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The Essays of Montaigne, Complete by Michel de Montaigne

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live beloved and honoured? They have and know but too much for this:
they need do no more but rouse and heat a little the faculties they have
of their own. When I see them tampering with rhetoric, law, logic, and
other drugs, so improper and unnecessary for their business, I begin to
suspect that the men who inspire them with such fancies, do it that they
may govern them upon that account; for what other excuse can I contrive?
It is enough that they can, without our instruction, compose the graces
of their eyes to gaiety, severity, sweetness, and season a denial with
asperity, suspense, or favour: they need not another to interpret what
we speak for their service; with this knowledge, they command with a
switch, and rule both the tutors and the schools. But if, nevertheless,
it angers them to give place to us in anything whatever, and will, out of
curiosity, have their share in books, poetry is a diversion proper for
them; 'tis a wanton, subtle, dissembling, and prating art, all pleasure
and all show, like themselves. They may also abstract several
commodities from history. In philosophy, out of the moral part of it,
they may select such instructions as will teach them to judge of our
humours and conditions, to defend themselves from our treacheries, to
regulate the ardour of their own desires, to manage their liberty, to
lengthen the pleasures of life, and gently to bear the inconstancy of a
lover, the rudeness of a husband; and the importunity of years, wrinkles,
and the like. This is the utmost of what I would allow them in the

There are some particular natures that are private and retired: my
natural way is proper for communication, and apt to lay me open; I am all
without and in sight, born for society and friendship. The solitude that
I love myself and recommend to others, is chiefly no other than to
withdraw my thoughts and affections into myself; to restrain and check,
not my steps, but my own cares and desires, resigning all foreign
solicitude, and mortally avoiding servitude and obligation, and not so
much the crowd of men as the crowd of business. Local solitude, to say
the truth, rather gives me more room and sets me more at large; I more
readily throw myself upon affairs of state and the world when I am alone.
At the Louvre and in the bustle of the court, I fold myself within my own
skin; the crowd thrusts me upon myself; and I never entertain myself so
wantonly, with so much licence, or so especially, as in places of respect
and ceremonious prudence: our follies do not make me laugh, it is our
wisdom which does. I am naturally no enemy to a court, life; I have
therein passed a part of my own, and am of a humour cheerfully to
frequent great company, provided it be by intervals and at my own time:
but this softness of judgment whereof I speak ties me perforce to
solitude. Even at home, amidst a numerous family, and in a house
sufficiently frequented, I see people enough, but rarely such with whom I
delight to converse; and I there reserve both for myself and others an
unusual liberty: there is in my house no such thing as ceremony,
ushering, or waiting upon people down to the coach, and such other
troublesome ceremonies as our courtesy enjoins (O the servile and
importunate custom!). Every one there governs himself according to his
own method; let who will speak his thoughts, I sit mute, meditating and
shut up in my closet, without any offence to my guests.

The men whose society and familiarity I covet are those they call sincere
and able men; and the image of these makes me disrelish the rest. It is,
if rightly taken, the rarest of our forms, and a form that we chiefly owe
to nature. The end of this commerce is simply privacy, frequentation and
conference, the exercise of souls, without other fruit. In our
discourse, all subjects are alike to me; let there be neither weight, nor
depth, 'tis all one: there is yet grace and pertinency; all there is
tinted with a mature and constant judgment, and mixed with goodness,
freedom, gaiety, and friendship. 'Tis not only in talking of the affairs
of kings and state that our wits discover their force and beauty, but
every whit as much in private conferences. I understand my men even by
their silence and smiles; and better discover them, perhaps, at table
than in the council. Hippomachus said, very well, "that he could know
the good wrestlers by only seeing them walk in the street." If learning
please to step into our talk, it shall not be rejected, not magisterial,
imperious, and importunate, as-it commonly is, but suffragan and docile
itself; we there only seek to pass away our time; when we have a mind to
be instructed and preached to, we will go seek this in its throne; please
let it humble itself to us for the nonce; for, useful and profitable as
it is, I imagine that, at need, we may manage well enough without it, and
do our business without its assistance. A well-descended soul, and
practised in the conversation of men, will of herself render herself
sufficiently agreeable; art is nothing but the counterpart and register
of what such souls produce.

The conversation also of beautiful and honourable women is for me a sweet

"Nam nos quoque oculos eruditos habemus."

["For we also have eyes that are versed in the matter."
--Cicero, Paradox, v. 2.]

If the soul has not therein so much to enjoy, as in the first the bodily
senses, which participate more of this, bring it to a proportion next to,
though, in my opinion, not equal to the other. But 'tis a commerce
wherein a man must stand a little upon his guard, especially those, where
the body can do much, as in me. I there scalded myself in my youth, and
suffered all the torments that poets say befall those who precipitate
themselves into love without order and judgment. It is true that that
whipping has made me wiser since:

"Quicumque Argolica de classe Capharea fugit,
Semper ab Euboicis vela retorquet aquis."

["Whoever of the Grecian fleet has escaped the Capharean rocks, ever
takes care to steer from the Euboean sea."--Ovid, Trist., i. i, 83.]

'Tis folly to fix all a man's thoughts upon it, and to engage in it with
a furious and indiscreet affection; but, on the other hand, to engage
there without love and without inclination, like comedians, to play a
common part, without putting anything to it of his own but words, is
indeed to provide for his safety, but, withal, after as cowardly a manner
as he who should abandon his honour, profit, or pleasure for fear of
danger. For it is certain that from such a practice, they who set it on
foot can expect no fruit that can please or satisfy a noble soul. A man
must have, in good earnest, desired that which he, in good earnest,
expects to have a pleasure in enjoying; I say, though fortune should
unjustly favour their dissimulation; which often falls out, because there
is none of the sex, let her be as ugly as the devil, who does not think
herself well worthy to be beloved, and who does not prefer herself before
other women, either for her youth, the colour of her hair, or her
graceful motion (for there are no more women universally ugly, than there
are women universally beautiful, and such of the Brahmin virgins as have
nothing else to recommend them, the people being assembled by the common
crier to that effect, come out into the market-place to expose their
matrimonial parts to public view, to try if these at least are not of
temptation sufficient to get them a husband). Consequently, there is not
one who does not easily suffer herself to be overcome by the first vow
that they make to serve her. Now from this common and ordinary treachery
of the men of the present day, that must fall out which we already
experimentally see, either that they rally together, and separate
themselves by themselves to evade us, or else form their discipline by
the example we give them, play their parts of the farce as we do ours,
and give themselves up to the sport, without passion, care, or love;

"Neque afl'ectui suo, aut alieno, obnoxiae;"

["Neither amenable to their own affections, nor those of others."
--Tacitus, Annal., xiii. 45.]

believing, according to the persuasion of Lysias in Plato, that they may
with more utility and convenience surrender themselves up to us the less
we love them; where it will fall out, as in comedies, that the people
will have as much pleasure or more than the comedians. For my part,
I no more acknowledge a Venus without a Cupid than, a mother without
issue: they are things that mutully lend and owe their essence to one
another. Thus this cheat recoils upon him who is guilty of it; it does
not cost him much, indeed, but he also gets little or nothing by it.
They who have made Venus a goddess have taken notice that her principal
beauty was incorporeal and spiritual; but the Venus whom these people
hunt after is not so much as human, nor indeed brutal; the very beasts
will not accept it so gross and so earthly; we see that imagination and
desire often heat and incite them before the body does; we see in both
the one sex and the other, they have in the herd choice and particular
election in their affections, and that they have amongst themselves a
long commerce of good will. Even those to whom old age denies the
practice of their desire, still tremble, neigh, and twitter for love; we
see them, before the act, full of hope and ardour, and when the body has
played its game, yet please themselves with the sweet remembrance of the
past delight; some that swell with pride after they have performed, and
others who, tired and sated, still by vociferation express a triumphing
joy. He who has nothing to do but only to discharge his body of a
natural necessity, need not trouble others with so curious preparations:
it is not meat for a gross, coarse appetite.

As one who does not desire that men should think me better than I am,
I will here say this as to the errors of my youth. Not only from the
danger of impairing my health (and yet I could not be so careful but that
I had two light mischances), but moreover upon the account of contempt,
I have seldom given myself up to common and mercenary embraces: I would
heighten the pleasure by the difficulty, by desire, and a certain kind of
glory, and was of Tiberius's mind, who in his amours was as much taken
with modesty and birth as any other quality, and of the courtesan Flora's
humour, who never lent herself to less than a dictator, a consul, or a
censor, and took pleasure in the dignity of her lovers. Doubtless pearls
and gold tissue, titles and train, add something to it.

As to the rest, I had a great esteem for wit, provided the person was not
exceptionable; for, to confess the truth, if the one or the other of
these two attractions must of necessity be wanting, I should rather have
quitted that of the understanding, that has its use in better things;
but in the subject of love, a subject principally relating to the senses
of seeing and touching, something may be done without the graces of the
mind: without the graces of the body, nothing. Beauty is the true
prerogative of women, and so peculiarly their own, that ours, though
naturally requiring another sort of feature, is never in its lustre but
when youthful and beardless, a sort of confused image of theirs. 'Tis
said that such as serve the Grand Signior upon the account of beauty, who
are an infinite number, are, at the latest, dismissed at two-and-twenty
years of age. Reason, prudence, and the offices of friendship are better
found amongst men, and therefore it is that they govern the affairs of
the world.

These two engagements are fortuitous, and depending upon others; the one
is troublesome by its rarity, the other withers with age, so that they
could never have been sufficient for the business of my life. That of
books, which is the third, is much more certain, and much more our own.
It yields all other advantages to the two first, but has the constancy
and facility of its service for its own share. It goes side by side with
me in my whole course, and everywhere is assisting me: it comforts me in
old age and solitude; it eases me of a troublesome weight of idleness,
and delivers me at all hours from company that I dislike: it blunts the
point of griefs, if they are not extreme, and have not got an entire
possession of my soul. To divert myself from a troublesome fancy, 'tis
but to run to my books; they presently fix me to them and drive the other
out of my thoughts, and do not mutiny at seeing that I have only recourse
to them for want of other more real, natural, and lively commodities;
they always receive me with the same kindness. He may well go a foot,
they say, who leads his horse in his hand; and our James, King of Naples
and Sicily, who, handsome, young and healthful, caused himself to be
carried about on a barrow, extended upon a pitiful mattress in a poor
robe of grey cloth, and a cap of the same, yet attended withal by a royal
train, litters, led horses of all sorts, gentlemen and officers, did yet
herein represent a tender and unsteady authority: "The sick man has not
to complain who has his cure in his sleeve." In the experience and
practice of this maxim, which is a very true one, consists all the
benefit I reap from books. As a matter of fact, I make no more use of
them, as it were, than those who know them not. I enjoy them as misers
do their money, in knowing that I may enjoy them when I please: my mind
is satisfied with this right of possession. I never travel without
books, either in peace or war; and yet sometimes I pass over several
days, and sometimes months, without looking on them. I will read by-and-
by, say I to myself, or to-morrow, or when I please; and in the interim,
time steals away without any inconvenience. For it is not to be imagined
to what degree I please myself and rest content in this consideration,
that I have them by me to divert myself with them when I am so disposed,
and to call to mind what a refreshment they are to my life. 'Tis the
best viaticum I have yet found out for this human journey, and I very
much pity those men of understanding who are unprovided of it. I the
rather accept of any other sort of diversion, how light soever, because
this can never fail me.

When at home, I a little more frequent my library, whence I overlook at
once all the concerns of my family. 'Tis situated at the entrance into
my house, and I thence see under me my garden, court, and base-court, and
almost all parts of the building. There I turn over now one book, and
then another, on various subjects, without method or design. One while
I meditate, another I record and dictate, as I walk to and fro, such
whimsies as these I present to you here. 'Tis in the third storey of a
tower, of which the ground-room is my chapel, the second storey a chamber
with a withdrawing-room and closet, where I often lie, to be more
retired; and above is a great wardrobe. This formerly was the most
useless part of the house. I there pass away both most of the days of my
life and most of the hours of those days. In the night I am never there.
There is by the side of it a cabinet handsome enough, with a fireplace
very commodiously contrived, and plenty of light; and were I not more
afraid of the trouble than the expense--the trouble that frights me from
all business--I could very easily adjoin on either side, and on the same
floor, a gallery of an hundred paces long and twelve broad, having found
walls already raised for some other design to the requisite height.
Every place of retirement requires a walk: my thoughts sleep if I sit
still: my fancy does not go by itself, as when my legs move it: and all
those who study without a book are in the same condition. The figure of
my study is round, and there is no more open wall than what is taken up
by my table and my chair, so that the remaining parts of the circle
present me a view of all my books at once, ranged upon five rows of
shelves round about me. It has three noble and free prospects, and is
sixteen paces in diameter. I am not so continually there in winter; for
my house is built upon an eminence, as its name imports, and no part of
it is so much exposed to the wind and weather as this, which pleases me
the better, as being of more difficult access and a little remote, as
well upon the account of exercise, as also being there more retired from
the crowd. 'Tis there that I am in my kingdom, and there I endeavour to
make myself an absolute monarch, and to sequester this one corner from
all society, conjugal, filial, and civil; elsewhere I have but verbal
authority only, and of a confused essence. That man, in my opinion, is
very miserable, who has not at home where to be by himself, where to
entertain himself alone, or to conceal himself from others. Ambition
sufficiently plagues her proselytes, by keeping them always in show, like
the statue of a public, square:

"Magna servitus est magna fortuna."

["A great fortune is a great slavery."
--Seneca, De Consol. ad. Polyb., c. 26.]

They cannot so much as be private in the watercloset. I have thought
nothing so severe in the austerity of life that our monks affect, as what
I have observed in some of their communities; namely, by rule, to have a
perpetual society of place, and numerous persons present in every action
whatever; and think it much more supportable to be always alone than
never to be so.

If any one shall tell me that it is to undervalue the Muses to make use
of them only for sport and to pass away the time, I shall tell him, that
he does not know so well as I the value of the sport, the pleasure, and
the pastime; I can hardly forbear to add that all other end is
ridiculous. I live from day to day, and, with reverence be it spoken, I
only live for myself; there all my designs terminate. I studied, when
young, for ostentation; since, to make myself a little wiser; and now for
my diversion, but never for any profit. A vain and prodigal humour I had
after this sort of furniture, not only for the supplying my own need,
but, moreover, for ornament and outward show, I have since quite cured
myself of.

Books have many charming qualities to such as know how to choose them;
but every good has its ill; 'tis a pleasure that is not pure and clean,
no more than others: it has its inconveniences, and great ones too. The
soul indeed is exercised therein; but the body, the care of which I must
withal never neglect, remains in the meantime without action, and grows
heavy and sombre. I know no excess more prejudicial to me, nor more to
be avoided in this my declining age.

These have been my three favourite and particular occupations; I speak
not of those I owe to the world by civil obligation.



I was once employed in consoling a lady truly afflicted. Most of their
mournings are artificial and ceremonious:

"Uberibus semper lacrymis, semperque paratis,
In statione subatque expectantibus illam,
Quo jubeat manare modo."

["A woman has ever a fountain of tears ready to gush up whenever
she requires to make use of them."--Juvenal, vi. 272.]

A man goes the wrong way to work when he opposes this passion; for
opposition does but irritate and make them more obstinate in sorrow; the
evil is exasperated by discussion. We see, in common discourse, that
what I have indifferently let fall from me, if any one takes it up to
controvert it, I justify it with the best arguments I have; and much more
a thing wherein I had a real interest. And besides, in so doing you
enter roughly upon your operation; whereas the first addresses of a
physician to his patient should be gracious, gay, and pleasing; never did
any ill-looking, morose physician do anything to purpose. On the
contrary, then, a man should, at the first approaches, favour their grief
and express some approbation of their sorrow. By this intelligence you
obtain credit to proceed further, and by a facile and insensible
gradation fall into discourses more solid and proper for their cure.
I, whose aim it was principally to gull the company who had their eyes
fixed upon me, took it into my head only to palliate the disease. And
indeed I have found by experience that I have an unlucky hand in
persuading. My arguments are either too sharp and dry, or pressed too
roughly, or not home enough. After I had some time applied myself to her
grief, I did not attempt to cure her by strong and lively reasons, either
because I had them not at hand, or because I thought to do my business
better another way; neither did I make choice of any of those methods of
consolation which philosophy prescribes: that what we complain of is no
evil, according to Cleanthes; that it is a light evil, according to the
Peripatetics; that to bemoan one's self is an action neither commendable
nor just, according to Chrysippus; nor this of Epicurus, more suitable to
my way, of shifting the thoughts from afflicting things to those that are
pleasing; nor making a bundle of all these together, to make use of upon
occasion, according to Cicero; but, gently bending my discourse, and by
little and little digressing, sometimes to subjects nearer, and sometimes
more remote from the purpose, according as she was more intent on what I
said, I imperceptibly led her from that sorrowful thought, and kept her
calm and in good-humour whilst I continued there. I herein made use of
diversion. They who succeeded me in the same service did not, for all
that, find any amendment in her, for I had not gone to the root.

I, peradventure, may elsewhere have glanced upon some sort of public
diversions; and the practice of military ones, which Pericles made use of
in the Peloponnesian war, and a thousand others in other places, to
withdraw the adverse forces from their own countries, is too frequent in
history. It was an ingenious evasion whereby Monseigneur d'Hempricourt
saved both himself and others in the city of Liege, into which the Duke
of Burgundy, who kept it besieged, had made him enter to execute the
articles of their promised surrender; the people, being assembled by
night to consider of it, began to mutiny against the agreement, and
several of them resolved to fall upon the commissioners, whom they had in
their power; he, feeling the gusts of this first popular storm, who were
coming to rush into his lodgings, suddenly sent out to them two of the
inhabitants of the city (of whom he had some with him) with new and
milder terms to be proposed in their council, which he had then and there
contrived for his need: These two diverted the first tempest, carrying
back the enraged rabble to the town-hall to hear and consider of what
they had to say. The deliberation was short; a second storm arose as
violent as the other, whereupon he despatched four new mediators of the
same quality to meet them, protesting that he had now better conditions
to present them with, and such as would give them absolute satisfaction,
by which means the tumult was once more appeased, and the people again
turned back to the conclave. In fine, by this dispensation of
amusements, one after another, diverting their fury and dissipating it in
frivolous consultations, he laid it at last asleep till the day appeared,
which was his principal end.

This other story that follows is also of the same category. Atalanta, a
virgin of excelling beauty and of wonderful disposition of body, to
disengage herself from the crowd of a thousand suitors who sought her in
marriage, made this proposition, that she would accept of him for her
husband who should equal her in running, upon condition that they who
failed should lose their lives. There were enough who thought the prize
very well worth the hazard, and who suffered the cruel penalty of the
contract. Hippomenes, about to make trial after the rest, made his
address to the goddess of love, imploring her assistance; and she,
granting his request, gave him three golden apples, and instructed him
how to use them. The race beginning, as Hippomenes perceived his
mistress to press hard up to him; he, as it were by chance, let fall one
of these apples; the maid, taken with the beauty of it, failed not to
step out of her way to pick it up:

"Obstupuit Virgo, nitidique cupidine pomi
Declinat cursus, aurumque volubile tollit."

["The virgin, astonished and attracted by the glittering apple,
stops her career, and seizes the rolling gold."
--Ovid, Metam., x. 666.]

He did the same, when he saw his time, by the second and the third, till
by so diverting her, and making her lose so much ground, he won the race.
When physicians cannot stop a catarrh, they divert and turn it into some
other less dangerous part. And I find also that this is the most
ordinary practice for the diseases of the mind:

"Abducendus etiam nonnunquam animus est ad alia studia,
sollicitudines, curas, negotia: loci denique mutatione,
tanquam aegroti non convalescentes, saepe curandus est."

["The mind is sometimes to be diverted to other studies, thoughts,
cares, business: in fine, by change of place, as where sick persons
do not become convalescent."--Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., iv. 35.]

'Tis to little effect directly to jostle a man's infirmities; we neither
make him sustain nor repel the attack; we only make him decline and evade

This other lesson is too high and too difficult: 'tis for men of the
first form of knowledge purely to insist upon the thing, to consider and
judge it; it appertains to one sole Socrates to meet death with an
ordinary countenance, to grow acquainted with it, and to sport with it;
he seeks no consolation out of the thing itself; dying appears to him a
natural and indifferent accident; 'tis there that he fixes his sight and
resolution, without looking elsewhere. The disciples of Hegesias, who
starved themselves to death, animated thereunto by his fine lectures, and
in such numbers that King Ptolemy ordered he should be forbidden to
entertain his followers with such homicidal doctrines, did not consider
death in itself, neither did they judge of it; it was not there they
fixed their thoughts; they ran towards and aimed at a new being.

The poor wretches whom we see brought upon the scaffold, full of ardent
devotion, and therein, as much as in them lies, employing all their
senses, their ears in hearing the instructions given them, their eyes and
hands lifted up towards heaven, their voices in loud prayers, with a
vehement and continual emotion, do doubtless things very commendable and
proper for such a necessity: we ought to commend them for their devotion,
but not properly for their constancy; they shun the encounter, they
divert their thoughts from the consideration of death, as children are
amused with some toy or other when the surgeon is going to give them a
prick with his lancet. I have seen some, who, casting their eyes upon
the dreadful instruments of death round about, have fainted, and
furiously turned their thoughts another way; such as are to pass a
formidable precipice are advised either to shut their eyes or to look
another way.

Subrius Flavius, being by Nero's command to be put to death, and by the
hand of Niger, both of them great captains, when they lead him to the
place appointed for his execution, seeing the grave that Niger had caused
to be hollowed to put him into ill-made: "Neither is this," said he,
turning to the soldiers who guarded him, "according to military
discipline." And to Niger, who exhorted him to keep his head firm: "Do
but thou strike as firmly," said he. And he very well foresaw what would
follow when he said so; for Niger's arm so trembled that he had several
blows at his head before he could cut it off. This man seems to have had
his thoughts rightly fixed upon the subject.

He who dies in a battle, with his sword in his hand, does not then think
of death; he feels or considers it not; the ardour of the fight diverts
his thought another way. A worthy man of my acquaintance, falling as he
was fighting a duel, and feeling himself nailed to the earth by nine or
ten thrusts of his enemy, every one present called to him to think of his
conscience; but he has since told me, that though he very well heard what
they said, it nothing moved him, and that he never thought of anything
but how to disengage and revenge himself. He afterwards killed his man
in that very duel. He who brought to L. Silanus the sentence of death,
did him a very great kindness, in that, having received his answer, that
he was well prepared to die, but not by base hands, he ran upon him with
his soldiers to force him, and as he, unarmed as he was, obstinately
defended himself with his fists and feet, he made him lose his life in
the contest, by that means dissipating and diverting in a sudden and
furious rage the painful apprehension of the lingering death to which he
was designed.

We always think of something else; either the hope of a better life
comforts and supports us, or the hope of our children's worth, or the
future glory of our name, or the leaving behind the evils of this life,
or the vengeance that threatens those who are the causes of our death,
administers consolation to us:

"Spero equidem mediis, si quid pia numina possunt,
Supplicia hausurum scopulis, et nomine Dido
Saepe vocaturum . . . .
Audiam; et haec Manes veniet mihi fama sub imos."

["I hope, however, if the pious gods have any power, thou wilt feel
thy punishment amid the rocks, and will call on the name of Dido;
I shall hear, and this report will come to me below."--AEneid, iv.
382, 387.]

Xenophon was sacrificing with a crown upon his head when one came to
bring him news of the death of his son Gryllus, slain in the battle of
Mantinea: at the first surprise of the news, he threw his crown to the
ground; but understanding by the sequel of the narrative the manner of a
most brave and valiant death, he took it up and replaced it upon his
head. Epicurus himself, at his death, consoles himself upon the utility
and eternity of his writings:

"Omnes clari et nobilitati labores fiunt tolerabiles;"

["All labours that are illustrious and famous become supportable."
--Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., ii. 26.]

and the same wound, the same fatigue, is not, says Xenophon, so
intolerable to a general of an army as to a common soldier. Epaminondas
took his death much more cheerfully, having been informed that the
victory remained to him:

"Haec sunt solatia, haec fomenta summorum dolorum;"

["These are sedatives and alleviations to the greatest pains."
--Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., ii. 23.]

and such like circumstances amuse, divert, and turn our thoughts from the
consideration of the thing in itself. Even the arguments of philosophy
are always edging and glancing on the matter, so as scarce to rub its
crust; the greatest man of the first philosophical school, and
superintendent over all the rest, the great Zeno, forms this syllogism
against death: "No evil is honourable; but death is honourable; therefore
death is no evil"; against drunkenness this: " No one commits his secrets
to a drunkard; but every one commits his secrets to a wise man: therefore
a wise man is no drunkard." Is this to hit the white? I love to see
that these great and leading souls cannot rid themselves of our company:
perfect men as they are, they are yet simply men.

Revenge is a sweet passion, of great and natural impression; I discern it
well enough, though I have no manner of experience of it. From this not
long ago to divert a young prince, I did not tell him that he must, to
him that had struck him upon the one cheek, turn the other, upon account
of charity; nor go about to represent to him the tragical events that
poetry attributes to this passion. I left that behind; and I busied
myself to make him relish the beauty of a contrary image: and, by
representing to him what honour, esteem, and goodwill he would acquire by
clemency and good nature, diverted him to ambition. Thus a man is to
deal in such cases.

If your passion of love be too violent, disperse it, say they, and they
say true; for I have often tried it with advantage: break it into several
desires, of which let one be regent, if you will, over the rest; but,
lest it should tyrannise and domineer over you, weaken and protract, by
dividing and diverting it:

"Cum morosa vago singultiet inguine vena,"

["When you are tormented with fierce desire, satisfy it with the
first person that presents herself."--Persius, Sat., vi. 73.]

"Conjicito humorem collectum in corpora quaeque,"

[Lucretius, vi. 1062, to the like effect.]

and provide for it in time, lest it prove troublesome to deal with, when
it has once seized you:

"Si non prima novis conturbes vulnera plagis,
Volgivagaque vagus venere ante recentia cures."

["Unless you cure old wounds by new."-Lucretius, iv. 1064.]

I was once wounded with a vehement displeasure, and withal, more just
than vehement; I might peradventure have lost myself in it, if I had
merely trusted to my own strength. Having need of a powerful diversion
to disengage me, by art and study I became amorous, wherein I was
assisted by my youth: love relieved and rescued me from the evil wherein
friendship had engaged me. 'Tis in everything else the same; a violent
imagination hath seized me: I find it a nearer way to change than to
subdue it: I depute, if not one contrary, yet another at least, in its
place. Variation ever relieves, dissolves, and dissipates.

If I am not able to contend with it, I escape from it; and in avoiding
it, slip out of the way, and make, my doubles; shifting place, business,
and company, I secure myself in the crowd of other thoughts and fancies,
where it loses my trace, and I escape.

After the same manner does nature proceed, by the benefit of inconstancy;
for time, which she has given us for the sovereign physician of our
passions, chiefly works by this, that supplying our imaginations with
other and new affairs, it loosens and dissolves the first apprehension,
how strong soever. A wise man little less sees his friend dying at the
end of five-and-twenty years than on the first year; and according to
Epicurus, no less at all; for he did not attribute any alleviation of
afflictions, either to their foresight or their antiquity; but so many
other thoughts traverse this, that it languishes and tires at last.

Alcibiades, to divert the inclination of common rumours, cut off the ears
and tail of his beautiful dog, and turned him out into the public place,
to the end that, giving the people this occasion to prate, they might let
his other actions alone. I have also seen, for this same end of
diverting the opinions and conjectures of the people and to stop their
mouths, some women conceal their real affections by those that were only
counterfeit; but I have also seen some of them, who in counterfeiting
have suffered themselves to be caught indeed, and who have quitted the
true and original affection for the feigned: and so have learned that
they who find their affections well placed are fools to consent to this
disguise: the public and favourable reception being only reserved for
this pretended lover, one may conclude him a fellow of very little
address and less wit, if he does not in the end put himself into your
place, and you into his; this is precisely to cut out and make up a shoe
for another to draw on.

A little thing will turn and divert us, because a little thing holds us.
We do not much consider subjects in gross and singly; they are little and
superficial circumstances, or images that touch us, and the outward
useless rinds that peel off from the subjects themselves:

"Folliculos ut nunc teretes aestate cicadae

["As husks we find grasshoppers leave behind them in summer."
--Lucretius, v. 801.]

Even Plutarch himself laments his daughter for the little apish tricks of
her infancy.--[Consolation to his Wife on the Death of their Daughter,
c. I.]--The remembrance of a farewell, of the particular grace of an
action, of a last recommendation, afflict us. The sight of Caesar's robe
troubled all Rome, which was more than his death had done. Even the
sound of names ringing in our ears, as "my poor master,"--"my faithful
friend,"--"alas, my dear father," or, "my sweet daughter," afflict us.
When these repetitions annoy me, and that I examine it a little nearer,
I find 'tis no other but a grammatical and word complaint; I am only
wounded with the word and tone, as the exclamations of preachers very
often work more upon their auditory than their reasons, and as the
pitiful eyes of a beast killed for our service; without my weighing or
penetrating meanwhile into the true and solid essence of my subject:

"His se stimulis dolor ipse lacessit."

["With these incitements grief provokes itself."
--Lucretius, ii. 42.]

These are the foundations of our mourning.

The obstinacy of my stone to all remedies especially those in my bladder,
has sometimes thrown me into so long suppressions of urine for three or
four days together, and so near death, that it had been folly to have
hoped to evade it, and it was much rather to have been desired,
considering the miseries I endure in those cruel fits. Oh, that good
emperor, who caused criminals to be tied that they might die for want of
urination, was a great master in the hangman's' science! Finding myself
in this condition, I considered by how many light causes and objects
imagination nourished in me the regret of life; of what atoms the weight
and difficulty of this dislodging was composed in my soul; to how many
idle and frivolous thoughts we give way in so great an affair; a dog, a
horse, a book, a glass, and what not, were considered in my loss; to
others their ambitious hopes, their money, their knowledge, not less
foolish considerations in my opinion than mine. I look upon death
carelessly when I look upon it universally as the end of life. I insult
over it in gross, but in detail it domineers over me: the tears of a
footman, the disposing of my clothes, the touch of a friendly hand, a
common consolation, discourages and softens me. So do the complaints in
tragedies agitate our souls with grief; and the regrets of Dido and
Ariadne, impassionate even those who believe them not in Virgil and
Catullus. 'Tis a symptom of an obstinate and obdurate nature to be
sensible of no emotion, as 'tis reported for a miracle of Polemon; but
then he did not so much as alter his countenance at the biting of a mad
dog that tore away the calf of his leg; and no wisdom proceeds so far as
to conceive so vivid and entire a cause of sorrow, by judgment that it
does not suffer increase by its presence, when the eyes and ears have
their share; parts that are not to be moved but by vain accidents.

Is it reason that even the arts themselves should make an advantage of
our natural stupidity and weakness? An orator, says rhetoric in the
farce of his pleading, shall be moved with the sound of his own voice and
feigned emotions, and suffer himself to be imposed upon by the passion he
represents; he will imprint in himself a true and real grief, by means of
the part he plays, to transmit it to the judges, who are yet less
concerned than he: as they do who are hired at funerals to assist in the
ceremony of sorrow, who sell their tears and mourning by weight and
measure; for although they act in a borrowed form, nevertheless, by
habituating and settling their countenances to the occasion, 'tis most
certain they often are really affected with an actual sorrow. I was one,
amongst several others of his friends, who conveyed the body of Monsieur
de Grammont to Spissons from the siege of La Fere, where he was slain;
I observed that in all places we passed through we filled the people we
met with lamentations and tears by the mere solemn pomp of our convoy,
for the name of the defunct was not there so much as known. Quintilian
reports as to have seen comedians so deeply engaged in a mourning part,
that they still wept in the retiring room, and who, having taken upon
them to stir up passion in another, have themselves espoused it to that
degree as to find themselves infected with it, not only to tears, but,
moreover, with pallor and the comportment of men really overwhelmed with

In a country near our mountains the women play Priest Martin, for as they
augment the regret of the deceased husband by the remembrance of the good
and agreeable qualities he possessed, they also at the same time make a
register of and publish his imperfections; as if of themselves to enter
into some composition, and divert themselves from compassion to disdain.
Yet with much better grace than we, who, when we lose an acquaintance,
strive to give him new and false praises, and to make him quite another
thing when we have lost sight of him than he appeared to us when we did
see him; as if regret were an instructive thing, or as if tears, by
washing our understandings, cleared them. For my part, I henceforth
renounce all favourable testimonies men would give of me, not because I
shall be worthy of them, but because I shall be dead.

Whoever shall ask a man, "What interest have you in this siege?"--
"The interest of example," he will say, "and of the common obedience to
my prince: I pretend to no profit by it; and for glory, I know how small
a part can affect a private man such as I: I have here neither passion
nor quarrel." And yet you shall see him the next day quite another man,
chafing and red with fury, ranged in battle for the assault; 'tis the
glittering of so much steel, the fire and noise of our cannon and drums,
that have infused this new rigidity and fury into his veins. A frivolous
cause, you will say. How a cause? There needs none to agitate the mind;
a mere whimsy without body and without subject will rule and agitate it.
Let me thing of building castles in Spain, my imagination suggests to me
conveniences and pleasures with which my soul is really tickled and
pleased. How often do we torment our mind with anger or sorrow by such
shadows, and engage ourselves in fantastic passions that impair both soul
and body? What astonished, fleeting, confused grimaces does this raving
put our faces into! what sallies and agitations both of members and
voices does it inspire us with! Does it not seem that this individual
man has false visions amid the crowd of others with whom he has to do,
or that he is possessed with some internal demon that persecutes him?
Inquire of yourself where is the object of this mutation? is there
anything but us in nature which inanity sustains, over which it has
power? Cambyses, from having dreamt that his brother should be one day
king of Persia, put him to death: a beloved brother, and one in whom he
had always confided. Aristodemus, king of the Messenians, killed himself
out of a fancy of ill omen, from I know not what howling of his dogs;
and King Midas did as much upon the account of some foolish dream he had
dreamed. 'Tis to prize life at its just value, to abandon it for a
dream. And yet hear the soul triumph over the miseries and weakness of
the body, and that it is exposed to all attacks and alterations; truly,
it has reason so to speak!

"O prima infelix finger ti terra Prometheo!
Ille parum cauti pectoris egit opus
Corpora disponens, mentem non vidit in arte;
Recta animi primum debuit esse via."

["O wretched clay, first formed by Prometheus. In his attempt,
what little wisdom did he shew! In framing bodies, he did not
apply his art to form the mind, which should have been his first
care."--Propertius, iii. 5, 7.]


A little thing will turn and divert us
Abominate that incidental repentance which old age brings
Age imprints more wrinkles in the mind than it does on the face
Always be parading their pedantic science
Am as jealous of my repose as of my authority
Anger and hatred are beyond the duty of justice
Beast of company, as the ancient said, but not of the herd
Books go side by side with me in my whole course
Books have many charming qualities to such as know how to choose
But ill proves the honour and beauty of an action by its utility
Childish ignorance of many very ordinary things
Common consolation, discourages and softens me
Consoles himself upon the utility and eternity of his writings
Deceit maintains and supplies most men's employment
Diverting the opinions and conjectures of the people
Dying appears to him a natural and indifferent accident
Every place of retirement requires a walk
Fault will be theirs for having consulted me
Few men have been admired by their own domestics
Follies do not make me laugh, it is our wisdom which does
Folly to put out their own light and shine by a borrowed lustre
For fear of the laws and report of men
Gently to bear the inconstancy of a lover
Give but the rind of my attention
Grief provokes itself
He may employ his passion, who can make no use of his reason
He may well go a foot, they say, who leads his horse in his hand
I do not consider what it is now, but what it was then
I find no quality so easy to counterfeit as devotion
I lay no great stress upon my opinions; or of others
I look upon death carelessly when I look upon it universally
I receive but little advice, I also give but little
I speak truth, not so much as I would, but as much as I dare
I understand my men even by their silence and smiles
Idleness is to me a very painful labour
Imagne the mighty will not abase themselves so much as to live
In ordinary friendships I am somewhat cold and shy
Leaving nothing unsaid, how home and bitter soever
Library: Tis there that I am in my kingdom
Malice sucks up the greatest part of its own venom
Malicious kind of justice
Miserable kind of remedy, to owe one's health to one's disease!
Miserable, who has not at home where to be by himself
More supportable to be always alone than never to be so.
My fancy does not go by itself, as when my legs move it
My thoughts sleep if I sit still
Nearest to the opinions of those with whom they have to do
No evil is honourable; but death is honourable
No man is free from speaking foolish things
Noise of arms deafened the voice of laws
None of the sex, let her be as ugly as the devil thinks lovable
Obliged to his age for having weaned him from pleasure
Open speaking draws out discoveries, like wine and love
Perfect men as they are, they are yet simply men.
Preachers very often work more upon their auditory than reasons
Public weal requires that men should betray, and lie
Ridiculous desire of riches when we have lost the use of them
Rowers who so advance backward
Season a denial with asperity, suspense, or favour
So that I could have said no worse behind their backs
Socrates: According to what a man can
Studied, when young, for ostentation, now for diversion
Swim in troubled waters without fishing in them
Take a pleasure in being uninterested in other men's affairs
The good opinion of the vulgar is injurious
The sick man has not to complain who has his cure in his sleeve
The virtue of the soul does not consist in flying high
Tis an exact life that maintains itself in due order in private
Tis not the cause, but their interest, that inflames them
Titillation of ill-natured pleasure in seeing others suffer
To be a slave, incessantly to be led by the nose by one's self
Truly he, with a great effort will shortly say a mighty trifle
We do not so much forsake vices as we change them
We much more aptly imagine an artisan upon his close-stool
What more? they lie with their lovers learnedly
What need have they of anything but to live beloved and honoured
Wisdom is folly that does not accommodate itself to the common
You must let yourself down to those with whom you converse


Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazilitt



V. Upon Some verses of Virgil.




By how much profitable thoughts are more full and solid, by so much are
they also more cumbersome and heavy: vice, death, poverty, diseases, are
grave and grievous subjects. A man should have his soul instructed in
the means to sustain and to contend with evils, and in the rules of
living and believing well: and often rouse it up, and exercise it in this
noble study; but in an ordinary soul it must be by intervals and with
moderation; it will otherwise grow besotted if continually intent upon
it. I found it necessary, when I was young, to put myself in mind and
solicit myself to keep me to my duty; gaiety and health do not, they say,
so well agree with those grave and serious meditations: I am at present
in another state: the conditions of age but too much put me in mind, urge
me to wisdom, and preach to me. From the excess of sprightliness I am
fallen into that of severity, which is much more troublesome; and for
that reason I now and then suffer myself purposely a little to run into
disorder, and occupy my mind in wanton and youthful thoughts, wherewith
it diverts itself. I am of late but too reserved, too heavy, and too
ripe; years every day read to me lectures of coldness and temperance.
This body of mine avoids disorder and dreads it; 'tis now my body's turn
to guide my mind towards reformation; it governs, in turn, and more
rudely and imperiously than the other; it lets me not an hour alone,
sleeping or waking, but is always preaching to me death, patience, and
repentance. I now defend myself from temperance, as I have formerly done
from pleasure; it draws me too much back, and even to stupidity. Now I
will be master of myself, to all intents and purposes; wisdom has its
excesses, and has no less need of moderation than folly. Therefore, lest
I should wither, dry up, and overcharge myself with prudence, in the
intervals and truces my infirmities allow me:

"Mens intenta suis ne seit usque malis."

["That my mind may not eternally be intent upon my ills."
--Ovid., Trist., iv. i, 4.]

I gently turn aside, and avert my eyes from the stormy and cloudy sky I
have before me, which, thanks be to God, I regard without fear, but not
without meditation and study, and amuse myself in the remembrance of my
better years:

"Animus quo perdidit, optat,
Atque in praeterita se totus imagine versat."

["The mind wishes to have what it has lost, and throws itself
wholly into memories of the past."--Petronius, c. 128.]

Let childhood look forward and age backward; was not this the
signification of Janus' double face? Let years draw me along if they
will, but it shall be backward; as long as my eyes can discern the
pleasant season expired, I shall now and then turn them that way; though
it escape from my blood and veins, I shall not, however, root the image
of it out of my memory:

"Hoc est
Vivere bis, vita posse priore frui."

["'Tis to live twice to be able to enjoy one's former life again."
--Martial, x. 23, 7.]

Plato ordains that old men should be present at the exercises, dances,
and sports of young people, that they may rejoice in others for the
activity and beauty of body which is no more in themselves, and call to
mind the grace and comeliness of that flourishing age; and wills that in
these recreations the honour of the prize should be given to that young
man who has most diverted the company. I was formerly wont to mark
cloudy and gloomy days as extraordinary; these are now my ordinary days;
the extraordinary are the clear and bright; I am ready to leap for joy,
as for an unwonted favour, when nothing happens me. Let me tickle
myself, I cannot force a poor smile from this wretched body of mine;
I am only merry in conceit and in dreaming, by artifice to divert the
melancholy of age; but, in faith, it requires another remedy than a
dream. A weak contest of art against nature. 'Tis great folly to
lengthen and anticipate human incommodities, as every one does; I had
rather be a less while old than be old before I am really so.' I seize on
even the least occasions of pleasure I can meet. I know very well, by
hearsay, several sorts of prudent pleasures, effectually so, and glorious
to boot; but opinion has not power enough over me to give me an appetite
to them. I covet not so much to have them magnanimous, magnificent, and
pompous, as I do to have them sweet, facile, and ready:

"A natura discedimus; populo nos damus,
nullius rei bono auctori."

["We depart from nature and give ourselves to the people, who
understand nothing."--Seneca, Ep., 99.]

My philosophy is in action, in natural and present practice, very little
in fancy: what if I should take pleasure in playing at cob-nut or to whip
a top!

"Non ponebat enim rumores ante salutem."

["He did not sacrifice his health even to rumours." Ennius, apud
Cicero, De Offic., i. 24]

Pleasure is a quality of very little ambition; it thinks itself rich
enough of itself without any addition of repute; and is best pleased
where most retired. A young man should be whipped who pretends to a
taste in wine and sauces; there was nothing which, at that age, I less
valued or knew: now I begin to learn; I am very much ashamed on't; but
what should I do? I am more ashamed and vexed at the occasions that put
me upon't. 'Tis for us to dote and trifle away the time, and for young
men to stand upon their reputation and nice punctilios; they are going
towards the world and the world's opinion; we are retiring from it:

"Sibi arma, sibi equos, sibi hastas, sibi clavam, sibi pilam,
sibi natationes, et cursus habeant: nobis senibus, ex lusionibus
multis, talos relinquant et tesseras;"

["Let them reserve to themselves arms, horses, spears, clubs,
tennis, swimming, and races; and of all the sports leave to us old
men cards and dice."--Cicero, De Senec., c. 16.]

the laws themselves send us home. I can do no less in favour of this
wretched condition into which my age has thrown me than furnish it with
toys to play withal, as they do children; and, in truth, we become such.
Both wisdom and folly will have enough to do to support and relieve me by
alternate services in this calamity of age:

"Misce stultitiam consiliis brevem."

["Mingle with counsels a brief interval of folly."
--Horace, Od., iv. 12, 27.]

I accordingly avoid the lightest punctures; and those that formerly would
not have rippled the skin, now pierce me through and through: my habit of
body is now so naturally declining to ill:

"In fragili corpore odiosa omnis offensio est;"

["In a fragile body every shock is obnoxious."
--Cicero, De Senec., c. 18.]

"Mensque pati durum sustinet aegra nihil."

["And the infirm mind can bear no difficult exertion."
--Ovid, De Ponto., i. 5, 18.]

I have ever been very susceptibly tender as to offences: I am much more
tender now, and open throughout.

"Et minimae vires frangere quassa valent."

["And little force suffices to break what was cracked before."
--Ovid, De Tris., iii. 11, 22.]

My judgment restrains me from kicking against and murmuring at the
inconveniences that nature orders me to endure, but it does not take away
my feeling them: I, who have no other thing in my aim but to live and be
merry, would run from one end of the world to the other to seek out one
good year of pleasant and jocund tranquillity. A melancholic and dull
tranquillity may be enough for me, but it benumbs and stupefies me; I am
not contented with it. If there be any person, any knot of good company
in country or city, in France or elsewhere, resident or in motion, who
can like my humour, and whose humours I can like, let them but whistle
and I will run and furnish them with essays in flesh and bone:

Seeing it is the privilege of the mind to rescue itself from old age, I
advise mine to it with all the power I have; let it meanwhile continue
green, and flourish if it can, like mistletoe upon a dead tree. But I
fear 'tis a traitor; it has contracted so strict a fraternity with the
body that it leaves me at every turn, to follow that in its need. I
wheedle and deal with it apart in vain; I try in vain to wean it from
this correspondence, to no effect; quote to it Seneca and Catullus, and
ladies and royal masques; if its companion have the stone, it seems to
have it too; even the faculties that are most peculiarly and properly its
own cannot then perform their functions, but manifestly appear stupefied
and asleep; there is no sprightliness in its productions, if there be not
at the same time an equal proportion in the body too.

Our masters are to blame, that in searching out the causes of the
extraordinary emotions of the soul, besides attributing it to a divine
ecstasy, love, martial fierceness, poesy, wine, they have not also
attributed a part to health: a boiling, vigorous, full, and lazy health,
such as formerly the verdure of youth and security, by fits, supplied me
withal; that fire of sprightliness and gaiety darts into the mind flashes
that are lively and bright beyond our natural light, and of all
enthusiasms the most jovial, if not the most extravagant.

It is, then, no wonder if a contrary state stupefy and clog my spirit,
and produce a contrary effect:

"Ad nullum consurgit opus, cum corpore languet;"

["When the mind is languishing, the body is good for nothing."
(Or:) "It rises to no effort; it languishes with the body."
--Pseudo Gallus, i. 125.]

and yet would have me obliged to it for giving, as it wants to make out,
much less consent to this stupidity than is the ordinary case with men of
my age. Let us, at least, whilst we have truce, drive away incommodities
and difficulties from our commerce:

"Dum licet, obducta solvatur fronte senectus:"

["Whilst we can, let us banish old age from the brow."
--Herod., Ep., xiii. 7.]

"Tetrica sunt amcenanda jocularibus."

["Sour things are to be sweetened with those that are pleasant."
--Sidonius Apollin., Ep., i. 9.]

I love a gay and civil wisdom, and fly from all sourness and austerity of
manners, all repellent, mien being suspected by me:

"Tristemque vultus tetrici arrogantiam:"

["The arrogant sadness of a crabbed face."--Auctor Incert.]

"Et habet tristis quoque turba cinaedos."

["And the dull crowd also has its voluptuaries." (Or:)
"An austere countenance sometimes covers a debauched mind."

I am very much of Plato's opinion, who says that facile or harsh humours
are great indications of the good or ill disposition of the mind.
Socrates had a constant countenance, but serene and smiling, not sourly
austere, like the elder Crassus, whom no one ever saw laugh. Virtue is a
pleasant and gay quality.

I know very well that few will quarrel with the licence of my writings,
who have not more to quarrel with in the licence of their own thoughts:
I conform myself well enough to their inclinations, but I offend their
eyes. 'Tis a fine humour to strain the writings of Plato, to wrest his
pretended intercourses with Phaedo, Dion, Stella, and Archeanassa:

"Non pudeat dicere, quod non pudet sentire."

["Let us not be ashamed to speak what we are not ashamed to think."]

I hate a froward and dismal spirit, that slips over all the pleasures of
life and seizes and feeds upon misfortunes; like flies, that cannot stick
to a smooth and polished body, but fix and repose themselves upon craggy
and rough places, and like cupping-glasses, that only suck and attract
bad blood.

As to the rest, I have enjoined myself to dare to say all that I dare to
do; even thoughts that are not to be published, displease me; the worst
of my actions and qualities do not appear to me so evil as I find it evil
and base not to dare to own them. Every one is wary and discreet in
confession, but men ought to be so in action; the boldness of doing ill
is in some sort compensated and restrained by the boldness of confessing
it. Whoever will oblige himself to tell all, should oblige himself to do
nothing that he must be forced to conceal. I wish that this excessive
licence of mine may draw men to freedom, above these timorous and mincing
virtues sprung from our imperfections, and that at the expense of my
immoderation I may reduce them to reason. A man must see and study his
vice to correct it; they who conceal it from others, commonly conceal it
from themselves; and do not think it close enough, if they themselves see
it: they withdraw and disguise it from their own consciences:

"Quare vitia sua nemo confitetur? Quia etiam nunc in
illia est; somnium narrare vigilantis est."

["Why does no man confess his vices? because he is yet in them;
'tis for a waking man to tell his dream."--Seneca, Ep., 53.]

The diseases of the body explain themselves by their increase; we find
that to be the gout which we called a rheum or a strain; the diseases of
the soul, the greater they are, keep, themselves the most obscure;
the most sick are the least sensible; therefore it is that with an
unrelenting hand they most often, in full day, be taken to task, opened,
and torn from the hollow of the heart. As in doing well, so in doing
ill, the mere confession is sometimes satisfaction. Is there any
deformity in doing amiss, that can excuse us from confessing ourselves?
It is so great a pain to me to dissemble, that I evade the trust of
another's secrets, wanting the courage to disavow my knowledge. I can
keep silent, but deny I cannot without the greatest trouble and violence
to myself imaginable to be very secret, a man must be so by nature, not
by obligation. 'Tis little worth, in the service of a prince, to be
secret, if a man be not a liar to boot. If he who asked Thales the
Milesian whether he ought solemnly to deny that he had committed
adultery, had applied himself to me, I should have told him that he ought
not to do it; for I look upon lying as a worse fault than the other.
Thales advised him quite contrary, bidding him swear to shield the
greater fault by the less;

[Montaigne's memory here serves him ill, for the question being put
to Thales, his answer was: "But is not perjury worse than
adultery?"--Diogenes Laertius, in vita, i. 36.]

nevertheless, this counsel was not so much an election as a
multiplication of vice. Upon which let us say this in passing, that we
deal liberally with a man of conscience when we propose to him some
difficulty in counterpoise of vice; but when we shut him up betwixt two
vices, he is put to a hard choice as Origen was either to idolatrise or
to suffer himself to be carnally abused by a great Ethiopian slave they
brought to him. He submitted to the first condition, and wrongly, people
say. Yet those women of our times are not much out, according to their
error, who protest they had rather burden their consciences with ten men
than one mass.

If it be indiscretion so to publish one's errors, yet there is no great
danger that it pass into example and custom; for Ariston said, that the
winds men most fear are those that lay them open. We must tuck up this
ridiculous rag that hides our manners: they send their consciences to the
stews, and keep a starched countenance: even traitors and assassins
espouse the laws of ceremony, and there fix their duty. So that neither
can injustice complain of incivility, nor malice of indiscretion. 'Tis
pity but a bad man should be a fool to boot, and that outward decency
should palliate his vice: this rough-cast only appertains to a good and
sound wall, that deserves to be preserved and whited.

In favour of the Huguenots, who condemn our auricular and private
confession, I confess myself in public, religiously and purely: St.
Augustin, Origeti, and Hippocrates have published the errors of their
opinions; I, moreover, of my manners. I am greedy of making myself
known, and I care not to how many, provided it be truly; or to say
better, I hunger for nothing; but I mortally hate to be mistaken by those
who happen to learn my name. He who does all things for honour and
glory, what can he think to gain by shewing himself to the world in a
vizor, and by concealing his true being from the people? Praise a
humpback for his stature, he has reason to take it for an affront:
if you are a coward, and men commend you for your valour, is it of you
they speak? They take you for another. I should like him as well who
glorifies himself in the compliments and congees that are made him as if
he were master of the company, when he is one of the least of the train.
Archelaus, king of Macedon, walking along the street, somebody threw
water on his head, which they who were with him said he ought to punish:
"Aye, but," said he, "whoever it was, he did not throw the water upon me,
but upon him whom he took me to be." Socrates being told that people
spoke ill of him, "Not at all," said he, "there is nothing, in me of what
they say."

For my part, if any one should recommend me as a good pilot, as being
very modest or very chaste, I should owe him no thanks; and so, whoever
should call me traitor, robber, or drunkard, I should be as little
concerned. They who do not rightly know themselves, may feed themselves
with false approbations; not I, who see myself, and who examine myself
even to my very bowels, and who very well know what is my due. I am
content to be less commended, provided I am better known. I may be
reputed a wise man in such a sort of wisdom as I take to be folly.
I am vexed that my Essays only serve the ladies for a common piece of
furniture, and a piece for the hall; this chapter will make me part of
the water-closet. I love to traffic with them a little in private;
public conversation is without favour and without savour. In farewells,
we oftener than not heat our affections towards the things we take leave
of; I take my last leave of the pleasures of this world: these are our
last embraces.

But let us come to my subject: what has the act of generation, so
natural, so necessary, and so just, done to men, to be a thing not to
be spoken of without blushing, and to be excluded from all serious and
moderate discourse? We boldly pronounce kill, rob, betray, and that we
dare only to do betwixt the teeth. Is it to say, the less we expend in
words, we may pay so much the more in thinking? For it is certain that
the words least in use, most seldom written, and best kept in, are the
best and most generally known: no age, no manners, are ignorant of them,
no more than the word bread they imprint themselves in every one without
being, expressed, without voice, and without figure; and the sex that
most practises it is bound to say least of it. 'Tis an act that we have
placed in the franchise of silence, from which to take it is a crime even
to accuse and judge it; neither dare we reprehend it but by periphrasis
and picture. A great favour to a criminal to be so execrable that
justice thinks it unjust to touch and see him; free, and safe by the
benefit of the severity of his condemnation. Is it not here as in matter
of books, that sell better and become more public for being suppressed?
For my part, I will take Aristotle at his word, who says, that
"bashfulness is an ornament to youth, but a reproach to old age." These
verses are preached in the ancient school, a school that I much more
adhere to than the modern: its virtues appear to me to be greater, and
the vices less:

"Ceux qui par trop fuyant Venus estrivent,
Faillent autant que ceulx qui trop la suyvent."

["They err as much who too much forbear Venus, as they who are too
frequent in her rites."--A translation by Amyot from Plutarch, A
philosopher should converse with princes.]

"Tu, dea, rerum naturam sola gubernas,
Nec sine to quicquam dias in luminis oras
Exoritur, neque fit laetum, nec amabile quidquam."

["Goddess, still thou alone governest nature, nor without thee
anything comes into light; nothing is pleasant, nothing joyful."
--Lucretius, i. 22.]

I know not who could set Pallas and the Muses at variance with Venus, and
make them cold towards Love; but I see no deities so well met, or that
are more indebted to one another. Who will deprive the Muses of amorous
imaginations, will rob them of the best entertainment they have, and of
the noblest matter of their work: and who will make Love lose the
communication and service of poesy, will disarm him of his best weapons:
by this means they charge the god of familiarity and good will, and the
protecting goddesses of humanity and justice, with the vice of
ingratitude and unthankfulness. I have not been so long cashiered from
the state and service of this god, that my memory is not still perfect in
his force and value:

"Agnosco veteris vestigia flammae;"

["I recognise vestiges of my old flame."--AEneid., iv. 23.]

There are yet some remains of heat and emotion after the fever:

"Nec mihi deficiat calor hic, hiemantibus annis!"

["Nor let this heat of youth fail me in my winter years."]

Withered and drooping as I am, I feel yet some remains of the past

"Qual l'alto Egeo, per the Aquilone o Noto
Cessi, the tutto prima il volse et scosse,
Non 's accheta ei pero; ma'l suono e'l moto
Ritien del l'onde anco agitate e grosse:"

["As Aegean seas, when storms be calmed again,
That rolled their tumbling waves with troublous blasts,
Do yet of tempests passed some show retain,
And here and there their swelling billows cast."--Fairfax.]

but from what I understand of it, the force and power of this god are
more lively and animated in the picture of poesy than in their own

"Et versus digitos habet:"

["Verse has fingers."--Altered from Juvenal, iv. 196.]

it has I know not what kind of air, more amorous than love itself. Venus
is not so beautiful, naked, alive, and panting, as she is here in Virgil:

"Dixerat; et niveis hinc atque hinc Diva lacertis
Cunctantem amplexu molli fovet. Ille repente
Accepit solitam flammam; notusque medullas
Intravit calor, et labefacta per ossa cucurrit
Non secus atque olim tonitru, cum rupta corusco
Ignea rima micans percurrit lumine nimbos.
. . . . . . Ea verba loquutus,
Optatos dedit amplexus; placidumque petivit
Conjugis infusus gremio per membra soporem."

["The goddess spoke, and throwing round him her snowy arms in soft
embraces, caresses him hesitating. Suddenly he caught the wonted
flame, and the well-known warmth pierced his marrow, and ran
thrilling through his shaken bones: just as when at times, with
thunder, a stream of fire in lightning flashes shoots across the
skies. Having spoken these words, he gave her the wished embrace,
and in the bosom of his spouse sought placid sleep."
--AEneid, viii. 387 and 392.]

All that I find fault with in considering it is, that he has represented
her a little too passionate for a married Venus; in this discreet kind of
coupling, the appetite is not usually so wanton, but more grave and dull.
Love hates that people should hold of any but itself, and goes but
faintly to work in familiarities derived from any other title, as
marriage is: alliance, dowry, therein sway by reason, as much or more
than grace and beauty. Men do not marry for themselves, let them say
what they will; they marry as much or more for their posterity and
family; the custom and interest of marriage concern our race much more
than us; and therefore it is, that I like to have a match carried on by a
third hand rather than a man's own, and by another man's liking than that
of the party himself; and how much is all this opposite to the
conventions of love? And also it is a kind of incest to employ in this
venerable and sacred alliance the heat and extravagance of amorous
licence, as I think I have said elsewhere. A man, says Aristotle, must
approach his wife with prudence and temperance, lest in dealing too
lasciviously with her, the extreme pleasure make her exceed the bounds of
reason. What he says upon the account of conscience, the physicians say
upon the account of health: "that a pleasure excessively lascivious,
voluptuous, and frequent, makes the seed too hot, and hinders
conception": 'tis said, elsewhere, that to a languishing intercourse, as
this naturally is, to supply it with a due and fruitful heat, a man must
do it but seldom and at appreciable intervals:

"Quo rapiat sitiens Venerem, interiusque recondat."

["But let him thirstily snatch the joys of love and enclose them in
his bosom."--Virg., Georg., iii. 137.]

I see no marriages where the conjugal compatibility sooner fails than
those that we contract upon the account of beauty and amorous desires;
there should be more solid and constant foundation, and they should
proceed with greater circumspection; this furious ardour is worth

They who think they honour marriage by joining love to it, do, methinks,
like those who, to favour virtue, hold that nobility is nothing else but
virtue. They are indeed things that have some relation to one another,
but there is a great deal of difference; we should not so mix their names
and titles; 'tis a wrong to them both so to confound them. Nobility is a
brave quality, and with good reason introduced; but forasmuch as 'tis a
quality depending upon others, and may happen in a vicious person, in
himself nothing, 'tis in estimate infinitely below virtue';

["If nobility be virtue, it loses its quality in all things wherein
not virtuous: and if it be not virtue, 'tis a small matter."
--La Byuyere.]

'tis a virtue, if it be one, that is artificial and apparent, depending
upon time and fortune: various in form, according to the country; living
and mortal; without birth, as the river Nile; genealogical and common;
of succession and similitude; drawn by consequence, and a very weak one.
Knowledge, strength, goodness, beauty, riches, and all other qualities,
fall into communication and commerce, but this is consummated in itself,
and of no use to the service of others. There was proposed to one of our
kings the choice of two candidates for the same command, of whom one was
a gentleman, the other not; he ordered that, without respect to quality,
they should choose him who had the most merit; but where the worth of the
competitors should appear to be entirely equal, they should have respect
to birth: this was justly to give it its rank. A young man unknown,
coming to Antigonus to make suit for his father's command, a valiant man
lately dead: "Friend," said he," in such preferments as these, I have not
so much regard to the nobility of my soldiers as to their prowess."
And, indeed, it ought not to go as it did with the officers of the kings
of Sparta, trumpeters, fiddlers, cooks, the children of whom always
succeeded to their places, how ignorant soever, and were preferred before
the most experienced in the trade. They of Calicut make of nobles a sort
of superhuman persons: they are interdicted marriage and all but warlike
employments: they may have of concubines their fill, and the women as
many lovers, without being jealous of one another; but 'tis a capital and
irremissible crime to couple with a person of meaner conditions than
themselves; and they think themselves polluted, if they have but touched
one in walking along; and supposing their nobility to be marvellously
interested and injured in it, kill such as only approach a little too
near them: insomuch that the ignoble are obliged to cry out as they walk,
like the gondoliers of Venice, at the turnings of streets for fear of
jostling; and the nobles command them to step aside to what part they
please: by that means these avoid what they repute a perpetual ignominy,
those certain death. No time, no favour of the prince, no office, or
virtue, or riches, can ever prevail to make a plebeian become noble: to
which this custom contributes, that marriages are interdicted betwixt
different trades; the daughter of one of the cordwainers' gild is not
permitted to marry a carpenter; and parents are obliged to train up their
children precisely in their own callings, and not put them to any other
trade; by which means the distinction and continuance of their fortunes
are maintained.

A good marriage, if there be any such, rejects the company and conditions
of love, and tries to represent those of friendship. 'Tis a sweet
society of life, full of constancy, trust, and an infinite number of
useful and solid services and mutual obligations; which any woman who has
a right taste:

"Optato quam junxit lumine taeda"--

["Whom the marriage torch has joined with the desired light."
--Catullus, lxiv. 79.]

would be loth to serve her husband in quality of a mistress. If she be
lodged in his affection as a wife, she is more honourably and securely
placed. When he purports to be in love with another, and works all he
can to obtain his desire, let any one but ask him, on which he had rather
a disgrace should fall, his wife or his mistress, which of their
misfortunes would most afflict him, and to which of them he wishes the
most grandeur, the answer to these questions is out of dispute in a sound

And that so few are observed to be happy, is a token of its price and
value. If well formed and rightly taken, 'tis the best of all human
societies; we cannot live without it, and yet we do nothing but decry it.
It happens, as with cages, the birds without despair to get in, and those
within despair of getting out. Socrates being asked, whether it was more
commodious to take a wife or not, "Let a man take which course he will,"
said he; "he will repent." 'Tis a contract to which the common

"Homo homini aut deus aut lupus,"

["Man to man is either a god or a wolf."--Erasmus, Adag.]

may very fitly be applied; there must be a concurrence of many qualities
in the construction. It is found nowadays more convenient for simple and
plebeian souls, where delights, curiosity, and idleness do not so much
disturb it; but extravagant humours, such as mine, that hate all sorts of
obligation and restraint, are not so proper for it:

"Et mihi dulce magis resoluto vivere collo."

["And it is sweet to me to live with a loosened neck."
--Pseudo Gallus, i. 61.]

Might I have had my own will, I would not have married Wisdom herself, if
she would have had me. But 'tis to much purpose to evade it; the common
custom and usance of life will have it so. The most of my actions are
guided by example, not by choice, and yet I did not go to it of my own
voluntary motion; I was led and drawn to it by extrinsic occasions; for
not only things that are incommodious in themselves, but also things
however ugly, vicious, and to be avoided, may be rendered acceptable by
some condition or accident; so unsteady and vain is all human resolution!
and I was persuaded to it, when worse prepared and less tractable than I
am at present, that I have tried what it is: and as great a libertine as
I am taken to be, I have in truth more strictly observed the laws of
marriage, than I either promised or expected. 'Tis in vain to kick, when
a man has once put on his fetters: a man must prudently manage his
liberty; but having once submitted to obligation, he must confine himself
within the laws of common duty, at least, do what he can towards it.
They who engage in this contract, with a design to carry themselves in it
with hatred and contempt, do an unjust and inconvenient thing; and the
fine rule that I hear pass from hand to hand amongst the women, as a
sacred oracle:

["Serve thy husband as thy master, but guard thyself against him as
from a traitor."]

which is to say, comport thyself towards him with a dissembled, inimical,
and distrustful reverence (a cry of war and defiance), is equally
injurious and hard. I am too mild for such rugged designs: to say the
truth, I am not arrived to that perfection of ability and refinement of
wit, to confound reason with injustice, and to laugh at all rule and
order that does not please my palate; because I hate superstition, I do
not presently run into the contrary extreme of irreligion.

(If a man hate superstition he cannot love religion. D.W.)

If a man does not always perform his duty, he ought at least to love and
acknowledge it; 'tis treachery to marry without espousing.

Let us proceed.

Our poet represents a marriage happy in a good accord wherein
nevertheless there is not much loyalty. Does he mean, that it is not
impossible but a woman may give the reins to her own passion, and yield
to the importunities of love, and yet reserve some duty toward marriage,
and that it may be hurt, without being totally broken? A serving man may
cheat his master, whom nevertheless he does not hate. Beauty,
opportunity, and destiny (for destiny has also a hand in't),

"Fatum est in partibus illis
Quas sinus abscondit; nam, si tibi sidera cessent,
Nil faciet longi mensura incognita nervi;"

["There is a fatality about the hidden parts: let nature have
endowed you however liberally, 'tis of no use, if your good star
fails you in the nick of time."--Juvenal, ix. 32.]

have attached her to a stranger; though not so wholly, peradventure, but
that she may have some remains of kindness for her husband. They are two
designs, that have several paths leading to them, without being
confounded with one another; a woman may yield to a man she would by no
means have married, not only for the condition of his fortune, but for
those also of his person. Few men have made a wife of a mistress, who
have not repented it. And even in the other world, what an unhappy life
does Jupiter lead with his, whom he had first enjoyed as a mistress!
'Tis, as the proverb runs, to befoul a basket and then put it upon one's
head. I have in my time, in a good family, seen love shamefully and
dishonestly cured by marriage: the considerations are widely different.
We love at once, without any tie, two things contrary in themselves.

Socrates was wont to say, that the city of Athens pleased, as ladies do
whom men court for love; every one loved to come thither to take a turn,
and pass away his time; but no one liked it so well as to espouse it,
that is, to inhabit there, and to make it his constant residence. I have
been vexed to see husbands hate their wives only because they themselves
do them wrong; we should not, at all events, methinks, love them the less
for our own faults; they should at least, upon the account of repentance
and compassion, be dearer to us.

They are different ends, he says, and yet in some sort compatible;
marriage has utility, justice, honour, and constancy for its share;
a flat, but more universal pleasure: love founds itself wholly upon
pleasure, and, indeed, has it more full, lively, and sharp; a pleasure
inflamed by difficulty; there must be in it sting and smart: 'tis no
longer love, if without darts and fire. The bounty of ladies is too
profuse in marriage, and dulls the point of affection and desire: to
evade which inconvenience, do but observe what pains Lycurgus and Plato
take in their laws.

Women are not to blame at all, when they refuse the rules of life that
are introduced into the world, forasmuch as the men make them without
their help. There is naturally contention and brawling betwixt them and
us; and the strictest friendship we have with them is yet mixed with
tumult and tempest. In the opinion of our author, we deal
inconsiderately with them in this: after we have discovered that they
are, without comparison, more able and ardent in the practice of love
than we, and that the old priest testified as much, who had been one
while a man, and then a woman:

"Venus huic erat utraque nota:"

["Both aspects of love were known to him,"
--Tiresias. Ovid. Metam., iii. 323.]

and moreover, that we have learned from their own mouths the proof that,
in several ages, was made by an Emperor and Empress of Rome,--[Proclus.]
--both famous for ability in that affair! for he in one night deflowered
ten Sarmatian virgins who were his captives: but she had five-and-twenty
bouts in one night, changing her man according to her need and liking;

"Adhuc ardens rigidae tentigine vulvae
Et lassata viris, nondum satiata, recessit:"

["Ardent still, she retired, fatigued, but not satisfied."
--Juvenal, vi. 128.]

and that upon the dispute which happened in Cataluna, wherein a wife
complaining of her husband's too frequent addresses to her, not so much,
as I conceive, that she was incommodated by it (for I believe no miracles
out of religion) as under this pretence, to curtail and curb in this,
which is the fundamental act of marriage, the authority of husbands over
their wives, and to shew that their frowardness and malignity go beyond
the nuptial bed, and spurn under foot even the graces and sweets of
Venus; the husband, a man truly brutish and unnatural, replied, that even
on fasting days he could not subsist with less than ten courses:
whereupon came out that notable sentence of the Queen of Arragon, by
which, after mature deliberation of her council, this good queen, to give
a rule and example to all succeeding ages of the moderation required in
a just marriage, set down six times a day as a legitimate and necessary
stint; surrendering and quitting a great deal of the needs and desires of
her sex, that she might, she said, establish an easy, and consequently, a
permanent and immutable rule. Hereupon the doctors cry out: what must
the female appetite and concupiscence be, when their reason, their
reformation and virtue, are taxed at such a rate, considering the divers
judgments of our appetites? for Solon, master of the law school, taxes
us but at three a month,--that men may not fail in point of conjugal
frequentation: after having, I say, believed and preached all this, we go
and enjoin them continency for their particular share, and upon the last
and extreme penalties.

There is no passion so hard to contend with as this, which we would have
them only resist, not simply as an ordinary vice, but as an execrable
abomination, worse than irreligion and parricide; whilst we, at the same
time, go to't without offence or reproach. Even those amongst us who
have tried the experiment have sufficiently confessed what difficulty, or
rather impossibility, they have found by material remedies to subdue,
weaken, and cool the body. We, on the contrary, would have them at once
sound, vigorous plump, high-fed, and chaste; that is to say, both hot and
cold; for the marriage, which we tell them is to keep them from burning,
is but small refreshment to them, as we order the matter. If they take
one whose vigorous age is yet boiling, he will be proud to make it known

"Sit tandem pudor; aut eamus in jus;
Multis mentula millibus redempta,
Non est haec tua, Basse; vendidisti;"

["Let there be some shame, or we shall go to law: your vigour,
bought by your wife with many thousands, is no longer yours: thou
hast sold it.--"Martial, xii. 90.]

Polemon the philosopher was justly by his wife brought before the judge
for sowing in a barren field the seed that was due to one that was
fruitful: if, on the other hand, they take a decayed fellow, they are in
a worse condition in marriage than either maids or widows. We think them
well provided for, because they have a man to lie with, as the Romans
concluded Clodia Laeta, a vestal nun, violated, because Caligula had
approached her, though it was declared he did no more but approach her:
but, on the contrary, we by that increase their necessity, forasmuch as
the touch and company of any man whatever rouses their desires, that in
solitude would be more quiet. And to the end, 'tis likely, that they
might render their chastity more meritorious by this circumstance and
consideration, Boleslas and Kinge his wife, kings of Poland, vowed it by
mutual consent, being in bed together, on their very wedding day, and
kept their vow in spite of all matrimonial conveniences.

We train them up from their infancy to the traffic of love; their grace,
dressing, knowledge, language, and whole instruction tend that way: their
governesses imprint nothing in them but the idea of love, if for nothing
else but by continually representing it to them, to give them a distaste
for it. My daughter, the only child I have, is now of an age that
forward young women are allowed to be married at; she is of a slow, thin,
and tender complexion, and has accordingly been brought up by her mother
after a retired and particular manner, so that she but now begins to be
weaned from her childish simplicity. She was reading before me in a
French book where the word 'fouteau', the name of a tree very well known,
occurred;--[The beech-tree; the name resembles in sound an obscene
French word.]--the woman, to whose conduct she is committed, stopped her
short a little roughly, and made her skip over that dangerous step. I
let her alone, not to trouble their rules, for I never concern myself in
that sort of government; feminine polity has a mysterious procedure; we
must leave it to them; but if I am not mistaken the commerce of twenty
lacquies could not, in six months' time, have so imprinted in her memory
the meaning, usage, and all the consequence of the sound of these wicked
syllables, as this good old woman did by reprimand and interdiction.

"Motus doceri gaudet Ionicos
Matura virgo, et frangitur artibus;
Jam nunc et incestos amores
De tenero, meditatur ungui."

["The maid ripe for marriage delights to learn Ionic dances, and to
imitate those lascivious movements. Nay, already from her infancy
she meditates criminal amours."--Horace, Od., iii. 6, 21., the text
has 'fingitur'.]

Let them but give themselves the rein a little, let them but enter into
liberty of discourse, we are but children to them in this science. Hear
them but describe our pursuits and conversation, they will very well make
you understand that we bring them nothing they have not known before, and
digested without our help.

[This sentence refers to a conversation between some young women in
his immediate neighbourhood, which the Essayist just below informs
us that he overheard, and which was too shocking for him to repeat.
It must have been tolerably bad.--Remark by the editor of a later

Is it, perhaps, as Plato says, that they have formerly been debauched
young fellows? I happened one day to be in a place where I could hear
some of their talk without suspicion; I am sorry I cannot repeat it.
By'rlady, said I, we had need go study the phrases of Amadis, and the
tales of Boccaccio and Aretin, to be able to discourse with them: we
employ our time to much purpose indeed. There is neither word, example,
nor step they are not more perfect in than our books; 'tis a discipline
that springs with their blood,

"Et mentem ipsa Venus dedit,"

[" Venus herself made them what they are,"
--Virg., Georg., iii. 267.]

which these good instructors, nature, youth, and health, are continually
inspiring them with; they need not learn, they breed it:

"Nec tantum niveo gavisa est ulla columbo,
Compar, vel si quid dicitur improbius,
Oscula mordenti semper decerpere rostro,
Quantum praecipue multivola est mulier."

["No milk-white dove, or if there be a thing more lascivious,
takes so much delight in kissing as woman, wishful for every man
she sees."--Catullus, lxvi. 125.]

So that if the natural violence of their desire were not a little
restrained by fear and honour, which were wisely contrived for them, we
should be all shamed. All the motions in the world resolve into and tend
to this conjunction; 'tis a matter infused throughout: 'tis a centre to
which all things are directed. We yet see the edicts of the old and wise
Rome made for the service of love, and the precepts of Socrates for the
instruction of courtezans:

"Noncon libelli Stoici inter sericos
Jacere pulvillos amant:"

["There are writings of the Stoics which we find lying upon
silken cushions."--Horace, Epod., viii. 15.]

Zeno, amongst his laws, also regulated the motions to be observed in
getting a maidenhead. What was the philosopher Strato's book Of Carnal
Conjunction?--[ Diogenes Laertius, v. 59.]--And what did Theophrastus
treat of in those he intituled, the one 'The Lover', and the other 'Of
Love?' Of what Aristippus in his 'Of Former Delights'? What do the so
long and lively descriptions in Plato of the loves of his time pretend
to? and the book called 'The Lover', of Demetrius Phalereus? and
'Clinias', or the 'Ravished Lover', of Heraclides; and that of
Antisthenes, 'Of Getting Children', or, 'Of Weddings', and the other,
'Of the Master or the Lover'? And that of Aristo: 'Of Amorous Exercises'
What those of Cleanthes: one, 'Of Love', the other, 'Of the Art of
Loving'? The amorous dialogues of Sphaereus? and the fable of Jupiter
and Juno, of Chrysippus, impudent beyond all toleration? And his fifty
so lascivious epistles? I will let alone the writings of the
philosophers of the Epicurean sect, protectress of voluptuousness. Fifty
deities were, in time past, assigned to this office; and there have been
nations where, to assuage the lust of those who came to their devotion,
they kept men and women in their temples for the worshippers to lie with;
and it was an act of ceremony to do this before they went to prayers:

"Nimirum propter continentiam incontinentia necessaria est;
incendium ignibus extinguitur."

["Forsooth incontinency is necessary for continency's sake; a
conflagration is extinguished by fire."]

In the greatest part of the world, that member of our body was deified;
in the same province, some flayed off the skin to offer and consecrate a
piece; others offered and consecrated their seed. In another, the young
men publicly cut through betwixt the skin and the flesh of that part in
several places, and thrust pieces of wood into the openings as long and
thick as they would receive, and of these pieces of wood afterwards made
a fire as an offering to their gods; and were reputed neither vigorous
nor chaste, if by the force of that cruel pain they seemed to be at all
dismayed. Elsewhere the most sacred magistrate was reverenced and
acknowledged by that member and in several ceremonies the effigy of it
was carried in pomp to the honour of various divinities. The Egyptian
ladies, in their Bacchanalia, each carried one finely-carved of wood
about their necks, as large and heavy as she could so carry it; besides
which, the statue of their god presented one, which in greatness
surpassed all the rest of his body.--[Herodotus, ii. 48, says "nearly
as large as the body itself."]--The married women, near the place where
I live, make of their kerchiefs the figure of one upon their foreheads,
to glorify themselves in the enjoyment they have of it; and coming to be
widows, they throw it behind, and cover it with their headcloths. The
most modest matrons of Rome thought it an honour to offer flowers and
garlands to the god Priapus; and they made the virgins, at the time of
their espousals, sit upon his shameful parts. And I know not whether I
have not in my time seen some air of like devotion. What was the meaning
of that ridiculous piece of the chaussuye of our forefathers, and that is
still worn by our Swiss? ["Cod-pieces worn"--Cotton]--To what end do we
make a show of our implements in figure under our breeches, and often,
which is worse, above their natural size, by falsehood and imposture?
I have half a mind to believe that this sort of vestment was invented in
the better and more conscientious ages, that the world might not be
deceived, and that every one should give a public account of his
proportions: the simple nations wear them yet, and near about the real
size. In those days, the tailor took measure of it, as the shoemaker
does now of a man's foot. That good man, who, when I was young, gelded
so many noble and ancient statues in his great city, that they might not
corrupt the sight of the ladies, according to the advice of this other
ancient worthy:

"Flagitii principium est, nudare inter gives corpora,"

["'Tis the beginning of wickedness to expose their persons among the
citizens"--Ennius, ap. Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., iv. 33.]

should have called to mind, that, as in the mysteries of the Bona Dea,
all masculine appearance was excluded, he did nothing, if he did not geld
horses and asses, in short, all nature:

"Omne adeo genus in terris, hominumque, ferarumque,
Et genus aequoreum, pecudes, pictaeque volucres,
In furias ignemque ruunt."

["So that all living things, men and animals, wild or tame,
and fish and gaudy fowl, rush to this flame of love."
--Virgil, Georg., iii. 244.]

The gods, says Plato, have given us one disobedient and unruly member
that, like a furious animal, attempts, by the violence of its appetite,
to subject all things to it; and so they have given to women one like a
greedy and ravenous animal, which, if it be refused food in season, grows
wild, impatient of delay, and infusing its rage into their bodies, stops
the passages, and hinders respiration, causing a thousand ills, till,
having imbibed the fruit of the common thirst, it has plentifully bedewed
the bottom of their matrix. Now my legislator--[The Pope who, as
Montaigne has told us, took it into his head to geld the statues.]--
should also have considered that, peradventure, it were a chaster and
more fruitful usage to let them know the fact as it is betimes, than
permit them to guess according to the liberty and heat of their own
fancy; instead of the real parts they substitute, through hope and
desire, others that are three times more extravagant; and a certain
friend of mine lost himself by producing his in place and time when the
opportunity was not present to put them to their more serious use. What
mischief do not those pictures of prodigious dimension do that the boys
make upon the staircases and galleries of the royal houses? they give the
ladies a cruel contempt of our natural furniture. And what do we know
but that Plato, after other well-instituted republics, ordered that the
men and women, old and young, should expose themselves naked to the view
of one another, in his gymnastic exercises, upon that very account? The
Indian women who see the men in their natural state, have at least cooled
the sense of seeing. And let the women of the kingdom of Pegu say what
they will, who below the waist have nothing to cover them but a cloth
slit before, and so strait, that what decency and modesty soever they
pretend by it, at every step all is to be seen, that it is an invention
to allure the men to them, and to divert them from boys, to whom that
nation is generally inclined; yet, peradventure they lose more by it than
they get, and one may venture to say, that an entire appetite is more
sharp than one already half-glutted by the eyes. Livia was wont to say,
that to a virtuous woman a naked man was but a statue. The Lacedaemonian
women, more virgins when wives than our daughters are, saw every day the
young men of their city stripped naked in their exercises, themselves
little heeding to cover their thighs in walking, believing themselves,
says Plato, sufficiently covered by their virtue without any other robe.
But those, of whom St. Augustin speaks, have given nudity a wonderful
power of temptation, who have made it a doubt, whether women at the day
of judgment shall rise again in their own sex, and not rather in ours,
for fear of tempting us again in that holy state. In brief, we allure
and flesh them by all sorts of ways: we incessantly heat and stir up
their imagination, and then we find fault. Let us confess the truth;
there is scarce one of us who does not more apprehend the shame that
accrues to him by the vices of his wife than by his own, and that is not
more solicitous (a wonderful charity) of the conscience of his virtuous
wife than of his own; who had not rather commit theft and sacrilege, and
that his wife was a murderess and a heretic, than that she should not be
more chaste than her husband: an unjust estimate of vices. Both we and
they are capable of a thousand corruptions more prejudicial and unnatural
than lust: but we weigh vices, not according to nature, but according to
our interest; by which means they take so many unequal forms.

The austerity of our decrees renders the application of women to this
vice more violent and vicious than its own condition needs, and engages
it in consequences worse than their cause: they will readily offer to go
to the law courts to seek for gain, and to the wars to get reputation,
rather than in the midst of ease and delights, to have to keep so
difficult a guard. Do not they very well see that there is neither
merchant nor soldier who will not leave his business to run after this
sport, or the porter or cobbler, toiled and tired out as they are with
labour and hunger?

"Num tu, qux tenuit dives Achaemenes,
Aut pinguis Phrygiae Mygdonias opes,
Permutare velis crine Licymnim?
Plenas aut Arabum domos,
Dum fragrantia detorquet ad oscula
Cervicem, aut facili sxvitia negat,
Quae poscente magis gaudeat eripi,
Interdum rapere occupet?"

["Wouldst thou not exchange all that the wealthy Arhaemenes had,
or the Mygdonian riches of fertile Phrygia, for one ringlet of
Licymnia's hair? or the treasures of the Arabians, when she turns
her head to you for fragrant kisses, or with easily assuaged anger
denies them, which she would rather by far you took by force, and
sometimes herself snatches one!"--Horace, Od., ii. 12, 21.]

I do not know whether the exploits of Alexander and Caesar really surpass
the resolution of a beautiful young woman, bred up after our fashion, in
the light and commerce of the world, assailed by so many contrary
examples, and yet keeping herself entire in the midst of a thousand
continual and powerful solicitations. There is no doing more difficult
than that not doing, nor more active:

I hold it more easy to carry a suit of armour all the days of one's life
than a maidenhead; and the vow of virginity of all others is the most
noble, as being the hardest to keep:

"Diaboli virtus in lumbis est,"

says St. Jerome. We have, doubtless, resigned to the ladies the most
difficult and most vigorous of all human endeavours, and let us resign to
them the glory too. This ought to encourage them to be obstinate in it;
'tis a brave thing for them to defy us, and to spurn under foot that vain
pre-eminence of valour and virtue that we pretend to have over them; they
will find if they do but observe it, that they will not only be much more
esteemed for it, but also much more beloved. A gallant man does not give
over his pursuit for being refused, provided it be a refusal of chastity,
and not of choice; we may swear, threaten, and complain to much purpose;
we therein do but lie, for we love them all the better: there is no
allurement like modesty, if it be not rude and crabbed. 'Tis stupidity
and meanness to be obstinate against hatred and disdain; but against a
virtuous and constant resolution, mixed with goodwill, 'tis the exercise
of a noble and generous soul. They may acknowledge our service to a
certain degree, and give us civilly to understand that they disdain us
not; for the law that enjoins them to abominate us because we adore them,
and to hate us because we love them, is certainly very cruel, if but for
the difficulty of it. Why should they not give ear to our offers and
requests, so long as they are kept within the bounds of modesty?
wherefore should we fancy them to have other thoughts within, and to be
worse than they seem? A queen of our time said with spirit, "that to
refuse these courtesies is a testimony of weakness in women and a self-
accusation of facility, and that a lady could not boast of her chastity
who was never tempted."

The limits of honour are not cut so short; they may give themselves a
little rein, and relax a little without being faulty: there lies on the
frontier some space free, indifferent, and neuter. He that has beaten
and pursued her into her fort is a strange fellow if he be not satisfied
with his fortune: the price of the conquest is considered by the
difficulty. Would you know what impression your service and merit have
made in her heart? Judge of it by her behaviour. Such an one may grant
more, who does not grant so much. The obligation of a benefit wholly
relates to the good will of those who confer it: the other coincident
circumstances are dumb, dead, and casual; it costs her dearer to grant
you that little, than it would do her companion to grant all. If in
anything rarity give estimation, it ought especially in this: do not
consider how little it is that is given, but how few have it to give;
the value of money alters according to the coinage and stamp of the
place. Whatever the spite and indiscretion of some may make them say in
the excess of their discontent, virtue and truth will in time recover all
the advantage. I have known some whose reputation has for a great while
suffered under slander, who have afterwards been restored to the world's
universal approbation by their mere constancy without care or artifice;
every one repents, and gives himself the lie for what he has believed and
said; and from girls a little suspected they have been afterward advanced
to the first rank amongst the ladies of honour. Somebody told Plato that
all the world spoke ill of him. "Let them talk," said he; "I will live
so as to make them change their note." Besides the fear of God, and the
value of so rare a glory, which ought to make them look to themselves,
the corruption of the age we live in compels them to it; and if I were
they, there is nothing I would not rather do than intrust my reputation
in so dangerous hands. In my time the pleasure of telling (a pleasure
little inferior to that of doing) was not permitted but to those who had
some faithful and only friend; but now the ordinary discourse and common
table-talk is nothing but boasts of favours received and the secret
liberality of ladies. In earnest, 'tis too abject, too much meanness of
spirit, in men to suffer such ungrateful, indiscreet, and giddy-headed
people so to persecute, forage, and rifle those tender and charming

This our immoderate and illegitimate exasperation against this vice
springs from the most vain and turbulent disease that afflicts human
minds, which is jealousy:

"Quis vetat apposito lumen de lumine sumi?
Dent licet assidue, nil tamen inde perit;"

["Who says that one light should not be lighted from another light?
Let them give ever so much, as much ever remains to lose."--Ovid, De
Arte Amandi, iii. 93. The measure of the last line is not good;
but the words are taken from the epigram in the Catalecta entitled

she, and envy, her sister, seem to me to be the most foolish of the whole
troop. As to the last, I can say little about it; 'tis a passion that,
though said to be so mighty and powerful, had never to do with me. As to
the other, I know it by sight, and that's all. Beasts feel it; the
shepherd Cratis, having fallen in love with a she-goat, the he-goat, out
of jealousy, came, as he lay asleep, to butt the head of the female, and
crushed it. We have raised this fever to a greater excess by the
examples of some barbarous nations; the best disciplined have been
touched with it, and 'tis reason, but not transported:

"Ense maritali nemo confossus adulter
Purpureo Stygias sanguine tinxit aquas."

["Never did adulterer slain by a husband
stain with purple blood the Stygian waters."]

Lucullus, Caesar, Pompey, Antony, Cato, and other brave men were
cuckolds, and knew it, without making any bustle about it; there was in
those days but one coxcomb, Lepidus, that died for grief that his wife
had used him so.

"Ah! tum te miserum malique fati,
Quem attractis pedibus, patente porta,
Percurrent raphanique mugilesque:"

["Wretched man! when, taken in the fact, thou wilt be
dragged out of doors by the heels, and suffer the punishment
of thy adultery."--Catullus, xv. 17.]

and the god of our poet, when he surprised one of his companions with his
wife, satisfied himself by putting them to shame only,

"Atque aliquis de dis non tristibus optat
Sic fieri turpis:"

["And one of the merry gods wishes that he should himself
like to be so disgraced."--Ovid, Metam., iv. 187.]

and nevertheless took anger at the lukewarm embraces she gave him;
complaining that upon that account she was grown jealous of his

"Quid causas petis ex alto? fiducia cessit
Quo tibi, diva, mei?"

["Dost thou seek causes from above? Why, goddess, has your
confidence in me ceased?"--Virgil, AEneid, viii. 395.]

nay, she entreats arms for a bastard of hers,

"Arena rogo genitrix nato."

["I, a mother, ask armour for a son."--Idem, ibid., 383.]

which are freely granted; and Vulcan speaks honourably of AEneas,

"Arma acri facienda viro,"

["Arms are to be made for a valiant hero."--AEneid, viii. 441.]

with, in truth, a more than human humanity. And I am willing to leave
this excess of kindness to the gods:

"Nec divis homines componier aequum est."

["Nor is it fit to compare men with gods."
--Catullus, lxviii. 141.]

As to the confusion of children, besides that the gravest legislators

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