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The Essays of Montaigne, Complete by Michel de Montaigne

Part 8 out of 23

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soldiers, till first Agrippa had brought him news of the victory
obtained. But as to the young Marius, who did much worse (for the day of
his last battle against Sylla, after he had marshalled his army and given
the word and signal of battle, he laid him down under the shade of a tree
to repose himself, and fell so fast asleep that the rout and flight of
his men could hardly waken him, he having seen nothing of the fight), he
is said to have been at that time so extremely spent and worn out with
labour and want of sleep, that nature could hold out no longer. Now,
upon what has been said, the physicians may determine whether sleep be so
necessary that our lives depend upon it: for we read that King Perseus of
Macedon, being prisoner at Rome, was killed by being kept from sleep; but
Pliny instances such as have lived long without sleep. Herodotus speaks
of nations where the men sleep and wake by half-years, and they who write
the life of the sage Epimenides affirm that he slept seven-and-fifty
years together.



[December 19, 1562, in which the Catholics, under the command of the
Duc de Guise and the Constable de Montmorenci, defeated the
Protestants, commanded by the Prince de Conde. See Sismondi, Hist.
des Francais, vol. xviii., p. 354.]

Our battle of Dreux is remarkable for several extraordinary incidents;
but such as have no great kindness for M. de Guise, nor much favour his
reputation, are willing to have him thought to blame, and that his making
a halt and delaying time with the forces he commanded, whilst the
Constable, who was general of the army, was racked through and through
with the enemy's artillery, his battalion routed, and himself taken
prisoner, is not to be excused; and that he had much better have run the
hazard of charging the enemy in flank, than staying for the advantage of
falling in upon the rear, to suffer so great and so important a loss.
But, besides what the event demonstrated, he who will consider it without
passion or prejudice will easily be induced to confess that the aim and
design, not of a captain only, but of every private soldier, ought to
regard the victory in general, and that no particular occurrences, how
nearly soever they may concern his own interest, should divert him from
that pursuit. Philopoemen, in an encounter with Machanidas, having sent
before a good strong party of his archers and slingers to begin the
skirmish, and these being routed and hotly pursued by the enemy, who,
pushing on the fortune of their arms, and in that pursuit passing by the
battalion where Philopoemen was, though his soldiers were impatient to
fall on, he did not think fit to stir from his post nor to present
himself to the enemy to relieve his men, but having suffered these to be
chased and cut in pieces before his face, charged in upon the enemy's
foot when he saw them left unprotected by the horse, and notwithstanding
that they were Lacedaemonians, yet taking them in the nick, when thinking
themselves secure of the victory, they began to disorder their ranks; he
did this business with great facility, and then put himself in pursuit of
Machanidas. Which case is very like that of Monsieur de Guise.

In that bloody battle betwixt Agesilaus and the Boeotians, which
Xenophon, who was present at it, reports to be the sharpest that he had
ever seen, Agesilaus waived the advantage that fortune presented him, to
let the Boeotian battalions pass by and then to charge them in the rear,
how certain soever he might make himself of the victory, judging it would
rather be an effect of conduct than valour, to proceed that way; and
therefore, to show his prowess, rather chose with a marvellous ardour of
courage to charge them in the front; but he was well beaten and well
wounded for his pains, and constrained at last to disengage himself, and
to take the course he had at first neglected; opening his battalion to
give way to this torrent of Boeotians, and they being passed by, taking
notice that they marched in disorder, like men who thought themselves out
of danger, he pursued and charged them in flank; yet could not so prevail
as to bring it to so general a rout but that they leisurely retreated,
still facing about upon him till they had retired to safety.



What variety of herbs soever are shufed together in the dish, yet the
whole mass is swallowed up under one name of a sallet. In like manner,
under the consideration of names, I will make a hodge-podge of divers

Every nation has certain names, that, I know not why, are taken in no
good sense, as with us, John, William, Benedict. In the genealogy of
princes, also, there seem to be certain names fatally affected, as the
Ptolemies of Egypt, the Henries in England, the Charleses in France, the
Baldwins in Flanders, and the Williams of our ancient Aquitaine, from
whence, 'tis said, the name of Guyenne has its derivation; which would
seem far fetched were there not as crude derivations in Plato himself.

Item, 'tis a frivolous thing in itself, but nevertheless worthy to be
recorded for the strangeness of it, that is written by an eyewitness,
that Henry, Duke of Normandy, son of Henry II., king of England, making a
great feast in France, the concourse of nobility and gentry was so great,
that being, for sport's sake, divided into troops, according to their
names, in the first troop, which consisted of Williams, there were found
an hundred and ten knights sitting at the table of that name, without
reckoning the ordinary gentlemen and servants.

It is as pleasant to distinguish the tables by the names of the guests as
it was in the Emperor Geta to distinguish the several courses of his meat
by the first letters of the meats themselves; so that those that began
with B were served up together, as brawn, beef, bream, bustards, becca-
ficos; and so of the others. Item, there is a saying that it is a good
thing to have a good name, that is to say, credit and a good repute; but
besides this, it is really convenient to have a well-sounding name, such
as is easy of pronunciation and easy to be remembered, by reason that
kings and other great persons do by that means the more easily know and
the more hardly forget us; and indeed of our own servants we more
frequently call and employ those whose names are most ready upon the
tongue. I myself have seen Henry II., when he could not for his heart
hit of a gentleman's name of our country of Gascony, and moreover was
fain to call one of the queen's maids of honour by the general name of
her race, her own family name being so difficult to pronounce or
remember; and Socrates thinks it worthy a father's care to give fine
names to his children.

Item,'tis said that the foundation of Notre Dame la Grande at Poitiers
took its original from hence that a debauched young fellow formerly
living in that place, having got to him a wench, and, at her first coming
in, asking her name, and being answered that it was Mary, he felt himself
so suddenly pierced through with the awe of religion and the reverence to
that sacred name of the Blessed Virgin, that he not only immediately sent
the girl away, but became a reformed man and so continued the remainder
of his life; and that, in consideration of this miracle, there was
erected upon the place where this young man's house stood, first a chapel
dedicated to our Lady and afterwards the church that we now see standing
there. This vocal and auricular reproof wrought upon the conscience, and
that right into the soul; this that follows, insinuated itself merely by
the senses. Pythagoras being in company with some wild young fellows,
and perceiving that, heated with the feast, they comploted to go violate
an honest house, commanded the singing wench to alter her wanton airs;
and by a solemn, grave, and spondaic music, gently enchanted and laid
asleep their ardour.

Item, will not posterity say that our modern reformation has been
wonderfully delicate and exact, in having not only combated errors and
vices, and filled the world with devotion, humility, obedience, peace,
and all sorts of virtue; but in having proceeded so far as to quarrel
with our ancient baptismal names of Charles, Louis, Francis, to fill the
world with Methuselahs, Ezekiels, and Malachis, names of a more spiritual
sound? A gentleman, a neighbour of mine, a great admirer of antiquity,
and who was always extolling the excellences of former times in
comparison with this present age of ours, did not, amongst the rest,
forget to dwell upon the lofty and magnificent sound of the gentleman's
names of those days, Don Grumedan, Quedregan, Agesilan, which, but to
hear named he conceived to denote other kind of men than Pierre, Guillot,
and Michel.

Item, I am mightily pleased with Jacques Amyot for leaving, throughout a
whole French oration, the Latin names entire, without varying and
garbling them to give them a French cadence. It seemed a little harsh
and rough at first; but already custom, by the authority of his Plutarch,
has overcome that novelty. I have often wished that such as write
histories in Latin would leave our names as they find them and as they
are; for in making Vaudemont into Vallemontanus, and metamorphosing names
to make them suit better with the Greek or Latin, we know not where we
are, and with the persons of the men lose the benefit of the story.

To conclude, 'tis a scurvy custom and of very ill consequence that we
have in our kingdom of France to call every one by the name of his manor
or seigneury; 'tis the thing in the world that the most prejudices and
confounds families and descents. A younger brother of a good family,
having a manor left him by his father, by the name of which he has been
known and honoured, cannot handsomely leave it; ten years after his
decease it falls into the hand of a stranger, who does the same: do but
judge whereabouts we shall be concerning the knowledge of these men. We
need look no further for examples than our own royal family, where every
partition creates a new surname, whilst, in the meantime, the original of
the family is totally lost. There is so great liberty taken in these
mutations, that I have not in my time seen any one advanced by fortune to
any extraordinary condition who has not presently had genealogical titles
added to him, new and unknown to his father, and who has not been
inoculated into some illustrious stem by good luck; and the obscurest
families are the most apt for falsification. How many gentlemen have we
in France who by their own account are of royal extraction? more, I
think, than who will confess they are not. Was it not a pleasant passage
of a friend of mine? There were, several gentlemen assembled together
about the dispute of one seigneur with another; which other had, in
truth, some preeminence of titles and alliances above the ordinary
gentry. Upon the debate of this prerogative, every one, to make himself
equal to him, alleged, this one extraction, that another; this, the near
resemblance of name, that, of arms; another, an old worm-eaten patent;
the very least of them was great-grandchild to some foreign king. When
they came to sit down, to dinner, my friend, instead of taking his place
amongst them, retiring with most profound conges, entreated the company
to excuse him for having hitherto lived with them at the saucy rate of a
companion; but being now better informed of their quality, he would begin
to pay them the respect due to their birth and grandeur, and that it
would ill become him to sit down among so many princes--ending this farce
with a thousand reproaches: "Let us, in God's name, satisfy ourselves
with what our fathers were contented with, with what we are. We are
great enough, if we rightly understand how to maintain it. Let us not
disown the fortune and condition of our ancestors, and let us lay aside
these ridiculous pretences, that can never be wanting to any one that has
the impudence to allege them."

Arms have no more security than surnames. I bear azure powdered with
trefoils or, with a lion's paw of the same armed gules in fesse. What
privilege has this to continue particularly in my house? A son-in-law
will transport it into another family, or some paltry purchaser will make
them his first arms. There is nothing wherein there is more change and

But this consideration leads me, perforce, into another subject. Let us
pry a little narrowly into, and, in God's name, examine upon what
foundation we erect this glory and reputation for which the world is
turned topsy-turvy: wherein do we place this renown that we hunt after
with so much pains? It is, in the end, Peter or William that carries it,
takes it into his possession, and whom it only concerns. O what a
valiant faculty is hope, that in a mortal subject, and in a moment, makes
nothing of usurping infinity, immensity, eternity, and of supplying its
master's indigence, at its pleasure, with all things he can imagine or
desire! Nature has given us this passion for a pretty toy to play
withal. And this Peter or William, what is it but a sound, when all is
done? or three or four dashes with a pen, so easy to be varied that I
would fain know to whom is to be attributed the glory of so many
victories, to Guesquin, to Glesquin, or to Gueaquin? and yet there would
be something of greater moment in the case than in Lucian, that Sigma
should serve Tau with a process; for

"Non levia aut ludicra petuntur

["They aim at no slight or jocular rewards."--AEneid, xii. 764.]

the chase is there in very good earnest: the question is, which of these
letters is to be rewarded for so many sieges, battles, wounds,
imprisonments, and services done to the crown of France by this famous
constable? Nicholas Denisot--[Painter and poet, born at Le Mans,1515.]--
never concerned himself further than the letters of his name, of which he
has altered the whole contexture to build up by anagram the Count
d'Alsinois, whom he has handsomely endowed with the glory of his poetry
and painting. The historian Suetonius was satisfied with only the
meaning of his name, which made him cashier his father's surname, Lenis,
to leave Tranquillus successor to the reputation of his writings. Who
would believe that Captain Bayard should have no honour but what he
derives from the deeds of Peter Terrail; and that Antonio Iscalin should
suffer himself to his face to be robbed of the honour of so many
navigations and commands at sea and land by Captain Paulin and the Baron
de la Garde? Secondly, these are dashes of the pen common to a thousand
people. How many are there, in every family, of the same name and
surname? and how many more in several families, ages, and countries?
History tells us of three of the name of Socrates, of five Platos, of
eight Aristotles, of seven Xenophons, of twenty Demetrii, and of twenty
Theodores; and how many more she was not acquainted with we may imagine.
Who hinders my groom from calling himself Pompey the Great? But after
all, what virtue, what authority, or what secret springs are there that
fix upon my deceased groom, or the other Pompey, who had his head cut off
in Egypt, this glorious renown, and these so much honoured flourishes of
the pen, so as to be of any advantage to them?

"Id cinerem et manes credis curare sepultos?"

["Do you believe the dead regard such things?"--AEneid, iv. 34.]

What sense have the two companions in greatest esteem amongst me,
Epaminondas, of this fine verse that has been so many ages current in his

"Consiliis nostris laus est attrita Laconum;"

["The glory of the Spartans is extinguished by my plans.
--"Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., v. 17.]

or Africanus, of this other,

"A sole exoriente supra Maeotis Paludes
Nemo est qui factis me aequiparare queat."

["From where the sun rises over the Palus Maeotis, to where it sets,
there is no one whose acts can compare with mine"--Idem, ibid.]

Survivors indeed tickle themselves with these fine phrases, and by them
incited to jealousy and desire, inconsiderately and according to their
own fancy, attribute to the dead this their own feeling, vainly
flattering themselves that they shall one day in turn be capable of the
same character. However:

"Ad haec se
Romanus Graiusque, et Barbaras induperator
Erexit; caucus discriminis atque laboris
Inde habuit: tanto major famae sitis est, quam

["For these the Roman, the Greek, and the Barbarian commander hath
aroused himself; he has incurred thence causes of danger and toil:
so much greater is the thirst for fame than for virtue."
--Juvenal, x. 137.]



Well says this verse:

["There is everywhere much liberty of speech."--Iliad, xx. 249.]

For example:

["Hannibal conquered, but knew not how to make the best use of his
victorious venture."--Petrarch, Son., 83.]

Such as would improve this argument, and condemn the oversight of our
leaders in not pushing home the victory at Moncontour, or accuse the King
of Spain of not knowing how to make the best use of the advantage he had
against us at St. Quentin, may conclude these oversights to proceed from
a soul already drunk with success, or from a spirit which, being full and
overgorged with this beginning of good fortune, had lost the appetite of
adding to it, already having enough to do to digest what it had taken in:
he has his arms full, and can embrace no more: unworthy of the benefit
fortune has conferred upon him and the advantage she had put into his
hands: for what utility does he reap from it, if, notwithstanding, he
give his enemy respite to rally and make head against him? What hope is
there that he will dare at another time to attack an enemy reunited and
recomposed, and armed anew with anger and revenge, who did not dare to
pursue them when routed and unmanned by fear?

"Dum fortuna calet, dum conficit omnia terror."

["Whilst fortune is fresh, and terror finishes all."
--Lucan, vii. 734.]

But withal, what better opportunity can he expect than that he has lost?
'Tis not here, as in fencing, where the most hits gain the prize; for so
long as the enemy is on foot, the game is new to begin, and that is not
to be called a victory that puts not an end to the war. In the encounter
where Caesar had the worst, near the city of Oricum, he reproached
Pompey's soldiers that he had been lost had their general known how to
overcome; and afterwards clawed him in a very different fashion when it
came to his turn.

But why may not a man also argue, on the contrary, that it is the effect
of a precipitous and insatiate spirit not to know how to bound and
restrain its coveting; that it is to abuse the favours of God to exceed
the measure He has prescribed them: and that again to throw a man's self
into danger after a victory obtained is again to expose himself to the
mercy of fortune: that it is one of the greatest discretions in the rule
of war not to drive an enemy to despair? Sylla and Marius in the social
war, having defeated the Marsians, seeing yet a body of reserve that,
prompted by despair, was coming on like enraged brutes to dash in upon
them, thought it not convenient to stand their charge. Had not Monsieur
de Foix's ardour transported him so furiously to pursue the remains of
the victory of Ravenna, he had not obscured it by his own death. And yet
the recent memory of his example served to preserve Monsieur d'Anguien
from the same misfortune at the battle of Serisoles. 'Tis dangerous to
attack a man you have deprived of all means to escape but by his arms,
for necessity teaches violent resolutions:

"Gravissimi sunt morsus irritatae necessitatis."

["Irritated necessity bites deepest."--Portius Latro., Declam.]

"Vincitur haud gratis, jugulo qui provocat hostem."

["He is not readily beaten who provokes the enemy by shewing
his throat."--or: "He who presents himself to his foe, sells his
life dear."--Lucan, iv. 275.]

This was it that made Pharax withhold the King of Lacedaemon, who had won
a battle against the Mantineans, from going to charge a thousand Argians,
who had escaped in an entire body from the defeat, but rather let them
steal off at liberty that he might not encounter valour whetted and
enraged by mischance. Clodomir, king of Aquitaine, after his victory
pursuing Gondemar, king of Burgundy, beaten and making off as fast as he
could for safety, compelled him to face about and make head, wherein his
obstinacy deprived him of the fruit of his conquest, for he there lost
his life.

In like manner, if a man were to choose whether he would have his
soldiers richly and sumptuously accoutred or armed only for the necessity
of the matter in hand, this argument would step in to favour the first,
of which opinion was Sertorius, Philopcemen, Brutus, Caesar, and others,
that it is to a soldier an enflaming of courage and a spur himself in
brave attire; and withal a motive to be more obstinate in fight, having
his arms, which are in a manner his estate and whole inheritance to
defend; which is the reason, says Xenophon, why those of Asia carried
their wives and concubines, with their choicest jewels and greatest
wealth, along with them to the wars. But then these arguments would be
as ready to stand up for the other side; that a general ought rather to
lessen in his men their solicitude of preserving themselves than to
increase it; that by such means they will be in a double fear of
hazarding their persons, as it will be a double temptation to the enemy
to fight with greater resolution where so great booty and so rich spoils
are to be obtained; and this very thing has been observed in former
times, notably to encourage the Romans against the Samnites. Antiochus,
shewing Hannibal the army he had raised, wonderfully splendid and rich in
all sorts of equipage, asked him if the Romans would be satisfied with
that army? "Satisfied," replied the other, "yes, doubtless, were their
avarice never so great." Lycurgus not only forbad his soldiers all
manner of bravery in their equipage, but, moreover, to strip their
conquered enemies, because he would, as he said, that poverty and
frugality should shine with the rest of the battle.

At sieges and elsewhere, where occasion draws us near to the enemy, we
willingly suffer our men to brave, rate, and affront him with all sorts
of injurious language; and not without some colour of reason: for it is
of no little consequence to take from them all hopes of mercy and
composition, by representing to them that there is no fair quarter to be
expected from an enemy they have incensed to that degree, nor other
remedy remaining but in victory. And yet Vitellius found himself
deceived in this way of proceeding; for having to do with Otho, weaker in
the valour of his soldiers, long unaccustomed to war and effeminated with
the delights of the city, he so nettled them at last with injurious
language, reproaching them with cowardice and regret for the mistresses
and entertainments they had left behind at Rome, that by this means he
inspired them with such resolution as no exhortation had had the power to
have done, and himself made them fall upon him, with whom their own
captains before could by no means prevail. And, indeed, when they are
injuries that touch to the quick, it may very well fall out that he who
went but unwillingly to work in the behalf of his prince will fall to't
with another sort of mettle when the quarrel is his own.

Considering of how great importance is the preservation of the general of
an army, and that the universal aim of an enemy is levelled directly at
the head, upon which all the others depend, the course seems to admit of
no dispute, which we know has been taken by so many great captains, of
changing their habit and disguising their persons upon the point of going
to engage. Nevertheless, the inconvenience a man by so doing runs into
is not less than that he thinks to avoid; for the captain, by this means
being concealed from the knowledge of his own men, the courage they
should derive from his presence and example happens by degrees to cool
and to decay; and not seeing the wonted marks and ensigns of their
leader, they presently conclude him either dead, or that, despairing of
the business, he is gone to shift for himself. And experience shows us
that both these ways have been successful and otherwise. What befell
Pyrrhus in the battle he fought against the Consul Levinus in Italy will
serve us to both purposes; for though by shrouding his person under the
armour of Megacles and making him wear his own, he undoubtedly preserved
his own life, yet, by that very means, he was withal very near running
into the other mischief of losing the battle. Alexander, Caesar, and
Lucullus loved to make themselves known in a battle by rich accoutrements
and armour of a particular lustre and colour: Agis, Agesilaus, and that
great Gilippus, on the contrary, used to fight obscurely armed, and
without any imperial attendance or distinction.

Amongst other oversights Pompey is charged withal at the battle of
Pharsalia, he is condemned for making his army stand still to receive the
enemy's charge; by "reason that" (I shall here steal Plutarch's own
words, which are better than mine) "he by so doing deprived himself of
the violent impression the motion of running adds to the first shock of
arms, and hindered that clashing of the combatants against one another
which is wont to give them greater impetuosity and fury; especially when
they come to rush in with their utmost vigour, their courages increasing
by the shouts and the career; 'tis to render the soldiers' ardour, as a
man may say, more reserved and cold." This is what he says. But if
Caesar had come by the worse, why might it not as well have been urged by
another, that, on the contrary, the strongest and most steady posture of
fighting is that wherein a man stands planted firm without motion; and
that they who are steady upon the march, closing up, and reserving their
force within themselves for the push of the business, have a great
advantage against those who are disordered, and who have already spent
half their breath in running on precipitately to the charge? Besides
that an army is a body made up of so many individual members, it is
impossible for it to move in this fury with so exact a motion as not to
break the order of battle, and that the best of them are not engaged
before their fellows can come on to help them. In that unnatural battle
betwixt the two Persian brothers, the Lacedaemonian Clearchus, who
commanded the Greeks of Cyrus' party, led them on softly and without
precipitation to the charge; but, coming within fifty paces, hurried them
on full speed, hoping in so short a career both to keep their order and
to husband their breath, and at the same time to give the advantage of
impetuosity and impression both to their persons and their missile arms.
Others have regulated this question as to their armies thus if your enemy
come full drive upon you, stand firm to receive him; if he stand to
receive you, run full drive upon him.

In the expedition of the Emperor Charles V. into Provence, King Francis
was put to choose either to go meet him in Italy or to await him in his
own dominions; wherein, though he very well considered of how great
advantage it was to preserve his own territory entire and clear from the
troubles of war, to the end that, being unexhausted of its stores, it
might continually supply men and money at need; that the necessity of war
requires at every turn to spoil and lay waste the country before us,
which cannot very well be done upon one's own; to which may be added,
that the country people do not so easily digest such a havoc by those of
their own party as from an enemy, so that seditions and commotions might
by such means be kindled amongst us; that the licence of pillage and
plunder (which are not to be tolerated at home) is a great ease and
refreshment against the fatigues and sufferings of war; and that he who
has no other prospect of gain than his bare pay will hardly be kept from
running home, being but two steps from his wife and his own house; that
he who lays the cloth is ever at the charge of the feast; that there is
more alacrity in assaulting than defending; and that the shock of a
battle's loss in our own bowels is so violent as to endanger the
disjointing of the whole body, there being no passion so contagious as
that of fear, that is so easily believed, or that so suddenly diffuses
itself; and that the cities that should hear the rattle of this tempest
at their gates, that should take in their captains and soldiers yet
trembling and out of breath, would be in danger in this heat and hurry to
precipitate themselves upon some untoward resolution: notwithstanding all
this, so it was that he chose to recall the forces he had beyond the
mountains and to suffer the enemy to come to him. For he might, on the
other hand, imagine that, being at home and amongst his friends, he could
not fail of plenty of all manner of conveniences; the rivers and passes
he had at his devotion would bring him in both provisions and money in
all security, and without the trouble of convoy; that he should find his
subjects by so much the more affectionate to him, by how much their
danger was more near and pressing; that having so many cities and
barriers to secure him, it would be in his power to give the law of
battle at his own opportunity and advantage; and that, if it pleased him
to delay the time, under cover and at his ease he might see his enemy
founder and defeat himself with the difficulties he was certain to
encounter, being engaged in a hostile country, where before, behind, and
on every side war would be made upon him; no means to refresh himself or
to enlarge his quarters, should diseases infest them, or to lodge his
wounded men in safety; no money, no victuals, but at the point of the
lance; no leisure to repose and take breath; no knowledge of the ways or
country to secure him from ambushes and surprises; and in case of losing
a battle, no possible means of saving the remains. Neither is there want
of example in both these cases.

Scipio thought it much better to go and attack his enemy's territories in
Africa than to stay at home to defend his own and to fight him in Italy,
and it succeeded well with him. But, on the contrary, Hannibal in the
same war ruined himself by abandoning the conquest of a foreign country
to go and defend his own. The Athenians having left the enemy in their
own dominions to go over into Sicily, were not favoured by fortune in
their design; but Agathocles, king of Syracuse, found her favourable to
him when he went over into Africa and left the war at home.

By which examples we are wont to conclude, and with some reason, that
events, especially in war, for the most part depend upon fortune, who
will not be governed by nor submit unto human reasons and prudence,
according to the poet:

"Et male consultis pretium est: prudentia fallit
Nec fortune probat causas, sequiturque merentes,
Sed vaga per cunctos nullo discrimine fertur.
Scilicet est aliud, quod nos cogatque regatque
Majus, et in proprias ducat mortalia leges."

["And there is value in ill counsel: prudence deceives: nor does
fortune inquire into causes, nor aid the most deserving, but turns
hither and thither without discrimination. Indeed there is a
greater power which directs and rules us, and brings mortal affairs
under its own laws."--Manilius, iv. 95.]

But, to take the thing right, it should seem that our counsels and
deliberations depend as much upon fortune as anything else we do, and
that she engages also our arguments in her uncertainty and confusion.
"We argue rashly and adventurously," says Timaeus in Plato, "by reason
that, as well as ourselves, our discourses have great participation in
the temerity of chance."


"Art thou not ashamed," said he to him, "to sing so well?"
As great a benefit to be without (children)
Away with that eloquence that enchants us with itself
Because the people know so well how to obey
Blemishes of the great naturally appear greater
Change is to be feared
Cicero: on fame
Confidence in another man's virtue
Dangerous man you have deprived of all means to escape
Depend as much upon fortune as anything else we do
Fame: an echo, a dream, nay, the shadow of a dream
Far more easy and pleasant to follow than to lead
He who lays the cloth is ever at the charge of the feast
I honour those most to whom I show the least honour
In war not to drive an enemy to despair
My words does but injure the love I have conceived within.
Neither the courage to die nor the heart to live
Never spoke of my money, but falsely, as others do
No great choice betwixt not knowing to speak anything but ill
No man continues ill long but by his own fault
No necessity upon a man to live in necessity
No passion so contagious as that of fear
Not a victory that puts not an end to the war
Not want, but rather abundance, that creates avarice
Only secure harbour from the storms and tempests of life
Opinions they have of things and not by the things themselves
People conceiving they have right and title to be judges
Pyrrho's hog
Repute for value in them, not what they bring to us
Satisfaction of mind to have only one path to walk in
That which cowardice itself has chosen for its refuge
The honour we receive from those that fear us is not honour
The pedestal is no part of the statue
There is more trouble in keeping money than in getting it.
There is nothing I hate so much as driving a bargain
Thou wilt not feel it long if thou feelest it too much
Tis the sharpnss of our mind that gives the edge to our pains
Titles being so dearly bought
Twenty people prating about him when he is at stool
Valour whetted and enraged by mischance
What can they not do; what do they fear to do (for beauty)


Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazilitt



XLVIII. Of war-horses, or destriers.
XLIX. Of ancient customs.
L. Of Democritus and Heraclitus.
LI. Of the vanity of words.
LII. Of the parsimony of the Ancients.
LIII. Of a saying of Caesar.
LIV. Of vain subtleties.
LV. Of smells.
LVI. Of prayers.
LVII. Of age.



I here have become a grammarian, I who never learned any language but by
rote, and who do not yet know adjective, conjunction, or ablative. I
think I have read that the Romans had a sort of horses by them called
'funales' or 'dextrarios', which were either led horses, or horses laid
on at several stages to be taken fresh upon occasion, and thence it is
that we call our horses of service 'destriers'; and our romances commonly
use the phrase of 'adestrer' for 'accompagner', to accompany. They also
called those that were trained in such sort, that running full speed,
side by side, without bridle or saddle, the Roman gentlemen, armed at all
pieces, would shift and throw themselves from one to the other,
'desultorios equos'. The Numidian men-at-arms had always a led horse in
one hand, besides that they rode upon, to change in the heat of battle:

"Quibus, desultorum in modum, binos trahentibus equos, inter
acerrimam saepe pugnam, in recentem equum, ex fesso, armatis
transultare mos erat: tanta velocitas ipsis, tamque docile
equorum genus."

["To whom it was a custom, leading along two horses, often in the
hottest fight, to leap armed from a tired horse to a fresh one; so
active were the men, and the horses so docile."--Livy, xxiii. 29.]

There are many horses trained to help their riders so as to run upon any
one, that appears with a drawn sword, to fall both with mouth and heels
upon any that front or oppose them: but it often happens that they do
more harm to their friends than to their enemies; and, moreover, you
cannot loose them from their hold, to reduce them again into order, when
they are once engaged and grappled, by which means you remain at the
mercy of their quarrel. It happened very ill to Artybius, general of the
Persian army, fighting, man to man, with Onesilus, king of Salamis, to be
mounted upon a horse trained after this manner, it being the occasion of
his death, the squire of Onesilus cleaving the horse down with a scythe
betwixt the shoulders as it was reared up upon his master. And what the
Italians report, that in the battle of Fornova, the horse of Charles
VIII., with kicks and plunges, disengaged his master from the enemy that
pressed upon him, without which he had been slain, sounds like a very
great chance, if it be true.

[In the narrative which Philip de Commines has given of this battle,
in which he himself was present (lib. viii. ch. 6), he tells us
of wonderful performances by the horse on which the king was
mounted. The name of the horse was Savoy, and it was the most
beautiful horse he had ever seen. During the battle the king was
personally attacked, when he had nobody near him but a valet de
chambre, a little fellow, and not well armed. "The king," says
Commines, "had the best horse under him in the world, and therefore
he stood his ground bravely, till a number of his men, not a great
way from him, arrived at the critical minute."]

The Mamalukes make their boast that they have the most ready horses of
any cavalry in the world; that by nature and custom they were taught to
know and distinguish the enemy, and to fall foul upon them with mouth and
heels, according to a word or sign given; as also to gather up with their
teeth darts and lances scattered upon the field, and present them to
their riders, on the word of command. 'T is said, both of Caesar and
Pompey, that amongst their other excellent qualities they were both very
good horsemen, and particularly of Caesar, that in his youth, being
mounted on the bare back, without saddle or bridle, he could make the
horse run, stop, and turn, and perform all its airs, with his hands
behind him. As nature designed to make of this person, and of Alexander,
two miracles of military art, so one would say she had done her utmost to
arm them after an extraordinary manner for every one knows that
Alexander's horse, Bucephalus, had a head inclining to the shape of a
bull; that he would suffer himself to be mounted and governed by none but
his master, and that he was so honoured after his death as to have a city
erected to his name. Caesar had also one which had forefeet like those
of a man, his hoofs being divided in the form of fingers, which likewise
was not to be ridden, by any but Caesar himself, who, after his death,
dedicated his statue to the goddess Venus.

I do not willingly alight when I am once on horseback, for it is the
place where, whether well or sick, I find myself most at ease. Plato
recommends it for health, as also Pliny says it is good for the stomach
and the joints. Let us go further into this matter since here we are.

We read in Xenophon a law forbidding any one who was master of a horse to
travel on foot. Trogus Pompeius and Justin say that the Parthians were
wont to perform all offices and ceremonies, not only in war but also all
affairs whether public or private, make bargains, confer, entertain, take
the air, and all on horseback; and that the greatest distinction betwixt
freemen and slaves amongst them was that the one rode on horseback and
the other went on foot, an institution of which King Cyrus was the

There are several examples in the Roman history (and Suetonius more
particularly observes it of Caesar) of captains who, on pressing
occasions, commanded their cavalry to alight, both by that means to take
from them all hopes of flight, as also for the advantage they hoped in
this sort of fight.

"Quo baud dubie superat Romanus,"

["Wherein the Roman does questionless excel."--Livy, ix. 22.]

says Livy. And so the first thing they did to prevent the mutinies and
insurrections of nations of late conquest was to take from them their
arms and horses, and therefore it is that we so often meet in Caesar:

"Arma proferri, jumenta produci, obsides dari jubet."

["He commanded the arms to be produced, the horses brought out,
hostages to be given."--De Bello Gall., vii. II.]

The Grand Signior to this day suffers not a Christian or a Jew to keep a
horse of his own throughout his empire.

Our ancestors, and especially at the time they had war with the English,
in all their greatest engagements and pitched battles fought for the most
part on foot, that they might have nothing but their own force, courage,
and constancy to trust to in a quarrel of so great concern as life and
honour. You stake (whatever Chrysanthes in Xenophon says to the
contrary) your valour and your fortune upon that of your horse; his
wounds or death bring your person into the same danger; his fear or fury
shall make you reputed rash or cowardly; if he have an ill mouth or will
not answer to the spur, your honour must answer for it. And, therefore,
I do not think it strange that those battles were more firm and furious
than those that are fought on horseback:

"Caedebant pariter, pariterque ruebant
Victores victique; neque his fuga nota, neque illis."

["They fought and fell pell-mell, victors and vanquished; nor was
flight thought of by either."--AEneid, x. 756.]

Their battles were much better disputed. Nowadays there are nothing but

"Primus clamor atque impetus rem decernit."

["The first shout and charge decides the business."--Livy, xxv. 41.]

And the means we choose to make use of in so great a hazard should be as
much as possible at our own command: wherefore I should advise to choose
weapons of the shortest sort, and such of which we are able to give the
best account. A man may repose more confidence in a sword he holds in
his hand than in a bullet he discharges out of a pistol, wherein there
must be a concurrence of several circumstances to make it perform its
office, the powder, the stone, and the wheel: if any of which fail it
endangers your fortune. A man himself strikes much surer than the air
can direct his blow:

"Et, quo ferre velint, permittere vulnera ventis
Ensis habet vires; et gens quaecumque virorum est,
Bella gerit gladiis."

["And so where they choose to carry [the arrows], the winds allow
the wounds; the sword has strength of arm: and whatever nation of
men there is, they wage war with swords."--Lucan, viii. 384.]

But of that weapon I shall speak more fully when I come to compare the
arms of the ancients with those of modern use; only, by the way, the
astonishment of the ear abated, which every one grows familiar with in a
short time, I look upon it as a weapon of very little execution, and hope
we shall one day lay it aside. That missile weapon which the Italians
formerly made use of both with fire and by sling was much more terrible:
they called a certain kind of javelin, armed at the point with an iron
three feet long, that it might pierce through and through an armed man,
Phalarica, which they sometimes in the field darted by hand, sometimes
from several sorts of engines for the defence of beleaguered places; the
shaft being rolled round with flax, wax, rosin, oil, and other
combustible matter, took fire in its flight, and lighting upon the body
of a man or his target, took away all the use of arms and limbs. And
yet, coming to close fight, I should think they would also damage the
assailant, and that the camp being as it were planted with these flaming
truncheons, would produce a common inconvenience to the whole crowd:

"Magnum stridens contorta Phalarica venit,
Fulminis acta modo."

["The Phalarica, launched like lightning, flies through
the air with a loud rushing sound."--AEneid, ix. 705.]

They had, moreover, other devices which custom made them perfect in
(which seem incredible to us who have not seen them), by which they
supplied the effects of our powder and shot. They darted their spears
with so great force, as ofttimes to transfix two targets and two armed
men at once, and pin them together. Neither was the effect of their
slings less certain of execution or of shorter carriage:

["Culling round stones from the beach for their slings; and with
these practising over the waves, so as from a great distance to
throw within a very small circuit, they became able not only to
wound an enemy in the head, but hit any other part at pleasure."
--Livy, xxxviii. 29.]

Their pieces of battery had not only the execution but the thunder of our
cannon also:

"Ad ictus moenium cum terribili sonitu editos,
pavor et trepidatio cepit."

["At the battery of the walls, performed with a terrible noise,
the defenders began to fear and tremble."--Idem, ibid., 5.]

The Gauls, our kinsmen in Asia, abominated these treacherous missile
arms, it being their use to fight, with greater bravery, hand to hand:

["They are not so much concerned about large gashes-the bigger and
deeper the wound, the more glorious do they esteem the combat but
when they find themselves tormented by some arrow-head or bullet
lodged within, but presenting little outward show of wound,
transported with shame and anger to perish by so imperceptible a
destroyer, they fall to the ground."---Livy, xxxviii. 21.]

A pretty description of something very like an arquebuse-shot. The ten
thousand Greeks in their long and famous retreat met with a nation who
very much galled them with great and strong bows, carrying arrows so long
that, taking them up, one might return them back like a dart, and with
them pierce a buckler and an armed man through and through. The engines,
that Dionysius invented at Syracuse to shoot vast massy darts and stones
of a prodigious greatness with so great impetuosity and at so great a
distance, came very near to our modern inventions.

But in this discourse of horses and horsemanship, we are not to forget
the pleasant posture of one Maistre Pierre Pol, a doctor of divinity,
upon his mule, whom Monstrelet reports always to have ridden sideways
through the streets of Paris like a woman. He says also, elsewhere, that
the Gascons had terrible horses, that would wheel in their full speed,
which the French, Picards, Flemings, and Brabanters looked upon as a
miracle, "having never seen the like before," which are his very words.

Caesar, speaking of the Suabians: "in the charges they make on
horseback," says he, "they often throw themselves off to fight on foot,
having taught their horses not to stir in the meantime from the place,
to which they presently run again upon occasion; and according to their
custom, nothing is so unmanly and so base as to use saddles or pads, and
they despise such as make use of those conveniences: insomuch that, being
but a very few in number, they fear not to attack a great many." That
which I have formerly wondered at, to see a horse made to perform all his
airs with a switch only and the reins upon his neck, was common with the
Massilians, who rid their horses without saddle or bridle:

"Et gens, quae nudo residens Massylia dorso,
Ora levi flectit, fraenorum nescia, virga."

["The Massylians, mounted on the bare backs of their horses,
bridleless, guide them by a mere switch."--Lucan, iv. 682.]

"Et Numidae infraeni cingunt."

["The Numidians guiding their horses without bridles."
--AEneid, iv. 41.]

"Equi sine fraenis, deformis ipse cursus,
rigida cervice et extento capite currentium."

["The career of a horse without a bridle is ungraceful; the neck
extended stiff, and the nose thrust out."--Livy, xxxv. II.]

King Alfonso,--[Alfonso XI., king of Leon and Castile, died 1350.]--
he who first instituted the Order of the Band or Scarf in Spain, amongst
other rules of the order, gave them this, that they should never ride
mule or mulet, upon penalty of a mark of silver; this I had lately out of
Guevara's Letters. Whoever gave these the title of Golden Epistles had
another kind of opinion of them than I have. The Courtier says, that
till his time it was a disgrace to a gentleman to ride on one of these
creatures: but the Abyssinians, on the contrary, the nearer they are to
the person of Prester John, love to be mounted upon large mules, for the
greatest dignity and grandeur.

Xenophon tells us, that the Assyrians were fain to keep their horses
fettered in the stable, they were so fierce and vicious; and that it
required so much time to loose and harness them, that to avoid any
disorder this tedious preparation might bring upon them in case of
surprise, they never sat down in their camp till it was first well
fortified with ditches and ramparts. His Cyrus, who was so great a
master in all manner of horse service, kept his horses to their due work,
and never suffered them to have anything to eat till first they had
earned it by the sweat of some kind of exercise. The Scythians when in
the field and in scarcity of provisions used to let their horses blood,
which they drank, and sustained themselves by that diet:

"Venit et epoto Sarmata pastus equo."

["The Scythian comes, who feeds on horse-flesh"
--Martial, De Spectaculis Libey, Epigr. iii. 4.]

Those of Crete, being besieged by Metellus, were in so great necessity
for drink that they were fain to quench their thirst with their horses
urine.--[Val. Max., vii. 6, ext. 1.]

To shew how much cheaper the Turkish armies support themselves than our
European forces, 'tis said that besides the soldiers drink nothing but
water and eat nothing but rice and salt flesh pulverised (of which every
one may easily carry about with him a month's provision), they know how
to feed upon the blood of their horses as well as the Muscovite and
Tartar, and salt it for their use.

These new-discovered people of the Indies [Mexico and Yucatan D.W.],
when the Spaniards first landed amongst them, had so great an opinion
both of the men and horses, that they looked upon the first as gods and
the other as animals ennobled above their nature; insomuch that after
they were subdued, coming to the men to sue for peace and pardon, and to
bring them gold and provisions, they failed not to offer of the same to
the horses, with the same kind of harangue to them they had made to the
others: interpreting their neighing for a language of truce and

In the other Indies, to ride upon an elephant was the first and royal
place of honour; the second to ride in a coach with four horses; the
third to ride upon a camel; and the last and least honour to be carried
or drawn by one horse only. Some one of our late writers tells us that
he has been in countries in those parts where they ride upon oxen with
pads, stirrups, and bridles, and very much at their ease.

Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, in a battle with the Samnites, seeing
his horse, after three or four charges, had failed of breaking into the
enemy's battalion, took this course, to make them unbridle all their
horses and spur their hardest, so that having nothing to check their
career, they might through weapons and men open the way to his foot, who
by that means gave them a bloody defeat. The same command was given by
Quintus Fulvius Flaccus against the Celtiberians:

["You will do your business with greater advantage of your horses'
strength, if you send them unbridled upon the enemy, as it is
recorded the Roman horse to their great glory have often done; their
bits being taken off, they charged through and again back through
the enemy's ranks with great slaughter, breaking down all their
spears."--Idem, xl. 40.]

The Duke of Muscovy was anciently obliged to pay this reverence to the
Tartars, that when they sent an embassy to him he went out to meet them
on foot, and presented them with a goblet of mares' milk (a beverage of
greatest esteem amongst them), and if, in drinking, a drop fell by chance
upon their horse's mane, he was bound to lick it off with his tongue.
The army that Bajazet had sent into Russia was overwhelmed with so
dreadful a tempest of snow, that to shelter and preserve themselves from
the cold, many killed and embowelled their horses, to creep into their
bellies and enjoy the benefit of that vital heat. Bajazet, after that
furious battle wherein he was overthrown by Tamerlane, was in a hopeful
way of securing his own person by the fleetness of an Arabian mare he had
under him, had he not been constrained to let her drink her fill at the
ford of a river in his way, which rendered her so heavy and indisposed,
that he was afterwards easily overtaken by those that pursued him. They
say, indeed, that to let a horse stale takes him off his mettle, but as
to drinking, I should rather have thought it would refresh him.

Croesus, marching his army through certain waste lands near Sardis, met
with an infinite number of serpents, which the horses devoured with great
appetite, and which Herodotus says was a prodigy of ominous portent to
his affairs.

We call a horse entire, that has his mane and ears so, and no other will
pass muster. The Lacedaemonians, having defeated the Athenians in
Sicily, returning triumphant from the victory into the city of Syracuse,
amongst other insolences, caused all the horses they had taken to be
shorn and led in triumph. Alexander fought with a nation called Dahas,
whose discipline it was to march two and two together armed on one horse,
to the war; and being in fight, one of them alighted, and so they fought
on horseback and on foot, one after another by turns.

I do not think that for graceful riding any nation in the world excels
the French. A good horseman, according to our way of speaking, seems
rather to have respect to the courage of the man than address in riding.
Of all that ever I saw, the most knowing in that art, who had the best
seat and the best method in breaking horses, was Monsieur de Carnavalet,
who served our King Henry II.

I have seen a man ride with both his feet upon the saddle, take off his
saddle, and at his return take it up again and replace it, riding all the
while full speed; having galloped over a cap, make at it very good shots
backwards with his bow; take up anything from the ground, setting one
foot on the ground and the other in the stirrup: with twenty other ape's
tricks, which he got his living by.

There has been seen in my time at Constantinople two men upon one horse,
who, in the height of its speed, would throw themselves off and into the
saddle again by turn; and one who bridled and saddled his horse with
nothing but his teeth; an other who betwixt two horses, one foot upon one
saddle and the other upon another, carrying the other man upon his
shoulders, would ride full career, the other standing bolt upright upon
and making very good shots with his bow; several who would ride full
speed with their heels upward, and their heads upon the saddle betwixt
several scimitars, with the points upwards, fixed in the harness. When I
was a boy, the prince of Sulmona, riding an unbroken horse at Naples,
prone to all sorts of action, held reals--[A small coin of Spain, the
Two Sicilies, &c.]--under his knees and toes, as if they had been nailed
there, to shew the firmness of his seat.



I should willingly pardon our people for admitting no other pattern or
rule of perfection than their own peculiar manners and customs; for 'tis
a common vice, not of the vulgar only, but almost of all men, to walk in
the beaten road their ancestors have trod before them. I am content,
when they see Fabricius or Laelius, that they look upon their countenance
and behaviour as barbarous, seeing they are neither clothed nor fashioned
according to our mode. But I find fault with their singular indiscretion
in suffering themselves to be so blinded and imposed upon by the
authority of the present usage as every month to alter their opinion, if
custom so require, and that they should so vary their judgment in their
own particular concern. When they wore the busk of their doublets up as
high as their breasts, they stiffly maintained that they were in their
proper place; some years after it was slipped down betwixt their thighs,
and then they could laugh at the former fashion as uneasy and
intolerable. The fashion now in use makes them absolutely condemn the
other two with so great resolution and so universal consent, that a man
would think there was a certain kind of madness crept in amongst them,
that infatuates their understandings to this strange degree. Now, seeing
that our change of fashions is so prompt and sudden, that the inventions
of all the tailors in the world cannot furnish out new whim-whams enow to
feed our vanity withal, there will often be a necessity that the despised
forms must again come in vogue, these immediately after fall into the
same contempt; and that the same judgment must, in the space of fifteen
or twenty years, take up half-a-dozen not only divers but contrary
opinions, with an incredible lightness and inconstancy; there is not any
of us so discreet, who suffers not himself to be gulled with this
contradiction, and both in external and internal sight to be insensibly

I wish to muster up here some old customs that I have in memory, some of
them the same with ours, the others different, to the end that, bearing
in mind this continual variation of human things, we may have our
judgment more clearly and firmly settled.

The thing in use amongst us of fighting with rapier and cloak was in
practice amongst the Romans also:

"Sinistras sagis involvunt, gladiosque distringunt,"

["They wrapt their cloaks upon the left arm, and drew their
swords."--De Bello Civili, i. 75.]

says Caesar; and he observes a vicious custom of our nation, that
continues yet amongst us, which is to stop passengers we meet upon the
road, to compel them to give an account who they are, and to take it for
an affront and just cause of quarrel if they refuse to do it.

At the Baths, which the ancients made use of every day before they went
to dinner, and as frequently as we wash our hands, they at first only
bathed their arms and legs; but afterwards, and by a custom that has
continued for many ages in most nations of the world, they bathed stark
naked in mixed and perfumed water, looking upon it as a great simplicity
to bathe in mere water. The most delicate and affected perfumed
themselves all over three or four times a day. They often caused their
hair to be pinched off, as the women of France have some time since taken
up a custom to do their foreheads,

"Quod pectus, quod crura tibi, quod brachia veilis,"

["You pluck the hairs out of your breast, your arms, and thighs."
--Martial, ii. 62, i.]

though they had ointments proper for that purpose:

"Psilotro nitet, aut acids latet oblita creta."

["She shines with unguents, or with chalk dissolved in vinegar."
--Idem, vi. 93, 9.]

They delighted to lie soft, and alleged it as a great testimony of
hardiness to lie upon a mattress. They ate lying upon beds, much after
the manner of the Turks in this age:

"Inde thoro pater AEneas sic orsus ab alto."

["Thus Father AEneas, from his high bed of state, spoke."
--AEneid, ii. 2.]

And 'tis said of the younger Cato, that after the battle of Pharsalia,
being entered into a melancholy disposition at the ill posture of the
public affairs, he took his repasts always sitting, assuming a strict and
austere course of life. It was also their custom to kiss the hands of
great persons; the more to honour and caress them. And meeting with
friends, they always kissed in salutation, as do the Venetians:

"Gratatusque darem cum dulcibus oscula verbis."

["And kindest words I would mingle with kisses."
--Ovid, De Pont., iv. 9, 13]

In petitioning or saluting any great man, they used to lay their hands
upon his knees. Pasicles the philosopher, brother of Crates, instead of
laying his hand upon the knee laid it upon the private parts, and being
roughly repulsed by him to whom he made that indecent compliment:
"What," said he, "is not that part your own as well as the other?"--
[Diogenes Laertius, vi. 89.]--They used to eat fruit, as we do, after
dinner. They wiped their fundaments (let the ladies, if they please,
mince it smaller) with a sponge, which is the reason that 'spongia' is a
smutty word in Latin; which sponge was fastened to the end of a stick, as
appears by the story of him who, as he was led along to be thrown to the
wild beasts in the sight of the people, asking leave to do his business,
and having no other way to despatch himself, forced the sponge and stick
down his throat and choked himself.--[Seneca, Ep., 70.] They used to
wipe, after coition, with perfumed wool:

"At tibi nil faciam; sed Iota mentula lana."

They had in the streets of Rome vessels and little tubs for passengers to
urine in:

"Pusi saepe lacum propter se, ac dolia curta.
Somno devincti, credunt extollere vestem."

["The little boys in their sleep often think they are near the
public urinal, and raise their coats to make use of it."
--Lucretius, iv.]

They had collation betwixt meals, and had in summer cellars of snow to
cool their wine; and some there were who made use of snow in winter, not
thinking their wine cool enough, even at that cold season of the year.
The men of quality had their cupbearers and carvers, and their buffoons
to make them sport. They had their meat served up in winter upon chafing
dishes, which were set upon the table, and had portable kitchens (of
which I myself have seen some) wherein all their service was carried
about with them:

"Has vobis epulas habete, lauti
Nos offendimur ambulante caena."

["Do you, if you please, esteem these feasts: we do not like the
ambulatory suppers."--Martial, vii. 48, 4.]

In summer they had a contrivance to bring fresh and clear rills through
their lower rooms, wherein were great store of living fish, which the
guests took out with their own hands to be dressed every man according to
his own liking. Fish has ever had this pre-eminence, and keeps it still,
that the grandees, as to them, all pretend to be cooks; and indeed the
taste is more delicate than that of flesh, at least to my fancy. But in
all sorts of magnificence, debauchery, and voluptuous inventions of
effeminacy and expense, we do, in truth, all we can to parallel them;
for our wills are as corrupt as theirs: but we want ability to equal
them. Our force is no more able to reach them in their vicious, than in
their virtuous, qualities, for both the one and the other proceeded from
a vigour of soul which was without comparison greater in them than in us;
and souls, by how much the weaker they are, by so much have they less
power to do either very well or very ill.

The highest place of honour amongst them was the middle. The name going
before, or following after, either in writing or speaking, had no
signification of grandeur, as is evident by their writings; they will as
soon say Oppius and Caesar, as Caesar and Oppius; and me and thee, as
thee and me. This is the reason that made me formerly take notice in the
life of Flaminius, in our French Plutarch, of one passage, where it seems
as if the author, speaking of the jealousy of honour betwixt the
AEtolians and Romans, about the winning of a battle they had with their
joined forces obtained, made it of some importance, that in the Greek
songs they had put the AEtolians before the Romans: if there be no
amphibology in the words of the French translation.

The ladies, in their baths, made no scruple of admitting men amongst
them, and moreover made use of their serving-men to rub and anoint them:

"Inguina succinctus nigri tibi servus aluta
Stat, quoties calidis nuda foveris aquis."

["A slave--his middle girded with a black apron--stands before you,
when, naked, you take a hot bath."--Martial, vii. 35, i.]

They all powdered themselves with a certain powder, to moderate their

The ancient Gauls, says Sidonius Apollinaris, wore their hair long before
and the hinder part of the head shaved, a fashion that begins to revive
in this vicious and effeminate age.

The Romans used to pay the watermen their fare at their first stepping
into the boat, which we never do till after landing:

"Dum aes exigitur, dum mula ligatur,
Tota abit hora."

["Whilst the fare's paying, and the mule is being harnessed, a whole
hour's time is past."--Horace, Sat. i. 5, 13.]

The women used to lie on the side of the bed next the wall: and for that
reason they called Caesar,

"Spondam regis Nicomedis,"

["The bed of King Nicomedes."--Suetonius, Life of Caesar, 49.]

They took breath in their drinking, and watered their wine

"Quis puer ocius
Restinguet ardentis Falerni
Pocula praetereunte lympha?"

["What boy will quickly come and cool the heat of the Falernian
wine with clear water?"--Horace, Od., ii. z, 18.]

And the roguish looks and gestures of our lackeys were also in use
amongst them:

"O Jane, a tergo quern nulls ciconia pinsit,
Nec manus, auriculas imitari est mobilis albas,
Nec lingua, quantum sitiat canis Appula, tantum."

["O Janus, whom no crooked fingers, simulating a stork, peck at
behind your back, whom no quick hands deride behind you, by
imitating the motion of the white ears of the ass, against whom no
mocking tongue is thrust out, as the tongue of the thirsty Apulian
dog."--Persius, i. 58.]

The Argian and Roman ladies mourned in white, as ours did formerly and
should do still, were I to govern in this point. But there are whole
books on this subject.



The judgment is an utensil proper for all subjects, and will have an oar
in everything: which is the reason, that in these Essays I take hold of
all occasions where, though it happen to be a subject I do not very well
understand, I try, however, sounding it at a distance, and finding it too
deep for my stature, I keep me on the shore; and this knowledge that a
man can proceed no further, is one effect of its virtue, yes, one of
those of which it is most proud. One while in an idle and frivolous
subject, I try to find out matter whereof to compose a body, and then to
prop and support it; another while, I employ it in a noble subject, one
that has been tossed and tumbled by a thousand hands, wherein a man can
scarce possibly introduce anything of his own, the way being so beaten on
every side that he must of necessity walk in the steps of another: in
such a case, 'tis the work of the judgment to take the way that seems
best, and of a thousand paths, to determine that this or that is the
best. I leave the choice of my arguments to fortune, and take that she
first presents to me; they are all alike to me, I never design to go
through any of them; for I never see all of anything: neither do they who
so largely promise to show it others. Of a hundred members and faces
that everything has, I take one, onewhile to look it over only, another
while to ripple up the skin, and sometimes to pinch it to the bones: I
give a stab, not so wide but as deep as I can, and am for the most part
tempted to take it in hand by some new light I discover in it. Did I
know myself less, I might perhaps venture to handle something or other to
the bottom, and to be deceived in my own inability; but sprinkling here
one word and there another, patterns cut from several pieces and
scattered without design and without engaging myself too far, I am not
responsible for them, or obliged to keep close to my subject, without
varying at my own liberty and pleasure, and giving up myself to doubt and
uncertainty, and to my own governing method, ignorance.

All motion discovers us: the very same soul of Caesar, that made itself
so conspicuous in marshalling and commanding the battle of Pharsalia, was
also seen as solicitous and busy in the softer affairs of love and
leisure. A man makes a judgment of a horse, not only by seeing him when
he is showing off his paces, but by his very walk, nay, and by seeing him
stand in the stable.

Amongst the functions of the soul, there are some of a lower and meaner
form; he who does not see her in those inferior offices as well as in
those of nobler note, never fully discovers her; and, peradventure, she
is best shown where she moves her simpler pace. The winds of passions
take most hold of her in her highest flights; and the rather by reason
that she wholly applies herself to, and exercises her whole virtue upon,
every particular subject, and never handles more than one thing at a
time, and that not according to it, but according to herself. Things in
respect to themselves have, peradventure, their weight, measures, and
conditions; but when we once take them into us, the soul forms them as
she pleases. Death is terrible to Cicero, coveted by Cato, indifferent
to Socrates. Health, conscience, authority, knowledge, riches, beauty,
and their contraries, all strip themselves at their entering into us, and
receive a new robe, and of another fashion, from the soul; and of what
colour, brown, bright, green, dark, and of what quality, sharp, sweet,
deep, or superficial, as best pleases each of them, for they are not
agreed upon any common standard of forms, rules, or proceedings; every
one is a queen in her own dominions. Let us, therefore, no more excuse
ourselves upon the external qualities of things; it belongs to us to give
ourselves an account of them. Our good or ill has no other dependence
but on ourselves. 'Tis there that our offerings and our vows are due,
and not to fortune she has no power over our manners; on the contrary,
they draw and make her follow in their train, and cast her in their own
mould. Why should not I judge of Alexander at table, ranting and
drinking at the prodigious rate he sometimes used to do?

Or, if he played at chess? what string of his soul was not touched by
this idle and childish game? I hate and avoid it, because it is not play
enough, that it is too grave and serious a diversion, and I am ashamed to
lay out as much thought and study upon it as would serve to much better
uses. He did not more pump his brains about his glorious expedition into
the Indies, nor than another in unravelling a passage upon which depends
the safety of mankind. To what a degree does this ridiculous diversion
molest the soul, when all her faculties are summoned together upon this
trivial account! and how fair an opportunity she herein gives every one
to know and to make a right judgment of himself? I do not more
thoroughly sift myself in any other posture than this: what passion are
we exempted from in it? Anger, spite, malice, impatience, and a vehement
desire of getting the better in a concern wherein it were more excusable
to be ambitious of being overcome; for to be eminent, to excel above the
common rate in frivolous things, nowise befits a man of honour. What I
say in this example may be said in all others. Every particle, every
employment of man manifests him equally with any other.

Democritus and Heraclitus were two philosophers, of whom the first,
finding human condition ridiculous and vain, never appeared abroad but
with a jeering and laughing countenance; whereas Heraclitus commiserating
that same condition of ours, appeared always with a sorrowful look, and
tears in his eyes:

Ridebat, quoties a limine moverat unum
Protuleratque pedem; flebat contrarius alter."

["The one always, as often as he had stepped one pace from his
threshold, laughed, the other always wept."--Juvenal, Sat., x. 28.]

[Or, as Voltaire: "Life is a comedy to those who think;
a tragedy to those who feel." D.W.]

I am clearly for the first humour; not because it is more pleasant to
laugh than to weep, but because it expresses more contempt and
condemnation than the other, and I think we can never be despised
according to our full desert. Compassion and bewailing seem to imply
some esteem of and value for the thing bemoaned; whereas the things we
laugh at are by that expressed to be of no moment. I do not think that
we are so unhappy as we are vain, or have in us so much malice as folly;
we are not so full of mischief as inanity; nor so miserable as we are
vile and mean. And therefore Diogenes, who passed away his time in
rolling himself in his tub, and made nothing of the great Alexander,
esteeming us no better than flies or bladders puffed up with wind, was a
sharper and more penetrating, and, consequently in my opinion, a juster
judge than Timon, surnamed the Man-hater; for what a man hates he lays to
heart. This last was an enemy to all mankind, who passionately desired
our ruin, and avoided our conversation as dangerous, proceeding from
wicked and depraved natures: the other valued us so little that we could
neither trouble nor infect him by our example; and left us to herd one
with another, not out of fear, but from contempt of our society:
concluding us as incapable of doing good as evil.

Of the same strain was Statilius' answer, when Brutus courted him into
the conspiracy against Caesar; he was satisfied that the enterprise was
just, but he did not think mankind worthy of a wise man's concern';
according to the doctrine of Hegesias, who said, that a wise man ought to
do nothing but for himself, forasmuch as he only was worthy of it: and to
the saying of Theodorus, that it was not reasonable a wise man should
hazard himself for his country, and endanger wisdom for a company of
fools. Our condition is as ridiculous as risible.



A rhetorician of times past said, that to make little things appear great
was his profession. This was a shoemaker, who can make a great shoe for
a little foot.--[A saying of Agesilaus.]--They would in Sparta have
sent such a fellow to be whipped for making profession of a tricky and
deceitful act; and I fancy that Archidamus, who was king of that country,
was a little surprised at the answer of Thucydides, when inquiring of
him, which was the better wrestler, Pericles, or he, he replied, that it
was hard to affirm; for when I have thrown him, said he, he always
persuades the spectators that he had no fall and carries away the prize.
--[Quintilian, ii. 15.]--The women who paint, pounce, and plaster up
their ruins, filling up their wrinkles and deformities, are less to
blame, because it is no great matter whether we see them in their natural
complexions; whereas these make it their business to deceive not our
sight only but our judgments, and to adulterate and corrupt the very
essence of things. The republics that have maintained themselves in a
regular and well-modelled government, such as those of Lacedaemon and
Crete, had orators in no very great esteem. Aristo wisely defined
rhetoric to be "a science to persuade the people;" Socrates and Plato
"an art to flatter and deceive." And those who deny it in the general
description, verify it throughout in their precepts. The Mohammedans
will not suffer their children to be instructed in it, as being useless,
and the Athenians, perceiving of how pernicious consequence the practice
of it was, it being in their city of universal esteem, ordered the
principal part, which is to move the affections, with their exordiums and
perorations, to be taken away. 'Tis an engine invented to manage and
govern a disorderly and tumultuous rabble, and that never is made use of,
but like physic to the sick, in a discomposed state. In those where the
vulgar or the ignorant, or both together, have been all-powerful and able
to give the law, as in those of Athens, Rhodes, and Rome, and where the
public affairs have been in a continual tempest of commotion, to such
places have the orators always repaired. And in truth, we shall find few
persons in those republics who have pushed their fortunes to any great
degree of eminence without the assistance of eloquence.

Pompey, Caesar, Crassus, Lucullus, Lentulus, Metellus, thence took their
chiefest spring, to mount to that degree of authority at which they at
last arrived, making it of greater use to them than arms, contrary to the
opinion of better times; for, L. Volumnius speaking publicly in favour of
the election of Q. Fabius and Pub. Decius, to the consular dignity:
"These are men," said he, "born for war and great in execution; in the
combat of the tongue altogether wanting; spirits truly consular. The
subtle, eloquent, and learned are only good for the city, to make
praetors of, to administer justice."--[Livy, x. 22.]

Eloquence most flourished at Rome when the public affairs were in the
worst condition and most disquieted with intestine commotions; as a free
and untilled soil bears the worst weeds. By which it should seem that a
monarchical government has less need of it than any other: for the
stupidity and facility natural to the common people, and that render them
subject to be turned and twined and, led by the ears by this charming
harmony of words, without weighing or considering the truth and reality
of things by the force of reason: this facility, I say, is not easily
found in a single person, and it is also more easy by good education and
advice to secure him from the impression of this poison. There was never
any famous orator known to come out of Persia or Macedon.

I have entered into this discourse upon the occasion of an Italian I
lately received into my service, and who was clerk of the kitchen to the
late Cardinal Caraffa till his death. I put this fellow upon an account
of his office: when he fell to discourse of this palate-science, with
such a settled countenance and magisterial gravity, as if he had been
handling some profound point of divinity. He made a learned distinction
of the several sorts of appetites; of that a man has before he begins to
eat, and of those after the second and third service; the means simply to
satisfy the first, and then to raise and actuate the other two; the
ordering of the sauces, first in general, and then proceeded to the
qualities of the ingredients and their effects; the differences of salads
according to their seasons, those which ought to be served up hot, and
which cold; the manner of their garnishment and decoration to render them
acceptable to the eye. After which he entered upon the order of the
whole service, full of weighty and important considerations:

"Nec minimo sane discrimine refert,
Quo gestu lepores, et quo gallina secetur;"

["Nor with less discrimination observes how we should carve a hare,
and how a hen." or, ("Nor with the least discrimination relates how
we should carve hares, and how cut up a hen.)"
--Juvenal, Sat., v. 123.]

and all this set out with lofty and magnificent words, the very same we
make use of when we discourse of the government of an empire. Which
learned lecture of my man brought this of Terence into my memory:

"Hoc salsum est, hoc adustum est, hoc lautum est, parum:
Illud recte: iterum sic memento: sedulo
Moneo, qux possum, pro mea sapientia.
Postremo, tanquam in speculum, in patinas,
Demea, Inspicere jubeo, et moneo, quid facto usus sit."

["This is too salt, that's burnt, that's not washed enough; that's
well; remember to do so another time. Thus do I ever advise them to
have things done properly, according to my capacity; and lastly,
Demea, I command my cooks to look into every dish as if it were a
mirror, and tell them what they should do."
--Terence, Adelph., iii. 3, 71.]

And yet even the Greeks themselves very much admired and highly applauded
the order and disposition that Paulus AEmilius observed in the feast he
gave them at his return from Macedon. But I do not here speak of
effects, I speak of words only.

I do not know whether it may have the same operation upon other men that
it has upon me, but when I hear our architects thunder out their bombast
words of pilasters, architraves, and cornices, of the Corinthian and
Doric orders, and suchlike jargon, my imagination is presently possessed
with the palace of Apollidon; when, after all, I find them but the paltry
pieces of my own kitchen door.

To hear men talk of metonomies, metaphors, and allegories, and other
grammar words, would not one think they signified some rare and exotic
form of speaking? And yet they are phrases that come near to the babble
of my chambermaid.

And this other is a gullery of the same stamp, to call the offices of our
kingdom by the lofty titles of the Romans, though they have no similitude
of function, and still less of authority and power. And this also, which
I doubt will one day turn to the reproach of this age of ours, unworthily
and indifferently to confer upon any we think fit the most glorious
surnames with which antiquity honoured but one or two persons in several
ages. Plato carried away the surname of Divine, by so universal a
consent that never any one repined at it, or attempted to take it from
him; and yet the Italians, who pretend, and with good reason, to more
sprightly wits and sounder sense than the other nations of their time,
have lately bestowed the same title upon Aretin, in whose writings, save
tumid phrases set out with smart periods, ingenious indeed but far-
fetched and fantastic, and the eloquence, be it what it may, I see
nothing in him above the ordinary writers of his time, so far is he from
approaching the ancient divinity. And we make nothing of giving the
surname of great to princes who have nothing more than ordinary in them.



Attilius Regulus, general of the Roman army in Africa, in the height of
all his glory and victories over the Carthaginians, wrote to the Republic
to acquaint them that a certain hind he had left in trust with his
estate, which was in all but seven acres of land, had run away with all
his instruments of husbandry, and entreating therefore, that they would
please to call him home that he might take order in his own affairs, lest
his wife and children should suffer by this disaster. Whereupon the
Senate appointed another to manage his business, caused his losses to be
made good, and ordered his family to be maintained at the public expense.

The elder Cato, returning consul from Spain, sold his warhorse to save
the money it would have cost in bringing it back by sea into Italy; and
being Governor of Sardinia, he made all his visits on foot, without other
train than one officer of the Republic who carried his robe and a censer
for sacrifices, and for the most part carried his trunk himself. He
bragged that he had never worn a gown that cost above ten crowns, nor had
ever sent above tenpence to the market for one day's provision; and that
as to his country houses, he had not one that was rough-cast on the

Scipio AEmilianus, after two triumphs and two consulships, went an
embassy with no more than seven servants in his train. 'Tis said that
Homer had never more than one, Plato three, and Zeno, founder of the sect
of Stoics, none at all. Tiberius Gracchus was allowed but fivepence
halfpenny a day when employed as public minister about the public
affairs, and being at that time the greatest man of Rome.



If we would sometimes bestow a little consideration upon ourselves, and
employ the time we spend in prying into other men's actions, and
discovering things without us, in examining our own abilities we should
soon perceive of how infirm and decaying material this fabric of ours is
composed. Is it not a singular testimony of imperfection that we cannot
establish our satisfaction in any one thing, and that even our own fancy
and desire should deprive us of the power to choose what is most proper
and useful for us? A very good proof of this is the great dispute that
has ever been amongst the philosophers, of finding out man's sovereign
good, that continues yet, and will eternally continue, without solution
or accord:

"Dum abest quod avemus, id exsuperare videtur
Caetera; post aliud, quum contigit illud, avemus,
Et sitis aequa tenet."

["While that which we desire is wanting, it seems to surpass all the
rest; then, when we have got it, we want something else; 'tis ever
the same thirst"--Lucretius, iii. 1095.]

Whatever it is that falls into our knowledge and possession, we find that
it satisfies not, and we still pant after things to come and unknown,
inasmuch as those present do not suffice for us; not that, in my
judgment, they have not in them wherewith to do it, but because we seize
them with an unruly and immoderate haste:

"Nam quum vidit hic, ad victum qux flagitat usus,
Et per quae possent vitam consistere tutam,
Omnia jam ferme mortalibus esse parata;
Divitiis homines, et honore, et laude potentes
Aflluere, atque bona natorum excellere fama;
Nec minus esse domi cuiquam tamen anxia corda,
Atque animi ingratis vitam vexare querelis
Causam, quae infestis cogit saevire querelis,
Intellegit ibi; vitium vas efficere ipsum,
Omniaque, illius vitio, corrumpier intus,
Qux collata foris et commoda quomque venirent."

["For when he saw that almost all things necessarily required for
subsistence, and which may render life comfortable, are already
prepared to their hand, that men may abundantly attain wealth,
honour, praise, may rejoice in the reputation of their children, yet
that, notwithstanding, every one has none the less in his heart and
home anxieties and a mind enslaved by wearing complaints, he saw
that the vessel itself was in fault, and that all good things which
were brought into it from without were spoilt by its own
imperfections."--Lucretius, vi. 9.]

Our appetite is irresolute and fickle; it can neither keep nor enjoy
anything with a good grace: and man concluding it to be the fault of the
things he is possessed of, fills himself with and feeds upon the idea of
things he neither knows nor understands, to which he devotes his hopes
and his desires, paying them all reverence and honour, according to the
saying of Caesar:

"Communi fit vitio naturae, ut invisis, latitantibus
atque incognitis rebus magis confidamas,
vehementiusque exterreamur."

["'Tis the common vice of nature, that we at once repose most
confidence, and receive the greatest apprehensions, from things
unseen, concealed, and unknown."--De Bello Civil, xi. 4.]



There are a sort of little knacks and frivolous subtleties from which men
sometimes expect to derive reputation and applause: as poets, who compose
whole poems with every line beginning with the same letter; we see the
shapes of eggs, globes, wings, and hatchets cut out by the ancient Greeks
by the measure of their verses, making them longer or shorter, to
represent such or such a figure. Of this nature was his employment who
made it his business to compute into how many several orders the letters
of the alphabet might be transposed, and found out that incredible number
mentioned in Plutarch. I am mightily pleased with the humour of him,

["Alexander, as may be seen in Quintil., Institut. Orat., lib.
ii., cap. 20, where he defines Maratarexvia to be a certain
unnecessary imitation of art, which really does neither good nor
harm, but is as unprofitable and ridiculous as was the labour of
that man who had so perfectly learned to cast small peas through the
eye of a needle at a good distance that he never missed one, and was
justly rewarded for it, as is said, by Alexander, who saw the
performance, with a bushel of peas."--Coste.]

who having a man brought before him that had learned to throw a grain of
millet with such dexterity and assurance as never to miss the eye of a
needle; and being afterwards entreated to give something for the reward
of so rare a performance, he pleasantly, and in my opinion justly,
ordered a certain number of bushels of the same grain to be delivered to
him, that he might not want wherewith to exercise so famous an art. 'Tis
a strong evidence of a weak judgment when men approve of things for their
being rare and new, or for their difficulty, where worth and usefulness
are not conjoined to recommend them.

I come just now from playing with my own family at who could find out the
most things that hold by their two extremities; as Sire, which is a title
given to the greatest person in the nation, the king, and also to the
vulgar, as merchants, but never to any degree of men between. The women
of great quality are called Dames, inferior gentlewomen, Demoiselles, and
the meanest sort of women, Dames, as the first. The cloth of state over
our tables is not permitted but in the palaces of princes and in taverns.
Democritus said, that gods and beasts had sharper sense than men, who are
of a middle form. The Romans wore the same habit at funerals and feasts.
It is most certain that an extreme fear and an extreme ardour of courage
equally trouble and relax the belly. The nickname of Trembling with
which they surnamed Sancho XII., king of Navarre, tells us that valour
will cause a trembling in the limbs as well as fear. Those who were
arming that king, or some other person, who upon the like occasion was
wont to be in the same disorder, tried to compose him by representing the
danger less he was going to engage himself in: "You understand me ill,"
said he, "for could my flesh know the danger my courage will presently
carry it into, it would sink down to the ground." The faintness that
surprises us from frigidity or dislike in the exercises of Venus are also
occasioned by a too violent desire and an immoderate heat. Extreme
coldness and extreme heat boil and roast. Aristotle says, that sows of
lead will melt and run with cold and the rigour of winter just as with a
vehement heat. Desire and satiety fill all the gradations above and
below pleasure with pain. Stupidity and wisdom meet in the same centre
of sentiment and resolution, in the suffering of human accidents. The
wise control and triumph over ill, the others know it not: these last
are, as a man may say, on this side of accidents, the others are beyond
them, who after having well weighed and considered their qualities,
measured and judged them what they are, by virtue of a vigorous soul leap
out of their reach; they disdain and trample them underfoot, having a
solid and well-fortified soul, against which the darts of fortune, coming
to strike, must of necessity rebound and blunt themselves, meeting with a
body upon which they can fix no impression; the ordinary and middle
condition of men are lodged betwixt these two extremities, consisting of
such as perceive evils, feel them, and are not able to support them.
Infancy and decrepitude meet in the imbecility of the brain; avarice and
profusion in the same thirst and desire of getting.

A man may say with some colour of truth that there is an Abecedarian
ignorance that precedes knowledge, and a doctoral ignorance that comes
after it: an ignorance that knowledge creates and begets, at the same
time that it despatches and destroys the first. Of mean understandings,
little inquisitive, and little instructed, are made good Christians, who
by reverence and obedience simply believe and are constant in their
belief. In the average understandings and the middle sort of capacities,
the error of opinion is begotten; they follow the appearance of the first
impression, and have some colour of reason on their side to impute our
walking on in the old beaten path to simplicity and stupidity, meaning us
who have not informed ourselves by study. The higher and nobler souls,
more solid and clear-sighted, make up another sort of true believers, who
by a long and religious investigation of truth, have obtained a clearer
and more penetrating light into the Scriptures, and have discovered the
mysterious and divine secret of our ecclesiastical polity; and yet we see
some, who by the middle step, have arrived at that supreme degree with
marvellous fruit and confirmation, as to the utmost limit of Christian
intelligence, and enjoy their victory with great spiritual consolation,
humble acknowledgment of the divine favour, reformation of manners, and
singular modesty. I do not intend with these to rank those others, who
to clear themselves from all suspicion of their former errors and to
satisfy us that they are sound and firm, render themselves extremely
indiscreet and unjust, in the carrying on our cause, and blemish it with
infinite reproaches of violence and oppression. The simple peasants are
good people, and so are the philosophers, or whatever the present age
calls them, men of strong and clear reason, and whose souls are enriched
with an ample instruction of profitable sciences. The mongrels who have
disdained the first form of the ignorance of letters, and have not been
able to attain to the other (sitting betwixt two stools, as I and a great
many more of us do), are dangerous, foolish, and importunate; these are
they that trouble the world. And therefore it is that I, for my own
part, retreat as much as I can towards the first and natural station,
whence I so vainly attempted to advance.

Popular and purely natural poesy

["The term poesie populaire was employed, for the first time, in the
French language on this occasion. Montaigne created the expression,
and indicated its nature."--Ampere.]

has in it certain artless graces, by which she may come into comparison
with the greatest beauty of poetry perfected by art: as we see in our
Gascon villanels and the songs that are brought us from nations that have
no knowledge of any manner of science, nor so much as the use of writing.
The middle sort of poesy betwixt these two is despised, of no value,
honour, or esteem.

But seeing that the path once laid open to the fancy, I have found, as it
commonly falls out, that what we have taken for a difficult exercise and
a rare subject, prove to be nothing so, and that after the invention is
once warm, it finds out an infinite number of parallel examples. I shall
only add this one--that, were these Essays of mine considerable enough to
deserve a critical judgment, it might then, I think, fall out that they
would not much take with common and vulgar capacities, nor be very
acceptable to the singular and excellent sort of men; the first would not
understand them enough, and the last too much; and so they may hover in
the middle region.



It has been reported of some, as of Alexander the Great, that their sweat
exhaled an odoriferous smell, occasioned by some rare and extraordinary
constitution, of which Plutarch and others have been inquisitive into the
cause. But the ordinary constitution of human bodies is quite otherwise,
and their best and chiefest excellency is to be exempt from smell. Nay,
the sweetness even of the purest breath has nothing in it of greater
perfection than to be without any offensive smell, like those of
healthful children, which made Plautus say of a woman:

"Mulier tum bene olet, ubi nihil olet."

["She smells sweetest, who smells not at all."
--Plautus, Mostel, i. 3, 116.]

And such as make use of fine exotic perfumes are with good reason to be
suspected of some natural imperfection which they endeavour by these
odours to conceal. To smell, though well, is to stink:

"Rides nos, Coracine, nil olentes
Malo, quam bene olere, nil olere."

["You laugh at us, Coracinus, because we are not scented; I would,
rather than smell well, not smell at all."--Martial, vi. 55, 4.]

And elsewhere:

"Posthume, non bene olet, qui bene semper olet."

["Posthumus, he who ever smells well does not smell well."
--Idem, ii. 12, 14.]

I am nevertheless a great lover of good smells, and as much abominate the
ill ones, which also I scent at a greater distance, I think, than other

"Namque sagacius unus odoror,
Polypus, an gravis hirsutis cubet hircus in aliis
Quam canis acer, ubi latest sus."

["My nose is quicker to scent a fetid sore or a rank armpit, than a
dog to smell out the hidden sow."--Horace, Epod., xii. 4.]

Of smells, the simple and natural seem to me the most pleasing. Let the
ladies look to that, for 'tis chiefly their concern: amid the most
profound barbarism, the Scythian women, after bathing, were wont to
powder and crust their faces and all their bodies with a certain
odoriferous drug growing in their country, which being cleansed off, when
they came to have familiarity with men they were found perfumed and
sleek. 'Tis not to be believed how strangely all sorts of odours cleave
to me, and how apt my skin is to imbibe them. He that complains of
nature that she has not furnished mankind with a vehicle to convey smells
to the nose had no reason; for they will do it themselves, especially to
me; my very mustachios, which are full, perform that office; for if I
stroke them but with my gloves or handkerchief, the smell will not out a
whole day; they manifest where I have been, and the close, luscious,
devouring, viscid melting kisses of youthful ardour in my wanton age left
a sweetness upon my lips for several hours after. And yet I have ever
found myself little subject to epidemic diseases, that are caught, either
by conversing with the sick or bred by the contagion of the air, and have
escaped from those of my time, of which there have been several sorts in
our cities and armies. We read of Socrates, that though he never
departed from Athens during the frequent plagues that infested the city,
he only was never infected.

Physicians might, I believe, extract greater utility from odours than
they do, for I have often observed that they cause an alteration in me
and work upon my spirits according to their several virtues; which makes
me approve of what is said, that the use of incense and perfumes in
churches, so ancient and so universally received in all nations and
religions, was intended to cheer us, and to rouse and purify the senses,
the better to fit us for contemplation.

I could have been glad, the better to judge of it, to have tasted the
culinary art of those cooks who had so rare a way of seasoning exotic
odours with the relish of meats; as it was particularly observed in the
service of the king of Tunis, who in our days--[Muley-Hassam, in 1543.]
--landed at Naples to have an interview with Charles the Emperor. His
dishes were larded with odoriferous drugs, to that degree of expense that
the cookery of one peacock and two pheasants amounted to a hundred ducats
to dress them after their fashion; and when the carver came to cut them
up, not only the dining-room, but all the apartments of his palace and
the adjoining streets were filled with an aromatic vapour which did not
presently vanish.

My chiefest care in choosing my lodgings is always to avoid a thick and
stinking air; and those beautiful cities, Venice and Paris, very much
lessen the kindness I have for them, the one by the offensive smell of
her marshes, and the other of her dirt.



I propose formless and undetermined fancies, like those who publish
doubtful questions, to be after a disputed upon in the schools, not to
establish truth but to seek it; and I submit them to the judgments of
those whose office it is to regulate, not my writings and actions only,
but moreover my very thoughts. Let what I here set down meet with
correction or applause, it shall be of equal welcome and utility to me,
myself beforehand condemning as absurd and impious, if anything shall be
found, through ignorance or inadvertency, couched in this rhapsody,
contrary to the holy resolutions and prescriptions of the Catholic
Apostolic and Roman Church, into which I was born and in which I will
die. And yet, always submitting to the authority of their censure, which
has an absolute power over me, I thus rashly venture at everything, as in
treating upon this present subject.

I know not if or no I am wrong, but since, by a particular favour of the
divine bounty, a certain form of prayer has been prescribed and dictated
to us, word by word, from the mouth of God Himself, I have ever been of
opinion that we ought to have it in more frequent use than we yet have;
and if I were worthy to advise, at the sitting down to and rising from
our tables, at our rising from and going to bed, and in every particular
action wherein prayer is used, I would that Christians always make use of
the Lord's Prayer, if not alone, yet at least always. The Church may
lengthen and diversify prayers, according to the necessity of our
instruction, for I know very well that it is always the same in substance
and the same thing: but yet such a privilege ought to be given to that
prayer, that the people should have it continually in their mouths; for
it is most certain that all necessary petitions are comprehended in it,
and that it is infinitely proper for all occasions. 'Tis the only prayer
I use in all places and conditions, and which I still repeat instead of
changing; whence it also happens that I have no other so entirely by
heart as that.

It just now came into my mind, whence it is we should derive that error
of having recourse to God in all our designs and enterprises, to call Him
to our assistance in all sorts of affairs, and in all places where our
weakness stands in need of support, without considering whether the
occasion be just or otherwise; and to invoke His name and power, in what
state soever we are, or action we are engaged in, howsoever vicious. He
is indeed, our sole and unique protector, and can do all things for us:
but though He is pleased to honour us with this sweet paternal alliance,
He is, notwithstanding, as just as He is good and mighty; and more often
exercises His justice than His power, and favours us according to that,
and not according to our petitions.

Plato in his Laws, makes three sorts of belief injurious to the gods;
"that there are none; that they concern not themselves about our affairs;
that they never refuse anything to our vows, offerings, and sacrifices."
The first of these errors (according to his opinion, never continued
rooted in any man from his infancy to his old age); the other two, he
confesses, men might be obstinate in.

God's justice and His power are inseparable; 'tis in vain we invoke His
power in an unjust cause. We are to have our souls pure and clean, at
that moment at least wherein we pray to Him, and purified from all
vicious passions; otherwise we ourselves present Him the rods wherewith
to chastise us; instead of repairing anything we have done amiss, we
double the wickedness and the offence when we offer to Him, to whom we
are to sue for pardon, an affection full of irreverence and hatred.
Which makes me not very apt to applaud those whom I observe to be so
frequent on their knees, if the actions nearest to the prayer do not give
me some evidence of amendment and reformation:

"Si, nocturnus adulter,
Tempora Santonico velas adoperta cucullo."

["If a night adulterer, thou coverest thy head with a Santonic
cowl."--Juvenal, Sat., viii. 144.--The Santones were the people
who inhabited Saintonge in France, from whom the Romans derived the
use of hoods or cowls covering the head and face.]

And the practice of a man who mixes devotion with an execrable life seems
in some sort more to be condemned than that of a man conformable to his
own propension and dissolute throughout; and for that reason it is that
our Church denies admittance to and communion with men obstinate and
incorrigible in any notorious wickedness. We pray only by custom and for
fashion's sake; or rather, we read or pronounce our prayers aloud, which
is no better than an hypocritical show of devotion; and I am scandalised
to see a man cross himself thrice at the Benedicite, and as often at
Grace (and the more, because it is a sign I have in great veneration and
continual use, even when I yawn), and to dedicate all the other hours of
the day to acts of malice, avarice, and injustice. One hour to God, the
rest to the devil, as if by composition and compensation. 'Tis a wonder
to see actions so various in themselves succeed one another with such an
uniformity of method as not to interfere nor suffer any alteration, even
upon the very confines and passes from the one to the other. What a
prodigious conscience must that be that can be at quiet within itself
whilst it harbours under the same roof, with so agreeing and so calm a
society, both the crime and the judge?

A man whose whole meditation is continually working upon nothing but
impurity which he knows to be so odious to Almighty God, what can he say
when he comes to speak to Him? He draws back, but immediately falls into
a relapse. If the object of divine justice and the presence of his Maker
did, as he pretends, strike and chastise his soul, how short soever the
repentance might be, the very fear of offending the Infinite Majesty
would so often present itself to his imagination that he would soon see
himself master of those vices that are most natural and vehement in him.
But what shall we say of those who settle their whole course of life upon
the profit and emolument of sins, which they know to be mortal? How many
trades and vocations have we admitted and countenanced amongst us, whose
very essence is vicious? And he that, confessing himself to me,
voluntarily told me that he had all his lifetime professed and practised
a religion, in his opinion damnable and contrary to that he had in his
heart, only to preserve his credit and the honour of his employments, how
could his courage suffer so infamous a confession? What can men say to
the divine justice upon this subject?

Their repentance consisting in a visible and manifest reparation, they
lose the colour of alleging it both to God and man. Are they so impudent
as to sue for remission without satisfaction and without penitence?
I look upon these as in the same condition with the first: but the
obstinacy is not there so easy to be overcome. This contrariety and
volubility of opinion so sudden, so violent, that they feign, are a kind
of miracle to me: they present us with the state of an indigestible agony
of mind.

It seemed to me a fantastic imagination in those who, these late years
past, were wont to reproach every man they knew to be of any
extraordinary parts, and made profession of the Catholic religion, that
it was but outwardly; maintaining, moreover, to do him honour forsooth,
that whatever he might pretend to the contrary he could not but in his
heart be of their reformed opinion. An untoward disease, that a man
should be so riveted to his own belief as to fancy that others cannot
believe otherwise than as he does; and yet worse, that they should
entertain so vicious an opinion of such great parts as to think any man
so qualified, should prefer any present advantage of fortune to the
promises of eternal life and the menaces of eternal damnation. They may
believe me: could anything have tempted my youth, the ambition of the
danger and difficulties in the late commotions had not been the least

It is not without very good reason, in my opinion, that the Church
interdicts the promiscuous, indiscreet, and irreverent use of the holy
and divine Psalms, with which the Holy Ghost inspired King David. We
ought not to mix God in our actions, but with the highest reverence and
caution; that poesy is too holy to be put to no other use than to
exercise the lungs and to delight our ears; it ought to come from the
conscience, and not from the tongue. It is not fit that a prentice in
his shop, amongst his vain and frivolous thoughts, should be permitted to
pass away his time and divert himself with such sacred things. Neither
is it decent to see the Holy Book of the holy mysteries of our belief
tumbled up and down a hall or a kitchen they were formerly mysteries, but
are now become sports and recreations. 'Tis a book too serious and too
venerable to be cursorily or slightly turned over: the reading of the
scripture ought to be a temperate and premeditated act, and to which men
should always add this devout preface, 'sursum corda', preparing even the
body to so humble and composed a gesture and countenance as shall
evidence a particular veneration and attention. Neither is it a book for
everyone to fist, but the study of select men set apart for that purpose,
and whom Almighty God has been pleased to call to that office and sacred
function: the wicked and ignorant grow worse by it. 'Tis, not a story to

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