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The Essays of Montaigne, Complete by Michel de Montaigne

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moderate natures. An immoderate zeal, even to that which is good, even
though it does not offend, astonishes me, and puts me to study what name
to give it. Neither the mother of Pausanias,

--["Montaigne would here give us to understand, upon the authority of
Diodorus Siculus, that Pausanias' mother gave the first hint of the
punishment that was to be inflicted on her son. 'Pausanias,' says
this historian, 'perceiving that the ephori, and some other
Lacedoemonians, aimed at apprehending him, got the start of them,
and went and took sanctuary m Minerva's temple: and the
Lacedaemonians, being doubtful whether they ought to take him from
thence in violation of the franchise there, it is said that his own
mother came herself to the temple but spoke nothing nor did anything
more than lay a piece of brick, which she brought with her, on the
threshold of the temple, which, when she had done, she returned
home. The Lacedaemonians, taking the hint from the mother, caused
the gate of the temple to be walled up, and by this means starved
Pausanias, so that he died with hunger, &c. (lib. xi. cap. 10., of
Amyot's translation). The name of Pausanias' mother was Alcithea,
as we are informed by Thucydides' scholiast, who only says that it
was reported, that when they set about walling up the gates of the
chapel in which Pausanias had taken refuge, his mother Alcithea laid
the first stone."--Coste.]

who was the first instructor of her son's process, and threw the first
stone towards his death, nor Posthumius the dictator, who put his son to
death, whom the ardour of youth had successfully pushed upon the enemy a
little more advanced than the rest of his squadron, do appear to me so
much just as strange; and I should neither advise nor like to follow so
savage a virtue, and that costs so dear.

--["Opinions differ as to the truth of this fact. Livy thinks he
has good authority for rejecting it because it does not appear in
history that Posthumious was branded with it, as Titus Manlius was,
about 100 years after his time; for Manlius, having put his son to
death for the like cause, obtained the odious name of Imperiosus,
and since that time Manliana imperia has been used as a term to
signify orders that are too severe; Manliana Imperia, says Livy,
were not only horrible for the time present, but of a bad example to
posterity. And this historian makes no doubt but such commands
would have been actually styled Posthumiana Imperia, if Posthumius
had been the first who set so barbarous an example (Livy, lib. iv.
cap. 29, and lib. viii. cap. 7). But, however, Montaigne has Valer.
Maximus on his side, who says expressly, that Posthumius caused his
son to be put to death, and Diodorus of Sicily (lib. xii. cap.

The archer that shoots over, misses as much as he that falls short, and
'tis equally troublesome to my sight, to look up at a great light, and
to look down into a dark abyss. Callicles in Plato says, that the
extremity of philosophy is hurtful, and advises not to dive into it
beyond the limits of profit; that, taken moderately, it is pleasant and
useful; but that in the end it renders a man brutish and vicious, a
contemner of religion and the common laws, an enemy to civil
conversation, and all human pleasures, incapable of all public
administration, unfit either to assist others or to relieve himself, and
a fit object for all sorts of injuries and affronts. He says true; for
in its excess, it enslaves our natural freedom, and by an impertinent
subtlety, leads us out of the fair and beaten way that nature has traced
for us.

The love we bear to our wives is very lawful, and yet theology thinks fit
to curb and restrain it. As I remember, I have read in one place of St.
Thomas Aquinas,--[Secunda Secundx, Quaest. 154, art. 9.]--where he
condemns marriages within any of the forbidden degrees, for this reason,
amongst others, that there is some danger, lest the friendship a man
bears to such a woman, should be immoderate; for if the conjugal
affection be full and perfect betwixt them, as it ought to be, and that
it be over and above surcharged with that of kindred too, there is no
doubt, but such an addition will carry the husband beyond the bounds of

Those sciences that regulate the manners of men, divinity and philosophy,
will have their say in everything; there is no action so private and
secret that can escape their inspection and jurisdiction. They are best
taught who are best able to control and curb their own liberty; women
expose their nudities as much as you will upon the account of pleasure,
though in the necessities of physic they are altogether as shy. I will,
therefore, in their behalf:

--[Coste translates this: "on the part of philosophy and theology,"
observing that but few wives would think themselves obliged to
Montaigne for any such lesson to their husbands.]--

teach the husbands, that is, such as are too vehement in the exercise of
the matrimonial duty--if such there still be--this lesson, that the very
pleasures they enjoy in the society of their wives are reproachable if
immoderate, and that a licentious and riotous abuse of them is a fault as
reprovable here as in illicit connections. Those immodest and debauched
tricks and postures, that the first ardour suggests to us in this affair,
are not only indecently but detrimentally practised upon our wives. Let
them at least learn impudence from another hand; they are ever ready
enough for our business, and I for my part always went the plain way to

Marriage is a solemn and religious tie, and therefore the pleasure we
extract from it should be a sober and serious delight, and mixed with a
certain kind of gravity; it should be a sort of discreet and
conscientious pleasure. And seeing that the chief end of it is
generation, some make a question, whether when men are out of hopes as
when they are superannuated or already with child, it be lawful to
embrace our wives. 'Tis homicide, according to Plato.--[Laws, 8.]--
Certain nations (the Mohammedan, amongst others) abominate all conjunction
with women with child, others also, with those who are in their courses.
Zenobia would never admit her husband for more than one encounter, after
which she left him to his own swing for the whole time of her conception,
and not till after that would again receive him:--[Trebellius Pollio,
Triginta Tyran., c. 30.]--a brave and generous example of conjugal
continence. It was doubtless from some lascivious poet,--[The lascivious
poet is Homer; see his Iliad, xiv. 294.]--and one that himself was in
great distress for a little of this sport, that Plato borrowed this
story; that Jupiter was one day so hot upon his wife, that not having so
much patience as till she could get to the couch, he threw her upon the
floor, where the vehemence of pleasure made him forget the great and
important resolutions he had but newly taken with the rest of the gods in
his celestial council, and to brag that he had had as good a bout, as
when he got her maidenhead, unknown to their parents.

The kings of Persia were wont to invite their wives to the beginning of
their festivals; but when the wine began to work in good earnest, and
that they were to give the reins to pleasure, they sent them back to
their private apartments, that they might not participate in their
immoderate lust, sending for other women in their stead, with whom they
were not obliged to so great a decorum of respect.--[Plutarch, Precepts
of Marriage, c. 14.]--All pleasures and all sorts of gratifications
are not properly and fitly conferred upon all sorts of persons.
Epaminondas had committed to prison a young man for certain debauches;
for whom Pelopidas mediated, that at his request he might be set at
liberty, which Epaminondas denied to him, but granted it at the first
word to a wench of his, that made the same intercession; saying, that it
was a gratification fit for such a one as she, but not for a captain.
Sophocles being joint praetor with Pericles, seeing accidentally a fine
boy pass by: "O what a charming boy is that!" said he. "That might be
very well," answered Pericles, "for any other than a praetor, who ought
not only to have his hands, but his eyes, too, chaste."--[Cicero, De
Offic., i. 40.] AElius Verus, the emperor, answered his wife, who
reproached him with his love to other women, that he did it upon a
conscientious account, forasmuch as marriage was a name of honour and
dignity, not of wanton and lascivious desire; and our ecclesiastical
history preserves the memory of that woman in great veneration, who
parted from her husband because she would not comply with his indecent
and inordinate desires. In fine, there is no pleasure so just and
lawful, where intemperance and excess are not to be condemned.

But, to speak the truth, is not man a most miserable creature the while?
It is scarce, by his natural condition, in his power to taste one
pleasure pure and entire; and yet must he be contriving doctrines and
precepts to curtail that little he has; he is not yet wretched enough,
unless by art and study he augment his own misery:

"Fortunae miseras auximus arte vias."

["We artificially augment the wretchedness of fortune."
--Properitius, lib. iii. 7, 44.]

Human wisdom makes as ill use of her talent, when she exercises it in
rescinding from the number and sweetness of those pleasures that are
naturally our due, as she employs it favourably and well in artificially
disguising and tricking out the ills of life, to alleviate the sense of
them. Had I ruled the roast, I should have taken another and more
natural course, which, to say the truth, is both commodious and holy, and
should, peradventure, have been able to have limited it too;
notwithstanding that both our spiritual and corporal physicians, as by
compact betwixt themselves, can find no other way to cure, nor other
remedy for the infirmities of the body and the soul, than by misery and
pain. To this end, watchings, fastings, hair-shirts, remote and solitary
banishments, perpetual imprisonments, whips and other afflictions, have
been introduced amongst men: but so, that they should carry a sting with
them, and be real afflictions indeed; and not fall out as it once did to
one Gallio, who having been sent an exile into the isle of Lesbos, news
was not long after brought to Rome, that he there lived as merry as the
day was long; and that what had been enjoined him for a penance, turned
to his pleasure and satisfaction: whereupon the Senate thought fit to
recall him home to his wife and family, and confine him to his own house,
to accommodate their punishment to his feeling and apprehension. For to
him whom fasting would make more healthful and more sprightly, and to him
to whose palate fish were more acceptable than flesh, the prescription of
these would have no curative effect; no more than in the other sort of
physic, where drugs have no effect upon him who swallows them with
appetite and pleasure: the bitterness of the potion and the abhorrence of
the patient are necessary circumstances to the operation. The nature
that would eat rhubarb like buttered turnips, would frustrate the use and
virtue of it; it must be something to trouble and disturb the stomach,
that must purge and cure it; and here the common rule, that things are
cured by their contraries, fails; for in this one ill is cured by

This belief a little resembles that other so ancient one, of thinking to
gratify the gods and nature by massacre and murder: an opinion
universally once received in all religions. And still, in these later
times wherein our fathers lived, Amurath at the taking of the Isthmus,
immolated six hundred young Greeks to his father's soul, in the nature of
a propitiatory sacrifice for his sins. And in those new countries
discovered in this age of ours, which are pure and virgin yet, in
comparison of ours, this practice is in some measure everywhere received:
all their idols reek with human blood, not without various examples of
horrid cruelty: some they burn alive, and take, half broiled, off the
coals to tear out their hearts and entrails; some, even women, they flay
alive, and with their bloody skins clothe and disguise others. Neither
are we without great examples of constancy and resolution in this affair
the poor souls that are to be sacrificed, old men, women, and children,
themselves going about some days before to beg alms for the offering of
their sacrifice, presenting themselves to the slaughter, singing and
dancing with the spectators.

The ambassadors of the king of Mexico, setting out to Fernando Cortez the
power and greatness of their master, after having told him, that he had
thirty vassals, of whom each was able to raise an hundred thousand
fighting men, and that he kept his court in the fairest and best
fortified city under the sun, added at last, that he was obliged yearly
to offer to the gods fifty thousand men. And it is affirmed, that he
maintained a continual war, with some potent neighbouring nations, not
only to keep the young men in exercise, but principally to have
wherewithal to furnish his sacrifices with his prisoners of war. At a
certain town in another place, for the welcome of the said Cortez, they
sacrificed fifty men at once. I will tell you this one tale more, and I
have done; some of these people being beaten by him, sent to acknowledge
him, and to treat with him of a peace, whose messengers carried him three
sorts of gifts, which they presented in these terms: "Behold, lord, here
are five slaves: if thou art a furious god that feedeth upon flesh and
blood, eat these, and we will bring thee more; if thou art an affable
god, behold here incense and feathers; but if thou art a man, take these
fowls and these fruits that we have brought thee."



When King Pyrrhus invaded Italy, having viewed and considered the order
of the army the Romans sent out to meet him; "I know not," said he,
"what kind of barbarians" (for so the Greeks called all other nations)
"these may be; but the disposition of this army that I see has nothing of
barbarism in it."--[Plutarch, Life of Pyrrhus, c. 8.]--As much said the
Greeks of that which Flaminius brought into their country; and Philip,
beholding from an eminence the order and distribution of the Roman camp
formed in his kingdom by Publius Sulpicius Galba, spake to the same
effect. By which it appears how cautious men ought to be of taking
things upon trust from vulgar opinion, and that we are to judge by the
eye of reason, and not from common report.

I long had a man in my house that lived ten or twelve years in the New
World, discovered in these latter days, and in that part of it where
Villegaignon landed,--[At Brazil, in 1557.]--which he called Antarctic
France. This discovery of so vast a country seems to be of very great
consideration. I cannot be sure, that hereafter there may not be
another, so many wiser men than we having been deceived in this. I am
afraid our eyes are bigger than our bellies, and that we have more
curiosity than capacity; for we grasp at all, but catch nothing but wind.

Plato brings in Solon,--[In Timaeus.]--telling a story that he had
heard from the priests of Sais in Egypt, that of old, and before the
Deluge, there was a great island called Atlantis, situate directly at the
mouth of the straits of Gibraltar, which contained more countries than
both Africa and Asia put together; and that the kings of that country,
who not only possessed that Isle, but extended their dominion so far into
the continent that they had a country of Africa as far as Egypt, and
extending in Europe to Tuscany, attempted to encroach even upon Asia, and
to subjugate all the nations that border upon the Mediterranean Sea, as
far as the Black Sea; and to that effect overran all Spain, the Gauls,
and Italy, so far as to penetrate into Greece, where the Athenians
stopped them: but that some time after, both the Athenians, and they and
their island, were swallowed by the Flood.

It is very likely that this extreme irruption and inundation of water
made wonderful changes and alterations in the habitations of the earth,
as 'tis said that the sea then divided Sicily from Italy--

"Haec loca, vi quondam et vasta convulsa ruina,
Dissiluisse ferunt, quum protenus utraque tellus
Una foret"

["These lands, they say, formerly with violence and vast desolation
convulsed, burst asunder, where erewhile were."--AEneid, iii. 414.]

Cyprus from Syria, the isle of Negropont from the continent of Beeotia,
and elsewhere united lands that were separate before, by filling up the
channel betwixt them with sand and mud:

"Sterilisque diu palus, aptaque remis,
Vicinas urbes alit, et grave sentit aratrum."

["That which was once a sterile marsh, and bore vessels on its
bosom, now feeds neighbouring cities, and admits the plough."
--Horace, De Arte Poetica, v. 65.]

But there is no great appearance that this isle was this New World so
lately discovered: for that almost touched upon Spain, and it were an
incredible effect of an inundation, to have tumbled back so prodigious a
mass, above twelve hundred leagues: besides that our modern navigators
have already almost discovered it to be no island, but terra firma, and
continent with the East Indies on the one side, and with the lands under
the two poles on the other side; or, if it be separate from them, it is
by so narrow a strait and channel, that it none the more deserves the
name of an island for that.

It should seem, that in this great body, there are two sorts of motions,
the one natural and the other febrific, as there are in ours. When I
consider the impression that our river of Dordogne has made in my time on
the right bank of its descent, and that in twenty years it has gained so
much, and undermined the foundations of so many houses, I perceive it to
be an extraordinary agitation: for had it always followed this course,
or were hereafter to do it, the aspect of the world would be totally
changed. But rivers alter their course, sometimes beating against the
one side, and sometimes the other, and some times quietly keeping the
channel. I do not speak of sudden inundations, the causes of which
everybody understands. In Medoc, by the seashore, the Sieur d'Arsac, my
brother, sees an estate he had there, buried under the sands which the
sea vomits before it: where the tops of some houses are yet to be seen,
and where his rents and domains are converted into pitiful barren
pasturage. The inhabitants of this place affirm, that of late years the
sea has driven so vehemently upon them, that they have lost above four
leagues of land. These sands are her harbingers: and we now see great
heaps of moving sand, that march half a league before her, and occupy the

The other testimony from antiquity, to which some would apply this
discovery of the New World, is in Aristotle; at least, if that little
book of Unheard of Miracles be his--[one of the spurious publications
brought out under his name--D.W.]. He there tells us, that certain
Carthaginians, having crossed the Atlantic Sea without the Straits of
Gibraltar, and sailed a very long time, discovered at last a great and
fruitful island, all covered over with wood, and watered with several
broad and deep rivers, far remote from all terra firma; and that they,
and others after them, allured by the goodness and fertility of the soil,
went thither with their wives and children, and began to plant a colony.
But the senate of Carthage perceiving their people by little and little
to diminish, issued out an express prohibition, that none, upon pain of
death, should transport themselves thither; and also drove out these new
inhabitants; fearing, 'tis said, lest' in process of time they should so
multiply as to supplant themselves and ruin their state. But this
relation of Aristotle no more agrees with our new-found lands than the

This man that I had was a plain ignorant fellow, and therefore the more
likely to tell truth: for your better-bred sort of men are much more
curious in their observation, 'tis true, and discover a great deal more;
but then they gloss upon it, and to give the greater weight to what they
deliver, and allure your belief, they cannot forbear a little to alter
the story; they never represent things to you simply as they are, but
rather as they appeared to them, or as they would have them appear to
you, and to gain the reputation of men of judgment, and the better to
induce your faith, are willing to help out the business with something
more than is really true, of their own invention. Now in this case, we
should either have a man of irreproachable veracity, or so simple that he
has not wherewithal to contrive, and to give a colour of truth to false
relations, and who can have no ends in forging an untruth. Such a one
was mine; and besides, he has at divers times brought to me several
seamen and merchants who at the same time went the same voyage. I shall
therefore content myself with his information, without inquiring what the
cosmographers say to the business. We should have topographers to trace
out to us the particular places where they have been; but for having had
this advantage over us, to have seen the Holy Land, they would have the
privilege, forsooth, to tell us stories of all the other parts of the
world beside. I would have every one write what he knows, and as much as
he knows, but no more; and that not in this only but in all other
subjects; for such a person may have some particular knowledge and
experience of the nature of such a river, or such a fountain, who, as to
other things, knows no more than what everybody does, and yet to give a
currency to his little pittance of learning, will undertake to write the
whole body of physics: a vice from which great inconveniences derive
their original.

Now, to return to my subject, I find that there is nothing barbarous and
savage in this nation, by anything that I can gather, excepting, that
every one gives the title of barbarism to everything that is not in use
in his own country. As, indeed, we have no other level of truth and
reason than the example and idea of the opinions and customs of the place
wherein we live: there is always the perfect religion, there the perfect
government, there the most exact and accomplished usage of all things.
They are savages at the same rate that we say fruits are wild, which
nature produces of herself and by her own ordinary progress; whereas, in
truth, we ought rather to call those wild whose natures we have changed
by our artifice and diverted from the common order. In those, the
genuine, most useful, and natural virtues and properties are vigorous and
sprightly, which we have helped to degenerate in these, by accommodating
them to the pleasure of our own corrupted palate. And yet for all this,
our taste confesses a flavour and delicacy excellent even to emulation of
the best of ours, in several fruits wherein those countries abound
without art or culture. Neither is it reasonable that art should gain
the pre-eminence of our great and powerful mother nature. We have so
surcharged her with the additional ornaments and graces we have added to
the beauty and riches of her own works by our inventions, that we have
almost smothered her; yet in other places, where she shines in her own
purity and proper lustre, she marvellously baffles and disgraces all our
vain and frivolous attempts:

"Et veniunt hederae sponte sua melius;
Surgit et in solis formosior arbutus antris;
Et volucres nulls dulcius arte canunt."

["The ivy grows best spontaneously, the arbutus best in shady caves;
and the wild notes of birds are sweeter than art can teach.
--"Propertius, i. 2, 10.]

Our utmost endeavours cannot arrive at so much as to imitate the nest of
the least of birds, its contexture, beauty, and convenience: not so much
as the web of a poor spider.

All things, says Plato,--[Laws, 10.]--are produced either by nature, by
fortune, or by art; the greatest and most beautiful by the one or the
other of the former, the least and the most imperfect by the last.

These nations then seem to me to be so far barbarous, as having received
but very little form and fashion from art and human invention, and
consequently to be not much remote from their original simplicity. The
laws of nature, however, govern them still, not as yet much vitiated with
any mixture of ours: but 'tis in such purity, that I am sometimes
troubled we were not sooner acquainted with these people, and that they
were not discovered in those better times, when there were men much more
able to judge of them than we are. I am sorry that Lycurgus and Plato
had no knowledge of them; for to my apprehension, what we now see in
those nations, does not only surpass all the pictures with which the
poets have adorned the golden age, and all their inventions in feigning a
happy state of man, but, moreover, the fancy and even the wish and desire
of philosophy itself; so native and so pure a simplicity, as we by
experience see to be in them, could never enter into their imagination,
nor could they ever believe that human society could have been maintained
with so little artifice and human patchwork. I should tell Plato that it
is a nation wherein there is no manner of traffic, no knowledge of
letters, no science of numbers, no name of magistrate or political
superiority; no use of service, riches or poverty, no contracts, no
successions, no dividends, no properties, no employments, but those of
leisure, no respect of kindred, but common, no clothing, no agriculture,
no metal, no use of corn or wine; the very words that signify lying,
treachery, dissimulation, avarice, envy, detraction, pardon, never heard

--[This is the famous passage which Shakespeare, through Florio's
version, 1603, or ed. 1613, p. 102, has employed in the "Tempest,"
ii. 1.]

How much would he find his imaginary Republic short of his perfection?

"Viri a diis recentes."

["Men fresh from the gods."--Seneca, Ep., 90.]

"Hos natura modos primum dedit."

["These were the manners first taught by nature."
--Virgil, Georgics, ii. 20.]

As to the rest, they live in a country very pleasant and temperate, so
that, as my witnesses inform me, 'tis rare to hear of a sick person, and
they moreover assure me, that they never saw any of the natives, either
paralytic, bleareyed, toothless, or crooked with age. The situation of
their country is along the sea-shore, enclosed on the other side towards
the land, with great and high mountains, having about a hundred leagues
in breadth between. They have great store of fish and flesh, that have
no resemblance to those of ours: which they eat without any other
cookery, than plain boiling, roasting, and broiling. The first that rode
a horse thither, though in several other voyages he had contracted an
acquaintance and familiarity with them, put them into so terrible a
fright, with his centaur appearance, that they killed him with their
arrows before they could come to discover who he was. Their buildings
are very long, and of capacity to hold two or three hundred people, made
of the barks of tall trees, reared with one end upon the ground, and
leaning to and supporting one another at the top, like some of our barns,
of which the covering hangs down to the very ground, and serves for the
side walls. They have wood so hard, that they cut with it, and make their
swords of it, and their grills of it to broil their meat. Their beds are
of cotton, hung swinging from the roof, like our seamen's hammocks, every
man his own, for the wives lie apart from their husbands. They rise with
the sun, and so soon as they are up, eat for all day, for they have no
more meals but that; they do not then drink, as Suidas reports of some
other people of the East that never drank at their meals; but drink very
often all day after, and sometimes to a rousing pitch. Their drink is
made of a certain root, and is of the colour of our claret, and they
never drink it but lukewarm. It will not keep above two or three days;
it has a somewhat sharp, brisk taste, is nothing heady, but very
comfortable to the stomach; laxative to strangers, but a very pleasant
beverage to such as are accustomed to it. They make use, instead of
bread, of a certain white compound, like coriander seeds; I have tasted
of it; the taste is sweet and a little flat. The whole day is spent in
dancing. Their young men go a-hunting after wild beasts with bows and
arrows; one part of their women are employed in preparing their drink the
while, which is their chief employment. One of their old men, in the
morning before they fall to eating, preaches to the whole family, walking
from the one end of the house to the other, and several times repeating
the same sentence, till he has finished the round, for their houses are
at least a hundred yards long. Valour towards their enemies and love
towards their wives, are the two heads of his discourse, never failing in
the close, to put them in mind, that 'tis their wives who provide them
their drink warm and well seasoned. The fashion of their beds, ropes,
swords, and of the wooden bracelets they tie about their wrists, when
they go to fight, and of the great canes, bored hollow at one end, by the
sound of which they keep the cadence of their dances, are to be seen in
several places, and amongst others, at my house. They shave all over,
and much more neatly than we, without other razor than one of wood or
stone. They believe in the immortality of the soul, and that those who
have merited well of the gods are lodged in that part of heaven where the
sun rises, and the accursed in the west.

They have I know not what kind of priests and prophets, who very rarely
present themselves to the people, having their abode in the mountains.
At their arrival, there is a great feast, and solemn assembly of many
villages: each house, as I have described, makes a village, and they are
about a French league distant from one another. This prophet declaims to
them in public, exhorting them to virtue and their duty: but all their
ethics are comprised in these two articles, resolution in war, and
affection to their wives. He also prophesies to them events to come, and
the issues they are to expect from their enterprises, and prompts them to
or diverts them from war: but let him look to't; for if he fail in his
divination, and anything happen otherwise than he has foretold, he is cut
into a thousand pieces, if he be caught, and condemned for a false
prophet: for that reason, if any of them has been mistaken, he is no more
heard of.

Divination is a gift of God, and therefore to abuse it, ought to be a
punishable imposture. Amongst the Scythians, where their diviners failed
in the promised effect, they were laid, bound hand and foot, upon carts
loaded with firs and bavins, and drawn by oxen, on which they were burned
to death.--[Herodotus, iv. 69.]--Such as only meddle with things
subject to the conduct of human capacity, are excusable in doing the best
they can: but those other fellows that come to delude us with assurances
of an extraordinary faculty, beyond our understanding, ought they not to
be punished, when they do not make good the effect of their promise, and
for the temerity of their imposture?

They have continual war with the nations that live further within the
mainland, beyond their mountains, to which they go naked, and without
other arms than their bows and wooden swords, fashioned at one end like
the head of our javelins. The obstinacy of their battles is wonderful,
and they never end without great effusion of blood: for as to running
away, they know not what it is. Every one for a trophy brings home the
head of an enemy he has killed, which he fixes over the door of his
house. After having a long time treated their prisoners very well, and
given them all the regales they can think of, he to whom the prisoner
belongs, invites a great assembly of his friends. They being come, he
ties a rope to one of the arms of the prisoner, of which, at a distance,
out of his reach, he holds the one end himself, and gives to the friend
he loves best the other arm to hold after the same manner; which being.
done, they two, in the presence of all the assembly, despatch him with
their swords. After that, they roast him, eat him amongst them, and send
some chops to their absent friends. They do not do this, as some think,
for nourishment, as the Scythians anciently did, but as a representation
of an extreme revenge; as will appear by this: that having observed the
Portuguese, who were in league with their enemies, to inflict another
sort of death upon any of them they took prisoners, which was to set them
up to the girdle in the earth, to shoot at the remaining part till it was
stuck full of arrows, and then to hang them, they thought those people of
the other world (as being men who had sown the knowledge of a great many
vices amongst their neighbours, and who were much greater masters in all
sorts of mischief than they) did not exercise this sort of revenge
without a meaning, and that it must needs be more painful than theirs,
they began to leave their old way, and to follow this. I am not sorry
that we should here take notice of the barbarous horror of so cruel an
action, but that, seeing so clearly into their faults, we should be so
blind to our own. I conceive there is more barbarity in eating a man
alive, than when he is dead; in tearing a body limb from limb by racks
and torments, that is yet in perfect sense; in roasting it by degrees; in
causing it to be bitten and worried by dogs and swine (as we have not
only read, but lately seen, not amongst inveterate and mortal enemies,
but among neighbours and fellow-citizens, and, which is worse, under
colour of piety and religion), than to roast and eat him after he is

Chrysippus and Zeno, the two heads of the Stoic sect, were of opinion
that there was no hurt in making use of our dead carcasses, in what way
soever for our necessity, and in feeding upon them too;--[Diogenes
Laertius, vii. 188.]--as our own ancestors, who being besieged by
Caesar in the city Alexia, resolved to sustain the famine of the siege
with the bodies of their old men, women, and other persons who were
incapable of bearing arms.

"Vascones, ut fama est, alimentis talibus usi
Produxere animas."

["'Tis said the Gascons with such meats appeased their hunger."
--Juvenal, Sat., xv. 93.]

And the physicians make no bones of employing it to all sorts of use,
either to apply it outwardly; or to give it inwardly for the health of
the patient. But there never was any opinion so irregular, as to excuse
treachery, disloyalty, tyranny, and cruelty, which are our familiar
vices. We may then call these people barbarous, in respect to the rules
of reason: but not in respect to ourselves, who in all sorts of barbarity
exceed them. Their wars are throughout noble and generous, and carry as
much excuse and fair pretence, as that human malady is capable of; having
with them no other foundation than the sole jealousy of valour. Their
disputes are not for the conquest of new lands, for these they already
possess are so fruitful by nature, as to supply them without labour or
concern, with all things necessary, in such abundance that they have no
need to enlarge their borders. And they are, moreover, happy in this,
that they only covet so much as their natural necessities require: all
beyond that is superfluous to them: men of the same age call one another
generally brothers, those who are younger, children; and the old men are
fathers to all. These leave to their heirs in common the full possession
of goods, without any manner of division, or other title than what nature
bestows upon her creatures, in bringing them into the world. If their
neighbours pass over the mountains to assault them, and obtain a victory,
all the victors gain by it is glory only, and the advantage of having
proved themselves the better in valour and virtue: for they never meddle
with the goods of the conquered, but presently return into their own
country, where they have no want of anything necessary, nor of this
greatest of all goods, to know happily how to enjoy their condition and
to be content. And those in turn do the same; they demand of their
prisoners no other ransom, than acknowledgment that they are overcome:
but there is not one found in an age, who will not rather choose to die
than make such a confession, or either by word or look recede from the
entire grandeur of an invincible courage. There is not a man amongst
them who had not rather be killed and eaten, than so much as to open his
mouth to entreat he may not. They use them with all liberality and
freedom, to the end their lives may be so much the dearer to them; but
frequently entertain them with menaces of their approaching death, of the
torments they are to suffer, of the preparations making in order to it,
of the mangling their limbs, and of the feast that is to be made, where
their carcass is to be the only dish. All which they do, to no other
end, but only to extort some gentle or submissive word from them, or to
frighten them so as to make them run away, to obtain this advantage that
they were terrified, and that their constancy was shaken; and indeed, if
rightly taken, it is in this point only that a true victory consists:

"Victoria nulla est,
Quam quae confessor animo quoque subjugat hostes."

["No victory is complete, which the conquered do not admit to be
so.--"Claudius, De Sexto Consulatu Honorii, v. 248.]

The Hungarians, a very warlike people, never pretend further than to
reduce the enemy to their discretion; for having forced this confession
from them, they let them go without injury or ransom, excepting, at the
most, to make them engage their word never to bear arms against them
again. We have sufficient advantages over our enemies that are borrowed
and not truly our own; it is the quality of a porter, and no effect of
virtue, to have stronger arms and legs; it is a dead and corporeal
quality to set in array; 'tis a turn of fortune to make our enemy
stumble, or to dazzle him with the light of the sun; 'tis a trick of
science and art, and that may happen in a mean base fellow, to be a good
fencer. The estimate and value of a man consist in the heart and in the
will: there his true honour lies. Valour is stability, not of legs and
arms, but of the courage and the soul; it does not lie in the goodness of
our horse or our arms but in our own. He that falls obstinate in his

"Si succiderit, de genu pugnat"

["If his legs fail him, he fights on his knees."
--Seneca, De Providentia, c. 2.]

--he who, for any danger of imminent death, abates nothing of his
assurance; who, dying, yet darts at his enemy a fierce and disdainful
look, is overcome not by us, but by fortune; he is killed, not conquered;
the most valiant are sometimes the most unfortunate. There are defeats
more triumphant than victories. Never could those four sister victories,
the fairest the sun ever be held, of Salamis, Plataea, Mycale, and
Sicily, venture to oppose all their united glories, to the single glory
of the discomfiture of King Leonidas and his men, at the pass of
Thermopylae. Who ever ran with a more glorious desire and greater
ambition, to the winning, than Captain Iscolas to the certain loss of a
battle?--[Diodorus Siculus, xv. 64.]--Who could have found out a more
subtle invention to secure his safety, than he did to assure his
destruction? He was set to defend a certain pass of Peloponnesus against
the Arcadians, which, considering the nature of the place and the
inequality of forces, finding it utterly impossible for him to do, and
seeing that all who were presented to the enemy, must certainly be left
upon the place; and on the other side, reputing it unworthy of his own
virtue and magnanimity and of the Lacedaemonian name to fail in any part
of his duty, he chose a mean betwixt these two extremes after this
manner; the youngest and most active of his men, he preserved for the
service and defence of their country, and sent them back; and with the
rest, whose loss would be of less consideration, he resolved to make good
the pass, and with the death of them, to make the enemy buy their entry
as dear as possibly he could; as it fell out, for being presently
environed on all sides by the Arcadians, after having made a great
slaughter of the enemy, he and his were all cut in pieces. Is there any
trophy dedicated to the conquerors which was not much more due to these
who were overcome? The part that true conquering is to play, lies in the
encounter, not in the coming off; and the honour of valour consists in
fighting, not in subduing.

But to return to my story: these prisoners are so far from discovering
the least weakness, for all the terrors that can be represented to them,
that, on the contrary, during the two or three months they are kept, they
always appear with a cheerful countenance; importune their masters to
make haste to bring them to the test, defy, rail at them, and reproach
them with cowardice, and the number of battles they have lost against
those of their country. I have a song made by one of these prisoners,
wherein he bids them "come all, and dine upon him, and welcome, for they
shall withal eat their own fathers and grandfathers, whose flesh has
served to feed and nourish him. These muscles," says he, "this flesh and
these veins, are your own: poor silly souls as you are, you little think
that the substance of your ancestors' limbs is here yet; notice what you
eat, and you will find in it the taste of your own flesh:" in which song
there is to be observed an invention that nothing relishes of the
barbarian. Those that paint these people dying after this manner,
represent the prisoner spitting in the faces of his executioners and
making wry mouths at them. And 'tis most certain, that to the very last
gasp, they never cease to brave and defy them both in word and gesture.
In plain truth, these men are very savage in comparison of us; of
necessity, they must either be absolutely so or else we are savages; for
there is a vast difference betwixt their manners and ours.

The men there have several wives, and so much the greater number, by how
much they have the greater reputation for valour. And it is one very
remarkable feature in their marriages, that the same jealousy our wives
have to hinder and divert us from the friendship and familiarity of other
women, those employ to promote their husbands' desires, and to procure
them many spouses; for being above all things solicitous of their
husbands' honour, 'tis their chiefest care to seek out, and to bring in
the most companions they can, forasmuch as it is a testimony of the
husband's virtue. Most of our ladies will cry out, that 'tis monstrous;
whereas in truth it is not so, but a truly matrimonial virtue, and of the
highest form. In the Bible, Sarah, with Leah and Rachel, the two wives
of Jacob, gave the most beautiful of their handmaids to their husbands;
Livia preferred the passions of Augustus to her own interest;
--[Suetonius, Life of Augustus, c. 71.]--and the wife of King Deiotarus,
Stratonice, did not only give up a fair young maid that served her to her
husband's embraces, but moreover carefully brought up the children he had
by her, and assisted them in the succession to their father's crown.

And that it may not be supposed, that all this is done by a simple and
servile obligation to their common practice, or by any authoritative
impression of their ancient custom, without judgment or reasoning, and
from having a soul so stupid that it cannot contrive what else to do, I
must here give you some touches of their sufficiency in point of
understanding. Besides what I repeated to you before, which was one of
their songs of war, I have another, a love-song, that begins thus:

"Stay, adder, stay, that by thy pattern my sister may draw the
fashion and work of a rich ribbon, that I may present to my beloved,
by which means thy beauty and the excellent order of thy scales
shall for ever be preferred before all other serpents."

Wherein the first couplet, "Stay, adder," &c., makes the burden of the
song. Now I have conversed enough with poetry to judge thus much that
not only there is nothing barbarous in this invention, but, moreover,
that it is perfectly Anacreontic. To which it may be added, that their
language is soft, of a pleasing accent, and something bordering upon the
Greek termination.

Three of these people, not foreseeing how dear their knowledge of the
corruptions of this part of the world will one day cost their happiness
and repose, and that the effect of this commerce will be their ruin, as I
presuppose it is in a very fair way (miserable men to suffer themselves
to be deluded with desire of novelty and to have left the serenity of
their own heaven to come so far to gaze at ours!), were at Rouen at the
time that the late King Charles IX. was there. The king himself talked
to them a good while, and they were made to see our fashions, our pomp,
and the form of a great city. After which, some one asked their opinion,
and would know of them, what of all the things they had seen, they found
most to be admired? To which they made answer, three things, of which I
have forgotten the third, and am troubled at it, but two I yet remember.
They said, that in the first place they thought it very strange that so
many tall men, wearing beards, strong, and well armed, who were about the
king ('tis like they meant the Swiss of the guard), should submit to obey
a child, and that they did not rather choose out one amongst themselves
to command. Secondly (they have a way of speaking in their language to
call men the half of one another), that they had observed that there were
amongst us men full and crammed with all manner of commodities, whilst,
in the meantime, their halves were begging at their doors, lean and half-
starved with hunger and poverty; and they thought it strange that these
necessitous halves were able to suffer so great an inequality and
injustice, and that they did not take the others by the throats, or set
fire to their houses.

I talked to one of them a great while together, but I had so ill an
interpreter, and one who was so perplexed by his own ignorance to
apprehend my meaning, that I could get nothing out of him of any moment:
Asking him what advantage he reaped from the superiority he had amongst
his own people (for he was a captain, and our mariners called him king),
he told me, to march at the head of them to war. Demanding of him
further how many men he had to follow him, he showed me a space of
ground, to signify as many as could march in such a compass, which might
be four or five thousand men; and putting the question to him whether or
no his authority expired with the war, he told me this remained: that
when he went to visit the villages of his dependence, they planed him
paths through the thick of their woods, by which he might pass at his
ease. All this does not sound very ill, and the last was not at all
amiss, for they wear no breeches.



The true field and subject of imposture are things unknown, forasmuch as,
in the first place, their very strangeness lends them credit, and
moreover, by not being subjected to our ordinary reasons, they deprive us
of the means to question and dispute them: For which reason, says Plato,
--[In Critias.]--it is much more easy to satisfy the hearers, when
speaking of the nature of the gods than of the nature of men, because the
ignorance of the auditory affords a fair and large career and all manner
of liberty in the handling of abstruse things. Thence it comes to pass,
that nothing is so firmly believed, as what we least know; nor any people
so confident, as those who entertain us with fables, such as your
alchemists, judicial astrologers, fortune-tellers, and physicians,

"Id genus omne."

["All that sort of people."--Horace, Sat., i. 2, 2.]

To which I would willingly, if I durst, join a pack of people that take
upon them to interpret and control the designs of God Himself, pretending
to find out the cause of every accident, and to pry into the secrets of
the divine will, there to discover the incomprehensible motive, of His
works; and although the variety, and the continual discordance of events,
throw them from corner to corner, and toss them from east to west, yet do
they still persist in their vain inquisition, and with the same pencil to
paint black and white.

In a nation of the Indies, there is this commendable custom, that when
anything befalls them amiss in any encounter or battle, they publicly ask
pardon of the sun, who is their god, as having committed an unjust
action, always imputing their good or evil fortune to the divine justice,
and to that submitting their own judgment and reason. 'Tis enough for a
Christian to believe that all things come from God, to receive them with
acknowledgment of His divine and inscrutable wisdom, and also thankfully
to accept and receive them, with what face soever they may present
themselves. But I do not approve of what I see in use, that is, to seek
to affirm and support our religion by the prosperity of our enterprises.
Our belief has other foundation enough, without going about to authorise
it by events: for the people being accustomed to such plausible arguments
as these and so proper to their taste, it is to be feared, lest when they
fail of success they should also stagger in their faith: as in the war
wherein we are now engaged upon the account of religion, those who had
the better in the business of Rochelabeille,--[May 1569.]--making great
brags of that success as an infallible approbation of their cause, when
they came afterwards to excuse their misfortunes of Moncontour and
Jarnac, by saying they were fatherly scourges and corrections that they
had not a people wholly at their mercy, they make it manifestly enough
appear, what it is to take two sorts of grist out of the same sack, and
with the same mouth to blow hot and cold. It were better to possess the
vulgar with the solid and real foundations of truth. 'Twas a fine naval
battle that was gained under the command of Don John of Austria a few
months since--[That of Lepanto, October 7, 1571.]--against the Turks;
but it has also pleased God at other times to let us see as great
victories at our own expense. In fine, 'tis a hard matter to reduce
divine things to our balance, without waste and losing a great deal of
the weight. And who would take upon him to give a reason that Arius and
his Pope Leo, the principal heads of the Arian heresy, should die, at
several times, of so like and strange deaths (for being withdrawn from
the disputation by a griping in the bowels, they both of them suddenly
gave up the ghost upon the stool), and would aggravate this divine
vengeance by the circumstances of the place, might as well add the death
of Heliogabalus, who was also slain in a house of office. And, indeed,
Irenaeus was involved in the same fortune. God, being pleased to show
us, that the good have something else to hope for and the wicked
something else to fear, than the fortunes or misfortunes of this world,
manages and applies these according to His own occult will and pleasure,
and deprives us of the means foolishly to make thereof our own profit.
And those people abuse themselves who will pretend to dive into these
mysteries by the strength of human reason. They never give one hit that
they do not receive two for it; of which St. Augustine makes out a great
proof upon his adversaries. 'Tis a conflict that is more decided by
strength of memory than by the force of reason. We are to content
ourselves with the light it pleases the sun to communicate to us, by
virtue of his rays; and who will lift up his eyes to take in a greater,
let him not think it strange, if for the reward of his presumption, he
there lose his sight.

"Quis hominum potest scire consilium Dei?
Aut quis poterit cogitare quid velit Dominus?"

["Who of men can know the counsel of God? or who can think what the
will of the Lord is."--Book of Wisdom, ix. 13.]



I had long ago observed most of the opinions of the ancients to concur in
this, that it is high time to die when there is more ill than good in
living, and that to preserve life to our own torment and inconvenience is
contrary to the very rules of nature, as these old laws instruct us.

["Either tranquil life, or happy death. It is well to die when life
is wearisome. It is better to die than to live miserable."
--Stobaeus, Serm. xx.]

But to push this contempt of death so far as to employ it to the removing
our thoughts from the honours, riches, dignities, and other favours and
goods, as we call them, of fortune, as if reason were not sufficient to
persuade us to avoid them, without adding this new injunction, I had
never seen it either commanded or practised, till this passage of Seneca
fell into my hands; who advising Lucilius, a man of great power and
authority about the emperor, to alter his voluptuous and magnificent way
of living, and to retire himself from this worldly vanity and ambition,
to some solitary, quiet, and philosophical life, and the other alleging
some difficulties: "I am of opinion," says he, "either that thou leave
that life of thine, or life itself; I would, indeed, advise thee to the
gentle way, and to untie, rather than to break, the knot thou hast
indiscreetly knit, provided, that if it be not otherwise to be untied,
thou resolutely break it. There is no man so great a coward, that had
not rather once fall than to be always falling." I should have found
this counsel conformable enough to the Stoical roughness: but it appears
the more strange, for being borrowed from Epicurus, who writes the same
thing upon the like occasion to Idomeneus. And I think I have observed
something like it, but with Christian moderation, amongst our own people.

St. Hilary, Bishop of Poictiers, that famous enemy of the Arian heresy,
being in Syria, had intelligence thither sent him, that Abra, his only
daughter, whom he left at home under the eye and tuition of her mother,
was sought in marriage by the greatest noblemen of the country, as being
a virgin virtuously brought up, fair, rich, and in the flower of her age;
whereupon he wrote to her (as appears upon record), that she should
remove her affection from all the pleasures and advantages proposed to
her; for that he had in his travels found out a much greater and more
worthy fortune for her, a husband of much greater power and magnificence,
who would present her with robes and jewels of inestimable value; wherein
his design was to dispossess her of the appetite and use of worldly
delights, to join her wholly to God; but the nearest and most certain way
to this, being, as he conceived, the death of his daughter; he never
ceased, by vows, prayers, and orisons, to beg of the Almighty, that He
would please to call her out of this world, and to take her to Himself;
as accordingly it came to pass; for soon after his return, she died, at
which he expressed a singular joy. This seems to outdo the other,
forasmuch as he applies himself to this means at the outset, which they
only take subsidiarily; and, besides, it was towards his only daughter.
But I will not omit the latter end of this story, though it be for my
purpose; St. Hilary's wife, having understood from him how the death of
their daughter was brought about by his desire and design, and how much
happier she was to be removed out of this world than to have stayed in
it, conceived so vivid an apprehension of the eternal and heavenly
beatitude, that she begged of her husband, with the extremest
importunity, to do as much for her; and God, at their joint request,
shortly after calling her to Him, it was a death embraced with singular
and mutual content.



The inconstancy and various motions of Fortune

[The term Fortune, so often employed by Montaigne, and in passages
where he might have used Providence, was censured by the doctors who
examined his Essays when he was at Rome in 1581. See his Travels,
i. 35 and 76.]

may reasonably make us expect she should present us with all sorts of
faces. Can there be a more express act of justice than this? The Duc de
Valentinois,--[Caesar Borgia.]--having resolved to poison Adrian,
Cardinal of Corneto, with whom Pope Alexander VI., his father and
himself, were to sup in the Vatican, he sent before a bottle of poisoned
wine, and withal, strict order to the butler to keep it very safe.
The Pope being come before his son, and calling for drink, the butler
supposing this wine had not been so strictly recommended to his care,
but only upon the account of its excellency, presented it forthwith to
the Pope, and the duke himself coming in presently after, and being
confident they had not meddled with his bottle, took also his cup; so
that the father died immediately upon the spot--[Other historians assign
the Pope several days of misery prior to death. D.W.]--, and the son,
after having been long tormented with sickness, was reserved to another
and a worse fortune.

Sometimes she seems to play upon us, just in the nick of an affair;
Monsieur d'Estrees, at that time ensign to Monsieur de Vendome, and
Monsieur de Licques, lieutenant in the company of the Duc d'Ascot, being
both pretenders to the Sieur de Fougueselles' sister, though of several
parties (as it oft falls out amongst frontier neighbours), the Sieur de
Licques carried her; but on the same day he was married, and which was
worse, before he went to bed to his wife, the bridegroom having a mind to
break a lance in honour of his new bride, went out to skirmish near St.
Omer, where the Sieur d'Estrees proving the stronger, took him prisoner,
and the more to illustrate his victory, the lady was fain--

"Conjugis ante coacta novi dimittere collum,
Quam veniens una atque altera rursus hyems
Noctibus in longis avidum saturasset amorem,"

["Compelled to abstain from embracing her new spouse in her arms
before two winters pass in succession, during their long nights had
satiated her eager love."--Catullus, lxviii. 81.]

--to request him of courtesy, to deliver up his prisoner to her, as he
accordingly did, the gentlemen of France never denying anything to

Does she not seem to be an artist here? Constantine, son of Helena,
founded the empire of Constantinople, and so many ages after,
Constantine, the son of Helen, put an end to it. Sometimes she is
pleased to emulate our miracles we are told, that King Clovis besieging
Angouleme, the walls fell down of themselves by divine favour and Bouchet
has it from some author, that King Robert having sat down before a city,
and being stolen away from the siege to go keep the feast of St. Aignan
at Orleans, as he was in devotion at a certain part of the Mass, the
walls of the beleaguered city, without any manner of violence, fell down
with a sudden ruin. But she did quite contrary in our Milan wars; for,
le Capitaine Rense laying siege for us to the city Arona, and having
carried a mine under a great part of the wall, the mine being sprung, the
wall was lifted from its base, but dropped down again nevertheless, whole
and entire, and so exactly upon its foundation, that the besieged
suffered no inconvenience by that attempt.

Sometimes she plays the physician. Jason of Pheres being given over by
the physicians, by reason of an imposthume in his breast, having a mind
to rid himself of his pain, by death at least, threw himself in a battle
desperately into the thickest of the enemy, where he was so fortunately
wounded quite through the body, that the imposthume broke, and he was
perfectly cured. Did she not also excel the painter Protogenes in his
art? who having finished the picture of a dog quite tired and out of
breath, in all the other parts excellently well to his own liking, but
not being able to express, as he would, the slaver and foam that should
come out of its mouth, vexed and angry at his work, he took his sponge,
which by cleaning his pencils had imbibed several sorts of colours, and
threw it in a rage against the picture, with an intent utterly to deface
it; when fortune guiding the sponge to hit just upon the mouth of the
dog, it there performed what all his art was not able to do. Does she
not sometimes direct our counsels and correct them? Isabel, Queen of
England, having to sail from Zealand into her own kingdom,--[in 1326]--
with an army, in favour of her son against her husband, had been lost,
had she come into the port she intended, being there laid wait for by the
enemy; but fortune, against her will, threw her into another haven, where
she landed in safety. And that man of old who, throwing a stone at a
dog, hit and killed his mother-in-law, had he not reason to pronounce
this verse:

["Fortune has more judgement than we."--Menander]

Icetes had contracted with two soldiers to kill Timoleon at Adrana in
Sicily.--[Plutarch, Life of Timoleon, c. 7.]--They took their time to do
it when he was assisting at a sacrifice, and thrusting into the crowd,
as they were making signs to one another, that now was a fit time to do
their business, in steps a third, who, with a sword takes one of them
full drive over the pate, lays him dead upon the place and runs away,
which the others see, and concluding himself discovered and lost, runs to
the altar and begs for mercy, promising to discover the whole truth,
which as he was doing, and laying open the full conspiracy, behold the
third man, who being apprehended, was, as a murderer, thrust and hauled
by the people through the press, towards Timoleon, and the other most
eminent persons of the assembly, before whom being brought, he cries out
for pardon, pleading that he had justly slain his father's murderer;
which he, also, proving upon the spot, by sufficient witnesses, whom his
good fortune very opportunely supplied him withal, that his father was
really killed in the city of Leontini, by that very man on whom he had
taken his revenge, he was presently awarded ten Attic minae, for having
had the good fortune, by designing to revenge the death of his father,
to preserve the life of the common father of Sicily. Fortune, truly, in
her conduct surpasses all the rules of human prudence.

But to conclude: is there not a direct application of her favour, bounty,
and piety manifestly discovered in this action? Ignatius the father and
Ignatius the son being proscribed by the triumvirs of Rome, resolved upon
this generous act of mutual kindness, to fall by the hands of one
another, and by that means to frustrate and defeat the cruelty of the
tyrants; and accordingly with their swords drawn, ran full drive upon one
another, where fortune so guided the points, that they made two equally
mortal wounds, affording withal so much honour to so brave a friendship,
as to leave them just strength enough to draw out their bloody swords,
that they might have liberty to embrace one another in this dying
condition, with so close and hearty an embrace, that the executioner cut
off both their heads at once, leaving the bodies still fast linked
together in this noble bond, and their wounds joined mouth to mouth,
affectionately sucking in the last blood and remainder of the lives of
each other.



My late father, a man that had no other advantages than experience and
his own natural parts, was nevertheless of a very clear judgment,
formerly told me that he once had thoughts of endeavouring to introduce
this practice; that there might be in every city a certain place assigned
to which such as stood in need of anything might repair, and have their
business entered by an officer appointed for that purpose. As for
example: I want a chapman to buy my pearls; I want one that has pearls to
sell; such a one wants company to go to Paris; such a one seeks a servant
of such a quality; such a one a master; such a one such an artificer;
some inquiring for one thing, some for another, every one according to
what he wants. And doubtless, these mutual advertisements would be of no
contemptible advantage to the public correspondence and intelligence: for
there are evermore conditions that hunt after one another, and for want
of knowing one another's occasions leave men in very great necessity.

I have heard, to the great shame of the age we live in, that in our very
sight two most excellent men for learning died so poor that they had
scarce bread to put in their mouths: Lilius Gregorius Giraldus in Italy
and Sebastianus Castalio in Germany: and I believe there are a thousand
men would have invited them into their families, with very advantageous
conditions, or have relieved them where they were, had they known their
wants. The world is not so generally corrupted, but that I know a man
that would heartily wish the estate his ancestors have left him might be
employed, so long as it shall please fortune to give him leave to enjoy
it, to secure rare and remarkable persons of any kind, whom misfortune
sometimes persecutes to the last degree, from the dangers of necessity;
and at least place them in such a condition that they must be very hard
to please, if they are not contented.

My father in his domestic economy had this rule (which I know how to
commend, but by no means to imitate), namely, that besides the day-book
or memorial of household affairs, where the small accounts, payments, and
disbursements, which do not require a secretary's hand, were entered, and
which a steward always had in custody, he ordered him whom he employed to
write for him, to keep a journal, and in it to set down all the
remarkable occurrences, and daily memorials of the history of his house:
very pleasant to look over, when time begins to wear things out of
memory, and very useful sometimes to put us out of doubt when such a
thing was begun, when ended; what visitors came, and when they went; our
travels, absences, marriages, and deaths; the reception of good or ill
news; the change of principal servants, and the like. An ancient custom,
which I think it would not be amiss for every one to revive in his own
house; and I find I did very foolishly in neglecting it.



Whatever I shall say upon this subject, I am of necessity to invade some
of the bounds of custom, so careful has she been to shut up all the
avenues. I was disputing with myself in this shivering season, whether
the fashion of going naked in those nations lately discovered is imposed
upon them by the hot temperature of the air, as we say of the Indians and
Moors, or whether it be the original fashion of mankind. Men of
understanding, forasmuch as all things under the sun, as the Holy Writ
declares, are subject to the same laws, were wont in such considerations
as these, where we are to distinguish the natural laws from those which
have been imposed by man's invention, to have recourse to the general
polity of the world, where there can be nothing counterfeit. Now, all
other creatures being sufficiently furnished with all things necessary
for the support of their being--[Montaigne's expression is, "with needle
and thread."--W.C.H.]--it is not to be imagined that we only are brought
into the world in a defective and indigent condition, and in such a state
as cannot subsist without external aid. Therefore it is that I believe,
that as plants, trees, and animals, and all things that have life, are
seen to be by nature sufficiently clothed and covered, to defend them
from the injuries of weather:

"Proptereaque fere res omnes ant corio sunt,
Aut seta, ant conchis, ant callo, ant cortice tectae,"

["And that for this reason nearly all things are clothed with skin,
or hair, or shells, or bark, or some such thing."
--Lucretius, iv. 936.]

so were we: but as those who by artificial light put out that of day, so
we by borrowed forms and fashions have destroyed our own. And 'tis plain
enough to be seen, that 'tis custom only which renders that impossible
that otherwise is nothing so; for of those nations who have no manner of
knowledge of clothing, some are situated under the same temperature that
we are, and some in much colder climates. And besides, our most tender
parts are always exposed to the air, as the eyes, mouth, nose, and ears;
and our country labourers, like our ancestors in former times, go with
their breasts and bellies open. Had we been born with a necessity upon
us of wearing petticoats and breeches, there is no doubt but nature would
have fortified those parts she intended should be exposed to the fury of
the seasons with a thicker skin, as she has done the finger-ends and the
soles of the feet. And why should this seem hard to believe? I observe
much greater distance betwixt my habit and that of one of our country
boors, than betwixt his and that of a man who has no other covering but
his skin. How many men, especially in Turkey, go naked upon the account
of devotion? Some one asked a beggar, whom he saw in his shirt in the
depth of winter, as brisk and frolic as he who goes muffled up to the
ears in furs, how he was able to endure to go so? "Why, sir," he
answered, "you go with your face bare: I am all face." The Italians have
a story of the Duke of Florence's fool, whom his master asking how, being
so thinly clad, he was able to support the cold, when he himself, warmly
wrapped up as he was, was hardly able to do it? "Why," replied the fool,
"use my receipt to put on all your clothes you have at once, and you'll
feel no more cold than I." King Massinissa, to an extreme old age, could
never be prevailed upon to go with his head covered, how cold, stormy, or
rainy soever the weather might be; which also is reported of the Emperor
Severus. Herodotus tells us, that in the battles fought betwixt the
Egyptians and the Persians, it was observed both by himself and by
others, that of those who were left dead upon the field, the heads of the
Egyptians were without comparison harder than those of the Persians, by
reason that the last had gone with their heads always covered from their
infancy, first with biggins, and then with turbans, and the others always
shaved and bare. King Agesilaus continued to a decrepit age to wear
always the same clothes in winter that he did in summer. Caesar, says
Suetonius, marched always at the head of his army, for the most part on
foot, with his head bare, whether it was rain or sunshine, and as much is
said of Hannibal:

"Tum vertice nudo,
Excipere insanos imbres, coelique ruinam."

["Bareheaded he marched in snow, exposed to pouring rain and the
utmost rigour of the weather."--Silius Italicus, i. 250.]

A Venetian who has long lived in Pegu, and has lately returned thence,
writes that the men and women of that kingdom, though they cover all
their other parts, go always barefoot and ride so too; and Plato very
earnestly advises for the health of the whole body, to give the head and
the feet no other clothing than what nature has bestowed. He whom the
Poles have elected for their king,--[Stephen Bathory]--since ours came
thence, who is, indeed, one of the greatest princes of this age, never
wears any gloves, and in winter or whatever weather can come, never wears
other cap abroad than that he wears at home. Whereas I cannot endure to
go unbuttoned or untied; my neighbouring labourers would think themselves
in chains, if they were so braced. Varro is of opinion, that when it was
ordained we should be bare in the presence of the gods and before the
magistrate, it was so ordered rather upon the score of health, and to
inure us to the injuries of weather, than upon the account of reverence;
and since we are now talking of cold, and Frenchmen used to wear variety
of colours (not I myself, for I seldom wear other than black or white, in
imitation of my father), let us add another story out of Le Capitaine
Martin du Bellay, who affirms, that in the march to Luxembourg he saw so
great frost, that the munition-wine was cut with hatchets and wedges, and
delivered out to the soldiers by weight, and that they carried it away in
baskets: and Ovid,

"Nudaque consistunt, formam servantia testae,
Vina; nec hausta meri, sed data frusta, bibunt."

["The wine when out of the cask retains the form of the cask;
and is given out not in cups, but in bits."
--Ovid, Trist., iii. 10, 23.]

At the mouth of Lake Maeotis the frosts are so very sharp, that in the
very same place where Mithridates' lieutenant had fought the enemy
dryfoot and given them a notable defeat, the summer following he obtained
over them a naval victory. The Romans fought at a very great
disadvantage, in the engagement they had with the Carthaginians near
Piacenza, by reason that they went to the charge with their blood
congealed and their limbs numbed with cold, whereas Hannibal had caused
great fires to be dispersed quite through his camp to warm his soldiers,
and oil to be distributed amongst them, to the end that anointing
themselves, they might render their nerves more supple and active, and
fortify the pores against the violence of the air and freezing wind,
which raged in that season.

The retreat the Greeks made from Babylon into their own country is famous
for the difficulties and calamities they had to overcome; of which this
was one, that being encountered in the mountains of Armenia with a
horrible storm of snow, they lost all knowledge of the country and of the
ways, and being driven up, were a day and a night without eating or
drinking; most of their cattle died, many of themselves were starved to
death, several struck blind with the force of the hail and the glare of
the snow, many of them maimed in their fingers and toes, and many stiff
and motionless with the extremity of the cold, who had yet their
understanding entire.

Alexander saw a nation, where they bury their fruit-trees in winter to
protect them from being destroyed by the frost, and we also may see the

But, so far as clothes go, the King of Mexico changed four times a day
his apparel, and never put it on again, employing that he left off in his
continual liberalities and rewards; and neither pot, dish, nor other
utensil of his kitchen or table was ever served twice.



["I am not possessed with this common errour, to judge of others
according to what I am my selfe. I am easie to beleeve things
differing from my selfe. Though I be engaged to one forme, I do not
tie the world unto it, as every man doth. And I beleeve and
conceive a thousand manners of life, contrary to the common sorte."
--Florio, ed. 1613, p. 113.]

I am not guilty of the common error of judging another by myself. I
easily believe that in another's humour which is contrary to my own; and
though I find myself engaged to one certain form, I do not oblige others
to it, as many do; but believe and apprehend a thousand ways of living;
and, contrary to most men, more easily admit of difference than
uniformity amongst us. I as frankly as any one would have me, discharge
a man from my humours and principles, and consider him according to his
own particular model. Though I am not continent myself, I nevertheless
sincerely approve the continence of the Feuillans and Capuchins, and
highly commend their way of living. I insinuate myself by imagination
into their place, and love and honour them the more for being other than
I am. I very much desire that we may be judged every man by himself, and
would not be drawn into the consequence of common examples. My own
weakness nothing alters the esteem I ought to have for the force and
vigour of those who deserve it:

"Sunt qui nihil suadent, quam quod se imitari posse confidunt."

["There are who persuade nothing but what they believe they can
imitate themselves."--Cicero, De Orator., c. 7.]

Crawling upon the slime of the earth, I do not for all that cease to
observe up in the clouds the inimitable height of some heroic souls.
'Tis a great deal for me to have my judgment regular and just, if the
effects cannot be so, and to maintain this sovereign part, at least, free
from corruption; 'tis something to have my will right and good where my
legs fail me. This age wherein we live, in our part of the world at
least, is grown so stupid, that not only the exercise, but the very
imagination of virtue is defective, and seems to be no other but college

"Virtutem verba putant, ut
Lucum ligna:"

["They think words virtue, as they think mere wood a sacred grove."
--Horace, Ep., i. 6, 31.]

"Quam vereri deberent, etiam si percipere non possent."

["Which they ought to reverence, though they cannot comprehend."
--Cicero, Tusc. Quas., v. 2.]

'Tis a gewgaw to hang in a cabinet or at the end of the tongue, as on the
tip of the ear, for ornament only. There are no longer virtuous actions
extant; those actions that carry a show of virtue have yet nothing of its
essence; by reason that profit, glory, fear, custom, and other suchlike
foreign causes, put us on the way to produce them. Our justice also,
valour, courtesy, may be called so too, in respect to others and
according to the face they appear with to the public; but in the doer it
can by no means be virtue, because there is another end proposed, another
moving cause. Now virtue owns nothing to be hers, but what is done by
herself and for herself alone.

In that great battle of Plataea, that the Greeks under the command of
Pausanias gained against Mardonius and the Persians, the conquerors,
according to their custom, coming to divide amongst them the glory of the
exploit, attributed to the Spartan nation the pre-eminence of valour in
the engagement. The Spartans, great judges of virtue, when they came to
determine to what particular man of their nation the honour was due of
having the best behaved himself upon this occasion, found that
Aristodemus had of all others hazarded his person with the greatest
bravery; but did not, however, allow him any prize, by reason that his
virtue had been incited by a desire to clear his reputation from the
reproach of his miscarriage at the business of Thermopylae, and to die
bravely to wipe off that former blemish.

Our judgments are yet sick, and obey the humour of our depraved manners.
I observe most of the wits of these times pretend to ingenuity, by
endeavouring to blemish and darken the glory of the bravest and most
generous actions of former ages, putting one vile interpretation or
another upon them, and forging and supposing vain causes and motives for
the noble things they did: a mighty subtlety indeed! Give me the
greatest and most unblemished action that ever the day beheld, and I will
contrive a hundred plausible drifts and ends to obscure it. God knows,
whoever will stretch them out to the full, what diversity of images our
internal wills suffer under. They do not so maliciously play the
censurers, as they do it ignorantly and rudely in all their detractions.

The same pains and licence that others take to blemish and bespatter
these illustrious names, I would willingly undergo to lend them a
shoulder to raise them higher. These rare forms, that are culled out by
the consent of the wisest men of all ages, for the world's example,
I should not stick to augment in honour, as far as my invention would
permit, in all the circumstances of favourable interpretation; and we may
well believe that the force of our invention is infinitely short of their
merit. 'Tis the duty of good men to portray virtue as beautiful as they
can, and there would be nothing wrong should our passion a little
transport us in favour of so sacred a form. What these people do, on the
contrary, they either do out of malice, or by the vice of confining their
belief to their own capacity; or, which I am more inclined to think, for
not having their sight strong, clear, and elevated enough to conceive the
splendour of virtue in her native purity: as Plutarch complains, that in
his time some attributed the cause of the younger Cato's death to his
fear of Caesar, at which he seems very angry, and with good reason; and
by this a man may guess how much more he would have been offended with
those who have attributed it to ambition. Senseless people! He would
rather have performed a noble, just, and generous action, and to have had
ignominy for his reward, than for glory. That man was in truth a pattern
that nature chose out to show to what height human virtue and constancy
could arrive.

But I am not capable of handling so rich an argument, and shall therefore
only set five Latin poets together, contending in the praise of Cato;
and, incidentally, for their own too. Now, a well-educated child will
judge the two first, in comparison of the others, a little flat and
languid; the third more vigorous, but overthrown by the extravagance of
his own force; he will then think that there will be room for one or two
gradations of invention to come to the fourth, and, mounting to the pitch
of that, he will lift up his hands in admiration; coming to the last, the
first by some space' (but a space that he will swear is not to be filled
up by any human wit), he will be astounded, he will not know where he is.

And here is a wonder: we have far more poets than judges and interpreters
of poetry; it is easier to write it than to understand it. There is,
indeed, a certain low and moderate sort of poetry, that a man may well
enough judge by certain rules of art; but the true, supreme, and divine
poesy is above all rules and reason. And whoever discerns the beauty of
it with the most assured and most steady sight, sees no more than the
quick reflection of a flash of lightning: it does not exercise, but
ravishes and overwhelms our judgment. The fury that possesses him who is
able to penetrate into it wounds yet a third man by hearing him repeat
it; like a loadstone that not only attracts the needle, but also infuses
into it the virtue to attract others. And it is more evidently manifest
in our theatres, that the sacred inspiration of the Muses, having first
stirred up the poet to anger, sorrow, hatred, and out of himself, to
whatever they will, does moreover by the poet possess the actor, and by
the actor consecutively all the spectators. So much do our passions hang
and depend upon one another.

Poetry has ever had that power over me from a child to transpierce and
transport me; but this vivid sentiment that is natural to me has been
variously handled by variety of forms, not so much higher or lower (for
they were ever the highest of every kind), as differing in colour.
First, a gay and sprightly fluency; afterwards, a lofty and penetrating
subtlety; and lastly, a mature and constant vigour. Their names will
better express them: Ovid, Lucan, Virgil.

But our poets are beginning their career:

"Sit Cato, dum vivit, sane vel Caesare major,"

["Let Cato, whilst he live, be greater than Caesar."
--Martial, vi. 32]

says one.

"Et invictum, devicta morte, Catonem,"

["And Cato invincible, death being overcome."
--Manilius, Astron., iv. 87.]

says the second. And the third, speaking of the civil wars betwixt
Caesar and Pompey,

"Victrix causa diis placuit, set victa Catoni."

["The victorious cause blessed the gods, the defeated one Cato.
--"Lucan, i. 128.]

And the fourth, upon the praises of Caesar:

"Et cuncta terrarum subacta,
Praeter atrocem animum Catonis."

["And conquered all but the indomitable mind of Cato."
--Horace, Od., ii. 1, 23.]

And the master of the choir, after having set forth all the great names
of the greatest Romans, ends thus:

"His dantem jura Catonem."

["Cato giving laws to all the rest."--AEneid, viii. 670.]



When we read in history that Antigonus was very much displeased with his
son for presenting him the head of King Pyrrhus his enemy, but newly
slain fighting against him, and that seeing it, he wept; and that Rene,
Duke of Lorraine, also lamented the death of Charles, Duke of Burgundy,
whom he had himself defeated, and appeared in mourning at his funeral;
and that in the battle of D'Auray (which Count Montfort obtained over
Charles de Blois, his competitor for the duchy of Brittany), the
conqueror meeting the dead body of his enemy, was very much afflicted at
his death, we must not presently cry out:

"E cosi avven, the l'animo ciascuna
Sua passion sotto 'l contrario manto,
Ricopre, con la vista or'chiara, or'bruna."

["And thus it happens that the mind of each veils its passion under
a different appearance, and beneath a smiling visage, gay beneath a
sombre air."--Petrarch.]

When Pompey's head was presented to Caesar, the histories tell us that he
turned away his face, as from a sad and unpleasing object. There had
been so long an intelligence and society betwixt them in the management
of the public affairs, so great a community of fortunes, so many mutual
offices, and so near an alliance, that this countenance of his ought not
to suffer under any misinterpretation, or to be suspected for either
false or counterfeit, as this other seems to believe:

"Tutumque putavit
Jam bonus esse socer; lacrymae non sponte cadentes,
Effudit, gemitusque expressit pectore laeto;"

["And now he thought it safe to play the kind father-in-law,
shedding forced tears, and from a joyful breast discharging sighs
and groans."--Lucan, ix. 1037.]

for though it be true that the greatest part of our actions are no other
than visor and disguise, and that it may sometimes be true that

"Haeredis fletus sub persona rises est,"

["The heir's tears behind the mask are smiles."
--Publius Syrus, apud Gellium, xvii. 14.]

yet, in judging of these accidents, we are to consider how much our souls
are oftentimes agitated with divers passions. And as they say that in
our bodies there is a congregation of divers humours, of which that is
the sovereign which, according to the complexion we are of, is commonly
most predominant in us: so, though the soul have in it divers motions to
give it agitation, yet must there of necessity be one to overrule all the
rest, though not with so necessary and absolute a dominion but that
through the flexibility and inconstancy of the soul, those of less
authority may upon occasion reassume their place and make a little sally
in turn. Thence it is, that we see not only children, who innocently
obey and follow nature, often laugh and cry at the same thing, but not
one of us can boast, what journey soever he may have in hand that he has
the most set his heart upon, but when he comes to part with his family
and friends, he will find something that troubles him within; and though
he refrain his tears yet he puts foot in the stirrup with a sad and
cloudy countenance. And what gentle flame soever may warm the heart of
modest and wellborn virgins, yet are they fain to be forced from about
their mothers' necks to be put to bed to their husbands, whatever this
boon companion is pleased to say:

"Estne novis nuptis odio Venus? anne parentum
Frustrantur falsis gaudia lachrymulis,
Ubertim thalami quasi intra limina fundunt?
Non, ita me divi, vera gemunt, juverint."

["Is Venus really so alarming to the new-made bride, or does she
honestly oppose her parent's rejoicing the tears she so abundantly
sheds on entering the nuptial chamber? No, by the Gods, these are
no true tears."--Catullus, lxvi. 15.]

["Is Venus really so repugnant to newly-married maids? Do they meet
the smiles of parents with feigned tears? They weep copiously
within the very threshold of the nuptial chamber. No, so the gods
help me, they do not truly grieve."--Catullus, lxvi. 15.]--
[A more literal translation. D.W.]

Neither is it strange to lament a person dead whom a man would by no
means should be alive. When I rattle my man, I do it with all the mettle
I have, and load him with no feigned, but downright real curses; but the
heat being over, if he should stand in need of me, I should be very ready
to do him good: for I instantly turn the leaf. When I call him calf and
coxcomb, I do not pretend to entail those titles upon him for ever;
neither do I think I give myself the lie in calling him an honest fellow
presently after. No one quality engrosses us purely and universally.
Were it not the sign of a fool to talk to one's self, there would hardly
be a day or hour wherein I might not be heard to grumble and mutter to
myself and against myself, "Confound the fool!" and yet I do not think
that to be my definition. Who for seeing me one while cold and presently
very fond towards my wife, believes the one or the other to be
counterfeited, is an ass. Nero, taking leave of his mother whom he was
sending to be drowned, was nevertheless sensible of some emotion at this
farewell, and was struck with horror and pity. 'Tis said, that the light
of the sun is not one continuous thing, but that he darts new rays so
thick one upon another that we cannot perceive the intermission:

"Largus enim liquidi fons luminis, aetherius sol,
Irrigat assidue coelum candore recenti,
Suppeditatque novo confestim lumine lumen."

["So the wide fountain of liquid light, the ethereal sun, steadily
fertilises the heavens with new heat, and supplies a continuous
store of fresh light."--Lucretius, v. 282.]

Just so the soul variously and imperceptibly darts out her passions.

Artabanus coming by surprise once upon his nephew Xerxes, chid him for
the sudden alteration of his countenance. He was considering the
immeasurable greatness of his forces passing over the Hellespont for the
Grecian expedition: he was first seized with a palpitation of joy, to see
so many millions of men under his command, and this appeared in the
gaiety of his looks: but his thoughts at the same instant suggesting to
him that of so many lives, within a century at most, there would not be
one left, he presently knit his brows and grew sad, even to tears.

We have resolutely pursued the revenge of an injury received, and been
sensible of a singular contentment for the victory; but we shall weep
notwithstanding. 'Tis not for the victory, though, that we shall weep:
there is nothing altered in that but the soul looks upon things with
another eye and represents them to itself with another kind of face; for
everything has many faces and several aspects.

Relations, old acquaintances, and friendships, possess our imaginations
and make them tender for the time, according to their condition; but the
turn is so quick, that 'tis gone in a moment:

"Nil adeo fieri celeri ratione videtur,
Quam si mens fieri proponit, et inchoat ipsa,
Ocius ergo animus, quam res se perciet ulla,
Ante oculos quorum in promptu natura videtur;"

["Nothing therefore seems to be done in so swift a manner than if
the mind proposes it to be done, and itself begins. It is more
active than anything which we see in nature."--Lucretius, iii. 183.]

and therefore, if we would make one continued thing of all this
succession of passions, we deceive ourselves. When Timoleon laments the
murder he had committed upon so mature and generous deliberation, he does
not lament the liberty restored to his country, he does not lament the
tyrant; but he laments his brother: one part of his duty is performed;
let us give him leave to perform the other.



Let us pretermit that long comparison betwixt the active and the solitary
life; and as for the fine sayings with which ambition and avarice
palliate their vices, that we are not born for ourselves but for the
public,--[This is the eulogium passed by Lucan on Cato of Utica, ii.
383.]--let us boldly appeal to those who are in public affairs; let them
lay their hands upon their hearts, and then say whether, on the contrary,
they do not rather aspire to titles and offices and that tumult of the
world to make their private advantage at the public expense. The corrupt
ways by which in this our time they arrive at the height to which their
ambitions aspire, manifestly enough declares that their ends cannot be
very good. Let us tell ambition that it is she herself who gives us a
taste of solitude; for what does she so much avoid as society? What does
she so much seek as elbowroom? A man many do well or ill everywhere; but
if what Bias says be true, that the greatest part is the worse part, or
what the Preacher says: there is not one good of a thousand:

"Rari quippe boni: numero vix sunt totidem quot
Thebarum portae, vel divitis ostia Nili,"

["Good men forsooth are scarce: there are hardly as many as there
are gates of Thebes or mouths of the rich Nile."
--Juvenal, Sat., xiii. 26.]

the contagion is very dangerous in the crowd. A man must either imitate
the vicious or hate them both are dangerous things, either to resemble
them because they are many or to hate many because they are unresembling
to ourselves. Merchants who go to sea are in the right when they are
cautious that those who embark with them in the same bottom be neither
dissolute blasphemers nor vicious other ways, looking upon such society
as unfortunate. And therefore it was that Bias pleasantly said to some,
who being with him in a dangerous storm implored the assistance of the
gods: "Peace, speak softly," said he, "that they may not know you are
here in my company."--[Diogenes Laertius]--And of more pressing
example, Albuquerque, viceroy in the Indies for Emmanuel, king of
Portugal, in an extreme peril of shipwreck, took a young boy upon his
shoulders, for this only end that, in the society of their common danger
his innocence might serve to protect him, and to recommend him to the
divine favour, that they might get safe to shore. 'Tis not that a wise
man may not live everywhere content, and be alone in the very crowd of a
palace; but if it be left to his own choice, the schoolman will tell you
that he should fly the very sight of the crowd: he will endure it if need
be; but if it be referred to him, he will choose to be alone. He cannot
think himself sufficiently rid of vice, if he must yet contend with it in
other men. Charondas punished those as evil men who were convicted of
keeping ill company. There is nothing so unsociable and sociable as man,
the one by his vice, the other by his nature. And Antisthenes, in my
opinion, did not give him a satisfactory answer, who reproached him with
frequenting ill company, by saying that the physicians lived well enough
amongst the sick, for if they contribute to the health of the sick, no
doubt but by the contagion, continual sight of, and familiarity with
diseases, they must of necessity impair their own.

Now the end, I take it, is all one, to live at more leisure and at one's
ease: but men do not always take the right way. They often think they
have totally taken leave of all business, when they have only exchanged
one employment for another: there is little less trouble in governing a
private family than a whole kingdom. Wherever the mind is perplexed, it
is in an entire disorder, and domestic employments are not less
troublesome for being less important. Moreover, for having shaken off
the court and the exchange, we have not taken leave of the principal
vexations of life:

"Ratio et prudentia curas,
Non locus effusi late maris arbiter, aufert;"

["Reason and prudence, not a place with a commanding view of the
great ocean, banish care."--Horace, Ep., i. 2.]

ambition, avarice, irresolution, fear, and inordinate desires, do not
leave us because we forsake our native country:

Post equitem sedet atra cura;"

["Black care sits behind the horse man."
--Horace, Od., iii. 1, 40].

they often follow us even to cloisters and philosophical schools; nor
deserts, nor caves, hair-shirts, nor fasts, can disengage us from them:

"Haeret lateri lethalis arundo."

["The fatal shaft adheres to the side."--AEneid, iv. 73.]

One telling Socrates that such a one was nothing improved by his travels:
"I very well believe it," said he, "for he took himself along with him"

"Quid terras alio calentes
Sole mutamus? patriae quis exsul
Se quoque fugit?"

["Why do we seek climates warmed by another sun? Who is the man
that by fleeing from his country, can also flee from himself?"
--Horace, Od., ii. 16, 18.]

If a man do not first discharge both himself and his mind of the burden
with which he finds himself oppressed, motion will but make it press the
harder and sit the heavier, as the lading of a ship is of less
encumbrance when fast and bestowed in a settled posture. You do a sick
man more harm than good in removing him from place to place; you fix and
establish the disease by motion, as stakes sink deeper and more firmly
into the earth by being moved up and down in the place where they are
designed to stand. Therefore, it is not enough to get remote from the
public; 'tis not enough to shift the soil only; a man must flee from the
popular conditions that have taken possession of his soul, he must
sequester and come again to himself:

"Rupi jam vincula, dicas
Nam luctata canis nodum arripit; attamen illi,
Quum fugit, a collo trahitur pars longa catenae."

["You say, perhaps, you have broken your chains: the dog who after
long efforts has broken his chain, still in his flight drags a heavy
portion of it after him."--Persius, Sat., v. 158.]

We still carry our fetters along with us. 'Tis not an absolute liberty;
we yet cast back a look upon what we have left behind us; the fancy is
still full of it:

"Nisi purgatum est pectus, quae praelia nobis
Atque pericula tunc ingratis insinuandum?
Quantae connscindunt hominem cupedinis acres
Sollicitum curae? quantique perinde timores?
Quidve superbia, spurcitia, ac petulantia, quantas
Efficiunt clades? quid luxus desidiesque?"

["But unless the mind is purified, what internal combats and dangers
must we incur in spite of all our efforts! How many bitter
anxieties, how many terrors, follow upon unregulated passion!
What destruction befalls us from pride, lust, petulant anger!
What evils arise from luxury and sloth!"--Lucretius, v. 4.]

Our disease lies in the mind, which cannot escape from itself;

"In culpa est animus, qui se non effugit unquam,"
--Horace, Ep., i. 14, 13.

and therefore is to be called home and confined within itself: that is
the true solitude, and that may be enjoyed even in populous cities and
the courts of kings, though more commodiously apart.

Now, since we will attempt to live alone, and to waive all manner of
conversation amongst them, let us so order it that our content may depend
wholly upon ourselves; let us dissolve all obligations that ally us to
others; let us obtain this from ourselves, that we may live alone in good
earnest, and live at our ease too.

Stilpo having escaped from the burning of his town, where he lost wife,
children, and goods, Demetrius Poliorcetes seeing him, in so great a ruin
of his country, appear with an undisturbed countenance, asked him if he
had received no loss? To which he made answer, No; and that, thank God,
nothing was lost of his.--[Seneca, Ep. 7.]--This also was the meaning of
the philosopher Antisthenes, when he pleasantly said, that "men should
furnish themselves with such things as would float, and might with the
owner escape the storm";--[Diogenes Laertius, vi. 6.] and certainly a
wise man never loses anything if he have himself. When the city of Nola
was ruined by the barbarians, Paulinus, who was bishop of that place,
having there lost all he had, himself a prisoner, prayed after this
manner: "O Lord, defend me from being sensible of this loss; for Thou
knowest they have yet touched nothing of that which is mine."--[St.
Augustin, De Civit. Dei, i. 10.]--The riches that made him rich and the
goods that made him good, were still kept entire. This it is to make
choice of treasures that can secure themselves from plunder and violence,
and to hide them in such a place into which no one can enter and that is
not to be betrayed by any but ourselves. Wives, children, and goods must
be had, and especially health, by him that can get it; but we are not so
to set our hearts upon them that our happiness must have its dependence
upon them; we must reserve a backshop, wholly our own and entirely free,
wherein to settle our true liberty, our principal solitude and retreat.
And in this we must for the most part entertain ourselves with ourselves,
and so privately that no exotic knowledge or communication be admitted
there; there to laugh and to talk, as if without wife, children, goods,
train, or attendance, to the end that when it shall so fall out that we
must lose any or all of these, it may be no new thing to be without them.
We have a mind pliable in itself, that will be company; that has
wherewithal to attack and to defend, to receive and to give: let us not
then fear in this solitude to languish under an uncomfortable vacuity.

"In solis sis tibi turba locis."

["In solitude, be company for thyself."--Tibullus, vi. 13. 12.]

Virtue is satisfied with herself, without discipline, without words,
without effects. In our ordinary actions there is not one of a thousand
that concerns ourselves. He that thou seest scrambling up the ruins of
that wall, furious and transported, against whom so many harquebuss-shots
are levelled; and that other all over scars, pale, and fainting with
hunger, and yet resolved rather to die than to open the gates to him;
dost thou think that these men are there upon their own account? No;
peradventure in the behalf of one whom they never saw and who never
concerns himself for their pains and danger, but lies wallowing the while
in sloth and pleasure: this other slavering, blear-eyed, slovenly fellow,
that thou seest come out of his study after midnight, dost thou think he
has been tumbling over books to learn how to become a better man, wiser,
and more content? No such matter; he will there end his days, but he
will teach posterity the measure of Plautus' verses and the true
orthography of a Latin word. Who is it that does not voluntarily
exchange his health, his repose, and his very life for reputation and
glory, the most useless, frivolous, and false coin that passes current
amongst us? Our own death does not sufficiently terrify and trouble us;
let us, moreover, charge ourselves with those of our wives, children, and
family: our own affairs do not afford us anxiety enough; let us undertake
those of our neighbours and friends, still more to break our brains and
torment us:

"Vah! quemquamne hominem in animum instituere, aut
Parare, quod sit carius, quam ipse est sibi?"

["Ah! can any man conceive in his mind or realise what is dearer
than he is to himself?"--Terence, Adelph., i. I, 13.]

Solitude seems to me to wear the best favour in such as have already
employed their most active and flourishing age in the world's service,
after the example of Thales. We have lived enough for others; let us at
least live out the small remnant of life for ourselves; let us now call
in our thoughts and intentions to ourselves, and to our own ease and
repose. 'Tis no light thing to make a sure retreat; it will be enough
for us to do without mixing other enterprises. Since God gives us
leisure to order our removal, let us make ready, truss our baggage, take
leave betimes of the company, and disentangle ourselves from those
violent importunities that engage us elsewhere and separate us from

We must break the knot of our obligations, how strong soever, and
hereafter love this or that, but espouse nothing but ourselves: that is
to say, let the remainder be our own, but not so joined and so close as
not to be forced away without flaying us or tearing out part of our
whole. The greatest thing in the world is for a man to know that he is
his own. 'Tis time to wean ourselves from society when we can no longer
add anything to it; he who is not in a condition to lend must forbid
himself to borrow. Our forces begin to fail us; let us call them in and
concentrate them in and for ourselves. He that can cast off within
himself and resolve the offices of friendship and company, let him do it.
In this decay of nature which renders him useless, burdensome, and
importunate to others, let him take care not to be useless, burdensome,
and importunate to himself. Let him soothe and caress himself, and above
all things be sure to govern himself with reverence to his reason and
conscience to that degree as to be ashamed to make a false step in their

"Rarum est enim, ut satis se quisque vereatur."

["For 'tis rarely seen that men have respect and reverence enough
for themselves."--Quintilian, x. 7.]

Socrates says that boys are to cause themselves to be instructed, men to
exercise themselves in well-doing, and old men to retire from all civil
and military employments, living at their own discretion, without the
obligation to any office. There are some complexions more proper for
these precepts of retirement than others. Such as are of a soft and dull
apprehension, and of a tender will and affection, not readily to be
subdued or employed, whereof I am one, both by natural condition and by
reflection, will sooner incline to this advice than active and busy
souls, which embrace: all, engage in all, are hot upon everything, which
offer, present, and give themselves up to every occasion. We are to use
these accidental and extraneous commodities, so far as they are pleasant
to us, but by no means to lay our principal foundation there; 'tis no
true one; neither nature nor reason allows it so to be. Why therefore
should we, contrary to their laws, enslave our own contentment to the
power of another? To anticipate also the accidents of fortune, to
deprive ourselves of the conveniences we have in our own power, as
several have done upon the account of devotion, and some philosophers by
reasoning; to be one's own servant, to lie hard, to put out our own eyes,
to throw our wealth into the river, to go in search of grief; these, by
the misery of this life, aiming at bliss in another; those by laying
themselves low to avoid the danger of falling: all such are acts of an
excessive virtue. The stoutest and most resolute natures render even
their seclusion glorious and exemplary:

"Tuta et parvula laudo,
Quum res deficiunt, satis inter vilia fortis
Verum, ubi quid melius contingit et unctius, idem
Hos sapere et solos aio bene vivere, quorum
Conspicitur nitidis fundata pecunia villis."

["When means are deficient, I laud a safe and humble condition,
content with little: but when things grow better and more easy, I
all the same say that you alone are wise and live well, whose
invested money is visible in beautiful villas."
--Horace, Ep., i. 15, 42.]

A great deal less would serve my turn well enough. 'Tis enough for me,
under fortune's favour, to prepare myself for her disgrace, and, being at
my ease, to represent to myself, as far as my imagination can stretch,
the ill to come; as we do at jousts and tiltings, where we counterfeit
war in the greatest calm of peace. I do not think Arcesilaus the
philosopher the less temperate and virtuous for knowing that he made use
of gold and silver vessels, when the condition of his fortune allowed him
so to do; I have indeed a better opinion of him than if he had denied
himself what he used with liberality and moderation. I see the utmost
limits of natural necessity: and considering a poor man begging at my
door, ofttimes more jocund and more healthy than I myself am, I put
myself into his place, and attempt to dress my mind after his mode;
and running, in like manner, over other examples, though I fancy death,
poverty, contempt, and sickness treading on my heels, I easily resolve
not to be affrighted, forasmuch as a less than I takes them with so much
patience; and am not willing to believe that a less understanding can do
more than a greater, or that the effects of precept cannot arrive to as
great a height as those of custom. And knowing of how uncertain duration
these accidental conveniences are, I never forget, in the height of all
my enjoyments, to make it my chiefest prayer to Almighty God, that He
will please to render me content with myself and the condition wherein I
am. I see young men very gay and frolic, who nevertheless keep a mass of
pills in their trunk at home, to take when they've got a cold, which they
fear so much the less, because they think they have remedy at hand.
Every one should do in like manner, and, moreover, if they find
themselves subject to some more violent disease, should furnish
themselves with such medicines as may numb and stupefy the part.

The employment a man should choose for such a life ought neither to be a
laborious nor an unpleasing one; otherwise 'tis to no purpose at all to
be retired. And this depends upon every one's liking and humour. Mine
has no manner of complacency for husbandry, and such as love it ought to
apply themselves to it with moderation:

["Endeavour to make circumstances subject to me,
and not me subject to circumstances."
--Horace, Ep., i. i, 19.]

Husbandry is otherwise a very servile employment, as Sallust calls it;
though some parts of it are more excusable than the rest, as the care of
gardens, which Xenophon attributes to Cyrus; and a mean may be found out
betwixt the sordid and low application, so full of perpetual solicitude,
which is seen in men who make it their entire business and study, and the
stupid and extreme negligence, letting all things go at random which we
see in others

"Democriti pecus edit agellos
Cultaque, dum peregre est animus sine corpore velox."

["Democritus' cattle eat his corn and spoil his fields, whilst his
soaring mind ranges abroad without the body."
--Horace, Ep., i, 12, 12.]

But let us hear what advice the younger Pliny gives his friend Caninius
Rufus upon the subject of solitude: "I advise thee, in the full and
plentiful retirement wherein thou art, to leave to thy hinds the care of
thy husbandry, and to addict thyself to the study of letters, to extract
from thence something that may be entirely and absolutely thine own." By
which he means reputation; like Cicero, who says that he would employ his
solitude and retirement from public affairs to acquire by his writings an
immortal life.

"Usque adeone
Scire tuum, nihil est, nisi to scire hoc, sciat alter?"

["Is all that thy learning nothing, unless another knows
that thou knowest?"--Persius, Sat., i. 23.]

It appears to be reason, when a man talks of retiring from the world,
that he should look quite out of [for] himself. These do it but by
halves: they design well enough for themselves when they shall be no more
in it; but still they pretend to extract the fruits of that design from
the world, when absent from it, by a ridiculous contradiction.

The imagination of those who seek solitude upon the account of devotion,
filling their hopes and courage with certainty of divine promises in the
other life, is much more rationally founded. They propose to themselves
God, an infinite object in goodness and power; the soul has there
wherewithal, at full liberty, to satiate her desires: afflictions and
sufferings turn to their advantage, being undergone for the acquisition
of eternal health and joy; death is to be wished and longed for, where it
is the passage to so perfect a condition; the asperity of the rules they
impose upon themselves is immediately softened by custom, and all their
carnal appetites baffled and subdued, by refusing to humour and feed
them, these being only supported by use and exercise. This sole end of
another happily immortal life is that which really merits that we should
abandon the pleasures and conveniences of this; and he who can really and
constantly inflame his soul with the ardour of this vivid faith and hope,
erects for himself in solitude a more voluptuous and delicious life than
any other sort of existence.

Neither the end, then, nor the means of this advice pleases me, for we
often fall out of the frying-pan into the fire.--[or: we always relapse
ill from fever into fever.]--This book-employment is as painful as any
other, and as great an enemy to health, which ought to be the first thing
considered; neither ought a man to be allured with the pleasure of it,
which is the same that destroys the frugal, the avaricious, the
voluptuous, and the ambitious man.

["This plodding occupation of bookes is as painfull as any other,
and as great an enemie vnto health, which ought principally to be
considered. And a man should not suffer him selfe to be inveagled
by the pleasure he takes in them."--Florio, edit. 1613, p. 122.]

The sages give us caution enough to beware the treachery of our desires,
and to distinguish true and entire pleasures from such as are mixed and
complicated with greater pain. For the most of our pleasures, say they,
wheedle and caress only to strangle us, like those thieves the Egyptians
called Philistae; if the headache should come before drunkenness, we
should have a care of drinking too much; but pleasure, to deceive us,
marches before and conceals her train. Books are pleasant, but if, by
being over-studious, we impair our health and spoil our goodhumour, the
best pieces we have, let us give it over; I, for my part, am one of those
who think, that no fruit derived from them can recompense so great a
loss. As men who have long felt themselves weakened by indisposition,
give themselves up at last to the mercy of medicine and submit to certain
rules of living, which they are for the future never to transgress; so he
who retires, weary of and disgusted with the common way of living, ought
to model this new one he enters into by the rules of reason, and to
institute and establish it by premeditation and reflection. He ought to
have taken leave of all sorts of labour, what advantage soever it may
promise, and generally to have shaken off all those passions which
disturb the tranquillity of body and soul, and then choose the way that
best suits with his own humour:

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