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The Essays of Montaigne, Complete by Michel de Montaigne

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From Bordeaux, Wednesday night, 22d May (1590-91).--Your very humble


I have seen no one from the king of Navarre; they say that M. de Biron
has seen him.

THE AUTHOR TO THE READER.--[Omitted by Cotton.]

READER, thou hast here an honest book; it doth at the outset forewarn
thee that, in contriving the same, I have proposed to myself no other
than a domestic and private end: I have had no consideration at all
either to thy service or to my glory. My powers are not capable of any
such design. I have dedicated it to the particular commodity of my
kinsfolk and friends, so that, having lost me (which they must do
shortly), they may therein recover some traits of my conditions and
humours, and by that means preserve more whole, and more life-like, the
knowledge they had of me. Had my intention been to seek the world's
favour, I should surely have adorned myself with borrowed beauties: I
desire therein to be viewed as I appear in mine own genuine, simple, and
ordinary manner, without study and artifice: for it is myself I paint.
My defects are therein to be read to the life, and any imperfections and
my natural form, so far as public reverence hath permitted me. If I had
lived among those nations, which (they say) yet dwell under the sweet
liberty of nature's primitive laws, I assure thee I would most willingly
have painted myself quite fully and quite naked. Thus, reader, myself am
the matter of my book: there's no reason thou shouldst employ thy leisure
about so frivolous and vain a subject. Therefore farewell.

From Montaigne, the 12th June 1580--[So in the edition of 1595; the
edition of 1588 has 12th June 1588]

From Montaigne, the 1st March 1580.

--[See Bonnefon, Montaigne, 1893, p. 254. The book had been
licensed for the press on the 9th May previous. The edition of 1588
has 12th June 1588;]--


Arts of persuasion, to insinuate it into our minds
Help: no other effect than that of lengthening my suffering
Judgment of great things is many times formed from lesser thing
Option now of continuing in life or of completing the voyage
Two principal guiding reins are reward and punishment
Virtue and ambition, unfortunately, seldom lodge together


Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazilitt




I. That Men by Various Ways Arrive at the Same End.
II. Of Sorrow.
III. That our affections carry themselves beyond us .
IV. That the soul discharges her passions upon false objects, where
the true are wanting.
V. Whether the governor of a place besieged ought himself to go
out to parley.
VI. That the hour of parley is dangerous.
VII. That the intention is judge of our actions.
VIII. Of idleness.
IX. Of liars.
X. Of quick or slow speech.
XI. Of prognostications.
XII. Of constancy.



The most usual way of appeasing the indignation of such as we have any
way offended, when we see them in possession of the power of revenge,
and find that we absolutely lie at their mercy, is by submission, to move
them to commiseration and pity; and yet bravery, constancy, and
resolution, however quite contrary means, have sometimes served to
produce the same effect.--[Florio's version begins thus: "The most
vsuall waie to appease those minds wee have offended, when revenge lies
in their hands, and that we stand at their mercie, is by submission to
move them to commiseration and pity: Nevertheless, courage, constancie,
and resolution (means altogether opposite) have sometimes wrought the
same effect."--] [The spelling is Florio's D.W.]

Edward, Prince of Wales [Edward, the Black Prince. D.W.] (the same who
so long governed our Guienne, a personage whose condition and fortune
have in them a great deal of the most notable and most considerable parts
of grandeur), having been highly incensed by the Limousins, and taking
their city by assault, was not, either by the cries of the people, or the
prayers and tears of the women and children, abandoned to slaughter and
prostrate at his feet for mercy, to be stayed from prosecuting his
revenge; till, penetrating further into the town, he at last took notice
of three French gentlemen,--[These were Jean de Villemure, Hugh de la
Roche, and Roger de Beaufort.--Froissart, i. c. 289. {The city was
Limoges. D.W.}]--who with incredible bravery alone sustained the power
of his victorious army. Then it was that consideration and respect unto
so remarkable a valour first stopped the torrent of his fury, and that
his clemency, beginning with these three cavaliers, was afterwards
extended to all the remaining inhabitants of the city.

Scanderbeg, Prince of Epirus, pursuing one of his soldiers with purpose
to kill him, the soldier, having in vain tried by all the ways of
humility and supplication to appease him, resolved, as his last refuge,
to face about and await him sword in hand: which behaviour of his gave a
sudden stop to his captain's fury, who, for seeing him assume so notable
a resolution, received him into grace; an example, however, that might
suffer another interpretation with such as have not read of the
prodigious force and valour of that prince.

The Emperor Conrad III. having besieged Guelph, Duke of Bavaria,--[In
1140, in Weinsberg, Upper Bavaria.]--would not be prevailed upon, what
mean and unmanly satisfactions soever were tendered to him, to condescend
to milder conditions than that the ladies and gentlewomen only who were
in the town with the duke might go out without violation of their honour,
on foot, and with so much only as they could carry about them. Whereupon
they, out of magnanimity of heart, presently contrived to carry out, upon
their shoulders, their husbands and children, and the duke himself;
a sight at which the emperor was so pleased, that, ravished with the
generosity of the action, he wept for joy, and immediately extinguishing
in his heart the mortal and capital hatred he had conceived against this
duke, he from that time forward treated him and his with all humanity.
The one and the other of these two ways would with great facility work
upon my nature; for I have a marvellous propensity to mercy and mildness,
and to such a degree that I fancy of the two I should sooner surrender my
anger to compassion than to esteem. And yet pity is reputed a vice
amongst the Stoics, who will that we succour the afflicted, but not that
we should be so affected with their sufferings as to suffer with them.
I conceived these examples not ill suited to the question in hand, and
the rather because therein we observe these great souls assaulted and
tried by these two several ways, to resist the one without relenting, and
to be shook and subjected by the other. It may be true that to suffer a
man's heart to be totally subdued by compassion may be imputed to
facility, effeminacy, and over-tenderness; whence it comes to pass that
the weaker natures, as of women, children, and the common sort of people,
are the most subject to it but after having resisted and disdained the
power of groans and tears, to yield to the sole reverence of the sacred
image of Valour, this can be no other than the effect of a strong and
inflexible soul enamoured of and honouring masculine and obstinate
courage. Nevertheless, astonishment and admiration may, in less generous
minds, beget a like effect: witness the people of Thebes, who, having put
two of their generals upon trial for their lives for having continued in
arms beyond the precise term of their commission, very hardly pardoned
Pelopidas, who, bowing under the weight of so dangerous an accusation,
made no manner of defence for himself, nor produced other arguments than
prayers and supplications; whereas, on the contrary, Epaminondas, falling
to recount magniloquently the exploits he had performed in their service,
and, after a haughty and arrogant manner reproaching them with
ingratitude and injustice, they had not the heart to proceed any further
in his trial, but broke up the court and departed, the whole assembly
highly commending the high courage of this personage.--[Plutarch, How
far a Man may praise Himself, c. 5.]

Dionysius the elder, after having, by a tedious siege and through
exceeding great difficulties, taken the city of Reggio, and in it the
governor Phyton, a very gallant man, who had made so obstinate a defence,
was resolved to make him a tragical example of his revenge: in order
whereunto he first told him, "That he had the day before caused his son
and all his kindred to be drowned." To which Phyton returned no other
answer but this: "That they were then by one day happier than he." After
which, causing him to be stripped, and delivering him into the hands of
the tormentors, he was by them not only dragged through the streets of
the town, and most ignominiously and cruelly whipped, but moreover
vilified with most bitter and contumelious language: yet still he
maintained his courage entire all the way, with a strong voice and
undaunted countenance proclaiming the honourable and glorious cause of
his death; namely, for that he would not deliver up his country into the
hands of a tyrant; at the same time denouncing against him a speedy
chastisement from the offended gods. At which Dionysius, reading in his
soldiers' looks, that instead of being incensed at the haughty language
of this conquered enemy, to the contempt of their captain and his
triumph, they were not only struck with admiration of so rare a virtue,
but moreover inclined to mutiny, and were even ready to rescue the
prisoner out of the hangman's hands, he caused the torturing to cease,
and afterwards privately caused him to be thrown into the sea.--[Diod.
Sic., xiv. 29.]

Man (in good earnest) is a marvellous vain, fickle, and unstable subject,
and on whom it is very hard to form any certain and uniform judgment.
For Pompey could pardon the whole city of the Mamertines, though
furiously incensed against it, upon the single account of the virtue and
magnanimity of one citizen, Zeno,--[Plutarch calls him Stheno, and also
Sthemnus and Sthenis]--who took the fault of the public wholly upon
himself; neither entreated other favour, but alone to undergo the
punishment for all: and yet Sylla's host, having in the city of Perugia
--[Plutarch says Preneste, a town of Latium.]--manifested the same
virtue, obtained nothing by it, either for himself or his fellow-

And, directly contrary to my first examples, the bravest of all men, and
who was reputed so gracious to all those he overcame, Alexander, having,
after many great difficulties, forced the city of Gaza, and, entering,
found Betis, who commanded there, and of whose valour in the time of this
siege he had most marvellous manifest proof, alone, forsaken by all his
soldiers, his armour hacked and hewed to pieces, covered all over with
blood and wounds, and yet still fighting in the crowd of a number of
Macedonians, who were laying on him on all sides, he said to him, nettled
at so dear-bought a victory (for, in addition to the other damage, he had
two wounds newly received in his own person), "Thou shalt not die, Betis,
as thou dost intend; be sure thou shall suffer all the torments that can
be inflicted on a captive." To which menace the other returning no other
answer, but only a fierce and disdainful look; "What," says Alexander,
observing his haughty and obstinate silence, "is he too stiff to bend a
knee! Is he too proud to utter one suppliant word! Truly, I will
conquer this silence; and if I cannot force a word from his mouth, I
will, at least, extract a groan from his heart." And thereupon
converting his anger into fury, presently commanded his heels to be bored
through, causing him, alive, to be dragged, mangled, and dismembered at a
cart's tail.--[Quintus Curtius, iv. 6. This act of cruelty has been
doubted, notwithstanding the statement of Curtius.]--Was it that the
height of courage was so natural and familiar to this conqueror, that
because he could not admire, he respected it the less? Or was it that he
conceived valour to be a virtue so peculiar to himself, that his pride
could not, without envy, endure it in another? Or was it that the
natural impetuosity of his fury was incapable of opposition? Certainly,
had it been capable of moderation, it is to be believed that in the sack
and desolation of Thebes, to see so many valiant men, lost and totally
destitute of any further defence, cruelly massacred before his eyes,
would have appeased it: where there were above six thousand put to the
sword, of whom not one was seen to fly, or heard to cry out for quarter;
but, on the contrary, every one running here and there to seek out and to
provoke the victorious enemy to help them to an honourable end. Not one
was seen who, however weakened with wounds, did not in his last gasp yet
endeavour to revenge himself, and with all the arms of a brave despair,
to sweeten his own death in the death of an enemy. Yet did their valour
create no pity, and the length of one day was not enough to satiate the
thirst of the conqueror's revenge, but the slaughter continued to the
last drop of blood that was capable of being shed, and stopped not till
it met with none but unarmed persons, old men, women, and children, of
them to carry away to the number of thirty thousand slaves.



No man living is more free from this passion than I, who yet neither like
it in myself nor admire it in others, and yet generally the world, as a
settled thing, is pleased to grace it with a particular esteem, clothing
therewith wisdom, virtue, and conscience. Foolish and sordid guise!
--["No man is more free from this passion than I, for I neither love nor
regard it: albeit the world hath undertaken, as it were upon covenant, to
grace it with a particular favour. Therewith they adorne age, vertue,
and conscience. Oh foolish and base ornament!" Florio, 1613, p. 3]--
The Italians have more fitly baptized by this name--[La tristezza]--
malignity; for 'tis a quality always hurtful, always idle and vain; and
as being cowardly, mean, and base, it is by the Stoics expressly and
particularly forbidden to their sages.

But the story--[Herodotus, iii. 14.]--says that Psammenitus, King of
Egypt, being defeated and taken prisoner by Cambyses, King of Persia,
seeing his own daughter pass by him as prisoner, and in a wretched habit,
with a bucket to draw water, though his friends about him were so
concerned as to break out into tears and lamentations, yet he himself
remained unmoved, without uttering a word, his eyes fixed upon the
ground; and seeing, moreover, his son immediately after led to execution,
still maintained the same countenance; till spying at last one of his
domestic and familiar friends dragged away amongst the captives, he fell
to tearing his hair and beating his breast, with all the other
extravagances of extreme sorrow.

A story that may very fitly be coupled with another of the same kind, of
recent date, of a prince of our own nation, who being at Trent, and
having news there brought him of the death of his elder brother, a
brother on whom depended the whole support and honour of his house, and
soon after of that of a younger brother, the second hope of his family,
and having withstood these two assaults with an exemplary resolution; one
of his servants happening a few days after to die, he suffered his
constancy to be overcome by this last accident; and, parting with his
courage, so abandoned himself to sorrow and mourning, that some thence
were forward to conclude that he was only touched to the quick by this
last stroke of fortune; but, in truth, it was, that being before brimful
of grief, the least addition overflowed the bounds of all patience.
Which, I think, might also be said of the former example, did not the
story proceed to tell us that Cambyses asking Psammenitus, "Why, not
being moved at the calamity of his son and daughter, he should with so
great impatience bear the misfortune of his friend?" "It is," answered
he, "because only this last affliction was to be manifested by tears, the
two first far exceeding all manner of expression."

And, peradventure, something like this might be working in the fancy of
the ancient painter,--[Cicero, De Orator., c. 22 ; Pliny, xxxv. 10.]--
who having, in the sacrifice of Iphigenia, to represent the sorrow of the
assistants proportionably to the several degrees of interest every one
had in the death of this fair innocent virgin, and having, in the other
figures, laid out the utmost power of his art, when he came to that of
her father, he drew him with a veil over his face, meaning thereby that
no kind of countenance was capable of expressing such a degree of sorrow.
Which is also the reason why the poets feign the miserable mother, Niobe,
having first lost seven sons, and then afterwards as many daughters
(overwhelmed with her losses), to have been at last transformed into a

"Diriguisse malis,"

["Petrified with her misfortunes."--Ovid, Met., vi. 304.]

thereby to express that melancholic, dumb, and deaf stupefaction, which
benumbs all our faculties, when oppressed with accidents greater than we
are able to bear. And, indeed, the violence and impression of an
excessive grief must of necessity astonish the soul, and wholly deprive
her of her ordinary functions: as it happens to every one of us, who,
upon any sudden alarm of very ill news, find ourselves surprised,
stupefied, and in a manner deprived of all power of motion, so that the
soul, beginning to vent itself in tears and lamentations, seems to free
and disengage itself from the sudden oppression, and to have obtained
some room to work itself out at greater liberty.

"Et via vix tandem voci laxata dolore est."

["And at length and with difficulty is a passage opened by grief for
utterance."--AEneid, xi. 151.]

In the war that Ferdinand made upon the widow of King John of Hungary,
about Buda, a man-at-arms was particularly taken notice of by every one
for his singular gallant behaviour in a certain encounter; and, unknown,
highly commended, and lamented, being left dead upon the place: but by
none so much as by Raisciac, a German lord, who was infinitely enamoured
of so rare a valour. The body being brought off, and the count, with the
common curiosity coming to view it, the armour was no sooner taken off
but he immediately knew him to be his own son, a thing that added a
second blow to the compassion of all the beholders; only he, without
uttering a word, or turning away his eyes from the woeful object, stood
fixedly contemplating the body of his son, till the vehemency of sorrow
having overcome his vital spirits, made him sink down stone-dead to the

"Chi puo dir com' egli arde, a in picciol fuoco,"

["He who can say how he burns with love, has little fire"
--Petrarca, Sonetto 137.]

say the Innamoratos, when they would represent an 'insupportable passion.

"Misero quod omneis
Eripit sensus mihi: nam simul te,
Lesbia, aspexi, nihil est super mi,
Quod loquar amens.
Lingua sed torpet: tenuis sub artus
Flamma dimanat; sonitu suopte
Tintinant aures; gemina teguntur
Lumina nocte."

["Love deprives me of all my faculties: Lesbia, when once in thy
presence, I have not left the power to tell my distracting passion:
my tongue becomes torpid; a subtle flame creeps through my veins; my
ears tingle in deafness; my eyes are veiled with darkness."
Catullus, Epig. li. 5]

Neither is it in the height and greatest fury of the fit that we are in a
condition to pour out our complaints or our amorous persuasions, the soul
being at that time over-burdened, and labouring with profound thoughts;
and the body dejected and languishing with desire; and thence it is that
sometimes proceed those accidental impotencies that so unseasonably
surprise the lover, and that frigidity which by the force of an
immoderate ardour seizes him even in the very lap of fruition.
--[The edition of 1588 has here, "An accident not unknown to myself."]--
For all passions that suffer themselves to be relished and digested are
but moderate:

"Curae leves loquuntur, ingentes stupent."

["Light griefs can speak: deep sorrows are dumb."
--Seneca, Hippolytus, act ii. scene 3.]

A surprise of unexpected joy does likewise often produce the same effect:

"Ut me conspexit venientem, et Troja circum
Arma amens vidit, magnis exterrita monstris,
Diriguit visu in medio, calor ossa reliquit,
Labitur, et longo vix tandem tempore fatur."

["When she beheld me advancing, and saw, with stupefaction, the
Trojan arms around me, terrified with so great a prodigy, she
fainted away at the very sight: vital warmth forsook her limbs: she
sinks down, and, after a long interval, with difficulty speaks."-
AEneid, iii. 306.]

Besides the examples of the Roman lady, who died for joy to see her son
safe returned from the defeat of Cannae; and of Sophocles and of
Dionysius the Tyrant,--[Pliny, vii. 53. Diodorus Siculus, however (xv.
c. 20), tells us that Dionysius "was so overjoyed at the news that he
made a great sacrifice upon it to the gods, prepared sumptuous feasts, to
which he invited all his friends, and therein drank so excessively that
it threw him into a very bad distemper."]--who died of joy; and of
Thalna, who died in Corsica, reading news of the honours the Roman Senate
had decreed in his favour, we have, moreover, one in our time, of Pope
Leo X., who upon news of the taking of Milan, a thing he had so ardently
desired, was rapt with so sudden an excess of joy that he immediately
fell into a fever and died.--[Guicciardini, Storia d'Italia, vol.
xiv.]--And for a more notable testimony of the imbecility of human
nature, it is recorded by the ancients--[Pliny, 'ut supra']--that
Diodorus the dialectician died upon the spot, out of an extreme passion
of shame, for not having been able in his own school, and in the presence
of a great auditory, to disengage himself from a nice argument that was
propounded to him. I, for my part, am very little subject to these
violent passions; I am naturally of a stubborn apprehension, which also,
by reasoning, I every day harden and fortify.



Such as accuse mankind of the folly of gaping after future things, and
advise us to make our benefit of those which are present, and to set up
our rest upon them, as having no grasp upon that which is to come, even
less than that which we have upon what is past, have hit upon the most
universal of human errors, if that may be called an error to which nature
herself has disposed us, in order to the continuation of her own work,
prepossessing us, amongst several others, with this deceiving
imagination, as being more jealous of our action than afraid of our

We are never present with, but always beyond ourselves: fear, desire,
hope, still push us on towards the future, depriving us, in the meantime,
of the sense and consideration of that which is to amuse us with the
thought of what shall be, even when we shall be no more.--[Rousseau,
Emile, livre ii.]

"Calamitosus est animus futuri auxius."

["The mind anxious about the future is unhappy."
--Seneca, Epist., 98.]

We find this great precept often repeated in Plato, "Do thine own work,
and know thyself." Of which two parts, both the one and the other
generally, comprehend our whole duty, and do each of them in like manner
involve the other; for who will do his own work aright will find that his
first lesson is to know what he is, and that which is proper to himself;
and who rightly understands himself will never mistake another man's work
for his own, but will love and improve himself above all other things,
will refuse superfluous employments, and reject all unprofitable thoughts
and propositions. As folly, on the one side, though it should enjoy all
it desire, would notwithstanding never be content, so, on the other,
wisdom, acquiescing in the present, is never dissatisfied with itself.
--[Cicero, Tusc. Quae., 57, v. 18.]--Epicurus dispenses his sages from
all foresight and care of the future.

Amongst those laws that relate to the dead, I look upon that to be very
sound by which the actions of princes are to be examined after their
decease.--[Diodorus Siculus, i. 6.]-- They are equals with, if not
masters of the laws, and, therefore, what justice could not inflict upon
their persons, 'tis but reason should be executed upon their reputations
and the estates of their successors--things that we often value above
life itself. 'Tis a custom of singular advantage to those countries
where it is in use, and by all good princes to be desired, who have
reason to take it ill, that the memories of the wicked should be used
with the same reverence and respect with their own. We owe subjection
and obedience to all our kings, whether good or bad, alike, for that has
respect unto their office; but as to esteem and affection, these are only
due to their virtue. Let us grant to political government to endure them
with patience, however unworthy; to conceal their vices; and to assist
them with our recommendation in their indifferent actions, whilst their
authority stands in need of our support. But, the relation of prince and
subject being once at an end, there is no reason we should deny the
expression of our real opinions to our own liberty and common justice,
and especially to interdict to good subjects the glory of having
reverently and faithfully served a prince, whose imperfections were to
them so well known; this were to deprive posterity of a useful example.
And such as, out of respect to some private obligation, unjustly espouse
and vindicate the memory of a faulty prince, do private right at the
expense of public justice. Livy does very truly say,--[xxxv. 48.]--
"That the language of men bred up in courts is always full of vain
ostentation and false testimony, every one indifferently magnifying his
own master, and stretching his commendation to the utmost extent of
virtue and sovereign grandeur." Some may condemn the freedom of those
two soldiers who so roundly answered Nero to his beard; the one being
asked by him why he bore him ill-will? "I loved thee," answered he,
"whilst thou wert worthy of it, but since thou art become a parricide, an
incendiary, a player, and a coachman, I hate thee as thou dost deserve."
And the other, why he should attempt to kill him? "Because," said he,
"I could think of no other remedy against thy perpetual mischiefs."
--[Tacitus, Annal., xv. 67.]--But the public and universal testimonies
that were given of him after his death (and so will be to all posterity,
both of him and all other wicked princes like him), of his tyrannies and
abominable deportment, who, of a sound judgment, can reprove them?

I am scandalised, that in so sacred a government as that of the
Lacedaemonians there should be mixed so hypocritical a ceremony at the
interment of their kings; where all their confederates and neighbours,
and all sorts and degrees of men and women, as well as their slaves, cut
and slashed their foreheads in token of sorrow, repeating in their cries
and lamentations that that king (let him have been as wicked as the
devil) was the best that ever they had;--[Herodotus, vi. 68.]--by this
means attributing to his quality the praise that only belongs to merit,
and that of right is due to supreme desert, though lodged in the lowest
and most inferior subject.

Aristotle, who will still have a hand in everything, makes a 'quaere'
upon the saying of Solon, that none can be said to be happy until he is
dead: "whether, then, he who has lived and died according to his heart's
desire, if he have left an ill repute behind him, and that his posterity
be miserable, can be said to be happy?" Whilst we have life and motion,
we convey ourselves by fancy and preoccupation, whither and to what we
please; but once out of being, we have no more any manner of
communication with that which is, and it had therefore been better said
by Solon that man is never happy, because never so, till he is no more.

Vix radicitus e vita se tollit, et eicit;
Sed facit esse sui quiddam super inscius ipse,
Nec removet satis a projecto corpore sese, et

["Scarcely one man can, even in dying, wholly detach himself from
the idea of life; in his ignorance he must needs imagine that there
is in him something that survives him, and cannot sufficiently
separate or emancipate himself from his remains"
--Lucretius, iii. 890.]

Bertrand de Guesclin, dying at the siege of the Castle of Rancon, near
unto Puy, in Auvergne, the besieged were afterwards, upon surrender,
enjoined to lay down the keys of the place upon the corpse of the dead
general. Bartolommeo d'Alviano, the Venetian General, happening to die
in the service of the Republic in Brescia, and his corpse being to be
carried through the territory of Verona, an enemy's country, most of the
army were inclined to demand safe-conduct from the Veronese; but Theodoro
Trivulzio opposed the motion, rather choosing to make his way by force of
arms, and to run the hazard of a battle, saying it was by no means fit
that he who in his life was never afraid of his enemies should seem to
apprehend them when he was dead. In truth, in affairs of the same
nature, by the Greek laws, he who made suit to an enemy for a body to
give it burial renounced his victory, and had no more right to erect a
trophy, and he to whom such suit was made was reputed victor. By this
means it was that Nicias lost the advantage he had visibly obtained over
the Corinthians, and that Agesilaus, on the contrary, assured that which
he had before very doubtfully gained over the Boeotians.--[Plutarch,
Life of Nicias, c. ii.; Life of Agesilaus, c. vi.]

These things might appear strange, had it not been a general practice in
all ages not only to extend the concern of ourselves beyond this life,
but, moreover, to fancy that the favour of Heaven does not only very
often accompany us to the grave, but has also, even after life, a concern
for our ashes. Of which there are so many ancient examples (to say
nothing of those of our own observation), that it is not necessary I
should longer insist upon it. Edward I., King of England, having in the
long wars betwixt him and Robert, King of Scotland, had experience of how
great importance his own immediate presence was to the success of his
affairs, having ever been victorious in whatever he undertook in his own
person, when he came to die, bound his son in a solemn oath that, so soon
as he should be dead he should boil his body till the flesh parted from
the bones, and bury the flesh, reserving the bones to carry continually
with him in his army, so often as he should be obliged to go against the
Scots, as if destiny had inevitably attached victory, even to his
remains. John Zisca, the same who, to vindication of Wicliffe's
heresies, troubled the Bohemian state, left order that they should flay
him after his death, and of his skin make a drum to carry in the war
against his enemies, fancying it would contribute to the continuation of
the successes he had always obtained in the wars against them. In like
manner certain of the Indians, in their battles with the Spaniards,
carried with them the bones of one of their captains, in consideration of
the victories they had formerly obtained under his conduct. And other
people of the same New World carry about with them, in their wars, the
relics of valiant men who have died in battle, to incite their courage
and advance their fortune. Of which examples the first reserve nothing
for the tomb but the reputation they have acquired by their former
achievements, but these attribute to them a certain present and active

The proceeding of Captain Bayard is of a better composition, who finding
himself wounded to death with an harquebuss shot, and being importuned to
retire out of the fight, made answer that he would not begin at the last
gasp to turn his back to the enemy, and accordingly still fought on, till
feeling himself too faint and no longer able to sit on his horse, he
commanded his steward to set him down at the foot of a tree, but so that
he might die with his face towards the enemy, which he did.

I must yet add another example, equally remarkable for the present
consideration with any of the former. The Emperor Maximilian, great-
grandfather to the now King Philip,--[Philip II. of Spain.]--was a
prince endowed throughout with great and extraordinary qualities, and
amongst the rest with a singular beauty of person, but had withal a
humour very contrary to that of other princes, who for the despatch of
their most important affairs convert their close-stool into a chair of
State, which was, that he would never permit any of his bedchamber, how
familiar soever, to see him in that posture, and would steal aside to
make water as religiously as a virgin, shy to discover to his physician
or any other whomsoever those parts that we are accustomed to conceal.
I myself, who have so impudent a way of talking, am, nevertheless,
naturally so modest this way, that unless at the importunity of necessity
or pleasure, I scarcely ever communicate to the sight of any either those
parts or actions that custom orders us to conceal, wherein I suffer more
constraint than I conceive is very well becoming a man, especially of my
profession. But he nourished this modest humour to such a degree of
superstition as to give express orders in his last will that they should
put him on drawers so soon as he should be dead; to which, methinks, he
would have done well to have added that he should be blindfolded, too,
that put them on. The charge that Cyrus left with his children, that
neither they, nor any other, should either see or touch his body after
the soul was departed from it,--[Xenophon, Cyropedia, viii. 7.]--I
attribute to some superstitious devotion of his; for both his historian
and himself, amongst their great qualities, marked the whole course of
their lives with a singular respect and reverence to religion.

I was by no means pleased with a story, told me by a man of very great
quality of a relation of mine, and one who had given a very good account
of himself both in peace and war, that, coming to die in a very old age,
of excessive pain of the stone, he spent the last hours of his life in an
extraordinary solicitude about ordering the honour and ceremony of his
funeral, pressing all the men of condition who came to see him to engage
their word to attend him to his grave: importuning this very prince, who
came to visit him at his last gasp, with a most earnest supplication that
he would order his family to be there, and presenting before him several
reasons and examples to prove that it was a respect due to a man of his
condition; and seemed to die content, having obtained this promise, and
appointed the method and order of his funeral parade. I have seldom
heard of so persistent a vanity.

Another, though contrary curiosity (of which singularity, also, I do not
want domestic example), seems to be somewhat akin to this, that a man
shall cudgel his brains at the last moments of his life to contrive his
obsequies to so particular and unusual a parsimony as of one servant with
a lantern, I see this humour commended, and the appointment of Marcus.
Emilius Lepidus, who forbade his heirs to bestow upon his hearse even the
common ceremonies in use upon such occasions. Is it yet temperance and
frugality to avoid expense and pleasure of which the use and knowledge
are imperceptible to us? See, here, an easy and cheap reformation. If
instruction were at all necessary in this case, I should be of opinion
that in this, as in all other actions of life, each person should
regulate the matter according to his fortune; and the philosopher Lycon
prudently ordered his friends to dispose of his body where they should
think most fit, and as to his funeral, to order it neither too
superfluous nor too mean. For my part, I should wholly refer the
ordering of this ceremony to custom, and shall, when the time comes,
accordingly leave it to their discretion to whose lot it shall fall to do
me that last office. "Totus hic locus est contemnendus in nobis, non
negligendus in nostris;"--["The place of our sepulture is to be contemned
by us, but not to be neglected by our friends."--Cicero, Tusc. i. 45.]--
and it was a holy saying of a saint, "Curatio funeris, conditio
sepultura: pompa exequiarum, magis sunt vivorum solatia, quam subsidia
mortuorum."--["The care of death, the place of sepulture, the pomps of
obsequies, are rather consolations to the living than succours to the
dead." August. De Civit. Dei, i. 12.]--Which made Socrates answer
Crito, who, at death, asked him how he would be buried: "How you will,"
said he. "If I were to concern myself beyond the present about this
affair, I should be most tempted, as the greatest satisfaction of this
kind, to imitate those who in their lifetime entertain themselves with
the ceremony and honours of their own obsequies beforehand, and are
pleased with beholding their own dead countenance in marble. Happy are
they who can gratify their senses by insensibility, and live by their

I am ready to conceive an implacable hatred against all popular
domination, though I think it the most natural and equitable of all, so
oft as I call to mind the inhuman injustice of the people of Athens, who,
without remission, or once vouchsafing to hear what they had to say for
themselves, put to death their brave captains newly returned triumphant
from a naval victory they had obtained over the Lacedaemonians near the
Arginusian Isles, the most bloody and obstinate engagement that ever the
Greeks fought at sea; because (after the victory) they followed up the
blow and pursued the advantages presented to them by the rule of war,
rather than stay to gather up and bury their dead. And the execution is
yet rendered more odious by the behaviour of Diomedon, who, being one of
the condemned, and a man of most eminent virtue, political and military,
after having heard the sentence, advancing to speak, no audience till
then having been allowed, instead of laying before them his own cause,
or the impiety of so cruel a sentence, only expressed a solicitude for
his judges' preservation, beseeching the gods to convert this sentence to
their good, and praying that, for neglecting to fulfil the vows which he
and his companions had made (with which he also acquainted them) in
acknowledgment of so glorious a success, they might not draw down the
indignation of the gods upon them; and so without more words went
courageously to his death.

Fortune, a few years after, punished them in the same kind; for Chabrias,
captain-general of their naval forces, having got the better of Pollis,
Admiral of Sparta, at the Isle of Naxos, totally lost the fruits of his
victory, one of very great importance to their affairs, in order not to
incur the danger of this example, and so that he should not lose a few
bodies of his dead friends that were floating in the sea, gave
opportunity to a world of living enemies to sail away in safety, who
afterwards made them pay dear for this unseasonable superstition:--

"Quaeris, quo jaceas, post obitum, loco?
Quo non nata jacent."

["Dost ask where thou shalt lie after death?
Where things not born lie, that never being had."]
Seneca, Tyoa. Choro ii. 30.

This other restores the sense of repose to a body without a soul:

"Neque sepulcrum, quo recipiatur, habeat: portum corporis, ubi,
remissa human, vita, corpus requiescat a malis."

["Nor let him have a sepulchre wherein he may be received, a haven
for his body, where, life being gone, that body may rest from its
woes."--Ennius, ap. Cicero, Tusc. i. 44.]

As nature demonstrates to us that several dead things retain yet an
occult relation to life; wine changes its flavour and complexion in
cellars, according to the changes and seasons of the vine from whence it
came; and the flesh of--venison alters its condition in the powdering-
tub, and its taste according to the laws of the living flesh of its kind,
as it is said.



A gentleman of my country, marvellously tormented with the gout, being
importuned by his physicians totally to abstain from all manner of salt
meats, was wont pleasantly to reply, that in the extremity of his fits he
must needs have something to quarrel with, and that railing at and
cursing, one while the Bologna sausages, and another the dried tongues
and the hams, was some mitigation to his pain. But, in good earnest, as
the arm when it is advanced to strike, if it miss the blow, and goes by
the wind, it pains us; and as also, that, to make a pleasant prospect,
the sight should not be lost and dilated in vague air, but have some
bound and object to limit and circumscribe it at a reasonable distance,

"Ventus ut amittit vires, nisi robore densa
Occurrant sylvae, spatio diffusus inani."

["As the wind loses its force diffused in void space, unless it in
its strength encounters the thick wood."--Lucan, iii. 362.]

So it seems that the soul, being transported and discomposed, turns its
violence upon itself, if not supplied with something to oppose it, and
therefore always requires an object at which to aim, and whereon to act.
Plutarch says of those who are delighted with little dogs and monkeys,
that the amorous part that is in us, for want of a legitimate object,
rather than lie idle, does after that manner forge and create one false
and frivolous. And we see that the soul, in its passions, inclines
rather to deceive itself, by creating a false and fantastical a subject,
even contrary to its own belief, than not to have something to work upon.
After this manner brute beasts direct their fury to fall upon the stone
or weapon that has hurt them, and with their teeth a even execute revenge
upon themselves for the injury they have received from another:

"Pannonis haud aliter, post ictum saevior ursa,
Cui jaculum parva Lybis amentavit habena,
Se rotat in vulnus, telumque irata receptum
Impetit, et secum fugientem circuit hastam."

["So the she-bear, fiercer after the blow from the Lybian's thong-
hurled dart, turns round upon the wound, and attacking the received
spear, twists it, as she flies."--Lucan, vi. 220.]

What causes of the misadventures that befall us do we not invent? what
is it that we do not lay the fault to, right or wrong, that we may have
something to quarrel with? It is not those beautiful tresses you tear,
nor is it the white bosom that in your anger you so unmercifully beat,
that with an unlucky bullet have slain your beloved brother; quarrel with
something else. Livy, speaking of the Roman army in Spain, says that for
the loss of the two brothers, their great captains:

"Flere omnes repente, et offensare capita."

["All at once wept and tore their hair."-Livy, xxv. 37.]

'Tis a common practice. And the philosopher Bion said pleasantly of the
king, who by handsful pulled his hair off his head for sorrow, "Does this
man think that baldness is a remedy for grief?"--[Cicero, Tusc. Quest.,
iii. 26.]--Who has not seen peevish gamesters chew and swallow the
cards, and swallow the dice, in revenge for the loss of their money?
Xerxes whipped the sea, and wrote a challenge to Mount Athos; Cyrus
employed a whole army several days at work, to revenge himself of the
river Gyndas, for the fright it had put him into in passing over it; and
Caligula demolished a very beautiful palace for the pleasure his mother
had once enjoyed there.

--[Pleasure--unless 'plaisir' were originally 'deplaisir'--must be
understood here ironically, for the house was one in which she had
been imprisoned.--Seneca, De Ira. iii. 22]--

I remember there was a story current, when I was a boy, that one of our
neighbouring kings--[Probably Alfonso XI. of Castile]--having received
a blow from the hand of God, swore he would be revenged, and in order to
it, made proclamation that for ten years to come no one should pray to
Him, or so much as mention Him throughout his dominions, or, so far as
his authority went, believe in Him; by which they meant to paint not so
much the folly as the vainglory of the nation of which this tale was
told. They are vices that always go together, but in truth such actions
as these have in them still more of presumption than want of wit.
Augustus Caesar, having been tossed with a tempest at sea, fell to
defying Neptune, and in the pomp of the Circensian games, to be revenged,
deposed his statue from the place it had amongst the other deities.
Wherein he was still less excusable than the former, and less than he was
afterwards when, having lost a battle under Quintilius Varus in Germany,
in rage and despair he went running his head against the wall, crying
out, "O Varus! give me back my legions!" for these exceed all folly,
forasmuch as impiety is joined therewith, invading God Himself, or at
least Fortune, as if she had ears that were subject to our batteries;
like the Thracians, who when it thunders or lightens, fall to shooting
against heaven with Titanian vengeance, as if by flights of arrows they
intended to bring God to reason. Though the ancient poet in Plutarch
tells us--

"Point ne se faut couroucer aux affaires,
Il ne leur chault de toutes nos choleres."

["We must not trouble the gods with our affairs; they take no heed
of our angers and disputes."--Plutarch.]

But we can never enough decry the disorderly sallies of our minds.



Quintus Marcius, the Roman legate in the war against Perseus, King of
Macedon, to gain time wherein to reinforce his army, set on foot some
overtures of accommodation, with which the king being lulled asleep,
concluded a truce for some days, by this means giving his enemy
opportunity and leisure to recruit his forces, which was afterwards the
occasion of the king's final ruin. Yet the elder senators, mindful of
their forefathers' manners, condemned this proceeding as degenerating
from their ancient practice, which, they said, was to fight by valour,
and not by artifice, surprises, and night-encounters; neither by
pretended flight nor unexpected rallies to overcome their enemies; never
making war till having first proclaimed it, and very often assigned both
the hour and place of battle. Out of this generous principle it was that
they delivered up to Pyrrhus his treacherous physician, and to the
Etrurians their disloyal schoolmaster. This was, indeed, a procedure
truly Roman, and nothing allied to the Grecian subtlety, nor to the Punic
cunning, where it was reputed a victory of less glory to overcome by
force than by fraud. Deceit may serve for a need, but he only confesses
himself overcome who knows he is neither subdued by policy nor
misadventure, but by dint of valour, man to man, in a fair and just war.
It very well appears, by the discourse of these good old senators, that
this fine sentence was not yet received amongst them.

"Dolus, an virtus, quis in hoste requirat?"

["What matters whether by valour or by strategem we overcome the
enemy?"--Aeneid, ii. 390]

The Achaians, says Polybius, abhorred all manner of double-dealing in
war, not reputing it a victory unless where the courage of the enemy was
fairly subdued:

"Eam vir sanctus et sapiens sciet veram esse victoriam, quae, salva fide
et integra dignitate, parabitur."--["An honest and prudent man will
acknowledge that only to be a true victory which shall be obtained saving
his own good faith and dignity."--Florus, i. 12.]--Says another:

"Vosne velit, an me, regnare hera, quidve ferat,
fors virtute experiamur."

["Whether you or I shall rule, or what shall happen, let us
determine by valour."--Cicero, De Offic., i. 12]

In the kingdom of Ternate, amongst those nations which we so broadly call
barbarians, they have a custom never to commence war, till it be first
proclaimed; adding withal an ample declaration of what means they have to
do it with, with what and how many men, what ammunitions, and what, both
offensive and defensive, arms; but also, that being done, if their
enemies do not yield and come to an agreement, they conceive it lawful to
employ without reproach in their wars any means which may help them to

The ancient Florentines were so far from seeking to obtain any advantage
over their enemies by surprise, that they always gave them a month's
warning before they drew their army into the field, by the continual
tolling of a bell they called Martinella.--[After St. Martin.]

For what concerns ourselves, who are not so scrupulous in this affair,
and who attribute the honour of the war to him who has the profit of it,
and who after Lysander say, "Where the lion's skin is too short, we must
eke it out with a bit from that of a fox"; the most usual occasions of
surprise are derived from this practice, and we hold that there are no
moments wherein a chief ought to be more circumspect, and to have his eye
so much at watch, as those of parleys and treaties of accommodation; and
it is, therefore, become a general rule amongst the martial men of these
latter times, that a governor of a place never ought, in a time of siege,
to go out to parley. It was for this that in our fathers' days the
Seigneurs de Montmord and de l'Assigni, defending Mousson against the
Count of Nassau, were so highly censured. But yet, as to this, it would
be excusable in that governor who, going out, should, notwithstanding,
do it in such manner that the safety and advantage should be on his side;
as Count Guido di Rangone did at Reggio (if we are to believe Du Bellay,
for Guicciardini says it was he himself) when the Seigneur de l'Escut
approached to parley, who stepped so little away from his fort, that a
disorder happening in the interim of parley, not only Monsieur de l'Escut
and his party who were advanced with him, found themselves by much the
weaker, insomuch that Alessandro Trivulcio was there slain, but he
himself follow the Count, and, relying upon his honour, to secure himself
from the danger of the shot within the walls of the town.

Eumenes, being shut up in the city of Nora by Antigonus, and by him
importuned to come out to speak with him, as he sent him word it was fit
he should to a greater man than himself, and one who had now an advantage
over him, returned this noble answer. "Tell him," said he, "that I shall
never think any man greater than myself whilst I have my sword in my
hand," and would not consent to come out to him till first, according to
his own demand, Antigonus had delivered him his own nephew Ptolomeus in

And yet some have done very well in going out in person to parley, on the
word of the assailant: witness Henry de Vaux, a cavalier of Champagne,
who being besieged by the English in the Castle of Commercy, and
Bartholomew de Brunes, who commanded at the Leaguer, having so sapped the
greatest part of the castle without, that nothing remained but setting
fire to the props to bury the besieged under the ruins, he requested the
said Henry to come out to speak with him for his own good, which he did
with three more in company; and, his ruin being made apparent to him, he
conceived himself singularly obliged to his enemy, to whose discretion he
and his garrison surrendered themselves; and fire being presently applied
to the mine, the props no sooner began to fail, but the castle was
immediately blown up from its foundations, no one stone being left upon

I could, and do, with great facility, rely upon the faith of another; but
I should very unwillingly do it in such a case, as it should thereby be
judged that it was rather an effect of my despair and want of courage
than voluntarily and out of confidence and security in the faith of him
with whom I had to do.



I saw, notwithstanding, lately at Mussidan, a place not far from my
house, that those who were driven out thence by our army, and others of
their party, highly complained of treachery, for that during a treaty of
accommodation, and in the very interim that their deputies were treating,
they were surprised and cut to pieces: a thing that, peradventure, in
another age, might have had some colour of foul play; but, as I have just
said, the practice of arms in these days is quite another thing, and
there is now no confidence in an enemy excusable till the treaty is
finally sealed; and even then the conqueror has enough to do to keep his
word: so hazardous a thing it is to entrust the observation of the faith
a man has engaged to a town that surrenders upon easy and favourable
conditions, to the licence of a victorious army, and to give the soldier
free entrance into it in the heat of blood.

Lucius AEmilius Regillus, the Roman praetor, having lost his time in
attempting to take the city of Phocaea by force, by reason of the
singular valour wherewith the inhabitants defended themselves,
conditioned, at last, to receive them as friends to the people of Rome,
and to enter the town, as into a confederate city, without any manner of
hostility, of which he gave them all assurance; but having, for the
greater pomp, brought his whole army in with him, it was no more in his
power, with all the endeavour he could use, to restrain his people: so
that, avarice and revenge trampling under foot both his authority and all
military discipline, he there saw a considerable part of the city sacked
and ruined before his face.

Cleomenes was wont to say, "that what mischief soever a man could do his
enemy in time of war was above justice, and nothing accountable to it in
the sight of gods and men." And so, having concluded a truce with those
of Argos for seven days, the third night after he fell upon them when
they were all buried in sleep, and put them to the sword, alleging that
there had no nights been mentioned in the truce; but the gods punished
this subtle perfidy.

In a time of parley also; and while the citizens were relying upon their
safety warrant, the city of Casilinum was taken by surprise, and that
even in the age of the justest captains and the most perfect Roman
military discipline; for it is not said that it is not lawful for us, in
time and place, to make advantage of our enemies' want of understanding,
as well as their want of courage.

And, doubtless, war has naturally many privileges that appear reasonable
even to the prejudice of reason. And therefore here the rule fails,
"Neminem id agere ut ex alte rius praedetur inscitia."--["No one should
preys upon another's folly."--Cicero, De 0ffic., iii. 17.]--But I am
astonished at the great liberty allowed by Xenophon in such cases, and
that both by precept and by the example of several exploits of his
complete emperor; an author of very great authority, I confess, in those
affairs, as being in his own person both a great captain and a
philosopher of the first form of Socrates' disciples; and yet I cannot
consent to such a measure of licence as he dispenses in all things and

Monsieur d'Aubigny, besieging Capua, and after having directed a furious
battery against it, Signor Fabricio Colonna, governor of the town, having
from a bastion begun to parley, and his soldiers in the meantime being a
little more remiss in their guard, our people entered the place at
unawares, and put them all to the sword. And of later memory, at Yvoy,
Signor Juliano Romero having played that part of a novice to go out to
parley with the Constable, at his return found his place taken. But,
that we might not scape scot-free, the Marquess of Pescara having laid
siege to Genoa, where Duke Ottaviano Fregosa commanded under our
protection, and the articles betwixt them being so far advanced that it
was looked upon as a done thing, and upon the point to be concluded, the
Spaniards in the meantime having slipped in, made use of this treachery
as an absolute victory. And since, at Ligny, in Barrois, where the Count
de Brienne commanded, the emperor having in his own person beleaguered
that place, and Bertheville, the said Count's lieutenant, going out to
parley, whilst he was capitulating the town was taken.

"Fu il vincer sempremai laudabil cosa,
Vincasi o per fortuna, o per ingegno,"

["Victory is ever worthy of praise, whether obtained by valour or
wisdom."--Ariosto, xv. I.]

But the philosopher Chrysippus was of another opinion, wherein I also
concur; for he was used to say that those who run a race ought to employ
all the force they have in what they are about, and to run as fast as
they can; but that it is by no means fair in them to lay any hand upon
their adversary to stop him, nor to set a leg before him to throw him
down. And yet more generous was the answer of that great Alexander to
Polypercon who was persuading him to take the advantage of the night's
obscurity to fall upon Darius. "By no means," said be; "it is not for
such a man as I am to steal a victory, 'Malo me fortunae poeniteat, quam
victoria pudeat.'"--["I had rather complain of ill-fortune than be
ashamed of victory." Quint. Curt, iv. 13]--

"Atque idem fugientem baud est dignatus Oroden
Sternere, nec jacta caecum dare cuspide vulnus
Obvius, adversoque occurrit, seque viro vir
Contulit, haud furto melior, sed fortibus armis."

["He deigned not to throw down Orodes as he fled, or with the darted
spear to give him a wound unseen; but overtaking him, he confronted
him face to face, and encountered man to man: superior, not in
stratagem, but in valiant arms."--AEneid, x. 732.]



'Tis a saying, "That death discharges us of all our obligations." I know
some who have taken it in another sense. Henry VII., King of England,
articled with Don Philip, son to Maximilian the emperor, or (to place him
more honourably) father to the Emperor Charles V., that the said Philip
should deliver up the Duke of Suffolk of the White Rose, his enemy, who
was fled into the Low Countries, into his hands; which Philip accordingly
did, but upon condition, nevertheless, that Henry should attempt nothing
against the life of the said Duke; but coming to die, the king in his
last will commanded his son to put him to death immediately after his
decease. And lately, in the tragedy that the Duke of Alva presented to
us in the persons of the Counts Horn and Egmont at Brussels,
--[Decapitated 4th June 1568]--there were very remarkable passages, and
one amongst the rest, that Count Egmont (upon the security of whose word
and faith Count Horn had come and surrendered himself to the Duke of
Alva) earnestly entreated that he might first mount the scaffold, to the
end that death might disengage him from the obligation he had passed to
the other. In which case, methinks, death did not acquit the former of
his promise, and that the second was discharged from it without dying.
We cannot be bound beyond what we are able to perform, by reason that
effect and performance are not at all in our power, and that, indeed, we
are masters of nothing but the will, in which, by necessity, all the
rules and whole duty of mankind are founded and established: therefore
Count Egmont, conceiving his soul and will indebted to his promise,
although he had not the power to make it good, had doubtless been
absolved of his duty, even though he had outlived the other; but the King
of England wilfully and premeditately breaking his faith, was no more to
be excused for deferring the execution of his infidelity till after his
death than the mason in Herodotus, who having inviolably, during the time
of his life, kept the secret of the treasure of the King of Egypt, his
master, at his death discovered it to his children.--[Herod., ii. 121.]

I have taken notice of several in my time, who, convicted by their
consciences of unjustly detaining the goods of another, have endeavoured
to make amends by their will, and after their decease; but they had as
good do nothing, as either in taking so much time in so pressing an
affair, or in going about to remedy a wrong with so little
dissatisfaction or injury to themselves. They owe, over and above,
something of their own; and by how much their payment is more strict and
incommodious to themselves, by so much is their restitution more just
meritorious. Penitency requires penalty; but they yet do worse than
these, who reserve the animosity against their neighbour to the last
gasp, having concealed it during their life; wherein they manifest little
regard of their own honour, irritating the party offended in their
memory; and less to their the power, even out of to make their malice die
with them, but extending the life of their hatred even beyond their own.
Unjust judges, who defer judgment to a time wherein they can have no
knowledge of the cause! For my part, I shall take care, if I can, that
my death discover nothing that my life has not first and openly declared.



As we see some grounds that have long lain idle and untilled, when grown
rich and fertile by rest, to abound with and spend their virtue in the
product of innumerable sorts of weeds and wild herbs that are
unprofitable, and that to make them perform their true office, we are to
cultivate and prepare them for such seeds as are proper for our service;
and as we see women that, without knowledge of man, do sometimes of
themselves bring forth inanimate and formless lumps of flesh, but that to
cause a natural and perfect generation they are to be husbanded with
another kind of seed: even so it is with minds, which if not applied to
some certain study that may fix and restrain them, run into a thousand
extravagances, eternally roving here and there in the vague expanse of
the imagination--

"Sicut aqua tremulum labris ubi lumen ahenis,
Sole repercussum, aut radiantis imagine lunae,
Omnia pervolitat late loca; jamque sub auras
Erigitur, summique ferit laquearia tecti."

["As when in brazen vats of water the trembling beams of light,
reflected from the sun, or from the image of the radiant moon,
swiftly float over every place around, and now are darted up on
high, and strike the ceilings of the upmost roof."--
AEneid, viii. 22.]

--in which wild agitation there is no folly, nor idle fancy they do not
light upon:--

"Velut aegri somnia, vanae
Finguntur species."

["As a sick man's dreams, creating vain phantasms."--
Hor., De Arte Poetica, 7.]

The soul that has no established aim loses itself, for, as it is said--

"Quisquis ubique habitat, Maxime, nusquam habitat."

["He who lives everywhere, lives nowhere."--Martial, vii. 73.]

When I lately retired to my own house, with a resolution, as much as
possibly I could, to avoid all manner of concern in affairs, and to spend
in privacy and repose the little remainder of time I have to live, I
fancied I could not more oblige my mind than to suffer it at full leisure
to entertain and divert itself, which I now hoped it might henceforth do,
as being by time become more settled and mature; but I find--

"Variam semper dant otia mentem,"

["Leisure ever creates varied thought."--Lucan, iv. 704]

that, quite contrary, it is like a horse that has broke from his rider,
who voluntarily runs into a much more violent career than any horseman
would put him to, and creates me so many chimaeras and fantastic
monsters, one upon another, without order or design, that, the better at
leisure to contemplate their strangeness and absurdity, I have begun to
commit them to writing, hoping in time to make it ashamed of itself.



There is not a man living whom it would so little become to speak from
memory as myself, for I have scarcely any at all, and do not think that
the world has another so marvellously treacherous as mine. My other
faculties are all sufficiently ordinary and mean; but in this I think
myself very rare and singular, and deserving to be thought famous.
Besides the natural inconvenience I suffer by it (for, certes, the
necessary use of memory considered, Plato had reason when he called it a
great and powerful goddess), in my country, when they would say a man has
no sense, they say, such an one has no memory; and when I complain of the
defect of mine, they do not believe me, and reprove me, as though I
accused myself for a fool: not discerning the difference betwixt memory
and understanding, which is to make matters still worse for me. But they
do me wrong; for experience, rather, daily shows us, on the contrary,
that a strong memory is commonly coupled with infirm judgment. They do,
me, moreover (who am so perfect in nothing as in friendship), a great
wrong in this, that they make the same words which accuse my infirmity,
represent me for an ungrateful person; they bring my affections into
question upon the account of my memory, and from a natural imperfection,
make out a defect of conscience. "He has forgot," says one, "this
request, or that promise; he no more remembers his friends; he has forgot
to say or do, or conceal such and such a thing, for my sake." And,
truly, I am apt enough to forget many things, but to neglect anything my
friend has given me in charge, I never do it. And it should be enough,
methinks, that I feel the misery and inconvenience of it, without
branding me with malice, a vice so contrary to my humour.

However, I derive these comforts from my infirmity: first, that it is an
evil from which principally I have found reason to correct a worse, that
would easily enough have grown upon me, namely, ambition; the defect
being intolerable in those who take upon them public affairs. That, like
examples in the progress of nature demonstrate to us, she has fortified
me in my other faculties proportionably as she has left me unfurnished in
this; I should otherwise have been apt implicitly to have reposed my mind
and judgment upon the bare report of other men, without ever setting them
to work upon their own force, had the inventions and opinions of others
been ever been present with me by the benefit of memory. That by this
means I am not so talkative, for the magazine of the memory is ever
better furnished with matter than that of the invention. Had mine been
faithful to me, I had ere this deafened all my friends with my babble,
the subjects themselves arousing and stirring up the little faculty I
have of handling and employing them, heating and distending my discourse,
which were a pity: as I have observed in several of my intimate friends,
who, as their memories supply them with an entire and full view of
things, begin their narrative so far back, and crowd it with so many
impertinent circumstances, that though the story be good in itself, they
make a shift to spoil it; and if otherwise, you are either to curse the
strength of their memory or the weakness of their judgment: and it is a
hard thing to close up a discourse, and to cut it short, when you have
once started; there is nothing wherein the force of a horse is so much
seen as in a round and sudden stop. I see even those who are pertinent
enough, who would, but cannot stop short in their career; for whilst they
are seeking out a handsome period to conclude with, they go on at random,
straggling about upon impertinent trivialities, as men staggering upon
weak legs. But, above all, old men who retain the memory of things past,
and forget how often they have told them, are dangerous company; and I
have known stories from the mouth of a man of very great quality,
otherwise very pleasant in themselves, become very wearisome by being
repeated a hundred times over and over again to the same people.

Secondly, that, by this means, I the less remember the injuries I have
received; insomuch that, as the ancient said,--[Cicero, Pro Ligar.
c. 12.]--I should have a register of injuries, or a prompter, as Darius,
who, that he might not forget the offence he had received from those of
Athens, so oft as he sat down to dinner, ordered one of his pages three
times to repeat in his ear, "Sir, remember the Athenians";--[Herod., v.
105.]--and then, again, the places which I revisit, and the books I read
over again, still smile upon me with a fresh novelty.

It is not without good reason said "that he who has not a good memory
should never take upon him the trade of lying." I know very well that
the grammarians--[Nigidius, Aulus Gellius, xi. ii; Nonius, v. 80.]--
distinguish betwixt an untruth and a lie, and say that to tell an untruth
is to tell a thing that is false, but that we ourselves believe to be
true; and that the definition of the word to lie in Latin, from which our
French is taken, is to tell a thing which we know in our conscience to be
untrue; and it is of this last sort of liars only that I now speak. Now,
these do either wholly contrive and invent the untruths they utter, or so
alter and disguise a true story that it ends in a lie. When they
disguise and often alter the same story, according to their own fancy,
'tis very hard for them, at one time or another, to escape being trapped,
by reason that the real truth of the thing, having first taken possession
of the memory, and being there lodged impressed by the medium of
knowledge and science, it will be difficult that it should not represent
itself to the imagination, and shoulder out falsehood, which cannot there
have so sure and settled footing as the other; and the circumstances of
the first true knowledge evermore running in their minds, will be apt to
make them forget those that are illegitimate, and only, forged by their
own fancy. In what they, wholly invent, forasmuch as there is no
contrary impression to jostle their invention there seems to be less
danger of tripping; and yet even this by reason it is a vain body and
without any hold, is very apt to escape the memory, if it be not well
assured. Of which I had very pleasant experience, at the expense of such
as profess only to form and accommodate their speech to the affair they
have in hand, or to humour of the great folks to whom they are speaking;
for the circumstances to which these men stick not to enslave their faith
and conscience being subject to several changes, their language must vary
accordingly: whence it happens that of the same thing they tell one man
that it is this, and another that it is that, giving it several colours;
which men, if they once come to confer notes, and find out the cheat,
what becomes of this fine art? To which may be added, that they must of
necessity very often ridiculously trap themselves; for what memory can be
sufficient to retain so many different shapes as they have forged upon
one and the same subject? I have known many in my time very ambitious of
the repute of this fine wit; but they do not see that if they have the
reputation of it, the effect can no longer be.

In plain truth, lying is an accursed vice. We are not men, nor have
other tie upon one another, but by our word. If we did but discover the
horror and gravity of it, we should pursue it with fire and sword, and
more justly than other crimes. I see that parents commonly, and with
indiscretion enough, correct their children for little innocent faults,
and torment them for wanton tricks, that have neither impression nor
consequence; whereas, in my opinion, lying only, and, which is of
something a lower form, obstinacy, are the faults which are to be
severely whipped out of them, both in their infancy and in their
progress, otherwise they grow up and increase with them; and after a
tongue has once got the knack of lying, 'tis not to be imagined how
impossible it is to reclaim it whence it comes to pass that we see some,
who are otherwise very honest men, so subject and enslaved to this vice.
I have an honest lad to my tailor, whom I never knew guilty of one truth,
no, not when it had been to his advantage. If falsehood had, like truth,
but one face only, we should be upon better terms; for we should then
take for certain the contrary to what the liar says: but the reverse of
truth has a hundred thousand forms, and a field indefinite, without bound
or limit. The Pythagoreans make good to be certain and finite, and evil,
infinite and uncertain. There are a thousand ways to miss the white,
there is only one to hit it. For my own part, I have this vice in so
great horror, that I am not sure I could prevail with my conscience to
secure myself from the most manifest and extreme danger by an impudent
and solemn lie. An ancient father says "that a dog we know is better
company than a man whose language we do not understand."

"Ut externus alieno pene non sit hominis vice."

["As a foreigner cannot be said to supply us the place of a man."--
Pliny, Nat. Hist. vii. I]

And how much less sociable is false speaking than silence?

King Francis I. vaunted that he had by this means nonplussed Francesco
Taverna, ambassador of Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, a man very famous
for his science in talking in those days. This gentleman had been sent
to excuse his master to his Majesty about a thing of very great
consequence, which was this: the King, still to maintain some
intelligence with Italy, out of which he had lately been driven, and
particularly with the duchy of Milan, had thought it convenient to have a
gentleman on his behalf to be with that Duke: an ambassador in effect,
but in outward appearance a private person who pretended to reside there
upon his own particular affairs; for the Duke, much more depending upon
the Emperor, especially at a time when he was in a treaty of marriage
with his niece, daughter to the King of Denmark, who is now dowager of
Lorraine, could not manifest any practice and conference with us without
his great interest. For this commission one Merveille, a Milanese
gentleman, and an equerry to the King, being thought very fit, was
accordingly despatched thither with private credentials, and instructions
as ambassador, and with other letters of recommendation to the Duke about
his own private concerns, the better to mask and colour the business; and
was so long in that court, that the Emperor at last had some inkling of
his real employment there; which was the occasion of what followed after,
as we suppose; which was, that under pretence of some murder, his trial
was in two days despatched, and his head in the night struck off in
prison. Messire Francesco being come, and prepared with a long
counterfeit history of the affair (for the King had applied himself to
all the princes of Christendom, as well as to the Duke himself, to demand
satisfaction), had his audience at the morning council; where, after he
had for the support of his cause laid open several plausible
justifications of the fact, that his master had never looked upon this
Merveille for other than a private gentleman and his own subject, who was
there only in order to his own business, neither had he ever lived under
any other aspect; absolutely disowning that he had ever heard he was one
of the King's household or that his Majesty so much as knew him, so far
was he from taking him for an ambassador: the King, in his turn, pressing
him with several objections and demands, and challenging him on all
sides, tripped him up at last by asking, why, then, the execution was
performed by night, and as it were by stealth? At which the poor
confounded ambassador, the more handsomely to disengage himself, made
answer, that the Duke would have been very loth, out of respect to his
Majesty, that such an execution should have been performed by day. Any
one may guess if he was not well rated when he came home, for having so
grossly tripped in the presence of a prince of so delicate a nostril as
King Francis.

Pope Julius II. having sent an ambassador to the King of England to
animate him against King Francis, the ambassador having had his audience,
and the King, before he would give an answer, insisting upon the
difficulties he should find in setting on foot so great a preparation as
would be necessary to attack so potent a King, and urging some reasons to
that effect, the ambassador very unseasonably replied that he had also
himself considered the same difficulties, and had represented them to the
Pope. From which saying of his, so directly opposite to the thing
propounded and the business he came about, which was immediately to
incite him to war, the King of England first derived the argument (which
he afterward found to be true), that this ambassador, in his own mind,
was on the side of the French; of which having advertised his master, his
estate at his return home was confiscated, and he himself very narrowly
escaped the losing of his head.--[Erasmi Op. (1703), iv. col. 684.]



"Onc ne furent a touts toutes graces donnees."

["All graces were never yet given to any one man."--A verse
in one of La Brebis' Sonnets.]

So we see in the gift of eloquence, wherein some have such a facility and
promptness, and that which we call a present wit so easy, that they are
ever ready upon all occasions, and never to be surprised; and others more
heavy and slow, never venture to utter anything but what they have long
premeditated, and taken great care and pains to fit and prepare.

Now, as we teach young ladies those sports and exercises which are most
proper to set out the grace and beauty of those parts wherein their
chiefest ornament and perfection lie, so it should be in these two
advantages of eloquence, to which the lawyers and preachers of our age
seem principally to pretend. If I were worthy to advise, the slow
speaker, methinks, should be more proper for the pulpit, and the other
for the bar: and that because the employment of the first does naturally
allow him all the leisure he can desire to prepare himself, and besides,
his career is performed in an even and unintermitted line, without stop
or interruption; whereas the pleader's business and interest compels him
to enter the lists upon all occasions, and the unexpected objections and
replies of his adverse party jostle him out of his course, and put him,
upon the instant, to pump for new and extempore answers and defences.
Yet, at the interview betwixt Pope Clement and King Francis at
Marseilles, it happened, quite contrary, that Monsieur Poyet, a man bred
up all his life at the bar, and in the highest repute for eloquence,
having the charge of making the harangue to the Pope committed to him,
and having so long meditated on it beforehand, as, so they said, to have
brought it ready made along with him from Paris; the very day it was to
have been pronounced, the Pope, fearing something might be said that
might give offence to the other princes' ambassadors who were there
attending on him, sent to acquaint the King with the argument which he
conceived most suiting to the time and place, but, by chance, quite
another thing to that Monsieur de Poyet had taken so much pains about: so
that the fine speech he had prepared was of no use, and he was upon the
instant to contrive another; which finding himself unable to do, Cardinal
du Bellay was constrained to perform that office. The pleader's part is,
doubtless, much harder than that of the preacher; and yet, in my opinion,
we see more passable lawyers than preachers, at all events in France.
It should seem that the nature of wit is to have its operation prompt and
sudden, and that of judgment to have it more deliberate and more slow.
But he who remains totally silent, for want of leisure to prepare himself
to speak well, and he also whom leisure does noways benefit to better
speaking, are equally unhappy.

'Tis said of Severus Cassius that he spoke best extempore, that he stood
more obliged to fortune than to his own diligence; that it was an
advantage to him to be interrupted in speaking, and that his adversaries
were afraid to nettle him, lest his anger should redouble his eloquence.
I know, experimentally, the disposition of nature so impatient of tedious
and elaborate premeditation, that if it do not go frankly and gaily to
work, it can perform nothing to purpose. We say of some compositions
that they stink of oil and of the lamp, by reason of a certain rough
harshness that laborious handling imprints upon those where it has been
employed. But besides this, the solicitude of doing well, and a certain
striving and contending of a mind too far strained and overbent upon its
undertaking, breaks and hinders itself like water, that by force of its
own pressing violence and abundance, cannot find a ready issue through
the neck of a bottle or a narrow sluice. In this condition of nature,
of which I am now speaking, there is this also, that it would not be
disordered and stimulated with such passions as the fury of Cassius (for
such a motion would be too violent and rude); it would not be jostled,
but solicited; it would be roused and heated by unexpected, sudden, and
accidental occasions. If it be left to itself, it flags and languishes;
agitation only gives it grace and vigour. I am always worst in my own
possession, and when wholly at my own disposition: accident has more
title to anything that comes from me than I; occasion, company, and even
the very rising and falling of my own voice, extract more from my fancy
than I can find, when I sound and employ it by myself. By which means,
the things I say are better than those I write, if either were to be
preferred, where neither is worth anything. This, also, befalls me, that
I do not find myself where I seek myself, and I light upon things more by
chance than by any inquisition of my own judgment. I perhaps sometimes
hit upon something when I write, that seems quaint and sprightly to me,
though it will appear dull and heavy to another.--But let us leave these
fine compliments; every one talks thus of himself according to his
talent. But when I come to speak, I am already so lost that I know not
what I was about to say, and in such cases a stranger often finds it out
before me. If I should make erasure so often as this inconvenience
befalls me, I should make clean work; occasion will, at some other time,
lay it as visible to me as the light, and make me wonder what I should
stick at.



For what concerns oracles, it is certain that a good while before the
coming of Jesus Christ they had begun to lose their credit; for we see
that Cicero troubled to find out the cause of their decay, and he has
these words:

"Cur isto modo jam oracula Delphis non eduntur,
non modo nostro aetate, sed jam diu; ut nihil
possit esse contemptius?"

["What is the reason that the oracles at Delphi are no longer
uttered: not merely in this age of ours, but for a long time past,
insomuch that nothing is more in contempt?"--
Cicero, De Divin., ii. 57.]

But as to the other prognostics, calculated from the anatomy of beasts at
sacrifices (to which purpose Plato does, in part, attribute the natural
constitution of the intestines of the beasts themselves), the
scraping of poultry, the flight of birds--

"Aves quasdam . . . rerum augurandarum
causa natas esse putamus."

["We think some sorts of birds are purposely created to serve
the purposes of augury."--Cicero, De Natura Deor., ii. 64.]

--claps of thunder, the overflowing of rivers--

"Multa cernunt Aruspices, multa Augures provident,
multa oraculis declarantur, multa vaticinationibus,
multa somniis, multa portentis."

["The Aruspices discern many things, the Augurs foresee many things,
many things are announced by oracles, many by vaticinations, many by
dreams, many by portents."--Cicero, De Natura Deor., ii. 65.]

--and others of the like nature, upon which antiquity founded most of
their public and private enterprises, our religion has totally abolished
them. And although there yet remain amongst us some practices of
divination from the stars, from spirits, from the shapes and complexions
of men, from dreams and the like (a notable example of the wild curiosity
of our nature to grasp at and anticipate future things, as if we had not
enough to do to digest the present)--

"Cur hanc tibi, rector Olympi,
Sollicitis visum mortalibus addere curam,
Noscant venturas ut dira per omina clades?....
Sit subitum, quodcumque paras; sit coeca futuri
Mens hominum fati, liceat sperare timenti."

["Why, ruler of Olympus, hast thou to anxious mortals thought fit to
add this care, that they should know by, omens future slaughter?...
Let whatever thou art preparing be sudden. Let the mind of men be
blind to fate in store; let it be permitted to the timid to hope."--
Lucan, ii. 14]

"Ne utile quidem est scire quid futurum sit;
miserum est enim, nihil proficientem angi,"

["It is useless to know what shall come to pass; it is a miserable
thing to be tormented to no purpose."--
Cicero, De Natura Deor., iii. 6.]

yet are they of much less authority now than heretofore. Which makes so
much more remarkable the example of Francesco, Marquis of Saluzzo, who
being lieutenant to King Francis I. in his ultramontane army, infinitely
favoured and esteemed in our court, and obliged to the king's bounty for
the marquisate itself, which had been forfeited by his brother; and as to
the rest, having no manner of provocation given him to do it, and even
his own affection opposing any such disloyalty, suffered himself to be so
terrified, as it was confidently reported, with the fine prognostics that
were spread abroad everywhere in favour of the Emperor Charles V., and to
our disadvantage (especially in Italy, where these foolish prophecies
were so far believed, that at Rome great sums of money were ventured out
upon return of greater, when the prognostics came to pass, so certain
they made themselves of our ruin), that, having often bewailed, to those
of his acquaintance who were most intimate with him, the mischiefs that
he saw would inevitably fall upon the Crown of France and the friends he
had in that court, he revolted and turned to the other side; to his own
misfortune, nevertheless, what constellation soever governed at that
time. But he carried himself in this affair like a man agitated by
divers passions; for having both towns and forces in his hands, the
enemy's army under Antonio de Leyva close by him, and we not at all
suspecting his design, it had been in his power to have done more than he
did; for we lost no men by this infidelity of his, nor any town, but
Fossano only, and that after a long siege and a brave defence.--[1536]

"Prudens futuri temporis exitum
Caliginosa nocte premit Deus,
Ridetque, si mortalis ultra
Fas trepidat."

["A wise God covers with thick night the path of the future, and
laughs at the man who alarms himself without reason."--
Hor., Od., iii. 29.]

"Ille potens sui
Laetusque deget, cui licet in diem
Dixisse vixi! cras vel atra
Nube polum pater occupato,
Vel sole puro."

["He lives happy and master of himself who can say as each day
passes on, 'I HAVE LIVED:' whether to-morrow our Father shall give
us a clouded sky or a clear day."--Hor., Od., iii. 29]

"Laetus in praesens animus; quod ultra est,
Oderit curare."

["A mind happy, cheerful in the present state, will take good care
not to think of what is beyond it."--Ibid., ii. 25]

And those who take this sentence in a contrary sense interpret it amiss:

"Ista sic reciprocantur, ut et si divinatio sit,
dii sint; et si dii lint, sit divinatio."

["These things are so far reciprocal that if there be divination,
there must be deities; and if deities, divination."--Cicero, De
Divin., i. 6.]

Much more wisely Pacuvius--

"Nam istis, qui linguam avium intelligunt,
Plusque ex alieno jecore sapiunt, quam ex suo,
Magis audiendum, quam auscultandum, censeo."

["As to those who understand the language of birds, and who rather
consult the livers of animals other than their own, I had rather
hear them than attend to them."--
Cicero, De Divin., i. 57, ex Pacuvio]

The so celebrated art of divination amongst the Tuscans took its
beginning thus: A labourer striking deep with his cutter into the earth,
saw the demigod Tages ascend, with an infantine aspect, but endued with a
mature and senile wisdom. Upon the rumour of which, all the people ran
to see the sight, by whom his words and science, containing the
principles and means to attain to this art, were recorded, and kept for
many ages.--[Cicero, De Devina, ii. 23]--A birth suitable to its
progress; I, for my part, should sooner regulate my affairs by the chance
of a die than by such idle and vain dreams. And, indeed, in all
republics, a good share of the government has ever been referred to
chance. Plato, in the civil regimen that he models according to his own
fancy, leaves to it the decision of several things of very great
importance, and will, amongst other things, that marriages should be
appointed by lot; attributing so great importance to this accidental
choice as to ordain that the children begotten in such wedlock be brought
up in the country, and those begotten in any other be thrust out as
spurious and base; yet so, that if any of those exiles, notwithstanding,
should, peradventure, in growing up give any good hope of himself, he
might be recalled, as, also, that such as had been retained, should be
exiled, in case they gave little expectation of themselves in their early

I see some who are mightily given to study and comment upon their
almanacs, and produce them to us as an authority when anything has fallen
out pat; and, for that matter, it is hardly possible but that these
alleged authorities sometimes stumble upon a truth amongst an infinite
number of lies.

"Quis est enim, qui totum diem jaculans
non aliquando collineet?"

["For who shoots all day at butts that does not sometimes hit the
white?"--Cicero, De Divin., ii. 59.]

I think never the better of them for some such accidental hit. There
would be more certainty in it if there were a rule and a truth of always
lying. Besides, nobody records their flimflams and false prognostics,
forasmuch as they are infinite and common; but if they chop upon one
truth, that carries a mighty report, as being rare, incredible, and
prodigious. So Diogenes, surnamed the Atheist, answered him in
Samothrace, who, showing him in the temple the several offerings and
stories in painting of those who had escaped shipwreck, said to him,
"Look, you who think the gods have no care of human things, what do you
say to so many persons preserved from death by their especial favour?"
"Why, I say," answered he, "that their pictures are not here who were
cast away, who are by much the greater number."--[Cicero, De Natura
Deor., i. 37.]

Cicero observes that of all the philosophers who have acknowledged a
deity, Xenophanes the Colophonian only has endeavoured to eradicate all
manner of divination--[Cicero, De Divin., i. 3.]--; which makes it the
less a wonder if we have now and then seen some of our princes, sometimes
to their own cost, rely too much upon these vanities. I had given
anything with my own eyes to see those two great marvels, the book of
Joachim the Calabrian abbot, which foretold all the future Popes, their
names and qualities; and that of the Emperor Leo, which prophesied all
the emperors and patriarchs of Greece. This I have been an eyewitness
of, that in public confusions, men astonished at their fortune, have
abandoned their own reason, superstitiously to seek out in the stars the
ancient causes and menaces of the present mishaps, and in my time have
been so strangely successful in it, as to make me believe that this being
an amusement of sharp and volatile wits, those who have been versed in
this knack of unfolding and untying riddles, are capable, in any sort of
writing, to find out what they desire. But above all, that which gives
them the greatest room to play in, is the obscure, ambiguous, and
fantastic gibberish of the prophetic canting, where their authors deliver
nothing of clear sense, but shroud all in riddle, to the end that
posterity may interpret and apply it according to its own fancy.

Socrates demon might, perhaps, be no other but a certain impulsion of the
will, which obtruded itself upon him without the advice or consent of his
judgment; and in a soul so enlightened as his was, and so prepared by a
continual exercise of wisdom-and virtue, 'tis to be supposed those
inclinations of his, though sudden and undigested, were very important
and worthy to be followed. Every one finds in himself some image of such
agitations, of a prompt, vehement, and fortuitous opinion; and I may well
allow them some authority, who attribute so little to our prudence, and
who also myself have had some, weak in reason, but violent in persuasion
and dissuasion, which were most frequent with Socrates,--[Plato, in his
account of Theages the Pythagorean]--by which I have suffered myself to
be carried away so fortunately, and so much to my own advantage, that
they might have been judged to have had something in them of a divine



The law of resolution and constancy does not imply that we ought not, as
much as in us lies, to decline and secure ourselves from the mischiefs
and inconveniences that threaten us; nor, consequently, that we shall not
fear lest they should surprise us: on the contrary, all decent and honest
ways and means of securing ourselves from harms, are not only permitted,
but, moreover, commendable, and the business of constancy chiefly is,
bravely to stand to, and stoutly to suffer those inconveniences which are
not possibly to be avoided. So that there is no supple motion of body,
nor any movement in the handling of arms, how irregular or ungraceful
soever, that we need condemn, if they serve to protect us from the blow
that is made against us.

Several very warlike nations have made use of a retreating and flying way
of fight as a thing of singular advantage, and, by so doing, have made
their backs more dangerous to their enemies than their faces. Of which
kind of fighting the Turks still retain something in their practice of
arms; and Socrates, in Plato, laughs at Laches, who had defined fortitude
to be a standing firm in the ranks against the enemy. "What!" says he,
"would it, then, be a reputed cowardice to overcome them by giving
ground?" urging, at the same time, the authority of Homer, who commends
in AEneas the science of flight. And whereas Laches, considering better
of it, admits the practice as to the Scythians, and, in general, all
cavalry whatever, he again attacks him with the example of the
Lacedaemonian foot--a nation of all other the most obstinate in
maintaining their ground--who, in the battle of Plataea, not being able
to break into the Persian phalanx, bethought themselves to disperse and
retire, that by the enemy supposing they fled, they might break and
disunite that vast body of men in the pursuit, and by that stratagem
obtained the victory.

As for the Scythians, 'tis said of them, that when Darius went his
expedition to subdue them, he sent, by a herald, highly to reproach their
king, that he always retired before him and declined a battle; to which
Idanthyrses,--[Herod., iv. 127.]--for that was his name, returned
answer, that it was not for fear of him, or of any man living, that he
did so, but that it was the way of marching in practice with his nation,
who had neither tilled fields, cities, nor houses to defend, or to fear
the enemy should make any advantage of but that if he had such a stomach
to fight, let him but come to view their ancient places of sepulture, and
there he should have his fill.

Nevertheless, as to cannon-shot, when a body of men are drawn up in the
face of a train of artillery, as the occasion of war often requires, it
is unhandsome to quit their post to avoid the danger, forasmuch as by
reason of its violence and swiftness we account it inevitable; and many a
one, by ducking, stepping aside, and such other motions of fear, has
been, at all events, sufficiently laughed at by his companions. And yet,
in the expedition that the Emperor Charles V. made against us into
Provence, the Marquis de Guast going to reconnoitre the city of Arles,
and advancing out of the cover of a windmill, under favour of which he
had made his approach, was perceived by the Seigneurs de Bonneval and the
Seneschal of Agenois, who were walking upon the 'theatre aux ayenes'; who
having shown him to the Sieur de Villiers, commissary of the artillery,
he pointed a culverin so admirably well, and levelled it so exactly right
against him, that had not the Marquis, seeing fire given to it, slipped
aside, it was certainly concluded the shot had taken him full in the
body. And, in like manner, some years before, Lorenzo de' Medici, Duke
of Urbino, and father to the queen-mother--[Catherine de' Medici, mother
of Henry III.]--laying siege to Mondolfo, a place in the territories of
the Vicariat in Italy, seeing the cannoneer give fire to a piece that
pointed directly against him, it was well for him that he ducked, for
otherwise the shot, that only razed the top of his head, had doubtless
hit him full in the breast. To say truth, I do not think that these
evasions are performed upon the account of judgment; for how can any man
living judge of high or low aim on so sudden an occasion? And it is much
more easy to believe that fortune favoured their apprehension, and that
it might be as well at another time to make them face the danger, as to
seek to avoid it. For my own part, I confess I cannot forbear starting
when the rattle of a harquebuse thunders in my ears on a sudden, and in a
place where I am not to expect it, which I have also observed in others,
braver fellows than I.

Neither do the Stoics pretend that the soul of their philosopher need be
proof against the first visions and fantasies that surprise him; but, as
to a natural subjection, consent that he should tremble at the terrible
noise of thunder, or the sudden clatter of some falling ruin, and be
affrighted even to paleness and convulsion; and so in other passions,
provided his judgment remain sound and entire, and that the seat of his
reason suffer no concussion nor alteration, and that he yield no consent
to his fright and discomposure. To him who is not a philosopher, a
fright is the same thing in the first part of it, but quite another thing
in the second; for the impression of passions does not remain
superficially in him, but penetrates farther, even to the very seat of
reason, infecting and corrupting it, so that he judges according to his
fear, and conforms his behaviour to it. In this verse you may see the
true state of the wise Stoic learnedly and plainly expressed:--

"Mens immota manet; lachrymae volvuntur inanes."

["Though tears flow, the mind remains unmoved."
--Virgil, AEneid, iv. 449]

The Peripatetic sage does not exempt himself totally from perturbations
of mind, but he moderates them.


Being dead they were then by one day happier than he
Books I read over again, still smile upon me with fresh novelty
Death discharges us of all our obligations
Difference betwixt memory and understanding
Do thine own work, and know thyself
Effect and performance are not at all in our power
Fantastic gibberish of the prophetic canting
Folly of gaping after future things
Good to be certain and finite, and evil, infinite and uncertain
He who lives everywhere, lives nowhere
If they chop upon one truth, that carries a mighty report
Impotencies that so unseasonably surprise the lover
Let it be permitted to the timid to hope
Light griefs can speak: deep sorrows are dumb
Look, you who think the gods have no care of human things
Nature of judgment to have it more deliberate and more slow
Nature of wit is to have its operation prompt and sudden
Nor have other tie upon one another, but by our word
Old men who retain the memory of things past
Pity is reputed a vice amongst the Stoics
Rather complain of ill-fortune than be ashamed of victory
Reverse of truth has a hundred thousand forms
Say of some compositions that they stink of oil and of the lamp
Solon, that none can be said to be happy until he is dead
Strong memory is commonly coupled with infirm judgment
Stumble upon a truth amongst an infinite number of lies
Suffer those inconveniences which are not possibly to be avoided
Superstitiously to seek out in the stars the ancient causes
Their pictures are not here who were cast away
Things I say are better than those I write
We are masters of nothing but the will
We cannot be bound beyond what we are able to perform
Where the lion's skin is too short


Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazilitt



XIII. The ceremony of the interview of princes.
XIV. That men are justly punished for being obstinate in the defence
of a fort that is not in reason to be defended
XV. Of the punishment of cowardice.
XVI. A proceeding of some ambassadors.
XVII. Of fear.
XVIII. That men are not to judge of our happiness till after death.
XIX. That to study philosophy is to learn to die.
XX. Of the force of imagination.
XXI. That the profit of one man is the damage of another.



There is no subject so frivolous that does not merit a place in this
rhapsody. According to our common rule of civility, it would be a
notable affront to an equal, and much more to a superior, to fail being
at home when he has given you notice he will come to visit you. Nay,
Queen Margaret of Navarre--[Marguerite de Valois, authoress of the
'Heptameron']--further adds, that it would be a rudeness in a gentleman
to go out, as we so often do, to meet any that is coming to see him, let
him be of what high condition soever; and that it is more respectful and
more civil to stay at home to receive him, if only upon the account of
missing him by the way, and that it is enough to receive him at the door,
and to wait upon him. For my part, who as much as I can endeavour to
reduce the ceremonies of my house, I very often forget both the one and
the other of these vain offices. If, peradventure, some one may take
offence at this, I can't help it; it is much better to offend him once
than myself every day, for it would be a perpetual slavery. To what end
do we avoid the servile attendance of courts, if we bring the same
trouble home to our own private houses? It is also a common rule in all
assemblies, that those of less quality are to be first upon the place, by
reason that it is more due to the better sort to make others wait and
expect them.

Nevertheless, at the interview betwixt Pope Clement and King Francis at
Marseilles,--[in 1533.]--the King, after he had taken order for the
necessary preparations for his reception and entertainment, withdrew out
of the town, and gave the Pope two or three days' respite for his entry,
and to repose and refresh himself, before he came to him. And in like
manner, at the assignation of the Pope and the Emperor,--[Charles V. in
1532.] at Bologna, the Emperor gave the Pope opportunity to come thither
first, and came himself after; for which the reason given was this, that
at all the interviews of such princes, the greater ought to be first at
the appointed place, especially before the other in whose territories the
interview is appointed to be, intimating thereby a kind of deference to
the other, it appearing proper for the less to seek out and to apply
themselves to the greater, and not the greater to them.

Not every country only, but every city and every society has its
particular forms of civility. There was care enough to this taken in my
education, and I have lived in good company enough to know the
formalities of our own nation, and am able to give lessons in it. I love
to follow them, but not to be so servilely tied to their observation that
my whole life should be enslaved to ceremonies, of which there are some
so troublesome that, provided a man omits them out of discretion, and not
for want of breeding, it will be every whit as handsome. I have seen
some people rude, by being overcivil and troublesome in their courtesy.

Still, these excesses excepted, the knowledge of courtesy and good
manners is a very necessary study. It is, like grace and beauty, that
which begets liking and an inclination to love one another at the first
sight, and in the very beginning of acquaintance; and, consequently, that
which first opens the door and intromits us to instruct ourselves by the
example of others, and to give examples ourselves, if we have any worth
taking notice of and communicating.



Valour has its bounds as well as other virtues, which, once transgressed,
the next step is into the territories of vice; so that by having too
large a proportion of this heroic virtue, unless a man be very perfect in
its limits, which upon the confines are very hard to discern, he may very
easily unawares run into temerity, obstinacy, and folly. From this
consideration it is that we have derived the custom, in times of war, to
punish, even with death, those who are obstinate to defend a place that
by the rules of war is not tenable; otherwise men would be so confident
upon the hope of impunity, that not a henroost but would resist and seek
to stop an army.

The Constable Monsieur de Montmorenci, having at the siege of Pavia been
ordered to pass the Ticino, and to take up his quarters in the Faubourg
St. Antonio, being hindered by a tower at the end of the bridge, which
was so obstinate as to endure a battery, hanged every man he found within
it for their labour. And again, accompanying the Dauphin in his
expedition beyond the Alps, and taking the Castle of Villano by assault,
and all within it being put to the sword by the fury of the soldiers, the
governor and his ensign only excepted, he caused them both to be trussed
up for the same reason; as also did the Captain Martin du Bellay, then
governor of Turin, with the governor of San Buono, in the same country,
all his people having been cut to pieces at the taking of the place.

But forasmuch as the strength or weakness of a fortress is always
measured by the estimate and counterpoise of the forces that attack it--
for a man might reasonably enough despise two culverins, that would be a
madman to abide a battery of thirty pieces of cannon--where also the
greatness of the prince who is master of the field, his reputation, and
the respect that is due unto him, are also put into the balance, there is
danger that the balance be pressed too much in that direction. And it
may happen that a man is possessed with so great an opinion of himself
and his power, that thinking it unreasonable any place should dare to
shut its gates against him, he puts all to the sword where he meets with
any opposition, whilst his fortune continues; as is plain in the fierce
and arrogant forms of summoning towns and denouncing war, savouring so
much of barbarian pride and insolence, in use amongst the Oriental
princes, and which their successors to this day do yet retain and
practise. And in that part of the world where the Portuguese subdued the
Indians, they found some states where it was a universal and inviolable
law amongst them that every enemy overcome by the king in person, or by
his lieutenant, was out of composition.

So above all both of ransom and mercy a man should take heed, if he can,
of falling into the hands of a judge who is an enemy and victorious.



I once heard of a prince, and a great captain, having a narration given
him as he sat at table of the proceeding against Monsieur de Vervins, who
was sentenced to death for having surrendered Boulogne to the English,
--[To Henry VIII. in 1544]--openly maintaining that a soldier could not
justly be put to death for want of courage. And, in truth, 'tis reason
that a man should make a great difference betwixt faults that merely

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