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 an epigram in Martiall that may pass for a good one (for there are of all sorts in him), wherein he pleasantly relateth the storie of Cælius, who to avoide the courting of certaine great men in Rome, to give attendance at their rising, and to waite, assist and follow them, fained to be troubled with the goute; and to make his excuse more likely, he caused his legges to be ointed and swathed and lively counterfeted the behaviour and countenance of a goutie man. In the end fortune did him the favour to make him goutie indeede.Tantum cura potest et ars doloris,As farre as I remember I have read a like history in some place of Appian, of one who, purposing to escape the proscriptions of the Triumvirat of Rome, and to conceale himselfe from the knowledge of those who pursued him, kept himselfe close and disguised, adding this other invention to it, which was to counterfeit blindnes in one eye, who when he came somewhat to recover his liberty, and would have left off the plaster he had long time worne over his eyes, he found that under that mask he had altogether lost the sight of it. It may be the action of his sight was weakned, having so long continued without exercise and the usual vertue was wholly converted into the other eye. For we may plainly perceive that holding one eye shut, it convaieth some part of its effect into his fellow; in such sort as it will swell and grow bigger. As also the idlenes, together with the warmth of the medicaments and swathing, might very well draw some goutie humour into the legge of Martials goutie fellow. Reading in Froisart the vow which a gallant troupe of younge English-men had made to weare their eyes hudwinkt untill such time as they should passe into France, and there performe some notable exploite of armes upon us: I have often laughed with my selfe to think what they would have imagined if as to the fore aleaged it had hapned to them, and had all beene blind of the left eye at what time they turned to look upon their mistresses, for whose sake they had made their vowe and undertaken such an enterprise. Mothers have great reason to chide their children when they counterfeit to be blind with one eye, crompt backe, squint-eyed, or lame, and such other deformities of the body; for besides that the body thus tender may easily receive some ill custome, I know not how, it seemeth that fortune is glad to take us at our word: and I have heard diverse examples of some who have fallen sicke in very deede because they had purposed to faine sick. I have at all times enured my selfe, whether I be on horsebacke or afoote, to carry a good heavie wand or cudgell in my hand; Yea, I have endeavoured to doe it handsomely, and with an effected kinde of countenance to continue so. Many have threatned me that fortune will one time or other turne this my wantonnes into necessitie. I presume upon this that I should be the first of my race that ever was troubled with the gowt. But lett us somewhat amplifie this chapter, and patch it up with another piece concerning blindnes. Plinie reports of one who, dreaming in his sleepe that he was blind, awaking the next morning, was found to be starke blinde, having never had any precedent sickenes. The power of imagination may very well further such things as elsewhere I have shewed; and Plinie seemeth to bee of this opinion; but it is more likely that the motions which the body felt inwardly (whereof Physitians may, if they please, finde out the cause), and which tooke away his sight, were the occasion of his dreame. Let us also add another storie concerning this purpose, which Seneca reporteth in his Epistles. Thou knowest (saith he, writing unto Lucilius) that Harpaste, my wifes foole, is left upon me as an hereditarie charge; for by mine owne nature I am an enemie unto such monsters, and if I have a desire to laugh at a foole, I neede not seeke one farre; I laugh at my selfe. This foolish woman hath sodainly lost her sight. I report a strange thing, but yet very true. She will not beleeve she is blind, and urgeth her keeper uncessantly to lead her, saying still, my house is very darke. What we laugh at in her, I entreat thee to beleeve that the same hapneth to each of us. No man knoweth himselfe to be covetous or niggardly. Even the blinde require a guide, but wee stray from our selves. I am not ambitious, say we, but no man can live otherwise at Rome: I am not sumptuous, but the citie requireth great charges. It is not my fault if I be collerike; if I have not yet set downe a sure course of my life, the fault is in youth. Let us not seeke our evill out of us; it is within us, it is rooted in our entrailes. And only because we perceive not that we are sicke, makes our recoverie to prove more difficult. If we beginne not betimes to cure our selves, when shall we provide for so many sores, for so many evils? Yet have we a most sweete and gentle medicine of Philosophy; for of others no man feeles the leasure of them but after his recoveries whereas she pleaseth, easeth, and cureth all at once. Loe here what Seneca saith, who hath some what diverted me from my purpose: but there is profit in the exchange.
Desiit fingere Cælius podagram. -- MART. 1. vii. Epig. xxxviii. 8.
So much the care and cunning can of paine:
Cælius (growne gowty) leaves the gowt to faine.