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.
HERE IS another kind of glory, which is an over-good opinion we conceive of our worth. It is an inconsiderate affection, wherewith wee cherish our selves, which presents us unto our selves other then we are. As an amorous passion addeth beauties and lendeth graces to the subject it embraceth, and maketh such as are therewith possessed, with a troubled conceit and distracted judgmement, to deeme what they love, and finde what they affect, to bee other, and seeme more perfect, then in trueth it is. Yet would I not have a man, for feare of offending in that point, to misacknowledge himselfe, nor thinke to bee lesse then hee is: A true judgement should wholly and in every respect mainetaine his right. It is reason, that as in other things, so in this subject he see what truth presenteth unto him. If he be Cæsar, let him boldly deeme himselfe the greatest Captaine of the world. We are nought but ceremonie: ceremonie doth transport us, and wee leave the substance of things; we hold-fast by the boughs, and leave the trunke or body. Wee have taught ladies to blush, onely by hearing that named which they nothing feare to doe. Wee dare not call our members by their proper names, and feare not to employ them in all kind of dissolutenese. Ceremonie forbids us by words to expresse lawfull and naturall things; and we beleeve it. Reason willeth us to doe no bad or unlawfull things, and no man giveth credit unto it. Here I find my selfe entangled in the lawes of Ceremonie, for it neither allowes a man to speake ill or good of himselfe. Therefore will wee leave her at this time. Those whom fortune (whether we shall name her good or bad) hath made to passe their life in some eminent or conspicuous degree, may by their publike actions witnesse what they are; but those whom she never emploied but in base things, and of whom no man shall ever speake, except themselves doe it, they are excusable if they dare speake of themselves to such as have interest in their acquaintance, after the example of Lucillus:Ille velut fidis arcana sodalibus olimThis man committed his actions and imaginations to his paper, and as he felt, so he pourtraied himselfe. Nec id Rutilio et Scauro citra fidem, aut obtrectationi fuit: (Corn. Tacit. Vit. Jul. Agric.) 'Nor was that without credit, or any imputation to Rutilius or Scaurus.' I remember then, that even from my tenderest infancy, some noted in me a kind of I know not what fashion in carrying of my body and gestures, witnessing a certaine vaine and foolish fiercenesse. This I will first say of it, that it is not inconvenient to have conditions so peculiar, and propensions so incorporated in us, that we have no meane to feele, or way to know them. And of such naturall inclinations, unknowne to us, and without our consent, the body doth easily retaine some signe or impression. It was an affectation witting of his beauty, which made Alexander to bend his head a little on one side, and Alcibiades, his speech somewhat effeminate and lisping: Julius Cæsar was wont to scratch his head with one finger, which is the countenance of a man surcharged with painefull imaginations: and Cicero (as I remember) had gotten a custome to wryth his nose, which signifieth a naturall scoffer. Such motions may unawares and imperceptibly possesse us. Others there be which are artificiall, whereof I will not speake. As salutations, reverences, or conges, by which some doe often purchase the honour (but wrongfully) to be humble, lowly, and courteous: a man may be humble through glory. I am very prodigall of cappings, namely in Summer, and I never receive any from what quality of men soever, but I give them as good and as many as they bring, except he be some servant of mine. I wish that some Princes whom I know would be more sparing and impartiall dispencers of them, for, being so indiscreetly employed, they have no force at all: If they be without regard, then are they without effect. Amongst disordered countenances, let us not forget the sterne looke of Constantius the Emperour, who in publike held ever his head bolt-upright, without turning or bending the same on any side, no not so much as to looke on them that saluted him sideling, holding his body so fixt and unmoveable, that let his coche shake never so much, he kept still up-right: he durst never spit nor wipe his nose nor drie his face before the people. I wot not whether those gestures which were noted in me were of this first condition, and whether in truth I had any secret propension to this fault, as it may well be: and I cannot answer for the motions of my body. But concerning those of the soule, I will here ingenuously confesse what I thinke of them. There are two parts in this glory: which is to say, for a man to esteeme himselfe overmuch, the other, not sufficiently to esteeme of others. For the one, first me thinks these considerations ought somewhat to be accompted of. I feele my selfe surcharged with one errour of the mind, which both as bad, and much more as importunate, I utterly dislike. I endevour to correct it; but I cannot displace it. It is, because I abate the just value of those things which I possesse; and enhance the worth of things by how much they are more strange, absent and not mine owne. This humor extends it selfe very farre, as doth the prerogative of the authority, wherewith husbands looke upon their owne wives with a vicious disdaine, and many fathers upon their children: so doe I, and betweene two like workes would I ever weigh against mine. Not so much that the jealousie of my preferment, and amendment troubleth my judgement, and hindereth me from pleasing my selfe, as that mastery her self begets a contempt of that which a man possesseth and oweth. Policies, far customes and tongues flatter me; and I perceive the Latine tongue by the favour of her dignity to deceive me, beyond what belongs unto her, as children and the vulgar sort. My neighbours economie; his house, and his horse, though but of equall value, is more worth then mine by how much more it is not mine owne. Besides, because I am most ignorant in mine owne matters, I admire the assurance, and wonder at the promise that every man hath of himselfe: whereas there is almost nothing that I wot I know, nor that I dare warrant my selfe to be able to doe. I have not my faculties in proposition or by estate, and am not instructed in them but after the effect; as doubtfull of mine owne strength, as uncertaine of anothers force. Whence it followeth, if commendably I chance upon any one piece of worke, I rather impute it to my fortune, then ascribe it to mine industry; forasmuch as I designe them all to hazard and in feare. Likewise I have this in generall, that of all the opinions which Antiquity hath had of men in gross, those which I most willingly embrace, and whereon I take most hold, are such as most vilifie, condemne, and annihilate us. Me thinks Philosophy hath never better cardes to shew then when she checketh our presumption, and crosseth our vanity; when in good sooth she acknowledgeth her irresolution, her weaknesse and her ignorance. Me seemeth the over good conceit and selfe-weening opinion man hath of himselfe, is the nurse-mother of the falsest opinions, both publike and particular. Those which a cocke-horse will pearch themselves upon the Epicicle of Mercury and see so farre into heaven, they even pull out my teeth. For in the study which I professe, the subject whereof is Man, finding so extreme a inextricable a labyrinth of difficulties, one upon the necke of another, so great diversitie, and so much uncertaintie, yea even in the school of wisedome it selfe: you may imagine since those men could never be resolved of the knowledge of themselves and of their owne condition, which is continually before their eyes, which is ever within them; since they know not how that moveth which themselves cause to move, nor how to set forth the springs, and decipher the wards, which themselves hold and handle, how should I thinke of the true cause of the flux and reflux of the river Nilus? The curiosity to know things hath beene given to men (as saith the holy Scripture for a scourge. But to come to my particular, it is very hard (mee seemeth) that some other regardeth him selfe lesse, yea and some other esteemeth me lesse than I esteeme my selfe. I accompt my selfe of the common sort, except in that I deeme myselfe guiltie of the basest, and culpable most popular defects: but not disavowed nor excused. And I only prise my selfe wherein I know my worth. If any glory be in me, it is but superficially infused into me; by the treason of my complexion: and hath no solide body appearing to the sight of my judgement. I am but sprinckled over, but not throughly dyed. For in truth, touching the effects of the spirit in what manner soever, there never came any thing from me that contented me. And others approbation is no currant payment for me. My judgement is tender and hard, especially in mine owne behalf. I feele my self to waver and bend through weaknesse: I have nothing of mine owne to satisfie my judgement. My sight is indifferently cleare and regular; but if I take any serious worke in hand, it is troubled and dimmed: as I perceive most evidently in poesie: I love it exceedingly: I have some insight or knowledge in other mens labours, but in truth I play the novice when I set my hand unto it: then can I not abide my selfe. A man may play the foole every where else, but not in poesie:
Credebat libris: neque si male cesserat, usquam
Decurrens alio, neque si bene: quo fit, ut omnis
Votiva pateat veluti descripta tabella
Vita senis. -- Hor. Ser. ii. Sat. i. 30.
He trusted to his booke, as to his trusty friend
His secrets, nor did he to other refuge bend,
How ever well, or ill, with him his fortune went.
Hence is it, all the life is seene the old man spent,
As it were in a Table noted,
Which were unto some God devoted.-----mediocribus esse poetisI would to God this sentence were found in the front of our printers or stationers shops, to hinder the entrance of so many bald-rimers.
Non dii, non homines, non concessere, columnæ. -- Hor. Art. Poet. 372.
Nor Gods, nor men, nor pillers gave the graunt,
That Poets in a meane, should meanely chaunt.-----verumWhy have we no such people? Dionysius the father esteemed nothing in himselfe so much as his poesie. In the times of the Olimpike games, with chariots exceeding all other in magnificence, he also sent poets and musitians to present his verses, with tents and pavillions gilt and most suinptuously tapistried. When they first beganne to rehearse them, the favour and excellencie of the pronunciation did greatly allure the peoples attention: but when they beganne to consider the fondnesse of the composition, they fell as soone to contemne them: and being more and more exasperated, fell furiously into an uproare; and headlong ranne in most spitefull manner to teare and cast downe all his pavillions. And forasmuch as his rich chariots did no good at all in their course, and the ship which carried his men, returning homeward, missed the shore of Sicilie, and was by violent stormes driven and spilt upon the coast of Tarentum, they certainely beleeved the wrath of the Gods to have beene the cause of it, as being greatly offended both against him and his vile and wicked poeme: yea and the mariners themselves that escaped the shipwracke did much second the peoples opinion: to which the oracle that foretold his death seemed in some sort to subscribe: which implied that Dionysius should be neare his end, at what time he had vanquished those that should be of more worth than himselfe; which he interpreted to be the Carthaginians, who exceeded him in might. And having at any time an occasion to fight with them, that that he might not incur the meaning of his prediction, he would often temper and avoide the victorie. But he mis-understood the matter, for God observed the time of advantage, when as through partiall favour and injustice he obtained the victory over the tragicall poets of Athens, who were much better than he was, where he caused, in contention of them, his tragedie, entitled the Leneiens, to be publikely acted. After which usurped victorie, he presently deceased: and partly through the excessive joy he thereby conceived. What I finde excusable in mine is not of it selfe and according to truth: but in comparison of other compositions, worse then mine, to which I see some credit given. I envie the good the happe of those which can applaude and gratifie themselves by their owne labours; for it is an easie matter for one to please himselfe, since he drawes his pleasure from himselfe: especially if one be somewhat constant in his owne wilfulnesse. I know a poetaster, gainst whom both weake and strong, in company and at home, both heaven and earth, affirme and say he hath no skill or judgement in poesie, who for all that is nothing dismaied, nor will not abate one jote of that measure whereunto he hath fitted himselfe; but is ever beginning againe, ever consulting anew, and alwaies persisting; by so much the more fixed in his opinion by how much the more it concerneth him alone, and he only is to maintaine it. My compositions are so farre from applauding me, that as many times as I looke them over, so often am I vexed at them.
Nil securius est malo Poeta. -- Mart. xii. Epig. lxiv.
Nothing securer may be had,
Then is a Poet bold and bad.Cum relego, scripsisse pudet, quia plurima cerno,I have ever an Idea in my mind which presents me with a better forme then that I have alreadie framed; but I can neither lay hold on it nor effect it. Yet is that Idea but of the meaner stamp. I thereby conclude that the productions of those rich and great mindes of former ages are farre beyond the extreame extention of my wish and imagination. Their compositions doe not only satisfie and fill me, but they astonish and wrap me into admiration. I judge of their beauty, I see it, if not to the end, at least so farre as it is impossible for me to aspire unto it. Whatsoever I undertake (as Plutarke saith of one) I owe a sacrifice to the Graces, hoping thereby to gaine their favour.
Me quoque qui feci judice, digna lini. --- Ovid. Pont. 1.i. c.vi. 15.
When I re-read, I shame I write; for much I see,
My selfe, who made them, being judge, blotted to be.------ si quid enim placet,They altogether forsake me: what I doe, it is but bunglingly, and wants both polishing and beauty. I can rate them at no higher value then they are worth. My workmanship addeth no grace unto the matter. And that's the reason I must have it strong, with good holdfast, and shining of it selfe. If I chance to seize on any popular or more gay, it is to follow me, who love not a ceremonious prudence and gloomy wisedome, as doth the world; and to glad my selfe, not my stile, who would rather have it grave and severe; if at least I may call that a stile which is formelesse and abrupt speech; a popular gibrish, and a proceeding without definition, without partition, and sans conclusion, troubled as that of Amasanius and Rabirius. I am neither pleased, nor glad, nor tickled. The best tale in the world comming into my hands becomes withered and tarnished. I cannot speake but in good earnest, and am altogether barren of that facility which I see in many of my companions, to entertaine [first] commers, to keep a whole troupe in talk, to ammuse a princes eares with all manner of discourses and never to be weary, and never to want matter, by reason of the graces they have in applying their first approches, and fitting them to the humour and capacity of those they have to doe withall. Princes love not greatly serious and long discourses, nor I to tell tales. The first and easiest reasons (which are commonly the best taken) I can neither employ nor make use of them. I am an ill orator to the common sort. I speake the utmost I know of all matters. Cicero thinks, in discourses of philosophy, the exordium to be the hardest part: if it be so, I wisely lay hold on the conclusion. Yet should a man know how to turne his strings to all aires: and the sharpest comes ever last in play. There is at last as much perfection in raising up an empty as to uphold a weighty thing: a man must sometimes handle matters but superficially, and at other times dive into them. I wot well that most men keep themselves on this low stage because they conceive not of things but by the outward shew. I also know that the greatest clarkes, yea Xenophon and Plato, are often seene to yeeld to this low and popular fashion, in speaking of matters, upholding it with those graces which they never want. As for the rest, my language hath neither facility nor fluency in it, but is harsh and sharpe, having free and unsinnowy dispositions. And so it liketh me, if not by my judgement, yet by my inclination. But yet I perceive that sometimes I wade too farre into it, and that forcing my selfe to avoide art and affectation, I fall into it another way.
Si quid dulce hominum, sensibus influit.
Debentur lepidis omnia gratiis.
If ought do please, if any sweet
The sense of men with pleasures greet,
To thank the Graces it is meet.------ brevis esse labore:Plato saith, that either long or short are not properties that either diminish or give price unto speech. If I should undertake to follow this other smoothe, even and regular stile, I should never attaine unto it. And although the cadences and breakings of Salust doe best agree with my humour, yet do I finde Cæsar both greater and lesse easie to be represented. And if my inclination doth rather carrie mee to the imitation of Senecæs stile, I omit not to esteeme Plutarke much more. As well in silence as in speech, I am simply my naturall forme, whence happily ensueth that I am more in speaking than in writing. The motions and actions of the body give life unto words, namely, in them that move roundly and without affectation, as I doe, a nd that will be earnest. Behaviour, the face, the voice, the gowne, and the place, may somewhat endeare those things which in themselves are but meane, as pratling. Messala complaineth in Tacitus of certaine strait garments used in his time, and discommendeth the fashion of the benches whereon the Orators were to speak, saying they weakened their eloquence. My French tongue is corrupted both in the pronunciation and elsewhere by the barbarisme of my country. I never saw men of these hither-countries that did not evidently taste of his home-speech, and who often did not wound those eares that are purely French. Yet it is not because I am so cunning in my Perigordin: for I have no more use of it than of the Dutch, nor doe I greatly care. It is a language (as are many others round about me) like to that of Poitou, Xaintonge, Angoulesme, Limosin, and Auvergne, squattering, dragling, and filthie. There is about us, towards the mountaines, a Gascoine tongue, which I much commend and like, sinnowie, pithie, short, significant, and in truth man-like and military; more than any other I understand. As compendious, powerfull, and pertinent as the French is gracious, delicate, and copious. As for the Latine, which was given me for my mother-tongue, by reason of discontinuance, I have so lost the promptitude, of it, as I cannot well make use of it in speech, and scarcely in writing, in which I have heretofore beene so ready, that I was called a master in it. Loe heere my little sufficiencie in that behalfe. Beauty is a part of great commendation in the commerce and societie of men. It is the chiefe meane of reconciliation betweene one and other. Nor is there any man so barbarous and so hard-hearted, that in some sort feeleth not himselfe strucken with her sweetnes. The body hath a great part in our being, and therein keepes a speciall rancke. For his structure and composition are worthy due consideration. Such as goe about to sunder our two principall parts, are much to blame; they ought rather to be coupled and joyned fast together. The soule must be enjoyned not to retire to her selfe her quarter, nor to entertaine her selfe apart, nor to despise and leave the body (which she cannot well doe, except it be by some counterfeited, apish tricke) but ought so combine and cling fast unto him, to embrace, to cherish, assist, correct, perswade, and advise him, and if hee chance to sway or stray, then to leade and direct him: In fine, she should wed and serve him instead of a husband, that so their effects may not seeme contrary and divers, but agreeing and uniforme. Christians have a particular instruction concerning this bond, for they know that Gods justice alloweth this society, and embraceth this conjunction of the body and soule, yea so farre as to make the body capable of everlasting rewards. And that God beholds the whole man to worke, and will have him entirely to receive either the punishment or the recompence, ac cording to his demerits. The Peripatetike Sect (of all Sects the most sociable) attributeth this onely care unto wisdome, in common to procure and provide the good of these two associated parts: and declareth other sects to have partialized overmuch, because they had given themselves to the full consideration of this commixture; this one for the body, this other for the soule, with one like error and oversight, and had mistaken their subject, which is man; and their guide, which in generall they avouched to be Nature. The first distinction that hath beene amongst men, and the first consideration that gave preheminences to some over others, it is very likely it was the advantage of beauty.
Obscurus fio. -- Hor. Art. Poet. 25.
To be short labour I?
I darker grow thereby.------ agros divisere atque dedereI am of a stature somewhat under the meane. This default hath not only uncomlinesse in it, but also incommoditie: Yea even in those which have charge and commandement over others; for the authoritie which a faire presence and corporall majestic endoweth a man withal is wanting. Caius Marius did not willingly admit any Souldiers in his bands that were not six foot high. The Courtier hath reason to require all ordinary stature in the gentleman he frameth, rather than any other: and to avoid all strangenesse that may make him to be pointed at. But if he misse of this mediocritie, to chuse that he rather offend in lownes than in tallnes. I would not doe it in a militarie man. Little men, saith Aristotle, are indeed pretty, but not beauteous, nor goodly; and in greatnes is a great soule knowne as is beauty in a great and high body. The Ethiopians and Indians, saith he, in chusing of their Kings and Magistrates, had an especiall regard to the beautie and tallnes of the persons. They had reason, for it breedeth an awfull respect in those that follow him, and a kinde of feare in his enemies, to see a goodly, tall, and handsome man march as chiefe and generall in the head of any armie, or front of a troupe:
Pro facie cuiusque et viribus ingenioque:
Nam facies multum valuit virisque vigebant. -- Lucr. v. 1120.
They lands divided, and to each man shared
As was his face, his strength, his wit compared,
For face and strength were then
Much priz'd amongst men.Ipse inter primos præstanti corporeTurnusOur great, divine, and heavenly King, all whose circumstances ought with much care, religion, and reverence, to be noted and observed, hath not refused the bodies commendation. Speciosus forma præ filiis hominum. (Psal. xlv. 3) 'In favor beautiful above the sonnes of men.' And Plato wisheth beautie to be joyned unto temperance and fortitude in the preservers of his Commonwealth. Is it not a great spite, if being amongst your owne servants, a stranger commeth to yourselfe to ask you where your Lord or Master is? And that you have nothing but the remainder of a capping, which is as well put off to your Barber, or to your Secretarie? As it happened to poore Philopoemen, who having left his company behind, and comming alone into a house where he was expresly looked for, his hostess, who knew him not, and saw him to be so il-favored a fellow, employed him to help her maides draw water, and to mend the fire for the service of Philopoemen. The gentlemen of his traine being come and finding him so busily at work (for he failed not to fulfil his hostesses commandement, enquired of him what he did, who answered,' I pay the penaltie of my unhandsomnesse.' Other beauties are for women. The beautie of a handsome comely tallnesse is the only beautie of men. Where lownesse and littlenesse is, neither the largenesse nor roundnesse of a forehead, nor the whitenesse nor lovelinesse of the eyes, nor the pretty fashion of a nose, nor the slendernes of the eare, littlenesse of the mouth, order and whitenesse of teeth, smooth thicknesse of a beard, browne like a chesse-nut, well-curled and upstanding haire, just proportion of the head, freshnes of colour, the cheereful aspect of a pleasing face, the sweet-smelling of a body, nor the well decorated composition of all limmes, can make a handsome beauteous man. As for me, I am of a strong and well compacted stature, my face is not fat but full, my complexion betweene joviall and melancholy, indifferently sanguine and hot.
Vertitur, arma tenens, et toto vertice suprit est. -- Virg. Æn. vii. 725.
Turnus, a goodly man, mongst them that led,
Stood arm'd, then all they higher by the head.Vnde rigent setis mihi crura, et pectora villis: -- Mart. vi. Epig. lvi. 1.My health is blith and lustie, though well-stroken in age, seldome troubled with diseases: Such I was, for I am now engaged in the approaches of age, having long since past over forty yeares.
Whereby my legs and brest,
With rough haire are opprest.-----minutatim vires et robur adultumWhat hereafter I shall be will be but half a being. I shall be no more my selfe. I daily escape, and still steale my selfe from my selfe:
Frangit, et in partem pejorem liquitur ætas. -- Lucr. ii. 1140.
By little and a little age breakes strength,
To worse and worse declining melts at length.Singula de nobis anni prædantur euntes. -- Hor. ii. Epist. ii. 55.Of addressing, dexteritie, and disposition, I never had any, yet am I the son of a well disposed father, and of so blithe and merry a disposition, that it continued with him even to his extreamest age. He seldome found any man of his condition, and that could match him in all exercises of the body; as I have found few that have not out-gone me, except it were in running, wherein I was of the middle sort. As for musicke, were it either in voice, which I have most harsh, and very unapt, or in instruments, I could never be taught any part of it. As for dancing, playing at tennis, or wrestling, I could never attaine to any indifferent sufficiencie, but none at all in swimming, in fencing, in vaulting, or in leaping. My hands are so stiffe and nummie, that I can hardly write for my selfe, so that what I have once scribled, I had rather frame it anew than take the paines to correct it; and I reade but little better. I perceive how the auditorie censureth me; otherwise I am no bad clarke. I cannot very wel close up a letter, nor could I ever make a pen. I was never good carver at the table. I could never make readie nor arme a horse; nor handsomely array a hawke on my fist, nor cast her off, or let her flie, nor could never speake to dogges, to birds, or to horses. The conditions of my body are, in fine, very well agreeing with those of my minde, wherein is nothing lively, but onely a compleate and constant vigor. I endure labour and paine, yet not very well, unlesse I carry myselfe unto it, and no longer than my desire leadeth and directeth me.
Yeares as they passe away,
Of all our things make prey.Molliter austerum studio fallente laborem. -- Ser. ii. Sa. ii. 12.Otherwise, if by any pleasure I be not allured, and if I have other direction than my genuine and free will, I am nothing worth, and I can never fadge well: for I am at such a stay, that except for health and life, there is nothing I will take the paines to fret my selfe about, or will purchase at so high a rate as to trouble my wits for it, or be constrained thereunto.
While earnestnesse for sport or gaine,
Sweetly deceives the sowrest paine.------ Tanti mihi non sit opaciI am extreamelie lazie and idle, and exceedingly free, both by nature and art. I would as willingly lend my blood as my care. I have a minde free and altogether her owne; accustomed to follow her owne humor. And to this day never had, nor commanding, nor forced master. I have gon as farre, and kept what pace pleased me best: which hath enfeebled and made me unprofitable to serve others, and made me fit and apt, but onely for my selfe. And as for me, no man ever needed to force this heavie, lither, and idle nature of mine; for, having even from my birth found my selfe in such a degree of fortune, have found occasion to stay there (an occasion notwitlistanding, that a thousand others of mine acquaintance would have taken as a plancke to passe over to search, to agitation, and to unquietness.) And as I have sought for nothing, so I have taken nothing.
Omnis arena Tagi, quodgue in mare volvitur aurum. -- Juven. Sat. iii. 54.
So much I weigh not shadow Tagus sande,
Nor gold that roules into the Sea from land.Non agimur tumidis venus Aquilone secundo,I have had no need but of sufficiencie to content my selfe, which being well taken is ever a regiment for the mind, equally difficult in all sorts of conditions; and which by use we see more easily found in want than in plenty; peradventure, because that according to the course of our other passions, the greedinesse of riches is more sharpened by their uses than by their need: and the vertue of moderation more rare than that of patience. And I have had no need but to enjoy those goods quietly, which God of his bounty had bestowed upon me. I have tasted no kinde of tedious trouble. I have seldome mannaged other than mine owne businesse: or if I have, it hath beene on condition I might do it at my leisure, and according to my will, committed unto me, by such as trusted me and knew me well, and would not importune me. For the skilfull rider will reape some service of a restie and wind-broken jade. My very childe-hood. hath beene directed by a soft, milde, gentle and free fashion, and ever exempted from rigorous subjection. Al which hath endowed me with a delicate kinde of complexion, and made me incapable of any care: So that I love men should conceale my losses from me and the disorders which concerne me. In the chapter of my charges and expences, I have set down, what my negligence or carelessnesse costs me, both to feed and entertaine my selfe.
Non tamen adversis ætatem ducimus austris:
Viribus, ingenio, specte, virtute, loco, re,
Extremi primorum, extremis usque priores. -- Hor. ii. Epist. ii. 201.
With full sailes prosp'rous winde, we do not drive,
Nor yet with winde full in our teeth doe live.
In strength, in wit, in vertue, shape, goods, place,
Last of the first, before the last we pace.------ hæc nempe super sunt,I love not to know an accompt of what I have, that I may lesse exactly feele my losses: I desire those that live with me, where they want affection or good effects, to cozen and pay me with good apparances. For want of sufficient constancy to endure the importunity of contrary or crosse accidents, whereunto we are subject; and because I cannot alwaies keepe my selfe prepared to governe and order my affaires as much as I am able, I foster this opinion in me, relying wholly upon fortune, and ready to take everything at the worst, and resolve to beare that worst mildly and patiently. About that only doe I busie my selfe, and to that end do I direct all my discourses. In any dangerous matter I care not so much how I may avoide it, and how little it importeth whether I avoid it or no; and what were it if would continue in it? Being unable to direct events I governe my selfe; and if they apply not themselves to me, I apply my selfe to them: I have no great art to shunne fortune, and how to scape or force it, and with wisedome to addresse matters to my liking: I have also lesse sufferance to endure the sharpe and painefull care which belongeth to that. And the most toilsome state for me is to be doubtful in matters of weight, and agitated between feare and hope. To deliberate, be it but in slight matters, doth importune me. And I feel my spirit more perplexed to suffer the motions of doubt and shakings of consultation, than to be settled and resolved about any accident whatsoever after the chance is once cast. Fewe passions have troubled my sleepe but of deliberations the least doth trouble it. Even as of high-waies, I willingly seeke to avoid the downe-hanging and slippery, and take the beaten-path, though myrie and deepe, so I may go no lower, and there seeke I safetie. So love I pure mishapes, and which exercise and turmoile me no more, after the uncertaintie of their mending: and which even at the first cast, drive me directly into sufferance.
Quæ dominum fallant, quæ prosint furibus. -- Hor. i. Epist. vi. 45.
This remnant of accompts I have,
Which may deceive Lords, help a Knave.------ dubiæ plus torquent mala. -- Sen. Agam. act. iii. sc. i. 29.In events, I carry my selfe man-like; in the conduct childishly. The horror of a fall doth more hurt me than the blow. The play is not worth the candle. The covetous man hath a worse reckoning of his passion than the poore; and the jealous man than the cuckold. And it is often lesse harme for one to loose his farme, than pleade and wrangle for it: the slowest march is the safest. It is the seate of constancie. Therein you have no need but of yourselfe. There she takes her footing and wholly resteth upon her selfe. This example of a gentleman, whom many have knowne, hath it not some Philosophicall shew? This man having passed all his youth like a good fellow, a jollie companion, a great talker, and a merry ladd, being now well in yeares, would needs be married. Remembring himselfe how much the subject of cuckoldry had given him cause to speake and scoff at others; to put himselfe under covert-baron, he tooke him a wife from out that place where all men may have them for money, and with her made his alliance: good morrow whoore, good morrow cuckold. And there is nothing wherewith he oftener and more openly entertained such as came unto him, than with this tale: whereby he bridled the secret pratlings of mockers, and blunted the point of their reproch. Concerning ambitious which is next neighbor, or rather daughter, to presumption, it had beene needfull (to advance me) that fortune had come to take me by the hand: for to put in my selfe into any care for an uncertaine hope, and to submit my selfe to all difficulties, waiting on such as seeke to thrust themselfe into credite and reputation, in the beginning of their progresse I could never have done it.
Evils yet in suspence,
Doe give us more offence.------ Spem pretio non emo, -- Ter. Adel. act. ii. sc. 2.I fasten myself on that which I see and hold, and go not far from the shore:
Expence of present pay
For hope, I do not lay.Alter remus aquas, alter tibi radat arenas. -- Prop. iii. El. 23.Beside,s a man seldome comes to these preferments but in hazarding first his owne: and I am of opinion if that which a man hath sufficeth to maintaine the condition wherein he was borne and brought up, it is folly to let it goe upon the uncertainety of encreasing the same. He to whom fortune refuseth meanes to settle his estate and establish a quiet and reposed being is excusable if he cast what he hath at hazards since thus as well as thus necessitie sends him to shift and search out.
Keeps water with one oare,
With th' other grate the shore.[R]apienda rebus in malis preceps via est. -- Sen. Agam. act. ii. sc. i. 47.And I rather excuse a younger brother to make sale of his inheritance than him who hath the honor of his house in charge, who cannot fall into wants but through his default. I have by the counsell of my good friends of former times found the way shorter and easier to rid my selfe of this desire and keepe my selfe husht:
A headlong course is best,
When mischiefes are addrest.Cui sit conditio dulcis, sine pulvere palmæ. -- Hor. i. Epist. i. 51.Judging also rightly of my forces that they were not capable of great matters: and remembering the saying of Lord Oliver, whilome Chancellor of France, who said that Frenchmen might be compared to apes, who, climbing up a tree, never cease skipping from bough to bough, till they come to the highest, where they shew their bare tailes.
Who like it well to beare the prise,
But take no toile in any wise.Turpe est quod nequeat capiti committere pondus,Such qualities as are now in me void of reproach, in that age I deemed unprofitable. The facilitie of my maners had been named faintnesse and weakness, faith and conscience would have been thought scrupulous and so superstitious: liberty and freedome, importunate, inconsiderate, and rash. Misfortune serveth to some purpose. It is not amiss to be born in a much depraved age for in comparison of others, you are judged vertuous, very cheape. In our dayes he that is but a parricide, or a sacrilegious person, is a man of honesty and honor.
Et pressum inflexo mox dare terga genu. -- Prop. iii. Ele. viii. 5.
'Tis shame, more than it can well beare, on head to packe,
And thereby soone oppress't with bended knee flie backe.Nunc si depositum non inficiatur amicus,And never was there time or place wherein more assured and great reward was proposed unto Princes for goodnesse and justice. The first that shall be advised by these meanes to thrust himselfe into favour and credit, I am much deceived if in part of paiment he get not the start of his fellowes. Force and violence can do very much, but, never all. Wee see merchants, country justices, and artificers to march cheeke by jowl with our nobilitie in valour and militarie discipline. They performe honourable combates, both publike and private. They batter and defend townes and cities in our present warres. A Prince smothereth his commendation amid this throng. Let him shine over others with humanities, with truth, loyalties temperance, and above all with justice, markes now adaies rare, unknowne, and exiled. It is only the peoples will wherewith he may effect what he pleaseth: and no other qualities can allure their will so much as they as being the profitablest for them: Nihil est tam populare quam bonitas. 'Nothing is so popular as goodnesse is.' By this proposition I had been a rare great man as by that of certaine ages past I am now a pigmey and popular man; in which it was common. If stronger qualities did not concurre with all, to see a man temperate in his revenges, milde in revenging of offences, religious in keeping of his word, neither double nor over tractable, nor applying his faith to others will, or to every occasion. I would rather let all affaires go to wracke than breake my word for their availe. For touching this new-found vertue of faining and dissimulation, which now is so much in credit, I hate it to the death: and of all vices I finde none that so much witnesseth demissenesse and basenesse of heart. It is a coward and servile humour for a man to disguise and bide himselfe under a maske, and not dare to shew himselfe as he is. Thereby our men address themselves to trecherie: being trained to utter false words, they make no conscience to breake them. A generous minde ought not to belie his thoughts, but, make shew of his inmost parts: there all is good, or at least all is humane. Aristotle thinkes it an office of magnanimitie to hate and love openly, to judge and speake with all libertie, and never (though prise of truth goe on it) to make esteeme either of the approbation or reprobation of others. Appolonius said it was for servants to lie, and for free-men to speake truth. It is the chiefe and fundamentall part of vertue. Shee must be loved for her owne sake. He that speaketh truth because he is bound to doe so, and for that he serveth, and that feares not to tell a lie when it little importeth another man, is not sufficiently true. My mind of her own complexion detesteth falsehood and hateth to think on it. I feele an inward bashfulnes and a stinging remorse if at any time it scape me, as sometimes it doth if unpremeditated occasions surprise me. A man must not alwaies say all he knowes, for that were follie: but what a man speakes ought to be agreeing to his thoughts, otherwise it is impiety. I know not what benefit they expect that ever faine, and so uncessantly dissemble: except it be not to be beleeved, even when they speake truly. That may deceive men once or twice, but to make a profession to cary it away smoothly, and as some of our Princes have done, to boast that if their shirt were privie to their secret and true cogitations, they would burne it: which was the saying of ancient Metellus Macedonicus and that he who cannot dissemble cannot reign, serves but only to warne those who have to deale with them, that what they say is but untruth and dissimulation: Quo quis versutior et callidior est hoe invisior et suspectior, detracta opinione probitatis: (Cic. Off. i.) 'The finer-headed and more subtle-brained a man is, the more is he hated and suspected if once the opinion of honesty be taken from him.' It were great simplicity for a man to suffer himselfe to be mis-led either by the lookes or wordes of him that outwardly professeth what he is not inwardly, as did Tiberius. And I know not what share such people may challenge in the commerce of men, never producing any thing that may be taken for good paiment. He who is disloyall to truth is likewise false against lying. Such as in our daies; in the establishing of a Princes dutie, have only considered the good and felicitie of his affaires, and preferred the same before the respect of his faith and conscience, would say something to a Prince whose affaires fortune hath so disposed that with once breaking and falsifying of his word he might for ever confirme and establish them. But it goeth otherwise. A man may more than once come to such a bargaine. A man during his life concludeth more than one peace or treatie. The commodity or profit that inviteth them to the first disloyalty (and daily some offer themselves, as to all other trecheries), sacrileges, murders, rebellions, treasons, are undertaken for some kinde of profit. But this first gaine brings ever infinite losses and dangers with it: casting this Prince from-out all commerce and meanes of negotiation by the example of this infidelitie. Soliman of the Ottomans race (a race little regarding the keeping of promises or performance of covenants), at what time he caused his armie to land at Otranto (I being then but a childe), having knowne that Mercurin of Gratinara, and the inhabitants of Castro, were detained prisoners after the towne was yeelded, contrary to that which by his captaines had beene capitulated with them, he sent word they should be released, and that having otherweighty enterprises in hand in that country, such disloyalty, although it had apparance of great and present benefit, yet in time to come it would bring a distrust and reproch of infinite prejudice. As for me, I had rather be importunate and indiscreet than a flatterer and a dissembler. I allow a man may entermingle some point of fiercenesse and wilfulnesse to keepe himselfe so entire and open as I am, without consideration of others. And mee seemeth I become a little more free where I should be lesse, and that by the opposition of respect I grow earnest. It may also be that for want of art I follow mine owne nature. Presenting to the greater sort the very same licence of speech and boldnes of countenance that I bring from my house: I perceive how much it inclineth towards indiscretion and incivilitie. But although I be so fashioned, my spirit is not sufficiently yeelding to avoid a sudden question, or to scape it by some winding, nor to dissemble a truth, nor have I memory able to continue it so fained, nor assurance sufficient to maintaine it; and I play the braggard through feeblenesse. And therefore I apply my selfe to ingenuitie, and ever to speake truth and what I think; both by complexion and by intention; leaving the successe thereof unto fortune. Aristippus said that the chiefest commoditie he reaped by philosophy was, that he spake freely and sincerely to all men. Memory is an instrument of great service, and without which, judgement wil hardly discharge his duty, wherof I have great want. What a man will propose unto me, he must doe it by peecemeales: for, to answer to a discourse that hath many heads, lieth not in my power. I cannot receive a charge, except I have my writing tables about me: and if I must remember a discourse of any consequence, be it of any length, I am driven to this vile and miserable necessitie, to learne every word I must speake by rote; otherwise I should never do it wel or assuredly, for feare my memory should in my greatest need faile me; which is very hard unto me, for I must have three houres to learne three verses. Moreover, in any long discourse, the libertie or authoritie to remoove the order, to change a word, uncessantly altering the matter, makes it more difficult to be confirmed in the authors memory. And the more I distrust it, the more it troubleth me. It serveth me better by chance, and I must carelesly sollicite her, for if I urge her, she is astonished; and if it once beginne to waver, the more I sound her, the more entangled and intricate she proveth. She wil wait upon me when she list, not when I please. And what I feele in my memories I feele in many other parts of mine. I eschew cornmandement, duty, and compulsion. What I doe easily and naturally, if I resolve to doe it by expresse and prescribed appointment, I can then doe it no more. Even in my body, those parts that have some liberty, and more particular jurisdiction, doe sometimes refuse to obey me if at any time I appoint and enjoine them to doe me some necessarie services. This forced and tyrannicall preordinance doth reject them, and they either for spight or feare shrinke and are quailed. Being once in a place where it is reputed a barbarous discourtesie not to pledge those that drinke to you, where although I were used with al libertie, in favor of certaine ladies that were in company, according to the fashion of the country, I would needs play the good fellow. But it made us all mery; for the threats and preparation, that I should force my selfe beyond my naturall custome, did in such sort stop and stuffe my throat, that I was not able to swallow one drop, and was barr'd of drinking all the repast. I found my selfe glutted and ful of drink by the overmuch swilling that my imagination had fore-conceived. This effect is more apparant in those whose imagination is more vehement and strong: yet it is naturall: and there is no man but shall sometimes have a feeling of it. An excellent archer being condemned to death, was offered to have his life saved if he would but shew any notable triall of his profession, refused to make proofe of it; fearing lest the contention of his will should make him to misse-direct his hand, and that in lieu of saving his life, he might also lose the reputation he had gotte in shooting in a bow. A man whose thoughts are busie about other matters, shall very neere within an inch keepe and alwaies hit one selfe same number and measure of paces, in a place where he walketh; but if heedily he endevour to measure and count them, he shall finde that what he did by nature and chance, he cannot doe it so exactly by desseign. My library (which, for a countrey library, may passe for a very faire one) is seated in a corner of my house: if any thing come into my minde, that either I must goe seeke or write in it, for feare I should forget it in crossing of my court, I must desire some other body to remember the same for me. If speaking, I embolden my selfe never so little to digresse from my discourse, I do ever lose it; which makes me to keepe my selfe in my speech, forced, neere and close. Those that serve me, I must ever call them either by their office or countrey: for I finde it very hard to remember names. Well may I say it hath three syllables, that its sound is harsh, or that it beginneth or endeth with such a letter. And should I live long, I doubt not but I might forget mine own name, as some others have done heretofore. Messala Corvinus lived two yeeres without any memory at all, which is also reported of George Trapezoncius. And for mine owne interest, I doe often ruminate what manner of life theirs was, and whether wanting that part, I shall have sufficient to maintaine my selfe in any good sort: which looking neere unto I feare that this defect, if it be perfe ct, shall lose all the functions of my soule.
Si reddat veterem cum tota æruigine follem,
Prodigiosa fides, et Thuscis digna libellis,
Quæque coronata lustrari debeat agna. -- Juven. Sat. xiii. 60.
If now a friend deny not what was laid in trust,
If wholly he restore th'old bellowes with their rust:
A wondrous trust, to be in chronicles related,
And should with sacrifice, as strange, be expiated.Plenus rimarum sum, hac atque illac perfluo. -- Ter. Eun. act. i. sc. 2.It hath often befallen me to forget the word which but three houres before I had either given or received of another, and to forget where I had laid my purse; let Cicero say what he list. I helpe my selfe to loose what I particularly locke up. Memoria certe non modo philosophiam, sed omnis vitæ usum, omnesque artes una maxime continet: 'Assuredly memorie alone, of all other things, compriseth not onely philosophy, but the use of our whole life, and all the sciences.' Memorie is the receptacle and the case of knowledge. Mine being so weake, I have no great cause to complaine if I know but little. I know the names of Arts in generall, and what they treate of, but nothing further, I turne and tosse over bookes, but do not studie them; what of them remaines in me is a thing which I no longer acknowledge to be any bodies else. Onely by that hath my judgement profited: and the discourses and imaginations wherewith it is instructed and trained up. The authours, the place, the words; and other circumstances, I sodainly forget: and am so excellent in forgetting, that as much as any thing else I forget mine owne writings and compositions. Yea, mine owne sayings are every hand-while alleadged against my selfe, when God wot I perceive it not. He that would know of me, whence or from whom the verses or examples which here I have hudled up are taken, should greatly put me to my shifts, and I could hardly tell it him. Yet have I not begged them, but at famous and very wel knowen gates, which though they were rich in themselves, did never please me, unlesse they also came from rich and honourable hands, and that authority concurre with reason. It is no great marvell if my booke follow the fortune of other bookes, and my memory forgo or forget as wel what I write as what I reade: and what I give as well as what I receive. Besides the defect of memory, I have others, which much further my ignorance. My wit is dull and slow, the least cloud dimmeth it, so that (for example sake) I never proposed riddle unto it (were it never so easie) that it was able to expound. There is no subtilitie so vaine but confounds me. In games wherein wit may beare a part, as of chesse, of card, of tables, and others, I could never conceive but the common and plainest draughts. My apprehension is very sluggish and gloomy; but what it once holdeth the same it keepeth fast: and for the time it keepes it, the same it embraceth generally, strictly, and deepely. My sight is quicke, sound, perfect, and farre-seeing, but easily wearied if much charged or emploied. By which occasion I can have no great commerce with books but by others service which reade unto me. Plinie the younger can instruct those tha thave tried it, how much this fore-slowing importeth those that give themselves to this occupation. There is no spirit so wretched or so brutish wherein some particular facultie is not seene to shine; and none so low buried, but at one hole or other it will sally out sometimes. And how it commeth to passe that a minde blinde and slumbering in all other things, is in some particular effects, lively, cleare, and excellent, a man must inquire of cunning masters. But those are the faire spirits which are universall, open and readie to all, if not instructed, at least to be instructed. Which I alleage to accuse mine: for, be it either through weakenesse, or retchlessenesse (and to be carelesse of that which lieth at our feet, which wee have in our hands, which neerest concerneth the use of life, is a thing farre from my dogma or doctrine) there is none so simple or so ignorant as mine, in divers such common matters, and of which, without imputation or shame, a man should never be ignorant; whereof I must needs tell some examples. I was borne and brought up in the countrie, and amidst husbandry: I have since my predecessours quit me the place and possession of the goods I enjoy, both businesse and husbandry in hand, I cannot yet cast account either with penne or counters. There are divers of our French coines I know not: nor can I distinguish of one graine from another, be it in the field or in the barne, unlesse it be very apparant: nor do I scarcely know the difference betweene the cabige or letuce in my garden. I understand not the names of the most usuall tooles about husbandrie, nor of the meanest principles of tillage, which most children know. I was never skilfull in mechanicall arts, nor in traffike or knowledge of merchandise, nor in the diversitie and nature of fruits, wines, or cates, nor can I make a hawke, physike a horse, or teach a dogge. And since I must make ful shew of my shame or ignorance, it is not yet a moneth since that I was found to be ignorant wherto leven served to make bread withal; or what it was to cunne wine. The Athenians were anciently wont to thinke him very apt for the mathematikes, that could cunningly order or take up a faggot of brushe wood. Verily a man might drawe a much contrarie conclusion from me: for let me have all that may belong to a kitchin, yet shall I be ready to starve for hunger. By these parts of my confession one may imagine divers others to my cost and detriment. But howsoever I make myselfe knowne, alwaies provided it be as I am, indeed I have my purpose. And I excuse not my selfe that I dare set downe in writing so base and frivolous matters as these. The basenesse of the subject forceth me thereunto. Let who so list accuse my project, but not my progresse. So it is that without being warned of others I see very well how little this weigheth or is worth, and I perceive the fondnesse of my purpose. It is sufficient that my judgement is not dismayed or distracted, whereof these be the Essaies.
I am so full of holes, I cannot hold,
I runne out ev'ry way, when tales are told.Nasutus sis usque licet, sis denique nasusI am not bound to utter no follies so I be not deceived to know them: and wittingly to erre is so ordinarie in me that I erre not much otherwise; and seldome erre casually. It is a small matter to yeeld the fond actions unto the rashnesse of my humors since I cannot warrant my selfe ordinarily to yeeld them the vicious. Being at Barleduc I saw for the commendation of Renate the King of Sicilies memory a picture which with his owne hands he ha d made of himselfe, presented unto our King Francis the second: why is it not as lawfull for every man else to pourtray himself with his pen, as it was for him to do it with a pensell? I wil not then forget this blemish, unfit to be seene of all. That is irresolution, a most incommodious defect in the negotiation of worldly affaires: I cannot resolve in matters admitting doubtfulnesse:
Quantum noluerit ferre rogatus Atlas:
Et possis ipsum tu deridere Latinum,
Non potes, in nugas dicere plura meas,
Ipse ego quam dixi; quid dentem dente juvabit
Rodere? carne opus est, si satur esse velis
Ne perdas operam, qui se mirantur, in illos
Virus habe, nos hæc novimus es se nihil. Mart. xiii. Epig. ii. 1.
Suppose you were long-nos'd, suppose such nose you weare
As Atlas, if you should intreat him, would not beare,
That you in flouting old Latinus can be fine.
Yet can you say no more about these toyes of mine,
Then I have said; what boote, tooth with a tooth to whet?
You must have fleshe, if you to glut your selfe be set.
Loose not your paines; 'gainst them who on themselves are doting
Keepe you your sting: we know these things of ours are nothing.Ne si, ne no, nel cuor mi suona intiero. -- Petr. pa. i. son. cxxxviii. 8.I can maintaine an opinion, but not make choice of it: for in Humane things what side soever a man leaneth on, many apparences prevent themselves unto us, which confirm us in them: and Chrysippus the Philosopher was wont to say that he would learne nothing else of his maisters, Zeno and Cleanthes, but their doctrines simply: for proofes and reasons he would finde enough of himselfe. Let me turne to what side I will, I ever finde sufficient matter and liklyhood to keepe my selfe unto it. Thus keepe I doubt and liberty to my selfe, to chuse, untill occasion urge me, and then (to confesse the truth), as the common saying is, I cast my feather to the wind, and yeeld to fortunes mercie. A verie light inclination and a slender circumstance carries me away.
Nor yea, nor nay, sounds clearely in my heart.Dum in dubio est animus paulo momento huc atque illuc impellitur. -- Ter. And. act. i. sc. 3.The uncertainty of my judgement is in many occurrences so equally balanced as I would willingly compromise it to the deciding of chance and of the dice. And I note with great consideration of our humane imbecilities the examples which the history of God it selfe hath left us of this use, to remit the determination of elections in doubtfull matters unto fortune and hazard. Sors cecidit super Matthiam: (Act. i. 26) 'The lot fell upon Matthias.'Humane reason is a two-edged dangerous sword; even in Socrates his hand, her most inward and familiar friend, marke what a many-ended staffe it is. So am I only fit to follow, and am easily carried away by the throng. I doe not greatly trust mine owne strength, to undertake to command or to lead. I rejoyce to see my steps traced by others. If I must run the hazard of an uncertaine choice, I would rather have it be under such a one who is more assured of his opinions, and more wedded to them, then I am of mine; the foundation and platforme of which I find to be very slippery; yet am I not very easie to change, forsomuch as I perceive a like weaknesse in contrary opinions. Ipsa consuetudo assentiendi periculosa esse videtur, et lubrica: (Cic. Acad. Qu. iv.) 'The very custome of assenting seemeth hazardous and slippery:' Namely in politick affaires, wherein is a large field open to all motions, and to contestation:
While mind is in suspence, with small ado,
'Tis hither, thither, driven fro and to.Iusta pari premitur veluti cum pondere libra,As for example, Machiavels discourses were very solid for the subject: yet hath it been very easie to impugne them, and those that have done have left no lesse facilitie to impugne theirs. A man might ever find answeres enough to such an argument, both rejoynders, double, treble, quadruple, with this infinite contexture of debates, that our pettie-foggers have wrye-drawne and wrested as much as ever they could in favour of their pleas and processes:
Prona nec hac plus parte sedet, nec surgit ab illa. -- Tibulla iv. hero. v. 41.
As when an even skale with equall weight is peized,
Nor falles it downe this way, or is it that way raised.Cædimur, et totidem plagis consumimus hostem. -- Hor. ii. Epist. ii. 97.Reasons having no other good ground than experience, and the diversity of humane events presenting us with infinite examples of all manner of formes. A wise man of our times saith that where our Almanakes say warme should a man say cold, and in lieu of drie, moyst; and ever set downe the contrarie of what they foretell; were he to lay a wager of one or others successes he would not care what side he tooke, except in such things as admit no uncertaintie; as to promise extreame heat at Christmas, and exceeding cold at Midsomer. The like I thinke of these politike discourses. What part soever you are put unto, you have as good a game as your fellow: provided you affront not the apparant and plain principles. And therefore (according to my humour) in publike affaires there is no course so bad (so age and constancie be joyned unto it) that is not better then change and alteration. Our manners are exceedingly corrupted, and with a marvellous inclination bend towards worse and worse. Of our lawes and customes many are barbarous, and divers monstrous; notwithstanding, by reason of the difficultie to reduce us to better estate, and of the danger of this subversion, if I could fixe a pegge into our wheel and stay it where it now is, I would willingly doe it.
Wee by our foes are beaten, if not slain,
Wee with as many strokes waste them againe;-----nunquam adeo foedis adeoque pudendisInstabilitie is the worst I find in our state, and that our lawes, no more than our garments, can take no setled forme. It is an easie matter to accuse a state of imperfection, since all mortall things are full of it. As easie is it to beget in a people a contempt of his ancient observances: No man ever undertooke it, but came to an end: But to establish a better state in place of that which is condemned and raced out, divers who have attempted it have shro nk under the burthen. Touching my conduct, my wisdome hath small share therein. I am very easily to be directed by the worlds publike order. Oh happy people that doth what is commanded, better then they which command, without vexing themselves about causes; which suffer themselves gently to be rowled on, according to the heavens rowling. Obedience is never pure and quiet in him who talketh, pIeadeth, and contendeth. In some (to returne to my selfe) the only matter for which I make some accompt of my selfe is that wherein never man did thinke himselfe defective. My commendation is vulgar, common, and popular; for who ever thought he wanted wit? It were a proposition which in it selfe would imply contradiction. It is an infirmity that is never where it is seene, it is very strong and fast-holding, but yet pierced and dissipated by the first beame of the patients sight, as doth the sunnes raies scatter and disperse a gloomie mist. For a man to accuse himselfe were to excuse himselfe of that subject; and to condemne himselfe, an absolving of himselfe. There was never so base a porter, nor so silly a woman, but thought he had sufficient wit for his provision. We easily know in others the advantage of courage, of bodily strength, of experience of disposition, and of beauties but we never yeeld the advantage of judgement to any body: and the reasons which part from the simple'naturall discourse in others, wee th inke that had we but looked that way, wee had surely found them. The skill, the knowledge, the stile, and such like parts which we see in strange workes, we easily perceive whether they exceede ours; but the meere productions of wit and understanding every man deemeth it lyeth in him to meete with the very like, and doth hardly perceive the weight and difficultie of it, except (and that very scarcelv) in an extreame and incomparable distance. And he that should clearely see the height of a strangers judgement, would come and bring his unto it. Thus is it a kinde of exercising whereof a man may hope but for meane commendation and small praise, and a manner of composition of little or no harme at all. And then for whom do you write? The wiser sort, unto whom belongeth bookish jurisdiction, know no other price but of doctrine, and avow no other proceeding in our wits but that of erudition and art. If you have mistaken one Scipio for an other, what of any worth have you left to speake of? He that is ignorant of Aristotle (according to them) he is therewithall ignorant of himselfe. Popular and shallow-beaded mindes cannot perceive the grace or comelinesse, nor judge of a smooth and quaint discourse. Now these two kindes possess the world. The third, unto whose share you fall, of regular wits, and that are strong of themselves, is so rare that justly it hath neither name or ranke amongst us; he loseth halfe his time that doth aspire or endeavour to please it. It is commonly said that the justest portion nature hath given us of the graces is that of sense and understanding: for there is no man but is contented with the share she hath allotted him. Is it not reason? He who should see beyond that, should see further then his sight. I perswade my selfe to have good and sound opinions: but who is not so perswaded of his owne: One of the best trials I have of it is the small esteeme I make of myselfe: for had they not been well assured they would easily have suffered themselves to be deceived by the affection I beare unto my selfe, singular, as he who bring it almost all unto my selfe, and that spill but a little besides. All that which others distribute thereof unto an infinite number of acquaintances, to their glorie and greatnesse, I referre to the repose of my spirit and to myselfe. What else where escapes of it is not properly by the appointment of my discourse:
Ultimur exemplis, ut non peiora suiper sint. -- Juven. Sat. viii. 183.
Examples of so filthy shamefull kinde
We never use, but worse remaines behind.----- mihi nempe valere et vivere doctus.As for my opinions, I finde them infinitely bold and constant to condemne mine insufficiencies. And to say truth, it is a subject whereabout I exercise my judgement as much as about any other. The world lookes ever for right, I turne my sight inward, there I fix it, there I ammuse it. Every man lookes before himselfe, I looke within my selfe: I have no busines but with my selfe. I uncessantly consider, controle and taste my selfe: other men goe ever else where if they thinke well on it: they go ever foreward.
Well learn'd in what concerneth me,
To live, and how in health to be.------ nemo in sese tentat descendere. -- Pers. Sat. iv. 32.As for me, I roule me unto my selfe. This capacitie of sifting out the truth, what and howsoever it be in me, and this free humour I have, not very easily to subject my beliefe, I owe especially unto my selfe, for the most constant and generall imaginations I have are those which (as one would say) were borne with me: they are naturall unto me, and wholy mine. I produced them raw and simple, of a hardy and strong production, but somewhat troubled and imperfect: which I have since established and fortified by the authoritie of others, and by the sound examples of ancients, with whom I have found my selfe conformable in judgement: those have assured me of my hold-fast of them, and have given me both the enjoying and possession thereof more absolute and more cleare. The commendation which every man seekes after for a vivacitie and promptitude of wit, I chalenge the same by the order of a notable and farre-sounding action, or of some particular sufficiencie; I pretend it by the order, correspondencie, and tranquillitie of opinions and customes. Omnino si quidquam est decorum, nihil est profecto magis quam æquabilitas universæ vitæ, tum singularum actionum: quam conservare non possis, sit aliorum nat uram imitans, omittas tuam: (Cic. Off. i.) 'Clearely if any thing bee decent for a man, nothing is more than an even carriage and equability of his whole life, and every action therein: which you cannot uphold if following the nature of others you let passe your owne.' Behold here then how far forth I finde my selfe guilty of that first part I said to be in the vice of presumption. Concerning the second, which consisteth in not esteeming sufficiently of others, I wot not whether I can so well excuse my selfe; for whatsoever it cost me, I intend to speake what is of it. It may be the continuall commerce I have with ancient humours, and the idea of those rich mindes of former ages doth bring me out of liking and distaste both of others and of my selfe, or that in truth we live in an age which produceth things but meane and indifferent. So it is that I know nothing worthy any great admiration. Also I know not many men so familiarly as I should to be able to judge of them: and those with whom the quality of my condition doth ordinarily make me conversant are for the most part such as have little care for the manuring of the soule, and to whom nothing is proposed for chiefe felicitie but honour, and for absolute perfection but valour. Whatsoever I see or beauteous or worthy in any other man, I willingly commend and regard; yea, and I often endeare my selfe with what I thinke of it, and allow my selfe to lie so farre forth: for I cannot invent a false subject. I willingly witness with my friends what I finde praise-worthy in them. And of an inch of valour, I willingly make an inch and a halfe; but to lend them qualities they have not, I cannot; and openly to defend their imperfections, I may not: yea, bee they mine enemies, I shall sincerely give them their due in witnessing their worth or honour. My affection may change; my judgement never. And I confound not my quarrell with other circumstances that are impertinent and belong not unto it. And I am so jealous of the liberty of my judgement, that for what passion soever I can hardly quit it. I wrong my selfe more in lying than him of whom I lie. This commendable and generous custome of the Persian nation is much noted; they speake very honourably and justly of their mortall enemies, and with those with whom they were at deadly fude and warre, so farre forth as the, merit of their vertue deserved. I know divers men who have sundry noble and worthy parts; some wit, some courage, some dexteritie, some conscience, some a readinesse in speech, some one science, and some another: but of a great man in generall, and that hath so many excellent parts together, or but one in such a degree of excellencie as hee may thereby be admired, or but compared to those of former ages whom we honour, my fortune hath not permitted me to see one. And the greatest I ever knew living (I meane of naturall parts of the minde, and the best borne) was Stephanusde la Boetie. Verily it was a compleat minde, and who set a good face and shewed a faire countenance upon all matters; a minde after the old stampe, and which had fortune therewith beene pleased, would no doubt have brought forth wondrous effects, having by skill and study added very much to his rich naturall gifts. But I know not how it comes to passe, and surely it doth so, there is, as much vanitie and weakenesse of understanding found in those that professe to have most sufficiencie, that will entermeddle with learned vocations, and with the charges that depend of books, as in any sort of people; whether it be because there is more required and expected at their hands, and common faults cannot be excused in them, or that the selfe-opinion of knowledge emboldeneth them the more to produce and discover themselves over-forward, whereby they lose and betray themselves. As an artificer doeth more manifest his sottishnesse in a rich piece of worke which he hath in hand, if foolishly and against the rules of his trade he seeke to apply it and entermeddle, than in a vile and base one; and men are more offended at a fault or oversight in a statue of gold than in one of clay. These doe as much when they set foorth things which in themselves and in their place would be good; for they employ them without discretion, honouring their memory at the cost and charge of their understanding: and doing honour to Cicero, to Galen, to Ulpian, and to Saint Jerome to make themselves ridiculous. I willingly returne to this discourse of the fondnesse of our institution: whose aime hath beene to make us not good and wittie, but wise and learned. She hath attained her purpose. It hath not taught us to follow vertue and embrace wisdome: but made an impression in us of its Etymologie and derivation. We can decline vertue, yet can we not love it. If wee know not what wisdome is by effect and experience, wee know it by prattling and by rote. We are not satisfied to know the race, the alliances, and the pedigrees of our neighbours, but we wil have them to be our friends and contract both conversation and intelligence with them: It hath taught us the definitions, the divisions and distinctions of vertue, as of the surnames and branches of a genealogie, without having other care to contract practise of familiaritie or private acquaintance betweene us and it. She hath appointed us for our learning, not bookes that have sounder and truer opinions, but volumes that speake the best Greeke or Latine; and amongst her choice words hath made the vainest humours of antiquitie to glide into our conceits. A good institution changeth judgement and manners, as it hapned to Polemon. This dissolute young Græcian going one day by chance to heare a lecture of Xenocrates, where he not onely marked the eloquence and sufficiencie of the reader, and brought not home the knowledge of some notable thing, but a more apparant and solide fruit, which was the sodaine change and amendment of his former life. Who ever heard such an effect of our discipline?
No man attempteth this Essay,
Into himselfe to finde the way.------ faciasne quod olimThe least disdainefull condition of men, me thinkes, is that which through simplicitie holds the last ranke, and offereth us more regular commerce. The customes and discourses of countrie-clownish-men, I finde them commonly to be more conformable and better disposed, according to the true prescription of Philosophie, then are those of our Philosophers. Plus sapit vulqus, quia tantum, quantum opus cut, sapit: 'The vulgar is the wiser, because it is but as wise as it must needes.' The worthiest men I have judged by eternall apparances (for, to judge them after my fashion, they should be sifted nearer) concerning war and military sufficiencie have been, the Duke of Guise, that died before Orleans, and the whilom Marshal Strozzi: For men extraordinarily sufficient and endowed with no vulgar vertue, Oliver and L'Hospitall, both great Chancelors of France. Poesie hath likewise in mine opinion had hir vogue and credit in our age. We have store of cunning and able men in that profession: Aurate, Beza, Buchanan, L'Hospital, Mont-dore, and Turnebus. As for French-men, I thinke they have attained the highest degree of perfection that can or ever shall be, and in those parts wherein Ronsart and excellent Bellay have written, I thinke they are not farre short of the ancient perfection. Adrianus Turnebus knew more, and better what he knew, than any man in his age or of many ages past. The lives of the late Duke of Alva and our Constable Mommorencie have beene very noble, and have had sundrie rare resemblancies of fortune. But the worthily-faire and glorious death of the last in the full sight of Paris and of his King, for their service against his nearest friends and alliance in the front of an armie, victorious through his conduct of it, and with an handstroke in that old age of his, deserveth in mine opinion to be placed and registred amongst the most renouned and famous accidents of my times. As also the constant goodness, the mildnes in behaviour, and conscionable fecility of Monsieur de la Noue in such an injustice of armed factions (a very schoole of treason, of inhumanitie and brigandage) wherein he was ever brought up, a worthie and famous man of warre and most experienced in his profession . I have greatly pleased my selfe in publishing in sundrie places the good hope I have of Marie de Gournay le Jars, my daughter in alliance, and truely of me beloved with more then a fatherly love, and as one of the best parts of my being enfeofed in my home and solitariness. There is nothing in the world I esteem more then hir. If childe-hoode may presage any future successes hir minde shal one day be capable of many notable things, and amongst others, of the perfection of this thrice-sacred amitie whereunto we read not, hir sex could yet attaine; the sinceritie and soliditie of her demeanors are therein already sufficient; hir kind affection towards me is more than superabounding and such indeede as nothing more can be wished unto it, so that the apprehension which she hath of my aproching end, by reason of the fiftie five years wherein her hap hath beene to know me, would somewhat lesse cruelly trouble hir. The judgement she made of my first Essayes, being a woman of this age so yong, alone where shee dwelleth, and the exceeding vehemencie wherewith she loved me and long time by the onely esteem which before ever she saw me, she had by them conceived of me she desired me, is an accident most worthy consideration. Other vertues have had little or no currantnesse at all in this age: but valour is become popular by reason of our civill warres, and in this part there are minds found amongst us very constant, even to perfection and in great number, so that the choice is impossible to be made. Loe heere what hitherto I have knowen of any extraordinary and not common greatnesse.
Nutatus Polemon, ponas insignia morbi
Fasciolas, cubital, focalia? Potus ut ille
Dicitur ex collo furtim carpsisse coronas,
Postquam est impransi correptus voce magistri? -- Hor. Ser. ii. Sat. iii. 253.
Can you doe as did Polemon reformed,
Cast-off your sicknes signes, which you deformed,
Your bolsters, mufflers, swathes? As he drink-linde,
His drunken garland covertly declinde,
By speech of fasting reader disciplinde?