The Essays of Montaigne, V3
Michel de Montaigne

This etext was produced by David Widger

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Translated by Charles Cotton

Edited by William Carew Hazlitt



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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



I once heard of a prince, and a great captain, having a narration given
him as he sat at table of the proceeding against Monsieur de Vervins, who
was sentenced to death for having surrendered Boulogne to the English,
--[To Henry VIII. in 1544]--openly maintaining that a soldier could not
justly be put to death for want of courage. And, in truth, 'tis reason
that a man should make a great difference betwixt faults that merely
proceed from infirmity, and those that are visibly the effects of
treachery and malice: for, in the last, we act against the rules of
reason that nature has imprinted in us; whereas, in the former, it seems
as if we might produce the same nature, who left us in such a state of
imperfection and weakness of courage, for our justification. Insomuch
that many have thought we are not fairly questionable for anything but
what we commit against our conscience; and it is partly upon this rule
that those ground their opinion who disapprove of capital or sanguinary
punishments inflicted upon heretics and misbelievers; and theirs also who
advocate or a judge is not accountable for having from mere ignorance
failed in his administration.

But as to cowardice, it is certain that the most usual way of chastising
it is by ignominy and and it is supposed that this practice brought into
use by the legislator Charondas; and that, before his time, the laws of
Greece punished those with death who fled from a battle; whereas he
ordained only that they be for three days exposed in the public dressed
in woman's attire, hoping yet for some service from them, having awakened
their courage by this open shame:

"Suffundere malis homims sanguinem, quam effundere."

["Rather bring the blood into a man's cheek than let it out of his
body." Tertullian in his Apologetics.]

It appears also that the Roman laws did anciently punish those with death
who had run away; for Ammianus Marcellinus says that the Emperor Julian
commanded ten of his soldiers, who had turned their backs in an encounter
against the Parthians, to be first degraded, and afterward put to death,
according, says he, to the ancient laws,--[Ammianus Marcellinus, xxiv.
4; xxv. i.]--and yet elsewhere for the like offence he only condemned
others to remain amongst the prisoners under the baggage ensign. The
severe punishment the people of Rome inflicted upon those who fled from
the battle of Cannae, and those who ran away with Aeneius Fulvius at his
defeat, did not extend to death. And yet, methinks, 'tis to be feared,
lest disgrace should make such delinquents desperate, and not only faint
friends, but enemies.

Of late memory,--[In 1523]--the Seigneur de Frauget, lieutenant to the
Mareschal de Chatillon's company, having by the Mareschal de Chabannes
been put in government of Fuentarabia in the place of Monsieur de Lude,
and having surrendered it to the Spaniard, he was for that condemned to
be degraded from all nobility, and both himself and his posterity
declared ignoble, taxable, and for ever incapable of bearing arms, which
severe sentence was afterwards accordingly executed at Lyons.--[In 1536]
--And, since that, all the gentlemen who were in Guise when the Count of
Nassau entered into it, underwent the same punishment, as several others
have done since for the like offence. Notwithstanding, in case of such a
manifest ignorance or cowardice as exceeds all ordinary example, 'tis but
reason to take it for a sufficient proof of treachery and malice, and for
such to be punished.



I observe in my travels this custom, ever to learn something from the
information of those with whom I confer (which is the best school of all
others), and to put my company upon those subjects they are the best able
to speak of:--

"Basti al nocchiero ragionar de' venti,
Al bifolco dei tori; et le sue piaghe
Conti'l guerrier; conti'l pastor gli armenti."

["Let the sailor content himself with talking of the winds; the
cowherd of his oxen; the soldier of his wounds; the shepherd of his
flocks."--An Italian translation of Propertius, ii. i, 43]

For it often falls out that, on the contrary, every one will rather
choose to be prating of another man's province than his own, thinking it
so much new reputation acquired; witness the jeer Archidamus put upon
Pertander, "that he had quitted the glory of being an excellent physician
to gain the repute of a very bad poet.--[Plutarch, Apoth. of the
Lacedaemonians, 'in voce' Archidamus.]--And do but observe how large and
ample Caesar is to make us understand his inventions of building bridges
and contriving engines of war,--[De Bello Gall., iv. 17.]--and how
succinct and reserved in comparison, where he speaks of the offices of
his profession, his own valour, and military conduct. His exploits
sufficiently prove him a great captain, and that he knew well enough; but
he would be thought an excellent engineer to boot; a quality something
different, and not necessary to be expected in him. The elder Dionysius
was a very great captain, as it befitted his fortune he should be; but he
took very great pains to get a particular reputation by poetry, and yet
he was never cut out for a poet. A man of the legal profession being not
long since brought to see a study furnished with all sorts of books, both
of his own and all other faculties, took no occasion at all to entertain
himself with any of them, but fell very rudely and magisterially to
descant upon a barricade placed on the winding stair before the study
door, a thing that a hundred captains and common soldiers see every day
without taking any notice or offence.

"Optat ephippia bos piger, optat arare caballus."

["The lazy ox desires a saddle and bridle; the horse wants to
plough."--Hor., Ep., i. 14,43.]

By this course a man shall never improve himself, nor arrive at any
perfection in anything. He must, therefore, make it his business always
to put the architect, the painter, the statuary, every mechanic artisan,
upon discourse of their own capacities.

And, to this purpose, in reading histories, which is everybody's subject,
I use to consider what kind of men are the authors: if they be persons
that profess nothing but mere letters, I, in and from them, principally
observe and learn style and language; if physicians, I the rather incline
to credit what they report of the temperature of the air, of the health
and complexions of princes, of wounds and diseases; if lawyers, we are
from them to take notice of the controversies of rights and wrongs, the
establishment of laws and civil government, and the like; if divines, the
affairs of the Church, ecclesiastical censures, marriages, and
dispensations; if courtiers, manners and ceremonies; if soldiers, the
things that properly belong to their trade, and, principally, the
accounts of the actions and enterprises wherein they were personally
engaged; if ambassadors, we are to observe negotiations, intelligences,
and practices, and the manner how they are to be carried on.

And this is the reason why (which perhaps I should have lightly passed
over in another) I dwelt upon and maturely considered one passage in the
history written by Monsieur de Langey, a man of very great judgment in
things of that nature: after having given a narrative of the fine oration
Charles V. had made in the Consistory at Rome, and in the presence of the
Bishop of Macon and Monsieur du Velly, our ambassadors there, wherein he
had mixed several injurious expressions to the dishonour of our nation;
and amongst the rest, "that if his captains and soldiers were not men of
another kind of fidelity, resolution, and sufficiency in the knowledge of
arms than those of the King, he would immediately go with a rope about
his neck and sue to him for mercy" (and it should seem the Emperor had
really this, or a very little better opinion of our military men, for he
afterwards, twice or thrice in his life, said the very same thing); as
also, that he challenged the King to fight him in his shirt with rapier
and poignard in a boat. The said Sieur de Langey, pursuing his history,
adds that the forenamed ambassadors, sending a despatch to the King of
these things, concealed the greatest part, and particularly the last two
passages. At which I could not but wonder that it should be in the power
of an ambassador to dispense with anything which he ought to signify to
his master, especially of so great importance as this, coming from the
mouth of such a person, and spoken in so great an assembly; and I should
rather conceive it had been the servant's duty faithfully to have
represented to him the whole thing as it passed, to the end that the
liberty of selecting, disposing, judging, and concluding might have
remained in him: for either to conceal or to disguise the truth for fear
he should take it otherwise than he ought to do, and lest it should
prompt him to some extravagant resolution, and, in the meantime, to leave
him ignorant of his affairs, should seem, methinks, rather to belong to
him who is to give the law than to him who is only to receive it; to him
who is in supreme command, and not to him who ought to look upon himself
as inferior, not only in authority, but also in prudence and good
counsel. I, for my part, would not be so served in my little concerns.

We so willingly slip the collar of command upon any pretence whatever,
and are so ready to usurp upon dominion, every one does so naturally
aspire to liberty and power, that no utility whatever derived from the
wit or valour of those he employs ought to be so dear to a superior as a
downright and sincere obedience. To obey more upon the account of
understanding than of subjection, is to corrupt the office of command--
[Taken from Aulus Gellius, i. 13.]--; insomuch that P. Crassus, the same
whom the Romans reputed five times happy, at the time when he was consul
in Asia, having sent to a Greek engineer to cause the greater of two
masts of ships that he had taken notice of at Athens to be brought to
him, to be employed about some engine of battery he had a design to make;
the other, presuming upon his own science and sufficiency in those
affairs, thought fit to do otherwise than directed, and to bring the
less, which, according to the rules of art, was really more proper for
the use to which it was designed; but Crassus, though he gave ear to his
reasons with great patience, would not, however, take them, how sound or
convincing soever, for current pay, but caused him to be well whipped for
his pains, valuing the interest of discipline much more than that of the
work in hand.

Notwithstanding, we may on the other side consider that so precise and
implicit an obedience as this is only due to positive and limited
commands. The employment of ambassadors is never so confined, many
things in their management of affairs being wholly referred to the
absolute sovereignty of their own conduct; they do not simply execute,
but also, to their own discretion and wisdom, form and model their
master's pleasure. I have, in my time, known men of command checked for
having rather obeyed the express words of the king's letters, than the
necessity of the affairs they had in hand. Men of understanding do yet,
to this day, condemn the custom of the kings of Persia to give their
lieutenants and agents so little rein, that, upon the least arising
difficulties, they must fain have recourse to their further commands;
this delay, in so vast an extent of dominion, having often very much
prejudiced their affairs; and Crassus, writing to a man whose profession
it was best to understand those things, and pre-acquainting him to what
use this mast was designed, did he not seem to consult his advice, and in
a manner invite him to interpose his better judgment?



"Obstupui, steteruntque comae et vox faucibus haesit."

["I was amazed, my hair stood on end, and my voice stuck in my
throat." Virgil, AEneid, ii. 774.]

I am not so good a naturalist (as they call it) as to discern by what
secret springs fear has its motion in us; but, be this as it may, 'tis a
strange passion, and such a one that the physicians say there is no other
whatever that sooner dethrones our judgment from its proper seat; which
is so true, that I myself have seen very many become frantic through
fear; and, even in those of the best settled temper it is most certain
that it begets a terrible astonishment and confusion during the fit.
I omit the vulgar sort, to whom it one while represents their great-
grandsires risen out of their graves in their shrouds, another while
werewolves, nightmares, and chimaeras; but even amongst soldiers, a sort
of men over whom, of all others, it ought to have the least power, how
often has it converted flocks of sheep into armed squadrons, reeds and
bullrushes into pikes and lances, friends into enemies, and the French
white cross into the red cross of Spain! When Monsieur de Bourbon took
Rome,--[In 1527]--an ensign who was upon guard at Borgo San Pietro was
seized with such a fright upon the first alarm, that he threw himself out
at a breach with his colours upon his shoulder, and ran directly upon the
enemy, thinking he had retreated toward the inward defences of the city,
and with much ado, seeing Monsieur de Bourbon's people, who thought it
had been a sally upon them, draw up to receive him, at last came to
himself, and saw his error; and then facing about, he retreated full
speed through the same breach by which he had gone out, but not till he
had first blindly advanced above three hundred paces into the open field.
It did not, however, fall out so well with Captain Giulio's ensign, at
the time when St. Paul was taken from us by the Comte de Bures and
Monsieur de Reu, for he, being so astonished with fear as to throw
himself, colours and all, out of a porthole, was immediately, cut to
pieces by the enemy; and in the same siege, it was a very memorable fear
that so seized, contracted, and froze up the heart of a gentleman, that
he sank down, stone-dead, in the breach, without any manner of wound or
hurt at all. The like madness does sometimes push on a whole multitude;
for in one of the encounters that Germanicus had with the Germans, two
great parties were so amazed with fear that they ran two opposite ways,
the one to the same place from which the other had fled.--[Tacit, Annal.,
i. 63.]--Sometimes it adds wings to the heels, as in the two first:
sometimes it nails them to the ground, and fetters them from moving; as
we read of the Emperor Theophilus, who, in a battle he lost against the
Agarenes, was so astonished and stupefied that he had no power to fly--

"Adeo pavor etiam auxilia formidat"

["So much does fear dread even the means of safety."--Quint.
Curt., ii. II.]

--till such time as Manuel, one of the principal commanders of his army,
having jogged and shaked him so as to rouse him out of his trance, said
to him, "Sir, if you will not follow me, I will kill you; for it is
better you should lose your life than, by being taken, lose your empire."
--[Zonaras, lib. iii.]--But fear does then manifest its utmost power
when it throws us upon a valiant despair, having before deprived us of
all sense both of duty and honour. In the first pitched battle the
Romans lost against Hannibal, under the Consul Sempronius, a body of ten
thousand foot, that had taken fright, seeing no other escape for their
cowardice, went and threw themselves headlong upon the great battalion of
the enemies, which with marvellous force and fury they charged through
and through, and routed with a very great slaughter of the Carthaginians,
thus purchasing an ignominious flight at the same price they might have
gained a glorious victory.--[Livy, xxi. 56.]

The thing in the world I am most afraid of is fear, that passion alone,
in the trouble of it, exceeding all other accidents. What affliction
could be greater or more just than that of Pompey's friends, who, in his
ship, were spectators of that horrible murder? Yet so it was, that the
fear of the Egyptian vessels they saw coming to board them, possessed
them with so great alarm that it is observed they thought of nothing but
calling upon the mariners to make haste, and by force of oars to escape
away, till being arrived at Tyre, and delivered from fear, they had
leisure to turn their thoughts to the loss of their captain, and to give
vent to those tears and lamentations that the other more potent passion
had till then suspended.

"Tum pavor sapientiam omnem mihiex animo expectorat."

["Then fear drove out all intelligence from my mind."--Ennius, ap.
Cicero, Tusc., iv. 8.]

Such as have been well rubbed in some skirmish, may yet, all wounded and
bloody as they are, be brought on again the next day to charge; but such
as have once conceived a good sound fear of the enemy, will never be made
so much as to look him in the face. Such as are in immediate fear of a
losing their estates, of banishment, or of slavery, live in perpetual
anguish, and lose all appetite and repose; whereas such as are actually
poor, slaves, or exiles, ofttimes live as merrily as other folk. And the
many people who, impatient of the perpetual alarms of fear, have hanged
or drowned themselves, or dashed themselves to pieces, give us
sufficiently to understand that fear is more importunate and
insupportable than death itself.

The Greeks acknowledged another kind of fear, differing from any we have
spoken of yet, that surprises us without any visible cause, by an impulse
from heaven, so that whole nations and whole armies have been struck with
it. Such a one was that which brought so wonderful a desolation upon
Carthage, where nothing was to be heard but affrighted voices and
outcries; where the inhabitants were seen to sally out of their houses as
to an alarm, and there to charge, wound, and kill one another, as if they
had been enemies come to surprise their city. All things were in
disorder and fury till, with prayers and sacrifices, they had appeased
their gods--[Diod. Sic., xv. 7]; and this is that they call panic
terrors.--[Ibid. ; Plutarch on Isis and Osiris, c. 8.]



[Charron has borrowed with unusual liberality from this and the
succeeding chapter. See Nodier, Questions, p. 206.]

"Scilicet ultima semper
Exspectanda dies homini est; dicique beatus
Ante obitum nemo supremaque funera debet."

["We should all look forward to our last day: no one can be called
happy till he is dead and buried."--Ovid, Met, iii. 135]

The very children know the story of King Croesus to this purpose, who
being taken prisoner by Cyrus, and by him condemned to die, as he was
going to execution cried out, "O Solon, Solon!" which being presently
reported to Cyrus, and he sending to inquire of him what it meant,
Croesus gave him to understand that he now found the teaching Solon had
formerly given him true to his cost; which was, "That men, however
fortune may smile upon them, could never be said to be happy till they
had been seen to pass over the last day of their lives," by reason of the
uncertainty and mutability of human things, which, upon very light and
trivial occasions, are subject to be totally changed into a quite
contrary condition. And so it was that Agesilaus made answer to one who
was saying what a happy young man the King of Persia was, to come so
young to so mighty a kingdom: "'Tis true," said he, "but neither was
Priam unhappy at his years."--[Plutarch, Apothegms of the
Lacedaemonians.]--In a short time, kings of Macedon, successors to that
mighty Alexander, became joiners and scriveners at Rome; a tyrant of
Sicily, a pedant at Corinth; a conqueror of one-half of the world and
general of so many armies, a miserable suppliant to the rascally officers
of a king of Egypt: so much did the prolongation of five or six months of
life cost the great Pompey; and, in our fathers' days, Ludovico Sforza,
the tenth Duke of Milan, whom all Italy had so long truckled under, was
seen to die a wretched prisoner at Loches, but not till he had lived ten
years in captivity,--[He was imprisoned by Louis XI. in an iron cage]--
which was the worst part of his fortune. The fairest of all queens,
--[Mary, Queen of Scots.]--widow to the greatest king in Europe, did she
not come to die by the hand of an executioner? Unworthy and barbarous
cruelty! And a thousand more examples there are of the same kind; for it
seems that as storms and tempests have a malice against the proud and
overtowering heights of our lofty buildings, there are also spirits above
that are envious of the greatnesses here below:

"Usque adeo res humanas vis abdita quaedam
Obterit, et pulchros fasces, saevasque secures
Proculcare, ac ludibrio sibi habere videtur."

["So true it is that some occult power upsets human affairs, the
glittering fasces and the cruel axes spurns under foot, and seems to
make sport of them."--Lucretius, v. 1231.]

And it should seem, also, that Fortune sometimes lies in wait to surprise
the last hour of our lives, to show the power she has, in a moment, to
overthrow what she was so many years in building, making us cry out with

"Nimirum hac die
Una plus vixi mihi, quam vivendum fuit."

["I have lived longer by this one day than I should have
done."--Macrobius, ii. 7.]

And, in this sense, this good advice of Solon may reasonably be taken;
but he, being a philosopher (with which sort of men the favours and
disgraces of Fortune stand for nothing, either to the making a man happy
or unhappy, and with whom grandeurs and powers are accidents of a quality
almost indifferent) I am apt to think that he had some further aim, and
that his meaning was, that the very felicity of life itself, which
depends upon the tranquillity and contentment of a well-descended spirit,
and the resolution and assurance of a well-ordered soul, ought never to
be attributed to any man till he has first been seen to play the last,
and, doubtless, the hardest act of his part. There may be disguise and
dissimulation in all the rest: where these fine philosophical discourses
are only put on, and where accident, not touching us to the quick, gives
us leisure to maintain the same gravity of aspect; but, in this last
scene of death, there is no more counterfeiting: we must speak out plain,
and discover what there is of good and clean in the bottom of the pot,

"Nam vera; voces turn demum pectore ab imo
Ejiciuntur; et eripitur persona, manet res."

["Then at last truth issues from the heart; the visor's gone,
the man remains."--Lucretius, iii. 57.]

Wherefore, at this last, all the other actions of our life ought to be
tried and sifted: 'tis the master-day, 'tis the day that is judge of all
the rest, "'tis the day," says one of the ancients,--[Seneca, Ep., 102]--
"that must be judge of all my foregoing years." To death do I refer the
assay of the fruit of all my studies: we shall then see whether my
discourses came only from my mouth or from my heart. I have seen many by
their death give a good or an ill repute to their whole life. Scipio,
the father-in-law of Pompey, in dying, well removed the ill opinion that
till then every one had conceived of him. Epaminondas being asked which
of the three he had in greatest esteem, Chabrias, Iphicrates, or himself.
"You must first see us die," said he, "before that question can be
resolved."--[Plutarch, Apoth.]--And, in truth, he would infinitely
wrong that man who would weigh him without the honour and grandeur of his

God has ordered all things as it has best pleased Him; but I have, in my
time, seen three of the most execrable persons that ever I knew in all
manner of abominable living, and the most infamous to boot, who all died
a very regular death, and in all circumstances composed, even to
perfection. There are brave and fortunate deaths: I have seen death cut
the thread of the progress of a prodigious advancement, and in the height
and flower of its increase, of a certain person,--[Montaigne doubtless
refers to his friend Etienne de la Boetie, at whose death in 1563 he was
present.]--with so glorious an end that, in my opinion, his ambitious
and generous designs had nothing in them so high and great as their
interruption. He arrived, without completing his course, at the place to
which his ambition aimed, with greater glory than he could either have
hoped or desired, anticipating by his fall the name and power to which he
aspired in perfecting his career. In the judgment I make of another
man's life, I always observe how he carried himself at his death; and the
principal concern I have for my own is that I may die well--that is,
patiently and tranquilly.



Cicero says--[Tusc., i. 31.]--"that to study philosophy is nothing but
to prepare one's self to die." The reason of which is, because study and
contemplation do in some sort withdraw from us our soul, and employ it
separately from the body, which is a kind of apprenticeship and a
resemblance of death; or, else, because all the wisdom and reasoning in
the world do in the end conclude in this point, to teach us not to fear
to die. And to say the truth, either our reason mocks us, or it ought to
have no other aim but our contentment only, nor to endeavour anything
but, in sum, to make us live well, and, as the Holy Scripture says, at
our ease. All the opinions of the world agree in this, that pleasure is
our end, though we make use of divers means to attain it: they would,
otherwise, be rejected at the first motion; for who would give ear to him
that should propose affliction and misery for his end? The controversies
and disputes of the philosophical sects upon this point are merely

"Transcurramus solertissimas nugas"

["Let us skip over those subtle trifles."--Seneca, Ep., 117.]

--there is more in them of opposition and obstinacy than is consistent
with so sacred a profession; but whatsoever personage a man takes upon
himself to perform, he ever mixes his own part with it.

Let the philosophers say what they will, the thing at which we all aim,
even in virtue is pleasure. It amuses me to rattle in ears this word,
which they so nauseate to and if it signify some supreme pleasure and
contentment, it is more due to the assistance of virtue than to any other
assistance whatever. This pleasure, for being more gay, more sinewy,
more robust and more manly, is only the more seriously voluptuous, and we
ought give it the name of pleasure, as that which is more favourable,
gentle, and natural, and not that from which we have denominated it. The
other and meaner pleasure, if it could deserve this fair name, it ought
to be by way of competition, and not of privilege. I find it less exempt
from traverses and inconveniences than virtue itself; and, besides that
the enjoyment is more momentary, fluid, and frail, it has its watchings,
fasts, and labours, its sweat and its blood; and, moreover, has
particular to itself so many several sorts of sharp and wounding
passions, and so dull a satiety attending it, as equal it to the severest
penance. And we mistake if we think that these incommodities serve it
for a spur and a seasoning to its sweetness (as in nature one contrary is
quickened by another), or say, when we come to virtue, that like
consequences and difficulties overwhelm and render it austere and
inaccessible; whereas, much more aptly than in voluptuousness, they
ennoble, sharpen, and heighten the perfect and divine pleasure they
procure us. He renders himself unworthy of it who will counterpoise its
cost with its fruit, and neither understands the blessing nor how to use
it. Those who preach to us that the quest of it is craggy, difficult,
and painful, but its fruition pleasant, what do they mean by that but to
tell us that it is always unpleasing? For what human means will ever
attain its enjoyment? The most perfect have been fain to content
themselves to aspire unto it, and to approach it only, without ever
possessing it. But they are deceived, seeing that of all the pleasures
we know, the very pursuit is pleasant. The attempt ever relishes of the
quality of the thing to which it is directed, for it is a good part of,
and consubstantial with, the effect. The felicity and beatitude that
glitters in Virtue, shines throughout all her appurtenances and avenues,
even to the first entry and utmost limits.

Now, of all the benefits that virtue confers upon us, the contempt of
death is one of the greatest, as the means that accommodates human life
with a soft and easy tranquillity, and gives us a pure and pleasant taste
of living, without which all other pleasure would be extinct. Which is
the reason why all the rules centre and concur in this one article. And
although they all in like manner, with common accord, teach us also to
despise pain, poverty, and the other accidents to which human life is
subject, it is not, nevertheless, with the same solicitude, as well by
reason these accidents are not of so great necessity, the greater part of
mankind passing over their whole lives without ever knowing what poverty
is, and some without sorrow or sickness, as Xenophilus the musician, who
lived a hundred and six years in a perfect and continual health; as also
because, at the worst, death can, whenever we please, cut short and put
an end to all other inconveniences. But as to death, it is inevitable:--

"Omnes eodem cogimur; omnium
Versatur urna serius ocius
Sors exitura, et nos in aeternum
Exilium impositura cymbae."

["We are all bound one voyage; the lot of all, sooner or later, is
to come out of the urn. All must to eternal exile sail away."
--Hor., Od., ii. 3, 25.]

and, consequently, if it frights us, 'tis a perpetual torment, for which
there is no sort of consolation. There is no way by which it may not
reach us. We may continually turn our heads this way and that, as in a
suspected country:

"Quae, quasi saxum Tantalo, semper impendet."

["Ever, like Tantalus stone, hangs over us."
--Cicero, De Finib., i. 18.]

Our courts of justice often send back condemned criminals to be executed
upon the place where the crime was committed; but, carry them to fine
houses by the way, prepare for them the best entertainment you can--

"Non Siculae dapes
Dulcem elaborabunt saporem:
Non avium cyatheaceae cantus
Somnum reducent."

["Sicilian dainties will not tickle their palates, nor the melody of
birds and harps bring back sleep."--Hor., Od., iii. 1, 18.]

Do you think they can relish it? and that the fatal end of their journey
being continually before their eyes, would not alter and deprave their
palate from tasting these regalios?

"Audit iter, numeratque dies, spatioque viarum
Metitur vitam; torquetur peste futura."

["He considers the route, computes the time of travelling, measuring
his life by the length of the journey; and torments himself by
thinking of the blow to come."--Claudianus, in Ruf., ii. 137.]

The end of our race is death; 'tis the necessary object of our aim,
which, if it fright us, how is it possible to advance a step without a
fit of ague? The remedy the vulgar use is not to think on't; but from
what brutish stupidity can they derive so gross a blindness? They must
bridle the ass by the tail:

"Qui capite ipse suo instituit vestigia retro,"

["Who in his folly seeks to advance backwards"--Lucretius, iv. 474]

'tis no wonder if he be often trapped in the pitfall. They affright
people with the very mention of death, and many cross themselves, as it
were the name of the devil. And because the making a man's will is in
reference to dying, not a man will be persuaded to take a pen in hand to
that purpose, till the physician has passed sentence upon and totally
given him over, and then betwixt pain and terror, God knows in how fit
a condition of understanding he is to do it.

The Romans, by reason that this poor syllable death sounded so harshly to
their ears and seemed so ominous, found out a way to soften and spin it
out by a periphrasis, and instead of pronouncing such a one is dead,
said, "Such a one has lived," or "Such a one has ceased to live"--
[Plutarch, Life of Cicero, c. 22:]--for, provided there was any mention
of life in the case, though past, it carried yet some sound of
consolation. And from them it is that we have borrowed our expression,
"The late Monsieur such and such a one."--["feu Monsieur un tel."]
Peradventure, as the saying is, the term we have lived is worth our
money. I was born betwixt eleven and twelve o'clock in the forenoon the
last day of February 1533, according to our computation, beginning the
year the 1st of January,--[This was in virtue of an ordinance of Charles
IX. in 1563. Previously the year commenced at Easter, so that the 1st
January 1563 became the first day of the year 1563.]--and it is now but
just fifteen days since I was complete nine-and-thirty years old; I make
account to live, at least, as many more. In the meantime, to trouble a
man's self with the thought of a thing so far off were folly. But what?
Young and old die upon the same terms; no one departs out of life
otherwise than if he had but just before entered into it; neither is any
man so old and decrepit, who, having heard of Methuselah, does not think
he has yet twenty good years to come. Fool that thou art! who has
assured unto thee the term of life? Thou dependest upon physicians'
tales: rather consult effects and experience. According to the common
course of things, 'tis long since that thou hast lived by extraordinary
favour; thou hast already outlived the ordinary term of life. And that
it is so, reckon up thy acquaintance, how many more have died before they
arrived at thy age than have attained unto it; and of those who have
ennobled their lives by their renown, take but an account, and I dare lay
a wager thou wilt find more who have died before than after five-and-
thirty years of age. It is full both of reason and piety, too, to take
example by the humanity of Jesus Christ Himself; now, He ended His life
at three-and-thirty years. The greatest man, that was no more than a
man, Alexander, died also at the same age. How many several ways has
death to surprise us?

"Quid quisque, vitet, nunquam homini satis
Cautum est in horas."

["Be as cautious as he may, man can never foresee the danger that
may at any hour befal him."--Hor. O. ii. 13, 13.]

To omit fevers and pleurisies, who would ever have imagined that a duke
of Brittany,--[Jean II. died 1305.]--should be pressed to death in a
crowd as that duke was at the entry of Pope Clement, my neighbour, into
Lyons?--[Montaigne speaks of him as if he had been a contemporary
neighbour, perhaps because he was the Archbishop of Bordeaux. Bertrand
le Got was Pope under the title of Clement V., 1305-14.]--Hast thou not
seen one of our kings--[Henry II., killed in a tournament, July 10,
1559]--killed at a tilting, and did not one of his ancestors die by
jostle of a hog?--[Philip, eldest son of Louis le Gros.]--AEschylus,
threatened with the fall of a house, was to much purpose circumspect to
avoid that danger, seeing that he was knocked on the head by a tortoise
falling out of an eagle's talons in the air. Another was choked with a
grape-stone;--[Val. Max., ix. 12, ext. 2.]--an emperor killed with
the scratch of a comb in combing his head. AEmilius Lepidus with a
stumble at his own threshold,--[Pliny, Nat. Hist., vii. 33.]--and
Aufidius with a jostle against the door as he entered the council-
chamber. And betwixt the very thighs of women, Cornelius Gallus the
proctor; Tigillinus, captain of the watch at Rome; Ludovico, son of Guido
di Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua; and (of worse example) Speusippus, a
Platonic philosopher, and one of our Popes. The poor judge Bebius gave
adjournment in a case for eight days; but he himself, meanwhile, was
condemned by death, and his own stay of life expired. Whilst Caius
Julius, the physician, was anointing the eyes of a patient, death closed
his own; and, if I may bring in an example of my own blood, a brother of
mine, Captain St. Martin, a young man, three-and-twenty years old, who
had already given sufficient testimony of his valour, playing a match at
tennis, received a blow of a ball a little above his right ear, which, as
it gave no manner of sign of wound or contusion, he took no notice of it,
nor so much as sat down to repose himself, but, nevertheless, died within
five or six hours after of an apoplexy occasioned by that blow.

These so frequent and common examples passing every day before our eyes,
how is it possible a man should disengage himself from the thought of
death, or avoid fancying that it has us every moment by the throat? What
matter is it, you will say, which way it comes to pass, provided a man
does not terrify himself with the expectation? For my part, I am of this
mind, and if a man could by any means avoid it, though by creeping under
a calf's skin, I am one that should not be ashamed of the shift; all I
aim at is, to pass my time at my ease, and the recreations that will most
contribute to it, I take hold of, as little glorious and exemplary as you

"Praetulerim . . . delirus inersque videri,
Dum mea delectent mala me, vel denique fallant,
Quam sapere, et ringi."

["I had rather seem mad and a sluggard, so that my defects are
agreeable to myself, or that I am not painfully conscious of them,
than be wise, and captious."--Hor., Ep., ii. 2, 126.]

But 'tis folly to think of doing anything that way. They go, they come,
they gallop and dance, and not a word of death. All this is very fine;
but withal, when it comes either to themselves, their wives, their
children, or friends, surprising them at unawares and unprepared, then,
what torment, what outcries, what madness and despair! Did you ever see
anything so subdued, so changed, and so confounded? A man must,
therefore, make more early provision for it; and this brutish negligence,
could it possibly lodge in the brain of any man of sense (which I think
utterly impossible), sells us its merchandise too dear. Were it an enemy
that could be avoided, I would then advise to borrow arms even of
cowardice itself; but seeing it is not, and that it will catch you as
well flying and playing the poltroon, as standing to't like an honest

"Nempe et fugacem persequitur virum,
Nec parcit imbellis juventae
Poplitibus timidoque tergo."

["He pursues the flying poltroon, nor spares the hamstrings of the
unwarlike youth who turns his back"--Hor., Ep., iii. 2, 14.]

And seeing that no temper of arms is of proof to secure us:--

"Ille licet ferro cautus, se condat et aere,
Mors tamen inclusum protrahet inde caput"

["Let him hide beneath iron or brass in his fear, death will pull
his head out of his armour."--Propertious iii. 18]

--let us learn bravely to stand our ground, and fight him. And to begin
to deprive him of the greatest advantage he has over us, let us take a
way quite contrary to the common course. Let us disarm him of his
novelty and strangeness, let us converse and be familiar with him, and
have nothing so frequent in our thoughts as death. Upon all occasions
represent him to our imagination in his every shape; at the stumbling of
a horse, at the falling of a tile, at the least prick with a pin, let us
presently consider, and say to ourselves, "Well, and what if it had been
death itself?" and, thereupon, let us encourage and fortify ourselves.
Let us evermore, amidst our jollity and feasting, set the remembrance of
our frail condition before our eyes, never suffering ourselves to be so
far transported with our delights, but that we have some intervals of
reflecting upon, and considering how many several ways this jollity of
ours tends to death, and with how many dangers it threatens it. The
Egyptians were wont to do after this manner, who in the height of their
feasting and mirth, caused a dried skeleton of a man to be brought into
the room to serve for a memento to their guests:

"Omnem crede diem tibi diluxisse supremum
Grata superveniet, quae non sperabitur, hora."

["Think each day when past is thy last; the next day, as unexpected,
will be the more welcome."--Hor., Ep., i. 4, 13.]

Where death waits for us is uncertain; let us look for him everywhere.
The premeditation of death is the premeditation of liberty; he who has
learned to die has unlearned to serve. There is nothing evil in life for
him who rightly comprehends that the privation of life is no evil: to
know, how to die delivers us from all subjection and constraint. Paulus
Emilius answered him whom the miserable King of Macedon, his prisoner,
sent to entreat him that he would not lead him in his triumph, "Let him
make that request to himself."--[ Plutarch, Life of Paulus Aemilius,
c. 17; Cicero, Tusc., v. 40.]

In truth, in all things, if nature do not help a little, it is very hard
for art and industry to perform anything to purpose. I am in my own
nature not melancholic, but meditative; and there is nothing I have more
continually entertained myself withal than imaginations of death, even in
the most wanton time of my age:

"Jucundum quum aetas florida ver ageret."

["When my florid age rejoiced in pleasant spring."
--Catullus, lxviii.]

In the company of ladies, and at games, some have perhaps thought me
possessed with some jealousy, or the uncertainty of some hope, whilst I
was entertaining myself with the remembrance of some one, surprised, a
few days before, with a burning fever of which he died, returning from an
entertainment like this, with his head full of idle fancies of love and
jollity, as mine was then, and that, for aught I knew, the same-destiny
was attending me.

"Jam fuerit, nec post unquam revocare licebit."

["Presently the present will have gone, never to be recalled."
Lucretius, iii. 928.]

Yet did not this thought wrinkle my forehead any more than any other.
It is impossible but we must feel a sting in such imaginations as these,
at first; but with often turning and returning them in one's mind, they,
at last, become so familiar as to be no trouble at all: otherwise, I, for
my part, should be in a perpetual fright and frenzy; for never man was so
distrustful of his life, never man so uncertain as to its duration.
Neither health, which I have hitherto ever enjoyed very strong and
vigorous, and very seldom interrupted, does prolong, nor sickness
contract my hopes. Every minute, methinks, I am escaping, and it
eternally runs in my mind, that what may be done to-morrow, may be done
to-day. Hazards and dangers do, in truth, little or nothing hasten our
end; and if we consider how many thousands more remain and hang over our
heads, besides the accident that immediately threatens us, we shall find
that the sound and the sick, those that are abroad at sea, and those that
sit by the fire, those who are engaged in battle, and those who sit idle
at home, are the one as near it as the other.

"Nemo altero fragilior est; nemo in crastinum sui certior."

["No man is more fragile than another: no man more certain than
another of to-morrow."--Seneca, Ep., 91.]

For anything I have to do before I die, the longest leisure would appear
too short, were it but an hour's business I had to do.

A friend of mine the other day turning over my tablets, found therein a
memorandum of something I would have done after my decease, whereupon I
told him, as it was really true, that though I was no more than a
league's distance only from my own house, and merry and well, yet when
that thing came into my head, I made haste to write it down there,
because I was not certain to live till I came home. As a man that am
eternally brooding over my own thoughts, and confine them to my own
particular concerns, I am at all hours as well prepared as I am ever like
to be, and death, whenever he shall come, can bring nothing along with
him I did not expect long before. We should always, as near as we can,
be booted and spurred, and ready to go, and, above all things, take care,
at that time, to have no business with any one but one's self:--

"Quid brevi fortes jaculamur avo

["Why for so short a life tease ourselves with so many projects?"
--Hor., Od., ii. 16, 17.]

for we shall there find work enough to do, without any need of addition.
One man complains, more than of death, that he is thereby prevented of a
glorious victory; another, that he must die before he has married his
daughter, or educated his children; a third seems only troubled that he
must lose the society of his wife; a fourth, the conversation of his son,
as the principal comfort and concern of his being. For my part, I am,
thanks be to God, at this instant in such a condition, that I am ready to
dislodge, whenever it shall please Him, without regret for anything
whatsoever. I disengage myself throughout from all worldly relations;
my leave is soon taken of all but myself. Never did any one prepare to
bid adieu to the world more absolutely and unreservedly, and to shake
hands with all manner of interest in it, than I expect to do. The
deadest deaths are the best:

"'Miser, O miser,' aiunt, 'omnia ademit
Una dies infesta mihi tot praemia vitae.'"

["'Wretch that I am,' they cry, 'one fatal day has deprived me of
all joys of life.'"--Lucretius, iii. 911.]

And the builder,

"Manuet," says he, "opera interrupta, minaeque
Murorum ingentes."

["The works remain incomplete, the tall pinnacles of the walls
unmade."--AEneid, iv. 88.]

A man must design nothing that will require so much time to the
finishing, or, at least, with no such passionate desire to see it brought
to perfection. We are born to action:

"Quum moriar, medium solvar et inter opus."

["When I shall die, let it be doing that I had designed."
--Ovid, Amor., ii. 10, 36.]

I would always have a man to be doing, and, as much as in him lies, to
extend and spin out the offices of life; and then let death take me
planting my cabbages, indifferent to him, and still less of my gardens
not being finished. I saw one die, who, at his last gasp, complained of
nothing so much as that destiny was about to cut the thread of a
chronicle he was then compiling, when he was gone no farther than the
fifteenth or sixteenth of our kings:

"Illud in his rebus non addunt: nec tibi earum
jam desiderium rerum super insidet una."

["They do not add, that dying, we have no longer a desire to possess
things."--Lucretius, iii. 913.]

We are to discharge ourselves from these vulgar and hurtful humours.
To this purpose it was that men first appointed the places of sepulture
adjoining the churches, and in the most frequented places of the city, to
accustom, says Lycurgus, the common people, women, and children, that
they should not be startled at the sight of a corpse, and to the end,
that the continual spectacle of bones, graves, and funeral obsequies
should put us in mind of our frail condition:

"Quin etiam exhilarare viris convivia caede
Mos olim, et miscere epulis spectacula dira
Certantum ferro, saepe et super ipsa cadentum
Pocula, respersis non parco sanguine mensis."

["It was formerly the custom to enliven banquets with slaughter, and
to combine with the repast the dire spectacle of men contending with
the sword, the dying in many cases falling upon the cups, and
covering the tables with blood."--Silius Italicus, xi. 51.]

And as the Egyptians after their feasts were wont to present the company
with a great image of death, by one that cried out to them, "Drink and be
merry, for such shalt thou be when thou art dead"; so it is my custom to
have death not only in my imagination, but continually in my mouth.
Neither is there anything of which I am so inquisitive, and delight to
inform myself, as the manner of men's deaths, their words, looks, and
bearing; nor any places in history I am so intent upon; and it is
manifest enough, by my crowding in examples of this kind, that I have a
particular fancy for that subject. If I were a writer of books, I would
compile a register, with a comment, of the various deaths of men: he who
should teach men to die would at the same time teach them to live.
Dicarchus made one, to which he gave that title; but it was designed for
another and less profitable end.

Peradventure, some one may object, that the pain and terror of dying so
infinitely exceed all manner of imagination, that the best fencer will be
quite out of his play when it comes to the push. Let them say what they
will: to premeditate is doubtless a very great advantage; and besides, is
it nothing to go so far, at least, without disturbance or alteration?
Moreover, Nature herself assists and encourages us: if the death be
sudden and violent, we have not leisure to fear; if otherwise, I perceive
that as I engage further in my disease, I naturally enter into a certain
loathing and disdain of life. I find I have much more ado to digest this
resolution of dying, when I am well in health, than when languishing of a
fever; and by how much I have less to do with the commodities of life,
by reason that I begin to lose the use and pleasure of them, by so much I
look upon death with less terror. Which makes me hope, that the further
I remove from the first, and the nearer I approach to the latter, I shall
the more easily exchange the one for the other. And, as I have
experienced in other occurrences, that, as Caesar says, things often
appear greater to us at distance than near at hand, I have found, that
being well, I have had maladies in much greater horror than when really
afflicted with them. The vigour wherein I now am, the cheerfulness and
delight wherein I now live, make the contrary estate appear in so great a
disproportion to my present condition, that, by imagination, I magnify
those inconveniences by one-half, and apprehend them to be much more
troublesome, than I find them really to be, when they lie the most heavy
upon me; I hope to find death the same.

Let us but observe in the ordinary changes and declinations we daily
suffer, how nature deprives us of the light and sense of our bodily
decay. What remains to an old man of the vigour of his youth and better

"Heu! senibus vitae portio quanta manet."

["Alas, to old men what portion of life remains!"---Maximian, vel
Pseudo-Gallus, i. 16.]

Caesar, to an old weather-beaten soldier of his guards, who came to ask
him leave that he might kill himself, taking notice of his withered body
and decrepit motion, pleasantly answered, "Thou fanciest, then, that thou
art yet alive."--[Seneca, Ep., 77.]--Should a man fall into this
condition on the sudden, I do not think humanity capable of enduring such
a change: but nature, leading us by the hand, an easy and, as it were, an
insensible pace, step by step conducts us to that miserable state, and by
that means makes it familiar to us, so that we are insensible of the
stroke when our youth dies in us, though it be really a harder death than
the final dissolution of a languishing body, than the death of old age;
forasmuch as the fall is not so great from an uneasy being to none at
all, as it is from a sprightly and flourishing being to one that is
troublesome and painful. The body, bent and bowed, has less force to
support a burden; and it is the same with the soul, and therefore it is,
that we are to raise her up firm and erect against the power of this
adversary. For, as it is impossible she should ever be at rest, whilst
she stands in fear of it; so, if she once can assure herself, she may
boast (which is a thing as it were surpassing human condition) that it is
impossible that disquiet, anxiety, or fear, or any other disturbance,
should inhabit or have any place in her:

"Non vulnus instants Tyranni
Mentha cadi solida, neque Auster
Dux inquieti turbidus Adriae,
Nec fulminantis magna Jovis manus."

["Not the menacing look of a tyrant shakes her well-settled soul,
nor turbulent Auster, the prince of the stormy Adriatic, nor yet the
strong hand of thundering Jove, such a temper moves."
--Hor., Od., iii. 3, 3.]

She is then become sovereign of all her lusts and passions, mistress of
necessity, shame, poverty, and all the other injuries of fortune. Let
us, therefore, as many of us as can, get this advantage; 'tis the true
and sovereign liberty here on earth, that fortifies us wherewithal to
defy violence and injustice, and to contemn prisons and chains:

"In manicis et
Compedibus saevo te sub custode tenebo.
Ipse Deus, simul atque volam, me solvet. Opinor,
Hoc sentit; moriar; mors ultima linea rerum est."

["I will keep thee in fetters and chains, in custody of a
savage keeper.--A god will when I ask Him, set me free.
This god I think is death. Death is the term of all things."
--Hor., Ep., i. 16, 76.]

Our very religion itself has no surer human foundation than the contempt
of death. Not only the argument of reason invites us to it--for why
should we fear to lose a thing, which being lost, cannot be lamented?--
but, also, seeing we are threatened by so many sorts of death, is it not
infinitely worse eternally to fear them all, than once to undergo one of
them? And what matters it, when it shall happen, since it is inevitable?
To him that told Socrates, "The thirty tyrants have sentenced thee to
death"; "And nature them," said he.--[Socrates was not condemned to death
by the thirty tyrants, but by the Athenians.-Diogenes Laertius, ii.35.]--
What a ridiculous thing it is to trouble ourselves about taking the only
step that is to deliver us from all trouble! As our birth brought us the
birth of all things, so in our death is the death of all things included.
And therefore to lament that we shall not be alive a hundred years hence,
is the same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago.
Death is the beginning of another life. So did we weep, and so much it
cost us to enter into this, and so did we put off our former veil in
entering into it. Nothing can be a grievance that is but once. Is it
reasonable so long to fear a thing that will so soon be despatched?
Long life, and short, are by death made all one; for there is no long,
nor short, to things that are no more. Aristotle tells us that there are
certain little beasts upon the banks of the river Hypanis, that never
live above a day: they which die at eight of the clock in the morning,
die in their youth, and those that die at five in the evening, in their
decrepitude: which of us would not laugh to see this moment of
continuance put into the consideration of weal or woe? The most and the
least, of ours, in comparison with eternity, or yet with the duration of
mountains, rivers, stars, trees, and even of some animals, is no less
ridiculous.--[ Seneca, Consol. ad Marciam, c. 20.]

But nature compels us to it. "Go out of this world," says she, "as you
entered into it; the same pass you made from death to life, without
passion or fear, the same, after the same manner, repeat from life to
death. Your death is a part of the order of the universe, 'tis a part of
the life of the world.

"Inter se mortales mutua vivunt
Et, quasi cursores, vitai lampada tradunt."

["Mortals, amongst themselves, live by turns, and, like the runners
in the games, give up the lamp, when they have won the race, to the
next comer.--"Lucretius, ii. 75, 78.]

"Shall I exchange for you this beautiful contexture of things? 'Tis the
condition of your creation; death is a part of you, and whilst you
endeavour to evade it, you evade yourselves. This very being of yours
that you now enjoy is equally divided betwixt life and death. The day of
your birth is one day's advance towards the grave:

"Prima, qux vitam dedit, hora carpsit."

["The first hour that gave us life took away also an hour."
--Seneca, Her. Fur., 3 Chor. 874.]

"Nascentes morimur, finisque ab origine pendet."

["As we are born we die, and the end commences with the beginning."
--Manilius, Ast., iv. 16.]

"All the whole time you live, you purloin from life and live at the
expense of life itself. The perpetual work of your life is but to lay
the foundation of death. You are in death, whilst you are in life,
because you still are after death, when you are no more alive; or, if you
had rather have it so, you are dead after life, but dying all the while
you live; and death handles the dying much more rudely than the dead, and
more sensibly and essentially. If you have made your profit of life, you
have had enough of it; go your way satisfied.

"Cur non ut plenus vita; conviva recedis?"

["Why not depart from life as a sated guest from a feast?
"Lucretius, iii. 951.]

"If you have not known how to make the best use of it, if it was
unprofitable to you, what need you care to lose it, to what end would you
desire longer to keep it?

"'Cur amplius addere quaeris,
Rursum quod pereat male, et ingratum occidat omne?'

["Why seek to add longer life, merely to renew ill-spent time, and
be again tormented?"--Lucretius, iii. 914.]

"Life in itself is neither good nor evil; it is the scene of good or evil
as you make it.' And, if you have lived a day, you have seen all: one day
is equal and like to all other days. There is no other light, no other
shade; this very sun, this moon, these very stars, this very order and
disposition of things, is the same your ancestors enjoyed, and that shall
also entertain your posterity:

"'Non alium videre patres, aliumve nepotes

["Your grandsires saw no other thing; nor will your posterity."
--Manilius, i. 529.]

"And, come the worst that can come, the distribution and variety of all
the acts of my comedy are performed in a year. If you have observed the
revolution of my four seasons, they comprehend the infancy, the youth,
the virility, and the old age of the world: the year has played his part,
and knows no other art but to begin again; it will always be the same

"'Versamur ibidem, atque insumus usque.'

["We are turning in the same circle, ever therein confined."
--Lucretius, iii. 1093.]

"'Atque in se sua per vestigia volvitur annus.'

["The year is ever turning around in the same footsteps."
--Virgil, Georg., ii. 402.]

"I am not prepared to create for you any new recreations:

"'Nam tibi prxterea quod machiner, inveniamque
Quod placeat, nihil est; eadem sunt omnia semper.'

["I can devise, nor find anything else to please you: 'tis the same
thing over and over again."--Lucretius iii. 957]

"Give place to others, as others have given place to you. Equality is
the soul of equity. Who can complain of being comprehended in the same
destiny, wherein all are involved? Besides, live as long as you can, you
shall by that nothing shorten the space you are to be dead; 'tis all to
no purpose; you shall be every whit as long in the condition you so much
fear, as if you had died at nurse:

"'Licet quot vis vivendo vincere secla,
Mors aeterna tamen nihilominus illa manebit.'

["Live triumphing over as many ages as you will, death still will
remain eternal."--Lucretius, iii. 1103]

"And yet I will place you in such a condition as you shall have no reason
to be displeased.

"'In vera nescis nullum fore morte alium te,
Qui possit vivus tibi to lugere peremptum,
Stansque jacentem.'

["Know you not that, when dead, there can be no other living self to
lament you dead, standing on your grave."--Idem., ibid., 898.]

"Nor shall you so much as wish for the life you are so concerned about:

"'Nec sibi enim quisquam tum se vitamque requirit.
"'Nec desiderium nostri nos afficit ullum.'

"Death is less to be feared than nothing, if there could be anything less
than nothing.

"'Multo . . . mortem minus ad nos esse putandium,
Si minus esse potest, quam quod nihil esse videmus.'

"Neither can it any way concern you, whether you are living or dead:
living, by reason that you are still in being; dead, because you are no
more. Moreover, no one dies before his hour: the time you leave behind
was no more yours than that was lapsed and gone before you came into the
world; nor does it any more concern you.

"'Respice enim, quam nil ad nos anteacta vetustas
Temporis aeterni fuerit.'

["Consider how as nothing to us is the old age of times past."
--Lucretius iii. 985]

Wherever your life ends, it is all there. The utility of living consists
not in the length of days, but in the use of time; a man may have lived
long, and yet lived but a little. Make use of time while it is present
with you. It depends upon your will, and not upon the number of days, to
have a sufficient length of life. Is it possible you can imagine never
to arrive at the place towards which you are continually going? and yet
there is no journey but hath its end. And, if company will make it more
pleasant or more easy to you, does not all the world go the self-same

"'Omnia te, vita perfuncta, sequentur.'

["All things, then, life over, must follow thee."
--Lucretius, iii. 981.]

"Does not all the world dance the same brawl that you do? Is there
anything that does not grow old, as well as you? A thousand men, a
thousand animals, a thousand other creatures, die at the same moment that
you die:

"'Nam nox nulla diem, neque noctem aurora sequuta est,
Quae non audierit mistos vagitibus aegris
Ploratus, mortis comites et funeris atri.'

["No night has followed day, no day has followed night, in which
there has not been heard sobs and sorrowing cries, the companions of
death and funerals."--Lucretius, v. 579.]

"To what end should you endeavour to draw back, if there be no
possibility to evade it? you have seen examples enough of those who have
been well pleased to die, as thereby delivered from heavy miseries; but
have you ever found any who have been dissatisfied with dying? It must,
therefore, needs be very foolish to condemn a thing you have neither
experimented in your own person, nor by that of any other. Why dost thou
complain of me and of destiny? Do we do thee any wrong? Is it for thee
to govern us, or for us to govern thee? Though, peradventure, thy age
may not be accomplished, yet thy life is: a man of low stature is as much
a man as a giant; neither men nor their lives are measured by the ell.
Chiron refused to be immortal, when he was acquainted with the conditions
under which he was to enjoy it, by the god of time itself and its
duration, his father Saturn. Do but seriously consider how much more
insupportable and painful an immortal life would be to man than what I
have already given him. If you had not death, you would eternally curse
me for having deprived you of it; I have mixed a little bitterness with
it, to the end, that seeing of what convenience it is, you might not too
greedily and indiscreetly seek and embrace it: and that you might be so
established in this moderation, as neither to nauseate life, nor have any
antipathy for dying, which I have decreed you shall once do, I have
tempered the one and the other betwixt pleasure and pain. It was I that
taught Thales, the most eminent of your sages, that to live and to die
were indifferent; which made him, very wisely, answer him, 'Why then he
did not die?' 'Because,' said he, 'it is indifferent.'--[Diogenes
Laertius, i. 35.]--Water, earth, air, and fire, and the other parts of
this creation of mine, are no more instruments of thy life than they are
of thy death. Why dost thou fear thy last day? it contributes no more to
thy dissolution, than every one of the rest: the last step is not the
cause of lassitude: it does but confess it. Every day travels towards
death; the last only arrives at it." These are the good lessons our
mother Nature teaches.

I have often considered with myself whence it should proceed, that in war
the image of death, whether we look upon it in ourselves or in others,
should, without comparison, appear less dreadful than at home in our own
houses (for if it were not so, it would be an army of doctors and whining
milksops), and that being still in all places the same, there should be,
notwithstanding, much more assurance in peasants and the meaner sort of
people, than in others of better quality. I believe, in truth, that it
is those terrible ceremonies and preparations wherewith we set it out,
that more terrify us than the thing itself; a new, quite contrary way of
living; the cries of mothers, wives, and children; the visits of
astounded and afflicted friends; the attendance of pale and blubbering
servants; a dark room, set round with burning tapers; our beds environed
with physicians and divines; in sum, nothing but ghostliness and horror
round about us; we seem dead and buried already. Children are afraid
even of those they are best acquainted with, when disguised in a visor;
and so 'tis with us; the visor must be removed as well from things as
from persons, that being taken away, we shall find nothing underneath but
the very same death that a mean servant or a poor chambermaid died a day
or two ago, without any manner of apprehension. Happy is the death that
deprives us of leisure for preparing such ceremonials.



"Fortis imaginatio generat casum," say the schoolmen.

["A strong imagination begets the event itself."--Axiom. Scholast.]

I am one of those who are most sensible of the power of imagination:
every one is jostled by it, but some are overthrown by it. It has a very
piercing impression upon me; and I make it my business to avoid, wanting
force to resist it. I could live by the sole help of healthful and jolly
company: the very sight of another's pain materially pains me, and I
often usurp the sensations of another person. A perpetual cough in
another tickles my lungs and throat. I more unwillingly visit the sick
in whom by love and duty I am interested, than those I care not for, to
whom I less look. I take possession of the disease I am concerned at,
and take it to myself. I do not at all wonder that fancy should give
fevers and sometimes kill such as allow it too much scope, and are too
willing to entertain it. Simon Thomas was a great physician of his time:
I remember, that happening one day at Toulouse to meet him at a rich old
fellow's house, who was troubled with weak lungs, and discoursing with
the patient about the method of his cure, he told him, that one thing
which would be very conducive to it, was to give me such occasion to be
pleased with his company, that I might come often to see him, by which
means, and by fixing his eyes upon the freshness of my complexion, and
his imagination upon the sprightliness and vigour that glowed in my
youth, and possessing all his senses with the flourishing age wherein I
then was, his habit of body might, peradventure, be amended; but he
forgot to say that mine, at the same time, might be made worse. Gallus
Vibius so much bent his mind to find out the essence and motions of
madness, that, in the end, he himself went out of his wits, and to such a
degree, that he could never after recover his judgment, and might brag
that he was become a fool by too much wisdom. Some there are who through
fear anticipate the hangman; and there was the man, whose eyes being
unbound to have his pardon read to him, was found stark dead upon the
scaffold, by the stroke of imagination. We start, tremble, turn pale,
and blush, as we are variously moved by imagination; and, being a-bed,
feel our bodies agitated with its power to that degree, as even sometimes
to expiring. And boiling youth, when fast asleep, grows so warm with
fancy, as in a dream to satisfy amorous desires:--

"Ut, quasi transactis saepe omnibu rebu, profundant
Fluminis ingentes, fluctus, vestemque cruentent."

Although it be no new thing to see horns grown in a night on the forehead
of one that had none when he went to bed, notwithstanding, what befell
Cippus, King of Italy, is memorable; who having one day been a very
delighted spectator of a bullfight, and having all the night dreamed that
he had horns on his head, did, by the force of imagination, really cause
them to grow there. Passion gave to the son of Croesus the voice which
nature had denied him. And Antiochus fell into a fever, inflamed with
the beauty of Stratonice, too deeply imprinted in his soul. Pliny
pretends to have seen Lucius Cossitius, who from a woman was turned into
a man upon her very wedding-day. Pontanus and others report the like
metamorphosis to have happened in these latter days in Italy. And,
through the vehement desire of him and his mother:

"Volta puer solvit, quae foemina voverat, Iphis."

Myself passing by Vitry le Francois, saw a man the Bishop of Soissons
had, in confirmation, called Germain, whom all the inhabitants of the
place had known to be a girl till two-and-twenty years of age, called
Mary. He was, at the time of my being there, very full of beard, old,
and not married. He told us, that by straining himself in a leap his
male organs came out; and the girls of that place have, to this day, a
song, wherein they advise one another not to take too great strides, for
fear of being turned into men, as Mary Germain was. It is no wonder if
this sort of accident frequently happen; for if imagination have any
power in such things, it is so continually and vigorously bent upon this
subject, that to the end it may not so often relapse into the same
thought and violence of desire, it were better, once for all, to give
these young wenches the things they long for.

Some attribute the scars of King Dagobert and of St. Francis to the force
of imagination. It is said, that by it bodies will sometimes be removed
from their places; and Celsus tells us of a priest whose soul would be
ravished into such an ecstasy that the body would, for a long time,
remain without sense or respiration. St. Augustine makes mention of
another, who, upon the hearing of any lamentable or doleful cries, would
presently fall into a swoon, and be so far out of himself, that it was in
vain to call, bawl in his ears, pinch or burn him, till he voluntarily
came to himself; and then he would say, that he had heard voices as it
were afar off, and did feel when they pinched and burned him; and, to
prove that this was no obstinate dissimulation in defiance of his sense
of feeling, it was manifest, that all the while he had neither pulse nor

'Tis very probable, that visions, enchantments, and all extraordinary
effects of that nature, derive their credit principally from the power of
imagination, working and making its chiefest impression upon vulgar and
more easy souls, whose belief is so strangely imposed upon, as to think
they see what they do not see.

I am not satisfied whether those pleasant ligatures--[Les nouements
d'aiguillettes, as they were called, knots tied by some one, at a
wedding, on a strip of leather, cotton, or silk, and which, especially
when passed through the wedding-ring, were supposed to have the magical
effect of preventing a consummation of the marriage until they were
untied. See Louandre, La Sorcellerie, 1853, p. 73. The same
superstition and appliance existed in England.]--with which this age of
ours is so occupied, that there is almost no other talk, are not mere
voluntary impressions of apprehension and fear; for I know, by
experience, in the case of a particular friend of mine, one for whom I
can be as responsible as for myself, and a man that cannot possibly fall
under any manner of suspicion of insufficiency, and as little of being
enchanted, who having heard a companion of his make a relation of an
unusual frigidity that surprised him at a very unseasonable time; being
afterwards himself engaged upon the same account, the horror of the
former story on a sudden so strangely possessed his imagination, that he
ran the same fortune the other had done; and from that time forward, the
scurvy remembrance of his disaster running in his mind and tyrannising
over him, he was subject to relapse into the same misfortune. He found
some remedy, however, for this fancy in another fancy, by himself frankly
confessing and declaring beforehand to the party with whom he was to have
to do, this subjection of his, by which means, the agitation of his soul
was, in some sort, appeased; and knowing that, now, some such
misbehaviour was expected from him, the restraint upon his faculties grew
less. And afterwards, at such times as he was in no such apprehension,
when setting about the act (his thoughts being then disengaged and free,
and his body in its true and natural estate) he was at leisure to cause
the part to be handled and communicated to the knowledge of the other
party, he was totally freed from that vexatious infirmity. After a man
has once done a woman right, he is never after in danger of misbehaving
himself with that person, unless upon the account of some excusable
weakness. Neither is this disaster to be feared, but in adventures,
where the soul is overextended with desire or respect, and, especially,
where the opportunity is of an unforeseen and pressing nature; in those
cases, there is no means for a man to defend himself from such a
surprise, as shall put him altogether out of sorts. I have known some,
who have secured themselves from this mischance, by coming half sated
elsewhere, purposely to abate the ardour of the fury, and others, who,
being grown old, find themselves less impotent by being less able; and
one, who found an advantage in being assured by a friend of his, that he
had a counter-charm of enchantments that would secure him from this
disgrace. The story itself is not, much amiss, and therefore you shall
have it.

A Count of a very great family, and with whom I was very intimate, being
married to a fair lady, who had formerly been courted by one who was at
the wedding, all his friends were in very great fear; but especially an
old lady his kinswoman, who had the ordering of the solemnity, and in
whose house it was kept, suspecting his rival would offer foul play by
these sorceries. Which fear she communicated to me. I bade her rely
upon me: I had, by chance, about me a certain flat plate of gold, whereon
were graven some celestial figures, supposed good against sunstroke or
pains in the head, being applied to the suture: where, that it might the
better remain firm, it was sewed to a ribbon to be tied under the chin; a
foppery cousin-german to this of which I am speaking. Jaques Pelletier,
who lived in my house, had presented this to me for a singular rarity.
I had a fancy to make some use of this knack, and therefore privately
told the Count, that he might possibly run the same fortune other
bridegrooms had sometimes done, especially some one being in the house,
who, no doubt, would be glad to do him such a courtesy: but let him
boldly go to bed. For I would do him the office of a friend, and, if
need were, would not spare a miracle it was in my power to do, provided
he would engage to me, upon his honour, to keep it to himself; and only,
when they came to bring him his caudle,--[A custom in France to bring the
bridegroom a caudle in the middle of the night on his wedding-night]--
if matters had not gone well with him, to give me such a sign, and leave
the rest to me. Now he had had his ears so battered, and his mind so
prepossessed with the eternal tattle of this business, that when he came
to't, he did really find himself tied with the trouble of his
imagination, and, accordingly, at the time appointed, gave me the sign.
Whereupon, I whispered him in the ear, that he should rise, under
pretence of putting us out of the room, and after a jesting manner pull
my nightgown from my shoulders--we were of much about the same height--
throw it over his own, and there keep it till he had performed what I had
appointed him to do, which was, that when we were all gone out of the
chamber, he should withdraw to make water, should three times repeat such
and such words, and as often do such and such actions; that at every of
the three times, he should tie the ribbon I put into his hand about his
middle, and be sure to place the medal that was fastened to it, the
figures in such a posture, exactly upon his reins, which being done, and
having the last of the three times so well girt and fast tied the ribbon
that it could neither untie nor slip from its place, let him confidently
return to his business, and withal not forget to spread my gown upon the
bed, so that it might be sure to cover them both. These ape's tricks are
the main of the effect, our fancy being so far seduced as to believe that
such strange means must, of necessity, proceed from some abstruse
science: their very inanity gives them weight and reverence. And,
certain it is, that my figures approved themselves more venereal than
solar, more active than prohibitive. 'Twas a sudden whimsey, mixed with
a little curiosity, that made me do a thing so contrary to my nature; for
I am an enemy to all subtle and counterfeit actions, and abominate all
manner of trickery, though it be for sport, and to an advantage; for
though the action may not be vicious in itself, its mode is vicious.

Amasis, King of Egypt, having married Laodice, a very beautiful Greek
virgin, though noted for his abilities elsewhere, found himself quite
another man with his wife, and could by no means enjoy her; at which he
was so enraged, that he threatened to kill her, suspecting her to be a
witch. As 'tis usual in things that consist in fancy, she put him upon
devotion, and having accordingly made his vows to Venus, he found himself
divinely restored the very first night after his oblations and
sacrifices. Now women are to blame to entertain us with that disdainful,
coy, and angry countenance, which extinguishes our vigour, as it kindles
our desire; which made the daughter-in-law of Pythagoras--[Theano, the
lady in question was the wife, not the daughter-in-law of Pythagoras.]--
say, "That the woman who goes to bed to a man, must put off her modesty
with her petticoat, and put it on again with the same." The soul of the
assailant, being disturbed with many several alarms, readily loses the
power of performance; and whoever the imagination has once put this trick
upon, and confounded with the shame of it (and she never does it but at
the first acquaintance, by reason men are then more ardent and eager, and
also, at this first account a man gives of himself, he is much more
timorous of miscarrying), having made an ill beginning, he enters into
such fever and despite at the accident, as are apt to remain and continue
with him upon following occasions.

Married people, having all their time before them, ought never to compel
or so much as to offer at the feat, if they do not find themselves quite
ready: and it is less unseemly to fail of handselling the nuptial sheets,
when a man perceives himself full of agitation and trembling, and to
await another opportunity at more private and more composed leisure, than
to make himself perpetually miserable, for having misbehaved himself and
been baffled at the first assault. Till possession be taken, a man that
knows himself subject to this infirmity, should leisurely and by degrees
make several little trials and light offers, without obstinately
attempting at once, to Force an absolute conquest over his own mutinous
and indisposed faculties. Such as know their members to be naturally
obedient, need take no other care but only to counterplot their

The indocile liberty of this member is very remarkable, so importunately
unruly in its tumidity and impatience, when we do not require it, and so
unseasonably disobedient, when we stand most in need of it: so
imperiously contesting in authority with the will, and with so much
haughty obstinacy denying all solicitation, both of hand and mind. And
yet, though his rebellion is so universally complained of, and that proof
is thence deduced to condemn him, if he had, nevertheless, feed me to
plead his cause, I should peradventure, bring the rest of his fellow-
members into suspicion of complotting this mischief against him, out of
pure envy at the importance and pleasure especial to his employment; and
to have, by confederacy, armed the whole world against him, by
malevolently charging him alone, with their common offence. For let any
one consider, whether there is any one part of our bodies that does not
often refuse to perform its office at the precept of the will, and that
does not often exercise its function in defiance of her command. They
have every one of them passions of their own, that rouse and awaken,
stupefy and benumb them, without our leave or consent. How often do the
involuntary motions of the countenance discover our inward thoughts, and
betray our most private secrets to the bystanders. The same cause that
animates this member, does also, without our knowledge, animate the
lungs, pulse, and heart, the sight of a pleasing object imperceptibly
diffusing a flame through all our parts, with a feverish motion. Is
there nothing but these veins and muscles that swell and flag without the
consent, not only of the will, but even of our knowledge also? We do not
command our hairs to stand on end, nor our skin to shiver either with
fear or desire; the hands often convey themselves to parts to which we do
not direct them; the tongue will be interdict, and the voice congealed,
when we know not how to help it. When we have nothing to eat, and would
willingly forbid it, the appetite does not, for all that, forbear to stir
up the parts that are subject to it, no more nor less than the other
appetite we were speaking of, and in like manner, as unseasonably leaves
us, when it thinks fit. The vessels that serve to discharge the belly
have their own proper dilatations and compressions, without and beyond
our concurrence, as well as those which are destined to purge the reins;
and that which, to justify the prerogative of the will, St. Augustine
urges, of having seen a man who could command his rear to discharge as
often together as he pleased, Vives, his commentator, yet further
fortifies with another example in his time,--of one that could break wind
in tune; but these cases do not suppose any more pure obedience in that
part; for is anything commonly more tumultuary or indiscreet? To which
let me add, that I myself knew one so rude and ungoverned, as for forty
years together made his master vent with one continued and unintermitted
outbursting, and 'tis like will do so till he die of it. And I could
heartily wish, that I only knew by reading, how often a man's belly, by
the denial of one single puff, brings him to the very door of an
exceeding painful death; and that the emperor,--[The Emperor Claudius,
who, however, according to Suetonius (Vita, c. 32), only intended to
authorise this singular privilege by an edict.]--who gave liberty to let
fly in all places, had, at the same time, given us power to do it. But
for our will, in whose behalf we prefer this accusation, with how much
greater probability may we reproach herself with mutiny and sedition, for
her irregularity and disobedience? Does she always will what we would
have her to do? Does she not often will what we forbid her to will, and
that to our manifest prejudice? Does she suffer herself, more than any
of the rest, to be governed and directed by the results of our reason?
To conclude, I should move, in the behalf of the gentleman, my client, it
might be considered, that in this fact, his cause being inseparably and
indistinctly conjoined with an accessory, yet he only is called in
question, and that by arguments and accusations, which cannot be charged
upon the other; whose business, indeed, it is sometimes inopportunely to
invite, but never to refuse, and invite, moreover, after a tacit and
quiet manner; and therefore is the malice and injustice of his accusers
most manifestly apparent. But be it how it will, protesting against the
proceedings of the advocates and judges, nature will, in the meantime,
proceed after her own way, who had done but well, had she endowed this
member with some particular privilege; the author of the sole immortal
work of mortals; a divine work, according to Socrates; and love, the
desire of immortality, and himself an immortal demon.

Some one, perhaps, by such an effect of imagination may have had the good
luck to leave behind him here, the scrofula, which his companion who has
come after, has carried with him into Spain. And 'tis for this reason
you may see why men in such cases require a mind prepared for the thing
that is to be done. Why do the physicians possess, before hand, their
patients' credulity with so many false promises of cure, if not to the
end, that the effect of imagination may supply the imposture of their
decoctions? They know very well, that a great master of their trade has
given it under his hand, that he has known some with whom the very sight
of physic would work. All which conceits come now into my head, by the
remembrance of a story was told me by a domestic apothecary of my
father's, a blunt Swiss, a nation not much addicted to vanity and lying,
of a merchant he had long known at Toulouse, who being a valetudinary,
and much afflicted with the stone, had often occasion to take clysters,
of which he caused several sorts to be prescribed him by the physicians,
acccording to the accidents of his disease; which, being brought him, and
none of the usual forms, as feeling if it were not too hot, and the like,
being omitted, he lay down, the syringe advanced, and all ceremonies
performed, injection alone excepted; after which, the apothecary being
gone, and the patient accommodated as if he had really received a
clyster, he found the same operation and effect that those do who have
taken one indeed; and if at any time the physician did not find the
operation sufficient, he would usually give him two or three more doses,
after the same manner. And the fellow swore, that to save charges (for
he paid as if he had really taken them) this sick man's wife, having
sometimes made trial of warm water only, the effect discovered the cheat,
and finding these would do no good, was fain to return to the old way.

A woman fancying she had swallowed a pin in a piece of bread, cried and
lamented as though she had an intolerable pain in her throat, where she
thought she felt it stick; but an ingenious fellow that was brought to
her, seeing no outward tumour nor alteration, supposing it to be only a
conceit taken at some crust of bread that had hurt her as it went down,
caused her to vomit, and, unseen, threw a crooked pin into the basin,
which the woman no sooner saw, but believing she had cast it up, she
presently found herself eased of her pain. I myself knew a gentleman,
who having treated a large company at his house, three or four days after
bragged in jest (for there was no such thing), that he had made them eat
of a baked cat; at which, a young gentlewoman, who had been at the feast,
took such a horror, that falling into a violent vomiting and fever, there
was no possible means to save her. Even brute beasts are subject to the
force of imagination as well as we; witness dogs, who die of grief for
the loss of their masters; and bark and tremble and start in their sleep;
so horses will kick and whinny in their sleep.

Now all this may be attributed to the close affinity and relation betwixt
the soul and the body intercommunicating their fortunes; but 'tis quite
another thing when the imagination works not only upon one's own
particular body, but upon that of others also. And as an infected body
communicates its malady to those that approach or live near it, as we see
in the plague, the smallpox, and sore eyes, that run through whole
families and cities:--

"Dum spectant oculi laesos, laeduntur et ipsi;
Multaque corporibus transitione nocent."

["When we look at people with sore eyes, our own eyes become sore.
Many things are hurtful to our bodies by transition."
--Ovid, De Rem. Amor., 615.]

--so the imagination, being vehemently agitated, darts out infection
capable of offending the foreign object. The ancients had an opinion of
certain women of Scythia, that being animated and enraged against any
one, they killed him only with their looks. Tortoises and ostriches
hatch their eggs with only looking on them, which infers that their eyes
have in them some ejaculative virtue. And the eyes of witches are said
to be assailant and hurtful:--

"Nescio quis teneros oculus mihi fascinat agnos."

["Some eye, I know not whose is bewitching my tender lambs."
--Virgil, Eclog., iii. 103.]

Magicians are no very good authority with me. But we experimentally see
that women impart the marks of their fancy to the children they carry in
the womb; witness her that was brought to bed of a Moor; and there was
presented to Charles the Emperor and King of Bohemia, a girl from about
Pisa, all over rough and covered with hair, whom her mother said to be so
conceived by reason of a picture of St. John the Baptist, that hung
within the curtains of her bed.

It is the same with beasts; witness Jacob's sheep, and the hares and
partridges that the snow turns white upon the mountains. There was at my
house, a little while ago, a cat seen watching a bird upon the top of a
tree: these, for some time, mutually fixing their eyes one upon another,
the bird at last let herself fall dead into the cat's claws, either
dazzled by the force of its own imagination, or drawn by some attractive
power of the cat. Such as are addicted to the pleasures of the field,
have, I make no question, heard the story of the falconer, who having
earnestly fixed his eyes upon a kite in the air; laid a wager that he
would bring her down with the sole power of his sight, and did so, as it
was said; for the tales I borrow I charge upon the consciences of those
from whom I have them. The discourses are my own, and found themselves
upon the proofs of reason, not of experience; to which every one has
liberty to add his own examples; and who has none, let him not forbear,
the number and varieties of accidents considered, to believe that there
are plenty of them; if I do not apply them well, let some other do it for
me. And, also, in the subject of which I treat, our manners and motions,
testimonies and instances; how fabulous soever, provided they are
possible, serve as well as the true; whether they have really happened or
no, at Rome or Paris, to John or Peter, 'tis still within the verge of
human capacity, which serves me to good use. I see, and make my
advantage of it, as well in shadow as in substance; and amongst the
various readings thereof in history, I cull out the most rare and
memorable to fit my own turn. There are authors whose only end and
design it is to give an account of things that have happened; mine, if I
could arrive unto it, should be to deliver of what may happen. There is
a just liberty allowed in the schools, of supposing similitudes, when
they have none at hand. I do not, however, make any use of that
privilege, and as to that matter, in superstitious religion, surpass all
historical authority. In the examples which I here bring in, of what I
have heard, read, done, or said, I have forbidden myself to dare to alter
even the most light and indifferent circumstances; my conscience does not
falsify one tittle; what my ignorance may do, I cannot say.

And this it is that makes me sometimes doubt in my own mind, whether a
divine, or a philosopher, and such men of exact and tender prudence and
conscience, are fit to write history: for how can they stake their
reputation upon a popular faith? how be responsible for the opinions of
men they do not know? and with what assurance deliver their conjectures
for current pay? Of actions performed before their own eyes, wherein
several persons were actors, they would be unwilling to give evidence
upon oath before a judge; and there is no man, so familiarly known to
them, for whose intentions they would become absolute caution. For my
part, I think it less hazardous to write of things past, than present, by
how much the writer is only to give an account of things every one knows
he must of necessity borrow upon trust.

I am solicited to write the affairs of my own time by some, who fancy I
look upon them with an eye less blinded with passion than another, and
have a clearer insight into them by reason of the free access fortune has
given me to the heads of various factions; but they do not consider, that
to purchase the glory of Sallust, I would not give myself the trouble,
sworn enemy as I am to obligation, assiduity, or perseverance: that there
is nothing so contrary to my style, as a continued narrative, I so often
interrupt and cut myself short in my writing for want of breath; I have
neither composition nor explanation worth anything, and am ignorant,
beyond a child, of the phrases and even the very words proper to express
the most common things; and for that reason it is, that I have undertaken
to say only what I can say, and have accommodated my subject to my
strength. Should I take one to be my guide, peradventure I should not be
able to keep pace with him; and in the freedom of my liberty might
deliver judgments, which upon better thoughts, and according to reason,
would be illegitimate and punishable. Plutarch would say of what he has
delivered to us, that it is the work of others: that his examples are all
and everywhere exactly true: that they are useful to posterity, and are
presented with a lustre that will light us the way to virtue, is his own
work. It is not of so dangerous consequence, as in a medicinal drug,
whether an old story be so or so.



Demades the Athenian--[Seneca, De Beneficiis, vi. 38, whence nearly the
whole of this chapter is taken.]--condemned one of his city, whose trade
it was to sell the necessaries for funeral ceremonies, upon pretence that
he demanded unreasonable profit, and that that profit could not accrue to
him, but by the death of a great number of people. A judgment that
appears to be ill grounded, forasmuch as no profit whatever can possibly
be made but at the expense of another, and that by the same rule he
should condemn all gain of what kind soever. The merchant only thrives
by the debauchery of youth, the husband man by the dearness of grain, the
architect by the ruin of buildings, lawyers and officers of justice by
the suits and contentions of men: nay, even the honour and office of
divines are derived from our death and vices. A physician takes no
pleasure in the health even of his friends, says the ancient Greek comic
writer, nor a soldier in the peace of his country, and so of the rest.
And, which is yet worse, let every one but dive into his own bosom, and
he will find his private wishes spring and his secret hopes grow up at
another's expense. Upon which consideration it comes into my head, that
nature does not in this swerve from her general polity; for physicians
hold, that the birth, nourishment, and increase of every thing is the
dissolution and corruption of another:

"Nam quodcumque suis mutatum finibus exit,
Continuo hoc mors est illius, quod fuit ante."

["For, whatever from its own confines passes changed, this is at
once the death of that which before it was."--Lucretius, ii. 752.]


Accommodated my subject to my strength
Affright people with the very mention of death
All I aim at is, to pass my time at my ease
All think he has yet twenty good years to come
Apprenticeship and a resemblance of death
Become a fool by too much wisdom
Both himself and his posterity declared ignoble, taxable
Caesar: he would be thought an excellent engineer to boot
Courtesy and good manners is a very necessary study
Dangers do, in truth, little or nothing hasten our end
Death can, whenever we please, cut short inconveniences
Death has us every moment by the throat
Death is a part of you
Denying all solicitation, both of hand and mind
Did my discourses came only from my mouth or from my heart
Die well--that is, patiently and tranquilly.
Discover what there is of good and clean in the bottom of the po
Downright and sincere obedience
Every day travels towards death; the last only arrives at it.
Fear is more importunate and insupportable than death itself
Fear to lose a thing, which being lost, cannot be lamented?
Fear: begets a terrible astonishment and confusion
Feared, lest disgrace should make such delinquents desperate
Give these young wenches the things they long for
Have you ever found any who have been dissatisfied with dying?
How many more have died before they arrived at thy age
How many several ways has death to surprise us?
How much more insupportable and painful an immortal life
I have lived longer by this one day than I should have done
I take hold of, as little glorious and exemplary as you will
If nature do not help a little, it is very hard
In this last scene of death, there is no more counterfeiting
Inclination to love one another at the first sight
Indocile liberty of this member
Insensible of the stroke when our youth dies in us
Live at the expense of life itself.
Much better to offend him once than myself every day
Nature, who left us in such a state of imperfection
Neither men nor their lives are measured by the ell
No man more certain than another of to-morrow.--Seneca
No one can be called happy till he is dead and buried
Not certain to live till I came home
Not melancholic, but meditative
Nothing can be a grievance that is but once
Philosophy is nothing but to prepare one's self to die
Premeditation of death is the premeditation of liberty
Profit made only at the expense of another
Rather prating of another man's province than his own
Same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago
Slaves, or exiles, ofttimes live as merrily as other folk
some people rude, by being overcivil in their courtesy
The day of your birth is one day's advance towards the grave
The deadest deaths are the best
The thing in the world I am most afraid of is fear
There is no long, nor short, to things that are no more
Thing at which we all aim, even in virtue is pleasure
Things often appear greater to us at distance than near at hand
To study philosophy is nothing but to prepare one's self to die
Utility of living consists not in the length of days
Valour has its bounds as well as other virtues
Valuing the interest of discipline
Well, and what if it had been death itself?
What may be done to-morrow, may be done to-day.
Who would weigh him without the honour and grandeur of his end.
Willingly slip the collar of command upon any pretence whatever
Woman who goes to bed to a man, must put off her modesty
You must first see us die
Young and old die upon the same terms


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