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.
HILOSOPHY thinketh she hath not il imployed hir meanes, having yeelded the sovereign rule of our mind, and the authoritie to restraine our appetites, unto reason. Amongst which, those who judge there is none more violent than those which love begetteth, have this for their opinion, that they holde both of body and soule; and man is wholly possessed with them: so that health it selfe depended of them, and physick is sometimes constrained to serve them instead of a Pandership. But contrariwise, a man might also say that the comixture of the body doth bring abatement and weaknesse unto them; because such desires are subject to satiety and capable of materiall remedies. Many who have endevored to free and exempt their mindes from the continuall alarumes which this appetite did assail them with, have used incisions, yea and cut-off the mooving, turbulent and unruly parts. Others have alayed the force and fervency of them by frequent applications of cold things, as snow and vinegar. The haire-cloths which our forefathers used to weare for this purpose, whereof some made shirts, and some waste-bands or girdles, to torment their reines. A prince told me not long since, that being very yong and waiting in the Court of King Francis the First, upon a solemne festival day, when all the Court endevored to be in their best clothes, a humor possessed him to put on a shirt of haire-cloth, which he yet keepoth, and had beene his fathers: but what devotion soever possessed him, he could not possibly endure untill night to put it off againe, and was sick a long time after, protesting he thought no youthly heat could be so violent but the use of this receipt would coole and alay; of which he perhaps never assayed the strongest? For, experience sheweth us, that such emotion doth often maintaine it selfe under base, rude, and slovenly cloathes: and haire cloathes doe not ever make those poore that weare them. Zenocrates proceeded more rigorously; for his Disciples, to make triall of his continencie, having convayed that beauteous and famous curtizan Lais naked into his bed, saving the weapons of her beauty, wanton allurements, and amorous or love-procuring potions, feeling that, mugre all, philosophicall discourses and strict rules, his skittish body beganne to mutinie, he caused those members to be burned which had listened to that rebellion. Whereas the passions that are in the minde, as ambition, covetousnesse and others, trouble reason much more: for it can have no ayde but from its owne meanes; nor are those appetites capable of satiety but rather sharpened by enjoying and augmented by possession. The example alone of Julius Cæsar may suffice to show us the disparitie of these appetites, for never was man more given to amorous delights. The curious and exact care he had of his body is an authenticall witnesse of it, forsomuch as he used the most lascivious meanes that then were in use; as to have the haires of his body smeered and perfumed al over with an extreame and labored curiositie; being of himselfe a goodly personage, white, of a tall and comely stature, of a cheerefull and seemely countenance, his face ful and round and his eies browne lively, if at least Suetonius may be believed; for the statues which nowadaies are to be seene of him in Rome answere not altogether this portraiture we speake of. Besides his wives, which he changed foure times, without reckoning the bies or amours in his youth with Nicomedes King of Bythinia, he had the maiden-head of that so farr and highly-renowned Queene of Egypt, Cleopatra; witnesse yong Cæsarion whom he begotte of hir. He also made love unto Eunoe, Queene of Mauritania, and at Rome to Posthumia, wife unto ServiusSulpitius: to Lolio, wife to Gabinius; to Tertulla, of Crassus; yea unto Mutia, wife to great Pompey, which, as historians say, was the cause hir Husband was divorced from her. Which thing Plutarke confesseth not to have knowne. And the Curions both father and sonne, twitted Pompey in the teeth, at what time he took Cæsars daughter to wife, that he made himselfe sonne in law to one who had made him cuckold, and himself was wont to call Egyptus. Besides all this number, he entertained Servilia, the sister of Cato and mother to Marcus Brutus, whence (as divers hold) proceedeth that great affection he ever bare to Marcus Brutus; for his mother bare him at such a time as it was not unlikely he might be borne of him. Thus (as me seemeth) have I good reason to deeme him a man extreamly addicted to all amorous licenciousnesse, and of a wanton-lascivious complexion. But the other passion of ambition, wherewith he was infinitely affected and much tainted, when he came once to withstand the same it made him presently to give ground. And touching this point, when I call Mahomet to remembrance (I meane him that subdued Constantinople, and who brought the final extermination of the name of Græcians) I know not where these two passions are more equal ballanced, equally an indefatigable letcher and a never-tired souldier; but when in his life they seeme to strive and concurre one with another, the mutinous heate doth ever gourmandize the amorous flame. And the latter, although out of naturall season did never attain to a ful and absolute authority, but when he perceived himself to be so aged that he was utterly unable longer to undergoe the burthen of war. That which is aleadged, as an example on the contrary side, of Ladislaus, King of Naples, as very wel worth the noting, who, though he were an excellent, courageous and ambitious captaine, proposed unto himselfe, as the principall scope of his ambition, the execution of his sensuality, and enjoying of some rare and unmatched beauty. So was his death: having by a continuall tedious siege brought the city of Florence to so narrow a pinch that the inhabitants were ready to yeeld him the victory, he yeelded the same to them upon condition they would deliver into his hands a wench of excellent beauty that was in the city, of whom he had heard great commendations, which they were enforced to graunt him, and so by a private injury to ward off the publike ruine of the city. She was daughter of a notable rare phisician and whilest he lived chiefe of his profession who seeing himselfe engaged in so stuprous a necessitie, resolved upon an haughty enterprise. Whilst all were busie adorning his daughter, and besetting her with costly jewels, that she might the more delight and please this new kingly lover, he also gave her an exquisitively-wrought and sweetly-perfuimed handkercher, to use in their first approches and embracements, a thing commonly in use amongst the women of that country. This handkercher, strongly empoysonped according to the cunning Skill of his art, comming to wipe both their enflamed secret parts and open pores, did so readily convay and disperse its poyson, that having sodainly changed the heate into colde, they immediately deceased one in anothers armes. But I will now returne to Cæsar. His pleasures could never make him lose one minute of an houre, nor turne one step from the occasions that might in any way further his advancement. This passion did so sovereignly oversway all others, and possessed his mind with so uncontrouled an authority, that shee carryed him whither she list. Truely I am grieved when in other things I consider this mans greatnesse, and the wondrous parts that were in him; so great sufficiencie in all maner of knowledge and learning, as there is almost no science wherein he hath not written. Hee was so good an orator, that diverse have preferred his eloquence before Ciceroes; and himselfe (in mine opinion) in that facultie thought himselfe nothing short of him. And his two Anti-Catoes were especially written to over-ballance the eloquence which Cicero had emploied in his Cato. And for all other matters, was ever minde so vigilant, so active, and so patient of labour as his? And doubtlesse it was also embellished with sundry rare seedes of vertue - I meane lively, naturall, and not counterfeits. He was exceeding sober, and so homely in his feeding, that Oppius reporteth how upon a time, through a certaine cookes negligence, his meate being dressed with a kind of medicinable oyle instead of olive-oyle, and so brought to the boorde, although he found it, yet he fed hartily of it only because he would not shame his hoste: another time he caused his baker to be whipped because he had served him with other than common household bread. Cato himselfe was wont to say of him, that he was the first sober man had addrest himselfe to the ruine of his country. And whereas the same Cato called him one day drunkard, it hapned in this maner. Being both together in the Senate house, where Catelines conspiracie was much spoken of, wherein Cæsar was greatly suspected to have a hand, a note was by a friend of his brought, and in very secret sort delivered him, which Cato perceiving, supposing it might be something that the conspirators advertised him of, instantly summoned him to shew it, which Cæsar, to avoid a greater suspicion, refused not: it was by chance an amorous letter which Servilia, Catoes sister, writ to him: Cato having read it, threw it at him, saying, 'Hold it againe, thou drunkard.' I say it was rather a word of disdaine and anger than a n reproch of this vice: as often we nickname that anger us with the first nicknames of reproaches that come into our mouth, though meerely impertinent to those with whom we fall out. Considering that the vice wherewith Cato charged him hath neare coherencie unto that wherein he had surprised Cæsar: for Venus and Bacchus (as the vulgar he saith) agree well together; but with me, Venus is much more blithe and gamesome, being accompanied with sobrietie. The examples of his mildenes and clemencie towards such as had offended him are infinite: I meane, besides those he shewed during the civill warres, which (as by his own writing may plainly appeare) he used to blandish and allure his enemies, to make them feare his future domination and victories the lesse. But if any shall say those examples are not of validitie to witnes his genuine and natural affabilitie, we may lawfully answere, that at least they shew us a wonderfull confidence and greatnes of courage to have been in him. It hath often befalne him to send whole armies backe again to his enemies after he had vanquished them, without dayning to binde them so much as with an oath, if not to favour, at least not to beare armes against him. He hath three or foure times taken some of Pompeyes chief captaines prisoners, and as often set them at libertie againe. Pompey declared all such as would not follow and accompany him in his wars to be his enemies; and he caused those to be proclaimed as friends who either would not stirre at all, or not effectually arme themselves against him. To such of his captaines as fled from him, to procure other conditions, he sent them their weapons, their horses, and all other furniture. The citties he had taken by maine force he freed to follow what faction they would, giving them no other garison then the memorie of his clemencie and mildnes. In the day of his great battail of Pharsalia, he expresly inhibited that, unles they were driven to unavoydalle extremities no man should lay hands upon any Romane cittizen. In my judgement these are very hazardous partes, and it is no wonder if, in the civill warres tumultuous broiles we have now on foote, those that fight for the ancient lawes and state of their country as he did, doe not follow and imitate the example. They are extraordinary meanes, and which onely belongs to Cæsars fortune, and to his admirable foresight, successfully to direct and happily to conduct them. When I consider the incomparable greatnesse and unvaluable worth of his minde, I excuse Victorie in that shee could not well give him over in this most unjust and unnatural cause. But to returne to his clemencie we have diverse genuine and lively examples, even in the time of his al swaying government, when all things were reduced into his hands, and bee needed no longer to dissemble. Caius Memmius had written certaine detracting and railing orations against him, which he at full and most sharpely had answered, neverthelesse hee shortly after helped to make him consul. Caius Calvus, who had composed diverse most injurious epigrams against him, having employed sundrie of his friendes to bee reconciled to him againe, Cæsar descended to write first unto him. And our good Catullus, who under the name of Mamurra had so rudely and bitterly railed against him, at last comming to excuse himselfe, Cæsar that very night made him to suppe at his owne table. Having beene advertised how some were overlavish in rayling against him, all he did was but in a publike oration to declare how he was advertised of it. His enemies he feared lesse than he hated them. Certaine conspiracies and conventicles were made against his life, which being discovered unto him, he was contented by an edict to publish how he was thoroughly informed of them, and never prosecuted the authors. Touching the respect he ever bare unto his friends, Caius Oppius travelling unto him, and falling very sick, having but one chamber, he resigned the same unto him, and himselfe was contented to lie all night abroade and upon the bare ground. Concerning his justice, he caused a servant of his whom he exceedingly loved, to be executed, forsomuch as he had laine with the wife of a Roman knight, although no man sued or complained of him. Never was man that showed more moderation in his victorie or more resolution in his adverse fortune. But all these noble inclinations, rich gifts, worthy qualities, were altered, smothered, and eclipsed by this furious passion of ambition; by which he suffred himselfe to be so farre misled that it may be well affirmed she, onely, ruled the sterne of all his actions. Of a liberall man she made him a common theefe, that so he might the better supply his profusion and prodigalitie; and made him utter that vile and most injurious speech, that if the wickedest and most pernicious men of the world had for his service and furtherance beene faithfull unto him, he would to the utmost of his power have cherished and preferred them as well as if they had beene the honestest: it so besotted and, as it were, made him drunke with so extreame vanitie, that in the presence of his fellow-citizens, he durst vaunt himselfe to have made that great and farre-spread Romane Commonwealth a shapelesse and bodilesse name, and pronounce that his sentences or answeres should thenceforward serve as lawes; and sitting to receive the whole bodie of the Senate comming toward him, and suffer himselfe to be adored, and in his presence divine honours to be done him. To conclude, this only vice (in mine opinion) lost and overthrew in him the fairest naturall and richest ingenuitie that ever was, and hath made his memorie abominable to all honest mindes, insomuch as by the ruine of his countrey and subversion of the mightiest state and most flourishing commonwealth that ever the world shall see, he went about to procure his glorie. A man might contrariwise finde diverse examples of greate persons, whom pleasure hath made to forget the conduct of their owne affaires, as Marcus Antonius and others: but where love and ambition should be in one equall balance and with like forces mate one another, I will never doubt but Cæsar would gaine the prize and gole of the victorie. But to come into my path again. It is much, by discourse of reason, to bridle our appetites, or by violence to force our members to containe themselv es within the bonds of dutie. But to whippe us, for the interest of our neighbours; not only to shake off this sweete pleasing passion, which tickleth us with selfe-lioving pleasure we apprehend and feele to see our selves gratefull to others and of all men beloved and sued unto, but also to hate and scorne those graces which are the cause of it, and to condemne our beauty because some others will be set on fire with it, I have seene few examples like this. Spurina, a young gentleman of Thuscanie -Qualis gemma micat fulvum quæ dividit aurum,- being endowed with so alluringly-excessive and singular beautie that the chastest eyes could not possibly gainstand or continently resist the sparkling glances thereof, not contented to leave so great a flame succourlesse or burning fever remedilesse, which he in all persons and every where enkindled, entered into so furious despite against himselfe, and those rich gifts nature had so prodigally conferred upon him (as if they must beare the blame of others faults that with gashes and skars he wittingly mangled and voluntarily cut that perfect proportion and absolute feature which nature had so curiously observed in his unmatched face; whereof, to speak my opinion, such outrages are enemies to my rules. I rather admire than honour such actions. His intent was commendable and his purpose consciencious, but in my seeming somewhat wanting of wisdome. What, if his deformitie or uglinesse was afterward an instrument to induce others to fall into the sinne of contempt and vice of hatred, or fault of envy for the glory of so rare commendation; or of slander, interpreting his humour to be a frauncke ambition. Is there any forme whence vice (if so it please) may not wrest an occasion in some manner to exercise itselfe? It had beene more just, and therewithall more glorious, of so rare gifts of God to have made a subject of exemplary vertue and orderly methode. Those which sequester themselves from publike offices, and from this infinite number of thornie and so many-faced rules which in civile life binde a man of exact honesty and exquisite integrities in mine opinion reape a goodly commoditie, what peculiar sharpe-nesse soever they enjoyne themselves. It is a kinde of death to avoide the paine of well doing or trouble of well living. They may have another prise, but the prise of uneasiness methinks they never had. Nor that in difficulty there be anything that is amid the waves of the worldly multitude, beyond keeping himselfe upright and untainted, answering loyally and truely discharging al members and severall parts of his charge. It is happily more easie for one in honest sort to neglect and passe over all the sexe, than duely and wholly to maintaine himselfe in his wifes company. And a man may more incuriously fall into povertie then into plenteousnesse; being justly dispenced. Custome, according to reason, doth leade to more sharpnesse than abstinence hath. Moderation is a vertue much more toylesome than sufferance. The chaste and well living of yong Scipio hath a thousand severall fashions; that of Diogenes but one. This doth by so much more exceed all ordinary lives in innocencie and unspottednesse as those which are most exquisite and accomplished exceed in profit and out-goe it in force.
Aut collo decus aut capiti vel quale per artem
Inclusum buxo, aut Ericia terebintho,
Lucet ebur -- Virg. Æn. x. 134.
As when a precious stone cleare rayes doth spread,
Set in pure golde, adorning necke or head
Or as faire iv'ry shines in boxe enclos'd,
Or workemanly with mountaine gumme dispos'd