a victorious and triumphant pace, in pomp and at
his ease, without opposition or disturbance. If virtue cannot shine
bright, but by the conflict of contrary appetites, shall we then say that
she cannot subsist without the assistance of vice, and that it is from
her that she derives her reputation and honour? What then, also, would
become of that brave and generous Epicurean pleasure, which makes account
that it nourishes virtue tenderly in her lap, and there makes it play and
wanton, giving it for toys to play withal, shame, fevers, poverty, death,
and torments? If I presuppose that a perfect virtue manifests itself in
contending, in patient enduring of pain, and undergoing the uttermost
extremity of the gout; without being moved in her seat; if I give her
troubles and difficulty for her necessary objects: what will become of a
virtue elevated to such a degree, as not only to despise pain, but,
moreover, to rejoice in it, and to be tickled with the throes of a sharp
colic, such as the Epicureans have established, and of which many of
them, by their actions, have given most manifest proofs? As have several
others, who I find to have surpassed in effects even the very rules of
their discipline. Witness the younger Cato: When I see him die, and
tearing out his own bowels, I am not satisfied simply to believe that he
had then his soul totally exempt from all trouble and horror: I cannot
think that he only maintained himself in the steadiness that the Stoical
rules prescribed him; temperate, without emotion, and imperturbed. There
was, methinks, something in the virtue of this man too sprightly and
fresh to stop there; I believe that, without doubt, he felt a pleasure
and delight in so noble an action, and was more pleased in it than in any
other of his life:

"Sic abiit a vita, ut causam moriendi nactum se esse gauderet."

["He quitted life rejoicing that a reason for dying had arisen."
--Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., i. 30.]

I believe it so thoroughly that I question whether he would have been
content to have been deprived of the occasion of so brave an exploit; and
if the goodness that made him embrace the public concern more than his
own, withheld me not, I should easily fall into an opinion that he
thought himself obliged to fortune for having put his virtue upon so
brave a trial, and for having favoured that theif--[Caesar]--in treading
underfoot the ancient liberty of his country. Methinks I read in this
action I know not what exaltation in his soul, and an extraordinary and
manly emotion of pleasure, when he looked upon the generosity and height
of his enterprise:

"Deliberate morte ferocior,"

["The more courageous from the deliberation to die."
--Horace, Od., i. 37, 29.]

not stimulated with any hope of glory, as the popular and effeminate
judgments of some have concluded (for that consideration was too mean and
low to possess so generous, so haughty, and so determined a heart as
his), but for the very beauty of the thing in itself, which he who had
the handling of the springs discerned more clearly and in its perfection
than we are able to do. Philosophy has obliged me in determining that so
brave an action had been indecently placed in any other life than that of
Cato; and that it only appertained to his to end so; notwithstanding, and
according to reason, he commanded his son and the senators who
accompanied him to take another course in their affairs:

"Catoni, quum incredibilem natura tribuisset gravitatem,
eamque ipse perpetue constantia roboravisset, semperque
in proposito consilio permansisset, moriendum potius,
quam tyranni vultus aspiciendus, erat."

["Cato, whom nature had given incredible dignity, which he had
fortified by perpetual constancy, ever remaining of his
predetermined opinion, preferred to die rather than to look
on the countenance of a tyrant."--Cicero, De Ofc., i. 31.]

Every death ought to hold proportion with the life before it; we do not
become others for dying. I always interpret the death by the life
preceding; and if any one tell me of a death strong and constant in
appearance, annexed to a feeble life, I conclude it produced by some
feeble cause, and suitable to the life before. The easiness then of his
death and the facility of dying he had acquired by the vigour of his
soul; shall we say that it ought to abate anything of the lustre of his
virtue? And who, that has his brain never so little tinctured with the
true philosophy, can be content to imagine Socrates only free from fear
and passion in the accident of his prison, fetters, and condemnation?
and that will not discover in him not only firmness and constancy (which
was his ordinary condition), but, moreover, I know not what new
satisfaction, and a frolic cheerfulness in his last words and actions?
In the start he gave with the pleasure of scratching his leg when his
irons were taken off, does he not discover an equal serenity and joy in
his soul for being freed from past inconveniences, and at the same time
to enter into the knowledge of the things to come? Cato shall pardon me,
if he please; his death indeed is more tragical and more lingering; but
yet this is, I know not how, methinks, finer. Aristippus, to one that
was lamenting this death: "The gods grant me such an one," said he.
A man discerns in the soul of these two great men and their imitators
(for I very much doubt whether there were ever their equals) so perfect a
habitude to virtue, that it was turned to a complexion. It is no longer
a laborious virtue, nor the precepts of reason, to maintain which the
soul is so racked, but the very essence of their soul, its natural and
ordinary habit; they have rendered it such by a long practice of
philosophical precepts having lit upon a rich and fine nature; the
vicious passions that spring in us can find no entrance into them; the
force and vigour of their soul stifle and extinguish irregular desires,
so soon as they begin to move.

Now, that it is not more noble, by a high and divine resolution, to
hinder the birth of temptations, and to be so formed to virtue, that the
very seeds of vice are rooted out, than to hinder by main force their
progress; and, having suffered ourselves to be surprised with the first
motions of the passions, to arm ourselves and to stand firm to oppose
their progress, and overcome them; and that this second effect is not
also much more generous than to be simply endowed with a facile and
affable nature, of itself disaffected to debauchery and vice, I do not
think can be doubted; for this third and last sort of virtue seems to
render a man innocent, but not virtuous; free from doing ill, but not apt
enough to do well: considering also, that this condition is so near
neighbour to imperfection and cowardice, that I know not very well how to
separate the confines and distinguish them: the very names of goodness
and innocence are, for this reason, in some sort grown into contempt.
I very well know that several virtues, as chastity, sobriety, and
temperance, may come to a man through personal defects. Constancy in
danger, if it must be so called, the contempt of death, and patience in
misfortunes, may ofttimes be found in men for want of well judging of
such accidents, and not apprehending them for such as they are. Want of
apprehension and stupidity sometimes counterfeit virtuous effects as I
have often seen it happen, that men have been commended for what really
merited blame. An Italian lord once said this, in my presence, to the
disadvantage of his own nation: that the subtlety of the Italians, and
the vivacity of their conceptions were so great, and they foresaw the
dangers and accidents that might befall them so far off, that it was not
to be thought strange, if they were often, in war, observed to provide
for their safety, even before they had discovered the peril; that we
French and the Spaniards, who were not so cunning, went on further, and
that we must be made to see and feel the danger before we would take the
alarm; but that even then we could not stick to it. But the Germans and
Swiss, more gross and heavy, had not the sense to look about them, even
when the blows were falling about their ears. Peradventure, he only
talked so for mirth's sake; and yet it is most certain that in war raw
soldiers rush into dangers with more precipitancy than after they have
been cudgelled*--(The original has eschauldex--scalded)

"Haud ignarus . . . . quantum nova gloria in armis,
Et praedulce decus, primo certamine possit."

["Not ignorant how much power the fresh glory of arms and sweetest
honour possess in the first contest."--AEneid, xi. 154]

For this reason it is that, when we judge of a particular action, we are
to consider the circumstances, and the whole man by whom it is performed,
before we give it a name.

To instance in myself: I have sometimes known my friends call that
prudence in me, which was merely fortune; and repute that courage and
patience, which was judgment and opinion; and attribute to me one title
for another, sometimes to my advantage and sometimes otherwise. As to
the rest, I am so far from being arrived at the first and most perfect
degree of excellence, where virtue is turned into habit, that even of the
second I have made no great proofs. I have not been very solicitous to
curb the desires by which I have been importuned. My virtue is a virtue,
or rather an innocence, casual and accidental. If I had been born of a
more irregular complexion, I am afraid I should have made scurvy work;
for I never observed any great stability in my soul to resist passions,
if they were never so little vehement: I know not how to nourish quarrels
and debates in my own bosom, and, consequently, owe myself no great
thanks that I am free from several vices:

"Si vitiis mediocribus et mea paucis
Mendosa est natura, alioqui recta, velut si
Egregio inspersos reprehendas corpore naevos:"

["If my nature be disfigured only with slight and few vices, and is
otherwise just, it is as if you should blame moles on a fair body."
--Horatius, Sat., i. 6, 65.]

I owe it rather to my fortune than my reason. She has caused me to be
descended of a race famous for integrity and of a very good father; I
know not whether or no he has infused into me part of his humours, or
whether domestic examples and the good education of my infancy have
insensibly assisted in the work, or, if I was otherwise born so:

"Seu Libra, seu me Scorpius adspicit
Formidolosus, pars violentior
Natalis hors, seu tyrannus
Hesperive Capricornus undae:"

["Whether the Balance or dread Scorpio, more potent over my natal
hour, aspects me, or Capricorn, supreme over the Hesperian sea."
--Horace, Od., ii. 117.]

but so it is, that I have naturally a horror for most vices. The answer
of Antisthenes to him who asked him, which was the best apprenticeship
"to unlearn evil," seems to point at this. I have them in horror, I say,
with a detestation so natural, and so much my own, that the same instinct
and impression I brought of them with me from my nurse, I yet retain, and
no temptation whatever has had the power to make me alter it. Not so
much as my own discourses, which in some things lashing out of the common
road might seem easily to license me to actions that my natural
inclination makes me hate. I will say a prodigious thing, but I will say
it, however: I find myself in many things more under reputation by my
manners than by my opinion, and my concupiscence less debauched than my
reason. Aristippus instituted opinions so bold in favour of pleasure and
riches as set all the philosophers against him: but as to his manners,
Dionysius the tyrant, having presented three beautiful women before him,
to take his choice; he made answer, that he would choose them all, and
that Paris got himself into trouble for having preferred one before the
other two: but, having taken them home to his house, he sent them back
untouched. His servant finding himself overladen upon the way, with the
money he carried after him, he ordered him to pour out and throw away
that which troubled him. And Epicurus, whose doctrines were so
irreligious and effeminate, was in his life very laborious and devout;
he wrote to a friend of his that he lived only upon biscuit and water,
entreating him to send him a little cheese, to lie by him against he had
a mind to make a feast. Must it be true, that to be a perfect good man,
we must be so by an occult, natural, and universal propriety, without
law, reason, or example? The debauches wherein I have been engaged, have
not been, I thank God, of the worst sort, and I have condemned them in
myself, for my judgment was never infected by them; on the contrary,
I accuse them more severely in myself than in any other; but that is all,
for, as to the rest. I oppose too little resistance and suffer myself to
incline too much to the other side of the balance, excepting that I
moderate them, and prevent them from mixing with other vices, which for
the most part will cling together, if a man have not a care. I have
contracted and curtailed mine, to make them as single and as simple as I

"Nec ultra
Errorem foveo."

["Nor do I cherish error further."
or: "Nor carry wrong further."
--Juvenal, viii. 164.]

For as to the opinion of the Stoics, who say, "That the wise man when he
works, works by all the virtues together, though one be most apparent,
according to the nature of the action"; and herein the similitude of a
human body might serve them somewhat, for the action of anger cannot
work, unless all the humours assist it, though choler predominate;
--if they will thence draw a like consequence, that when the wicked man
does wickedly, he does it by all the vices together, I do not believe it
to be so, or else I understand them not, for I by effect find the
contrary. These are sharp, unsubstantial subleties, with which
philosophy sometimes amuses itself. I follow some vices, but I fly
others as much as a saint would do. The Peripatetics also disown this
indissoluble connection; and Aristotle is of opinion that a prudent and
just man may be intemperate and inconsistent. Socrates confessed to some
who had discovered a certain inclination to vice in his physiognomy, that
it was, in truth, his natural propension, but that he had by discipline
corrected it. And such as were familiar with the philosopher Stilpo
said, that being born with addiction to wine and women, he had by study
rendered himself very abstinent both from the one and the other.

What I have in me of good, I have, quite contrary, by the chance of my
birth; and hold it not either by law, precept, or any other instruction;
the innocence that is in me is a simple one; little vigour and no art.
Amongst other vices, I mortally hate cruelty, both by nature and
judgment, as the very extreme of all vices: nay, with so much tenderness
that I cannot see a chicken's neck pulled off without trouble, and cannot
without impatience endure the cry of a hare in my dog's teeth, though the
chase be a violent pleasure. Such as have sensuality to encounter,
freely make use of this argument, to shew that it is altogether "vicious
and unreasonable; that when it is at the height, it masters us to that
degree that a man's reason can have no access," and instance our own
experience in the act of love,

"Quum jam praesagit gaudia corpus,
Atque in eo est Venus,
ut muliebria conserat arva."

[None of the translators of the old editions used for this etext
have been willing to translate this passage from Lucretius, iv.
1099; they take a cop out by bashfully saying: "The sense is in the
preceding passage of the text." D.W.]

wherein they conceive that the pleasure so transports us, that our reason
cannot perform its office, whilst we are in such ecstasy and rapture. I
know very well it may be otherwise, and that a man may sometimes, if he
will, gain this point over himself to sway his soul, even in the critical
moment, to think of something else; but then he must ply it to that bent.
I know that a man may triumph over the utmost effort of this pleasure: I
have experienced it in myself, and have not found Venus so imperious a
goddess, as many, and much more virtuous men than I, declare. I do not
consider it a miracle, as the Queen of Navarre does in one of the Tales
of her Heptameron--["Vu gentil liure pour son estoffe."]--(which is a
very pretty book of its kind), nor for a thing of extreme difficulty, to
pass whole nights, where a man has all the convenience and liberty he can
desire, with a long-coveted mistress, and yet be true to the pledge first
given to satisfy himself with kisses and suchlike endearments, without
pressing any further. I conceive that the example of the pleasure of the
chase would be more proper; wherein though the pleasure be less, there is
the higher excitement of unexpected joy, giving no time for the reason,
taken by surprise, to prepare itself for the encounter, when after a long
quest the beast starts up on a sudden in a place where, peradventure, we
least expected it; the shock and the ardour of the shouts and cries of
the hunters so strike us, that it would be hard for those who love this
lesser chase, to turn their thoughts upon the instant another way; and
the poets make Diana triumph over the torch and shafts of Cupid:

"Quis non malarum, quas amor curas habet,
Haec inter obliviscitur?"

["Who, amongst such delights would not remove out of his thoughts
the anxious cares of love."--Horace, Epod., ii. 37.]

To return to what I was saying before, I am tenderly compassionate of
others' afflictions, and should readily cry for company, if, upon any
occasion whatever, I could cry at all. Nothing tempts my tears but
tears, and not only those that are real and true, but whatever they are,
feigned or painted. I do not much lament the dead, and should envy them
rather; but I very much lament the dying. The savages do not so much
offend me, in roasting and eating the bodies of the dead, as they do who
torment and persecute the living. Nay, I cannot look so much as upon the
ordinary executions of justice, how reasonable soever, with a steady eye.
Some one having to give testimony of Julius Caesar's clemency; "he was,"
says he, "mild in his revenges. Having compelled the pirates to yield by
whom he had before been taken prisoner and put to ransom; forasmuch as he
had threatened them with the cross, he indeed condemned them to it, but
it was after they had been first strangled. He punished his secretary
Philemon, who had attempted to poison him, with no greater severity than
mere death." Without naming that Latin author,--[Suetonius, Life of
Casay, c. 74.]--who thus dares to allege as a testimony of mercy the
killing only of those by whom we have been offended; it is easy to guess
that he was struck with the horrid and inhuman examples of cruelty
practised by the Roman tyrants.

For my part, even in justice itself, all that exceeds a simple death
appears to me pure cruelty; especially in us who ought, having regard to
their souls, to dismiss them in a good and calm condition; which cannot
be, when we have agitated them by insufferable torments. Not long since,
a soldier who was a prisoner, perceiving from a tower where he was shut
up, that the people began to assemble to the place of execution, and that
the carpenters were busy erecting a scaffold, he presently concluded
that the preparation was for him, and therefore entered into a resolution
to kill himself, but could find no instrument to assist him in his design
except an old rusty cart-nail that fortune presented to him; with this he
first gave himself two great wounds about his throat, but finding these
would not do, he presently afterwards gave himself a third in the belly,
where he left the nail sticking up to the head. The first of his keepers
who came in found him in this condition: yet alive, but sunk down and
exhausted by his wounds. To make use of time, therefore, before he
should die, they made haste to read his sentence; which having done, and
he hearing that he was only condemned to be beheaded, he seemed to take
new courage, accepted wine which he had before refused, and thanked his
judges for the unhoped-for mildness of their sentence; saying, that he
had taken a resolution to despatch himself for fear of a more severe and
insupportable death, having entertained an opinion, by the preparations
he had seen in the place, that they were resolved to torment him with
some horrible execution, and seemed to be delivered from death in having
it changed from what he apprehended.

I should advise that those examples of severity by which 'tis designed to
retain the people in their duty, might be exercised upon the dead bodies
of criminals; for to see them deprived of sepulture, to see them boiled
and divided into quarters, would almost work as much upon the vulgar, as
the pain they make the living endure; though that in effect be little or
nothing, as God himself says, "Who kill the body, and after that have no
more that they can do;"--[Luke, xii. 4.]--and the poets singularly
dwell upon the horrors of this picture, as something worse than death:

"Heu! reliquias semiustas regis, denudatis ossibus,
Per terram sanie delibutas foede divexarier."

["Alas! that the half-burnt remains of the king, exposing his bones,
should be foully dragged along the ground besmeared with gore."
--Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., i. 44.]

I happened to come by one day accidentally at Rome, just as they were
upon executing Catena, a notorious robber: he was strangled without any
emotion of the spectators, but when they came to cut him in quarters, the
hangman gave not a blow that the people did not follow with a doleful cry
and exclamation, as if every one had lent his sense of feeling to the
miserable carcase. Those inhuman excesses ought to be exercised upon the
bark, and not upon the quick. Artaxerxes, in almost a like case,
moderated the severity of the ancient laws of Persia, ordaining that the
nobility who had committed a fault, instead of being whipped, as they
were used to be, should be stripped only and their clothes whipped for
them; and that whereas they were wont to tear off their hair, they should
only take off their high-crowned tiara.'--[Plutarch, Notable Sayings of
the Ancient King.]--The so devout Egyptians thought they sufficiently
satisfied the divine justice by sacrificing hogs in effigy and
representation; a bold invention to pay God so essential a substance in
picture only and in show.

I live in a time wherein we abound in incredible examples of this vice,
through the licence of our civil wars; and we see nothing in ancient
histories more extreme than what we have proof of every day, but I
cannot, any the more, get used to it. I could hardly persuade myself,
before I saw it with my eyes, that there could be found souls so cruel
and fell, who, for the sole pleasure of murder, would commit it; would
hack and lop off the limbs of others; sharpen their wits to invent
unusual torments and new kinds of death, without hatred, without profit,
and for no other end but only to enjoy the pleasant spectacle of the
gestures and motions, the lamentable groans and cries of a man dying in
anguish. For this is the utmost point to which cruelty can arrive:

"Ut homo hominem, non iratus, non timens,
tantum spectaturus, occidat."

["That a man should kill a man, not being angry, not in fear, only
for the sake of the spectacle."--Seneca, Ep., 90.]

For my own part, I cannot without grief see so much as an innocent beast
pursued and killed that has no defence, and from which we have received
no offence at all; and that which frequently happens, that the stag we
hunt, finding himself weak and out of breath, and seeing no other remedy,
surrenders himself to us who pursue him, imploring mercy by his tears:

"Questuque cruentus,
Atque imploranti similis,"

["Who, bleeding, by his tears seems to crave mercy."
--AEnead, vii. 501.]

has ever been to me a very unpleasing sight; and I hardly ever take a
beast alive that I do not presently turn out again. Pythagoras bought
them of fishermen and fowlers to do the same:

"Primoque a caede ferarum,
Incaluisse puto maculatum sanguine ferrum."

["I think 'twas slaughter of wild beasts that first stained the
steel of man with blood."--Ovid, Met., xv. 106.]

Those natures that are sanguinary towards beasts discover a natural
proneness to cruelty. After they had accustomed themselves at Rome to
spectacles of the slaughter of animals, they proceeded to those of the
slaughter of men, of gladiators. Nature has herself, I fear, imprinted
in man a kind of instinct to inhumanity; nobody takes pleasure in seeing
beasts play with and caress one another, but every one is delighted with
seeing them dismember, and tear one another to pieces. And that I may
not be laughed at for the sympathy I have with them, theology itself
enjoins us some favour in their behalf; and considering that one and the
same master has lodged us together in this palace for his service, and
that they, as well as we, are of his family, it has reason to enjoin us
some affection and regard to them. Pythagoras borrowed the
metempsychosis from the Egyptians; but it has since been received by
several nations, and particularly by our Druids:

"Morte carent animae; semperque, priore relicts
Sede, novis domibus vivunt, habitantque receptae."

["Souls never die, but, having left their former seat, live
and are received into new homes."--Ovid, Met., xv. 158.]

The religion of our ancient Gauls maintained that souls, being eternal,
never ceased to remove and shift their places from one body to another;
mixing moreover with this fancy some consideration of divine justice; for
according to the deportments of the soul, whilst it had been in
Alexander, they said that God assigned it another body to inhabit, more
or less painful, and proper for its condition:

"Muta ferarum
Cogit vincla pati; truculentos ingerit ursis,
Praedonesque lupis; fallaces vulpibus addit:
Atque ubi per varios annos, per mille figuras

Egit, Lethaeo purgatos flumine, tandem
Rursus ad humanae revocat primordia formae:"

["He makes them wear the silent chains of brutes, the bloodthirsty
souls he encloses in bears, the thieves in wolves, the deceivers in
foxes; where, after successive years and a thousand forms, man had
spent his life, and after purgation in Lethe's flood, at last he
restores them to the primordial human shapes."
--Claudian, In Ruf., ii. 482.]

If it had been valiant, he lodged it in the body of a lion; if
voluptuous, in that of a hog; if timorous, in that of a hart or hare; if
malicious, in that of a fox, and so of the rest, till having purified it
by this chastisement, it again entered into the body of some other man:

"Ipse ego nam memini, Trojani, tempore belli
Panthoides Euphorbus eram."

["For I myself remember that, in the days of the Trojan war, I was
Euphorbus, son of Pantheus."--Ovid, Met., xv. 160; and see Diogenes
Laertius, Life of Pythagoras.]

As to the relationship betwixt us and beasts, I do not much admit of it;
nor of that which several nations, and those among the most ancient and
most noble, have practised, who have not only received brutes into their
society and companionship, but have given them a rank infinitely above
themselves, esteeming them one while familiars and favourites of the
gods, and having them in more than human reverence and respect; others
acknowledged no other god or divinity than they:

"Bellux a barbaris propter beneficium consecratae."

["Beasts, out of opinion of some benefit received by them, were
consecrated by barbarians"--Cicero, De Natura Deor., i. 36.]

"Crocodilon adorat
Pars haec; illa pavet saturam serpentibus ibin:
Effigies sacri hic nitet aurea cercopitheci;
Hic piscem flumints, illic
Oppida tota canem venerantur."

["This place adores the crocodile; another dreads the ibis, feeder
on serpents; here shines the golden image of the sacred ape; here
men venerate the fish of the river; there whole towns worship a
dog."--Juvenal, xv. 2.]

And the very interpretation that Plutarch, gives to this error, which is
very well conceived, is advantageous to them: for he says that it was not
the cat or the ox, for example, that the Egyptians adored: but that they,
in those beasts, adored some image of the divine faculties; in this,
patience and utility: in that, vivacity, or, as with our neighbours the
Burgundians and all the Germans, impatience to see themselves shut up; by
which they represented liberty, which they loved and adored above all
other godlike attributes, and so of the rest. But when, amongst the more
moderate opinions, I meet with arguments that endeavour to demonstrate
the near resemblance betwixt us and animals, how large a share they have
in our greatest privileges, and with how much probability they compare us
together, truly I abate a great deal of our presumption, and willingly
resign that imaginary sovereignty that is attributed to us over other

But supposing all this were not true, there is nevertheless a certain
respect, a general duty of humanity, not only to beasts that have life
and sense, but even to trees, and plants. We owe justice to men, and
graciousness and benignity to other creatures that are capable of it;
there is a certain commerce and mutual obligation betwixt them and us.
Nor shall I be afraid to confess the tenderness of my nature so childish,
that I cannot well refuse to play with my dog, when he the most
unseasonably importunes me to do so. The Turks have alms and hospitals
for beasts. The Romans had public care to the nourishment of geese, by
whose vigilance their Capitol had been preserved. The Athenians made a
decree that the mules and moyls which had served at the building of the
temple called Hecatompedon should be free and suffered to pasture at
their own choice, without hindrance. The Agrigentines had a common use
solemnly to inter the beasts they had a kindness for, as horses of some
rare quality, dogs, and useful birds, and even those that had only been
kept to divert their children; and the magnificence that was ordinary
with them in all other things, also particularly appeared in the
sumptuosity and numbers of monuments erected to this end, and which
remained in their beauty several ages after. The Egyptians buried
wolves, bears, crocodiles, dogs, and cats in sacred places, embalmed
their bodies, and put on mourning at their death. Cimon gave an
honourable sepulture to the mares with which he had three times gained
the prize of the course at the Olympic Games. The ancient Xantippus
caused his dog to be interred on an eminence near the sea, which has ever
since retained the name, and Plutarch says, that he had a scruple about
selling for a small profit to the slaughterer an ox that had been long in
his service.


A little cheese when a mind to make a feast
A word ill taken obliterates ten years' merit
Cato said: So many servants, so many enemies
Cherish themselves most where they are most wrong
Condemn all violence in the education of a tender soul
Cruelty is the very extreme of all vices
Disguise, by their abridgments and at their own choice
Flatterer in your old age or in your sickness
He felt a pleasure and delight in so noble an action
He judged other men by himself
I cannot well refuse to play with my dog
I do not much lament the dead, and should envy them rather
I had rather be old a brief time, than be old before old age
I owe it rather to my fortune than my reason
Incline the history to their own fancy
It (my books) may know many things that are gone from me
Knowledge and truth may be in us without judgment
Learn the theory from those who best know the practice
Loved them for our sport, like monkeys, and not as men
Motive to some vicious occasion or some prospect of profit
My books: from me hold that which I have not retained
My dog unseasonably importunes me to play
My innocence is a simple one; little vigour and no art.
Never observed any great stability in my soul to resist passions
Nothing tempts my tears but tears
Omit, as incredible, such things as they do not understand
On all occasions to contradict and oppose
Only desire to become more wise, not more learned or eloquent
Passion of dandling and caressing infants scarcely born
Perfection: but I will not buy it so dear as it costs
Plato will have nobody marry before thirty
Prudent and just man may be intemperate and inconsistent
Puerile simplicities of our children
Shelter my own weakness under these great reputations
Socrates kept a confounded scolding wife
The authors, with whom I converse
There is no recompense becomes virtue
To do well where there was danger was the proper office
To whom no one is ill who can be good?
Turks have alms and hospitals for beasts
Vices will cling together, if a man have not a care
Virtue is much strengthened by combats
Virtue refuses facility for a companion


Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazilitt



XIII. Of judging of the death of another.
XIV. That the mind hinders itself.
XV. That our desires are augmented by difficulty.
XVI. Of glory.
XVII. Of presumption.



When we judge of another's assurance in death, which, without doubt, is
the most remarkable action of human life, we are to take heed of one
thing, which is that men very hardly believe themselves to have arrived
to that period. Few men come to die in the opinion that it is their
latest hour; and there is nothing wherein the flattery of hope more
deludes us; It never ceases to whisper in our ears, "Others have been
much sicker without dying; your condition is not so desperate as 'tis
thought; and, at the worst, God has done other miracles." Which happens
by reason that we set too much value upon ourselves; it seems as if the
universality of things were in some measure to suffer by our dissolution,
and that it commiserates our condition, forasmuch as our disturbed sight
represents things to itself erroneously, and that we are of opinion they
stand in as much need of us as we do of them, like people at sea, to whom
mountains, fields, cities, heaven and earth are tossed at the same rate
as they are:

"Provehimur portu, terraeque urbesque recedunt:"

["We sail out of port, and cities and lands recede."
--AEneid, iii. 72.]

Whoever saw old age that did not applaud the past and condemn the present
time, laying the fault of his misery and discontent upon the world and
the manners of men?

"Jamque caput quassans, grandis suspirat arator.
Et cum tempora temporibus praesentia confert
Praeteritis, laudat fortunas saepe parentis,
Et crepat antiquum genus ut pietate repletum."

["Now the old ploughman, shaking his head, sighs, and compares
present times with past, often praises his parents' happiness, and
talks of the old race as full of piety."--Lucretius, ii. 1165.]

We will make all things go along with us; whence it follows that we
consider our death as a very great thing, and that does not so easily
pass, nor without the solemn consultation of the stars:

"Tot circa unum caput tumultuantes dens,"

["All the gods to agitation about one man."
--Seneca, Suasor, i. 4.]

and so much the more think it as we more value ourselves. "What, shall
so much knowledge be lost, with so much damage to the world, without a
particular concern of the destinies? Does so rare and exemplary a soul
cost no more the killing than one that is common and of no use to the
public? This life, that protects so many others, upon which so many
other lives depend, that employs so vast a number of men in his service,
that fills so many places, shall it drop off like one that hangs but by
its own simple thread? None of us lays it enough to heart that he is
but one: thence proceeded those words of Caesar to his pilot, more tumid
than the sea that threatened him:

"Italiam si coelo auctore recusas,
Me pete: sola tibi causa est haec justa timoris,
Vectorem non nosce tuum; perrumpe procellas,
Tutela secure mea."

["If you decline to sail to Italy under the God's protection, trust
to mine; the only just cause you have to fear is, that you do not
know your passenger; sail on, secure in my guardianship."
--Lucan, V. 579.]

And these:

"Credit jam digna pericula Caesar
Fatis esse suis; tantusne evertere, dixit,
Me superis labor est, parva quern puppe sedentem,
Tam magno petiere mari;"

["Caesar now deemed these dangers worthy of his destiny: 'What!'
said he, 'is it for the gods so great a task to overthrow me, that
they must be fain to assail me with great seas in a poor little
bark.'"--Lucan, v. 653.]

and that idle fancy of the public, that the sun bore on his face mourning
for his death a whole year:

"Ille etiam extincto miseratus Caesare Romam,
Cum caput obscura nitidum ferrugine texit:"

["Caesar being dead, the sun in mourning clouds, pitying Rome,
clothed himself."--Virgil, Georg., i. 466.]

and a thousand of the like, wherewith the world suffers itself to be so
easily imposed upon, believing that our interests affect the heavens, and
that their infinity is concerned at our ordinary actions:

"Non tanta caelo societas nobiscum est, ut nostro
fato mortalis sit ille quoque siderum fulgor."

["There is no such alliance betwixt us and heaven, that the
brightness of the stars should be made also mortal by our death."
--Pliny, Nat. Hist., ii. 8.]

Now, to judge of constancy and resolution in a man who does not yet
believe himself to be certainly in danger, though he really is, is not
reason; and 'tis not enough that he die in this posture, unless he
purposely put himself into it for this effect. It commonly falls out in
most men that they set a good face upon the matter and speak with great
indifference, to acquire reputation, which they hope afterwards, living,
to enjoy. Of all whom I have seen die, fortune has disposed their
countenances and no design of theirs; and even of those who in ancient
times have made away with themselves, there is much to be considered
whether it were a sudden or a lingering death. That cruel Roman Emperor
would say of his prisoners, that he would make them feel death, and if
any one killed himself in prison, "That fellow has made an escape from
me"; he would prolong death and make it felt by torments:

"Vidimus et toto quamvis in corpore caeso
Nil anima lethale datum, moremque nefandae,
Durum saevitix, pereuntis parcere morti."

["We have seen in tortured bodies, amongst the wounds, none that
have been mortal, inhuman mode of dire cruelty, that means to kill,
but will not let men die."--Lucan, iv. i. 78.]

In plain truth, it is no such great matter for a man in health and in a
temperate state of mind to resolve to kill himself; it is very easy to
play the villain before one comes to the point, insomuch that
Heliogabalus, the most effeminate man in the world, amongst his lowest
sensualities, could forecast to make himself die delicately, when he
should be forced thereto; and that his death might not give the lie to
the rest of his life, had purposely built a sumptuous tower, the front
and base of which were covered with planks enriched with gold and
precious stones, thence to precipitate himself; and also caused cords
twisted with gold and crimson silk to be made, wherewith to strangle
himself; and a sword with the blade of gold to be hammered out to fall
upon; and kept poison in vessels of emerald and topaz wherewith to poison
himself according as he should like to choose one of these ways of dying:

"Impiger. . . ad letum et fortis virtute coacta."

["Resolute and brave in the face of death by a forced courage.
--"Lucan, iv. 798.]

Yet in respect of this person, the effeminacy of his preparations makes
it more likely that he would have thought better on't, had he been put to
the test. But in those who with greater resolution have determined to
despatch themselves, we must examine whether it were with one blow which
took away the leisure of feeling the effect for it is to be questioned
whether, perceiving life, by little and little, to steal away the
sentiment of the body mixing itself with that of the soul, and the means
of repenting being offered, whether, I say, constancy and obstinacy in so
dangerous an intention would have been found.

In the civil wars of Caesar, Lucius Domitius, being taken in the Abruzzi,
and thereupon poisoning himself, afterwards repented. It has happened in
our time that a certain person, being resolved to die and not having gone
deep enough at the first thrust, the sensibility of the flesh opposing
his arm, gave himself two or three wounds more, but could never prevail
upon himself to thrust home. Whilst Plautius Silvanus was upon his
trial, Urgulania, his grandmother, sent him a poniard with which, not
being able to kill himself, he made his servants cut his veins. Albucilla
in Tiberius time having, to kill himself, struck with too much
tenderness, gave his adversaries opportunity to imprison and put him to
death their own way.' And that great leader, Demosthenes, after his rout
in Sicily, did the same; and C. Fimbria, having struck himself too
weakly, entreated his servant to despatch him. On the contrary,
Ostorius, who could not make use of his own arm, disdained to employ that
of his servant to any other use but only to hold the poniard straight and
firm; and bringing his throat to it, thrust himself through. 'Tis, in
truth, a morsel that is to be swallowed without chewing, unless a man be
thoroughly resolved; and yet Adrian the emperor made his physician mark
and encircle on his pap the mortal place wherein he was to stab to whom
he had given orders to kill him. For this reason it was that Caesar,
being asked what death he thought to be the most desired, made answer,
"The least premeditated and the shortest."--[Tacitus, Annals, xvi. 15]--
If Caesar dared to say it, it is no cowardice in me to believe it."
A short death," says Pliny, "is the sovereign good hap of human life.
"People do not much care to recognise it. No one can say that he is
resolute for death who fears to deal with it and cannot undergo it with
his eyes open: they whom we see in criminal punishments run to their
death and hasten and press their execution, do it not out of resolution,
but because they will not give them selves leisure to consider it; it
does not trouble them to be dead, but to die:

"Emodi nolo, sed me esse mortem nihil astigmia:"

["I have no mind to die, but I have no objection to be dead."
--Epicharmus, apud Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., i. 8.]

'tis a degree of constancy to which I have experimented, that I can
arrive, like those who plunge into dangers, as into the sea, with their
eyes shut.

There is nothing, in my opinion, more illustrious in the life of
Socrates, than that he had thirty whole days wherein to ruminate upon the
sentence of his death, to have digested it all that time with a most
assured hope, without care, and without alteration, and with a series of
words and actions rather careless and indifferent than any way stirred or
discomposed by the weight of such a thought.

That Pomponius Atticus, to whom Cicero writes so often, being sick,
caused Agrippa, his son-in-law, and two or three more of his friends, to
be called to him, and told them, that having found all means practised
upon him for his recovery to be in vain, and that all he did to prolong
his life also prolonged and augmented his pain, he was resolved to put an
end both to the one and the other, desiring them to approve of his
determination, or at least not to lose their labour in endeavouring to
dissuade him. Now, having chosen to destroy himself by abstinence, his
disease was thereby cured: the remedy that he had made use of to kill
himself restored him to health. His physicians and friends, rejoicing at
so happy an event, and coming to congratulate him, found themselves very
much deceived, it being impossible for them to make him alter his
purpose, he telling them, that as he must one day die, and was now so far
on his way, he would save himself the labour of beginning another time.
This man, having surveyed death at leisure, was not only not discouraged
at its approach, but eagerly sought it; for being content that he had
engaged in the combat, he made it a point of bravery to see the end; 'tis
far beyond not fearing death to taste and relish it.

The story of the philosopher Cleanthes is very like this: he had his gums
swollen and rotten; his physicians advised him to great abstinence:
having fasted two days, he was so much better that they pronounced him
cured, and permitted him to return to his ordinary course of diet; he, on
the contrary, already tasting some sweetness in this faintness of his,
would not be persuaded to go back, but resolved to proceed, and to finish
what he had so far advanced.

Tullius Marcellinus, a young man of Rome, having a mind to anticipate the
hour of his destiny, to be rid of a disease that was more trouble to him
than he was willing to endure, though his physicians assured him of a
certain, though not sudden, cure, called a council of his friends to
deliberate about it; of whom some, says Seneca, gave him the counsel that
out of unmanliness they would have taken themselves; others, out of
flattery, such as they thought he would best like; but a Stoic said this
to him: "Do not concern thyself, Marcellinus, as if thou didst deliberate
of a thing of importance; 'tis no great matter to live; thy servants and
beasts live; but it is a great thing to die handsomely, wisely, and
firmly. Do but think how long thou hast done the same things, eat,
drink, and sleep, drink, sleep, and eat: we incessantly wheel in the same
circle. Not only ill and insupportable accidents, but even the satiety
of living, inclines a man to desire to die." Marcellinus did not stand
in need of a man to advise, but of a man to assist him; his servants were
afraid to meddle in the business, but this philosopher gave them to under
stand that domestics are suspected even when it is in doubt whether the
death of the master were voluntary or no; otherwise, that it would be of
as ill example to hinder him as to kill him, forasmuch as:

"Invitum qui servat, idem facit occidenti."

["He who makes a man live against his will, 'tis as cruel
as to kill him."--Horat., De Arte Poet., 467]

He then told Marcellinus that it would not be unbecoming, as what is left
on the tables when we have eaten is given to the attendants, so, life
being ended, to distribute something to those who have been our servants.
Now Marcellinus was of a free and liberal spirit; he, therefore, divided
a certain sum of money amongst his servants, and consoled them. As to
the rest, he had no need of steel nor of blood: he resolved to go out of
this life and not to run out of it; not to escape from death, but to
essay it. And to give himself leisure to deal with it, having forsaken
all manner of nourishment, the third day following, after having caused
himself to be sprinkled with warm water, he fainted by degrees, and not
without some kind of pleasure, as he himself declared.

In fact, such as have been acquainted with these faintings, proceeding
from weakness, say that they are therein sensible of no manner of pain,
but rather feel a kind of delight, as in the passage to sleep and best.
These are studied and digested deaths.

But to the end that Cato only may furnish out the whole example of
virtue, it seems as if his good with which the leisure to confront and
struggle with death, reinforcing his destiny had put his ill one into the
hand he gave himself the blow, seeing he had courage in the danger,
instead of letting it go less. And if I had had to represent him in his
supreme station, I should have done it in the posture of tearing out his
bloody bowels, rather than with his sword in his hand, as did the
statuaries of his time, for this second murder was much more furious than
the first.



'Tis a pleasant imagination to fancy a mind exactly balanced betwixt two
equal desires: for, doubtless, it can never pitch upon either, forasmuch
as the choice and application would manifest an inequality of esteem;
and were we set betwixt the bottle and the ham, with an equal appetite to
drink and eat, there would doubtless be no remedy, but we must die of
thirst and hunger. To provide against this inconvenience, the Stoics,
when they are asked whence the election in the soul of two indifferent
things proceeds, and that makes us, out of a great number of crowns,
rather take one than another, they being all alike, and there being no
reason to incline us to such a preference, make answer, that this
movement of the soul is extraordinary and irregular, entering into us
by a foreign, accidental, and fortuitous impulse. It might rather,
methinks, he said, that nothing presents itself to us wherein there is
not some difference, how little soever; and that, either by the sight or
touch, there is always some choice that, though it be imperceptibly,
tempts and attracts us; so, whoever shall presuppose a packthread equally
strong throughout, it is utterly impossible it should break; for, where
will you have the breaking to begin? and that it should break altogether
is not in nature. Whoever, also, should hereunto join the geometrical
propositions that, by the certainty of their demonstrations, conclude the
contained to be greater than the containing, the centre to be as great as
its circumference, and that find out two lines incessantly approaching
each other, which yet can never meet, and the philosopher's stone, and
the quadrature of the circle, where the reason and the effect are so
opposite, might, peradventure, find some argument to second this bold
saying of Pliny:

"Solum certum nihil esse certi,
et homine nihil miserius ant superbius."

["It is only certain that there is nothing certain, and that nothing
is more miserable or more proud than man."--Nat. Hist., ii. 7.]



There is no reason that has not its contrary, say the wisest of the
philosophers. I was just now ruminating on the excellent saying one of
the ancients alleges for the contempt of life: "No good can bring
pleasure, unless it be that for the loss of which we are beforehand

"In aequo est dolor amissae rei, et timor amittendae,"

["The grief of losing a thing, and the fear of losing it,
are equal."--Seneca, Ep., 98.]

meaning by this that the fruition of life cannot be truly pleasant to us
if we are in fear of losing it. It might, however, be said, on the
contrary, that we hug and embrace this good so much the more earnestly,
and with so much greater affection, by how much we see it the less
assured and fear to have it taken from us: for it is evident, as fire
burns with greater fury when cold comes to mix with it, that our will is
more obstinate by being opposed:

"Si nunquam Danaen habuisset ahenea turris,
Non esses, Danae, de Jove facta parens;"

["If a brazen tower had not held Danae, you would not, Danae, have
been made a mother by Jove."--Ovid, Amoy., ii. 19, 27.]

and that there is nothing naturally so contrary to our taste as satiety
which proceeds from facility; nor anything that so much whets it as
rarity and difficulty:

"Omnium rerum voluptas ipso, quo debet fugare, periculo crescit."

["The pleasure of all things increases by the same danger that
should deter it."--Seneca, De Benef., vii. 9.]

"Galla, nega; satiatur amor, nisi gaudia torquent."

["Galla, refuse me; love is glutted with joys that are not attended
with trouble."--Martial, iv. 37.]

To keep love in breath, Lycurgus made a decree that the married people of
Lacedaemon should never enjoy one another but by stealth; and that it
should be as great a shame to take them in bed together as committing
with others. The difficulty of assignations, the danger of surprise, the
shame of the morning,

"Et languor, et silentium,
Et latere petitus imo Spiritus:"

["And languor, and silence, and sighs, coming from the innermost
heart."--Hor., Epod., xi. 9.]

these are what give the piquancy to the sauce. How many very wantonly
pleasant sports spring from the most decent and modest language of the
works on love? Pleasure itself seeks to be heightened with pain; it is
much sweeter when it smarts and has the skin rippled. The courtesan
Flora said she never lay with Pompey but that she made him wear the
prints of her teeth.--[Plutarch, Life of Pompey, c. i.]

"Quod petiere, premunt arcte, faciuntque dolorem
Corporis, et dentes inlidunt saepe labellis . . .
Et stimuli subsunt, qui instigant laedere ad ipsum,
Quodcunque est, rabies unde illae germina surgunt."

["What they have sought they dress closely, and cause pain; on the
lips fix the teeth, and every kiss indents: urged by latent stimulus
the part to wound"--Lucretius, i. 4.]

And so it is in everything: difficulty gives all things their estimation;
the people of the march of Ancona more readily make their vows to St.
James, and those of Galicia to Our Lady of Loreto; they make wonderful
to-do at Liege about the baths of Lucca, and in Tuscany about those of
Aspa: there are few Romans seen in the fencing school of Rome, which is
full of French. That great Cato also, as much as us, nauseated his wife
whilst she was his, and longed for her when in the possession of another.
I was fain to turn out into the paddock an old horse, as he was not to be
governed when he smelt a mare: the facility presently sated him as
towards his own, but towards strange mares, and the first that passed by
the pale of his pasture, he would again fall to his importunate neighings
and his furious heats as before. Our appetite contemns and passes by
what it has in possession, to run after that it has not:

"Transvolat in medio posita, et fugientia captat."

[" He slights her who is close at hand, and runs after her
who flees from him."--Horace, Sat., i. 2, 108.]

To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind to't:

"Nisi to servare puellam
Incipis, incipiet desinere esse mea:"

["Unless you begin to guard your mistress, she will soon begin
to be no longer mine."--Ovid, Amoy., ii. 19, 47.]

to give it wholly up to us is to beget in us contempt. Want and
abundance fall into the same inconvenience:

"Tibi quod superest, mihi quod desit, dolet."

["Your superfluities trouble you, and what I want
troubles me.--"Terence, Phoym., i. 3, 9.]

Desire and fruition equally afflict us. The rigors of mistresses are
troublesome, but facility, to say truth, still more so; forasmuch as
discontent and anger spring from the esteem we have of the thing desired,
heat and actuate love, but satiety begets disgust; 'tis a blunt, dull,
stupid, tired, and slothful passion:

"Si qua volet regnare diu, contemnat amantem."

["She who. would long retain her power must use her lover ill."
--Ovid, Amor., ii. 19, 33]

"Contemnite, amantes:
Sic hodie veniet, si qua negavit heri."

["Slight your mistress; she will to-day come who denied you
yesterday.--"Propertius, ii. 14, 19.]

Why did Poppea invent the use of a mask to hide the beauties of her face,
but to enhance it to her lovers? Why have they veiled, even below the
heels, those beauties that every one desires to show, and that every one
desires to see? Why do they cover with so many hindrances, one over
another, the parts where our desires and their own have their principal
seat? And to what serve those great bastion farthingales, with which our
ladies fortify their haunches, but to allure our appetite and to draw us
on by removing them farther from us?

"Et fugit ad salices, et se cupit ante videri."

["She flies to the osiers, and desires beforehand to be seen going."
--Virgil, Eclog., iii. 65.]

"Interdum tunica duxit operta moram."

["The hidden robe has sometimes checked love."
--Propertius, ii. 15, 6.]

To what use serves the artifice of this virgin modesty, this grave
coldness, this severe countenance, this professing to be ignorant of
things that they know better than we who instruct them in them, but to
increase in us the desire to overcome, control, and trample underfoot at
pleasure all this ceremony and all these obstacles? For there is not
only pleasure, but, moreover, glory, in conquering and debauching that
soft sweetness and that childish modesty, and to reduce a cold and
matronlike gravity to the mercy of our ardent desires: 'tis a glory,
say they, to triumph over modesty, chastity, and temperance; and whoever
dissuades ladies from those qualities, betrays both them and himself.
We are to believe that their hearts tremble with affright, that the very
sound of our words offends the purity of their ears, that they hate us
for talking so, and only yield to our importunity by a compulsive force.
Beauty, all powerful as it is, has not wherewithal to make itself
relished without the mediation of these little arts. Look into Italy,
where there is the most and the finest beauty to be sold, how it is
necessitated to have recourse to extrinsic means and other artifices to
render itself charming, and yet, in truth, whatever it may do, being
venal and public, it remains feeble and languishing. Even so in virtue
itself, of two like effects, we notwithstanding look upon that as the
fairest and most worthy, wherein the most trouble and hazard are set
before us.

'Tis an effect of the divine Providence to suffer the holy Church to be
afflicted, as we see it, with so many storms and troubles, by this
opposition to rouse pious souls, and to awaken them from that drowsy
lethargy wherein, by so long tranquillity, they had been immerged.
If we should lay the loss we have sustained in the number of those who
have gone astray, in the balance against the benefit we have had by being
again put in breath, and by having our zeal and strength revived by
reason of this opposition, I know not whether the utility would not
surmount the damage.

We have thought to tie the nuptial knot of our marriages more fast and
firm by having taken away all means of dissolving it, but the knot of the
will and affection is so much the more slackened and made loose, by how
much that of constraint is drawn closer; and, on the contrary, that which
kept the marriages at Rome so long in honour and inviolate, was the
liberty every one who so desired had to break them; they kept their wives
the better, because they might part with them, if they would; and, in the
full liberty of divorce, five hundred years and more passed away before
any one made use on't.

"Quod licet, ingratum est; quod non licet, acrius urit."

["What you may, is displeasing; what is forbidden, whets the
appetite.--"Ovid, Amor., ii. 19.]

We might here introduce the opinion of an ancient upon this occasion,
"that executions rather whet than dull the edge of vices: that they do
not beget the care of doing well, that being the work of reason and
discipline, but only a care not to be taken in doing ill:"

"Latius excisae pestis contagia serpunt."

["The plague-sore being lanced, the infection spreads all the more."
--Rutilius, Itinerar. 1, 397.]

I do not know that this is true; but I experimentally know, that never
civil government was by that means reformed; the order and regimen of
manners depend upon some other expedient.

The Greek histories make mention of the Argippians, neighbours to
Scythia, who live without either rod or stick for offence; where not only
no one attempts to attack them, but whoever can fly thither is safe, by
reason of their virtue and sanctity of life, and no one is so bold as to
lay hands upon them; and they have applications made to them to determine
the controversies that arise betwixt men of other countries. There is a
certain nation, where the enclosures of gardens and fields they would
preserve, are made only of a string of cotton; and, so fenced, is more
firm and secure than by our hedges and ditches.

"Furem signata sollicitant . . .
aperta effractarius praeterit."

["Things sealed, up invite a thief: the housebreaker
passes by open doors."--Seneca, Epist., 68.]

Peradventure, the facility of entering my house, amongst other things,
has been a means to preserve it from the violence of our civil wars:
defence allures attempt, and defiance provokes an enemy. I enervated the
soldiers' design by depriving the exploit of danger and all manner of
military glory, which is wont to serve them for pretence and excuse:
whatever is bravely, is ever honourably, done, at a time when justice is
dead. I render them the conquest of my house cowardly and base; it is
never shut to any one that knocks; my gate has no other guard than a
porter, and he of ancient custom and ceremony; who does not so much serve
to defend it as to offer it with more decorum and grace; I have no other
guard nor sentinel than the stars. A gentleman would play the fool to
make a show of defence, if he be not really in a condition to defend
himself. He who lies open on one side, is everywhere so; our ancestors
did not think of building frontier garrisons. The means of assaulting,
I mean without battery or army, and of surprising our houses, increases
every day more and more beyond the means to guard them; men's wits are
generally bent that way; in invasion every one is concerned: none but the
rich in defence. Mine was strong for the time when it was built; I have
added nothing to it of that kind, and should fear that its strength might
turn against myself; to which we are to consider that a peaceable time
would require it should be dismantled. There is danger never to be able
to regain it, and it would be very hard to keep; for in intestine
dissensions, your man may be of the party you fear; and where religion is
the pretext, even a man's nearest relations become unreliable, with some
colour of justice. The public exchequer will not maintain our domestic
garrisons; they would exhaust it: we ourselves have not the means to do
it without ruin, or, which is more inconvenient and injurious, without
ruining the people. The condition of my loss would be scarcely worse.
As to the rest, you there lose all; and even your friends will be more
ready to accuse your want of vigilance and your improvidence, and your
ignorance of and indifference to your own business, than to pity you.
That so many garrisoned houses have been undone whereas this of mine
remains, makes me apt to believe that they were only lost by being
guarded; this gives an enemy both an invitation and colour of reason; all
defence shows a face of war. Let who will come to me in God's name; but
I shall not invite them; 'tis the retirement I have chosen for my repose
from war. I endeavour to withdraw this corner from the public tempest,
as I also do another corner in my soul. Our war may put on what forms it
will, multiply and diversify itself into new parties; for my part, I stir
not. Amongst so many garrisoned houses, myself alone amongst those of my
rank, so far as I know, in France, have trusted purely to Heaven for the
protection of mine, and have never removed plate, deeds, or hangings.
I will neither fear nor save myself by halves. If a full acknowledgment
acquires the Divine favour, it will stay with me to the end: if not, I
have still continued long enough to render my continuance remarkable and
fit to be recorded. How? Why, there are thirty years that I have thus



There is the name and the thing: the name is a voice which denotes and
signifies the thing; the name is no part of the thing, nor of the
substance; 'tis a foreign piece joined to the thing, and outside it.
God, who is all fulness in Himself and the height of all perfection,
cannot augment or add anything to Himself within; but His name may be
augmented and increased by the blessing and praise we attribute to His
exterior works: which praise, seeing we cannot incorporate it in Him,
forasmuch as He can have no accession of good, we attribute to His name,
which is the part out of Him that is nearest to us. Thus is it that to
God alone glory and honour appertain; and there is nothing so remote from
reason as that we should go in quest of it for ourselves; for, being
indigent and necessitous within, our essence being imperfect, and having
continual need of amelioration, 'tis to that we ought to employ all our
endeavour. We are all hollow and empty; 'tis not with wind and voice
that we are to fill ourselves; we want a more solid substance to repair
us: a man starving with hunger would be very simple to seek rather to
provide himself with a gay garment than with a good meal: we are to look
after that whereof we have most need. As we have it in our ordinary

"Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus."

We are in want of beauty, health, wisdom, virtue, and such like essential
qualities: exterior ornaments should, be looked after when we have made
provision for necessary things. Divinity treats amply and more
pertinently of this subject, but I am not much versed in it.

Chrysippus and Diogenes were the earliest and firmest advocates of the
contempt of glory; and maintained that, amongst all pleasures, there was
none more dangerous nor more to be avoided than that which proceeds from
the approbation of others. And, in truth, experience makes us sensible of
many very hurtful treasons in it. There is nothing that so poisons
princes as flattery, nor anything whereby wicked men more easily obtain
credit and favour with them; nor panderism so apt and so usually made use
of to corrupt the chastity of women as to wheedle and entertain them with
their own praises. The first charm the Syrens made use of to allure
Ulysses is of this nature:

"Deca vers nous, deca, o tres-louable Ulysse,
Et le plus grand honneur don't la Grece fleurisse."

["Come hither to us, O admirable Ulysses, come hither, thou greatest
ornament and pride of Greece."--Homer, Odysseus, xii. 184.]

These philosophers said, that all the glory of the world was not worth an
understanding man's holding out his finger to obtain it:

"Gloria quantalibet quid erit, si gloria tantum est?"

["What is glory, be it as glorious as it may be, if it be no more
than glory?"--Juvenal, Sat., vii. 81.]

I say for it alone; for it often brings several commodities along with
it, for which it may justly be desired: it acquires us good-will, and
renders us less subject and exposed to insult and offence from others,
and the like. It was also one of the principal doctrines of Epicurus;
for this precept of his sect, Conceal thy life, that forbids men to
encumber themselves with public negotiations and offices, also
necessarily presupposes a contempt of glory, which is the world's
approbation of those actions we produce in public.--[Plutarch, Whether
the saying, Conceal thy life, is well said.]--He that bids us conceal
ourselves, and to have no other concern but for ourselves, and who will
not have us known to others, would much less have us honoured and
glorified; and so advises Idomeneus not in any sort to regulate his
actions by the common reputation or opinion, except so as to avoid the
other accidental inconveniences that the contempt of men might bring upon

These discourses are, in my opinion, very true and rational; but we are,
I know not how, double in ourselves, which is the cause that what we
believe we do not believe, and cannot disengage ourselves from what we
condemn. Let us see the last and dying words of Epicurus; they are
grand, and worthy of such a philosopher, and yet they carry some touches
of the recommendation of his name and of that humour he had decried by
his precepts. Here is a letter that he dictated a little before his last


"Whilst I was passing over the happy and last day of my life, I
write this, but, at the same time, afflicted with such pain in my
bladder and bowels that nothing can be greater, but it was
recompensed with the pleasure the remembrance of my inventions and
doctrines brought to my soul. Now, as the affection thou hast ever
from thy infancy borne towards me and philosophy requires, take upon
thee the protection of Metrodorus' children."

This is the letter. And that which makes me interpret that the pleasure
he says he had in his soul concerning his inventions, has some reference
to the reputation he hoped for thence after his death, is the manner of
his will, in which he gives order that Amynomachus and Timocrates, his
heirs, should, every January, defray the expense of the celebration of
his birthday as Hermachus should appoint; and also the expense that
should be made the twentieth of every moon in entertaining the
philosophers, his friends, who should assemble in honour of the memory of
him and of Metrodorus.--[Cicero, De Finibus, ii. 30.]

Carneades was head of the contrary opinion, and maintained that glory was
to be desired for itself, even as we embrace our posthumous issue for
themselves, having no knowledge nor enjoyment of them. This opinion has
not failed to be the more universally followed, as those commonly are
that are most suitable to our inclinations. Aristotle gives it the first
place amongst external goods; and avoids, as too extreme vices, the
immoderate either seeking or evading it. I believe that, if we had the
books Cicero wrote upon this subject, we should there find pretty
stories; for he was so possessed with this passion, that, if he had
dared, I think he could willingly have fallen into the excess that others
did, that virtue itself was not to be coveted, but upon the account of
the honour that always attends it:

"Paulum sepultae distat inertiae
Celata virtus:"

["Virtue concealed little differs from dead sloth."
--Horace, Od., iv. 9, 29.]

which is an opinion so false, that I am vexed it could ever enter into
the understanding of a man that was honoured with the name of

If this were true, men need not be virtuous but in public; and we should
be no further concerned to keep the operations of the soul, which is the
true seat of virtue, regular and in order, than as they are to arrive at
the knowledge of others. Is there no more in it, then, but only slily
and with circumspection to do ill? "If thou knowest," says Carneades,
"of a serpent lurking in a place where, without suspicion, a person is
going to sit down, by whose death thou expectest an advantage, thou dost
ill if thou dost not give him caution of his danger; and so much the more
because the action is to be known by none but thyself." If we do not
take up of ourselves the rule of well-doing, if impunity pass with us for
justice, to how many sorts of wickedness shall we every day abandon
ourselves? I do not find what Sextus Peduceus did, in faithfully
restoring the treasure that C. Plotius had committed to his sole secrecy
and trust, a thing that I have often done myself, so commendable, as I
should think it an execrable baseness, had we done otherwise; and I think
it of good use in our days to recall the example of P. Sextilius Rufus,
whom Cicero accuses to have entered upon an inheritance contrary to his
conscience, not only not against law, but even by the determination of
the laws themselves; and M. Crassus and Hortensius, who, by reason of
their authority and power, having been called in by a stranger to share
in the succession of a forged will, that so he might secure his own part,
satisfied themselves with having no hand in the forgery, and refused not
to make their advantage and to come in for a share: secure enough, if
they could shroud themselves from accusations, witnesses, and the
cognisance of the laws:

"Meminerint Deum se habere testem, id est (ut ego arbitror)
mentem suam."

["Let them consider they have God to witness, that is (as I
interpret it), their own consciences."--Cicero, De Offic., iii. 10.]

Virtue is a very vain and frivolous thing if it derive its recommendation
from glory; and 'tis to no purpose that we endeavour to give it a station
by itself, and separate it from fortune; for what is more accidental than

"Profecto fortuna in omni re dominatur: ea res cunctas ex
libidine magis, quhm ex vero, celebrat, obscuratque."

["Fortune rules in all things; it advances and depresses things
more out of its own will than of right and justice."
--Sallust, Catilina, c. 8.]

So to order it that actions may be known and seen is purely the work of
fortune; 'tis chance that helps us to glory, according to its own
temerity. I have often seen her go before merit, and often very much
outstrip it. He who first likened glory to a shadow did better than he
was aware of; they are both of them things pre-eminently vain glory also,
like a shadow, goes sometimes before the body, and sometimes in length
infinitely exceeds it. They who instruct gentlemen only to employ their
valour for the obtaining of honour:

"Quasi non sit honestum, quod nobilitatum non sit;"

["As though it were not a virtue, unless celebrated"
--Cicero De Offic. iii. 10.]

what do they intend by that but to instruct them never to hazard
themselves if they are not seen, and to observe well if there be
witnesses present who may carry news of their valour, whereas a thousand
occasions of well-doing present themselves which cannot be taken notice
of? How many brave individual actions are buried in the crowd of a
battle? Whoever shall take upon him to watch another's behaviour in such
a confusion is not very busy himself, and the testimony he shall give of
his companions' deportment will be evidence against himself:

"Vera et sapiens animi magnitudo, honestum illud,
quod maxime naturam sequitur, in factis positum,
non in gloria, judicat."

["The true and wise magnanimity judges that the bravery which most
follows nature more consists in act than glory."
--Cicero, De Offic. i. 19.]

All the glory that I pretend to derive from my life is that I have lived
it in quiet; in quiet, not according to Metrodorus, or Arcesilaus, or
Aristippus, but according to myself. For seeing philosophy has not been
able to find out any way to tranquillity that is good in common, let
every one seek it in particular.

To what do Caesar and Alexander owe the infinite grandeur of their renown
but to fortune? How many men has she extinguished in the beginning of
their progress, of whom we have no knowledge, who brought as much courage
to the work as they, if their adverse hap had not cut them off in the
first sally of their arms? Amongst so many and so great dangers I do not
remember I have anywhere read that Caesar was ever wounded; a thousand
have fallen in less dangers than the least of those he went through. An
infinite number of brave actions must be performed without witness and
lost, before one turns to account. A man is not always on the top of a
breach, or at the head of an army, in the sight of his general, as upon a
scaffold; a man is often surprised betwixt the hedge and the ditch; he
must run the hazard of his life against a henroost; he must dislodge four
rascally musketeers out of a barn; he must prick out single from his
party, and alone make some attempts, according as necessity will have it.
And whoever will observe will, I believe, find it experimentally true,
that occasions of the least lustre are ever the most dangerous; and that
in the wars of our own times there have more brave men been lost in
occasions of little moment, and in the dispute about some little paltry
fort, than in places of greatest importance, and where their valour might
have been more honourably employed.

Who thinks his death achieved to ill purpose if he do not fall on some
signal occasion, instead of illustrating his death, wilfully obscures his
life, suffering in the meantime many very just occasions of hazarding
himself to slip out of his hands; and every just one is illustrious
enough, every man's conscience being a sufficient trumpet to him.

"Gloria nostra est testimonium conscientiae nostrae."

["For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience."
--Corinthians, i. I.]

He who is only a good man that men may know it, and that he may be the
better esteemed when 'tis known; who will not do well but upon condition
that his virtue may be known to men: is one from whom much service is not
to be expected:

"Credo ch 'el reste di quel verno, cose
Facesse degne di tener ne conto;
Ma fur fin' a quel tempo si nascose,
Che non a colpa mia s' hor 'non le conto
Perche Orlando a far l'opre virtuose
Piu ch'a narrar le poi sempre era pronto;
Ne mai fu alcun' de'suoi fatti espresso,
Se non quando ebbe i testimonii appresso."

["The rest of the winter, I believe, was spent in actions worthy of
narration, but they were done so secretly that if I do not tell them
I am not to blame, for Orlando was more bent to do great acts than
to boast of them, so that no deeds of his were ever known but those
that had witnesses."--Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, xi. 81.]

A man must go to the war upon the account of duty, and expect the
recompense that never fails brave and worthy actions, how private soever,
or even virtuous thoughts-the satisfaction that a well-disposed
conscience receives in itself in doing well. A man must be valiant for
himself, and upon account of the advantage it is to him to have his
courage seated in a firm and secure place against the assaults of

"Virtus, repulsaa nescia sordidx
Intaminatis fulget honoribus
Nec sumit, aut ponit secures
Arbitrio popularis aura."

["Virtue, repudiating all base repulse, shines in taintless
honours, nor takes nor leaves dignity at the mere will of the
vulgar."--Horace, Od., iii. 2, 17.]

It is not for outward show that the soul is to play its part, but for
ourselves within, where no eyes can pierce but our own; there she defends
us from the fear of death, of pain, of shame itself: there she arms us
against the loss of our children, friends, and fortunes: and when
opportunity presents itself, she leads us on to the hazards of war:

"Non emolumento aliquo, sed ipsius honestatis decore."

["Not for any profit, but for the honour of honesty itself."
--Cicero, De Finib., i. 10.]

This profit is of much greater advantage, and more worthy to be coveted
and hoped for, than, honour and glory, which are no other than a
favourable judgment given of us.

A dozen men must be called out of a whole nation to judge about an acre
of land; and the judgment of our inclinations and actions, the most
difficult and most important matter that is, we refer to the voice and
determination of the rabble, the mother of ignorance, injustice, and
inconstancy. Is it reasonable that the life of a wise man should
depend upon the judgment of fools?

"An quidquam stultius, quam, quos singulos contemnas,
eos aliquid putare esse universes?"

["Can anything be more foolish than to think that those you despise
singly, can be anything else in general."
--Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., v. 36.]

He that makes it his business to please them, will have enough to do and
never have done; 'tis a mark that can never be aimed at or hit:

"Nil tam inaestimabile est, quam animi multitudinis."

["Nothing is to be so little understood as the minds of the
multitude."--Livy, xxxi. 34.]

Demetrius pleasantly said of the voice of the people, that he made no
more account of that which came from above than of that which came from
below. He [Cicero] says more:

"Ego hoc judico, si quando turpe non sit, tamen non
esse non turpe, quum id a multitudine laudatur."

["I am of opinion, that though a thing be not foul in itself,
yet it cannot but become so when commended by the multitude."
--Cicero, De Finib., ii. 15.]

No art, no activity of wit, could conduct our steps so as to follow so
wandering and so irregular a guide; in this windy confusion of the noise
of vulgar reports and opinions that drive us on, no way worth anything
can be chosen. Let us not propose to ourselves so floating and wavering
an end; let us follow constantly after reason; let the public approbation
follow us there, if it will; and as it wholly depends upon fortune, we
have no reason sooner to expect it by any other way than that. Even
though I would not follow the right way because it is right, I should,
however, follow it as having experimentally found that, at the end of
the reckoning, 'tis commonly the most happy and of greatest utility

"Dedit hoc providentia hominibus munus,
ut honesta magis juvarent."

["This gift Providence has given to men, that honest things should
be the most agreeable."--Quintilian, Inst. Orat., i. 12.]

The mariner of old said thus to Neptune, in a great tempest: "O God, thou
wilt save me if thou wilt, and if thou choosest, thou wilt destroy me;
but, however, I will hold my rudder straight."--[Seneca, Ep., 85.]--
I have seen in my time a thousand men supple, halfbred, ambiguous, whom
no one doubted to be more worldly-wise than I, lose themselves, where I
have saved myself:

"Risi successus posse carere dolos."

["I have laughed to see cunning fail of success."
--Ovid, Heroid, i. 18.]

Paulus AEmilius, going on the glorious expedition of Macedonia, above all
things charged the people of Rome not to speak of his actions during his
absence. Oh, the license of judgments is a great disturbance to great
affairs! forasmuch as every one has not the firmness of Fabius against
common, adverse, and injurious tongues, who rather suffered his authority
to be dissected by the vain fancies of men, than to do less well in his
charge with a favourable reputation and the popular applause.

There is I know not what natural sweetness in hearing one's self
commended; but we are a great deal too fond of it:

"Laudari metuam, neque enim mihi cornea fibra est
Sed recti finemque extremumque esse recuso
Euge tuum, et belle."

["I should fear to be praised, for my heart is not made of horn;
but I deny that 'excellent--admirably done,' are the terms and
final aim of virtue."--Persius, i. 47.]

I care not so much what I am in the opinions of others, as what I am in
my own; I would be rich of myself, and not by borrowing. Strangers see
nothing but events and outward appearances; everybody can set a good face
on the matter, when they have trembling and terror within: they do not
see my heart, they see but my countenance. One is right in decrying the
hypocrisy that is in war; for what is more easy to an old soldier than to
shift in a time of danger, and to counterfeit the brave when he has no
more heart than a chicken? There are so many ways to avoid hazarding a
man's own person, that we have deceived the world a thousand times before
we come to be engaged in a real danger: and even then, finding ourselves
in an inevitable necessity of doing something, we can make shift for that
time to conceal our apprehensions by setting a good face on the business,
though the heart beats within; and whoever had the use of the Platonic
ring, which renders those invisible that wear it, if turned inward
towards the palm of the hand, a great many would very often hide
themselves when they ought most to appear, and would repent being placed
in so honourable a post, where necessity must make them bold.

"Falsus honor juvat, et mendax infamia terret
Quem nisi mendosum et mendacem?"

["False honour pleases, and calumny affrights, the guilty
and the sick."--Horace, Ep., i. 16, 89.]

Thus we see how all the judgments that are founded upon external
appearances, are marvellously uncertain and doubtful; and that there is
no so certain testimony as every one is to himself. In these, how many
soldiers' boys are companions of our glory? he who stands firm in an
open trench, what does he in that more than fifty poor pioneers who open
to him the way and cover it with their own bodies for fivepence a day
pay, do before him?

"Non quicquid turbida Roma
Elevet, accedas; examenque improbum in illa
Castiges trutina: nec to quaesiveris extra."

["Do not, if turbulent Rome disparage anything, accede; nor correct
a false balance by that scale; nor seek anything beyond thyself."
--Persius, Sat., i. 5.]

The dispersing and scattering our names into many mouths, we call making
them more great; we will have them there well received, and that this
increase turn to their advantage, which is all that can be excusable in
this design. But the excess of this disease proceeds so far that many
covet to have a name, be it what it will. Trogus Pompeius says of
Herostratus, and Titus Livius of Manlius Capitolinus, that they were more
ambitious of a great reputation than of a good one. This is very common;
we are more solicitous that men speak of us, than how they speak; and it
is enough for us that our names are often mentioned, be it after what
manner it will. It should seem that to be known, is in some sort to have
a man's life and its duration in others' keeping. I, for my part, hold
that I am not, but in myself; and of that other life of mine which lies
in the knowledge of my friends, to consider it naked and simply in
itself, I know very well that I am sensible of no fruit nor enjoyment
from it but by the vanity of a fantastic opinion; and when I shall be
dead, I shall be still and much less sensible of it; and shall, withal,
absolutely lose the use of those real advantages that sometimes
accidentally follow it.

I shall have no more handle whereby to take hold of reputation, neither
shall it have any whereby to take hold of or to cleave to me; for to
expect that my name should be advanced by it, in the first place, I have
no name that is enough my own; of two that I have, one is common to all
my race, and indeed to others also; there are two families at Paris and
Montpellier, whose surname is Montaigne, another in Brittany, and one in
Xaintonge, De La Montaigne. The transposition of one syllable only would
suffice so to ravel our affairs, that I shall share in their glory, and
they peradventure will partake of my discredit; and, moreover, my
ancestors have formerly been surnamed, Eyquem,--[Eyquem was the
patronymic.]--a name wherein a family well known in England is at this
day concerned. As to my other name, every one may take it that will, and
so, perhaps, I may honour a porter in my own stead. And besides, though
I had a particular distinction by myself, what can it distinguish, when I
am no more? Can it point out and favour inanity?

"Non levior cippus nunc imprimit ossa?
Laudat posteritas! Nunc non e manibus illis,
Nunc non a tumulo fortunataque favilla,
Nascentur violae?"

["Does the tomb press with less weight upon my bones? Do comrades
praise? Not from my manes, not from the tomb, not from the ashes
will violets grow."--Persius, Sat., i. 37.]

but of this I have spoken elsewhere. As to what remains, in a great
battle where ten thousand men are maimed or killed, there are not fifteen
who are taken notice of; it must be some very eminent greatness, or some
consequence of great importance that fortune has added to it, that
signalises a private action, not of a harquebuser only, but of a great
captain; for to kill a man, or two, or ten: to expose a man's self
bravely to the utmost peril of death, is indeed something in every one of
us, because we there hazard all; but for the world's concern, they are
things so ordinary, and so many of them are every day seen, and there
must of necessity be so many of the same kind to produce any notable
effect, that we cannot expect any particular renown from it:

"Casus multis hic cognitus, ac jam
Tritus, et a medio fortunae ductus acervo."

["The accident is known to many, and now trite; and drawn from the
midst of Fortune's heap."--Juvenal, Sat., xiii. 9.]

Of so many thousands of valiant men who have died within these fifteen
hundred years in France with their swords in their hands, not a hundred
have come to our knowledge. The memory, not of the commanders only, but
of battles and victories, is buried and gone; the fortunes of above half
of the world, for want of a record, stir not from their place, and vanish
without duration. If I had unknown events in my possession, I should
think with great ease to out-do those that are recorded, in all sorts of
examples. Is it not strange that even of the Greeks and Romans, with so
many writers and witnesses, and so many rare and noble exploits, so few
are arrived at our knowledge:

"Ad nos vix tenuis famx perlabitur aura."

["An obscure rumour scarce is hither come."--AEneid, vii. 646.]

It will be much if, a hundred years hence, it be remembered in general
that in our times there were civil wars in France. The Lacedaemonians,
entering into battle, sacrificed to the Muses, to the end that their
actions might be well and worthily written, looking upon it as a divine
and no common favour, that brave acts should find witnesses that could
give them life and memory. Do we expect that at every musket-shot we
receive, and at every hazard we run, there must be a register ready to
record it? and, besides, a hundred registers may enrol them whose
commentaries will not last above three days, and will never come to the
sight of any one. We have not the thousandth part of ancient writings;
'tis fortune that gives them a shorter or longer life, according to her
favour; and 'tis permissible to doubt whether those we have be not the
worst, not having seen the rest. Men do not write histories of things of
so little moment: a man must have been general in the conquest of an
empire or a kingdom; he must have won two-and-fifty set battles, and
always the weaker in number, as Caesar did: ten thousand brave fellows
and many great captains lost their lives valiantly in his service, whose
names lasted no longer than their wives and children lived:

"Quos fama obscura recondit."

["Whom an obscure reputation conceals."--AEneid, v. 302.]

Even those whom we see behave themselves well, three months or three
years after they have departed hence, are no more mentioned than if they
had never been. Whoever will justly consider, and with due proportion,
of what kind of men and of what sort of actions the glory sustains itself
in the records of history, will find that there are very few actions and
very few persons of our times who can there pretend any right. How many
worthy men have we known to survive their own reputation, who have seen
and suffered the honour and glory most justly acquired in their youth,
extinguished in their own presence? And for three years of this
fantastic and imaginary life we must go and throw away our true and
essential life, and engage ourselves in a perpetual death! The sages
propose to themselves a nobler and more just end in so important an

"Recte facti, fecisse merces est: officii fructus,
ipsum officium est."

["The reward of a thing well done is to have done it; the fruit
of a good service is the service itself."--Seneca, Ep., 8.]

It were, peradventure, excusable in a painter or other artisan, or in a
rhetorician or a grammarian, to endeavour to raise himself a name by his
works; but the actions of virtue are too noble in themselves to seek any
other reward than from their own value, and especially to seek it in the
vanity of human judgments.

If this false opinion, nevertheless, be of such use to the public as to
keep men in their duty; if the people are thereby stirred up to virtue;
if princes are touched to see the world bless the memory of Trajan, and
abominate that of Nero; if it moves them to see the name of that great
beast, once so terrible and feared, so freely cursed and reviled by every
schoolboy, let it by all means increase, and be as much as possible
nursed up and cherished amongst us; and Plato, bending his whole
endeavour to make his citizens virtuous, also advises them not to despise
the good repute and esteem of the people; and says it falls out, by a
certain Divine inspiration, that even the wicked themselves oft-times, as
well by word as opinion, can rightly distinguish the virtuous from the
wicked. This person and his tutor are both marvellous and bold
artificers everywhere to add divine operations and revelations where
human force is wanting:

"Ut tragici poetae confugiunt ad deum,
cum explicare argumenti exitum non possunt:"

["As tragic poets fly to some god when they cannot explain
the issue of their argument."--Cicero, De Nat. Deor., i. 20.]

and peradventure, for this reason it was that Timon, railing at him,
called him the great forger of miracles. Seeing that men, by their
insufficiency, cannot pay themselves well enough with current money, let
the counterfeit be superadded. 'Tis a way that has been practised by all
the legislators: and there is no government that has not some mixture
either of ceremonial vanity or of false opinion, that serves for a curb
to keep the people in their duty. 'Tis for this that most of them have
their originals and beginnings fabulous, and enriched with supernatural
mysteries; 'tis this that has given credit to bastard religions, and
caused them to be countenanced by men of understanding; and for this,
that Numa and Sertorius, to possess their men with a better opinion of
them, fed them with this foppery; one, that the nymph Egeria, the other
that his white hind, brought them all their counsels from the gods.
And the authority that Numa gave to his laws, under the title of the
patronage of this goddess, Zoroaster, legislator of the Bactrians and
Persians, gave to his under the name of the God Oromazis: Trismegistus,
legislator of the Egyptians, under that of Mercury; Xamolxis, legislator
of the Scythians, under that of Vesta; Charondas, legislator of the
Chalcidians, under that of Saturn; Minos, legislator of the Candiots,
under that of Jupiter; Lycurgus, legislator of the Lacedaemonians, under
that of Apollo; and Draco and Solon, legislators of the Athenians, under
that of Minerva. And every government has a god at the head of it;
the others falsely, that truly, which Moses set over the Jews at their
departure out of Egypt. The religion of the Bedouins, as the Sire de
Joinville reports, amongst other things, enjoined a belief that the soul
of him amongst them who died for his prince, went into another body more
happy, more beautiful, and more robust than the former; by which means
they much more willingly ventured their lives:

"In ferrum mens prona viris, animaeque capaces
Mortis, et ignavum est rediturae parcere vitae."

["Men's minds are prone to the sword, and their souls able to bear
death; and it is base to spare a life that will be renewed."
--Lucan, i. 461.]

This is a very comfortable belief, however erroneous. Every nation has
many such examples of its own; but this subject would require a treatise
by itself.

To add one word more to my former discourse, I would advise the ladies no
longer to call that honour which is but their duty:

"Ut enim consuetudo loquitur, id solum dicitur
honestum, quod est populari fama gloriosum;"

["As custom puts it, that only is called honest which is
glorious by the public voice."--Cicero, De Finibus, ii. 15.]

their duty is the mark, their honour but the outward rind. Neither would
I advise them to give this excuse for payment of their denial: for I
presuppose that their intentions, their desire, and will, which are
things wherein their honour is not at all concerned, forasmuch as nothing
thereof appears without, are much better regulated than the effects:

"Qux quia non liceat, non facit, illa facit:"

["She who only refuses, because 'tis forbidden, consents."
--Ovid, Amor., ii. 4, 4.]

The offence, both towards God and in the conscience, would be as great to
desire as to do it; and, besides, they are actions so private and secret

Book of the day: