Note on the e-text: this Renascence Editions text was provided by Ben R. Schneider, Lawrence University, Wisconsin. It is in the public domain. "Florio's Translation of Montaigne's Essays was first published in 1603. In 'The World's Classics' the first volume was published in 1904, and reprinted in 1910 and 1924. "Content unique to this presentation is copyright © 1998 The University of Oregon. For nonprofit and educational uses only.
RHETORICIAN of ancient times said that his trade was to make small things appeare and seeme great. It is a shoemaker that can make great shooes for a little foot. Had hee lived in Sparta he had doubtlesse been well whipped for professing a false, a couzening and deceitful art. And I thinke Archidamus King of that Citie did not with out astonishment listen unto the answer of Thucydides, of whom he demanded whether he or Pericles was the strongest and nimblest wrestler; whose answer was this, Your question Sir, is very hard to be decided; for if in wrestling with him I give him a fall, with his faire words he perswadeth those that saw him on the ground that he never fell, and so gets the victorie. Those that maske and paint women commit not so foule a fault; for it is no great losse, though a man see them not, as they were naturally borne and unpainted: Whereas these profess to deceive and beguile not of eies, but our judgement, and to bastardize and corrupt the offence of things. Those common-wealths that have maintained themselves in a regular formal, and well governed estate, as that of Creete and Lacedemon, did never make any great esteeme of orators. Ariston did wisely define Rhetorike to be a Science, to perswade the vulgar people: Socrates and Plato to be an Art to deceive and flatter. And those which denie it in the generall description, doe every where in their precepts verify the same. The Mahometans, by reason of its inutilitie, forbid the teaching of it to their children. And the Athenians, perceiving how pernicious the profession and use thereof was, and of what credit in their Citie, ordained that their principall part, which is to move affections, should be dismissed and taken away, together with all exordiums and perorations. It is an instrument devised to busie, to manage, and to agitate a vulgar and disordered multitude; and is an implement to be employed but about distempered and sicke mindes, as Physicke about crazed bodies. And those where either the vulgar, the ignorant, or the generalitie have had all power, as that of Rhodes, those of Athens, and that of Rome, and where things have ever been in continuall disturbance and uproar, thither have Orators and the professors of that Art flocked. And verily, if it be well looked into, you shall finde very few men in those common-wealths that without helpe of eloquence have attained to any worthy estimation and credit: Pompey, Cæsar, Crassus, Lucullus, Lentulus, Metellus, have thence taken their greatest stay and furtherance, whereby they have ascended unto that height and greatnesse of authoritie whereunto they at last attained, and against the opinion of better times have more prevailed with words than with armes. For L. Volumnius, speaking publikely in favour of the election which some had made of Quintus Fabius and Publius Decius to be Consuls, saith thus: They are men borne unto warre, of high spirits, of great performance, and able to effect anything; but rude, simple, and unarted in the combat of talking: minds truly consulare. They only are good Pretors, to do justice in the Citie (saith he), that are subtile, cautelous, well-spoken, wily, and lip-wise. Eloquence hath chiefly flourished in Rome when the common-wealths affaires have beene in worst estate and that the devouring Tempest of civill broyles, and intestine warres did most agitate and turmoil them. Even as a rancke, free and untamed soyle, beareth the rankest and strongest weeds, whereby it seemeth that those common weales which depend of an absolute Monarch, have lesse need of it than others: For that foolishnesse and facilitie which is found in the common multitude, and which doth subject the same to be managed, perswaded, and led by the eares by the sweet, alluring and sense-entrancing sound of this harmonie, without duly weighing, knowing, or considering the trueth of things by force of reason: This facilitie and easie yeelding, I say, is not so easily found in one only ruler, and it is more easy to warrant him from the impression of this poyson, by good institution and sound counsell. There was never seene any notable or farre-renowned Orator to come out of Macedon or Persia. What I have spoken of it, hath beene upon the subject of an Italian, whom I have lately entertained into my service, who during the life of the whilom cardinall Caraffa served him in the place of steward of his house. Enquiring of his charge and particular qualitie, he told me a long, formall and eloquent discourse of the science or skill of epicurisme and gluttonie, with such an Oratorie-gravitie and Magistrale countenance as if he had discoursed of some high mysterious point of divinitie, wherein he hath very methodically-decifred and distinguished sundrie differences of appetites: First of that which a man hath fasting, then of that men have after the first, the second, and third service. The severall meanes how sometimes to please it simply, and other times to sharpen and provoke the same; the policie and rare invention of his sawces: First, in general terms then particularizing the qualities and severall operations of the ingredients, and their effects: The difference of salades according to their distinct seasons; which must be served in warme, and which cold: The manner how to dress, how to adorne and embellish them, to make them more pleasing to the sight. After that, he entred into a large and farre-fetcht narration touching the true order and due method of service, full of goodly and important considerations.--Nec minimo sane discrimine refert,
Quo gestu lepores, et quo gallina secetur. Sat. v. 127.What grace we use, it makes small diff'rence, whenAnd all that filled up and stuffed with rich magnificent words, well couched phrases, oratorie figures, and patheticall metaphors; yea such as learned men use and imploy in speaking of the government of an empire, which made me remember my man.
We carve a Hare, or else breake up a Hen.Hoc salsum est, hoc adustum est, hoc lautum est parum,
Illud recte, iterum sic memento, sedulo
Moneo quæ possum pro mea sapientia.
Postremo tanquam in speculum, in patinas, Demea,
Inspicere jubeo, et moneo quid facto usus sit. --Ter. Adel. act. iii. sc. iv.62This dish is salt, this burnt, this not so fine,Yet did those strict Græcians commend the order and disposition which Paulus Æmilius observed in the banquet he made them at his returne from Macedon: But here I speake not of the effects, but of the words. I know not whether they worke that in others which they doe in mee. But when I heare our Architects mouth-out those big and ratling words of Pilasters, Architraves, Cornixes, Frontispices, Corinthian and Dorike works, and such like fustian-termes of theirs, I cannot let my wandering imagination from a sodaine apprehension of Apollidonius his pallace, and I find by, effect that they are the seely and decayed peeces of my Kitchen-doore. Doe but heare one pronounce Metonymia, Metaphore, Allegory, Etimologie and other such trash-names of grammar, would you not thinke they meant some forme of a rare and strange language: They are titles and words that concerne your chamber-maids tittle-tattle. It is a fopperie and cheating tricke, cousin-germane unto this, to call the offices of our estate by the proud titles of the ancient Romans, though they have no resemblance at all of charge, and lesse of authoritie and power. And this likewise, which in mine opinion will one day remaine as a reproch unto our age, unworthily and undeservedly to bestow on whom we list the most glorious surnames and loftiest titles, wherewith antiquitie in many long-continued ages honoured but one or two persons. Plato hath by such an universall consent borne- away the surname of Divine, that no man did ever attempt to envie him for it. And the Italians, which vaunt (and indeed with some reason) to have generally more lively and farre-reaching wits, and their discourse more solid and sinnowy, than other nations of their times, have lately therewith embellished Peter Aretine; in whom, except it be an high-raised, proudly-puft, mind-moving, and heart-danting manner of speech, yet in good sooth more than ordinarie wittie and ingenious; but so new-fangled, so extravagant, so fantasticall, so deep-labored; and to conclude, besides the eloquence, which be it as it may be, I cannot perceive any thing in it beyond or exceeding that of many other writers of his age, much lesse that it in any sort approacheth that ancient divinitie. And the surname Great, we attribute and fasten the same on princes that have nothing in them exceeding popular greatnesse.
That is well done, doe so againe; Thus I
As my best wisdome serves, all things assigne.
Lastly, sir, I command, they neatly prie,
On dishes, as a glasse,
And shew what needfull was.