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The Essays of Montaigne, Complete by Michel de Montaigne

Part 14 out of 23

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of their heads by force of a cord twisted about their brows, before they
would so much as consent to a ransom. I have seen one left stark naked
for dead in a ditch, his neck black and swollen, with a halter yet about
it with which they had dragged him all night at a horse's tail, his body
wounded in a hundred places, with stabs of daggers that had been given
him, not to kill him, but to put him to pain and to affright him, who had
endured all this, and even to being speechless and insensible, resolved,
as he himself told me, rather to die a thousand deaths (as indeed, as to
matter of suffering, he had borne one) before he would promise anything;
and yet he was one of the richest husbandmen of all the country. How
many have been seen patiently to suffer themselves to be burnt and
roasted for opinions taken upon trust from others, and by them not at all
understood? I have known a hundred and a hundred women (for Gascony has
a certain prerogative for obstinacy) whom you might sooner have made eat
fire than forsake an opinion they had conceived in anger. They are all
the more exasperated by blows and constraint. And he that made the story
of the woman who, in defiance of all correction, threats, and
bastinadoes, ceased not to call her husband lousy knave, and who being
plunged over head and ears in water, yet lifted her hands above her head
and made a sign of cracking lice, feigned a tale of which, in truth, we
every day see a manifest image in the obstinacy of women. And obstinacy
is the sister of constancy, at least in vigour and stability.

We are not to judge what is possible and what is not, according to what
is credible and incredible to our apprehension, as I have said elsewhere
and it is a great fault, and yet one that most men are guilty of, which,
nevertheless, I do not mention with any reflection upon Bodin, to make a
difficulty of believing that in another which they could not or would not
do themselves. Every one thinks that the sovereign stamp of human nature
is imprinted in him, and that from it all others must take their rule;
and that all proceedings which are not like his are feigned and false.
Is anything of another's actions or faculties proposed to him? the first
thing he calls to the consultation of his judgment is his own example;
and as matters go with him, so they must of necessity do with all the
world besides dangerous and intolerable folly! For my part, I consider
some men as infinitely beyond me, especially amongst the ancients, and
yet, though I clearly discern my inability to come near them by a
thousand paces, I do not forbear to keep them in sight, and to judge of
what so elevates them, of which I perceive some seeds in myself, as I
also do of the extreme meanness of some other minds, which I neither am
astonished at nor yet misbelieve. I very well perceive the turns those
great souls take to raise themselves to such a pitch, and admire their
grandeur; and those flights that I think the bravest I could be glad to
imitate; where, though I want wing, yet my judgment readily goes along
with them. The other example he introduces of "things incredible and
wholly fabulous," delivered by Plutarch, is, that "Agesilaus was fined by
the Ephori for having wholly engrossed the hearts and affections of his
citizens to himself alone." And herein I do not see what sign of falsity
is to be found: clearly Plutarch speaks of things that must needs be
better known to him than to us; and it was no new thing in Greece to see
men punished and exiled for this very thing, for being too acceptable to
the people; witness the Ostracism and Petalism.--[Ostracism at Athens
was banishment for ten years; petalism at Syracuse was banishment for
five years.]

There is yet in this place another accusation laid against Plutarch which
I cannot well digest, where Bodin says that he has sincerely paralleled
Romans with Romans, and Greeks amongst themselves, but not Romans with
Greeks; witness, says he, Demosthenes and Cicero, Cato and Aristides,
Sylla and Lysander, Marcellus and Pelopidas, Pompey and Agesilaus,
holding that he has favoured the Greeks in giving them so unequal
companions. This is really to attack what in Plutarch is most excellent
and most to be commended; for in his parallels (which is the most
admirable part of all his works, and with which, in my opinion, he is
himself the most pleased) the fidelity and sincerity of his judgments
equal their depth and weight; he is a philosopher who teaches us virtue.
Let us see whether we cannot defend him from this reproach of falsity and
prevarication. All that I can imagine could give occasion to this
censure is the great and shining lustre of the Roman names which we have
in our minds; it does not seem likely to us that Demosthenes could rival
the glory of a consul, proconsul, and proctor of that great Republic; but
if a man consider the truth of the thing, and the men in themselves,
which is Plutarch's chiefest aim, and will rather balance their manners,
their natures, and parts, than their fortunes, I think, contrary to
Bodin, that Cicero and the elder Cato come far short of the men with whom
they are compared. I should sooner, for his purpose, have chosen the
example of the younger Cato compared with Phocion, for in this couple
there would have been a more likely disparity, to the Roman's advantage.
As to Marcellus, Sylla, and Pompey, I very well discern that their
exploits of war are greater and more full of pomp and glory than those of
the Greeks, whom Plutarch compares with them; but the bravest and most
virtuous actions any more in war than elsewhere, are not always the most
renowned. I often see the names of captains obscured by the splendour of
other names of less desert; witness Labienus, Ventidius, Telesinus, and
several others. And to take it by that, were I to complain on the behalf
of the Greeks, could I not say, that Camillus was much less comparable to
Themistocles, the Gracchi to Agis and Cleomenes, and Numa to Lycurgus?
But 'tis folly to judge, at one view, of things that have so many
aspects. When Plutarch compares them, he does not, for all that, make
them equal; who could more learnedly and sincerely have marked their
distinctions? Does he parallel the victories, feats of arms, the force
of the armies conducted by Pompey, and his triumphs, with those of
Agesilaus? "I do not believe," says he, "that Xenophon himself, if he
were now living, though he were allowed to write whatever pleased him to
the advantage of Agesilaus, would dare to bring them into comparison."
Does he speak of paralleling Lysander to Sylla. "There is," says he,
"no comparison, either in the number of victories or in the hazard of
battles, for Lysander only gained two naval battles." This is not to
derogate from the Romans; for having only simply named them with the
Greeks, he can have done them no injury, what disparity soever there may
be betwixt them and Plutarch does not entirely oppose them to one
another; there is no preference in general; he only compares the pieces
and circumstances one after another, and gives of every one a particular
and separate judgment. Wherefore, if any one could convict him of
partiality, he ought to pick out some one of those particular judgments,
or say, in general, that he was mistaken in comparing such a Greek to
such a Roman, when there were others more fit and better resembling to
parallel him to.



Philosophy thinks she has not ill employed her talent when she has given
the sovereignty of the soul and the authority of restraining our
appetites to reason. Amongst which, they who judge that there is none
more violent than those which spring from love, have this opinion also,
that they seize both body and soul, and possess the whole man, so that
even health itself depends upon them, and medicine is sometimes
constrained to pimp for them; but one might, on the contrary, also say,
that the mixture of the body brings an abatement and weakening; for such
desires are subject to satiety, and capable of material remedies.

Many, being determined to rid their soul from the continual alarms of
this appetite, have made use of incision and amputation of the rebelling
members; others have subdued their force and ardour by the frequent
application of cold things, as snow and vinegar. The sackcloths of our
ancestors were for this purpose, which is cloth woven of horse hair, of
which some of them made shirts, and others girdles, to torture and
correct their reins. A prince, not long ago, told me that in his youth
upon a solemn festival in the court of King Francis I., where everybody
was finely dressed, he would needs put on his father's hair shirt, which
was still kept in the house; but how great soever his devotion was, he
had not patience to wear it till night, and was sick a long time after;
adding withal, that he did not think there could be any youthful heat so
fierce that the use of this recipe would not mortify, and yet perhaps he
never essayed the most violent; for experience shows us, that such
emotions are often seen under rude and slovenly clothes, and that a hair
shirt does not always render those chaste who wear it.

Xenocrates proceeded with greater rigour in this affair; for his
disciples, to make trial of his continency, having slipt Lais, that
beautiful and famous courtesan, into his bed, quite naked, excepting the
arms of her beauty and her wanton allurements, her philters, finding
that, in despite of his reason and philosophical rules, his unruly flesh
began to mutiny, he caused those members of his to be burned that he
found consenting to this rebellion. Whereas the passions which wholly
reside in the soul, as ambition, avarice, and the rest, find the reason
much more to do, because it cannot there be helped but by its own means;
neither are those appetites capable of satiety, but grow sharper and
increase by fruition.

The sole example of Julius Caesar may suffice to demonstrate to us the
disparity of these appetites; for never was man more addicted to amorous
delights than he: of which one testimony is the peculiar care he had of
his person, to such a degree, as to make use of the most lascivious means
to that end then in use, as to have all the hairs of his body twitched
off, and to wipe all over with perfumes with the extremest nicety.
And he was a beautiful person in himself, of a fair complexion, tall,
and sprightly, full faced, with quick hazel eyes, if we may believe
Suetonius; for the statues of him that we see at Rome do not in all
points answer this description. Besides his wives, whom he four times
changed, without reckoning the amours of his boyhood with Nicomedes, king
of Bithynia, he had the maidenhead of the renowned Cleopatra, queen of
Egypt; witness the little Caesario whom he had by her. He also made love
to. Eunoe, queen of Mauritania, and at Rome, to Posthumia, the wife of
Servius Sulpitius; to Lollia, the wife of Gabinius to Tertulla, the wife
of Crassus, and even to Mutia, wife to the great Pompey: which was the
reason, the Roman historians say, that she was repudiated by her husband,
which Plutarch confesses to be more than he knew; and the Curios, both
father and son, afterwards reproached Pompey, when he married Caesar's
daughter, that he had made himself son-in-law to a man who had made him
cuckold, and one whom he himself was wont to call AEgisthus. Besides all
these, he entertained Servilia, Cato's sister and mother to Marcus
Brutus, whence, every one believes, proceeded the great affection he had
to Brutus, by reason that he was born at a time when it was likely he
might be his son. So that I have reason, methinks, to take him for a man
extremely given to this debauch, and of very amorous constitution. But
the other passion of ambition, with which he was infinitely smitten,
arising in him to contend with the former, it was boon compelled to give

And here calling to mind Mohammed, who won Constantinople, and finally
exterminated the Grecian name, I do not know where these two were so
evenly balanced; equally an indefatigable lecher and soldier: but where
they both meet in his life and jostle one another, the quarrelling
passion always gets the better of the amorous one, and this though it was
out of its natural season never regained an absolute sovereignty over the
other till he had arrived at an extreme old age and unable to undergo the
fatigues of war.

What is related for a contrary example of Ladislaus, king of Naples, is
very remarkable; that being a great captain, valiant and ambitious, he
proposed to himself for the principal end of his ambition, the execution
of his pleasure and the enjoyment of some rare and excellent beauty. His
death sealed up all the rest: for having by a close and tedious siege
reduced the city of Florence to so great distress that the inhabitants
were compelled to capitulate about surrender, he was content to let them
alone, provided they would deliver up to him a beautiful maid he had
heard of in their city; they were forced to yield to it, and by a private
injury to avert the public ruin. She was the daughter of a famous
physician of his time, who, finding himself involved in so foul a
necessity, resolved upon a high attempt. As every one was lending a hand
to trick up his daughter and to adorn her with ornaments and jewels to
render her more agreeable to this new lover, he also gave her a
handkerchief most richly wrought, and of an exquisite perfume, an
implement they never go without in those parts, which she was to make use
of at their first approaches. This handkerchief, poisoned with his
greatest art, coming to be rubbed between the chafed flesh and open
pores, both of the one and the other, so suddenly infused the poison,
that immediately converting their warm into a cold sweat they presently
died in one another's arms.

But I return to Caesar. His pleasures never made him steal one minute of
an hour, nor go one step aside from occasions that might any way conduce
to his advancement. This passion was so sovereign in him over all the
rest, and with so absolute authority possessed his soul, that it guided
him at pleasure. In truth, this troubles me, when, as to everything
else, I consider the greatness of this man, and the wonderful parts
wherewith he was endued; learned to that degree in all sorts of knowledge
that there is hardly any one science of which he has not written; so
great an orator that many have preferred his eloquence to that of Cicero,
and he, I conceive, did not think himself inferior to him in that
particular, for his two anti-Catos were written to counterbalance the
elocution that Cicero had expended in his Cato. As to the rest, was ever
soul so vigilant, so active, and so patient of labour as his? and,
doubtless, it was embellished with many rare seeds of virtue, lively,
natural, and not put on; he was singularly sober; so far from being
delicate in his diet, that Oppius relates, how that having one day at
table set before him medicated instead of common oil in some sauce, he
ate heartily of it, that he might not put his entertainer out of
countenance. Another time he caused his baker to be whipped for serving
him with a finer than ordinary sort of bread. Cato himself was wont to
say of him, that he was the first sober man who ever made it his business
to ruin his country. And as to the same Cato's calling, him one day
drunkard, it fell out thus being both of them in the Senate, at a time
when Catiline's conspiracy was in question of which was Caesar was
suspected, one came and brought him a letter sealed up. Cato believing
that it was something the conspirators gave him notice of, required him
to deliver into his hand, which Caesar was constrained to do to avoid
further suspicion. It was by chance a love-letter that Servilia, Cato's
sister, had written to him, which Cato having read, he threw it back to
him saying, "There, drunkard." This, I say, was rather a word of disdain
and anger than an express reproach of this vice, as we often rate those
who anger us with the first injurious words that come into our mouths,
though nothing due to those we are offended at; to which may be added
that the vice with which Cato upbraided him is wonderfully near akin to
that wherein he had surprised Caesar; for Bacchus and Venus, according to
the proverb, very willingly agree; but to me Venus is much more sprightly
accompanied by sobriety. The examples of his sweetness and clemency to
those by whom he had been offended are infinite; I mean, besides those he
gave during the time of the civil wars, which, as plainly enough appears
by his writings, he practised to cajole his enemies, and to make them
less afraid of his future dominion and victory. But I must also say,
that if these examples are not sufficient proofs of his natural
sweetness, they, at least, manifest a marvellous confidence and grandeur
of courage in this person. He has often been known to dismiss whole
armies, after having overcome them, to his enemies, without ransom, or
deigning so much as to bind them by oath, if not to favour him, at least
no more to bear arms against him; he has three or four times taken some
of Pompey's captains prisoners, and as often set them at liberty. Pompey
declared all those to be enemies who did not follow him to the war; he
proclaimed all those to be his friends who sat still and did not actually
take arms against him. To such captains of his as ran away from him to
go over to the other side, he sent, moreover, their arms, horses, and
equipage: the cities he had taken by force he left at full liberty to
follow which side they pleased, imposing no other garrison upon them but
the memory of his gentleness and clemency. He gave strict and express
charge, the day of his great battle of Pharsalia, that, without the
utmost necessity, no one should lay a hand upon the citizens of Rome.
These, in my opinion, were very hazardous proceedings, and 'tis no wonder
if those in our civil war, who, like him, fight against the ancient
estate of their country, do not follow his example; they are
extraordinary means, and that only appertain to Caesar's fortune, and to
his admirable foresight in the conduct of affairs. When I consider the
incomparable grandeur of his soul, I excuse victory that it could not
disengage itself from him, even in so unjust and so wicked a cause.

To return to his clemency: we have many striking examples in the time of
his government, when, all things being reduced to his power, he had no
more written against him which he had as sharply answered: yet he did not
soon after forbear to use his interest to make him consul. Caius Calvus,
who had composed several injurious epigrams against him, having employed
many of his friends to mediate a reconciliation with him, Caesar
voluntarily persuaded himself to write first to him. And our good
Catullus, who had so rudely ruffled him under the name of Mamurra, coming
to offer his excuses to him, he made the same day sit at his table.
Having intelligence of some who spoke ill of him, he did no more, but
only by a public oration declare that he had notice of it. He still less
feared his enemies than he hated them; some conspiracies and cabals that
were made against his life being discovered to him, he satisfied himself
in publishing by proclamation that they were known to him, without
further prosecuting the conspirators.

As to the respect he had for his friends: Caius Oppius, being with him
upon a journey, and finding himself ill, he left him the only lodging he
had for himself, and lay all night upon a hard ground in the open air.
As to what concerns his justice, he put a beloved servant of his to death
for lying with a noble Roman's wife, though there was no complaint made.
Never had man more moderation in his victory, nor more resolution in his
adverse fortune.

But all these good inclinations were stifled and spoiled by his furious
ambition, by which he suffered himself to be so transported and misled
that one may easily maintain that this passion was the rudder of all his
actions; of a liberal man, it made him a public thief to supply this
bounty and profusion, and made him utter this vile and unjust saying,
"That if the most wicked and profligate persons in the world had been
faithful in serving him towards his advancement, he would cherish and
prefer them to the utmost of his power, as much as the best of men."
It intoxicated him with so excessive a vanity, as to dare to boast in the
presence of his fellow-citizens, that he had made the great commonwealth
of Rome a name without form and without body; and to say that his answers
for the future should stand for laws; and also to receive the body of the
Senate coming to him, sitting; to suffer himself to be adored, and to
have divine honours paid to him in his own presence. To conclude, this
sole vice, in my opinion, spoiled in him the most rich and beautiful
nature that ever was, and has rendered his name abominable to all good
men, in that he would erect his glory upon the ruins of his country and
the subversion of the greatest and most flourishing republic the world
shall ever see.

There might, on the contrary, many examples be produced of great men whom
pleasures have made to neglect the conduct of their affairs, as Mark
Antony and others; but where love and ambition should be in equal
balance, and come to jostle with equal forces, I make no doubt but the
last would win the prize.

To return to my subject: 'tis much to bridle our appetites by the
argument of reason, or, by violence, to contain our members within their
duty; but to lash ourselves for our neighbour's interest, and not only to
divest ourselves of the charming passion that tickles us, of the pleasure
we feel in being agreeable to others, and courted and beloved of every
one, but also to conceive a hatred against the graces that produce that
effect, and to condemn our beauty because it inflames others; of this, I
confess, I have met with few examples. But this is one. Spurina, a
young man of Tuscany:

"Qualis gemma micat, fulvum quae dividit aurum,
Aut collo decus, aut cupiti: vel quale per artem
Inclusum buxo aut Oricia terebintho
Lucet ebur,"

["As a gem shines enchased in yellow gold, or an ornament on the
neck or head, or as ivory has lustre, set by art in boxwood or
Orician ebony."--AEneid, x. 134.]

being endowed with a singular beauty, and so excessive, that the chastest
eyes could not chastely behold its rays; not contenting himself with
leaving so much flame and fever as he everywhere kindled without relief,
entered into a furious spite against himself and those great endowments
nature had so liberally conferred upon him, as if a man were responsible
to himself for the faults of others, and purposely slashed and
disfigured, with many wounds and scars, the perfect symmetry and
proportion that nature had so curiously imprinted in his face. To give
my free opinion, I more admire than honour such actions: such excesses
are enemies to my rules. The design was conscientious and good, but
certainly a little defective in prudence. What if his deformity served
afterwards to make others guilty of the sin of hatred or contempt; or of
envy at the glory of so rare a recommendation; or of calumny,
interpreting this humour a mad ambition! Is there any form from which
vice cannot, if it will, extract occasion to exercise itself, one way or
another? It had been more just, and also more noble, to have made of
these gifts of God a subject of exemplary regularity and virtue.

They who retire themselves from the common offices, from that infinite
number of troublesome rules that fetter a man of exact honesty in civil
life, are in my opinion very discreet, what peculiar sharpness of
constraint soever they impose upon themselves in so doing. 'Tis in some
sort a kind of dying to avoid the pain of living well. They may have
another reward; but the reward of difficulty I fancy they can never have;
nor, in uneasiness, that there can be anything more or better done than
the keeping oneself upright amid the waves of the world, truly and
exactly performing all parts of our duty. 'Tis, peradventure, more easy
to keep clear of the sex than to maintain one's self aright in all points
in the society of a wife; and a man may with less trouble adapt himself
to entire abstinence than to the due dispensation of abundance. Use,
carried on according to reason, has in it more of difficulty than
abstinence; moderation is a virtue that gives more work than suffering;
the well living of Scipio has a thousand fashions, that of Diogenes but
one; this as much excels the ordinary lives in innocence as the most
accomplished excel them in utility and force.



'Tis related of many great leaders that they have had certain books in
particular esteem, as Alexander the Great, Homer; Scipio Africanus,
Xenophon; Marcus Brutus, Polybius; Charles V., Philip'de Comines; and
'tis said that, in our times, Machiavelli is elsewhere still in repute;
but the late Marshal Strozzi, who had taken Caesar for his man, doubtless
made the best choice, seeing that it indeed ought to be the breviary of
every soldier, as being the true and sovereign pattern of the military
art. And, moreover, God knows with that grace and beauty he has
embellished that rich matter, with so pure, delicate, and perfect
expression, that, in my opinion, there are no writings in the world
comparable to his, as to that business.

I will set down some rare and particular passages of his wars that remain
in my memory.

His army, being in some consternation upon the rumour that was spread of
the great forces that king Juba was leading against him, instead of
abating the apprehension which his soldiers had conceived at the news and
of lessening to them the forces of the enemy, having called them all
together to encourage and reassure them, he took a quite contrary way to
what we are used to do, for he told them that they need no more trouble
themselves with inquiring after the enemy's forces, for that he was
certainly informed thereof, and then told them of a number much
surpassing both the truth and the report that was current in his army;
following the advice of Cyrus in Xenophon, forasmuch as the deception is
not of so great importance to find an enemy weaker than we expected, than
to find him really very strong, after having been made to believe that he
was weak.

It was always his use to accustom his soldiers simply to obey, without
taking upon them to control, or so much as to speak of their captain's
designs, which he never communicated to them but upon the point of
execution; and he took a delight, if they discovered anything of what he
intended, immediately to change his orders to deceive them; and to that
purpose, would often, when he had assigned his quarters in a place, pass
forward and lengthen his day's march, especially if it was foul and rainy

The Swiss, in the beginning of his wars in Gaul, having sent to him to
demand a free passage over the Roman territories, though resolved to
hinder them by force, he nevertheless spoke kindly to the messengers, and
took some respite to return an answer, to make use of that time for the
calling his army together. These silly people did not know how good a
husband he was of his time: for he often repeats that it is the best part
of a captain to know how to make use of occasions, and his diligence in
his exploits is, in truth, unheard of and incredible.

If he was not very conscientious in taking advantage of an enemy under
colour of a treaty of agreement, he was as little so in this, that he
required no other virtue in a soldier but valour only, and seldom
punished any other faults but mutiny and disobedience. He would often
after his victories turn them loose to all sorts of licence, dispensing
them for some time from the rules of military discipline, saying withal
that he had soldiers so well trained up that, powdered and perfumed, they
would run furiously to the fight. In truth, he loved to have them richly
armed, and made them wear engraved, gilded, and damasked armour, to the
end that the care of saving it might engage them to a more obstinate
defence. Speaking to them, he called them by the name of fellow-
soldiers, which we yet use; which his successor, Augustus, reformed,
supposing he had only done it upon necessity, and to cajole those who
merely followed him as volunteers:

"Rheni mihi Caesar in undis
Dux erat; hic socius; facinus quos inquinat, aequat:"

["In the waters of the Rhine Caesar was my general; here at Rome he
is my fellow. Crime levels those whom it polluted."
--Lucan, v. 289.]

but that this carriage was too mean and low for the dignity of an emperor
and general of an army, and therefore brought up the custom of calling
them soldiers only.

With this courtesy Caesar mixed great severity to keep them in awe; the
ninth legion having mutinied near Placentia, he ignominiously cashiered
them, though Pompey was then yet on foot, and received them not again to
grace till after many supplications; he quieted them more by authority
and boldness than by gentle ways.

In that place where he speaks of his, passage over the Rhine to Germany,
he says that, thinking it unworthy of the honour of the Roman people to
waft over his army in vessels, he built a bridge that they might pass
over dry-foot. There it was that he built that wonderful bridge of which
he gives so particular a description; for he nowhere so willingly dwells
upon his actions as in representing to us the subtlety of his inventions
in such kind of handiwork.

I have also observed this, that he set a great value upon his
exhortations to the soldiers before the fight; for where he would show
that he was either surprised or reduced to a necessity of fighting, he
always brings in this, that he had not so much as leisure to harangue his
army. Before that great battle with those of Tournay, "Caesar," says he,
"having given order for everything else, presently ran where fortune
carried him to encourage his people, and meeting with the tenth legion,
had no more time to say anything to them but this, that they should
remember their wonted valour; not to be astonished, but bravely sustain
the enemy's encounter; and seeing the enemy had already approached within
a dart's cast, he gave the signal for battle; and going suddenly thence
elsewhere, to encourage others, he found that they were already engaged."
Here is what he tells us in that place. His tongue, indeed, did him
notable service upon several occasions, and his military eloquence was,
in his own time, so highly reputed, that many of his army wrote down his
harangues as he spoke them, by which means there were volumes of them
collected that existed a long time after him. He had so particular a
grace in speaking, that his intimates, and Augustus amongst others,
hearing those orations read, could distinguish even to the phrases and
words that were not his.

The first time that he went out of Rome with any public command, he
arrived in eight days at the river Rhone, having with him in his coach a
secretary or two before him who were continually writing, and him who
carried his sword behind him. And certainly, though a man did nothing
but go on, he could hardly attain that promptitude with which, having
been everywhere victorious in Gaul, he left it, and, following Pompey to
Brundusium, in eighteen days' time he subdued all Italy; returned from
Brundusium to Rome; from Rome went into the very heart of Spain, where he
surmounted extreme difficulties in the war against Afranius and Petreius,
and in the long siege of Marseilles; thence he returned into Macedonia,
beat the Roman army at Pharsalia, passed thence in pursuit of Pompey into
Egypt, which he also subdued; from Egypt he went into Syria and the
territories of Pontus, where he fought Pharnaces; thence into Africa,
where he defeated Scipio and Juba; again returned through Italy, where he
defeated Pompey's sons:

"Ocyor et coeli fiammis, et tigride foeta."

["Swifter than lightning, or the cub-bearing tigress."
--Lucan, v. 405]

"Ac veluti montis saxum de, vertice praeceps
Cum ruit avulsum vento, seu turbidus imber
Proluit, aut annis solvit sublapsa vetustas,
Fertur in abruptum magno mons improbus actu,
Exultatque solo, silvas, armenta, virosque,
Involvens secum."

["And as a stone torn from the mountain's top by the wind or rain
torrents, or loosened by age, falls massive with mighty force,
bounds here and there, in its course sweeps from the earth with it
woods, herds, and men."--AEneid, xii. 684.]

Speaking of the siege of Avaricum, he says, that it, was his custom to be
night and day with the pioneers.--[Engineers. D.W.]--In all enterprises
of consequence he always reconnoitred in person, and never brought his
army into quarters till he had first viewed the place, and, if we may
believe Suetonius, when he resolved to pass over into England, he was the
first man that sounded the passage.

He was wont to say that he more valued a victory obtained by counsel than
by force, and in the war against Petreius and Afranius, fortune
presenting him with an occasion of manifest advantage, he declined it,
saying, that he hoped, with a little more time, but less hazard, to
overthrow his enemies. He there also played a notable part in commanding
his whole army to pass the river by swimming, without any manner of

"Rapuitque ruens in praelia miles,
Quod fugiens timuisset, iter; mox uda receptis
Membra fovent armis, gelidosque a gurgite, cursu
Restituunt artus."

["The soldier rushing through a way to fight which he would have
been afraid to have taken in flight: then with their armour they
cover wet limbs, and by running restore warmth to their numbed
joints."--Lucan, iv. 151.]

I find him a little more temperate and considerate in his enterprises
than Alexander, for this man seems to seek and run headlong upon dangers
like an impetuous torrent which attacks and rushes against everything it
meets, without choice or discretion;

"Sic tauriformis volvitur Aufidus;
Qui regna Dauni perfluit Appuli,
Dum saevit, horrendamque cultis
Diluviem meditatur agris;"

["So the biforked Aufidus, which flows through the realm of the
Apulian Daunus, when raging, threatens a fearful deluge to the
tilled ground."--Horat., Od., iv. 14, 25.]

and, indeed, he was a general in the flower and first heat of his youth,
whereas Caesar took up the trade at a ripe and well advanced age; to
which may be added that Alexander was of a more sanguine, hot, and
choleric constitution, which he also inflamed with wine, from which
Caesar was very abstinent.

But where necessary occasion required, never did any man venture his
person more than he: so much so, that for my part, methinks I read in
many of his exploits a determinate resolution to throw himself away to
avoid the shame of being overcome. In his great battle with those of
Tournay, he charged up to the head of the enemies without his shield,
just as he was seeing the van of his own army beginning to give ground';
which also several other times befell him. Hearing that his people were
besieged, he passed through the enemy's army in disguise to go and
encourage them with his presence. Having crossed over to Dyrrachium with
very slender forces, and seeing the remainder of his army which he had
left to Antony's conduct slow in following him, he undertook alone to
repass the sea in a very great storms and privately stole away to fetch
the rest of his forces, the ports on the other side being seized by
Pompey, and the whole sea being in his possession. And as to what he
performed by force of hand, there are many exploits that in hazard exceed
all the rules of war; for with how small means did he undertake to subdue
the kingdom of Egypt, and afterwards to attack the forces of Scipio and
Juba, ten times greater than his own? These people had, I know not what,
more than human confidence in their fortune; and he was wont to say that
men must embark, and not deliberate, upon high enterprises. After the
battle of Pharsalia, when he had sent his army away before him into Asia,
and was passing in one single vessel the strait of the Hellespont, he met
Lucius Cassius at sea with ten tall men-of-war, when he had the courage
not only to stay his coming, but to sail up to him and summon him to
yield, which he did.

Having undertaken that furious siege of Alexia, where there were
fourscore thousand men in garrison, all Gaul being in arms to raise the
siege and having set an army on foot of a hundred and nine thousand
horse, and of two hundred and forty thousand foot, what a boldness and
vehement confidence was it in him that he would not give over his
attempt, but resolved upon two so great difficulties--which nevertheless
he overcame; and, after having won that great battle against those
without, soon reduced those within to his mercy. The same happened to
Lucullus at the siege of Tigranocerta against King Tigranes, but the
condition of the enemy was not the same, considering the effeminacy of
those with whom Lucullus had to deal. I will here set down two rare and
extraordinary events concerning this siege of Alexia; one, that the Gauls
having drawn their powers together to encounter Caesar, after they had
made a general muster of all their forces, resolved in their council of
war to dismiss a good part of this great multitude, that they might not
fall into confusion. This example of fearing to be too many is new; but,
to take it right, it stands to reason that the body of an army should be
of a moderate greatness, and regulated to certain bounds, both out of
respect to the difficulty of providing for them, and the difficulty of
governing and keeping them in order. At least it is very easy to make it
appear by example that armies monstrous in number have seldom done
anything to purpose. According to the saying of Cyrus in Xenophon,
"'Tis not the number of men, but the number of good men, that gives the
advantage": the remainder serving rather to trouble than assist. And
Bajazet principally grounded his resolution of giving Tamerlane battle,
contrary to the opinion of all his captains, upon this, that his enemies
numberless number of men gave him assured hopes of confusion.
Scanderbeg, a very good and expert judge in such matters, was wont to say
that ten or twelve thousand reliable fighting men were sufficient to a
good leader to secure his regulation in all sorts of military occasions.
The other thing I will here record, which seems to be contrary both to
the custom and rules of war, is, that Vercingetorix, who was made general
of all the parts of the revolted Gaul, should go shut up himself in
Alexia: for he who has the command of a whole country ought never to shut
himself up but in case of such last extremity that the only place he has
left is in concern, and that the only hope he has left is in the defence
of that city; otherwise he ought to keep himself always at liberty, that
he may have the means to provide, in general, for all parts of his

To return to Caesar. He grew, in time, more slow and more considerate,
as his friend Oppius witnesses: conceiving that he ought not lightly to
hazard the glory of so many victories, which one blow of fortune might
deprive him of. 'Tis what the Italians say, when they would reproach the
rashness and foolhardiness of young people, calling them Bisognosi
d'onore, "necessitous of honour," and that being in so great a want and
dearth of reputation, they have reason to seek it at what price soever,
which they ought not to do who have acquired enough already. There may
reasonably be some moderation, some satiety, in this thirst and appetite
of glory, as well as in other things: and there are enough people who
practise it.

He was far remote from the religious scruples of the ancient Romans, who
would never prevail in their wars but by dint of pure and simple valour;
and yet he was more conscientious than we should be in these days, and
did not approve all sorts of means to obtain a victory. In the war
against Ariovistus, whilst he was parleying with him, there happened some
commotion between the horsemen, which was occasioned by the fault of
Ariovistus' light horse, wherein, though Caesar saw he had a very great
advantage of the enemy, he would make no use on't, lest he should have
been reproached with a treacherous proceeding.

He was always wont to wear rich garments, and of a shining colour in
battle, that he might be the more remarkable and better observed.

He always carried a stricter and tighter hand over his soldiers when near
an enemy. When the ancient Greeks would accuse any one of extreme
insufficiency, they would say, in common proverb, that he could neither
read nor swim; he was of the same opinion, that swimming was of great use
in war, and himself found it so; for when he had to use diligence, he
commonly swam over the rivers in his way; for he loved to march on foot,
as also did Alexander the Great. Being in Egypt forced, to save himself,
to go into a little boat, and so many people leaping in with him that it
was in danger of sinking, he chose rather to commit himself to the sea,
and swam to his fleet, which lay two hundred paces off, holding in his
left hand his tablets, and drawing his coatarmour in his teeth, that it
might not fall into the enemy's hand, and at this time he was of a pretty
advanced age.

Never had any general so much credit with his soldiers: in the beginning
of the civil wars, his centurions offered him to find every one a man-at-
arms at his own charge, and the foot soldiers to serve him at their own
expense; those who were most at their ease, moreover, undertaking to
defray the more necessitous. The late Admiral Chastillon

[Gaspard de Coligny, assassinated in the St. Bartholomew
massacre, 24th August 1572.]

showed us the like example in our civil wars; for the French of his army
provided money out of their own purses to pay the foreigners that were
with him. There are but rarely found examples of so ardent and so ready
an affection amongst the soldiers of elder times, who kept themselves
strictly to their rules of war: passion has a more absolute command over
us than reason; and yet it happened in the war against Hannibal, that by
the example of the people of Rome in the city, the soldiers and captains
refused their pay in the army, and in Marcellus' camp those were branded
with the name of Mercenaries who would receive any. Having got the worst
of it near Dyrrachium, his soldiers came and offered themselves to be
chastised and punished, so that there was more need to comfort than
reprove them. One single cohort of his withstood four of Pompey's
legions above four hours together, till they were almost all killed with
arrows, so that there were a hundred and thirty thousand shafts found in
the trenches. A soldier called Scaeva, who commanded at one of the
avenues, invincibly maintained his ground, having lost an eye, with one
shoulder and one thigh shot through, and his shield hit in two hundred
and thirty places. It happened that many of his soldiers being taken
prisoners, rather chose to die than promise to join the contrary side.
Granius Petronius was taken by Scipio in Africa: Scipio having put the
rest to death, sent him word that he gave him his life, for he was a man
of quality and quaestor, to whom Petronius sent answer back, that
Caesar's soldiers were wont to give others their life, and not to receive
it; and immediately with his own hand killed himself.

Of their fidelity there are infinite examples amongst them, that which
was done by those who were besieged in Salona, a city that stood for
Caesar against Pompey, is not, for the rarity of an accident that there
happened, to be forgotten. Marcus Octavius kept them close besieged;
they within being reduced to the extremest necessity of all things, so
that to supply the want of men, most of them being either slain or
wounded, they had manumitted all their slaves, and had been constrained
to cut off all the women's hair to make ropes for their war engines,
besides a wonderful dearth of victuals, and yet continuing resolute never
to yield. After having drawn the siege to a great length, by which
Octavius was grown more negligent and less attentive to his enterprise,
they made choice of one day about noon, and having first placed the women
and children upon the walls to make a show, sallied upon the besiegers
with such fury, that having routed the first, second, and third body, and
afterwards the fourth, and the rest, and beaten them all out of their
trenches, they pursued them even to their ships, and Octavius himself was
fain to fly to Dyrrachium, where Pompey lay. I do not at present
remember that I have met with any other example where the besieged ever
gave the besieger a total defeat and won the field, nor that a sortie
ever achieved the result of a pure and entire victory.



They are not by the dozen, as every one knows, and especially in the
duties of marriage, for that is a bargain full of so many nice
circumstances that 'tis hard a woman's will should long endure such a
restraint; men, though their condition be something better under that
tie, have yet enough to do. The true touch and test of a happy marriage
have respect to the time of the companionship, if it has been constantly
gentle, loyal, and agreeable. In our age, women commonly reserve the
publication of their good offices, and their vehement affection towards
their husbands, until they have lost them, or at least, till then defer
the testimonies of their good will; a too slow testimony and
unseasonable. By it they rather manifest that they never loved them till
dead: their life is nothing but trouble; their death full of love and
courtesy. As fathers conceal their affection from their children, women,
likewise, conceal theirs from their husbands, to maintain a modest
respect. This mystery is not for my palate; 'tis to much purpose that
they scratch themselves and tear their hair. I whisper in a waiting-
woman's or secretary's ear: "How were they, how did they live together?"
I always have that good saying m my head:

"Jactantius moerent, quae minus dolent."

["They make the most ado who are least concerned." (Or:)
"They mourn the more ostentatiously, the less they grieve."
--Tacitus, Annal., ii. 77, writing of Germanicus.]

Their whimpering is offensive to the living and vain to the dead. We
should willingly give them leave to laugh after we are dead, provided
they will smile upon us whilst we are alive. Is it not enough to make a
man revive in pure spite, that she, who spat in my face whilst I was in
being, shall come to kiss my feet when I am no more? If there be any
honour in lamenting a husband, it only appertains to those who smiled
upon them whilst they had them; let those who wept during their lives
laugh at their deaths, as well outwardly as within. Therefore, never
regard those blubbered eyes and that pitiful voice; consider her
deportment, her complexion, the plumpness of her cheeks under all those
formal veils; 'tis there she talks plain French. There are few who do
not mend upon't, and health is a quality that cannot lie. That starched
and ceremonious countenance looks not so much back as forward, and is
rather intended to get a new husband than to lament the old. When I was
a boy, a very beautiful and virtuous lady, who is yet living, the widow
of a prince, wore somewhat more ornament in her dress than our laws of
widowhood allow, and being reproached with it, she made answer that it
was because she was resolved to have no more love affairs, and would
never marry again.

I have here, not at all dissenting from our customs, made choice of three
women, who have also expressed the utmost of their goodness and affection
about their husbands' deaths; yet are they examples of another kind than
are now m use, and so austere that they will hardly be drawn into

The younger Pliny' had near a house of his in Italy a neighbour who was
exceedingly tormented with certain ulcers in his private parts. His wife
seeing him so long to languish, entreated that he would give her leave to
see and at leisure to consider of the condition of his disease, and that
she would freely tell him what she thought. This permission being
obtained, and she having curiously examined the business, found it
impossible he could ever be cured, and that all he had to hope for or
expect was a great while to linger out a painful and miserable life, and
therefore, as the most sure and sovereign remedy, resolutely advised him
to kill himself. But finding him a little tender and backward in so rude
an attempt: "Do not think, my friend," said she, "that the torments I see
thee endure are not as sensible to me as to thyself, and that to deliver
myself from them, I will not myself make use of the same remedy I have
prescribed to thee. I will accompany thee in the cure as I have done in
the disease; fear nothing, but believe that we shall have pleasure in
this passage that is to free us from so many miseries, and we will go
happily together." Which having said, and roused up her husband's
courage, she resolved that they should throw themselves headlong into the
sea out of a window that overlooked it, and that she might maintain to
the last the loyal and vehement affection wherewith she had embraced him
during his life, she would also have him die in her arms; but lest they
should fail, and should quit their hold in the fall through fear, she
tied herself fast to him by the waist, and so gave up her own life to
procure her husband's repose. This was a woman of mean condition; and,
amongst that class of people, 'tis no very new thing to see some examples
of rare virtue:

"Extrema per illos
Justitia excedens terris vestigia fecit."

["Justice, when she left the earth, took her last
steps among them."--Virgil, Georg., ii. 473.]

The other two were noble and rich, where examples of virtue are rarely

Arria, the wife of Caecina Paetus, a consular person, was the mother of
another Arria, the wife of Thrasea Paetus, he whose virtue was so
renowned in the time of Nero, and by this son-in-law, the grandmother of
Fannia: for the resemblance of the names of these men and women, and
their fortunes, have led to several mistakes. This first Arria, her
husband Caecina Paetus, having been taken prisoner by some of the Emperor
Claudius' people, after Scribonianus' defeat, whose party he had embraced
in the war, begged of those who were to carry him prisoner to Rome, that
they would take her into their ship, where she would be of much less
charge and trouble to them than a great many persons they must otherwise
have to attend her husband, and that she alone would undertake to serve
him in his chamber, his kitchen, and all other offices. They refused,
whereupon she put herself into a fisher-boat she hired on the spot, and
in that manner followed him from Sclavonia. When she had come to Rome,
Junia, the widow of Scribonianus, having one day, from the resemblance of
their fortune, accosted her in the Emperor's presence; she rudely
repulsed her with these words, "I," said she, "speak to thee, or give ear
to any thing thou sayest! to thee in whose lap Scribonianus was slain,
and thou art yet alive!" These words, with several other signs, gave her
friends to understand that she would undoubtedly despatch herself,
impatient of supporting her husband's misfortune. And Thrasea, her son-
in-law, beseeching her not to throw away herself, and saying to her,
"What! if I should run the same fortune that Caecina has done, would you
that your daughter, my wife, should do the same?"--" Would I?" replied
she, "yes, yes, I would: if she had lived as long, and in as good
understanding with thee as I have done, with my husband." These answers
made them more careful of her, and to have a more watchful eye to her
proceedings. One day, having said to those who looked to her: "Tis to
much purpose that you take all this pains to prevent me; you may indeed
make me die an ill death, but to keep me from dying is not in your
power"; she in a sudden phrenzy started from a chair whereon she sat, and
with all her force dashed her head against the wall, by which blow being
laid flat in a swoon, and very much wounded, after they had again with
great ado brought her to herself: "I told you," said she, "that if you
refused me some easy way of dying, I should find out another, how painful
soever." The conclusion of so admirable a virtue was this: her husband
Paetus, not having resolution enough of his own to despatch himself, as
he was by the emperor's cruelty enjoined, one day, amongst others, after
having first employed all the reasons and exhortations which she thought
most prevalent to persuade him to it, she snatched the poignard he wore
from his side, and holding it ready in her hand, for the conclusion of
her admonitions; "Do thus, Paetus," said she, and in the same instant
giving herself a mortal stab in the breast, and then drawing it out of
the wound, presented it to him, ending her life with this noble,
generous, and immortal saying, "Paete, non dolet"--having time to
pronounce no more but those three never-to-be-forgotten words: "Paetus,
it is not painful."

"Casta suo gladium cum traderet Arria Paeto,
Quern de visceribus traxerat ipsa suis
Si qua fides, vulnus quod feci non dolet, inquit,
Sed quod to facies, id mihi, Paete, dolet."

["When the chaste Arria gave to Poetus the reeking sword she had
drawn from her breast, 'If you believe me,' she said, 'Paetus, the
wound I have made hurts not, but 'tis that which thou wilt make that
hurts me.'"---Martial, i. 14.]

The action was much more noble in itself, and of a braver sense than the
poet expressed it: for she was so far from being deterred by the thought
of her husband's wound and death and her own, that she had been their
promotress and adviser: but having performed this high and courageous
enterprise for her husband's only convenience, she had even in the last
gasp of her life no other concern but for him, and of dispossessing him
of the fear of dying with her. Paetus presently struck himself to the
heart with the same weapon, ashamed, I suppose, to have stood in need of
so dear and precious an example.

Pompeia Paulina, a young and very noble Roman lady, had married Seneca in
his extreme old age. Nero, his fine pupil, sent his guards to him to
denounce the sentence of death, which was performed after this manner:
When the Roman emperors of those times had condemned any man of quality,
they sent to him by their officers to choose what death he would, and to
execute it within such or such a time, which was limited, according to
the degree of their indignation, to a shorter or a longer respite, that
they might therein have better leisure to dispose their affairs, and
sometimes depriving them of the means of doing it by the shortness of the
time; and if the condemned seemed unwilling to submit to the order, they
had people ready at hand to execute it either by cutting the veins of the
arms and legs, or by compelling them by force to swallow a draught of
poison. But persons of honour would not abide this necessity, but made
use of their own physicians and surgeons for this purpose. Seneca, with
a calm and steady countenance, heard their charge, and presently called
for paper to write his will, which being by the captain refused, he
turned himself towards his friends, saying to them, "Since I cannot leave
you any other acknowledgment of the obligation I have to you, I leave you
at least the best thing I have, namely, the image of my life and manners,
which I entreat you to keep in memory of me, that by so doing you may
acquire the glory of sincere and real friends." And there withal, one
while appeasing the sorrow he saw in them with gentle words, and
presently raising his voice to reprove them: "What," said he, "are become
of all our brave philosophical precepts? What are become of all the
provisions we have so many years laid up against the accidents of
fortune? Is Nero's cruelty unknown to us? What could we expect from him
who had murdered his mother and his brother, but that he should put his
tutor to death who had brought him up?" After having spoken these words
in general, he turned himself towards his wife, and embracing her fast in
his arms, as, her heart and strength failing her, she was ready to sink
down with grief, he begged of her, for his sake, to bear this accident
with a little more patience, telling her, that now the hour was come
wherein he was to show, not by argument and discourse, but effect, the
fruit he had acquired by his studies, and that he really embraced his
death, not only without grief, but moreover with joy. "Wherefore, my
dearest," said he, "do not dishonour it with thy tears, that it may not
seem as if thou lovest thyself more than my reputation. Moderate thy
grief, and comfort thyself in the knowledge thou hast had of me and my
actions, leading the remainder of thy life in the same virtuous manner
thou hast hitherto done." To which Paulina, having a little recovered
her spirits, and warmed the magnanimity of her courage with a most
generous affection, replied,--"No, Seneca," said she, "I am not a woman
to suffer you to go alone in such a necessity: I will not have you think
that the virtuous examples of your life have not taught me how to die;
and when can I ever better or more fittingly do it, or more to my own
desire, than with you? and therefore assure yourself I will go along with
you." Then Seneca, taking this noble and generous resolution of his wife
m good part, and also willing to free himself from the fear of leaving
her exposed to the cruelty of his enemies after his death: "I have,
Paulina," said he, "instructed thee in what would serve thee happily to
live; but thou more covetest, I see, the honour of dying: in truth,
I will not grudge it thee; the constancy and resolution in our common end
are the same, but the beauty and glory of thy part are much greater."
Which being said, the surgeons, at the same time, opened the veins of
both their arms, but as those of Seneca were more shrunk up, as well with
age as abstinence, made his blood flow too slowly, he moreover commanded
them to open the veins of his thighs; and lest the torments he endured
might pierce his wife's heart, and also to free himself from the
affliction of seeing her in so sad a condition, after having taken a very
affectionate leave of her, he entreated she would suffer them to carry
her into her chamber, which they accordingly did. But all these
incisions being not yet enough to make him die, he commanded Statius
Anneus, his physician, to give him a draught of poison, which had not
much better effect; for by reason of the weakness and coldness of his
limbs, it could not arrive at his heart. Wherefore they were forced to
superadd a very hot bath, and then, feeling his end approach, whilst he
had breath he continued excellent discourses upon the subject of his
present condition, which the secretaries wrote down so long as they could
hear his voice, and his last words were long after in high honour and
esteem amongst men, and it is a great loss to us that they have not come
down to our times. Then, feeling the last pangs of death, with the
bloody water of the bath he bathed his head, saying: "This water I
dedicate to Jupiter the deliverer." Nero, being presently informed of
all this, fearing lest the death of Paulina, who was one of the best-born
ladies of Rome, and against whom he had no particular unkindness, should
turn to his reproach, sent orders in all haste to bind up her wounds,
which her attendants did without her knowledge, she being already half
dead, and without all manner of sense. Thus, though she lived contrary
to her own design, it was very honourably, and befitting her own virtue,
her pale complexion ever after manifesting how much life had run from her

These are my three very true stories, which I find as entertaining and as
tragic as any of those we make out of our own heads wherewith to amuse
the common people; and I wonder that they who are addicted to such
relations, do not rather cull out ten thousand very fine stories, which
are to be found in books, that would save them the trouble of invention,
and be more useful and diverting; and he who would make a whole and
connected body of them would need to add nothing of his own, but the
connection only, as it were the solder of another metal; and might by
this means embody a great many true events of all sorts, disposing and
diversifying them according as the beauty of the work should require,
after the same manner, almost, as Ovid has made up his Metamorphoses of
the infinite number of various fables.

In the last couple, this is, moreover, worthy of consideration, that
Paulina voluntarily offered to lose her life for the love of her husband,
and that her husband had formerly also forborne to die for the love of
her. We may think there is no just counterpoise in this exchange; but,
according to his stoical humour, I fancy he thought he had done as much
for her, in prolonging his life upon her account, as if he had died for
her. In one of his letters to Lucilius, after he has given him to
understand that, being seized with an ague in Rome, he presently took
coach to go to a house he had in the country, contrary to his wife's
opinion, who would have him stay, and that he had told her that the ague
he was seized with was not a fever of the body but of the place, it
follows thus: "She let me go," says he, "giving me a strict charge of my
health. Now I, who know that her life is involved in mine, begin to make
much of myself, that I may preserve her. And I lose the privilege my age
has given me, of being more constant and resolute in many things, when I
call to mind that in this old fellow there is a young girl who is
interested in his health. And since I cannot persuade her to love me
more courageously, she makes me more solicitously love myself: for we
must allow something to honest affections, and, sometimes, though
occasions importune us to the contrary, we must call back life, even
though it be with torment: we must hold the soul fast in our teeth, since
the rule of living, amongst good men, is not so long as they please, but
as long as they ought. He that loves not his wife nor his friend so well
as to prolong his life for them, but will obstinately die, is too
delicate and too effeminate: the soul must impose this upon itself, when
the utility of our friends so requires; we must sometimes lend ourselves
to our friends, and when we would die for ourselves must break that
resolution for them. 'Tis a testimony of grandeur of courage to return
to life for the consideration of another, as many excellent persons have
done: and 'tis a mark of singular good nature to preserve old age (of
which the greatest convenience is the indifference as to its duration,
and a more stout and disdainful use of life), when a man perceives that
this office is pleasing, agreeable, and useful to some person by whom he
is very much beloved. And a man reaps by it a very pleasing reward; for
what can be more delightful than to be so dear to his wife, as upon her
account he shall become dearer to himself? Thus has my Paulina loaded me
not only with her fears, but my own; it has not been sufficient to
consider how resolutely I could die, but I have also considered how
irresolutely she would bear my death. I am enforced to live, and
sometimes to live in magnanimity." These are his own words, as excellent
as they everywhere are.



If I should be asked my choice among all the men who have come to my
knowledge, I should make answer, that methinks I find three more
excellent than all the rest.

One of them Homer: not that Aristotle and Varro, for example, were not,
peradventure, as learned as he; nor that possibly Virgil was not equal to
him in his own art, which I leave to be determined by such as know them
both. I who, for my part, understand but one of them, can only say this,
according to my poor talent, that I do not believe the Muses themselves
could ever go beyond the Roman:

"Tale facit carmen docta testudine, quale
Cynthius impositis temperat articulis:"

["He plays on his learned lute a verse such as Cynthian Apollo
modulates with his imposed fingers."--Propertius, ii. 34, 79.]

and yet in this judgment we are not to forget that it is chiefly from
Homer that Virgil derives his excellence, that he is guide and teacher;
and that one touch of the Iliad has supplied him with body and matter out
of which to compose his great and divine AEneid. I do not reckon upon
that, but mix several other circumstances that render to me this poet
admirable, even as it were above human condition. And, in truth, I often
wonder that he who has produced, and, by his authority, given reputation
in the world to so many deities, was not deified himself. Being blind
and poor, living before the sciences were reduced into rule and certain
observation, he was so well acquainted with them, that all those who have
since taken upon them to establish governments, to carry on wars, and to
write either of religion or philosophy, of what sect soever, or of the
arts, have made use of him as of a most perfect instructor in the
knowledge of all things, and of his books as of a treasury of all sorts
of learning:

"Qui, quid sit pulcrum, quid turpe, quid utile, quid non,
Planius ac melius Chrysippo et Crantore dicit:"

[Who tells us what is good, what evil, what useful, what not, more
clearly and better than Chrysippus and Crantor?"
--Horace, Ep., i. 2, 3.]

and as this other says,

"A quo, ceu fonte perenni,
Vatum Pieriis ora rigantur aquis"

["From which, as from a perennial spring, the lips of the poets
are moistened by Pierian waters."--Ovid, Amoy., iii. 9, 25.]

and the other,

"Adde Heliconiadum comites, quorum unus Homerus
Sceptra potitus;"

["Add the companions of the Muses, whose sceptre Homer has solely
obtained."--Lucretius, iii. 1050.]

and the other:

"Cujusque ex ore profusos
Omnis posteritas latices in carmina duxit,
Amnemque in tenues ausa est deducere rivos.
Unius foecunda bonis."

["From whose mouth all posterity has drawn out copious streams of
verse, and has made bold to turn the mighty river into its little
rivulets, fertile in the property of one man."
--Manilius, Astyon., ii. 8.]

'Tis contrary to the order of nature that he has made the most excellent
production that can possibly be; for the ordinary birth of things is
imperfect; they thrive and gather strength by growing, whereas he
rendered the infancy of poesy and several other sciences mature, perfect,
and accomplished at first. And for this reason he may be called the
first and the last of the poets, according to the fine testimony
antiquity has left us of him, "that as there was none before him whom he
could imitate, so there has been none since that could imitate him."
His words, according to Aristotle, are the only words that have motion
and action, the only substantial words. Alexander the Great, having
found a rich cabinet amongst Darius' spoils, gave order it should be
reserved for him to keep his Homer in, saying: that he was the best and
most faithful counsellor he had in his military affairs. For the same
reason it was that Cleomenes, the son of Anaxandridas, said that he was
the poet of the Lacedaemonians, for that he was an excellent master for
the discipline of war. This singular and particular commendation is also
left of him in the judgment of Plutarch, that he is the only author in
the world that never glutted nor disgusted his readers, presenting
himself always another thing, and always flourishing in some new grace.
That wanton Alcibiades, having asked one, who pretended to learning, for
a book of Homer, gave him a box of the ear because he had none, which he
thought as scandalous as we should if we found one of our priests without
a Breviary. Xenophanes complained one day to Hiero, the tyrant of
Syracuse, that he was so poor he had not wherewithal to maintain two
servants. "What!" replied he, "Homer, who was much poorer than thou
art, keeps above ten thousand, though he is dead. What did Panaetius
leave unsaid when he called Plato the Homer of the philosophers? Besides
what glory can be compared to his? Nothing is so frequent in men's
mouths as his name and works, nothing so known and received as Troy,
Helen, and the war about her, when perhaps there was never any such
thing. Our children are still called by names that he invented above
three thousand years ago; who does not know Hector and Achilles? Not
only some particular families, but most nations also seek their origin in
his inventions. Mohammed, the second of that name, emperor of the Turks,
writing to our Pope Pius II., "I am astonished," says he, "that the
Italians should appear against me, considering that we have our common
descent from the Trojans, and that it concerns me as well as it does them
to revenge the blood of Hector upon the Greeks, whom they countenance
against me." Is it not a noble farce wherein kings, republics, and
emperors have so many ages played their parts, and to which the vast
universe serves for a theatre? Seven Grecian cities contended for his
birth, so much honour even his obscurity helped him to!

"Smyrna, Rhodos, Colophon, Salamis, Chios, Argos, Athenm."

The other is Alexander the Great. For whoever will consider the age at
which he began his enterprises, the small means by which he effected so
glorious a design, the authority he obtained in such mere youth with the
greatest and most experienced captains of the world, by whom he was
followed, the extraordinary favour wherewith fortune embraced and
favoured so many hazardous, not to say rash, exploits,

"Impellens quicquid sibi summa petenti
Obstaret, gaudensque viam fecisse ruins;"

["Bearing down all who sought to withstand him, and pleased
to force his way by ruin."--Lucan, i. 149.]

that greatness, to have at the age of three-and-thirty years, passed
victorious through the whole habitable earth, and in half a life to have
attained to the utmost of what human nature can do; so that you cannot
imagine its just duration and the continuation of his increase in valour
and fortune, up to a due maturity of age, but that you must withal
imagine something more than man: to have made so many royal branches to
spring from his soldiers, leaving the world, at his death, divided
amongst four successors, simple captains of his army, whose posterity so
long continued and maintained that vast possession; so many excellent
virtues as he was master of, justice, temperance, liberality, truth in
his word, love towards his own people, and humanity towards those he
overcame; for his manners, in general, seem in truth incapable of any
manner of reproach, although some particular and extraordinary actions of
his may fall under censure. But it is impossible to carry on such great
things as he did within the strict rules of justice; such as he are to be
judged in gross by the main end of their actions. The ruin of Thebes and
Persepolis, the murder of Menander and of Ephistion's physician, the
massacre of so many Persian prisoners at one time, of a troop of Indian
soldiers not without prejudice to his word, and of the Cossians, so much
as to the very children, are indeed sallies that are not well to be
excused. For, as to Clytus, the fault was more than redeemed; and that
very action, as much as any other whatever, manifests the goodness of his
nature, a nature most excellently formed to goodness; and it was
ingeniously said of him, that he had his virtues from Nature, his vices
from Fortune. As to his being a little given to bragging, a little too
impatient of hearing himself ill-spoken of, and as to those mangers,
arms, and bits he caused to be strewed in the Indies, all those little
vanities, methinks, may very well be allowed to his youth, and the
prodigious prosperity of his fortune. And who will consider withal his
so many military virtues, his diligence, foresight, patience, discipline,
subtlety, magnanimity, resolution, and good fortune, wherein (though we
had not had the authority of Hannibal to assure us) he was the first of
men, the admirable beauty and symmetry of his person, even to a miracle,
his majestic port and awful mien, in a face so young, ruddy, and radiant:

"Qualis, ubi Oceani perfusus Lucifer unda,
Quem Venus ante alios astrorum diligit ignes,
Extulit os sacrum coelo, tenebrasque resolvit;"

["As when, bathed in the waves of Ocean, Lucifer, whom Venus loves
beyond the other stars, has displayed his sacred countenance to the
heaven, and disperses the darkness"--AEneid, iii. 589.]

the excellence of his knowledge and capacity; the duration and grandeur
of his glory, pure, clean, without spot or envy, and that long after his
death it was a religious belief that his very medals brought good fortune
to all who carried them about them; and that more kings and princes have
written his actions than other historians have written the actions of any
other king or prince whatever; and that to this very day the Mohammedans,
who despise all other histories, admit of and honour his alone, by a
special privilege: whoever, I say, will seriously consider these
particulars, will confess that, all these things put together, I had
reason to prefer him before Caesar himself, who alone could make me
doubtful in my choice: and it cannot be denied that there was more of his
own in his exploits, and more of fortune in those of Alexander. They
were in many things equal, and peradventure Caesar had some greater
qualities they were two fires, or two torrents, overrunning the world by
several ways;

"Ac velut immissi diversis partibus ignes
Arentem in silvam, et virgulta sonantia lauro
Aut ubi decursu rapido de montibus altis
Dant sonitum spumosi amnes, et in aequora currunt,
Quisque suum populatus iter:"

["And as fires applied in several parts to a dry wood and crackling
shrubs of laurel, or as with impetuous fall from the steep
mountains, foaming torrents pour down to the ocean, each clearing a
destructive course."--AEneid, xii. 521.]

but though Caesar's ambition had been more moderate, it would still be so
unhappy, having the ruin of his country and universal mischief to the
world for its abominable object, that, all things raked together and put
into the balance, I must needs incline to Alexander's side.

The third and in my opinion the most excellent, is Epaminondas. Of glory
he has not near so much as the other two (which, for that matter, is but
a part of the substance of the thing): of valour and resolution, not of
that sort which is pushed on by ambition, but of that which wisdom and
reason can plant in a regular soul, he had all that could be imagined.
Of this virtue of his, he has, in my idea, given as ample proof as
Alexander himself or Caesar: for although his warlike exploits were
neither so frequent nor so full, they were yet, if duly considered in all
their circumstances, as important, as bravely fought, and carried with
them as manifest testimony of valour and military conduct, as those of
any whatever. The Greeks have done him the honour, without
contradiction, to pronounce him the greatest man of their nation; and to
be the first of Greece, is easily to be the first of the world. As to
his knowledge, we have this ancient judgment of him, "That never any man
knew so much, and spake so little as he";--[Plutarch, On the Demon of
Socrates, c. 23.]--for he was of the Pythagorean sect; but when he did
speak, never any man spake better; an excellent orator, and of powerful
persuasion. But as to his manners and conscience, he infinitely
surpassed all men who ever undertook the management of affairs; for in
this one thing, which ought chiefly to be considered, which alone truly
denotes us for what we are, and which alone I make counterbalance all the
rest put together, he comes not short of any philosopher whatever, not
even of Socrates himself. Innocence, in this man, is a quality peculiar,
sovereign, constant, uniform, incorruptible, compared with which, it
appears in Alexander subject to something else subaltern, uncertain,
variable, effeminate, and fortuitous.

Antiquity has judged that in thoroughly sifting all the other great
captains, there is found in every one some peculiar quality that
illustrates his name: in this man only there is a full and equal virtue
throughout, that leaves nothing to be wished for in him, whether in
private or public employment, whether in peace or war; whether to live
gloriously and grandly, and to die: I do not know any form or fortune of
man that I so much honour and love.

'Tis true that I look upon his obstinate poverty, as it is set out by his
best friends, as a little too scrupulous and nice; and this is the only
feature, though high in itself and well worthy of admiration, that I find
so rugged as not to desire to imitate, to the degree it was in him.

Scipio AEmilianus alone, could one attribute to him as brave and
magnificent an end, and as profound and universal a knowledge, might be
put into the other scale of the balance. Oh, what an injury has time
done me to deprive me of the sight of two of the most noble lives which,
by the common consent of all the world, one of the greatest of the
Greeks, and the other of the Romans, were in all Plutarch. What a
matter! what a workman!

For a man that was no saint, but, as we say, a gentleman, of civilian and
ordinary manners, and of a moderate ambition, the richest life that I
know, and full of the richest and most to be desired parts, all things
considered, is, in my opinion, that of Alcibiades.

But as to what concerns Epaminondas, I will here, for the example of an
excessive goodness, add some of his opinions: he declared, that the
greatest satisfaction he ever had in his whole life, was the contentment
he gave his father and mother by his victory at Leuctra; wherein his
deference is great, preferring their pleasure before his own, so dust and
so full of so glorious an action. He did not think it lawful, even to
restore the liberty of his country, to kill a man without knowing a
cause: which made him so cold in the enterprise of his companion
Pelopidas for the relief of Thebes. He was also of opinion that men in
battle ought to avoid the encounter of a friend who was on the contrary
side, and to spare him. And his humanity, even towards his enemies
themselves, having rendered him suspected to the Boeotians, for that,
after he had miraculously forced the Lacedaemonians to open to him the
pass which they had undertaken to defend at the entrance into the Morea,
near Corinth, he contented himself with having charged through them,
without pursuing them to the utmost, he had his commission of general
taken from him, very honourably upon such an account, and for the shame
it was to them upon necessity afterwards to restore him to his command,
and so to manifest how much upon him depended their safety and honour;
victory like a shadow attending him wherever he went; and indeed the
prosperity of his country, as being from him derived, died with him.



This faggoting up of so many divers pieces is so done that I never set
pen to paper but when I have too much idle time, and never anywhere but
at home; so that it is compiled after divers interruptions and intervals,
occasions keeping me sometimes many months elsewhere. As to the rest,
I never correct my first by any second conceptions; I, peradventure, may
alter a word or so, but 'tis only to vary the phrase, and not to destroy
my former meaning. I have a mind to represent the progress of my
humours, and that every one may see each piece as it came from the forge.
I could wish I had begun sooner, and had taken more notice of the course
of my mutations. A servant of mine whom I employed to transcribe for me,
thought he had got a prize by stealing several pieces from me, wherewith
he was best pleased; but it is my comfort that he will be no greater a
gainer than I shall be a loser by the theft. I am grown older by seven
or eight years since I began; nor has it been without same new
acquisition: I have, in that time, by the liberality of years, been
acquainted with the stone: their commerce and long converse do not well
pass away without some such inconvenience. I could have been glad that
of other infirmities age has to present long-lived men withal, it had
chosen some one that would have been more welcome to me, for it could not
possibly have laid upon me a disease for which, even from my infancy, I
have had so great a horror; and it is, in truth, of all the accidents of
old age, that of which I have ever been most afraid. I have often
thought with myself that I went on too far, and that in so long a voyage
I should at last run myself into some disadvantage; I perceived, and have
often enough declared, that it was time to depart, and that life should
be cut off in the sound and living part, according to the surgeon's rule
in amputations; and that nature made him pay very strict usury who did
not in due time pay the principal. And yet I was so far from being
ready, that in the eighteen months' time or thereabout that I have been
in this uneasy condition, I have so inured myself to it as to be content
to live on in it; and have found wherein to comfort myself, and to hope:
so much are men enslaved to their miserable being, that there is no
condition so wretched they will not accept, provided they may live! Hear

"Debilem facito manu,
Debilem pede, coxa,
Lubricos quate dentes;
Vita dum superest, bene est."

["Cripple my hand, foot, hip; shake out my loose teeth: while
there's life, 'tis well."--Apud Seneca, Ep., 101.]

And Tamerlane, with a foolish humanity, palliated the fantastic cruelty
he exercised upon lepers, when he put all he could hear of to death, to
deliver them, as he pretended, from the painful life they lived. For
there was not one of them who would not rather have been thrice a leper
than be not. And Antisthenes the Stoic, being very sick, and crying out,
"Who will deliver me from these evils?" Diogenes, who had come to visit
him, "This," said he, presenting him a knife, "soon enough, if thou
wilt."--"I do not mean from my life," he replied, "but from my
sufferings." The sufferings that only attack the mind, I am not so
sensible of as most other men; and this partly out of judgment, for the
world looks upon several things as dreadful or to be avoided at the
expense of life, that are almost indifferent to me: partly, through a
dull and insensible complexion I have in accidents which do not point-
blank hit me; and that insensibility I look upon as one of the best parts
of my natural condition; but essential and corporeal pains I am very
sensible of. And yet, having long since foreseen them, though with a
sight weak and delicate and softened with the long and happy health and
quiet that God has been pleased to give me the greatest part of my time,
I had in my imagination fancied them so insupportable, that, in truth, I
was more afraid than I have since found I had cause: by which I am still
more fortified in this belief, that most of the faculties of the soul, as
we employ them, more trouble the repose of life than they are any way
useful to it.

I am in conflict with the worst, the most sudden, the most painful, the
most mortal, and the most irremediable of all diseases; I have already
had the trial of five or six very long and very painful fits; and yet I
either flatter myself, or there is even in this state what is very well
to be endured by a man who has his soul free from the fear of death, and
of the menaces, conclusions, and consequences which physic is ever
thundering in our ears; but the effect even of pain itself is not so
sharp and intolerable as to put a man of understanding into rage and
despair. I have at least this advantage by my stone, that what I could
not hitherto prevail upon myself to resolve upon, as to reconciling and
acquainting myself with death, it will perfect; for the more it presses
upon and importunes me, I shall be so much the less afraid to die. I had
already gone so far as only to love life for life's sake, but my pain
will dissolve this intelligence; and God grant that in the end, should
the sharpness of it be once greater than I shall be able to bear, it does
not throw me into the other no less vicious extreme to desire and wish to

"Summum nec metuas diem, nec optes:"

["Neither to wish, nor fear to die." (Or:)
"Thou shouldest neither fear nor desire the last day."
--Martial, x. 7.]

they are two passions to be feared; but the one has its remedy much
nearer at hand than the other.

As to the rest, I have always found the precept that so rigorously
enjoins a resolute countenance and disdainful and indifferent comportment
in the toleration of infirmities to be ceremonial. Why should
philosophy, which only has respect to life and effects, trouble itself
about these external appearances? Let us leave that care to actors and
masters of rhetoric, who set so great a value upon our gestures. Let her
allow this vocal frailty to disease, if it be neither cordial nor
stomachic, and permit the ordinary ways of expressing grief by sighs,
sobs, palpitations, and turning pale, that nature has put out of our
power; provided the courage be undaunted, and the tones not expressive
of despair, let her be satisfied. What matter the wringing of our hands,
if we do not wring our thoughts? She forms us for ourselves, not for
others; to be, not to seem; let her be satisfied with governing our
understanding, which she has taken upon her the care of instructing;
that, in the fury of the colic, she maintain the soul in a condition to
know itself, and to follow its accustomed way, contending with, and
enduring, not meanly truckling under pain; moved and heated, not subdued
and conquered, in the contention; capable of discourse and other things,
to a certain degree. In such extreme accidents, 'tis cruelty to require
so exact a composedness. 'Tis no great matter that we make a wry face,
if the mind plays its part well: if the body find itself relieved by
complaining let it complain: if agitation ease it, let it tumble and toss
at pleasure; if it seem to find the disease evaporate (as some physicians
hold that it helps women in delivery) in making loud outcries, or if this
do but divert its torments, let it roar as it will. Let us not command
this voice to sally, but stop it not. Epicurus, not only forgives his
sage for crying out in torments, but advises him to it:

"Pugiles etiam, quum feriunt, in jactandis caestibus
ingemiscunt, quia profundenda voce omne corpus intenditur,
venitque plaga vehementior."

["Boxers also, when they strike, groan in the act, because with the
strength of voice the whole body is carried, and the blow comes with
the greater vehemence."--Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., ii. 23.]

We have enough to do to deal with the disease, without troubling
ourselves with these superfluous rules.

Which I say in excuse of those whom we ordinarily see impatient in the
assaults of this malady; for as to what concerns myself, I have passed it
over hitherto with a little better countenance, and contented myself with
groaning without roaring out; not, nevertheless, that I put any great
constraint upon myself to maintain this exterior decorum, for I make
little account of such an advantage: I allow herein as much as the pain
requires; but either my pains are not so excessive, or I have more than
ordinary patience. I complain, I confess, and am a little impatient in a
very sharp fit, but I do not arrive to such a degree of despair as he who

"Ejulatu, questu, gemitu, fremitibus
Resonando, multum flebiles voces refert:"

["Howling, roaring, groaning with a thousand noises, expressing his
torment in a dismal voice." (Or:) "Wailing, complaining, groaning,
murmuring much avail lugubrious sounds."--Verses of Attius, in his
Phaloctetes, quoted by Cicero, De Finib., ii. 29; Tusc. Quaes.,
ii. 14.]

I try myself in the depth of my suffering, and have always found that I
was in a capacity to speak, think, and give a rational answer as well as
at any other time, but not so firmly, being troubled and interrupted by
the pain. When I am looked upon by my visitors to be in the greatest
torment, and that they therefore forbear to trouble me, I often essay my
own strength, and myself set some discourse on foot, the most remote I
can contrive from my present condition. I can do anything upon a sudden
endeavour, but it must not continue long. Oh, what pity 'tis I have not
the faculty of that dreamer in Cicero, who dreaming he was lying with a
wench, found he had discharged his stone in the sheets. My pains
strangely deaden my appetite that way. In the intervals from this
excessive torment, when my ureters only languish without any great dolor,
I presently feel myself in my wonted state, forasmuch as my soul takes no
other alarm but what is sensible and corporal, which I certainly owe to
the care I have had of preparing myself by meditation against such

Nulla mihi nova nunc facies inopinave surgit;
Omnia praecepi, atque animo mecum ante peregi."

["No new shape of suffering can arise new or unexpected; I have
anticipated all, and acted them over beforehand in my mind."
--AEneid, vi. 103.]

I am, however, a little roughly handled for an apprentice, and with a
sudden and sharp alteration, being fallen in an instant from a very easy
and happy condition of life into the most uneasy and painful that can be
imagined. For besides that it is a disease very much to be feared in
itself, it begins with me after a more sharp and severe manner than it is
used to do with other men. My fits come so thick upon me that I am
scarcely ever at ease; yet I have hitherto kept my mind so upright that,
provided I can still continue it, I find myself in a much better
condition of life than a thousand others, who have no fewer nor other
disease but what they create to themselves for want of meditation.

There is a certain sort of crafty humility that springs from presumption,
as this, for example, that we confess our ignorance in many things, and
are so courteous as to acknowledge that there are in the works of nature
some qualities and conditions that are imperceptible to us, and of which
our understanding cannot discover the means and causes; by this so honest
and conscientious declaration we hope to obtain that people shall also
believe us as to those that we say we do understand. We need not trouble
ourselves to seek out foreign miracles and difficulties; methinks,
amongst the things that we ordinarily see, there are such
incomprehensible wonders as surpass all difficulties of miracles. What a
wonderful thing it is that the drop of seed from which we are produced
should carry in itself the impression not only of the bodily form, but
even of the thoughts and inclinations of our fathers! Where can that
drop of fluid matter contain that infinite number of forms? and how can
they carry on these resemblances with so precarious and irregular a
process that the son shall be like his great-grandfather, the nephew like
his uncle? In the family of Lepidus at Rome there were three, not
successively but by intervals, who were born with the same eye covered
with a cartilage. At Thebes there was a race that carried from their
mother's womb the form of the head of a lance, and he who was not born so
was looked upon as illegitimate. And Aristotle says that in a certain
nation, where the women were in common, they assigned the children to
their fathers by their resemblance.

'Tis to be believed that I derive this infirmity from my father, for he
died wonderfully tormented with a great stone in his bladder; he was
never sensible of his disease till the sixty-seventh year of his age; and
before that had never felt any menace or symptoms of it, either in his
reins, sides, or any other part, and had lived, till then, in a happy,
vigorous state of health, little subject to infirmities, and he continued
seven years after in this disease, dragging on a very painful end of
life. I was born about five-and-twenty years before his disease seized
him, and in the time of his most flourishing and healthful state of body,
his third child in order of birth: where could his propension to this
malady lie lurking all that while? And he being then so far from the
infirmity, how could that small part of his substance wherewith he made
me, carry away so great an impression for its share? and how so
concealed, that till five-and-forty years after, I did not begin to be
sensible of it? being the only one to this hour, amongst so many
brothers and sisters, and all by one mother, that was ever troubled with
it. He that can satisfy me in this point, I will believe him in as many
other miracles as he pleases; always provided that, as their manner is,
he do not give me a doctrine much more intricate and fantastic than the
thing itself for current pay.

Let the physicians a little excuse the liberty I take, for by this same
infusion and fatal insinuation it is that I have received a hatred and
contempt of their doctrine; the antipathy I have against their art is
hereditary. My father lived three-score and fourteen years, my
grandfather sixty-nine, my great-grandfather almost fourscore years,
without ever tasting any sort of physic; and, with them, whatever was not
ordinary diet, was instead of a drug. Physic is grounded upon experience
and examples: so is my opinion. And is not this an express and very
advantageous experience. I do not know that they can find me in all
their records three that were born, bred, and died under the same roof,
who have lived so long by their conduct. They must here of necessity
confess, that if reason be not, fortune at least is on my side, and with
physicians fortune goes a great deal further than reason. Let them not
take me now at a disadvantage; let them not threaten me in the subdued
condition wherein I now am; that were treachery. In truth, I have enough
the better of them by these domestic examples, that they should rest
satisfied. Human things are not usually so constant; it has been two
hundred years, save eighteen, that this trial has lasted, for the first
of them was born in the year 1402: 'tis now, indeed, very good reason
that this experience should begin to fail us. Let them not, therefore,
reproach me with the infirmities under which I now suffer; is it not
enough that I for my part have lived seven-and-forty years in good
health? though it should be the end of my career; 'tis of the longer

My ancestors had an aversion to physic by some occult and natural
instinct; for the very sight of drugs was loathsome to my father. The
Seigneur de Gaviac, my uncle by the father's side, a churchman, and a
valetudinary from his birth, and yet who made that crazy life hold out to
sixty-seven years, being once fallen into a furious fever, it was ordered
by the physicians he should be plainly told that if he would not make use
of help (for so they call that which is very often an obstacle), he would
infallibly be a dead man. That good man, though terrified with this
dreadful sentence, yet replied, "I am then a dead man." But God soon
after made the prognostic false. The last of the brothers--there were
four of them--and by many years the last, the Sieur de Bussaguet, was the
only one of the family who made use of medicine, by reason, I suppose, of
the concern he had with the other arts, for he was a councillor in the
court of Parliament, and it succeeded so ill with him, that being in
outward appearance of the strongest constitution, he yet died long before
any of the rest, save the Sieur de Saint Michel.

'Tis possible I may have derived this natural antipathy to physic from
them; but had there been no other consideration in the case, I would have
endeavoured to have overcome it; for all these conditions that spring in
us without reason, are vicious; 'tis a kind of disease that we should
wrestle with. It may be I had naturally this propension; but I have
supported and fortified it by arguments and reasons which have
established in me the opinion I am of. For I also hate the consideration
of refusing physic for the nauseous taste.

I should hardly be of that humour who hold health to be worth purchasing
by all the most painful cauteries and incisions that can be applied.
And, with Epicurus, I conceive that pleasures are to be avoided, if
greater pains be the consequence, and pains to be coveted, that will
terminate in greater pleasures. Health is a precious thing, and the only
one, in truth, meriting that a man should lay out, not only his time,
sweat, labour, and goods, but also his life itself to obtain it;
forasmuch as, without it, life is wearisome and injurious to us:
pleasure, wisdom, learning, and virtue, without it, wither away and
vanish; and to the most laboured and solid discourses that philosophy
would imprint in us to the contrary, we need no more but oppose the image
of Plato being struck with an epilepsy or apoplexy; and, in this
presupposition, to defy him to call the rich faculties of his soul to his
assistance. All means that conduce to health can neither be too painful
nor too dear to me. But I have some other appearances that make me
strangely suspect all this merchandise. I do not deny but that there may
be some art in it, that there are not amongst so many works of Nature,
things proper for the conservation of health: that is most certain: I
very well know there are some simples that moisten, and others that dry;
I experimentally know that radishes are windy, and senna-leaves purging;
and several other such experiences I have, as that mutton nourishes me,
and wine warms me: and Solon said "that eating was physic against the
malady hunger." I do not disapprove the use we make of things the earth
produces, nor doubt, in the least, of the power and fertility of Nature,
and of its application to our necessities: I very well see that pikes and
swallows live by her laws; but I mistrust the inventions of our mind, our
knowledge and art, to countenance which, we have abandoned Nature and her
rules, and wherein we keep no bounds nor moderation. As we call the
piling up of the first laws that fall into our hands justice, and their
practice and dispensation very often foolish and very unjust; and as
those who scoff at and accuse it, do not, nevertheless, blame that noble
virtue itself, but only condemn the abuse and profanation of that sacred
title; so in physic I very much honour that glorious name, its
propositions, its promises, so useful for the service of mankind; but the
ordinances it foists upon us, betwixt ourselves, I neither honour nor

In the first place, experience makes me dread it; for amongst all my
acquaintance, I see no people so soon sick, and so long before they are
well, as those who take much physic; their very health is altered and
corrupted by their frequent prescriptions. Physicians are not content to
deal only with the sick, but they will moreover corrupt health itself,
for fear men should at any time escape their authority. Do they not,
from a continual and perfect health, draw the argument of some great
sickness to ensue? I have been sick often enough, and have always found
my sicknesses easy enough to be supported (though I have made trial of
almost all sorts), and as short as those of any other, without their
help, or without swallowing their ill-tasting doses. The health I have
is full and free, without other rule or discipline than my own custom and
pleasure. Every place serves me well enough to stay in, for I need no
other conveniences, when I am sick, than what I must have when I am well.
I never disturb myself that I have no physician, no apothecary, nor any
other assistance, which I see most other sick men more afflicted at than
they are with their disease. What! Do the doctors themselves show us
more felicity and duration in their own lives, that may manifest to us
some apparent effect of their skill?

There is not a nation in the world that has not been many ages without
physic; and these the first ages, that is to say, the best and most
happy; and the tenth part of the world knows nothing of it yet; many
nations are ignorant of it to this day, where men live more healthful and
longer than we do here, and even amongst us the common people live well
enough without it. The Romans were six hundred years before they
received it; and after having made trial of it, banished it from the city
at the instance of Cato the Censor, who made it appear how easy it was to
live without it, having himself lived fourscore and five years, and kept
his wife alive to an extreme old age, not without physic, but without a
physician: for everything that we find to be healthful to life may be
called physic. He kept his family in health, as Plutarch says if I
mistake not, with hare's milk; as Pliny reports, that the Arcadians
cured all manner of diseases with that of a cow; and Herodotus says, the
Lybians generally enjoy rare health, by a custom they have, after their
children are arrived to four years of age, to burn and cauterise the
veins of their head and temples, by which means they cut off all
defluxions of rheum for their whole lives. And the country people of our
province make use of nothing, in all sorts of distempers, but the
strongest wine they can get, mixed with a great deal of saffron and
spice, and always with the same success.

And to say the truth, of all this diversity and confusion of
prescriptions, what other end and effect is there after all, but to purge
the belly? which a thousand ordinary simples will do as well; and I do
not know whether such evacuations be so much to our advantage as they
pretend, and whether nature does not require a residence of her
excrements to a certain proportion, as wine does of its lees to keep it
alive: you often see healthful men fall into vomitings and fluxes of the
belly by some extrinsic accident, and make a great evacuation of
excrements, without any preceding need, or any following benefit, but
rather with hurt to their constitution. 'Tis from the great Plato, that
I lately learned, that of three sorts of motions which are natural to us,
purging is the worst, and that no man, unless he be a fool, ought to take
anything to that purpose but in the extremest necessity. Men disturb and
irritate the disease by contrary oppositions; it must be the way of
living that must gently dissolve, and bring it to its end. The violent
gripings and contest betwixt the drug and the disease are ever to our
loss, since the combat is fought within ourselves, and that the drug is
an assistant not to be trusted, being in its own nature an enemy to our
health, and by trouble having only access into our condition. Let it
alone a little; the general order of things that takes care of fleas and
moles, also takes care of men, if they will have the same patience that
fleas and moles have, to leave it to itself. 'Tis to much purpose we cry
out "Bihore,"--[A term used by the Languedoc waggoners to hasten their
horses]--'tis a way to make us hoarse, but not to hasten the matter.
'Tis a proud and uncompassionate order: our fears, our despair displease
and stop it from, instead of inviting it to, our relief; it owes its
course to the disease, as well as to health; and will not suffer itself
to be corrupted in favour of the one to the prejudice of the other's
right, for it would then fall into disorder. Let us, in God's name,
follow it; it leads those that follow, and those who will not follow, it
drags along, both their fury and physic together. Order a purge for your
brain, it will there be much better employed than upon your stomach.

One asking a Lacedaemonian what had made him live so long, he made
answer, "the ignorance of physic"; and the Emperor Adrian continually
exclaimed as he was dying, that the crowd of physicians had killed him.
A bad wrestler turned physician: "Courage," says Diogenes to him; "thou
hast done well, for now thou will throw those who have formerly thrown
thee." But they have this advantage, according to Nicocles, that the sun
gives light to their success and the earth covers their failures. And,
besides, they have a very advantageous way of making use of all sorts of
events: for what fortune, nature, or any other cause (of which the number
is infinite), products of good and healthful in us, it is the privilege
of physic to attribute to itself; all the happy successes that happen to
the patient, must be thence derived; the accidents that have cured me,
and a thousand others, who do not employ physicians, physicians usurp to
themselves: and as to ill accidents, they either absolutely disown them,
in laying the fault upon the patient, by such frivolous reasons as they
are never at a loss for; as "he lay with his arms out of bed," or "he was
disturbed with the rattling of a coach:"

"Rhedarum transitus arcto
Vicorum inflexu:"

["The passage of the wheels in the narrow
turning of the street"--Juvenal, iii. 236.]

or "somebody had set open the casement," or "he had lain upon his left
side," or "he had some disagreeable fancies in his head": in sum, a word,
a dream, or a look, seems to them excuse sufficient wherewith to palliate
their own errors: or, if they so please, they even make use of our
growing worse, and do their business in this way which can never fail
them: which is by buzzing us in the ear, when the disease is more
inflamed by their medicaments, that it had been much worse but for those
remedies; he, whom from an ordinary cold they have thrown into a double
tertian-ague, had but for them been in a continued fever. They do not
much care what mischief they do, since it turns to their own profit.
In earnest, they have reason to require a very favourable belief from
their patients; and, indeed, it ought to be a very easy one, to swallow
things so hard to be believed. Plato said very well, that physicians
were the only men who might lie at pleasure, since our health depends
upon the vanity and falsity of their promises.

AEsop, a most excellent author, and of whom few men discover all the
graces, pleasantly represents to us the tyrannical authority physicians
usurp over poor creatures, weakened and subdued by sickness and fear,
when he tells us, that a sick person, being asked by his physician what
operation he found of the potion he had given him: "I have sweated very
much," says the sick man. "That's good," says the physician. Another
time, having asked how he felt himself after his physic: "I have been
very cold, and have had a great shivering upon me," said he. "That is
good," replied the physician. After the third potion, he asked him again
how he did: "Why, I find myself swollen and puffed up," said he, "as if
I had a dropsy."--"That is very well," said the physician. One of his
servants coming presently after to inquire how he felt himself, "Truly,
friend," said he, "with being too well I am about to die."

There was a more just law in Egypt, by which the physician, for the three
first days, was to take charge of his patient at the patient's own risk
and cost; but, those three days being past, it was to be at his own. For
what reason is it that their patron, AEsculapius, should be struck with
thunder for restoring Hippolitus from death to life:

"Nam Pater omnipotens, aliquem indignatus ab umbris
Mortalem infernis ad lumina surgere vitae,
Ipse repertorem medicinae talis, et artis
Fulmine Phoebigenam Stygias detrusit ad undas;"

["Then the Almighty Father, offended that any mortal should rise to
the light of life from the infernal shades, struck the son of
Phoebus with his forked lightning to the Stygian lake."
--AEneid, vii. 770.]

and his followers be pardoned, who send so many souls from life to death?
A physician, boasting to Nicocles that his art was of great authority:
"It is so, indeed," said Nicocles, "that can with impunity kill so many

As to what remains, had I been of their counsel, I would have rendered my
discipline more sacred and mysterious; they begun well, but they have not
ended so. It was a good beginning to make gods and demons the authors of
their science, and to have used a peculiar way of speaking and writing,
notwithstanding that philosophy concludes it folly to persuade a man to
his own good by an unintelligible way: "Ut si quis medicus imperet, ut

"Terrigenam, herbigradam, domiportam, sanguine cassam."

["Describing it by the epithets of an animal trailing with its slime
over the herbage, without blood or bones, and carrying its house
upon its back, meaning simply a snail."--Coste]

It was a good rule in their art, and that accompanies all other vain,
fantastic, and supernatural arts, that the patient's belief should
prepossess them with good hope and assurance of their effects and
operation: a rule they hold to that degree, as to maintain that the most
inexpert and ignorant physician is more proper for a patient who has
confidence in him, than the most learned and experienced whom he is not
so acquainted with. Nay, even the very choice of most of their drugs is
in some sort mysterious and divine; the left foot of a tortoise, the
urine of a lizard, the dung of an elephant, the liver of a mole, blood
drawn from under the right wing of a white pigeon; and for us who have
the stone (so scornfully they use us in our miseries) the excrement of
rats beaten to powder, and such like trash and fooleries which rather
carry a face of magical enchantment than of any solid science. I omit
the odd number of their pills, the destination of certain days and feasts
of the year, the superstition of gathering their simples at certain
hours, and that so austere and very wise countenance and carriage which
Pliny himself so much derides. But they have, as I said, failed in that
they have not added to this fine beginning the making their meetings and
consultations more religious and secret, where no profane person should
have admission, no more than in the secret ceremonies of AEsculapius; for
by the reason of this it falls out that their irresolution, the weakness
of their arguments, divinations and foundations, the sharpness of their
disputes, full of hatred, jealousy, and self-consideration, coming to be
discovered by every one, a man must be marvellously blind not to see that
he runs a very great hazard in their hands. Who ever saw one physician
approve of another's prescription, without taking something away, or
adding something to it? by which they sufficiently betray their tricks,
and make it manifest to us that they therein more consider their own
reputation, and consequently their profit, than their patient's interest.
He was a much wiser man of their tribe, who of old gave it as a rule,
that only one physician should undertake a sick person; for if he do
nothing to purpose, one single man's default can bring no great scandal
upon the art of medicine; and, on the contrary, the glory will be great
if he happen to have success; whereas, when there are many, they at every
turn bring a disrepute upon their calling, forasmuch as they oftener do
hurt than good. They ought to be satisfied with the perpetual
disagreement which is found in the opinions of the principal masters and
ancient authors of this science, which is only known to men well read,
without discovering to the vulgar the controversies and various judgments
which they still nourish and continue amongst themselves.

Will you have one example of the ancient controversy in physic?
Herophilus lodges the original cause of all diseases in the humours;
Erasistratus, in the blood of the arteries; Asclepiades, in the invisible
atoms of the pores; Alcmaeon, in the exuberance or defect of our bodily
strength; Diocles, in the inequality of the elements of which the body is
composed, and in the quality of the air we breathe; Strato, in the
abundance, crudity, and corruption of the nourishment we take; and
Hippocrates lodges it in the spirits. There is a certain friend of
theirs,--[Celsus, Preface to the First Book.]--whom they know better
than I, who declares upon this subject, "that the most important science
in practice amongst us, as that which is intrusted with our health and
conservation, is, by ill luck, the most uncertain, the most perplexed,
and agitated with the greatest mutations." There is no great danger in
our mistaking the height of the sun, or the fraction of some astronomical
supputation; but here, where our whole being is concerned, 'tis not
wisdom to abandon ourselves to the mercy of the agitation of so many
contrary winds.

Before the Peloponnesian war there was no great talk of this science.
Hippocrates brought it into repute; whatever he established, Chrysippus
overthrew; after that, Erasistratus, Aristotle's grandson, overthrew what
Chrysippus had written; after these, the Empirics started up, who took a
quite contrary way to the ancients in the management of this art; when
the credit of these began a little to decay, Herophilus set another sort
of practice on foot, which Asclepiades in turn stood up against, and
overthrew; then, in their turn, the opinions first of Themiso, and then
of Musa, and after that those of Vectius Valens, a physician famous
through the intelligence he had with Messalina, came in vogue; the empire
of physic in Nero's time was established in Thessalus, who abolished and
condemned all that had been held till his time; this man's doctrine was
refuted by Crinas of Marseilles, who first brought all medicinal
operations under the Ephemerides and motions of the stars, and reduced
eating, sleeping, and drinking to hours that were most pleasing to
Mercury and the moon; his authority was soon after supplanted by
Charinus, a physician of the same city of Marseilles, a man who not only
controverted all the ancient methods of physic, but moreover the usage of
hot baths, that had been generally and for so many ages in common use; he
made men bathe in cold water, even in winter, and plunged his sick
patients in the natural waters of streams. No Roman till Pliny's time
had ever vouchsafed to practise physic; that office was only performed
by Greeks and foreigners, as 'tis now amongst us French, by those who
sputter Latin; for, as a very great physician says, we do not easily
accept the medicine we understand, no more than we do the drugs we
ourselves gather. If the nations whence we fetch our guaiacum,
sarsaparilla, and China wood, have physicians, how great a value must we
imagine, by the same recommendation of strangeness, rarity, and dear
purchase, do they set upon our cabbage and parsley? for who would dare
to contemn things so far fetched, and sought out at the hazard of so long
and dangerous a voyage?

Since these ancient mutations in physic, there have been infinite others
down to our own times, and, for the most part, mutations entire and
universal, as those, for example, produced by Paracelsus, Fioravanti, and
Argentier; for they, as I am told, not only alter one recipe, but the
whole contexture and rules of the body of physic, accusing all others of
ignorance and imposition who have practised before them. At this rate,
in what a condition the poor patient must be, I leave you to judge.

If we were even assured that, when they make a mistake, that mistake of
theirs would do us no harm, though it did us no good, it were a
reasonable bargain to venture the making ourselves better without any
danger of being made worse. AEsop tells a story, that one who had bought
a Morisco slave, believing that his black complexion had arrived by
accident and the ill usage of his former master, caused him to enter with
great care into a course of baths and potions: it happened that the Moor
was nothing amended in his tawny complexion, but he wholly lost his
former health. How often do we see physicians impute the death of their
patients to one another? I remember that some years ago there was an
epidemical disease, very dangerous and for the most part mortal, that
raged in the towns about us: the storm being over which had swept away an
infinite number of men, one of the most famous physicians of all the
country, presently after published a book upon that subject, wherein,
upon better thoughts, he confesses that the letting blood in that disease
was the principal cause of so many mishaps. Moreover, their authors hold
that there is no physic that has not something hurtful in it. And if
even those of the best operation in some measure offend us, what must
those do that are totally misapplied? For my own part, though there were
nothing else in the case, I am of opinion, that to those who loathe the
taste of physic, it must needs be a dangerous and prejudicial endeavour
to force it down at so incommodious a time, and with so much aversion,
and believe that it marvellously distempers a sick person at a time when
he has so much need of repose. And more over, if we but consider the
occasions upon which they usually ground the cause of our diseases, they
are so light and nice, that I thence conclude a very little error in the
dispensation of their drugs may do a great deal of mischief. Now, if the
mistake of a physician be so dangerous, we are in but a scurvy condition;
for it is almost impossible but he must often fall into those mistakes:
he had need of too many parts, considerations, and circumstances, rightly
to level his design: he must know the sick person's complexion, his
temperament, his humours, inclinations, actions, nay, his very thoughts
and imaginations; he must be assured of the external circumstances, of
the nature of the place, the quality of the air and season, the situation
of the planets, and their influences: he must know in the disease, the
causes, prognostics, affections, and critical days; in the drugs, the
weight, the power of working, the country, figure, age, and dispensation,
and he must know how rightly to proportion and mix them together, to
beget a just and perfect symmetry; wherein if there be the least error,
if amongst so many springs there be but any one out of order, 'tis enough
to destroy us. God knows with how great difficulty most of these things
are to be understood: for (for example) how shall the physician find out
the true sign of the disease, every disease being capable of an infinite
number of indications? How many doubts and controversies have they
amongst themselves upon the interpretation of urines? otherwise, whence
should the continual debates we see amongst them about the knowledge of
the disease proceed? how could we excuse the error they so oft fall into,
of taking fox for marten? In the diseases I have had, though there were
ever so little difficulty in the case, I never found three of one
opinion: which I instance, because I love to introduce examples wherein I
am myself concerned.

A gentleman at Paris was lately cut for the stone by order of the
physicians, in whose bladder, being accordingly so cut, there was found
no more stone than in the palm of his hand; and in the same place a
bishop, who was my particular friend, having been earnestly pressed by
the majority of the physicians whom he consulted, to suffer himself to be
cut, to which also, upon their word, I used my interest to persuade him,
when he was dead and opened, it appeared that he had no malady but in the
kidneys. They are least excusable for any error in this disease, by
reason that it is in some sort palpable; and 'tis thence that I conclude
surgery to be much more certain, by reason that it sees and feels what it
does, and so goes less upon conjecture; whereas the physicians have no
'speculum matricis', by which to examine our brains, lungs, and liver.

Even the very promises of physic are incredible in themselves; for,
having to provide against divers and contrary accidents that often
afflict us at one and the same time, and that have almost a necessary
relation, as the heat of the liver and the coldness of the stomach, they
will needs persuade us, that of their ingredients one will heat the
stomach and the other will cool the liver: one has its commission to go
directly to the kidneys, nay, even to the bladder, without scattering its
operations by the way, and is to retain its power and virtue through all
those turns and meanders, even to the place to the service of which it is
designed, by its own occult property this will dry-the brain; that will
moisten the lungs. Of all this bundle of things having mixed up a
potion, is it not a kind of madness to imagine or to hope that these
differing virtues should separate themselves from one another in this
mixture and confusion, to perform so many various errands? I should very
much fear that they would either lose or change their tickets, and
disturb one another's quarters. And who can imagine but that, in this
liquid confusion, these faculties must corrupt, confound, and spoil one
another? And is not the danger still more when the making up of this
medicine is entrusted to the skill and fidelity of still another, to
whose mercy we again abandon our lives?

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