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.
DO with some reason, as me seemeth, give pricke and praise unto Jaques Amiot above all our French writers, not only for his natural purity, and pure elegancie of the tongue, wherin he excelleth all others, nor for his indefatigable constancie of so long and toilesome a labour, nor for the unsearchable depth of his knowledge, having so successfully-happy been able to explaine an Author so close and thorny, and unfold a writer so mysterious and entangled (for let any man tell me what he list, I have no skill of the Greeke, but I see thorowout al his translation a sense so closely-joynted, and so pithily-continued, that either he hath assuredly understood and inned the very imagination, and the true conceit of the Author, or having through a long and continuall conversion, lively planted in his minde a generall Idea of that of Plutarke, he hath at least lent him nothing that doth belye him, or misseeme him) but above all, I kon him thanks that he hath had the hap to chuse, and knowledge to cull-out so worthy a worke, and a booke so fit to the purpose, therewith to make so unvaluable a present unto his Countrie. We that are in the number of the ignorant had beene utterly confounded, had not his booke raised us from out the dust of ignorance: God-a-mercy his endevours we dare not both speak and write: Even Ladies are therewith able to confront Masters of arts: It is our breviarie. If so good a man chance to live, I bequeath Xenophon unto him, to doe as much. It is an easier peece of worke, and so much the more agreeing to his age. Moreover I wot not how meseemeth, although he roundly and clearly disintangle himself from hard passages,, that notwithstanding his stile is more close and neerer it selfe when it is not laboured and wrested, and that it glideth smoothly at his pleasure. I was even now reading of that place where Plutarke speaketh of himself, that Rusticus being present at a declamation of his in Rome, received a packet from the Emperour, which he temporized to open untill he had made an end: wherein (saith he) all the assistants did singularly commend the gravitie of the man. Verily, being on the instance of curiositie and on the greedy and insatiate passion of newes, which with such indiscreet impatience and impatient indiscretion, induceth us to neglect all things for to entertaine a new-come guest, and forget all respect and countenance whersoover we be, suddenly to break up such letters as are brought us; he had reason to commend the gravitie of Rusticus: to which he might also have added the commendation of his civilitie and curtesie, for that be would not interrupt the course of his declamation: But I make a question whether he might be commended for his wisdome; for receiving unexpected letters, and especially from an Emperour, it might very well have fortuned that this deferring to read them might have caused some notable inconvenience. Recklesness is the vice contrarie unto curiosity, towards which I am naturally inclined, aud wherein I have seen many men, so extremely plunged, that three or foure days after the receiving of letters which have been sent them, they have been found in their pockets yet unopened. I never opened any, not only of such as had beene committed to my keeping, but of such as by any fortune came to my hands. And I make a conscience standing neare some great person if mine eyes chance unawares to steale some knowledge of any letters of importance that he readeth. Never was man lesse inquisitive, or pryed lesse into other mens affaires than I. In our fathers time the Lord of Boutieres was like to have lost Turin, forsomuch as being one night at supper in very good company he deferred the reading of an advertisement which was delivered him of the treasons that were practised and complotted against that Citie where he commanded. And Plutarke himselfe has taught me that Julius Cæsar had escaped death, if going to the Senate-house that day wherein he was murdered by the conspirators he had read a memorial which was presented unto him. Who likewise reporteth the storie of Archias, the Tyrant of Thebes, how the night fore-going the execution of the enterprize that Pelopidas had complotted to kill him, thereby to set his Countrie at libertie: another Archias of Athens writ him a letter wherein he particularly related unto him all that was conspired and complotted against him; which letter being delivered him whilst he sate at supper, he deferred the opening of it, pronouncing this by-word: 'To morrow is a new day,' which afterward was turned to a Proverb in Greece. A wise man may, in mine opinion, for the interest of others, as not unmannerly to breake companie like unto Rusticus, or not to discontinue some other affaire of importance, remit and defer to understand such newes as are brought him; but for his own private interest or particular pleasure, namely, if he be a man having publike charge, if he regard his dinner so much that he will not break it off, or his sleepe that he will not interrupt it: to doe it, is inexcusable. And in former ages was the Consulate-place in Rome, which they named the most honourable at the table, because it was more free and more accessible for such as might casually come in, to entertaine him that should be there placed. Witnesse, that though they were sitting at the board, they neither omitted nor gave over the managing of other affaires and following of other accidents. But when all is said, it is very hard, chiefely in humane actions, to prescribe so exact rules by discourse of reason, that fortune doe not sway, and keepe her right in them.