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Montaigne's Essays: Book II

Florio's Epistle.

Note on the e-text: this Renascence Editions text was provided by Professor Emeritus 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." Additional material was supplied by R.S. Bear from the Everyman's Library edition of 1910. Content unique to this presentation is copyright © 1999 The University of Oregon.


xx Florio's Preface

 Of the inconstancie of our Actions
Of Drunkennesse
A Custome of the Ile of Cea
To-morrow is a New Day
Of Conscience 
Of Exercise or Practice
Of the Recompenses or Rewards of Honour 
Of the Affections of Fathers to their Children: To the Lady of Estissac
Of the Parthians Armes 
Of Bookes
Of Crueltie
An Apologie of Raymond Sebond
Of Judging of others' Death
How that our Spirit hindereth itself 
That our Desires are encreased by Difficultie
Of Glory
Of Presumption
Of giving the Lie
Of the Liberty of Conscience
We taste nothing purely
Against Idlenesse, or doing Nothing
Of Running Posts, or Couriers 
Of Bad Meanes emploied to a Good End
Of the Roman Greatnesse
How a Man should not Counterfeit to be Sicke
Of Thumbs 
Cowardize the Mother of Cruelty
All Things have their Season
Of Vertue
Of a Monstrous Child 
Of Anger and Choler
A Defence of Seneca and Plutarke
The Historie of Spurina
Observations concerning the meanes to warre after the maner of Julius Cæsar
Of Three Good Women
Of the Worthiest and Most Excellent Men
Of the Resemblance betweene Children and Fathers


The Epistle

To the Right Ho-
norable and all-praise-worthie Ladies,
Elizabeth Countesse of Rutland,
And Ladie Penelope Riche.
Give me leave (peerlesse, and in all good gifts unparagonized Ladies) though I make my fault double to aske leave for a fault, which I might leave; yet thus to paire you without dislike, who like (I imagine) each other above all other, and to whom a like paire long may I seeke, but be long ere I finde. Such pairing is no empairing, no disparaging, nor yet comparing, unless in that good comparison of excellence. This is the number appropritae, at least reciprocall, of true love: as the two Tables comprised in two commandements of due love. And such is Gods proceeding, when Mercie and Truth meete together, Righteousnesse and Peace have kissed each other. Even as body and soule, braine and heart, memory and understanding; so are yoru two honorablest Lordes made, as you should be, even: two Doves, two Loves: double kind, double kindnesse. Both like the two Cherubins on the toppes and sides of the propiriatorie, respective mutually; like the two starres of the North, which our Mariners call the Guardes, directive of our course; like your owne eyes, their owne onely matches; yet as much pleasing others with their sight, as your themselves (Paul. Gio. Imp.).And hereby, as your Cognisance (noblest Countesse of RUTLAND) beares the body or chiefe part of an Imprese made for a worthy Dutchesse of Florence: Cum pudore læta fæcunditas: to reape as much joy by Iuno, as labour by Lucina, and honor by them both:which being so well graffed shall be (as the Italian spake in Dutch) Wan Got will (Ibid.): wherof yet a faire patterne you have here (be it auspicious) associated to you: I meane you (truely-richest Ladie RICH) in riches of Fortune not deficient, but of body incomparably richer, of minde most rich: who yet, like Cornelia, were you out-vied,or by riche shewes envited to shew your richest jewelles, would stay till your sweet Images (your deere-sweete children) came from schoole. And if you may so joy in those your yong Schollers, of such hope, of such spirit, so nobly borne, so worthily proceeding: how then may I boast of both your Ladiships, of such proofe, of such merite, my not onely proficient, but perfect Schollers? Yea, as of love, so of language, peerlesse Ladies? who likethat great and good Cornelia, not onely with bountie entertaine, but of benignitie invite learned and vertuous stangers, not so much to employ, as rather to releeve, yea oblige, yea ammuse, yea drive them to admiration or veneration of your singular sufficiencies, surmounting magananimitie, and inestimable value, even from forraine Princes that come to see this happy-happiest Iland to receive gratulations, and merit commendations. Who also, like another of the same name, to your great and good Pompeys brought an invaluable dowrie, not onely of Nobilitie, Learning, Language, Musicke, but withall, an incurious gravitie, and all-accomplish't vertue. So as into this familie of these Corneliaes, as many ciences into one stocke, the Orator may well conclude the wisedome and vertue of many engraffed and collected. And though this Montaigne-Lord, not so knightly as uncivilly, in this your part acknowledgeth no dozens of good women at any time in one place (Mont. l. ii. c. 35) (in France it may be, or of his knowledge) but onely a bare trinity, and those Italians, and that about their husbandes death to die with or afore them; forgetting he had instanced but a little before, out of Propertius and others (Ibid. lib. ii. c. 29), in many Indians; who, did they ordinarily as much for their husbands, would out of doubt affectionately doe more for them yet living: yet as even those Corneliaes, and in that very poynt, both in Plutarke (Plut. vit. Grac. & Pomp.), both (as God would have it) surviving their husbands, the one prevented by her husbands wise kindenesse, the other with all sympathy attending his extreame fortune; both while they lived, preserved the Dead in Honorable memorie: as also in his kinde three other in Plutarke went as farre; namely Empona, Camma and Damocrita: or this mans Theoxena, Sextila, Praxea, Pelagia, Sophronia, Fulvia, and many more (Mont. lib. ii. c. 27 & c. 3); since in the Romane proscriptions, as one of their Historians doth testifie, many wives were found exceeding faithful, but few men-servants, fewer friends, and fewest sonnes. So neyther is one vertue fit for all, not all fit for one vertue: nor is that one so excellent, but by more it might be mended: not deeme I his three so good, but many have bin, and some be much better: Yea, as a Christian, I must deny them good, who cast backe Gods good gift before he call for it; leave their faire corps-de-guarde ere their Generall discharge them; hope to be deified for being their owne murtherers, who should be damned if they were so to others; more savage to their owne soules, than any beast would be to their owne flesh; not of force, but for feare, or for fame at the best: though even in that (as Plinie thinkes of two of the same persons) the same fact diversly extolled or abased, as the person that doth it, is divers, high or base. Nor would a wiser Pætus than his, yea a better man than his Seneca permitte as good an Arria as his herdaughter to die as shee did; though as willingly she would, but charged her to live after for him and his. Better yet (but not much) like I that seely one, which this Author approveth by his wise Duke of Bretaigne in choice of Isabell of Scotland (Ibid. lib. i. c. 24). But since himselfe likes it better to be well used in life then at death, and better usage proceeds from better vertues (for better vertues make you love as well as be beloved: and loyall love from you makes up his mouth, with sweeter sawce than death) without that extreame triall, I can tell him we have, and by good hap, my dedications name unto him, halfe a dozen, better, because more vertuous, and therefore more loved, and as loving. Or, will hee admitte but three, if not paires, yet their Peeres, I must say of three as Ariosto saide of one, Credi ogn' una d'esser quella Fenice (Orl. fu. can. 27): Or as my fellow Nolano in his heroycall furies wrote (noble Countesse) to your most heroicke father, and in a Sonnet to you Ladies of England, You are not women, but in their likenesse Nymphs, Goddeses, and of Celestiall substance (Gior. Bru. hero. fur. arg.)
Et siete in terra quel' ch' in ciel' le stelle,
And above all, that onely divine Diana,
Qual' e tra voi quel che tra gl' astri il sole.
    And cleane contraie to this Censor, the Nobler and the Richer you are, the more vertuous and worthie we esteeme you by reason and experience. But while I follow my guide, I have forsaken my selfe, and while I would winne him friends he workes (I feare) foes both to him and me of my best friends; while he findes but three good, and that, when they did so, as I pray God keepe mine both from cause and effect, intention and execution: wherein I follow, if not his Paris preacher, at least his douceur Francoise (Mon. lib. ii. c. 3). But is hee then so capriccious, opiniative, so paradoxical? I grount, sometimes extravagant, often od-chocheted, and ever selfe-conceited to write of himselfe out of himselfe. Why wrote he then? for him and his. But why doe I translate him? For your Ladiships and yours. What? to displease? Nay, neither doth such extraordinarinesse ever displease, not is hee ever in his humour: for, in the judgement (beside others, yea even of the precise Genevians he hath so bin judged, and amongest them allowed to be printed) of your your most learned wise and honourable kinsman, sir Edward Wotten (who encouraged and set me first upon this Worke) there are in it so pleasing passages, so judicious discourses, so delightsome varieties, so perswasive conclusions, such learning of all sortes, and above all, so elegant a French stile, as (I thinke) for ESSAYES, I may say of him, as hee, in this Booke, did of Homer (Ibid. lib. ii. c. 36); Heere shines in him the greatest wit without example, without exception, deserving for his composition to be entituled, Sole Maister of Essayes: whose maister-poynt is this, none was before him, whom he might imitate; none hath come after him who could well imitate; or at most equall him: and a wonder it is, he therein should be perfectest, whereof he is the first Authour. And for French eloquence, I may adde that of him, which the same Historian doth of Tullie, It brake out in full streames, full beames, under this Prince thereof, Lord of Montaigne; so as before him you may be delighted with few, but wonder at none, that hath not either seene him, or bin seene of him. His worth then being so eminent, his wit so excelent, his inventions so rare, his elocutions so ravishing; nor are my pains mis-spent in translating, nor will your Honours pleasure and leasure be mis-placed or mis-employed in perusing him. I know, nor this, nor any I have seen, or can conceive, in this or other language, can in aught be compared to that perfect-unperfect Arcadia, which all our world yet weepes with you, that your all praise-exceeding father (his praise-succeeding Countesse) your worthy friend (friend worthiest Lady) lived not to mend or end-it: since this end wee see of it, though at first above all, now is not answerable to the precendents: and though it were much easier to mend out of an originall and well corrected copie, than to make-up so much out of a most corrupt, yet see we more marring that was well, then mending what was amisse. And if not any principall invention, much lesse may any translation at second hand come neere it: yet as that Worthie did divinely even in French translating some part of that excellent du Plessis, and (as I have seene) the first septmaine of the Arch-Poet du Bartas (which good Ladies, be so good to all, as all this age may see, and after-ages honor) so though we much more meanely doe in meaner workes (for still I say none can anneare him) yet where our Protonotaries doe holde the chaire, let us poore Secondaries not be thrust out of doores. Of this your Honourable goodnesse dooth assure me, and for this, and much more, I must and ever shall avow my selfe To your Honours obliged and devoted in all service, IOHN FLORIO.
To The Right Ho-
norable, Elizabeth Countesse of Rutland.
Thrise-happy Countesse, your thrise-honor'd Sire,
    An other Nature, Maro-like, sur-named,
    As he in Arte divenest Poems framed,
    In love did to a love divine aspire,
In both wrought wonders of Prometheus fire;
    So got in kind an of-spring no lesse famed,
    His fame's enheritrix to be proclaimed;
    That got, he got himselfe one of Heav'ns quire
As then his, and your Mothers match you are
    In parents, match, and shall (we hope) in breeding,
    England to steade with antient MANORS race:
So be you (when we you in praise compare)
    As kinde, in kindnesse them as kinde succeeding,
    Great good-wils gift not great, t'accept with grace.
                                                     Il Candido.

¶ To the Honorably-vertuous Ladie, La: Penelope Riche.

Madame, to write of you, and doe you right,
    What meane we, or what meanes to ayde meane might?
    Since HE, who admirably did endite,
    Entiteling you Perfections heire, loves light,
Loves life, Lifes gemme, Vertues court, Heav'ns delight,
    Natures chiefe worke, Fair'st booke, his Muses spright,
    Heav'n on Earth, peerelesse Phoenix, Phoebe bright,
    Yet said, he was to seeke, of you to write.
Unlesse your selfe be of your selfe devising;
    Or that an other such you can inspire.
    Inspire you can; but ô none such can be:
Your selfe as bright as your mid-day, as rising.
    Yet, though we but repeate who would flie higher,
    And though be but translate, take both in gree.
                                                    Il Candido.

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