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The Essays of Montaigne, Complete by Michel de Montaigne

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The Emperor Vespasian, being sick of the disease whereof he died, did not
for all that neglect to inquire after the state of the empire, and even
in bed continually despatched very many affairs of great consequence; for
which, being reproved by his physician, as a thing prejudicial to his
health, "An emperor," said he, "must die standing." A fine saying, in my
opinion, and worthy a great prince. The Emperor Adrian since made use of
the same words, and kings should be often put in mind of them, to make
them know that the great office conferred upon them of the command of so
many men, is not an employment of ease; and that there is nothing can so
justly disgust a subject, and make him unwilling to expose himself to
labour and danger for the service of his prince, than to see him, in the
meantime, devoted to his ease and frivolous amusement, and to be
solicitous of his preservation who so much neglects that of his people.

Whoever will take upon him to maintain that 'tis better for a prince to
carry on his wars by others, than in his own person, fortune will furnish
him with examples enough of those whose lieutenants have brought great
enterprises to a happy issue, and of those also whose presence has done
more hurt than good: but no virtuous and valiant prince can with patience
endure so dishonourable councils. Under colour of saving his head, like
the statue of a saint, for the happiness of his kingdom, they degrade him
from and declare him incapable of his office, which is military
throughout: I know one--[Probably Henry IV.]--who had much rather be
beaten, than to sleep whilst another fights for him; and who never
without jealousy heard of any brave thing done even by his own officers
in his absence. And Soliman I. said, with very good reason, in my
opinion, that victories obtained without the master were never complete.
Much more would he have said that that master ought to blush for shame,
to pretend to any share in the honour, having contributed nothing to the
work, but his voice and thought; nor even so much as these, considering
that in such work as that, the direction and command that deserve honour
are only such as are given upon the spot, and in the heat of the
business. No pilot performs his office by standing still. The princes
of the Ottoman family, the chiefest in the world in military fortune,
have warmly embraced this opinion, and Bajazet II., with his son, who
swerved from it, spending their time in science and other retired
employments, gave great blows to their empire; and Amurath III., now
reigning, following their example, begins to find the same. Was it not
Edward III., King of England, who said this of our Charles V.: "There
never was king who so seldom put on his armour, and yet never king who
gave me so much to do." He had reason to think it strange, as an effect
of chance more than of reason. And let those seek out some other to join
with them than me, who will reckon the Kings of Castile and Portugal
amongst the warlike and magnanimous conquerors, because at the distance
of twelve hundred leagues from their lazy abode, by the conduct of their
captains, they made themselves masters of both Indies; of which it has to
be known if they would have had even the courage to go and in person
enjoy them.

The Emperor Julian said yet further, that a philosopher and a brave man
ought not so much as to breathe; that is to say, not to allow any more to
bodily necessities than what we cannot refuse; keeping the soul and body
still intent and busy about honourable, great, and virtuous things. He
was ashamed if any one in public saw him spit, or sweat (which is said by
some, also, of the Lacedaemonian young men, and which Xenophon says of
the Persian), forasmuch as he conceived that exercise, continual labour,
and sobriety, ought to have dried up all those superfluities. What
Seneca says will not be unfit for this place; which is, that the ancient
Romans kept their youth always standing, and taught them nothing that
they were to learn sitting.

'Tis a generous desire to wish to die usefully and like a man, but the
effect lies not so much in our resolution as in our good fortune; a
thousand have proposed to themselves in battle, either to overcome or to
die, who have failed both in the one and the other, wounds and
imprisonment crossing their design and compelling them to live against
their will. There are diseases that overthrow even our desires, and our
knowledge. Fortune ought not to second the vanity of the Roman legions,
who bound themselves by oath, either to overcome or die:

"Victor, Marce Fabi, revertar ex acie: si fallo, Jovem patrem,
Gradivumque Martem aliosque iratos invoco deos."

["I will return, Marcus Fabius, a conqueror, from the fight:
and if I fail, I invoke Father Jove, Mars Gradivus, and the
other angry gods."--Livy, ii. 45.]

The Portuguese say that in a certain place of their conquest of the
Indies, they met with soldiers who had condemned themselves, with
horrible execrations, to enter into no other composition but either to
cause themselves to be slain, or to remain victorious; and had their
heads and beards shaved in token of this vow. 'Tis to much purpose for
us to hazard ourselves and to be obstinate: it seems as if blows avoided
those who present themselves too briskly to them, and do not willingly
fall upon those who too willingly seek them, and so defeat them of their
design. Such there have been, who, after having tried all ways, not
having been able with all their endeavour to obtain the favour of dying
by the hand of the enemy, have been constrained, to make good their
resolution of bringing home the honour of victory or of losing their
lives, to kill themselves even in the heat of battle. Of which there are
other examples, but this is one: Philistus, general of the naval army of
Dionysius the younger against the Syracusans, presented them battle which
was sharply disputed, their forces being equal: in this engagement, he
had the better at the first, through his own valour: but the Syracusans
drawing about his gally to environ him, after having done great things in
his own person to disengage himself and hoping for no relief, with his
own hand he took away the life he had so liberally, and in vain, exposed
to the enemy.

Mule Moloch, king of Fez, who lately won against Sebastian, king of
Portugal, the battle so famous for the death of three kings, and for the
transmission of that great kingdom to the crown of Castile, was extremely
sick when the Portuguese entered in an hostile manner into his dominions;
and from that day forward grew worse and worse, still drawing nearer to
and foreseeing his end; yet never did man better employ his own
sufficiency more vigorously and bravely than he did upon this occasion.
He found himself too weak to undergo the pomp and ceremony of entering.
into his camp, which after their manner is very magnificent, and
therefore resigned that honour to his brother; but this was all of the
office of a general that he resigned; all the rest of greatest utility
and necessity he most, exactly and gloriously performed in his own
person; his body lying upon a couch, but his judgment and courage upright
and firm to his last gasp, and in some sort beyond it. He might have
wasted his enemy, indiscreetly advanced into his dominions, without
striking a blow; and it was a very unhappy occurrence, that for want of a
little life or somebody to substitute in the conduct of this war and the
affairs of a troubled state, he was compelled to seek a doubtful and
bloody victory, having another by a better and surer way already in his
hands. Notwithstanding, he wonderfully managed the continuance of his
sickness in consuming the enemy, and in drawing them far from the
assistance of the navy and the ports they had on the coast of Africa,
even till the last day of his life, which he designedly reserved for this
great battle. He arranged his battalions in a circular form, environing
the Portuguese army on every side, which round circle coming to close in
and to draw up close together, not only hindered them in the conflict
(which was very sharp through the valour of the young invading king),
considering that they had every way to present a front, but prevented
their flight after the defeat, so that finding all passages possessed and
shut up by the enemy, they were constrained to close up together again:

"Coacerventurque non solum caede, sed etiam fuga,"

["Piled up not only in slaughter but in flight."]

and there they were slain in heaps upon one another, leaving to the
conqueror a very bloody and entire victory. Dying, he caused himself to
be carried and hurried from place to place where most need was, and
passing along the files, encouraged the captains and soldiers one after
another; but a corner of his main battalions being broken, he was not to
be held from mounting on horseback with his sword in his hand; he did his
utmost to break from those about him, and to rush into the thickest of
the battle, they all the while withholding him, some by the bridle, some
by his robe, and others by his stirrups. This last effort totally
overwhelmed the little life he had left; they again laid him upon his
bed; but coming to himself, and starting as it were out of his swoon, all
other faculties failing, to give his people notice that they were to
conceal his death the most necessary command he had then to give, that
his soldiers might not be discouraged (with the news) he expired with his
finger upon his mouth, the ordinary sign of keeping silence. Who ever
lived so long and so far into death? whoever died so erect, or more like
a man?

The most extreme degree of courageously treating death, and the most
natural, is to look upon it not only without astonishment but without
care, continuing the wonted course of life even into it, as Cato did,
who entertained himself in study, and went to sleep, having a violent and
bloody death in his heart, and the weapon in his hand with which he was
resolved to despatch himself.



I have been none of the least able in this exercise, which is proper for
men of my pitch, well-knit and short; but I give it over; it shakes us
too much to continue it long. I was at this moment reading, that King
Cyrus, the better to have news brought him from all parts of the empire,
which was of a vast extent, caused it to be tried how far a horse could
go in a day without baiting, and at that distance appointed men, whose
business it was to have horses always in readiness, to mount those who
were despatched to him; and some say, that this swift way of posting is
equal to that of the flight of cranes.

Caesar says, that Lucius Vibullius Rufus, being in great haste to carry
intelligence to Pompey, rode night and day, still taking fresh horses for
the greater diligence and speed; and he himself, as Suetonius reports,
travelled a hundred miles a day in a hired coach; but he was a furious
courier, for where the rivers stopped his way he passed them by swimming,
without turning out of his way to look for either bridge or ford.
Tiberius Nero, going to see his brother Drusus, who was sick in Germany,
travelled two hundred miles in four-and-twenty hours, having three
coaches. In the war of the Romans against King Antiochus, T. Sempronius
Gracchus, says Livy:

"Per dispositos equos prope incredibili celeritate
ab Amphissa tertio die Pellam pervenit."

["By pre-arranged relays of horses, he, with an almost incredible
speed, rode in three days from Amphissa to Pella."
--Livy, xxxvii. 7.]

And it appears that they were established posts, and not horses purposely
laid in upon this occasion.

Cecina's invention to send back news to his family was much more quick,
for he took swallows along with him from home, and turned them out
towards their nests when he would send back any news; setting a mark of
some colour upon them to signify his meaning, according to what he and
his people had before agreed upon.

At the theatre at Rome masters of families carried pigeons in their
bosoms to which they tied letters when they had a mind to send any orders
to their people at home; and the pigeons were trained up to bring back an
answer. D. Brutus made use of the same device when besieged in Modena,
and others elsewhere have done the same.

In Peru they rode post upon men, who took them upon their shoulders in a
certain kind of litters made for that purpose, and ran with such agility
that, in their full speed, the first couriers transferred their load to
the second without making any stop.

I understand that the Wallachians, the grand Signior's couriers, perform
wonderful journeys, by reason they have liberty to dismount the first
person they meet upon the road, giving him their own tired horses; and
that to preserve themselves from being weary, they gird themselves
straight about the middle with a broad girdle; but I could never find
any benefit from this.



There is wonderful relation and correspondence in this universal
government of the works of nature, which very well makes it appear that
it is neither accidental nor carried on by divers masters. The diseases
and conditions of our bodies are, in like manner, manifest in states and
governments; kingdoms and republics are founded, flourish, and decay with
age as we do. We are subject to a repletion of humours, useless and
dangerous: whether of those that are good (for even those the physicians
are afraid of; and seeing we have nothing in us that is stable, they say
that a too brisk and vigorous perfection of health must be abated by art,
lest our nature, unable to rest in any certain condition, and not having
whither to rise to mend itself, make too sudden and too disorderly a
retreat; and therefore prescribe wrestlers to purge and bleed, to qualify
that superabundant health), or else a repletion of evil humours, which is
the ordinary cause of sickness. States are very often sick of the like
repletion, and various sorts of purgations have commonly been applied.
Some times a great multitude of families are turned out to clear the
country, who seek out new abodes elsewhere and encroach upon others.
After this manner our ancient Franks came from the remotest part of
Germany to seize upon Gaul, and to drive thence the first inhabitants;
so was that infinite deluge of men made up who came into Italy under the
conduct of Brennus and others; so the Goths and Vandals, and also the
people who now possess Greece, left their native country to go settle
elsewhere, where they might have more room; and there are scarce two or
three little corners in the world that have not felt the effect of such
removals. The Romans by this means erected their colonies; for,
perceiving their city to grow immeasurably populous, they eased it of the
most unnecessary people, and sent them to inhabit and cultivate the lands
conquered by them; sometimes also they purposely maintained wars with
some of their enemies, not only to keep their own men in action, for fear
lest idleness, the mother of corruption, should bring upon them some
worse inconvenience:

"Et patimur longae pacis mala; saevior armis
Luxuria incumbit."

["And we suffer the ills of a long peace; luxury is more pernicious
than war."--Juvenal, vi. 291.]

but also to serve for a blood-letting to their Republic, and a little to
evaporate the too vehement heat of their youth, to prune and clear the
branches from the stock too luxuriant in wood; and to this end it was
that they maintained so long a war with Carthage.

In the treaty of Bretigny, Edward III., king of England, would not, in
the general peace he then made with our king, comprehend the controversy
about the Duchy of Brittany, that he might have a place wherein to
discharge himself of his soldiers, and that the vast number of English he
had brought over to serve him in his expedition here might not return
back into England. And this also was one reason why our King Philip
consented to send his son John upon a foreign expedition, that he might
take along with him a great number of hot young men who were then in his

There--are many in our times who talk at this rate, wishing that this hot
emotion that is now amongst us might discharge itself in some
neighbouring war, for fear lest all the peccant humours that now reign in
this politic body of ours may diffuse themselves farther, keep the fever
still in the height, and at last cause our total ruin; and, in truth, a
foreign is much more supportable than a civil war. but I do not believe
that God will favour so unjust a design as to offend and quarrel with
others for our own advantage:

"Nil mihi tam valde placeat, Rhamnusia virgo,
Quod temere invitis suscipiatur heris."

["Rhamnusian virgin, let nothing ever so greatly please me which is
taken without justice from the unwilling owners"
--Catullus, lxviii. 77.]

And yet the weakness of our condition often pushes us upon the necessity
of making use of ill means to a good end. Lycurgus, the most perfect
legislator that ever was, virtuous and invented this very unjust practice
of making the helots, who were their slaves, drunk by force, to the end
that the Spartans, seeing them so lost and buried in wine, might abhor
the excess of this vice. And yet those were still more to blame who of
old gave leave that criminals, to what sort of death soever condemned,
should be cut up alive by the physicians, that they might make a true
discovery of our inward parts, and build their art upon greater
certainty; for, if we must run into excesses, it is more excusable to do
it for the health of the soul than that of the body; as the Romans
trained up the people to valour and the contempt of dangers and death by
those furious spectacles of gladiators and fencers, who, having to fight
it out to the last, cut, mangled, and killed one another in their

"Quid vesani aliud sibi vult ars impia ludi,
Quid mortes juvenum, quid sanguine pasta voluptas?"

["What other end does the impious art of the gladiators propose to
itself, what the slaughter of young men, what pleasure fed with
blood."--Prudentius, Contra Symmachum, ii. 643.]

and this custom continued till the Emperor Theodosius' time:

"Arripe dilatam tua, dux, in tempora famam,
Quodque patris superest, successor laudis habeto
Nullus in urbe cadat, cujus sit poena voluptas....
Jam solis contenta feris, infamis arena
Nulla cruentatis homicidia ludat in armis."

["Prince, take the honours delayed for thy reign, and be successor
to thy fathers; henceforth let none at Rome be slain for sport. Let
beasts' blood stain the infamous arena, and no more homicides be
there acted."--Prudentius, Contra Symmachum, ii. 643.]

It was, in truth, a wonderful example, and of great advantage for the
training up the people, to see every day before their eyes a hundred; two
hundred, nay, a thousand couples of men armed against one another, cut
one another to pieces with so great a constancy of courage, that they
were never heard to utter so much as one syllable of weakness or
commiseration; never seen to turn their backs, nor so much as to make one
cowardly step to evade a blow, but rather exposed their necks to the
adversary's sword and presented themselves to receive the stroke; and
many of them, when wounded to death, have sent to ask the spectators if
they were satisfied with their behaviour, before they lay down to die
upon the place. It was not enough for them to fight and to die bravely,
but cheerfully too; insomuch that they were hissed and cursed if they
made any hesitation about receiving their death. The very girls
themselves set them on:

"Consurgit ad ictus,
Et, quoties victor ferrum jugulo inserit, illa
Delicias ait esse suas, pectusque jacentis
Virgo modesta jubet converso pollice rumpi."

["The modest virgin is so delighted with the sport, that she
applauds the blow, and when the victor bathes his sword in his
fellow's throat, she says it is her pleasure, and with turned thumb
orders him to rip up the bosom of the prostrate victim."
--Prudentius, Contra Symmachum, ii. 617.]

The first Romans only condemned criminals to this example: but they
afterwards employed innocent slaves in the work, and even freemen too,
who sold themselves to this purpose, nay, moreover, senators and knights
of Rome, and also women:

"Nunc caput in mortem vendunt, et funus arena,
Atque hostem sibi quisque parat, cum bella quiescunt."

["They sell themselves to death and the circus, and, since the wars
are ceased, each for himself a foe prepares."
--Manilius, Astron., iv. 225.]

"Hos inter fremitus novosque lusus....
Stat sexus rudis insciusque ferri,
Et pugnas capit improbus viriles;"

["Amidst these tumults and new sports, the tender sex, unskilled in
arms, immodestly engaged in manly fights."
--Statius, Sylv., i. 6, 51.]

which I should think strange and incredible, if we were not accustomed
every day to see in our own wars many thousands of men of other nations,
for money to stake their blood and their lives in quarrels wherein they
have no manner of concern.



I will only say a word or two of this infinite argument, to show the
simplicity of those who compare the pitiful greatness of these times with
that of Rome. In the seventh book of Cicero's Familiar Epistles (and let
the grammarians put out that surname of familiar if they please, for in
truth it is not very suitable; and they who, instead of familiar, have
substituted "ad Familiares," may gather something to justify them for so
doing out of what Suetonius says in the Life of Caesar, that there was a
volume of letters of his "ad Familiares ") there is one directed to
Caesar, then in Gaul, wherein Cicero repeats these words, which were in
the end of another letter that Caesar had written to him: "As to what
concerns Marcus Furius, whom you have recommended to me, I will make him
king of Gaul, and if you would have me advance any other friend of yours
send him to me." It was no new thing for a simple citizen of Rome, as
Caesar then was, to dispose of kingdoms, for he took away that of King
Deiotarus from him to give it to a gentleman of the city of Pergamus,
called Mithridates; and they who wrote his Life record several cities
sold by him; and Suetonius says, that he had once from King Ptolemy three
millions and six hundred thousand crowns, which was very like selling him
his own kingdom:

"Tot Galatae, tot Pontus, tot Lydia, nummis."

["So much for Galatia, so much for Pontus,
so much for Lydia."--Claudius in Eutrop., i. 203.]

Marcus Antonius said, that the greatness of the people of Rome was not
so much seen in what they took, as in what they gave; and, indeed, some
ages before Antonius, they had dethroned one amongst the rest with so
wonderful authority, that in all the Roman history I have not observed
anything that more denotes the height of their power. Antiochus
possessed all Egypt, and was, moreover, ready to conquer Cyprus and other
appendages of that empire: when being upon the progress of his victories,
C. Popilius came to him from the Senate, and at their first meeting
refused to take him by the hand, till he had first read his letters,
which after the king had read, and told him he would consider of them,
Popilius made a circle about him with his cane, saying:--"Return me an
answer, that I may carry it back to the Senate, before thou stirrest out
of this circle." Antiochus, astonished at the roughness of so positive
a command, after a little pause, replied, "I will obey the Senate's
command." Then Popilius saluted him as friend of the Roman people.
To have renounced claim to so great a monarchy, and a course of such
successful fortune, from the effects of three lines in writing! Truly
he had reason, as he afterwards did, to send the Senate word by his
ambassadors, that he had received their order with the same respect as if
it had come from the immortal gods.

All the kingdoms that Augustus gained by the right of war, he either
restored to those who had lost them or presented them to strangers. And
Tacitus, in reference to this, speaking of Cogidunus, king of England,
gives us, by a marvellous touch, an instance of that infinite power: the
Romans, says he, were from all antiquity accustomed to leave the kings
they had subdued in possession of their kingdoms under their authority

"Ut haberent instruments servitutis et reges."

["That they might have even kings to be their slaves."
--Livy, xlv. 13.]

'Tis probable that Solyman, whom we have seen make a gift of Hungary and
other principalities, had therein more respect to this consideration than
to that he was wont to allege, viz., that he was glutted and overcharged
with so many monarchies and so much dominion, as his own valour and that
of his ancestors had acquired.



There is an epigram in Martial, and one of the very good ones--for he has
of all sorts--where he pleasantly tells the story of Caelius, who, to
avoid making his court to some great men of Rome, to wait their rising,
and to attend them abroad, pretended to have the gout; and the better to
colour this anointed his legs, and had them lapped up in a great many
swathings, and perfectly counterfeited both the gesture and countenance
of a gouty person; till in the end, Fortune did him the kindness to make
him one indeed:

"Quantum curs potest et ars doloris
Desiit fingere Caelius podagram."

["How great is the power of counterfeiting pain: Caelius has ceased
to feign the gout; he has got it."--Martial, Ep., vii. 39, 8.]

I think I have read somewhere in Appian a story like this, of one who to
escape the proscriptions of the triumvirs of Rome, and the better to be
concealed from the discovery of those who pursued him, having hidden
himself in a disguise, would yet add this invention, to counterfeit
having but one eye; but when he came to have a little more liberty, and
went to take off the plaster he had a great while worn over his eye, he
found he had totally lost the sight of it indeed, and that it was
absolutely gone. 'Tis possible that the action of sight was dulled from
having been so long without exercise, and that the optic power was wholly
retired into the other eye: for we evidently perceive that the eye we
keep shut sends some part of its virtue to its fellow, so that it will
swell and grow bigger; and so inaction, with the heat of ligatures and,
plasters, might very well have brought some gouty humour upon the
counterfeiter in Martial.

Reading in Froissart the vow of a troop of young English gentlemen, to
keep their left eyes bound up till they had arrived in France and
performed some notable exploit upon us, I have often been tickled with
this thought, that it might have befallen them as it did those others,
and they might have returned with but an eye a-piece to their mistresses,
for whose sakes they had made this ridiculous vow.

Mothers have reason to rebuke their children when they counterfeit having
but one eye, squinting, lameness, or any other personal defect; for,
besides that their bodies being then so tender, may be subject to take an
ill bent, fortune, I know not how, sometimes seems to delight in taking
us at our word; and I have heard several examples related of people who
have become really sick, by only feigning to be so. I have always used,
whether on horseback or on foot, to carry a stick in my hand, and even to
affect doing it with an elegant air; many have threatened that this fancy
would one day be turned into necessity: if so, I should be the first of
my family to have the gout.

But let us a little lengthen this chapter, and add another anecdote
concerning blindness. Pliny reports of one who, dreaming he was blind,
found himself so indeed in the morning without any preceding infirmity in
his eyes. The force of imagination might assist in this case, as I have
said elsewhere, and Pliny seems to be of the same opinion; but it is more
likely that the motions which the body felt within, of which physicians,
if they please, may find out the cause, taking away his sight, were the
occasion of his dream.

Let us add another story, not very improper for this subject, which
Seneca relates in one of his epistles: "You know," says he, writing to
Lucilius, "that Harpaste, my wife's fool, is thrown upon me as an
hereditary charge, for I have naturally an aversion to those monsters;
and if I have a mind to laugh at a fool, I need not seek him far; I can
laugh at myself. This fool has suddenly lost her sight: I tell you a
strange, but a very true thing she is not sensible that she is blind, but
eternally importunes her keeper to take her abroad, because she says the
house is dark. That what we laugh at in her, I pray you to believe,
happens to every one of us: no one knows himself to be avaricious or
grasping; and, again, the blind call for a guide, while we stray of our
own accord. I am not ambitious, we say; but a man cannot live otherwise
at Rome; I am not wasteful, but the city requires a great outlay; 'tis
not my fault if I am choleric--if I have not yet established any certain
course of life: 'tis the fault of youth. Let us not seek our disease out
of ourselves; 'tis in us, and planted in our bowels; and the mere fact
that we do not perceive ourselves to be sick, renders us more hard to be
cured. If we do not betimes begin to see to ourselves, when shall we
have provided for so many wounds and evils wherewith we abound? And yet
we have a most sweet and charming medicine in philosophy; for of all the
rest we are sensible of no pleasure till after the cure: this pleases and
heals at once." This is what Seneca says, that has carried me from my
subject, but there is advantage in the change.



Tacitus reports, that amongst certain barbarian kings their manner was,
when they would make a firm obligation, to join their right hands close
to one another, and intertwist their thumbs; and when, by force of
straining the blood, it appeared in the ends, they lightly pricked them
with some sharp instrument, and mutually sucked them.

Physicians say that the thumbs are the master fingers of the hand, and
that their Latin etymology is derived from "pollere." The Greeks called
them 'Avtixeip', as who should say, another hand. And it seems that the
Latins also sometimes take it in this sense for the whole hand:

"Sed nec vocibus excitata blandis,
Molli pollici nec rogata, surgit."

["Neither to be excited by soft words or by the thumb."
--Mart., xii. 98, 8.]

It was at Rome a signification of favour to depress and turn in the

"Fautor utroque tuum laudabit pollice ludum:"

["Thy patron will applaud thy sport with both thumbs"

and of disfavour to elevate and thrust them outward:

"Converso pollice vulgi,
Quemlibet occidunt populariter."

["The populace, with inverted thumbs, kill all that
come before them."--Juvenal, iii. 36]

The Romans exempted from war all such as were maimed in the thumbs, as
having no more sufficient strength to hold their weapons. Augustus
confiscated the estate of a Roman knight who had maliciously cut off the
thumbs of two young children he had, to excuse them from going into the
armies; and, before him, the Senate, in the time of the Italic war, had
condemned Caius Vatienus to perpetual imprisonment, and confiscated all
his goods, for having purposely cut off the thumb of his left hand, to
exempt himself from that expedition. Some one, I have forgotten who,
having won a naval battle, cut off the thumbs of all his vanquished
enemies, to render them incapable of fighting and of handling the oar.
The Athenians also caused the thumbs of the AEginatans to be cut off,
to deprive them of the superiority in the art of navigation.

In Lacedaemon, pedagogues chastised their scholars by biting their



I have often heard it said that cowardice is the mother of cruelty; and I
have found by experience that malicious and inhuman animosity and
fierceness are usually accompanied with feminine weakness. I have seen
the most cruel people, and upon frivolous occasions, apt to cry.
Alexander, the tyrant of Pheres, durst not be a spectator of tragedies in
the theatre, for fear lest his citizens should see him weep at the
misfortunes of Hecuba and Andromache, who himself without pity caused so
many people every day to be murdered. Is it not meanness of spirit that
renders them so pliable to all extremities? Valour, whose effect is only
to be exercised against resistance--

"Nec nisi bellantis gaudet cervice juvenci"--

["Nor delights in killing a bull unless he resists."
--Claudius, Ep. ad Hadrianum, v. 39.]

stops when it sees the enemy at its mercy; but pusillanimity, to say that
it was also in the game, not having dared to meddle in the first act of
danger, takes as its part the second, of blood and massacre. The murders
in victories are commonly performed by the rascality and hangers-on of an
army, and that which causes so many unheard of cruelties in domestic wars
is, that this canaille makes war in imbruing itself up to the elbows in
blood, and ripping up a body that lies prostrate at its feet, having no
sense of any other valour:

"Et lupus, et turpes instant morientibus ursi,
Et quaecunque minor nobilitate fera est:"

["Wolves and the filthy bears, and all the baser beasts,
fall upon the dying."--Ovid, Trist., iii. 5, 35.]

like cowardly dogs, that in the house worry and tear the skins of wild
beasts, they durst not come near in the field. What is it in these times
of ours that makes our quarrels mortal; and that, whereas our fathers had
some degrees of revenge, we now begin with the last in ours, and at the
first meeting nothing is to be said but, kill? What is this but

Every one is sensible that there is more bravery and disdain in subduing
an enemy, than in cutting, his throat; and in making him yield, than in
putting him to the sword: besides that the appetite of revenge is better
satisfied and pleased because its only aim is to make itself felt: And
this is the reason why we do not fall upon a beast or a stone when they
hurt us, because they are not capable of being sensible of our revenge;
and to kill a man is to save him from the injury and offence we intend
him. And as Bias cried out to a wicked fellow, "I know that sooner or
later thou wilt have thy reward, but I am afraid I shall not see it";
--[Plutarch, on the Delay in Divine Justice, c. 2.]--and pitied the
Orchomenians that the penitence of Lyciscus for the treason committed
against them, came at a season when there was no one remaining alive of
those who had been interested in the offence, and whom the pleasure of
this penitence should affect: so revenge is to be pitied, when the person
on whom it is executed is deprived of means of suffering under it: for as
the avenger will look on to enjoy the pleasure of his revenge, so the
person on whom he takes revenge should be a spectator too, to be
afflicted and to repent. "He will repent it," we say, and because we
have given him a pistol-shot through the head, do we imagine he will
repent? On the contrary, if we but observe, we shall find, that he makes
mouths at us in falling, and is so far from penitency, that he does not
so much as repine at us; and we do him the kindest office of life, which
is to make him die insensibly, and soon: we are afterwards to hide
ourselves, and to shift and fly from the officers of justice, who pursue
us, whilst he is at rest. Killing is good to frustrate an offence to
come, not to revenge one that is already past; and more an act of fear
than of bravery; of precaution than of courage; of defence than of
enterprise. It is manifest that by it we lose both the true end of
revenge and the care of our reputation; we are afraid, if he lives he
will do us another injury as great as the first; 'tis not out of
animosity to him, but care of thyself, that thou gettest rid of him.

In the kingdom of Narsingah this expedient would be useless to us, where
not only soldiers, but tradesmen also, end their differences by the
sword. The king never denies the field to any who wish to fight; and
when they are persons of quality; he looks on, rewarding the victor with
a chain of gold,--for which any one who pleases may fight with him again,
so that, by having come off from one combat, he has engaged himself in

If we thought by virtue to be always masters of our enemies, and to
triumph over them at pleasure, we should be sorry they should escape from
us as they do, by dying: but we have a mind to conquer, more with safety
than honour, and, in our quarrel, more pursue the end than the glory.

Asnius Pollio, who, as being a worthy man, was the less to be excused,
committed a like, error, when, having written a libel against Plancus, he
forbore to publish it till he was dead; which is to bite one's thumb at a
blind man, to rail at one who is deaf, to wound a man who has no feeling,
rather than to run the hazard of his resentment. And it was also said of
him that it was only for hobgoblins to wrestle with the dead.

He who stays to see the author die, whose writings he intends to
question, what does he say but that he is weak in his aggressiveness?
It was told to Aristotle that some one had spoken ill of him: "Let him
do more," said he; "let him whip me too, provided I am not there."

Our fathers contented themselves with revenging an insult with the lie,
the lie with a box of the ear, and so forward; they were valiant enough
not to fear their adversaries, living and provoked we tremble for fear so
soon as we see them on foot. And that this is so, does not our noble
practice of these days, equally to prosecute to death both him that has
offended us and him we have offended, make it out? 'Tis also a kind
of cowardice that has introduced the custom of having seconds, thirds,
and fourths in our duels; they were formerly duels; they are now
skirmishes, rencontres, and battles. Solitude was, doubtless, terrible
to those who were the first inventors of this practice:

"Quum in se cuique minimum fiduciae esset,"

for naturally any company whatever is consolatory in danger. Third
persons were formerly called in to prevent disorder and foul play only,
and to be witness of the fortune of the combat; but now they have brought
it to this pass that the witnesses themselves engage; whoever is invited
cannot handsomely stand by as an idle spectator, for fear of being
suspected either of want of affection or of courage. Besides the
injustice and unworthiness of such an action, of engaging other strength
and valour in the protection of your honour than your own, I conceive it
a disadvantage to a brave man, and who wholly relies upon himself, to
shuffle his fortune with that of a second; every one runs hazard enough
himself without hazarding for another, and has enough to do to assure
himself in his own valour for the defence of his life, without intrusting
a thing so dear in a third man's hand. For, if it be not expressly
agreed upon before to the contrary, 'tis a combined party of all four,
and if your second be killed, you have two to deal withal, with good
reason; and to say that it is foul play, it is so indeed, as it is, well
armed, to attack a man who has but the hilt of a broken sword in his
hand, or, clear and untouched, a man who is desperately wounded: but if
these be advantages you have got by fighting, you may make use of them
without reproach. The disparity and inequality are only weighed and
considered from the condition of the combatants when they began; as to
the rest, you must take your chance: and though you had, alone, three
enemies upon you at once, your two companions being killed, you have no
more wrong done you, than I should do in a battle, by running a man
through whom I should see engaged with one of our own men, with the like
advantage. The nature of society will have it so that where there is
troop against troop, as where our Duke of Orleans challenged Henry, king
of England, a hundred against a hundred; three hundred against as many,
as the Argians against the Lacedaemonians; three to three, as the Horatii
against the Curiatii, the multitude on either side is considered but as
one single man: the hazard, wherever there is company, being confused and

I have a domestic interest in this discourse; for my brother, the Sieur
de Mattecoulom, was at Rome asked by a gentleman with whom he had no
great acquaintance, and who was a defendant challenged by another, to be
his second; in this duel he found himself matched with a gentleman much
better known to him. (I would fain have an explanation of these rules of
honour, which so often shock and confound those of reason.) After having
despatched his man, seeing the two principals still on foot and sound, he
ran in to disengage his friend. What could he do less? should he have
stood still, and if chance would have ordered it so, have seen him he was
come thither to defend killed before his face? what he had hitherto done
helped not the business; the quarrel was yet undecided. The courtesy
that you can, and certainly ought to shew to your enemy, when you have
reduced him to an ill condition and have a great advantage over him, I do
not see how you can do it, where the interest of another is concerned,
where you are only called in as an assistant, and the quarrel is none of
yours: he could neither be just nor courteous, at the hazard of him he
was there to serve. And he was therefore enlarged from the prisons of
Italy at the speedy and solemn request of our king. Indiscreet nation!
we are not content to make our vices and follies known to the world by
report only, but we must go into foreign countries, there to show them
what fools we are. Put three Frenchmen into the deserts of Libya, they
will not live a month together without fighting; so that you would say
this peregrination were a thing purposely designed to give foreigners the
pleasure of our tragedies, and, for the most part, to such as rejoice and
laugh at our miseries. We go into Italy to learn to fence, and exercise
the art at the expense of our lives before we have learned it; and yet,
by the rule of discipline, we should put the theory before the practice.
We discover ourselves to be but learners:

"Primitae juvenum miserae, bellique futuri
Dura rudimenta."

["Wretched the elementary trials of youth, and hard the
rudiments of approaching war."--Virgil, AEneid, xi. 156.]

I know that fencing is an art very useful to its end (in a duel betwixt
two princes, cousin-germans, in Spain, the elder, says Livy, by his skill
and dexterity in arms, easily overcoming the greater and more awkward
strength of the younger), and of which the knowledge, as I experimentally
know, has inspired some with courage above their natural measure; but
this is not properly valour, because it supports itself upon address, and
is founded upon something besides itself. The honour of combat consists
in the jealousy of courage, and not of skill; and therefore I have known
a friend of mine, famed as a great master in this exercise, in his
quarrels make choice of such arms as might deprive him of this advantage
and that wholly depended upon fortune and assurance, that they might not
attribute his victory rather to his skill in fencing than his valour.
When I was young, gentlemen avoided the reputation of good fencers as
injurious to them, and learned to fence with all imaginable privacy as a
trade of subtlety, derogating from true and natural valour:

"Non schivar non parar, non ritirarsi,
Voglion costor, ne qui destrezza ha parte;
Non danno i colpi or finti, or pieni, or scarsi!
Toglie l'ira a il furor l'uso de l'arte.
Odi le spade orribilmente utarsi
A mezzo il ferro; il pie d'orma non parte,
Sempre a il pie fermo, a la man sempre in moto;
Ne scende taglio in van, ne punta a voto."

["They neither shrank, nor vantage sought of ground,
They travers'd not, nor skipt from part to part,
Their blows were neither false, nor feigned found:
In fight, their rage would let them use no art.
Their swords together clash with dreadful sound,
Their feet stand fast, and neither stir nor start,
They move their hands, steadfast their feet remain.
Nor blow nor foin they strook, or thrust in vain."
--Tasso, Gierus. Lib., c. 12, st. 55, Fairfax's translation.]

Butts, tilting, and barriers, the feint of warlike fights, were the
exercises of our forefathers: this other exercise is so much the less
noble, as it only respects a private end; that teaches us to destroy one
another against law and justice, and that every way always produces very
ill effects. It is much more worthy and more becoming to exercise
ourselves in things that strengthen than that weaken our government and
that tend to the public safety and common glory. The consul, Publius
Rutilius, was the first who taught the soldiers to handle their arms
with skill, and joined art with valour, not for the rise of private
quarrel, but for war and the quarrels of the people of Rome; a popular
and civil defence. And besides the example of Caesar, who commanded his
men to shoot chiefly at the face of Pompey's soldiers in the battle of
Pharsalia, a thousand other commanders have also bethought them to invent
new forms of weapons and new ways of striking and defending, according as
occasion should require.

But as Philopoemen condemned wrestling, wherein he excelled, because the
preparatives that were therein employed were differing from those that
appertain to military discipline, to which alone he conceived men of
honour ought wholly to apply themselves; so it seems to me that this
address to which we form our limbs, those writhings and motions young men
are taught in this new school, are not only of no use, but rather
contrary and hurtful to the practice of fight in battle; and also our
people commonly make use of particular weapons, and peculiarly designed
for duel; and I have seen, when it has been disapproved, that a gentleman
challenged to fight with rapier and poignard appeared in the array of a
man-at-arms, and that another should take his cloak instead of his
poignard. It is worthy of consideration that Laches in Plato, speaking
of learning to fence after our manner, says that he never knew any great
soldier come out of that school, especially the masters of it: and,
indeed, as to them, our experience tells as much. As to the rest, we may
at least conclude that they are qualities of no relation or
correspondence; and in the education of the children of his government,
Plato interdicts the art of boxing, introduced by Amycus and Epeius, and
that of wrestling, by Antaeus and Cercyo, because they have another end
than to render youth fit for the service of war and contribute nothing to
it. But I see that I have somewhat strayed from my theme.

The Emperor Mauricius, being advertised by dreams and several
prognostics, that one Phocas, an obscure soldier, should kill him,
questioned his son-in-law, Philip, who this Phocas was, and what were his
nature, qualities, and manners; and so soon as Philip, amongst other
things, had told him that he was cowardly and timorous, the emperor
immediately concluded then that he was a murderer and cruel. What is it
that makes tyrants so sanguinary? 'Tis only the solicitude for their own
safety, and that their faint hearts can furnish them with no other means
of securing themselves than in exterminating those who may hurt them,
even so much as women, for fear of a scratch:

"Cuncta ferit, dum cuncta timer."

["He strikes at all who fears all."
--Claudius, in Eutrop., i. 182.]

The first cruelties are exercised for themselves thence springs the fear
of a just revenge, which afterwards produces a series of new cruelties,
to obliterate one another. Philip, king of Macedon, who had so much to
do with the people of Rome, agitated with the horror of so many murders
committed by his order, and doubting of being able to keep himself secure
from so many families, at divers times mortally injured and offended by
him, resolved to seize all the children of those he had caused to be
slain, to despatch them daily one after another, and so to establish his
own repose.

Fine matter is never impertinent, however placed; and therefore I, who
more consider the weight and utility of what I deliver than its order and
connection, need not fear in this place to bring in an excellent story,
though it be a little by-the-by; for when they are rich in their own
native beauty, and are able to justify themselves, the least end of a
hair will serve to draw them into my discourse.

Amongst others condemned by Philip, had been one Herodicus, prince of
Thessaly; he had, moreover, after him caused his two sons-in-law to be
put to death, each leaving a son very young behind him. Theoxena and
Archo were their two widows. Theoxena, though highly courted to it,
could not be persuaded to marry again: Archo married Poris, the greatest
man among the AEnians, and by him had a great many children, whom she,
dying, left at a very tender age. Theoxena, moved with a maternal
charity towards her nephews, that she might have them under her own eyes
and in her own protection, married Poris: when presently comes a
proclamation of the king's edict. This brave-spirited mother, suspecting
the cruelty of Philip, and afraid of the insolence of the soldiers
towards these charming and tender children was so bold as to declare hat
she would rather kill them with her own hands than deliver them. Poris,
startled at this protestation, promised her to steal them away, and to
transport them to Athens, and there commit them to the custody of some
faithful friends of his. They took, therefore, the opportunity of an
annual feast which was celebrated at AEnia in honour of AEneas, and
thither they went. Having appeared by day at the public ceremonies and
banquet, they stole the night following into a vessel laid ready for the
purpose, to escape away by sea. The wind proved contrary, and finding
themselves in the morning within sight of the land whence they had
launched overnight, and being pursued by the guards of the port, Poris
perceiving this, laboured all he could to make the mariners do their
utmost to escape from the pursuers. But Theoxena, frantic with affection
and revenge, in pursuance of her former resolution, prepared both weapons
and poison, and exposing them before them; "Go to, my children," said
she, "death is now the only means of your defence and liberty, and shall
administer occasion to the gods to exercise their sacred justice: these
sharp swords, and these full cups, will open you the way into it;
courage, fear nothing! And thou, my son, who art the eldest, take this
steel into thy hand, that thou mayest the more bravely die." The
children having on one side so powerful a counsellor, and the enemy at
their throats on the other, run all of them eagerly upon what was next to
hand; and, half dead, were thrown into the sea. Theoxena, proud of
having so gloriously provided for the safety of her children, clasping
her arms with great affection about her husband's neck. "Let us, my
friend," said she, "follow these boys, and enjoy the same sepulchre they
do"; and so, having embraced, they threw themselves headlong into the
sea; so that the ship was carried--back without the owners into the

Tyrants, at once both to kill and to make their anger felt, have employed
their capacity to invent the most lingering deaths. They will have their
enemies despatched, but not so fast that they may not have leisure to
taste their vengeance. And therein they are mightily perplexed; for if
the torments they inflict are violent, they are short; if long, they are
not then so painful as they desire; and thus plague themselves in choice
of the greatest cruelty. Of this we have a thousand examples in
antiquity, and I know not whether we, unawares, do not retain some traces
of this barbarity.

All that exceeds a simple death appears to me absolute cruelty. Our
justice cannot expect that he, whom the fear of dying by being beheaded
or hanged will not restrain, should be any more awed by the imagination
of a languishing fire, pincers, or the wheel. And I know not, in the
meantime, whether we do not throw them into despair; for in what
condition can be the soul of a man, expecting four-and-twenty hours
together to be broken upon a wheel, or after the old way, nailed to a
cross? Josephus relates that in the time of the war the Romans made in
Judaea, happening to pass by where they had three days before crucified
certain Jews, he amongst them knew three of his own friends, and obtained
the favour of having them taken down, of whom two, he says, died; the
third lived a great while after.

Chalcondylas, a writer of good credit, in the records he has left behind
him of things that happened in his time, and near him, tells us, as of
the most excessive torment, of that the Emperor Mohammed very often
practised, of cutting off men in the middle by the diaphragm with one
blow of a scimitar, whence it followed that they died as it were two
deaths at once; and both the one part, says he, and the other, were seen
to stir and strive a great while after in very great torment. I do not
think there was any great suffering in this motion the torments that are
the most dreadful to look on are not always the greatest to endure; and I
find those that other historians relate to have been practised by him
upon the Epirot lords, are more horrid and cruel, where they were
condemned to be flayed alive piecemeal, after so malicious a manner that
they continued fifteen days in that misery.

And these other two: Croesus, having caused a gentleman, the favourite of
his brother Pantaleon, to be seized, carried him into a fuller's shop,
where he caused him to be scratched and carded with the cards and combs
belonging to that trade, till he died. George Sechel, chief commander of
the peasants of Poland, who committed so many mischiefs under the title
of the Crusade, being defeated in battle and taken bu the Vayvode of
Transylvania, was three days bound naked upon the rack exposed to all
sorts of torments that any one could contrive against him: during which
time many other prisoners were kept fasting; in the end, he living and
looking on, they made his beloved brother Lucat, for whom alone he
entreated, taking on himself the blame of all their evil actions drink
his blood, and caused twenty of his most favoured captains to feed upon
him, tearing his flesh in pieces with their teeth, and swallowing the
morsels. The remainder of his body and his bowels, so soon as he was
dead, were boiled, and others of his followers compelled to eat them.



Such as compare Cato the Censor with the younger Cato, who killed
himself, compare two beautiful natures, much resembling one another.
The first acquired his reputation several ways, and excels in military
exploits and the utility of his public employments; but the virtue of the
younger, besides that it were blasphemy to compare any to it in vigour,
was much more pure and unblemished. For who could absolve that of the
Censor from envy and ambition, having dared to attack the honour of
Scipio, a man in goodness and all other excellent qualities infinitely
beyond him or any other of his time?

That which they, report of him, amongst other things, that in his extreme
old age he put himself upon learning the Greek tongue with so greedy an
appetite, as if to quench a long thirst, does not seem to me to make much
for his honour; it being properly what we call falling into second
childhood. All things have their seasons, even good ones, and I may say
my Paternoster out of time; as they accused T. Quintus Flaminius, that
being general of an army, he was seen praying apart in the time of a
battle that he won.

"Imponit finem sapiens et rebus honestis."

["The wise man limits even honest things."--Juvenal, vi. 444]

Eudemonidas, seeing Xenocrates when very old, still very intent upon his
school lectures: "When will this man be wise," said he, "if he is yet
learning?" And Philopaemen, to those who extolled King Ptolemy for every
day inuring his person to the exercise of arms: "It is not," said he,
"commendable in a king of his age to exercise himself in these things; he
ought now really to employ them." The young are to make their
preparations, the old to enjoy them, say the sages: and the greatest vice
they observe in us is that our desires incessantly grow young again; we
are always re-beginning to live.

Our studies and desires should sometime be sensible of age; yet we have
one foot in the grave and still our appetites and pursuits spring every
day anew within us:

"Tu secanda marmora
Locas sub ipsum funus, et, sepulcri
Immemor, struis domos."

["You against the time of death have marble cut for use, and,
forgetful of the tomb, build houses."--Horace, Od., ii. 18, 17.]

The longest of my designs is not of above a year's extent; I think of
nothing now but ending; rid myself of all new hopes and enterprises; take
my last leave of every place I depart from, and every day dispossess
myself of what I have.

"Olim jam nec perit quicquam mihi, nec acquiritur....
plus superest viatici quam viae."

["Henceforward I will neither lose, nor expect to get: I have more
wherewith to defray my journey, than I have way to go." (Or):
"Hitherto nothing of me has been lost or gained; more remains to pay
the way than there is way."--Seneca, Ep., 77. (The sense seems to
be that so far he had met his expenses, but that for the future he
was likely to have more than he required.)]

"Vixi, et, quem dederat cursum fortuna, peregi."

["I have lived and finished the career Fortune placed before me."
--AEneid, iv. 653.]

'Tis indeed the only comfort I find in my old age, that it mortifies in
me several cares and desires wherewith my life has been disturbed; the
care how the world goes, the care of riches, of grandeur, of knowledge,
of health, of myself. There are men who are learning to speak at a time
when they should learn to be silent for ever. A man may always study,
but he must not always go to school what a contemptible thing is an old
Abecedarian!--[Seneca, Ep. 36]

"Diversos diversa juvant; non omnibus annis
Omnia conveniunt."

["Various things delight various men; all things are not
for all ages."--Gall., Eleg., i. 104.]

If we must study, let us study what is suitable to our present condition,
that we may answer as he did, who being asked to what end he studied in
his decrepit age, "that I may go out better," said he, "and at greater
ease." Such a study was that of the younger Cato, feeling his end
approach, and which he met with in Plato's Discourse of the Eternity of
the Soul: not, as we are to believe, that he was not long before
furnished with all sorts of provision for such a departure; for of
assurance, an established will and instruction, he had more than Plato
had in all his writings; his knowledge and courage were in this respect
above philosophy; he applied himself to this study, not for the service
of his death; but, as a man whose sleeps were never disturbed in the
importance of such a deliberation, he also, without choice or change,
continued his studies with the other accustomary actions of his life.
The night that he was denied the praetorship he spent in play; that
wherein he was to die he spent in reading. The loss either of life
or of office was all one to him.



I find by experience, that there is a good deal to be said betwixt the
flights and emotions of the soul or a resolute and constant habit; and
very well perceive that there is nothing we may not do, nay, even to the
surpassing the Divinity itself, says a certain person, forasmuch as it is
more to render a man's self impassible by his own study and industry,
than to be so by his natural condition; and even to be able to conjoin to
man's imbecility and frailty a God-like resolution and assurance; but it
is by fits and starts; and in the lives of those heroes of times past
there are sometimes miraculous impulses, and that seem infinitely to
exceed our natural force; but they are indeed only impulses: and 'tis
hard to believe, that these so elevated qualities in a man can so
thoroughly tinct and imbue the soul that they should become ordinary,
and, as it were, natural in him. It accidentally happens even to us,
who are but abortive births of men, sometimes to launch our souls, when
roused by the discourses or examples of others, much beyond their
ordinary stretch; but 'tis a kind of passion which pushes and agitates
them, and in some sort ravishes them from themselves: but, this
perturbation once overcome, we see that they insensibly flag and slacken
of themselves, if not to the lowest degree, at least so as to be no more
the same; insomuch as that upon every trivial occasion, the losing of a
bird, or the breaking, of a glass, we suffer ourselves to be moved little
less than one of the common people. I am of opinion, that order,
moderation, and constancy excepted, all things are to be done by a man
that is very imperfect and defective in general. Therefore it is, say
the Sages, that to make a right judgment of a man, you are chiefly to pry
into his common actions, and surprise him in his everyday habit.

Pyrrho, he who erected so pleasant a knowledge upon ignorance,
endeavoured, as all the rest who were really philosophers did, to make
his life correspond with his doctrine. And because he maintained the
imbecility of human judgment to be so extreme as to be incapable of any
choice or inclination, and would have it perpetually wavering and
suspended, considering and receiving all things as indifferent, 'tis
said, that he always comforted himself after the same manner and
countenance: if he had begun a discourse, he would always end what he had
to say, though the person he was speaking to had gone away: if he walked,
he never stopped for any impediment that stood in his way, being
preserved from precipices, collision with carts, and other like
accidents, by the care of his friends: for, to fear or to avoid anything,
had been to shock his own propositions, which deprived the senses
themselves of all election and certainty. Sometimes he suffered incision
and cauteries with so great constancy as never to be seen so much as to
wince. 'Tis something to bring the soul to these imaginations; 'tis more
to join the effects, and yet not impossible; but to conjoin them with
such perseverance and constancy as to make them habitual, is certainly,
in attempts so remote from the common usage, almost incredible to be
done. Therefore it was, that being sometime taken in his house sharply
scolding with his sister, and being reproached that he therein
transgressed his own rules of indifference: "What!" said he, "must this
bit of a woman also serve for a testimony to my rules?" Another time,
being seen to defend himself against a dog: "It is," said he, "very hard
totally to put off man; and we must endeavour and force ourselves to
resist and encounter things, first by effects, but at least by reason and

About seven or eight years since, a husbandman yet living, but two
leagues from my house, having long been tormented with his wife's
jealousy, coming one day home from his work, and she welcoming him with
her accustomed railing, entered into so great fury that with a sickle he
had yet in his hand, he totally cut off all those parts that she was
jealous of and threw them in her face. And, 'tis said that a young
gentleman of our nation, brisk and amorous, having by his perseverance at
last mollified the heart of a fair mistress, enraged, that upon the point
of fruition he found himself unable to perform, and that,

"Nec viriliter
Iners senile penis extulit caput."

[(The 19th or 20th century translators leave this phrase
untranslated and with no explanation. D.W.)
--Tibullus, Priap. Carm., 84.]

as soon as ever he came home he deprived himself of the rebellious
member, and sent it to his mistress, a cruel and bloody victim for the
expiation of his offence. If this had been done upon mature
consideration, and upon the account of religion, as the priests of Cybele
did, what should we say of so high an action?

A few days since, at Bergerac, five leagues from my house, up the river
Dordogne, a woman having overnight been beaten and abused by her husband,
a choleric ill-conditioned fellow, resolved to escape from his ill-usage
at the price of her life; and going so soon as she was up the next
morning to visit her neighbours, as she was wont to do, and having let
some words fall in recommendation of her affairs, she took a sister of
hers by the hand, and led her to the bridge; whither being come, and
having taken leave of her, in jest as it were, without any manner of
alteration in her countenance, she threw herself headlong from the top
into the river, and was there drowned. That which is the most remarkable
in this is, that this resolution was a whole night forming in her head.

It is quite another thing with the Indian women for it being the custom
there for the men to have many wives, and the best beloved of them to
kill herself at her husband's decease, every one of them makes it the
business of her whole life to obtain this privilege and gain this
advantage over her companions; and the good offices they do their
husbands aim at no other recompense but to be preferred in accompanying
him in death:

"Ubi mortifero jacta est fax ultima lecto,
Uxorum fusis stat pia turba comis
Et certamen habent lethi, quae viva sequatur
Conjugium: pudor est non licuisse mori.
Ardent victrices, et flammae pectora praebent,
Imponuntque suis ora perusta viris."

["For when they threw the torch on the funeral bed, the pious wives
with hair dishevelled, stand around striving, which, living, shall
accompany her spouse; and are ashamed that they may not die; they
who are preferred expose their breasts to the flame, and they lay
their scorched lips on those of their husbands."
--Propertius, iii. 13, 17.]

A certain author of our times reports that he has seen in those Oriental
nations this custom in practice, that not only the wives bury themselves
with their husbands, but even the slaves he has enjoyed also; which is
done after this manner: The husband being dead, the widow may if she will
(but few will) demand two or three months' respite wherein to order her
affairs. The day being come, she mounts on horseback, dressed as fine as
at her wedding, and with a cheerful countenance says she is going to
sleep with her spouse, holding a looking-glass in her left hand and an
arrow in the other. Being thus conducted in pomp, accompanied with her
kindred and friends and a great concourse of people in great joy, she is
at last brought to the public place appointed for such spectacles: this
is a great space, in the midst of which is a pit full of wood, and
adjoining to it a mount raised four or five steps, upon which she is
brought and served with a magnificent repast; which being done, she falls
to dancing and singing, and gives order, when she thinks fit, to kindle
the fire. This being done, she descends, and taking the nearest of her
husband's relations by the hand, they walk to the river close by, where
she strips herself stark naked, and having distributed her clothes and
jewels to her friends, plunges herself into the water, as if there to
cleanse herself from her sins; coming out thence, she wraps herself in a
yellow linen of five-and-twenty ells long, and again giving her hand to
this kinsman of her husband's, they return back to the mount, where she
makes a speech to the people, and recommends her children to them, if she
have any. Betwixt the pit and the mount there is commonly a curtain
drawn to screen the burning furnace from their sight, which some of them,
to manifest the greater courage, forbid. Having ended what she has to
say, a woman presents her with a vessel of oil, wherewith to anoint her
head and her whole body, which when done with she throws into the fire,
and in an instant precipitates herself after. Immediately, the people
throw a good many billets and logs upon her that she may not be long in
dying, and convert all their joy into sorrow and mourning. If they are
persons of meaner condition, the body of the defunct is carried to the
place of sepulture, and there placed sitting, the widow kneeling before
him, embracing the dead body; and they continue in this posture whilst
the people build a wall about them, which so soon as it is raised to the
height of the woman's shoulders, one of her relations comes behind her,
and taking hold of her head, twists her neck; so soon as she is dead, the
wall is presently raised up, and closed, and there they remain entombed.

There was, in this same country, something like this in their
gymnosophists; for not by constraint of others nor by the impetuosity of
a sudden humour, but by the express profession of their order, their
custom was, as soon as they arrived at a certain age, or that they saw
themselves threatened by any disease, to cause a funeral pile to be
erected for them, and on the top a stately bed, where, after having
joyfully feasted their friends and acquaintance, they laid them down with
so great resolution, that fire being applied to it, they were never seen
to stir either hand or foot; and after this manner, one of them, Calanus
by name; expired in the presence of the whole army of Alexander the
Great. And he was neither reputed holy nor happy amongst them who did
not thus destroy himself, dismissing his soul purged and purified by the
fire, after having consumed all that was earthly and mortal. This
constant premeditation of the whole life is that which makes the wonder.

Amongst our other controversies, that of 'Fatum' has also crept in; and
to tie things to come, and even our own wills, to a certain and
inevitable necessity, we are yet upon this argument of time past:
"Since God foresees that all things shall so fall out, as doubtless He
does, it must then necessarily follow, that they must so fall out": to
which our masters reply: "that the seeing anything come to pass, as we
do, and as God Himself also does (for all things being present with him,
He rather sees, than foresees), is not to compel an event: that is, we
see because things do fall out, but things do not fall out because we
see: events cause knowledge, but knowledge does not cause events. That
which we see happen, does happen; but it might have happened otherwise:
and God, in the catalogue of the causes of events which He has in His
prescience, has also those which we call accidental and voluntary,
depending upon the liberty. He has given our free will, and knows that
we do amiss because we would do so."

I have seen a great many commanders encourage their soldiers with this
fatal necessity; for if our time be limited to a certain hour, neither
the enemies' shot nor our own boldness, nor our flight and cowardice,
can either shorten or prolong our lives. This is easily said, but see
who will be so easily persuaded; and if it be so that a strong and lively
faith draws along with it actions of the same kind, certainly this faith
we so much brag of, is very light in this age of ours, unless the
contempt it has of works makes it disdain their company. So it is, that
to this very purpose the Sire de Joinville, as credible a witness as any
other whatever, tells us of the Bedouins, a nation amongst the Saracens,
with whom the king St. Louis had to do in the Holy Land, that they, in
their religion, so firmly believed the number of every man's days to be
from all eternity prefixed and set down by an inevitable decree, that
they went naked to the wars, excepting a Turkish sword, and their bodies
only covered with a white linen cloth: and for the greatest curse they
could invent when they were angry, this was always in their mouths:
"Accursed be thou, as he that arms himself for fear of death." This is a
testimony of faith very much beyond ours. And of this sort is that also
that two friars of Florence gave in our fathers' days. Being engaged in
some controversy of learning, they agreed to go both of them into the
fire in the sight of all the people, each for the verification of his
argument, and all things were already prepared, and the thing just upon
the point of execution, when it was interrupted by an unexpected
accident.--[7th April 1498. Savonarola issued the challenge. After many
delays from demands and counter-demands by each side as to the details of
the fire, both parties found that they had important business to transact
in another county--both just barely escaped assassination at the hands of
the disappointed spectators. D.W.]

A young Turkish lord, having performed a notable exploit in his own
person in the sight of both armies, that of Amurath and that of Huniades,
ready to join battle, being asked by Amurath, what in such tender and
inexperienced years (for it was his first sally into arms) had inspired
him with so brave a courage, replied, that his chief tutor for valour was
a hare. "For being," said he, "one day a hunting, I found a hare
sitting, and though I had a brace of excellent greyhounds with me, yet
methought it would be best for sureness to make use of my bow; for she
sat very fair. I then fell to letting fly my arrows, and shot forty that
I had in my quiver, not only without hurting, but without starting her
from her form. At last I slipped my dogs after her, but to no more
purpose than I had shot: by which I understood that she had been secured
by her destiny; and, that neither darts nor swords can wound without the
permission of fate, which we can neither hasten nor defer." This story
may serve, by the way, to let us see how flexible our reason is to all
sorts of images.

A person of great years, name, dignity, and learning boasted to me that
he had been induced to a certain very important change in his faith by a
strange and whimsical incitation, and one otherwise so inadequate, that I
thought it much stronger, taken the contrary way: he called it a miracle,
and so I look upon it, but in a different sense. The Turkish historians
say, that the persuasion those of their nation have imprinted in them of
the fatal and unalterable prescription of their days, manifestly conduces
to the giving them great assurance in dangers. And I know a great prince
who makes very fortunate use of it, whether it be that he really believes
it, or that he makes it his excuse for so wonderfully hazarding himself:
let us hope Fortune may not be too soon weary of her favour to him.

There has not happened in our memory a more admirable effect of
resolution than in those two who conspired the death of the Prince of

[The first of these was Jehan de Jaureguy, who wounded the Prince
18th March 1582; the second, by whom the Prince was killed 10th July
1584., was Balthazar Gerard.]

'Tis marvellous how the second who executed it, could ever be persuaded
into an attempt, wherein his companion, who had done his utmost, had had
so ill success; and after the same method, and with the same arms, to go
attack a lord, armed with so recent a late lesson of distrust, powerful
in followers and bodily strength, in his own hall, amidst his guards, and
in a city wholly at his devotion. Assuredly, he employed a very resolute
arm and a courage enflamed with furious passion. A poignard is surer for
striking home; but by reason that more motion and force of hand is
required than with a pistol, the blow is more subject to be put by or
hindered. That this man did not run to a certain death, I make no great
doubt; for the hopes any one could flatter him withal, could not find
place in any sober understanding, and the conduct of his exploit
sufficiently manifests that he had no want of that, no more than of
courage. The motives of so powerful a persuasion may be diverse, for our
fancy does what it will, both with itself and us. The execution that was
done near Orleans--[The murder of the Duke of Guise by Poltrot.]--was
nothing like this; there was in this more of chance than vigour; the
wound was not mortal, if fortune had not made it so, and to attempt to
shoot on horseback, and at a great distance, by one whose body was in
motion from the motion of his horse, was the attempt of a man who had
rather miss his blow than fail of saving himself. This was apparent from
what followed; for he was so astonished and stupefied with the thought of
so high an execution, that he totally lost his judgment both to find his
way to flight and to govern his tongue. What needed he to have done more
than to fly back to his friends across the river? 'Tis what I have done
in less dangers, and that I think of very little hazard, how broad soever
the river may be, provided your horse have easy going in, and that you
see on the other side easy landing according to the stream. The other,
--[Balthazar Gerard.]--when they pronounced his dreadful sentence,
"I was prepared for this," said he, "beforehand, and I will make you
wonder at my patience."

The Assassins, a nation bordering upon Phoenicia,

[Or in Egypt, Syria, and Persia. Derivation of 'assassin' is from
Hassan-ben-Saba, one of their early leaders, and they had an
existence for some centuries. They are classed among the secret
societies of the Middle Ages. D.W.]

are reputed amongst the Mohammedans a people of very great devotion and
purity of manners. They hold that the nearest way to gain Paradise is to
kill some one of a contrary religion; which is the reason they have often
been seen, being but one or two, and without armour, to attempt against
powerful enemies, at the price of a certain death and without any
consideration of their own danger. So was our Raymond, Count of Tripoli,
assassinated (which word is derived from their name) in the heart of his
city,--[in 1151]--during our enterprises of the Holy War: and likewise
Conrad, Marquis of Monteferrat, the murderers at their execution bearing
themselves with great pride and glory that they had performed so brave an



This story shall go by itself; for I will leave it to physicians to
discourse of. Two days ago I saw a child that two men and a nurse, who
said they were the father, the uncle, and the aunt of it, carried about
to get money by showing it, by reason it was so strange a creature. It
was, as to all the rest, of a common form, and could stand upon its feet;
could go and gabble much like other children of the same age; it had
never as yet taken any other nourishment but from the nurse's breasts,
and what, in my presence, they tried to put into the mouth of it, it only
chewed a little and spat it out again without swallowing; the cry of it
seemed indeed a little odd and particular, and it was just fourteen
months old. Under the breast it was joined to another child, but without
a head, and which had the spine of the back without motion, the rest
entire; for though it had one arm shorter than the other, it had been
broken by accident at their birth; they were joined breast to breast, and
as if a lesser child sought to throw its arms about the neck of one
something bigger. The juncture and thickness of the place where they
were conjoined was not above four fingers, or thereabouts, so that if you
thrust up the imperfect child you might see the navel of the other below
it, and the joining was betwixt the paps and the navel. The navel of the
imperfect child could not be seen, but all the rest of the belly, so that
all that was not joined of the imperfect one, as arms, buttocks, thighs,
and legs, hung dangling upon the other, and might reach to the mid-leg.
The nurse, moreover, told us that it urined at both bodies, and that the
members of the other were nourished, sensible, and in the same plight
with that she gave suck to, excepting that they were shorter and less.
This double body and several limbs relating to one head might be
interpreted a favourable prognostic to the king,--[Henry III.]--of
maintaining these various parts of our state under the union of his laws;
but lest the event should prove otherwise, 'tis better to let it alone,
for in things already past there needs no divination,

"Ut quum facts sunt, tum ad conjecturam
aliqui interpretatione revocentur;"

["So as when they are come to pass, they may then by some
interpretation be recalled to conjecture"
--Cicero, De Divin., ii. 31.]

as 'tis said of Epimenides, that he always prophesied backward.

I have just seen a herdsman in Medoc, of about thirty years of age, who
has no sign of any genital parts; he has three holes by which he
incessantly voids his water; he is bearded, has desire, and seeks contact
with women.

Those that we call monsters are not so to God, who sees in the immensity
of His work the infinite forms that He has comprehended therein; and it
is to be believed that this figure which astonishes us has relation to
some other figure of the same kind unknown to man. From His all wisdom
nothing but good, common; and regular proceeds; but we do not discern the
disposition and relation:

"Quod crebro videt, non miratur, etiamsi,
cur fiat, nescit. Quod ante non vidit, id,
si evenerit, ostentum esse censet."

["What he often sees he does not admire, though he be ignorant how
it comes to pass. When a thing happens he never saw before, he
thinks that it is a portent."--Cicero, De Divin., ii. 22.]

Whatever falls out contrary to custom we say is contrary to nature, but
nothing, whatever it be, is contrary to her. Let, therefore, this
universal and natural reason expel the error and astonishment that
novelty brings along with it.



Plutarch is admirable throughout, but especially where he judges of human
actions. What fine things does he say in the comparison of Lycurgus and
Numa upon the subject of our great folly in abandoning children to the
care and government of their fathers? The most of our civil governments,
as Aristotle says, "leave, after the manner of the Cyclopes, to every one
the ordering of their wives and children, according to their own foolish
and indiscreet fancy; and the Lacedaemonian and Cretan are almost the
only governments that have committed the education of children to the
laws. Who does not see that in a state all depends upon their nurture
and bringing up? and yet they are left to the mercy of parents, let them
be as foolish and ill-conditioned as they may, without any manner of

Amongst other things, how often have I, as I have passed along our
streets, had a good mind to get up a farce, to revenge the poor boys whom
I have seen hided, knocked down, and miserably beaten by some father or
mother, when in their fury and mad with rage? You shall see them come
out with fire and fury sparkling in their eyes:

"Rabie jecur incendente, feruntur,
Praecipites; ut saxa jugis abrupta, quibus mons
Subtrahitur, clivoque latus pendente recedit,"

["They are headlong borne with burning fury as great stones torn
from the mountains, by which the steep sides are left naked and
bare."--Juvenal, Sat., vi. 647.]

(and according to Hippocrates, the most dangerous maladies are they that
disfigure the countenance), with a roaring and terrible voice, very often
against those that are but newly come from nurse, and there they are
lamed and spoiled with blows, whilst our justice takes no cognisance of
it, as if these maims and dislocations were not executed upon members of
our commonwealth:

"Gratum est, quod patria; civem populoque dedisti,
Si facis, ut patrix sit idoneus, utilis agris,
Utilis et bellorum et pacis rebus agendis."

["It is well when to thy country and the people thou hast given a
citizen, provided thou make fit for his country's service; useful to
till the earth, useful in affairs of war and peace"
--Juvenal, Sat., xiv. 70.]

There is no passion that so much transports men from their right judgment
as anger. No one would demur upon punishing a judge with death who
should condemn a criminal on the account of his own choler; why, then,
should fathers and pedagogues be any more allowed to whip and chastise
children in their anger? 'Tis then no longer correction, but revenge.
Chastisement is instead of physic to children; and would we endure a
physician who should be animated against and enraged at his patient?

We ourselves, to do well, should never lay a hand upon our servants
whilst our anger lasts. When the pulse beats, and we feel emotion in
ourselves, let us defer the business; things will indeed appear otherwise
to us when we are calm and cool. 'Tis passion that then commands, 'tis
passion that speaks, and not we. Faults seen through passion appear much
greater to us than they really are, as bodies do when seen through a
mist. He who is hungry uses meat; but he who will make use of
chastisement should have neither hunger nor thirst to it. And, moreover,
chastisements that are inflicted with weight and discretion are much
better received and with greater benefit by him who suffers; otherwise,
he will not think himself justly condemned by a man transported with
anger and fury, and will allege his master's excessive passion, his
inflamed countenance, his unwonted oaths, his emotion and precipitous
rashness, for his own justification:

"Ora tument ira, nigrescunt sanguine venae,
Lumina Gorgoneo saevius igne micant."

["Their faces swell, their veins grow black with rage, and their
eyes sparkle with Gorgonian fire."--Ovid, De Art. Amandi, iii. 503.]

Suetonius reports that Caius Rabirius having been condemned by Caesar,
the thing that most prevailed upon the people (to whom he had appealed)
to determine the cause in his favour, was the animosity and vehemence
that Caesar had manifested in that sentence.

Saying is a different thing from doing; we are to consider the sermon
apart and the preacher apart. These men lent themselves to a pretty
business who in our times have attempted to shake the truth of our Church
by the vices of her ministers; she extracts her testimony elsewhere; 'tis
a foolish way of arguing and that would throw all things into confusion.
A man whose morals are good may have false opinions, and a wicked man may
preach truth, even though he believe it not himself. 'Tis doubtless a
fine harmony when doing and saying go together; and I will not deny but
that saying, when the actions follow, is not of greater authority and
efficacy, as Eudamidas said, hearing a philosopher talk of military
affairs: "These things are finely said, but he who speaks them is not to
be believed for his ears have never been used to the sound of the
trumpet." And Cleomenes, hearing an orator declaiming upon valour, burst
out into laughter, at which the other being angry; "I should," said he to
him, "do the same if it were a swallow that spoke of this subject; but if
it were an eagle I should willingly hear him." I perceive, methinks, in
the writings of the ancients, that he who speaks what he thinks, strikes
much more home than he who only feigns. Hear Cicero speak of the love of
liberty: hear Brutus speak of it, the mere written words of this man
sound as if he would purchase it at the price of his life. Let Cicero,
the father of eloquence, treat of the contempt of death; let Seneca do
the same: the first languishingly drawls it out so you perceive he would
make you resolve upon a thing on which he is not resolved himself; he
inspires you not with courage, for he himself has none; the other
animates and inflames you. I never read an author, even of those who
treat of virtue and of actions, that I do not curiously inquire what kind
of a man he was himself; for the Ephori at Sparta, seeing a dissolute
fellow propose a wholesome advice to the people, commanded him to hold
his peace, and entreated a virtuous man to attribute to himself the
invention, and to propose it. Plutarch's writings, if well understood,
sufficiently bespeak their author, and so that I think I know him even
into his soul; and yet I could wish that we had some fuller account of
his life. And I am thus far wandered from my subject, upon the account
of the obligation I have to Aulus Gellius, for having left us in writing
this story of his manners, that brings me back to my subject of anger.
A slave of his, a vicious, ill-conditioned fellow, but who had the
precepts of philosophy often ringing in his ears, having for some offence
of his been stript by Plutarch's command, whilst he was being whipped,
muttered at first, that it was without cause and that he had done nothing
to deserve it; but at last falling in good earnest to exclaim against and
rail at his master, he reproached him that he was no philosopher, as he
had boasted himself to be: that he had often heard him say it was
indecent to be angry, nay, had written a book to that purpose; and that
the causing him to be so cruelly beaten, in the height of his rage,
totally gave the lie to all his writings; to which Plutarch calmly and
coldly answered, "How, ruffian," said he, "by what dost thou judge that
I am now angry? Does either my face, my colour, or my voice give any
manifestation of my being moved? I do not think my eyes look fierce,
that my countenance appears troubled, or that my voice is dreadful: am I
red, do I foam, does any word escape my lips I ought to repent? Do I
start? Do I tremble with fury? For those, I tell thee, are the true
signs of anger." And so, turning to the fellow that was whipping him,
"Ply on thy work," said he, "whilst this gentleman and I dispute." This
is his story.

Archytas Tarentinus, returning from a war wherein he had been captain-
general, found all things in his house in very great disorder, and his
lands quite out of tillage, through the ill husbandry of his receiver,
and having caused him to be called to him; "Go," said he, "if I were not
in anger I would soundly drub your sides." Plato likewise, being highly
offended with one of his slaves, gave Speusippus order to chastise him,
excusing himself from doing it because he was in anger. And Carillus, a
Lacedaemonian, to a Helot, who carried himself insolently towards him:
"By the gods," said he, "if I was not angry, I would immediately cause
thee to be put to death."

'Tis a passion that is pleased with and flatters itself. How often,
being moved under a false cause, if the person offending makes a good
defence and presents us with a just excuse, are we angry against truth
and innocence itself? In proof of which, I remember a marvellous example
of antiquity.

Piso, otherwise a man of very eminent virtue, being moved against a
soldier of his, for that returning alone from forage he could give him no
account where he had left a companion of his, took it for granted that he
had killed him, and presently condemned him to death. He was no sooner
mounted upon the gibbet, but, behold, his wandering companion arrives, at
which all the army were exceedingly glad, and after many embraces of the
two comrades, the hangman carried both the one and the other into Piso's
presence, all those present believing it would be a great pleasure even
to himself; but it proved quite contrary; for through shame and spite,
his fury, which was not yet cool, redoubled; and by a subtlety which his
passion suddenly suggested to him, he made three criminals for having
found one innocent, and caused them all to be despatched: the first
soldier, because sentence had passed upon him; the second, who had lost
his way, because he was the cause of his companion's death; and the
hangman, for not having obeyed the order which had been given him.
Such as have had to do with testy and obstinate women, may have
experimented into what a rage it puts them to oppose silence and coldness
to their fury, and that a man disdains to nourish their anger. The
orator Celius was wonderfully choleric by nature; and to one who supped
in his company, a man of a gentle and sweet conversation, and who, that
he might not move him, approved and consented to all he said; he,
impatient that his ill-humour should thus spend itself without aliment:
"For the love of the gods deny me something," said he, "that we may be
two." Women, in like manner, are only angry that others may be angry
again, in imitation of the laws of love. Phocion, to one who interrupted
his speaking by injurious and very opprobrious words, made no other
return than silence, and to give him full liberty and leisure to vent his
spleen; which he having accordingly done, and the storm blown over,
without any mention of this disturbance, he proceeded in his discourse
where he had left off before. No answer can nettle a man like such a

Of the most choleric man in France (anger is always an imperfection, but
more excusable in, a soldier, for in that trade it cannot sometimes be
avoided) I often say, that he is the most patient man that I know, and
the most discreet in bridling his passions; which rise in him with so
great violence and fury,

"Magno veluti cum flamma sonore
Virgea suggeritur costis undantis ahem,
Exsultantque aatu latices, furit intus aquae vis.
Fumidus atque alte spumis exuberat amnis,
Nec jam se capit unda; volat vapor ater ad auras;"

["When with loud crackling noise, a fire of sticks is applied to the
boiling caldron's side, by the heat in frisky bells the liquor
dances; within the water rages, and high the smoky fluid in foam
overflows. Nor can the wave now contain itself; the black steam
flies all abroad."--AEneid, vii. 462.]

that he must of necessity cruelly constrain himself to moderate it. And
for my part, I know no passion which I could with so much violence to
myself attempt to cover and conceal; I would not set wisdom at so high a
price; and do not so much consider what a man does, as how much it costs
him to do no worse.

Another boasted himself to me of the regularity and gentleness of his
manners, which are to truth very singular; to whom I replied, that it was
indeed something, especially m persons of so eminent a quality as
himself, upon whom every one had their eyes, to present himself always
well-tempered to the world; but that the principal thing was to make
provision for within and for himself; and that it was not in my opinion
very well to order his business outwardly well, and to grate himself
within, which I was afraid he did, in putting on and maintaining this
mask and external appearance.

A man incorporates anger by concealing it, as Diogenes told Demosthenes,
who, for fear of being seen in a tavern, withdrew himself the more
retiredly into it: "The more you retire backward, the farther you enter
in." I would rather advise that a man should give his servant a box of
the ear a little unseasonably, than rack his fancy to present this grave
and composed countenance; and had rather discover my passions than brood
over them at my own expense; they grow less inventing and manifesting
themselves; and 'tis much better their point should wound others without,
than be turned towards ourselves within:

"Omnia vitia in aperto leviora sunt: et tunc perniciosissima,
quum simulata sanitate subsident."

["All vices are less dangerous when open to be seen, and then most
pernicious when they lurk under a dissembled good nature."
--Seneca, Ep. 56]

I admonish all those who have authority to be angry in my family, in the
first place to manage their anger and not to lavish it upon every
occasion, for that both lessens the value and hinders the effect: rash
and incessant scolding runs into custom, and renders itself despised; and
what you lay out upon a servant for a theft is not felt, because it is
the same he has seen you a hundred times employ against him for having
ill washed a glass, or set a stool out of place. Secondly, that they be
not angry to no purpose, but make sure that their reprehension reach him
with whom they are offended; for, ordinarily, they rail and bawl before
he comes into their presence, and continue scolding an age after he is

"Et secum petulans amentia certat:"

["And petulant madness contends with itself."
--Claudian in Eutrop., i. 237.]

they attack his shadow, and drive the storm in a place where no one is
either chastised or concerned, but in the clamour of their voice.
I likewise in quarrels condemn those who huff and vapour without an
enemy: those rhodomontades should be reserved to discharge upon the
offending party:

"Mugitus veluti cum prima in praelia taurus
Terrificos ciet, atque irasci in cornua tentat,
Arboris obnixus trunco, ventospue lacessit
Ictibus, et sparsa ad pugnum proludit arena."

["As when a bull to usher in the fight, makes dreadful bellowings,
and whets his horns against the trunk of a tree; with blows he beats
the air, and rehearses the fight by scattering the sand."
--AEneid, xii. 103.]

When I am angry, my anger is very sharp but withal very short, and as
private as I can; I lose myself indeed in promptness and violence, but
not in trouble; so that I throw out all sorts of injurious words at
random, and without choice, and never consider pertinently to dart my
language where I think it will deepest wound, for I commonly make use of
no other weapon than my tongue.

My servants have a better bargain of me in great occasions than in
little; the little ones surprise me; and the misfortune is, that when you
are once upon the precipice, 'tis no matter who gave you the push, you
always go to the bottom; the fall urges, moves, and makes haste of
itself. In great occasions this satisfies me, that they are so just
every one expects a reasonable indignation, and then I glorify myself in
deceiving their expectation; against these, I fortify and prepare myself;
they disturb my head, and threaten to transport me very far, should I
follow them. I can easily contain myself from entering into one of these
passions, and am strong enough, when I expect them, to repel their
violence, be the cause never so great; but if a passion once prepossess
and seize me, it carries me away, be the cause never so small. I bargain
thus with those who may contend with me when you see me moved first, let
me alone, right or wrong; I'll do the same for you. The storm is only
begot by a concurrence of angers, which easily spring from one another,
and are not born together. Let every one have his own way, and we shall
be always at peace. A profitable advice, but hard to execute. Sometimes
also it falls out that I put on a seeming anger, for the better governing
of my house, without any real emotion. As age renders my humours more
sharp, I study to oppose them, and will, if I can, order it so, that for
the future I may be so much the less peevish and hard to please, as I
have more excuse and inclination to be so, although I have heretofore
been reckoned amongst those who have the greatest patience.

A word more to conclude this argument. Aristotle says, that anger
sometimes serves for arms to virtue and valour. That is probable;
nevertheless, they who contradict him pleasantly answer, that 'tis a
weapon of novel use, for we move all other arms, this moves us; our hand
guides it not, 'tis it that guides our hand; it holds us, we hold not it.


A man may always study, but he must not always go to school
Accursed be thou, as he that arms himself for fear of death
All things have their seasons, even good ones
All those who have authority to be angry in my family
An emperor," said he, "must die standing
Ancient Romans kept their youth always standing at school
And we suffer the ills of a long peace
Be not angry to no purpose
Best virtue I have has in it some tincture of vice
By resenting the lie we acquit ourselves of the fault
"By the gods," said he, "if I was not angry, I would execute you"
Children are amused with toys and men with words
Consent, and complacency in giving a man's self up to melancholy
Defend most the defects with which we are most tainted
Emperor Julian, surnamed the Apostate
Fortune sometimes seems to delight in taking us at our word
Greatest talkers, for the most part, do nothing to purpose
Have more wherewith to defray my journey, than I have way to go
Hearing a philosopher talk of military affairs
How much it costs him to do no worse
I need not seek a fool from afar; I can laugh at myself
Idleness, the mother of corruption
If a passion once prepossess and seize me, it carries me away
In sorrow there is some mixture of pleasure
Killing is good to frustrate an offence to come, not to revenge
Laws cannot subsist without mixture of injustice
Least end of a hair will serve to draw them into my discourse
Let us not seek our disease out of ourselves; 'tis in us
Look on death not only without astonishment but without care
Melancholy: Are there not some constitutions that feed upon it?
Most cruel people, and upon frivolous occasions, apt to cry.
No beast in the world so much to be feared by man as man
Our extremest pleasure has some sort of groaning
Our fancy does what it will, both with itself and us
Owe ourselves chiefly and mostly to ourselves
Petulant madness contends with itself
Rage it puts them to oppose silence and coldness to their fury
Rash and incessant scolding runs into custom
Revenge, which afterwards produces a series of new cruelties
See how flexible our reason is
Seeming anger, for the better governing of my house
Shake the truth of our Church by the vices of her ministers
Take my last leave of every place I depart from
The gods sell us all the goods they give us
The storm is only begot by a concurrence of angers
Though nobody should read me, have I wasted time
Tis said of Epimenides, that he always prophesied backward
Tis then no longer correction, but revenge
Upon the precipice, 'tis no matter who gave you the push
"When will this man be wise," said he, "if he is yet learning?"
When you see me moved first, let me alone, right or wrong
Young are to make their preparations, the old to enjoy them


Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazilitt



XXXII. Defence of Seneca and Plutarch.
XXXIII. The story of Spurina.
XXXIV. Means to carry on a war according to Julius Caesar.
XXXV. Of three good women.
XXXVI. Of the most excellent men.
XXXVII. Of the resemblance of children to their fathers.



The familiarity I have with these two authors, and the assistance they
have lent to my age and to my book, wholly compiled of what I have
borrowed from them, oblige me to stand up for their honour.

As to Seneca, amongst a million of little pamphlets that those of the so-
called reformed religion disperse abroad for the defence of their cause
(and which sometimes proceed from so good a hand, that 'tis pity his pen
is not employed in a better subject), I have formerly seen one, that to
make up the parallel he would fain find out betwixt the government of our
late poor King Charles IX. and that of Nero, compares the late Cardinal
of Lorraine with Seneca; their fortunes, in having both of them been the
prime ministers in the government of their princes, and in their manners,
conditions, and deportments to have been very near alike. Wherein, in my
opinion, he does the said cardinal a very great honour; for though I am
one of those who have a very high esteem for his wit, eloquence, and zeal
to religion and the service of his king, and his good fortune to have
lived in an age wherein it was so novel, so rare, and also so necessary
for the public good to have an ecclesiastical person of such high birth
and dignity, and so sufficient and capable of his place; yet, to confess
the truth, I do not think his capacity by many degrees near to the other,
nor his virtue either so clean, entire, or steady as that of Seneca.

Now the book whereof I speak, to bring about its design, gives a very
injurious description of Seneca, having borrowed its approaches from Dion
the historian, whose testimony I do not at all believe for besides that
he is inconsistent, that after having called Seneca one while very wise,
and again a mortal enemy to Nero's vices, makes him elsewhere avaricious,
an usurer, ambitious, effeminate, voluptuous, and a false pretender to
philosophy, his virtue appears so vivid and vigorous in his writings, and
his vindication is so clear from any of these imputations, as of his
riches and extraordinarily expensive way of living, that I cannot believe
any testimony to the contrary. And besides, it is much more reasonable
to believe the Roman historians in such things than Greeks and
foreigners. Now Tacitus and the rest speak very honourably both of his
life and death; and represent him to us a very excellent and virtuous
person in all things; and I will allege no other reproach against Dion's
report but this, which I cannot avoid, namely, that he has so weak a
judgment in the Roman affairs, that he dares to maintain Julius Caesar's
cause against Pompey [And so does this editor. D.W.], and that of Antony
against Cicero.

Let us now come to Plutarch: Jean Bodin is a good author of our times,
and a writer of much greater judgment than the rout of scribblers of his
age, and who deserves to be read and considered. I find him, though, a
little bold in this passage of his Method of history, where he accuses
Plutarch not only of ignorance (wherein I would have let him alone: for
that is beyond my criticism), but that he "often writes things
incredible, and absolutely fabulous ": these are his own words. If he
had simply said, that he had delivered things otherwise than they really
are, it had been no great reproach; for what we have not seen, we are
forced to receive from other hands, and take upon trust, and I see that
he purposely sometimes variously relates the same story; as the judgment
of the three best captains that ever were, given by Hannibal; 'tis one
way in the Life of Flammius, and another in that of Pyrrhus. But to
charge him with having taken incredible and impossible things for current
pay, is to accuse the most judicious author in the world of want of
judgment. And this is his example; "as," says he, "when he relates that
a Lacedaemonian boy suffered his bowels to be torn out by a fox-cub he
had stolen, and kept it still concealed under his coat till he fell down
dead, rather than he would discover his theft." I find, in the first
place, this example ill chosen, forasmuch as it is very hard to limit the
power of the faculties of--the soul, whereas we have better authority to
limit and know the force of the bodily limbs; and therefore, if I had
been he, I should rather have chosen an example of this second sort; and
there are some of these less credible: and amongst others, that which he
refates of Pyrrhus, that "all wounded as he was, he struck one of his
enemies, who was armed from head to foot, so great a blow with his sword,
that he clave him down from his crown to his seat, so that the body was
divided into two parts." In this example I find no great miracle, nor do
I admit the excuse with which he defends Plutarch, in having added these
words, "as 'tis said," to suspend our belief; for unless it be in things
received by authority, and the reverence to antiquity or religion, he
would never have himself admitted, or enjoined us to believe things
incredible in themselves; and that these words, "as 'tis said," are not
put in this place to that effect, is easy to be seen, because he
elsewhere relates to us, upon this subject, of the patience of the
Lacedaemonian children, examples happening in his time, more unlikely to
prevail upon our faith; as what Cicero has also testified before him, as
having, as he says, been upon the spot: that even to their times there
were children found who, in the trial of patience they were put to before
the altar of Diana, suffered themselves to be there whipped till the
blood ran down all over their bodies, not only without crying out, but
without so much as a groan, and some till they there voluntarily lost
their lives: and that which Plutarch also, amongst a hundred other
witnesses, relates, that at a sacrifice, a burning coal having fallen
into the sleeve of a Lacedaemonian boy, as he was censing, he suffered
his whole arm to be burned, till the smell of the broiling flesh was
perceived by those present. There was nothing, according to their
custom, wherein their reputation was more concerned, nor for which they
were to undergo more blame and disgrace, than in being taken in theft.
I am so fully satisfied of the greatness of those people, that this story
does not only not appear to me, as to Bodin, incredible; but I do not
find it so much as rare and strange. The Spartan history is full of a
thousand more cruel and rare examples; and is; indeed, all miracle in
this respect.

Marcellinus, concerning theft, reports that in his time there was no sort
of torments which could compel the Egyptians, when taken in this act,
though a people very much addicted to it, so much as to tell their name.

A Spanish peasant, being put to the rack as to the accomplices of the
murder of the Praetor Lucius Piso, cried out in the height of the
torment, "that his friends should not leave him, but look on in all
assurance, and that no pain had the power to force from him one word of
confession," which was all they could get the first day. The next day,
as they were leading him a second time to another trial, strongly
disengaging himself from the hands of his guards, he furiously ran his
head against a wall, and beat out his brains.

Epicharis, having tired and glutted the cruelty of Nero's satellites, and
undergone their fire, their beating, their racks, a whole day together,
without one syllable of confession of her conspiracy; being the next day
brought again to the rack, with her limbs almost torn to pieces, conveyed
the lace of her robe with a running noose over one of the arms of her
chair, and suddenly slipping her head into it, with the weight of her own
body hanged herself. Having the courage to die in that manner, is it not
to be presumed that she purposely lent her life to the trial of her
fortitude the day before, to mock the tyrant, and encourage others to the
like attempt?

And whoever will inquire of our troopers the experiences they have had in
our civil wars, will find effects of patience and obstinate resolution in
this miserable age of ours, and amongst this rabble even more effeminate
than the Egyptians, worthy to be compared with those we have just related
of the Spartan virtue.

I know there have been simple peasants amongst us who have endured the
soles of their feet to be broiled upon a gridiron, their finger-ends to
be crushed with the cock of a pistol, and their bloody eyes squeezed out

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