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.
ADAME, if strangenesse doe not save or novelty shield mee, which are wont to give things reputation, I shall never, with honesty, quit myselfe of this enterprise yet is it so fantasticall and bears a shew so differient from common custome, that that may haply purchase it free passage. It is a melancholy humour, and consequently a hatefull enemy to my natural complexion, bred by the anxietie and produced by the anguish of carking care, whereinto some years since I cast myselfe, that first put this humorous conceipt of writing into my head. And finding myselfe afterward wholy unprovided of subject, and void of other matter, I have presented myselfe unto myselfe for a subject to write and argument to descant upon. It is the only booke in the world of this kinde, and of a wilde extravagant designe. Moreover, there is nothing in it worthy the marking but this fantasticalnesse. For, to so vaine a ground and base a subject, the worlds best workman could never have given a fashion deserving to be accompted of. Not (worthy Lady) sithence I must pourtray my selfe to the life, I should have forgotten a part of importance, if therewithall I had not represented the honour I have ever yeelded to your deserts, which I have especially beene willing to declare in the forefront of this chapter; Forasmuch as amongst your other good parts and commendable qualities, that of loving amity, which you have shewen to your children, holdeth one of the first rankes. Whosoever shall understand and know the age, wherein your late husband the Lord of Estissac left you a Widdow, the great, and honorable matches have beene offered you (as worthy and as many as to any other Lady in France of your condition) the constant resolution, and resolute constancie, wherewith so many yeares you have sustained, and even in spight or athwart so manifold thorny difficulties, the charge and conduct of their affaires, which have tossed, turmoyled and removed you in all comers of France, and still hold you besieged; the happy and successfull forwardnes you, which only through your wisdome or good fortune have given them, he will easily say with mee, that in our age we have no patterne of motherly affecttion more exemplarie than yours. I praise God (Madame) it hathe beene so well employed : For, the good hopes, which the young Lord of Estissac, your sonne, giveth of himselfe, fore-shew he shall come to an undoubted assurance that when he shall come to yeares of discretion, you shall reape the obedience of a noble, and finde the acknowledgement of a good childe. But because, by reason of his child-hood, he could not take notice of the exceeding kindnesse and many-fold offices he hath received from you, my meaning is, that if ever these my compositions shall haply one day come into his hands (when peradventure I shall neither have mouth nor speech to declare it unto him), he receive this testimonie in all veritie from me; which shall also more lively be testified unto him by the good effects, (whereof, if so it please God, be shall have a sensible feeling) that there is no Gentleman in France more endebted to his mother than he; and that hereafter he cannot yeeld a more certaine proofe of his goodnes, and testimonie of his vertue, than in acknowledging and confessing you for such. If there be any truly-naturall law, that is to say, any instinct, universally and perpetually imprinted, both in beasts and us, (which is not without controversie) I may, according to mine opinion, say, that next to the care which each living creature hath to his preservation, and to flie what doth hurt him, the affection which the engenderer beareth his off-spring holds the second place in this ranke. And forasmuch as nature seemeth to have recommended the same unto us, ayming to extend, encrease, and advance the successive parts or parcels of this her frame; it is no wonder if back againe it is not so great from children unto fathers. This other Aristotelian consideration remembred: that hee who doth benefit another, loveth him better than hee is beloved of him againe; and hee to whom a debt is owing, loveth better than hee that oweth: And every workman loveth his worke better than hee should bee beloved of it againe, if it had sense or feeling. Forasmuch as we love to be, and being consisteth in moving and action; therefore is every man, in some sort or other, in his owne workmanship. Whosoever doth a good deed, exerciseth a faire and honest action: whosoever receiveth exerciseth only a profitable action. And profit is nothing so much to be esteemed or loved as honesty. Honesty is firme and permanent, affording him that did it a constant gratification. Profit is very slipperie and easily lost, nor is the memorie of it so sweet or so fresh. Such things are dearest unto us, that have cost us most; and to give is of more cost that to take. Since it hath pleased God to endow us with some capacitie of discourse, that as beasts we should not servily be subjected to common lawes, but rather with judgement and voluntary liberty apply ourselves unto them; we ought somewhat to yeeld unto the simple auctoritie of Nature, but not suffer her tyranny to carry us away: only reason ought to have the conduct of our inclinations. As for me, my tast is strangely distasted to its propensions, which in us are produced without the ordinance and direction of our judgement. As upon this subject I speak of, I cannot receive this passion, wherewith some embrace children scarsly borne, having neither motion in the soule, nor forme well to be distinguished in the body whereby they might make themselves lovely or amiable. And I could never well endure to have them brought up or nursed neere about me. A true and well ordered affection ought to be borne and augmented, with the knowledge they owe us of themselves; and then, if they deserve it (naturall inclination marching hand in hand with reason) to cherish and make much of them, with a perfect fatherly love and loving friendship, and conformably to judge of them if they be otherwise, alwayes yeelding our selves unto reason, notwithstanding natural power. For the most part, it goeth cleane contrary, and commonly we feele our selves more moved with the sports, idlenesses wantonnesse, and infant-trifles of our children, than afterward we do with all their actions, when they bee men: As if we had loved them for our pastimes, as we do apes, monkies, or perokitoes, and not as man. And some that liberally furnish them with sporting bables while they be children, will miserably pinch it in the least expense for necessaries when they grow men. Nay, it seemeth that the jelousie we have to see them appeare into, and injoy the world, when we are ready to leave them, makes us more sparing and close-handed toward them. It vexeth and grieveth us when we see them following us at our heels, supposing they solicite us to be gone hence: And if we were to feare that since the order of things beareth, that they cannot indeed, neither be, nor live, but by our being and life, we should not meddle to be fathers. As for mee, I deeme it a kind of cruelty and injustice, not to receive them into the share and society of our goods, and to admit them as Partners in the understanding of our domestical affaires (if they be once capable of it and not to cut off and shut-up our commodities to provide for theirs, since we have engendred them to that purpose. It is meere injustice to see an old, crazed, sinnow-shronken, and nigh dead father sitting alone in a Chimny-corner, to enjoy so many goods as would suffice for the preferment and entertainment of many children, and in the meane while, for want of meanes, to suffer them to lose their best dayes and yeares, without thrusting them into publike service and knowledge of men; whereby they are often cast into dispaire, to seeke, by some way how unlawfull soever to provide for their necessaries. And in my dayes, I have seene divers yong-men, of good houses so given to stealing and filching, that no correction could divert them from it. I know one very well alied, to whom, at the instance of a brother of his (a most honest, gallant, and vertuous Gentleman) I spake to that purpose, who boldly answered and confessed unto me, that only by the rigor and covetism of his father he had beene forced and driven to fall into such lewdnesse and wickednesse. And even at that time he came from stealing certaine jewels from a Lady, in whose bed-chamber he fortuned to come with certaine other Gentlemen when she was rising, and had almost beene taken. He made me remember a tale I had heard of another Gentleman, from his youth so fashioned and inclined to this goodly trade of pilfering that comming afterward to be heire and Lord of his owne goods, resolved to give over that manner of life, could notwithstanding (if he chanced to come neere a shop, where he saw any thing he stood in need of) not chuse but steale the same, though afterward he would ever send mony and pay for it. And I have seene diverse so inured to that vice, that amongst their companions they would ordinarily steale such things as they would restore againe. I am a Gascoine, and there is no vice wherein I have lesse skill: I hate it somewhat more by complexion than I accuse it by discourse. I doe not so much as desire another mans goods. And although my Countrey-men be indeed somewhat more taxed with this fault than other Provinces of France, yet have we seene, of late dayes, and that sundry times, men well borne and of good parentage in other parts of France, in the hands of justice, and lawfully convicted of many most horrible robberies. I am of opinion that in regard of these debauches and lewd actions, fathers may, in so me sort, be blamed, and that it is only long of them. And if any shall answer mee, as did once a Gentleman of good worth and understanding, that he thriftily endevoured to hoard up riches, to no other purpose, nor to have any use and commodity of them, than to be honoured, respected and suingly sought unto by his friends and kinsfolke and that age having bereaved him of all other forces, it was the only remedy he had left to maintaine him selfe in authority with his houshold, and keepe him from falling into contempt and disdaine of all the world. And truly according to Aristotle, not only old-age, but each imbecility, is the promoter and motive of covetousnesse. That is something, but it is a remedy for an evill, whereof the birth should have beene hindered, and breeding avoyded. That father may truly be said miserable that holdeth the affection of his children tied unto him by no other meanes than by the need they have of his helpe, or want of his assistance, if that may be termed affection: A man should yeeld himselfe respectable by virtue and sufficiency, and amiable by his goodnesse, and gentlenesse of manners. The very cinders of so rich a matter have their value: so have the bones and relics of honourable men, whom we hold in respect and reverence. No age can be so crazed and drooping in a man that hath lived honourably, but must needs prove venerable, and especially unto his children, whose minds ought so to be directed by the parents, that reason and wisdome, not necessity and need, nor rudenesse and compulsion, may make them know and performe their dutie.----- et errat longe, mea quidem sententia,I utterly condemne all manner of violence in the education of a young spirit, brought up to honour and libertie. There is a kind of slavishnesse in churlish rigour and servility in compulsion; and I hold that that which cannot be compassed by reason, wisdome, and discretion, can never be attained by force and constraint. So was I brought up: they tell me that in all my youth I never felt rod but twice, and that very lightly. And what education I have had myselfe, the same have I given my children. But such is my ill hap, that they dye all very yong: yet hath Leonora my only daughter escaped this misfortune, and attained to the age of six yeares, and somewhat more; for the conduct of whose youth and punishment childish faults (the indulgence of her mother applying it selfe very mildly unto it) was never other meanes used but gentle words. And were my desire frustrate there are diverse other causes to take hold of without reproving my discipline, which I know to be just and naturall. I would also have beene much more religious in that towards male-children, not borne to serve as women and of a freer condition. I should have loved to have stored their minde with ingenuity and liberty. I have seene no other effects in rods, but to make childrens mindes more remisse, or more maliciously headstrong. Desire we to be loved of our children! Will we remove all occasions from them to wish our death? (although no occasion of so horrible and unnaturall wishes can either be just or excusable) nullum scelus rationem habet, no ill deed hath a good reason.
Qui imperium credat esse gravius aut stabilius,
Vi quod fit, quam illud quod amicitia adjungitur. --Ter. Adelph. act. i. sc. i. 39.
In mine opinion he doth much mistake,
Who, that command more grave, more firme doth take,
Which force doth get, than that which friendships make.
Let us reasonably accommodate their life with such things as are in our power. And therefore should not we marry so young that our age do in a manner confound it selfe with theirs. For, this inconvenience doth unavoidably cast us into many difficulties and encombrances. This I speake chiefly unto nobility, which is of an idle disposition, or loitering condition, and which (as we say) liveth only by her lands or rents: for else, where life standeth upon gaine, plurality and company of children is an easefull furtherance of husbandry. They are as many new implements to thrive, and instruments to grow rich. I was married at thirty yeares of age and commend the opinion of thirty-five, which is said to be Aristotles. Plato would have no man married before thirty, and hath good reason to scoffe at them that will defer it till after fifty-five and then marry; and condemneth their breed as unworthy of life and sustenance. Thales appointed the best limits, who by his mother being instantly urged to marry whilest he was young, answered that it was not yet time; and when he came to be old, he said it was no more time. A man must refuse opportunity to every importunate action. The ancient Gaules deemed it a shamefull reproach to have the acquaintance of a woman before the age of twenty yeares; and did especially recommend unto men that sought to be trained up in warres the carefull preservation of their maiden-head until they were of good yeares, forsomuch as by losing it in youth, courages are thereby much weakned and greatly empaired, and by coupling with women diverted from all vertuous action.Ma hor congiunto i giovinetta sposa,Muleasses King of Thunes, he whom the Emperor Charles the fifth restored unto his owne state againe, was wont to upbraid his fathers memorie for so dissolutely-frequenting of women, terming him a sloven, effeminate, and a lustfull engenderer of children. The Greek storie doth note Iccus the Tarentine, Crisso, Astyllus, Diopompus, and thers, who to keep their bodies tough and strong for the service of the Olympicke courses, wrestlings and such bodily exercises they did, as long as they were possessed with that care, heedefully abstaine from all venerian acts and touching of women. In a certaine country of the Spanish Indies, no man was suffered to take a wife before he were thirtie yeares old, and women might marry at ten yeares of age. There is no reason, neither is it convenient, that a Gentleman of five and thirtie yeares should give place to his sonne, that is but twenty: For then is the father as seemly and may as well appear and set himselfe forward, in all manner of voyages of warres as well by land as sea, and doe his prince as good service, in court or elsewhere, as his sonne: He hath need of all his parts and ought truly to impart them, but so that be forget not himselfe for others: And to such may justly that answer serve which fathers have commonly in their mouthes: 'I will not put off my clothes before I be ready to go to bed.' But a father over-burthened with yeares and crazed through sicknesse and by reason of weaknesse and want of health barred from the common society of men, doth both wrong himself, injure his, idly and to no use to hoord up and keepe close a great heape of riches and deal of pelfe. He is in state good enough, if he be wise to have a desire to put off his clothes to goe to bed. I will not say to his shirt, but to a good warme night gowne, As for other pomp and trash whereof hee hath no longer use or need, hee ought willingly to distribute and bestow them amongst those to whom by naturall degree they ought to belong. It is reason he should have the use and bequeath the fruition of them, since nature doth also deprive him of them, otherwise without doubt there is both envy and malice stirring. The worthiest action that ever the Emperour Charles the fifth performed was this, in imitation of some ancients of his quality, that he had the discretion to know that reason commanded us to strip or shift our selves when our cloathes trouble and are too heavy for us, and that it is high time to go to bed when our legs faile us. He resigned his meanes, his greatnesse and Kingdome to his Sonne, at what time he found his former undanted resolution to decay, and force to conduct his affaires to droope in himselfe, together with the glory he had thereby acquired.
Lieto homai de' figli', era invilito
Ne gli afetti di padre et di marito.
But now conjoyn'd to a fresh-springing spouse,
Joy'd in his children, he was thought-abased,
In passions twixt a sire and husband placed.Solve senescentem m ature sanus equum neThis fault for a man not to be able to know himselfe betimes and not to feele the impuissance and extreme alteration that age doth naturally bring, both to the body and the minde (which in my opinion is equall if the mind hath but one halfe), hath lost the reputation of the most part of the great men in the world. I have in my dayes both seene and familiarly knowen some men of great authority, whom a man might easily discerne, to be strangely fallen from that ancient sufficiency, which I know by the reputation they had thereby attained unto in their best yeares. I could willingly for their honors sake have wisht them at home about their own businesse, discharged from all negotiations of the commonwealth and employments of war that were no longer fit for them. I have sometimes beene familiar in a Gentleman's house, who was both an old man and a widdower, yet lusty of his age. This man had many daughters marriageable and a sonne grown to mans state and ready to appeare in the world; a thing that drew-on and was the cause of great charges and many visitations, wherein he tooke but little pleasure, not only for the continuall care hee had to save but more by reason of his age, hee had betoken himselfe to a manner of life farre different from ours. I chanced one day to tell him somewhat boldly (as my custome is) that it would better beseeme him to give us place and resigne his chiefe house to his sonne (for he had no other mannor-house conveniently well furnished), and quietly retire himselfe to some farme of his where no man might trouble him or disturbe his rest, since he could not otherwise avoid our importunitie, seeing the condition of his children; who afterward followed my counsell and found great ease by it. It is not to be said that they hate any thing given them by such a way of obligation, which a man may not recall againe: I, that am ready to play such a part, would give over unto them the full possession of my house and enjoying of my good and limited condition as if they should give me occasion, I might repent myself of my gift and revoke my deed. I would leave the use and fruition of all unto them, the rather because it were no longer fit for me to weald the same. And touching the disposing of all matters in grosse, I would reserve what I pleased unto my selfe. Having ever judged that it must be a great contentment to an aged father, himselfe to direct his children in the government of his household affaires, and to be able whilest himselfe liveth to checks and controule their demeanors, storing them with instruction and advised counsell, according to the experience he hath had of them, and himselfe to address the ancient honour and order of his house in the hands of his successours, and that way warrant himselfe of the hope hee may conceive of their future conduct and or successe. And to this effect I would not shun their company. I would not be far from them, but as much as the condition of my age would permit, enjoy and be a partner of their sports, mirths, and feasts. If I did not continually live amongst them (as I could not well without offending their meetings and hindering their recreation, by reason of the peevish forwardnesse of my age and the trouble of my infirmities, and also without forcing their rules, and resisting the forme of life I should then follow), I would at least live neere them, in some corner of my house, not the best and fairest in show, but the most easefull and commodious. And not, as some years since I saw a Deane of S. Hillarie of Poictiers, reduced by reason and the incommoditie of his melancholy to such a continuall solitarinesse, that when I entered into his chamber he had never removed one step out of it in two and twenty yeares before; yet had all his faculties free and easie, onely a rheume excepted that fell into his stomacke. Scarce once a weeke would he suffer any body to come and see him. Hee would ever be shut up in his chamber all alone, where no man should come, except a boy, who once a day brought him meat, and who might not tarry there, but as soone as he was in must goe out again. All his exercise was sometimes to walke up and downe his chamber, aud now and then reade on some booke (for he had some understanding of letters) but obstinately resolved to live and dye in that course, as he did shortly after. I would endevour by a kinde of civil demeanour and milde conversation to breede and settle in my children a true-harty loving friendship, and unfained good will towards me: a thing easily obtained amongst well-borne mindes, For if they prove, or be such surly-furious beasts, or given to churlish disobedience, as our age bringeth forth thousands, they must as beasts be hated, as churls neglected, and as degenerate avoided. I hate this custome, to forbid children to call their fathers father, and to teach them another strange name, as of more reverence; as if nature had not sufficiently provided for our authoritie. We call God Almighty by the name of father, and disdaine our children should call us so. I have reformed this fault in mine owne household. It is also folly and injustice to deprive children, especially being of competent age, of their fathers familiaritie, and ever to shew them a surly, austere, grim, and disdainefall countenance, hoping thereby, to keepe them in awfull feare and duteous obedience. For it is a very unprofitable proceeding and which maketh fathers yrkesome unto children, and which is worse, ridiculous. They have youth and strength in their hands, and consequently the breath and favour of the world; and doe with mockery and contempt receive these churlish, fierce, and tyrannical countenances, from a man that hath no lusty bloud left him, neither in his heart nor in his vaines; meere bugbeares, and scar-crowes, to scare birdes withall. If it lay in my power to make my selfe feared, I had rather make my selfe beloved. There are so many sorts of defects in age, and so much impuissance; it is so subject to contempt, that the best purchase it can make is the good will, love and affection of others. Commandement and feare are no longer her weapons. I have knowne one whose youth had beene very imperious and rough, but when he came to mans age, although hee live in as good plight and health as may be, yet he chaseth, he scoldeth, he brawleth, he fighteth, he sweareth, and biteth, as the most boistrous and tempestuous master of France; he frets and consumes himselfe with carke and care and vigilancy (all which is but a jugling and ground for his familiar to play upon, and cozen him the more) as for his goods, his garners, his cellars, his coffers, yea his purse, whilst himselfe keepes the keyes of them close in his bosome and under his boulster, as charily as he doth his eyes, other enjoy and command the better part of them; whilst he pleaseth and flattereth himselfe with the niggardly sparing of his table, all goth to wracke, and is lavishly wasted in divers corners of his house, in play, in riotous spending, and in soothingly entertaining the accompts or tales of his vaine chasing, foresight, and providing. Every man watcheth and keepeth sentinell against him, if any silly or heedless servant doe by fortune apply himselfe unto it, he is presently made to suspect him. A quality on which age doth immediately bite of it selfe. How many times hath he vaunted and applauding himselfe the strict orders of his house, of his good husbandry, of the awe he kept his household in, and of the exact obedience and regardfull reverence he received of all his family, and how cleare-sighted he was in his own businesse:
Peccet ad extremum ridentus, et ilia ducat. -- Hor. i. Ep. i. 8.
If you be wise, the horse growne-old betimes cast-off,
Lest he at last fall lame, foulter, and breed a skoffe.Ille solus nescit omnia. -- Ter. Adel. act. iv. sc. ii. 9.I know no man that could produce more parts, both naturall and artificiall, fit to preserve his masterie, and to maintaine his absolutenesse, than he doth; yet is hee cleane falne from them like a childe. Therefore have I made choice of him amongst many such conditions that I know, as most exemplare. It were a matter beseeming a scholasticall question, whether it be better so or otherwise. In his presence all things give place unto him. This vaine course is ever left unto his authority, that he is never gain-said. He is had in awe, he is feared, he is beleeved, he is respected his belly-full, Doth he discharge any boy or servant? he presently trusseth up his packe, then he is gone; but whither? onely out of his sight, not out of his house. The steps of age are so slow, the senses so troubled, the minde so distracted, that he shall live and doe his office a whole year in one same house, and never be perceived. And when fit time or occasion serveth, letters are produced from farre places, humbly suing and pittifully complayning, with promises to doe better and to amend, by which he is brought into favour and office again. Doth the master make any bargaine or dispatch that pleaseth not, it is immediately smothered and supressed soon after forging causes, and devising colourable excuses, to excuse the want of execution or answer. No forraine letters being first presented unto him, he seeth but such as are fit for his knowledge. lf peradventure they come into his hands, as he that trusteth some one of his men to reade them unto him, he will presently devise what he thinketh good, whereby they often invent that such a one seemeth to aske him forgivenesse, that wrongeth him by his letter. To conclude, he never lookes into his owne businesse, but by a disposed, designed and as much as may be pleasing image, so contrived by such as are about him, because they will not stirre up his choler, move his impatience, and exasperate his frowardnesse. I have seene under different formes many long and constant, and of like effect, economies. It is ever proper unto women to be readily bent to contradict and crosse their husbands. They will with might and maine, hand over head, take hold of any colour to thwart and withstand them: the first excuse they meet with serves them as a plenary justification. I have seene some that would in grosse steale from their husbands to the end (as they told their Confessor) they might give the greater almes. Trust you to such religious dispensations. They thinke no libertie to have or managing to possesse sufficient authoritie, if it come from their husbands consent: They must necessarily usurpe it, either by wily craft or maine force, and ever iniuriously, thereby to give it more grace and authoritie. As in my discourse, when it is against a poore old man, and for children, then take they hold of this title, and therewith gloriously serve their turne and passion, and as in a common servitude, easily usurpe and monopolize against his government and domination. If they be men-children, tall, of good spirit, and forward, then they presently suborne, either by threats, force, or favour, both Steward, Bailiffe, Clarke, Receiver, and all the Fathers Officers, and Servant. Such as have neither wife nor children, do more hardly fall into his mischiefe; but yet more cruelly and unworthily. Old Cato was wont to say, 'So many servants, so many enemies.' Note whether according to the distance that was between the purity of his age, and the corruption of our times, he did not fore-warne us that wives, children, and servants are to us so many enemies. Well fits it decrepitude to store us with the sweet benefit of ignorance and unperceiving facility wherewith we are deceived. If we did yeeld unto it, what would become of us? Doe we not see that even then if we have any suits in lawe, or matters to be decided before Judges, both Lawyers and Judges will commonly take part with and favour our childrens causes against us, as men interested in the same? And if I chance not to spy or plainly perceive how I am cheated, cozoned and beguiled, I must of necessitie discover in the end how I am subject, and may be cheated, beguiled, and cozened. And shall the tongue of man ever bee able to expresse the ynvaluable worth of a friend, in comparison of these civill bonds? The lively image and idea whereof I perceive to be among beasts so unspotted. Oh, with what religion doe I respect and observe the same! If others deceive me, yet do I not deceive my selfe, to esteeme my selfe capable and of power to looke unto my selfe, nor to trouble my braines to yeeld my selfe unto it. I doe beware and keepe my selfe from such treas ons, and cunny-catching in mine owne bosome, not by an unquiet and tumultuary curiosity, but rather by a diversion and resolution. When I heare the state of any one reported or discoursed of, I ammuse not my selfe on him, but presently cast mine eyes on my selfe, and all my wits together, to see in what state I am, aud how it goeth with me. Whatsoever concerneth him, the same hath relation to me. His fortunes forewarne me, and summon up my spirits that way; There is no day nor houre but we speake that of others we might properly speake of ourselves, could we as well enfold as we can infold our consideration. And many authours doe in this manner wound the protection of their cause by over-rashly running against that which they take hold of, thirling such darts at their enemies that might with much more advantage be cast at them. The Lord of Montluc, late one of the Lord Marshals of France, having lost his sonne, who died in the Iland of Madera, a worthy, forward and gallant young gentleman, and truely of good hope, amongst other his griefes and regrets did greatly move me to condole the infinite displeasure and hearts-sorrow that he felt, inasmuch as he had never communicated and opened himselfe vnto him: for, with his austere humour and continuall endevouring to hold a grimme-stern-fatherly gravity over him, he had lost the meanes perfectly to finde and throughly to know his sonne, and so to manifest vnto him the extreme affection he bare him, and the worthy judgement he made of his vertue. 'Alas,' was he wont to say, 'the poore lad saw never anything in me but a severe-surly countenance, full of disdaine, and haply was possessed with this conceit, that I could neither love nor esteeme him according to his merits. Ay-me, to whom did I reserve, to discover that singular and loving affection which in my soule I bare unto him? Was it not he that should have had all the pleasure and acknowledgenient thereof? I have forced and tormented my selfe to maintaine this vaine maske, and have vtterly lost the pleasure of his conversation, and therwithal his good will, which surely was but faintly cold towards me, forsomuch as he never received but rude entertainement of me, and never felt but a tyrannicall proceeding in me towards him. I am of opinion his complaint was reasonable and well grounded. For, as I know by certaine experience, there is no comfort so sweet in the losse of friends, as that our owne knowledge or conscience tels vs we never omitted to tell them everything, and expostulate all matters vnto them, and to have had a perfect and free communication with them. Tell me, my good friend, am I the better or the worse by having a taste of it? Surely I am much the better. His griefe doth both comfort and honour mee. Is it not a religious and pleasing office of my life for ever to make the obsequies thereof? Can there be any pleasure worth this privation? I doe unfold and open my self as much as I can to mine owne people, and willingly declare the state of my will and judgment towards them, as commonly I doe towards all men: I make haste to produce and present my selfe, for I would have no man mistake me, in what part soever. Amongst other particular customes which our ancient Gaules had as Cæsar affirmeth), this was one, that children never came before their fathers, nor were in any publike assembly seene in their company, but when they began to beare armes: as if they would infer that then was the time fathers should admit them to their acquaintance and familiarity. I have also observed another kinde of indiscretion in some fathers of our times, who during their owne life would never be induced to acquaint or impart unto their children that share or portion which, by the Law of Nature, they were to have in their fortunes: nay, some there are who, after their death, bequeath and commit the same auctoritie over them and their goods , unto their wives, with full power and law to dispose of them at their pleasure. And my selfe have knowen a Gentleman, a chiefe officer of our crowne, that by right and hope of succession (had he lived unto it) was to inherit above fifty thousand crownes a yeere good land, who at the age of more then fifty yeeres, fell into such necessity and want, and was run so farre in debt, that he had nothing left him, and, as it is supposed, died for very need: whilest his mother, in her extreme decrepitude, enjoyed all his lands and possessed all his goods, by vertue of his fathers will and testament, who had lived very neere foure-score years: a thing (in my conceit) no way to be commended, but rather blamed. Therefore doe I thinke that a man but little advantaged or bettered in estate who is able to liue of himselfe, and is out of debt, especially if he have children, and goeth about to marry a wife that must have a great joynter out of his lands, assuredly there is no other debt that brings more ruine vnto houses than that. My predecessors have commonly followed this counsell, and so have I, and all have found good by it. But those that disswade vs from marrying of rich wives, lest they might proove over disdainefull and peevish, or lesse tractable and loving, are also deceived to make us neglect and forgoe a reall commoditie for so frivolous a conjecture, To an unreasonable woman, it is all one cost to her whether they passe under one reason or under another. 'They love to be where they are most wronged.' Injustice doth allure them, as the honour of their vertuous actions enticeth the good. And by how much richer they are, so much more milde and gentle are they; as more willingly and gloriously chaste, by how much fairer they are. Some colour of reason there is, men should leave the administration of their goods and affaires unto mothers whilest their children are not of competent age, or fit according to the lawes to manage the charge of them: And ill hath their father brought them up, if he cannot hope, these comming to yeares of discretion, they shal have no more wit, reason, and sufficiencie, than his wife, considering the weaknesse of their sexe. Yet truly were it as much against nature so to order things that mothers must wholy depend on their childrens discretion. They ought largely and competently to be provided wherewith to maintaine their estate according to the quality of their house and age: because 'need and want is much more unseemely and hard to he indured in women than in men:' And children rather than mothers ought to be charged therewith. In generall, my opinion is that the best distribution of goods is, when we die, to distribute them according to the custome of the Country. The lawes have better thought upon them than we: And better is it to let them erre in their election than for us rashly to hazard to faile in ours. They are not properly our owne, since without us, and by a civil prescription, they are appointed to certaine successours. And albeit we have some further liberty, I thinke it should be a great and most apparent cause to induce us to take from one, and barre him from that which Fortune hath allotted him, and the common lawes and Justice hath called him unto: And that against reason we abuse this liberty, by suting the same unto our private humours and frivolous fantasies. My fortune hath beene good, inasmuch as yet it never presented me with any occasions that might tempt or divert my affections from the common and lawful ordinance. I see some towards whom it is but labour lost, carefully to endevour to doe any good offices. A word ill taken defaceth the merit of ten yeeres. Happy he that, at this last passage, is ready to sooth and applaud their will. The next action transporteth him; not the best and most frequent offices, but the freshest and present worke the deede. They are the people that play with their wils and testaments as with apples and rods, to gratify or chastize every action of those who pretend any interest thereunto. It is a matter of over-long pursute, and of exceeding consequence, at every instance to be thus dilated, and wherein the wiser sort establish themselves once for all, chiefely respecting reason and publike observance. We somewhat over-much take these masculine substitutions to hart, and propose a ridiculous eternity unto our names. We also over-weight such vaine future conjectures, which infant-spirits give us. It might peradventure have beene from out my rancke, because I was the dullest, the slowest, the unwillingest, the most leaden-pated to learn my lesson or any good, that ever was not onely of all my brethren, but of all the children in my countrie, were the lesson concerning my exercise of the minde or body. It is follie to trie any extraordinarie conclusions upon the trust of their divinations, wherein we are so often deceived. If this rule may be contradicted, and the destinies corrected, in the choice they have made of our heires, with so much more apparence, may it be done in consideration of some remarkable and enormous corporall deformitie; a constant and incorrigible vice; and according to us great esteemers of beautie; a matter of important prejudice. The pleasant dialogue of Plato the law-giver, with his citizens, will much honour this passage: "Why then,' say they, perceiving their end to approach, 'shall we not dispose of that which, is our owne to whom and according as we please? O Gods, what cruelty is this? That it shall not be lawfull for us to give or bequeath more or lesse, according to our fantasies, to such as have served us, and taken paines with us in our sicknesses, in our age, and in our business?' To whom the law-giver answereth in this manner: 'My friends,' saith he, 'who doubtlesse shall shortly die, it is a hard matter for you both to know yourselves and what is your's according to the Delphike inscription: As for me, who am the maker of your lawes, I am of opinion that neither yourselves are your owne, nor that which you enjoy. And both you and your goods, past and to come, belong to your familie; and, moreover, both your families and your goods are the commonwealth's. Wherefore, lest any flatterer, either in your age or in time of sickness, or any other passion, should unadvisedly induce you to make any unlawfull conveyance or unjust will and testament, I will looke to you and keepe you from it. But having an especiall respect both to the universall interest of your Citie, and particular state of your houses, I will establish lawes, and by reason make you perceive and confesse that a particular commoditie ought to yeeld to a publike benefit. Follow that course meerely whereto humane necessitie doth call you.' To me it belongeth, who have no more regard to one thing than to another, and who, as much as I can, take care for the general, to have a regardful respect of that which you leave behind you. But to return to my former discourse, me thinkes we seldome see that woman borne to whom the superioritie or majestie over men is due, except the motherly and naturall; unlesse it be for the chastisement of such as by some fond-febricitant humour have voluntarily submitted themselves unto them: But that doth nothing concerne old women, of whom we speake here. It is the apparence of this consideration hath made us to frame and willingly to establish this law (never seene elsewhere) that barreth women from the succession of this crowne, and there are few principalities in the world where it is not alleaged, as wel as here, by a likely and apparent reason, which authoriseth the same. But fortune hath given more credit unto it in some places than in other some. It is dangerous to leave the dispensation of our succession unto their judgement, according to the choyse they shall make of their children, which is most commonly unjust and fantasticall. For the same unrulie appetite and distasted relish, or strange longings, which they have when they are great with child, the same have they at al times in their minds. They are commonly seene to affect the weakest, the simplest and most abject, or such, if they have any, that had more need to sucke. For, wanting reasonable discourse to chuse, and embrace what they ought, they rather suffer themselves to be directed where nature's impressions are most single as other creatures, which take no longer knowledge of their yonng ones than they are sucking. Moreover, experience doth manifestly shew unto us that the same naturall affection to which we ascribe so much authoritie, hath but a weake foundation. For a very small gaine we daily take mothers owne children from them and induce them to take charge of ours. Doe we not often procure them to bequeath their children to some fond, filthie, sluttish, and unhealthie nurce, to whom we would be very loth to commit ours, or to some brutish goat, not onely forbidding them to nurce and feed their owne children, what danger soever may betide them, but also to have any care of them, to the end they may the more diligently follow and carefully attend the service of ours? Whereby wee soone see through custome a certaine kinde of bastard affection to be engendered in them, more vehement than the naturall, and to be much more tender and carefull for the welfare and preservation of other men's children than for their owne. And the reason why I have made mention of goats is, because it is an ordinarie thing round about me where I dwell to see the countrie women, when they have not milke enough to feed their infants with their owne breasts, to call for goats to helpe them. And myselfe have now two lackies wayting on me, who except it were eight daies never suck't other milk than goats. They are presently to come at call and give young infants sucke, and become so well acquainted with their voice that when they heare them crie they runne forthwith unto them. And if by chance they have any other child put to their teats then their nurseling, they refuse and reject him, and so doth the child a strange goat. Myselfe saw that one not long since, from whom the father tooke a goat, which he had sucked two or three daies, because he had but borrowed it of one of his neighbours, who could never be induced to sucke any other, where by he shortly died, and, as I verily thinke, of meere hunger. Beasts, as well as we, doe soon alter, and easily bastardize their naturall affection. I believe that in that which Herodotus reporteth of a certaine province of Libia, their often followeth great error and-mistaking. He saith that men doe indifferently use, and as it were in common frequent women, and that the childe, as soone as he is able to goe, comming to any solemne meetings and great assemblies, led by a naturall instinct, findeth out hes owne father; where being turned loose in the middest of the multitude, looke what man the childe doth first addresse his steps unto, and then goe to him, the same is ever afterward reputed to be his right father. Now if we shall duly consider this simple occasion of loving our children, because we have begotten them, for which we call them our other selves; it seemes there is another production coming from us, and which is of no lesse recommendation and consequence. For what we engender by the minde, the fruits of our courage, sufficiencie, or spirit, are brought forth by a far more noble part than the corporall, and more our owne. We are both father and mother together in this generation; such fruits cost us much dearer and bring us more honour, and chiefly if they have any good or rare thing in them. For the value of our other children is much more theirs than ours. The share we have in them is but little, but of these all the beautie, all the grace, and all the worth is ours. And therefore do they represent and resemble us much more lively than others. Plato addeth, moreover, that these are immortant issues, and immortalize their fathers, yea and desire them, as Licurgus, Solon, and Minos. All histories being full of examples of this mutuall friendship of fathers toward their children, I have not thought it amisse to set downe some choice ones of this kinde. Heliodorus, that good Bishop of Tricea, loved rather to lose the dignity, profit, and devotion of so venerable a prelateship than to forgoe his daughter, a young woman to this day commended for her beautie, but haply somewhat more curiously and wantonly pranked up than beseemed the daughter of a churchman and a Bishop, and of over-amorous behaviour. There was one Labienus, in Rome, a man of great worth and authority, and amongst other commendable qualities, most excellent in all manner of learning, who, as I thinke, was the sonne of that great Labienus, chiefe of all the captaines that followed and were under Cæsar in the warres against the Gaules, and who afterward taking great Pompey's part, behaved himselfe so valiantly and so constantly, that he never forsooke him untill Cæsar defeated him in Spaine. This Labienus, of whom I spake, had many that envied his vertues: but above all, as it is likely, courtiers, and such as in his time were favored of the Emperors, who hated his franknesse, his fatherly humors, and distaste he bare still against tyrannie, wherewith it may be supposed he had stuffed his bookes and compositions. His adversaries vehemently pursued him before the magistrate of Rome, and prevailed so far that many of his works which he had published were condemned to be burned. He was the first on whom this new example of punishment was put in practice, which after continued long in Rome, and executed on divers others, to punish learning, studies, and writings with death and consuming fire. There were neither means enough, or matter sufficient of crueltie, unlesse we had entermingled among them things which nature hath exempted from all sense and sufferance, as reputation, and the inventions of our minde: and except we communicated corporall mischiefs unto disciplines and monuments of the muses. Which losse Labienus could not endure, nor brooke to survive those his deare and highly-esteemed issues, and therefore caused himselfe to be carried, and shut up alive within his authors monument, where, with a dreadlesse resolution, he at once provided both to kill himselfe and be buried together. It is hard to shew any more vehement fatherly affection than that. Cassius Severus, a most eloquent man, and his familiar friend, seeing his bookes burnt, exclaimed, that by the same sentence hee should therewithall be condemned to be burned alive, for hee still bare and kept in minde what they contained in them. A like accident happened to Geruntius Cordus, who was accused to have commended Brutus and Cassius in his bookes. That base, senile, and corrupted Senate, and worthie of a farre worse master than Tiberius, adjudged his writings, to be consumed by fire; and he was pleased to accompany them in their death, for he pined away by abstaining from all manner of meat. That notable man Lucane, being adjudged by that lewd varlet, Nero, to death, at the latter end of his life, when al his bloud was well-nigh spent from out the veins of his arme, which by his physician he had caused to be opened to hasten his death, and that a chilling cold began to seize the uttermost parts of his limbes, and approach his vital spirits, the last thing he had in memory was some of his owne verses, written in his booke of the Pharsalian warres, which with a distinct voice hee repeated, and so yeelded up the ghost, having those last words in his mouth. What was that but a kinde, tender, and fatherly farewell which he tooke of his children? representing the last adiewes, and parting embracements, which at our death we give vnto our dearest issues? And an effect of that naturall inclination, which in that last extremity puts us in minde of those things which in our life we have held dearest and most precious? Shall we imagine that Epicurus, who (as himselfe said) dying tormented with the extreme paine of the chollik, had all his comfort in the beauty of the doctrine which he left behinde him in the world, would have received as much contentment of a number of well-borne and better-bred children (if he had had any) as he did of the production of his rich compositions? And if it had beene in his choise, to leave behind him either a counterfeit, deformed, or ill-borne childe, or a foolish, triviall, and idle booke, not onely he, but all men in the world besides of like learning and sufficiency, would much rather have chosen to incurre the former than the latter mischiefe. It might peradventure be deemed impiety in Saint Augustine (for example-sake) if on the one part one should propose unto him to bury all his bookes, whence our religion receiveth so much good, or to interre his children of in case he had any) that he would not rather chuse to bury his children, or the issue of his loynes, than the fruits of his minde. And I wot not well, whether my selfe should not much rather desire to beget and produce a perfectly-well-shaped and excellently-qualited infant, by the acquaintance of the Muses, than by the acquaintance of my wife. Whatsoever I give to this, let the world allow of it as it please, I give it as purely and irrevocable as any man can give it to his corporall children. That little good which I have done him is no longer in my disposition. He may know many things that my selfe know no longer, and hold of me what I could not hold my selfe: and which (if need should require) I must borrow of him as of a stranger. If I be wiser than be, he is richer than I. There are few men given unto Poesie that would not esteeme it for a greater honour to be the fathers of Virgils Æneidos than of the goodliest boy in Rome, and that would not rather endure the losse of the one than the perishing of the other. For, according to Aristotle, 'Of all workemen, the Poet is principally the most amorous of his productions and conceited of his Labours.' It is not easie to be beleeved that Epaminondas, who wanted to leave some daughters behind him, which unto all posterity, should one day highly honour their father (they were the two famous victories which be had gained of the Lacedemonians) would ever have given his free consent to change them with the best-borne, most gorgeous, and goodliest damsels of all Greece: or that Alexander and Cæsar did ever wish to be deprived of the greatnesse of their glorious deeds of warre, for the commodity to have children and heires of their owne bodies, how absolutely-perfect and well accomplished so ever they might be. Nay, I mahe a great question whether Phidias, or any other excellent Statuary, would as highly esteeme and dearely love the preservation and successfull continuance of his naturall children, as be would an exquisite and matchlesse-wrought Image, that with long study and diligent care he had perfected according unto art. And as concerning those vicious and furious passions which sometimes have inflamed some fathers to the love of their daughters, or mothers towards their sonnes, the very same and more partially-earnest is also found in this other kinde of childe-bearing and aliance. Witnesse that which is reported of Pigmalion, who having curiously framed a goodly statue of a most singularly-beauteous woman, was so strange-fondly and passionately surprised with the lustfull love of his owne workmanship that the Gods through his raging importunity were faine in favour of him to give it life.
Of all things none but he,
Most ignorant must be.Tentatum mollescit ebur, positogue rigore
Subsidit digitis. -- Ovid. Metam. x. 283.
As he assaid it, th' ivory softned much,
And (hardnesse left) did yeeld to fingers touch.