The Essays of Montaigne, V14
Michel de Montaigne

This etext was produced by David Widger

[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]


Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazilitt



I. Of Profit and Honesty.
II. Of Repentance.
III. Of Three Commerces.
IV. Of Diversion.





No man is free from speaking foolish things; but the worst on't is, when
a man labours to play the fool:

"Nae iste magno conatu magnas nugas dixerit."

["Truly he, with a great effort will shortly say a mighty trifle."
---Terence, Heaut., act iii., s. 4.]

This does not concern me; mine slip from me with as little care as they
are of little value, and 'tis the better for them. I would presently
part with them for what they are worth, and neither buy nor sell them,
but as they weigh. I speak on paper, as I do to the first person I meet;
and that this is true, observe what follows.

To whom ought not treachery to be hateful, when Tiberius refused it in a
thing of so great importance to him? He had word sent him from Germany
that if he thought fit, they would rid him of Arminius by poison: this
was the most potent enemy the Romans had, who had defeated them so
ignominiously under Varus, and who alone prevented their aggrandisement
in those parts.

He returned answer, "that the people of Rome were wont to revenge
themselves of their enemies by open ways, and with their swords in their
hands, and not clandestinely and by fraud": wherein he quitted the
profitable for the honest. You will tell me that he was a braggadocio; I
believe so too: and 'tis no great miracle in men of his profession. But
the acknowledgment of virtue is not less valid in the mouth of him who
hates it, forasmuch as truth forces it from him, and if he will not
inwardly receive it, he at least puts it on for a decoration.

Our outward and inward structure is full of imperfection; but there is
nothing useless in nature, not even inutility itself; nothing has
insinuated itself into this universe that has not therein some fit and
proper place. Our being is cemented with sickly qualities: ambition,
jealousy, envy, revenge, superstition, and despair have so natural a
possession in us, that its image is discerned in beasts; nay, and
cruelty, so unnatural a vice; for even in the midst of compassion we feel
within, I know not what tart-sweet titillation of ill-natured pleasure in
seeing others suffer; and the children feel it:

"Suave mari magno, turbantibus aequora ventis,
E terra magnum alterius spectare laborem:"

["It is sweet, when the winds disturb the waters of the vast sea, to
witness from land the peril of other persons."--Lucretius, ii. I.]

of the seeds of which qualities, whoever should divest man, would destroy
the fundamental conditions of human life. Likewise, in all governments
there are necessary offices, not only abject, but vicious also. Vices
there help to make up the seam in our piecing, as poisons are useful for
the conservation of health. If they become excusable because they are of
use to us, and that the common necessity covers their true qualities, we
are to resign this part to the strongest and boldest citizens, who
sacrifice their honour and conscience, as others of old sacrificed their
lives, for the good of their country: we, who are weaker, take upon us
parts both that are more easy and less hazardous. The public weal
requires that men should betray, and lie, and massacre; let us leave this
commission to men who are more obedient and more supple.

In earnest, I have often been troubled to see judges, by fraud and false
hopes of favour or pardon, allure a criminal to confess his fact, and
therein to make use of cozenage and impudence. It would become justice,
and Plato himself, who countenances this manner of proceeding, to furnish
me with other means more suitable to my own liking: this is a malicious
kind of justice, and I look upon it as no less wounded by itself than by
others. I said not long since to some company in discourse, that I
should hardly be drawn to betray my prince for a particular man, who
should be much ashamed to betray any particular man for my prince; and I
do not only hate deceiving myself, but that any one should deceive
through me; I will neither afford matter nor occasion to any such thing.

In the little I have had to mediate betwixt our princes--[Between the
King of Navarre, afterwards Henry IV., and the Duc de Guise. See De
Thou, De Vita Sua, iii. 9.]--in the divisions and subdivisions by which
we are at this time torn to pieces, I have been very careful that they
should neither be deceived in me nor deceive others by me. People of
that kind of trading are very reserved, and pretend to be the most
moderate imaginable and nearest to the opinions of those with whom they
have to do; I expose myself in my stiff opinion, and after a method the
most my own; a tender negotiator, a novice, who had rather fail in the
affair than be wanting to myself. And yet it has been hitherto with so
good luck (for fortune has doubtless the best share in it), that few
things have passed from hand to hand with less suspicion or more favour
and privacy. I have a free and open way that easily insinuates itself
and obtains belief with those with whom I am to deal at the first
meeting. Sincerity and pure truth, in what age soever, pass for current;
and besides, the liberty and freedom of a man who treats without any
interest of his own is never hateful or suspected, and he may very well
make use of the answer of Hyperides to the Athenians, who complained of
his blunt way of speaking: "Messieurs, do not consider whether or no I am
free, but whether I am so without a bribe, or without any advantage to my
own affairs." My liberty of speaking has also easily cleared me from all
suspicion of dissembling by its vehemency, leaving nothing unsaid, how
home and bitter soever (so that I could have said no worse behind their
backs), and in that it carried along with it a manifest show of
simplicity and indifference. I pretend to no other fruit by acting than
to act, and add to it no long arguments or propositions; every action
plays its own game, win if it can.

As to the rest, I am not swayed by any passion, either of love or hatred,
towards the great, nor has my will captivated either by particular injury
or obligation. I look upon our kings with an affection simply loyal and
respectful, neither prompted nor restrained by any private interest, and
I love myself for it. Nor does the general and just cause attract me
otherwise than with moderation, and without heat. I am not subject to
those penetrating and close compacts and engagements. Anger and hatred
are beyond the duty of justice; and are passions only useful to those who
do not keep themselves strictly to their duty by simple reason:

"Utatur motu animi, qui uti ratione non potest."

["He may employ his passion, who can make no use of his reason."
--Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., iv. 25.]

All legitimate intentions are temperate and equable of themselves; if
otherwise, they degenerate into seditious and unlawful. This is it which
makes me walk everywhere with my head erect, my face and my heart open.
In truth, and I am not afraid to confess it, I should easily, in case of
need, hold up one candle to St. Michael and another to his dragon, like
the old woman; I will follow the right side even to the fire, but
exclusively, if I can. Let Montaigne be overwhelmed in the public ruin
if need be; but if there be no need, I should think myself obliged to
fortune to save me, and I will make use of all the length of line my duty
allows for his preservation. Was it not Atticus who, being of the just
but losing side, preserved himself by his moderation in that universal
shipwreck of the world, amongst so many mutations and diversities? For
private man, as he was, it is more easy; and in such kind of work, I
think a man may justly not be ambitious to offer and insinuate himself.
For a man, indeed, to be wavering and irresolute, to keep his affection
unmoved and without inclination in the troubles of his country and public
divisions, I neither think it handsome nor honest:

"Ea non media, sed nulla via est, velut eventum
exspectantium, quo fortunae consilia sua applicent."

["That is not a middle way, but no way, to await events, by which
they refer their resolutions to fortune."--Livy, xxxii. 21.]

This may be allowed in our neighbours' affairs; and thus Gelo, the tyrant
of Syracuse, suspended his inclination in the war betwixt the Greeks and
barbarians, keeping a resident ambassador with presents at Delphos, to
watch and see which way fortune would incline, and then take fit occasion
to fall in with the victors. It would be a kind of treason to proceed
after this manner in our own domestic affairs, wherein a man must of
necessity be of the one side or the other; though for a man who has no
office or express command to call him out, to sit still I hold it more
excusable (and yet I do not excuse myself upon these terms) than in
foreign expeditions, to which, however, according to our laws, no man is
pressed against his will. And yet even those who wholly engage
themselves in such a war may behave themselves with such temper and
moderation, that the storm may fly over their heads without doing them
any harm. Had we not reason to hope such an issue in the person of the
late Bishop of Orleans, the Sieur de Morvilliers?

[An able negotiator, who, though protected by the Guises, and
strongly supporting them, was yet very far from persecuting the
Reformists. He died 1577.]

And I know, amongst those who behave themselves most bravely in the
present war, some whose manners are so gentle, obliging, and just, that
they will certainly stand firm, whatever event Heaven is preparing for
us. I am of opinion that it properly belongs to kings only to quarrel
with kings; and I laugh at those spirits who, out of lightness of heart,
lend themselves to so disproportioned disputes; for a man has never the
more particular quarrel with a prince, by marching openly and boldly
against him for his own honour and according to his duty; if he does not
love such a person, he does better, he esteems him. And notably the
cause of the laws and of the ancient government of a kingdom, has this
always annexed to it, that even those who, for their own private
interest, invade them, excuse, if they do not honour, the defenders.

But we are not, as we nowadays do, to call peevishness and inward
discontent, that spring from private interest and passion, duty, nor a
treacherous and malicious conduct, courage; they call their proneness to
mischief and violence zeal; 'tis not the cause, but their interest, that
inflames them; they kindle and begin a war, not because it is just, but
because it is war.

A man may very well behave himself commodiously and loyally too amongst
those of the adverse party; carry yourself, if not with the same equal
affection (for that is capable of different measure), at least with an
affection moderate, well tempered, and such as shall not so engage you to
one party, that it may demand all you are able to do for that side,
content yourself with a moderate proportion of their, favour and
goodwill; and to swim in troubled waters without fishing in them.

The other way, of offering a man's self and the utmost service he is able
to do, both to one party and the other, has still less of prudence in it
than conscience. Does not he to whom you betray another, to whom you
were as welcome as to himself, know that you will at another time do as
much for him? He holds you for a villain; and in the meantime hears what
you will say, gathers intelligence from you, and works his own ends out
of your disloyalty; double-dealing men are useful for bringing in, but we
must have a care they carry out as little as is possible.

I say nothing to one party that I may not, upon occasion, say to the
other, with a little alteration of accent; and report nothing but things
either indifferent or known, or what is of common consequence. I cannot
permit myself, for any consideration, to tell them a lie. What is
intrusted to my secrecy, I religiously conceal; but I take as few trusts
of that nature upon me as I can. The secrets of princes are a
troublesome burthen to such as are not interested in them. I very
willingly bargain that they trust me with little, but confidently rely
upon what I tell them. I have ever known more than I desired. One open
way of speaking introduces another open way of speaking, and draws out
discoveries, like wine and love. Philippides, in my opinion, answered
King Lysimachus very discreetly, who, asking him what of his estate he
should bestow upon him? "What you will," said he, "provided it be none
of your secrets." I see every one is displeased if the bottom of the
affair be concealed from him wherein he is employed, or that there be any
reservation in the thing; for my part, I am content to know no more of
the business than what they would have me employ myself in, nor desire
that my knowledge should exceed or restrict what I have to say. If I
must serve for an instrument of deceit, let it be at least with a safe
conscience: I will not be reputed a servant either so affectionate or so
loyal as to be fit to betray any one: he who is unfaithful to himself, is
excusably so to his master. But they are princes who do not accept men
by halves, and despise limited and conditional services: I cannot help
it: I frankly tell them how far I can go; for a slave I should not be,
but to reason, and I can hardly submit even to that. And they also are
to blame to exact from a freeman the same subjection and obligation to
their service that they do from him they have made and bought, or whose
fortune particularly and expressly depends upon theirs. The laws have
delivered me from a great anxiety; they have chosen a side for me, and
given me a master; all other superiority and obligation ought to be
relative to that, and cut, off from all other. Yet this is not to say,
that if my affection should otherwise incline me, my hand should
presently obey it; the will and desire are a law to themselves; but
actions must receive commission from the public appointment.

All this proceeding of mine is a little dissonant from the ordinary
forms; it would produce no great effects, nor be of any long duration;
innocence itself could not, in this age of ours, either negotiate without
dissimulation, or traffic without lying; and, indeed, public employments
are by no means for my palate: what my profession requires, I perform
after the most private manner that I can. Being young, I was engaged up
to the ears in business, and it succeeded well; but I disengaged myself
in good time. I have often since avoided meddling in it, rarely
accepted, and never asked it; keeping my back still turned to ambition;
but if not like rowers who so advance backward, yet so, at the same time,
that I am less obliged to my resolution than to my good fortune, that I
was not wholly embarked in it. For there are ways less displeasing to my
taste, and more suitable to my ability, by which, if she had formerly
called me to the public service, and my own advancement towards the
world's opinion, I know I should, in spite of all my own arguments to the
contrary, have pursued them. Such as commonly say, in opposition to what
I profess, that what I call freedom, simplicity, and plainness in my
manners, is art and subtlety, and rather prudence than goodness, industry
than nature, good sense than good luck, do me more honour than disgrace:
but, certainly, they make my subtlety too subtle; and whoever has
followed me close, and pryed narrowly into me, I will give him the
victory, if he does not confess that there is no rule in their school
that could match this natural motion, and maintain an appearance of
liberty and licence, so equal and inflexible, through so many various and
crooked paths, and that all their wit and endeavour could never have led
them through. The way of truth is one and simple; that of particular
profit, and the commodity of affairs a man is entrusted with, is double,
unequal, and casual. I have often seen these counterfeit and artificial
liberties practised, but, for the most part, without success; they relish
of AEsop's ass who, in emulation of the dog, obligingly clapped his two
fore-feet upon his master's shoulders; but as many caresses as the dog
had for such an expression of kindness, twice so many blows with a cudgel
had the poor ass for his compliment:

"Id maxime quemque decet, quod est cujusque suum maxime."

["That best becomes every man which belongs most to him;"
--Cicero, De Offic., i. 31.]

I will not deprive deceit of its due; that were but ill to understand the
world: I know it has often been of great use, and that it maintains and
supplies most men's employment. There are vices that are lawful, as
there are many actions, either good or excusable, that are not lawful in

The justice which in itself is natural and universal is otherwise and
more nobly ordered than that other justice which is special, national,
and constrained to the ends of government,

"Veri juris germanaeque justitiae solidam et expressam
effigiem nullam tenemus; umbra et imaginibus utimur;"

["We retain no solid and express portraiture of true right and
germane justice; we have only the shadow and image of it."
--Cicero, De Offic., iii. 17.]

insomuch that the sage Dandamis, hearing the lives of Socrates,
Pythagoras, and Diogenes read, judged them to be great men every way,
excepting that they were too much subjected to the reverence of the laws,
which, to second and authorise, true virtue must abate very much of its
original vigour; many vicious actions are introduced, not only by their
permission, but by their advice:

"Ex senatus consultis plebisquescitis scelera exercentur."

["Crimes are committed by the decrees of the Senate and the
popular assembly."--Seneca, Ep., 95.]

I follow the common phrase that distinguishes betwixt profitable and
honest things, so as to call some natural actions, that are not only
profitable but necessary, dishonest and foul.

But let us proceed in our examples of treachery two pretenders to the
kingdom of Thrace--[Rhescuporis and Cotys. Tacitus, Annal., ii. 65]--
were fallen into dispute about their title; the emperor hindered them
from proceeding to blows: but one of them, under colour of bringing
things to a friendly issue by an interview, having invited his competitor
to an entertainment in his own house, imprisoned and killed him. Justice
required that the Romans should have satisfaction for this offence; but
there was a difficulty in obtaining it by ordinary ways; what, therefore,
they could not do legitimately, without war and without danger, they
resolved to do by treachery; and what they could not honestly do, they
did profitably. For which end, one Pomponius Flaccus was found to be a
fit instrument. This man, by dissembled words and assurances, having
drawn the other into his toils, instead of the honour and favour he had
promised him, sent him bound hand and foot to Rome. Here one traitor
betrayed another, contrary to common custom: for they are full of
mistrust, and 'tis hard to overreach them in their own art: witness the
sad experience we have lately had.--[Montaigne here probably refers to
the feigned reconciliation between Catherine de Medici and Henri, Duc de
Guise, in 1588.]

Let who will be Pomponius Flaccus, and there are enough who would: for my
part, both my word and my faith are, like all the rest, parts of this
common body: their best effect is the public service; this I take for
presupposed. But should one command me to take charge of the courts of
law and lawsuits, I should make answer, that I understood it not; or the
place of a leader of pioneers, I would say, that I was called to a more
honourable employment; so likewise, he that would employ me to lie,
betray, and forswear myself, though not to assassinate or to poison, for
some notable service, I should say, "If I have robbed or stolen anything
from any man, send me rather to the galleys." For it is permissible in a
man of honour to say, as the Lacedaemonians did,--[Plutarch, Difference
between a Flatterer and a Friend, c. 21.]--having been defeated by
Antipater, when just upon concluding an agreement: "You may impose as
heavy and ruinous taxes upon us as you please, but to command us to do
shameful and dishonest things, you will lose your time, for it is to no
purpose." Every one ought to make the same vow to himself that the kings
of Egypt made their judges solemnly swear, that they would not do
anything contrary to their consciences, though never so much commanded to
it by themselves. In such commissions there is evident mark of ignominy
and condemnation; and he who gives it at the same time accuses you, and
gives it, if you understand it right, for a burden and a punishment.
As much as the public affairs are bettered by your exploit, so much are
your own the worse, and the better you behave yourself in it, 'tis so
much the worse for yourself; and it will be no new thing, nor,
peradventure, without some colour of justice, if the same person ruin
you who set you on work.

If treachery can be in any case excusable, it must be only so when it is
practised to chastise and betray treachery. There are examples enough of
treacheries, not only rejected, but chastised and punished by those in
favour of whom they were undertaken. Who is ignorant of Fabricius
sentence against the physician of Pyrrhus?

But this we also find recorded, that some persons have commanded a thing,
who afterward have severely avenged the execution of it upon him they had
employed, rejecting the reputation of so unbridled an authority, and
disowning so abandoned and base a servitude and obedience. Jaropelk,
Duke of Russia, tampered with a gentleman of Hungary to betray Boleslaus,
king of Poland, either by killing him, or by giving the Russians
opportunity to do him some notable mischief. This worthy went ably to
work: he was more assiduous than before in the service of that king, so
that he obtained the honour to be of his council, and one of the chiefest
in his trust. With these advantages, and taking an opportune occasion of
his master's absence, he betrayed Vislicza, a great and rich city, to the
Russians, which was entirely sacked and burned, and not only all the
inhabitants of both sexes, young and old, put to the sword, but moreover
a great number of neighbouring gentry, whom he had drawn thither to that
end. Jaropelk, his revenge being thus satisfied and his anger appeased,
which was not, indeed, without pretence (for Boleslaus had highly
offended him, and after the same manner), and sated with the fruit of
this treachery, coming to consider the fulness of it, with a sound
judgment and clear from passion, looked upon what had been done with so
much horror and remorse that he caused the eyes to be bored out and the
tongue and shameful parts to be cut off of him who had performed it.

Antigonus persuaded the Argyraspides to betray Eumenes, their general,
his adversary, into his hands; but after he had caused him, so delivered,
to be slain, he would himself be the commissioner of the divine justice
for the punishment of so detestable a crime, and committed them into the
hands of the governor of the province, with express command, by whatever
means, to destroy and bring them all to an evil end, so that of that
great number of men, not so much as one ever returned again into
Macedonia: the better he had been served, the more wickedly he judged it
to be, and meriting greater punishment.

The slave who betrayed the place where his master, P. Sulpicius, lay
concealed, was, according to the promise of Sylla's proscription,
manumitted for his pains; but according to the promise of the public
justice, which was free from any such engagement, he was thrown headlong
from the Tarpeian rock.

Our King Clovis, instead of the arms of gold he had promised them, caused
three of Cararie's servants to be hanged after they had betrayed their
master to him, though he had debauched them to it: he hanged them with
the purse of their reward about their necks; after having satisfied his
second and special faith, he satisfied the general and first.

Mohammed II. having resolved to rid himself of his brother, out of
jealousy of state, according to the practice of the Ottoman family, he
employed one of his officers in the execution, who, pouring a quantity of
water too fast into him, choked him. This being done, to expiate the
murder, he delivered the murderer into the hands of the mother of him he
had so caused to be put to death, for they were only brothers by the
father's side; she, in his presence, ripped up the murderer's bosom, and
with her own hands rifled his breast for his heart, tore it out, and
threw it to the dogs. And even to the worst people it is the sweetest
thing imaginable, having once gained their end by a vicious action, to
foist, in all security, into it some show of virtue and justice, as by
way of compensation and conscientious correction; to which may be added,
that they look upon the ministers of such horrid crimes as upon men who
reproach them with them, and think by their deaths to erase the memory
and testimony of such proceedings.

Or if, perhaps, you are rewarded, not to frustrate the public necessity
for that extreme and desperate remedy, he who does it cannot for all
that, if he be not such himself, but look upon you as an accursed and
execrable fellow, and conclude you a greater traitor than he does,
against whom you are so: for he tries the malignity of your disposition
by your own hands, where he cannot possibly be deceived, you having no
object of preceding hatred to move you to such an act; but he employs you
as they do condemned malefactors in executions of justice, an office as
necessary as dishonourable. Besides the baseness of such commissions,
there is, moreover, a prostitution of conscience. Seeing that the
daughter of Sejanus could not be put to death by the law of Rome, because
she was a virgin, she was, to make it lawful, first ravished by the
hangman and then strangled: not only his hand but his soul is slave to
the public convenience.

When Amurath I., more grievously to punish his subjects who had taken
part in the parricide rebellion of his son, ordained that their nearest
kindred should assist in the execution, I find it very handsome in some
of them to have rather chosen to be unjustly thought guilty of the
parricide of another than to serve justice by a parricide of their own.
And where I have seen, at the taking of some little fort by assault in my
time, some rascals who, to save their own lives, would consent to hang
their friends and companions, I have looked upon them to be of worse
condition than those who were hanged. 'Tis said, that Witold, Prince of
Lithuania, introduced into the nation the practice that the criminal
condemned to death should with his own hand execute the sentence,
thinking it strange that a third person, innocent of the fault, should be
made guilty of homicide.

A prince, when by some urgent circumstance or some impetuous and
unforeseen accident that very much concerns his state, compelled to
forfeit his word and break his faith, or otherwise forced from his
ordinary duty, ought to attribute this necessity to a lash of the divine
rod: vice it is not, for he has given up his own reason to a more
universal and more powerful reason; but certainly 'tis a misfortune: so
that if any one should ask me what remedy? "None," say I, "if he were
really racked between these two extremes: 'sed videat, ne quoeratur
latebya perjurio', he must do it: but if he did it without regret, if it
did not weigh on him to do it, 'tis a sign his conscience is in a sorry
condition." If there be a person to be found of so tender a conscience
as to think no cure whatever worth so important a remedy, I shall like
him never the worse; he could not more excusably or more decently perish.
We cannot do all we would, so that we must often, as the last anchorage,
commit the protection of our vessels to the simple conduct of heaven.
To what more just necessity does he reserve himself? What is less
possible for him to do than what he cannot do but at the expense of his
faith and honour, things that, perhaps, ought to be dearer to him than
his own safety, or even the safety of his people. Though he should, with
folded arms, only call God to his assistance, has he not reason to hope
that the divine goodness will not refuse the favour of an extraordinary
arm to just and pure hands? These are dangerous examples, rare and
sickly exceptions to our natural rules: we must yield to them, but with
great moderation and circumspection: no private utility is of such
importance that we should upon that account strain our consciences to
such a degree: the public may be, when very manifest and of very great

Timoleon made a timely expiation for his strange exploit by the tears he
shed, calling to mind that it was with a fraternal hand that he had slain
the tyrant; and it justly pricked his conscience that he had been
necessitated to purchase the public utility at so great a price as the
violation of his private morality. Even the Senate itself, by his means
delivered from slavery, durst not positively determine of so high a fact,
and divided into two so important and contrary aspects; but the
Syracusans, sending at the same time to the Corinthians to solicit their
protection, and to require of them a captain fit to re-establish their
city in its former dignity and to clear Sicily of several little tyrants
by whom it was oppressed, they deputed Timoleon for that service, with
this cunning declaration; "that according as he should behave himself
well or ill in his employment, their sentence should incline either to
favour the deliverer of his country, or to disfavour the murderer of his
brother." This fantastic conclusion carries along with it some excuse,
by reason of the danger of the example, and the importance of so strange
an action: and they did well to discharge their own judgment of it, and
to refer it to others who were not so much concerned. But Timoleon's
comportment in this expedition soon made his cause more clear, so
worthily and virtuously he demeaned himself upon all occasions; and the
good fortune that accompanied him in the difficulties he had to overcome
in this noble employment, seemed to be strewed in his way by the gods,
favourably conspiring for his justification.

The end of this matter is excusable, if any can be so; but the profit of
the augmentation of the public revenue, that served the Roman Senate for
a pretence to the foul conclusion I am going to relate, is not sufficient
to warrant any such injustice.

Certain cities had redeemed themselves and their liberty by money, by the
order and consent of the Senate, out of the hands of L. Sylla: the
business coming again in question, the Senate condemned them to be
taxable as they were before, and that the money they had disbursed for
their redemption should be lost to them. Civil war often produces such
villainous examples; that we punish private men for confiding in us when
we were public ministers: and the self-same magistrate makes another man
pay the penalty of his change that has nothing to do with it; the
pedagogue whips his scholar for his docility; and the guide beats the
blind man whom he leads by the hand; a horrid image of justice.

There are rules in philosophy that are both false and weak. The example
that is proposed to us for preferring private utility before faith given,
has not weight enough by the circumstances they put to it; robbers have
seized you, and after having made you swear to pay them a certain sum of
money, dismiss you. 'Tis not well done to say, that an honest man can be
quit of his oath without payment, being out of their hands. 'Tis no such
thing: what fear has once made me willing to do, I am obliged to do it
when I am no longer in fear; and though that fear only prevailed with my
tongue without forcing my will, yet am I bound to keep my word. For my
part, when my tongue has sometimes inconsiderately said something that I
did not think, I have made a conscience of disowning it: otherwise, by
degrees, we shall abolish all the right another derives from our promises
and oaths:

"Quasi vero forti viro vis possit adhiberi."

["As though a man of true courage could be compelled."
--Cicero, De Offic., iii. 30.]

And 'tis only lawful, upon the account of private interest, to excuse
breach of promise, when we have promised something that is unlawful and
wicked in itself; for the right of virtue ought to take place of the
right of any obligation of ours.

I have formerly placed Epaminondas in the first rank of excellent men,
and do not repent it. How high did he stretch the consideration of his
own particular duty? he who never killed a man whom he had overcome; who,
for the inestimable benefit of restoring the liberty of his country, made
conscience of killing a tyrant or his accomplices without due form of
justice: and who concluded him to be a wicked man, how good a citizen
soever otherwise, who amongst his enemies in battle spared not his friend
and his guest. This was a soul of a rich composition: he married
goodness and humanity, nay, even the tenderest and most delicate in the
whole school of philosophy, to the roughest and most violent human
actions. Was it nature or art that had intenerated that great courage of
his, so full, so obstinate against pain and death and poverty, to such an
extreme degree of sweetness and compassion? Dreadful in arms and blood,
he overran and subdued a nation invincible by all others but by him
alone; and yet in the heat of an encounter, could turn aside from his
friend and guest. Certainly he was fit to command in war who could so
rein himself with the curb of good nature, in the height and heat of his
fury, a fury inflamed and foaming with blood and slaughter. 'Tis a
miracle to be able to mix any image of justice with such violent actions:
and it was only possible for such a steadfastness of mind as that of
Epaminondas therein to mix sweetness and the facility of the gentlest
manners and purest innocence. And whereas one told the Mamertini that
statutes were of no efficacy against armed men; and another told the
tribune of the people that the time of justice and of war were distinct
things; and a third said that the noise of arms deafened the voice of
laws, this man was not precluded from listening to the laws of civility
and pure courtesy. Had he not borrowed from his enemies the custom of
sacrificing to the Muses when he went to war, that they might by their
sweetness and gaiety soften his martial and rigorous fury? Let us not
fear, by the example of so great a master, to believe that there is
something unlawful, even against an enemy, and that the common concern
ought not to require all things of all men, against private interest:

"Manente memoria, etiam in dissidio publicorum
foederum, privati juris:"

["The memory of private right remaining even amid
public dissensions."--Livy, xxv. 18.]

"Et nulla potentia vires
Praestandi, ne quid peccet amicus, habet;"

["No power on earth can sanction treachery against a friend."
--Ovid, De Ponto, i. 7, 37.]

and that all things are not lawful to an honest man for the service of
his prince, the laws, or the general quarrel:

"Non enim patria praestat omnibus officiis....
et ipsi conducit pios habere cives in parentes."

["The duty to one's country does not supersede all other duties.
The country itself requires that its citizens should act piously
toward their parents."--Cicero, De Offic., iii. 23.]

Tis an instruction proper for the time wherein we live: we need not
harden our courage with these arms of steel; 'tis enough that our
shoulders are inured to them: 'tis enough to dip our pens in ink without
dipping them in blood. If it be grandeur of courage, and the effect of a
rare and singular virtue, to contemn friendship, private obligations, a
man's word and relationship, for the common good and obedience to the
magistrate, 'tis certainly sufficient to excuse us, that 'tis a grandeur
that can have no place in the grandeur of Epaminondas' courage.

I abominate those mad exhortations of this other discomposed soul,

"Dum tela micant, non vos pietatis imago
Ulla, nec adversa conspecti fronte parentes
Commoveant; vultus gladio turbate verendos."

["While swords glitter, let no idea of piety, nor the face even of a
father presented to you, move you: mutilate with your sword those
venerable features "--Lucan, vii. 320.]

Let us deprive wicked, bloody, and treacherous natures of such a pretence
of reason: let us set aside this guilty and extravagant justice, and
stick to more human imitations. How great things can time and example
do! In an encounter of the civil war against Cinna, one of Pompey's
soldiers having unawares killed his brother, who was of the contrary
party, he immediately for shame and sorrow killed himself: and some years
after, in another civil war of the same people, a soldier demanded a
reward of his officer for having killed his brother.

A man but ill proves the honour and beauty of an action by its utility:
and very erroneously concludes that every one is obliged to it, and that
it becomes every one to do it, if it be of utility:

"Omnia non pariter rerum sunt omnibus apta."

["All things are not equally fit for all men."
--Propertius, iii. 9, 7.]

Let us take that which is most necessary and profitable for human
society; it will be marriage; and yet the council of the saints find the
contrary much better, excluding from it the most venerable vocation of
man: as we design those horses for stallions of which we have the least



Others form man; I only report him: and represent a particular one, ill
fashioned enough, and whom, if I had to model him anew, I should
certainly make something else than what he is but that's past recalling.
Now, though the features of my picture alter and change, 'tis not,
however, unlike: the world eternally turns round; all things therein are
incessantly moving, the earth, the rocks of Caucasus, and the pyramids of
Egypt, both by the public motion and their own. Even constancy itself is
no other but a slower and more languishing motion. I cannot fix my
object; 'tis always tottering and reeling by a natural giddiness; I take
it as it is at the instant I consider it; I do not paint its being, I
paint its passage; not a passing from one age to another, or, as the
people say, from seven to seven years, but from day to day, from minute
to minute, I must accommodate my history to the hour: I may presently
change, not only by fortune, but also by intention. 'Tis a counterpart
of various and changeable accidents, and of irresolute imaginations, and,
as it falls out, sometimes contrary: whether it be that I am then another
self, or that I take subjects by other circumstances and considerations:
so it is that I may peradventure contradict myself, but, as Demades said,
I never contradict the truth. Could my soul once take footing, I would
not essay but resolve: but it is always learning and making trial.

I propose a life ordinary and without lustre: 'tis all one; all moral
philosophy may as well be applied to a common and private life, as to one
of richer composition: every man carries the entire form of human
condition. Authors communicate themselves to the people by some especial
and extrinsic mark; I, the first of any, by my universal being; as Michel
de Montaigne, not as a grammarian, a poet, or a lawyer. If the world
find fault that I speak too much of myself, I find fault that they do not
so much as think of themselves. But is it reason that, being so
particular in my way of living, I should pretend to recommend myself to
the public knowledge? And is it also reason that I should produce to the
world, where art and handling have so much credit and authority, crude
and simple effects of nature, and of a weak nature to boot? Is it not to
build a wall without stone or brick, or some such thing, to write books
without learning and without art? The fancies of music are carried on by
art; mine by chance. I have this, at least, according to discipline,
that never any man treated of a subject he better understood and knew
than I what I have undertaken, and that in this I am the most
understanding man alive: secondly, that never any man penetrated farther
into his matter, nor better and more distinctly sifted the parts and
sequences of it, nor ever more exactly and fully arrived at the end he
proposed to himself. To perfect it, I need bring nothing but fidelity to
the work; and that is there, and the most pure and sincere that is
anywhere to be found. I speak truth, not so much as I would, but as much
as I dare; and I dare a little the more, as I grow older; for, methinks,
custom allows to age more liberty of prating, and more indiscretion of
talking of a man's self. That cannot fall out here, which I often see
elsewhere, that the work and the artificer contradict one another:
"Can a man of such sober conversation have written so foolish a book?"
Or "Do so learned writings proceed from a man of so weak conversation?"
He who talks at a very ordinary rate, and writes rare matter, 'tis to say
that his capacity is borrowed and not his own. A learned man is not
learned in all things: but a sufficient man is sufficient throughout,
even to ignorance itself; here my book and I go hand in hand together.
Elsewhere men may commend or censure the work, without reference to the
workman; here they cannot: who touches the one, touches the other. He
who shall judge of it without knowing him, will more wrong himself than
me; he who does know him, gives me all the satisfaction I desire. I
shall be happy beyond my desert, if I can obtain only thus much from the
public approbation, as to make men of understanding perceive that I was
capable of profiting by knowledge, had I had it; and that I deserved to
have been assisted by a better memory.

Be pleased here to excuse what I often repeat, that I very rarely repent,
and that my conscience is satisfied with itself, not as the conscience of
an angel, or that of a horse, but as the conscience of a man; always
adding this clause, not one of ceremony, but a true and real submission,
that I speak inquiring and doubting, purely and simply referring myself
to the common and accepted beliefs for the resolution. I do not teach; I
only relate.

There is no vice that is absolutely a vice which does not offend, and
that a sound judgment does not accuse; for there is in it so manifest a
deformity and inconvenience, that peradventure they are in the right who
say that it is chiefly begotten by stupidity and ignorance: so hard is it
to imagine that a man can know without abhorring it. Malice sucks up the
greatest part of its own venom, and poisons itself. Vice leaves
repentance in the soul, like an ulcer in the flesh, which is always
scratching and lacerating itself: for reason effaces all other grief and
sorrows, but it begets that of repentance, which is so much the more
grievous, by reason it springs within, as the cold and heat of fevers are
more sharp than those that only strike upon the outward skin. I hold for
vices (but every one according to its proportion), not only those which
reason and nature condemn, but those also which the opinion of men,
though false and erroneous, have made such, if authorised by law and

There is likewise no virtue which does not rejoice a well-descended
nature: there is a kind of, I know not what, congratulation in well-doing
that gives us an inward satisfaction, and a generous boldness that
accompanies a good conscience: a soul daringly vicious may, peradventure,
arm itself with security, but it cannot supply itself with this
complacency and satisfaction. 'Tis no little satisfaction to feel a
man's self preserved from the contagion of so depraved an age, and to say
to himself: "Whoever could penetrate into my soul would not there find me
guilty either of the affliction or ruin of any one, or of revenge or
envy, or any offence against the public laws, or of innovation or
disturbance, or failure of my word; and though the licence of the time
permits and teaches every one so to do, yet have I not plundered any
Frenchman's goods, or taken his money, and have lived upon what is my
own, in war as well as in peace; neither have I set any man to work
without paying him his hire." These testimonies of a good conscience
please, and this natural rejoicing is very beneficial to us, and the only
reward that we can never fail of.

To ground the recompense of virtuous actions upon the approbation of
others is too uncertain and unsafe a foundation, especially in so corrupt
and ignorant an age as this, wherein the good opinion of the vulgar is
injurious: upon whom do you rely to show you what is recommendable? God
defend me from being an honest man, according to the descriptions of
honour I daily see every one make of himself:

"Quae fuerant vitia, mores sunt."

["What before had been vices are now manners."--Seneca, Ep., 39.]

Some of my friends have at times schooled and scolded me with great
sincerity and plainness, either of their own voluntary motion, or by me
entreated to it as to an office, which to a well-composed soul surpasses
not only in utility, but in kindness, all other offices of friendship: I
have always received them with the most open arms, both of courtesy and
acknowledgment; but to say the truth, I have often found so much false
measure, both in their reproaches and praises, that I had not done much
amiss, rather to have done ill, than to have done well according to their
notions. We, who live private lives, not exposed to any other view than
our own, ought chiefly to have settled a pattern within ourselves by
which to try our actions: and according to that, sometimes to encourage
and sometimes to correct ourselves. I have my laws and my judicature to
judge of myself, and apply myself more to these than to any other rules:
I do, indeed, restrain my actions according to others; but extend them
not by any other rule than my own. You yourself only know if you are
cowardly and cruel, loyal and devout: others see you not, and only guess
at you by uncertain conjectures, and do not so much see your nature as
your art; rely not therefore upon their opinions, but stick to your own:

"Tuo tibi judicio est utendum.... Virtutis et vitiorum grave ipsius
conscientiae pondus est: qua sublata, jacent omnia."

["Thou must employ thy own judgment upon thyself; great is the
weight of thy own conscience in the discovery of virtues and vices:
which taken away, all things are lost."
--Cicero, De Nat. Dei, iii. 35; Tusc. Quaes., i. 25.]

But the saying that repentance immediately follows the sin seems not to
have respect to sin in its high estate, which is lodged in us as in its
own proper habitation. One may disown and retract the vices that
surprise us, and to which we are hurried by passions; but those which by
a long habit are rooted in a strong and vigorous will are not subject to
contradiction. Repentance is no other but a recanting of the will and an
opposition to our fancies, which lead us which way they please. It makes
this person disown his former virtue and continency:

"Quae mens est hodie, cur eadem non puero fait?
Vel cur his animis incolumes non redeunt genae?"

["What my mind is, why was it not the same, when I was a boy? or
why do not the cheeks return to these feelings?"
--Horace, Od., v. 10, 7.]

'Tis an exact life that maintains itself in due order in private. Every
one may juggle his part, and represent an honest man upon the stage: but
within, and in his own bosom, where all may do as they list, where all is
concealed, to be regular, there's the point. The next degree is to be so
in his house, and in his ordinary actions, for which we are accountable
to none, and where there is no study nor artifice. And therefore Bias,
setting forth the excellent state of a private family, says: "of which a
the master is the same within, by his own virtue and temper, that he is
abroad, for fear of the laws and report of men." And it was a worthy
saying of Julius Drusus, to the masons who offered him, for three
thousand crowns, to put his house in such a posture that his neighbours
should no longer have the same inspection into it as before; "I will give
you," said he, "six thousand to make it so that everybody may see into
every room." 'Tis honourably recorded of Agesilaus, that he used in his
journeys always to take up his lodgings in temples, to the end that the
people and the gods themselves might pry into his most private actions.
Such a one has been a miracle to the world, in whom neither his wife nor
servant has ever seen anything so much as remarkable; few men have been
admired by their own domestics; no one was ever a prophet, not merely in
his own house, but in his own country, says the experience of histories:
--[No man is a hero to his valet-de-chambre, said Marshal Catinat]--'tis
the same in things of nought, and in this low example the image of a
greater is to be seen. In my country of Gascony, they look upon it as a
drollery to see me in print; the further off I am read from my own home,
the better I am esteemed. I purchase printers in Guienne; elsewhere they
purchase me. Upon this it is that they lay their foundation who conceal
themselves present and living, to obtain a name when they are dead and
absent. I had rather have a great deal less in hand, and do not expose
myself to the world upon any other account than my present share; when I
leave it I quit the rest. See this functionary whom the people escort in
state, with wonder and applause, to his very door; he puts off the
pageant with his robe, and falls so much the lower by how much he was
higher exalted: in himself within, all is tumult and degraded. And
though all should be regular there, it will require a vivid and well-
chosen judgment to perceive it in these low and private actions; to which
may be added, that order is a dull, sombre virtue. To enter a breach,
conduct an embassy, govern a people, are actions of renown; to reprehend,
laugh, sell, pay, love, hate, and gently and justly converse with a man's
own family and with himself; not to relax, not to give a man's self the
lie, is more rare and hard, and less remarkable. By which means, retired
lives, whatever is said to the contrary, undergo duties of as great or
greater difficulty than the others do; and private men, says Aristotle,'
serve virtue more painfully and highly than those in authority do:
we prepare ourselves for eminent occasions, more out of glory than
conscience. The shortest way to arrive at glory, would be to do that for
conscience which we do for glory: and the virtue of Alexander appears to
me of much less vigour in his great theatre, than that of Socrates in his
mean and obscure employment. I can easily conceive Socrates in the place
of Alexander, but Alexander in that of Socrates, I cannot. Who shall ask
the one what he can do, he will answer, "Subdue the world": and who shall
put the same question to the other, he will say, "Carry on human life
conformably with its natural condition"; a much more general, weighty,
and legitimate science than the other.--[Montaigne added here, "To do for
the world that for which he came into the world," but he afterwards
erased these words from the manuscript.--Naigeon.]

The virtue of the soul does not consist in flying high, but in walking
orderly; its grandeur does not exercise itself in grandeur, but in
mediocrity. As they who judge and try us within, make no great account
of the lustre of our public actions, and see they are only streaks and
rays of clear water springing from a slimy and muddy bottom so, likewise,
they who judge of us by this gallant outward appearance, in like manner
conclude of our internal constitution; and cannot couple common
faculties, and like their own, with the other faculties that astonish
them, and are so far out of their sight. Therefore it is that we give
such savage forms to demons: and who does not give Tamerlane great
eyebrows, wide nostrils, a dreadful visage, and a prodigious stature,
according to the imagination he has conceived by the report of his name?
Had any one formerly brought me to Erasmus, I should hardly have believed
but that all was adage and apothegm he spoke to his man or his hostess.
We much more aptly imagine an artisan upon his close-stool, or upon his
wife, than a great president venerable by his port and sufficiency: we
fancy that they, from their high tribunals, will not abase themselves so
much as to live. As vicious souls are often incited by some foreign
impulse to do well, so are virtuous souls to do ill; they are therefore
to be judged by their settled state, when they are at home, whenever that
may be; and, at all events, when they are nearer repose, and in their
native station.

Natural inclinations are much assisted and fortified by education; but
they seldom alter and overcome their institution: a thousand natures of
my time have escaped towards virtue or vice, through a quite contrary

"Sic ubi, desuetae silvis, in carcere clausae
Mansuevere ferx, et vultus posuere minaces,
Atque hominem didicere pati, si torrida parvus
Venit in ora cruor, redeunt rabiesque fororque,
Admonitaeque tument gustato sanguine fauces
Fervet, et a trepido vix abstinet ira magistro;"

["So savage beasts, when shut up in cages and grown unaccustomed to
the woods, have become tame, and have laid aside their fierce looks,
and submit to the rule of man; if again a slight taste of blood
comes into their mouths, their rage and fury return, their jaws are
erected by thirst of blood, and their anger scarcely abstains from
their trembling masters."--Lucan, iv. 237.]

these original qualities are not to be rooted out; they may be covered
and concealed. The Latin tongue is as it were natural to me; I
understand it better than French; but I have not been used to speak it,
nor hardly to write it, these forty years. Unless upon extreme and
sudden emotions which I have fallen into twice or thrice in my life, and
once seeing my father in perfect health fall upon me in a swoon, I have
always uttered from the bottom of my heart my first words in Latin;
nature deafened, and forcibly expressing itself, in spite of so long a
discontinuation; and this example is said of many others.

They who in my time have attempted to correct the manners of the world by
new opinions, reform seeming vices; but the essential vices they leave as
they were, if indeed they do not augment them, and augmentation is
therein to be feared; we defer all other well doing upon the account of
these external reformations, of less cost and greater show, and thereby
expiate good cheap, for the other natural, consubstantial, and intestine
vices. Look a little into our experience: there is no man, if he listen
to himself, who does not in himself discover a particular and governing
form of his own, that jostles his education, and wrestles with the
tempest of passions that are contrary to it. For my part, I seldom find
myself agitated with surprises; I always find myself in my place, as
heavy and unwieldy bodies do; if I am not at home, I am always near at
hand; my dissipations do not transport me very far; there is nothing
strange or extreme in the case; and yet I have sound and vigorous turns.

The true condemnation, and which touches the common practice of men, is
that their very retirement itself is full of filth and corruption; the
idea of their reformation composed, their repentance sick and faulty,
very nearly as much as their sin. Some, either from having been linked
to vice by a natural propension or long practice, cannot see its
deformity. Others (of which constitution I am) do indeed feel the weight
of vice, but they counterbalance it with pleasure, or some other
occasion; and suffer and lend themselves to it for a certain price, but
viciously and basely. Yet there might, haply, be imagined so vast a
disproportion of measure, where with justice the pleasure might excuse
the sin, as we say of utility; not only if accidental and out of sin, as
in thefts, but in the very exercise of sin, or in the enjoyment of women,
where the temptation is violent, and, 'tis said, sometimes not to be

Being the other day at Armaignac, on the estate of a kinsman of mine, I
there saw a peasant who was by every one nicknamed the thief. He thus
related the story of his life: that, being born a beggar, and finding
that he should not be able, so as to be clear of indigence, to get his
living by the sweat of his brow, he resolved to turn thief, and by means
of his strength of body had exercised this trade all the time of his
youth in great security; for he ever made his harvest and vintage in
other men's grounds, but a great way off, and in so great quantities,
that it was not to be imagined one man could have carried away so much in
one night upon his shoulders; and, moreover, he was careful equally to
divide and distribute the mischief he did, that the loss was of less
importance to every particular man. He is now grown old, and rich for a
man of his condition, thanks to his trade, which he openly confesses to
every one. And to make his peace with God, he says, that he is daily
ready by good offices to make satisfaction to the successors of those he
has robbed, and if he do not finish (for to do it all at once he is not
able), he will then leave it in charge to his heirs to perform the rest,
proportionably to the wrong he himself only knows he has done to each.
By this description, true or false, this man looks upon theft as a
dishonest action, and hates it, but less than poverty, and simply
repents; but to the extent he has thus recompensed he repents not. This
is not that habit which incorporates us into vice, and conforms even our
understanding itself to it; nor is it that impetuous whirlwind that by
gusts troubles and blinds our souls, and for the time precipitates us,
judgment and all, into the power of vice.

I customarily do what I do thoroughly and make but one step on't; I have
rarely any movement that hides itself and steals away from my reason, and
that does not proceed in the matter by the consent of all my faculties,
without division or intestine sedition; my judgment is to have all the
blame or all the praise; and the blame it once has, it has always; for
almost from my infancy it has ever been one: the same inclination, the
same turn, the same force; and as to universal opinions, I fixed myself
from my childhood in the place where I resolved to stick. There are some
sins that are impetuous, prompt, and sudden; let us set them aside: but
in these other sins so often repeated, deliberated, and contrived,
whether sins of complexion or sins of profession and vocation, I cannot
conceive that they should have so long been settled in the same
resolution, unless the reason and conscience of him who has them, be
constant to have them; and the repentance he boasts to be inspired with
on a sudden, is very hard for me to imagine or form. I follow not the
opinion of the Pythagorean sect, "that men take up a new soul when they
repair to the images of the gods to receive their oracles," unless he
mean that it must needs be extrinsic, new, and lent for the time; our own
showing so little sign of purification and cleanness, fit for such an

They act quite contrary to the stoical precepts, who do indeed command us
to correct the imperfections and vices we know ourselves guilty of, but
forbid us therefore to disturb the repose of our souls: these make us
believe that they have great grief and remorse within: but of amendment,
correction, or interruption, they make nothing appear. It cannot be a
cure if the malady be not wholly discharged; if repentance were laid upon
the scale of the balance, it would weigh down sin. I find no quality so
easy to counterfeit as devotion, if men do not conform their manners and
life to the profession; its essence is abstruse and occult; the
appearance easy and ostentatious.

For my own part, I may desire in general to be other than I am; I may
condemn and dislike my whole form, and beg of Almighty God for an entire
reformation, and that He will please to pardon my natural infirmity: but
I ought not to call this repentance, methinks, no more than the being
dissatisfied that I am not an angel or Cato. My actions are regular,
and conformable to what I am and to my condition; I can do no better;
and repentance does not properly touch things that are not in our power;
sorrow does.. I imagine an infinite number of natures more elevated and
regular than mine; and yet I do not for all that improve my faculties, no
more than my arm or will grow more strong and vigorous for conceiving
those of another to be so. If to conceive and wish a nobler way of
acting than that we have should produce a repentance of our own, we must
then repent us of our most innocent actions, forasmuch as we may well
suppose that in a more excellent nature they would have been carried on
with greater dignity and perfection; and we would that ours were so.
When I reflect upon the deportment of my youth, with that of my old age,
I find that I have commonly behaved myself with equal order in both
according to what I understand: this is all that my resistance can do.
I do not flatter myself; in the same circumstances I should do the same
things. It is not a patch, but rather an universal tincture, with which
I am stained. I know no repentance, superficial, half-way, and
ceremonious; it must sting me all over before I can call it so, and must
prick my bowels as deeply and universally as God sees into me.

As to business, many excellent opportunities have escaped me for want of
good management; and yet my deliberations were sound enough, according to
the occurrences presented to me: 'tis their way to choose always the
easiest and safest course. I find that, in my former resolves, I have
proceeded with discretion, according to my own rule, and according to the
state of the subject proposed, and should do the same a thousand years
hence in like occasions; I do not consider what it is now, but what it
was then, when I deliberated on it: the force of all counsel consists in
the time; occasions and things eternally shift and change. I have in my
life committed some important errors, not for want of good understanding,
but for want of good luck. There are secret, and not to be foreseen,
parts in matters we have in hand, especially in the nature of men; mute
conditions, that make no show, unknown sometimes even to the possessors
themselves, that spring and start up by incidental occasions; if my
prudence could not penetrate into nor foresee them, I blame it not: 'tis
commissioned no further than its own limits; if the event be too hard for
me, and take the side I have refused, there is no remedy; I do not blame
myself, I accuse my fortune, and not my work; this cannot be called

Phocion, having given the Athenians an advice that was not followed, and
the affair nevertheless succeeding contrary to his opinion, some one said
to him, "Well, Phocion, art thou content that matters go so well?"--"I am
very well content," replied he, "that this has happened so well, but I do
not repent that I counselled the other." When any of my friends address
themselves to me for advice, I give it candidly and clearly, without
sticking, as almost all other men do, at the hazard of the thing's
falling out contrary to my opinion, and that I may be reproached for my
counsel; I am very indifferent as to that, for the fault will be theirs
for having consulted me, and I could not refuse them that office.
--[We may give advice to others, says Rochefoucauld, but we cannot
supply them with the wit to profit by it.]

I, for my own part, can rarely blame any one but myself for my oversights
and misfortunes, for indeed I seldom solicit the advice of another,
if not by honour of ceremony, or excepting where I stand in need of
information, special science, or as to matter of fact. But in things
wherein I stand in need of nothing but judgment, other men's reasons may
serve to fortify my own, but have little power to dissuade me; I hear
them all with civility and patience; but, to my recollection, I never
made use of any but my own. With me, they are but flies and atoms, that
confound and distract my will; I lay no great stress upon my opinions;
but I lay as little upon those of others, and fortune rewards me
accordingly: if I receive but little advice, I also give but little. I
am seldom consulted, and still more seldom believed, and know no concern,
either public or private, that has been mended or bettered by my advice.
Even they whom fortune had in some sort tied to my direction, have more
willingly suffered themselves to be governed by any other counsels than
mine. And as a man who am as jealous of my repose as of my authority,
I am better pleased that it should be so; in leaving me there, they
humour what I profess, which is to settle and wholly contain myself
within myself. I take a pleasure in being uninterested in other men's
affairs, and disengaged from being their warranty, and responsible for
what they do.

In all affairs that are past, be it how it will, I have very little
regret; for this imagination puts me out of my pain, that they were so to
fall out they are in the great revolution of the world, and in the chain
of stoical 'causes: your fancy cannot, by wish and imagination, move one
tittle, but that the great current of things will not reverse both the
past and the future.

As to the rest, I abominate that incidental repentance which old age
brings along with it. He, who said of old, that he was obliged to his
age for having weaned him from pleasure, was of another opinion than I
am; I can never think myself beholden to impotency for any good it can do
to me:

"Nec tam aversa unquam videbitur ab opere suo providentia,
ut debilitas inter optima inventa sit."

["Nor can Providence ever seem so averse to her own work, that
debility should be found to be amongst the best things."
--Quintilian, Instit. Orat., v. 12.]

Our appetites are rare in old age; a profound satiety seizes us after the
act; in this I see nothing of conscience; chagrin and weakness imprint in
us a drowsy and rheumatic virtue. We must not suffer ourselves to be so
wholly carried away by natural alterations as to suffer our judgments to
be imposed upon by them. Youth and pleasure have not formerly so far
prevailed with me, that I did not well enough discern the face of vice in
pleasure; neither does the distaste that years have brought me, so far
prevail with me now, that I cannot discern pleasure in vice. Now that I
am no more in my flourishing age, I judge as well of these things as if I

["Old though I am, for ladies' love unfit,
The power of beauty I remember yet."--Chaucer.]

I, who narrowly and strictly examine it, find my reason the very same it
was in my most licentious age, except, perhaps, that 'tis weaker and more
decayed by being grown older; and I find that the pleasure it refuses me
upon the account of my bodily health, it would no more refuse now, in
consideration of the health of my soul, than at any time heretofore.
I do not repute it the more valiant for not being able to combat; my
temptations are so broken and mortified, that they are not worth its
opposition; holding but out my hands, I repel them. Should one present
the old concupiscence before it, I fear it would have less power to
resist it than heretofore; I do not discern that in itself it judges
anything otherwise now than it formerly did, nor that it has acquired any
new light: wherefore, if there be convalescence, 'tis an enchanted one.
Miserable kind of remedy, to owe one's health to one's disease! Tis not
that our misfortune should perform this office, but the good fortune of
our judgment. I am not to be made to do anything by persecutions and
afflictions, but to curse them: that is, for people who cannot be roused
but by a whip. My reason is much more free in prosperity, and much more
distracted, and put to't to digest pains than pleasures: I see best in a
clear sky; health admonishes me more cheerfully, and to better purpose,
than sickness. I did all that in me lay to reform and regulate myself
from pleasures, at a time when I had health and vigour to enjoy them;
I should be ashamed and envious that the misery and misfortune of my old
age should have credit over my good healthful, sprightly, and vigorous
years, and that men should estimate me, not by what I have been, but by
what I have ceased to be.

In my opinion, 'tis the happy living, and not (as Antisthenes' said) the
happy dying, in which human felicity consists. I have not made it my
business to make a monstrous addition of a philosopher's tail to the head
and body of a libertine; nor would I have this wretched remainder give
the lie to the pleasant, sound, and long part of my life: I would present
myself uniformly throughout. Were I to live my life over again, I should
live it just as I have lived it; I neither complain of the past, nor do I
fear the future; and if I am not much deceived, I am the same within that
I am without. 'Tis one main obligation I have to my fortune, that the
succession of my bodily estate has been carried on according to the
natural seasons; I have seen the grass, the blossom, and the fruit, and
now see the withering; happily, however, because naturally. I bear the
infirmities I have the better, because they came not till I had reason to
expect them, and because also they make me with greater pleasure remember
that long felicity of my past life. My wisdom may have been just the
same in both ages, but it was more active, and of better grace whilst
young and sprightly, than now it is when broken, peevish, and uneasy.
I repudiate, then, these casual and painful reformations. God must touch
our hearts; our consciences must amend of themselves, by the aid of our
reason, and not by the decay of our appetites; pleasure is, in itself,
neither pale nor discoloured, to be discerned by dim and decayed eyes.

We ought to love temperance for itself, and because God has commanded
that and chastity; but that which we are reduced to by catarrhs, and for
which I am indebted to the stone, is neither chastity nor temperance; a
man cannot boast that he despises and resists pleasure if he cannot see
it, if he knows not what it is, and cannot discern its graces, its force,
and most alluring beauties; I know both the one and the other, and may
therefore the better say it. But; methinks, our souls in old age are
subject to more troublesome maladies and imperfections than in youth;
I said the same when young and when I was reproached with the want of a
beard; and I say so now that my grey hairs give me some authority. We
call the difficulty of our humours and the disrelish of present things
wisdom; but, in truth, we do not so much forsake vices as we change them,
and in my opinion, for worse. Besides a foolish and feeble pride, an
impertinent prating, froward and insociable humours, superstition, and a
ridiculous desire of riches when we have lost the use of them, I find
there more envy, injustice, and malice. Age imprints more wrinkles in
the mind than it does on the face; and souls are never, or very rarely
seen, that, in growing old, do not smell sour and musty. Man moves all
together, both towards his perfection and decay. In observing the wisdom
of Socrates, and many circumstances of his condemnation, I should dare to
believe that he in some sort himself purposely, by collusion, contributed
to it, seeing that, at the age of seventy years, he might fear to suffer
the lofty motions of his mind to be cramped and his wonted lustre
obscured. What strange metamorphoses do I see age every day make in many
of my acquaintance! 'Tis a potent malady, and that naturally and
imperceptibly steals into us; a vast provision of study and great
precaution are required to evade the imperfections it loads us with, or
at least to weaken their progress. I find that, notwithstanding all my
entrenchments, it gets foot by foot upon me: I make the best resistance I
can, but I do not know to what at last it will reduce me. But fall out
what will, I am content the world may know, when I am fallen, from what I



We must not rivet ourselves so fast to our humours and complexions: our
chiefest sufficiency is to know how to apply ourselves to divers
employments. 'Tis to be, but not to live, to keep a man's self tied and
bound by necessity to one only course; those are the bravest souls that
have in them the most variety and pliancy. Of this here is an honourable
testimony of the elder Cato:

"Huic versatile ingenium sic pariter ad omnia fuit,
ut natum ad id unum diceres, quodcumque ageret."

["His parts were so pliable to all uses, that one would say he had
been born only to that which he was doing."--Livy, xxxix. 49.]

Had I liberty to set myself forth after my own mode, there is no so
graceful fashion to which I would be so fixed as not to be able to
disengage myself from it; life is an unequal, irregular and multiform
motion. 'Tis not to be a friend to one's self, much less a master 'tis
to be a slave, incessantly to be led by the nose by one's self, and to be
so fixed in one's previous inclinations, that one cannot turn aside nor
writhe one's neck out of the collar. I say this now in this part of my
life, wherein I find I cannot easily disengage myself from the
importunity of my soul, which cannot ordinarily amuse itself but in
things of limited range, nor employ itself otherwise than entirely and
with all its force; upon the lightest subject offered it expands and
stretches it to that degree as therein to employ its utmost power;
wherefore it is that idleness is to me a very painful labour, and very
prejudicial to my health. Most men's minds require foreign matter to
exercise and enliven them; mine has rather need of it to sit still and
repose itself,

"Vitia otii negotio discutienda sunt,"

["The vices of sloth are to be shaken off by business."
--Seneca, Ep. 56.]

for its chiefest and hardest study is to study itself. Books are to it
a sort of employment that debauch it from its study. Upon the first
thoughts that possess it, it begins to bustle and make trial of its
vigour in all directions, exercises its power of handling, now making
trial of force, now fortifying, moderating, and ranging itself by the way
of grace and order. It has of its own wherewith to rouse its faculties:
nature has given to it, as to all others, matter enough of its own to
make advantage of, and subjects proper enough where it may either invent
or judge.

Meditation is a powerful and full study to such as can effectually taste
and employ themselves; I had rather fashion my soul than furnish it.
There is no employment, either more weak or more strong, than that of
entertaining a man's own thoughts, according as the soul is; the greatest
men make it their whole business,

"Quibus vivere est cogitare;"

["To whom to live is to think."--Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., v. 28.]

nature has therefore favoured it with this privilege, that there is
nothing we can do so long, nor any action to which we more frequently and
with greater facility addict ourselves. 'Tis the business of the gods,
says Aristotle,' and from which both their beatitude and ours proceed.

The principal use of reading to me is, that by various objects it rouses
my reason, and employs my judgment, not my memory. Few conversations
detain me without force and effort; it is true that beauty and elegance
of speech take as much or more with me than the weight and depth of the
subject; and forasmuch as I am apt to be sleepy in all other
communication, and give but the rind of my attention, it often falls out
that in such poor and pitiful discourses, mere chatter, I either make
drowsy, unmeaning answers, unbecoming a child, and ridiculous, or more
foolishly and rudely still, maintain an obstinate silence. I have a
pensive way that withdraws me into myself, and, with that, a heavy and
childish ignorance of many very ordinary things, by which two qualities I
have earned this, that men may truly relate five or six as ridiculous
tales of me as of any other man whatever.

But, to proceed in my subject, this difficult complexion of mine renders
me very nice in my conversation with men, whom I must cull and pick out
for my purpose; and unfits me for common society. We live and negotiate
with the people; if their conversation be troublesome to us, if we
disdain to apply ourselves to mean and vulgar souls (and the mean and
vulgar are often as regular as those of the finest thread, and all wisdom
is folly that does not accommodate itself to the common ignorance),
we must no more intermeddle either with other men's affairs or our own;
for business, both public and private, has to do with these people. The
least forced and most natural motions of the soul are the most beautiful;
the best employments, those that are least strained. My God! how good
an office does wisdom to those whose desires it limits to their power!
that is the most useful knowledge: "according to what a man can," was the
favourite sentence and motto of Socrates. A motto of great solidity.

We must moderate and adapt our desires to the nearest and easiest to be
acquired things. Is it not a foolish humour of mine to separate myself
from a thousand to whom my fortune has conjoined me, and without whom I
cannot live, and cleave to one or two who are out of my intercourse; or
rather a fantastic desire of a thing I cannot obtain? My gentle and easy
manners, enemies of all sourness and harshness, may easily enough have
secured me from envy and animosities; to be beloved, I do not say, but
never any man gave less occasion of being hated; but the coldness of my
conversation has, reasonably enough, deprived me of the goodwill of many,
who are to be excused if they interpret it in another and worse sense.

I am very capable of contracting and maintaining rare and exquisite
friendships; for by reason that I so greedily seize upon such
acquaintance as fit my liking, I throw myself with such violence upon
them that I hardly fail to stick, and to make an impression where I hit;
as I have often made happy proof. In ordinary friendships I am somewhat
cold and shy, for my motion is not natural, if not with full sail:
besides which, my fortune having in my youth given me a relish for one
sole and perfect friendship, has, in truth, created in me a kind of
distaste to others, and too much imprinted in my fancy that it is a beast
of company, as the ancient said, but not of the herd.--[Plutarch, On the
Plurality of Friends, c. 2.]--And also I have a natural difficulty of
communicating myself by halves, with the modifications and the servile
and jealous prudence required in the conversation of numerous and
imperfect friendships: and we are principally enjoined to these in this
age of ours, when we cannot talk of the world but either with danger or

Yet do I very well discern that he who has the conveniences (I mean the
essential conveniences) of life for his end, as I have, ought to fly
these difficulties and delicacy of humour, as much as the plague. I
should commend a soul of several stages, that knows both how to stretch
and to slacken itself; that finds itself at ease in all conditions
whither fortune leads it; that can discourse with a neighbour, of his
building, his hunting, his quarrels; that can chat with a carpenter or a
gardener with pleasure. I envy those who can render themselves familiar
with the meanest of their followers, and talk with them in their own way;
and dislike the advice of Plato, that men should always speak in a
magisterial tone to their servants, whether men or women, without being
sometimes facetious and familiar; for besides the reasons I have given,
'tis inhuman and unjust to set so great a value upon this pitiful
prerogative of fortune, and the polities wherein less disparity is
permitted betwixt masters and servants seem to me the most equitable.
Others study how to raise and elevate their minds; I, how to humble mine
and to bring it low; 'tis only vicious in extension:

"Narras et genus AEaci,
Et pugnata sacro bella sub Ilio
Quo Chium pretio cadum
Mercemur, quis aquam temperet ignibus,
Quo praebente domum, et quota,
Pelignis caream frigoribus, taces."

["You tell us long stories about the race of AEacus, and the battles
fought under sacred Ilium; but what to give for a cask of Chian
wine, who shall prepare the warm bath, and in whose house, and when
I may escape from the Pelignian cold, you do not tell us."
--Horace, Od., iii. 19, 3.]

Thus, as the Lacedaemonian valour stood in need of moderation, and of the
sweet and harmonious sound of flutes to soften it in battle, lest they
should precipitate themselves into temerity and fury, whereas all other
nations commonly make use of harsh and shrill sounds, and of loud and
imperious cries, to incite and heat the soldier's courage to the last
degree; so, methinks, contrary to the usual method, in the practice of
our minds, we have for the most part more need of lead than of wings; of
temperance and composedness than of ardour and agitation. But, above all
things, 'tis in my opinion egregiously to play the fool, to put on the
grave airs of a man of lofty mind amongst those who are nothing of the
sort: ever to speak in print (by the book),

"Favellare in puma di forchetta."

["To talk with the point of a fork," (affectedly)]

You must let yourself down to those with whom you converse; and sometimes
affect ignorance: lay aside power and subtilty in common conversation; to
preserve decorum and order 'tis enough-nay, crawl on the earth, if they
so desire it.

The learned often stumble at this stone; they will always be parading
their pedantic science, and strew their books everywhere; they have, in
these days, so filled the cabinets and ears of the ladies with them, that
if they have lost the substance, they at least retain the words; so as in
all discourse upon all sorts of subjects, how mean and common soever,
they speak and write after a new and learned way,

"Hoc sermone pavent, hoc iram, gaudia, curas,
Hoc cuncta effundunt animi secreta; quid ultra?
Concumbunt docte;"

["In this language do they express their fears, their anger, their
joys, their cares; in this pour out all their secrets; what more?
they lie with their lovers learnedly."--Juvenal, vi. 189.]

and quote Plato and Aquinas in things the first man they meet could
determine as well; the learning that cannot penetrate their souls hangs
still upon the tongue. If people of quality will be persuaded by me, they
shall content themselves with setting out their proper and natural
treasures; they conceal and cover their beauties under others that are
none of theirs: 'tis a great folly to put out their own light and shine
by a borrowed lustre: they are interred and buried under 'de capsula
totae"--[Painted and perfumed from head to foot." (Or:) "as if they were
things carefully deposited in a band-box."--Seneca, Ep. 115]--It is
because they do not sufficiently know themselves or do themselves
justice: the world has nothing fairer than they; 'tis for them to honour
the arts, and to paint painting. What need have they of anything but to
live beloved and honoured? They have and know but too much for this:
they need do no more but rouse and heat a little the faculties they have
of their own. When I see them tampering with rhetoric, law, logic, and
other drugs, so improper and unnecessary for their business, I begin to
suspect that the men who inspire them with such fancies, do it that they
may govern them upon that account; for what other excuse can I contrive?
It is enough that they can, without our instruction, compose the graces
of their eyes to gaiety, severity, sweetness, and season a denial with
asperity, suspense, or favour: they need not another to interpret what
we speak for their service; with this knowledge, they command with a
switch, and rule both the tutors and the schools. But if, nevertheless,
it angers them to give place to us in anything whatever, and will, out of
curiosity, have their share in books, poetry is a diversion proper for
them; 'tis a wanton, subtle, dissembling, and prating art, all pleasure
and all show, like themselves. They may also abstract several
commodities from history. In philosophy, out of the moral part of it,
they may select such instructions as will teach them to judge of our
humours and conditions, to defend themselves from our treacheries, to
regulate the ardour of their own desires, to manage their liberty, to
lengthen the pleasures of life, and gently to bear the inconstancy of a
lover, the rudeness of a husband; and the importunity of years, wrinkles,
and the like. This is the utmost of what I would allow them in the

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

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

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

"Nam nos quoque oculos eruditos habemus."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Magna servitus est magna fortuna."

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Omnes clari et nobilitati labores fiunt tolerabiles;"

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

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

"Haec sunt solatia, haec fomenta summorum dolorum;"

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

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

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

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

"Cum morosa vago singultiet inguine vena,"

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

"Conjicito humorem collectum in corpora quaeque,"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Folliculos ut nunc teretes aestate cicadae

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

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

"His se stimulis dolor ipse lacessit."

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

These are the foundations of our mourning.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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